Since starting to cook risotto a few months I have been descending down a slippery slope of carbohydrate overload, but some evenings when it’s cold and wet outside, this is just the only dish you want to eat when you’re rugged up on the couch.
This risotto recipe works really nicely are I think squash is so hearty and warming, and the chorizo flavour really packs a punch. I use Gubbeen chorizo whenever I can stock up at home and I highly recommend you to seek it out, their artisan smokehouse in West Cork produces the mosts flavoursome meats and they are quiet reasonably priced also. I usually stock up my fridge with a lot of their products in one go, as smoked products don’t go off for a long time. This dish is so colourful, comforting, delicious and is a quick and easy dinner idea that’s perfect for a nice night in.
Ingredients (Serves Two):
130g Arborio Rice
2 shallots finely chopped
2 garlic cloves finely chopped
1/2 glass white wine
1/2 litre good quality chicken stock (keep this simmering in a saucepan while you cook)
1 handful grated parmesan cheese
Chorizo chopped (about 2 thumb lengths of chorizo)
1 small butternut squash chopped (in equal sizes so it cooks evenly)
1 large knob of butter
Salt & Pepper
1. Put the chopped squash in a heavy bottomed pot with the knob of butter and a generous pinch of salt and pepper, put the lid on and let it cook away on a medium heat, stirring occasionally. (This will take about 30 mins or so).
2. Lightly sauté the chorizo for a minute or two. If any oil comes out of the chorizo when cooking then reserve a tablespoon or two in a side dish for later. Add a teaspoon of olive oil to the pot the chorizo is cooking in and add the garlic and shallots and sauté for two minutes. Add the rice and sauté for another minute or two.
3. Add the wine to the pot and stir until is has been absorbed. Then start adding the chicken stock, one ladle at a time. Don’t add in a new ladle of stock until the previous ladle has been absorbed. Stir continuously.
4. When the squash is cooked mash two thirds of it, and leave the remaining third in their chunks. Stir all the squash into the risotto once all the chicken stock has been absorbed and the risotto it ready to serve. Stir in the Parmesan cheese and serve.
5. If you had any reserved chorizo oil then this is nice drizzled on top of the risotto, alternatively served with a grating of Parmesan on top and a pinch of freshly cracked black pepper.
Salads don’t need to be boring, limp and tasteless! You can put anything you want into a salad, and this one I love as it has some of my favourite things in it. I made this for a party not too long ago and it was really popular. I’ve been using my training for the Cork half marathon as an excuse to indulge in carb heavy dishes, but after a few weeks of hamming it up with pasta dishes, toasties, risottos and home made pizzas I think it’s time to get back into the swing of fitting in a few salads a week!
This is a really delicious salad though, and you definitely don’t feel cheated of an indulgent meal! The beetroot and cranberries add some lovely colour, the Camembert cheese adds a lovely silky soft texture and taste, and the walnuts give a nice little bite.
This literally takes 5 minutes to prepare, all that’s involved is a little chopping and tossing and it’s done. This makes a lovely lunch or a side dish for a party.
4 cooked beetroots (You can buy them in all supermarkets cooked and vacuum packed)
1 wheel of Camembert cheese
1 large handful of walnuts
1/2 cup of dried cranberries
1 large bag of salad leaves (dark leaves such as spinach and rocket work best, avoid iceberg lettuce)
Salt and Pepper
1. Chop the beetroot into bite sized chunks, let any excess water from the beetroot drain away.
2. Chop up the Camembert into small chunks.
3. Mix together the beetroot, salad leaves, walnuts, cranberries and Camembert into a bowl and loosen it with a little olive oil.
4. Sprinkle a little remaining walnut and cranberry on top and season lightly with salt and pepper. Done!
I know this one sounds weird, I know. It isn’t though, it’s the nicest pizza I’ve had in ages! Fennel and pork always go well together anyway, and the mascarpone cheese adds a nice creamy sauciness if you, like me, don’t always want your pizza drowned in tomato sauce. Last Sunday, instead of the usual Sunday Roast, I had this bad boy and it really hit the spot. It was the perfect indulgence for an evening on the couch watching TV. I’m in the midst of a bit of a pizza fad at the moment, so I’m experimenting a lot.
