Flying the flag for Irish Food #COYBIG

I’ve had to whisper this the last few weeks but (shhhhh) I’m not a rugby fan. I’ve felt distinctly unpatriotic avoiding the games with excuse after excuse. So, in a way to make up for it, I want to draw attention to some other boys in green, well sort of…chefs that are flying the flag for Irish food. They are taking our favourite hearty Irish foods and making them into world class dishes. Two of the best meals I’ve had recently and perfect examples of this and randomly have been Irish meals in London…

Mark Moriarty cooking at Selfridges, LondonMark dinner 2

Rising young star, Mark Moriarty, recently beat global competition to win the hugely prestigious San Pelligrino Young Chef of the Year competition in Italy, representing Ireland and Britain. With experience in The Ledbury and Restaurant Tom Aikens in London and Dublin’s Thornton’s and The Greenhouse he has had some stellar training and it shows in his cooking. I was lucky enough to sample his recent pop-up dinner in Selfridges in London where I was blown away by his take on traditional Irish dishes…

Mark Moriarty Dinner

Not only did this whole meal taste insanely good Mark also popped out in between each course to talk about the food. The Irish-ness was in the stories as well as the ingredients. The canapé served in a scallop shell inspired by ashtrays you’ll find in pubs all over coastline, the crispy potato skins of his youth, comparing cooking his now signature ‘Lamb in Hay’ to Blur always having to play Country House (It was just after Electric Picnic). His take on bacon and cabbage was somehow a million miles away from the dish we grew up with but also tasted exactly as it should. It was nostalgia at it’s tastiest and incredibly executed.

Mark will be cooking his first dinner in Dublin since winning Young Chef of The Year as part of Taste City Fusion on Friday 23rd October. It’s a Medieval menu he told me was part inspired by Heston Blumenthal’s medieval menu at Dinner. Along with his DIT mentor & head of culinary arts Máirtín Mac Con Iomaire he delved into Irish medieval food history along to devise what I’m sure will be a stunning four course feast. 

Richard Corrigan at Bentley’s, Londonrcgarden1

Meath native Richard has been flying the flag for Irish food for longer than most having won a Michelin star at his original London restaurant, Lindsay House back in 1997. I remember eating there back in 2004 and ordering his star dish crubeens and thinking this is pretty cool. An Irish chef cooking this dish right in the heart of Soho. He went on to be a winning chef Great British Menu three times and consequently was thrust into the limelight as an Irish food ambassador. And boy is he good at it.  From the seaweed butter at the beginning right through to the petit fours I had a list of questions to ask the chef about various tastes and ingredients that blew me away. And you know what the common theme was? Irish ingredients! Here’s a recap of what I had….

Richard Corrigan Lunch

The mussels were the best I’ve ever eaten, big, juicy, tasty. And what really stood out was the broccoli – yep. You could smell the broccoli over the steak, sauces, over anything else. And Richard proudly told me that’s because he grew it himself in Cavan. He’s taken over the beautiful Virginia Park Lodge and has been bountifully growing his own fantastic produce for his restaurants. 

I also want to give a shout out for the chefs that are coming home and doing great things in Dublin. I’m thrilled to see that Paul McVeigh has put away his passport (he was travelling the world cooking with golfer Rory McIllroy) and has now opened super cool steak restaurant on Dawson Street Featherblade and I’m waiting with baited breath to see what ex- London chef (Harwood Arms) Barry Fitzgerald will serve up when he opens his new spot Bastible in the next few weeks in Dublin. #COYBIG

My lunch in Bentley’s was thanks to a trip with Cityjet on their inaugural Cork to London flight. 

A long weekend in Lyon

A recent visit to Lyon reminded me of a well used rom-com cliche. The one where the lead character thinks they are in love with the hot/ popular/ perfect guy or gal but it’s really the over-looked, less flashy or friend character that’s really the ‘one’ (think Clueless, Bridget Jones, The Duff). I was convinced Paris was France’s best city. After all it’s got all the fame, the glamour, the fashion, the reputation. And Lyon? Well I didn’t know much about it other than it was very old and rumours it was ‘the gastronomic capital of France’ but surely this was just a marketing ploy dreamed up by their tourist board. Could it measure up to a city like Paris?

