Monkfish and mango skewers – Cubes of spanking fresh monkfish, skewered with juicy ripe mango, and char grilled over red-hot coals.
We’re not great at barbecues here in Ireland, are we? Not surprising when you can count on one hand the number of days when the opportunity might arise to fire it up and get cooking al fresco.
Burgers, sausages, chicken, and maybe a cut of steak are the usual suspects when we decide to do a bit of searing over coals. A lot of the time when cooking fish on a bbq is gets relegated to a convenient foil parcel, placed over the searing heat.
It’s a handy way to cook a bit of fish, but kinda defeats the whole purpose of getting out the bbq and going to the hassle of firing up the coals in the first place. Fish well wrapped up in foil will never take on the slightest hint of that beautifully charred, smoky, and caramelized flavour we all love when we bbq. Essentially the fish gets steamed in its own juice, and not barbecued.
Anyone who’s ever learned how to make sauce vierge will know that the use of the word sauce in its title is perhaps a little misleading. Sweet tomatoes, fragrant coriander seed, and freshly chopped soft herbs, all mingled together with fruity extra virgin olive oil is definitely something I’d call a dressing.
For me the word sauce conjures up images of rich, silky, indulgent liquids made with large amounts of cream and butter. Sauce vierge on the other hand is something a lot lighter, better for you, and ultimately very tasty.
It’s little wonder that it’s a sauce I come back to again and again. It’s a classic companion for any type of white fish, shellfish, and even works well with pasta. Any leftovers make a great dressing for potato salad too.
Sauce vierge translates as virgin sauce. Maybe the name comes from the use of virgin olive oil in the recipe, I’m not sure. It was made popular by the french chef Michel Guérard, one of the founders of nouvelle cuisine. A recipe for it first appeared in his book La Grande Cuisine minceur. Its since gone on to become a modern classic
Warm juicy pineapple, spiced with chillies and vanilla then caramelized till golden.
Why is it the older I get the sweeter my sweet tooth seems to becomes? I’m at the stage now where dessert is often the part of a meal I look forward to the most. I love to bake but unless I’ve a day off then I just don’t have the time.
Cooking up sweet treats takes time and if you’re anything like me you keep a look out for dessert recipes and sweet things you can whizz up in a hurry. One of my favorite thing to do for a quick sugar hit is to caramelise some seasonal fruits in a hot pan with a little sugar.
Ripe mangos, bananas, strawberries ( so plentiful at the moment), and of course pineapple all caramelize nicely. Than you can just deglaze the sticky fruit with whatever liquor you’ve got in your cabinet. Rum, cointreau, sambuca, even whiskey, or a good desert wine all work well. Read More
Shellfish mac and cheese – baked macaroni in a super silky sauce laced with flecks of sweet crab and succulent prawns.
Macaroni and cheese has been popular ever since Kraft put it in a box and sold it as a convenience product in 1937. It was around long before that though. Its roots are Italian and date back to the 14th century where recipes for pasta casseroles can be found in cookbooks written in latin.
We might never have heard of mac and cheese if not for American president Thomas Jefferson. Apparently he fell in love with the dish while traveling in northern Italy at the beginning of the 19th century and brought the recipe home with him.
Friends in the U.S tell me that as kids they grew up on mac and cheese. Not so here in Ireland. I can remember as a young lad hearing references to it on the T.V and never really knowing what it was. I grew up on spuds, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. The only pasta I was familiar with as a kid were the spaghetti hoops that came from a can.
Spears of new season asparagus in a piquant lemon and hazelnut dressing topped with a golden fried soft duck egg.
Deep fried eggs where all the rage in Dublin restaurants a couple of years back. I don’t know which chef first came up with the idea, but its ingenious. Tasty doesn’t even begin to describe these crispy little pillows of eggey comfort. They’re also a chefs dream because all the hard work can be done ahead of time. You can have them breaded and ready to go in the fridge and it takes just 30 seconds to quickly fry them.
To make deep-fried eggs first you’ve got to lightly poach them so that the yolks stay soft, runny, and molten. Than their gently dipped in flour, egg, and breadcrumbs (I used some brioche crumb laced with roasted hazelnuts here for extra richness and a super crispy finish) then quickly fried till golden.
You could of course use a regular hens eggs if you can’t get duck eggs or their not your thing. Some people find their rich flavour a little strong. The other major difference between hens and duck eggs is in size. Duck eggs being much bigger. Bakers swear by them for well risen cakes and rich pastries.
Here I’ve teamed up my deep-fried eggs with some simply boiled new season asparagus for a different take on the classic asparagus with hollandaise sauce. The sweet tasting asparagus works well with the richness of the eggs. As a substitute for the piquant hollandaise sauce I whipped up a simple dressing with hazelnut oil, lemon juice, butter, and some more of the roasted hazelnuts for an added nutty flavour hit.
Citrus sea bass – Crispy skinned sweet sea bass served with a sauce made from citrus juice and infused with basil
As I was putting this colourful little plate together I got to thinking about local and seasonal ingredients. There’s a chef down in Galway on the west coast of Ireland I was reading about recently. He doesn’t put anything on the menu that he can’t source within a 30 mile radius of his restaurant.
Chef Jp McMahon’s restaurant is called Aniar and he calls this style of cooking cuisine terroir . It’s a noble idea, something we should all aspire to, eco-friendly, with a low-carbon footprint. They must be doing something right because the restaurant won a Michelin star a couple of years back. Generally local and seasonal will always taste better than ingredients flown from thousands of miles away. Its on my list of restaurants to check out. If I can get a table.
If I was to cook this way all the time there’s a couple of things I’d miss, and citrus fruit would sure be one. This crispy citrus sea bass is anything but local and seasonal. Down the market I tried to get my hands on the largest array of citrus possible. Oranges, lemons, limes, pink grapefruit, and blood oranges are all included for a dish of contrasting hues and citrus flavours. Read More