Sausage and Sage Frankanara - via a ropey photo from my phone
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Recipe: Sausage and Sage Frankenara

Sausage and Sage Frankanara - via a ropey photo from my phone

Sausage and Sage Frankenara – via a ropey photo from my phone

It is not my intention to wind up the purists (well, occasionally it is) or the grammar police (cough), but sometimes I do. I consider myself a bit of a purist too, and I am both intolerant and intolerable about some things, but then sometimes, I veer so wildly off course and discover a delicious, happy and impure ending, that I can’t help but embrace it with joy.

That is where I found myself this evening. I have had a bit of a traumatic week (which I will fill you in on another time), and I am in Ireland, away from home (even though it is home, and that is confusing).

Home (another ropey photo from my phone)

Home (another ropey photo from my phone)

I had bought sausages on arrival (I love Irish sausages and always have them when I am home), and I was starving. I was looking out the kitchen window at the driving rain and the grey sky but also at my sisters herb garden and the wild enormous sage bush. I thought of the sausages and ooh-eeee wouldn’t they be lovely together?

Then I wondered about a carbonara. A silky smooth sauce made from a simple egg yolk and some pecorino or parmesan. If I chopped the sausages into small chunks and got them nice and brown and served this frankenara* with a very simple garnish of lots of sage leaves, crisped whole in some butter. The die was cast.

I usually make my carbonara with spaghetti but all I had was penne, and this works very well too. It took such a short period of time to prepare. Use simple sausages that taste of pork and maybe a little white pepper as Irish sausages do, a good large egg will give you the best yolk for the sauce, fresh sage and some good pasta too. The sausages that I used were Clonakilty Ispíní (ispíní – ishpeenee – is the Irish word for sausage), which have such a strong fond taste memory of my childhood they are instantly soothing when I eat them. They are a small sausage and are very smooth, not like the crumbly sausages that are more common now. You can buy them quite easily in the UK too in most major supermarkets and some butchers too. 

Enjoy and if you like this frankenara, you will probably like Spaghetti Corkese, another one of my frankenstein pastas, and a popular one too.

*frankenara = a frankenstein approach to carbonara

Recipe: Sausage & Sage Frankenara[Read more]

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A Fine Brunch: Homemade Soda Farls, Morcilla & Eggs

Soda Farl, Morcilla & Eggs Brunch

I am quite lazy in the morning, but quite demanding of what is put in my mouth. I only want good bread, to scoop up the runny yolk from my Old Cotswold Legbar eggs, but don’t want to travel to get it. In my neck of the woods we have some great Jewish bakeries but Saturday is Sabbath and they are all closed.

What to do? I don’t want to spend ages proving bread (even though I know I should). So, back to my humble roots I go, it’s time for soda farls. Fried Irish bread, especially for breakfast.

That statement is not dismissive. Soda farls are terrific, and so easy to make. The same as making soda bread, bar the cooking process which is so quick. The farls are cut from the round of dough, and fried on each side for up to 8 minutes over a moderate heat, delivering crisp bronzed farls , perfect for tearing and dipping into your gorgeous egg yolk and scooping some morcilla. I defy you not to chomp into the fluffy interior immediately.

Soda Farl, Morcilla & Eggs Brunch

I added a Spanish twist this morning having recently had some gorgeous Spanish morcilla delivered from Orce Serrano Hams. It really is the good stuff, vacuum packed to order and couriered so that it’s very fresh. This morcilla is extremely soft and almost pliable, with lots of cinnamon and walnut and onions. It can be difficult to source good morcilla like this outside of Spain, especially one so fresh, so I’ll be using them again.

I find the earthy dense morcilla (or black pudding if you’re using that) goes very well with sweet small tomatoes. English tomatoes are so good right now with the summer we’ve been having, I would recommend that you source some.

Start to finish this breakfast, including home made farls, takes no more than half in hour.

Note on the recipe: if you don’t have buttermilk, don’t worry, just acidulate some milk with a teaspoon of lemon or vinegar and this will do fine. You just need something to activate the bicarbonate of soda. Feel free to substitute the morcilla with black pudding or boudin noir.

Homemade Soda Farls, Morcilla & Eggs

Serves 4

Ingredients:

Soda Farls

225g plain flour

1tsp bicarbonate of soda

150 mls buttermilk

1/2 tsp salt

Serve with:

2 large morcilla sausages or a round of black pudding

a handful of small sweet tomatoes halved

1/2 eggs per person, depending on how hungry you are

Method:

Start with the soda farls. Sift the flour with the salt and the bicarb. Create a well in the centre and add the milk a little at a time until it’s holding together but not too wet.