Lyon profilerWell Oui! is the answer. Lyon is most definitely not to be overlooked for it’s flashy sister. Here are my highlights…

Dinners

Oft cited as the gastronomic capital of France and even the world dinner in Lyon does not disappoint. It’s packed full of ‘bouchons’, brasserie style restaurants serving traditional Lyonnais cuisine and Beaujolais wine. There is a wonderful accessibility and affordability to eating out. None of the fear you might have in Paris about eye watering bills or the risk of being served mediocre ‘tourist’ food. Even the most obvious of tourist places seemed to be serving up decent enough fare. We were lucky to have our choices carefully curated by our travel companion Matt Vines. The brief each day was simple. Within walking distance of our apartment, fairly affordable (so we could be more generous with our wine flow) and some what ‘French’. He did good. Here’s some of what we ate:

dinners Lyon

Brasserie Leon de Lyon

Literally a stones throw from where we were staying was Brasserie Leon de Lyon where renowned Lyonnais chef Jean-Paul Lacombe has turned his Michelin-starred gastronomic restaurant into a relaxed brasserie – same 1900’s decor, same impeccable service but more affordable prices. A brilliant intro to the Lyon dining scene, we ate tartar, terrines, cold meat plates, tartine. It This was the first & best steak tartar of the trip – beautifully minced Charlois beef, seasoned like the perfect hamburger would be. I can still taste it. Wonderful decor (the wine cellar/ toilets are not to be missed) and fantastic outdoor seating.

Brasserie Georges de Lyon

On night two we ventured a little further to Brasserie Georges de Lyon the oldest brasserie in the city and one of the largest in Europe. The menu here is really traditional, we tried Burgundy snails, more tartar, Provençal fish. Not spectacular but still all very good. Perhaps the highlight here is theatre of the place, from the sheer size of the room and the history to our waiter mixing the tartar at the table and each time a birthday dessert was brought out (maybe 7 times while we were there) the gruff waiters dim the lights and play ‘Happy Birthday’ on a old school crank organ as the whole place joins in.

Le Nord

Lyon is home to famed chef Paul Bocuse and his Michelin three starred restaurant l’Auberge du Pont de Collonges. We didn’t make it there on this occasion (next trip for sure) but did enjoy an excellent dinner at one of Bocuses’ brasseries Le Nord. The elegant room and crisp white linen set the tone for what my favourite meal in Lyon. The menu was (and I hate to use this word) but it was mouth watering with even our waiter unable to pick his favourites because it was all so good. We ate sardines, veal escalope, Boudin Noir, their famous chicken casserole and a lot of the table were swayed by the macaroni cheese which despite being brought to the table piping hot, disappeared in record time. For dessert, devastated that the cherry clafoutis was sold out, we ordered a classic chocolate fondant which had barely landed on the table before another was promptly ordered. Effortless service and some of the best wine we tried. A must visit.

Shopping, Old Town & Sightseeing

March Saint Antoine

Closest to us and I believe one of the best markets in the city, was the Marché St.-Antoine on Quai Saint-Antoine. It stretches across two quay’s full of fresh local produce, all the ripe cheese, bread, pates, meats you would imagine in a typical French market, pungent smells, briny oysters, roast chickens and fantastic fruit & vegetables. Open from early morning 4 or 5 am, the chefs of the city shop here, so you know it’s going to be good. We loaded up here one morning and then headed to the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière, to enjoy a well deserved feast – there’s some 600 steps on the way up but well worth it to drink in the spectacular views of Lyon and surrounds, as far the snow capped Alps in the distance.

Do make sure to bring walking shoes. Simply strolling around the city is some of the best sightseeing I’ve done. Full of fascinating historical and architectural landmarks and a UNESCO World Heritage Site you won’t be short of Instagram moments, my favourite being the ‘traboules’. These are hidden behind open and closed doorways all over the old city, a mix of medieval and renaissance passageways towers and courtyards that are well preserved and kept open to the public. Watch out for gold plaques as you walk around or even just open doorways. Make sure you find 54 Rue Saint Jean and follow it through to Rue de Bouef where you’ll find a quieter and so somehow more authentic part of the old city.

Lyon

Coffee

Usually my first bit of research when planning a trip is securing a good coffee spot. Luckily Cafe en Boit (The Box Cafe) serving locally roasted Mokxa coffee was just up the road from our apartment on the slopes of the Croix Rousse right in the creative district. Nab a stool outside for some nonchalant people watching and order from their extensive speciality coffee menu – V60 filter, cold brew, Aeropress & espresso. They also do some snacks and superb pastries from Konditori

Wine & Bars

You’ll be hard pushed to drink bad wine here but it’s handy to know the essentials when ordering. Lyon has some of the best wine growing regions in the world on it’s door step – Burgundy, Beajoulis & Rhone Valley, so it makes sense to stick to local bottles. The wine shops here are a wealth of information too and in many of them you can taste in store. I’d recommend doing this your first afternoon and get to know your terroirs. We had very informative and tasty afternoon at Le Jeu de Quilles and I also came across Antic Wines which had a fun tasting in full swing when I popped my head in. Remember when you’re eating out that the 30-40 euro bottles of wine would probably cost you double that at home so don’t be afraid to climb up the list a little. You’re making a saving after all…

Try to ignore the tourist traps scattered in the busy squares and seek out the less obvious Lyon bars. We whiled away a very pleasant night at La Cave Des Voyageurs on the edge of the Old Town. We did have to remind ourselves that French service is different than what we are used to and you do need to relax into it. Ask for recommendations from the seemingly curt sommeliers and they soon warm up and treat you like one of their own.

