Rory O’Connell and I were over in the US for St Patricks Day doing our bit to spread the word about the exciting renaissance on the Irish food scene and the many good things that are happening over here. I was also promoting my latest book, Grow, Cook, Nourish and Rory was in big demand because his TV programme Eat Well, Cook Well is about to be shown on PBS sponsored by Kerrygold. I was delighted to see Irish butter selling not just in every good supermarket and grocery but actually named on many menus, being served alongside the best sourdough breads from the She Wolf Bakery in Brooklyn.
The New York food scene continues to get more and more exciting. My favourite new breakfast spot is Daily Provisions on East 19th Street between Park Avenue and Irving. It is owned by Danny Meyer of Shake Shack and Union Square Café fame and is next door to the latter. Loved the crisp gougère filled with flavoured scrambled eggs. The Green Egg version with spinach, Pepperjack cheese and fresh herbs was super delicious as was the cremini mushroom and Gruyère one. I ate there three mornings in a row to taste as many of their dishes as possible and bought two of their flaky, buttery Kouign-Amann for a picnic on the plane.
Ignacio Mattos’s, Estela has been a favourite of mine for several years but this time I tried one of his new places, Café Altro Paradiso on Spring Street between 6th Avenue and Varick Street close to Houston Hall where FarePlate NY was showcasing many Irish food and drink products. Flahavans Oatmeal were there as were Mash Direct and Irish Peat Wine, the latter was a new find for me.
I loved the small plates in Café Altro Paradiso, a modern take on Italian food. We were blown away by the shaved fennel salad with Castelvetrano green olives and Provolone, the very best and freshest fennel salad any of us had ever tasted. I was longing for the exact recipes.
Guess what, I found it on the Bon Appetit website on the internet so there you are.
We also shared a Gloucester Old Spot pork chop with lots of sweet and juicy fat, caramelised fennel and butterbeans. The free range pork came from The Flying Pigs Farm on the shores of the Battenkill River in Washington County.
They also have a stall in the Union Square Farmers Market, another ‘can’t miss’ on Saturdays in New York but there is a smaller version on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The market has fantastic produce from dedicated organic farmers and artisan producers from Upstate New York and the Hudson Valley. Cervos on Canal Street on the Lower East Side takes its inspiration from coastal Spain and Portugal serving seafood centric small plates and pasture raised meats. I don’t think they take bookings but pop in and sit at the bar and have the extra bonus of watching the bartenders mixing cocktails and the young chefs doing their magic with beautiful produce and spanking fresh fish and shellfish. Stand out dishes for me were the fried green beans with anchovy dressing, the watercress salad with fresh horseradish and yet another gorgeous fennel salad with mussels, beans and pistachios. The vanilla pudding with oranges and slivered almonds is now an iconic dessert.
Via Carota is another name for your list but most exciting of all was King on the corner of King Street owned by the Ballymaloe Cookery School alumni Clare de Boer and Jess Shadbolt whose delicious dishes are wooing New York diners. We ate there with David Tanis and Madhur Jaffrey and several other well known foodies and had one memorable dish after another. A castle of feather light carta musica drizzled with rosemary olive oil, panisse with crispy sage leaves and a huge roast halibut with rosemary and lemon, enough to feed the entire table served with white beans drizzled with the finest extra virgin olive oil from Cappezana.
Next day, the word came through that Claire de Boer had been selected as a finalist in the 2018 James Beard awards as Rising Star Chef of the Year, Rory and I couldn’t have been prouder of our student and Ignacio Mattos was also shortlisted for Best New York Chef, as was Jody Williams of I Sodi and Via Carota, two more of my favourite haunts. Alta, an all day Mexican, owned by Enrique Olvera is also making waves but even though it is being lauded to the rooftops it didn’t push my buttons as much as the others did, nonetheless I loved the simple quesadillas with tomatillo salsa. There is so much choice in New York, and so much on my list that I couldn’t make it to, so if you are over there do check out:
- Flora Bar in King County
- Imperial for Chinese soup with dumplings.
- St Anselm for steak
- Otis – new American food
- Eataly – several restaurants and superb produce, still excellent.
That list, ought to keep even the most ardent foodie blissed out and then there are all the new butcher shops, groceries and artisan bakers. I will have to save Brooklyn for another day…..