Knead very briefly (half a minute or so, no more). Shape into a ball and flatten into a circle about 1 cm thick. Divide into 1/8th’s.

Soda Farl, Morcilla & Eggs Brunch

Heat a frying pan, when hot add a little flour and fry on each side on a moderate heat for approx 8 minutes, until golden brown on each side.

While the farls are cooking, fry the morcilla with tomatoes for about 5 minutes and fry the eggs to your liking.

And, there you have it. Fresh bread and a lovely brunch. Enjoy it.

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Recipe: Irish Salmon and Crab Fish Cakes

Salmon & Crab Fish Cakes

Back in Ireland for a few weeks, to celebrate a friends wedding, my nieces first birthday, and a fairly significant one of my own (quietly for a change), I felt inspired to cook something Irish, something that reminded me of my roots and drew from the surrounding area. I decided on fish cakes.

Not something that I would ever eat as a child being the fussiest creature crawling the face of the earth, I discovered them later on, preferring those packed with fish, with crispy exteriors and fresh salads with creamy dressings and sharp capers and cornichons. Maybe some lovely tartare sauce or simply homemade mayonnaise. Irish fish cakes should have potato too though, so I always add a little bit.

Salmon & Crab Fish Cakes

I haven’t made them in a while, in fact I grew to hate them. It’s the most popular recipe on this blog, but not one of my favourites, and I resented that poor little post from the early days when my photos came from a battered old camera. It’s time to embrace fish cakes one more and in light of the occasions this week, a little luxury was required in the form of some crab meat.

Salmon & Crab Fish Cakes

As I was home, in an Irish seaside town, I had the luxury and convenience of a local fish shop with fresh locally caught crab and delicious salmon. My home is not very far from Flahavan’s Mills, where they produce lovely porridge oatlets which I love and eat all the time in London. I substituted their pinhead oats for breadcrumbs to coat the salmon. It worked beautifully giving lovely crunch and texture. A little bit healthier too perhaps.

I poached my salmon first with fresh bay leaves and parsley and thyme from the garden with a dozen or so black peppercorns in milk. I poached it gently for 15 – 20 mins, let it cool and discarded the skin, gently flaking the salmon and combining it with a couple of spoonfuls of the poaching milk, the mashed potatoes, fresh chopped chives, the crab and it was good to go. Easy! And perfect too with leftover salmon or other fish you might have to hand.

Salmon & Crab Fish Cakes

I served these with a simple salad (again picked fresh from the garden – such luxury for a Londoner!), french dressing, capers and mayonnaise. A homemade tartare sauce goes very well too.

I baked and fried these. Baked is healthier and takes about 35 minites at 200 degrees celsius. Frying gives a much better texture, and takes about 5 minutes on each side at a moderate heat.

Recipe: Irish Salmon and Crab Fish Cakes

Serves 4

Ingredients:

300g Salmon – I poached mine, not essential though, cooked salmon in any way will do
200g Crabmeat (pref mixture white & brown)
200g mashed potatoes
Fresh chives
150g oatmeal
1 egg
A little milk
S&P

Salad leaves

Dressing: 1 tsp white wine vinegar, 3 tsp extra virgin olive oil, S&P

To serve: mayonnaise or tartare sauce and capers

Method:

If you are poaching the salmon, cover the salmon with milk, and add some bay leaves, parsley and what ever other herbs you have to hand, some peppercorns. Bring to a simmer and leave to poach gently over a very low heat for 15 – 20 minutes.

Leave to cool and peel the skin off. Flake and mix with the crab, mashed potato and a handful of fresh chives. Season to taste. Depending on your potatoes, you may like to add a couple of tasblespoons of milk (from the poaching liquor if you poached). You may not need this, judge by tying to shape a fish cake, and if it needs more moisture add the milk.

Season the oats. Divide the fish cake mixture into 8 and shape into flattened balls. Dip these in the beaten egg and coat in the seasoned oats. Fry at a moderate heat for about 5 minutes on each side until crisp and heated through.

Dress the salad leaves and serve the fish cakes on top with a sprinkling of capers and some mayonnaise or tartare sauce on the side.

