This is my take on Fish ‘n’ Chips, less messy, fast, easy, tasty, healthy. Monkfish, oven roasted wedges, crispy pancetta and cream of garden peas… Let’s go:
1 tail of Monkfish, skinned by your fishmonger, they won’t mind and their knives are sharp
A good handful of Buckwheat flour, white flour will do too!
Dried dill, or even mixed herbs.
Salt and Black pepper
Fully cured and sliced pancetta (100g – 150g)
A good hanful of garden peas
1 clove of garlic
1 large potato sliced in wedges per person (or more!)
First, cut the Monkfish into bite size nuggets, not too big, not to small, put them into a plastic food bag, with the flour, the dried herbs and the black pepper. Shake the lot until well coated. Pre-heat the oven at 200c and on a tray, lay the thin pancetta strips side by side. Bake for 5 minutes until crisp then lift with a spatula onto kithen towel.
For the pea purée, bring the peas to a boil in salted water, just for 5 minutes with a clove of garlic; sieve and cool straight away, blend them with olive oil and lemon juice (2/3 for 1/3). Put them through a sieve and keep pushing them through with a spatula.
For the potatoes, cut them into wedges, rub them with olive oil and sea salt and bake for 20 minutes (until golden).
For the fish, give the bag another shake, take an olive oiled pan and when hot, place the nuggets and cook for a few minutes on each side. Pinch of salt all over, crumble the pancetta over the fish, with a wee drizzle of lemon juice to your liking… Enjoy!
September, especially this September 2014, has been great for Damson plums… Well for foraging fruits and berries in general. I like the wildlife to enjoy them too, so I just got enough to make a flan tart with them, quite easy, super tasty.
12 to 15 Damson plums cut in halves
300g of good short crust pastry (or your own, 250g Flour, 125g butter, 1 egg, a bit of cold water…)
15cl of milk
15cl of double cream
1 vanilla pod
50g of sugar
If you make your own, mix the flour and cold butter in a food processor, with the egg and a bit of cold water, work it a bit until homogenised but not too long whatever you do… Cool for a bit. Take a tart dish, rub some butter inside and on the edges, do the same with a dusting of flour. Roll and lay the pastry and lay it inside the dish. Cool in the fridge. Remove the stone from the plums by cutting them in halves. In a bowl, whisk the eggs and sugar together. Add the milk and cream. Cut the vanilla pod lengthways and remove the seeds. In the mix they go, whisk a little more.
Pre-heat the oven and place a sheet of grease proof paper inside the tart, with some ceramic baking beans on top. Blind bake for 5 minutes. Remove the beans and paper, place the halved plums around the dish, pour the mix over and bake for 20-25 minutes… Brush the tart with plum jam, crust and flan by simply heating the jam up with a bit of water… Et Voilá.
September 1991 After two months spent on the side of a mountain in Glenveagh National Park, I decided to enjoy a couple of weeks off, around Donegal town before heading back to Brittany; many long walks around Lough Eske , its abandoned castle, native oaks and mountain ashes. We didn’t drive. One of my friends suggested to hitchhike to Killybegs, Fishing Harbour few miles west of the town. I like fishing harbours, for some strange reason, the smell of marine gasoil mixed with the smell of rotting fish has a certain appeal. Or is it the screaming swarms of cheeky Herring Gulls? Lorient, St-Guénolé, Galway or Howth, no matter how big or small they might be, the atmosphere surrounding them is always the same; dressed with rich colours, fumes, sadness and excitement, noise… Life, purring Diesel engines… Superstition… What’s not to like really?
Have you ever tried Fish’n’Chips?” , asked my Orleans flat mate, while my native Irish friend rolled her eyes, as if saying: “Jayzus… Not again”. He was, let’s put it mildly, very enthusiastic by nature. We climbed the small hill overlooking the Harbour, sat at a corner table of this local chipper, just like teenagers do (yes we were still – just about – in that age bracket) and gazed at our laminated and slightly greasy menu; ketchup, mayo, salt and vinegar at the ready. Vinegar? On chips? Seriously?
