The Wine and Food of Ely Through the Seasons


Just before Christmas a book slipped onto the shelves here in Ireland without a particularly big fanfare – ‘the wine and food of ely through the seasons’

The team behind the hugely successful ely restaurants came together to produce what in fact turns out to be two books in one – a terrific cookbook and a must have wine reference.

Husband-and-wife team, Erik and Michelle Robson, had their ‘Eureka!’ moment while they were nibbling tapas on holiday in Seville. They were so taken with the experience of being able to enjoy a huge selection of great wines by the glass that they brought the formula home, to a Georgian townhouse on Ely Place. It proved to be a winning one. Ely winebar, which opened in 1999, now offers over 100 wines by the glass, as well as delicious, home cooked food, with all of the organic beef, pork and lamb, sourced from the family farm in the Burren, Co. Clare.
I love the pasture to plate approach, ely live this philosophy not just talk the talk. Four members of the Robson family are involved in the business which has continued to expand.  Eric’s sister, Sarah is head chef at ely and Michelle’s brother Eamon Moyles is also involved.

Within a short time after it opened, ely winebar set the standard across Ireland and beyond for its innovative approach to serving wine. The combination of an exciting and extensive wine list and beautifully simple food has earned ely a wide and loyal customer base and the respect of wine writers and connoisseurs across the land. The Robsons have since added two new licensed venues – ely chq at the IFSC and ely hq on Hanover Quay.

Now, the team at ely has pooled their expertise in this new cookbook. the wine and food of ely through the seasons has over 70 recipes, and better still Erik and Michelle have chosen two great wines suggestions to accompany each dish.

They touch on subjects such as choosing, storing and serving wine, how to know if a wine is corked, and advice on the best glasses to use and a comprehensive reference of grape varieties. There are little notes throughout the recipes which give handy hints.  Illustrated step-by-steps take a closer look at some trickier techniques, such as opening an oyster, or boning a chicken. There’s also some great stuff on creating a cheeseboard, serving punchy coffee and mixing cocktails – things that I have to say the people at ely know a thing or two about.

Recipes are grouped according to the season – an integral part of the ely experience – and range from winter comfort food such as chargrilled venison with red cabbage, prunes and roasted fig, to a summery cucumber and crab salad, or a dish of tender organic spring lamb. Desserts such as ely mess, espresso crème brûlée and Jamaican coffee pecan brownies will tempt even the most cautious and reluctant cook. Ely fans of which there are many will be thrilled to find the recipes for the ely fishcakes and burgers – the stuff of legend.

Here are some recipes to whet your appetite.
The preparation for this chunky, yet elegant broth may seem lengthy, but soaking beans requires no real effort. The end result is more than worth the time taken.

Sweet Potato Soup with poached oysters
What you need
4 medium/large sweet potatoes
2 cloves garlic
2 medium shallots
olive oil
1 bouquet garni
300ml white wine
1 litre vegetable stock
8 medium oysters
250ml cream
rock salt, black pepper
rocket essence for serving (see recipe Fool Proof Food)


What to do
Peel and roughly chop the sweet potatoes, garlic and shallots. Heat 1-2 tbsp olive oil in a pot.
Add the vegetables and sauté with the bouquet garni for 10 minutes, without colouring, until al dente.
Add the white wine. Reduce by half and then add the vegetable stock. Bring to the boil then turn down the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, shuck the oysters. Take out the bouquet garni and remove the soup from the heat. Blitz the soup in a blender and add the cream. Season to taste.
Place 2 oysters in each soup bowl. Pour over the hot soup. The heat of the soup will slightly poach the oysters. Serve immediately, drizzled with the rocket essence, if liked. The quantities here are quite generous, so if you have any leftover soup, it will keep nicely in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Serves 4
A wine that works
A glass of Fino sherry is a very civilised accompaniment to most soups. Try the Campo de Guía by Gutierrez Colosia; it has a slightly fruitier style than most Finos.

Also try

Lustau Papirusa Manzanilla, which is a very dry, lighter Fino.

Slow-Cooked Lamb Shanks

A great alternative to the Sunday roast. The more time given to its cooking, the greater the flavours and texture.

