Friday, April 30, 2010
Ever wondered how to make fresh marshmallow, its easier than you might think and they make a great addition to a barbecue.
One of the great things about food is there’s always something new around the corner. Be it a vegetable or exciting newly introduced seafood or meat. Food and its variety are truly infinite. But often even better than finding a new culinary experience is rediscovering an old one. On cooking a barbeque during the week I got a sudden bright idea to toast up a few marshmallows. Sticky, sweet and lightly caramelised a toasted marshmallow is definitely one of the great forgotten culinary masterpieces. And with a few simple sweet dips such as chocolate, caramel or maybe strawberry sauce a neat plate of marshmallows can really make a fantastic dessert, in particular at the end of a BBQ. Often on looking at marshmallows it’s easy to conclude that there a highly processed food, to be avoided at all costs. And indeed this is most likely to be the case with the commercially bought variety. But not to worry because making marshmallows fresh is surprisingly simple. A marshmallow is more or less a meringue which is set with gelatine. Natural flavours can be added and also the recipe lends itself to experimentation, once the basics are mastered
So for tasty fresh marshmallows
350 gram sugar
½ tbsp of glucose syrup
1 ½ dl water
20 gram Leaf gelatine
2 Egg whites
1. Place the water, sugar and glucose into a sugar pan and bring to 127°C, use a sugar thermometer.
2. Soak the leaf gelatine in a little water then dissolve in 1 dl of water, keep warm.
3. Whisk the egg whites into stiff peaks. When stiff and while continuously whisking add the hot syrup. Then add the dissolved gelatine. Continue whisking until the mixture becomes thick and creamy.
4. Line a tray with lightly oiled grease proof paper, pour the mixture into the tray and smooth the surface. Allow cool for around five hours before turning out. When turned out cut the marshmallow into cubes.
5. Finish in whatever way you see fit, maybe dipping into warm chocolate, tossing in pre roasted desiccated coconut. Or best of all toasting over a BBQ or camp fire on a perfect summer evening.
Thursday, April 29, 2010
Organic pork is a wonderful meat. The Joint photographed also tasted as good as it looks.
Really good organic pork…Unbeatable
By Michael O Meara
Pork is for some reason often over looked as a premium meat, which is a bit odd because good pork is incomparable in flavour when at its best. Pork is a traditional meat for us Irish and formed an important part of the traditional diet; salted pork was one of the few sources of protein in the winter months and it was common for many families to keep a pig, which would be fed the scraps of potatoes and vegetables. Additionally the pig was possibly the first domesticated animal and possibly the only farm animal which will not only survive, but will often prosper if it escapes captivity. The domesticated pig will quickly become feral and take on characteristics of a wild boar when free from captivity; this shows the intelligence and adaptability of the pig. Indeed the pig is said to be at least as intelligent as a dog, which brings me to my next point. Industrial production of pigs is an important industry but an industry which must have the highest standards of animal welfare as keeping such highly intelligent animals in any kind of sub-standard conditions is particularly cruel, which is why its so important to know exactly where your pork is sourced. Organic or even free range pork can be difficult to obtain in Ireland, additionally the meat may not be as tender as the caged pigs as the free range animal is a lot more active hence developing its muscles. On the other hand the flavour of an organic pig is simply stunning and well worth paying a premium for.
Recently Padraig Fahy of Beechlawn Organic farm who is easily found at many of the farmers markets in Galway fattened up a few pigs. Now it’s always exciting to get a side of pork, as you have a number of unusual cuts which lend themselves to slow cooking such as shoulders, belly and hocks and this slow moist cookery really allows the flavour to develop. Furthermore a great marinade for pork is that cheap cider found in two litre plastic bottles. Simply pour the entire bottle over the cut of pork, in a deep roasting dish and allow marinade for around 5 – 24 hours before pot roasting in the cider. When cooked reduce the liquid for a stunning sauce.
