Friday, March 29, 2013

Recipe: Thai Style White Wine Mussels

The Irish coastline offers some of the world's finest mussels which can be used to make a very convenient, budget friendly and versatile dish. When it comes to mussels, one of my favourite dishes is Thai Style White Wine Mussels which makes a simple supper in minutes. In this recipe, the mussels are steamed in white wine before adding coconut milk and chilli which leaves a delicious combination of flavours. It really is that simple and a handy recipe to rely on when you want to rustle up something in a hurry.


Shopping List

- Olive Oil
- 1 Shallot (finely sliced)
- 2 Red Chillis (sliced in thin rounds)
- 1 Stalk lemon grass (outer layers removed and roughly chopped)
- 900g Mussels
- 150 ml White Wine
- 400ml Full Fat Coconut Milk
- Salt and Black Pepper

Serves 4



Method

1. Clean the mussels and remove the 'beards' from each mussel and set aside, discarding any open mussels or damaged mussels.

2. Heat a little olive oil in a heavy bottomed saucepan; add in the chopped shallot, a little seasoning and sweat until soft. Add in the lemongrass, sliced chilli and wine cooking for a further minute.

3. Add in the mussels before pouring over the coconut milk, cover and allow to simmer for 4-5 minutes. Adjust seasoning if necessary. (If your pan is too small, cook the mussels in batches).

4. Discard any mussels which have not opened and serve with a slice of lime / lemon and top with coriander. Ensure you have some crusty sourdough bread to soak up the juices.

* * *

Styling by Dermie.
Photography: Jakub Walutek Photography

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Dermie's Weekly Best Buy: Killowen Farm Yogurt


Killowen Farm is run by third generation farmer Nicholas, along with his wife Judith Dunne in Enniscorthy, County Wexford. The Dunne family farm is home to a herd of 170 strong Frashian cows who graze on the foot of the Blackstairs Mountains. The herd of cows are milked twice a day, early in the morning and then in the evening, which is then used to produce their delicious range of natural pro-biotic yogurt.


Killowen yogurt is naturally low in fat, with no additives or preservatives. The yogurt is then placed on a thick layer of fruit compote using in-season locally sourced fruit berries where possible. The range includes hazelnut, strawberry, raspberry, blueberry and forest fruits. Limited edition lines of Wexford rhubarb, when in-season, is currently very popular.

Killowen's range is sold in 125g, 500g, 1 Litre pots available in many artisan stores and retailers across the country. A full list of stockists can be found here.

***

Ever try making your own yogurt? Dermie's Homemade Yogurt recipe here.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Recipe: An Easter Simnel Cake

A Simnel Cake is steeped in tradition, with origins dating as far back as Victorian times. Traditionally, a Simnel Cake was baked by servant daughters working away from home who would return home on the fourth Sunday of Lent, known as Mothering Sunday, or Simnel Sunday, with a Simnel Cake and fresh Spring flowers (usually primroses or violets which are often seen decorating the cake). 

In recent times, a Simnel cake has become associated with Easter Sunday, with the distinctive feature of this cake being the eleven rounds strategically placed on top. Each round represents an 'apostle', excluding Judas Iscariot, who as we all know betrayed Jesus. 

In some recipes, you see the top of the cake decorated with 11 small easter mini eggs which is a great idea if you're baking the cake with kids. I bake the cake as per the recipe below, tie a ribbon around and give it as a gift to family or friends for Easter Sunday which makes a change from giving Easter Eggs. 


There are so many recipes for Simnel Cake but the recipe I use is an old one my grandmother shared in her small recipe book. Granny used to sell cakes at the local Country Market every Friday and I still claim her cakes to be the best I've ever tasted! My grandmother's method of soaking the dry mixed fruits in whiskey overnight before making the cake is a tip I use too when baking Christmas Cakes. It leaves more flavoursome, plumped up mixed fruits and you need to rest the cake in an airtight container to allow the cake to mature before decorating. This means you can have the cake ready days or even weeks ahead of Easter Sunday. It's a really simple cake to bake and it looks  sensational served up with a nice pot of tea on Easter Sunday.


(Serves 10)

Shopping List:

- 150ml Irish Whiskey
- 250g Plain Flour
- 175g Unsalted Butter (room temperature)
- ½ Tsp Baking Powder
- 1 Tsp Mixed Spice
- Finely grated zest of 1 Orange (or lemon if you prefer)
- 75g Glacé Cherries (quartered)
- 75g Chopped Candied Peal or Mixed Peal
- 450g Dried Mixed Fruit (Sultanas, Raisins, Currants)
- 150g Brown Sugar
- 4 Free Range Eggs (room temperature)
- 1 Tsp Almond Essence 
- 200g Almond Marzipan

The Topping:

- 400g Almond Marzipan
- 1 Egg Yolk (lightly beaten for glazing)
- Apricot Jam



Method

1. Soak the mixed fruits in the whiskey for at least four hours but preferably overnight (stir the mixture regularly for an even coating). Preheat the oven to 150°C / gas mark 2. Double line a 20cm cake tin with baking paper and very lightly dust with flour. Discard any excess whiskey which may be left over in the bowl from soaking the fruits.

