Broad Bean Puree with Mint, Garlic and Parmesan

photo (1)

An unusual little shop opened on the slightly desolate stretch of Dun Laoghaire Main Steet near the People’s Park recently, taking the place of a perenially empty Indian restaurant. To the untrained eye, it looks like a slightly spartan newsagent, but inside it’s filled with a selection of all the random things a Guardian reader could need. Family members have sourced Sheridan’s cheese, olives, and tamarind paste in recent weeks along with  fresh vegetables like baby aubergines and okra.

Recently they’ve been selling glorious Irish broad beans (fava beans) for next to nothing and today I bagged myself a kilo out of the sheer excitement of seeing them. Broad beans scream cliches like ‘summer in a bowl’ and ‘fresh and healthy’. Which is what you need when your last meal was a mountain of chips from the fantastically named ‘Legends of Dun Laoghaire’ chipper at stupid o’clock. Unfortunately, if you’ve had an evening where garlic cheesy chips seemed like a good idea, the chances are the next day isn’t going to be a very productive one. Sunday afternoon laziness kicked in.  So I turned them into a lovely dip, the ultimate in lazy cooking. This is quick and easy to make and moderately healthy.

Serves 4 with bread and other things to dip in

Ingredients

  • 300g shelled broad beans (from about 600g weight in their pods)
  • 1 medium white onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 heaped teaspoon butter
  • 2 tablespoons Greek yoghurt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated parmesan/pecorino/vegetarian-friendly hard cheese if you’re that way inclined
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • A few fresh mint leaves
  • Salt/pepper

Method

  • Shell the peas, and boil in their skins for 3-5 minutes in a medium saucepan until soft.
  • Drain the beans from the saucepan, run a paper towel over it to dry it and return it to a low heat
  • Heat the butter in the saucepan, and cook the onion until soft and glistening, about 6 or 7 minutes
  • Add the garlic for two minutes until it colours slightly
  • Remove from the heat and add the broads back in (you don’t need to take them out of their pale outer skins for this)
  • Add the remaining ingredients, and blend.
  • The puree won’t be completely smooth, but shouldn’t have any big chunks.
  • Check the seasoning and serve.

Galicia Guide: Part 1

Santiago Arches

Galicia is a part of Iberia which is largely overlooked by non-Spaniards. Unlike the images I tend to associate with Spain, it’s green and lush, with milder temperatures and beautiful beaches and rias (estuaries dotting the coast). It’s a cheap place to visit, with a glass of great local wine costing no more than €2.5o, and lots of great local seafood, as well as good rail connections between the major towns.  I couldn’t find a lot written about Galicia, so I’m putting up a mini guide to the places I visited and enjoyed.

Santiago de Compostela

Santiago de Compostela is the best known of the Galician cities for tourists. The end of the Camino de Santigo pilgrimage route across northern spain, it is packed to the gills with tired looking pilgrims and hikers. The prices reflect this, and it was the most expensive place we stayed in Galicia, which is still pretty cheap by Irish standards. It is breathtakingly beautiful, with dramatic gothic buildings, winding streets, and lovely squares.

Scallops are traditional here to mark the end of the pilgrimage, but fish of all kind plays a big part. Pulpo a feira, boiled octopus cut in slices and sprinkled with paprika  features on every menu, and at the local market there is a guy with a big pot of ocotopus boiling all day ready for people to buy a tentacle as a snack. We tried it first at a great local place recommended by our concierge, La Bodeguilla de San Roque along with a tangy stew of prawns, oyster mushrooms and seaweed, and a plate of salt cod croquetas.

The next night we returned to the central market for a small tasting menu of fresh fish at the Abastos Taberna at the market. Portions were tiny (think one razor clam per person) but the food was very fresh and elegant, with subtle flavours to accentuate the fish. At €21 a head, it was the most expensive meal we probably had, but the staff and atmosphere were lovely. Afterwards we joined the crowd of locals drinking wine on benches outside, fuelled with mini pinchos like a warm crab cake. Each evening, we started out in our hotel, Costa Vella, which had the most beautiful garden which was open to non-guests. They have  small cafe and bar there, where you can sit with a plate of olives and a glass of wine and catch the evening sun. This was probably my favourite bit of Santiago and I was so busy enjoying it that I forgot to take photos, but trust me, it is wonderful.

Santiago

sardines Santiago

Santiago streetscape

 

Cambados

Cambados is a small, pretty coastal town known as the home of Albarino wine. The old quarter is very small but lovely, and dotted with lively tapas bars. Being perfectly honest, this is probably somewhere to spend an afternoon rather than stay, and it turned out  to be very difficult to reach by public transport unless you come from Santiago. Buses in Galicia have a habit of not turning up, or turning up late, and their main saving grace is being extremely cheap. They also alternate between saying where they have come from, and where they are going on the front, so you never know where it is actually en-route to.