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Week 7 at the Market and a Recipe for Blaas

blaa

I can’t quite believe I’ve just typed Week 7 at the market, have I really been there 7 weeks? And I am but one day away from week 8. For something that happened organically and was quite unplanned save for the first week, it’s become quite a feature in this life of mine. Less major dramas and stress, there’s a routine in place at last, although I will continue to vary the produce to keep it interesting for me and for you.

There was one minor stress last week relating to transport to the market, namely it didn’t arrive, so apologies to anyone that got down there early to discover that I wasn’t there. I felt very bad about that. Onwards and upwards, I’ll ensure that doesn’t happen this week. I normally leave with enough buffer time to handle traffic etc. but if the cab doesn’t turn up, well, there’s nothing I can do about that. What’s that you say? Learn to drive? Buy a car? All in good time, all in good time.

The pork loin was popular as always and we were down to our last sandwich by 3pm. The bread sold out earlier than this and we had to top up with some lovely bread from fellow stall holders The Flour Station (they’re excellent – do check them out). There were a couple of new things this weektoo, two tarts. A potato, bacon and camembert tart and caramelised onion and goats cheese tartlets. The onions were caramelised in butter for over an hour and were rich and delicious. I struggled not to eat them all, a dual challenge last week as I struggled to avoid the crispy crackling which tempts me every week and, now also, the caramelised onions.

The crackling brought with it some bother last week. It is very crisp and tempting, glistening and winking at passers by from the stall, and several people requested some, some for free, and others tried to buy. There is never enough crackling, and every sandwich must have some, so I had to refuse, prompting one bizarre response from one girl who expected me to give it to her for free, stating quite crankily that I must be psychically very voluptuous. Eh?! As always though, most people were lovely. One couple had the sandwich then came back for some tart and prosecco, and then some more prosecco. My kind of people!

My bread at the stall has attracted much comment, and the recipe has been requested several times. Having made it several times, and feeling fairly confident in it, it’s time to share it. To recap, a blaa is a traditional bread made almost exclusively in Waterford, the county in Ireland where I grew up. I’ve been told that it’s also made in Newfoundland, as many people from Waterford emigrated there during the famine in the mid 19th century and brought the recipe with them. It’s light and soft and quite fluffy, I don’t know why it’s not more widely known. Sadly, I don’t know any bakers in Waterford, but I found a recipe on wikipedia of all places, and tweaked that a little so that I could use dried yeast. I followed it to the letter the first few times and also used fresh yeast. The dried yeast works perfectly fine and is easier to source so this is what I use now.

A word about yeast, it’s a living thing and it is possible to kill it, so ensure that the water is only lukewarm. Lukewarm to wake it up and start it reproducing, hot water will kill it, and kill your bread. Sugar feeds it and gets it going. Most recipes don’t call for sugar but this one does, and gives it a nice subtle sweetness as well as really livening the yeast.

The recipe takes some time but is worth it. Do ensure that that you knead the dough thoroughly, for 10 minutes or so. Also ensure that you sift the flour and introduce air this way. These steps are both key to producing a light bread.

Enjoy, hope you like it. Makes 8 blaas.

Ingredients

500g extra strong white flour, plus extra for dredging
10g salt
10g butter
10g active dried yeast
10g sugar
275g water, lukewarm

Method

1. Dissolve yeast and sugar into water. Ensure that the water is warm, not cold or hot. Leave for 10 minutes. It should get nice and frothy, indicating that the yeast is alive and well.
2. Sieve dry ingredients, introducing air.
3. Rub butter and dry mixture together.
4. Add wet to dry ingredients, mix until combined. Knead until dough is smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. It will go from rough to a little shiny
5. Proof for 45 mins in a bowl covered in clingfilm in a warm part of your kitchen. Remove from the bowl and knock back, pushing the air out the dough. Rest for 15mins. (The short rest times gives the gluten time to relax, making shaping easier).
6. Divide the dough into 8 pieces. Roll each piece into a ball.
7. Rest for 5mins, covered.
8. Roll out to an round shape and place the balls side by side in a square baking dish (that has some flour on) to proof. Dredge with flour again .
9. Final proofing for 50mins. Nearly there! Dredge with a little extra flour.
10. Bake for 15-20mins at 210c.

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Smoked Salmon with Brown Soda Bread & Pickled Cucumber

Smoked Salmon, Cucumber Pickle & Brown Soda Bread

Did someone mention smoked salmon?? Oh, that’s right – I did! On Sunday and on flickr last week. Shall I let you in on a secret? I’ve discovered that Selfridge’s (in Oxford St, London) have started selling Frank Hederman’s smoked salmon from the Belvelly Smokehouse in Cork. Haven’t they always done that? Well, yes but now, it’s available not only at the Oyster and Champagne Bar as a dish, but, by the side and fillet at the, well, smoked salmon counter.

