Just last week one of the most keenly anticipated cookbooks of the year landed on my desk and it was certainly worth waiting for – it’s The Brother Hubbard Cookbook – however I have to declare a special interest in the author. Garrett Fitzgerald is a past student and he has an exciting story to tell.
In 2012, in the depths of the recession he and his partner James had a ‘rush of blood’ to the head and decided to open a little restaurant on Dublin’s Capel Street, literally on a ‘wing and a prayer’. Well the fledgling café called Brother Hubbard more or less took off from day one and is now much more with a team dedicated to bringing the best of breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner and baking to its evergrowing community of customers. Sister Sadie opened in September 2014 to start her own culinary journey.
The customers eagerly embraced the fresh, exciting new flavours of Garrett and his partner James’ interpretation of Middle Eastern and Southern Mediterranean food.
The adventure began several years earlier in the heady Celtic Tiger era, Garrett and James enjoyed their jobs but often found themselves, day-dreaming about doing something else. It takes mega courage to chuck in a secure job but on a bleak January morning in 2007 after a few sunny weeks in Argentina and a baking course which helped Garrett to recognise his real passion, they decided to take the plunge.
By then, having turned 30, they were acutely aware that ‘life isn’t a dress rehearsal’. An article in The Guardian about the psychology of regret really resonated.
It spelled out loud and clear, a fundamental message – “better to have a go even if it fails rather than live one’s life pondering, What if”…
It was a eureka moment. Within a few weeks Garrett had reserved a place on the Ballymaloe Cookery School Certificate course and together “myself and James jumped off the cliff, (so to speak), packed in our jobs and hit out for adventure.
After the full-on Ballymaloe Cookery School experience they headed off for two years to see the world. After a year of wandering like nomads around the markets and stalls all across India, Nepal and South East Asia, they arrived in Melbourne, famous for its casual dining and coffee scene. Garrett found himself working with two amazing women in two amazing small owner owned businesses, a café and a little artisan bakery. Both businesses were committed to quality, creativity and doing their best for their customers. What an important experience that turned out to be.
At the end of Garrett’s time in Melbourne, he had firmly made up his mind that Middle Eastern cuisine was the type of food he loved and felt particularly passionate, about vivid, fresh, vegetarian-friendly, healthy food.
Four months, to discover the authentic flavours and histories of the food in Lebanon, Turkey, Syria, Jordan, Israel and Palestine followed then back to find a devastated Ireland quite different to the one they had left during the Celtic Tiger era. What to do?
They looked around, people were still eating out but certainly seeking a more value driven experience, altogether now more careful with the €5 notes than they had been with their €50’s a few years earlier – diners wanted casual, affordable, delicious fresh tasting eclectic healthy food. The rest is history.
Can’t imagine where Garrett and James found time to write a cookbook but I’m so glad he did because here at last we now find the recipes for the favourite food from the much loved Brother Hubbard restaurant, the dishes that they get asked for over and over again, like Turkish Eggs Menemen, Moroccan Harira Soup, Middle Eastern Slaw, Harissa baked aubergine with roasted cashews and apriocts and tons more.
The book is written in a style that will inspire even the most reluctant cook to have fun and create a dish you’ll be super proud of and want to share with family and friends.
Here are just a few to whet your appetite but you may find yourself buying several copies to give to friends for Christmas – not all that far away now…
Urban Co-Op, Limerick
Limerick’s first co-operative community grocery store has moved to new premises at Tait House, Roxboro Road Limerick. The Urban Co-Op supports sustainable, cooperative and social business principles. The Co-Op proudly supports local producers and currently stocks a range of organic fruit, vegetables, breads and tasty treats….
http://www.theurbanco-op.ie or Tel: 061 314707
Date for the Diary
Free from Ireland Intolerances Allergies & Wellbeing in Dublin October 15th & 16th and in Cork November 5th & 6th. Family oriented event with information and advice for those suffering with intolerances and allergies. Seminars, cookery demonstrations, talks, advice……
‘Saturday Pizza Masterclass’
Imagine,the perfect pizza. Its base is made from a delicious sourdough with a thin bottom and a crunchy crust. Its topping is homemade tomato sauce, the freshest buffalo mozzarella and a few leaves of basil or perhaps wild mushrooms, chorizo and homemade goat’s cheese, shrimps from Ballycotton……
In this three-hour masterclass, Philip Dennhardt of Saturday Pizzas will take you through all the basics (choosing ingredients, making dough, getting the best results from your oven and so forth) before explaining how to create both traditional and contemporary pizzas. We’re talking everything from the classics (Margherita, Pepperoni and Calzone) to modern gourmet masterpieces – think shrimp with watercress and dill-mayo and homemade cottage cheese with mint, caramelized red onion and salsa verde!