We did find a truly lovely restaurant  in Cambados, hidden in a walled garden beside the beautiful Pazo de Fefinanes, which made the trip worthwhile. The Terraza of Bodega Gil Armada served raciones of fresh fish, salads and empanadas for very reasonable prices, all under the shade of huge magnolia trees. The vineyards which produce the Gil Armada wine are visible in the distance, and a glass of their crisp Albarino cost €2.50 (the standard price for glass of good wine in Galicia we discovered). We tried some pimientos de padron, pan fried local green peppers sprinkled with salt, and were given pinchos of their mussels with vinaigrette and a mussel empanada. Later, we wandered through town and tried a few more spots, including a tiny wine bar where the lady behind the bar produced two freshly cooked mini hamburgers with manchego to accompany our midnight glass of wine.

 

 

Pimientos de Padron

Bajo MagnoliaMussels Cambados

Crispy Spiced Lamb with Aubergine and Pomegranate

Lamb with Aubergine

During my most recent, technically ongoing,  attempt at becoming one of those fit, healthy, exercise loving people, I signed up for the daily Women’s Health Magazine email.  Ever since then, it’s been a daily barrage of guilt (“four foods you have to stop eating or your loved ones will turn against you”, “five ways your flabby arms are ruining your career”) combined with some fairly sweeping statements about physical intimacy that do not bear close examination. It’s a constant reminder that I am just not one of those gym junkie types.

I’ve heard a lot of people talk about the gym being both relaxing and addictive. For me, it’s cooking that offers the kind of buzz and sense of calm people get from exercise. I exercise based on a combination of Catholic guilt and fear.  The most relaxing thing for me is a day with nothing to do but cook. This lamb dish from the Morito cookbook was made on one of those kind of days, a lazy Sunday with hours to spend in the kitchen. It’s a little bit time consuming, but not tricky to make, and it looks so pretty at the end that you get a fantastic sense of accomplishment.  I followed the recipe pretty much to the word, but if I was remaking it, I’d add some tahini to the aubergine to give a bit of extra bite. This dish serves 6-8 as part of a mezze.

Ingredients

  • 600g stewing lamb
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (or a cinnamon stick)
  • 1 onion, halved
  • a few sprigs of thyme and some bay leaves
  • 3 aubergines
  • 3 tablespoons greek yoghurt
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 50g butter
  • 1 white onion
  • 1 teaspoon toasted and ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • chilli flakes, to serve
  • 2 tablespoons chopped mint
  • 2 tablespoons pomegranate seeds
  • 2 tablespoons toasted pinenuts

Method

  • Put the lamb in a large sauce pan with all of the ingredients down to and including the bay leaves.
  • Simmer for around 45-50 minutes, skimming the froth off the top as you go (appealing, I know!)
  • The meat should be very soft and easy to tear apart with a fork/your hands once cooled (test with a fork before taking off the heat)
  • Roast the aubergines in a very hot oven, over a gas flame or over a barbecue until soft (around 45 minutes in an oven at 220C)
  • Once they cooled, scrape the flesh from the skin into a bowl, and blend with a stick blender.
  • Stir in the yoghurt, oil, lemon juice and garlic.
  • Once the lamb is torn into small shreds, heat the butter in a saucepan.
  • Cook the onion in the butter with a pinch of salt until soft and sweet, 10-15 minutes.
  • Add the spices and cook for a minute, then add in the lamb.
  • Fry until bits of the lamb are crisping up, then remove from the heat, and pile on top of the aubergine in a big bowl.
  • Top with the pinenuts, mint and pomegranate seeds.

 

Kale Salad with Iberico Ham, Ricotta, Asparagus and Hazelnuts

Kale Salad

This is a salad for people who like denial. You can tell yourself you’re having a salad, and being healthy, if you just ignore all the deliciously unhealthy things on top.It’s pretty easy to assemble, the only bit of effort being that you have to massage the kale, which seems like a sick joke after a long day at work. What’s next, having to give your carrots a manicure? But then, of course kale is high maintenance. It’s the hipster of the green leafy veg world. If kale was sentient, it would reassure itself that it was organic and locally grown while downing a flat white and listening to The National. You could make this with any kind of salad leaf really, it doesn’t have to be such a highly strung one.

I was sent some beautiful Iberico ham from Iberico Dehesa Casablance in Extremadura by the nice people at Jamonprive which was just perfect for this salad. It’s inspired by one I had for lunch on a rare sunny day at the Drury Buildings a while back, and is perfect as a light lunch or dinner.

