The other week it was cookalong time again and this month's theme was Picnics and Parties. I decided that I would go more for the party than the picnic side of things, and create a menu for a casual summer party.
The main course had to be burgers and since I had recently perfected my burger recipe it seemed like the perfect time to try them out of the rest of my family and see if they agreed. The verdict was unanimous that these were definitely the tastiest homemade burgers they had eaten in quite a while.
With the burgers I made 2 salads, the first a potato and green bean mix that has been a regular feature in my summer cooking for the last couple of years as it's a salad that the Beau will actually eat, mainly because it contains bacon.
The other salad is a more recent addition to the household, put together as a way of using some of the red cabbage that my mum kept getting in her organic veg bag from Home Organics. It's a combination of red cabbage and apple, a lovely balance of sharp, sweet and garlic.
Finally for dessert I made my grandmother's chocolate ice cream. This is quite possibly one of the simplest ice cream recipes that you will ever make. The only thing it requires is a bit of forward planning as, if you don't have an ice cream maker, you need to make it the night before so that it is frozen in time. We had the ice cream with a few raspberries, which were the perfect accompaniment.
All the above dishes can be prepared before hand, leaving you with more time to socialise in the sunshine (or drizzle).
Once again I am delving into my list of posts I should've written so long ago but haven't. This time I really am almost all caught up with myself, I've only got a couple more lurking posts waiting to be published.
This time I am writing a brief account of my evening at the pop up restaurant run by Clonakilty back in February, Clonakilty by Candlelight. Myself and the Beau were invited along as some of the lucky few on Friday 11th February to sample the delights on offer from chef Ted Berner.
We were informed of the secret location of the evening's entertainment on the Thursday and were immediately intrigued by being told it was North Great George's Street, wracking our brains to try and remember what buildings were in that part of the city.
It turned out to be a private house, sometimes used for events, packed full of objects both weird a wonderful. Sorry about the photo quality but I was suffering from serious shaky hands that evening!
We were first ushered into a beautiful, red room decorated with a lot of Eastern art and given a glass of something bubbly (the best way to start any evening). While the guests mingled and chatted, groups were taken out to play a tasting game and then returned to the main room and the circulating canapés of pear and white pudding and a dark chocolate and bacon combination.
Once everyone had gone through the taste tests, we were ushered into the dining room, which was inhabited the largest collection of dolls that I have ever seen.
But that wasn't the only decoration in the room. I was particularly taken with the wall of fans and the ceiling details.
At our tables were place names (with my name spelt almost right), the menus for the evening, as well as some secret messages hidden in the napkins.
Our first course for the evening was a twist on Coddle. It was delicious. A light broth with little bits of rashers and sausages in it along with finely chopped cabbage and leek. I honestly could've eaten ten bowls of it.
While we waited for our main course I took a couple of shots of the table, including one of the Beau.
The main course was a slab of Clonakilty black pudding with a perfectly seared scallop, carrot purée and the chef's homemade apple cider. This was a perfectly balanced dish. The softness of the scallop worked beautifully with the rougher texture of the black pudding. It was yet another dish that left me wanting more and only manners prevented me from licking the plate clean.
Before the evening started I had been puzzling over how Clonakilty would incorporate one of their products into dessert; sticky toffee sausage pudding or a black pudding crumble perhaps?
Rather than these bizarre ideas we were presented with a rick chocolate tart that was served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and bacon praline. The bacon praline provided a salty sweetness that complimented the dark chocolate tart perfectly. If this evening taught me one thing it was that bacon is great paired with sweet things.
The dinner was rounded off with a cup of coffee and a shot of Jameson's Special Reserve whiskey. I'm not a whiskey girl, but this went down very smoothly indeed. I was also in love with my coffee cup! Isn't it gorgeous? Some day I will have a set of crockery just like that.
All in all we had a fabulous evening of meeting new people, seeing a new venue and eating Clonakilty products in a meal that wasn't breakfast.
The final recipe from my 20 Mile Cookalong is a Rhubarb Fool as a work colleague of mine was kind enough to supply me with a huge bundle of rhubarb when she heard about the challenge.
I've said that you can add between 2 and 4 tablespoons of honey to the rhubarb, this is based on your own tartness tolerance levels. I only put 2 tablespoons on honey into the version I made and thought it tasted fine, but my sister found it a bit too tart. So my advice would be to taste as you go and add more honey if you think you need it.
First chop the rhubarb down into pieces about 2 inches long and place into a large saucepan.
Add the honey to the pot and place over a medium high heat until the rhubarb has gets soft, about 5 minutes.
Once the pulped rhubarb has cooled a little, strain the juices from it through a sieve into a small saucepan. Don't worry if you don't get a huge amount, it will stretch further than you imagine.
