Archive for the 'food' Category

04
May
09

Pie O’Clock

My brothers are BIG fans of pie. Pie for any occasion, you don’t need a reason, it just has to be pie.

We’ve been in Donegal for the weekend and my brother Marty was heading up there for the rest of the week now that we’re back. He has been jokingly emailing me all of last week instructing me that “I need to leave him some pie” in the house for his arrival. I’ve basically been telling him to make his own chuffin’ pie, because whilst I agree that pie is a delicious home cooked treat, it takes ages to make.

When we were away, I bought a chicken to roast and there were some left overs, but not enough to feed the four of us the next night. So, what do you think I did?

That’s right! It was Pie O’Clock in the McEldoherty household! 😀

Oh, and when Marty gets to Dunfanaghy this afternoon, this will be in the fridge to greet him. 😛

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27
Apr
09

Dinner & Danny Schmidt at Crusoe’s, Castlerock

I’ve just had a lovely weekend staying with my Aunt in Coleraine. I mean, it may be some time before my pickled liver recovers, but it was most definitely worth it!

I had been invited to go with my Aunt to Crusoe’s Cafe in Castlerock for dinner, with the added bonus of music in the form of Danny Schmidt.

Crusoe’s is a new place to me- but came very highly recommended. They are mainly a daytime destination, and I understand that they make the best cappucino in the world! 😀 They run special evening events from time to time, and this was one of those. They provide a gorgeous meal, wine and music. I gather that these evenings are heavily subscribed and eagerly awaited by the population of the North West!

My first impressions of Crusoe’s were of the warmth of the staff. You almost feel like you’ve arrived at a friend’s house for dinner, they are so welcoming. We were seated at a very pleasant table in the corner and brought some wine.

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The room itself has a strong nautical theme, lots of great big windows and a very high beamed ceiling. The room is, however, dominated by the kitchen, which takes up a corner of the room and looks very homely. I really like the notion of being able to watch my food being prepared, and it says a lot about the team that work there that everything seems so calm, efficient and amazingly quiet in there!

Our starter was lovely- fresh, warm bread rolls served with little pots of seafood cocktail, foie gras and a gorgeous tapenade which had both black and green olives in it, as well as sun dried tomatoes. All of this was outstanding, especially the tapenade (which, by the way is something I’m quite fussy about, as it consists of all my favourite ingredients!), and I was excited to see what would come next!

I wasn’t disappointed. We were served with the most delectable venison pie, slowly braised with, I believe, chocolate and chilli in the sauce. I’d never have put chocolate in something like that, but am absolutely intrigued now because the sauce was absolutely out of this world. This was accompanied by perfectly cooked root vegetables and some tasty cauliflower cheese. It was seriously one of the nicest main courses I have had for a while, and I am, as you all know, not all that easy to please! 😀

Pudding (though I was already struggling!!) was a cup of coffee flavoured caramel topped with chocolate sauce, not overpoweringly sweet, which was a good thing, and really delicious. It was served with homemade shortbread which I was devastated not to have enough room for! I should have asked for a doggie bag!

Just when we thought we’d burst, they then brought out a cheese board! They source their cheeses from the Fivemiletown Creamery and they were perfect, but I couldn’t possibly have finished! The cheese was served with delicious home made pickle.

I have to say it was one of the most yummy and satisfying meals I have had in a long time, plus mind blowingly good value for money. If you picked this place up and set it down in Belfast, the queues would be out the door and down the street. If you’re in the region, it’s most definitely worth a visit!

One of the things, however, that really made the evening, was the quality of the live acts who played. Both of them were quite a lot in evidence before they played and seemed like very cool and relaxed guys, so I was able to check if they minded me taking pictures of them for my blog. Kindly, they both agreed! I’m a terrible photographer as regular readers know, so I hope they won’t get too pissed off if they ever happen upon these! I was using Ricky’s camera and couldn’t work out the settings, so poor Al unfortunately got hit with the flash once before I managed to change the settings. Ironically, that was the only photo which really came out… 🙂

First up was Al Brition, who hails from Coventry in England. He had such a sweet, melodious voice that the whole audience was captivated by the end of the first few bars. Simple, soulful music that was perfect with the relaxed atmosphere. I very much enjoyed the subtlety of his guitar playing too. Really beautiful. Inexplicably, I can find no reference to him online at all, and I wonder if I have got the spelling of his name right. If anyone out there can correct me, please do so! 🙂 He is definitely someone to watch!

