St Patrick’s from Conor’s kitchen

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Preparing for St Patrick’s Day in today’s Times of Malta with an Irish spread by Conor Bofin.

Irish Cuisine has evolved through the ages and with St Patrick’s celebrations around the corner, this week I am sharing a few recipes from my Irish fellow blogger and friend, Conor Bofin.


Conor is a multi-award winning food blogger; his blog ‘One Man’s Meat’ has won Best Food Blog in Ireland…     Source: Conor’s Irish Spread

Going Irish in this week’s Sunday Times

fresh broad beans

‘Look out for an Irish food in tomorrow’s Sunday Times with multi-award winner Conor Bofin’s preparation for St Patrick’s. 

During our tv show this week, I prepared one of Conor’s recipes and served oat crusted fish fillets on fresh broad beans instead of the peas in his recipe. I baked instead of frying them, just 20 minutes in a very very hot oven. What a treat it was…’

Sunday times big

A taste of Ireland in this week’s Sunday Times

Goodbye to the Hennessys and the Ambassador cooks on One TV

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With sadness we see the departure very soon of His Excellency Jim Hennessy, Ambassador of Ireland and his wife Monica after a three-year term on the island. It was a pleasure to work with them on a number of food related projects with the participation of all the family (and dog!).

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And as the Hennessys promoted Bord Bia and taught me so much about Irish Beef and all that is Irish we became good friends.

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It is a friendship that does not need proximity as even from a distance where ever the next posting will take them, they will be in my thoughts often. And when our paths cross again, we will have no catching up and will carry on as usual, a friendship that does not need farewells, just looking forward to the next time soon….

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After the success of having Parliamentary Secretary Roderick Galdes in my food segment on One TV cooking local pork you will have a chance to see Ambassador Hennessy and his son Dillon with me in the kitchen on Monday at 17.40. It is interesting to see our past work and we used local sausage with a foccacia recipe of Irish soda dough and other local produce in tradtional Irish cuisine.

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For a yeast free Foccacia Dough you will need :

A touch of Olive Oil
450 g plain flour, plus more for dusting
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp salt
400 ml buttermilk or if not available use Maltese yoghurt

And a topping with a fusion of Irish and Mediterranean you will need :

Local Smoked Sausage, chopped into squares
Fresh Rosemary
Local Black Olives
Tomato, chopped into squares
Parmesan
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
dried Oregano

Preheat the oven to 230C/gas 8. Brush a baking tray generously with olive oil.

Sieve the plain flour and the bread soda into a large bowl, add the salt and 50g of grated cheese and mix with your hands.

Make a well in the centre and pour in most of the buttermilk. With your hand stiff and your fingers spread out like a claw, start mixing the flour into the buttermilk or yoghurt using a circular motion. Add the remaining buttermilk and keep mixing like this until you have soft dough. Do not knead it but work it very gently to bring it together.
Transfer to a floured surface and roll out to about 35x20cm. Sit on the oiled baking tray and brush the top with some more olive oil.
Make dimples all over with your fingertips, on the top of the dough.
Push a small piece of sausage, rosemary, olive and tomato into each dimple.
Then drizzle over the olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt, freshly ground pepper, Parmesan and dried oregano.
Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes at 200 C until the bread is nice and golden on the top and bottom.
When the focaccia is cooked but still hot, drizzle just a little more olive oil over the top and allow to cool slightly before serving.

And I close today with my prep for bambinella jam

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And more strawberries with a fennel and arugula salad

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I love the mix of flavors in this salad and the textures. Imagine mouthfuls of crunchy aromatic fennel and fleshy soft strawberries with the distinct bitterness of the arugula.

1 punnet arugula leaved
4 large strawberries
half a bulb of fennel
olive oil
balsamic vinegar
freshly ground pepper and sea salt

Arrange the arugula leaves on a serving plate.
Slice the strawberries lengthwise and slice thinly.
Slice the fennel bulb into thin slices.
Arrange the strawberries and fennel on to the rocket leaves.
Season with fresnly ground pepper and salt. Drizzle with some olive oil and a few drops of balsamic vinegar.
This is ready to serve as it is. It is worth buying a good quality balsamic vinegar as it makes a big difference to the flavour especially when using with such delicate flavors of strawberry and fennel.

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My sweet Stevia has found a home in our garden and this is just the beginning of a long journey together …

The Dancers and an Irish Coffee Bread and Butter pudding

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I share with you today a photo from the party on Friday hosted by Ambassador Hennessy which many of you have asked about. The Dancers on a special visit to the island for St Patrick’s gave a magnificent performance. They wear blue which was the original color associated with St Patrick but over the years the tradition changed to the color of three leaf clover which St Patrick used to teach about the trinity.

