Archive for March, 2008

Take comfort in bacon and cabbage

Sunday, March 30th, 2008

For many, the typically Irish dish of bacon and cabbage is pure comfort food.

There are few things nicer than boiled bacon, Savoy cabbage and floury potatoes.

I remember the cry of the pigs on the local farms and have a memory of lying in bed at night and hearing them squeal like banshees. Like most farm animals they are bred for commercial purposes and it is of the utmost importance that, as they are part of the food chain, they be treated well.

One of my earliest memories of eating bacon and cabbage was at my grandmother’s house. She would use the collar of the bacon which she cured herself in brine. The meat would have been bought from the local butcher and soaked overnight in cold water to remove the excess salt.

She would wash the bacon in cold running water, then bring it to the boil in a covered pot, remove it and wash it again under cold running water. She would then add a whole peeled onion and a carrot, and boil under a low heat for a couple of hours. About half an hour before the bacon was fully cooked, she would add the cabbage.

The potato skins would split, ready to explode as the water evaporated and the steam rose, fogging up the window as she strained the potatoes over the sink.

The bacon, cabbage and floury potatoes were served with knobs of fresh butter and washed down with fresh unpasteurised milk.

Bacon and cabbage terrine with celery and onion puree (serves 12)



1 collar of bacon about 2kg

2 onions, peeled and left whole

1 whole carrot, peeled

1 small head of celery

1 small bunch of thyme

1 bay leaf

1 clove of peeled garlic


1. Steep the bacon overnight in cold water. Rinse under the cold tap, cover with fresh water and bring to the boil in a covered pot. Strain the water off and refresh the bacon by running again under cold water.

2. Cover with fresh water, then add the onions, carrot, celery, garlic, thyme and bay leaf and bring to the boil again. Reduce heat and simmer for two hours, making sure to top up the water every 15 minutes. You can tell when the bacon is cooked for terrine use when it pierces easily with a fork so that the meat just about holds together.

3. Remove the contents, place them in a stainless steel bowl and allow them to rest in the fridge overnight. The carrot is for flavour only; the onion and celery will be pureed and used later for plate garnish.



2 heads Savoy cabbage
3 shallots
Small bunch of chives (finely chopped)
Freshly milled white pepper Fine sea salt (to taste)
30g unsalted butter
Bacon stock
Cooking oil (for lining the mould)


1. Remove eight to ten good quality outer leaves from the cabbages. Remove the centre vein and wash.
2. Blanch these leaves for two to three minutes, then remove and refresh by running under cold water. Set aside for lining the terrine mould in a clean kitchen linen cloth.
3. Cut the remaining cabbage head in half, remove the stalk and shred the cabbage finely. Wash the shredded cabbage under cold running tap.
4. Dice the shallots. Add butter to a heated pot and cook the shallots for about one minute without colouring. Add the cabbage, season with pepper and reduce the heat. Cook for a further two to three minutes.
5. Add enough bacon stock to just barely cover the cabbage, and cook under a medium heat for a further ten minutes. When the liquid has evaporated, the cabbage should be cooked. The bacon stock is the liquid the bacon was cooked in and refrigerated overnight.
6. Taste the cabbage and correct the seasoning. Allow to cool, then add the chives and mix. Taste again.

Assemble terrine

1. Ideally use a terrine mould or alternatively a bread tin. Brush the mould with oil then line tightly with clingfilm, ensuring the clingfilm overhangs the mould.
2. Season the cabbage leaves. Line the moulds with the leaves, making sure the leaves overhang the mould. Layer the shredded cabbage – about two centimetres – and use the back of a spoon to press it down. Cut the bacon into slices of about 2 centimetres thick, then layer it over the cabbage. Repeat the layering of cabbage and bacon to the top of the mould. The shredded cabbage should be the last layer and should reach just over the top of the mould. Fold over the cabbage leaves and add the remainder if necessary to completely cover the top of the mould. Fold over the clingfilm tightly.
3. The terrine mould needs to be weighted on top to press the terrine into shape. Use a piece of cardboard cut to the shape of the mould top and covered with tin foil – this will act as a cover for the mould. Then put a plate on top of the stencil and place a heavy pot on top. A few kilos of sugar can be used as weights. Rest in the fridge overnight.

