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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Mint Pea Soup with Gubbeen Smoked Bacon Lardons

I've been dying sick with the flu all week so decided to make this soup. Nothing makes me feel better than a warming bowl of soup, and of course you can never go wrong with bacon.

A lot of people don't make pea soup at home as they find it quite tasteless compared to the versions they get in restaurants, my little secret is to add both onions and shallots. I find using both you get a rounder fuller flavour. Also allow the onions/shallots to colour in the butter as this adds richness to the soup.

I have cheated a little with this recipe and used Tesco Mint Peas. I personally think frozen peas have as much if not more flavour than non frozen as they are frozen once picked and are a little bit harder to over cook. Also with the peas already having mint it allows you to skip a step.

And my final tip is if at all possible use Gubbeen Smoked Bacon Lardons. They add so much flavour compared to normal bacon lardons. Of course if you can't find them use normal bacon lardons, but search high and low because it will be worth it.

5 banana shallots
1 large onion
3 potatoes (roughly 400g)
1 pack of Gubbeen Smoked Bacon Lardons
5 garlic cloves
60g of butter
1.5kg Tesco Mint Peas
1.5L vegetable stock
300ml double cream
150ml white wine

Mise en Place
  • Roughly chop the shallots.
  • Roughly chop the onions .
  • Peel and dice potatoes, chopping them quite small for faster cooking.
  • Crush the garlic cloves.
  • Have all the other ingredients next to you and ready to go. 

  • Place a large cast iron pot on a high heat. Once the pot starts to smoke add the lardons. There is no need to add any oils as the lardons will produce their own fat once cooking.
  • Allow the lardons to brown and go crispy. Once browned take them out of the pot and place to the side. You will notice a nice brown crust after developing at the bottom, that's just what you want as it's full of bacon goodness.
  • Reduce to a medium heat and add the butter. Once the butter has melted add both the onions and shallots.
  • Allow the onions and shallots to caramelize.
  • Once they are a nice golden colour turn back to a high heat and add the wine.
  • Allow to come to the boil and burn of the alcohol, use your spatula/wooden spoon to loosen the crust at the bottom and mix with the wine to ensure all the flavour is released.
  • Once the alcohol has burned off reduce to a medium heat and add the potatoes, cream, stock and garlic to the pot. Allow to simmer until the potatoes are tender.
  • Now add the peas to the pot. As they are frozen they will lower the temperature quite rapidly so turn back up to a high heat. Allow to cook for 5 minutes or until peas are just cooked.
  • Finally blend and add the bacon back into the soup

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Sunday Lunch In Blairs Inn, Cork

Hubs will tell you I am normally completely anti Sunday Lunch. I cannot stand the stodgy carvery style food you get in most places on a Sunday. So when I saw Duncan's Sunday Lunch Menu online I was pleasantly surprised. It's bursting full of an amazing variety of dishes from your classic roast to creative venison casserole with chocolate espresso.

We drove down and arrived a around 12.45 and there was already a couple of cars in the car park. At the door you are greeted with the glorious site of the many awards that Blairs Inn have been given. The inside itself is warm and inviting with a roaring fire.

There is an immense choice of what to drink as both Richard and Duncan are self-confessed 'craft beer junkies'.  Hubs ordered the Shandon Cider and I had the Chocolate Block red wine. I normally hate red wine with a vengeance but after reading the description of the Chocolate Block I was curious. I was certainly not disappointed and have to confess it was the first red wine I actually enjoyed.

For the food itself I had the Mussels poached in a white wine and garlic sauce, which were easily the best mussels I have had. They were so plump and juicy and the sauce was one of those where you'd skip your main just so you could get another few slices of brown bread to mop it all up. While I'm on the subject of bread, we had the moistest Beamish soda bread which Duncan bakes himself, served warm. To die for. Hubs had the Chicken and Mushroom Vol-au-Vent which was lovely and creamy with incredibly tender chicken.

For main I ordered the Braised Wild Wicklow Pheasant with a Wild Mushroom and Red Wine Sauce. The flavour was superb and the pheasant very juicy. Hubs had the Beef Casserole in a Blackrock Stout Sauce. Hands down he won on this course the beef was as tender with a sumptuous rich sauce.

And finally we managed to squeeze in desert which was a Warm Chocolate, Walnut and Brandy Brownie and Banoffee Pie. Both of which ended the meal with a gorgeous rich finish.

I cannot recommend Blairs Inn highly enough. Everything is perfect. You can tell this place is Duncan and Richard's baby. All the effort that goes in to source the ingredients and beverages pays off. It is a must for all. And I am now officially converted to Sunday Blairs Inn.

Will We Eat There Again? Hell yes!!
Price? €80 for 2 starters, 2 mains, 2 deserts, 2 glasses of wine and a cider.

