Archive for the ‘Main Courses’ Category

Pesto Sauce

Friday, January 22nd, 2010

We’re still plodding our way through January (will it ever end?) and coming to terms with 2010 so I guess the first effort at making something this year should not be too taxing.

Home made Pesto sauce is quick, easy, and far better than any of that stuff in a jar. Tastes better and probably better for you. Once you know the basics add your own details e.g. a dash of Lemon, some different herbs and so on…

One (25g) pack of fresh Basil.
Half a clove of garlic, finely chopped
100g of finely grated Parmesan
A Handful of Pine Nuts
1/2 Teaspoon dried Coriander
Olive oil

Toast the pine nuts in a pan over a gentle heat, keep moving them around so they don’t burn. Add all the ingredients into your blender with a dash of olive oil. Blend down into a paste adding adding more oil as you go along if necessary, don’t add too much oil at the start, get a feel for how much you need as you go along.

When this is done cook some pasta, drain, add a knob of butter and stir in the pesto sauce. Buon appetito.

Hearty Italian Cabbage Soup

Wednesday, October 21st, 2009
Italian Cabbage Soup

Summer (what summer?) is over and the evenings are closing in. On the plus side Heineken Cup Rugby is back and we don’t have to endlessly listen to folks moan about the Irish Summer. Winter has its advantages.

In keeping with a more robust approach to food for shorter evenings I saw Jamie Oliver do this recipe on his Jamie At Home show ages ago, I wrote it down and forgot about it until now. This prototype version doesn’t include the sage he used, has some Gubbeen Lardons instead of Pancetta and cheddar cheese instead of Fontina but the theory is mostly the same.

One head of Savoy Cabbage, washed and finely sliced
One loaf of stale crusty bread. I bought a non-sliced loaf and left it for a few days, you can then slice as thick or thin as you want
350g of grated cheddar and parmesean cheese (a two to one ratio).
100g bacon lardons (I use Gubbeen Lardons
Four or five anchovies
Two pints of Chicken stock
Extra virgin Olive oil
One knob of butter

Bring the stock to the boil, reduce to a simmer and cook the cabbage for six or seven minutes. During this time add the butter and some oil to a warm pan and gently fry the garlic being careful not to burn it. Increase the heat to medium, add in the lardons and anchovies and fry until golden. Maybe you could add some dried chilli flakes here but I have yet to try that. Drain the cabbage and put the stock to one side. Add your cooked cabbage to the bacon mixture and stir well. Remove from the heat.

Slice the bread and toast well (the bread needs to be somewhat firm or it will just turn to mush), when done rub each side with a clove of garlic for flavour. Add a layer of bread to the bottom of a casserole dish, add a layer of cabbage and a layer of cheese. Repeat the bread-cabbage-cheese layers two or three times depending on the size of the dish and finish by topping up with the stock and adding a final layer of bread. Transfer to a 180C/Gas4 over for 30-40mins.

Dining at The Cliff House Hotel Restaurant

Thursday, July 23rd, 2009
Cliff House Hotel, Ardmore

Last summer we only managed to visit the Cliff House Hotel in Ardmore for drinks and, nice and all as they were, we missed the chance to eat in the restaurant. Not so for the summer of 2009, we made our booking early and counted down the days.

A 7:30pm arrival for an 8pm booking allowed us a round of Cuba Libres at the bar. It was nicely busy for a Thursday evening with some folk enjoying bar food and some others simply having drinks. Out on the terrace an amateur Japanese fisherman was getting his photo taken by a member of staff. Smiling broadly, catch of the day in hand which he presumably caught from the pier just down the hill, he and the obliging photographer were the only occupants of the large terrace as a yet another shower came down. The broad smile unfazed by the weather or maybe his face was just frozen that way from a day outdoors during the Irish summer. Drinks arrived which we asked the waiter to transfer to our restaurant bill. No problem. This was communicated to the maître d’ who appeared on the scene towards 8pm to inform us our table was ready whenever we would like to sit.

