With St. Patrick's Day almost upon us, I thought it would be fun to do an alternative take on that Irish favourite; Bacon, potatoes and cabbage, encouraged by the Paddy's Day Food Parade over on The Daily Spud.
This hot pot is a great thing to have for lunches or dinner. While it does take a little time to cook, it is very tasty. I've put in leeks rather than cabbage though as they add a nice oniony flavour, but they are still green like cabbage. I also make this with a cheesey sauce rather than a plain white sauce as I think it gives much more flavour.
The first things to do in this delicious little hot pot, is to preheat the oven to 180° C and make the sauce that it will all cook in. This involves making a roux, but don't be afraid, this is really quite a simple task and not as difficult as you may think.
First grate the cheese so that you have it easily to hand when you need it. It is also a good idea to have your flour weighed out and milk measured and ready to pour near the stove also, as they will both be needed quickly in the sauce making.
Melt the butter in the saucepan until it is sizzling, then quickly lower the heat.
Add in the flour and stir. The flour and butter will bind together into a sort of soft dough. Let this cook on the low heat for about a minute.
Now add in the first 500 mls of the milk bit by bit, whisking all the time. Turn up the heat to a low medium and keep whisking until the sauce starts to thicken.
Bring the sauce to the boil, then turn down the heat and add the cheese. Stir through and add the remaining milk, if necessary, till the sauce is of the consistency to lightly coat a wooden spoon. Season with a little pepper and leave to one side till you need it. Don't worry if your sauce gets a little too thick as the liquid from the leeks when cooking will make it thin it out.
Now it's back to the fun job of chopping vegetables. First off the potatoes. Peel them and slice them into disks. Use a mandolin if you have one or the slicer on a cheese grater as they will make nice, equal sized pieces. If you don't have either of these a sharp knife and a chopping board are all you need. When you've sliced the potatoes put them into a bowl of cold water to soak.
The leeks must now be washed, trimmed and sliced into rings about half a centimetre thick. Then put to one side while you deal with the bacon.
The bacon needs to have the rind trimmed from it and then it should be cut into small pieces. The easiest way to do this is to use a kitchen scissors.
Time to start layering up the different ingredients in your oven proof dish. Start by putting down a layer of potatoes, then a layer of leeks and finally a layer of bacon. Try to make sure that your spread each ingredient evenly accross your layer.
Repeat these layers until you run out of ingredients, retaining enough potato for a top layer. Before you add this last layer of potato, season the hot pot with a little more pepper, then layer the final potatoes on.
Time to add the sauce that you put to one side back at the beginning of the this recipe. Carefully pour it over your layered meat and veg and spread out with a spatula to any places that look a bit bare.
Pop your hot pot into the oven for an hour. After the hour take it out to check how it's progressing. You can do this by poking a skewer into the hot pot. If the potato still feels hard, the hot pot should go back into the oven for another 30 minutes. If you're afraid that the top might burn during this time, cover the hot pot with a layer of tinfoil shiny side down.
After the 30 minutes, the hot pot should be done. Do check it again with the skewer if you're worried and if it still seems a little hard give it more time in 10 minute intervals.
Once the hot pot is ready, leave it cool for 5 - 10 minutes and serve. I really hope that you enjoy this. Please let me know if you need clarification on anything in the recipe above.
Last week, under my other Twitter username (@JoannaSchaff), my family and I took part in the blind wine tasting event organised through the social network.
The Twitter blind tasting was orignally set up in November of last year. A short history of the event can be found here on Brian Clayton's blog. As you can see this last event was the third such blind tasting through Twitter. The previous event's wine was provided by Bubble Brothers and Curious Wines.
I first became aware of the event back in February during the second tasting. I decided that I had to take part in the next one as it seemed like everyone involved was having such fun. Plus you learn stuff!
The first step to taking part was to order the bottle from Karwig Wines, this event's supplier. The price was €19 including cost of couriering the bottle. However, if you could pick it up from their shop in Cork, it was only €15. I ordered my bottle on the Tueday evening and it arrived nicely parcelled up on Thursday morning to my parents' house.