You can follow Duncan on his twitter @Duncanblr and Richard on his @Richielala

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Liebster Blog Awards

Today I was introduced to the fantastic concept of the Liebster Blog Awards. I have the lovely Colette from Cakes, Bakes and other Bits to thank for this introduction. You can also follow Colette on her Twitter profile @katzwizkaz Colette chose me as one of her 5 choices for the Liebster Blog Awards, thank you Colette, delighted to be chosen.

So I had a further look into the awards and found out that 'liebster' is German for 'favourite'. It's a way of promoting those little gems of blogs that we all have, where we love and know should have more followers. A fantastic way to share the love :)

So how does it work?
  • You thank the person who gave you the award
  • Then link back to that person's blog
  • Copy and paste the Liebster award to your own profile
  • Pick 5 blogs who you feel deserve to be noticed (they have to have under 200 followers)
  • Then finally blog it and leave a comment to let your 5 choices know they have been chosen.
My 5 choices in no particular order are;

Bia Ó Mo Chroí - Caroline's blog is a foodie feast with everything from recipes to restaurant reviews with some food festivals thrown in. You can also follow Caroline on her Twitter @CaroCreates

NomNomFood - Wayne a fellow ex Talk Talk worker also started his food journey this year. He won the recent Chef Factor in 2011 and his blog follows his experience in Ballymaloe. He mixes this with some of his own fantastic recipes. You can also follow Wayne on his Twitter @NomNomFoodIRL

Thyme on your Hands - Helena has a fantastic fun blog which is full of lots of fun recipes and you also get a great insight into what a playful person she is. You can also follow Helena on her Twitter @helenamoloney

Gas Mark Seven - Dermot's blog is one which is nearly bursting at the seams with foodie enthusiasm. He give a fantastic day by day account of his time in Ballymaloe and also has a fantastic weekly feature called 'Dermie's Weekly Shopping Bag' where he reviews cooking products. You can also follow Dermot on his Twitter @gas_mark_seven

Babaduck - Aoife has been at this blogging lark since 2008 so is nearly a professional at this stage. Her blog has an abundance of delicious recipes and I can guarantee you won't be bored reading them. You can also follow Aoife on her Twitter @babaduck71

So guys and gals, start sharing the love and pass it onto your top 5.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

A Day in Avoca Monkstown

So we took off to spend a day in Avoca Monkstown. The plan was to grab some lunch in Salt Cafe and pick up a few foodie treats in the food store after. 

We arrived at 12pm and immediately realised parking was going to be tricky. As this little gem has become so well known, we weren't the only ones looking. We found a space around the corner and skipped off to see the store.

Once we arrived, we were greeted by a bustling queue for Salt. Best word of advice is to book if you can. We were seated relatively quickly by the extremely friendly staff but there was an air of begrudgery from those around us who had reservations.

The restaurant itself is stunning. It carries a luxurious worn look which is carried out throughout the store, tables and even down to the menus.

Lunch Menu
So to get down to the really interesting bit. I ordered the duck liver parfait with pear & shallot chutney and toasted sourdough for starters and the venision, porcini & spinach cannelloni with a rocket, parmesan & fennel salad for main. While hubby ordered the white onion soup with aged parmesan & truffle oil for starters and free-range rotisserie half chicken with Caesar salad for main. No deserts this time :( 

Both my dishes tasted absolutely fabulous. The parfait was velvety smooth, however I did find with the cannelloni there was quite a shortage of venison. Hubby's dishes were exquisite. No complaints there whatsoever, in fact we probably had more than enough chicken to do both of us. Consistency with portions seems to be the only problem.
Duck Parfait
Chicken for Caesar Salad
Caesar Salad
We ordered the sparkling home-made lemonade which was gorgeous and fresh however I did  find the price a little steep at €6.95. The presentation of both the lemonade and water somewhat distracts you from this.

Sparkling Lemonade
We asked for the bill and were kindly offered to take our leftovers home and finished with a nice bill of just under €60 overall not bad value.

Next was the food store. The store is full to the brim of foodie nuggets that will excite you when you see them. Such as the Romanesco which we purchased. We noticed part of the store had been filled with tables for the cafe, we were told by shop assistant this was a new feature. Honestly, it doesn't work. The last thing you want to do is squeeze in behind someone as they are eating to grab something of the shelf behind them. Not a pleasant experience for the eater either. But hopefully they will change this back with time.

We ventured into James Whelan's Butchers and were greeted by the gorgeous vision of the meat being hung. The shop is decked out beautifully with all the produce displayed perfectly and as always, the staff were extremely pleasant and helpful. We picked up these delicious 56 day aged Sirloin Steaks. 

Overall we enjoyed our day in Avoca Monkstown. However if we were to go again we would allow more time and certainly book ahead.

Will we eat there again? Probably.
Price? €60 for 2 starter, 2 main and lemonade