Thursday, 11 August 2016

Book Review: Toast Hash Roast Mash by Dan Doherty

One wonders whether Dan Doherty was having a little bit of fun when he named his latest cookbook. As a title, Toast Hash Roast Mash is a bit of a tongue-twister but in many ways it also reflects what the book is all about; - playful, unpretentious food that is easy to make and delicious to eat. This is a book designed to have wide appeal as most of the dishes are quick to prepare and use everyday ingredients that are widely available. Even someone possessing limited culinary skills will feel empowered under Dan’s guidance to turn on the stove and get cooking.

Dan Doherty
Born and raised in Shrewsbury, Doherty started his career working as a kitchen porter and also helping out in the kitchen where he developed a love of food and cooking. A three-year apprenticeship with the Academy of Culinary Arts followed during which he worked at the Michelin-starred 1 Lombard Street under Herbert Berger. He did stints in a number of restaurants, working his way through the ranks, before becoming head chef at The Ambassador in Exmouth Market and subsequently at The Empress in Victoria Park. In 2012 Doherty was made Executive Chef at Duck & Waffle, developing a menu packed full of his interpretations of classic British dishes.

Toast Hash Roast Mash is a change of direction for Doherty. In Duck & Waffle:  Recipes and Stories, his first and much-lauded book, he shared the recipes for many of Duck & Waffle’s signature dishes. This über cool restaurant is located on the 40th floor of the Heron Tower in London’s financial district and, with its high-altitude location, offers up spectacular views of the city. The restaurant is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week and serves the type of food that you will want to eat at any time; - smoked haddock scotch eggs, savoury ox-cheek doughnuts and a plethora of decadent desserts amongst many other offerings. Throw in a cocktail or two and you can see why tables are booked out months in advance.
Toast Hash Roast Mash
In Toast Hash Roast Mash Doherty gives us recipes that he likes to cook at home when he is off-duty and, in keeping with the food that he serves at Duck & Waffle, these are dishes that can be enjoyed throughout the day and are not slavishly structured around starters, main courses and desserts.

The book kicks off with chapters on Toast and Eggs before moving on to Pancakes, Savoury, Sides & Salads. It finishes with chapters on Sweets and Drinks but my favourite section of the book has to be the one entitled ‘Hangover’ with its indulgent but comforting recipes. Food for the morning-after-the-night-before may all sound a tad laddish but I defy anyone to not want to try out these dishes.

The recipes in the ‘Hangover’ chapter (and throughout the book) are also great from a practical point of view; - so many cookbooks demand that you buy obscure and often expensive ingredients but in Toast Hash Roast Mash leftovers are regularly employed to create new and exciting dishes. In ‘Hash, Eggs over easy’ Doherty explains how hash is essentially meat and potatoes plus anything else you have lying around, all chopped together and fried. Think Bubble & Squeak with Smoked Ham or Black Pudding & Yesterday’s Potatoes. Think comfort food.
Smashed Avocados on Toast
The best way to judge a cookery book is by trying out some of the recipes so I decided to start with one from ‘On Toast’, the first chapter of the book. Doherty notes that toast is the perfect vehicle for so many other ingredients and judging by the thousands of photos of it that appear daily on social media I have to say that I’m inclined to agree with him. People love toast.

Doherty recommends using sourdough bread to make toast as it holds its crispness much better than other breads. Luckily, I always have a sourdough loaf in the bread-bin so in no-time-at-all I made the Smashed Avocado with Minted Goats’ Cheese. Consisting of slices of toasted sourdough topped with mashed avocado, crumbled goats’ cheese and some finely chopped mint; this was a wonderful breakfast and a tasty start to my day. I’m often a little drowsy in the morning, so an added drizzle of fiery sriracha upped the ante and kick-started me into wakefulness. Delicious!

Turkish Eggs
Eggs are something that Doherty states that he could not live without and he devotes a couple of chapters in the book to recipes including them. The ultimate in fast-food, eggs can be eaten at any time during the day, whether poached, scrambled fried or boiled. The recipes in Toast Hash Roast Mash use eggs in all these forms but along with his take on Eggs Benedict using salt-beef and mustard hollandaise, you will also find Baked Eggs, Coddled Eggs, Smoked Salmon & Cream Cheese Scotch Eggs and that favourite of the 1970’s buffet table – Devilled Eggs.

