The New Irish Table cookbook

irishtable

Simply stunning photos and recipes that make me excited to cook again! Visiting Ireland is now high on my list too. Each section begins with a brief introduction about the region and then dives into menus from a chef or two in that region.

Fall is coming, which means it is perfect timing for soups like Potato, Prawn & Lime or Carrot, Potato & Cumin. There are plenty of warming dishes.

I can tell that things like Cucumber Pickle and Goat Cheese Mousse will become pantry staples. I knew it was easy to do a quick semi-pickle, but adding whiskey … pure genius.

I love that the desserts range from a simple poached pears with cream up to a delightful mini trifle and things with meringue.

poached

I’d recommend this for foodies or for anyone who loves Ireland.

The London Cookbook (Ten Speed Press)

londoncook

Being a lover of all things British, I had high hopes for this cookbook that were most definitely answered. It starts with a background of London’s food scene before launching into the brilliant recipes.

The recipes combine elegant little snippets of context – tiny Snapchat like details about the chefs or restaurants that immediately conjure familiarity – with simple, clear instructions.

Traditional dishes like potted shrimp (loved by James Bond and his creator Ian Fleming) have been made stronger with modern touches. Other dishes are purely modern, such as flavourful morel mushrooms hiding under a “veil of lardo (pork fat)” with garlic shoots and tiny potatoes in Madeira. This is less complicated than I expected, but not as simple as some others.

What about the chorizo hotdog paired with onion marmalade and paprika aoili? Or charred leeks with chevre, browned butter and smoked almonds? Definitely yes yes yes.

Soups go from delicate to hearty, while summer pasta, pork shoulder and duck ragu all sound so delicious that I can’t wait for my next meal.

And an entire section devoted to vegetarian dishes that make you sit up and take notice. Roasted squash, spiced carrots or Indian-inspired potato chaat. The potato chaat in particular stands out, full of delicious spices and textures and flavours that are difficult to resist.

Seafood, fowl and red meat all get their own sections, with equally delicious recipes from a variety of cultural influences, such as short ribs with chickpeas, chard and middle eastern yogurt.

Now for the sweet lovers. How patiently you’ve been waiting for desserts. The London Cookbook does not disappoint. Which one to make first? What about a rich, dense cake dotted with juicy peaches? Maybe a warm walnut cherry cake or a creamy custard rich with the taste of dark sugar? Actually, I might have to take a moment to make the double-decker tart, a gooey, crunchy, sugary confection resembling a grown up candy bar.

Such a delightful book and PERFECT for British lovers, I received an ebook but I had to pre-order as soon as I saw it!

Secret Garden tea room in Sumner

Some time ago a friend and I decided on a delicious quest – to eat our way through local tea rooms in search of the perfect High Tea. After a longish pause due to food intolerances, I’m happy to be back on this quest once again.

While the Secret Garden tea room in Sumner, WA might not be perfect, it is one of the best I’ve had and easily the best in the Northwest. One Friday afternoon I had some unexpected free time and we wandered down to Sumner. We were lucky enough to find a spot available in a few hours and after wandering local antique stores, we came back.

Located in a beautiful old mansion, the tea room was large and bustling with people. We took a peek at their gift shop, where we found charming items like a small set of mussy tussies, little fabric bags for holding a bouquet or sachet.

The menu has a good selection of options, I got the Hollyhock for ~$27 that includes a cup of soup, a small salad, unlimited scones and tea (!!), a plate of sweets, a plate of fruit and a plate of savory sandwiches.

First up was the unlimited scones and tea. It was wonderful, the tea was excellent and very hot. This is one of the most common and infuriating failings in a tea room, so high points on the tea. The cup was not heated (you can see my attempt to warm it), which would’ve been nice, but wasn’t a big deal.

I was a little dubious of the pumpkin with coconut milk, ginger and lemongrass but I was really hungry so I ordered it. What a pleasant surprise, a warming and fragrant soup served in a tea cup.

The scones came with as much Devonshire cream, lemon curd and strawberry jam we could stuff done. The scone was light and fluffy and not too heavy. The lemon curd was good but a bit sweet, more like Americans seem to love, so I piled mine high with the amazing cream and jam. Mmm!

Next up was a palate cleanser of mango sorbet, served in a pewter egg cup, which I really must do at home. The mango flavor was nice and strong.

And finally the main courses. So much food. For sweets there was pumpkin mousse, apple cake, truffles, hazelnut shortbread and chocolate-center cookies. Then fresh fruit alongside bacon bruschetta (yes bacon!), Gruyere pastry puffs and olive quiche. Lastly the sandwiches, cucumber on fresh butter, creamy chicken salad with nuts and cranberries, and a divine dill egg salad.

The bread was soft and firm, not at all mushy, and everything was incredibly fresh. It obviously was made mostly to order, and best of all we had a leisurely hour and a half to consume all these delectables over multiple courses.

Highly recommended!

Tipsy Brit cheddar and Branston Pickle

Nothing says British like strong cheddar with a side of pickle. The Tipsy Brit with mustard and ale from Ford Farms is a West Country Cheddar, meaning it is produced from local milk within 4 counties of South West England. Apparently this designation is protected and enforced.

By pickle I mean something like Branston Pickle, a brand that is basically crunchy vegetable bits like carrot soaked in vinegar. It is slightly sweet and sour, and a perfect partner for cheese, cold meat pies, etc.

I sometimes wonder if pickle was invented to hide ‘footy’ cheese (you know, when it smells like feet), but in this case there’s really no need. The cheddar is surprisingly smooth and creamy tasting, with a tang of ale and tiny sharp bites of mustard seed. No crackers required.

Pasta vs. mashed potatoes

Sometimes life does not make it easy for trivial details like blogging, dinner or doing your laundry. You really have to choose your priorities.