Tip the rhubarb pulp into a mixing bowl and blend so that it becomes nice and smooth. Place in the fridge to chill until you need it.
While the pulp is in the fridge, turn on the heat under your small pot of rhubarb juice and reduce until it becomes slightly thick. You could add a little extra honey at this point to make the sauce a sweet counterpoint to a slightly tart rhubarb fool.
Once thickened, pour the sauce into a little bowl and leave to one side for later.
Next, pour the cream into a bowl and whip it until it's just thick.
Fold the chilled rhubarb pulp bit by bit into the cream using a spatula, until it's all incorporated. This is your last chance to taste it see whether you need to add a little more honey to the mix.
Spoon the finished fool into your serving dishes and spoon about a teaspoon of the sauce over the top.
Garnish and serve. I garnished mine with pineapple sage, which added a lovely additional flavour but you could use mint or perhaps half a strawberry.
First up is the horseradish mash, very simple, but the perfect accompaniment to the beef. The second side is fried courgette strips, again very simple, but, in my opinion, the nicest way to serve courgettes.
For the horseradish mash, first peel the potatoes, cut in half and put in a pot with water just covering them.
Bring the potatoes to the boil and cook until a knife will slide into a potato easily.
While the potatoes are boiling, peel the horseradish and finely grate it. Keep a tissue near by as I guarantee your eyes will end up watering when you're grating the horseradish.
When the potatoes are done, add the horseradish, butter and a splash of milk to the pot.
Mash the potatoes together with the other ingredients. Season with salt and pepper to your tastes.
Moving on to the courgette side dish; trim the ends off the courgettes and thinly slice with a sharp knife, a mandoline or with the slicer part of a grater.
Heat some oil in a frying pan and when hot, fry the courgette strips in batches until golden on both sides. Alternatively you can brush the courgette with a little oil and put under a grill, again until golden.
Serve both dishes on the side with beef, or anything else you fancy.
I used the method described in the Cooking for Engineer's site but with the temperatures slightly changed to get, in my opinion, the best beef you will ever eat.
If you are attempting this at home it is essential that you use a meat thermometer. I have a digital one that you can set by meat and how well done you want the meat. Personally I find the digital meat thermometers to be the best and if you shop around you can get one that will go up to jam and candy making temperatures too.
Preheat the oven to 100°C. I know that's low, but it's the key to getting the perfectly cooked beef. Also, try and have your beef as close to room temperature as possible before getting started. It's not strictly necessary but it does mean your meat will cook slightly faster.
Put your meat in the roasting pan and brown all sides of it over the hob. If, like in my flat, you have an electric hob, or your roasting dish is made of glass rather than metal, brown your joint in a frying pan and then transfer back to the pan.
Season the outside of the beef with salt and pepper. Carefully insert your meat thermometer into the centre of the beef, making sure not to touch the bone, and place in the oven to roast.
Now all you have to do is wait until your meat thermometer reaches 62°C. This takes approximately 45 mins per 500g up to about 1.5kg, and then you're looking at about 4 -5 hours for completion.
Just a note on the temperature; 62°C will get you the perfect medium rare beef, if you would like it to be rare, then 58°C is a better temperature for you. If you like beef well done, then conventional roasting is probably the way to go as slow roasting is better for getting an even rareness through the beef.
When the beef has reached your preferred temperature, remove from the oven and wrap tightly in tin foil so that the beef can rest without losing too much of it's heat. The beef needs to rest for at least 10 mins but up to 20 mins is good, just keep an eye on how hot it is as it can get cool quite quickly.
While the meat is resting this is the perfect opportunity to make gravy if there are any pan juices or to finish off your side dishes. I would also use this time to make sure your plates are warmed, because, as I mentioned before, the meat can go cool quite quickly, especially when cut and having a warm plate delays that somewhat.
Once you're happy that the meat is well rested and that your side dishes are all ready to go, carve your beef and plate up the rest of your ingredients.
Perfect roast beef
We enjoyed the beef with a side of horseradish mashed potatoes, fried courgette strips and a simple green salad. All washed down with a glass of David Llewellyn's Double L cider.
This is the first of my 20 Mile Cookalong dishes and is a very easy, but very tasty canapé.
I used fresh cod landed at Howth and Ed Hick's bacon jam, which he makes using a secret recipe, but if you're feeling adventurous you can try making your own using Eat Like a Girl's recipe. I finish these canapés with fresh horseradish, but you could also experiment with a little chilli (my sister's suggestion)
First prepare your horseradish garnish so that it is ready to grab at a moment's notice. Peel the horseradish and grate using a fine grater. Once grated leave near your final prep area. You'll probably find that this makes your eyes water, so have a hanky at a grabbable distance. For the nine canapés I made, I used about a quarter of the root.
Time to prepare your cod. I cheated and got the fishmonger to remove the skin from mine for me, so all I had to do was cut the cod into equally sized cubes.
