Sunday, March 27, 2011

Spicy Grilled Beef Salad (Yam Neua Yang) – and the credit goes to...

Pin It
In some Asian cultures, the person who selects the ingredients gets half the credit for the meal - and rightly so. A great cook can make a half-decent meal out of miserable ingredients.  Great ingredients can make a half-decent cook out of anyone.
Spicy grilled beef salad
Bord Bia's From Plate to Page competition gives me an opportunity to mention one of my food heros - Terry Kavanagh. My local craft-butcher shop, Kavanagh’s in Roundwood, is frequented by top food critics and Oscar winners (well, I’ve seen one Oscar winner there) as well as us mere mortals. With such quality product nearby, the shopper’s task is no more taxing than to show up and point randomly because everything is good. Particularly good is Terry’s sirloin steak. Tender yet full of flavour, it is one of my favourite lazy meals, char-grilled with rosemary potato wedges, fried onions and mushrooms, and a blob of strong Dijon mustard.
Today, it is a blue-skied sparkling Spring day. Having had a miserable cold for the past week, my tastebuds are crying out for something light, yet nourishing, and zinging with flavour.
Looking down Niki Segnit’s list of flavours that love beef I see:
Chilli Garlic Ginger Lime Mint Nam Pla (Thai fish sauce)  Onion Peanut Tomato
We lve beef !
Niki probably didn’t intend that they all appear together in the same dish however they are flavours that sing together as well as emphasising the flavour of the beef. This is my version of the Thai classic, Yam Neua Yang – spicy grilled beef salad.  To make life easier for yourself, prepare all the salad ingredients before you start to cook the steak.

For 2 substantial salads you will need...
2 x 200g sirloin steaks (about 2.5cm thick)
1 tablespoon olive oil

For the marinade/dressing you will need...
1 fat clove garlic, crushed
2cm piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated
1 medium/hot red chilli, seeds removed, very finely diced
1 tablespoon nam pla (Thai fish sauce)
4 kaffir lime leaves or a ½ teaspoon grated lime peel
Juice of 2 limes
1 teaspoon runny honey

1.         First make the marinade/dressing by mixing all the marinade ingredients together in a non-metal bowl.
2.         Pour a little of the marinade over the steak and cover, before refrigerating until needed. Reserve the rest of the marinade for your dressing.
3.         Next cook the steak: preheat a grill pan to medium. Using kitchen paper, blot the marinade from the steaks and lightly oil them. Grill for approximately 4 minutes each side. (I like my steak medium for this salad. Use more or less time to grill the steak to your own liking.) Remove from the pan and leave to rest for 5 minutes while you assemble the salad.

For the salad you will need...
1 bag mixed salad leaves (I use a rocket, mizuna, red oakleaf lettuce mix for colour, flavour and texture)
2 tomatoes, deseeded and diced
½ cucumber, cut into ribbons using a vegetable peeler
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint
3 whole scallions (spring onions) finely sliced on the diagonal
a generous handful of coriander leaf (cilantro), roughly chopped
50g roasted peanuts, roughly chopped

4.         Assemble the salad by scattering a bed of lettuce leaves on 2 platters or shallow bowls.
5.        Using kitchen paper, blot any excess juice from the tomato and cucumber and arrange on top of the salad leaves. Scatter with chopped mint.
Fresh and bursting with of colour and flavour
6.         When the steaks have rested, slice thinly and arrange on top of the salad. Scatter the scallions, peanuts and coriander leaf on top.
7.         Remove the kaffir lime leaves from the dressing before spooning over the salad. Serve immediately.
And the credit goes to...
This dish also makes a fantastic appetizer.
Pin It

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Banana Peanut Butter Muffins have the WOW* factor