It’s not cheap, but I’ve been staying with friends for a bit and wanted to leave with a splash (decadent, moi?). Besides, it’s worth every penny and more. The texture is supple and firm with a delicate flavour and a beautiful smoky aftertaste from the beechwood chips. There’s a wonderful quote from the NY Times - Mr. Hederman smokes fish, which is a little like saying Steinway makes pianos. It’s just wonderful.

We know, I hear you roar! I blogged it when I had it in Selfridge’s last year and I mentioned it recently while in Ireland. I saw the man himself when I visited Midleton Farmer’s Market in Cork and I very much look forward to my next trip so that I can sample his smoked mackerel and smoked eel.

So, what to do with this beautiful smoked wild salmon? I prefer to keep it simple and let the smoked salmon sing. A simple accompaniment of good brown bread and cucumber pickle is all it needs – no cheeses, no cream, just the salmon, smoked with such care and attention.

The recipe for each is very straight-forward, there are more complex recipes with more delicate and elaborate flavours, but my quick, simple recipe was given to me by a friend that was a chef and it works for me. I love cucumber pickle, I love the sharp, tartness and intense sweetness of the pickle, it makes my mouth tingle, and in a very good way. As for soda bread, I grew up with it, and it’s something that I should make more often. I prefer a wholemeal soda bread, some people do half wholemeal/half white or white, but for me it’s wholemeal all the way.

This will make a large jar of cucumber pickle and a small loaf of bread. Soda bread is quite dense so it goes a long way.

[Read more]

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Kinvara Smoked Salmon

Smoked Salmon Salad

One of the things that struck me on my recent trip home to Ireland and the Burren, was how fantastically fresh and delicious the seafood was. This is to be expected, as it’s on Galway Bay, however, for an island, surprisingly, lots of Irish people don’t eat fish all that much. I, for one, didn’t really start eating fish until well into my 20’s, and while living in London!

Kinvara itself, is well known for the award winning Kinvara smoked salmon. A small family run business, their organic irish salmon is smoked using age old, smoking techniques over a combination of oak and beech wood, in (to use their words) a state of the art HACCP approved Smokehouse. The salmon is sourced from their salmon farm, Clare Island Seafarm Cooperative, the only organic salmon farm in Ireland (certified organic by IOFGA), 4 miles out into the Atlantic Ocean.

The salmon are fed on the by products of herring and mackerel and ground up crustacean shells. This lends their flesh a deep colour – it is not chosen from a selection of dyes as the colour of other farmed salmon can be. The high water movement in the Atlantic, generates strong currents compelling the salmon to swim like their wild counterparts, resulting in a flesh that is firm with a firm texture and lower fat content.

So, what of the salmon taste? I loved it, for me for what I’ve tried, it is second only to Frank Hedermans organic smoked salmon from the Belvelly smokehouse. Nigel Slater is a fan, and was quoted some years ago as saying “…the best I have eaten this year was a gently smoked fish from Kinvara.” I’d urge you to try it if you can, it is widely available in Ireland and in the UK in Waitrose, Fresh and Wild and Selfridges food hall.

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Beannachtaí na Féile Padraig – Happy St Patrick’s Day!

Beannachtaí na Féile Padraig / Happy St Patrick’s Day!

Greetings from the Emerald Isle. I’ve spent St Patrick’s Weekend on the cusp of the Burren in Kinvara, Co Galway – the perfect antidote to a busy month in London. Kinvara is a seaside village on the west coast of Ireland, home to Kinvara Smokehouse, the producers of the wonderful Kinvara organic smoked salmon (more on that in coming days). I had much fun with friends and lots of smoked salmon and shellfish, the smoked salmon delicate and pungent at once, and the shellfish – so fresh. Wonderful. I am ready for another crazy month now :)

I cooked a few things but as I’ve spent most of the day travelling back to Dublin, I’ll have to write about those another time. For now, I’ll leave you with some random unedited pictures, straight from my camera via a disgruntled Mac that crashes every time I try to do anything, and, promise to be back soon!

Tractor from the Gort St Patricks Day Parade (Co. Galway)

Ballyvaughan, the Burren

Outside the Russell Gallery, Newquay, the Burren

Boats in Kinvara Harbour

Kinvara Harbour