And to carry on our Irish theme, Nadia and Adriana prepare a wonderful dessert of Irish coffee bread and butter pudding. It is divine and it will take you to another planet. It is made up of layers of bread dipped in butter and layered with apple and giant raisins, baked in an oven and then topped with a light custard of Irish Coffee. We even tried some pudding with a scoop of the girls’ home-made Caramel ice cream on top.

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And you will need:
300ml double cream
2 spoons Irish Whiskey
300ml milk
8 egg yolks
175g sugar
25 g golden giant sultanas
1 vanilla pod
1 apple
Few drops of lemon juice
8 slices bread of your choice, each slice cut into 4 pieces
125g
125g melted butter

Soak the raisins and chopped apple in water in a saucepan with a few drops of lemon juice, add the skin of the vanilla pod for flavor and scrape out the seeds to use in the Irish Coffee cream. Bring the saucepan to boil and turn off.

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Brush each triangle of bread with the melted butter

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Overlap the bread slices and cover the bottom of an ovenproof dish

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Drain the raisin mixture and spoon a layer of the mixture onto the bread slices
Cover with another layer of bread slices and a final layer of raisin and apple mixture,
Cover with cling film and place in the fridge for a few hours or overnight.
Beat the eggs, irish whiskey, cream, milk and sugar and pour over the bread pudding.
Sprinkle some flaked almonds and bake at 160C for 40 minutes.

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Take out of oven and leave to rest for 20 minutes before serving.

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For the Irish coffee sauce:
250ml whole milk
250ml double cream
50g caster sugar
50g coffee beans
6 large egg yolks
60ml Irish whiskey

Put milk and cream in a heavy-based saucepan with 1 tablespoon of the sugar ( the sugar will prevent the milk from boiling over). Add the coffee beans and slowly bring to the boil.

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Meanwhile, using a ballon whisk, beat the egg yolks and remaining sugar together until pale and creamy. When the liquid is on the point of boiling, pour about a third of it on to the egg mixture, whisking well. Gradually pour in the rest of the milk, whisking continuously.

Pass the mixture through a strainer, add the whiskey and return the mixture to the pan, stirring. Cook on a very low heat, stirring continuously with a wooden spoon until it thickens slightly enough to thinly coat the back of the spoon.

If you draw a finger down the back of the spoon it should leave a line. Remove the pan from the from the heat and strain again. Chill.

For St Patrick’s Parade in the City this morning, we had fine weather, although a bit cool…

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and from the heart of the Mediterranean, I wish you a very good evening and big fun day tomorrow …

Martha makes Guinness Cupcakes

Irish clover cup cake recipe

Irish Cupcakes for St Patrick’s Day

St Patrick’s is celebrated in Malta with a parade in Valletta and the usual parties and fun.  I love Martha‘s guinness cupcakes and  you will need:

440ml Guinness (one large can)
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
3/4 cup Greek Yoghurt and for those on the island local yoghurt is great
2 1/2 cups self raising flour
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
pinch of salt
1/4 teaspoon instant coffee

Heat the oven to 170 C.
Place cupcake liners into muffin pans
Whisk together the Guinness, milk, vegetable oil in a large bowl until combined. Whisk in the eggs until completely incorporated. Whisk in the sour cream or yoghurt
Sift the flour, and sugar, cocoa powder, instant coffee, baking soda, and salt. Gradually fold this mixture into the wet Guinness mixture. Pour the batter among the cake liners.
Bake for about 20 minutes.
Set the pans on a wire rack and let the cupcakes cool completely before removing from the pan.

For the frosting:
250g cream cheese, at room temperature
Pinch fine salt
1/3 cup double cream
1 pound powdered sugar
Natural unsweetened cocoa powder, for dusting

Place the cream cheese in the bowl and beat on medium speed until light and fluffy
Beat in the cream until smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula.
With the mixer on medium speed mix in the powdered sugar until it is smooth
Top each cupcake with frosting or pipe it.

 

 

Traditional Irish Stew

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St Patrick’s day has become very big on the island. When I first arrived here a couple of years ago, I remember my surprise one sunny day in March driving down the coast road during St Patrick’s weekend. I could not get over the crowds, different shades of green gathered for an evening of joviality. As the hype soared the traffic came to a standstill and I sat in my car absorbing the electric atmopshere, the anticipation, the excitement brought on by the sense of expectancy.

So is St Patrick’s big here because of the Catholic connection or is it simply an excuse for more merriment ? I somehow feel that the current Ambassador of Ireland and Mrs Hennessy promote Ireland exceptionally well and as the highlight of the Irish year approaches, I share my pieces with you about Irish food. The Ambassador and Mrs Hennessy are donating a generous hamper to my readers for liking and sharing the Embassy’s Facebook page.