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch of kale (curly or otherwise)
  • 4 slices Iberico ham
  • 3-4 tablespoons of ricotta
  • 1 bunch asparagus
  • 50g hazelnuts, chopped
  • 1 quantity of Secret salad dressing
  • Olive oil

Method

  • Trim the kale leaves from the stalks and roughly chop.
  • Massage with olive oil and a little bit of salt for a couple of minutes until dark and soft.
  • Chop the asparagus into 1inch pieces and blanch in salted boiling water for 1-2 minutes until softened.
  • Refresh the asparagus with cold water.
  • Dress the kale leaves.
  • Tear the Iberico into small pieces.
  • Top the dress salad leaves with the asparagus, little balls of ricotta, asparagus and the hazelnuts.
  • Serve immediately.

The Cliff House Hotel, Ardmore, Co.Waterford

Cliff House 1

“I think we tip the guy who carried our bags….wait, where did he go?” So started our Saturday at The Cliff House. One of the side effects of graduating in a recession is a 20s of arrested development. Internships, temporary jobs, study, temporary homes, student houses with mice as unadvertised housemates and a general inability to be a proper grown-up. My generation seem to suffer a serious case of impostor syndrome when it comes to adulthood.Which is inconvenient when you find yourself in a place as distinctly grown up and sophisticated as this.

Bedroom

As someone who only recently made the leap from Hostelworld to Airbnb, staying in a luxury boutique hotel is a bit of a change of pace. I’m not entirely accustomed to places where they trust you with slippers and a bathrobe. But there were joint birthdays to be celebrated, one of them a big one (fortunately not mine, not quite yet) and a grown up weekend was in order.The Cliff House hotel is also home to a Michelin starred restaurant, which was the main draw for the stay. Martijn Kajuiter was previously head chef of my favourite Amsterdam restaurant, De Kas and I was dying to see what was on offer in Ardmore. He recently released a beautiful but stunningly intimidating cookbook with lists of ingredients coming close to 100 and diagrams to explain how to plate the food. It really is don’t try this at home stuff.
We started off with a walk around the eponymous cliff, conveniently located just beside the hotel, and followed it up with an outdoor jacuzzi overlooking the sea. The other draw for the hotel is the amazing view. Every room in the hotel looks out over Ardmore Bay with floor to ceiling windows. We rounded off with a drink on the hotel terrace, which also overlooks the seaweed baths, leading the two ladies below us to have a less than private spa experience.
Cliff Walk

We booked a late dinner to take full advantage of the hotel, and may have had a bit of (Lidl) champagne which does not contribute to the best of recollections of the meal. I also used my cameraphone so the photos are fairly pants. The amuse bouche bore quite a resemblance to that in The Greenhouse, featuring a beetroot macaron with goats cheese, beetroot marshmallows covered in tiny bacon fragments and an asparagus panna cotta. The highlight, odd as it sounds, was an amazing baby potato baked in clay topped with a delicate mayonnaise.  This was followed by a scallop starter, with three huge  scallops pan fried with seaweed and served with “textures of celeriac” and a spinach jelly. This was accompanied with a ceviche of scallop with Dutch salad (more of a mayonnaise then a salad)  and Irish herring caviar.

Cliff House

 

My main was a delicious stuffed rose veal with sweetbreads and bluefoot mushrooms. This was followed by an interesting carrot sorbet. It has to be noted here that the portions are far more substantial than you’d expect for a Michelin restaurant, and we were both very full by the time it came to dessert. I opted for what turned out to be an incredibly generous cheeseboard, complete with six Dutch, French and Irish cheeses, dehydrated grapes, all manner of lovely homemade crackers, and a really fresh tangy salad. Himself went for an incredible berry and white chocolate panna cotta. This was absolutely Michelin worthy cooking, exciting, different, but with just enough touch of comfort to feel really luxurious.

Cliff Restaurant

All this was washed down with some very unusual but lovely wine pairings served by an exceptionally young but very knowleadgable sommelier. Our dishes were served with wines from Greece and Morocco, along with some more traditional regions. Saturday being a busy night, we were seated in the private dining room, which I have to say did not have the same appeal as the main room, and I’d definitely request that going back. The next day, we were seated there with the Sunday papers for a gorgeous breakfast of fresh pastries, fruit salad and a traditional Irish fry-up which helped prepare us for the journey back to reality.