Heat some oil in your frying pan and add the cod cubes. I used Donegal rapeseed oil, because while it wasn't from within my 20-mile radius, it is an excellent Irish product.
Fry the cod until starting to brown, about 2 - 3 mins. Carefully flip them over with the fish slice, as this is the point where they are most likely to fall apart. I had one casualty on the evening myself. Once cooked on the second side, season in the pan with a little salt and pepper.
Move the cooked cod carefully to your serving dish. Add a teaspoon of the bacon jam to the top of each piece and cod. Garnish with a pinch of horseradish (about ½ teaspoon).
The 10th of June marked the latest in the monthly Irish Foodie Cookalongs. June's challange was a particularly difficult one too as we had to source 3 or more of our ingredients from within a 20 mile radius of our homes.
Living in Dublin made this very hard as within 20 miles of where I live in Dublin there is mainly just more Dublin and sea. So started my epic quest to find a meal sourced the area marked on the map below. Just as an extra challenge to myself I thought I would try and make 3 courses from local produce.
My first thought was of fish since a lot of my 20 mile radius was water, there must be somewhere I could get fish landed in Howth. I found out too late that if I went down to Bullock Harbour in Dalkey I might be able to get fresh crab and lobster, alas that was not to be!
In the end I asked my local fishmonger in Morton's of Ranelagh and he told me that the cod they sell is landed at Howth. So now I had one ingredient for one course.
Luckily, I had just purchased a jar of Ed Hick's bacon jam at Bloom. Now if you're wondering what bacon jam is, it is a delicious relish made out of bacon and lots of other magic stuff and tastes amazing!
I decided that this delicious ambrosia would pair very well with the cod and a little horseradish, which while not local itself, was bought in Mortons, a local business. Now I had my starter; little cod and bacon jam canapés, garnished with grated horseradish. A very tasty beginning.
For my main course I really wanted a piece of meat and Ed Hick helped me again by recommending that I go visit Farrelly's Butchers in Delgany. So off I went, on a bit of a wild ride as I took the wrong exit and took the route over the mountain to get to the shop, rather than coming directly off the motorway.
I had a great chat with the guys in Farrelly's. They were very knowledgeable about their produce and was able to tell me the name of the farm where the rib of beef I choose to buy came from. They also informed me that there were no longer any abattoirs in Dublin and that they were the only one left in North Wicklow. I went away feeling very happy with my purchase, not just because it was a beautiful piece of meat but because I knew how well it had been looked after both in life and death. I will definitely make the trip out to their shop again, even though it is a little disconcerting to be able to hear the sheep and cows out the rear while you are buying the meat.
To drink with the meal I asked my dining companion for the evening to pick up a couple of bottles of David Llewellyn's delicious Double L cider, since it was being sold in a shop near where she work. It was a great accompaniment to the beef.
For dessert I had also received a large bundle of rhubarb from the same work colleague who gave me the lettuce. I decided to make a rhubarb fool, mainly because I'd not had one in ages.
I tried to get some honey from inside my 20 mile radius but that wasn't possible so I settled for one from Wexford. Not quite local, but still a great Irish product.
I also used Glenisk cream in my fool, again not exactly local, but a great Irish product.
So there you have it my 20 mile meal ended up being quite a feast despite the difficulty I first envisioned in getting anything local. Next year I hope to be growing some of my own veg that will make eating local much easier.
Way back last September, the lovely Tom Quinn of Winecourse.ie, invited me the launch of their new courses and to try out their one day wine appreciation course. I had a marvellous time at both and the Beau has promised that he will finally write about the one day course we both attended soon. He initially promised that back in September, but if it's not written in the next month, I'll do it myself!
Here's Tom telling us about grapes & how they're picked
In the meantime, Tom has now introduced a new course to their repetoire, an evening course that will help you to "taste like a pro".
The course runs for two hours in the evening and will cover the skills you need to ask for advice in shops and restaurants with greater confidence. To quote the man himself:
During the session we will taste a range of wines chosen especially to highlight: sweet versus dry, light versus full-bodied, oaky wine, aged wine, new wine versus old wine. Wines are selected from entry level through to premium 'top shelf' bottles to ensure you can taste wines across a broad range of styles.
During the tasting we will also touch upon food & wine pairing and supply some of Tom's Top Tips when it comes to choosing wine in shops, supermarkets and restaurants.
Having done the one day course, I can say with great authority that Tom is a brilliant teacher and I did leave the event feeling that I had a better understanding of wine and the words used to describe it. If the evening course is even half as good, then it's worth attending!
The evening courses will be running in both Cork and Dublin and cost €65.
As Tom is such a nice guy, he is offering 33% off any online booking made on winecourse.ie until Friday 24th June when you use the code smorgasblog.