Category Archives: BLOG

HOME MADE/HOME GROWN

Here’s last night’s dinner:

Zucchini

 

1. Home made ‘fettuccini’. Made  from the recipe in the Thermomix Cookbook. I was a bit amazed that it worked – their pizza dough recipe is terrible.

for 2 I used

200g doppio zero flour

1 large egg

1 tsp olive oil.

Then I followed the procedure, adjusting with 3 extra tsp, one at a time, of water to get the texture right. Next, I cling-filmed and chilled for 30 minutes.

Removing the cling-film (important this!)  I then processed the dough through my pasta machine – 3 passes wide open (6), folding once after each one. Then 1 pass each, folded, through 5, 4 and 3.  Then through the larger of the two cutters. The result was somewhat like the fettucine I’ve had in Rome – slightly thicker and wider than tagliatelle (not narrower like some of the stuff you get in packets here). Then I hung it to dry.

2. The sauce – scallions, garlic, celery and 3 chestnut mushrooms chopped very fine, then sweated in a little EV olive oil before deglazing the pan with some red wine and adding stock, basil, fresh oregano, good organic passata and seasoning to taste.

3. Young zucchini and runner beans, briefly steamed then left to sit in a small frying pan with a knob of butter and a scattering of black pepper.

I was chuffed that the zucchini, runner beans, garlic, scallions, basil and oregano came out of our garden – and I only have a tiny plot.

 

 

POINT BLANC – is there anything better than classical French cuisine?

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Seeking inspiration, I’m sat in the garden, drinking rosé and thumbing through recipe books, old faves I haven’t used in a long time. Okay, so Raymond Blanc’s palette has been augmented by the use of ingredients such as lemongrass and ginger but the recipes in this wonderful book (first published in 1988 when the young, self-taught Raymond was widely regarded as the best chef in Britain) are deep-rooted in the French classical tradition.

Coquilles Saint-Jacques aux Feuillettes feature. As do Carre d’Agneau Rôti, Iles Flottantes (Façon Maman Blanc) and more. No chemistry set, no grubbing about under hedgerows, nothing easy-peasy thrown together in the TV programme manner. Here, preparation is often long and involved. Stocks are all made from scratch.

It prompted the thought that, done properly, there’s no more satisfying cuisine than French classical. Tomorrow it’s Côte de Boeuf for me, lightly smoked in ‘Gianluca’ my outdoor oven over apple wood, juniper berries, bay and rosemary. Not forgetting the Sauce Bordelaise.

POURING AND STORING – it’s gas!

Shop-2

Enjoy the wine you desire without pulling the cork

 

  • Explore your collection glass by glass, without committing to any bottle—or wasting a drop.
  • Get more adventurous with your food and wine pairings, and compare vintages and varietals.
  • Sip from your finest bottles, noting subtle changes in the wine’s evolution.

 

Oh I so want one of these yokes! Thanks to Martin Moran and Simon Woods for the heads-up.

 

Don’t pull the cork — just pour the wine – Business – The Boston Globe.

Coravin™ website

FIRST CRACK AT NEW ROASTER

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Just done the roast with ‘Puffing Lily’ aka The Hooky Monster. Glad it’s over with. I was very nervous because roasting with this beastie involves ‘real flames’. Also, fully manual control is not as comforting as my old HotProg (programmable version of the HotTop) where if things start to go tits up you can just press a switch and abort the program.

The Huky 500 is a beautiful beast, reminiscent of a collaboration between one of the old locomotive designers – George Stephenson, Isambard Kingdom Brunel – and Adolphe Sax, one of the 12 or so famous Belgians, maybe with a touch of Heath Robinson thrown in. It is robust and nicely engineered, mainly in stainless steel with an assortment of lovely wooden, maybe rosewood, handles. It has a bean trier device that actually works!

I roasted 300g, scaled up from the 250g of the HotProg, my most regular blend.

For the record it was:- 150g Nicaragua Finca La Fany Bourbon Washed + 100g Costa Rica Herbazu Honey Process + 50g Ethiopia Kebel Kercha Guji Natural. All supplied, as per usual by the excellent Steve at www.hasbean.co.uk

Coffee was roasted to just short of 2nd crack. At the end everything happens very quickly – “Check the beans, hey, they’re okay; turn off the heat; remove the ‘saxophone’; empty the chaff; swing the bean dumper handle (remembering to hold the bean collector under the exit port); place collector over fan and switch fan on, if it isn’t already; turn off drum motor…” all in less time than it takes to say ‘Costa Rica Finca Nardo herbazu yellow washed honey process Villa Sarchi’ or similar!

Then, phew! chill. Take a sip of your favourite tipple.

Lovely even roast as the pic shows. The shot is a tad soft because it was a hand-held, no flash 1/20 at f2.8 and my hands were surely shaking!

Nice glass of rosé in the garden before I clear up, methought.

 

Later….

 

I WAS enjoying the rosé until the flash flood rain came in through the Yellow Room ceiling. If there’s one thing I hate it’s dilute rosé!

Yes, that first roast was a tad scary. With the old HotProg you slung the beans in at around 70-odd ºC and after around 17 mins a beep-beep announces the arrival of 212 ºC (a failsafe for those eejits who can’t be arsed to watch the display) whereupon you press a ‘Continue’ button. Shortly after which the roast finishes – 216 ºC-ish on most of the profiles I use. And the thermometer is fairly steady (makes me wonder how accurate it is) unlike the digital job on Puffing Lily’s bean mass probe which yaws constantly,up a tad, down a smidge, whoops, up again, needing constant tweaking. With the Huky you don’t bung the beans (300g) in until 240 ºC which had me worrying about what the combustion point of coffee is!

