ArchiveApril 2019

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter to you all! What extraordinary weather we’re having as we spring into Summer and back into Winter again. Just a few mornings ago there was a bitter frost and then a glorious Summer day…..The leaves of my poor little beetroot seedlings got frizzled in the garden so I hope they’ll recover…

This weather ‘roller coaster’ is kinda spooky…Normally the pale yellow stalks of sea kale are in season in April but this year we’ve been harvesting them from under the cloches for over a month, in fact the crop is almost finished. Even more extraordinary is our asparagus crop usually in season in May. This year we ate the first meal at the end of February and have had several cuttings since.

Super charged, climate change whether cyclical or man-made or a combination of both is a terrifying reality, however as a consequence, this Easter we can enjoy not just the first of the rhubarb but both Irish asparagus and the last of the seasons sea kale.

In every village shop and on the high street, the shelves are groaning with Easter eggs, ever cheaper and if the truth be known, less good chocolate in many. As we scramble for the cheaper and cheaper food, I can’t help thinking about the poor cocoa bean farmers, who are forced to take less and less for their raw materials – price takers, not price makers…

As with Christmas, the blatant excess and consumerism makes me deeply uneasy and almost feel queasy. Somehow it makes me focus even more on the true meaning of the Feast of Easter, I vividly remember a time when we all fasted throughout Lent and took on a penance of our choice. We ‘gave up’ sweets or ‘the drink’ or some other secret obsession….and then there was the satisfaction of having kept to our resolution and the joy of the first bite of an Easter egg on Easter Sunday after Mass or Church – one lovely little chocolate egg that we ate morsel by morsel often over several days.

The hens in our ‘Palais de Poulets’ have gone into overdrive, they hate the cold, wet Winter days, and only lay haphazardly but coming up to Easter they start to lay again with gay abandon so if you have a few hens and I hope I’ve managed to persuade you by now to have a little moveable chicken coup on your lawn – you can enjoy dipping those tender asparagus spears into a freshly boiled egg or try this Easter Sunday Benny….

Pam has already made the traditional Simnel Cake with a layer of marzipan in the centre and 11 balls on top to symbolise the apostles. Yes, I know there were 12 but Judas doesn’t make it to the top of the cake…

We’ll roast a shoulder of sweet succulent Easter lamb and enjoy it with the already prolific spearmint in the herb garden and then of course there will be a juicy rhubarb tart. This year I’m using the Ballymaloe cream pastry recipe, it sounds super decadent and is but it’s extraordinarily good and super easy to make so don’t balk at the ingredients – just try it!

Easter Eggs Benedict with Asparagus

This recipe is a combination of two forgotten skills: poaching eggs and making Hollandaise sauce (which also involves eggs). It is the perfect breakfast for a lazy weekend.

Serves 4

Hollandaise Sauce (see recipe)

4 – 8 organic eggs

4 slices good sourdough bread a homemade yeast bread

butter

12 stalks of asparagus

First, make the Hollandaise sauce and keep it warm. Poach the eggs. Meanwhile, toast the bread. Slather a little butter on the hot bread and lay 3 slices of cooked asparagus on the base. Prop a beautifully poached egg on top and coat generously with the Hollandaise sauce.

Hollandaise Sauce

A classic Hollandaise is based on a reduction of dry white wine, vinegar and finely chopped shallots. In the version we make at the Cookery School we simply emulsify rich butter with egg yolks by whisking and then sharpen with a little lemon juice. Unless you have a heavy-based saucepan, don’t attempt this recipe without a bain-marie. Even on the lowest heat, cooking a Hollandaise sauce in a pot that isn’t heavy-based may scramble the eggs.

Once the sauce is made, it must be kept warm, though the temperature should not go above 80ºC (180ºF), or the sauce will curdle. A thermos flask can provide a simple solution on a small scale; otherwise put the sauce into a Pyrex jug in a saucepan of hot, but not simmering, water. Hollandaise sauce cannot be reheated very successfully so it’s best to make just the quantity you need. If, however you have a little left over, use it to enrich other sauces or mashed potatoes. When it solidifies, it makes a delicious Hollandaise butter to melt over fish.

Serves 4–6

2 organic egg yolks

125g (4 1/2oz/scant 1 1/4 sticks) cold butter, cut into dice

1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

Put the egg yolks in a heavy, stainless-steel saucepan on a low heat or in a bowl over hot water. Add 2 teaspoons water and whisk thoroughly. Add the butter bit by bit, whisking all the time. As soon as one piece melts, add the next piece. The mixture will gradually thicken, but if it shows signs of becoming too thick or slightly scrambling, remove from the heat immediately and add a little cold water to cool it quickly. Do not leave the pan or stop whisking until the sauce is made. Finally add the lemon juice to taste.

If the sauce is slow to thicken it may be because you are excessively cautious and the heat is too low. Increase the heat slightly and continue to whisk until the sauce thickens to coating consistency.

