Shepard’s Pie is one of my all-time favourite recipes. We used to have it all the time for dinner when I was younger, and there was nothing better than coming in the door from school and into a warm kitchen to a piping hot casserole dish of Shepard’s Pie. You don’t see people make it as much anymore as people are moving away from traditional food in favour of exotic foreign dishes, but I think that’s their loss. This is one of the best, comforting and wholesome dishes in existence.
The beans may sounds really weird if you haven’t already tried them. But trust me, adding baked beans to a Shepard’s Pie will be the best decision you ever make and you will never look back. My mum used always add a tin of beans to her Shepard’s Pie when we were small kids, but as we got older we wouldn’t let her make it without the layer of beans. As well as tasting delicious, they add more protein and fibre to your meal too.
7-8 large potatoes (local)
2 tbsp butter
1 tin canelli beans
1/2 tin chopped tomatoes
2 cloves garlic
1 tbsp honey
1lb mince lamb
2 sticks celery
1 large onion
2 cloves garlic
1 beef stock cube
1 tbsp tomato paste
Boil the potatoes for about 15 to 20 minute, until cooked through and soft. Peel and mash with the butter and a little salt and pepper until all is soft and well combined. Don’t over mash or it will lose it’s fluffiness!
For the beans… Crush the garlic and fry for a minute in some oil in a saucepan, add the tomatoes, beans and honey and let simmer away for about 10-15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
For the meat.. Grate the carrots and celery. Finely chop the onion and garlic. Fry them all together in some olive oil for about 10-15 minutes until totally soft. Add the lamb mince and cook for another 10-15 minutes, stirring frequently to ensure it’s browned all over. Pop your stock cube into a mug of boiling water, when dissolved stir into your meat mix. Add in the tomato paste too. Season with salt and pepper.
Get your casserole dish out, line with a smear of butter. Layer in the cooked lamb mix, then layer in the beans then top with the mashed potato. Make a wave pattern with a fork on the potato, top with a little more butter. Cook in an oven preheated to 180C for about 40 minutes.
Serve with buttery peas and eat straight away!
This freezes perfectly, I often make a big dish of it and then portion up the pieces so I can have individual meals quickly during the week. You could add in herbs too, in fact I had parsley but forgot to add it in! Not necessary though.
This past weekend, I had the most relaxing yet fun filled weekend in Cloughjordan House. I was approached by Glenisk to go and stay there for a night and complete one of the Cloughjordan Cookery School classes the following morning. After a quick look on their website I jumped at the chance. Cloughjordan House is a 400 year old house in North Tipperary that has been converted into a luxury guest house and cookery school that also accommodates weddings and events. The house is run by Sarah and Peter Baker, the most lovely and hospitable couple you could ever hope to meet, and the house has been in their family for 100 years. Sarah is a Ballymaloe trained cook so I was really excited to stay there and enjoy her breakfast and learn something new at the cookery class. The actual house itself is incredible, I stayed in a beautiful, huge bedroom that had the most stunning old features: huge bay windows with shutters, high-ceilings, a fireplace, beautiful antique furniture and most importantly, a really cosy soft bed. I couldn’t recommend a stay at Cloughjordan House more, it’s in a beautiful location and while the old house retains all it’s old features and charms it comes with all the modern luxuries you could wish for. The Bakers couldn’t have been more hospitable or made us feel more welcome, this place is definitely a gem worth visiting. Before the cookery class, I woke up to honestly the best breakfast I have had in any guest house or hotel in Ireland. A table was lined with the most amazing home made rhubarb compote, bircher muesli, granola, cereals, homemade breads, marmalades, honey etc. Then out came a beautiful tray of loose tea and delicious coffee (my companion for the weekend is the coffee drinker and was raving about the stuff). This was all before Peter came out of the kitchen announcing their was porridge on the hob while holding a massive tray of beautiful sausages, rashers, eggs, mushrooms etc… You get the gist. Honestly, after that breakfast feast, I could have went home happy.
After our feast, we slowly plodded over to the cookery school trying to ward off a mild food coma and were greeted by our teacher for the day, Colleen. We all perked back up again after she read through our menu for the day that we would be enjoying for lunch afterwards. The majority of the ingredients used were grown in the Baker’s vegetable garden, so as you can imagine, everything tasted that bit better. One of the recipes we completed was a self-saucing lemon pudding, and it was absolutely delicious. Really zingy and fresh, but not too heavy and really easy to make. The perfect end to a three-course meal. The top of the pudding is very light and airy like a soufflé, and the bottom is like a really lemony, curd-like sauce. It is divine. After a morning of great craic cooking with the other students we all sat down to eat our second feast of the day together, and this was the perfect end to it all. I’ll put up a few other recipes from the class as they were all delicious, however this is one you definitely need to add to your dessert repertoire. We were also sent away with a hamper of goodies from Glenisk, so I’ll probably end up making this again this weekend with the creamy ingredients we were sent away with!
250g caster sugar
Zest & juice of 2 lemons
Preheat your oven to 180C and butter a 1.2 litre oven proof pudding dish.
