Myself and a delegation of students were invited to our sister college – St. John’s College Cambridge. This is the feast we were fed (excuse the port stain!).
Ever wanted a birthday menu. This is what whipped together for our parents joint Birthday celebrations. All home made by the children. We were a little too busy cooking for 35 people to take photos, but the menu is better than nothing!
A hot spicy crabby ginger tart with salad garnish and a chili dressing
Sophie Bertin Sancerre 2011
Ballyhaunis, Co. Mayo, Ireland Sirloin Beef
with Roast potatoes, Salsa Verde and a Rosemary Jus
Ch. Puygueraud 2005 Bordeaux cotes de Francs (3L bottle=Jeroboam)
Ch. Latour-Martillac 1999 Pessac-Leognan Gand cru classe de Graves (1.5L bottle=Magnum)
Torbeck 2009 Barossa Valley Grenache-Shiray-Mourverdre
Villa Novare 2009 Valpolicella Classico Superiore Ripasso
Lemon Drizzle Cake or Chocolate and Hazelnut Torte
or Both! served with Berries and Creme Fraiche
Chateau de Rolland 1989 Barsac
A large selection of Irish, French and Swiss cheeses served with rye crackers with linseed.
A bottle of Dow’s 1963 Port (from the year of Mom and Dad’s birth) and a bottle of Taylor’s 1977 Port (supposedly the best vintage for port of the entire 20th century)
Here is a bloomer, that I decided to flavour. Flavouring yeasted bread is pretty difficult because the flavourings can be too strong and freak out the yeast in funny ways, but this sort of worked – so happy days!
Sift flour in to a bowl and place yeast on one side and salt on the other. Get your dough hooks ready. Add the oil and 259mL of the water. (the extra water is there if you need it, but don’t feel obliged to use it!)
Using your dough hooks, knead the dough for 10-15 minutes. (I was advised that time for beginners!) I’m sure master bakers can get the right consistency in much less time!
Add some oil to the bowl and bring the dough together in to a smooth ball.
Read to prove.
Leave the dough to prove at room temperature, or a little above, for a couple hours or until it has tripled in size.
In the meantime prepare the flavours. I caramelized 2 onions in water and a tablespoon of brown sugar. I find onions are quite sweet themselves, so don’t need much extar sugar for caramelizing.
Roughly chop some extra mature cheddar cheese.
When the dough has tripled, grab it out of the bowl and place the dough onto a floured surface. Knock the dough back by folding it in on itself repeatedly. Do this until all the air is knocked out and the dough is smooth.
Take the caramelized onions and pat dry, really dry, using kitchen towel. Too much moisture in the mix will not be nice and it’ll be difficult to incorporate the cheese and onions evenly then.
Then I rolled the dough out roughly and placed the flavours all over it.
Carefully and consistently mix the flavours in to the bread, making sure to evenly distribute them. Try to reform the bread in to a ballish shape to make the next step easier.
Shape the bread in to a long-ish oval. Leave to prove a second time, covering it in flour. The second proving should take another couple of hours until it has doubled in size.
Get a sharp knife (a sharper one than I used!) and cut several deep slices in to the surface of the dough, 2-3cm deep if possible.
Bake at 220 degrees celcius for 25 minutes (in a preheated oven). Then drop the heat to 200 degrees and continue baking for 15 minutes. Take out of oven and leave to cool completely on a wire rack.
Don’t cut in to it before it’s cooled. I was impatient the first time I made this. It needs the cooling time! It is worth the wait.
I seem to have lost a picture of the final product – it was eaten that fast! 😦 If I find one, I’ll pop it up!
I have moved out and without my parents glorious kitchen, without all the wonderfully large selection of pots and pans and knives and other kitchen gadgets I have found super cool cooking that bit tougher.
This is one of my (no joke) easy student dinners that is delicious.
Boil some water and get whatever pasta you want going. ~400g.
