Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Prosecco Jellies

We have had no summer to speak of this year and the weather seems to have mainly consisted of chilly temperatures and rain… LOTS of rain!  Despite this, I still like to pretend that we actually do get sunny days; days where picnics can be enjoyed and summery foods can be eaten.

I honestly believe that the Irish must be one of the most hope filled nations on earth because no matter how dreadful the weather is we never give up and we always believe that it will improve! We discuss at great length the possibility of getting a ‘fine spell’ the week after next on a Tuesday at approximately 3.27pm in the afternoon. And because we are imbued with such endless hopefulness we really believe we will… if only because ‘yer man' up in Donegal who predicts the weather by testing goat droppings (or some equally fanciful weather divining method) says so!!!
Irrespective of what the weather outside is like these Prosecco Jellies always make me feel in a summery mood. They are incredibly simple to make and provided you chill the Prosecco and the glasses/containers that you use for the jellies, you should retain a lot of the fizz in the jellies as they set.
I like to use a selection of berries, but you can also use segmented sweet citrus fruits such as clementines and satsumas which are wonderfully zingy and taste delicious. This is a very elegant dessert which would be wonderful as a showstopper dessert for a dinner party and has the added advantage of being able to be prepared well in advance.
I like to serve it in individual glass bowls so that you can see the beautiful soft fruits suspended in the effervescent jelly but you can make it in one bowl if you prefer.


4 leaves of gelatine
550ml Prosecco, well chilled
50g caster sugar
250g-300g of soft berries (e.g. raspberries, blackberries, blackcurrants, blueberries, redcurrants etc.)


1. Place 6 glass bowls (approximately 150ml capacity each) in the freezer for 20 minutes before making these jellies. Refrigerate the berries and do not remove them from the fridge until just before you are about to use them. You want everything to be as cold as possible.
2. Put the gelatine leaves in a small bowl of water to soak for 5 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, place 150ml of the Prosecco in a medium sized bowl over a saucepan of barely simmering water and allow to heat up a little. Squeeze the excess water out of the gelatine leaves and pop them into the Prosecco in the bowl. Keep stirring until the gelatine has dissolved.
4. Add the sugar and keep stirring until it has dissolved and then remove the bowl from the heat. Let sit for a minute or so and then pour in the chilled Prosecco stirring well into the gelatine mixture.
5. Remove the glasses from the freezer and divide the chilled berries evenly between them. Then divide the jelly mixture evenly between the glasses and pop into the fridge.
6. After about 30 minutes, the jellies will have begun to set. Some of the berries may have settled near the top of the jellies but you can gently poke them back into the jelly with the tip of a cocktail stick as it sets so that they are evenly dispersed.
7. Allow the jellies to set for at least 4 hours or overnight before serving.

Serves 6.