To plate terrine

1. Puree the celery and onion by removing them from the stock, roughly chopping them and cooking them over a low heat to dry them out slightly. Puree in a blender, remove and pass through a fine sieve. Correct the seasoning.

2. Remove the terrine from the mould, leaving the clingfilm on. Slice thinly with a carving knife and remove the clingfilm from individual slices.

Kevin Thornton is a Michelin-starred chef and owner of Thornton’s Restaurant on St Stephen’s Green in Dublin.

Sweet treats for after dinner

Sunday, March 23rd, 2008

Petits fours are small dessert pieces, usually served after a meal with coffee. The last part of a meal at Thornton’s is just as important as the first, and it’s the part of the menu we like to have fun with.

Our passionfruit and raspberry ice lollies, which we serve at the end of the eight-course surprise menu, go down a treat.

The petits fours we serve with coffee are a selection of fresh fruit and berry tartlets, tuile biscuits, chocolates, jellies, marshmallows, chocolate lollipops and madeleines, which traditionally are light, lemon-flavoured miniature cakes baked in a shell-shaped baking tray. You can buy these trays in good kitchen equipment shops.

Petits fours also make a delicious gift. Everyone loves to receive a present that has been made specially for them and has taken time and effort. The cost and sophistication of the gift does not matter – it’s the thought that counts.

I hope you will be inspired to give them as gourmet gifts, using the recipes below.

Almond tuiles (makes 30)

187g icing sugar
5 egg whites
30g strong flour
200g flaked almonds
40g melted butter
10g melted butter (for baking tray)

1. Mix all the ingredients together with a spatula in a stainless-steel bowl. Mix well, cover and place in the refrigerator overnight.

2. Butter a baking tray and place a dessert spoonful of mixture for each tuile onto it. Use a fork to spread the mixture and leave 3cm between each spoonful of it.

3. Place the tray in a pre-heated oven at 180 degrees centigrade and cook for approximately four minutes. Remove once the tuiles are golden brown.

4. Use a spatula or a scraper to remove the tuiles. You can shape them by placing each one over the back of a dessert spoon. This has to be done when they are just out of the oven, as they set quickly. Store in an airtight container.

Mango & passion fruit jellies (makes approx 30)

275g caster sugar
750g passion fruit puree
62g mango puree
61g glucose
6g pectin
10g granulated sugar for the finished jelly

1. Place mango and passion fruit puree in a stainless steel pot and heat to 70 degrees centigrade. Remove from the heat and mix in 50g caster sugar using a spoon.

2. Return to the heat and gradually add the rest of the sugar. Add the glucose, stirring constantly. Cook until the mixture registers 110 degrees centigrade on a sugar thermometer and keep it on the heat for five minutes.

3. Remove from the heat. Line a deep small tray with parchment paper and pour in the jelly mix. Spread it evenly on the tray using the back of a dessert spoon. Cover with parchment paper and let it rest for a couple of hours.

4. Remove the jelly from the tray and remove the parchment paper. With a knife, cut the jelly into small triangles of about 3cm in length. Dust with granulated sugar.

Madeleines (plain)

100g melted unsalted butter
2g sea salt (small pinch)
125g icing sugar
4 organic eggs
1 organic egg yolk
125g flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 1/2 lemon
5g melted unsalted butter for the moulds
5g flour for dusting
To finish:
Juice of half a lemon
5g of icing sugar for sprinkling

1. Sieve the flour, baking powder and icing sugar into a stainless steel bowl. In another bowl, mix the eggs and egg white and the sea salt with a whisk.

2. Slowly add the flour and sugar to the eggs and then mix. Add the melted butter and mix again until smooth. Pass the mixture through a fine sieve to remove any lumps. Add lemon zest and lemon juice and mix in well. Cover mixture and refrigerate for about three hours.

3. Butter the madeleine tray and sprinkle with flour. Fill each mould with mixture and place the tray in a freezer for an hour.

4. Bake in pre-heated oven at 180 degrees centigrade for 5 minutes. Remove when biscuits are golden brown and brush with lemon juice when hot. Allow to cool and sprinkle with icing sugar.

Kevin Thornton is a Michelin-starred chef and the owner of Thornton’s Restaurant on St Stephen’s Green in Dublin.

Conference pears with panache

Sunday, March 16th, 2008

When I was growing up in Cashel, our neighbours had a pear tree, some branches of which overhung our back wall.