It is important to remember that if you are making Hollandaise sauce in a saucepan directly over the heat, it should be possible to put your hand on the side of the saucepan at any stage. If the saucepan feels too hot for your hand, then it is also too hot for the sauce.

Another good tip if you are making Hollandaise sauce for the first time is to keep a bowl of cold water close by so you can plunge the base of the saucepan into it if becomes too hot.

To prepare and cook the asparagus:

Hold each spear of asparagus over your index finger down near the root end, it will snap at the point where it begins to get tough. Some people like to peel the asparagus but we rarely do.

To boil:

Tie similar sized bundles of asparagus in bundles with raffia.  Choose a tall saucepan.

Cook in about 2.5cm of boiling salted water (1 teaspoon salt to every 600ml) in an oval cast iron casserole. Cook for 2 or 3 minutes or until a knife tip will pierce the root end easily.  Drain and serve immediately as above.

Slow Roast Shoulder of Lamb with Wild Garlic Champ & Myrtle’s Mint Sauce

Shoulder of lamb is easily available and here the shoulder is cooked whole with just a sprinkle of sea salt and freshly cracked pepper. If the shoulder is excessively fatty, as may be the case later on in the lamb season, trim some of it off, or ask your butcher to do it for you.

Serves 8-10

1 whole shoulder of lamb on the bone, weighing 3.6kg (8lbs)

Maldon sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4.

Place the lamb shoulder in a wide roasting tin or oven tray with the skin side up. Score the skin several times to encourage the fat to run out during the cooking and to crisp up the skin. Season with salt and pepper. Place in the oven and roast for 30 minutes before turning the temperature down to 160°C/325°F/Gas Mark 3 for a further 3 1/2 hours.

To test if the lamb is cooked to a melting tenderness, pull the shank bone and it and some of the meat should come away easily from the bone.

When the lamb is cooked, remove from the oven. There will be plenty of fatty cooking juices. Strain these off the roasting tin through a sieve into a bowl. Keep the lamb warm in the oven with the temperature reduced to 100°C/200°F/Gas Mark 1/4.

When the fat has risen to the surface of the lamb cooking juices, skim off the fat carefully and thoroughly with a large spoon.

Bring the juices to a simmer and taste and correct seasoning.

To serve the lamb, a tongs or serving fork and spoon is the best way to remove the meat from the bones.  Prise largish pieces off the bones and serve on hot plates with some of the hot cooking juices.

Wild Garlic Champ

Serves 4-6

A bowl of mashed potatoes flecked with wild garlic leaves and a blob of butter melting in the centre is ‘comfort’ food at its best.

1.5kg (3lb) unpeeled ‘old’ potatoes e.g. Golden Wonders or Kerrs Pinks

Add 50-75g (2-3oz) roughly chopped wild garlic leaves

350ml (10-12fl oz) milk

50-110g (2-4oz) butter

salt and freshly ground pepper

Scrub the potatoes and boil them in their jackets.

Pour the milk into a pot and bring slowly to the boil.  Add the wild garlic leaves to the milk just as it comes to the boil. Simmer for about 3-4 minutes, turn off the heat and leave to infuse.  Peel and mash the freshly boiled potatoes and while hot, mix with the boiling milk and wild garlic, beat in the butter.  Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper.  Serve in 1 large or 6 individual bowls with a knob of butter melting in the centre.  The mash may be put aside and reheated later in a moderate oven, 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4.  Cover with parchment paper while it reheats so that it doesn’t get a skin.

Mint Sauce

Traditional mint sauce, made with tender young shoots of fresh mint, takes only minutes to make. For those who are expecting a bright green jelly, real mint sauce has a slightly dull colour and watery texture.

Makes about 175ml (6fl oz)

Serves about 6

25g (1oz) fresh mint, finely chopped

1 tablespoon sugar

110ml (4fl oz1) boiling water

25ml (1fl oz) white wine vinegar or freshly squeezed lemon juice

Put the freshly chopped mint and sugar into a sauce boat. Add the boiling water and vinegar or lemon juice. Allow to infuse for 5–10 minutes, before serving.

 

Easter Rhubarb Tart

Serves 8-12

Ballymaloe Cream Pastry

This pastry keeps in the fridge for up to 6 days.

110g (4oz) cold salted butter

110g (4oz) plain flour

150ml (5floz) cold cream


Filling

680g (1 1/2lb) red rhubarb

275-340g (10-12 oz) sugar approximately

 

Egg Wash

1 beaten free-range organic egg with a little milk, to glaze

1 x 23cm (9 inch) tin with 4cm (1 ½ inch) sides

First make the pastry. Sieve the flour into the bowl of an electric food mixer. Cut the butter into small cubes and rub into the flour using the paddle attachment until the mixture forms a coarse texture (slow speed and then a little faster).  (DO NOT over mix, if you do the mixture will form a shortbread like ball! Pour the cold cream into the coarse mixture and mix on a low speed until a smooth pastry forms. Wrap the pastry in parchment paper and chill overnight.