Our table for five had a commanding view out over Ardmore Bay as the July sun was setting between the dark clouds, a beautiful backdrop. The restaurant itself is quite small so there is no such thing as a bad table but I guess those sitting at the glass frontage may have a slight advantage.

As we looked at the menu the amuse-bouche with its lemon, parsnip, pea and spring onion flavours split the diners opinion and added some trepidation as to what the main meal would be like. The menu itself was distinctly written with just the main ingredient, a single verb to describe how it is cooked and a list of ingredients that make up the rest of the dish. No prepositions. No adjectives. No adverbs. A nice touch, especially in the case of the Smoked Salmon starter.

Any early apprehension caused by the amuse-bouche was quickly remedied by the arrival of some ultra-fresh bread followed by the starters. My West Cork scallops were cooked to perfection, the taste and textures of the accompanying asparagus and carrageen transformed the dish from what was a simple dish of perfect scallops into something lively and varied. The lamb for main course was presented in a similar manner, beautifully cooked and served with an array of ingredients and flavours that left you wondering how many more tastes could come from a single dish. All five diners chose different main courses and the Lobster, Beef, Monkfish and Duck were all similarly praised. Service was attentive but relaxed with plenty of time between courses, there was always a staff member nearby to top up your wine or refresh your water. A round of superb desserts, some equally superb dessert wine (of which I am not normally a fan) and some coffees rounded off the meal. Again, the desserts were fantastic, each one being a mini-creation without being stupidly fussy.

I am not a writer so I don’t think I can do the food justice with a review like this, also remember this is purely my subjective opinion which you may or may not agree with, then again I have read professional reviews of places I have visited and often wonderd what the reviewer was on about so I guess it is just part of the territory. Even if I were a writer I think the idea would be difficult to get across so I thought it best to go for sketchy detail over flowery language. To try sum it up I think it was possibly the only time I have dined out since the 1990s and come away thinking it was actually worth the cost. The setting, the staff, the wine and obviously the food. I don’t claim to be a cook of any ability but I can cook fresh prawns in garlic butter at home. I can add crispy bacon to seasonal leaves, sprinkle it with blue cheese and not charge myself €13.50. I can pile tables high and create a noisy and hot atmosphere in my own kitchen. This was something I couldn’t even begin to think about doing. To use a bit of a cliche it was a true dining experience. It had ideas. It was different. It gave the impression the chef cared about what he was doing and was trying to make an impression rather than money. It was not soulless food thrown out at you. For once, it did not feel like you were being taken for granted.

Yassi’s Lemon Spuds

Tuesday, March 17th, 2009
Lemon Spuds

As messy-chef is proud to serve and because JD asked nicely then it’s time to post the Lemon Spuds I mentioned in the post about SuperValu doing cheap chicken (pun intended). It’s actually Yassi’s recipe, not mine, so I’ll give her the credit.

Happy St Patrick’s Day!

Ingredients: (for 2)
5 or 6 potatoes cut into wedges or cubes.
Juice of two lemons
Rind of half a lemon
2 Teaspoons of Thyme
1 Teaspoon of Oregano
6 cloves of Garlic, peeled and cut in two
1 Onion sliced.
1 glass of water

Combine all the ingredients in a dish and mix well. Sprinkle with a little olive oil and bake in the over at 180C for 90mins or until the potatoes are cooked through. Cooking time will vary depending on how think the potatoes are cut.

Pasta with Bacon and Cabbage in a Creme Fraiche sauce

Thursday, December 4th, 2008
Bacon and Cabbage

Last week’s recession-proof bacon recipe reminded me of another. This time a quick and easy pasta dish. For me, the recipe has the added bonus of using locally sourced bacon from the family run Gubbeen Farmhouse in West Cork. I love that you can find these sort of cheese makers and meat smokers on your doorstep all over Ireland, and even better that large retailers like SuperValu support them by stocking their products. I frequently mention Ryan’s SuperValu in Grange as a great place to shop and this is exactly why. Local produce that was once the domain of the markets only is now far more accessible. Great to see, I hope it lasts.

