Hey, we’ve all been there. Roast chicken on Sunday can last a few days; I like to recycle the dish into a curry or a “Blanquette” ( https://hungrybreton.wordpress.com/2015/03/24/blanquette/) but this time, I wanted to do something new, like a pie. I love the idea of using whatever is in the fridge and this time, I was in luck; no trip to the local shop, this is pure survival stuff that will see our wee cottage fed for another couple of days… I had 1/2 a savoy cabbage, a leek, an onion, few peas and a carrot. I thinly sliced the lot of them and sautéed them with a bit of cubed pancetta I had bought at the end of December… Once every ingredients sweated with a bit of salt, I made a cheesy white wine béchamel sauce… Here is the wee story of how it went…
It goes to show, a simple Sunday dinner can become personal… Oh well. Here is the step by step of this tasty recipe, I didn’t plan it, it just happened… It all started at the market, on Saturday morning, when I stumbled upon a fine looking butternut squash…
I used to know that French chef; arrogant, aggravating, a “je ne sais quoi” of rudeness and a pinch of sarcasm. The whole package. No country and no town were ever good for him, so his judgemental ways forced him to be of the nomadic kind. He rang me one day with the news I have been dreading: “Hello, how are you? Guess what, I am in Ireland!”… Great. Thankfully, I never had to work with him but we did share an interest for food and we met the odd times in the local pub. It wasn’t long before he started criticising the local cuisine. He had developed a particular hatred for Coleslaw, something that was alien to most French people then, but like bacon and cabbage, we had incredibly similar things! I pointed out that “Macedoine” was one of them, a medley of cooked carrots, peas and beans, mixed with lots of mayonnaise and served rolled inside a slice of ham ( now I think about it, it was pretty gross…). The other one, much closer was “remoulade”, thinly sliced strips of raw celeriac, served as a crudity starter; it delivered quite a punch of flavours. He shrugged his shoulders in dismissal and finished his pint.
This amusing anecdote came back to me the other day as I was visiting my organic vegetable guy in Mullingar. He had some lovely Irish celeriac, so it gave me an idea for a little bit of fun. First – and for old time sake – I decided to make a remoulade, which brought me back to my school days, a popular starter in our canteen! Well, popular with the intendant in charge of writing the menu that was…
What I love though, is cream of celeriac, so comforting and full of flavours, ideal as a side order, with lamb or beef. Since I am less and less fond of lamb (don’t ask, I don’t really know myself), I went to the Flood Brothers, butcher shop and social magnet of my village. They gave me a nice piece of filet, local… Aged nicely. For the cream of celeriac, it couldn’t be easier; peel the root and wash the dirt off. Slice it into tranches and then into cubes. Bring a pan of salted water to the boil add the cubed celeriac as well as two cloves of garlic in and cook until soft (about 15 minutes, keep checking with the tip of a knife after that). Drain the water off and put it in a recipient suitable for blending. Add a bit of black pepper, a tsp of mustard and a splash of fresh cream (not too much, you can still add more later, 10cl should do).
I served my filet steak with it, and some honey roasted raw beetroot wedges. A simple seasonal feast. As I was enjoying my late lunch in the kitchen, my mind went on a rambling, thinking about my rude French chef acquaintance. I realised that I haven’t heard of him in nearly 14 years, how time flies! The last time I saw him, he was packing to go to work as a chef for a petroleum company, far, far inside the wilderness of Siberia. Never heard of him since. Like an old friend used to say: “ The good Lord doesn’t pay out every Friday, but when he pays, he pays well…”
This is based on a stew Story
If I was to be asked about Irish Optimism, my left eyebrow would probably rise ½ an inch higher than it would normally sit. While my – normally placid – face would stare at my interlocutor, I would find very hard to swallow the fact that February 2nd is, to some, the beginning of springtime. I have, to my advantage, a strong case to present. Exhibit 1./ A giant poster of the Moon that saw me growing up. Exhibit2./ A light globe that has been at my bedside table for the best part of my youth… Exhibit3/. The fact that there is still a lot of snow on my townland and that the lovely lady from RTE TV Irish weather forecast, warned us that our area could reach a possible- 8c tonight; With a potential risk of snow. Call me weird, but when it comes to Spring, I am more of a March 20th kinda guy.
Saying that, I love winter. I love the fact that Mother Nature covers the land with an icing sugar like dusting. My simple pleasure is to roam the hills and forest of the western “Royal”, on a quest for inner reflexion, ballet of pain and joy while being exfoliated by battering frozen snow. The motivation behind that self inflicted punishment could probably be measured and evaluated on a psychoanalytic level. After physical pain, comes the healing of a hot bath, ready salted peanuts binge, might be tamed – elbow style- by a cold bottle of beer… In the case of a self inflicted winter hike around Oldcastle’s Loughcrew Cairns… All I wanted was just a bit of comfort, a hand knitted scarf, a turf fire ,a hug and a feed that would illustrate the latter.
I went to my local butcher and got a pound (500g) of stewing beef. I had bought some juniper berries a while back and despite the harsh temperatures of January, some rosemary and thyme remained healthy enough. I got a wee bottle of Gin from the local Pub (20cl) and I infused the lot together to release the flavours. No boiling though, just gentle.
First, in a hot oiled pan, sear the beef until you get a rich brown colour; half way through, I put a clove of garlic or two. Chop the selected vegetables, in this case carrots, two cloves of garlic, celery and a large onion; I also thinly sliced a bit of ginger for extra kick. While all is sweating for a bit, pour in the gin and herbs. A healthy glass of red wine goes in too, for colour and “carpentry”, then let the lot reduce for a bit; A pinch of salt and pepper for luck and cover the dish with water. Let the whole pot simmer for at least two hours. Serve the stew with a parmesan flavoured mash… A simple hug, in a world of brutes!
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)
- black pepper
- grated nutmeg
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!