Always roll cream pastry straight from the fridge. If the pastry comes to room temperature it will be too soft to handle! Roll out half the pastry to about 3mm(1/2 inch) thick and line a round tin measuring 20.5 x 30.5cm (8 x 11.5 inches).

Slice the rhubarb into 1 cm rounds, fill the tart and sprinkle with the sugar.

Roll the remaining pastry, cover the rhubarb and seal the edges.  Decorate with pastry leaves. Paint with egg wash and bake in a preheated oven 180ºC/350ºF/gas mark 4 until the tart is golden and the rhubarb is soft (45 minutes to 1 hour).  When cooked, sprinkle lightly with caster sugar and serve with softly whipped cream and Barbados sugar.

Note: This tart can also be filled with Bramley apples, gooseberries and elderflower, Worcesterberries, damsons, plums, blackberry and apples, peaches and raspberries, rhubarb and strawberries as they come into season.

Easter Egg Nests

These are a lovely simple fun recipe to make with the children or grandchildren over the Easter holidays.

Makes 24

4ozs (110g) Rice krispies

6ozs (175g) Chocolate

72 mini eggs

cup cake papers or ring moulds

Put the chocolate in a pyrex bowl over a saucepan of hot water.  Bring just to the boil, turn off the heat and allow to melt in the bowl.  Stir in the rice krispies.

Spoon into cup cake cases.  Flatten a little and make a well in the centre.  Fill with three speckled chocolate mini eggs.  Allow to set. 

Where to Eat in New York….

I spent a week in New York over the St Patricks’ Day festival. Even though the primary reason was to do events and interviews to promote Ireland and my latest book, Darina Allen, Simply Delicious: The Classic Collection, (quite a mouthful!), so it was also a brilliant opportunity to check out the New York and Brooklyn food scene. I am regularly asked to share my New York list so here are some of my favourite spots and new finds.

Brooklyn, just over the bridge from Manhattan has many tempting options, one could spend ones entire week checking out different exciting spots. I love Roman’s, Marlow & Sons, The Diner, Hometown Bar B Que and I also hear good things about Ugly Baby but we chose Chez Ma Tante this time, and had a super delicious Sunday brunch, in fact so good that I and wished I’d been able to get back for dinner. We particularly loved the oysters with parsley oil and yuyu, a 3 inch high kale quiche with a bitter leaf salad, chips with aioli, stracciatella with toasted almonds, raisins, preserved lemons and marjoram with sourdough toast, but the stand out dish was their craggy meltingly rich corn pancakes with maple butter. There are pancakes and there are pancakes but these were by far the best I ever tasted, sweet, salty, crisp and buttery on the outside, soft melting and irresistibly gritty inside. Definitely one of the highlights of the week with pure Vermont maple butter melting over the top.

Chez Ma Tante, 90 Calyer Street, Brooklyn.

Tiny, Japanese panelled restaurant called Hall is another little gem in the Flatiron. The juicy Washu (not wagyu) beef burger served deliciously pink on a brioche bun was particularly delectable and only $5.99.

You also need to know about Superiority Burger, a tiny cult café on 430 East 9th Street, in the East Village. It’s a veggie burger spot and to quote the forthright chef owner Brooks Headley “occasionally vegan by accident”! In this kitchen the produce is superb, don’t miss the must-get Superiority burger. Different specialities every day including homemade gelato and sorbet. There’s very little seating and often a queue but worth it. Unquestionably one of the best restaurants in lower Manhattan and surprisingly cheap for the quality.

I Sodi and Via Carota in the West Village are two of my enduring favourites. I love the simple rustic but always edgy food that much loved chefs, Rita Sodi and Jody Williams offer. Their version of cacio e pepe, the creamy peppery Roman pasta dish, is the best in New York and here’s the spot to also enjoy  a homey plate of braised tripe. No reservations at Via Carota, it’s open till midnight so is particularly worth remembering for late night dining.

King on King’s Street is wowing New Yorkers with their seasonal Italian menu – home style cooking with a daily changing menu. The light is particularly wonderful at lunch time in the chic but cosy dining room with the bonus of beautiful art on the walls.

La Mercerie Café and Roman and William’s Guild is a café on 53 Howard Street in Soho and a luxury design store, super chic, expensive but worth checking out.

I also returned to both Café Altro Paradiso and Cervo’s, another favourite with lots of small plates, great salads and cocktails. I particularly loved the tortilla with butter beans and chorizo.

Daily Provisions on East 19th is my all-time favourite breakfast or brunch spot, certainly the very best house-cured bacon and egg sandwich in New York. They serve it in a brioche bun, both the texture and flavour are totally delicious. Don’t miss the gougère filled with mushrooms or spinach scrambled eggs. The lively little Parisian style café, Buvette, on 42 Grove Street is also top of my list. Super coffee, viennoiserie and little plates and then there’s Maialino for many good things but if you haven’t already had their cacio et pepe scrambled eggs with sourdough toast put it on your bucket list.

