Vampire Soup with Optional Eyeballs

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Beetroots have been around since the Romans who enjoyed their earthy charm.  The root and leaves have been eaten for centuries. They also had a moment of glory when it was discovered that beetroots could be converted to sugar but these days these brightly coloured vegetables are known more for the fact that they’re packed with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. The colour of the beetroot that makes everything that it touches turn some shade of pink/red/purple seems to perk people up. Antioxidants or not their colour certainly cheers things up on a rainy day

 

To celebrate Samhain and Halloween I ‘ve made this this sensational Vampire soup with optional eyeballs. The soup is in fact a sophisticated marriage of beetroot and fennel gently cooked into sweet submission and adorned with crème fraiche but with a little imagination and a few peas it transforms into a ghoulish delight.

 

The Vampire title may entice your children to try this stunning soup and the optional eyeballs are easily achieved by posting a pea on top of a little spoonful of crème fraiche and setting it afloat.

It could be just the thing for Halloween

You could even organise an eyeball eating contest.

 

Here’s the recipe

It’s very easy to make, It doesn’t matter too much  the size of the beetroots that you use, it’s more important that they are fresh so don’t use ones that are pre cooked and vacuum packed.

Choose about three big or six small beetroots

 

Beetroot and Fennel Soup

 

1 onion

75mls olive oil

1-2 stems celery

1 fennel

1 potato

3-6 beetroots

800mls vegetable stock

A squeeze of lemon juice

 

Peel and chop the onion

Heat a saucepan, add the olive oil and onion then cook on a medium heat.

Chop the celery into 4 lengthwise then dice small and stir in with the onion.

Trim the fennel then cut into half and chop finely.

Stir in with the onion and celery, season with a little salt. Keep the vegetables gently humming away in the pan. Turn the heat up and down until you’re happy the gentle sizzle is not burning. Peel and dice the  beetroots and potato small, add to the pan and stir into to combine leave to cook for another 10 minutes with the occasional stir. Season with salt,  Add the vegetable stock. Bring to the boil then cook at a gentle simmer for 15-20 minutes.

Blitz until smooth, add a squeeze of lemon juice, taste, then adjust the seasoning.

Serve with a swirl of creme fraiche

 

 


The Queen of Apple tarts

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Our bumper apple harvest has had us wading through buckets of apples. Apple puree for the freezer, apple juice and cider for imbibing, apple chutney and of course cakes and tarts.

Apple Tart Tatin is right up there when it comes to apple tarts. In our household it is the queen. It also uses a surprising amount of apples to make which helps get through the apple mountain. This tart takes a little time to prepare but the resulting buttery caramelised apples are worth the effort.

You will need an iron or cast-iron pan that can go on the stove top and also in the oven as this tart begins with apples sitting on a bed of butter and sugar gently caramelising on the stove top. The apples are then completely cooled and covered with pastry. Sweet pastry or puff pastry both work – my preference is for sweet pastry but whatever you have.

The size of the pan depends on how many people you have to feed and how many apples you have. A small pan will use around fifteen apples and large pan around 20-25 apples. Always have more at hand than you think you will need. I use small apples which are not floury. Our garden is full of ancient apple trees but if you need to buy the apples Cox’s Pippins or Braeburn are ideal.

This is the recipe for a small pan- all the measurements are approximate as the method will reveal

 

Apple Tart Tatin

about 150g butter

about 150g caster sugar

about 15 small apples

400g sweet or puff pastry

 

Slice the butter thinly and cover the bottom of the pan. Cover the butter with caster sugar – not completely buried but lightly covered.

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Peel the apples, cut into half, take out the cores and tidy the apples up – take out the ends where the stalk and belly button were.

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Place the apple halves into the pan. If the apple has a fat end put the fat end facing out. Pack them tightly sitting on their sides.

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IMG_5334Put the pan onto the heat to melt the sugar and butter. When it bubbles up turn the heat to medium low. It should have some lively action going on but not too fierce otherwise it will burn. Let it slowly cartelise turning the pan to get even cooking. This will take about fifteen minutes, keep a close eye as when the it caramelises it will go quite quickly. Take the pan off the heat when the caramel is deep golden – you’ll see this bubbling around the edge. Take the pan off the heat. Iron pans retain the heat so if it looks like the caramel is getting too dark sit the pan onto some cool water to slow it down.

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Leave to cool completely,

Put the oven on 180c

Roll the pastry into a circle two fingers width wider than the pan. Carefull lift the pastry over the apples and tuck in the edges.

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Cook for approx 30 mins, until the pastry is golden.

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Take out of the oven and leave to cool almost completely. Don’t fiddle with it or be tempted to turn it out whilst it is hot as the caramel will not be set and will run off the tart which will break your heart after all that effort.