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Danny Schmidt, hailing from Austin, Texas, was the main act, and he took everyone’s breath away. It’s not just his gorgeous voice and guitar playing, but the lyrics of the songs too. I was particularly moved by his song “This too shall pass”, which he told us was about a time a few years ago when he’d been unwell, and a friend had made him a ring with those words enscribed. From listening to the lyrics of the song, I hope I’m not inferring incorrectly that he must have been suffering from a cancer of some kind back then. Obviously, having been going through my own battle recently, this really touched me and the words will resonate with me for a while to come. Haunting. Other songs had an irreverence which I think unfortunately may have been a little over the heads of some of those present, but I really enjoyed all of it. I will definitely be going to see him again next time he’s in Northern Ireland.

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All of this added up to being a really special night out. The evening was £35 per head including wine- stupendously good value. Thanks so much to my aunt for inviting me, and to both Crusoe’s and the musicians for making it a truly memorable night.

22
Apr
09

Dinner at The Mill, Dunfanaghy

I mentioned before we went on our break that Ian and I were being treated to a dinner at The Mill, Dunfanaghy, which has always been one of our very favourite places to eat. We haven’t managed to have dinner there for about five years now, what with the kids, so this was a massive treat!

The Mill is a fabulous Georgian building stunningly set at the edge of the New Lake just outside Dunfanaghy. The restaurant is magnificent, and if you’re really lucky, you can stay there too. I never have, but I hear that the rooms are amongst the best in Ireland.

Upon arrival, you are greeted by their lovely staff and invited to sit either in the conservatory or by a roaring open fire whilst you look at the menu. They bring you your drinks and a couple of delicious complimentary tasters to eat whilst you make your decision- we had rosemary bread served with mackerel pate, and melba toast served with crabmeat, both of which were gorgeous.

The menus strongly feature seafood and local organically reared beef and lamb. The lamb in particular comes from just a mile or so down the road on Horn Head, and I’ve been told people come again and again just to taste it! Seafood is also sourced from Donegal. The region is spoilt for choice in this area, as it has a very extensive sealine and a strong fishing community.

Once our order had been taken, we moved into the restaurant itself, and were delighted to be given a wonderful table right beside the window overlooking the lake. What a gorgeous view! It was a beautiful evening, and you could feel the tension drain away as you looked out.

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I had really struggled with my choice of starter, as I was in the mood for seafood, and the mussels and clam starters sounded delicious. However I eventually went for a mixed seafood starter, which featured crab claw, plaice fillet and scallop, served with guacamole. This was gorgeous, beautifully presented and a perfect size for a starter. Ian chose duck confit, served with redcurrant, and it was melt in the mouth delicious. I pinched some of his and really enjoyed it- but there was no way he was getting any of mine!!

For my main course, I decided on an open seafood lasagne, which featured (amongst others) crab claws, clams, salmon, and plaice. When it arrived, I thought it looked a little bland, but the flavours were wonderful- very delicate and perfectly seasoned. The clams in particular were perfection. Ian had a lovely steak, which was deliciously tender and well cooked. The accompaniment of champ was gorgeous, I used some to mop up the last of the creamy sauce from my lasagne!

We both decided to go for the chocolate delight with marmalade ice cream for dessert. The chocolate delight was a light sponge around a melting chocolate middle- very rich and delicious. The ice cream had quite a lot of marmalade in it (well, duh!) and wasn’t quite as sweet or mild as I’d been expecting, but was lovely.

Coffee is then served in the conservatory overlooking the lake as the sun sets, and they bring you home made fudge and petit fours to eat whilst you drink your coffee (as if you needed anything else to eat after all of that!!).

This is not an inexpensive place to eat. The set three course menu is currently at 42.95 euro per person, but believe me, this is truly excellent value. The food is of the highest possible standard and you can really taste the care and dedication that has gone into not only the preparation of the food, but also the choosing of the ingredients.

Wonderful food, lovely service from friendly locals, and a truly beautiful restaurant. I can’t wait to return, in fact, if I had loads of money, I’d probably just move in! 😀

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07
Apr
09

Pork and Apple Burgers

I forgot to take a picture of these. My kids have already eaten them, so I imagine they must have tasted pretty nice… 😀

I would think you could successfully make these with turkey mince too. They really hold their shape during cooking, and they are very low in fat if you choose your mince carefully. Great for all the family, especially if like me you’re trying to reduce the amount of beef you eat.

Makes 4 decent sized burgers-

400g/scanty 2 cups lean pork mince

1 free range egg (mine was so free range it came from a friend’s farm!)

