Niamh Doherty

Archive for June, 2010|Monthly archive page

My Super Sweet Summer Salad

In Lunch, Supper on June 30, 2010 at 19:52

LOOK! Look at this – it’s a blog post, ON SCHEDULE. I know, I know, I’m shocked too.

When you’ve all picked yourselves up off the floor, allow me to introduce you to my Super Duper Salad. It’s not just a summer salad (I admit it, I like alliteration), but is delicious at any time of the year. I invented it in a flash of hunger-driven inspiration one evening – I’m not struck by culinary inspiration very often, but when it happens, it’s good. All of the flavours and textures in this salad complement each other perfectly – the crisp, salty bacon against the sweet sauteed potatoes and crumbly feta, the bitter leaves against the cool, creamy avocado, and the sweet honey against the lemon juice in the dressing. This is a robust, filling salad – and the guilt-assuaging leaves make you feel good about eating bacon and cheese.

You can either saute precooked potatoes, if you’ve got any hanging around, or oven-roast them from scratch, which is how I make this.  However you cook them, I urge you to add a sprinkling of my new favourite secret ingredient – garlic granules. They add a sweet, garlicky hit to any dish, without the palaver of peeling and mincing fresh cloves.

As with all warm salads, this needs to be assembled at the last minute – but no matter. It’s hardly taxing – just divide the salad leaves between however many plates you need, top with cool scoops of avocado, add the still-warm potatoes, scatter over the crispy bacon and crumble over some feta before drizzling with the fresh-tasting dressing and falling upon your plate with besotted greed.

Super Salad (serves 2)

Ingredients:

For the salad:

600g waxy potatoes

Bag of mixed salad leaves or rocket

1 large, ripe avocade

100g bacon lardons (or 2 bacon slices, chopped)

feta cheese

For the dressing:

olive oil

honey

lemon juice

Method:

1. Either saute your cooked potatoes in a little oil and butter, sprinkling over some salt, pepper and garlic granules. Cook until golden and crisp. If cooking potatoes from scratch, cut them into evenly-sized pieces, drizzle with oil, sprinkle over some salt, pepper and garlic granules and pop into an oven at 150 Celcius for about 30 minutes, or until cooked through and golden.

2. In the meantime make your dressing. Pour a glug of oil into a bowl or screw-top jar, add the juice of half a lemon and enough honey to taste. Whisk or shake up the dressing, taste, and adjust the seasoning if necessary.

3. When the potatoes are ready, quickly fry the bacon in a hot pan until crisp.

4. Divide the salad leaves between two plates (I like to use those wide, large, soup-style bowls) and add half of a scooped-out avocado to each plate, scatter over half each of the cooked potatoes and bacon, before crumbling over some feta and drizzling on the dressing.

5. Serve and enjoy!

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Dunmore Food Festival 2010

In Life on June 27, 2010 at 09:01

The annual Dunmore Food Festival has been running all weekend in Dunmore East, the most picturesque and charming fishing village in County Waterford. I’ve been lax this year, and haven’t visited it yet (last year I caught a pasta-making class in Azzurro with Polly and David), but I am most looking forward to the farmer’s market in the harbour today. This year promises even more stalls than last-year’s mind-boggling list of 40, offering everything from home-baked goodies to fresh fish, Comeragh lamb, fresh, crusty bread, a giant pan of paella, a whole hog roast – the list goes on, and on, and on. This year, the Dungarvan Brewing Company will be uncorking a cask in the in the Spinnaker Bar, and Candi of The Boho Kitchen will be selling her home-made cakes and cookies from her brand-new stall. I for one will be heading to the market armed with my camera, a large shopping bag and a fistful of notes – fingers crossed the rain holds off, and see you there!

It’s the Weekend – Why Not Bake Your Own Bread?

In Baking on June 26, 2010 at 08:52

After wishing our lives away all week, the blessed weekend is here at last. And should you find yourself sitting in your kitchen, aimlessly sipping coffee and flicking through the papers, wondering what to do with your day, here is your solution – bake some bread.

There is something both sacred and scientific about baking bread. The rising of the dough satisfies our inner six-year-old, turning a simple act of baking into a Saturday-morning science project. Bread, it is said, is the staff of life. When we sit down to eat, we “break bread”. Better still, then, to be the one who actually provides this bread – both metaphorical and physical – with which to feed your loved ones.

