Monday, 10 October 2011

Chicken Korma

 serves 4

2 onions finely chopped

1 clove garlic finely chopped

2 green chillies, finely chopped (takes seeds out if you don’t like the heat)

1 tbsp ground Cumin

1 tbsp ground Coriander

1 tsp Turmeric

1 tsp Garam Masala

5 Cardamom pods slightly crushed

½ tsp salt

2 tbsps tomato puree

1 tbsp grated ginger

25 cashew nuts blitzed with some warm water to form a paste

Standard 400g can of Coconut Milk

250 mls hot water

500g Chicken Breast, cut into big chunks

4 tbsp oil or Ghee

If you like it hotter, add in a teaspoon (or more) of chilli powder.


Fry onions, garlic and chillies for about 8 minutes over a medium heat till brown and a little caramelised. Add Cumin, Coriander, Turmeric, Salt and Cardamom and cook out for about 1 minute. Add in tomato puree and cook for a further minute. You should have a reddish brown fragrant paste mixture. Add in the chicken pieces and cook for about 5 or 6 minutes till coloured. Add in the water, coconut milk and cashew paste. Cook until chicken is fully cooked, about another 5 minutes. Don’t overcook the chicken or it will just be dry. At the end, stir in the grated ginger and Garam Masala. Serve with basmati rice, some Nan bread and some mango chutney.

Monday, 5 September 2011

Weekend Food

So this weekend turned into a real foodfest. Firstly on Friday I went to Crackbird for lunch and sampled the Soy and Garlic Chicken, Semolina Crunchies, Chilli Crunchies and Slaw. In the evening I went to Mitsuba on Parnell St. My wife Yvonne and I shared Gyoza, Yakatori, Yaki Udon and a serious Sashimi platter. Mitsuba was pretty good value and we got out of there well fed and with a bottle of house white for under €60.

 On Saturday I wanted to try cooking something new but without buying too many special ingredients. I had some free range chicken breasts in the freezer so decided to go with them. I tried to create a dish out of my head so really the only element that came from a book was the sweet potato tart taken from the Martijn Kajuiter's Cliff House Book. It's simply a sweet potato round, cooked and marinated in honey, salt, pepper and I added thyme, and then wrapped in a puff pastry ring.

The chicken I stuffed with ricotta and roasted pepper and wrapped in blanched sweetheart cabbage and parma ham. This was all rolled tight into a cling film sausage and poached for 15 minutes. I served it with a sweet corn puree, some wild mushrooms and a basil foam which I'd made by blanching/refreshing the basil, add some agar agar, let it set, added some boiling water and blitzed it till it had a gel like consistency, then added an egg white and put into a nitrogen canister, added 2 shots of nitrogen and hey basil presto.

To be honest, I wasn't overly impressed with the presentation but it tasted pretty good. I though there might be too mush sweetness but the metalic basil, earthy mushroom and slightly bitter ricotta balanced things out ok.

For dessert I did another Martijn Kajuiter dish...his rhubarb crumble tart with white chocolate ice cream. This is basically a 10cm tin lined with puff pastry (not blind baked), a marzipan, egg white, lemon rind/juice mix added first, rhubarb chopped and mixed with orange zest/juice and jam sugar, a straightforward butter/sugar/flour crumble top and baked for 25 to 30 minutes at 175.

The white chocolate ice cream was 250 mls full fat milk, 75g white chocolate melted into it, 75g sugar added to the milk and 3 beaten egg yolks mixed in, cooked to a custard, cooled and churned. It was really very good and not overly creamy which can be the case if cream is used (obviously)!

I actually made this again on Sunday but made a full sized version and added plums to it. I had my mother, mother in law, sister in law and wife for dinner. I made a slow cooked porchetta rubbed with rosemary and garlic, cabbage cooked with lardons of bacon, silky smooth parsley mash and a turnip and carrot puree. No pics I'm afraid but it went down pretty well.

I think I'll take it handy this week. A few simple dishes!

Friday, 2 September 2011

Steamed Salmon, streamed rice with Vietnamese Carrot Salad

I've been cooking low fat, low cal a bit more recently in an effort to reduce the lbs. I love Asian food so this recipe from Good Food website jumped out at me.

Since I have a very handy rice steamer, I decided to steam the rice and cook the salmon above it at the same time. Whilst that was going on I did the carrot salad.

2 limes , 1 juiced and 1 cut into cheeks to serve
  • 3 tbsp fish sauce
  • 3 tbsp sweet chilli sauce
  • 2 cm chunk root ginger , finely grated
  • 3 large carrots , finely shredded - a mandolin does the job quickly
  • ½ white cabbage , very finely shredded
  • a large bunch mint , chopped
  • a large handful peanuts , toasted and chopped

  • Mix all the wet ingerdients together and add to the cabbage, carrot, mint. Throw in the nuts at the end. It was really delicious and very healthy.