Of course apple sauce is always great with pork, to make a simple apple sauce simply
peel two cooking apples and chop into small pieces then place into a thick based pot and add a drop of water. Cook at a low heat until the apple begins to break down, then add a couple of tablespoons of sugar and allow dissolve and form into a sauce, serve either hot or cold.
To roast a pork chop first season well with salt and freshly crushed black pepper. Place onto a hot pan and seal on both side, reduce the heat and cook continuously until cooked fully to 72°C.
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
This is a great dish for using a selection of seafood at once.
Photography and text by Michael O Meara
There are few better ways to enjoy fresh seafood than a well made fish pie. A creamy wine sauce flavoured with leek and parsley mixed with what-ever fish is available and best. Rich mashed potato finished with real butter and cream and topped with local Galway cheese baked till golden, fish pie is really one of the great Irish foods.
There are no rules when it comes to what fish to use in a seafood pie. Mussels, prawns in their various forms, hake, cod, haddock and salmon, any fish will do. Smoked fish is often used and will give a great depth of flavour, but it is better to use the smoked fish sparingly and use fresh fish as the main base of the dish. The choice of potato is also important as a fluffy light mashed potato will make the pie into a meal to be remembered. Fish pies can be constructed and served straight away but will hold well in the refrigerator for up to a day.
To make a seafood pie which will serve 4 the following recipe will work well
For mashed potato
600 grams potatoes peeled and washed (use a dry variety such as roosters)
100 gram butter
50 ml full fat milk
Salt to season
Method: place the potatoes into a large pot and cover completely with cold water. Add a tablespoon of salt to the water and cover the pot with a pre-cut sheet of grease proof paper. Allow the water come to a gentle simmer and cook until the potatoes are soft and cooked through. Drain off the water and allow stand for five minutes to allow the potatoes dry out. Place the milk, cream, and butter into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Slowly pour the hot liquid over the potatoes while mashing ( you may not need all the liquid) season the potatoes and place aside.
For fish pie filling
150 gram salmon cut into 2cm cubes
100 gram haddock cut into 2cm cubes
10 large prawns
150 gram cod cut into 2cm cubes
70 gram mussels cooked and removed from their shells
Note there are no rules for the fish selection and the above selection is intended as a guideline
50 gram butter
50 gram flour
50 ml cream
150 ml fish stock
100 gram leeks sliced fine
25 grams parsley chopped fine
30 ml white wine
50 gram shallots diced fine
40 gram Killen Galway cheese sliced thinly
1. Into a thick based saucepan place the butter and allow melt with out colour, add the shallots and cook lightly, add the flour and cook into a Roux, do not allow the Roux (flour butter mixture) to brown.
2. Add the stock to the Roux and whisk to form a sauce allow cook while stirring with a wooden spoon, the sauce will thicken as it cooks.
3. Add the cream and white wine to the sauce. The sauce should be a smooth consistency with no lumps.
4. Add all the fish and the leeks to the sauce and allow to simmer until the fish is 80% cooked this will take around seven minutes; finish the sauce with the chopped parsley.
To construct the pie
Place the seafood mix into a pie dish such as an earthenware serving dish. Pipe the potato onto the seafood and then top the potato with the cheese. Bake in a hot oven until the pie is golden and hot all the way through.
Serve and enjoy
Food and photography by Michael O Meara
Spring Lamb Sweetbreads
Liver, kidneys and even tripe, indeed offal can send many a person running for cover. Anthony Bourdain in his superb ‘Les Halles Cookbook’ has dedicated a chapter to offal, he calls it “Blood and guts” and what are the first words of this chapter? “This is the good stuff, the dishes chefs get all misty-eyed about when they talk about food”.
Indeed offal when fresh and cooked well is the good stuff, and to add to that it’s also down right affordable. This is the food that got the world through the great depression of the 1930’s. And its time we placed our sights firmly back on heart braised and served with wild garlic, liver cooked pink with buttery mashed potatoes or kidneys with wild mushrooms and a pink peppercorn sauce.