As children we’d help ourselves to the odd pear, never waiting long enough for them to ripen. Not surprisingly, we didn’t much like the fruit as they were often hard, dry and difficult to digest. Today my home also has overhanging Conference pear branches – from the back garden of our lovely neighbour Lil.

She provides us with bags of pears each year and we use them at home for sorbet or to prepare pear puree. We also use them in the restaurant for this dish. Like a lot of my recipes, you can use all or some of the elements.

Poached Burgundy pear with pear parfait and sorbet

500g pear parfait
200g pear sorbet
2 litres Burgundy pear syrup
8 slices of dried pears

Ingredients: pears in pear syrup
13 Conference pears
550ml port
550ml red Burgundy wine
1 litre stock syrup
250ml fresh pear juice
1 cinnamon stick
1 fresh vanilla pod
1 star anise
1 lemon rind
1 orange rind
3 cloves

1.Mix all ingredients together in a pot and bring to the boil.

2.Wash and peel the pears, remove the core and place them into the pear juice and cover. Cook over a low heat for approx 15 minutes or until cooked through. Remove from the heat and place in a basin of cold water to cool it down quickly.

3. Remove the pears from the liquid and place into a clean container. Pour the liquid on top and rest in the refrigerator for 36 hours.

Ingredients – Italian meringue
2 free-range egg whites
50g icing sugar
50g granulated sugar
15ml water

You will need this Italian meringue for the pear parfait.

1.Place egg whites and a third of icing sugar in a mixing bowl and mix until stiff. Add remainder of icing sugar and mix for a further two minutes.

2.Place 15ml water and 50g granulated sugar in a pot and bring to the boil without stirring, until the syrup registers 112c on a sugar thermometer. Remove and place the pot into cold water for a few seconds until it reaches 110c.

3.Pour the mixture slowly into the egg whites and mix for a further five minutes.

Ingredients: pear parfait
500ml pear puree
100g Italian meringue
900ml whipped double cream
5 leaves gelatine
10ml Poire William Liqueur
2 pears (taken from burgundy liquid and finely chopped)

Method: parfait
1.Dissolve the gelatine in cold water. When soft, remove the gelatine and squeeze off the excess water. Place in a pot and add 20ml of the pear puree (wash and peel the pears and remove the cores. Cut into small pieces and place in a pot. Add the juice of one lemon to pears and puree in a blender until smooth).Place over a low heat to dissolve gelatine completely. Remove and add to the rest of the pear puree through a fine sieve.

2.Whip the cream and pour in the Italian meringue. Fold in the remainder of the puree and add the chopped pears. Add the Poire William Liqueur.

3. Pour the mixture into a lined mould (eg bread tin lined with cling film). Cover and place in the freezer overnight.

Ingredients – pear sorbet
1 litre pear puree (36 pears 1 lemon)
210g caster sugar
1 teaspoon glucose
430ml water

1.Place the sugar, glucose, water and puree into a pot and cook until it reaches 72c on a sugar thermometer. Remove and return to the blender for 3-4 minutes until smooth. Remove and pass through a fine sieve.

2.Place the pot into a basin of cold water to cool down. Prepare the sorbet machine by washing with hot water and allowing to cool. Pour half the mixture into the machine and turn until it binds together. Remove and place into a container, cover and place in freezer. Pour rest of mixture into sorbet machine and turn until it binds together. Remove and add to container and freeze.

To serve
Slice the parfait into thin slices and place in the centre of a wide soup plate. Using a warmed dessert spoon, spoon an oval shape of sorbet on top of the parfait. Cut the poached pears in half and slice thinly and fan around the sorbet.

Place some dried pear slices, which can be bought in the supermarket, beside the sorbet and pour a little pear juice around the bowl.

Kevin Thornton is a Michelin-starred chef and owner of Thornton’s Restaurant on St Stephen’s Green in Dublin.

Pulling a rabbit out of the pot

Sunday, March 9th, 2008

Wild rabbit stew with dumplings made a regular appearance on our kitchen table when I was growing up – the rabbit having been snared locally.

Nowadays, rabbit is harder to come by. Although it is still sold in some butchers, it is not frequently found in supermarkets. If you’re on the hunt for rabbit, ask your butcher to source one for you, or try asking at one of the many farmers’ markets throughout the country.