When the pan is nearly cold – only a little warm underneath, run a knife around the edge of the pastry to ensure it’s all mobile then put large plate over the pan and invert the tart quickly. Gently lift the pan off of the tart….. et voila! Alternatively allow the tart to go completely cold cold then heat the pan for couple of minutes to loosen the caramel then follow the same procedure.

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Delicious with cream, ice-cream or custard

 


Tomato Party

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The time we have been waiting for all summer has arrived. The tomatoes have ripened and we are enjoying them with nearly everything. Breakfast, lunch and dinner.

We grew fifteen varieties of tomatoes this year, all selected for their flavour rather than prolific production or uniform size. The names are curious but in fact somehow apt when you see the fruits –  Bottondoro, Mountain Magic, Fandango, Liguria, Ox Heart, Moon Glow….. They’re all shapes and colours,  red, orange, pink, and yellow .

We let the tomatoes ripen on the vine, this guarantees that they are bursting with flavour and not all picked at once. There’s always a bit of a wait for the tomatoes to ripen but we are usually still picking them in moderation well into the autumn

Each variety has merits, the Bottondoro – orange cherry tomatoes are delicious roasted , we’ve been spooning them onto and over things with a dollop of creme fraiche. The Fandangoes, Ox Hearts and Moonglows have been cut into a chunky dice and consumed with just a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of  sherry vinegar and salt. They don’t need any fancy treatment.

We ‘ve also made pasta, stews, soups, risottos and most of all ‘pan con tomate’ the Spanish go to breakfast.

Pan con tomate is toast rubbed with a smidgeon of garlic, a drizzle of olive oil and tomato which is rubbed on the toast or grated.

Grating tomatoes is a very useful kitchen trick.

Simply take a large ripe tomato, cut it in half and grate it flesh side down, over a bowl, on the coarse side of the grater. The result will be a fresh tomato passata in the bowl and a tomato skin in your hand. Just bin the tomato skin and the tomato is ready to use.

Here is a recipe for a Greek dish, using grated tomato.  Prawns with Ouzo and black olives are the original incarnation but Ouzo which is a Greek aniseed flavoured aperitif can be replaced with whatever you have in the drinks cupboard. I use Pernod but brandy or white wine would work too.

This is delicious mopped up with bread or served with basmati rice or pasta for a main course. Fresh prawns would be the ultimate but uncooked frozen prawns will work too just be sure to dry them well before frying.

Serves 6 for a mezze, 3- 4 for a main course

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Prawns with Ouzo and Black olives

 

500g fresh peeled prawns – not already cooked

75mls olive oil

1 small onion

2 cloves garlic

2-3 large ripe tomatoes – about 500g

a good pinch of dried oregano

a small glass of Ouzo or Pernod

1-2 tbs black olives

salt and black pepper.

chopped flat leaf parsley

 

Peel and finely chop the onion

Peel and finely chop the garlic

Cut the tomatoes in half and grate on the coarse side of the grater, holding the skin side. Discard the skins

Dry the prawns on a little kitchen roll.

Heat a small frying pan, add the olive oil then the prawns. Cook for a couple of minutes until the prawns just change colour. Lift out of the pan and put aside.

Fry the onions until they begin to soften then stir in the garlic and cook for a minute or two. Add the grated tomatoes, oregano and the ouzo or Pernod. Let the sauce bubble up and reduce for a few minutes. Stir in the prawns and black olives then cook for anther 3-4 minutes. Take off the heat, season with salt and pepper and garnish with chopped parsley.

 

 

 


Summery Courgette, Green Beans and Pea Salad

August really is the month in Ireland for home grown Mediterranean‘ vegetables although in fact they are actually fruits! Tomatoes, aubergine peppers and courgettes are sun loving fruits that are eaten as vegetables. The sun loving being the reason they take all summer to ripen.

Our courgettes have been taking their time. We’re still hovering around the plants wondering whether there are any ready to pick, which is in fact a good thing. Baby courgettes are the sweetest and tastiest and delicious in salads.

We’ve been eating a courgette, green bean, basil and pea salad – having an abundance of green beans at hand and cheating with peas.  It’s delightful combination of textures and summery flavor

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The peas and beans are blanched but the courgettes are raw but don’t seem so. They are salted and rinsed before being dressed which gives them a crisp but tender bite .

 

Check out the farmers markets and local growers  as courgettes grown close to home will be fresher and taste better. If you can find little yellow ones they’ll be great for the colour scheme but green ones taste equally as good.

 

Courgette, Green Bean and Pea salad

 

250g French beans

1-2 small courgettes

200g fresh peas -= frozen is good

handful fresh basil

100mls olive oil

zest 1 lemon

juice of half or to taste

1 clove garlic

1/2tsp dijon mustard

salt and pepper

 

Slice the courgettes thinly, sprinkle with salt and toss well.

