Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Recipe: Dark Chocolate Ganache Tart

During these cold winter weekends, there's nothing more enjoyable than having friends round for a dinner gathering. The fire crackling, candles lighting, wine flowing with welcoming canapés set alongside a backdrop of laughter and entertaining. Dinner gatherings don't have to mean long hours in the kitchen, they should be about spending most of your time enjoying the evening with your guests.

When it comes to baking a really memorable chocolate tart, you need to choose good quality dark chocolate. There are so many chocolatiers to choose from including; Valrhona, Lindt, or Callebaut alongside many more artisan chocolate shops stocking luxury dark chocolate at a really great price. I've a few chocolate tart recipes, this one I call cheat's chocolate tart because instead of baking the chocolate tart in the oven you just leave it sit to set. For the chocolate to set, I use equal quantities of cream and chocolate known as a ganache which gives the tart an incredibly rich taste.


Shortcrust Pastry:

- 175g Plain Flour
- 75g Chilled Butter (cubed, plus extra for greasing)
- 2 Tbsp Icing Sugar (or Caster Sugar)
- 2  Egg Yolks  (Beaten to bind)
- Egg Wash

Chocolate Ganache Filling:

- 350g Chocolate (70% coca)
- 50g Unsalted Butter
- 350g Organic Cream
- 1 Vanilla Pod (Split)
- 75g Caster Sugar
- Pinch Sea Salt


- Green & Black's Cocoa Powder
- Fresh Raspberries (or toasted hazelnuts / pistachio nuts)
- Glenisk Crème Fraîche


1. To make the pastry; sieve the flour and the icing sugar into a large wide bowl. Cut the butter into cubes, add in the flour, rub in until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Whisk the egg yolks with a teaspoon of cold water to bind the mixture (ensure the pastry is not too wet as it should come away cleanly from the bowl without sticking). Flatten into a round and wrap in cling film. Allow the pastry to rest in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

2. Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured chilled marble work surface and line a 9 inch / (23cm) pastry tin. Place a greaseproof paper over the pastry and fill to the top with dried beans. Allow to rest in the fridge for at least 15 minutes.

3. Preheat the oven to 180ºC / gas mark 4. Bake the pastry tart base blind for 15 minutes, or more if needed, until pale and golden. Remove the beans before brushing the tart shell evenly with a little beaten egg and bake for another 5 minutes. Allow the tart shell to cool while you are making the chocolate ganache.

4. Break the chocolate into equal sized pieces, place into a Pyrex bowl along with the butter and bring a saucepan of water to a fast boil (creating what is known as a bain marie which will ensure the chocolate will not split while melting). Turn the heat down to simmering point and sit the Pyrex bowl over the boiling water ensuring it is not touching the water allowing it to melt gently while stirring occasionally. In a separate pan gently heat the cream, caster sugar and vanilla pods to the shivery stage. Pour the warm cream over the melted chocolate mixture and fold through adding a pinch of sea salt to the mix.

5. Pour the ganache into the cooled pastry case and allow it to set overnight at room temperature in the pastry case. The following day remove the tart from the case and dust with coca-power, decorate with berries and serve with a dollop of crème fraîche.

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Food Styling: Dermot O' Sullivan

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

RAI Campaign: Keep Vat 9%

Earlier this year the Restaurant Association of Ireland launched the Keep VAT at 9% campaign calling on the Government to retain a measure introduced in 2011 which saw the reduction of VAT to nine per cent in the tourism sector.

The Restaurant Association of Ireland (RAI) told a meeting for the Oireachtas Committee on Jobs that some 9,000 jobs were created in the sector since its implementation. Keeping VAT at 9% clearly benefits the hospitality and tourism sector which has knock on effects on those linked directly and indirectly to the industry.

Reasons 9% VAT Is Important To Retain (Source: Keep VAT 9)

1. There were approximately 15,000 jobs created in the restaurant and tourism industry since the VAT reduction in July 2011.

2. It is anticipated that an estimated 5,000 jobs will be created in next 12 months if 9% VAT remains in place.

3. The restaurant sector employs 64,000 people which accounts for 1 in 4 tourism jobs pumping a total of €2 billion to the Irish exchequer annually.

4. The creation of 15,000 jobs has resulted in savings to the exchequer of €205 million to the Social Welfare bill. This figure has been calculated by taking 15,000 people off the live register. In monetary terms, this means 15,000 people contributing PAYE, PRSI and 15,000 more people contributing to keeping the Irish economy flowing through pumping money back into the economy.