Rabbit meat is a high-quality source of protein, and it can be used for the same dishes for which you would use chicken meat. It is leaner meat than beef, pork or chicken. Wild rabbit has less flesh than farmed rabbit and the meat is a little darker, whereas the loins of farmed rabbit are much bigger, the flesh is whiter and tastes quite like chicken. However, unlike chicken meat, it can be served pink. The farmed version available in Ireland comes mostly from France.

When cooking rabbit it is better to remove the flesh from the bone first. Rabbit’s back legs have a substantial amount of meat and so they can be prepared in a few different ways. One is to remove the flesh completely from the bone, cut the flesh between the muscle joints into three pieces and marinate overnight, then confit in duck fat for a couple of hours.

As Easter approaches, rabbit is on the menu at Thorntons. The recipe below is the one I cooked at the Rock of Cashel for Guerrilla Gourmet.

Loin of rabbit with carrot cones, pearl onions and truffle sauce

Ingredients – rabbit

Eight loins of rabbit
20ml veal stock


Season rabbit loins and saute in a hot pan with a little olive oil until lightly browned. Add veal stock to deglaze. Remove the rabbit from the pan and rest for two minutes.

Ingredients – marinade

1 leek
1 shallot
1/2 bulb of garlic
Bunch of thyme
1 bay leaf
12 whole white peppercorns
50ml white burgundy wine
20ml sunflower oil
30ml olive oil


Wash, peel and roughly chop leek and shallot. Then mix in a bowl with the wine, oils, peppercorns and herbs.

Ingredients – truffle vinaigrette

20g black truffle (finely chopped)
10ml white truffle oil
20ml olive oil
5ml water
10ml truffle vinegar
1/2 lemon juice
2g sea salt
Fresh milled pepper


Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl using a whisk. Taste and correct the seasoning.

Ingredients – truffle sauce

Rabbit bones
250ml veal stock
250ml rabbit stock
Miripoix (diced shallot, garlic, leek, thyme, bay leaf, whole white peppercorns)
100ml truffle juice
10g black truffle (finely chopped)
50ml Madeira
Sea salt
Freshly milled white peppercorns
10g truffle butter (4g diced truffle and 10g unsalted butter pureed)
10ml of olive oil
Bouquet garni (parsley, thyme, bay leaf celery heart tied into a neat bunch)


1. Heat pot and add a little olive oil. Add miripoix and cook for 3-4 minutes.

2. Roughly chop the rabbit bones and add to pot, cook over a medium heat until lightly brown then season with pepper.

3. Add the veal and rabbit stock and bouquet garni and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to simmer and spoon off any impurities from the stock.

4. Simmer until reduced by half, then remove the stock from the heat and pass through a fine sieve.

5. In a clean pot place the diced black truffle and Madeira and bring to the boil. Then simmer and reduce by half.

6. Add the truffle juice and the finished stock. Bring to the boil and cook rapidly to trap in the flavour of the truffle, allowing the sauce to reduce by half.

7. Taste and correct the seasoning, then fold in the truffle butter over a low heat.

Carrot cones, pearl onions
20 pearl onions
20 black truffle slices
15g unsalted butter
500ml water
Sea salt
Freshly milled white peppercorns


Wash and peel the pearl onions. Heat a pan, add 5g of unsalted butter and add the onions. Season and barely cover with water, then cook on a medium heat for about five minutes until the liquid has evaporated.

Carrot cones

Four carrots
1. Wash and peel the carrots, cut in quarter and shape like cones.

2. Heat the butter in a pot then add the carrots, allowing them to colour slightly.

3. Barely cover with water and season. Bring to the boil and simmer allowing carrots to cook to al dente consistency.

4. In a heated pot add a little olive oil, some roughly chopped carrot trimmings, seasoning and water and cook through until all the liquid has evaporated. Puree carrot in a blender to a smooth consistency.

To serve

On a warm plate add a dessertspoon of carrot puree and pull into a straight line. Place the carrot cones on top of the puree and the pearl onions in between the carrots.

Garnish with truffle slices, Cut the rabbit into even pieces. Sauce the plate and arrange the rabbit on top. Sprinkle with truffle vinaigrette and serve.

Kevin Thornton is a Michelin-starred chef and owner of Thornton’s Restaurant on St Stephen’s Green in Dublin.

