Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Autumn Special : Poule au Pot

I feel like chicken tonight... thanks to the great Supervalu 3 for €10 offer where I stocked up on a lovely Irish chicken & some pork chops (which I will probably turn into the Saltimbocca again).

The weather is changing by the day with daylight disappearing in the evening at a frightening rate, so I decided to make Poule au Pot - a fancy French phrase for a pot-roasted chicken casserole.  It's tremendously easy to make and as it's a one pot meal, there's very little washing up for The Hubs - I'm so kind to him!

This is the pot...

Poule au Pot

1 Chicken, about 1.5kg
2 tsp Olive Oil
100ml White Wine or Dry Vermouth
2 Carrots, peeled & cut into batons
2 sticks Celery, cut into batons
3-4 Leeks, cut into 5cm lengths
Bouquet Garni (or whatever herbs you like)
Salt & Pepper
1 litre Water

Put the chicken on a chopping board, breast side down & give it a good push until you hear a crack (yes, I know it's vile, but the chicken fits into the pot better...).

Heat the olive oil in your casserole dish (make sure it has a lid) and brown on both sides.
Turn up the heat, add the wine or vermouth and allow the liquid to reduce slightly.

Now add your vegetables and seasoning.  Add enough water to make sure the chicken is barely covered and allow to come to a rolling simmer.

Turn the heat right down (move to a smaller burner if necessary), put the lid on and let it cook away for 90 minutes.  At this stage, the chicken should fall away from the bone easily, and if so, it's ready.  Turn off the heat and let it sit for 30 minutes before serving.

For dinner, we had the chicken and the veg with a heap of roasted gnocchi (25 mins in a very hot oven with a drizzle of olive oil).  The leftovers will make a gorgeous soup for lunch tomorrow and I'll freeze whatever is left.
Taken with the extra-crappy camera on my iPhone... sorry!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Chocolate Banana Muffins (from Nigella's Kitchen)

As Dawn French used to say, they're not Terry's... they're MINE.  And so it goes with these muffins... they're not Nigella's... I have claimed them for my own, as they're actually very similar to the banana ones I've made in the past.

I made the first batch of these on Friday afternoon to settle my nerves before a night with Michael Buble (swoon...) and The Hubs scoffed 75% of them, so they're obviously delicious!

Chocolate Banana Muffins

3 very ripe Bananas, mashed
125ml Vegetable Oil
2 Eggs
100g Soft Light Brown Sugar
225g Plain Flour
1 tsp Bicarbonate of Soda
3 tbsp Cocoa Powder
1 pinch of Salt

Preheat your oven to 200c/Gas Mark 6 and line your muffin tin with paper cases.

In a large bowl mix the mashed banana, vegetable oil, eggs & sugar.  You can do this by hand if you're feeling energetic or with an electric whisk if you're a lazy article like me.

Mix the dry ingredients together : flour, cocoa, salt & bicarbonate of soda.  Add them to the banana mixture & beat gently until well combined.  Now pour the mixture into the muffin cases - I use a soup ladle for this as it's the least messy option...

Bake for 15-20 minutes until the muffins are dark, nicely risen and a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean.  Remove to a wire cooling rack and try to resist polishing the whole lot off in one go!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Saltimbocca alla Romana (from Catherine's Italian Kitchen)

Third time's a charm...  I saw this on Catherine's TV show last week which is stored on my Sky+ box to be replayed and replayed so I can soak up all the charm and loveliness of Rome.  I had a pork steak languishing in the fridge and was going to make Pork Fillet with Cider and Lardons, but I thought about the Saltimbocca and dinner was sorted.  Catherine uses pork escalopes in her recipe to make 4 single servings, but I used a pork fillet to make mini sized saltimboccas, so we had 4 little of these babies each.  I also used a packet of German air-dried ham, as it's what was in the fridge, rather than Prosciutto.

I mentioned last night's dinner to Freak in one of our many phone conversations earlier and she told me that she also has a pork fillet in need of a good recipe, so I'm writing two blog posts in one day (a new feat for me...) especially for her.  I do hope you appreciate it, pet!

Saltimbocca alla Romana

4 Pork Escalopes, beaten to about 1cm thick
12 small Sage Leaves
8 slices Prosciutto
Salt & Pepper
200ml White Wine
40g Butter

If you're using pork fillet or chops, trim well and flatten by putting the meat between cling film or in a freezer bag & bash them with a meat mallet or rolling pin (it's very theraputic...).  Season the pork with salt & pepper.

Now place 3 sage leaves on top of each escalope, wrap 2 slices of prosciutto around the pork & hold it all together with a wooden cocktail stick underneath.