Monday, 24 August 2015

Restaurant Review: Söder + Ko, South Great George's Street, Dublin 2

I absolutely love brunch as a meal and readily admit that I am thrilled that more and more restaurants are now offering it. Despite the fact that I never need to have an excuse to eat it I fully acknowledge that many brunch menus are formulaic and inevitably seem to include Eggs Benedict, Huevos Rancheros, something with avocado and of course the ‘Full Irish’. Whilst these are all dishes that I love and I appreciate that there is something reassuring and almost comforting about eating familiar dishes executed well, there are times when I like to experiment and try something a little different.
Stockholm 866
There is definitely something different about the brunch available in Söder + Ko which has been open since the beginning of May 2015. Housed in an impressive building which was previously home to the Dragon Bar, Söder +Ko is located on South Great George’s Street -  a street that seems to be shaking off its air of downtrodden shabbiness and, as evidenced by the amount of top-notch dining venues to be found there,  is rapidly becoming the centre of Dublin’s culinary scene!
I was recently invited to TheTaste.ie Bloggers Brunch launch in Söder + Ko where I and the other invited bloggers were treated to samples from the menu which were served to us in platter form. I was really impressed by the food that I ate that day and was keen to visit again. I was pleased to have the opportunity a couple of weeks later.
Pot Stickers
Söder + Ko styles itself as a Scandi-Asian restaurant/bar and whilst the food is quite obviously Asian inspired, it would be fair to say that the Scandinavian influences are more evident in many of the drinks and cocktails that are offered. I have adopted what I consider to be a very sensible rule regarding brunch; namely that cocktails are mandatory (ahem) so I ordered a Stockholm 866 which is a Nordic Negroni of sorts. Containing Aquavit, a caraway flavoured liqueur, Campari, grapefruit juice and garnished with fresh dill this was a refreshing drink. The Söder Sura which my dining companion Erica ordered was similarly invigorating and the two of us happily sipped away at our drinks as we examined the menu in greater detail and considered what to order.
As often happens when I am presented with a new or interesting menu, I found it hard to choose just one dish to order but luckily many of the brunch dishes in Söder + Ko are specifically designed for sharing so we decided to order a couple of these between us to sample together. Although we were tempted by the Steamed Pork & Shrimp in Wonton Pastry and the Squid Tempura and also toyed with the idea of ordering the Hot & Sour Chicken Wings Sharing Platter, we finally decided to go for the Pot Stickers and the King Prawn Dumplings.
Steamed Brunch Bun
I absolutely loved the Pot Stickers which due to having been pan-fried possessed a slightly crispy exterior which screamed ‘eat me’. The filling of chicken and scallions was surprisingly light and although there were six of them, I will admit that I felt slightly resentful that Erica assumed that we would divide the portion equally. I could have eaten them all by myself! They were served with a simple but incredibly delicious umami-rich dipping sauce.
The steamed King Prawn Dumplings were served in a bamboo steamer and were also delicious. Beautifully plump and generously packed with prawns they were hard to resist and we gobbled them up quickly.
Chinese BBQ Spare Ribs
Erica was feeling rather peckish so decided to order one of the Steamed Brunch Buns choosing one that contained a Hash Brown, Fried Egg & Sausage and arrived smothered in a piquant Hollandaise Sauce. A drizzle of a fiery, almost neon green-coloured dressing completed this dish which Erica tucked into with great enthusiasm. I had eaten this at the Bloggers Brunch and had enjoyed it tremendously so could completely relate to Erica’s purrs of satisfaction. I loved this dish and thought it was an interesting variation on the breakfast roll theme.
Our next dish the Chinese BBQ Pork Ribs was absolutely wonderful with meat that melted in the mouth and fell off the bone. Erica declared them to be amongst the best ribs that she had ever eaten and with the wonderfully rich but extremely well-balanced sauce they were cooked in, I have to say that I’m inclined to agree with her. This was a hearty dish but we still managed to finish it.
French Toast
With my slightly sweet tooth it was inevitable that I would have to try the French Toast + Smoked Bacon + Maple Syrup which was very good. This was a classic interpretation of the dish which suited me fine as I truly believe that there are certain dishes that shouldn’t be tinkered with! The slight saltiness of the lightly smoked bacon was wonderful against the fried eggy bread and the rich and unctuous sweetness of the maple syrup – it really is amazing how a dish which has its origins in frugality and was designed as a way to use up stale bread can taste so unbelievably good and in Söder + Ko it was delicious.
Under Culinary Director Kwanghi Chan the Söder + Ko brunch brings something different to the Dublin dining scene and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Kwanghi previously worked under Martijn Kajuiter in the Michelin-starred Cliff House Hotel in Ardmore, County Waterford and before that in The Wineport Lodge, L’Ecrivain and Chapter One so has formidable cooking credentials.
There is something very cool and contemporary about the bar and restaurant in Söder + Ko with its faux baroque décor.  As you enter the building you walk into a space which has a double height ceiling and feels vast. As you continue on through the restaurant and bar you pass by the open kitchen where the chefs are busily working away. There is more seating upstairs on a mezzanine balcony and a very trendy outside smoking area. This is a beautiful building which doesn’t distract from the food but rather complements it and adds to the whole experience of dining there.
Some of the dishes on the brunch menu may seem a little on the expensive side, but not particularly out of kilter with prices in other brunch establishments around Dublin. Portions are generous and I really enjoyed my meal.
Brunch is served 12pm -4pm on Saturdays, Sundays and Bank Holidays.
Söder + Ko
64 South Great George’s Street
Dublin 2
Telephone: 01-4781590