So tonight we were scraping the barrel for dinner – a tub of frozen homemade Bolognese sauce made during my more leisurely time and some gluten-free pasta that turned out too terrifying to eat after cooking. Mashed potatoes to the rescue!

While frozen mashed potatoes would work, we had leftovers from yesterday’s shepherd’s pie. Just fry them up in duck fat, heat up the pasta sauce, and viola! A seemingly intentional dinner that’s pretty hearty. Mashed squash or other vegetables work equally well.

Homemade pizza party

Pizza parties are usually for kids, involving enough grease to power a fleet of bio-diesel trucks. How about a grown-up version you make at home?

We made two pizzas. The first was a taste explosion with goat cheese, garlic-herb olives, spinach, pine nuts and squash. The second was an elegant and simple affair with Beecher’s sharp cheddar.

Ingredients:

  • Frozen or fresh pizza dough (we’ve made our own too, but tonight was low key)
  • Tomato sauce or pesto sauce
  • Oil, olive or some such
  • Few tablespoons of corn flour
  • Choice of toppings (squash and other large toppings should be pre-cooked)

Directions:

  1. Follow the directions and defrost the dough, usually putting in the fridge for a few hours or overnight
  2. Roll the dough out on a flat surface, we used cookie trays
  3. Pick up the dough and move it in circles with your fingers, and alternate holding it by edges – you really have to do this awhile if you want thin crust
  4. Spread a table spoon of oil over the pizza and it, then take a tablespoon of pesto or tomato sauce and spread until you have enough – don’t do too much or it’ll be soggy
  5. Spread your toppings over the pizza, starting with cheese
  6. If you have fresh toppings like spinach, these should be put on after it is done, but frozen should go before
  7. Cook for 15-20 minutes, watching the crust as an indicator

 

 

 

Roast cracklin’ pork, sweet potatoes and corn

Tonight we had roast pork – a real leg from a butcher who gets them from a nearby farm. The taste is so clearly superior that I find it hard to eat pork at restaurants. Juicy, clean and delicious. And of course, crunchy rind!

Paired with corn and sweet potatoes, this was a fairly sweet and tender-tasting meal.

To cook a pork leg is pretty simple, you need to criss-cross cut the leg so that the fat can drain and then salt evenly. Place in the pan leg or rind side up.

We pre-heat the oven to 450 or 500 degrees for the first 30 minutes, then drop the temperature to 200 for the remaining time. It should be 25-30 minutes per pound.

Steak Frites at Cafe Campagne

Do you get inspired by photos of food, then think you can make it just as good (if not better, considering you know your own tastes?) Here’s a little French Seattle inspiration for you…

You can get some tasty steak and frites (although not as good as I had in Paris) at Cafe Campagne, a little bit of French in the heart of downtown. Skip the fancy and overpriced Campagne and head instead for happy Wednesdays featuring 1/2 price steak and frites.

Add a salad amply decorated with fresh chèvre and coated in olive oil and Sherry vinaigrette. A glass of a sweet, slightly dry Vouvray or a light Pinot Noir will round out the meal nicely.

To make at home, Food and Wine have a pretty foolproof recipe.

Pasta with prosciutto, spinach and Romanesco

I am utterly delighted by fruits and vegetables that excite my senses with their newness. New smells, tastes, looks and texture, or a departure from the ordinary. I am also excited by new meats, grains and such, but there’s something lovely about a fruit, vegetable or seed. I can see it entire, instead as of a byproduct.

So it should not be a surprise that I promised an unusual addition for tonight’s dinner… notice that green shape in the background? Romanesco is a gloriously odd shaped cauliflower that has been mixed with broccoli, but which essentially tastes like cauliflower.

Isn’t it lovely?! But I’ll try not to keep waxing poetic about my odd passion. Instead I’ll leave you with the recipe for pasta with prosciutto and spinach, another adaptation from Food and Wine’s Quick Italian from Scratch. The pasta is hearty, with bright spinach and salty warm prosciutto, with the tasty Romanesco on the side.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup pine nuts (I forgot these tonight but they’re delicious)
  • 1/4 lb sliced prosciutto
  • 10 ounces or just some handfuls of spinach
  • 1 lb pasta
  • Grated Parmesan to taste (optional)
  • One head of Romanesco

Directions:

  1. Optionally toast the pine nuts in a small frying pan with a little bit of oil, or in the oven for 5-10 minutes.
  2. Boil water and cook the pasta until it is done, then drain most of the water.
  3. Boil water and cook the Romanesco, or steam it if you prefer – treat it like cauliflower.
  4. Add the spinach and prosciutto to the pasta, and stir until warmed through.

Bon appétit!

Italian rice with chicken

If you ever read Serendipity books as a child, you may recall the mouse Tweezle who worked hard to forage and preserve in anticipation of the coming winter. It’s another long, cold day where you notice it getting darker in the evenings, and with it comes a chance to use leftovers and feel virtuous.

Yesterday’s roast chicken (or your favorite vegetarian substitute) are re-purposed in today’s Italian rice. This meal is a lazy version of one in Food and Wine’s Quick Italian from Scratch, which has several dishes I like to make.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 2 cups of rice
  • 1 lb of vegetables such as peas, beets, spinach, asparagus and mushrooms (frozen is fine but takes less cooking time)
  • ~1 lb chicken, either roast leftovers or boneless thighs

Directions:

  • Boil the rice until tender, usually 10 minutes
  • While it boils, fry the chicken in a tablespoon or so of oil if you’re using raw chicken
  • With 2 tablespoons of stock, heat the vegetables in a pot, then add the rice and chicken

Bon appetit!

PS: Tomorrow’s dish should have an exciting and strange addition, stay tuned…