At the end of the roast things happen very quickly. You need to whip off the ‘saxophone’, empty the chaff from the collection tray and use the tray to collect the beans when you pull the ‘eject’ lever.

 

You might say its the difference between driving a DART train and the Flying Scotsman in days of steam locomotives. A completely different mind/skillset needed, not to mention constant attention. But absolutely no chance of dying of boredom.

Now, where did I put the tranquilizers….

 

Kudos and big thanks to Mr.Kuanho Li, designer and builder of the Huky 500, who replied to all my emails promptly and answered all my questions – even the daft ones! The roaster arrived from Taiwan in perfect condition in only 5 days.

THE INCREDIBLE ‘HUKY’ – A NEW COFFEE ROASTER FOR ERNIE

My beloved Hottop roaster, sadly, has just packed up after 11 years great service. At a conservative estimate, that is something like approaching 1200 roasts.

After much deliberation – and even more trepidation – I’ve decided to acquire one of these beauties – hand made in Taiwan. Nothing programmable about this beastie, it’s the total hands-on experience and, moreover, it’s gas powered. So fierce smoke and the odd explosion over Sandymount will not be due to climate change!

Scared but exited.

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TEAM FORKNCORK WINS BIG FOODIE QUIZ – AGAIN!

 

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Forkncork GTi (now with alloy wheels, go-fast stripes, scatter cushions AND furry dice) won the Great Big Irish Foodie Quiz for the second year running. Team members Ernie Whalley, Tim Magee and Leslie Williams were set to defend their title when, in the morning of the quiz, fourth member Corinna Hardgrave dropped out, laid low by a vile virus, suspected of being  introduced into the Dublin suburb of Terenure by a competitor seeking to nobble us. If so, the plot failed. The recruitment of Aoife Carrigy as substitute proved inspired and Forkcork GTi demolished the opposition for the second year running.

This year’s victory  was harder won. We edged ahead of Team Fallon & Byrne after a tie-break – a one-on-one confrontation in which  Leslie Williams, nominated  after much deliberation (you can imagine!) uttered the correct answer, at breakneck speed to the question “Which province of France does sel de Guérande come from?”

Huge plaudits to Aine Maguire who organised the event, which raised €6,000 for Down Syndrome Ireland.

 

BLOG A Tale of Two Dinners

It may surprise, nay, shock some of you to learn that a restaurant critic went out two nights on the trot this week and spent his own dosh on dinner.

Usually, on the nights I’m not reviewing or attending some food or wine function, I like nothing better than to cook. From a simple fry-up to an elaborate dinner party for 8.

This week, however, desire and force of circumstance caused me to dine out, Tuesday and Wednesday.

Tuesday, I got the urge to try the ‘this week only’ classic French bistro menu at Alexis. That I’m a fan of Pat and Alan’s fine neighbourhood restaurant is a matter of record. And I was intrigued by their new offering. So I persuaded my lady who, I’m sure, would rather have put her feet up after an exhausting day on the golf course (it’s hell being ‘semi-retired’) and watched telly, to trek out,on a rainy night, to the boondocks of Dun Laoghaire.

A felicitous decision, we had a brilliant time for buttons money. 3-courses apiece for €40. With 3 glasses of wine and a decent espresso the bill, ex-service, came to a tad over €65, tremendous value IMO. For the record, herself took French onion soup – cracking, a really tasty broth and they didn’t spare the cheese; daube de boeuf; and a caramel mousse. I had very fine rillettes and croquette of rabbit; a rib-sticker of a cassoulet with, among other nice things, a fine sausage, with distinct flavours of fennel and orange zest (Jane Russell); and oh, yes, crepes Suzette – ultimate retro but, if it wasn’t a good idea they wouldn’t have hung around so long. Smashing night.

Wednesday I went to a book launch and I’d like anyone reading this to buy a copy of Silver Threads of Hope, a collection of short stories edited by my friend Sinead Gleeson in aid of Console, the suicide prevention and bereavement counselling charity, a worthy and underfunded cause. Not only that, the book is a  great read containing, as it does, stories “that evoke feelings of sadness, happiness and humour” by Roddy Doyle, Emma Donoghue, Kevin Barry and others. See http://www.newisland.ie/books/fiction-2011-2012/silver-threads-hope/9781848401815

Anyhow, the launch was, as they say in Manchester “pure people” and I was glad to get some fresh air afterwards. As I walked up Wexford Street on my own the pangs of hunger started to kick in. Fish and chips seemed the answer but Angelos, the old reliable, has gone and the residue are ‘fish, chips and burger grills’ as sure sign that the quality is not up to much. I had reached Portobello Bridge before I realised that it was ten o’clock and my options, foreclosing by the minute. I dived into Rotana, the excellent family-run Lebanese cafe-restaurant, another of my favourite haunts, and there got me a fattoush salad with a vibrant pomegranate dressing and a kafta kebab which came with excellent pitta bread and a copious parsley dressing. A pot of green tea, a pistachio baklava and I became a man restored for a niggardly €21 all-in.

BLOG Forkncork.com – Ireland’s first food & drink website/blog is 10 years old this November

It’s almost ten years since my good friend and web wunderkind, Paul Clerkin, said to me “You’ve gotta have a website”.

“Oh, right,” sez me. Where do I get one of those, pray?”

“I’ll design you one.” And he did.

We’ve come on a bit since forkncork Mk.1, designed on bulletin board software, in like manner to Paul’s famous  notorious ‘P45’.

I’ve never sought any blog awards for forkncork. Personally, I think all the grovelling that has to be done is a bit naff, though good luck to those who have the stomach for it. Anyhow I don’t have many friends.Who the fuck would vote for me, anyway? But there is a little twisted frisson of satisfaction when I recall that we were out there first.

Ten years, who’d a thought it!