Separate your eggs and set aside.
Cream the butter in a food processor or with a handheld mixer. Ass the sugar and beat week, then add the egg yolks and mix in the flour.
Add in the lemon zest, juice and milk to the mixture, and stir to combine.
In a separate bowl whisk the egg whites stuffily and gently fold into the lemon mixture. Pour it into the pudding dish and bake for 30 minutes until the top is golden and firm,
Serve immediately sprinkled with icing sugar and a dollop of whipped cream.
I am just back from a holiday in the South of France after indulging in all the best french foods such pain au chocolat, brioche, creme brulee, eclairs, chocolate mousse, baguettes, brie and camembert cheeses, rabbit terrine, veal roasted with figs, truffle butter risottos, salmon tartare… Need I go on?! I spent the week travelling along the Cote d’Azur visiting Villefranche, Cap Ferrat, Eze, Monaco and Nice. The weather was balmy, the sea was crystal clear, the food delicious and the people were gorgeous! One of the highlight’s of the week for me was visitng the famous Cours Saleya food market in Nice. The market gathers every morning in the old town of Nice until after lunch selling all kinds of wonderful foods. Big juicy fruits of all varieties and seasonal vegetables line many of the stalls, along side stalls bursting with big baskets of beautiful flowers, fish stalls sell the day’s catch fresh from the waters of the Cote d’Azur, cheese stalls sell amazing stinky cheeses, bread stalls sell all manor of baked delights, herb and spice stalls sell spice mixes specific to classic and contemporary dishes, cured meat stalls get you salivating… This would be a tourist’s heaven if you were staying in an apartment in Nice as I can just imagine gathering all kinds of goodies from the market for a feast! As we were leaving the next day we decided to pick up a few bits and pieces we could bring home with us like a delicious fig chutney and violet sugar. One thing I regret not getting was a bag of the dried out peppers they were selling as I’m sure they’d all flavour to all sorts of meals. The is also a lovely cafe on the corner of the Cours Saleya called Le Coin Quotidien which does a great breakfast before you set off into the stalls. If you are going to Nice, even just for one day make sure to stop by this amazing food and flower market and soak up the atmosphere and be sure to take a few jarred treats home with you!
Nice is a great city to visit with a lot to offer, the city is on the coast with a long beach thronging with people on a hot summer’s days, and alive with activity in the water… Jet skiing, paragliding, you name it! The nicest part of Nice is “Vieux Nice”, or “Old Nice” which is a stunning labyrinth of narrow cobbled streets lined with the coolest shops, restaurants and bars in Nice. Wandering these streets is a great way to spend an afternoon. The place has a really vibrant restaurant scene too. I’ve captured a wide range of shots from my trip so I’ve put up all the ones of La Cours Saleya market first, followed by some shots of Vieux Nice. I hope you enjoy the pictures and it inspires you to take a trip there sometime!
Sometimes I find myself in weird and wonderful situations and wonder how I ever got there. Such was how I felt recently when I arrived at chef Andrew Rudd’s private dining venue, Medley, to serve a dish for him, John Torode (UK Masterchef judge) and Ross Golden-Bannon (editor Food&WINE Magazine) in the final of 3’s search for Ireland’s best fish dish.
I stumbled across the competition on-line and the prospect of winning a trip to the Cliff House and also getting to meet all the esteemed judges caught my attention straight away! I had made a little fishy dishy already that month that had proved quite popular and so entered that into the competition on a whim, and then immediately forgot about it. Until I got a call from 3. It went something like this:
Friendly girl from 3: “You’re in the final of our All You Can Eat Fish competition in 2 days which is going to be judged by John Torode, Andrew Rudd and Ross Golden-Bannon. Congratulations!”
Me (out loud): “”Oh great”
Me (in my head): “I am going to puke!”
Had I really thought I had a chance, I probably would have given my dish more thought and entered something a little more sophisticated. Not that I don’t love my Creamy Lemon and Caper Mixed Fish Salad, because I do. I just wasn’t sure John Torode would love it as much as I do! With my cooking I always try to make delicious dishes that are really simple to make, and don’t take much time. And I don’t fit the slaving-away-under-time-pressure, plating-up-in-a-fit-of-sweats stereotype. But alas, I was thrilled to be a finalist and excited to take part, so decided not to worry, and just do my thing.
Anyway upon entering Medley, I met my other fellow finalist, Hugh. After chatting to him for a while, I felt pretty relaxed about the whole situation. Andrew Rudd and his team were there also to help us set up, and they were so genuinely lovely that I was quite looking forward to the whole thing kicking off and starting to cook!
The only thing I was really nervous about, was that as my dish was so quick and easy to make, that it really only takes about 20 minutes to make. We had an hour head to head to cook…. It was a challenge, but I was determined to cook/make everything as slowly as humanely possible in order to try and make myself look busy. Have you ever spent 10 minutes slicing bread before? I have. And I can tell you, it’s not easy to cut bread that slowly.
