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Tuesday, 17 July 2012

lemon sorbet with prosecco

I recently had a lovely meal in Mulberry’s Restaurant in Barna. It has been named the 'Best Casual Dining Restaurant' in Connacht at the Irish Restaurant Awards. This category recognises the dining experience which best offers outstanding value, fantastic food, great service and hospitality, and an excellent overall experience. Mulberry's was all of that and more. You can read the full details in my article in The Galway Advertiser which will be out on Thursday 19th July.  Photos of the rest of the lovely food I sampled in Mulberry's can be seen after the recipe below.

In the meantime It reminded me of how a well made lemon sorbet is genuinely the easiest and most refreshing thing in the world, this is the lemon sorbet recipe I use. Always taste before you freeze and spend a little time tweaking the balance of lemon and sugar.

Sorbets should be smooth, an ice-cream maker is a great way to take care of the churning side of things. If you don't have one it is still possible to make it, but it might be better to make a granita which should be beaten at regular intervals during the freezing process in order to develop a crystalline texture.

Lemon sorbet with prosecco

Serves 6-8
350g caster sugar
14 lemons, unwaxed

Put 250g sugar into a pan with 250ml boiling water and heat, stirring, until the sugar has dissolved. Allow to bubble for a couple of minutes until slightly thickened, then set aside and allow to cool completely. Zest five of the lemons and finely chop the resulting peel. Juice all the lemons and strain to remove any pulp and stray pips. Add the chopped peel and stir in the rest of the sugar to dissolve. Chill in the fridge for a couple of hours.

Add equal amounts of syrup and cold water, a bit at a time, and taste, until the flavour is to your liking, it should be quite intense as this will mellow slightly when chilled. Put in an ice cream maker and churn. Alternatively pour into a strong plastic box and put in the coldest part of the freezer. After 1 hour 30 minutes it should have frozen round the edges – take it out and beat vigorously with a fork, electric whisk or in a food processor until you have a uniformly textured icy slush. Put back in the freezer and repeat at least twice more every hour and a half, then freeze for at another hour or more.

Transfer the sorbet to the fridge for 20 minutes before serving. Put a little scoop in a margarita glass or similar and serve. Or do as they did in Mulberry's and pour over a small measure of prosecco, set some perfect summer berries and a few pomegranate seeds afloat on top with a sprig of mint or a leaf of lemon verbena - less is more here, don't crowd it.

Slow Roast Pork Belly with broad beans, pea puree and calvados reduction.

McGeough’s Smoked Black Pudding, with sweet potato puree, asparagus and
caramelised apple

Pan-fried Fillet of Sea Bass arrived on a bed of warm fennel and orange salad.
 Surf & Turf

Perfect seared scollops.
Nut Cluster, vanilla ice cream rolled in roasted almonds with chocolate
and caramel sauces

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

blueberry streusel muffins

These muffins were made using my brand new American cup measures. My current husband kindly bought me a set from our favourite shop, Anthropologie. If anyone else would like to purchase a gift for me I love their overpriced, but beautiful, tea towels.

I shall be switching back to European measures straight away and using these pretty cups to store rubber bands, paper clips, spare safety pins and the like. It's not that the muffins didn't work, muffin mixtures are in general very forgiving. They seem to be very inexact for baking. A digital scales is very reassuring and if the recipe then turns out to be a disaster you know it's probably not something you've done.

I have translated the measures into metric for all the other cup-phobic Europeans out there. The recipe was adapted from Vanilla & Lace, a blog that I love. You might like it too.

Blueberry Streusel Muffins

For the muffin mix:
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (180g)
3/4 cup sugar (150g)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/3 cup vegetable oil (80ml)
1 egg
1/3 cup milk (80ml)
A punnet or 1 cup fresh blueberries

For the streusel topping:
1/4 cup white sugar (50g)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour (30g)
2 tbsp butter
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C) and line a 12 hole muffin tin with muffin liners. Combine your dry ingredients flour, sugar, salt and baking powder.  Beat the egg and add vegetable oil and milk, mixing to combine. Mix this with flour mixture. Fold in your blueberries. Spoon the resulting batter into your muffin cups.

Make Topping: Mix together sugar, flour, butter and cinnamon. Mix with a fork, and sprinkle over muffins before baking. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes or until done.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

cheese and tomato tart

My third tart in a row and this one is savory for a change - it's from my friend Mona's book, The Chef and I.  You can find Mona over on her blog Wise Words.

Mona said "This tart is as simple as rolling out a bit of pastry, ladling in a goodly amount of Dijon mustard onto the pastry, filling it to the brim with a selection of grated hard cheeses and topping it all with some beautiful sliced tomatoes. Bake at 180ºC for 30 minutes, then eat."

It is one of those 'so simple but so good' recipes. You can read all about her book for yourself over on Nessa's blog Nessas Family Kitchen. I will say it is possibly the best and finest book ever written in the world ever. I won't go on about it as I am totally biased.

P.S. I tried it with mushrooms - it's not as nice.

Friday, 6 July 2012

classic lemon meringue...

