The days are getting longer, the weather warmer (relatively). So it's time to start working on some fancy infused drinks to be ready in a month's time. And I'm not just talking about throwing a few packets of skittles into a two liter. I'm talking fresh, delicious, tasty drinks that would be a great base for a cocktail. I found this page with some really nice vodka-based ideas that would go down a storm at a BBQ.
Pineapple and Chilli
Now I do realise I may have jinxed us by talking about BBQs when it's only feburary, but what the hell...
OK, you know those days where everything works? Where everything comes together? Well this was one of those days. I came up with this recipe which I’m pretty proud of and hope you like it too. Anne LeBrocquy, whom I was cooking it for, was “beside herself” and “hadn’t eaten something so greedily in a long, long while”
A knob of butter
A splash of olive oil
2 shots of brandy
One handful chopped tarragon
1000ml of good chicken stock
Two pinches of saffron
2 tsp of cayenne pepper
Langoustines, or Dublin bay prawns as they’re sometimes known as, are pricey feckers. Ranging form €10 per kilo if you buy them from the boat up to anything over €29+ per kg. But they’re worthy of the price; in my opinion the best pinchy thing in the water (I won’t say shellfish as they come a close second to clams, nom). They normally don’t give much in return for that cost but not many people know to use the discarded shells as they give delicious flavour back, if treated right.
Prep: I’ve searched and searched but I can’t find a video on how to prep a langoustine. So this may be a bit long winded but bear with me as this is all you need to know about de-shelling…
And that’s your prawn prepped! Well done. Put all the shells in one pile and the flesh in another and you’re ready to move on…
De-skin and roughly chop one carrot and one onion, fry in a mixture of butter and olive oil until soft. Add all the shells and mash down.
Add two shots of brandy and flambé.
When the flames have died down, add two roughly chopped tomatoes, a handful of chopped tarragon, two teaspoons of cayenne pepper, and two pinches of saffron.
Stir, then add a glass of dry white wine and allow the booze to cook off (roughly 30 seconds). Then give the shells another smash and cover with chicken stock. Gently simmer for 40 mins or until the liquor has taken on an amazing taste and a burnt umbra colour.
Drain off through a chauffant (a rigid conical sieve) and pound down on the shells, each hit brings more flavour.
Return the liquid to the pan and bring to a gentle simmer. Poach the langoustine in the liquid for no more than a minute but don't put them all in at once otherwise they'll bring down the temperature of the liquid. Once they're all cooked, Arrange the langoustine in a shallow bowl and pour the liquid over them. Serve immediately… Heaven
There are the obvious benefits from soup that you may, or may not, be aware of. However it can also protect you from tiger attacks, as this woman in Malaysia found out. Whether other lunchtime favourites can protect you from voracious predators, like sandwiches from shark attacks or cheese on toast from a lion mauling, remains to be seen...
So cookery books account for a huge amount of Christmas and birthday presents, an easy 'go to' for someone who cooks, or doesn't cook at all, in a passive-aggressive nudge. Personally, I don't just pick books just for the recipes but for their ability to inspire and influence, a catalyst for creativity that can lead you down a path of a great dish.
These are but a few of my favourites....
My mentor in Ballymaloe is a powerhouse when it comes to knowledge on everything culinary. The Big D, as she is affectionately known by the students, has pushed the way cooking is taught to newer and better boundries, surpassing the conventional methods, and her book, The Ballymaloe Cookery Course, is a reflection on this.
Don't know a sauce? The recipe is there.
Not sure what to do with a piece of gammon or a shoulder of lamb? Ideas a plenty inside.
It is, with no disrespect to Escoffier's Larousse Gastronomic, an encyclopedia of modern cooking and easily my first suggestion for when someone asks 'I need to get a cook book'.
I picked up Niki Segnit's book, The Flavour Thesaurus, earlier last year and was blown away. As the name suggests it is a book solely devoted to flavour and flavour pairings. Ever wondered how chefs come up with absurd and fantastic flavour combinations? This is your book.
Strawberries and Tomato.
Rhubarb with Lamb.
Parsnip mixed with Banana.