But if you want to know what the best single piece of offal is? Right about now spring lamb is in season which means that lamb sweetbreads are at their best. There are two types of sweetbread in an animal, being the thymus gland and the pancreas. For me the pancreas makes better eating. It is important to prepare and cook sweetbreads when as fresh as possible, as is the case with all offal. Traditionally sweetbreads are soaked for a few hours in water and then blanched and refreshed before use. I find this takes away from the delicate lamb’s sweetbread which simply requires a little salt and fresh black pepper to season, then a quick tossing in flour before gently frying in a little butter until cooked through. A simple puree made from fresh sorrel makes a stunningly good accompaniment to the sweetbreads when fried golden.
Sweetbreads lend themselves to many cookery methods, the vast majority of which are simple and more than a little bit tasty.
Simply season and flour the sweetbreads then dip into a light fritter batter and cook in a deep fryer until golden brown.
To make batter simply sift 1 cup of flour into a bowl, make a well in center and add 2 whole eggs then gradually beat in 300ml milk. Allow batter stand in refrigerator for 1 hour before use.
Sweetbread and potato salad with balsamic garlic dressing
5 lamb sweetbreads
A little flour
1 small potato
1 knob of butter to fry with
30 ml balsamic vinegar
50 ml virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic
Sprig of thyme
Salt and pepper to season
Dressing can be made in advance
60 grams organic salad leafs per person
1. Make dressing and place aside
2. Wash and slice potatoes into thin slices, fry on each side in a little butter until golden, remove from pan and place aside.
3. Clan pan then add a little butter, season sweetbreads then lightly flour, shaking off any excess. Fry in butter until golden and cooked.
4. Remove from pan and clean the pan with a little kitchen paper.
5. Place the sweetbreads back into the pan, when good and hot, add 2 tablespoons of the dressing. Toss the sweetbreads in the dressing until well coated.
6. Dress a plate with the salad. Then place 5 potato slices onto the plate evenly spaced. Place a sweetbread onto each potato, then another potato atop each sweetbread to create 5 small potato sweetbread sandwiches.
7. Drizzle a little more dressing around the plate and onto the salad, and then serve straight away.
Monday, April 26, 2010
The first of the irish strawberries and what better recipe than strawberry shortcake
“Doubtless God could have made a better berry, but doubtless God never did” Dr. William Butler
What food in Ireland heralds the coming of summer more than the strawberry? In addition where in the world can you find strawberries which are better than the fruits grown in Ireland? Interestingly the strawberry falls into an odd category of fruit in that the seeds are on the outside, often referred to as an ‘accessory or false fruit’. The wild strawberry was picked and often transplanted into gardens for many hundreds of years without cultivation, why try to improve on what many considered perfection. The wild fruit is small, very sweet and extremely delicate. But market forces eventually led to the crossing of various strawberry species in and around the 17th century to produce the fruit we are familiar with today which is a highbred between a Chilean and Virginian varieties, although now there are a great many sub species. The strawberry is among the most satisfying fruits that you can grow and it is relatively simple to obtain a good sized crop using a large pot, often with holes cut into the sides to allow for more plants.
But what can you do with your fresh strawberries? Well that is simple; get a large amount of full fat cream when whipped pour generously over the strawberries. Another idea is red wine served in the same fashion or even better Champagne. But if you want to impress try rustling up a few sable biscuits.
175 gram butter
125 gram sugar
3 medium egg yolks
200 gram flour
50 gram ground almonds
Cream together the butter & sugar until fluffy then add the egg yolks one at a time ensuring they are mixed well.
Sift the flour and almonds then gently mix into the butter, sugar and egg mixture.
Pipe the mixture onto a well greased and lightly floured baking tray; allow plenty of space between the biscuits; bake at 190°C for about 8 – 10 minutes or until lightly golden in colour.
Allow cool before serving.
To serve simply layer the biscuits with freshly whipped cream and sliced strawberries.