For apertivo seek out Broc’Bar a small neighbourhood spot that drew us in from first glance because of the most welcoming shaded terrace beneath a majestic mulberry tree. Open from morning (although it’s seems breakfast is just espsresso & cigarettes) right through the day this place is consistently busy with louche European types draped in their bright red & yellow chairs sipping on espresso and Aperol spritz, gesticulating and smoking over over passionate conversations. So French.

Accommodation

We used Airbnb – I’ve become a bit of an addict, not just because it’s such good value but also because you end up in places like this apartment it was exactly what you would dream a French city apartment might be. Ceiling to floor windows, light filled, wooden floors, chic decor and even a piano. it was right by Place des Terreaux, a square dating back to 1206, surrounded by fountains & museums and perfectly central for exploring the city. There are plenty of charming listings on the site for Lyon.

Lyon apartment

The Rest

There are many more unmissable places. Make sure you take a read of all Eat Like A Girls Lyon posts as well as taking a look at these pieces

Lucky Peach guide to Lyon by Brette Warhshaw 

Michel Roux Jrs Lyon 

The Guardian Top 10 Restaurants in Lyon

Lyon – The Irish Times 

My Big Fat (Healthy) Greek Soupa

Fake-n delicious - Greek lentil stew
Fake-n delicious – Greek lentil soup

I’ve been lucky enough to lose my heart in Greece many times. The sun drenched beaches, the isolated islands, the crystal clear waters and, after getting over the initial few years of surviving on souvlaki’s and gyros, I fell head over heels for the Greek cuisine too. Greek Fakes is a favourite and a dish I always go back to in January, when I dream of holiday’s and remember the first time I ate this tomatoey lentil stew after a morning spent swimming in the magical Aegean. Sprinkled with gleaming white salty feta it tasted all the better with the taste of the sea still on your lips and sitting in the welcoming shade.

It's all Greek on Ios
It’s all Greek on Ios

So until I can swim in that sea again here I make my version of this incredible Greek creation – easy, nourishing, nostalgic and healthy and perfect for lunch the next day too. It’s more of a stew than a soup. Make it in bulk, serve with a loaf of crusty fresh bread and a slab of good quality feta to crumble in your bowl. Apolamváno̱! 

Ali’s Fakes Soupa (Ali’s Lentil Soup) Preparation 10 mins, Cooking 20ish mins…

Ingredients (serves 4)
1 white onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 large carrots, diced
2 big sticks of celery, diced
Olive oil or rapeseed oil, for frying
2 x cans of best quality Italian/ Greek tomatoes, whole or diced
Pinch of sugar (this perks up the tinned tomatoes somehow)
500ml of stock – best quality, I use fresh chicken or lamb when I can. If using vegetable stock best to make your own.
250g split red lentils
1/2 teaspoon dried chilli flakes
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp fresh thyme, picked
Sea salt
Freshly ground pepper
Feta cheese
Flat leaf parsley
Good quality Red wine vinegar

Method
Prepare your diced vegetables and garlic and heat a little oil in a large pan over a medium heat.
Add your onions first and cook gently for 5 minutes, allowing them to soften but not to colour. Then add your carrot, celery and garlic. Stir and cook for a further 5 minutes.
Add your tomatoes and a pinch of sugar. If you’re not using diced tomatoes, then squash the whole ones with a potato masher as you add them. Add your pinch of sugar.
Bring to a gentle boil and add then add your lentils and stir well to combine.
Add your oregano, chilli flakes and thyme and/ or any other sprigs of herbs you fancy.
Season with salt and pepper, but be cautious – you’ll be serving salty feta with it later.
Stir and then add your stock.
Reduce the heat and cook, stirring occasionally for about 20 minutes or until the lentils are tender and the whole pot thickens.
Chop some parsley and serve the stew with a pile of diced feta in the middle and a sprinkle of parsley and a splash of red wine vinegar. Trust me about the vinegar, it makes the dish!