And with pleasure, I have been doing a fair bit of traditional cooking to mark this day so special in the Irish Calendar.

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After all every celebration, irrelevant of culture, revolves around food and for me it is food that makes my world go round !!

I spent Saturday with a team I work so well with. They come as a package, a small team made up of Charles the Manager, Carl the chef and Adriana and Nadia, my two very best girls EVAAAA ! …a pleasure to be with.

I will go straight into Carl’s recipe for a delicious Irish stew and I will tell you more about our assignment in the next few days to come.

You will need :

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800g lamb shoulder cut into cubes
150g onions
150g leeks
150g parsnips
150g celeriac
Finely chopped parsley for garnish
2 large cans Guinness ( ours were 440ml each)
500ml stock, your preference
Rosemary
100g butter
100g flour
400g potatoes
Some oil for frying

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Brown the chopped lamb in some oil

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Take the lamb out of the pot and keep aside

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Chop the vegetables. Sauté the vegetables in the same oil.

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When they are cooking heat up the stock. Lift them out of the pan and keep aside.

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Then make a roux in the same pan where you cooked the lamb and vegetables by adding some butter and mixing in the flour.

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Add the stock little by little and then the meat, vegetables and potatoes. Bring to a boil, season and simmer for 45 minutes.

You should end up with soft potatoes soaking in a full bodied stew of vegetables and lamb that melts in your mouth.

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And her are some more recipes with this lovely team and more

The Ambassador speaks about Irish food and Ireland

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It was a pleasure to meet HE The Ambassador of Ireland . I started by asking the Ambassador about Rachel Allen as I love her style of cooking and he spoke to me about the famous Ballymaloe Cookery School in the heart of the east Cork countryside run by the Allen family which also has lovely guest accommodation.

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I told him how I made a local Marmurat Tart, Cherry Pastini and Xkunvat a few months ago and how delighted I was to receive a message from Rachel Allen saying that they looked lovely and that she has always wanted to visit the island. She also said she loves Cherry Pastini! It would of course be a pleasure for us to welcome her to our island. HE the Ambassador also spoke to me about another popular cookery school incorporating a guest house in Ashford Co Wicklow run by Catherine Fulvio.

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Xkunvat

Irish dairy products such as Kerrygold are very popular locally. I asked the Ambassador about Artisan Irish Cheeses which are varied and innovative. I am told that Sheridan Cheesemongers in Dublin have a huge selection of irish artisan cheeses and do air mail delivery. I discover that Mrs Hennessy’s favourite Irish cheese is the soft and mild Cashel Blue. Of course we all know that Irish beef and lamb is delicious, the livestock having benefited from grazing on the reknowned green pastures of Ireland and this is widely available locally from good butchers. For those with a sweet tooth look out for the handmade Butlers Irish Chocolates and products now also widely available outside of Ireland in airport duty free shops.

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The Ambassador spoke to me about a number of food festivals in Ireland such as Taste of Dublin at Iveagh Gardens and Bloom in Phoenix Park, which although primarily a wonderful outdoor garden festival, also has a significant food dimension. September is the season for the oyster harvest and this is celebrated in particular in the village of Clarinbridge in Co Galway.

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Marmurat Tart

The Ambassador also made reference to Ireland’s exquisite exports including Newbridge Silver, ranging from cutlery to jewellery to giftware and Waterford crystal glassware crafted by master cutters. Both Newbridge and Waterford have excellent visitor centres and are worth a detour if you are in the Kildare or Waterford areas.

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The Ambassador also spoke to me about Ireland. Recent events involving cooperation between the Embassy and the island include the highly successful Green Economy conference organised by Minister Leo Brincat and Education Minister Evarist Bartolo. Ireland’s Presidency of the EU was a very hectic period for the Embassy and these responsibilities continue as Ireland is in the trio of EU Presidencies and is already working closely with the government and Parliamentary Secretary Ian Borg to prepare for the island’s EU Presidency in 2017. The Ambassador was delighted that under the Irish Presidency , the EU agreed the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) from 2014-2020, which allocated €1.128 billion for The island.

The Ambassador spoke about the forthcoming meetings he has arranged between Minister Anton Refalo and the Irish cabinet Minister. There are so many areas in which Ireland is very active locally and this includes financial services, ICT and the creative arts including film and music. The Embassy is delighted to support the Department of English at UM, which plans to host a Tribute to world renowned Noble prizewinning poet Seamus Heaney who passed away recently. This will take place at the University on the evening of 6 December.