There are many other egg recipes in the book but the one that immediately jumped out at me was Turkish Eggs, Yoghurt, Chorizo Butter, Mint. Here, small cubes of spicy chorizo were gently pan-fried in butter until cooked through and releasing their spicy flavour. The were then served alongside a poached egg and some warm yoghurt with plenty of toast on the side to mop up the buttery juices. Although the combination of ingredients may sound strange, this was a superb dish and one that has already established itself as a personal favourite.

The problem with Toast Hash Roast Mash is that I wanted to try out ALL the recipes in the book for this review and the beautiful, very tempting photographs by renowned Danish photographer Anders Schønnemann didn’t make whittling down my choices any easier. Succumbing to pressure from my children who are addicted to pancakes, I quickly whipped up ‘The PBJ’ – a glorious concoction comprising Doherty’s fluffy American-Style Pancakes, peanut butter, jam, cream and fresh strawberries… topped with crumbled shortbread biscuits for good measure. This was sinfully good.

I decided to complete my recipe road-test with Doherty’s Queen of Puddings. This is one of my favourite desserts and is made up of a custard base containing breadcrumbs, topped with sweet jam and clouds of frothy meringue. I could eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner and for me it conjures up childhood memories of delicious meals at my Granny’s house which always finished with something sweet like this. In this updated version, the custard is flavoured with Earl Grey tea which adds a subtle and fragrant background note of bergamot which cuts through the overall sweetness of the dish. Although this recipe involved a number of steps, it was relatively easy to prepare and looked stunning when it emerged from the oven.

Queen of Puddings
I loved Toast Hash Roast Mash. Despite all the plaudits and awards he has received Dan Doherty has an inherent understanding of the type of food real people like to eat and he presents his recipes with a sense of impish good humour which is immediately appealing. Most importantly, the recipes actually work which makes this a book that you will actually use. This is not some tome that will sit on a shelf getting dusty but rather, I can see it becoming dog-eared and stained as all the best loved cookbooks do over time.

Toast Hash Roast Mash: Real Food for Every Time of Day
Author: Dan Doherty
Published: 11 August 2016

Hardback. First published by Mitchell Beazley, a division of Octopus Publishing Group
Pages: 224.
American Style Pancakes

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Restaurant Review: The Coburg at Conrad Dublin, Earlsfort Terrace, Dublin 2

Although I have lived down the country for a number of years, I will always consider myself a Dubliner at heart. I jump at any chance to visit the city and to stroll around and soak up the atmosphere. When time allows, I love to meet friends and go for a leisurely meal. Luckily, there are loads of great restaurants and cafés to choose from but there are times when I hanker after something a little different; somewhere to go that serves great food but also stands out from the crowd.
I was in Dublin during the recent spell of good weather and after a lovely afternoon spent wandering around Grafton Street I ambled into St. Stephen’s Green where sun-worshippers were out in force enjoying the balmy conditions. I had arranged to meet an old school friend for a drink in the newly opened Lemuel’s Bar at the Conrad Dublin on Earlsfort Terrace but as I made my way there through the park, I realised that I was a little bit peckish and preferred something to eat instead.
Conrad Dublin
As part of an ambitious refurbishment programme, the Conrad Dublin also recently opened The Coburg, a brasserie-style restaurant with an all-day menu offering a range of dining options. I love the relaxed ambience and simplicity of brasserie dining and having heard good reports about the food on offer at The Coburg was keen to try it out for myself. Despite the fact that this popular hotel was busy, our request for a table was facilitated without any bother and we happily took our seats in the beautiful dining room.
The Coburg is named after the Iveagh Gardens which are located across the road from the hotel and were once known as the Coburg Gardens after the German royal family of Saxe-Coburg. The restaurant is designed in a contemporary style but with art-deco touches that make it feel almost impossibly elegant. Marble tables and leather seating are used throughout and add to the feeling of sophistication, successfully echoing the character of the chicest of Parisian brasseries.
Lobster Cocktail
Executive Chef Dmitry Stroykov, originally from St. Petersburg, has worked closely with local producers, such as Glenilen Farm, Gahan Meats, The Bretzel Bakery and Sheridan’s Cheesemongers to source the best quality ingredients and to devise a modern brasserie menu containing simple, fresh food that is immediately appealing. Dishes offered include oysters, small plates, sandwiches, fish, steaks and burgers, along with a range of main courses and a selection of classic desserts which are all made in-house.