Scallops with national flavour

Sunday, March 2nd, 2008

I first saw scallops in their natural habitat when diving at John’s Point in Co Donegal.

I was amazed as they hopped up in front of me and then swam backwards, like a set of wind-up false teeth. It was so tempting to grab some to take home for dinner, but I restrained myself, as it is illegal for a diver to take any shellfish from Irish waters.

More recently, when I was filming the television show Guerilla Gourmet, I was able to obtain special permission from the Department of the Marine to dive for king scallops off Bere Island in Co Cork. Clutching my bounty as I exited the water, I couldn’t resist immediately tasting one. Cutting open the first one,I was amazed by the magnificent colour.

A fresh scallop has a grey white hue and older scallops have a pure white colour. The coral shell was a beautiful pink with a necklace of brown and white with hints of gold and silver.

The taste was sublime, el egant, slightly sweet but pure and unique. The cook’s job is to do very little indeed with such a wonderful product and pass on as much of this flavour as possible.

King scallops are in season from mid to late September until April. I am not a fan of the milky Scottish scallops that are available all year round. They are easy to identify as they are a lot smaller than king scallops and more rubbery in texture. Queen scallops are available in the summer months and, while good, they are small (only about 2cm in diameter) and a lot more work is involved in producing a dish with these.

When I developed this dish a few years ago I wanted to represent the habitat of the scallop. First, I prepare the plate, painting it with colours made from natural vegetable powder to replicate the necklace of the seabed.

The dish reflects the past, present and future of Ireland: the peas represent the green land, the black squid ink sauce represents the pain and hardship experienced from the famine to the troubles, the scallop represents the sea all around us, the caviar is a reflection of the modern wealthy Ireland of today and the gold leaf represents hope for our future. Don’t be intimidated by this dish. You can try all of the elements or they can be used separately if you wish.

Roast king scallop with sugar snap peas, caviar and gold leaf

Ingredients (serves 4)

4 king scallops
Half a lemon
Sea salt
Fresh ground white pepper
Olive oil
4 salmon eggs
4 pieces dried seaweed
4 chervil leaves
4 fresh dried tomato skin
5g leek puree
5g scallop roe powder
5g trompette de la mort powder
32sugar snap peas
1 shallot
10g chives
8g oscietre caviar
1 gold leaf sheet


1 lemon
4 squid ink sacks from fresh squid
20ml dry martini
20ml Pernod
1/2fennel bulbs (roughly chopped)
2s tar anise
1 clove
1 shallot diced
250ml fish stock
125ml cream
5 whole white pepper corns
Sea salt
Fresh ground milled pepper
10ml olive oil

Method: scallops

1. Clean and wash the scallops, then season with salt and pepper and rub with olive oil.
2. Heat the pan and saute the scallops, brown on both sides and place in a hot oven at 170ÂșC for two minutes.
3. Remove and squeeze the juice of one lemon over the scallops.

Method: sauce

1. Heat the pan, saute off the shallots and fennel without colouring.
2. Add the star anise, cloves, white peppercorns and cook for two to three minutes.
3. Add the wine, Pernod and martini and bring to the boil. Reduce by half and add the squid ink.
4. Cook gently for ten minutes and add the fish stock, then bring to the boil and simmer until reduced by half.
5. Taste and season, then add the cream and bring back to boil and reduce again by half.
6. Correct the seasoning and pass through a fine sieve and serve.

Method: sugar snap peas

1. Wash the peas and remove the string from both sides.
2. Blend peas for two minutes in blender.
3. Dice the shallot finely and saute on a heated pan without colouring for two to three minutes, then remove and allow to cool.
4. Wash and finely chop chives, then mix well with the shallot and peas.
5. Season to taste and place into an 8cm ring to shape.

To serve

Paint the plates (optional). Pipe five dots of leek puree on the plate and garnish with the salmon eggs, seaweed, tomato skin and chervil.

Then place the peas into the centre of the plate and remove the ring. Sauce the plate with the squid ink, place the scallop on top of the sugar snap peas, then add a little caviar and finish by placing the gold leaf on top. Sprinkle the side of the plate with lime leaf and coral powders.

Kevin Thornton is a Michelin-starred chef and owner of Thornton’s Restaurant on St Stephen’s Green in Dublin.