The event itself was to start on Sunday at 9pm. But in the days and the hours coming up to the start time, more and more posts appeared on Twitter with the hash tag for the evening: #twebt. This hash tag allowed you to more easily search for posts relating to it. On the Saturday the Karwig Wines accounts, posted a message letting us know when to open the wine, which was about 2 hours before the tasting started. I enquired whether the wine should be decanted or not and was told that if possible it should be.
Our household got a little overexcited and ended up opening our bottle at about 3.30pm rather than 7pm like everyone else, though we did then decant it at 7.
Then we had the impatient wait for the tasting to start at 9 o'clock. Luckily we had dinner to keep us occupied. Promptly at 9 o'clock, fisrt glasses were dutifully being poured and reported to the Twitter stream. For extra helpfulness, @kevatfennsquay or Kevin Crowley had created a list of all the people taking part in the tasting, which is what we used to keep up with what was being posted. Kevin and Brian (@brianclayton) were the facilitators for the tasting and kept us line with what we should be trying to guess at each stage of the tasting.
Again, we were a little on the enthusiastic side and kept skipping ahead a little. I'm going to blame my dad for this, as he was a bit impatient to being with, that is until he got into the swing of the online banter.
The first thing that has to be determined is whether the wine is Old World or New World. Next up is the year, then the country. Finally, you have to work out the grape variety and the region that the wine is from.
There were a couple of surprises with this wine; while it was easy to determine that it was an Old World wine, that it was fairly young (it was from 2005) and that it came from Fance (though there were a couple of people who were convinced it was from Portugal), the tricky bit came with the grape variety. Most of us were convinced that it was a Syrrah (Shiraz) variety mixed with something else. However, it actually turned out to be an equal mix of Grenache and Carignan. The region again, was fairly easy to work out, we managed to get it down to the Langueduc, though we didn't get the exact part, Corbieres.
This is a recipe that I made up when I got a new casserole dish. Before that I had never really tried making casseroles before. As I went along I decided what I was going to do based on things I had made before like Coq au Vin and various stews.
I think it works out pretty well and is a good dish to make on the weekend and then reheat for dinner during the week as, once the initial cooking period is done, it doesn't take much time to heat back up.
First, pre-heat the oven to 180°C. Take out your casserole dish and have in easy reach of where you are prepping the food. This will be useful as each ingredient is prepared and can be put into the casserole.
The first this to do is to peel and chop up the carrots into small square pieces and put them into the casserole.
Next up is the leeks. Wash them, chop them into rings and put them into casserole with the carrots.
Chop up the mushrooms into small squares and put to one side. Then roughly chop up the garlic and again leave to one side until you need it.
Now onto the meat. Trim off the excess skin from the chicken legs and heat some oil in a frying pan. Brown the chicken legs on both sides in the pan until they turn a nice golden colour. Then place into the casserole dish on top of the vegetables.
Next, put the mushrooms into the pan with the chicken juices. Cook them until they start to brown then transfer them into the casserole dish.
Into the same frying pan that you cooked the chicken and mushrooms in, add the tin of tomatoes and half a tin full of water so that it doesn't get too thick. Bring the tomatoes up to the boil.
Crumble the chicken stock cube into the tomatoes and stir through. Add the garlic and allow cook for 2 - 3 mins. Then blend the whole lot together into a sauce.
Season the sauce with salt, pepper and dried herbs. I've found that mixed herbs and oregano work best for this dish.
Pour the sauce into the casserole dish. If you need to, move around the chicken and vegetables a bit to allow the sauce to sink down into the dish.
Put the boiling water into the pan and bring back to the boil, working in all the stuff that got stuck around the edges. Then pour that into the casserole too.
At this point, if you fancy it, you can slice a potato and put it over the top of the dish. Add the bouquet garni - this is a little bag of herbs, you can usually get them in packs of at least 10 from a supermarket or local grocer - and push it down into the dish. Put on the lid and put into the oven.
Leave to cook for 1 hour - 1½ hours until the chicken is tender and starting to fall off the bone. Serve hot with crusty bread and a fresh salad. Enjoy!