On the pull

Pull this in London...Pitt Cue Co's infamous pulled pork
Pull this in London…Pitt Cue Co’s infamous pulled pork

Pulled pork – sick of seeing it on every menu? Like bare brick walls, slate plates and drinks in jam jars it seems to have become another go-to menu listing used to add that ‘hip’ factor to distinctly un-hip places. Hence it’s become an almost dirty word in some food circles. At a Banter café discussion in Dublin recently three distinctly ‘hip’ café owners (The Fumbally, 147 Deli & Bibi’s) debated the question of whether it was OK to still serve it now you can get it alongside your chicken fillet roll in Spar – can it still be the filling of choice for serious food establishments? Well the answer is of course YES! As the panel agreed and so do I –  as with all food fads and trends quality will prevail (we hope). So here’s my quick guide to picking the right pulled pork…

Firstly, what is it?
Usually a nice piece of pork shoulder, a fatty, hard-working cheap piece of meat. It requires slow, prudent cooking to achieve the desired pulled, juicy texture. It should be easily picked apart, hence the title ‘pulled’.

David Chang
David Chang – King of pulled pork photo by Gabriele Stabile

How did we all end up eating it?
Well I reckon it’s thanks to the wonderful genius that is David Chang. This Korean-American chef didn’t invent pulled pork but he did create a very particular and somewhat exemplary version of this dish. When Chang opened Momofuku in New York 10 years ago he reinvented casual dining and changed the restaurant game, starting off serving what he could afford to – pork shoulder being a great value ingredient. His famous pork buns, ramen and then in turn his bo ssäm became the talk of the town.

As New York food trends regularly do his slow cooked pork inspired countless imitators across the country, then the world, now with entire restaurants devoted to slow-cooked pulled pork. It is now fully a part of our modern food vernacular.

Momofuku bo ssäm – whole pork butt, dozen oysters, kimchi, rice photo by William Hereford
Momofuku bo ssäm – whole pork butt, dozen oysters, kimchi, rice photo by William Hereford

So what should you look for?
Proper pulled pork – well sourced, slow cooked, lovingly prepared pork that melts in your mouth and with a taste that lingers into your dreams at night…this is NOT something you can generally get at the local garage or greasy spoon. So please be pork aware.

Watch out for ‘Barbecued Pulled Pork’ in places that clearly don’t have a kick ass barbecue. To barbecue pork shoulder well, you need lots of smoke, lots of time sitting adjacent to smouldering coals, with fresh air coming in too. So if there’s no barbecue it sight I’m guessing the ‘barbecue’ flavour comes in the form of a sickly sauce added after it’s been cooked in a regular oven.

Also look out for anywhere you know there’s no kitchen! Subway recently made a big fuss of launching their pulled pork sub. Like the rest of it’s sandwiches, the pork is already pre-pulled and sits in little cardboard boxes behind the counter, only to be microwaved before being placed on your roll upon ordering. Yum…Pulled pork should be fresh, look out for places you know are actually cooking!

Oxmantown love their pork - you can tell!
Oxmantown love their pork – you can tell!

Got it. So where can I find it?
New York has Momofuku, London’s got the incredible Pitt Cue and lots more. But what about Dublin? That’s where I need some help – so much around, not enough time to try it all! Lovin’ Dublin has a list of their top ten places to eat pulled pork most of which are pretty good. And I’ve got to say we really excel at the pulled pork sambo here. Oxmantown always serve an incredible version 12 hour roast pork shoulder, gribiche, pickles & rocket on a Blaa as do their Capel Street neighbours Brother Hubbard aslo fellow Northsider’s 147 Deli. Still, I’d love to see some bo ssäm style done well here in Dublin – anyone know anywhere? Suggestions very much welcomed…

I’m hungry. Can I make it at home?
Yes! It’s easy, you just need to be patient and get some good pork. Here is it famous Momofuku Bo Ssam recipe. And The Guarian’s ‘How to cook the perfect’ always delivers…Felicity CloakeHow to cook the perfect pulled pork

Happy pulling!

 

The scoop on ice cream

Murphys
Incredible Irish ice cream, Photo: Murphy’s Ice Cream Facebook

What is it about ice cream? We are head over heels about it in a way that is rarely paralleled with other foods. But it upsets me that it is merely seen a summer romance. It should be so much more! In a country like Ireland, famed for our excellent quality dairy produce worldwide, we should be fully committed to this creamy, cold wonder year round. OK so the weather may play havoc with our relationship but I’ve been looking for some new ideas could add that extra je ne sais quoi to our temperamental ice cream affair. Here’s my scoop on what’s next for ice cream…

Coolhaus pre-packaged sammie, Photo VITO NGUYEN FOR THE HUNDREDS
Coolhaus pre-packaged sammie, Photo: Vito Nguyen for the Hundreds
Natasha Case & Coolhaus truck Photo: Vito Nguyen for The Hundreds
Natasha Case & Coolhaus truck, Photo: Vito Nguyen for The Hundreds