In red wine and juniper berries, with parsnip mash

What you need

6 lamb shanks, each about 400g
rock salt and black pepper
3 tbsp olive oil
2 onions, peeled and roughly chopped
2 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
1 whole head garlic, halved
1 celery stick, quartered
1 bottle full-bodied red wine
12 lightly crushed juniper berries
sprig each of thyme and rosemary bay leaves

For the parsnip mash
4-5 medium parsnips
2 large baking potatoes
2 sprigs of thyme
knob of butter
milk, to cover (about 150ml)

What to do
Preheat the oven to 160°C.
Season the lamb with salt and pepper. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan and brown the lamb shanks. In a heavy ovenproof dish with high sides, fry the onions, carrots, garlic and celery until brown and caramelised. Add the lamb shanks. Pour the bottle of wine over the lamb. Add the juniper berries, herbs and a little salt and pepper. Cover and place in the oven. Cook for 2 ½-3 hours.
Towards the end of the cooking time, prepare the mash. Peel the parsnips and quarter them lengthways. Remove the core of the parsnip (the hard spine that runs through the centre of the parsnip). Peel the potatoes and cut to a similar size to your parsnip quarters. Place the potatoes and parsnips in a large pot with the thyme sprigs, cover with water and bring to the boil. Cook until tender and discard the thyme. Drain and mash with the butter. Warm the milk and add to the mash to create a creamy consistency. Season to taste. When the meat is soft and just falling off the bone, gently lift the shanks out and leave to one side. Strain the liquid, reserving the vegetables, and skim off the fat. Reduce the strained and skimmed gravy to about 300ml by gently simmering in the cooking dish. Taste and adjust the seasoning. To serve, put the mash in individual serving bowls and place a lamb shank on top, spooning over some of the gravy or jus. Place the reserved vegetables in a bowl and serve on the side.

A note for the cook
If you prefer, you can serve the lamb shanks with a selection of steamed vegetables, depending on what’s around. Toss them in butter and chopped herbs.

A wine that works
If you have been decadent enough to use a nice bottle of wine with this recipe, then that’s what you could drink. Either way, a northern Rhône would do very well for both tasks, especially the ‘No Wine’s Land’ from Domaine du Coulet. This is a medium-bodied Syrah that gets its name from the fact that the vineyard lies (unclaimed) between the appellations of Cornas and Saint Joseph.
There’s dark fruit on the nose and palate, blackcurrants, black olives and a touch of vanilla. The wine has freshness to it due to the high minerality of the soil.

Also try
Its big brother, the ‘Brise Cailloux’ from Cornas.
Ely Organic Burger

From the very beginning, the organic burger has been our best-selling dish. We use top-quality organic beef, not too lean or overly minced, so our burgers stay juicy and keep their flavour.

What you need

800g coarsely ground organic beef
1-2 shallots, diced
few sprigs parsley, chopped
1 large free-range egg, beaten
100g fresh white breadcrumbs
rock salt, black pepper
sunflower or olive oil for frying
200g ripe brie (at room temperature)
sliced into 4 salad leaves, to serve

Serves 4
What to do
In a large bowl, combine the beef, shallot, parsley, egg and breadcrumbs. Mix well and season. Divide the mixture into 4 and shape into burgers. Place the burgers on a lined tray and refrigerate until you are ready to cook them.
Preheat the oven to 200ºC. Heat a pan with a metal handle and seal the burgers on each side until brown. You could also seal them on a hot griddle. Transfer to the oven and cook for 20-25 minutes. If you don’t have a pan with a metal handle, preheat a roasting tray in the oven instead. Before serving, place a slice of brie on top of each burger and garnish with some salad.

A note for the cook
If you prefer smaller portions, simply divide the mix into 8 and reduce the cooking time. When you’re sealing the burgers, make sure the pan is hot to prevent sticking.
Feel free to add some horseradish sauce or your favourite relish to the pre-cooked mix. Other toppings could be caramelised onions with melted cheddar, a fried egg and bacon, foie gras or whole roast tomatoes. At ely, we serve the burger on a bed of homemade tomato relish and dress the plate with rocket essence

A wine that works
Crozes-Hermitage from Domaine Yann Chave, one of the northern Rhône’s up-and-coming producers, is a gorgeously big, smoky Syrah with youthful tannins and dry, dark fruit. Perfect for the simplicity of a great burger.