Heat some olive oil in a frying pan.  Cook the pork on a medium-high heat for 3 minutes a side, starting with the presentation side down, until cooked through & golden.  Remove from the pan & keep warm.

Skim off any bits from the pan, add the white wine & cook for 4-5 minutes until the alcohol has cooked off & the liquid reduces.  Add the butter, allow it to melt & then pour into a serving jug (if you're posh, like us...).

Remove the cocktail sticks & serve the escalopes with the sauce poured over.

We had this with some sauteed potato slices & courgette spaghetti and it was a complete smash hit.  Must stock up on sage...

Potato & Tomato Bake (from Catherine's Italian Kitchen)

After making the utterly delicious Zuppa di Pomodoro from Catherine's Italian Kitchen, I still had some tomatoes left from Dad's generous gift.  I wanted to make a potato gratin for dinner and thought that Catherine's recipe for Patate e Pomodoro al Forno was just the thing to combine them both.  As usual, I didn't have all the ingredients to hand, but I made an emergency substitution, cut the quantities in half to feed 2 starving people and off I went!

Potato and Tomato Bake

1kg Potatoes, peeled
100ml Milk
3 Garlic Cloves, sliced
1 tsp Fennel Seeds, lightly crushed
1/2 tsp Saffron
3 large ripe tomatoes, sliced
120ml Vegetable Stock
4 tbsp White Breadcrumbs
4 tbsp freshly grated Parmesan
2 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Place the potatoes on a pot, cover with water, bring to the boil & simmer for 5- minutes.  Drain & then slice thinly when they're cool enough to handle without wincing - using a mandolin makes this very simple indeed!

Preheat your oven to 180c & butter a 20cm square lasagne dish

Mix the milk, garlic, fennel seeds, saffron, salt & pepper in a jug

Season the base of your dish with salt & pepper and then put a layer of potatoes, a layer of tomatoes & some of the stock.  Repeat until you've used up all the potatoes & tomatoes, and finish with a layer of potatoes.  Now pour over the stock

Mix the breadcrumbs & parmesan together & scatter over the potatoes, and drizzle with the olive oil.

Bake for about 90 minutes.  Check it every so often & use the back of a spatula to press the potatoes down.  When the potatoes are tender, and the surface is crisp and golden, it's ready!

This was an absolutely gorgeous dish - very light and much healthier than a regular Potato Gratin... and you're getting some of your 5 a Day with the tomatoes.  Now what shall I cook next?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Proof is in the (Black) Pudding

Black pudding is an integral part of Irish cuisine and from our viewpoint, we make the best in the world (which is true).  So I was delighted to get an email from my old colleague Orla from Momentum Consulting telling me all about the honour being conferred upon three Irish pudding producers...

"Three top of class Irish producers who will be honoured and celebrated by the prestigious Brotherhood of the Knights of the Black Pudding (La Confrerie des Chevaliers du Goute Boudin - one of the world’s greatest authorities on black pudding.  Over three days from September 20th – 22nd over 30 Knights of the fraternity will visit McCarthy’s of Kanturk, Caherbeg Free Range Pork Rosscarbery and Mayo’s Seán Kelly to award gold, silver and bronze medals.  Street festivities are planned and this promises to be a great  three day celebration of all that is exciting and special about Irish black pudding and telling that story to an international market".

I know from my many visits to la belle France, that the French absolutely adore le Boudin Noir, as they call black pudding, and it's a very chichi ingredient indeed.  They also take food production amazingly seriously, so this is one ginormous pat on the back for McCarthy's, Caherbeg and Sean Kelly.

I'm going to reproduce Orla's press release in all its glory below so you can read about the event at your leisure.

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European Pudding Champions : Three Irish Butchers to be Knighted

The Brotherhood of the Knights of the Black Pudding, based in Normandy, France, is one of the worlds greatest authorities on Black Pudding. At the 2010 international awards three Irish Butchers were awarded medals. So impressed were the French by the quality of the puddings presented by the Irish entries that they decided to visit Ireland to bestow the awards in person and welcome McCarthys of Kanturk, Rosscarbery Recipes and Kelly's of Newport to the Fraternity. The Brotherhood will be in Ireland 20th - 22nd September.

La Confrérie des Chevaliers du Goûte Boudin, was established in 1963 at Mortagne-au-Perche in the heart of the Perche region of France by a group of foodies to promote traditional black pudding. Black pudding has a history dating back over 2000 years and there are variations in many countries, so that the annual pudding festival hosted by the fraternity has become a major international event with over 600 entries in 2010.

