Sunday, June 28, 2009

Lovage, Raspberry, and Elderflower tonic

After trying lovage for the first time last week, I was interested in trying lovage with something sweeter than pea soup. I don't know the exact amounts I used so this is just a rough guide. Be sure not to use too much lovage as it has a very strong flavor. If you were to make a large jug of this tonic, two to three lovage leaves are all that are needed. Elderflower tonic is sold in most health food shops. Other high quality cordials can be substituted if elderflower is unavailable.

For this tonic you will need:

Fresh or frozen raspberries

Lovage leaves or mint if lovage is unavailable

Elderflower tonic


Fresh lemons

Vodka optional

Soda water

In a large jug mix fresh or frozen raspberries, elderflower cordial, chopped lovage, ice, some fresh lemon juice and vodka (if using) to taste. Add cold soda water and taste. If more sweetness etc. is needed add to taste.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


I recently bought The River Cottage Cookbook at a charity shop. One of the first recipes I tried was the pea, lettuce and lovage soup. Lovage is pretty hard to come by. I remembered seeing the stuff previously at one of the veggie stalls at the farmer's market. However, I had never used lovage. I assumed it was more of a medicinal herb rather than a culinary one. Boy was I wrong, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall describes the taste and smell of lovage in his book as 'curryish.' When I got home from the market I excitedly opened the bag to get the inside scoop on lovage. The scent that rose up from this crumpled little bag was astounding. I made Dermot take a drag of the heady herb. He was just as amazed as I. Yes, it is 'curryish' and so much more. If you see lovage, buy it, the scent alone will inspire you. Whittingstall, points out that only a little lovage is needed to cook with, as it is so potent in scent. The recipe below is verbatim from The River Cottage Cookbook. You can eat this soup hot or cold. I added cream to my soup before serving cold. It was really good and inexpensive to make.
Pea, Lettuce and Lovage Soup

1 medium onion

a little butter or olive oil

500 grams or 1 pound fresh or frozen peas shelled

1 small Cos or Romaine lettuce, or 2 Little Gems, shredded

700 ml good chicken or vegetable stock

5-6 lovage leaves, plus 4 to garnish

salt and pepper

Dash of cream optional

Serves 4

Sweat onion in oil or butter until soft, then add peas and lettuce. Pour over the stock, bring to boil and simmer gently for 4-6 minutes until peas are completely tender. Remove from the heat and add lovage leaves, then blend the soup with an immersion blender. Stop blending when you are happy with the texture. If you like smooth soup blend away, if you like thick chunky soup stop when you reach the desired consistency.
To serve cold, chill in the fridge. To serve hot, reheat stirring occasionally, but do not allow to boil. season to taste, then pour in to individual bowls and garnish with a single lovage leaf.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Broad bean, tomato and mozzarella salad

On Saturday I bought fresh broad beans and by today I still hadn't used them. I decided to make a summery Italian style dish. To prepare broad beans, shell and boil for one to three minutes depending on how large the beans are. I over cooked mine slightly they were still yummy. I tossed the beans with extra virgin olive oil,one finely chopped clove of garlic, salt, pepper, and a squeeze of lemon.

I seeded two tomatoes and diced them, and roughly tore up fresh mozzarella and added the veg and cheese to the broad bean mixture.
You must use good mozzarella. I added a chopped handful of fresh oregano to finish the salad off. Let the salad sit for an hour to macerate in the mixture and then enjoy.



Last week while at the fish mongers, I noticed they had some samphire for sale. This was pretty exciting for me, as I had only come across the sea vegetable once before. This tidal plant is seriously delicious. It's very simple to make too. I have read on more than one occasion that samphire is similar to asparagus in texture and taste. I don't agree with this, it is salty and fresh like the ocean, and arguably better than asparagus. If you see it you must try it. I bought a little less than a pound for about four Euro, not to too spendy. If you know where to pick these guys in Ireland, tell me. I would be forever in your debt.

In the River Cottage Cookbook, Whittingstall explains that samphire is picked until the end of August and that the vegetable becomes fiberous and woody after flowering (in August.) To prepare pick over, clip off the ends of the stalks on larger plants, wash, boil until al dente and serve with melted butter. Samphire is an amazing accompanyment to fish.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Refried Perfection

I love refried beans. Of late, I have been following The Homesick Texan's blog. She talks a lot about lard. She cooks a lot with lard. In fact, she raves about the stuff. As children, we were told lard was evil, terrible, it was horrible stuff. I remember the same said about butter, however, I also remember mothers, grandmothers etc. pooh poohing margarine when baking. Butter was the only way. Thanksgiving and Christmas were special in part because we got real butter on our spuds instead of margarine. The Homesick Texan was the first person I'd heard say, 'lard is good.' I was curious and the gods of lard were listening. On Friday, I stumbled on to the lard section in Tesco's. It was the perfect price too, 30 cent a go.
Authentic refried beans are supposed to be made with lard. I have been searching for the perfect refried recipe for literally years. Until today I had never made beans with lard. I've used butter (yum) olive oil, sunflower oil, bacon fat and the list goes on. Truthfully, I enjoy butter the most. Pinto beans are quite neutral. Most beans seem to be. You can really taste the butter in the refried beans and I really like that. Vegan versions are very tasty too, oil can be substituted easily and the results are delicious. As far as lard is concerned, my partner loves beans fried in them. Lard seems to be neutral in flavor and I didn't feel that it lent the beans any special texture or flavor. They were really nice, but I still don't have my dream beans. This hasn't put me off lard though. I've only begun.