To make this pizza work well, you need to buy the best quality sausages possible, as cheap supermarket sausages won’t cut the mustard here. I bought some Wild Boar sausages in my local butchers, Lawlors, and they worked a treat. They cost €5.40 for 500g, but I only needed half the pack (so €2.70). I had some pizza dough from Iago’s in the English Market which only cost €1.80 which I think is really good value and I made two pizzas out of the one ball of dough on two consecutive nights, (so really 90c per pizza base). I also used some leftover mascarpone cheese, some fennel (70c) and some dried herbs from my cupboard. It worked out cheaper than a shop bought pizza, it certainly was much cheaper than ordering a pizza takeaway on-line (about half the price), yet I can assure you it tasted much better, supported local food producers, and was much better for my health than either a processed supermarket or a take-away pizza. It’s an interesting thought as most people automatically assume supporting local, quality food producers will always end up more expensive, but when you’re crafty with leftovers and store cupboard products, you can be surprised how inexpensive a good quality meal can be! So why not give this one a go the next time you get pizza cravings?
1 ball of pizza dough or one plain pizza base
1 bulb of fresh fennel finely sliced
2 large gourmet pork sausages (at least 80% meat content)
4 tbsp mascarpone cheese
1 tbsp fennel seeds
1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
1/2 tsp chilli flakes
1. Fry the sliced fennel bulb lightly until soft, be careful not to brown them.
2. In a separate pan fry the sausages gently until cooked through. Then chop them into discs and add to the pan of chopped fennel for a few minutes with the chopped fennel seeds, black pepper and chilli.
3. Roll out your pizza dough on a floured surface until it’s nice and thin. Smear a tablespoon of olive oil over the rolled out dough, and layer on the sliced cooked fennel and the sausage and herb mix. Pop it into an oven preheated to 200C for about 10 to 15 minutes (be careful to keep an eye on these, as they can brown very quickly).
4. When it’s just about done, dollop on the mascarpone and pop back into the oven to allow it to melt nicely on top of the pizza.
If you have been following my blog recently, you will know that I under took a bread making course at Arbutus Bread Company in Cork last month. It was such a fun experience, but as I’m living in Dublin, I had to commute home to Cork once a week to do the course and get back up to Dublin at the crack of dawn the following morning to get back to Dublin for work. It was a bit mad in retrospect, but we all do mad things to follow our passions!
Arbutus Breads was set up by Declan Ryan, the first Michelen star chef in Ireland who became famous with Arbutus Lodge. I can’t remember being there unfortunately despite the fact that it was a stones throw away from the first house my family lived in, as Declan retired and sold Arbutus many years ago when I was still a child, but my parents have great memories of the place. When Declan retired, he set up Arbutus breads, initially as a hobby, but it soon grew into a well established artisan bakery supplying Cork’s best markets, delis and shops. The bakery has a bit of a cult following at this point, as it really is the best bakery in the country.
As the course in Arbutus drew to an end, Declan offered us all the opportunity to witness how a bakery operates on a busy night, to which I of course jumped at! Their busiest night is Friday night, to meet the weekend demand on Saturdays. I was told to arrive at midnight and I would work through the night until all loaves were pulled from the ovens. Having been personally used to taking a full weekend afternoon to make one loaf of bread, I was intrigued to see how an artisan bakery committed to the traditional methods of bread making handles such large orders of almost 40 different types of bread in the space of 8 short hours.
I arrived 20 minutes early (I am an eager beaver), and though very excited, I wasn’t sure if I would be getting stuck in or just weighing flour and making tea. Darragh (Declan’s son, and a great baker at Arbutus) arrived and got me to work straight away, and thankfully I was straight away getting elbow deep in flour. I started off decorating some white yeast breads with creme fraiche, basil, tomatoes and herbs which was quite fun and strangely therapeutic. Then I got stuck into making a type of light brioche infused with saffron and filled with almond paste, this was probably my favourite one to help prepare as I love sweet things and it looked so pretty that it was quite enjoyable to make. I even got to make my own massive custard brioche to take home with me! Ivers ,who is a baker at Arbutus, specialises in all the Rye breads, and thankfully took me through each stage of the process of making his rye breads. My favourite is his Latvian Rye which is a sweet and sour rye with caraway seeds, which give it the most beautiful tangy flavour. He also let me get stuck into kneading the doughs and showed me some cool and unusual ways of shaping them. I was really impressed with how generous the bakers were with their time for me, as I’m sure showing me how to do things was slowing them down. I also wondered were they worried that I would be making more “rustic” looking loaves than they were used to, however, they were really encouraging and taught me so much.