By Michael O’Meara chef owner of Oscars bistro Galway city www.oscarsbistro.ie
Saturday, April 24, 2010
picture by Michael O'Meara and it was good to eat as well
Vanilla is a flavour which we often take for granted. Indeed when many of us think of a plain ice-cream, for example, what we really mean is Vanilla flavoured ice-cream. Indeed vanilla is a unique and potent flavour which truly has an intoxicating perfume. The vanilla pod is obtained from a vine which is indigenous to Central America, the botanical name being Vannila planifolia. This is a real tropical paradise type plant which is mainly pollinated by humming birds as well as bees. Conversely although vanilla grows in many places in the world including Madagascar and Mauritius it is only in Mexico that the plant pollinates unaided and naturally. As with chocolate, it was the Aztecs who first used vanilla as a flavour and they can also take credit for one of the greatest culinary combinations of all which is chocolate and vanilla. A common drink from Irish shores which uses this flavour combination is of course Baileys Irish cream. Also in common with chocolate it was the Spanish who brought vanilla to Europe. The production of vanilla is a major business with Madagascar, Reunion, and the Comoro Islands producing about 80% of the worlds supply. The main variety grown commercially is commonly known as bourbon vanilla. Harvesting of vanilla is carried out before the pods or beans are ripe, they are steamed quickly after harvesting before being allowed to ferment for around four weeks. Sugar crystals and vanillin often form on the pods, and this highly perfumed coating is a quality point of vanilla.
As with far too many foods, vanilla has its nemesis, being that truly horrible vanilla essence often found in little glass bottles. Indeed this is a true synthetic vanillin and is regarded as a good reproduction of natural vanilla. But in reality there is much more to natural vanilla than simply vanillin. The vanillin flavour combines with other chemical components of the vanilla pod to produce the real, natural vanilla flavour. So when buying vanilla its best to use a pod, split in two and removing the little seeds which are the main source of flavour or as a second best alternative use pure vanilla extract.
To make vanilla ice cream
6 organic egg yolks
75 grams sugar
½ pint cream
½ full fat milk
1 vanilla pod
1. Split the vanilla pod and scrape out the seeds, mix the seeds and pod with the milk and cream place into a thick based pot and gently bring to 90°C.
2. Into a steel bowl add the sugar and egg yolks, mix with a wooden spoon, don’t whisk.
3. Pour 50% of the milk / cream onto the sugar and egg yolk and mix together, and then pour the solution into the remaining milk / cream which is in the pot.
4. Place the custard onto a gentle heat and allow cook until the sauce coats the back of the wooden spoon. DO NOT ALLOW BOIL.
5. Allow cool and then place into an ice-cream machine and churn until a thick and creamy ice is finished.
Thursday, April 22, 2010
This picture was taken on a day which my fishmonger surprised me with a few KG of fresh cockles
By Michael O’Meara
Oscars Bistro Galway city
As a young lad in the 70’s, my family and I would often holiday on the coast of Sligo. If you know Sligo at all you will know that some of the best and most spectacular beaches and coastlines in the Country can be found in this county and they are well worth seeking out and exploring. On a little strand called Culleenamore I would spend hours gathering a small and rather delicious shellfish which was abundant in the sands of this back strand, this little piece of heaven is better known as the cockle.
Cockles for me are an incredibly nostalgic wild food which is easy to collect when you’re in the right place and as sweet and delicious as any seafood you will find. The cockle is a bivalve shellfish of which there are a number of species although a number of similar shellfish are called cockles, although they are not true members of the Cardiidae family. The common or edible cockle is properly named Cerastoderma edule. This is a tasty treat both cooked and raw and is a very popular shellfish at Oscars, but one good tip is to allow the cockle to store in clean fresh seawater for around 24 hours in order to purge excess sand from the shellfish. The name cockle itself is derived from the Greek word meaning shell, not that Molly Malone was likely to care for the classical naming of her cockles “as she cried Cockles and mussels Alive Alive, oh”’
Despite us Irish having the most famous cockle seller among us, the Irish never really embraced the cockle as the English have, which is a real pity because the cockle is not only great on its own but also makes a great addition to almost any seafood stew, chowder or other combination dish.