    Broad Bean & Pecorino Tagliatelli

    Ok, so went to Fallon & Byrne at lunchtime recently to browse. Food shopping for me is like shoe shopping for my wife. A cliche I know but true nonetheless. I wanted something seasonal, fresh, quick and healthy.

    I picked up some Rustichella d'Abruzzo Tagliatelli, some fresh broad beans, some Glenilen low fat cream cheese, some pecorino with chilli, fresh parsley and a lemon.

    I blanched the broad beans in salted water till soft, reserved half and put the other half in a blitzer with some of the cream cheese, some grated pecorino, a little fruity extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, a litle water from the blanching and salt/pepper. This made a lovely sauce.

    To assemble, I just cooked the tagliatelli, poured over the sauce and plated up with some grated cheese, parsley and thereamaining broad beans.

    All in all, 20 minutes of easy cooking for a really tasty plate of food.

    Thursday, 1 September 2011

    Northern Bound Part 2 The Salty Dog

    So part 2 of my Northern trip ended with a Saturday night stay at The Salty Dog Hotel and a meal at it's very well reviewed restaurant run by Head Chef Derek Creagh. I won't get into too much of a review of the hotel but it was really nice, good value at £70 for a double room ensuite with breakfast. The breakfast is absolutely delicious, the full Ulster or a selection of pastries. The full Ulster fry came as you would expect with soda bread and fadge (potato bread), locally sourced meats and every element seemed freshly cooked with real care. The coffee, toast and butter were also soo nice. Loved the attention to detail.

    The menu had some really tasty looking dishes.

    My wife went for Fois Gras and Chicken Lever Parfait, Date & Pear Chutney. This was absolutely delicious. Rich and creamy, so tasty, fruity spiced chutney.  A real cracker of a dish.

    I went for Thinly Sliced Rose Veal, Breaded Veal Sweetbreads, Broad Beans, Girolle, Truffle Pecorino, Almond Butter Vinagrette. This was a very accomplished dish and quite delicate and subtle. I really loved it.

    We both had Local Monkfish, Chorizo, Avocado, Olive Cheeks, Langoustine, "Baked Beans" and we got sides of mash potatoes and buttered greens. This dish was also delicious, hearty food. Something you'd expect to see in a really good Spanish restauarant. I liked the fact that it wasn't so 'restauranty'. The mash was top top class. I don't know but I just love the really simple things, or seemingly simple things, done super well and the mash was so smooth, creamy, buttery and perfectly seasoned.

    For dessert I had Creme Brulee with Almonds and Poached Apricot and a glass of Reisling to go with it. I like when I get a dessert wine pairing.

    My wife didn't order dessert but the waiter brought her one anyway because he said we'd been 'neglected' a little becasue he was so busy. We hand't felt neglected at all but I really appreciate these gestures. It's a part of what great service is all about. The waiter told me he'd been working with Derek for a good few years and had followed him from Deane's in Belfast. A good call by Derek I think.

     I can't 100% remember what was in it (honeycomb, olive oil ice cream and a fruit puree I think) was really nice.

    We had a bottle of the house white, a coffee to go with our 2 starters, 2 mains, 2 sides, 2 desserts, a glass of Resiling. The bill was £80. I call that great value.

    There was a discussioon recently between a good few chefs on Twitter about punters complaining about the price of things and not understanding the true concept of value. I really do get value and the Salty Dog (and Harrys) is what it's all about. It's food that by it's concept, quality of ingredients, flavour combinations, skill of preparation and service puts it at a fine dining top restaurant level but at a price that is equivialnt to a local restaurant. In other words, you can see every single cent on the plate and in fact, you wonder how the hell they are doing it for that price.

    Great stuff, I will be back.

    Thursday, 25 August 2011

    Northern Bound Part 1 - Harrys

    So, my Aunt lives in Portstewart Count Derry and she kindly lent us her house whilst she went to see the military tattoo in Edinburgh. This presented a great opportunity, as if an excuse was needed, to sample some Northern food hotspots. @HarrysDonal, Harrys in Bridgend Donegal and @DerekCreagh in the Salty Dog Hotel Bangor were the chosen ones.  Both have been getting plenty of glowing press reviews and/or award recently.
    I was going to keep this brief because
    a) I’m not that good a writer
    b) I read some tips on restaurant reviewing for bloggers and there were so many words & phrases that are an absolute no no it seems (unctuous, to die for)

    but I failed!
    So’s in Bridgend just over the border from Derry, housed in a modern building with a nicely decorated comfortable split level restaurant. The ethos is ‘Made in Inishowen’...local food by local people, meaning that all of the ingredients are either grown, made or sourced from the Inishowen peninsula. It’s an ethos they are obviously and rightly very proud of.