Although seriously tempted by the oysters, I decided to go all-retro and chose the Donegal Lobster Cocktail (€14.50) to start. It arrived beautifully presented in a brass cocktail glass with a slightly froufrou feel to it and was packed full of perfectly-cooked lobster meat; the sweetness of which was nicely balanced against the spicy ‘cocktail’ sauce. Perky leaves of baby gem lettuce cradled the generous chunks of tender lobster and provided textural contrast to the silky sauce. I love food that is light to eat but still feels a little bit naughty and self-indulgent and for me, this dish ticked all the right boxes.
My companion loved her starter of Ricotta Cheese and Kale Gnocchi, Butternut Squash Velouté, Red Chard & Crispy Kale (€16.50). Here, the velouté was presented separately to the gnocchi and was then poured on to the dumplings at the table by our waiter Martus. We both revelled in the theatricality of this and loved the assertive flavours of the dish. Everything had been expertly seasoned and despite the sweetness of the squash and the milky creaminess of the ricotta it still tasted like a very savoury dish. The moreish gnocchi were light little pillows of pleasure and we devoured the lot.
The Coburg’s wine list has some wonderful choices on it (including a nice selection of Old and New World wines) and, in keeping with the requirements of modern diners, many are available by the glass. On the recommendation of our waiter we decided on the 2014 Seifried Estate, Pinot Gris from New Zealand (€12 per glass, €50 per bottle). This full-flavoured wine with its nose of ripe fresh fruits and hints of candied citrus peel had a lovely long and smooth finish on the palate which made it deeply pleasurable to drink. Its acidity worked particularly well with my lobster cocktail and main course choice of cod.
Pinot Gris
Despite its seemingly simple execution my Pan-Fried Cod & Provençal Vegetables (€20.00) was a dish that was packed full of flavour where every element had been skilfully handled. The meaty cod was cooked perfectly and came away in large succulent flakes on the merest nudging by my fork. The fish was paired with a ratatouille-inspired vegetable stew which included tomatoes, peppers and aubergines. Each vegetable retained its own identity but worked in perfect harmony with its bedfellows. Yes; this may have been a simple dish but it was also simply delicious.
The Organic Corn-Fed Chicken, Shallot Tarte Tatin, Pea Purée, Jus (€19.00) was another excellent dish comprising a carved supreme of juicy roasted chicken and a lovely sweet pea purée which thankfully still retained some texture. The shallot tarte tatin wasn’t a tarte tatin in the truest sense but rather a disc of perfectly crisp puff pastry placed on top of some slowly cooked caramelised shallots. A rich meaty gravy completed the dish which was essentially a roast chicken dinner elevated to new heights and a plate of food that was impossible to resist.
Chicken, Shallot Tarte Tatin
A number of sides (€4.50 each) were also available and included French Beans, Green Salad, and Onion Rings amongst many others, but we decided to forgo these in order to leave room for dessert.
After some indecision where the lemon posset and crème brûlée started off as front-runners we eventually decided to share an Apple Tarte Tatin, Vanilla Ice-Cream, Brandy Cream (€9.00). To accompany our communal dessert we decided to treat ourselves and have a glass of dessert wine each - Seifried Estate ‘Sweet Agnes’ Riesling (€13.00) for me and a 2007 Chateau Barbier Sauternes (€12.50 per glass). It was at this point that all my professional objectivity flew out the window. I’m known for my sweet tooth but I had transcended into a profound state of dessert nirvana. Coupled with the exquisite Riesling, I found it impossible to critique  in a meaningful way other than to say that for me it was perfection on  a plate.
Apple Tarte Tatin
I was hugely impressed by my meal in The Coburg. This is not your regular hotel restaurant fare, but rather it is food that is stylish and contemporary without a whiff of pretension. Classic dishes have been re-interpreted in a contemporary way using the best Irish produce so that they are exciting to eat. Service is everything you would expect from a 5 star hotel and our wonderful waiter Martus was professional and hugely knowledgeable about the food and drink on offer. If you are in Dublin, The Coburg is somewhere that you have to visit.
The Coburg
Conrad Dublin
Earlsfort Terrace, Dublin 2, Ireland
Telephone: 016028900
Sweet Agnes