Pasta and cabbage is an unusual mix but you’d be surprised. The slightly bitter taste of the cabbage mixes well with the salty bacon and creamy pasta. Cook the cabbage for as long as you like your veg cooked, 5 minutes will still produce a good flavour so adjust accordingly for less flavour if you wish.

I have also added a few spoons of Creme Fraiche to loosen it up a little, you could go further and make a Carbonara sauce by beating two eggs into about 120g of Creme Fraiche and you’d have a Bacon and Cabbage Carbonara.

1 Head of Savoy Cabbage, chopped finely.
Fresh pasta for 2
1 pack of Rashers, Lardons or Streaky Bacon.
3 Heaped teaspoons of Creme Fraiche
Salt & Pepper
Pinch of Thyme.
Pinch of Cinnamon
1/2 clove of garlic, grated or finely chopped
Olive Oil

Fry the bacon in a little olive oil along with the garlic, thyme and a pinch of cinnamon. When golden, lower the heat, add the chopped cabbage, cover and cook slowly for five minutes or to taste. When the cabbage is cooked to your liking loosen with the creme fraiche and mix well. Cook the pasta, drain, and add the mix to it. Stir well, season, add some Parmesan and serve.

Honey, Mustard and Soy Glazed Bacon. Cabbage optional.

Tuesday, November 25th, 2008
Bacon and Cabbage

After the sheer hedonism of fresh prawns (3rd Nov) followed by self-indulgent pieces on French Wine and eating out (15th & 17th Nov) I have been flooded with complaints. “Are you aware of the recession?” wrote one reader, “Down with this sort of thing” wrote another, “An Taoiseach Brian Cowan and Minister Lenihan have displayed a stunning lack of touch and forward planning by producing a slap-dash budget that John Bruton would be proud of. Maybe the only reason they moved it forward was to get a bit more distance between it and 4th June 2009 as possible?” remarked a third. Clearly it is time to tighten the belt, ever the one to respond to the needs of the people (me, not Brian Cowan) we went to Aldi and bought a Back Bacon Joint for a recession busting €3.99. Less than the price of a pint of Guinness. How about that?

Ingredients (for 2)
1 700g Back Bacon Joint from Aldi
3 teaspoons Dijon Mustard
6 teaspoons Honey
1-2 teaspoons of Soy Sauce
Large handful of Cloves.

While bringing a large pot of water to the boil rinse your bacon in cold water, you may want to soak it for a while in the water to get rid of some of the saltiness, this is especially true if the bacon is smoked. When the pot of water is warm, but not yet boiling, add the bacon and bring to the boil. Once boiling reduce the heat way down until you have a very, very, slow simmer. Barely bubbling is good. Skim off any salty residue from the top of the water and cook for 45mins per Kg. Once done allow to cool while you mix the glaze ingredients.

When glaze is mixed and the bacon has cooled down trim the outer layer of fat from the bacon and criss-cross the top and sides with a sharp knife. Brush on the glaze and add the cloves into each intersection of the criss-cross cuts. Bake in a preheated 180C oven for 20-30mins.

A good thing about this is you can boil it up in the morning and wait to do the baking part until you come home from a hard day signing on and going to the betting shop. Presto! A recession proof dinner in 20mins. Serve with some old bits of cardboard and maybe some cabbage, only if you can afford it mind.

Beef and Guinness Casserole

Saturday, August 30th, 2008
Can of Guinness Original, plus the beer in a glass

We’re heading out for the afternoon so want something that can be put together quickly and cook on its own when we’re sitting the car queuing to get into Mahon Point. A casserole is just the thing. The following is for four so adjust accordingly. By the way, this is great for dinner parties. Gotta dash!