As Philip will, in essence, be cooking pizzas for the duration of the class, there will be lots to sample www.cookingisfun.ie
Date for your Diary
Wild and Slow, November 12th & 13th 2016. The 5th Wild and Slow at Brooklodge, Macreddin Village in Co. Wicklow promises to be action packed with walks, talks, foraging, hunting, wild food dinner…watch the website for full details. www.wildandslow.ie
Apple Day at Borough Market
If you are in London on the weekend of 23rd October, go along to Borough Market to celebrate the huge varieties of apple, take part in the apple peeling competition and try your hand at apple pressing.
Brother Hubbard’s Yogurt, Tahini, Honey and Nuts
Ingredients per person
3–4 heaped tablespoons thick Greek yogurt
½ banana per person, chopped (or equivalent of other fruit, such as apple or melon)
½ tablespoon tahini
½ tablespoon honey
small handful of nuts, toasted and chopped
½ handful pomegranate seeds (optional)
a few fresh mint leaves
Place generous spoonfuls of the yogurt into an individual wide-bottomed bowl and add the chopped banana. Drizzle the tahini over the yogurt in a circular motion. Follow by drizzling over the honey, loosely tracing the path of the tahini. To finish, scatter the chopped nuts over the dish, then the pomegranate
seeds, if using. Finally, tear some fresh mint over it and serve.
Turkish Eggs Menemen
A vibrant, beautiful dish, this is ideal as a brunch or supper.
Serves 2 hungry people
Tomato and Roast Red Pepper Sauce (see recipe)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 slices of good bread
knob of butter, softened
2 small handfuls of baby spinach leaves
6–8 Kalamata olives, pitted and sliced (optional)
Onion Chilli Herb Mix
½ small or medium red onion
1 medium red chilli
20g fresh mint
20g fresh parsley
10g fresh dill or coriander
50g feta cheese
100g plain yogurt
First make the tomato and roast red pepper sauce, see recipe. Then remove the
sauce from the heat and set aside – it’s best added to the dish when it’s
quite warm but not boiling. While the sauce is simmering away, cut the red onion into the finest dice you can manage – ideally about the size of the head of a match! Cut the top off the chilli, remove the seeds with a teaspoon and then
dice the chilli very finely too, similar in size to the onion. Finely chop the stems of the herbs (except the mint), then give the leafy bits a medium chop. Mix the onion, chilli and herbs together and set aside.
Make the feta yogurt by crumbling the feta into the yogurt and adding
some black pepper (you don’t need salt because the feta is already
Now you’re ready for the final steps. Crack the eggs into a bowl with the
cream. Whisk well and add a little salt and pepper. Heat a frying pan over a medium-high heat. When it’s good and hot, add a dash of olive oil. You should be warming your plates and toasting your bread at this point too. Pour in the eggs and let them sit for about 20 seconds before stirring to scramble them. This dish is to be cooked very quickly, so keep scrambling. When they are nearly fully cooked but the egg is still glistening, add the tomato and pepper sauce, mixing well, and scramble further for another 20–30 seconds.
To serve, spread the toast with some butter or a drizzle of olive oil and put on each warm plate with a small handful of baby spinach leaves on top. Divide the scrambled eggs between each plate. Top with a dessertspoon of the feta yogurt, scatter over the sliced olives, if using, and finish with a few spoons of the onion chilli herb mix.
Brother Hubbard’s Beef Koftas
As with a lot of our dishes, these are full of herbs and flavour – please don’t be shy with the fresh herbs, as they make such a meaningful difference. The sauce packs a welcome punch to make these a wonderful lunch, dinner or supper. This recipe bulks up incredibly well if cooking for a larger group. It will take a bit more effort to hand-roll more koftas, but honestly, it’s worth it. In fact, this is one of my go-to recipes for entertaining at larger gatherings.
750g lean minced beef (rib mince is good)
150g feta cheese, crumbled
50g fresh parsley, chopped
50g fresh mint, chopped
5 garlic cloves, finely minced or crushed (2 tablespoons)
2 teaspoons dried mint
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon allspice
Tomato and Roast Red Pepper Sauce
2 red peppers, diced into 1cm cubes
1 medium red onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced or chopped
50ml apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoon ground star anise or fennel seeds
2 x 400g tins of chopped tomatoes
2 tablespoon tomato purée
pinch of caster sugar
salt and freshly ground black pepper
To make the sauce, heat a little oil in a medium-sized pot. Sweat the
red peppers, red onion and garlic together, covered, until softened for 10–15 minutes on a low-medium heat should do it. You want them to be well softened without falling apart too much. Next add the cider vinegar and the ground star anise or fennel seeds (if you can’t get ground star anise, use two whole ones) and simmer for about 15 minutes, keeping an eye on it to make sure the dish doesn’t dry out. Add the chopped tomatoes, water, tomato purée, sugar and seasoning. Reduce to a quite thick sauce, like pasta sauce, stirring regularly to
prevent it from sticking. When the sauce has reached your desired consistency, remove from the heat and taste, adjusting the sauce with sugar, vinegar or seasoning as you see fit – you want a really fragrant sauce that’s full of flavour. If you’ve used whole star anise, take them out at this stage. Put to one side.
