I decided that I wanted to put together a dish that only showed Irish beef at its finest but other Irish produce too. Once I had that thought in my head the obvious choice was surf and turf, because what's a nicer combination that shellfish and steak? I know that this dish probably originated in Miami but it's often found on many Irish menus and this version is definitely Irish!
To me surf and turf is the stuff of dreams and the unltimate decadance. It was always the most expensive item on the menus I read as a child and therefore always unattainable. My take on the dish as a simple spring or summer salad however, is easily accessible and provides a light supper for one on those evenings where you don't really feel like cooking.
This is so incredibly easy to throw together that I can predict that I will be eating it every time my Beau is out for the evening from now till September! All the produce I used in the main part of the salad; the steak, the Dublin Bay prawns and the lettuce are Irish, sourced from my local butcher, fishmonger and greengrocer.
The first thing to do in this recipe is prepare the steak. Cover it in a little olive oil and salt and rub in, then leave it to one side while you prepare the dressing.
Measure the olive oil and balsamic vinegar into a small bowl.
Add the mustard, honey and chilli flakes.
Beat the ingrediants together using a little whisk or, if you have one, a milk frother is the perfect tool for mixing dressings. Once the dressing is well blended, add the capers and stir through.
Leave the dressing to one side and prepare your plate of leaves so that it's ready to go once the beef and prawns have been cooked.
Take a handful of the lamb's leaf and place on the plate.
Roughly chop up the half head of baby gem and add it to the plate too.
Finally chop your small handul of pea greens in half and throw them onto the plate with the rest of the lettuce.
Toss the leaves together with your hands and put the plate one side in an easily grabbable location.
Now for the exciting part - time to put the steak on. Make sure you add the steak to a very hot pan so that the meat is nicely seared. While the steak is cooking on one side, turn on the grill (I used my mum's George Forman) and add the prawns to it.
Make sure that your prawns are unshelled and have the vein removed, I'm lazy and got this done at the fishmongers. For the non-lazy amoungst you here is a helpful video on deshelling and deveining.
It's up to you how you would like to cook your steak but I did mine the rarer side of medium, which was 2 minutes a side for the piece of fillet that I had. Once the steak is cooked to your liking, move it to a board or plate and allow to rest.
The shrimp should only take about 3 - 5 minutes to cook on the grill. Once done, move to plate next to your steak and plate of salad leaves
Add the prawns to the salad plate. Thinly slice the steak with a very sharp knife.
Add the steak slices to the salad and drizzle with the dressing.
Serve while the steak and prawns are still hot, perhaps with a little crusty bread on the side and a glass of wine.
It was really invigorating to be around people who are so passionate about food and who didn't think you were weird for whipping out your camera to capture your different meals.
The one thing I really want to do is thank Kristin, Caroline and especially Donal for organising the whole thing. It was a truely Herculean task and the result was spectacular.
Thanks also to Darren for hosting a huge group of people in his garden and plying us with amazing pizza, Mary Margaret and Wille at Westbrook House for being incredibly welcoming, John for organising the rambling house and taking us dancing late on Saturday and Catherine, Lucy and Aoife for being fantastic car companions and never all falling asleep at the same time.
I have been refreshed and renewed by the whole experience. I learned a huge amount, ate a lot of amazing food and tried many new things, including raw black pudding. You can see all my pictures here and here. But I've made a little collage below that I think sums up my feelings about the weekend.
This is the second of my Traditional Irish dishes from the Irish Foodies Cookalong last Friday. I cooked these scones to accompany my main dish of Molly Malone's Hotpot. As there was sage in the hotpot, I decided that sage would be the best thing to flavour the scones with too.
These were some of the tastiest scones I have ever made. My whole family loved them and requested that I make them again. They also went perfectly with the hotpot.
Scones are one of the easiest things to bake; in fact, they were the first thing I ever had to cook in Home Ec so many years ago. The base recipe for these scones comes from Delia's Complete Cookery Course.
Preheat the oven to 200°C. Measure out the flour and add the butter in small pieces. Rub the butter into the flour with your fingertips until it resembles breadcrumbs in consistency.
Take the sage leaves only and finely chop. I'm a big cheat, so I used a mini food mixer that my parents have to blitz the sage, but you can do it by hand with a big knife too.
Add the salt and chopped sage to the flour and mix together.
Slowly add the milk to the bowl bit by bit, stirring it into the flour mix until it comes together into a dough.
Tip the dough out onto a well-floured board or counter and flatten with your hands into a round.