Pin It
So much of cooking is by accident rather than design. I’m sure I’m not the only cook who hides her mistakes under the nearest tea-towel and celebrates the successes as if they were intended. These successes are a good example of serendipity... (I love that word).
Serendipitous muffins... the best sort!
I had intended porridge for breakfast this morning, but when I entered the kitchen, I was faced with three sad freckled bananas with a ‘pre-compost bin’ look about them. Enter the WOW factor.
My youngest sister is waging *War On Waste. I call it the WOW factor: if she allows a foodstuff to go bad then she cannot buy it for two weeks. To use up the sad bananas, I was inspired to make Banana Peanut Butter Muffins for breakfast instead. Here’s how that inspiration went:
7.30am – After measuring out most of the ingredients, I discover a major butter shortage – nowhere near enough for this recipe. Damn! Must have banana peanut butter muffins...
7.31am - I discover a packet of creamed coconut, with a use-by date of right about now (more WOW factor). It worked perfectly in place of the butter I normally use and filled the kitchen with a heavenly smell – actually pretty similar to the ah-mazing Coconut Melt Massage my holistic therapist sister does.
The result was a light fluffy flavourful muffin and I had just enough butter to make a silky peanut butter icing.
For 18 sinful muffins you will need...
... to pre-heat your oven to 160°C

200g creamed coconut, grated (or softened butter if you prefer)
100g crunchy peanut butter
250g very ripe bananas (that’s about 3 small bananas)
2 eggs
80mls fresh milk

150g plain flour
50g oatmeal flakes
25g Bourneville cocoa powder, sifted
100g caster sugar
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
½ teaspoon salt

50g banana chips (optional)

1          In a large bowl or stand mixer, beat the creamed coconut, peanut butter and bananas until they form a smooth mixture. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating between additions until well combined. Now, add the milk and beat until combined.
2          Measure the rest of the ingredients - except the banana chips – into a separate bowl.
3          Add the coconut mixture to the flour mixture, stirring with a spatula or wooden spoon just until no dry mixture remains. Finally, stir in the banana chips if using.
4          Using an ice cream scoop or dessert spoon, divide the mixture between 18 lined muffin tins, filling them no more than three-quarters full.
5          Bake for 18 minutes until well risen and cooked through – a toothpick inserted in the centre should come out clean. If any mixture adheres, bake for a further 5 minutes and test again.
6          When cooked, remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tin for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to finish cooling.
They are really good just as they are, with hints of underlying chocolate and coconut flavours beneath the brazen banana peanut exterior. I like to push to boat out by adding a Peanut Butter Frosting. The following quantities make enough frosting to swirl over 6 – 8 muffins – I put the rest into the freezer out of temptation’s way.
For the peanut butter icing you will need...
80g butter, softened
80g crunchy peanut butter (you could use smooth peanut butter if you want completely smooth frosting)
160g icing sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons fresh milk

1          In a medium bowl beat the softened butter together with the peanut butter until combined. Then add the icing sugar and mix until combined. An electric mixer is best for this job but go easy when adding the icing sugar unless you want a lovely sweet cloud filling your kitchen.
Potential sugar cloud...
2          Add the vanilla extract and milk and continue mixing until you have a smooth icing.
3          Swirl a generous portion of icing onto each cooled muffin.
Naughty breakfast is served... WOW!
Pin It

Friday, March 18, 2011

Leek Tart - a case for poireaux!

Pin It
I am the picnic’s most dedicated fan. I’ve been known to picnic in rain and snow. The weather doesn’t matter so long as I have a beautiful view, a dry place to sit and something delicious to eat.
A leek tart is perfect picnic food!
Excellent picnics have included:
·                    Glendalough in Co. Wicklow – bypass ‘picnic central’ near the car parks... try not to get distracted by picnic envy... there’s a thousand wonderful meals covering the wooden outdoor tables and spicy barbeque aromas rise into the air to tantalise... keep walking... find spot near lake... lay out picnic blanket. Eat, relax, sigh, and think “heaven!”
An unexpected companion at a recent picnic...

