Monthly Archives: August 2012

Burnt Aubergines, aka Baba Ganoush

Roasting aubergines over a flame is one of my favourite ways to eat this vegetable. The flesh becomes meltingly smooth and the smoky flavour from the burnt skins is a great extra dimension.
It takes a little time but it’s very simple to do. It’s one of these dishes where you can read a newspaper or book whilst occasionally turning the aubergines. I have an old cake rack which I put directly on top of the gas burner. I’m not sure how this would work out on an electric cooker but I think it should do the job so long as the cooker isn’t super sensitive and the cake rack doesn’t knock the power off.
The aubergines do shrink whilst cooking so you need two or three large aubergines. Put the aubergines directly on the rack over a very low flame and turn every few minutes. I put mine in a row, then stand them on their ends to cook the bottoms. They are ready when the aubergines begin to collapse. Take them off the heat and allow them to cool then cut them in half lengthwise.
Use a spoon to scrape out the flesh then throw away the charred skins.
Peel a couple of cloves of garlic and give them a rough chop then put them together with the aubergine flesh and chop everything together until it becomes a puree. Tip the aubergine into a bowl, squeeze over the juice of a lemon, stir in a couple of spoonfuls of extra virgin olive oil then season with some salt.
I like to serve this with sour cream and roasted peppers and a little fresh coriander or flat leaf parsley to garnish. The roasted piquillo peppers that you can buy in jars are ideal for this,
It’s great dish to share. Put the plate in the middle of the table and eat with pitta breads or crusty bread. I found a lovely plate that someone had bought to our house at a previous occasion yesterday to put the aubergine on and it looked lovely. We took the dish to the neighbours birthday party and one of the other guests promptly claimed the plate back!!

Borlotti Beans with Garden vegetables

Fresh borlotti beans are quite a revelation. They cook up plump and velvety , a mile nicer than dried and reconstituted beans which are starchy in comparison.
I started growing borlotti beans a few years back and it is now becoming an addiction. Borlotti beans don’t do very well outside in the Irish climate but they thrive inside the tunnel. It’s quite a luxury as inside growing space is premium.
Last years crop gave us about four yummy dinners and this years seems set to do the same.
I woke up this morning dreaming of borlotti beans with fatty prawns, a divine combination which we have already eaten once this year. I set off to Rosscarbery in search of the prawns but was disappointed. No fatty prawns available untii Friday.
I wandered home,unwilling to spend any more of the day on the prawn mission. It can wait until the next picking. It’s worth waiting for as if the prawns aren’t hopping they aren’t going to do the job.
The sun came out and when I got home I wandered around the garden picking veg. I made a kind of minestrone for dinner by slowly cooking the vegetables in olive oil then adding white wine and stock to make a summer stew. The borlotti beans were cooked separately, dressed with a little olive oil and then piled on top with some shredded basil.
here’s the recipe, which you may have to use dried or canned beans for if you can’t find fresh borlotti

About 250g podded borlotti beans
1 small onion
a sprig of fresh sage
2 cloves garlic
1 large tomato , chopped

Put all of the above in a small pan and cover with water. Bring to the boil, cover with a lid and cook for about thirty minutes or until the beans are just tender. remove the lid and raise the heat to high. Cook until the liquid has reduced by about half then season with salt and pepper. Stir in a good glug of tasty olive oil and put aside.

For the minestrone
75mls-100mls olive oil
1-2 onions, peeled and chopped
2 stems celery, cut lengthwise then diced
2-3 bulbs fennel,cut into quarters lengthwise
Some parmesan rind (optional)
a few carrots, peeld and diced into large chunks
3-4 waxy potaotes, peeld and chopped into chunks
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
3 fatty tomatoes, diced
2 small courgettes, cut into quarters lengthwise then chopped into a large dice
a glass of white wine
about 700mls vegetable stock or water

Heat a large pan and add a good glug of olive oil. Enough to generously coat the bottom of the pan.
Peel and chop the onion and add to the pan, Chop the celery and stir in, then season with a little salt.If you have some Parmesan rind add it now. Keep cooking on a medium high heat. You should be able to hear the vegetables sizzling away. Slowly add the other vegeables beginning with the fennel, then carrots, potatoes, garlic and chopped tomatoes but don’t let the temperature drop too low. Everything should be gently bubbling away.This will take about thirty minutes. Season with salt and black pepper Add the white wine, let it bubble up then and then add the stock. Cook for about ten minutes. Heat a little oil in a hot pan and add the courgettes, give them a good shake then season them with salt and black pepper and toss everything together again. Keep stirring/tossing on a high heat for a few minutes then tip them into the pot. Cook for a few more minutes then take off the heat and stir in the basil
Serve the stew in a bowl with the borlotti beans piled in the middle.