The Cliff House Hotel, Ardmore, Co Waterford

 

 

Salted Caramel Brownies

Salted Caramel Brownies

I’m not going to lie to you. These are only the second best brownies I’ve ever tasted. The coveted best brownie in the world prize goes to Paul A Young’s brownies in London, which haunt my dreams. I don’t really have much of a sweet tooth. Nine times out of ten I’ll take a cheese board over dessert, but like every breathing human old enough to consume solid food, I can’t say no to a good brownie. I also don’t bake a lot, for much the same reason, but when I do, I want perfect results and this recipe gave me that.It’s ever so slightly adapted from The Boy Who Bakes 

These are the perfect chewey, gooey, fudgey kind. I have no time for cakey brownies. They’re a waste of time,effort, hope and chocolate. One of the handiest things about these are that they actually improve after a day or so, which makes them perfect for do-ahead baking. The original recipe says it makes 12, but I probably got about 20 out of mine because a small two or three bite square is actually plenty with something this rich. They were happily demolished in my office in no time at all. If you’re not bothered making the salted caramel, these will still be great without it.

Make 20 brownie bites

Salted Caramel Filling

  • 175g caster sugar
  • 150ml double cream
  • 10g unsalted butter
  • large pinch of flaked sea salt

Fudge Brownies

  • 180g plain flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 320g dark chocolate/milk chocolate mix (I used 1/4 milk chocolate, 3/4 65% dark chocolate)
  • 150g unsalted butter
  • 350g light brown sugar
  •  caster sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 120g natural yoghurt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Method

  • Make the caramel by melting the sugar in a medium sized saucepan over medium high heat until it turns a copper brown coin type colour.
  • Add half the cream and salt, it will bubble up a bit,so be careful.
  • Add the remaining cream, remove from the heat and stir.
  • Mine went a little bit lumpy in parts, but it all melted again once it was in the brownie.
  • To make the brownies melt the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water.
  • Stir to combine properly once melted.
  • Leave to cool a bit and add in the eggs,yoghurt and sugar and beat well until smooth.
  • Sieve in the flour, salt and baking powder.
  • Add the vanilla extract.
  • Pour half the brownie mix into a parchment lined brownie tray.
  • Add the caramel in as smooth a layer as you want/can manage (mine was just dolloped around the place).
  • Pour the remaining brownie mix on top.
  • Bake at 180C for 30 minutes until a skewer just comes out with a couple of damp crumbs.
  • It may look uncooked because it’s bubbling, but that’s just the layer of caramel, it will look more properly set once it cools.
  • Leave to cool completely before cutting.

 

Spaghetti with Mussels and Tomato

Mussel Pasta

 

 

It’s getting to that time of year again. There was not a hint of sun over the entire May bank holiday, and the fear is growing that the next few months will revert to the more traditional Irish summer of crisp sandwiches eaten in cars looking at rain sodden beaches and hypothermia from trying to swim in July. My thoughts are turning to holidays and sunshine, and with them, this perfect holiday dish.

You know those amazing pasta dishes you get in Italy, that look so simple,but have incredible depth of flavour. This is one of those.  If you turn up the central heating, close your eyes, and stick a Fellini film on for background noise, you can almost pretend you can’t hear the rain on the roof. 

This dish is also a great way to use up extras if you’ve had to buy mussels in 2kg bulk packs. Around 10 mussels per person is perfectly adequate, but if you have more, go for it. It would also be lovely made with fresh tomatoes, if you can get the really good juicy ones that never quite seem to make it as far as Irish shops. I also usually serve this with a bit of grated parmesan, but I know a lot of people think cheese and fish are weird, so to each their own.

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 2o mussels, cleaned and checked
  • 125ml white wine
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes (Italian preferably, they really do taste better)
  • A pinch of sugar
  • A pinch of chilli powder (or more if you like things spicy)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive Oil
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh parsley (optional)

Method

  • Saute the onion with a little olive oil in a medium frying pan over medium heat for 10 minutes until softened, but not coloured.
  • Add the garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently to make sure it doesn’t burn.
  • Meanwhile, in a large pot with a lid, bring the wine to the boil.
  • Add the mussels, and cook for 3-4 minutes until all are open (one or two may stay closed, if they do, discard them).
  • Add the tomatoes to the garlic and onion.
  • Strain the mussel cooking liquid and add gradually to the tomato sauce.
  • Cover the mussels with tinfoil and keep warm.
  • Cook the tomato sauce over a medium-high heat in the frying pan until reduced and with a thick paste consistency(approximately 10-12 minutes).
  • Meanwhile, cook the spaghetti in boiling salted water.
  • Add the chilli, sugar, salt and pepper to the tomato sauce and adjust the seasonings to your taste.
  • Add the mussels for the last minute or two of cooking the sauce.
  • You can either remove them from their shells, or leave them in. I like to go 50/50.
  • Drain the pasta, but don’t dry it too thoroughly, and mix it with the mussels and sauce
  • Garnish with chopped parsley if using.
  • Serve immediately.

 

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