How To Make Brown Soda Bread

brown soda bread

Any time I’m eating smoked salmon I need a couple of  slices of brown soda bread to go along with it. Its moist earthy flavour complements the smoky tang of the salmon, just add a squeeze of lemon and you have an Irish classic that’s served in pubs and restaurants up and down the country.

Here in Ireland we don’t have a massive food culture. No long history of food with lots of classic dishes like the French or Italians. They’ve got coq au vin, pot au feu, risotto and osso bucco. We’ve got bacon and cabbage, some of the best ingredients in the world….and our brown bread.

Brown soda bread is associated with Ireland because of the extreme poverty here in the late 19th century. While other parts of the British isles moved on to bread made with hard wheat flour and yeast we stuck with soda bread simply because these other ingredients weren’t available in rural Ireland. Plus all you needed  to make it was a pot and a fire.

Go out to any restaurant anywhere in the country and you’ll find it in the bread basket they bring to your table. For me it tastes as good as the finest brioche or the best focaccia plus its a lot better for you and  far easier to make.

Every chef in every restaurant has their own recipe. Some like to add butter and eggs for an extra bit of richness. Or treacle and honey for sweetness. Any type of oats or wheat bran can add to its earthy flavour. While all sorts of seed – pumpkin, sesame, poppy or sunflower can give it a different texture.

Read More

Dublin Bay Prawns In Garlic And White Wine

dublin bay prawns with garlic and white wine-3

The aroma that wafts through the kitchen as you cook this is gonna make your mouth water. Roasted shellfish and garlic, deglazed with a glass of your favourite white wine. A dead simple recipe, cooked in minutes.

The French call them langoustines. In Norway there known as Norwegian lobster. Here and in Britain there called Dublin Bay prawns and I’ve often wondered where that name comes from? I’ve been around Dublin bay many a time and it’s not like its teeming with them.

A popular recipe to use these sweet little crustaceans in is scampi. To me though this is sacrilege. Rolling them in breadcrumbs and sticking them in the deep fryer just doesn’t do them justice. Try this recipe instead it’s far quicker and 10 times tastier.

We’re so lucky here in this corner of the world to have succulent sea creature right on our doorstep. Its only habitat is the north-eastern Atlantic, as far south as Portugal, and up to the north in Iceland.

What makes Dublin bay prawns so great? why are they better than their cousins the tiger or king prawn from south-east Asia that you see on supermarket shelves everywhere? Well for me its all about the texture. There much softer, sweeter tasting, and more succulent.

Read More

Mandarin And Pumpkin Seed Flapjacks

mandarin and pumpkin seed flapjacks

Chewy oats with roasted pumpkin seeds, mandarins, and cranberries, baked together till golden.

It’s almost here, just a couple of days to go and Halloween will be upon us. I’m expecting that this year will be no different to any other and I’ll have steady stream of ghosts, skeletons, and other scary creatures calling at my door.

Normally I’d be well supplied with lots of chocolate, crisps, and other treats to feed the hungry hordes of undead. The only problem I always face is how much chocolate should I buy? The last thing you want to do is run out, but this means I always get  in way too much and end up eating the leftovers myself in the days following Halloween.

But not this year. This time around I’ve decided to do a little baking and rustle up something healthy and nutritious for any trick or treaters that call round. If there happens to be a some leftover I won’t feel so guilty about eating them myself. Childhood obesity is a hot topic these days and one I don’t plan on adding to.

Read More

Does your hollandaise sauce ever look like this?

what a split hollandaise sauce looks like

If it does, then it’s suffering from the dreaded split! It’s curdled, cracked, separated, broken. But don’t throw it out, it can be rescued…but a bit more on that later.

Making hollandaise sauce is supposed to strike fear into the heart of the novice/amature cook, it has a reputation for being temperamental or difficult to make. Even now I can still remember the first couple of times I made hollandaise. Cooking the egg yolks ever so carefully over simmering water, then slowly adding the clarified butter.

These days, having made a couple of thousand liters at this stage its a sauce I can put together in about 5 minutes if I have the ingredients to hand.

It’s so versatile and can accompany so many dishes that It should be in every cook’s repertoire. You can make a classic version for fish or to go with your eggs Benedict for breakfast. Maybe add tarragon or mint for a sauce to go with beef, chicken or lamb. Or be a bit more adventurous and spice it up with chillies, mustard, tabasco or wasabi. You’re really only limited by your own imagination.

Read More

Mushroom Croquettes With Pont L’eveque Dip

mushroom croquettes with pont l'eveque dip

Crunchy potato croquettes laced with pungent dried mushrooms dipped in creamy, cheesy sauce.

I always know when it’s not worth my while to make a trip down to the fishmongers. Mondays or any time there’s been a spell of bad weather like the last couple of days means there won’t be much fresh fish around bar the usual suspect……a.k.a farmed fish –  salmon, sea bass or mussels.

The weather been so bad that the thought of a shopping trip to the supermarket fills me with dread. I don’t like shopping at the best of times and I’ve no intention of budging outside the house today. So this gives me the chance to use up some ingredients that have been hanging around the kitchen a while.

A while back I discovered some dried mushrooms lurking at the back of the cupboard behind some chinese five spice. I’m not sure how long they’ve been there but I’m guessing at least a year…..maybe more. They’re still dry and crisp so I reckon they’ll be fine to eat even though I can’t make out the best before date on the packet.

Thier black trompettes or as the french call them trompettes du mort. A fitting name because you look like you might die if you ate them and I’d be the first to admit they don’t look all that appetizing.

Read More

Crab tart

Sweet crab, peppery rocket, and salty parmesan cheese baked over flakey shortcrust pastry.

crab tart

If you’ve ever made a classic lemon tart or even a creme brulee than you’ll recognise the method used in this recipe. The only sweet element in this though is the luscious crab meat that’s been encased in a rich and creamy savoury custard infused with a deeply flavoured fish stock. This is a tart that tastes of the sea….

Read More