To stretch the sacred metaphor even further, this recipe is taken from what I consider to be the Bible – at least as far as cookbooks go – Darina Allen’s Ballymaloe Cookery Course. It is expensive  – €45 or so, though I found mine for €22.50, and I know of people who’ve paid €12.50 for it in tk maxx, bargainous – but honestly, it’s worth it. If I had to pick just one cookbook – Sophie’s Choice – it would be this one. I have yet to come across a recipe that is not detailed in this book: the index alone is 27 pages long. If you come across a cut-price copy of this – or just feel like making an investment in your health and happiness – run, don’t walk, to the checkout.

As this recipe uses yeast, and requires several rises, it’s not something that you can throw together in a matter of minutes. It takes about 3-4 hours hours in total, but never mind. It’s the weekend after all. As I’ve said before, much of that time is spent rising or baking, so it’s not “your time” – the mixing and kneading of the dough demands only 20 minutes of your time. While the bread’s doing its thang, you could take a nap, go for lunch, visit your local farmer’s market and pick up some goodies with which to top your freshly-baked bread – think farmhouse cheeses, smoked meats, olives, sundried tomatoes and chutnies – take a bath, read a book…find something pleasant to do. Then you come home, put the bread in the oven, and inhale the gorgeous smells emanating from your kitchen, before devouring the still warm loaf.

Ballymaloe White Yeast Bread (taken from The Ballymaloe Cookery Course, by Darina Allen)

Ingredients:

(Makes 2 x 450g (1lb) loaves)

425ml lukewarm water

20g fresh yeast OR 10g dried yeast

700g strong white flour, plus extra for dusting

2 teaspoons salt

10g sugar

25g butter

Method:

1. Put 150ml (¼ pint) of tepid water into a Pyrex measure. Crumble in the fresh/dried yeast and leave in a warm place for about 2–3 minutes. Sieve together the flour, salt and sugar in a large, wide mixing bowl. Then rub in the butter and make a well in the centre. Pour in the yeast mixture and most of the remaining lukewarm water. Mix to a loose dough, adding the remaining water or a little extra flour as needed.

2. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface, cover and leave to relax for about 5 minutes. Then knead for about 10 minutes or until smooth, springy and elastic (if kneading in a food mixer with a dough hook, 5 minutes is usually long enough). Put the dough into a large bowl and cover the top tightly with clingfilm. Yeast dough rises best in a warm moist atmosphere; 27°C  is optimum, but a slower rising is preferable to one that is too fast.

3. After about 1½–2 hours, when the dough has more than doubled in size, knead it again for about 2–3 minutes to redistribute the yeast in contact with the dough so it will have a more even crumb. Cover and leave to relax for a further 10 minutes.

4. Shape the bread into loaves, plaits or rolls, then transfer to a baking tray and cover with a light tea towel. Leave to rise again in a warm place, until the shaped dough has again doubled in size (about 20–30 minutes). Preheat the oven to 230 degrees Celcius.

5. The bread is ready for baking when a small dent remains if the dough is pressed lightly with the finger. Brush with water and dust with flour for a rustic looking loaf or brush with egg wash and sprinkle with poppy or sesame seeds for a more golden crust. Bake for 25–35 minutes, depending on size. When baked, the bread should sound hollow if tapped underneath. Leave to cool on a wire rack.

This dough is extremely versatile, and can be used for a loaf or plait of bread, pizza bases, or breadsticks.

The baked loaf can be used for sandwiches, bruschetta, toast – basically any way you would use shop-bought bread. I slathered it with honey and butter while still warm, and enjoyed it with a cup of tea. It is really, really good toasted for breakfast. Enjoy!

A Weekend Away, Foodie Friends, and an Apology

In Life on June 21, 2010 at 21:44

Hello, remember me? It seems like ages since I’ve posted a recipe – the last few weeks have been hectic, with a weekend in Manchester, a mad dash to A&E with my friend Andrea in labour in the back seat of the car – culminating in the arrival of beautiful Natalie Arwen – and trying to fit in a walk each evening. Add to that the fact that it’s been unseasonably warm here – we, in the almost sarcastically-named “sunny south-east” are more familiar with experiencing four different types of rain as opposed to four different seasons, and certainly not at all accustomed to protracted bouts of wide-skied, glorious, glorious sunshine – leaving me at a complete loss as to what to make for dinner, that I feel guilty for sitting indoors blogging when I could be outside feeling the sun on my skin, and you have a recipe for abandonment. I decided it was high time to actually post something, before the WordPress equivalent of Social Services declare me to be an unfit and negligent blogger, before forcibly taking The Loving Spoonful into care.