the veggies arriving from the garden

Rice and Lentils with Roasted Fennel and Cherry Tomatoes

We were back on the roasted fennel last night. I was going to make a fennel salad but when it began to rain it lost it’s appeal and we ended up eating cooked food. The rice and lentil recipe is from the Moorish cookbook and is a little more upmarket than the name suggests. Puy lentils are cooked with a cinnamon stick, onion and bay leaf and then dressed with some olive oil and the rice is cooked risotto style with onion, white wine, vegetable stock and Parmesan cheese. The two are then gently mixed together and we ate them with roasted the fennel and tomatoes. It was sublime. It’s a surprisngly elegant dish.

We had green beans dressed with a lemony vinaigrette on the side.

A day out at Liss Ard

Yesterdays dinner was a mobile one. We spent the day at the lovely Liss Ard estate where the annual music and arts festival was in full swing.
We left home in our wellies, armed with raincoats, blankets to sit on and a sweet potato fritatta in our backpack. The wellies were vital as it was very muddy after all the rain we’ve had,the fritatta was a very welcome snack which we ate sitting on a wall in the sunshine listening to stand up comedy and we didn’t need the raincoats! Quite amazing and such a treat.
Liss Ard is a beautiful old estate and the festival is laid out on a rolling hillock which makes a natural ampitheatre with food stalls all around the perimeter and the main marquee is down the bottom which meant we could sit on our blanket and get a great view without actually sitting inside.
We arrived in time to enjoy the lovely West Cork Ukelele band and then wandered on listening to stand up comedians in the literary tent,to watch cookery demos in the Theatre of Food and more music. The Ceili All Stars absolutely rocked and Toots and the Maytals are still the original reggae kings.
I did a little beer tasting with The Eight Degrees Brewing company and watched Mei Chin create some Asian Irish Fusion Food in the Theatre of Food. Mei’s Asian Cole slaw and Chinese spiced ham was served in “slider’ – a New York style mini bread roll. I tried the cole slaw in the ‘slider’ but had eaten it all before it occurred to me to take a photo! As everyone else had wolfed theirs down before I cottoned on we have no pictorial evidence.
Moving on we followed up with a falafel plate from the Lebanese Food Company and washed everything down with some Portuguese Douro wine from one of the wine tents.
All in all a great day out.

our falafel plate

Tagliatelle with Courgettes, Saffron and Mushrooms

This is a dinner that is very fast to make, just the thing when you’re feeling absolutely pooped after a day at work. We did have to run up to the garden for the courgettes but otherwise we had everything else in the house!

Tagliatelle with Courgettes and Saffron

500g tagliatelle
4 –5 small courgettes
200g mushrooms, wild if possible
25ml olive oil
25g butter
A pinch of saffron
Small glass of white wine (optional)
400ml cream
Salt and black pepper
Parmesan cheese to serve

Put a large pot of salted water on to boil. Cover with a lid. This will speed things up.
Pour a little boiling water over the saffron and leave to infuse.
Cut the courgettes into thin slices on the diagonal.
Slice the mushrooms
Read the cooking instructions on the pasta. The sauce takes 8-10minutes to cook so try to coordinate the two.

Put a large sauté pan or frying pan on the heat.

When the water for the pasta boils, add the pasta and start to cook the sauce.

Put the olive oil and butter into the pan, turn the heat up and when it bubbles up add the mushrooms and courgettes. Keep the heat high, season with salt and black pepper and keep shaking or stirring. After 3-4 minutes the vegetables should be just cooked. If you are using wine, add it now. Let it bubble up and reduce, then add the saffron and cream and bring to the boil. If you don’t have wine just add the cream and saffron. Cook rapidly until the sauce reduces by about half, season and remove from the heat.

Drain the pasta and toss in the sauce.