This time I sat at the counter and had a few little snacks, loved the grilled organic chicken hearts on rosemary skewers and the white bean puree with sage pesto, espelette pepper and carta musica. www.maialinonyc.com

La Mercerie Café, 53, Howard Street, in Soho.

There’s lots more but all of the above are favourites of mine….For upcoming courses and events at Ballymaloe Cookery School check out…

Cacio e Pepe Scrambled Eggs

Inspired by the delicious cacio e pepe scrambled eggs at Maialino.

Serves 4 

15g (1/2oz) butter

8-10 organic eggs 

50ml (2fl oz/1/4 cup) milk and cream, mixed

50g (2oz/1/2 cup) Pecorino, grated

1 tablespoon (1 1/4 American tablespoons) freshly cracked best quality black pepper 

salt 

chargrilled sourdough bread or toast 

Whisk the eggs with the milk/cream and salt.

Melt the butter in a sauté pan.  Pour in the egg and cook over a medium hear stirring continually with a straight ended wooden spoon.  As soon as it begins to scramble, add the cracked pepper and grated Pecorino.

Continue to cook for another couple of minutes until cooked to a soft loose scrabble.  Taste, adjust the seasoning.

Turn out onto warm plates, sprinkle with a little more Pecorino and serve with grilled bread or toast.

Stracciatella with Raisins, Toasted Almonds, Preserved Lemons and Marjoram

Stracciatella is soft creamy cheese made from Buffalo milk in Bergamot near Puglia. It has a similar texture to the centre of Burrata.*

Serves 6

110g (4oz) toasted almonds, coarsely and unevenly chopped

110g (4oz) plump raisins

5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

35-50g (1 1/2 – 2oz) preserved lemon, coarsely diced (see recipe)

Espelette or Aleppo pepper

225g (8oz) stracciatella

flaky sea salt

fresh annual marjoram leaves

Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Mark 6.

Blanch and peel the almonds, spread out on a baking tray and toast in the preheated oven for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown. (You can also do this in a frying pan on a medium heat.) Set aside to cool, then chop coarsely and unevenly.

Put the raisins into a little bowl, cover with boiling water and allow to plump up for 10 – 15 minutes.

Drain and dry the raisins, put into a bowl with the toasted almonds and diced preserved lemon. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, toss gently.

To serve, put a couple of tablespoons of stracciatella onto a serving plate, spoon some of the raisin, almond and preserved lemon mixture on top. Scatter with annual marjoram leaves. Sprinkle with a little pinch of Espelette or Aleppo pepper and flaky sea salt. Serve with a few pieces of sourdough toast. Repeat with the other plates.

*Note: If stracciatella is difficult to source, buy the best mozzarella you can find, coarsely chop and cover with 2-3 tablespoons of rich cream. Marinade for an hour or so.

Superiority Burger

Makes 8 – 10 patties

200g (7oz) of red quinoa

110g (4oz) onion, chopped

2 teaspoons ground toasted fennel seeds

1 teaspoon chilli powder

200g of chickpeas, rinsed and drained

1 teaspoon white wine vinegar

150g (5oz) diced carrots

25g (1oz) coarse breadcrumbs

75g (3oz) walnuts, toasted and crushed

Juice of 1 lemon

1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1 tablespoon hot chilli sauce

2 tablespoons non-modified potato starch

Extra Virgin Olive Oil for frying patties

To Serve

Toasted Buns, shredded lettuce, roasted tomatoes, pickles, Muenster cheese (if you like sauces honey, mustard, or a sauce of your choice.

Preheat the oven to 220°C (425°F)

Cook the quinoa in 300mls (10floz) of salted water until fluffy, about 45 minutes, cool and reserve.

In a separate pan, sauté the onion until translucent and browned, and season with salt and pepper, the fennel seeds and chilli powder.

Add the chickpeas and keep on the heat for 5 – 10 minutes, stirring constantly.

Deglaze the hot pan with the white wine vinegar and scrape everything stuck to the bottom of the pan back into the mix.

Using a potato masher, roughly smash the onion-chickpea mixture. Mix the chickpea mash by hand with the cooled quinoa.

Roast the carrots in the oven until dark around the edges and soft, about 25 minutes.

Add the carrots to the chickpea-quinoa mixture. Add the breadcrumbs, walnuts, lemon, parsley, and chilli sauce and season again with salt and pepper, until it tastes sharp.

Mix the potato starch with 1 tablespoon of water to create a cloudy, thick slurry. Fold the slurry into the burger mix as the binding agent.

Form the mixture into 8 to 10 patties and sear in oil in a hot frying pan or cast iron skillet until fully browned, about 3 minutes on each side.

To serve, place each patty on a toasted bun with shredded iceberg lettuce, Roasted Red Tomatoes, 2 pickle slices, Muenster cheese (if you like), and sauces such as honey mustard or of your choice.