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Almond Bostock with Roasted Greengages

Well folks, life is certainly rather busy these days… and guess what…? I LOVE IT. I am getting the opportunity to do the thing that I love most doing which is writing about food, food producers, Irish restaurants and all things food related.
Now, whilst all of this seems like great fun – and there is no denying that it is – I find that I seem to spend my life dashing from one place to the other or else holed up in front of my laptop trying to catch up on all the writing that I have to do! However, I have learnt one very important thing… when you are doing what you love, it never seems like hard work.
The great thing about eating in so many great restaurants and meeting people who are so passionate about producing good food is that I find it really inspiring in terms of the food that I want to cook at home in my own kitchen. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I am necessarily trying to replicate the dishes that I eat when I’m out and about eating in restaurants and chatting to food producers; it’s more that I borrow flavour/ingredient combinations and ideas that I am exposed to and try them out at home.
Quite often the lesson to be learnt is that ‘less is definitely more’ and that you don’t need to over-complicate matters. I think that key to this is buying the best and freshest ingredients that you can afford and use them in a way that celebrates the particular characteristics of that ingredient.
There’s no doubting that August is a bountiful month; there are so many fruits and vegetables in season and loads of different things for the enthusiastic and adventurous cook to use.
Greengages are in season at the moment and whilst they can be a little difficult to source, I would urge you to snap them up if you come across them. A variety of plum, they possess a honey like sweetness which is heavenly and which I find, is intensified by being treated simply. Here I have simple roasted them and served them as an accompaniment to the Almond Bostock.
Anyone who regularly reads my musings here will know that I have a little bit of a sweet tooth but that I also love dishes that are quick and easy to prepare. The following recipe is one that satisfies both those criteria and produces a dish that I promise you will find yourself returning to time after time.
Almond Bostock is essentially syrup soaked stale bread topped with frangipane which is then baked. I have carried out loads of research but have been unable to find and information on why it so-called but really it doesn’t matter because it tastes amazing and for anyone who loves anything containing almonds it is a sure-fire winner.
This would make a lovely brunch dish especially when you want something sweet to eat with a cup of strong coffee but really it’s a treat that could be enjoyed at any time of the day. The frangipane and syrup can be made the day before and stored in the fridge overnight and the dish can be quickly assembled and baked the following day. Absolutely DELICIOUS!


Roasted greengages:
9 greengages halved and stoned
1tblsp of caster sugar
Almond Bostock:
6 slices of slightly stale brioche
50g flaked almonds
50g caster sugar
50ml water
1tsp orange flower water
90g butter, softened
90g caster sugar
90g ground almonds
1 medium egg
To finish:
A little icing sugar for dusting


1. Preheat oven to 180C/Fan oven 160C/Gas Mark 4. Lay the brioche slices out on a large baking tray lined with non-stick baking parchment and set aside.
Roasted greengages:
2. Place the halved greengages cut-side up in a roasting tray, placing them so that they sit side-by-side in one layer. Sprinkle the caster sugar over the greengages and bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes until slightly softened and beginning to caramelise at the edges. Remove from oven and set aside to cool slightly.
3. Place the caster sugar and water in a small saucepan over a moderate heat and stir until the sugar dissolves. Increase the heat and bring up to simmering point. Allow to bubble away for 3 minutes and the remove from the heat. Sir in the orange flower water. Set aside to cool a little while you make the frangipane.
4. Place the butter and caster sugar in a medium sized mixing bowl and using a hand-held electric mixer beat together until light and fluffy. Add the ground almonds and mix again until they are fully incorporated. Finally mix in the egg to create a soft paste.
To finish:
5. Brush the top of each slice of brioche with some of the syrup (you can be quite generous with the amount you brush but don’t drench the bread totally).
6. Spread some of the frangipane over each slice of syrup soaked brioche so that it covers the entire top surface of the bread. Scatter the flaked almonds over the frangipane and bake in the pre-heated oven for approximately 20 minutes until the frangipane is golden brown and has set. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes before serving lightly dusted with icing sugar and accompanied by 2 or 3 of the roasted greengages. Some lightly whipped cream would not go astray.
Serves 6.