All combinations that sound ridiculous but are referenced scientifically, and historically, as to why to combine well, along with the occasional recipe thrown in. A great book that will inspire you with new and brilliant ideas
'Oh here he goes again with the seasonality' I hear you say but the next book was one of two books here that were the foundation of how I learnt to cook. The Reader's Digest- A Cookery Year was never far away from my mum's kitchen.
It's a great resource on what's good to eat now and how to cook it. It's also massive with over 800 recipes and thickly bound, ideal if you have a 'petit gourmand' in the house who wants a boost up to see what's going on at counter level
Now this is the second book on my list which is the basis of my upbringing. And by the tone of how I talk, you must think that when I was growing up, that (to paraphrase Dylan Moran) all the family were thatched and that we had a solar powered toilet. Now, I admit my Dad did build some of the house we grew up in, and both my parents were fantastic gardeners, but those values diminish with every generation. This book, The Complete Book of Self-Sufficiency by John Seymour, is a fantastic example of how we, as the human race, have a symbiotic link to the planet around us. It's amazing illustrations are without equal and even has a guide on how to grow and brew your own beer and wine. Jackpot!
Food porn has that name for a reason. You get engrossed and absorbed by the fantastical natural of absolute wizardly. You want to be in a room, on your own, with this book, undisturbed, freely available to absorb and be transported to a fantastical place. Ferran Adria's 'A Day at elBulli' is a chronological look at one of the few 3-starred Michelin restaurants in the world. Adria is the godfather of molecular gastronomy and this book details their daily routine starting with the trip to the markets at daybreak and through to service.
There are recipes in this book but they are ridiculously complex, but this isn't about the recipes in full. I view them as ideas, there to cheery pick on how to plate up a certain dish, to concepts and techniques as to why you would cook certain things with certain methods. All can be applicable, in some part, to your cooking adventure.
Now there are many books out that are detail such level of alchemical wonder but el Bulli was the originator. And akin to Concord, it is due to be decommissioned later this year, never to open its doors again, and thus this book is a piece of history, a tribute to a milestone in one of the best restaurants in the world.
So I say, get out and pick yourself up an inspirational cookbook, meal times will never be the same!
In the world of growth hormones, antibiotics, intensive and inhumane methods of farming, this piece of video will change what you think about a product which is considered, and misconceived, as one of the most cruel methods of farming. Dan Barber is one of the most influential food commentators and always has a facinating word to say on all things culinary.
My good friend Rod Morris, of www.happymeat.ie, put me onto it and please take 20 minutes to watch it as it will blow your mind.
A change is afoot, a change that is better for everyone and everything
Ok, this may be an understatement, but you may hear me bang on a bit about seasonality. Rather than get up on my soapbox, I'll just keep it brief. Some retailers react to trends, some to the seasons. Try and seek out the latter, you'll recognise them as they won't stock asparagus and the like all year round. More than likely these are the people who will speak most animatedly about what they have 'new in' and 'what's eating best'.
But how do I know what's in season? There are many websites and charts around that will tell you, Eat the Seasons is one I use the most, but after a while, you will learn by intuition from what tastes good at what time of year. Nothing makes a winter supper like roast root veg and the taste of summer is the juice that dribbles down your chin from eating a fresh strawberry.
So eat fresh, eat now
Wahey, it's nearly there. Many hours of writing, changing, thinking, stepping back, starting again, and that's just the website. This project has taken 15 months from start to get where we are now, and it's nearly there, within our grasp. Our fingernails can scrape the surface.
We've had some fantastic people working on this with us. The brilliant photography by Russell, who came into our house and spent the day crafting and creating the images that appear on this site. Ellie and Russell worked the food styling, I just handed them random culinary pieces (that we begged, borrowed, and stole from our respective parents) and he worked, as you can agree, some kind of magic to create such great shots. Even Ellie and Lu got in on the action and increased the prettiness of the shot a thousandfold.
And the logo design was borne from the gifted mind that is Aisli in DesignBOS. A graphic artist not only needs to be able to create aesthetically pleasing articles but needs to be a cunning communicator in deciphering my mumbled, inarticulate ramblings. 'Making it foodier' was the standard at which she had to work with and as you can see, she did some exemplary work.
So here we go, strap yourselves in and turn it up to 11.
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