Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Dinner at The Bar+Grill, Belfast

It's easier to win the Lotto than to get a table at The Bar+Grill at James Street South on a Saturday night.  This was our third attempt - I booked a few weeks in advance and all I could get was 7pm.  I wasn't arguing because I was dying to eat there.  It's in on a very quiet street but two minutes walk from everywhere so you can totter back to your hotel without feeling as if you've run the marathon.  The building itself is very handsome with lots of exposed brick.  There's long banquettes in the centre of the room for couples or very loud braying groups like the one behind us (who bitched incessantly about the poor person who went to the loo - we heard you) and tables for 4-6 at the windows.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Lunch at Little Wing Pizza, Belfast

Having had a lovely breakfast at the divine Brown Hound Bakery in Drogheda, we had reached our Belfast destination and wanted lunch. Little Wing Pizza came highly recommended by Manuel The Waiter from the now defunct Well Done Fillet website.  They've four branches - Bangor, Lisburn Road, Upper Newtownards Road and the city centre branch in Ann Street (a mere hop, skip and jump from Victoria Square) where we went for something Eeetalian to eat.

First things first, Little Wing is busy.  There were always people waiting for tables and they do a cracking trade in takeout pizza too.  Their pizza boxes are gorgeous - a beautiful pale blue with the car printed on the front.  they even have pizza slice boxes.  Clever...  They also really seem to cater for families, based on the table beside us - three young boys and their dad.  The boys were having a whale of a time with pizza, icecream and hot chocolate afterwards.  I'm sure they bounced all the way home on a sugar rush!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Feta Stuffed Pork Koftas

It's sunny outside which means we're all going to lose the run of ourselves and barbeque anything that stands still long enough.  It doesn't matter if it is meant to be cooked long and slow, "sure 20 minutes over flaming coals will do just grand..."

These lovely Pork Koftas cook equally well inside on a frying pan or outside on your barbeque.  Just make sure you make them in advance and let them chill in the fridge for at least an hour to let them firm up, otherwise they'll fall apart as soon as they hit the heat.  They're stuffed with feta so you get a lovely surprise when you cut into them, and all the herbs make them really fragrant and delicious.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Rhubarb & Vanilla Cheesecake

There is a wonderful lady called Fiona Dillon who runs Hunters Lodge in Co. Carlow who is all about growing and doing it yourself, and she puts me to shame.  She gives classes on keeping chickens, growing your own veg and self sufficiency, and I have been the very grateful recipient of a basket of her "fresh from the hen's bum" eggs on many an occasion.  She's even interviewed me for a radio programme she's making (more to come on that...) and now I'm leaving work in Carlow, I shall miss her dreadfully.

Last week, she gave me a bundle of her rhubarb, freshly picked from the garden that morning and I wanted to make something pink and pretty to bring out the delicate flavour of the rhubarb.  I've already made a lovely cake which was a huge success but I didn't want to bake today, so I thought a lovely no-bake cheesecake with a chocolate crumb base would make the rhubarb shine.  I roasted the rhubarb with some sugar and vanilla pods first, to infuse it with lots of flavour and then mixed it with cream cheese and Jersey double cream to make a luscious cheesecake.  Make sure you drain the rhubarb well otherwise the filling will be too runny.  I saved the drained rhubarb juice & strained it to make a rhubarb syrup which I'll use for cocktails or as a cordial with sparkling water

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Dinner at Bite, Dublin 2

I knew Bite in it's previous incarnation as Georges Bistro and it was small and cosy with really great staff.  Bite is different : the dynamic has changed and it seems a lot more rabbit-warren like in layout.  I wasn't too impressed by being taken on a magical mystery tour via what seemed like the kitchen & stores entrance to our reserved table.  Our table for three was perched in a corner right inside the door so we were privy to all the comings and goings in the restaurant.

Green Cod with Rocket & Pickled Cucumber

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Slow Roasted Shoulder of Pork

Last night, I was working at Pat Whelan's first butchery demonstration in Avoca Monkstown (my first freelance job...).  10 enthusiastic meat lovers joined us for an evening of discovery where they learned about using knives safely, the various cuts of pork and the hidden cuts of beef which have been largely ignored, until now.

While this was going on, I was running up and down the stairs like a dervish to keep an eye on the shoulder of pork which I had cooking away in the prep oven. This is a two stage process, involving a dry rub and then a wet baste – it sounds terribly complicated but it’s actually really easy and you can let it mellow away in the oven while you get on with everything else.   Pat Whelan cooks this outside on his barbeque, but don’t worry if you don’t have one because this works perfectly in a domestic oven.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Breakfast at Brown Hound Bakery

Brown Hound Bakery is tucked away in a retail development in Drogheda, Co. Louth.  From the outside, it looks very innocuous but walk through the doors and you're in a long elegant room with a glass counter full of unusual and delicious cakes, scones and other delights.  There's also a very handsome statue of a Brown Hound and many covetable cake stands... all securely behind glass.

The Brown Hound...

Friday, May 11, 2012

Lunch at Say Fish

On Tuesday I heard that Irish Village Markets had a lunchtime market at the Stillorgan LUAS stop.  As I was in the area and starving, it seemed sensible to park and check it out - right?  Best decision I made all week...

This is what fish & chips should look like...

Peter from IVM very kindly met me and showed me around the market.  It was teeming with workers from the surrounding Sandyford and Stillorgan business parks (I used to work in Sandyford and there was nothing decent to eat in the area) walking around & buying their lunch.  There's a wealth of food carts on site from rotisserie chicken to Asian food to sausages in a real Waterford Blaa and the smells were intoxicating.    Irish Village Markets take place every day in different locations around Dublin including Stillorgan, Grand Canal Quay, Blanchardstown & Christchurch and all the food is cooked on site so it's as fresh as you can get.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Chicken and Chestnut Mushroom Risotto

Every time I mention that I've made risotto for dinner, I get the look that I call "The Fear", invariably accompanied by a comment along the lines of "oh, I'd never be able to make that, it's far too hard and I'd make a mess of it".  Don't sell yourself short - risotto is much easier to make than you think.  Yes it takes time (about 25 minutes), and there's lots of stirring but open a magazine, pour a glass of wine and the time will fly. 

The trick is to have everything ready to go before you start, so all your veggies are chopped, the chicken is cut up and the stock is ready.  Use decent wine - if you won't drink it, don't bother cooking with it - and if you want to be extra decadent, stir in some butter at the end for richness and glossiness.  This is equally gorgeous made with big juicy prawns and little petit pois - change the ingredients to suit your taste.  My recipe feeds two people so it's really easy to double, triple or even quadruple to feed a crowd.  Just make sure you use a huge pot.  I used chestnut mushrooms here because I love the contrast of the brown skin against the creamy pale interior but you can use mixed mushrooms, plain old button mushrooms or even big portobellos for extra meatiness.