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Put aside in a bowl or colander for at least 15minutes.

Top and tail the beans. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add a half tsp salt and the beans. Cook for 4 minutes then lift out of the water and drop into a bowl of cold water. Let them cool then drain

Bring the water back to the boil then add the peas. Cook for 1 minute the drain and drop into cold water to cool. Drain and shake off excess water.

Rinse the courgettes, take a handful at a time and squeeze to remove the water. Repeat until all the courgettes are done

Put the courgettes, french beans and peas into a bowl, roughly chop the basil and add then season with a little salt and freshly ground black pepper. Grate the lemon zest on top of the vegetables

Peel and chop the garlic. Whisk the garlic, lemon juice and Dijon mustard together then whisk in the olive oil. Season with a little salt

Gently toss the dressing with the vegetables. Add more salt or lemon to taste.

 

 

Lettercollum Kitcheb Project are hosting two events for the Taste of West Cork festival in September. The first on Friday 6thSeptember is ‘Dinner from the Garden’, a seven course tasting menu shared around the kitchen table at Lettercollum and the second is “A Taste of Valencia’, tapas and paella accompanied by music and flamenco dancing in O’Donovans hotel on Tuesday 10thSeptember. Tickets for both events are available at the shop or by email.

 


Rabbits and Raspberry Pancakes

We have a rabbit in our garden, It has been hopping about devouring beans and kale and now it’s systematically chomping through a row of cauliflowers. This is an unusual problem for us as the garden’s walled and although birds cause devastation the rabbits usually stay out. It’s not easy to catch a rabbit and our dog isn’t taking any incentive so we’re building rabbit trap – a contraption made from a bucket and sticks. A bit like catching a tiger in the jungle. Fingers crossed it will work and we can relocate the rabbit otherwise we’ll have to have a rethink as for sure it can’t stay.

Apart from the bunny drama the garden is ticking along nicely. Just about everything is in situ – the pumpkins, the courgettes and beans etc but as it’s not been very warm it’s very slow. The beans look horrified, they have gone a pathetic shade of yellowy green but hopefully the temperature will rise and they’ll recover.

The soft fruits are ripening and we have the gooseberries well protected with nets this year. Last year the birds stripped the plants the minute the gooseberries ripened but we’re on the ball this time.

There are also raspberries, blackcurrants, redcurrants and loganberries ripening – nearly time to crank the jam factory into action.

Meanwhile we’re making delicious raspberry pancakes, perfect for summer breakfasts/brunch – kind of healthy and decadent at the same time. Made with oats and squashed banana they are surprisingly sophisticated and banana-flavour free. They take no longer to make than a fry up with the added bonus of twice the vitamins and antioxidants.

Any berry could be used for this recipe, fresh or frozen but a lot of them have travelled a long way. There are some delicious local raspberries available at the moment. If you haven’t got your own raspberries to pick, these are the next best thing  – big fat berries with a powerpack of flavour.

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Eat the pancakes naked, or drizzled with maple syrup or honey and a dollop of Greek yoghurt .

 

Makes 8 little pancakes – multiply the recipe for crowds.

For a vegan version substitute the eggs with 50mls extra plant milk

 

Raspberry pancakes

 

100g oatflakes

1 banana – roughly chopped

2 eggs –

100mls milk – any kind

1 heaped tsp baking powder

pinch of salt

1 tsp vanilla

1 punnet raspberries

oil or butter to fry

 

Put the oatflakes into a food processor and buzz until fairly fine.

Separate the eggs. Put the whites in a bowl and the yolks in with oats then add the milk, banana, vanilla and baking powder to the oat mix. Buzz until the mix is fairly smooth

Whisk the egg whites until stiff. Tip the oat mix into a bowl then gently fold in the whisked egg whites

Heat a frying pan and when the pan is hot add a smear of butter or a drizzle of oil. Spoon the mix in a tablespoon at a time, allowing space between each pancake so that they don’t stick together. Turn the heat to medium-low

Post a few raspberries into each pancake and when little bubbles begin to appear on the surface carefully flip the pancake over and cook the other side.


In Anticipation of Peas

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It’s a busy time in the garden, lots to sow, transplant and weed but not a vast selection to eat. There are plenty of green things – salad leaves, herbs, baby spinach, a few bolting leeks but for the rest we are waiting.

This recipe is in anticipation of the peas.

Our peas are about 15cms tall and on the up, beginning to climb their chicken wire fence. There’s a way to go but they’re coming

There is still time to plant peas if you have the space. They enjoy the Irish climate and providing the mice don’t eat the seeds will soon emerge and start climbing up, grasping with tiny tendrils to whatever is close by so it’s best to make a fence to keep them where you want them.

The main reason I plant pod peas is because they are so sweet. We snack on them in the garden so probably only half the harvest hits the kitchen.