Sukru, the baker who taught me to make his Turkish Pide bread the week before let me watch him make his fragrant breads. He was also in charge of making the Brown Soda breads, and made over 60 during the night! I didn’t help out much with the pastries, as the dough needs to be made 18 hours in advance, but I happily egg washed them and watched them rise into sweet, buttery, crusty beauties!
The main thing that struck me about the place was the time that is taken to create each loaf. I always support local and artisan food companies wherever possible and justify the slightly increased cost by the superior taste and quality, and the fact that I am supporting Irish jobs. However, one thing I have always taken for granted is the time that these artisans take to craft their food. I mean, despite thousands of loaves being made that night, each was crafted by hand. As I was delicately filling the saffron brioche dough with almond paste and plaited them into pretty little circles, I wondered would the person who bought and ate the loaf the next day appreciate that I had been up at 5am making it? Would it cross their mind that a passionate food groupie like myself had been up at 6am the previous day for a run, worked a full day, got a 3 hour bus to Cork to get to the bakery, and worked through the night to learn and help create these amazing loaves all for the love of food? They probably enjoyed every last crumb as I did the next morning when I took a loaf home, however the bakers who work through the night as we sleep soundly in our beds often get forgotton. The thing that struck me about my night in Arbutus is the time and care that goes into the production of artisan food, and I’m going to endeavour to remember that each time I pour some Flynn’s kitchen basil oil on my bread, or Llewellyn Apple Syrup on my porridge, Gubbeen chorizo on my pasta and certainly each time I take a bite of Arbutus Bread.
History of Bread Making in Ireland:
In Ireland we don’t have a history of artisan yeast or levain breads, being a nation of devoted soda bread eaters (not that I’m knocking my beloved soda breads). Apparently the reason behind this is actually scientific. Our breads are low in protein and gluten (damn the Irish weather) and so it doesn’t rise with yeast, which is why we traditionally relied on raising our breads with bread soda and buttermilk. The French and Italians have very fine flours which make the most beautiful yeast breads, and that is why boulangeries are a part of the French and Italian cultures that are missing in Ireland. However, with delicious sodas and limited travel across Europe many generations ago, most people didn’t know what they were missing, and so no-one really minded.
Atrisan bakers will cite the invention of the Chorleywood process of bread making as the demise of quality bread making and standards. This process was invented during World War 2 in an attempt to cheaply and quickly feed those who were affected by food shortages. Unlike traditional breads that take hours to prove and use only water, flour and maybe yeast, these loaves were pumped with fat, sugar and other nasties that only took 5 minutes to prove. Apparently it is because of this process of bread making that we see an increase in the amount of intolerances to bread. When I asked Declan why he decided to start up a bakery after retiring from Arbutus Lodge, he replied “the sliced pan”! He was referring to the unhealthy bread we had become accustomed to as a nation, but alas, Declan is redeeming our lack of bread making notoriety as a nation one loaf at a time!
Sometimes when I have a quiet weekend coming up I get the notion to make a big batch of some kind of relish, chutney or jam and fill up all the empty jam jars in my press. This weekend I decided to make a batch of Sweet Apple Relish. The last batch of Tomato Relish I made was a hit with friends and family but I’m down to the end of my last jar, and thought that this time around I would make a batch of apple relish. I’m sure pretty much every other 24 year old was doing something really exciting last Saturday night, but alas, I was making relish. And what’s even worse? I did find it really exciting!
Relish is really, really easy to make. It’s cheap, takes minimal effort and really adds great flavour to your everyday sandwiches, quiches, fry ups, omelettes… pretty much anything that could do with a kick. I went to the Glasnevin Farmers this weekend and came across a lovely woman selling the most delicious fruit and vegetables. I decided to stock up on my ingredients from her and so I left weighed down with a significant amount of bags of apples and onions for my batch of relish, and other fruity treats for later in the week.
Irish apples are perfect for this as they’re sweet and slightly sour. My parent’s neighbour has an apple tree and every year the apples fall into our garden, so this summer when they start ripening and making their way into our garden again I will probably make another batch. As the bad weather this Spring means that the Irish apples haven’t started ripening yet, I would buy ripe red apples rather than green, and I would go for the sweet ones that are packed with sweet juicy taste and a little bit of sour. Apples like coxes work, avoid crispy, watery, flavourless apples like Fuji etc.
1.5kg of red apples
2 large brown onions
300ml Apple Cider Vinegar
1 tsp mixed spice
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp nutmeg
2 tsp cracked black pepper
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper.