1 well flavoured dessert apple, finely chopped

2-3 tbsp fresh breadcrumbs

1 tbsp finely chopped fresh sage

  • Preheat grill to a hot setting
  • Combine all the ingredients except the breadcrumbs in a large bowl
  • Add enough breadcrumbs to make the mixture come together
  • Scoop up a hand-sized amount and roll into a ball between your palms
  • Flatten into a burger between your palms
  • Grill for around 13-15 minutes, turning occasionally. Serve with salad if you’re good and freshly prepared chips if you’re not. 😀

As I was feeding this to my kids, I did not season with salt and pepper, but you could do so if you wished.

02
Apr
09

Tarragon Chicken

Here’s my recipe for tarragon chicken. I like it served with steamed baby potatoes, or a nice variety like Anya, as in my picture. The picture is even worse than usual- sometimes I think my photography is getting worse with every passing day!

This is a really delicious supper dish which tastes quite luxurious. It would be lovely over rice as well.

Serves 2-4, depending on how hungry/greedy you are!!

500g/2 cups chicken breasts (about 3 large/4 small), cut into 1 inch cubes

25g butter

1 dsp olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

2tbsp fresh tarragon, chopped (dried will not do)

100g mushrooms, sliced

1 glass dry white wine

100ml cream

100ml chicken stock

salt and pepper to season

 

          Melt butter in a non stick pan with the oil. Add the chicken and onion, and cook over a medium heat for around 5-6 minutes, until the chicken is cooked on all sides, stirring from time to time.

          Add garlic and mushrooms  and cook for one minute

          Add the wine and stock. Season with pepper. Simmer for around 10-15 minutes until fairly well reduced.

          Turn off the heat. Add the cream and tarragon, and stir well to combine. Season if required with salt, though I didn’t find I needed to, because of the stock. Serve immediately.

 

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24
Mar
09

A lovely treat

I have a new colleague called Chris at work, and he lives on a farm with lots of free range hens, sheep and horses.

A few days ago, he brought us all boxes of beautiful, freshly laid free range eggs! As you can see, he has lots of varieties of hen on his farm so the eggs come in lots of different shapes and sizes. The kids were fascinated by this- especially by the green egg. I don’t think they have seen one that colour before!

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For their supper last night, I boiled a few of the eggs for them. They can’t cope with eggs in the shell just yet- I scoop them into a cup for them- but as you can see, they went down a treat, especially with Robbie!

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Ricky huffed because I’d forgotten to let him smash the top off the egg before I put it in a cup for him. Sometimes I just can’t win.

18
Jan
09

Pearl Barley & Mushroom Risotto

As you know, I am trying to learn more about cooking with grains and pulses as part of my new anti cancer regime, and I had the idea this morning when looking through my cupboards to try making a risotto with pearl barley instead of arborio rice. I have to say, it’s been a huge success! The results are very similar, and nutritionally it kicks the ass of any rice made risotto- about one third of the calories and carb content, lower in fat and higher in fibre. This is a great recipe for the vegetarian who is keeping an eye on what they eat, or for anyone who wants to up their veggie intake. I’m serving it with pork chops tonight, but I think it would stand up perfectly well on its own, maybe with some nice garlic bread on the side, or an interesting salad.

I did add chilli which gave it a kick, but this is obviously optional. You could throw in any number of ingredients depending on what you have in your cupboards.

Serves 2 as a main course, 4 as a side dish or starter.

1 small onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 green chilli, finely chopped
2 tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped (other herbs like coriander, thyme or marjoram in season would be lovely too)
1 25g/1oz pack dried mixed mushrooms
100g peas
150g dry weight pearl barley
25g mature cheddar cheese, grated
1 dsp half fat creme fraiche
1 tbsp olive oil
100ml white wine
1 vegetable stock cube

1. Heat the oil in a large pan, and saute the onion over a medium heat for five minutes, until translucent.
2. Boil a full kettle- put dried mushrooms into a bowl and cover in boiling water. Leave to stand.
3. Add garlic and chilli to the pan, and cook for a further minute.
4. Add pearl barley to the pan and stir well. Pour in white wine and cook until absorbed.
5. Strain off the liquid from the mushrooms into the pan. Add the stock cube, stir well and simmer until absorbed.
6. Add boiling water to the pan, a ladelful at a time, until barley is fairly tender but still with a bite to it. This will take around 20 minutes.
7. Add the mushrooms and peas, stir well and cook for a minute or so to heat through.
8. Add cheese, creme fraiche and parsley. Stir well and serve immediately.

Sorry for the crap, dark picture! 😀

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