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 6.
To make the koftas, put all the kofta ingredients in a large bowl, reserving a quarter of the feta and a quarter of each of the fresh herbs to use later (don’t add salt, as the feta will bring saltiness to it all). Mix well with your hands until everything comes together as one, but don’t over mix or it will turn into a fine paste! When well combined, test the mix by frying a little bit in a pan with a little oil. Leave to cool for a moment and taste. This step is critical: decide if you need to add more pepper, garlic or spices if you
feel it’s needed. You can also add a little salt if you feel it’s necessary.
Adjust and repeat the tasting step if necessary until it’s just right. Using a kitchen scale, weigh out small 50g balls of the mixture – or just do one like this to get an approximate idea of how much you need, then shape the others to that size (about the size of a walnut in its shell). Form the balls into slightly oval shapes and place on a baking tray. If you’re not cooking these right away, they can be covered with cling film and refrigerated for cooking later.
To cook the koftas, we char them on a preheated griddle pan (at maximum heat) for 1–2 minutes on each side, making sure they are well browned on a few sides. A frying pan would be fine here, though you won’t get the char marks. This step sears the meat and adds additional flavour from caramelising (browning) the outside of the kofta, but see the tips and tricks for advice if you want to skip this step.
Transfer to a baking dish and pour the warm sauce over. Place in the oven and cook for 20 minutes. If you have a thermometer probe, they should hit 71°C – if you’ve minced the meat yourself and are confident as to the quality, you may prefer them to be a little rarer. Bring the koftas to the table in the baking dish, with the remaining feta and herbs sprinkled over, for serving alongside any accompaniments (the wedding couscous, flatbread and perhaps some salad).
Otherwise, plate up the individual portions, sprinkle with the feta and herbs and
serve with the accompaniments.
Brother Hubbard’s Flourless Citrus and Coconut Cake
This is based on a recipe in one of my favourite books, The New Book of Middle Eastern Food by Claudia Roden. This is an amazing but simple cake, lovely, soft and moist. It also just so happens to be gluten-free and dairy-free (though if you make the ganache topping, make sure your white chocolate is gluten-free). We make these as individual cupcakes.
Makes 12 individual cakes
360g caster sugar
130g coconut flour (or desiccated coconut blitzed to a fine powder)
100g fine polenta
85g ground almonds
50g desiccated coconut
5 eggs, whisked well
2 teaspoons orange blossom water (optional)
1 teaspoon baking powder (gluten-free if you want the recipe to be gluten-free)
Sunflower oil, for greasing
Greek yogurt or crème fraîche, to serve
White Chocolate and Coconut Ganache
200ml coconut milk
200g white chocolate, roughly chopped
toasted coconut flakes, to decorate
First boil the oranges and lemon. Put the fruit in a pot, cover with water and pop a lid on. Bring to the boil and simmer for 40–60 minutes, checking occasionally to make sure they remain just covered with water. Once they are completely soft, drain off the water and leave to cool.
Once they are cool enough to handle, cut the tips off each piece of fruit, then cut in half and remove the seeds. They should be a soft, pulpy mess inside. Place the fruit pulp and skins in a bowl and purée in a food processor or using a stick blender. You should have a fairly smooth purée. If doing by hand, put into a saucepan and go hell for leather with a potato masher – don’t worry if it isn’t a perfectly smooth purée, as a little chunkiness is no harm.
Next preheat your oven to 180°C/350F/gas mark 6.
Put the purée in a big mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. Add all of the other ingredients and mix until everything is fully combined.
If using a silicone cupcake mould, brush each individual cup with a little sunflower oil. If using a metal tin, do the same or use paper cases. Spoon the batter into each cup until it’s just shy of the top by about 5mm. Pop in the oven, then immediately turn it down to 170°C and bake for 40 minutes. The cupcakes are done when you stick a clean skewer, cocktail stick or knife in the centre and it comes out clean, without any batter stuck to it. If they’re not yet at that point, pop them back into the oven and check again after 5–8 minutes. Leave to cool.
While the cakes are baking, you can make the white chocolate and coconut ganache. Heat the coconut milk in a small saucepan. When it’s near the boiling point, remove the pan from the heat and add the roughly chopped white chocolate. Stir well until the chocolate is fully melted, then leave to cool.
Spoon the cooled ganache over the top of the cooled cupcakes, decorate with toasted coconut flakes and serve with a little Greek yogurt or crème fraîche.
Stored at room temperature in an airtight container or tin, these will remain absolutely perfect for 4–5 days. In fact, the flavours come out even better after a day.