The secret with peas is to eat them as soon as you pick them, before the sugars convert to starch. This is why frozen peas are so successful and indeed can be superior to pod peas.as unless they were recently picked they will have become a little starchy.

These little green orbs have a lot going for them as they are a source of plant-based protein, officially a legume not a vegetable. Paired with eggs, a little fresh goats cheese or yoghurt to make a complete protein this makes a nutritious vegetarian option that is easy and fast to make.

I was going to make the recipe in the blender but there was a power cut so instead of buzzing the mix I got stuck in with  a potato masher  and the result was chunky pea in batter delicious so the recipe can be made either way. If you use a blender pulse buzz and stop before the mix is smooth.

We’re using Sunview fresh goats cheese, which comes from Kilmichael near Macroom. Goats cheese has a dodgy reputation but this new season fresh cheese is creamy and delicious, not in the least bit goaty.

If you can’t handle goats cheese use a little feta or leave it out.

We ate these with mint and yoghurt sauce and salad on the side.

 

Pea fritters

 

300g peas

3 eggs

3-4 spring onions

zest of half a lemon

50g crumbled fresh goats cheese

50g cornflour

½ tsp baking powder

½ tsp salt

oil to fry.

 

Bring apot of water to the boil , add the peas then cook for 3-4 minutes. Drain and refresh under the cold tap then put aside .

Crack the eggs into a bowl. Seive the cornflour and baking poiwder then whisk into the eggs together with the slat.

Finely chop the spring annions then stir into the batter with the lemon zest, goats cheese and peas. Mash with apotato masher to crush the peas.

Heat a frying pan, pour in a little oil – enough ti just cover the bottom of the pan. Spoon in 3 or 4 tablespoons of the batter, allowing each fritter to spread but not join up. Turn the heat to medium and fry the fritter for 2-3 inutes then flip over and cook the otherside. Repeat until the mix is used up. I made 10 fritters.

 

Mint Yoghurt Sauce

 

250mls Greek yoghurt

1 tbs finely chopped mint

salt. And cracked black pepper.

 

Mix te yoghurt and finely chopped mint together then season with salt and cracked black pepper.


Tagliatelle with Asparagus and Shiitake Mushrooms

I’m just about all ‘kaled’ out. We have eaten some amount of kale and spinach in the last six weeks and I am almost happy to see the plants bolt. We will miss them but the new baby salad leaves and rocket are much more exciting.

There’s not much else ready to pick in the garden at this time of the year unless you are lucky enough to have an asparagus patch. We don’t. I tried to grow asparagus some years back but eventually lost patience and pulled it all up. There never seemed to be enough for dinner, just the odd alien popping up here and there but not enough for a bunch.

Luckily there are successful asparagus growers in West Cork and now is the time to grab a bunch before it’s moment of glory passes and there’s another years wait.

This recipe is a kind of vegetable carbonara, a bit of an oxymoran as any self-respecting Italian will tell you that carbonara only has four ingredients – eggs, pancetta, pecorino or parmesan and spaghetti but as with all recipes tweaking can produce great results.

I have used asparagus and locally grown shiitake mushrooms. Shiitake mushrooms are feather light when fresh but become meaty and super tasty when cooked.  Any long wiggly pasta will work for this recipe. If you get your timing right this dish can be cooked in the time that it takes to cook your pasta

 

Tagliatelle with Asparagus and Shiitake Mushrooms

Serves 2

 

1 small onion

7-8 stems asparagus

100g shiitake mushrooms

50g butter

50mls olive oil

2egg yolks

4tbs cream

50g grated parmesan or pecorino

250g tagliatelle/spaghetti/linguine

salt and cracked black pepper

 

Put a large saucepan of water on to boil, ready to cook the pasta

Peel and finely chop the onion

Snap the tough end from the asparagus and discard or put aside to make soup. Chop the rest of the asparagus in 3-4cm pieces

Slice the shiitake mushrooms.

In a small bowl mix the egg yolks, cream and grated cheese.

The vegetables are going to take roughly eight minutes to cook so now is the moment to decide when to add your pasta to the boiling water. Read the packet, add a large spoonful of salt to the water and cook the pasta according to the instructions – the vegetables can spend a minute or two resting whilst the pasta finishes cooking if needed

Heat a large frying pan or skillet and add the olive oil. When the pan is hot add the asparagus and cook for three to four minutes stirring every now and again. Season with salt and cracked black pepper and put aside. Next melt the butter in the pan and add chopped onion and the shiitake , mushrooms, cook on a high heat for three or four minutes, season with salt and cracked black pepper then put the asparagus back in.

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Take the pan off the heat.

Before draining the pasta reserve a few spoonfuls of the cooking water.

Drain the pasta, add to the vegetables and the egg mix then toss together adding some of the reserved water to get a creamy dressing.

Eat immediately