To cook cockles
1 kg fresh cockles all of which have been purged in fresh sea water and well cleaned
1 glass of white wine
2 large shallots chopped fine
100 ml fresh cream
1 table spoon finely chopped parsley
Place the cockles into a large pot with a tight fitting lid, add the wine and shallots then close the lid and place pot onto a high heat. Cook until all the cockles are open then add the cream and chopped parsley. Bring to boil and serve straight away with plenty of crusty bread to mop up the tasty broth.
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
This picture was taken in Oscars Bistro by Michael O'Meara
Right, you want to cook the finest, juiciest and best tasting steak of all time. Steak in being so simple to cook in a funny way leads it to a great steak being difficult to perfect. The English and French approach the seasoning of the meat in completely different ways. In France the meat is seasoned when raw, this allows a better penetration of the salt into the meat, this will increase flavour. The English argue that the meat should be seared and then seasoned as not to draw out any excess moisture, leaving the meat more on the juicy side and with a better caramelised surface. I follow both rules, seasoning one side when raw and the other (the side I will be presenting the meat) seared. THE SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT PART OF COOKING A STEAK IS GETTING THE BEST POSSIBLE BEEF. In my case that’s prime Irish grass fed Hereford society Heifer beef. Aberdeen Angus is also good as is Wadakin. Good quality beef should be bright red (not dull as this poor colouration is caused mainly by oxidation) and slightly firm to the touch with a pleasant sweet smell, good fat distribution or marbling is also important. Now that you have you beef right onto the cooking.
I like to char-grill my beef over an open grill often using fresh herbs on the coals to give a light smoky flavour. The picture I used was taken during service and the steak was sold to a paying customer. Before cooking the beef remove it form refrigeration for a few minutes as if the meat is too cold it will be more difficult to cook evenly. Season the meat as I mentioned earlier. Pre-heat a thick based pan and sear the steak seasoning well( steak can take a lot more salting than is often realised, great for flavour, maybe not for blood pressure). Finish depending on how you wish to cook the steak in a hot oven only if you wish to cook the beef beyond medium while turning throughout the cookery process so as not to allow the beef char too much on any one side. It’s important to allow the beef to rest 5-10 minutes before serving as this will relax the meat making the end product far better.
The traditional sauce to serve with a steak was a compound butter. This is without doubt one of the simplest ways in which to make a sauce. A few simple butters may include
100 gram soft butter
2 -3 cloves garlic chopped fine
20 grams parsley chopped fine
Simple blend all the ingredients together in a mixing bowl, allow melt over the freshly cooked steak just before serving.
Quick pepper sauce
2 shallots chopped fine
100 ml red wine
50 ml cream
Freshly cracked black peppercorns (use according to taste)
After cooking the steaks remove from the pan, add the shallots and colour lightly, add the red wine and reduce by ¾ add the black pepper depending on how strong you like you sauce, add the cream and reduce the sauce until it thickens
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Picture by Michael O' Meara of red Mullet with oranges
It’s funny how we have so many pre-conceived opinions about a great many foods. For example the head of the fish in Ireland is almost always discarded and never consumed but is considered that best part in many Asian countries, or the many offal’s such as liver, kidneys or sweetbread’s are regarded as secondary cuts of meat, this is despite these parts of the animal being the most highly regarded by gourmets around the world.
As a chef I love to be challenged with ingredients especially foods which are local but not often found on menus. Stephane of Gannet fish mongers is a great man for putting up the challenge of using different fish to me and will often arrive into Oscars with a species which is a rarity on any Irish menus. Razor clams and sand gaper are cases in point. As we have just come out of a particularly fine spell of weather I thought that a mention of what must be among the most attractive and vibrant fish which is found in Irish waters is called for. As a brief introduction to this fine fish is required, often on looking into the waters of the docks you will spy a close relative of the fish I am referring to swimming happily in some of the most suspect water imaginable, of course this is the grey mullet. Grey mullet in fact are a superb fish for the table when sourced from a clean deep water location and are similar to wild sea bass (as opposed to the truly terrible farmed variety which is all too common). But it is the red mullet which I wish to draw your attention too. The red mullet is a bright and vibrant red colour and also is highly perishable. The best indication for freshness of red mullet is the fact that the colour of the fish fades as the fish ages; also the gills should be bright red and the eyes bright. The flesh is firm and the flavour is delicate. Also this is an easy fish to overcook and must be treated with great care. But the fish when cooked correctly and served with oranges and red peppers is like placing a little bit of summer on a plate.
