Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Forty Shades of Green

St. Patrick's Day our national holiday. What better way to spend it than capture all the shades of green right on my door step?

Deer Park Virginia, Co. Cavan, the former hunting lodge and grounds of Lord Headfort is now The Park Hotel (Richard Corrigan's new venture), Virginia Golf Club and Virginia Rugby Football Club headquarters. There is also a lovely walk around Lough Ramor through the well-managed forest.

Beech trees and moss


Evergreen alley

Lough Ramor
Perfect for angling

Little bridges over rushing waters

 Beech sapling

Green tee
I love to walk here. There is ample free parking beside the rugby club. There are several different length walks. The dogs get a great run. And it's incredibly scenic.

Sometimes it's easy to overlook great amenities right under your nose.

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Mothering Sunday

Today is Mother's Day and next Tuesday is St. Patrick's Day. What better way to spend the day cooking up a feast to celebrate both? My idea of heaven, especially as I really haven't had any time lately to just potter in my kitchen.

Lamb shanks in porter, creamy mash and purple sprouting broccoli

Lamb Shank in Porter

2 lamb shanks
250ml Kenmare Porter
2 red onions
half a bulb of fennel
2 cloves of garlic
1 stick of celery
a good sprig of rosemary
Salt and pepper

Seal the shanks on a hot pan. Put them in a slow cooker. Slice the onion, fennel, crush the garlic and chop the celery.  Fry on the pan until softened and add them in with the shanks. Pour over the porter. Season and turn cooker on for 3 hours at high or 5 hours on low.

Pre-heat your oven to 200 deg C and lift the shanks out of the cooker. Place them on a baking tray lined with tin foil and brown them in the oven for 30-40 minutes. Meanwhile, transfer the cooking liquid to a pan and reduce by half.

Serve with creamy mashed potatoes, some seasonal vegetables and pour the reduced gravy over.

Chocolate Porter Cake with a Twist

I followed Nigella Lawson's recipe for the chocolate porter cake but halved the quantity. Recipe here.
I then made a basic Victoria sponge recipe for the green.

125g butter
125g sugar
1 egg
100g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon of green food colouring
1 tablespoon of milk

The Victoria mix needs to be slighly sloppy so add more milk if necessary as the chocolate porter cake is a batter and it is difficult to mix them otherwise. Cool the chocolate mix and it will thicken.

Line a deep round cake tin. Dot some of the green cake mixture around the tin and pour the batter around. Finish off with the rest of the green mix. Place in a pre-heated oven at 180 deg C for 10 minutes. Open the oven carefully and with a skewer give the whole thing a swirl to get the colours to mix.

Continue to bake for another 50-55 minutes until risen and springs back to a gentle touch.

Cool in tin and then place on a wire rack until completely cold.

Marscapone topping

1 250g Marscapone
50g icing sugar

Whisk together and spread over your cake.

Happy Mothering Sunday and St. Patrick's Day.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Braised Beef Cheeks

I'm a new convert to slow cooking. My sister won a Crock Pot and passed it around the family until someone thought of me. I was thrilled as I had been thinking of buying one. I love slow cooked dishes but I hate the waste of electricity having the oven on for hours. One day I will be able to afford an Aga.

But for now I'm having fun experimenting. So far I have done stews, a beef Malay and the most delicious pork shoulder or as it's now (trendily) known, pulled pork.

Pork shoulder cooked overnight

It just takes a little bit of organisation as you do need to seal the meat and vegetables on a pan first. Although the booklet that came with it said the actual pot part can be put on the hob, I haven't chanced that yet. You need a lot less liquid as there is no evaporation.

So to the beef cheeks. They are difficult enough to find but you should be able to order them from a good butcher. They cost about €3-4 each and mine weighed 350g. Here we would eat one each but you may feed more.

Braised Beef Cheeks in Red Wine

2 beef cheeks
Half a bottle of drinkable red wine. (don't use anything you couldn't drink)
1 large red onion
2 carrots
2 fat cloves of garlic
Stick of celery
4 Bay leaves
Spring of fresh thyme
Salt and pepper.

Put the cheeks and vegetables in a bowl and pour the wine over. Season and put somewhere cool for 24 hours.
Next day, remove the cheeks, dry them with kitchen paper. Heat a frying pan until smoking hot and put some rapeseed oil on it (don't use olive oil as it will burn).Seal the cheeks hard on both sides. Get plenty of colour on them.

Remove cheeks and put into slow cooker. Lift the veg out of the marinading liquid with a slotted spoon and sauté them on the pan. Add to beef in slow cooker and pour the wine over. I cooked them for 8 hours on low. If using a conventional oven cook for 4 hours but you may need to add extra wine. You can also cook on the hob in a casserole.

When they are cooked. Switch the cooker off and leave them to sit for 24 hours.

When you want to serve them re-heat them slowly and serve with tagliatelle or creamy mash.

There is nothing nicer than coming home on a cold evening and smelling dinner.

Tip: If you have some liquid left as I had, leave it overnight to get gelatinous and next day transfer into a tub to freeze. It will make a really good addition to a gravy.