1. Chop up your apples and onions into small chunks and throw into a very large heavy bottomed pot and add all other ingredients.
2. Stir together and bring to the boil for 10 minutes, then reduce to a simmer and stir for about an hour. When done let cool down and season to taste.
3. Transfer into sterilised jars. To sterilise jars just put clean jars in an oven heatedto 180C for 5 minutes. Simple!
This is my new favourite salad. As we’re coming in to the warmer (marginally warmer in Ireland) months, we tend to gravitate towards lighter meals, but salads don’t need to be the boring lettuce and tomato variety! This one is packed with flavour and texture, and can be eaten as a main with some crusty bread.
I made a home made mayonnaise laced with smoked paprika, roasted peppers and a little bit of chilli and it really gave tonnes of flavour to the roasted squash. I added roasted peppers to the salad itself also and used some of the fruity oil they come preserved in to dress the leaves. I also toasted a little pan of pumpkin seeds which added a little crunch.
This is a really good, tasty salad. I made it for a party recently and it went down a treat! You really must make your own mayonnaise though, there is no comparison between the home made kind and the jellyish shop bought kind, and it is surprisingly easy to make. You can make twice the amount you need and keep a little jar in the fridge for sandwiches. Two jobs done in one go!
1 large butternut squash
1 jar of roasted red peppers
1 bag of mixed salad leaves (I used rocket, baby spinach and watercress)
1 large handful of pumpkin seeds
salt and pepper
Smoked Paprika Mayo:
1 egg yolk
150ml to 200ml oil (you can use the oil from the jar of roasted peppers, nut oil or sunflower oil… avoid olive or other strong tasting oils)
1/2 tsp dijon mustard
2 tbsp smoked paprika
1/4 tsp chilli flakes
3 roasted red peppers blended into a paste
1. Put your oven on 180C and allow to preheat. Peel and chop your squash into equal sizes to allow it to cook evenly. Throw into a roasting tin, add a little mild tasting oil and salt and pepper and allow to roast away (around 45 to 55 minutes)
2. For the mayo add the egg yolk to a bowl and whisk in the mustard. Very slowly and little bit by little bit whisk in the oil. This is so easy to make, but if you add all the oil at once it will never come together, so add the oil very slowly. When it all has been added in and you have a nice smooth texture, then whisk in the paprika, chilli and blended peppers. Add more paprika or chilli to taste.
3. Take your pumpkin seeds and dry fry them on pan for less then a minute. Make sure to stir them constantly as they burn very quickly. Once they start popping and become nice and crispy then set aside.
4. When the squash is cooked (and make sure it is soft all the way through, nothing worse than undercooked squash), stir in enough mayo to coat all the squash. Add the rest of the jar of the roasted red peppers, the salad leaves and most of the pumpkin seeds. Stir together and add more of the oil from the roasted red peppers to coat the salad leaves if needed. Sprinkle the remaining seeds on top and serve with crusty bread.
There is nothing better than a buttery sweet flapjack, but it seems that they’re really not as popular any more I think all the pretty iced cupcakes are taking over in the sweet treat department, but I’ll always have a soft spot for flapjacks. Years ago they used to be really popular, and that was probably to do with working with what ingredients existed back in the day, as us Irish seem to produce and eat quite an amount of oats.
My Mum made the most amazing flapjacks when we were young, so much so that our neighbours down in West Cork who used to holiday there from Canada would arrive every summer and the first thing they would ask my Mum is could she whip up a batch! They are really easy to make and only need a few ingredients, but you can add in whatever additional dried fruits, nuts and spices you like. I like to keep mine simple, the taste of the brown sugar, butter and oats is delicious so I don’t know why anyone would bother changing it! The two most important things are to use butter (never margarine… blurgh) and brown sugar, as it gives it the flavour that you expect from a good flapjack.
My Nana used to make these and add in Rice Krispies which you can try too, but I think the below is best. They are really easy and simple, and as far as sugary treats go, these are pretty natural!
1. Melt together the butter, golden syrup and brown sugar in a heavy bottomed tin on a low heat.
2. When melted stir in oats, cranberries and flaked almonds. When fully combined, pour into a greased and lined brownie tin. Make sure to press the oat mixture down into the tin with the back of a spoon.
3. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes in a oven preheated to 180C.
4. Let cool before slicing (otherwise they will fall apart). Enjoy with a nice mug of tea!