Truth be told, I had tried Fish and Chips; the previous September to be precise. The curator of Cap Sizun’s bird sanctuary and myself, after 6 months spent on the western peninsula cliffs counting kittiwakes, had just closed the reserve for the year. My mentor had to deliver fragile plaster birds of his creation to the yet to open maritime museum of Brest… Oceaonopolis. I was then treated to lunch in the Commercial Harbour. The decor was set, the name of the restaurant? “People Of The Sea”. Overwhelming with truth. We both went for the “Poisson-Frites”, fish of the day with chips. That was the day, the first time… My thoughts? The same any other Breton lad of my age would’ve had: “Fish with chips? What a weird combination!” Boy was I wrong! It somehow made our traditional rice and boiled potatoes abruptly redundant.
I visited Donegal again this week, walked on the foot prints of cherished memories, one recalling the other, every time. This time I wanted to push a bit further west, what hitchhiking v time never allowed me to do before; I wanted to see the sun setting on Sliabh Liag’s mountain cliffs and its wild Atlantic coast. On the way back to Donegal Town, I stopped for a few minutes in Killybegs, I took it all in, the bells, the smells, the colours and the diesel engines purrs. They say the sea makes people hungry… Well it is true and I already knew what I would pick from the menu.
This is to me the best way to cook carrots.” Papillotte” which is often used to cook fish, works brilliantly with our favourite orange root. It will keep its colour, natural sweetness and if you forget about it, they won’t turn into a tasteless purée. So remember to follow this few easy steps for your next Sunday roast!
Peel and chop the carrots, get a fresh piece of thyme or rosemary, and a couple of garlic cloves. Cut two pieces of aluminium foil, pour a bit of olive oil on the first sheet. Place the chopped carrots, garlic, herbs, salt and pepper…
Use the other piece of tin foil and place over the carrots; fold at least twice, neatly now, the four corners until you get a pillow like rectangle.
In the oven it goes for 25 minutes at 200c… If you go a bit over, don’t worry, that is the great thing about papillote cooking! Be careful before opening, it gets pretty hot. I just make an incision with a knife on the top layer… Do not try to unfold with your hands!
Last Saturday, I visited my local butchers, like a modern yet nonchalant hunter and gatherer, I was getting my weekly food shopping of course, but also having an opportunity – an excuse – for a bit of craíc and banter, a chance to catch up with the local news (some might call it “gossip”, but I will not lower myself to that level… Anyway, keep that for yourself, I’ll tell you later…). I got taken by their latest creation, a Pork and Apple burger. I didn’t want to just put it in a bun; after all, a lot of effort went into designing this dish. The previous night I had made some lovely mash potatoes, with some grated Coolea cheese from Cork, a two year old Irish Gouda if you prefer, sweet and parmesan like somewhat. That was half the battle… For the sauce, I decided to do a creamy apple juice sauce. I had a small bottle of Karmine apple juice from Tipperary, “The Apple Farm”. It is sweet with a hint of tart, perfect for a family dish like this; its execution is actually quite easy, just a bit of preparation will go a long way. It is also a great wink to both Brittany and Ireland: they love their apples, in whichever form they come into. Pictures and recipes below.
Get yourself ready…
And the final result, ready to eat!
For the mash
2 nice potatoes per person
150 g of Coolea cheese (or aged gouda)
For the mash
Peel, wash and cut the potatoes, put them in a pot of salted water and boil gently until cooked. Put through a sieve, back in the pot to remove excess water. Add the butter (the more the creamier, taste is your judgement) and the milk, gradually while you mash. If it’s a bit too thick, add a bit more. Smooth? Mill some black pepper and some freshly grated nutmeg. While it is still hot, grate the Coolea Cheese and stir inside the mash. You can serve it from the pot or bake in the oven later for a extra crispiness!