Get a 450g pack of good low fat content mince (please don’t go near that weird chuck mince stuff, Eww). When the mince is brown all round throw two cans of chopped tomatoe on top of it, a teaspoon of herb de provence and a teaspoon of oregano (both dried). Season with salt and pepper too. I usually add a squeeze of tomatoe puree, which is a cheaper way to get the delicious taste one would normally get from good passat. Let all the meaty goodness cook away until the sauce becomes a lovely dark rich red.
To add a naughty richness to the pasta bake I also use a heavier farmhouse cheddar, rather than a normal medium strength one. The extra tangy sharpness in the cheese only adds to the nom-factor.
Pour the cooked sauce down the bottom of a baking tray, add the drained pasta and top with the nummy cheddar. Bake for 15-20 mins, or until the cheese at the top and melted and crisped.
Eat. Maybe whip up some homemade garlic bread while you’re at it.
Every year, we are lucky enough to have our parents take us out for a pre-Christmas lunch. Last year it was the Westin, this year they went all out and brought us to Thornton’s, Kevin Thorton’s restaurant on the first floor of the Fitzwilliam Hotel at St. Stephens Green. Definitely one of the top three restaurants in Ireland at the moment. Second best meal of my life. EVER (The best meal of my life was probably Chapter One earlier in November this year, unbelievable.)
So I couldn’t take photos of the food, I was a bit too scared for that. I had slow roasted quail, with a little brioche and bog oak sauce, with an added smokey poached quail egg served on the side! Also had was braised pig’s head and although I personally am very sceptical of anything to do with the head of an animal, (it was a rolled, braised and seared slice of pig cheek and jaw) it was delicious. I will definitely consider cheek or ‘head’ if ever on a menu in the future.
For the main I had peppered milk-fed veal with a fondant potato and broccoli mousse. Textures were interesting and the pepper somewhat overpowering but the meat was so tender it just melted in my mouth. Goose breast and John Dory were the other favourites at the table. My parents decided to pay corkage fees and bring their own wine a 2004 Puligny Montrachet and a 2001 Châteauneuf-du-Pape (Chateau Payas, I think?). Unbelievable wines that just blew our minds, (and I don’t even understand them for what they really are, but I do appreciate that they are amazing).
I thought there was no question on the desert front – The lemon curd tart and raspberry sorbet was just divine, however the cheese platter was popular and a warm chocolate fondant and coconut something was amazing according to my brother. God I love when my parents cover costs for these kind of amazing experiences. That said the price was very very reasonable for what you were getting at €47 a head it was a steal in terms of quality. But it was the lunch menu, and lord knows I didn’t see the final bill!
So when guests come over, planned or unplanned the fridge is usually packed with cheese. Because, there is nothing like a fabulous plate of cheeses and some homemade bread or a selection of crackers. Add to that some wine and you’ve got a party! Recently I picked up these three cheeses, all raw unpasteurised and delicious! They are from corleggy and I got one smoked cows milk cheese (Drumlin smoked), a hard goats cheese (Creeny) and a softer sheeps milk one whose name I’ve forgotten. And my little brother acquired this nifty bodum cheese/chocolate slicey thing, (see picture) one which you can sort of ‘mill/slice/scrape’ off a slice of cheese.
Anyway I am madly in love with the smoked Drumlin one, a slice of that with some relish on a burger is just the bees-knees after a long day!
But we are very open to many other cheeses, the Corleggy ones are from Cavan, Co. Ireland, but out fridge usually stocks a huge variety. Brie, St Agur, Comte and a load of different cheddars are staples in the cheese box and then we often have Manchego, Gruyere or Camembert floating around too. There is never enough cheese. Fact.
So cheese is a fabulous nibble to have when guests are around. We also love our mine pies, see an early post for why mine are the best ever mince pies! Nom. I love making hors d’oeuvre sized mince pies, the baby version. However they do take up much more time than the bigger ones, but there is just something cute and nifty about normal foody things that are small!
Mini-any recipe floats my boat – Nomnilicious.
The Christmas Dinner and Puddings are next.
Nom nom nom.