I don't have a definitive recipe for beans, like I said before. I'm going to write down the ingredients and if you wish to make these beans you'll have to do everything to your own taste, and the volume you require.


Dry pinto beans or whichever beans you prefer

1 tablespoon baking soda

Half an onion



Bay leaf

Salt and pepper

Soak your beans overnight in water and 1 tablespoon of baking soda. Alternately, soak beans in water that has been brought to the boil plus 1 tablespoon of baking soda (then taken off the heat) for an hour. When you are ready to cook your beans rinse them thoroughly, or they will taste of baking soda. Fill a pot with water and your beans put on the hob uncovered with bay, garlic and half an onion. . DO NOT add salt to the pot!!!!!! Your beans will never get soft. Cook at med-med low for about an hour and then rinse beans again. Add new water to the pot. The amount depends on how done your beans are. If your beans are soft, just cover with water. If your beans are hard more water is needed. When your beans are soft and the water has mostly evaporated as pictured above mash the beans with a fork as little or as much as you would like. Toast your cumin and grind into a powder. Add the cumin, lard, salt and pepper to your beans to taste. Enjoy!!!!!!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Rule 1 of the Big Fat Food Manifesto

Garlic is King !!!!!!!!!!!!!!
The Irish tend to disagree with my sentiments. Although, they really love their garlic chip and cheese (who wouldn't?) My partner is not a fan of garlic, nor is he a fan or the ubiquitous garlic chip and cheese. The thing about garlic is it adds so much depth to food. Just because it isn't slapping you in face doesn't mean it isn't there. Too many times I have made soups, stews, sauces etc. and forgotten to throw in a clove or seven into the mix. The results are mediocre not great. Something is missing and the answer torments me all night until finally, I awaken at four a.m. GARLIC, damn!!!!
Garlic and I were always friends. We fell in love when I was a teen, my friends and I used to go to the Westmark Hotel for appetizers. The height of sophistication. We always got baked Brie and roasted garlic. We probably imagined ourselves as the horsey type, just back from polo or something. At least Gore Vidal could sneer at our longing for this rich waspy lifestyle. I love retro food, I've never managed to try aspic, maybe it could be my Everest. I digress, the salty creamy cheese and the sweet smoky garlic were so amazing together. I really loved the stuff, I still do. It's so easy to make and my staunchly anti-garlic partner loves the stuff too. If the staunchest of the anti-garlic movement can be swayed...
2 large heads of garlic

2 t olive oil

1/2 t salt

8 oz whole wheel of

crusty bread

Remove all but one layer of husks from the garlic (don’t separate into cloves). Place in small baking dish, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Bake covered in 350 degree oven until very tender, 75 to 90 minutes.

Score the brie and place in a shallow baking dish. Grill until brown and bubbly, 5 to 7 minutes. Meanwhile, slice the bread.

Serve cheese while hot with the garlic and bread. Squeeze a clove or two of soft roasted garlic on a slice of bread, spread with a little melted cheese. Yummy.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Courgettes and Garlic

Last night I was watching a cooking show. It was Trish's fancy French stuff or something. This recipe seemed kind of unappealing but I felt like I need a new cold dish for my repertoire. I was pleasantly surprised by the results.
Recipe for Courgettes and Garlic

2 courgettes

1 head of garlic

1 tablespoon fresh thyme or to taste

juice of 1 lemon

extra virgin olive oil to taste

salt and freshly cracked pepper

Trish added Parmesan, I omitted that ingredient.
This recipe is pretty straight forward. Wash, top and tail courgettes. Pull apart garlic, but keep them in their skins. Boil courgettes and garlic in hot water for ten or so minutes. When the veg and garlic are tender, take them out of the pot and set on a towel to dry. Squeeze the cloves of garlic from their skins and mash them together with a little olive oil, salt and pepper. When the courgettes are cool enough cut into thirds or halves or if you're feeling pretty out there, quarter them length ways. If you have a large enough plate you can lie all the courgettes (I would only halve the courgettes length ways then) out and top evenly with the mashed garlic mixture. Then drizzle with lemon juice and olive oil. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and fresh thyme. If you're like me, you may have to stack the courgettes lasagna style on to a smaller plate.