A classic lemon meringue, if it ain't broke...

My favourite baking tins in the kitchen are my individual, loose-bottomed tart tins. I love how handy they are. They were bought for making goats cheese tarts and quiches, so that I could cook a couple and pop the rest into the freezer. Also, I love making desserts in them, having an individual tart all to myself really brings out the kid in me. Either that or you could pretend that it is a normal sized tart and that you are a giant.

I have piped the meringue topping on these and blow torched the top, just as one of my favourite bakeries do. While they do look pretty, the piping left the meringue less airy and fluffy than I like, and frankly I wouldn't bother doing it again unless the queen was coming to tea. I usually just pile it up on top of the lemon filling and put it into the oven until it has turned a nice toasted golden color.

The base
350g sweet dessert pastry (make your own or buy a good quality all-butter one).

The meringue
2 egg whites
100g caster sugar

The filling
2 level tbsp cornflour
100g caster sugar
2 large lemons, zested
175ml lemon juice
85g butter, chilled and diced
3 egg yolks plus 1 whole egg, beaten

Heat the oven to 190C/fan 170C/gas 5. Roll out the pastry - not too thick and not too thin. Put 6 tart tins on a large baking sheet and line with the pastry, leaving the sides overhanging a little. Fill each tin with scrunched-up baking paper and beans and bake blind for 15 minutes. Take out the beans and paper and cook for another 5-10 minutes until there are no uncooked pastry patches. Trim the edges flush with the tart rings.

To make the lemon filling, mix the cornflour, sugar and lemon zest in a pan. Sieve in the lemon juice gradually, then stir in 150ml water. Cook over a medium heat, stirring constantly, until thickened and smooth. Once the mixture bubbles, remove from the heat and beat in the butter until melted. Stir the eggs into the pan and return to a lowish heat. Keep stirring for a few minutes, until the mixture thickens and just bubbles. Take off the heat and leave to cool a little, then divide between the pastry cases.
Put the egg whites in a clean bowl, whisk to soft peaks then start adding the sugar a tbsp at a time, whisking each one in. Keep going until all the sugar is used up and the meringue is stiff and shiny.
Pile spoonfuls of the meringue on top of the filling (instead of piping it - it's nicer, unless of course, the Queen is coming to tea!). Put the tarts back in the oven for 10-15 minutes until the meringue is peaked with gold. Cool completely before serving.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

chocolate and cherries...

Sweet Shortcrust Pastry & Chocolate Ganache  to make Cherry Tartlettes

This combines two basic recipes, both invaluable in their own way. A good sweet shortcrust pastry, simply made in the food processor and a basic chocolate ganache that when poured into the pastry shell showcases any number of summer goodies. I happened to have some lovely cherries, but strawberries or raspberries would be just as luscious. The pastry and ganache can both take as much customising as you can dream up, depending on what you are putting on top.

Sweet Shortcrust Pastry
A quantity of ganache (see recipe below)
1 punnet of fresh cherries or summer fruit of your choice

For the Pastry
1 1/2 cups (250g) plain flour
125g butter, chilled, chopped
1/3 cup caster sugar
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon chilled water

Makes enough pastry to line a 23cm tart case - if you are using it to line a few mini tart dishes like I did any left over pastry will keep for a few days in the fridge or will freeze nicely. Just be sure to label it clearly that it is sweet pastry as a quiche made with this pastry is rather revolting. You can add a little something to the pastry at the kneading stage, lemon or orange peel, finely chopped nuts, even some herbs would be nice depending on your intended filling.

Combine flour, butter and sugar in a food processor. Process until mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add yolk and chilled water. Process until dough just comes together. Turn pastry onto a lightly floured surface. Knead until just smooth. Shape and wrap in baking paper and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Roll out and use to line your tart pan with removable bottom or a few of the individual ones. prick the bottoms, line with parchment, cover with ceramic baking beans and bake in a moderate oven until golden

For the Ganache
8 oz good dark chocolate
8 oz double/heavy cream

Ganache is a handy little thing to have in your repertoire as it is easy to make and so very versatile. When barely warm and liquid, ganache can be poured over a cake or torte for a smooth and shiny glaze. If cooled to room temperature it becomes a spreadable filling and frosting. Refrigerated ganache can be whipped for fillings and frostings or made into chocolate truffles. Recipes vary but it is generally the same amount of double cream to good quality chocolate. Lindt and Green & Black are both good and easy enough to get. Then any flavourings that would suit your tastes can be added. Brandy, rum or liquors work well or strong flavors like cardamom and ginger.

Once the tart shells are cooled, heat the cream in a heavy bottomed pot, just until it gets very hot. Do not wander off now - keep an eye so it doesn't boil. Put the chocolate in a bowl and pour the hot cream over it. Whisk until all the chocolate is melted.

When the chocolate has cooled enough, pour into the pastry shells and refrigerate until set, push your prepared fruit slightly into the chocolate and dust with icing sugar or glaze with some melted apricot jam if you like. I have just put a little whipped cream on mine with cherries which were so nice and ripe and shiny that icing sugar would have been a sin.