The Embassy is very pleased that the work on the restoration of the organ at the St Paul’s Anglican Cathedral is proceeding to completion given that the Irish firm Kenneth Jones was awarded this contract against stiff international competition. Music lovers on the island are impatient to hear the restored organ resound again in the Cathedral.

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And this week’s newspaper

It was such a pleasure to spend an afternoon cooking and baking with Mrs Hennessy and Ronan at the home of HE The Ambassador Of Ireland.

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For Irish food see http://www.bordbia.ie
For Festivals and cheap flights to Ireland see http://www.tourismireland.com, http://www.dealsireland.ie and http://www.ryanair.com

Mrs Hennessy bakes Irish Foccacia using Rachel Allen’s recipe !

The table is set for dinner with Waterford Crystal and Newbridge Silver cutlery at the home of HE the Ambassador Jim Hennessy and Mrs Monica Hennessy20131107-084342.jpg

Mrs Hennessy welcomed me to her home and prepared a most delicious meal. She is a person of great warmth and intelligence and a wonderful mother to three children. Her eldest daughter is studying medicine in Dublin and her elder son is away at boarding school in Ireland. Ronan who turned 16 yesterday lives at home and i fell in love with their dog Phebo.

Mrs Hennessy also made Foccacia for us using a recipe by Rachel Allen. I love Rachel’s books and her creative and informal style of cooking. Mrs Hennessy also introduced me to a new book Kitchen Hero by a young and dynamic Irish Chef Donal Skehan and I am looking forward to trying out his recipes which I will post on my website.

This is a fantastic foccacia recipe using the same dough as Irish soda bread without any yeast making it very straightforward to prepare. It is very interesting to see such a traditional Irish recipe paired with local ingredients of smoked sausage and freshly preserved olives.

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For this recipe you will need :

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Olive Oil
450 g plain flour, plus more for dusting
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp salt
400 ml buttermilk or if not available use Maltese yoghurt

And for Mrs Hennessy’s special topping which she created to make it appealing for both Irish and Mediterranean cuisines, you will need:


Local Smoked Sausage
, chopped into squares
Fresh Rosemary
Local Black Olives
Tomato, chopped into squares
Parmesan
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
dried Oregano

Preheat the oven to 230C/gas 8. Brush a baking tray generously with olive oil.

Sieve the plain flour and the bread soda into a large bowl, add the salt and 50g of grated cheese and mix with your hands.

Make a well in the centre and pour in most of the buttermilk. With your hand stiff and your fingers spread out like a claw, start mixing the flour into the buttermilk or yoghurt using a circular motion. Add the remaining buttermilk and keep mixing like this until you have soft dough. Do not knead it but work it very gently to bring it together.
Transfer to a floured surface and roll out to about 35x20cm. Sit on the oiled baking tray and brush the top with some more olive oil.
Make dimples all over with your fingertips, on the top of the dough.
Push a small piece of sausage, rosemary, olive and tomato into each dimple.
Then drizzle over the olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt, freshly ground pepper, Parmesan and dried oregano.
Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes at 200 C until the bread is nice and golden on the top and bottom.
When the focaccia is cooked but still hot, drizzle just a little more olive oil over the top and allow to cool slightly before serving.

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At home with the Hennessys …

Ronan’s Mediterranean Soda Bread adapted from Darina Allen’s recipe

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This is Ronan Hennessy. He is 16 years old today… happy birthday Ronan !

He loves living on the island and has made a lot of friends and feels very settled here. He plays a lot of sports and especially likes football. Ronan appreciates the warm weather and the island’s mild winters. He also enjoys local food and cooking and last year he attended a Jamie Oliver course.

While I visited the family at their home in the weekend, I chatted with Ronan about Irish food and recipes and we came up with the idea of using Darina Allen‘s original recipe from her book Simply Delicious and adding some ingredients which are very popular on the island.

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We all enjoyed eating the result of Ronan’s Mediterranean Irish Soda bread created by simply adding ground almonds, dried prunes and local thyme honey

You will need :

675g wholemeal flour
450g white flour
30g oatmeal
50g ground almonds
35g destoned dried prunes, chopped up
1 egg
50g butter, I use kerrygold
2 tablespoons honey, we used local thyme honey
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
750ml buttermilk, Ronan and I used yoghurt

Preheat the oven to 220C

Sieve the flours and combine the oatmeal. Rub in the butter. Add the ground almonds, salt, bicarbonate of soda, salt and mix until even. Add the dried prunes. Beat the egg and honey lightly and stir into the mixture. Finally add the buttermilk or yoghurt and being the dough together without overworking it. Butter a loaf tin and place the dough in it and immediately bake in a hot oven for 45 minutes.

Serve with butter or plain and fresh which is the way we ate it.

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