Ingredients (for four)
2Lbs of Stewing (Round) Steak
1tbsp sunflower oil
1 knob butter
Small Bouquet Garni
1tbsp flour
4oz bacon lardons (I use Gubbeen Lardons
1 Large onion, sliced
1 Red pepper, sliced
500ml Guinness
500ml stock
1tbsp Brown Sugar
1/2tbsp Dijon Mustard
2 or 3 Carrots.
Handful of frozen peas


Heat the oil and butter in a pan. Dice the meat and toss it in flour and seasoning, add to the pan and brown. Remove the meat and add to the casserole dish. Fry the lardons, onion and peppers for a minuite or two before adding the mustard, sugar and 100ml of Guinness. Cook for a further minute beforer adding to the casserole. Add the stock and remainder of the stout to the casserole. Add the carrots, peas and Bouquet Garni. Cook at 140F for five to six hours.

Cannelloni with Mince, Spinach and Goat’s Cheese

Sunday, August 24th, 2008

For something that is easy to make, easy to transport and can be prepared in advance if necessary try Cannelloni. This is an extremely versatile recipe, you can take the basic version and add any filling you like, this is great for kids because you can hide any amount of disliked ingredients inside the Cannelloni tubes! With children half the battle is a mental one, what they can’t see won’t hurt them, case in point here is with the spinach. Mine would never eat spinach on its own but don’t question its presence in this.

I saw Jamie Oliver do a great Broccoli and Cauliflower Cannelloni on TV recently, he reduced down the veg to almost a mush, added some seasoning, chilli and anchovies and made the topping with Creme Fraiche and Parmesan. I tried it recently and while it may not sound great on paper it really worked. Careful with the anchovies though!

250g Steak Mince (optional)
1 small jar of ragu pasta sauce
1 Pack of Cannelloni tubes or some pasta sheets if you prefer to roll your own
1 Bag of baby Spinach
1 Onion, thinly sliced
1 clove of crushed Garlic
1 tsp dried Nutmeg
1 pack of fresh Basil
1 tsp Oregano
2 tsp Paprika
175g Goats cheese
2 or 3 handfuls of grated Parmesean
1 bag of Buffalo Mozeralla

Slowly fry the onion and dried spices in a little olive oil, when done remove from the pan and set aside. Turn the heat up and fry the mince until brown. Return the onion mix and add the spinach and continue cooking until the spinach has wilted. Turn off the heat and add the goats cheese and a handful of parmesan. Mix well, season and allow to cool.
Stuff the mix into cannelloni tubes, I use four per adult or two per child. Cover the bottom of a baking dish in a layer of the ragu tomato sauce and place the stuffed Cannelloni on top. Cover with Parmesan and mozzarella and half the basil leaves. Cook in the oven for 30-40mins until golden. When done decorate with the remaining basil and serve.

BBQ Season

Tuesday, June 10th, 2008

Beef steaks over woodHaving a BBQ in Ireland is somewhat of a lottery, in fact, it’s usually pretty a frustrating excercise.

Irish BBQ events are driven more by drinking and less by weather. They are driven even less again by food. When somebody plans a barbecue more than six hours in advance they are either a hopeless optimist or inviting you to a drinking session. It’s usually the latter.

Have a BBQ early in the day when you can enjoy the weather. Not sundown when Irish temperatures fall with the sun.

Here is a recipe for home made burgers:

For 2 Burgers (adjust accordingly)

175g Steak Mince
One slice of bread (for breadcrumbs)
One egg
1/2 teaspoon coriander powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1/2 onion
Salt and pepper to taste.

Put the bread, herbs, seasoning, onion and mustard in the blender and whiz it up. Beat the egg and add to the meat. Add in your herb and breadcrumb mix. Mix well together. Make into burger patties. Tip: Use the inside of a soup ladle for this. Store in the fridge to set for 30mins.

Tip: You have to have the right mix of egg and breadcrumbs for this to set properly, not normally a big issue on a frying pan but on a BBQ you need to be careful. If they are too loose an idea may be to give the burgers a quick fry before transferring to the BBQ.

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