Monday, 23 February 2015

Can you live without dining?

We may live without poetry, music and art;
We may live without conscience, and live without heart;
We may live without friends; we may live without books;
But civilised man cannot live without cooks.

He may live without books, - what is knowledge but grieving?
He may live without hope, -  what is hope but deceiving?
He may live without love, - what is passion but pining?
But where is the man who can live without dining?

Edward Robert Bulwer 
Earl of Lytton 1860

Monday, 9 February 2015

A taste of Asia


If you like me are wishing you were in sunny Thailand rather than cold Dublin right now well you have three options! Jump on a plane and head East; head down to your local food market and get some tasty eastern ingredients to fuse together. The third option of course is to get to a suitable Thai restaurant but them you miss out on all the cooking fun and the opportunity to experiment and create just the taste your looking for. I adore a good Tom Kha Gai soup with noodles and have travelled far and wide to acquire the best dish. Sadly many restaurants fail to deliver to standard. It is a relatively easy dish to produce but there are a few ingredients you need to ensure the best outcome. Here is my version of this famous soup using Japanese Udon noodles so that it becomes a main dish. 

Ingredients:
1 can coconut milk
3 kafir lime leaves
1 galanga
1 garlic 
500 g fresh prawns peeled (use the shells for stock)
1 fresh chili
150 g fresh button mushrooms
1 fresh lime
1 fresh lemon grass
Bunch of spring onions
1 Charlotte onion
1 red pepper
1 litre water
1 pack of udon noodles (Japanese noodles)
1 pack fresh coriander



Method

Peel the prawns removing the intestines and saving the shells. Chop up the galanga, lemon grass, lime leaves , garlic and Charlotte onion. Toss the peeled prawns with crushed garlic and fry quickly in a pan for one minute. Set aside in a bowl. In same pan, fry the shells with the chopped vegetables adding the chilli for five minutes. All the water. Let it boil for ten minutes. Strain the stock and reduce to taste. Add the coconut and season to taste with salt, pepper and lime juice. Boil up the udon noodles and heat two bowls. Add the non stock vegetables (spring onions, red pepper, mushrooms) to the soup. Strain the noodles once cooked. Place the noodles in the warm bowls, add the prawns and pour the soup over. Sprinkle with fresh coriander and serve immediately.

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Du Danemark à l’Espagne, à chacun son Noël



Noël d’ici et d’ailleurs. Au village de Kerrouet, le Danois Poul Jensen applique à la lettre les traditions de son pays. Décorations, ambiance ou encore repas, tout l’esprit de Noël est là.

Il fait nuit noire dans le village de Kerrouet. À travers les fenêtres de la longère de Poul Jensen et Niall O’Reilly, de petites flammes éclairent le salon. Les bougies sont posées un peu partout dans la pièce. Il ne manque que le Père Noël. Chez Poul et Niall, la tradition de Noël est respectée à la lettre. Et c’est un sacré challenge ! Poul est Danois et là-bas, on ne plaisante pas avec la tradition de Noël.« C’est important, mais pas pour son aspect religieux », raconte Poul Jansen. Tout commence le 23 décembre,« on décore le sapin le soir quand les enfants sont partis se coucher. » Pas question pour eux de voir le sapin avant le jour J.« Dans le temps, on mettait même le sapin dans une pièce différente de la maison. » Justement, parlons-en de la maison ! Celle de Poul et Niall est remplie de bougies.« Oui, le Danemark est le plus grand utilisateur de bougies au monde. Elles sont allumées matin, midi et soir pendant la période des fêtes. » Et on les comprend… À cette période de l’année, il fait nuit à 15 h au Danemark.

Les quatre dimanches avant Noël 

Au centre de la table, quatre bougies symbolisent les quatre dimanches avant Noël.« Nous les allumons au fur et à mesure. » Comme un calendrier de l’Avent fait maison. C’est aussi l’une des particularités des Danois.« Nous faisons beaucoup de décorations nous-même. » Pommes de pin, bougies, houx, branchages… Tout sert à parfaire le décor. Côté repas, c’est plus complexe.« À la maison, nous pratiquons plus la tradition danoise, exceptée pour le repas du 25 décembre. Niall qui est Irlandais tient à son repas. » Dommage, pour la traditionnelle amande cachée dans la crème fouettée du dessert (Lire ci-dessous).« Toutes les amandes sont coupées en deux sauf une et celui qui la trouve a un cadeau supplémentaire. » Une fois le repas du réveillon terminé, on passe aux choses sérieuses : les cadeaux.« Le sapin est déplacé au milieu de la pièce pour qu’on puisse danser et chanter autour. Les cadeaux sont distribués à ce moment-là. S’il y en a trop, une personne est chargée de les donner. » Au Danemark, on aime faire durer la magie de Noël. Le 25 décembre, un autre grand repas est organisé avec« le reste de la famille et tous ceux qui ne pouvaient pas venir le soir. » Le 26 décembre ? Rebelote !« Comme le 24 et 25, c’est un jour férié qui permet d’organiser un autre grand repas avec les amis. » Pour le Jour de l’An, on met les petits plats dans les grands.« C’est très formel et important. » Mais après tous ces grands repas,« Celui-ci est plus léger », rigole Poul Jensen. Huîtres, cabillaud… Tout le monde se met à la diète.