Taken from Superiority Burger Cookbook by Brooks Headley

Thrice Cooked Chips with Aioli

 Almost everyone who ate at Chez ma Tante in Brooklyn ordered these chips, they come piled high on a plate, piping hot and crisp with a bowl of garlic aioli for dipping on the side.

Serves 4-6

4 -6 large potatoes (Golden Wonders or Kerrs Pinks)

Cook the potatoes in boiling salted water until almost fully cooked.  Peel, cut into chips to desired size.

Heat dripping or good quality oil to 160ºC/320°F. 

Cook the chips in batches until golden, drain well.

Note: (do not overload the basket, otherwise the temperature of the oil will be lowered, consequently the chips will be greasy rather than crisp. Shake the pan once or twice, to separate the chips while cooking).

To Serve

Heat the oil to 190ºC/375ºF and fry once more until crisp and a deep golden colour.  Shake the basket, drain well, toss onto kitchen paper, sprinkle with a little salt, pile high on a serving plate and serve with a bowl of aioli on the side for delicious dipping.

Variation

Dripping Chips

Cook the chips in dripping rather than oil.

Note: make sure the deep-fry has plenty of dripping. 

Aioli (Garlic Mayonnaise)

2 egg yolks, preferably free range

1-4 cloves garlic, crushed

1/4 teaspoon salt

pinch of English mustard or 1/4 teaspoon French mustard

1 dessertspoon white wine vinegar

8 fl ozs (225ml/1 cup) oil (sunflower, arachide or olive oil or a mixture) – We use 6 fl ozs (175ml/3/4 cup) arachide oil and 2 fl ozs (50ml/1/4 cup) olive oil, alternatively use 7/1

2 teaspoons of freshly chopped parsley (optional)

Serve with cold cooked meats, fowl, fish, eggs and vegetables.

Put the egg yolks into a bowl with the mustard, garlic salt and the white wine vinegar (keep the whites to make meringues). Put the oil into a measure. Take a whisk in one hand and the oil in the other and drip the oil onto the egg yolks, drop by drop whisking at the same time. Within a minute you will notice that the mixture is beginning to thicken. When this happens you can add the oil a little faster, but don’t get too cheeky or it will suddenly curdle because the egg yolks can only absorb the oil at a certain pace. Add the chopped parsley. Taste and add a little more seasoning and vinegar if necessary.

If the aioli curdles it will suddenly become quite thin, and if left sitting the oil will start to float to the top of the sauce. If this happens you can quite easily rectify the situation by putting another egg yolk or 1-2 tablespoons  of boiling water into a clean bowl, then whisk in the curdled aioli, a half teaspoon at a time until it emulsifies again.

A Food Lovers Weekend in Paris

The Paris restaurant scene has sprung back into life. That may sound like a bizarre observation considering its reputation as the gastronomic capital of the world. However, throughout the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s Paris sat haughtily on its laurels, ignoring the food revolution that was taking place from Sydney to LA. The Michelin starred establishments continued to hike up their prices serving predictable food with lots of foams, gels and ‘skid marks’ on the plates, plus liquid pearls, powders, swirls and fronds unaware or un-phased by the change in millennial eating habits and taste.

Then Daniel Rose opened Spring in 2006 and Greg Marchand followed in 2009 with Frenchie on Rue-de-Nel –  a breath of fresh air, simple fresh contemporary food made with superb ingredients. The media and customers flocked eager for change and the revolution was born and so it continues.

As criticism grows about the astronomical prices and poor value for money offered by many of the Michelin starred restaurants, a whole plethora of tiny restaurants, bistros, cafés and coffee bars have sprung up all over the city, serving small plates and sharing platters of simple delicious food. I squashed into as many as possible over a busy weekend in Paris recently – most don’t take reservations so you’ll need to be prepared to queue but all of the following are worth the wait.

Here are my top picks:

La Buvette on Rue Saint-Maur, not to be confused with another of my favourites, Buvette in Manhattan. This tiny restaurant chalks up the menus on a mirror on the wall – close to the tiny open kitchen. I loved the huge meltingly tender white haricot beans with cedre zest and extra virgin olive oil and a few flakes of sea salt. This was followed by a tiny burrata rolled in mandarin dust and a super coarse terrine with pickled pears and some sourdough bread. I still had room for the pickled egg with black sesame and bonita flakes. I love this kind of food, edgy and delicious but possible to recreate at home.

Sometimes you only need to be famous for just one thing….In the case of tiny Comme à Libonne on Rue du Roi de Sicile in Le Marais it’s their Portuguese custard tart. There will be a queue all along the sidewalk. They bake just 24 tarts at a time…they are snapped up like the proverbial hotcakes. If you are lucky there may be space along a tiny shelf in the shop to enjoy with a cup of espresso with your little treat.

Fed up and disheartened by ‘no shows’, many of the chicest places no longer take bookings. There was an hour and a half wait for Clamato, a seafood restaurant on Rue de Charonne. So we had a little plate of some saucisson and a couple of glasses of natural wine  from their superb list at Septime, a tiny wine bar across the road.