Roll out the dough to a thickness of 2 cm. Use the pastry cutter to cut out rounds from the dough. When using the cutter make sure to push it straight down without twisting, this will give you taller scones. Place the cut out scones onto a well greased baking tray.
Once you have cut out as many scones as you can from the first rolling out, pull the dough back together, roll it out again and cut another set of scones. Repeat this until you run out of dough.
Brush the tops of the scones with a little milk and place in the oven for 12 - 15 mins until golden brown on top. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack.
Last Friday was the first of the month and so it was time once again for the Irish Foodie Cookalong. This month's theme could only be traditional Irish food because of the upcoming St. Patrick's Day festivities.
I spent a long time pondering what to cook, should I stick to soda bread and coddle or try and find something a bit different? Finally, I decided that I would look to Dublin's well known former resident, Molly Malone, for inspiration and cook cockles and mussels. What could be more traditional than that? A quick search on Google turned up this recipe, which I have modified a little bit.
Unfortunately, no cockles were to be found in time for me to use them, so I had to substitute in clams instead. They were just as tasty, if not as poetic as the original ingredient.
I served the hotpot, as suggested by the original recipe, with herb scones. I decided that since the recipe contained quite a large amount of sage, that's what I would put into the scones to best compliment the dish, plus the green colour was delightfully patriotic.
I'm not going to lie to you Marge, the hardest part of this recipe and the part that takes the longest is cleaning the damn shellfish. It took me just under an hour to de-beard and clean the mussels and clams together. However, once you get through this, the rest is plain sailing.
The first thing to check before you start scrubbing your shellfish is whether there are any that are open and if they don't close when you give them a sharp tap, throw them out.
Now on to cleaning them. On the mussels you need to remove the beards, which are the strands, much like hair that are trapped in the shell, then a give them a quick scrub to remove any other gunk from the shell. The clams don't have beards, but do need to be well scrubbed to remove any excess mud and sand from their shells.
When you've finally scrubbed the last of your cockles clams and mussels place them in a large bowl and cover with cold water. Leave to stand for an hour. This is the perfect moment to make the sage scones.
This is also the moment to prepare your vegetables. Take the stick of celery, onion and carrot and finely chop.
Finely chop up your sage and leave to one side. As I was using sage in the scones as well I blitzed the whole lot in a mini food mixer and measured out the two tablespoons I needed for the hotpot from the total amount.
Time to go back to the soaking shellfish. Drain all the cold water from the clams and mussels and place them into a large pot. Add the two bay leaves.
Pour in the white wine, cover the pot with a lid and bring to the boil. Steam the shellfish for 5 - 7 mins until all the shells have opened.
Remove the shellfish from the pot using a slotted spoon and reserve the cooking liquid for use later.
Leave the shellfish to one side to cool. While this is happening heat a little oil in the frying pan over a low heat and add the vegetables. Keep on a low heat until the onion becomes translucent and the celery and carrot have softened.
Once the shellfish are cool, remove half from their shells but leave the remainder. Keep to one side until needed. Remember to discard and clams or mussels that have remained closed after cooking.
Returning to the frying pan, as the vegetables start to soften, add the chopped sage and cook for 3 mins. Add the tin of tomatoes, bring to the boil and cook for another 3 mins, stirring occasionally.
Add the reserved cooking liquid and again, bring to boil and simmer for 3 mins.
Add the clams and mussels to the sauce and stir through. Season the sauce and leave for 2 mins till the shellfish have warmed through.
For those of you living in Dublin, here are a couple of upcoming free food events that you might enjoy.
For those of your living or working around Ballsbridge, the Aviva Stadium meetings and events team are giving out free pancakes from their chefs from 7.30 - 9.30am outside the statdium. So if you fancy a free pancake for breakfast make sure you swing by and get one of their freshly cooked pancakes with your choice from a range of fillings, including chocolate, syrup, and lemon zest. Must see if I'm awake early enough to stop by myself.
The following Tuesday, 15th March, when you'll be sick of pancakes, why not get into the mood for St Patrick's Day by heading over to L Mulligan Grocer for their Irish Coffee Blind tasting?
The staff there are on a mission to rescue the noble Irish Coffee from its dreary status of 1980s carvery chasing tipple. Throughout the months of February and March they have been been serving Irish coffees made with hand roasted coffee supplied by three different roasteries, Ariosa, Hasbean (supplied and chosen by 3FE) and Bailie's in conjunction with Coffee Angel.
These coffees were chosen by the roasteries to complement the selected whiskey, Kilbeggan Irish Whiskey, distilled by Ireland's only Irish owned distillery Cooley. Finally, the cream is being supplied by Glenisk, a collective passionate about Irish organic dairy farming.