Breakfast Gougère with mushrooms and Pepper Jack Cheese
Pepper Jack is a derivative of Monterey Jack the original “American” cheese invented by Mexican Franciscan friars of Monterey, California. As the name suggests, the cheese is flavoured with sweet peppers, rosemary, habanero chillies and garlic and spicy jalapenos for an extra kick.
Daily Provisions also did a brilliant green Gougère with spinach and Pepperjack cheese scrambled egg.
150g (5oz) strong flour (Baker’s flour)
225ml (8fl oz) water
pinch of salt
100g (3 1/2 oz) butter, cut into 1cm (1/2 inch) cubes
3-5 eggs depending on their size (free range if possible)
50g (2oz) Gruyère cheese, grated and some extra for sprinkling.
For the scrambled eggs:
4 organic eggs
2 tablespoons cream or full-cream milk
a knob of butter
flaky sea salt and freshly ground pepper
50g (2oz) Pepperjack cheese, grated (or grated cheddar with a pinch of chilli flakes and ½ a teaspoon of fresh rosemary or thyme.
225g (8 oz) mushrooms, diced.
First make the choux pastry.
Preheat the oven to 220°C/425°F/regulo 7.
Next make the choux pastry. Sieve the flour with the salt on to a piece of greaseproof paper. Heat the water and butter in a saucepan until the butter is melted, then bring to a rolling boil and take from the heat. Prolonged boiling evaporates the water and changes the proportions of the dough. As soon as the pan is taken from the heat add all the flour at once and beat vigorously with a wooden spoon for a few seconds until the mixture is smooth and pulls away from the sides of the saucepan to form a ball. Put the saucepan back on to a low heat and stir for 30 seconds – 1 minute or until the mixture starts to fur the bottom of the saucepan. Cool for a few seconds.
Set aside one egg, break it and whisk it in a bowl. Add the remaining eggs into the dough, one by one with a wooden spoon, beating thoroughly after each addition. Make sure the dough comes back to the same texture each time before you add another egg. When it will no longer form a ball in the centre of the saucepan, add the beaten egg little by little, using just enough to make a mixture that is very shiny and drops rather reluctantly from the spoon in a sheet. Stir in the grated cheese. You may not need all of the reserved egg – if too much is added the dough cannot be shaped. (Choux pastry dough should just hold its shape when it’s piped).
Put the dough into a pastry bag with a 3/4 inch (2 cm) plain nozzle. Pipe 2 1/2 inch (6.5cm) rounds well apart on to a wet baking sheet. Brush each one carefully with egg wash and sprinkle with grated cheese.
Bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 200°C/400°F/regulo 6. After 25 minutes pierce the side of each with a skewer to let out the steam and continue to cook until crisp, brown and irresistible.
Gougéres are best eaten warm, but they can be baked ahead and popped into the oven to warm through before serving. Gougére or choux pastry puffs up better if used immediately but it can be stored covered in the refrigerator for up to 8 hours before baking. Rub the surface with butter while the dough is still warm so it doesn’t form a skin. We also get very good results by freezing the uncooked choux puffs and baking from frozen next day.
Heat some extra virgin olive oil in a pan. Add the mushrooms, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and cook on a low heat.
Break the eggs into a bowl, add the cream or milk and season with salt and ground black pepper. Whisk well until the whites and yolks are mixed well. Over a low heat, put a blob of butter into a cold saucepan, pour in the egg mixture and stir continuously, preferably with a flat-bottomed wooden spoon, until the eggs have scrambled into soft creamy curds. Add the mushrooms and grated pepperjack cheese. Taste and correct the seasoning.
Split the gougére and fill with scramble egg mixture, alternatively fill the soft warm scrambled egg into a piping bag with a large plain nozzle and pipe into the side of each gougére.
Serve ASAP on a square of greaseproof paper on a warm plate.
Shaved Fennel Salad with Green Olives and Provolone
from Café Altro Paradiso
The freshest and most delicious fennel salad.
2 fennel bulbs, tough outer leaves discarded, bulbs, stems and fronds separated
200g (7oz) Castelvetrano green olives
50g (2fl oz) extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons Forum Chardonnay vinegar or best white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest from an organic orange
pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper
1 organic lemon
75g (3 oz) thinly shaved aged Provolone cheese
flaky sea salt
Trim the fennel bulbs, save the fronds.
Halve fennel bulbs lengthwise. Using a mandoline, shave fennel crosswise (you can use a knife, but the slices ought to be no thicker than ⅛”).
Transfer fennel to a large bowl.
Coarsely chop fennel fronds (you want about ⅓ cup) and add to bowl.