Eventually we gave up on Clamato and had dinner at Semilla, a much talked about and now super busy restaurant serving modern French food.

Veal sweetbreads with salsify confit was the stand out dish rather better than some of the more bizarre combinations e.g. sea urchins with coffee mousse.

Watch Parisians shop, there are numerous markets around Paris, check out the nearest Farmers Markets to where you are staying by searching for Farmers Markets on Google Maps. On Sunday, the organic market on Rue Raspail is worth an amble although, quality didn’t seem as good as hitherto.

There are many coffee bars serving superb brews. Try Télescope on 5 Rue Villedo but it’s closed on Sunday. Farine & O on Rue du Faubourg Saint-Antoin  and Ten Belles on Rue de la Grange aux Belles are also worth a detour. As is Boot Café, a hole in the wall on Rue du Pont aux Choux.

Mokonuts, on Rue Saint-Bernard is a definite favourite, can’t wait to go back for breakfast, brunch or dinner. It’s a tiny café run by Moko Hirayama and Omar Koreitem. Loved the labneh on toast with olives and the flatbread with sumac and melted scarmosa on top. They also make what is perhaps the best chocolate chip and oatmeal cookie I have ever eaten, plus superb coffee.

E Dehillerin on Rue Coquillière is like Hamleys or Smyths Toys for cook and chefs. Every time I visit, I feel like a kid in a candy shop surrounded by tempting cookware and gadgets in this ‘no frills’ store which has remained pretty much the same  since it first opened in 1820, narrow aisles, wooden shelves and  metal  canisters full of superb quality utensils. Just around the corner on Rue Montmartre, you’ll find M.O.R.A., another iconic cook and bakeware store, that also sells a huge range of cake decorations and baubles for pastry chefs  Both shops are geared towards culinary professionals but also welcome keen cooks.

Paris is full of exciting patisserie; swing by Yann Couvreur Pâtisserie, Courou in the Marais and La Pâtisserie du Meurice par Cédric Grolet on Rue de Castiglione

L’As du Fallafel on rue des Roses is justly famous for its falafel.

Sunday brunch was at Racines, a bistro in the charming Passage des Panoramas Arcade

A whole series of little plates of real food from the chalk board, the least ‘cheffie’ but elegantly earthy comfort food. Loved his winter tomato salad with extra virgin olive oil or the pan grilled scallops on mashed potato and dill. No swirls, pearls, powder or fronds here, just real food and a suberb natural wine list.

Breizh Café on Rue Vieille du Temple, is another good spot for breakfast or lunch….

A long weekend is nowhere long enough and I haven’t even mentioned chocolatiers, cheese shops or cocktail bars. Daily flights to Paris from Cork, Dublin, Shannon….

 

 

Yemeni Style Falafel 

Sarit and Itamar shared this recipe with us at a recent visit to Ballymaloe Cookery School. They are returning this summer, see hot tips below for details…

Itamar is a quarter Yemeni on his grandfather’s side.  This falafel is a tribute to that heritage, and it is great – the traditional Yemeni combo of coriander, cardamom and garlic makes it super-vibrant in colour and flavour.

Makes 20 approximately (25g/1oz weight)

1/2 onion (approx. 60g/2 1/4oz)

1 clove of garlic (peeled)

250g (9oz) soaked chickpeas (125g (4 1/2oz) dried)

1 green chilli, seeds and all

3 springs of parsley, picked

1 small bunch of coriander (about 15-20g/1/2 – 3/4oz), leaves and top part of stems only

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon freshly ground cardamom pods

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons garam flour (use plain if needs be)

1 teaspoon baking powder

 

To make the falafel

If using a meat grinder.

Use the coarse grinder blade if you have one we find it gives the best texture.  Cut the onion and garlic into dice so that you can easily feed them through the grinder.  Mince the chickpeas, onions, garlic, chilli and herbs into a bowl.

Add all the spices, salt, flour and baking powder and mix well to a very thick mass.

 

If using a food processor.

Start with the onion, garlic, chilli and herbs and pulse them to chop roughly, then add the chickpeas and blitz until everything becomes a thick paste with small, even-sized bits.   You may need to scrape the sides down and blitz for another pulse or two to make sure that everything is evenly chopped, but do not overwork.  The best way to check whether it is done enough is to scoop up a small amount and squeeze it together in your palm – it should hold its shape.  If it falls apart, return it to the processor for another spin.  Tip the mixture into a large bowl, add the spices, salt, flour and baking powder and mix until all is combined well.

Preheat the deep fry 170C/325F.

Test the oil temperature by placing a small piece of bread or falafel mix in the hot oil – as soon as it starts to bubble up and float, you are ready to go.

You can shape the falafel mix in a few different ways:

Use damp hands and make little balls or torpedo shapes or you can simply drop in spoonfuls of the mixture for free-form falafel.  You want to be making them about the size of a walnut, no bigger, so that they cook through and crisp up at the same time.