·                    Sittin' on the dock of the bay / Watching the tide roll away”, feet dangling in the water at the edge of Sausalito, with the obligatory ‘Californian’ on rye from a nearby Deli, a Coke and a smile.
Not a great day for a picnic but pretty view of Dalkey Island from Killiney Beach

·                    Hardboiled eggs washed down with red lemonade on Killiney beach, Co. Dublin, following a swim in cold, cold water with a view to rival the bay of Naples.
The best picnics are those shared. I wait with eager anticipation as the treasures concealed by picnic baskets are finally revealed and laid out on table or blanket ready to be handed around.
My favourite picnic items – apart from the obligatory nostalgia of hardboiled eggs dipped in sea salt – are pies and tarts. Sweet or savoury, it doesn’t matter. What does matter is that they are simple and tasty - like this leek tart – or Tarte aux Poireaux if you want to get fancy. Crumbly pastry, rich savoury filling, great company - sunshine is optional. Buy decent ready-made pastry for even less effort, however the pastry given below is very well-behaved so even if you are a pastry virgin why not give it a whirl.
For 4 tarts you will need:
Shortcrust Pastry
110g plain flour
a pinch of salt
½ teaspoon paprika
75g butter
1 egg yolk
a little iced water

1                    Place the flour, salt, paprika and butter in a food mixer or processor and blitz until the mixture resembles fine bread crumbs.
2                    Add the egg yolk and as much iced water – a tablespoonful at a time - as it takes to bring the mixture together into a soft (but not sticky) ball of pastry.
3                    Flatten the pastry into a disc, cover and refrigerate while you make the filling.
Luscious leek filling
50g butter
450g finely shredded chopped leeks
4 egg yolks
200g crème fraiche or 200ml fresh cream
50g Gruyere cheese
½ teaspoon sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
a further 25g Gruyere cheese for sprinkling over the top

1                    Melt the butter in a large frying pan over a gentle heat. Add in the shredded chopped leeks. Stir to coat the leeks in the melted butter, then cover and leave to cook without colouring for about 10 minutes or so, stirring occasionally. When the leeks are meltingly tender, take them off the heat and transfer to a mixing bowl to cool.
2                    Meanwhile mix together the egg yolks, the crème fraiche or fresh cream, 50g Gruyere cheese and sprinkle in the salt and pepper.
3                    Pre-heat the oven to 180°C (350°F).
4                    Roll out the pastry to approximately the thickness of a 20c coin (GB 2p coin/USA 5c coin) and use to line 4 mini-quiche dishes or flan tins.
5                    Now add the eggy cheesy mixture to the cooled leeks, mixing well.
6                    Spoon the mixture into the pastry cases and sprinkle with the remaining 25g Gruyere.
7                    Bake in the pre-heated oven for 30 minutes or until the mixture is light golden brown and the cheese has melted.
That’s tonight’s supper for two sorted! It’s going to be served warm with a green salad. The remaining two tarts will accompany me on a picnic tomorrow – even better served cold somewhere the view will add a little alchemy of its own.
Pin It

Monday, March 14, 2011

Sweet Potato Roulade – and a céad míle fáilte

Pin It
There is a noticeable flood of green food across the blogosphere these past few days, in the lead up to St Patrick’s Day. Maybe it is the “forty-shades-of green” countryside or the vivid emerald hue of the famous shamrock emblem that gives the impression that green is Ireland’s national colour. Many people will be surprised to learn that since Norman times, Ireland’s national colour is in fact blue. It is the exact shade of blue that glows above the St Patrick’s Day parade as it passes the GPO on Dublin’s O’Connell Street.
Green, white and gold (and pretty tasty too)