Also try

Hewitson ‘Ned & Henry’, a shiraz/mourvèdre blend from the Barossa Valley.


Fish Pie

The ultimate in wholesome comfort food.

What you need

1 medium onion, sliced
100-150g butter
50g flour
½ bottle unoaked dry white wine
550ml cream
250g salmon, filleted, skinned, fine-boned and chopped
250g cod, filleted, skinned, fine-boned and chopped
250g crab meat, fresh or frozen
3 large floury potatoes, such as roosters, peeled and chopped
rock salt, black pepper
50g dill, chopped
50g parsley, chopped
1 egg yolk

Serves 4-6
What to do
Start by sweating the onion in half the butter in a pan. When the onion is translucent, slowly add the flour to make a roux. Over a very low heat, stir in the white wine and 500ml of the cream. Add the fish and crab meat and cook for 12-15 minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 180°C. Cook the potatoes in plenty of boiling, salted water until soft. Drain and place back over a low heat covered with a dry, clean cloth for a few minutes. This will help to dry them out a little. Mash the potato with the remaining cream and butter, to taste. Season well with the salt and pepper and set aside. Add the dill and parsley to the pan with the fish and crab meat, and season with salt and pepper. Turn the seafood mix into a large, ovenproof dish and cover with the mash. Brush the top of the potato with the egg yolk.
Bake for 7-10 minutes, or until the potato is golden brown on top.

A note for the cook
This is a great dish to cook for a casual weekend dinner or Sunday lunch. Best of all, most of the work can be done the night before.
Just work through the recipe right up to the point where you assemble the pie, then cover and put in the refrigerator overnight. All you have to do the next day is bake the pie for 15-20 minutes at 180°C.

A wine that works
The creaminess of this dish needs a wine with the ability to cut through the sauce while lifting the mild fish flavours. ‘José Pariente’ by Bodegas dos Victorias in Rueda, Spain, is made from the verdejo grape. It’s almost sauvignon-blanc-like in its freshness, with layers of fruit flavours and a ripe, citrus acidity.

Also try
Broglia ‘Tenuta la Meirana’ Gavi de Gavi.
Banana Pancakes
with brandy cream

A great dessert for when you just want to make use of storecupboard ingredients.
You can leave out the brandy cream if you are serving children.
What to do
Ideally, make the pancake batter the day before, or at least 1 hour in advance.
Sieve the flour into a bowl. In another bowl, whisk the eggs, milk and water together. Make a well in the centre of the flour, then slowly stir the egg mixture into the flour. Cover and keep in the fridge overnight. Heat a non-stick pan. Add a small cube of butter and allow to melt. Ladle in enough pancake mixture to make a circle that holds its shape. Turn as it cooks. Place each cooked pancake in a stack on a warmed plate and cover with a humid tea towel. Keep warm.
Meanwhile, peel the bananas and cut in half lengthways. Melt a knob of butter in a frying pan and cook the bananas until slightly golden. Remove the bananas, carefully pour the brandy into the pan to deglaze and add the cream. Slowly reduce by half.
Place 2 pieces of banana on top of each serving. Drizzle with the brandy cream.

A note for the cook
These are American-style pancakes – they use a thick batter which holds its shape. Making the batter in advance allows the gluten content of the flour to relax resulting in lighter, pancakes. DANGER! Brandy is highly flammable. Be very careful when you’re deglazing the pan, especially if
using gas. Reduce the flame first.

A wine that works
Lustau ‘East India’ has a lovely, creamy, caramelised nose; a sweet palate, with hints of dates and a touch of bitter chocolate. This blend of the palomino and pedro ximénez grapes gives a full, complex and long finish. A real treat that works well with the sweetened banana and the heady brandy.

Also try
A ten-year-old Tawny port such as Warre’s ‘Otima’.