Carefully place the falafel in the oil – don’t overcrowd the pan and fry until the exterior is browned and crisped (about 2-3 minutes).  Remove to a plate covered with a paper towel to absorb the excess oil and repeat the process until you have fried them all.

Serve immediately with tahini (see recipe).

Tahini 

The quality of your tahini depends hugely on the type of tahini paste you use.

We use Al-Yaman from Lebanon which is delicious, but if you are lucky enough to find any of the Palestinian varieties, especially the Prince and Dove brands, you are in for a treat.  As a rule, you are looking for something from Lebanon, Palestine or Turkey.

We make our tahini in a food processor, as it gives a smooth, airy, mousse-like texture, but you can achieve good results with a bowl, a spoon and some wrist action.

Makes about 240g (8 3/4oz)

 

125g (4 1/2oz) tahini paste

1 clove of garlic, peeled and minced

a pinch of salt, plus more to taste

juice of 1 lemon, plus more to taste

about 120ml (4 1/3fl oz/generous 1/2 cup) water

Place the tahini, minced garlic, salt and lemon juice in a bowl or food processor, add half the water and mix. It will go thick and pasty but don’t fear – just continue adding water while mixing until it loosens up to a creamy texture. Don’t be tempted to add too much water as the mixture will go runny, but if this happens, you can always bring it back with a little extra tahini paste. Taste and adjust salt and lemon to suit your taste buds.

Note

You can keep tahini in an airtight container in the fridge for 2-3 days, but it will thicken and the flavour may need adjusting with a little more salt and/or lemon.  As a result we think it’s best to make it and eat it the same day – fresh is best.

Recipe courtesy of ‘Honey & Co – Food from the Middle-East’.

 

Scallops with Dill Mash and Beurre Blanc

A delectable combination, scallops are really good at the moment.

 

Serves 4

10 scallops

Clarified butter

900g (2 lbs) unpeeled potatoes, preferably Golden Wonders or Kerr’s Pinks

300ml (10fl oz) creamy milk approx.

25-50g (1-2oz) butter or extra virgin olive oil

4 – 6 tablespoons freshly chopped dill

Beurre Blanc see recipe below.

Garnish

Sprigs of fresh dill and dill flowers.

Slice the scallops in half and keep the corals aside, cover and chill.

First make the dill mash. Scrub the potatoes well. Put them into a saucepan of cold water, add a good pinch of salt and bring to the boil. When the potatoes are about half cooked, 15 minutes approx. for ‘old’ potatoes, strain off two-thirds of the water, replace the lid on the saucepan, put on to a gentle heat and allow the potatoes to steam until they are fully cooked. Peel immediately by just pulling off the skins, so you have as little waste as possible, mash while hot (see below). (If you have a large quantity, put the potatoes into the bowl of a food mixer and beat with the spade).

While the potatoes are being peeled, bring about 300ml (10fl oz/1 1/4 cups) of milk to the boil. Add enough boiling creamy milk into the hot mashed potato to mix to a soft light consistency suitable for piping, add the freshly chopped dill and then beat in the butter or olive oil, the amount depending on how rich you like your potatoes. Taste and season with salt and freshly ground pepper.  Keep hot. Next make the beurre blanc.

Note: If the potatoes are not peeled and mashed while hot and if the boiling milk is not added immediately, the potato will be lumpy and gluey.

To Serve:

Heat a non stick pan. Sprinkle the scallops with a little flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Cook the scallops for 1 minute on each side, until they are barely coloured.

Spoon a dollop of hot dill mash on each plate. Scatter 5 – 6 pieces of scallop and 2 pieces of coral on top of the mash.

Drizzle some Beurre Blanc over the top and around the edge, add a few sprigs of dill and dill flowers if you have them and serve.

Beurre Blanc Sauce

Makes about 250ml (8fl oz)

Beurre blanc is super rich, however a little served with freshly poached fish is exquisite.

3 tablespoons dry white wine

3 tablespoons white wine vinegar

1 tablespoon finely chopped shallots

pinch of ground white pepper

1 tablespoon cream

175g (6oz) unsalted butter, diced

salt, freshly ground pepper

freshly squeezed lemon juice

 

Put the first four ingredients into a heavy stainless steel saucepan over a medium heat. Bring to the boil and reduce down to about a tablespoon.  Add 1 generous tablespoon of cream and reduce again until the cream begins to thicken. Whisk in the chilled butter a couple of piece at a time, keeping the sauce just warm enough to absorb the butter.  Season with salt, taste and add a little lemon juice if necessary.  Strain through a fine sieve.  Transfer to a pyrex bowl over a saucepan of hot but not boiling water. Keep warm until needed.

Useful Tip

Keep warm in a flask until needed. Beurre Blanc can curdle if the pan gets too hot.  If this should happen put 1-2 tablespoons of cream into a clean saucepan, reduce to about half, then vigorously whisk in the curdled mixture, little by little.  Serve as quickly as possible.  The flavour will be a little ‘softer’ so a little more lemon juice may be needed to sharpen it up and cut the richness.