Serve with lots of grated Parmesan

Brill with Roasted Fennel and Cherry Tomatoes

We have fennel ready in the garden at the moment. We  missed most of the last crop as we didn’t pick it quickly enough and it bolted. One week it was looking perfect and a week later it was shooting for the sky. We can’t make the same mistake this time so it looks like we’re in for a bit of a fennel eating orgy.

Tonights dinner was fennel, which I blanched and the roasted together with baby tomatoes. I had bought some brill in the market so I pan fried the fish and then balanced it on top of the roasted fennel/tomato combo, poured the roasting juices over, then scattered basil on top. We ate it with charlotte potatoes on the side.

Here’s the recipe – you can make it with any white fish, just take the size of the fish into consideration for the cooking time.

About 150-200g fish per person – I used brill

1 medium or 2 smaller pieces fennel per person

7-8 small/cherry tomatoes per person

a good glug of olive oil

salt and pepper

a handful of shredded basil

Pre heat the oven to 200c.

Put a large pot of water on to boil. Wash and trim the fennel bulbs then cut them into halves or quarters lengthwise, depending how big they are. When the water boils add half a tsp salt and the fennel. Cook the fennel for 4-5 minutes then drain, toss in a large glug of olive oil,  salt and pepper and put into the oven.Roast for about twenty minutes then add the tomatoes, sprinkle with a little salt and roast for a further twenty minutes.

Ten minutes before the veggies are ready put a heavy pan onto heat. This will probably take about five minutes.Have the fish ready to go, trimmed and seasoned. Pour a little olive oil over each fillet and place oil side down on the hot pan. Cook at a high heat for three-four minutes, depending on the size of your fish then rub the topside with a little olive oil and carefully flip it over. Cook for a further couple of minutes. The fish is cooked when it firms up, i.e. is no longer blobby, so if you have bigger fillet of fish give it a gentle push to feel if it’s ready.

Scatter the basil over the fennel/tomato mix and spoon a heap onto each plate. Balance  a piece of fish over the veggies and pour the juices from the pan on top. Serve with lemon wedges.

Paella for an Army

Last nights dinner wasn’t so much for us, it was for the Clonakilty Waterfront Festival.

The festival kicked off last night with a Taste of West Cork and Con and I took our big paella pans for the cook up.

We made two versions, a chicken and chorizo paella and a vegetarian paella made with veggies from our garden.

The meat one was the first to go, naturally enough but word got around and we soon had everyone tasting the veggie version. This was made with all the usual ingredients, tomatoes, peppers, saffron and rice with broad beans and artichokes poked in. It was a wonderful evening, all the people of Clon dressed in their glad rags, sampling the wares of the local restaurants to the accompaniment of the Cafe Orchestra and the rain held off until everyone arrived! Here’s a domestic version of the chorizo paella. It’s great one pot dinner for feeding a crowd

Chorizo Paella

2 medium onions

about 100ml olive oil

2-3 celery stalks

2 peppers –green, yellow or red

1 leek, white part only

4 cloves garlic

2-3 fresh chorizo

1tsp smoked paprika

300g calaspara rice –or use Arborio if you don’t have/can’t find

1 can chopped tomatoes

1 glass white wine

900ml vegetable or chicken stock

salt and pepper

Peel and chop the onions. Heat a large heavy pan and add enough olive oil to cover the bottom. Add the onions and stir. Season with a little salt.

Cut the celery into 2 or 3 strips lengthwise then dice into small pieces. Add to the onion in the pan and continue cooking. It’s important that the vegetables are sizzling away without browning so maintain the heat so that you can hear everything cooking and stir frequently.

Deseed the peppers and chop into a large dice, add to the pan, season with a little salt and give a stir. Chop the leek and add to the rest of the vegetables. Give a good grind of black pepper and check the seasoning. Add more salt if necessary. Peel and chop the garlic and add to the pan then cut the chorizo in half lengthways. Chop the chorizo into equal sized chunks and add to the pan. Cook until the oils from the chorizo are released.

Stir in the rice and cook for a couple of minutes then add the tomatoes, smoked paprika and white wine. Bring the temperature up so that the alcohol burns off then stir in the stock. Taste and adjust seasoning then once all the ingredients are cooking turn the heat down to maintain a slow bubbling pot. Now stand back and do not stir. Cook gently for about fifteen minutes then turn the heat off. Cover with a piece of aluminium foil and leave to relax for five minutes.

Serve with lemon wedges.