Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Pork Loin with Fresh Apricot and Walnut Stuffing

Until I started rearing my own pigs I had only ever experienced dry and tough pork fillet no matter how I cooked it. Pork fillet from an outdoor reared pig is a different animal. It is tender, moist and so tasty.

I had found this one in the depths of my freezer unlabelled and slightly freezer burned. Initially I thought it was a tongue. I defrosted it and shaved off the "burnt" bits. I rooted in the cupboards and made this stuffing from what I had to hand. My measurements are not exact but this doesn't matter.

Stuffing Recipe
2 heels of a granary style loaf crumbed
1 onion softened in a big knob of butter
A handful of raisins
2 fresh apricots stoned and chopped
A good big handful of walnuts roughly chopped
a few fresh sage leaves chopped
salt and pepper

This quantity made enough for two fillets but it's really handy to have one frozen for when you don't have time to faff around making stuffing. I rolled half up in cling film and froze. Soften the onions in the butter, add all the other ingredients. Cool. Slit pork fillet and stuff. Line a roasting tin with tin foil. Lay slices of prosciutto on base. Place the fillet on the slices and wrap the prosciutto over. Secure with cocktail sticks. Wrap the foil over and pop in a preheated oven at 180 fan for 45 minutes. Open foil and brown for the last ten minutes. Check with a meat thermometer. If it has reached 70 deg in centre it is safe. I cook mine to 68 but I know the source and so feel safe with it being slightly pink.

Allow it to rest for about 15 minutes. Use the meat juices that run out to drizzle back over the joint. 

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Summer Fish Pie with a Potato Rosti Topping

You tend to think of fish pie as a winter warmer but I love it and wanted to make it more summery. I looked up a few recipes and patched this together from them all.

It is so good I think I will make it this way from now on. The rosti topping gives a lovely contrast in texture much better than the usual mash. By varying the vegetables included you can row with the seasons. For winter include a mirepoix.  It is also a great way to disguise vegetables for small people.

For the filling:
500g mixed fish (cod, natural smoked haddock, salmon etc.)
200g of prawns, mussels or squid (adds interesting texture but is optional. If using frozen defrost and dry or they will make sauce very sloppy)
1 medium onion finely chopped
1 garlic clove crushed
1 stick of celery very finely chopped with a few celery leaves
half a fennel bulb finely sliced
A good handful of petit pois 

tablespoon rapeseed oil
2 tbsp flour
25g butter
200ml milk
Half a lemon juiced
1 tablespoon cream
1 tsp wholegrain mustard
sprig fresh thyme
salt and pepper

Pour a small amount of milk in the bottom of a saucepan and add your fish (not the shell fish). Just cover with more milk and put on hob on a low heat until the milk becomes too hot to hold your finger in. You just want to flavour the milk not cook the fish. Remove the fish with a slotted spoon. Pour off milk and reserve. Set fish aside.

Using this pan add butter and melt, add flour and make a roux. Gradually add the reserved milk to make a thick sauce. Add the mustard, lemon juice, cream, a pinch of salt and a good pinch of black pepper. If you need to add more milk do but try to keep the consistency thick as when you add fish back it will loosen it up. Leave to cool.

Meanwhile soften the vegetables in another pan in the rape seed oil. Cover and cook on a low heat for a few minutes. You need to cook them as they won't cook in the pie. Season.

Cool the vegetables and mix into the fish, add the shellfish and the sauce and mix gently. Pour into an ovenproof dish.

For the topping:
4-5 large potatoes (waxy or new)
25g butter
zest of a lemon
5 tsp of capers

Cook the potatoes in their skins in boiling water for 10 minutes. Remove, cool and skin. Grate them coarsely. Melt the butter in a pan and add lemon zest and capers. Toss the butter mixture through the grated potatoes.

Pile it on top of the fish filling but don't pack it down.

Pop in a preheated oven at 180 deg for 45 minutes or until browned and bubbling.

Allow to cool slightly before serving.

Serves six very generously with maybe a portion for the freezer. It freezes beautifully and can be made in advance for a dinner party. Just don't add potatoes until about to put in oven. 

It goes great with a chilled glass of Picpoul.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Sunday Cookoff

We have here in Ireland a pretty unique competition run via Twitter every Sunday. Entered by amateurs, judged by a busy professional for no prize or gain other than a nod and an acknowlegement from the said professional.  Mad eh?

Sunday Cookoff is where Twitter home cooks share a picture of their home cooked Sunday dinner, lunch or brunch. It's fun, it's interesting and it shows how people are cooking at home now in a modern Ireland. Actually I think I have seen entries from other countries as well. And then there were the entries from that Domestic Goddess. Yes, Nigella (she who is recognisable without even giving her her full name) entered her Sunday food, unstyled and photographed as presented to her family in her home.

The brainchild behind this competition is the inimitable Ciarán Behan @mrcbehan on Twitter. Some how he has managed to get a busy chef, Dean Coppard @UluruArmagh who runs a, by all accounts busy and successful restaurant kitchen called Uluru in Armagh, northern Ireland. Now from what I know of a busy service from first hand accounts from my chef son, I would imagine the last thing you would feel like doing after one is looking at a load of photographs from a load of amateurs of their Sunday cooking and judging them.

But every Sunday Dean does just that, sending out a tweet usually that he is just finishing off service and will start with the judging soon. He has been judging now for over two years and has followed stalwarts such as Conrad Gallagher, Gary O'Hanlon, Wade Murphy and Kate Lawlor.

I asked Ciarán Behan when it started. He replied when he came out of hospital in 2011. He got the brainwave and asked the first chef to judge. The competition will be three years old next month. For a competition that is purely organic and amateur with no physical prize or sponsorship this is surely some feat.

So check out the photos and the food. Photos are always accompanied with the hashtag #sundaycookoff. The standard of the cooking is variable as is the photography but what shines is the pride and the passion people have with what they have produced for their family to eat. And everything looks homemade in the way that is comforting when you are starving and wish you could just smell and taste it.

I find myself thinking on a Sunday will I take a photo and enter. Today I am and here is my entry. I find it makes me think about my presentation more than I would do usually and let's face it; we eat with our eyes too.

Hake with green beans and fennel. Fried leftover new potatoes and a fennel butter.

For pud, a white chocolate, Coole Swan Liqueur and raspberry cheesecake with a cherry compote topping.

So get cooking and take a snap and join in the fun.  Add the hashtag #Sundaycookoff and mention @UluruArmagh on Twitter. And cheers to Ciarán and Dean the unsung heroes. And of course Nigella for being such a great sport.