 

Labneh on Sourdough Toast with Za’atar and Olives

This is my interpretation of the delicious Labneh Toast at Mokonuts in Paris.

Serves 2

 

2 slices of sourdough bread

1 large clove of garlic

4 tablespoons of Labneh (dripped natural yoghurt) (see recipe below)

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons za’atar

4 black Kalamata olives, halved and stoned

Pinch of Aleppo pepper

1 generous teaspoon chopped pistachio nuts

 

First mix the za’atar, with the oil, chopped pistachio nuts, a pinch of Aleppo pepper and a little flaky sea salt.

Toast or pan grill the sourdough bread, rub with a cut clove of garlic. Spread with a generous layer of labneh, drizzle with the za’atar oil, add 4 black olive halves. Serve immediately.

 

Labneh (dripped natural yoghurt)

Use whole-milk yogurt for a creamier cheese – this can be made from cow’s, sheep’s or goat’s milk. You can also use commercial yogurt.

 

Makes 500g (18oz) labneh approx.

 

1kg (2 1/4lb) natural yoghurt

 

To make the labneh, line a strainer with a double thickness of sterilised cheesecloth. Place it over a bowl. Pour in the yogurt. Tie the four corners of the cheesecloth to make a loose bundle and suspend the bag of yogurt over a bowl.

Leave it in a cool place to drip into the bowl for 8 hours. Jersey milk yogurt is thicker and needs only 2–3 hours to drip. Then remove the cheesecloth and put the labneh in a bowl. Refrigerate overnight, and store until needed in a covered glass or plastic container. The liquid whey that has drained off can be fed to pigs or hens or used for fermented dishes and in whey lemonade.

 

Portuguese Custard Tarts

Makes 24

 

1 large egg

2 egg yolks

115g golden caster sugar

2 tablespoons cornflour

400ml whole milk

2 teaspoon vanilla extract

900g (2lb) puff pastry

 

Lightly grease 2 x 12 muffin tins.

Preheat the oven to 230°C/450°F/Gas Mark 8.

 

Put the egg, yolk, sugar and cornflour in a saucepan and whisk, gradually add the milk and whisk until smooth.

Cook on a medium heat and stirring constantly with a whisk until the mixture thickens and comes to the boil, continue to cook for 2 minutes.  Remove the saucepan from the heat, stir in the vanilla extract.

Transfer to a Pyrex bowl, allow to cool.  Cover with cling film to prevent a skin from forming – prick here and there to allow steam to escape.

Roll the chilled puff pastry into a 3mm (1/8 inch) thick sheet, stamp out 7.5cm (3 inch) discs.  Press into the muffin tins.

Spoon a generous dessertspoon of the cool custard into each pastry case. Bake in the preheated oven for 16-20 minutes or golden on top.  Allow to cool in the tins for 5 minutes then remove to a wire rack.  Eat warm or at room temperature.

 

Mokonuts’ Cookies

Dorie Greenspan managed to discover the secret of these cookies and shared it in the New York Times so here you go.

Makes approx. 20 cookies

Once the dough is made and formed into balls, it should be refrigerated overnight before baking. Fresh from the oven, the cookies are fragile; they firm as they cool. They’ll keep for about three days at room temperature or they can be frozen for up to two months; in either case, they should be wrapped well.

130g medium rye flour

85 all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

¾ teaspoon sea salt (grind in a pestle)

½ teaspoon baking soda

140g butter

100g sugar

100g light brown sugar

1 large egg

50g poppy seeds

80g moist, plump dried cranberries (plump in hot water)

110g bittersweet chocolate, chopped into chunks (62%)

flaky sea salt

 

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4.

 

Mix the rye flour, plain white flour, baking powder, fine sea salt and baking soda in a bowl.

Cream the soft butter and both sugars together in a food mixer.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the egg, and beat well for a minute or two. Reduce the speed, add the dry ingredients, then mix until all the dry ingredients are incorporated.  Then add the poppy seeds, cranberries and chocolate.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Divide the dough into 15 – 20 pieces, roll each piece into a ball (40g approx.) and arrange on the baking sheet leaving space for expansion, about 5cm (2 inch).

Note: Cover, and refrigerate the dough for an hour or better still overnight or for up to 3 days. (If you’d like, you can wrap the balls airtight and freeze them for up to 1 month. Defrost them overnight in the fridge before baking.)

Sprinkle each cookie with a little flaky salt.

Bake for 10 minutes, pull the baking sheet from the oven and, using a metal spatula, a pancake turner or the bottom of a glass, tap each cookie lightly. Let the cookies rest on the sheet for 3 minutes, then carefully transfer them to a wire rack. Repeat with the remaining dough, always using cold dough and a cool baking sheet.

Serve after the cookies have cooled for about 10 minutes, or wait until they reach room temperature.

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