For The Sauce
1 onion chopped
1 garlic clove crushed
1 leaf of sage
1 splash of balsamic vinegar
1 splash of soya sauce
1 organic chicken/ veg stock (20 cl glass is enough)
15cl of Apple Juice (Artisan, farmhouse, the commercial stuff is too sweet)
25 cl of fresh cream
In a pan with olive or rapeseed oil, sweat the onions and garlic with a bit of salt. Throw in the sage leaf (optional). Put in the equivalent of 2 tbsp of balsamic and soya sauce, let it reduce, the apple juice, let it reduce, the stock, let it reduce. Pass the whole thing through a sieve (remember to place a bowl underneath… I’ve been there!) and the sauce back in the pan; discard the onions etc… Back on the hob with a bit of fresh cream, keep stirring and reduce again until smooth and a little bit thicker.
For the Pork Burgers…
Well, in a hot oiled pan, few minutes on each side, I just get the colour done on the pan and I finish them for 10 minutes in a hot oven. Serve with a bit of blanched broccoli, green/ French beans and enjoy with a glass of farmhouse cider but a Burgundy Chardonnay would work quite well too!
I was sitting at my desk at home yesterday, trying to send a few emails, get some inspiration by playing music while staring through the sash window at the swaying Crocosmia. My attention got caught when I noticed a little blue box, containing some neatly sharpened coloured pencils my nieces and nephews enjoy drawing with. As I was bored, I stuck my nose in it, expecting a flash back memory that didn’t disappoint; back to school and my pencil case, the last week of bliss before being sent to the pillory. As a form of acceptance, the last few days of freedom were quite pleasant, mostly foraging blackberries, with our neighbours and friends. The pain of lacerated limbs was soon to be healed and forgotten by my mother’s legendary “slurpy special” , straight from the pot, soon to be devoured by a small army of stained faces; the last meal for the condemned scallywags we were. As I was trying to reconnect with these delicious berries, nature sometimes gives so generously, I imagined them as a savoury ingredient, definitely with fresh goat’s cheese, a great companion to a pork filet roast … But I had another plan this time!
A friend of mine, organic grower from another local Meath townland gave me some fresh raspberries and apples; mine are still a bit green. What I have though, is a field at the back of the house full of blackberries and my first crop of Aronia berries, I planted last year, a taste between a blackcurrant and a blueberry if you wish with a lovely zing. Not as tart as sloe berries, we used to eat as a dare and it felt like your whole mouth was shrinking from the inside!
When we were good, or rather when she felt like it, my mother used to make this lovely apple cake, moist and delicious; she used to let it cool on the window seal of the kitchen of the old school we used to live in… Well, above the school. Since she was a teacher that was handy! I realised that the recipe leaves the door open to a lot more things than apples. All the fruits of my local foraging were going to go in. The recipe includes 200g of flour, I did twist things a little and put 150g of organic white and 50g of organic buckwheat flour… For extra nuttiness…
This recipe is a great little number. Its simple frame will allow you to have a bit of fun. Berries, Apples and also quince paste, which makes it an amazing surprise with a good Irish Blue cheese! I have posted the recipe in the “recipe” area of the blog (dah…), my Mum would be pleased to share this one with everybody, the same way my “compadres” broke bread and shared her blackberry jam by the side of the road… Before heading back to the classroom benches!
This lovely recipe is initially my Mother’s famous apple cake recipe; I have twisted it a bit a couple of times but the main frame remains the same. You just have to replace (or reduce) the amount of apples and replace or add some of your favourite berries. Here it goes:
150g of organic white flour
50g of organic buckwheat flour (or just 200g of white)
200g of salted butter (I prefer)
200g of sugar
3 large eggs (or 4 medium/small)
1 tsp of baking powder/ soda
Mix the two flours in a bowl with the baking powder
Beat the eggs with the sugar
In a pan, gently melt the butter and cool a bit
Pour the eggs and sugar mix over the flour and keep whisking gently
Then do the same with the butter… Easy now.
Put in your peeled and chopped apples (Or berries, or quince paste…)
Bake in a floured and buttered tin at 200c for 30 to 40 minutes
Check with a skewer before cooling that it is cooked through. If not, leave it a bit longer!