Really cool ice cream trucks….
Forget the aul ice cream van with it’s hypnotic, tinny tune that makes kids go crazy just upon hearing that first chime. We need someone to create our very own Irish version of US ice cream truck Coolhaus. The brainchild of Los Angeles-based Natasha Case, it started out as a thesis project in architecture at UCLA when she started baking cookies, making ice cream, and combining them into “cool houses”. Six years later Coolhaus operates a national fleet of 11 mobile ice cream trucks and carts (5 in Southern California, 3 in NYC, 2 in Austin, and 1 in Dallas). Tahitian vanilla dipped in salt caramel milk chocolate rolled in pretzels anyone? Or what about their famous Mintalimism ice cream sandwich – double chocolate chip cookies with dirty mint ice cream? (I’ve got the recipe here) There’s no plain vanilla on Coolhaus’ list of ice creams. They prefer the weirdly delicious like fried chicken and waffles ice cream and potato chip cookies. Sweet & savoury, cold but oh so hot – It’s mint to be.
Coolhaus on twitter & facebook
Buy their ice cream book here 

MIT student project proves that 3D printing ice cream is a tasty possibility. Photograph: Kristine Bunker
MIT student project proves that 3D printing ice cream is a tasty possibility, Photo: Kristine Bunker

Print your own ice cream…
Here’s one to delight your inner child! Fancy creating and printing your very own ice cream design in 15 minutes? A pie in the sky idea? Not anymore – the geniuses at Massachusetts Institute of Technology have taken the  oh-so trendy 3D printed food  phenomenon to another level and come up with 3D printed ice cream. The savvy students hooked a 3D printer up to a Cuisinart ice cream maker and to create machine that can make on-demand soft serve, according to a report from 3ders.org
They say it’s just a proof version, made to get kids excited about technology, but they hope to develop the concept into a working machine. For now though there’s a brief glimpse at the action in the video below. Now who ordered the ice cream with some printer jam?

Photo: Gelato Messine Facebook
Photo: Gelato Messine Facebook

Kick ass ice cream parlours
While I’m already in a fairly serious relationship with our very own excellent ice cream peddler Murphy’s there is a long distance ice cream love that I long for. Gelato Messina. This Australian Italian inspired ice cream mecca produces the most whimsical, fairytale like ice cream creations I’ve ever seen. OK so gelato is a little different to the ice cream we are used to but with a whole team dedicated to their creative department there are so many notable creations. One of my favourites is the eye catching Dr Evil’s Magic Mushroom below. Filled with Dr Evil gelato (dark chocolate gelato, peanut cookies and dulce de leche) the stalk is filled with dulce de leche caramel surrounded by dark chocolate gelato. The whole mushroom sits upon ‘grass’ made from popping candy and crushed biscuit. Seriously. Past incredible creations that will also blow you away are The Royale with cheese – chocolate crackle gelato, financier bun, white chocolate gelato & apricot gelee, compressed cucumber, white chocolate slice and  The Samurai – gravity defying ice pop of yuzu sorbet, salted caramel and black and red orange scented chocolate. These were both limited edition but with new creations every week there are queues out the door every day. Their top ten flavour combo’s include Salted Caramel with white choc chip & Peanut Butter anything, Pear and Rhubarb & Chocolate Fondant and Poached Figs in Marsala & Gianduia. Oh and and you can also order it via Uber…This is some seriously smooth ice cream.
Gelato Messina on Twitter & Facebook 

Dr Evils Magic Mushroom Photo: Gelato Messina
Dr Evils Magic Mushroom Photo: Gelato Messina

But these are only the tip of the iceberg of the world of ice cream! There are many more mouth watering parlours around the world BuzzFeed Food rounded up 27 of the best here. I also adore the super cool Chin Chin Labs in London a Liquid Nitrogen Ice-Cream Parlour where they make your ice cream right before your eyes. And although it’s not strictly ice cream I have been doing a cheeky sideline with Dublin’s FroYo emporium Yogism recently. It always puts a smile on my face.

ICE CREAM 101

Baby’s first taste of ice cream. It’s a thing on You Tube. Oh-so adorable.

LOVE 99’s?The Irish Times is looking for Ireland’s Best 99. Know where it is? Nominate here

There are scientific reasons why we love ice cream

Is ice cream recession proof?

Don’t want to share? Get a lock for you tub now! Ben & Jerry’s have launched security for your ice cream.

What’s next for the avocado?

When these green, creamy fruits first appeared in supermarkets in the UK in 1960s legend goes that one woman stewed them and served them with custard. Fast forward forty years later and avocados are an everyday staple for lots of us – crammed onto our lunch boxes, on our instagram feeds and ubiquitous on every hip menu.

avocado-16041_1280We are simply captivated with this great, green contradiction – the fattiest fruit in the world but oh so good for us! But as we start to run out of quirky brunch ideas and twists on guacamole what’s next for the avocado?