2. Sieve the flour, baking powder and the mixed spice into a bowl. Cream the butter by hand with the sugar until light and fluffy. Add in the almond essence, gradually beat in the eggs one-by-one using an electric hand whisk, adding a teaspoon of flour with each addition to avoid the mixture from curdling. The mixture should be a soft dropping consistency (you may need to add in a tablespoon or two of milk to loosen the consistency).

3. Fold in the orange zest, cherries, candied peal and mixed fruits. Carefully spread half of the mixture in the tin before smoothing out the mixture with the back of a spoon. Roll out 200g of the marzipan on a lightly floured marble surface using the 20cm loose circle of a similar sized cake tin as a guideline. Gently place the rolled marzipan on top of the mixture in the tin and gently smooth it out evenly with your fingertips. Cut any excess marzipan from around the outside to leave an even layer of marzipan with no double layers.

4. Spoon in the remainder of the mixture. Level the top and make a very slight indent in the centre of the cake. Bake for 2¼ to 2½ hours until golden brown. The cake is ready when a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean (inserted at an angle as there is a layer of marzipan in the centre). Allow the cake to completely cool in the tin before removing to finish the surface of the cake.

5. For the surface; weigh eleven pieces of marzipan each weighing 15g and roll each piece into eleven rounds. Place the rounds on a piece of greaseproof paper on a plate and allow to chill in the fridge until needed. Next, dust your worktop lightly with icing sugar or cornflower, roll out 200g of marzipan. Gently place over the cake, cutting the edges with a sharp fruit knife to form an even single layer of marzipan on the surface.

6. Score the top of the cake to make diamond shapes, brush the top of the cake evenly with egg wash and place ten rounds around the outside of the cake and one in the centre of the cake. Brush the tops of each round lightly with egg wash before placing on a heat resistant plate in the oven for 7-10mins. Keep a close eye on the cake for the final few minutes as it can turn from golden to black very quickly. (Alternatively, place the cake under a low grill, or even use a blow torch but I find using the oven gives a better, cleaner and even finish).

7. Store in an airtight cake tin for at least 3 days but ideally a week before serving. The weekend before Easter Sunday is an ideal time to bake but it does keep for a month in an airtight cake tin.


Notes:

- If you don't want to use whiskey, plump up the dried fruits use boiling water instead and leave for an hour. Either way, plump up the dry mixed fruits otherwise your cake will become too dry.

- Ensure you are doubling lining your cake tin which will ensure the cake does not burn on the outside as it will be in the oven for over two hours.

* * *

Contact me here if you wish to chat about this recipe.
Photography: Jakub Walutek Photography

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Recipe: Traditional Irish Brown Soda Bread

A Traditional Irish Soda Bread recipe is steeped in Irish heritage with the first known recipe for Traditional Irish Soda Bread dating back to 1836, appearing in the Newry Telegraph. Forward on hundreds of years later and the recipe is still very much alive steeped in Irish tradition. One of my earliest baking recipes is of my grandmother baking a loaf of traditional brown soda in her country kitchen and topping it off with a generous coating of butter and homemade jam.

Traditional Irish Soda bread is perfect alongside a bowl of comforting soup in winter, or topped with some good quality smoked salmon as a little canapé. The quality of the buttermilk you use will make a great difference to your loaf so try to source some artisan buttermilk in your local Farmers' Market or quality food store. It does take a bit of practice to get a loaf of soda bread right but once you do, you'll be baking a batch time and time again. The best tip for baking a loaf of Irish Soda Bread is not to over work the dough as it'll give your bread a tough and heavy finish. Don't forget to make a cross in the centre of the dough before baking to let the fairies out (if you keep them in they'll flatten your bread!)


Shopping List

- 300g Wholemeal Flour
- 300g Cream Flour
- 25g Unsalted Country Butter
- 1 Level Tsp Bread Soda
- 1 Level Tsp Salt
- 425ml-550ml Buttermilk

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 230°C Gas Mark 8. Sieve the plain white flour, bread soda, and salt into wide deep bowl. Add in the wholemeal flour and rub in the butter. Make a well in the centre and gently pour in the two thirds of the buttermilk mixing to form a dough with one hand. Slowly add in the remainder of the buttermilk but ensure that your mixture is soft but not sticky.

2. Shape the dough into a round 2 inches thick and turn onto a floured baking tray. Make a deep cross in the top of the dough about two-thirds of the way through. With the tip of a sharp knife, stab each of the quarters of the dough to let the fairies out!