What helped me pass the hour however, was chats with the lovely Ketty from French Foodie in Dublin, who came along to support. Also helping was a glass or two or white wine, however this did also cement a reputation of me being a lush (which was entirely untrue) as of course I had my glass in hand every time the judges were around. It was probably the glass or two of wine in my hand that made me decide to make a few friendly jokes with John Torode when he came over to my work station. The jokes about me hoping to avoid the looks of disgust he sometimes gives on Masterchef when tasting an unpleasant dish were not however found as hilarious as I might have thought, and alas, John Torode is not my new BFF.
While I didn’t win, it was a great experience and lots and lots of fun. Hugh, the winner, has a seafood stall in the Dalkey farmer’s market where he sells fresh fish and also pre-prepared fish dishes, and I would recommend trying his stuff if you are out that direction. He also sells delicious fresh crab meat which is hard to find readily available in Dublin City.
On a side note. If you have been reading and enjoying my blog posts over the last year since I began my blog, the Irish Blog Awards are now open for nominations, and if you would consider nominating me, I would greatly appreciate it.
*All photos taken by the talented Richie Stokes on behalf of 3 Ireland.
What a great May Bank Holiday it has been, but what a busy one too. Despite having lots of plans last weekend, most of which were in West Cork, I took a detour on Saturday morning down to the Ballymaloe Literary Festival as I really didn’t want to miss it. I only had an hour as I had to be in Schull that afternoon, so I decided to make an hour’s pit stop for lunch. I unfortunately didn’t fit in any talks, which is a shame as I wanted to see Michelle Darmody’s talk on self-publishing among others, but it was still a great spot for an hours lunch.
Ballymaloe converted a big old shed of their’s into a space filled with farmer’s market style stalls, but it was obvious how high Ballymaloe set the standard for what the stalls should look like. Walking into The Big Shed was like walking into a foodie fairytale! All the stalls were dressed in ivy and flower garlands, there was a magical play area for kids, a book stall selling favourite cookbooks, and a graffiti artist spraying out images of much loved Irish food culture.
I ended up going for a savoury galette with smoked salmon, cream cheese, herbs and beautiful unusual dressings, but I also helped my Dad finish off his BBQ from Gubbeen smokehouse… obviously! I also stocked up on treats for the weekend: king oyster and shiitake mushrooms from Ballyhoura farm, Porcini dust and a delicious salad from the Rocket Man. It was such a beautiful sunny day, that I wished I could have stayed longer. Alas, next year I’ll keep a full day free to come down and enjoy the festival. It was visually stunning and the programme of events was world class. Trust Darina Allen to pull off the best food festival in Ireland, with world class chefs, speakers, demos and events while staying true to her ethos of supporting local and artisan Irish food producers!
On Wednesday night I went along to Cake Cafe’s supper club organised by the head chef in the Cake Cafe, Ray O’Neill. While I have a borderline obsession with Cake Cafe, I unfortunately missed the first supper club he ran last month (I was down in Arbutus learning to make bread!) but when I heard about this one, I put my name down straight away and invited my two lovely house mates. The food, while keeping the ethos of using local and artisan food suppliers that Cake Cafe is renowned for, definitely had a different twist for the evening and you could tell a lot of love went into making this menu. The dishes were so beautifully but unpretentiously presented… really imaginative.
We arrived in the Cake Cafe and were greeted with a cocktail of prosecco and elderflower cordial that they had infused with basil for over a week. After a busy day in work there was nothing better than sitting down outside in the sun and sipping away on some fruity bubbles to fully switch off. That’s one of the many nice things about Cake Cafe, despite being located in Dublin city centre, you really feel switched off from everything when you get there. It’s like a little zen hideaway! Thankfully we weren’t waiting long before being called in to take our seats and get started on our four course meal. We started with a complimentary course of blinis with Goatsbridge caviar and dill creme fraiche, which were delicious.
We then moved on to our starter of a little fig, Durrus cheese, bacon and rocket pesto tart. That was definitely my favourite course, in fact just writing about it is making my crave another! I’m a big fan of all the West Cork cheeses, but this combination of all four ingredients was completely mouth watering. Throughout the whole night we had some delicious new flavour combinations that worked really well together, and you can tell a lot of thought went into the menu.
Our second course was Goatsbridge Smoked Trout with pickled golden beetroot, salad and herb yoghurt. I really must find out where to get the Goatsbridge smoked trout, I’ve heard a lot about them but haven’t seen their stuff sold anywhere. This was delicious and light and bursting with smoky goodness! Despite being already well fed by the time our main course came, we all had a few slices of their soft and crusty bread for good measure. Even the butter was handmade and scattered with some salt flakes. It was all the little touches during the night that made it such a special experience.
For main we had rabbit and pancetta hotpot which was delicious. I love rabbit, but you often don’t see it served in many places, so it was a nice surprise on the menu. To finish off we had a slice of mango and lime sponge with cream which we ate in happy, sleepy silence! The whole experience was great, and the three of us have already decided we will go to the next one, when it’s announced. It was a fantastic night, and I would recommend checking out the next one. I’m already excitedly imagining what will be on the next menu!
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!