If you have ever been to that parade, you will know that no matter how fine and unseasonably sunny the day is, a March wind whips down that famous boulevard - Ireland’s Champs-Élysées - turning every inch of exposed flesh blue with cold. Due to the number of unsuspecting short-skirted marching bands and majorettes from warmer climes, and a trend towards Mardi Gras-style pageantry and costume, there is a lot of exposed flesh, resulting in a blue glow that can be seen from outer space every March 17th. Brrrrrrr!
I’ve been trying to think of a dish for St Patrick’s day that would nod to the occasion without being too cabbage-y, or too bacon-y, too corned beef-y, too green - or too blue for that matter.
Sweet...
I have my photography teacher to thank for mentioning sweet potato roulade some weeks ago. It nods to the potato heritage of the Irish and to the green, white and gold of the Irish tricolour. Reflecting a modern Ireland, it acknowledges in a very small way, the contribution of other cultures  - sweet potato, nutmeg and sesame seed are obviously not locals but a céad míle fáilte* to them all the same.
For 6 - 8 servings you will need...
For the soufflé base
10g melted butter
15g sesame seeds
1 sweet potato, weighing approximately 400g
75g butter
75g plain flour
300mls fresh milk
125g mature cheddar, grated
½ teaspoon fine table salt
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
6 eggs

1          Line the base of a 26cm x 36cm Swiss roll tin with baking parchment and brush with the melted butter. Dotting the underside of the paper with a little melted butter helps it stick to the tin. Sprinkle the surface of the buttered paper evenly with sesame seeds.
2          Prepare the sweet potato by peeling it and slicing into rounds about 1cm thick. Place in a saucepan and cover with boiling water. Simmer with a lid on for about 20 minutes or until easily pierced with the tip of a knife. Drain and mash.
3          While the sweet potato is cooling, melt 75g of butter in a large saucepan over a low heat. Stir in the flour, mixing with a wooden spoon until it comes together in a thick paste. Continue cooking gently for another minute or so. Swap the spoon for a whisk and add the milk to the saucepan, a little at a time, whisking well between additions. It will be alarmingly lumpy at first but will soon whisk to a smooth mixture.
4          When all the milk has been added, whisk in 300g of the sweet potato mash (any leftovers can be reheated and eaten as a side or added to a vegetable soup. When the sweet potato has been combined, add in the grated cheese and stir until melted and combined. Add salt and nutmeg. Taste and adjust seasoning if required.
5          Carefully separate the eggs, placing the yolks in one bowl and the whites in a large mixing bowl or stand mixer. Lightly beat the egg yolks with a fork and add three large tablespoonfuls of the hot sweet potato mixture, mixing well between each tablespoonful. Then add the egg yolks to saucepan of sweet potato and whisk well to combine.(If you try to add the egg yolks to the hot mixture without first warming them as described, you’ll end up with scrambled eggs.)
6          Whisk the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Fold the egg white mixture into the sweet potato mixture about a quarter at a time. Transfer the mixture into the prepared baking tin and bake in the preheated oven for about 15 minutes or risen and evenly golden. Remove from the oven and leave to cool completely in the tin. The beautifully risen soufflé will sink a little. Don't worry, that's supposed to happen.

Fold in the egg whites for a light-as-a-cloud base
7          When cooled, remove from the tin and place on a large sheet of clingfilm or baking parchment, with the liner paper still attached to the underside. The next step is to fill and roll the roulade.

I'm sinking... (but that's ok, I'm supposed to!)
For the filling
250g cream cheese (such as Philadelphia)
1 small clove of garlic, crushed
1 stick celery, peeled and finely chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley or coriander (cilantro)
4 – 6 spring onions (scallions), finely chopped, including green part
50g baby spinach leaves, shredded

8          Mix the cream cheese with the crushed garlic, herbs and spring onions and spread evenly over the surface of the soufflé. Scatter the spinach leaves over the top. Gently release the liner paper from a long edge of the soufflé. Gripping the released edge of the paper together with the clingfilm or parchment paper, lift gently to start rolling. Roll the soufflé tightly and wrap snugly in clingfilm. Refrigerate for 15 minutes or until required. Serve in slices with a green salad.
Wishing you a Happy St Patrick’s Day and here’s an Irish blessing to carry with you:
“May you have warm words on a cold evening, a full moon on a dark night, and the road downhill all the way to your door”