Image from Nobo Ice Cream
Photo from Nobo Ice Cream

Avocado Ice Cream
Really tasty ice cream made from avocado? It’s here – Nobó is the world’s first ice cream alternative made from avocado, coconut milk, and sweetened with pure honey.  It’s also handmade in Ireland in small batches by two very cool food geeks.  Flavours on sale all over Ireland include Chocolate & Toasted Almond, Fresh Lemon and Vanilla & Coconut or check them out at People’s Park market in Dun Laoghaire for more experimental flavours, they’re avo-control.
Want to know more? Listen to them chat about this incredible Irish product on Monocle Radio (from 35 minutes)

Aveyo TA
Photo from Aveyo

Avocado Mayo
Ah two of my favourite fatty foods come together to make something relatively healthy? Yep it’s happening in the form of Avèyo the avocado mayonnaise. No soybean oil or eggs and it actually tastes like a good mayo. Unveiled recently in the US at the Fancy Food Show it’s made from 5 ingredients and is 82% avocado. Compared to mayonnaise, Avèyo has: 1/5 the fat (2 vs. 10 grams) and 1/3 the calories (25 vs. 90 cal.).  Looking forward to this new squeeze…

Hemsley & Hemsley Pina Colada Smoothie
Hemsley & Hemsley Pina Colada Smoothie Photo by Nicholas Hopper

Avocado drinks
Haven’t you heard? Bananas are sooo yesterday.  These days it’s all about the avocado, adding substance, creaminess and an undeniable hip factor to your drinks & smoothies. Not only that but they can also add nearly 20 vitamins and nutrients to aid in the nutrient-density of your smoothie. Check this super collection of avocado smoothie recipes or Dubliners can pop in the Ranelagh’s Green Beards to try their wholesome Green Goddess smoothie. Or try this incredible Pina Colada Smoothie from the uber stylish Hemsley & Hemsley sisters new book The Art of Eating Well. Loads of avocado recipes in there. Still not convinced? Here’s why swapping out for an avocado can make such a difference. Hass to be done…

 

Chocolate & Avocado cake from Not Quite Nigella
Chocolate & Avocado cake from Not Quite Nigella

Avocado cake!
Yes the knobbly green fruit can even make cakes taste better. They can replace fruit, vegetables, animal products and dairy in various baked goods perfect for any vegans or even just health conscious – you’ll be increasing nutritional value adding the nutrient packed goodness of an avocado to your dessert. I love the texture it adds to baked goods and even better the pretty green hue it can add to your cakes.  Try this bright green cheesecake again from avocado loving Hemsley & Hemsley sisters. Also for any chocolate lovers out there this cake from Not Quite Nigella tastes incredible. So now you can av-your-cado and eat it. 

AVOCADO 101
Why they are so bloody
good for us
Deep fried avocado cone anyone?
The secrets to ripening an avocado
10 really good avocado recipeseatmenow.jpg

 



 

On the rocks at The Broadsheet Bar

Pour girls game...

How had I forgotten about cocktails? From my first attempt (mixed from the parents drinks cabinet – sorry Mom) to sipping the eponymous Manhattan in Manhattan, we’ve sure had some good times. But somewhere along the way I started swapping mixology for microbrews and since moving to Melbourne I’ve been following the kids on bikes down to the pub and ordering ironically named ales. No more! Thanks to Broadsheet Bar ‘s Cocktail Master Classes, I’ve seen the error of my ways and will be welcoming my potent, clinking, icy friends back into my life…

It's not that hard to grasp. We eventually got a grip on things.
My partner was a little shaken by my expertise but she soon got a grip.

You see I used to not just drink a lot of cocktails, but I thought I knew quite a bit too. Kind of annoyingly so, which has meant in previous cocktail classes I’ve been unimpressed and itching to grab the shaker myself (i.e. show off). In one Sex in the City inspired hen weekend class I sort of took over and had to show the barman how to flame an orange peel.  What fun! Well for me…I weirdly wasn’t invited to the next one.

My orange flaming idea did not a-peel in this class...

But at Bar Broadsheet there’s not hint of Cosmo or a mention of Carrie. Old Fashioned’s and Hemmingway citations are the order of the day here and star barman Dave Kerr even refers to lesser known cocktail legends like Dick Bradsell. But don’t stress, to join this class you don’t need to know that the word cocktail appeared for the first time in print on May 13, 1806  or that Dick Bradsell’s signature serve was The Bramble, made with gin, lemon juice and blackbe…oops I’m showing off again, must be the drink! I’ll stop now…

This class is clever but also easy and fun and perfect for a Sunday afternoon in the city.  Working in pairs you get to mix your drinks from scratch, learning a little as you go and most importantly, drinking your creations at the end.

