The French Retreat part two. A glimpse into ‘His French Heaven’.

Would he be an overbearing, arrogant Frenchman?

Would he be an overbearing, arrogant Frenchman?

I had some trepidation growing in me as our pre-arranged meeting with Stéphane Gabart, the author of the delightful My French Heaven blog loomed. The arrangement was made some months before our trip to France in July. As the time got closer, I found my psychosis growing and was asking myself “What if he is a pompous French git?”, “What if he lords it over us with his superior French attitude?” “What if he doesn’t speak English?”, “What will we talk about?” I allowed the pressure to build and build inside my head right up until Stéphane greeted the Wife and myself at his beautiful home. “This is a mistake.” were the words that nearly escaped my lips as we got out of the car to meet the man. Continue reading

The French Retreat part one. Early figs with blue cheese and honey.

FIgs with blue cheese and honey (1 of 1)No, this is not a mini series about Napoleon’s fun in Russia in 1812. For this year’s holiday, we were lucky enough to spend some time in one of the most heavenly places on the planet. As the vagaries of life prevented us having had a break since 2012, we were in need of complete R&R. For this, we went to stay with Helen and David Furniss in their fantastic ‘Keirmasi’ gites. Over the years, we have stayed with them a number of times and it has proven to be an idyllic place for a badly needed French Retreat.

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Big on flavour, small on freezer space – Highly concentrated prawn stock.

Extreme prawn stock (1 of 9)The last time we had Dublin Bay Prawns was after the Dublin Bay Prawn Festival (imagine dreaming up such a thing). Having driven out to Howth and back again, there was not time to make prawn stock. So, I thought the best thing to do was to freeze the shells and heads for later use. In my mind, later can mean any time in the future. That is, unless the Wife decides that there was not enough space in the freezer and my prawn shells have to go. Continue reading

Spaghetti alle Vongole – I’m in trouble again.

Vongole (10 of 11)Why am I in trouble? Is it for undercooking the pasta? Is it for overcooking the clams? Or, is it for adding too much or too little wine? No, none  of the above. I’m in trouble because the Wife and the Mother both loved this dish.  Continue reading

Crab Carbonara – And you thought this was a meat blog?

Crab Carbonara (13 of 13)One man’s meat. It looks like I have completely forgotten what I am supposed to be at here. Meat should be beef, lamb, pork, venison, buffalo and various parts of big things that run around on four legs. They usually frighten us two-legged ones when we see them in the wild. Right? Well, yes and no. Yes, that might be one’s interpretation. It might have even been my interpretation at one stage. But now, I have broadened the brief and I am officially including anything that once lived. This is because I have been preparing and cooking poultry, fish and an occasional (very occasional) salad as well as the more robust horned ones that tend to chase us around the place when we visit the countryside. Continue reading

Barbecued Rack of Lamb with Balsamic, Thyme and Garlic – Licensed to thrill!

Barbecue Rack of Lamb (9 of 9)It seems that my “Ireland’s Greatest Ingredients” series is gaining some traction. I was happily cooking, writing and posting about the fantastic foods we are so blessed to enjoy in Ireland. Happy, that is, until I got the call from the Section for Magnificent Dining Experiences. Yes, such a Section really exists.  It is housed in a secure area in a sub basement below the Department of Agriculture. Secret access is through warren-like passages hidden behind a false freezer door in the kitchens of a well-known Molesworth Street hotel. The secrecy is vital, I am told, to protect the Section from the now regular attacks by disgruntled farmers who, depending upon market pricing and rainfall levels, overrun the Agriculture offices with sheep, cattle or pigs. Continue reading

Easy Oriental Part 11 – Never Had Cold, Soy Braised Chicken

Soy Braised ChickenThis is one of the easiest oriental dish I have ever cooked. The only difficulty is in carving the chicken. The oriental style of bird slicing involves chopping through flesh and bone. This requires a fair deal of heavy-handed work. This is best for authenticity but, those weak-willed amongst you can carve it in a western fashion. On the positive side of things, this will feed five to six people and they will all want you to cook it again and again. I have never tasted it cold. If you prepare it right, neither will you. Continue reading

Ireland’s Greatest Ingredients part 2 – Silence of the lamb

Spiced leg of lamb (4 of 5)

I know, I know, I posted a spiced leg of lamb a few weeks ago. That one was pretty delicious. The herd (or heard if things are not the way they want them) were fulsome in their praise. So, I thought it would be good to get a leg of lamb in as number two in my occasional series Ireland’s Greatest Ingredients.

Having prepared a pretty fine dish, this one didn’t raise a single complement. Not one word. Five of them sat around the table and said nothing. Not a single word… Continue reading

Ireland’s Greatest Ingredients part 1 – Crab claws with garlic butter.

Crab claws in garlic butter (7 of 8) I have to give you a little bit of background to this post and the inspiration for this new, occasional series, Ireland’s Greatest Ingredients. A couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of meeting Liam Quinlan. Liam is a Kerryman (nothing wrong with that) and is passionate about the seafood that his family company produces. Liam travelled to Dublin by train. I met him at Huston station and we spent a few hours together. Liam brought me a styrofoam box. “Just some crab and a bit of salmon for you to try.” he said in his self deprecatory way.  Continue reading

Rhubarb crumble – Almost too easy to post.

Rhubarb crumble (7 of 7)

“We haven’t had a decent dessert in ages.” whinged the youngest. This was a clarion call to eldest. “Yeah! Why haven’t you done something nice for us?” she chipped in to the conversation. “Make a pie”. They were putting me under pressure. Would I waver? Would I give in? Would I crumble? Of course I would…

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