    Donal (the co-owner I think), was extremely helpful via Twitter and once I tweeted my presence, he came out and said hello and checked it was all good. A friendly touch and the help and welcome were really appreciated.
    We arrived about 4:30 as the full evening menu and early bird kicks off at 4pm. There were a surprising number of people (well to me anyway, propbably not for Harrys) there for a Tuesday at that time and plenty of staff. We have a 2 yr old and he was well looked after...a high chair quickly supplied and his plate of chips came out first in lightening quick time. They  were beautifully crispy and fluffy; real homemade chips are hard to beat.

    My wife picked the early bird, Greencastle prawns fresh of the boat the previous day and a locally reared pork plate.  I went a la carte and ordered the Greencastle Seafood plate, the Inishowen Lamb tasting plate, a side of Dauphinoise and buttered cabbage grown in Harrys own walled garden that they’ve been carefully restoring. We got quick pleasant friendly service; beautiful homemade bread and butter arrived soon after ordering, along with our drinks and we felt very relaxed despite having to entertain a 2yr old.

    The prawns both of agreed were beautifully sweet, slightly garlicky but not over-powered with it, no need for lots of sauce, the produce spoke for itself. I could have eaten a good few more but mine was served with a lobster claw which had been poached in herbs I think, it had a nice back taste anyway, some crab on toast and a seafood salad mix.
    Greencastle Seafood Plate - (not a great pic sorry, a bit on the bright side but you get the drift)
    My wife’s pork plate was very tasty...she thought her sauce was a little sweet. It might have been a little over-reduced but I thought it was fine. I had a similar sauce with my lamb plate which had neck, rump, loin, rack and rib. It had a good strong flavour...nothing like the insipid supermarket stuff. The Dauphinoise and buttered cabbage were put together with loving care....the sides are sometimes the best bit and I think they know that.

    Lamb Plate 



    We couldn’t do dessert which was a shame. We were just too full. Not that the portions were ‘agricultural’ (borrowing the descriptor from Lucinda O’Sullivan to describe a portion she received)...they were exactly right...we had just had a late breakfast so note to self, don’t eat anything before going to Harrys again!

    So we had a big plate of chips, 2 starters, 2 mains, 2 sides, a coffee, a bottle of house white wine, a glass of Bordeaux red to go with my lamb and the bill was €78. Pretty great considering the quality of the food.
    I later found out that the Head Chef @raymoranchef was onholiday so thanks to his sous chef @Johnny_Heaney for cooking the food!

    I'll definitely be back and I think a few of my Portstewart relatives will be along soon for a gander.

    Part 2  to follow soon.

    Monday, 8 August 2011

    Pork and Lentil stew with Chorizo, Pimentón & Tomatoes

    So I’ve been watching Rick Stein in Spain for the past 4 weeks and wanted to make something this weekend from the series. Once, I started it however, I couldn’t resist tinkering with it and what was originally supposed to be lentil stew with pimentón that he made in episode 4, turned into that combined with the well known Andalucian Magra con Tomate (pork with tomato). So this is Pork and lentil stew with chorizo, pimentón & tomatoes. The pork is cooked really slowly so it crumbles in the mouth. I served it with a char-grilled onion bread to mop up the sauce.

    As often with stews, I make too much and freeze portions. This batch got us dinner last night and 6 portions for the freezer.

    Dessert was Adriaan Bartell's Raspberry Creme Brullee from the Cliff House Hotel cookbook. Love using my blowtorch!

    250g green lentils washed and hard boiled for 10 minutes to start the cooking process
    1200g shoulder of pork cut into big cubes
    6 large cloves of garlic sliced
    2 large onions chopped
    1 large carrot chopped in big dice
    5 celery stalks diced
    100g Serrano ham chopped
    Glass of Sherry or wine
    1 large chorizo (from Lidl) sliced into chunks
    2 tins of tomatoes (I used tinned cherry ones)
    3 tbps pimentón
    Salt and Pepper
    Olive Oil

    Slowly soften the garlic in a few good glugs of olive oil for a few minutes
    Add in the onion and let that get translucent and sweet
    Add in the celery and carrot and soften that for a few minutes
    Add in the Serrano ham and Chorizo and cook for another minute or 2
    Increase the heat and add the pork and brown it slightly
    Add the pimentón stirring to coat all the ingredients in this beautiful smoky powder
    Tip in the glass of sherry and let that gather up all the paprika and cook out a little
    Season for the first time
    Finally add in the 2 tins of tomatoes and bring to the boil
    Reduce the heat to just on and let it bubble very slowly for about 2 and a half hours
    Let it cool a little and then check the seasoning