At the launch announcing the visit, Martin Shanrahan of Fishy Fishy, celebrity chef and champion of Irish food said, “We may have found Ireland's natural resource with marvellous black puddings originating all over Ireland. It is great to see Ireland's food appreciated and loved internationally. As I've said before, no skin, no bone, no fear. Black pudding ticks all the boxes for me.”

The Pudding Parade
In recognition of the wonderful puddings created by the winning Irish entrants, Kanturk, Rosscarbery and Mayo are to be honoured by a parade of the French Pudding Fraternity in their colourful regalia.

Jack and Tim McCarthy, a father and son team, produced an incredible whiskey and cream pudding and received a Gold Medal. The pudding is big in both size and flavour. McCarthy's Butchers were established in 1892 and Tim is the fifth generation of the family to wield a cleaver. Kanturk welcomes the French Fraternity on the 21st September. At the launch Tim McCarthy said, “My Great Great Grandfather would be proud that the butchers he began is to be honoured with a visit from such black pudding connoisseurs. It is always great to receive recognition of our high quality products.”

Willie Allshire in Rosscarbery was the first Irish person to enter this competition in March 2007, where he became the first Irish person to receive a Gold Medal. Avril Allshire said, “We are obsessed with quality. When we travelled to France to receive our first award in 2007 many of the French were unaware of traditional Irish pudding so it is fantastic that three years later the Fraternity are honouring Ireland in this way.” Rosscarbery Recipes received a silver medal in 2010. All meat used in Rosscarbery Recipes products is sourced locally. Willie Allshire also produces free range outdoor pigs under the Caherbeg Free Range Pork label. Rosscarbery welcomes the French Fraternity on the 22nd September.

Sean Kelly's “Putog” is made in a traditional way to a secret recipe and has received great acclaim. This pudding was awarded a Bronze Medal at the French competition. Kelly's artisan butchers began 75 years ago, it has remained in the family for three generations and 70% of the livestock comes from their own farm. Newport welcomes the French Fraternity on the 20th September.

The Irish appreciate French food too
The Fraternity are opening the French Food Festival in Douglas, Cork on 22nd September. Organised by the acclaimed delicatessen Isabel Sheridan, proprietor of On the Pigs Back, the food fair promises everything from the finest French cheese and wines to some more unusual delicacies, such as Isabel's Pork and Plum pate with Cognac. This is the perfect opportunity to get hold of some fantastic food. Isabel is from the Loire Valley in the heart of France she said, “Although I have been promoting Irish food for 20 years this is the first time I have held a French Food Festival and it has had a wonderful reception from Cork.”

Martin Shanahan, Isabel Sheridan, Tim McCarthy & Avril Allshire chowing down on some delicious black pudding

Sunday, September 19, 2010

A Few Of My New Favourite Things

Some of you will know that we're just back from our annual pilgrimage to my favourite place... France.  The holiday was absolutely gorgeous & I'm now a fan of staying in a mobile home rather than an apartment - you can park the car right outside & bring your stuff in & out with ease.  It certainly makes a change from last year when we had to use a trolley to scale a steep incline... and hold on for dear life as we were going back down that evil hill with all our bags & baggage precariously balanced!

While we were in the Vendee, I demanded a visit to Casa, in fact, I managed 2 visits (success!).  I absolutely love this shop, which sells the most fantastically reasonably priced homewares, and am always amazed by the value for money.  This year, I bought new cookwear including some beautiful little lidded cocottes, dinky mini Kilner jars and baking dishes, as well as new savarin & bundt tins which had Little Miss LikeMamUsedToBake practically green with envy.

This isn't even HALF of my booty... 

I also fell in love with a new Senseo Quadrante coffee machine.  I had the original one at home & always stock up on coffee pods when we're in France as the range is a million times better than here, and they're also half the price.  I saw it in HyperU and practically licked the box, to the intense bemusement of The Hubs.  It was €99 and decided to sleep on it/check out if it was available at home.  Well it wasn't, but I found it even cheaper on, so out came the much-abused credit card and it arrived at the campsite within 48 hours...  The only drawback is that all the attachments I had bought for the old machine don't fit, so I had to buy a new Espresso holder.  Little Sis is the very happy recipient of the old machine - we like to recycle responsibly in our house!

I am in love with this, and my pretty new mug 

So we got home from France and eventually found places to store all our purchases in the SuperShed.  And then it was my birthday...  I didn't actually want anything because I had bought loads of lovely things on holiday.  I nearly fell over with shock and delight when I unwrapped the pressie from The Hubs and discovered a new digital camera... not just any camera, the actual one I had been lusting over for aaaaages.  Top marks to that man!  Little Sis also now has my old digital camera, although Lulu informed both of us that it now belongs to her, so there. 