Monday, 1 August 2016

The Strand Inn, Dunmore East, County Waterford

It’s easy to see why Dunmore East in County Waterford is such a popular holiday destination. This charming fishing village sits comfortably nestled into the cliffs and offers up stunning panoramic views of the ocean where the world’s oldest working lighthouse at Hook Head can be seen in the distance. The surrounding coastline is made up of headlands, coves and sandy beaches begging to be explored. The village has a curiously French feel to it and there were many times during my brief visit that I was reminded of the attractive little coastal towns that can be found in Brittany.
Lawlor's Strand
Locals are friendly and welcoming but for me, the thing that is most attractive about Dunmore East is that it has eschewed the extreme tacky commercialism of so many other seaside towns and it feels beautifully unspoiled. What visitors can expect to find is a lively seaside town which offers plenty of outdoor activities and also has many fabulous places to eat, drink and stay in. As home to one of the five designated National Fishery Harbours, it is also a busy fishing port with the second highest figure for fish landing in the country after Killybegs in County Donegal.
At the centre of the village, pristine thatched cottages overlook Lawlor’s Strand where, despite the soft rain that was falling when I arrived, children played happily at the shoreline building sandcastles and splashing each other with sea-water. Although Dunmore East is located relatively close to Waterford City, you really get the sense that it is a place where you can cast aside the stresses of everyday life. We all need the chance to relax and unwind sometimes and I was really looking forward to doing exactly that during my stay at The Strand Inn which is known for its warm welcome, comfortable rooms and top-notch food.
The Strand Inn Bedroom
There has been a tavern on the site of The Strand Inn for close to 300 years, dating back to when the coves around Dunmore East were rife with smugglers. These days it is a charming family-run boutique hotel with 15 bedrooms, a bar and restaurant. Originally opened in 1965 by Michael Foyle and his wife Isabella, the hotel is now run by his grandson Clifden Foyle who oversaw the the hotel’s recent refurbishment.
Inside, I was greeted by the friendly staff and shown to my large, comfortable room on the top floor of the hotel. I Immediately loved the spacious but simply decorated room with its enormous bed, comfortable couch and the spectacular views of the sea which could be seen through its windows. Walls painted white along with the white bed-linen gave this unpretentious but tastefully decorated room a lovely airy feel whilst striped velvet cushions added a cheeky splash of colour and prevented the room from seeming too austere.
The Strand Inn Dining Room
After my long drive I was keen to stretch my legs so I quickly unpacked my case and headed downstairs for a pre-dinner stroll. Luckily the sun had decided to make an appearance and as I passed by on my way to the beach some guests were dining al fresco on the hotel’s terrace. At the beach, I kicked off my shoes and paddled at the water’s edge. The wonderful feeling of the sand between my toes transported me back in time and I became lost in my memories of fun-filled childhood visits to the seaside. Hunger eventually got the better of me, so I wandered back up to the hotel in time for my dinner reservation.
The restaurant at The Strand Inn has been cleverly designed with large expansive windows to showcase the wonderful sea views through its windows. The dining room is bright and spacious and feels stylish but not intimidating. The Foyles are avid art collectors and many of the paintings that they have acquired over the years hang on the walls of the restaurant and throughout the rest of the hotel.
Pan-Fried Lambs' Liver
Given The Strand Inn’s location, it is understandable that seafood features heavily on the dinner menu, but there are also plenty of options for meat-eaters and vegetarians. I was delighted to see lambs’ liver featured on the list of starters but also really wanted to try the crab claws starter from the daily ‘Specials Board’. After some agonising, I decided to order both!
As I waited for my starters to arrive I chatted to Clifden Foyle, nibbled on the very tasty homemade soda bread and sipped on a rather nice glass of Prosecco. Clifden is a charismatic host and you really feel that he wants each guest to enjoy their time at The Strand Inn. Throughout the evening, he stopped by the tables and talked to the diners many of whom he knew by name as they had stayed at the Strand Inn previously.
