Archive for September, 2008

O’Sullivans Bar Douglas, Cork

Saturday, September 27th, 2008
Munster Rugby

We normally take a trip with the kids on Saturday morning to O’Sullivan’s (otherwise known as John O’s or Sully’s) in Douglas. A corner-stone of the village since 1955 it’s been recently refurbished and is now a bright and airy 21st Century pub/cafe, it even has free wifi for the web nerds. Since I’ve started bringing the kids we call it a cafe because Heather was telling the folks at school her mum and dad took her to the pub on Saturday morning, shortly after I was sure I saw the social services lady parked outside my house.

Coffee and scones usually do the trick but the fry is top notch and covers the three most annoying things about the Irish Breakfast: 1) They serve proper sausages not the cheap and nasty jumbo ones 2) They put the beans in a ramakin so they don’t go all over your plate 3) The toast comes in a toast rack and not a dreaded basket that makes it go soggy. Why don’t more places have toast racks?

Staff are always friendly and it’s a decent place to watch Munster Rugby. Top marks to Sully’s.

http://www.osullivansbar.ie

Tom Yum Gai (Spicy Chicken Soup)

Wednesday, September 24th, 2008
Pic of Tom Yam Gui

You see this on a lot of Thai menus, as with every other dish served in Asian restaurants the recipe differs from house to house so there’s no set way of doing this. I’ve been cooking it as a starter or snack for a while now but eventually figured that if you add noodles to the mix it makes a great meal in a bowl. In fact, for that extra-authentic Pot Noodle experience distill the soup into a plastic pint glass and add an extra 100g of salt.

This is easy to make, Lime Leaves and Lemongrass can a bit of a drag to source but are essential to the taste. The odd time you can find Lemongrass with the pre-packed fresh herbs in the supermarket. If you’re in Cork, Mr. Bells in English Market or any place they supply like the Superfruit shop in Douglas (Tesco) Shopping Center will carry fresh Lemongrass and either dried or fresh Lime Leaves. Lots of supermarkets will also do Lemongrass paste or preserved in a jar.

Ingredients (for 2):
2 chicken breasts
1 litre chicken stock
4 Spring Onions, sliced.
1 Clove of Garlic, crushed or grated.
1 or 2 lime leaves.
1 Stick of Lemongrass, thinly sliced.
1 Red Chili, sliced into thin rounds. If you grate or finely chop the chili it overpowers everything else.
1 Tsp Fish Sauce
1 Tsp Sugar
Juice 1 lime
Handful chopped coriander
Optional: 1/2 portion of dried noodles.

Method:
Bring stock to the boil in a pot, add the chicken breasts and simmer for 10mins until cooked. Remove, allow to cool slightly and and shred. Add spring onions, garlic, lemongrass, chili and lime leaves to the stock and simmer for 10mins. Add fish sauce, sugar and return the chicken, cook slowly for three or four minutes. Stir in lime juice and seasoning to taste. Optional: Add the noodles and simmer for three or four minutes, I like to crush the up before adding them as it makes it a bit easier to eat. Purely personal. Add a handful of coriander and serve.

Butternut Squash Muffins with Frosty Lemon Topping

Thursday, September 18th, 2008
Beasley pictured with Tom Hanks

Jamie Oliver has been living in my Sky+ box for the last few months, not the fat-lipped Cockney Cherub himself but his “Jamie At Home” TV show. It must have been the start of the summer when I saw him make Butternut Squash muffins and thought “Hey, they might be nice! The kids will love them”. I saved the show and forgot about it as we all enjoyed frolicking in the sunshine and staying up late.

Autumn came and the poor fella remained in Sky+ limbo so it was time to make a call: Bake or Delete. Thing is I don’t bake. Never have. I fry, flame, flambe, grill, char, roast, sear, slice and lots of other manly things but I don’t bake. I don’t have the tools. I don’t know what the difference between Bread Soda, Baking Soda and Baking Powder are. I asked my kids and they didn’t know either (how will they ever get men?). I didn’t ask my wife because she’s bad enough with the mess I create after making soup. If, while pushing an imaginary crumb around the table with my finger, I casually mooted that I may be about to bake and I may get the kids involved, it would be over. All those loving years would be done faster than you can say Dyson.

Last Saturday the opportunity presented itself. Mum was heading to Dublin. The girls and I dropped her to the airport and once we were sure the plane had physically left the ground off we scooted to Woodies to buy a weighing scales. Reassured by the assistant that none of them come with WiFi we secured an expensive Digital Scales and returned home to consult Google. We needed to know if Bread Soda was the same as Baking Soda (it is). Of course if the scales had Wifi we’d have known this on the spot, this is a missed opportunity in the world of scales making. After gathering the rest of our ingredients we were off. We were baking.

The girls were mad excited and immediately fought over who got what spoon, the fact the spoons were identical in no way detracted from the ferocity of the engagement. The conflict was quickly resolved when I managed to drop the box of eggs on the floor. Hilarity ensued. Eggs on the floor and an irate dad united the girls in amusement and after a cooling off period we were all back on an even keel with the added bonus of the girls having learned yet another swear word. By the time the mixing was finished the place looked like the scene from Turner and Hooch where the dog is left in the house when Tom Hanks is at work. Anyway, we did it! It actually turned out very well. The muffins are pretty easy to make and the frosty lemon topping is really unusual and nice.