The idea behind this is to create an Irish Coffee that is truly a product of Ireland, using the best Irish produce. Booking is essential if you are interested in attending the blind tasting please email irishcoffee[at]lmulligangrocer.com
Next Tuesday is Shrove Tuesday or Pancake Tuesday, the day the whole country goes mad for pancakes ahead of the Lenten fast (even if most of us don't observe the fasting part).
However, today in Denmark is Fastelavn. Now I don't know a whole lot about Fastelavn, so I wrote an email to my aunt asking her to tell me what she could about it. Her reply is below.
Fastelavn has 2 days. It's held on Sunday before Lent begins and very often they'll have a special service for children that day and "slog katten af tønden"... In the old days a cat was in a barrel - nowadays there are sweets... The children take turns to make a swipe at the barrel and the one who makes the barrel burst is the Cat King/Queen. In the schools etc. this is done on Monday. Often the local county council will have arranged a barrel banging contest in the town square and you'll see queues of freezing kids waiting to swing their clubs. They're all in fancy dress of course and there are often prizes for best outfit etc. also. The barrels also vary in size and strength according to the age groups that are swinging their cudgels.
You may be interested to hear that when Granny was a little girl she took a terrific swipe bringing the club well back behind her head to strike at the barrel - so well that she gave herself an almighty crack on the skull and a minor concussion. But she used to say it gave great bonus 'cos the others gave her some of their sweets....
Fastelavnsboller are popular and have been on sale this year anyway almost since the 2nd Jan. Ridiculous! Says the old auntie. In Sweden they make "semlar" (spelling?) A dryish bolle with marzipan in the middle. You put it in a bowl and pour warm milk over it. If you're lucky they serve whipped cream with it also. There's saffron in it somewhere along the line. I quite like them but some people find them dull.
Does that help? It's not authoritative but the best I can do.
So if you're feeling a little international this week, why not celebrate with Fastelansboller, they taste just like hot cross buns and are great with a cup of tea or coffee in the afternoon.
As with the other Danish yeast baking that I've done previously (Kanelsnegle and Tebirkes) the first thing that needs to be done with this recipe is to set up the yeast.
Measure out the milk and add the teaspoon of sugar. Heat the milk and sugar in the microwave for 50 secs until warm. Sprinkle the dried yeast over the top of the milk and leave to stand to one side until it becomes foamy.
While you're waiting for the yeast to activate, measure the flour out into a mixing bowl and add the butter. Rub the butter into the flour until it resembles breadcrumbs.
Measure in the sugar, raisins and peel.
Add the spice and mix together. I used my hands but you can use a wooden spoon if you prefer.
It's now time to return to the yeast beast. By now the yeast should've foamed up in the jug. Add the beaten egg to the yeast and stir thoroughly.
Pour the yeast mixture into the bowl containing the dried ingredients and mix together until they form a soft dough.
Turn the dough out on to a well-floured board or counter top and knead for 10 mins until it is smooth and elastic. I like to stick on a bit of music to knead too as it makes the time go faster to know that you're done after about 4 songs.
Lightly oil a polythene bag or a piece of cling film large enough to encase the dough. Put the dough into the bag or Clingflim and leave to rest for 10 mins.
Once the dough has rested, divide it into small balls weighing about 40g each. You should get 10 - 15 balls (or boller) from this recipe. Place them onto a well-greased tray, cover with Clingfilm and put in a warm place to rise. This should take about 40 minutes.
You should probably be a little more careful than I was in making the buns and tray and make sure they have smooth tops as otherwise they come out a little wonky when baked. My second attempt produced much more uniform buns.
While the buns are rising, preheat the oven to 200°C. Once the buns have doubled in size, put them into the hot oven and bake for 12 - 15 mins.
When the buns have turned golden brown, remove from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool. As you can see, due to my lack of care in forming the buns, they came out looking less than perfect. However, they still taste delicious!
Once the buns are cool, put some large grained sugar into a small dish or bowl. I used a special type that I got in Denmark called Pearl Sugar, but crushed sugar lumps would work perfectly as a substitute.
Smear the top of the buns with a little butter and roll through the sugar until the top is evenly coated.
Enjoy plain or split in two with more butter and jam.
So yesterday I found out that not only had I been nominated for an Irish Blog Award, but I've also been shortlisted in the Food/Drink Category! I actually had to read it about four times before it had sunk in, especially as I am listed with so many other great blogs.
Thank you so much to those who nominated me, to the judges for putting me in the short list, you've made my week, and special thanks to Damien Mulley for organising the whole shebang.