Monday, 17 August 2015

Potato & Rosemary Focaccia

I really love baking my own bread and the sense of satisfaction that I get from doing it is well worth the very minimal effort that goes in to doing it. I know that I have said this before but once you get ‘a feel’ for it and understand what it is that you are trying to achieve, you realise that it is actually quite easy.

There are a few basic rules and tricks that will help you ensure faultless results.
Firstly, ‘wetter is better’, by which I mean that the wetter the dough is the better the finished dough will be. When you start kneading, the dough may seem a little sticky but resist the urge to add more flour as this will result in a heavy and denser baked bread. All you need to do is keep working the dough and you will find that after 7-10 minutes of kneading it will no longer stick to your work surface. I prefer to work my dough by hand as, without sounding pompous, I feel that I have a greater ‘connection’ with the bread but feel to use a sturdy stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. In this regard, I will admit that there are some breads which are much easier to mix using a stand mixer because they are incredibly sticky! Brioche and the following recipe for focaccia are examples of dough that are incredibly sticky.
Salt is the enemy of yeast and if too much comes into contact with the yeast it will kill it and your bread will fail before you have even started. Make sure you distribute the salt through the flour before adding the yeast.
Some people dissolve the yeast in water before adding it to the dry ingredients but I tend to just crumble it in and have never had any failures by doing this.
If you can’t get your hands on fresh yeast, by all means use dried yeast but remember that you will only require half the stated amount. So, for example if the recipe states that 15g of fresh yeast is required, you will only need 7g or 8g of dried yeast. I prefer the results that I get with using fresh yeast but I would often use dried yeast as well and you can’t argue with the fact that it is so easy to store. Some people claim that fresh yeast can be frozen and then defrosted before using but it has never worked for me so I tend to buy small 50g blocks of it from my local Polish store and store any that I do not immediately use in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.
These are just a few tips… There are many more but what I recommend is get your hands on a few basic recipes and have a go. There is nothing quite as appealing as the smell of freshly baked bread.
The following recipe for potato focaccia is fabulous and despite being a sticky dough this recipe is very achievable. I knead the dough by hand using a dough scraper to lift the dough from my work surface and would strongly recommend using one as they make life so much easier but, as I said above, use a stand mixer fitter with a dough hook if you prefer.
This bread keeps well because of the amount of olive oil that is included. I have topped my focaccia with thinly sliced new potatoes and some fresh rosemary but do experiment with different toppings. Focaccia made with just a sprinkling of flaky sea salt is particularly delicious.


500g strong white flour10g fine sea salt
10g fresh yeast
300g water
100g olive oil plus a little extra to sprinkle on the baked bread
2 medium sized potatoes, thinly sliced
Small sprigs of fresh rosemary
Flaky sea salt


1. Place the flour and salt in a large mixing bowl and, using your hands, mix together so that the salt is well distributed. Crumble in the yeast and mix through. Make a well in the centre and add the water followed by the olive oil. Use your hands to mix everything together to create a slightly sticky dough.
2. Turn the dough out on to a clean work surface and knead for 10-12 minutes until it is smooth and velvety and is no longer sticking to the work surface. Place in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with cling film. Set aside for an hour or until the dough has risen and doubled in size.
3. Line a large baking tray (roughly 35cms x 20cms) with some non-stick baking parchment sprinkled with a little flour or semolina.
4. Tip the proved dough out onto a clean work surface and knock back. Place it on to the lined baking and flatten it with your hands and fingertips until it almost reaches the edges of the baking tray. It will be quite thin and will retain some of the dimples you have created with your fingertips when rolling it out.
5. Place the sliced potatoes on top of the dough and press some sprigs of rosemary into the dough at regular intervals. Drizzle with a little olive oil and cover loosely with cling film and allow to rise again for 45 minutes.
6. Just before baking the bread, preheat the oven to 200C/Fan Oven 180C/Gas Mark 6. Sprinkle the focaccia with a little flaky sea salt and place in the oven for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown and Cooked through and the potatoes are beginning to turn crispy at the edges. Remove from the oven and allow to cool before eating.
Make 1 large focaccia.