This is Jamie’s recipe, it’s not mine, I haven’t made any changes so I’ll just give you the link below for you to try. I recommend you do. Dame Edna once said never eat food prepared by somebody who can’t keep his tongue in his mouth but she’s wrong. His stuff always comes up trumps when I try it and this is no exception. I love the way he tries to make things just a bit better e.g. Olive Oil instead of butter, Butternut squash in the cakes, unrefined sugar instead of processed. Only comment I thought was they benefited from day or so to firm up, I found them a bit soft to begin with but maybe I made them wrong. I don’t bake.

Next weekend we’re off the buy a Magi-Mix. I hope it has WiFi.

Butternut Squash Muffins with Frosty Topping

Fried Halloumi Salad with Sun Dried Tomatoes, Pine Nuts and Balsamic Dressing

Thursday, September 11th, 2008
Salad

Before autumn truly takes hold (did it ever let go in Ireland?) here is a tasty salad that you can mess around with and get to your own liking. Again, it’s quick and easy for a starter or side or lunch or the dog if things get bad. Enjoy.

Fried Halloumi with Sun Dried Tomatoes and Pine Nuts

Ingredients:
1 pack of Halloumi cheese
Handful of Sun Dried Tomatoes
Handful of Pine Nuts
Salad leaves

For the dressing:
1 part Balsamic vinegar e.g. 10ml
3 parts Olive Oil e.h. 30ml
1/2 clove Garlic, grated or crushed.

Method:
Toast the pine nuts in a pan over a low heat for a few mins, be careful not to burn them. For dressing combine balsamic vinegar, garlic and seasoning, gradually add oil while stirring. You can adjust garlic and vinegar quantity to taste or try adding some Dijon mustard and so on. Cube the cheese and fry in olive oil until golden, keep the heat high to drive off moisture from the cheese. Dress and arrange salad with tomatoes and pine nuts. You’ll never have cholesterol problems again.

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Hardys Arrival Cabernet Sauvignon

Monday, September 8th, 2008
Hardys Wine

I don’t like to do long wine reviews, primarily because I can’t! Although I drink a fair bit of wine at home my vocabulary is pretty limited: nice; not nice; drinkable; dry; fruity; feck. I need to take a night class. In any event there are some excellent Irish wine blogs out there (sourgrapes.ie, Bubble Bros) so I’ll leave them do the real talking while I give a quick paragraph.

Like most other New World Cab Sauvs Hardy’s “Arrival” Cabernet Sauvignon (2006) is a rich and heavy wine. It’s heavy on the tannins and had a pretty sharp, alcohol, after taste. Volume is 13.5% which is typical of such a wine but there are far better sub €10 New World reds out there. As a true measure of it’s greatness we ended up by using it to make a red wine sauce for last night’s roast beef. Fin.

Smoked Salmon

Thursday, September 4th, 2008
smoked salmon — “‘FISH &...

I have been eating Smoked Salmon on a regular basis for many years, then, about this time last year I saw an article on salmon farming methods and it put me right off. I am now of the impression that farmed salmon is pretty much the equivalent of battery hens and no longer buy it. To further strengthen my opinion I saw a TV programme where Jean Christophe Novelli showed a farmed salmon next to a wild one, the farmed version had no dorsal fin! The reason for this is the farmed salmon are reared in cages and, as such, are unable to swim like they do in the wild. Because of this they never develop properly. Also, during the growth process framed salmon are fed artificial dye because they don’t eat the natural plankton that gives wild salmon their nice pink colour. All in all pretty unimpressive stuff.

I only ever buy Wild Salmon now, which does have a much deeper flavour but is more expensive. For more information and what your fish should be, and for some excellent products, take a look at http://www.ummera.com/questions.html or just run a Google search on farmed salmon.

Here’s a quick and easy smoked salmon salad I make at home.

Smoked Salmon on Brown Bread with Rocket, Pickled Chili and Tomato Salad.

Ingredients

100g of Wild Smoked Salmon [Marks & Spencer do a nice one or www.ummera.com]
Three slices of buttered Brown Soda Bread [Paul Rankin’s Stone Ground Wheaten is good for this]
3 or 4 pickled peppers [I use the Old El Paso pickled Jalapeno peppers you can get in any supermarket]
3 or 4 cherry tomatoes
Juice of half a lemon
Ground black pepper
Handful of Rocket Leaves.
Spoon of coleslaw (optional)

Method

Butter the bread and divide the salmon between the three slices, place a pepper (or any kind of pickle will do) on top and a few drops of lemon and a pinch of ground black pepper. Arrange the rocket and cherry tomatoes around on the plate along with the coleslaw if you have it. Very quick and easy.

Banna Thai and The Boiled White Rice Index

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2008
White Rice

An American client went to Banna Thai in Ballincollig last night as was absolutly astounded to be charged €2.75 for a portion of white rice to go with his meal. He figured it was close to US$10 for the two portions he and his wife had. I know this is common practice among Thai and Indian restraunts in Ireland but when you charge €11.50 to €12.75 a main course an extra €2.75 surcharge for boiled, er I mean steamed, rice is a bit much. A green curry and steamed rice costs €15.50. Not cheap.

Post your prices via comments and I’ll make an index of them, like I plan to do with the seafood chowder.