What you need
200g plain flour
2 eggs
100ml milk
1½ tbsp water
100g butter, plus extra for frying pancakes
4 bananas
3-4 tbsp brandy
100ml cream

Serves 4
Warm Dark Chocolate Fondants
A melt-in-the-mouth dessert for chocoholics everywhere.

What you need
125g dark chocolate, 70% cocoa solids, chopped
125g unsalted butter, plus a little extra for greasing the moulds
3 medium organic eggs
3 medium organic egg yolks
65g caster sugar
100g plain flour
1 tbsp cocoa powder, plus a little extra for the moulds

To serve
vanilla ice-cream or
mango sorbet
thin dessert biscuits (optional)

Serves 6

What to do
Put the chocolate and the butter in a heatproof bowl and stand over a pan of simmering water. Leave to melt, stirring until smooth. In another bowl, whisk the eggs, egg yolks and sugar together.
Add the melted chocolate mixture and fold in the flour and cocoa until evenly combined. Lightly grease 6 x 7.5cm ramekins with butter and dust with cocoa. Stand them on a baking tray and pour in the chocolate mixture until about three-quarters full. Place in the fridge for 1 hour to set. Preheat the oven to 200°C. Place the ramekins into the oven for 10 minutes. The fondant should be spongy on the top but still soft in the middle – you can check by gently inserting a small knife and the chocolate mixture should run free. Serve the fondants warm with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream or mango sorbet and a thin dessert biscuit.

A note for the cook
At ely, we like to serve this dessert with a refreshing mango coulis.

A wine that works

Banyuls, a ‘vin doux naturel’, or ‘naturally sweet wine’, from the southern limit of Roussillon in France, is one of the few wines that go well with chocolate. Made predominantly from grenache, the heady aromas of macerated red fruits give way to mocha flavours and a dry, powerful finish. The concentration achieved by the grenache, and the heat and time works well with the chocolate, especially dark chocolate.

Also try

A red Zinfandel, from California.

What you need
125g dark chocolate, 70% cocoa solids, chopped
125g unsalted butter, plus a little extra for greasing the moulds
3 medium organic eggs
3 medium organic egg yolks
65g caster sugar
100g plain flour
1 tbsp cocoa powder, plus a little extra for the moulds

To serve
vanilla ice-cream or
mango sorbet
thin dessert biscuits (optional)

Serves 6

Fool Proof Food

Rocket Essence

Use this lovely vibrant green essence to dress many dishes. It’s simple, tastes delicious.

What you need
110g rocket
150ml extra virgin olive oil

What to do

Blanch the rocket in a pan of boiling water for a few seconds, then immediately refresh in iced water. Add the olive oil and blitz in a blender for 10 seconds. Season to taste.

Hot Tip
Euro-toques Young Chef of the Year 2009
Entries for the Baileys Euro-toques Young Chef of the Year 2009 are now open. The competition, now in its 19th year, gives young chefs the opportunity to come into contact with the top professional chefs in the country and to compete against their peers for the prestigious title. The winner this year will receive a stage in the 2 Michelin Starred Pied a Terre restaurant in London under the tutelage of renowned Australian chef Shane Osborn, who will also be one the judges in this year’s competition. Closing date for entries is Wed 18 February. For information and Entry form contact Ruth Hegarty on 01-6779995 or

O’Connell’s Celebrate a Decade in Business

Restaurants all over the country are offering appetising deals to tempt us to cheer up and eat out. O’Connell’s restaurant – recently re-located to Ballsbridge Court Hotel (formerly The Berkely Court) on Landsdown Road, Dublin 4 – is celebrating a decade in business by offering a ten year anniversary dinner all year. Three courses for €25.00 – seven starters, seven main courses and seven of their irresistible ‘little pots of desserts’ to choose from. I’ve heard rave reviews – to book – 01 6655940
The Food Store – Mayo
For a range of quality local food including locally sourced fresh meat and a selection of ready-cooked food, pop into the The Food Store on the Ballyhaunis Road, Claremorris, Co Mayo. Telephone: 094 62091
Thrifty Tip

Buy a steamer, the multi-tiered bamboo steamer from ethnic shops looks great and are very inexpensive. You can cook several things simultaneously on different levels, which saves both time and energ

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Darina Allen


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