Mélanie BÉCOGNÉE. 



Article issu de l'édition de Loudéac-Rostrenen du Wednesday 24 December 2014

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Monday, 17 November 2014

Carrot ginger and coconut soup


 

With the evenings drawing in and winter fast approaching, I thought I would introduce you to one of my favourite soups. I was first introduced to this soup over a year ago by a lady called Dorothy who runs the Cobalt Cafe in Great George St in Dublin, Ireland. It was the glowing log fire which had attracted me into the cafe and the unusual antiques within which are for sale. But I was struck by the powerful combination of tastes and textures this soup offers. After a year of persistent questioning and interrogation, Dorothy finally gave in and let me have her secret recipe. It was well worth the wait as I am sure you will agree once you have tasted it yourself.

You will need:

3 tbsp of coconut oil
3 onions peeled and chopped
4 small potatoes peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic peeled and grated
800g carrots peeled and grated
4 tbsp of peeled and grated fresh ginger
Chicken/vegetable stock (1000ml)
400ml tin of coconut milk
200g cooked chick peas
Fresh juice from 1 lemon
Sea salt and black pepper to taste
1 tbsp of curry powder (mild)
1 tbsp of ground cumin
Fresh chives or parsley  (optional)

Method

Heat the coconut oil in a large saucepan and once hot add the onions and garlic. Mix and allow to soften up then add the curry powder and the cumin. Keep mixing and then add the grated carrots and ginger. Add the stock and keep mixing. Add the finely chopped potatoes and allow to cook for around five minutes. Add the chick peas and the coconut and mix well for three minutes. Remove from heat and liquidise the soup using a hand blender. Dress with fresh chives or parsley as you wish and serve.


Wednesday, 22 October 2014

A Ligurian Olive Grove

We may be in Nice but being so close to the Italian border demands a visit to the world famous olive groves of Liguria high up in the Mediterranean Valley of Argentina! The ROI Estate of Franco Boeri is only a two hour spectacular drive along the sky high autostrada through numerous tunnels as you pass along the Cöte d'Azur and the play places of the very rich and famous including Monte-Carlo, Monaco and Cap-Martine. As is often typical with borders, the tempo changes as soon as you cross into Italy and we see less expensive villas and more commercial enterprises particularly greenhouses of every description in every possible elevation! When you get to Sam Remo you follow the signs inland to the "Valle Argentina" and your destination village of Badalucco high up in the spectacular mountains of chestnut trees yet only 30k from the Mediterranean Sea.
The Boeri family have been cold pressing olives here since the early 1900's but the uniqueness of the valley was noted in Roman times when only "freemen" we're allowed to cultivate the olives. It has given rise to a unique variety of olive - the taggiasca  which Franco and his ancestors have made world famous through their cold pressing techniques and processes. With only 6000 olive trees on 26 hectares, the ROI Estate has won applaud from culinary chefs and restaurants the world over. It was wonderful to be taken on a tour of their mill and a free tasting of three distinct cooking oils. The family welcome visits all year to the mill and you can even send your children on a tour in season when they collect the olives straight from the trees and run through the process of production. It is evident that Franco and his family respect their unique environment and are making an extraordinary enterprise from their local olives. We left with lots of goodies and are sure to return again and again in the future. It is a fabulous trip with a delightful destination. However you can also shop online for their products here:http://www.olioroi.com/en/stores

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Walking the Royal Way

One of the reasons to get out and walk is that you see a lot more on two legs. This is all the more evident when walking the old road from Tourrette-Sur-Loop to Vence in Provence. It is all the more necessary in the middle of cooking school when rich sauces and delicious desserts are being consumed on a daily basis!  I took the old road for the simple reason that there would be less traffic on it but had no idea when I set off that it would be so lovely. Neither did I know that this old route was actually fairly famous as the gentry took it from Vence to Tourrette -Sur-Loop paying their respects to Saint Mary Magdalene on route where a little shrine remains in her honour. It was just like a step back in history where cocks of hay still sit on fields and honeysuckle and roses peepout at you from the hedges! No blackberries at all but lots of fig trees bursting with ripe figs just ready for my picnic as well as green olive groves, roses and passion flowers. I even came across a pepper tree which was a first for me! When you remember that this is a walk in late September and I am more minded of summer days in Crete I see why this part of France is so very popular with visitors from more northern climes! 







Saturday, 12 July 2014

Cider House rules in St Goueno


Our local cider producer, Cidre Fermier has just gained a gold standard award for his cider. He has a little organic orchard and a tiny bottling plant and shop but is open every day in the summer for our students to visit. Just knock on his door and you will have to practice your French.  If you are lucky bring your car so that you can take a few boxes of the cider home with you. All our students get the opportunity to taste the cider during their time with us. Without doubt it has exceeded all expectations and so long may Cidre Fermier rule in St Goueno.