Licence to spill
Licence to spill

So if you’re anywhere near Melbourne in March you should be logging on to the Schweppes Facebook page to book your place. Oh and did I mention it’s free?

Espresso martini - give it a shot

Here’s my version of the easiest recipe of the day… The Espresso Martini, originally created by Dick Bradsell in 1984 (I can’t help it! But this is a good story…) According to legend, Naomi Campbell walked into his bar and asked Dick to make her a drink that would “wake me up, and then f*** me up”… so he whipped up the first espresso martini and served what he called ‘The Stimulant’ to this model…

You need….

3 parts vodka

4 parts espresso (if you can get) or filter coffee

1 parts Kalhua

Dash of sugar syrup (or you can put sugar in your espresso when it’s hot instead)

Fill a shaker with ice cubes. Add all ingredients. Shake and strain into a chilled martini glass.

Remember to drink responsibly!

The Broadsheet Bar
234 Flinders Lane, Melbourne

melbournefoodandwine.com.au

The flip side (Pancake Tuesday!)

The other day a friend came over for dinner. She arrived bearing a bulging bag of the best doughnuts imaginable (from Olympic Doughnuts). The heady scent of fresh deep fried dough was too much to bear. We ate them right there and then. Before we had even put dinner on. It was glorious. We licked the last sprinkling of sugar from our fingers and declared how fabulous it was to be grown ups and allowed to eat doughnuts before dinner.

Holy Crepe!

It’s with this sentiment I am very much looking forward to Pancake Tuesday. What a day! This greedy ritual of emptying your cupboards before Lenten fasting has been going for over a 1,000 years so why stop now? And being a fully-fledged grown up (of sorts) there is no limit to the amount of flat, round friends I can indulge in on the day. Ricotta hot cakes, tick. French crêpes, tick. Russian blinis, tick. And I’ll definitely be having a few bao bing wrapped around some Peking duck.

But most of all I want the pancakes of my childhood which seem to be unique to Ireland & the UK. They are like a crepe but not so lacy, the do not rise and best of all you can put anything on them but I recommend lemon, sugar and a knob of butter. Yum. This is my most basic quick fix pancake recipe – it ain’t flashy but it fixes an ache and fast.

All you need to get battered

It can be made with no measuring equipment and usually no trip to the shops. It’s easy to do post pub (add whatever else is in the fridge) or on a fragile morning with sliced banana, honey and a strong coffee…go on, take a whisk….

Roll up, roll up!

What you need…

Bowl, whisk, jug of some kind & frying pan

Milk, 2 eggs, flour, pinch of salt, butter/ oil.

Lemon/ lemon juice & sugar.

Makes approx 8 pancakes

Put two eggs (still whole in shells) into a longish jug. Note where they come to. That’s your measure.

Measure you flour to here, put it in your mixing bowl with a pinch of salt. Make a well.

Measure you milk to the same point, add it to the flour.

Crack your eggs in and whisk until the lumps are gone.

Leave to rest. Or not.

Laddle/ spoon some bater into a hot pan, swirl around spread it out. When the edges look cooked, turn or flip if you are brave. If you’re using butter keep some kitchen roll close by to wipe the pan out between cakes (off the heat!) to avoid too much burnt butter.

Pile them up and then eat.

Flippin easy, no?

Stacks of fun

Romance & Risotto

Risotto, I’m told, is like a great romance – It seems daunting and impossible until you’ve got it and then it gets better and easier as time goes by… Now I can’t claim to have much authority on the great romance side of things, but risotto’s I know. And I know them well.

I got to meet some fun-guys

Therefore I would like to dispell these rumours that risotto is difficult or hard to make. It’s just slow cooked rice! Sure there are no real shortcuts and then there is all that stirring but once you’ve made this rewarding oozing dish at home I’m sure you will add it to your recipe repertoire, if it’s not there already.

It’s so easy onion + rice + stock + stirring+ butter + cheese = dinner!

Stir it up

Of course there are a few things that can make a difference…risotto gestures if you will…

Use Italian Arborio rice if possible, the grains are short and stubby and absorb liquid without becoming gluey.

Use a big heavy based pot if you can.

Be patient with the onions –  this is the soffritto (Italian for flavour base) so take the time to cook your onions slowly and gently at the start for 5-10 minutes will give your dish a wonderful sweetness.

Hot Stock – if you have fresh, great, but most of the time I use whatever is in the cupboard. The main thing is to have it ready and hot with a ladle, on the hob beside you risotto pot, so you can easily add it and it stays hot.

Resting– leave your risotto, off the heat, lid on, to rest for 5 minutes before serving.