Crab Claws
People can be a little bit squeamish about offal but my Pan-Fried Lambs’ Liver, Caramelised Red Onion, Celeriac Purée (€9.50) was a deeply flavoured and exceptionally delicious plate of food where the liver was cooked to perfection and still nicely pink in the middle. The rich and sticky sauce with its peppery notes was the perfect accompaniment whilst the creamy celeriac mash managed to calm everything down on the palate. I loved every single mouthful.
My other starter - Pan-Fried Crab Claws in Garlic Butter (€14.50) was also fantastic. It was full of garlic and made with loads of butter which dribbled down my chin in a very satisfying way as I sucked the sweet crab-meat from the claws. Both dishes were very different but equally good and it was obvious to me that there was talent in the kitchen and that a lot of care and attention had gone into creating the dishes.
Baked Lobster
Although tempted by the Turbot in Breadcrumbs with Hollandaise Sauce I decided to go all out and order the Baked Whole Lobster with Lemon & Dill Butter (€32.00) for my main course. It is so easy to overcook lobster, but this was wonderfully tender and a delight to eat and had been prepared so that it was easy to pick out the meat. Sides of  steamed vegetables, baby potatoes and potato gratin were also lovely.
The dessert menu features many old-school classics including one of my favourites - Sticky Toffee Pudding. In the end however, I decided to go for the Strawberry Pavlova (€6.50) which was everything you would want it to be - light and airy with a slightly chewy centre, packed full of juicy strawberries and cream. Simple, but delicious. In many ways, the Pavlova reflected the rest of the food at The Strand Inn, which is simply prepared but primarily focused on flavour.
Strawberry Pavlova
The Strand Inn Restaurant has a small but nicely chosen wine-list with a good selection of wines available by the glass but I was happy with the Prosecco. After dinner, I decided to pop into the hotel’s bar for a drink. I was delighted to see that the recently launched Wexford Strawberry Gin from the local Blackwater Distillery was available so promptly ordered a Gin & Tonic which I enjoyed tremendously. The bar was packed full of patrons and holiday makers and is evidently one of the village’s popular venues. Traditional music sessions take place regularly and on warm evenings patrons can sit out and enjoy their drinks on the hotel’s seaside terrace.
After a deep and refreshing night’s sleep in my comfortable bed, I awoke to the sound of waves crashing against the cliffs. I had left my bedroom window slightly ajar and during the night the tide had come in. Still groggy and slightly disorientated I was confused by the sound of water so close by and for a moment or two thought that I was on a cruise ship. I quickly realised where I was and in a relaxed fashion got up out of bed, showered and made my way down to breakfast.
Eggs Benedict
Breakfast is served in the dining room and when the weather is favourable can also be served on the terrace. The breakfast menu is impressive with loads of tempting dishes on it.  A full breakfast buffet offers a wide selection of fruits, breads, platters of meat and cooked breakfasts include kedgeree, kippers, haddock and the traditional Irish Breakfast. After a bowl of cereal and some fruit, I decided to order Eggs Benedict. A pair of perfectly cooked poached eggs sat atop two toasted slices of the same wonderful soda bread that I had sampled at dinner the previous night along with slices of nicely salty bacon. The dish was completed  with a light and tangy hollandaise sauce. This was the perfect start to my day.
As I packed up my bags and got ready to leave, I can truly say that The Strand Inn is somewhere that I will definitely return to. I have stayed in many top hotels around Ireland and whilst they may be luxuriously decorated and situated on large country estates etc., they often feel soulless and as a guest it sometimes seems that you are on a hospitality conveyor-belt. This is not the case at The Strand Inn. You know that your needs as an individual really do matter. Many of the guests return year-after-year and having spent some time there, I can understand why.
The Strand Inn
Dunmore East
County Waterford
Telephone: 051383174
E-mail: the
This article first appeared in
The Strand Inn Balcony