3. Bake for 15 minutes, then turn down the heat to 200°C, Gas Mark 6. Bake for a further 20 minutes, before turning the bread over for a further 10 minutes until golden brown.

4. The bread is done when you tap the back of the loaf and it sounds hollow. Allow to cool on a wire rack before slicing and serving with a generous dollop of butter and jam.

Notes:

- A real tell tale sign that there is too much bread soda in the mix is if the inside of your bread is slightly green in appearance. Ensure you are using a level teaspoon of bread soda.

- Timings vary from oven to oven, the soda bread should be golden brown in colour and hallow when tapped with your knuckle.

- The mixture should not be sloppy, it should be nice and firm. Do not over work your dough as it will make your bread too tough. Remember, like with scones, light hands give a light finish.

* * *
Photography: Jakub Walutek Photography

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Dermie's Weekly Best Buy: Féirm Úr Buttermilk


Féirm Úr Buttermilk is unique because it is Ireland's only buttermilk produced organically from whole milk with absolutely no additives or preservatives. John and Mary Cronin produce buttermilk on their farm using milk from a herd of 50 British Friesian Cows. All milk is pastuerised but not homogenised leaving a distinct delicious flavour in breads, pancakes, scones and treats.

Féirm Úr buttermilk supply into artisan food stores around Ireland and is used in a number of quality cafés, restaurants and eateries across the country. If you wish to stock Féirm Úr buttermilk you can contact John Cronin on 087-7072238.

Traditional Irish Soda Bread Recipe

- 450g Odlums Plain White Flour
- 450g Macroom Wholemeal Flour
- 1 Tsp Bread Soda
- 1 Tsp Salt
- 450ml-600 ml Féirm Úr Buttermilk

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 230°C Gas Mark 8. Sieve the plain white flour, bread soda, and salt into wide deep bowl before working in the wholemeal flour. Make a well in the centre - gently pour in the buttermilk, mixing to form a dough. Note: The dough should be soft but not sticky.

2. Shape the dough into a round about 2 inches thick and turn onto a floured baking tray. Make a deep cross in the top of the dough about two-thirds of the way through. With the tip of the knife, prick the quarters of the dough to 'let the fairies out'.

3. Bake for 15 minutes, then turn down the heat to 200°C Gas Mark 6 and bake for a further 20 minutes, before turning  the bread over for a further 5-10 minutes until golden brown.

4. The bread is done when you tap the back of the loaf and it sounds hollow. Allow to cool on a wire rack before slicing and serving with a generous dollop of butter and jam.
pre-heat the oven to 230°C/450°F/Gas Mark 8.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Recipe: Homemade Natural Yogurt

There has been a huge growth in Irish artisan yogurt producers over the last few years ranging from West Cork's Glenilen Yogurt, Glenisk Organic Yogurt, Killowen Farm yogurt and many more. It's really exciting to see the growth of artisan yogurt producers and I think it's because more of us are recognising the quality of great Irish dairy which we are able to produce in this country. The lush green pastures of Ireland, our climate coupled with our passionate farming heritage gives Ireland's dairy a unique and unrivaled taste.

The growth of real yogurt can be linked to our strive for healthier living too with many of us making a conscious effort to seek out yogurts with no sweetners, artifical perservatives or colourings which you may find in many imported yogurts or even for that matter some homemade processed yogurts. Whenever I get the time I like to make my own yogurt from scratch which is actually very easy to make and is ideal as a breakfast treat topped with some granola, some fruit compote or as a healthy snack with honey, pomegranate and toasted ground hazelnuts.

Ingredients:

- 2 Tbsp Live Culture (or Live Yogurt at room temperature)
- 500ML Full Fat Organic Glenisk Milk
- 4 Tbsp Milk Powder (used to thicken the yogurt)


Method

1. Warm the milk in a heavy bottomed saucepan until the milk reaches around 85°C-90°C then whisk in then milk powder. Place the milk off the heat and allow to return to the optimum level of 40°C-42°C on your yogurt thermometer. (If you do not have a thermometer, place your spotlessly clean index finger into the milk mixture and if it can rest there comfortably for ten seconds then it is at optimum level but this is an inaccurate method of making yogurt not to mention unhygienic). 

2. Once at the optimum level of 40°C - 42°C, stir in the live culture / yogurt into the mixture and pour into a pottery bowl covering tightly with cling film. Place the pottery bowl in a warm place for example I leave it sitting alongside the stove at home or in the hot press. (Nigel Slater's tip of placing a hot water bottle alongside the pottery bowl works very well too). 

3. The following morning, stir your yogurt mixture and cool in a fridge. If you are pouring the yogurt into small glass jars, ensure you steralise the jars first. 

Notes:

- Homemade yogurt keeps well for up to two weeks. 
- Ensure that all your equipment is spotlessly clean before starting by placing them in boiling hot water.
- Depending on the season try some rhubarb, strawberry, elderflower or even gooseberry compote for a really delicious treat.