The more cheese the better

A Fine Romance Risotto

Ingredients

Topping – I used a mixture of mushrooms, I used 1 pack oysters, 1 pack enoki and a handful of sliced chesnuts. but you can use any vegetables you like here just bear in mind some will need to be pre-cooked.
Splash of oil
1 onion, peeled & finely diced.
1 garlic clove, peeled & finely diced.
2 cups of risotto rice (roughly 300g)
Big glug of wine or vermouth
3 cups of hot stock (about 500ml)
Butter – about half a block/ 100g
150g Gran Padano cheese (or parmesan or pecorino)
Salt & pepper.

Method

Remember you have to stir this constantly from when you start so get everything you need ready to go before you begin or make sure you have helpers on hand.

  • First step prepare everything – chop onion, garlic, mushrooms, make your stock & get it on the heat and hot.
  • I always cook my topping first, in this case the mushrooms are just pan fried and then tip them into a bowl to add to the risotto towards the end.
  • Then for the risotto, firstly cook your onions and garlic gently for 5-10 minutes until they are soft and fragrant, this is your soffritto.
  • Next in goes your rice, stir the rice until it is all coated and glistening.
  • Add you alcohol and stir until the alcohol cooks off (when the boozy waft is gone, just a minute of so) and then you start to add your stock.
  • Add a ladleful of the stock into the rice and keep stirring until the stock is absorbed. Then add another ladleful and stir again. Keep going until the rice is cooked but still has bite, just keep on tasting until you think it’s done. You may not need all your stock – or you may end up needing more, you can always add some hot water instead if necessary.
  • Turn off the heat, season, add your butter, add your cheese. Stir. Add your topping and then REST.
  • Serve and enjoy.

    Risotto convert

Chili Gone Barmy

I’m not great eater of chili and I am a great eater of meat. So when I proclaim that I will be cooking cornbread topped vegetarian chili for a party, I am met with raised eyebrows and some skepticism, hence the name – Chili Gone Barmy.

This is a Nigella dish, basically a delectable Chili Con Carne (without the carne – meat in Spanish) using chili flakes to give a warm, more-ish piquant mouthfuls without too much eye watering. But what makes it really special is the cornbread topping. Yup, Cornbread, that yellow stuff they eat in America that you’ve spotted on many a TV screen over the years and wondered ‘What is THAT?’. Well I did any way. But wonder no more – it’s here, it’s easy and it’s delicious.

This chili can be made with or without meat and so far it’s always been a success for me especially served when there are drinks to be soaked up – melted cheese, saccharine cornbread and the warmth of the chili work wonders after one to many margaritas…plus I always make it in a big disposable foil tray. The next day is usually bad enough without having a chili caked dish to tackle.

No dishes!

Serve with big dollops of sour cream and watch it be devoured…

The 'barmy' can be served on the side...

Chili Gone Barmy

For the chili:
Splash of oil
2 medium onions, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 red peppers, deseeded & finely diced
2 teaspoons chili flakes
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
3 cardamom pods, lightly crushed
375g lentils
2 x 400g can of diced Italian tomatoes
1 x 400g can of red kidney beans
1 big dollop of ketchup
1 big spoon of tomato paste
1 tbsp UNSWEETENED cocoa powder
For the corn bread topping:
1 teaspoon salt
300g cornmeal or polenta
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
250g buttermilk
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon honey
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
100g coarsely grated Cheddar cheese
For serving:
1 big tub sour cream

The chili – This dish is super easy if you start off by getting everything ready first, so get chopping.

Then heat your oil in a BIG pan (that has a lid) and add your onions, garlic and red pepper and sauté until softened for about 5 minutes. You want your onions to soften, not to colour.

Then add chili flakes and the rest of the spices. Throw in your lentils and stir to coat the lentils.

Next, in go the tomatoes, kidney beans, ketchup, tomato paste, cocoa and about 600ml water.

Stir well. Cover, and simmer, stirring frequently, don’t let the bottom stick and it will thicken and reduce and should be done after 45 minutes, test by tasting a bean and checking they are tender.

This can be made ahead to this point and then add the topping later.

Corny!

For the topping – In a mixing bowl, combine salt, cornmeal, baking powder and cinnamon. In a separate bowl or big jug, whisk together buttermilk, eggs, honey and oil. Pour liquid ingredients into dry; stir until combined.

Get your chili into your dish/ dishes. Blob/ pour the cornbread topping and spread it evenly over your chili.

Cornbread is tops

To cook–  preheat your oven to hot, 220c, sprinkle cheese on the top and then cook if for 25 minutes so that the cornbread has risen and the cheese has turned a golden brown. It will be HOT (temperature wise) so leave it for 5 minutes or so and then serve with large dollops of sour cream and watch as it is devoured by even the most devote carnivores…

Because vegetarians party too