Crush olives with a flat-bottomed cup or side of a chef’s knife and remove the stones.
Coarsely chop olives (you want big, chunky pieces). Add olives, oil, vinegar, orange zest, and red pepper to bowl; season with kosher salt and black pepper, then toss to coat.
Zest one-quarter of lemon over. Halve lemon and squeeze in juice from both halves; season with flaky salt and toss to coat. Taste and adjust with more lemon juice, if needed.
Divide olive mixture among plates. Top with cheese to just cover olives. Arrange shaved fennel over so olive mixture is covered, then season with flaky sea salt and serve immediately.
Watercress Salad with Fresh Horseradish
I love the pepperiness of wild watercress but fresh farm watercress would also be delicious here
4 handfuls of watercress
3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon Chardonnay white wine vinegar
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Wash and dry the watercress sprigs, keep cool.
Meanwhile whisk the ingredients together for the dressing. Season and dip a sprig of watercress to check the balance.
To serve: sprinkle a little dressing over the watercress and toss, you’ll need just enough to make the leaves glisten.
Pop a serving into four deep bowls. Grate some fresh horseradish over the top. Serve
Swiss Chard Horta with Mani Olive Oil Lemon and Sea Salt
1 lb Swiss chard
4 tablespoons Greek extra olive oil
2 tablespoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice
flaky sea salt and grated black pepper
Prepare and slice the chard in thin pieces and cook until just tender, drain well. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and freshly squeezed lemon juice
Season with salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper. Taste and serve.
Citrus Salad with Pistachio, Dates, Pecorino di Fossa
A gorgeous fresh tasting salad.
1 pink or ruby grapefruit
1 blood orange
1 small red onion
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
6 Medjool dates, stoned
1 teaspoon raw honey
50 g (2 oz) pistachio nuts
4 to 8 leaves of radicchio
50g (2 oz) Pecorino di Fossa (optional)
flaky sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
Slice the red onion very thinly on a mandolin, rinse under cold water and drain well.
Remove all the skin and pith from the grapefruit and the blood oranges. Cut the blood oranges into thin rounds, you’ll need 12slices. Segment the grapefruit and put into a bowl.
Add the thinly sliced red onion, toss gently and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice and honey. Season with flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, taste….
Put three rounds of blood orange on each plate, plus three segments or half segments or grapefruit depending on size, scatter with a few pieces of red onion. Stone the dates and cut into three or four crosswise pieces. Add a couple of pieces to each plate and a few radicchio leaves.
Scatter some coarsely chopped pistachio nuts over the top, add a few shavings of pecorino if using and serve ASAP
Vanilla Cream with Blood Orange and Toasted Almonds
425ml (15fl oz/scant 2 cups) natural yoghurt
225ml (8fl oz/1 cup) milk
200ml (7fl oz/scant 1 cup) cream
125g (4 1/2oz/generous 1/2 cup) castor sugar
2 vanilla pods,
2 teaspoons powdered gelatine
4-5 blood oranges or mandarins
110g (4oz) whole unskinned almonds
fresh mint leaves
Put the milk, cream and vanilla pods into a stainless steel saucepan, stir until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is warm to the touch. Remove from the heat and leave to infuse for 30 minutes.
Remove the vanilla pods, split and add the seeds to the liquid.
Put 3 tablespoons (3 American tablespoons + 3 teaspoons) of cold water into a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatine over the water, allow to ‘sponge’ for a few minutes. Put the bowl into a saucepan of simmering water until the gelatine has melted and is completely clear. Add a little of the infused milk mixture, stir well and then mix this into the rest. Whisk the yoghurt lightly until smooth and creamy, stir into the remainder of the mixture.
Pour into a cold bowl and allow to set softly for several hours, preferably overnight. Cover and refrigerate.
Toast the almonds in a moderate oven (160°C/315°F/Gas Mark 3) for 15-20 minutes stirring regularly. Cook and slice coarsely.
Remove the peel and the pith from all of the blood oranges or mandarins. Slice 2 or 3 into thin slices. Segment the remainder and mix in a bowl, cover and keep refrigerated until needed.
Spoon a couple of large tablespoons of the wobbly cream into a wide shallow bowl. Add a few segments and some slices of orange. Scatter with toasted nuts and fresh mint leaves.
There’s lots of wild garlic in the woods right now, so bring a bag or basket on your next walk and gather enough to make wild garlic soup, wild garlic pesto, wild garlic frittata……