* a hundred-thousand welcomes
Pin It

Monday, March 7, 2011

Pączki Tuesday – an exciting alternative to Shrovetide pancakes

Pin It
Since I went to see the highly energetic 'percussive dance' troupe Stomp the other evening, I have been making quite a racket. I have broken one wooden spoon (a tap-a-tap, a tappity tap) and the yard brush has seen better days. I don’t think it was ever constructed to be a percussion instrument (swish, swish, bang, swish). When I found myself eyeing the dustbin with new interest - such potential for noise ‘percussive dance’! - it was time to call a halt.
It's Stomp's fault...
I am left with a craving for doughnuts - also the fault of Stomp. They do this comical routine using the inner tubes of tractor tyres as outsized tutus. Think ‘streetwise doughnuts’ meet bizarre ‘corps de ballet’.
Looking for an excuse to satisfy my doughnut craving, I discovered that Pączki [POHNCH-kee] are traditionally served in the lead up to Lent, on Fat Thursday and more recently, on Shrove Tuesday. These Polish jam doughnuts make an exciting alternative to Shrovetide pancakes, and if I happen to stamp out the doughnut shapes in a Stomp-like fashion, I’m sure it will only make them taste even better.
For 2 dozen doughnuts you will need...
250mls fresh milk
1 packet dried yeast

4 eggs
75g caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon lemon zest
700g strong white flour
100g butter, softened

Cooking oil for deep frying – I use sunflower oil

6 tablespoons damson (or your own favourite) jam for filling, sieved
Caster sugar or icing sugar for coating

As this is quite a sticky dough, it is best to use an electric mixer.
1          Warm the milk to between 27°C - 35°C (this is when a finger dipped in the milk will feel neither hot nor cold – but best to use a thermometer) and add the yeast.  Leave in a warm place for about 10 minutes or until the surface of the milk is slightly foamy.
2          Meanwhile, place the eggs, caster sugar, vanilla essence, salt and lemon zest in a large bowl and whisk until pale yellow and slightly thickened. Swap the whisk for a dough hook before adding the flour to the egg mixture, a little at a time, mixing well between additions.
3          Add the yeast mixture now, mixing until combined. Finally, add the softened butter in walnut–sized lumps, ensuring each addition is combined before adding the next. Continue kneading with the dough hook for a further 5 minutes. Cover with a lightly oiled sheet of cling film and leave in a warm, draught-free place to rise for 2 hours or until doubled in size. (You could make the dough in advance and leave it in the fridge to rise overnight, before continuing with the recipe).
Somewhat deflated...
4          Punch the risen dough to knock it back. It will deflate alarmingly. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured or lightly oiled work surface and knead lightly until you have a smooth ball of dough. Roll out to a thickness of about 1.5cm and stamp out rounds using a 6cm round scone cutter. Cover with lightly oiled cling film and leave to rise in a warm, draught-free spot for a further 30 minutes or until doubled in size.

Hubble, bubble, (no) toil and (no) trouble...

5          Heat the cooking oil to 180˚C (360˚F). Lower the doughnuts into the hot oil, a few at a time, without overcrowding. Fry for approximately 1 minute then turn over to continue frying on the other side for a further minute. When evenly golden brown, remove and drain on a thick wad of kitchen paper.

Inject jam with a Bismarck nozzle

6          Fill with jam while still warm: with the tip of a knife, make a small hole in the waist of each doughnut and using a piping bag fitted with a Bismarck nozzle, inject jam into the centre of each doughnut. Roll in caster sugar or dredge with icing sugar. Apply to face. Grin happily.

Apply to face... grin happily...
Note: If it occurs to you to cut the fat content by baking these instead of deep frying, please don’t! There is no comparison. My advice is: go the whole hog, but not too often!
Pin It