5. The 9% VAT rate does not cost the exchequer €350 million as estimated by the Department of Finance. A recent report from Deloitte / Fáilte Ireland and a separate submission report from Irish Tourism Industry Confederation (ITIC) found the cost was actually €90 million (source: CSO).

6. The reduction in VAT has been passed on to consumers with evidence based on the Department of Finance analysis of the effects of the VAT change, published last December and based on CSO data for the period up to June 2012.

7. Tourism has benefited from the improved value for money perception across all overseas visitors as well as Irish consumers.

8. By European standards, Ireland is at the higher end of the VAT rate, with countries such as Portugal at 6%, France and Germany at 7% and Greece at 6.5% making Ireland less competitive as a tourist destination.

9. Renewed growth in overseas tourism numbers and earnings means overall trips to Ireland for the first seven months of 2013 were up by 6% compared to the same period in 2012 (source: CSO 2013).

Support The Campaign:

- Support the campaign by lobbying your local politicians in your constituency here. (Any replies which I have received are posted with permission below).

Change your avatar on twitter to the #KeepVAT9 avatar.

- Be part of the first virtual flash mob organised by Idaho Café on Wednesday 09th October at 9pm more here.

Michael McGrath T.D.
Dear Dermot,

Thank you very much for your email.

There should be no suggestion of a threat to the 9% Vat rate in 2014 given that it has already been funded by the collection of the 0.6% pension levy in 2011, 2012 and 2013. In addition, the government intends to collect this levy again in 2014 (before abolishing it). In total, the pension levy will bring in close to €2 billion - considerably more than the cost of reducing the lower rate of Vat to 9% for the hospitality sector.

Therefore, there is no excuse whatsoever for the government not to continue with the lower rate in 2014.

We are following this up at a political level in the Dáil.

Kind regards,

Michael McGrath T.D.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Recipe: Creamy Spinach, Rosemary & Blue Cheese Soup

Spinach is a well known superfood; it's one of the healthiest foods you can eat with benefits ranging from increased strength, instant bursts of energy, packed with antioxidants which help nourish skin and maintain a healthy weight. It's the perfect healthy soup for a quick Autumn supper after a long day or it can make for a delicious starter for that special dinner party. The soup gives an earthy, lively green colour which coupled with the blue cheese makes for an invigorating start to any dinner party.

Spinach Soup is a very light textured soup - if you're looking for a quick, healthy soup after a long day then replace the cream with milk and add in a generous tablespoon of plain flour after you sweat the onions to thicken the soup further. Other great serving suggestion ideas for a dinner party style soup is to top with a few slices of crispy sizzling pan fried Gubbeen chorizo!

(Serves 6)


- 50g Butter
- 1 Medium Onion (Diced)
- 2 Medium Potatoes (Diced)
- 1 Garlic Clove (Crushed)
- 350g Spinach (De-stalked)
- 500ml Homemade Chicken Stock (Pure Brazen as an alternative)
- 450ml Glenisk Organic Milk
- 150ml Glenisk Organic Cream
- Scraping of Whole Nutmeg
- 110g Cashel Blue Cheese (Rind Removed)
- Sea Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper
- 1 Tbsp Rosemary (Chopped)
- Glenisk Crème Fraîche & Cashel Blue Cheese to serve.


1. Sweat the onions by melting the butter in a medium saucepan and when it begins to bubble add in the onions, potatoes and garlic ensuring they are well coated well in butter. Season with a pinch of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Allow the onions and potatoes to sweat over a gentle heat until soft but not browned.

2. Add the boiling chicken stock then gently cook until the diced potatoes are fully cooked. Test to see if the potatoes are soft with the tip of a knife before adding the milk, cream, nutmeg and spinach. Bring to the boil uncovered for a further five minutes ensuring not to overcook as this will result in you losing the lively green colour.

3. Add in the chopped rosemary and crumbled blue cheese (alternatively just crumble the blue cheese in after blending leaving delicious crumbled bits of blue cheese in the soup).

4. Allow the soup to cool just slightly before blending the soup. Serve in warmed bowls topped with a spoonful of crème fraîche and decorate with diced blue cheese.

This recipe goes well with Traditional Irish Brown Soda

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Photography: Joleen Cronin