Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Recipe: Creamy Potato Gratin

During these cold autumnal evenings you just want to pop something quick, warm and  really comforting into the oven. For me, it's an indulgent creamy, cheddar cheese potato gratin; the warmth from the oven coupled with the comforting aroma will quickly fill the house. Multiple layers of floury potatoes gently coated in fresh organic cream and topped with a dark golden brown layer of cheddar cheese. It's the perfect partner to a nice leg of lamb, delicious just on its own or as a side dish with a succulent steak.


Potato gratin is a very straight forward dish but a really memorable potato gratin is made using the very best ingredients. When baking mine, I always use Glenisk organic cream in this recipe and good quality Irish roaster potatoes. The resulting dish is a warm, creamy, smooth and delicious dish full of flavour. If you want to make life easier slice the potatoes using a mandolin slicer instead of a knife which will leave you with perfectly even cut slices and an all over even bake. The following is a basic recipe which can be benefited from the addition of bacon, smoked salmon, mushrooms, rosemary, thyme - really the list is endless. Cheddar cheese in this recipe can be replaced with Gruyère, Stilton, Cashel Blue Cheese and many more.


Ingredients:

- 900g Rooster Potatoes (roughly 6 medium sized potatoes).
- 1 Garlic Clove.
- 600ml Glenisk Organic Cream.
- 225g Cheddar Cheese (Grated)
- Sea Salt, Black Pepper & Fresh Nutmeg.


Method:

1. Preheat your oven to 180c / Gas Mark 4. Grease a potato gratin dish lightly with butter and smear the dish with a clove of garlic all over. Peel and slice the potatoes 3mm thick before setting aside. Pour the cream into a heavy bottomed saucepan over a gentle heat and bring it to the shivery stage. Grate a few scrapings of nutmeg into the milk mixture.

2. Place a quarter of the potatoes into the pie dish; season with sea salt, black pepper. Pour a quarter of the cream over the potatoes, topping with a quarter of the cheese. Continue this while building up two more layers of potato, seasoning each layer as you go and topping with cheese.

3. Cover the dish with a sheet of aluminum foil and place in the oven and bake for an hour. Check that the potatoes are cooked by inserting a skewer or sharp knife into the potatoes ensuring that they are tender.

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Photography: Joleen Cronin
Food Stylng: Dermot O' Sullivan

Monday, September 9, 2013

Best Buy: Lorge Chocolates

Benoit Lorge is a French award winning Chocolatier who creates high quality handmade chocolates for gourmet shops, boutique hotels and restaurants from a converted post office outside Kenmare, Co. Kerry.

Benoit is a qualified pastry chef from the Lorraine region in France who has worked as head pastry chef in numerous Michelin star restaurants and hotels including; Michel Rostand in Paris, La villa in Corsica, Inverlochy Castle in Scotland and Sheen Falls lodge in Kenmare, before solely deciding to focus on producing quality artisan chocolates in Kenmare Co. Kerry.


It was during the off season winter months at Sheen Falls lodge that Benoit used his time to produce exclusive luxury chocolates to help raise money for local charities. The demand for Lorge very special boutique chocolates earned him an exclusive reputation and it wasn’t long before he transformed a derelict Post Office into a small artisan chocolate shop in Bonane.

"Benoit prides himself on following the traditions of the true artisan chocolatier creating his own unique chocolates which are incorporated in opulent table decorations for weddings, served as petit fours in top class restaurants and stocked in various artisan food stores across Ireland. Benoit uses only the finest ingredients sourced from all over the world refusing to compromise on quality. Since establishing himself in Kenmare, Lorge now welcomes the vibrant tourist trade that passes through Kenmare and offers online mail distribution to customers across Europe and the United States..."


Benoit has been selected as a food champion by Fáilte Ireland to represent Ireland in Norway this September promoting Irish food and artisan produce. It is his resounding passion and belief in Irish food which will actively influence and shape the future of Irish cuisine and food tourism in the Kerry region.