Red mullet with oranges and red peppers
2 red mullet fillets de-scaled and pin boned per person
1 fresh orange per person peeled and sliced
1 teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil
Juice of ¼ of a lemon
¼ of a red pepper per person shredded finely
1. Heat a non-stick pan until good and hot
2. Lightly season the fillets then add the olive oil to the pan.
3. Sear the fillets of mullet on the skin side for 10 seconds then turn on the hot pan.
4. Add the oranges, pepper and lemon juice and allow to cook until the mullet is lightly cooked and the flakes of the fish are just starting to separate.
You can add a few leafs of flat leaf parsley and a lightly warmed couscous flavoured with lemon makes a great accompaniment
Michael O’Meara is the chef owner of Oscars Bistro Galway city www.oscarsbistro.ie
and the photo is by Michael as well
Sunday, April 18, 2010
We all have our preferences, maybe rare, medium or well done. And a good many vegetarians might be spotted looking enviously as thick juicy slices are carved, ready to be served as they indulge in their nut roasts. Indeed few foods make the mouth salivate as much as a real traditional beef roast. And even better when accompanied by all the trimmings, the red wine roast gravy, freshly grated horse radish sauce hot enough to make your eyes water and of course big fluffy Yorkshire puddings. A traditional roast of beef is a true masterpiece.
As an added bonus we in
The breed of the animal can make a difference to the quality and end result of a beef dish, but I have a preference for
To roast a joint of beef the following instructions work well.
- Use a correct roasting joint of beef such as sirloin or rib of beef, there are a number of secondary roasting cuts but these can be a little dry and are often a bit on the tough side, although this is not a rule.
- Pre-heat your oven before placing the beef into the oven.
- Season your beef well with sea salt and freshly crushed black pepper making sure to rub in the seasoning well.
- It’s a good idea to sear the beef on a hot pan before cooking in order to obtain the best possible colour.
- Place a few beef bones on the roasting tray to lift the beef joint off the roasting dish a little to ensure that the beef will not burn and also allow better heat circulation; a wire rack will also work for this.
- Pour a little water into the roasting tray at the beginning of the cookery process to ensure your beef juices do not burn.
- Start your beef in a hot oven 200°C for the first 20 minutes then reduce the heat to 150°C to complete the cookery process.
- Use a cooking thermometer to determine the degree the beef is cooked 72°C will give well done beef and 55-60° will give medium.
- Always allow you beef to relax outside the oven with a little tin foil covering it for 15 minutes before carving.
- When carving roast beef allow carve against the natural grain of the meat.
To make a traditional roast gravy
- Pour off any excess fat from the roasting tray.
- Place the roasting tray atop a low heat.
- Add a glass of red wine and with a wooden spoon loosen the caramelised beef juices from the roasting tray.
- Thicken with a little arrowroot.
110g plan flour
Pinch of salt
2 whole eggs
10 g butter melted
Oil or even better dripping
Sieve the flour, make a well in centre and add the eggs, with a whisk add the milk in a steady stream and when all the milk has been added add the butter. Give one last whisk then allow the batter to stand for around an hour.
Place a bun tin into a roasting tray to catch any oil which may overflow as the
Michael O Meara is the chef of
Another day in my kitchen. This is a great time of the year with a range of great foods coming into season. The lamb of Galway is world famous and well worth trying. Cuts such as the rump are a little different and offer the best of both the leg and the loin.
Oscars is a bistro restaurant in the oldest and best part of Galway city, this is the area that the locals hang out. The pubs are real the music venues are electric and the restaurants are passionate.