And then I got my pressie from my parents (well, they did ask me what I wanted...) and days of reading pleasure lie ahead.
Lucky old me!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Souper Zuppa (thanks to Catherine Fulvio)

I have been roundly chastised by my VBF Freak for being remiss in my blogging duties of late.  To be fair, I was on my holidays in the lovely France and I managed to write two posts when I was there... and I've enough material from the trip to make another 10 posts!

The day before we set sail, I got a lovely present in the post - Catherine Fulvio's new book Catherine's Italian Kitchen and I decided to bring her on holidays with me - I should have really titled this "How I Kidnapped Catherine & Brought Her To France" but that might have attracted the wrong type of attention!  While in the splendour of our teeny tiny mobile home kitchenette, I did make her  Tomato Fettunta which is a very delicious bruschetta, using the fantastic tomatoes from the local supermarket.  French supermarkets put us to shame with the range and variety of fresh produce they have - wandering around them is one of my favourite things to do on holiday, figuring out what we're going to eat that day for lunch & dinner.

Anyway, back from my holiday tangent, I was given a huge bagful of tomatoes from my parents garden the other day & I decided to make Catherine's Zuppa Di Pomodoro.  I hated tomato soup when I was a kid and refused point blank to ever let a spoonful of the nasty tinned stuff past my lips.  And then I grew up & discovered the joys of fresh tomato soup...

The recipe is unfailingly simple, but as usual I was missing a vital ingredient - the ciabatta.  So I substituted a large white onion instead and it worked out just fine!

The recipe is written in a really clear and easy to understand way, so I had no problem following it (while watching TV on the laptop propped on the draining rack!).

I cored & scored my tomatoes and then dropped them into a pot of boiling water for a minute to loosen the skins.  Then I transferred them to a bowl of cold water so the skins would slip off.  Then it was just a matter of chopping them & squeezing out the seeds into a bowl.

Then I heated 2 tbsp of olive oil in my largest pot, added the finely chopped onion & 3 chopped cloves of garlic and sauteed them on a very gentle heat until they softened & were translucent.  Then it was tomato time - I added them to the pot, along with a small bunch of torn basil leaves & 2 sprigs of thyme.

I seasoned the tomatoes with salt, pepper & sugar and let it simmer for 30 minutes until it looked like this

I then added a litre of chicken stock & let it simmer for 5 minutes and then gave it a blast of my stick blender so it was nice & smooth, and checked the seasoning - just another dash of sugar!

Doesn't it look lovely with the little basil leaf floating on top?

And an empty cup means a happy cook!

Now I have to give the recipe to my Mum so she can use up her share of the glut of tomatoes...

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Hate Mozzies? In France? I Haz Solution!

Apparently I have the X Factor.  Not of the Simon (man cleavage, ultra-high trousers, scarily sparkly teeth and fro-hair) Cowell variety... although I can hold a tune according to The Hubs who told me I serenaded the nearby residents of the campside tonight in the shower... I do hope they like Dream A Little Dream of Me.

Nah, nothing so posh, I am loved unilaterally by bitey nasty irritating insects, specifically mosquitos and their like.  It's an affliction that my Dad and my VBF Freak both suffer from and sometimes we do turn it into a "who got the most supperating bite" competition.  Yes, we're very classy like that.  Please, try to restrain your jealousy...

Mozzies are meant to strike at dusk & beyond, but one cheeky sod decided to have a munch on my right arm and left elbow before the sun had set.  Little fecker.  I first realised this when we were sitting down for a nice dinner at La Croisette & thought it was but a little hive.  I am stupid.  Over the next day, the hives expanded to volcanic proportions that only the application of cans of cold drink or ice would alleviate the manic itch and desire to bite through my arms.  I slathered it in Hydrocortisone 1% cream, took Zirtek & covered them with plasters to stop me scratching in my sleep (yes, I am a catch...)

I react particularly badly to bites, the worst of which ended up with blood poisoning, green streaks up my arm & an emergency phone prescription for antibiotics from my very lovely GP.  Since then I've been paranoid about the little bizzy demons, spraying, plugging in and covering up where possible.  Given how my bites were driving me bonkers, I called into the Pharmacie & asked if they could give me something to help.  Big waste of space... apparently I was doing "all I can, but I am just unlucky". 


So, as we were shopping for more BBQ food, insanely cheap Vin Blanc & Biere, I found a magic potion in SuperU.  It's called Marie Rose Apres Moustiques & for the princely sum of €6.83, it has made me happier than most things *apart from winning EuroMillions*.  It's a little can which foams into a mousse when you spray it, and then fizzes as you rub it in.  It stops the itch, calms the redness and basically makes life bearable.  I LOVE IT LOADS.

In fact, I may stockpile it just in case...