Two weekends ago, I went to stay with friends in Manchester. Polly and David are very good friends of mine, absolute darlings, and my most favourite couple in the world. They are also as food-obsessed as I am, so I knew that a fabulously palate-pleasing weekend was in store. Before moving to Manchester, they lived in Waterford, and Polly and I worked together, which is how we met.  I shared many happy, food-centric occasions with them before they moved to Manchester, and I miss them lots.

After they picked me up at the airport, we started the weekend chez Whittebaugh in style, with Civilised Hour – like Happy Hour, but far, far more Civilised.

That’s my vodka with cranberry juice and a wedge of lime, and Polly’s G&T. Shlurp.

Of course, you can’t have Civilised Hour without snackage. That just wouldn’t be Civilised.

Here we have baby beetroot, carrots and red peppers, Doritos, with sour cream and chive dip. Deeee-lish.

Before meeting another ex-work buddy, Jo and her brother, Johnny, we toddled down to Manchester’s Canal Street for an aperitif. The place. Was. HEAVING – we were lucky to find a free table canalside. And can I just say, I know it’s a commonly-held belief that the majority of gay men are outrageously good-looking, but oh my GOD… I was minded to chat up  the delicious specimen at the table next to us – what happens on Canal Street stays on Canal Street – until I remembered that I don’t have a penis, and therefore he would not have been interested. No fair!

That’s David’s Champagne Cocktail, Polly’s Mojito and my Pomeranian. All overpriced, and all extremely tasty.

After finishing our drinks, we headed to Dough, an Italian place in Manchester’s Northern Quarter. After much humming and hawing over the menu, we plumped for the following:

I added prosciutto to my funghi pizza. David was jealous. Oooh it was good.

Polly decided on the Moroccan – spiced lamb, red onion, diced mango, mozzarella, tomato sauce, mint, and cool yoghurt. It tasted even better than it sounds – I snuck a taste and the meat was gorgeously spiced, with cinnamon flavours to the fore. With the sweet mango and slightly tart yoghurt, it was to die for.

Worried that the waitress hadn’t clocked his accent, David ordered the American, just to make sure.  His pizza came topped with spicy pepperoni, mozzarella and tomato sauce.

We finished our night with some drinks in the back room of a bar whose humidity levels made the Florida Everglades in July seem like a cool and comfortable alternative.

More drinks followed at home, before I surrendered to sleep and gratefully sank onto the comfy futon.

Polly busied herself by doing some baking for breakfast the next morning, serving up Honey Yogurt Scones from The Fiddlehead Cookbook, from the now sadly-defunct restaurant and bakery in Juneau, Alaska.

Honey Yogurt Scones from The Fiddlehead Cookbook (Juneau, Alaska Restaurant and Bakery) by Nancy and John DeCherney, Deborah Marshall and Susan Brook. This recipe was developed by baker Claudia Coyner.

Ingredients:

4 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon honey

1/2 cup plain yogurt (can sub sour cream or buttermilk)

1 egg

1 3/4 cups plain flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 dried currants, dried cherries, pecans or raisins (Polly added raisins, om nom nom)

1 egg, beaten (optional)

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 220 Celcius and place rack in centre.

2. Melt together butter and honey in a small glass bowl in microwave, or in a small pan on stove over medium heat. Remove from heat and whisk in yogurt and egg.

3. In medium-sized mixing bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir in currants.

4. Pour egg mixture over flour mixture and, using a fork, very gently cut together just until dough is beginning to come together but is not quite completely combined.

5. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and gently pat into a 6-inch circle. Fold Dough in half and pat out again. Repeat two to three times, taking care not to overwork or knead dough.

6. Pat into a 1-inch-thick circle (about 6 inches in diameter) and cut into 6 wedges.

7. Place on an ungreased baking pan. Brush lightly with beaten egg (optional) and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until puffed and golden brown.

8. Remove from oven and serve immediately with lots of butter and homemade jam. They’re also amazing with honey.

Yep. I think I liked them.

For dinner, David cooked what can only be described as The Meal Of Destiny. I can’t even begin to describe how good this was. We ate garlic and herb crusted roast loin of pork with raspberry-chipotle glaze, atop a citrus rice and barley salad. The recipe is courtesy of Mr Emeril Lagasse (BAM!), and is a little labour-intensive, but so, so worth it. In fact, it’s only as I read through the recipe that I am even more grateful to David for cooking it for us…it is pretty involved. Again, though, your effort is repaid with every mouthful. So incredibly tasty was it, that David brought the leftovers to work the next morning. David Whitten does not “do” leftovers. THAT is how good this is.