A new concept which Benoit has been working on will be in shops over the coming months known as Adam & Eve Chocolates which are handmade Irish chocolates designed for Men & Women. There is nothing random about the selection of flavours for the Adam & Eve range. Following extensive research into chocolate tastes; these seven classic centres were chosen for their popularity and luxurious enduring appeal amongst men and women.

Lorge Chocolates are stocked in all good artisan food stores with the Adam & Eve collection available to order online here. If you wish to stock Lorge Chocolates you can contact Benoit here (please mention my website when contacting).

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Recipe: Chocolate Éclairs

It's difficult to beat a good éclair covered with a layer of silky, shiny chocolate icing or even a beautiful pale brown coffee icing. What some people may not realise is how easy it is to bake a batch yourself at home whether it's for birthday parties, dinner parties or even as a nice gift for friends wrapped in a nice ribbon with a little note attached. Lots of people avoid baking them at home but I really don't know why because they really are very straight forward. Better still, when the pastry is cooled it can keep for days in an airtight container and takes no time at all to rustle up if you fancy a sneaky mid-week snack.


Éclairs are made using a pastry known as choux pastry which is a very light pastry used to make profiteroles, éclairs, choux puffs and so much more. Choux pastry is very straight forward and really, it just requires diligence, alot of speed and not forgetting the most important kitchen tool... your strong arm! Once you have mastered choux pastry then you'll be making éclairs all the time and maybe before too long you'll even be attempting to make croquembouche.


(Serves 18)

Ingredients

Choux Pastry:

- 150g Strong White Flour (Sieved) 
- 100g Unsalted Butter (Cubed, Room Temperature)
- 250ml Water
- Pinch of Sea Salt
- 4 Free Range Eggs (Beaten together and set aside)
- Egg Wash

Crème Chantilly Filling:

- 300ml Double Cream
- 1 Vanilla Pod (split lengthways)
- 75g Icing Sugar (sieved)

Chocolate Ganache:

- 175g Dark Chocolate (70% Coca)
- 175g Organic Double Cream
- Pinch of Sea Salt

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 220c / Gas mark 6. Sift the strong white flour onto a large piece of parchment paper, twice and set aside for later.

2. Place the water with the butter into a medium-sized saucepan over a gentle heat and stir gently with a wooden spoon. When the butter has melted and the mixture has just reached boiling point, take the pan off the heat immediately (too much boiling will evaporate some of the water resulting in a grainy mixture).

3. Quickly tip the sifted flour into the saucepan; using a wooden spoon, beat the mixture vigorously until it forms a soft ball. It will appear messy at first but it will quickly come together within a few minutes.

4. Next, add in the egg mixture in stages beating vigorously leaving you a thick and shiny ball known as a 'panade' which should have a slight dropping consistency. If the panade is too stiff; it will result in heavy éclairs but the panade is too wet you won't be able to shape the éclairs.

5. Place the dough into a piping bag with a 5-8mm nozzle and pipe 10cm long fingers spaced an inch apart (as the éclairs will expand during baking). Brush the éclairs lightly with egg wash, sprinkle the parchment paper with water and bake for ten minutes before reducing the oven temperature to 200C / Gas Mark 6 and bake for a further 15mins until golden brown and crisp. Place a small hole in the side of each éclair to let the steam escape and return to the oven for a further 3-5mins. Set aside to cool on a wire rack.


Crème Chantilly Filling:

For the Chantilly cream place the cream into a bowl, cut the vanilla pod in half lengthways with a sharp knife and scrape out the pods. Add the pods to the cream and whip until it forms soft peaks. Fold in the sieved icing sugar, taste and add more icing sugar if needed.

Ganache Icing:

Bring a saucepan of water to a fast boil then simmer. Place the chocolate in a medium sized Pyrex bowl over the saucepan of water but make sure it does not touch the water. Gently heat the cream in a small saucepan until it reaches the shivery stage before pouring over the melted chocolate. Allow to cool at room temperature but stir every so often. Allow the ganache to thicken slightly before icing the éclairs.

Serve:

Coat the top of the éclairs with a layer of chocolate and allow to set before piping the Chantilly filling. Using a small piping nozzle. Fill the éclairs with the Chantilly filling through the hole which was made earlier.