Here’s the roast just out of the oven, chillaxing.

Pretty as a picture. It almost looked too beautiful to eat. I said, almost. The recipe is here, if anyone wants to try it. And I URGE you, BEG you, to try it.

I think we liked this too!

For dessert, Polly conjured up a dessert to match the fabulousness of dinner: Apricot Crumble served with Basil Mascarpone. This is a recipe from La Boheme restaurant in Waterford, and is taken from the Zest cookbook, a cookbook compiled for charity, with recipes contributed by Ireland’s most prestigious restaurants. Here’s David with his portion…

Here’s the recipe:

Apricot Crumble served with Basil Mascarpone

Ingredients:

150g butter

150g ground almonds

150g caster sugar

50g mascarpone cheese

50g honey

1/2 bunch basil, leaves removed

400g can apricot halves in natural juice

Method:

1. In a pan, melt the butter, then add the almond power and caster sugar, cooking slowly until this caramelises slightly. Allow the mixture to cool. This is the crumble. If the mixture won’t break up into crumble, you can cut it with with a knife.

2. Mix the mascarpone with the honey in the a food processor. Add the fresh basil leaves (reserving a few to decorate) and blend again briefly. Remove and set aside.

3. Again using the food processor, puree the apricot halves without their liquid.

4. Take four martini or champagne-style glasses and layer first the crumble, then the mascarpone cream and finish with the pureed apricot. Repeat until you have reached the top of the glass finishing with the crumble. Decorate with a fresh basil leaf and enjoy.

So there you have it…my wonderful foodie weekend. Thanks again Polly and David – hope we can do it again soon -xxx.

Mushrooms a la Toast

In Lunch, Snack, Supper on June 1, 2010 at 21:07

…or Mushroom Bruschetta, if you’re feeling posh.

Rummaging around the kitchen recently, looking for something to turn into a quick, pre-walk snack, I happened upon a semi-forgotten punnet of mushrooms in the fridge, and remembered this recent post on Donal Skehan’s Good Mood Food Blog. Mushrooms on toast are quick, easy and delicious – and for some reason, something I never think of making. Now that I’ve rediscovered this old favourite, though, I’m sure to be making it on a weekly basis again.

I prefer brown, chestnut mushrooms for this dish, as I find them to have more flavour than button or closed cap mushrooms. Slightly older mushrooms are good, too, as they are more flavoursome than those freshly-plucked from a supermarket shelf. I like the bread to be a thick slice from a loaf of proper baker’s bread, but sourdough or ciabatta would be good here too. In fact, I used a baby bake-at-home ciabatta, which I split and popped into the toaster, as I was too impatient to wait for the oven to heat up, and it toasted, crisply golden, like a dream.

Some provisos when cooking mushrooms – make sure that your pan is hot and wide – too low a heat and the mushrooms will simply stew in their own juices; too wide a pan and they won’t brown. I add garlic to this dish for flavour, but am wary of adding garlic to a hot pan – it is all too easy to burn garlic, and its acrid taste will ruin any food – so err on the side of caution and rub the bread with a cut clove of garlic before piling the fragrant mushrooms on top.

Finally, you can tart up this simple snack further, by adding a tablespoon or so of creme fraiche to the mushrooms just as they finish cooking, or sprinkling some finely-grated Parmesan atop the high-piled mushrooms. You can easily turn this into a light lunch or supper by serving a green salad alongside it. The amounts listed below serve one, for simple, solitary sustenance.

Mushrooms a la Toast

Ingredients:

150g mushrooms (this sounds like a lot, but mushrooms shrink down a lot when cooked)

olive oil

butter

1 garlic clove

2 thick slices of good bread/one small ciabatta, cut in half lengthways

Method:

1. Put your largest frying pan over high heat, and add a glug of olive oil along with a small knob of butter (the butter is for flavour; the olive oil stops it from burning.

2. When the oil/butter is hot, add your chopped mushrooms to the pan. Cook, stirring every so often, until brown and soft.

3. While the mushrooms are cooking, toast your bread. Cut the garlic clove in half lengthways, and rub the cut side of one half on each slice of bread.

4. Season the mushrooms with salt and pepper and pile them onto the garlicky bread, before falling on it with equal measures of greed and desire.