Archive for November, 2008

Rise to the turkey challenge

Sunday, November 30th, 2008

Cooking the perfect turkey is often perceived as a challenge. If it is overcooked, the family faces eating dry turkey for days to come. If it is undercooked, everything else will be ruined by the time it has caught up.

But it doesn’t have to be like that. To make the task seem less daunting, just think of it as a large chicken. Its legs can be cooked separately, confit style (the recipe for which I’ve given before), and I recommend cooking the stuffing separately.

I like to cook my turkey in goose fat,very slowly, legs first, followed by breast, which makes it tender and succulent. This method also gives you more control over different elements of the final dish, so it is easier to get everything cooked perfectly.

When choosing a turkey, it is better to choose a young bird that is plump and with a short neck, as its meat will be more tender. If the turkey is old, its feet will be reddish and scaly. Consult your butcher about what size bird you will need. Choose the best quality turkey you can source and afford (a true Bronze is best). Ask your butcher to pluck it and remove the sinews from the legs so that it is oven-ready for you. Retain the giblets for making gravy.

Clean your turkey the night before you wish to eat it by washing it thoroughly under a cold running tap. Ensure the cavity is well cleaned, then fully dry the turkey using a muslin cloth or tea towel.

The perfect roast turkey

Ingredients
100g soft butter
2 tsp sea salt
2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
4.5kg (10lb) turkey, with giblets removed and cavity wiped clean
3 large onions, halved
Chestnut stuffing
3 shallots, finely diced
100g lightly smoked bacon fat, finely diced
1 turkey egg or free-range chicken egg
1 small bunch of flat leaf parsley
650g of old brioche bread crumbs
250g of braised chestnuts, finely chopped
50ml of turkey stock (or chicken stock)
5g of unsalted butter
Sea salt
Fresh milled white pepper

Turkey method

1. The turkey should be prepared the night before. Mix the butter with the salt and pepper, then season the bird’s cavity.
2. Rub the butter mix all over the bird. Fold a large piece of greaseproof paper to double thickness and lay over the breast the protect it during the cooking.
3. Leave it in the fridge overnight.
4. On the day of cooking, heat the oven to 220C/gas mark 7.
5. Take the turkey out of the fridge and allow it to come to room temperature while the oven is heating up.
6. Put the onions in a large roasting tray. Put the turkey on a trivet or wire rack in the tray.
7. Pour one cup of boiling water into the bottom of the tray, then cover the whole thing with greaseproof paper and two layers of foil, making sure it is sealed around the edges.
8. Cook for 20 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 200C/gas mark 6.
9. After 90 minutes, remove the foil and greaseproof paper.
10. Cook for a further 40 minutes and don’t open the oven door until the cooking time is up.
11. To test if it is cooked, insert a skewer or knife blade into the point where the thigh joins the breast – if cooked properly, the juice should run clear.
12. If it is pink, cook it for another 20 minutes and test again. Leave the turkey to rest in a warm place for at least 15 minutes before carving.
13. Strain the juice from the bottom of the tin into a large jug – the fat will rise to the top, leaving the aromatic turkey and onion juice beneath.
14. Skim off the fat and use the juices to make a gravy, or else serve it as it is.

Chestnut stuffing method
1. Sauté the shallots and bacon for a few minutes without colouring. Add the brioche crumbs and egg and mix well. Then add the chestnuts and stock, season and mix well.
2. Place mixture into a buttered pan. Cover with parchment paper and place it into a warm oven at 165C for about 45 minutes.
3. Serve the sliced turkey with the stuffing, baby brussels sprouts, fondant potato and your best gravy

Seasonal Salmon

Sunday, November 23rd, 2008

There is such a low yield of wild salmon in Ireland that it is only available for a few weeks of the year, as opposed to the farmed variety, which is available all year round.

We only use wild fish at Thornton’s, because there is really no comparison in the taste between the two.

Now is the time to take advantage of this seasonal produce in creating a starter dish for the festive season. This recipe for wild smoked salmon includes the method we use at Thornton’s for marinating and smoking wild salmon.

There is great satisfaction to be found in smoking your own fish, and although it takes time, it’s simple to do. To cut down on your preparation time, source a good quality Irish smoked salmon instead.

Smoked wild Irish salmon with cucumber jelly and Beluga caviar; serves four

Ingredients (if smoking the salmon)
1 fillet of wild Atlantic salmon
1kg rock salt
500g granulated sugar
250g crushed black pepper
2 small bunches fresh dill and fennel stems
5ml virgin olive oil
Wood chippings

Cucumber jelly
1 cucumber
6g carrageen moss powder (can be substituted with gelatine)
10ml of fish or vegetable stock
5g salmon eggs
Half diced cucumber (peeled and deseeded)
5g of agar
Sea salt
Fresh milled white pepper

Garnish
20 triangles of fried potatoes (cut the potato into thin, triangle shapes. Sauté in a hot pan with a little sunflower oil until golden brown. Remove and place onto kitchen paper. Season with sea salt.)
5g Beluga caviar
5g salmon eggs
Lemon juice of quarter of a lemon
4 thin slices of cucumber
Lemon oil (lemon zest and virgin olive oil)

Marinade and smoking method
1. Remove the pin bones from the salmon.
2. Mix the salt, sugar and crushed black pepper together. Place half the salt mixture in a deep dish and place the salmon on top. Cover with the dill and fennel. Cover the salmon completely with the remaining salt mixture. Cover the dish with clingfilm and refrigerate for 14-16 hours.
3. Remove the salmon from the salt mixture and wash by placing it in a stainless steel bowl and running cold water over it for 15 minutes. Dry the salmon by wrapping it in a clean tea towel. When it’s dry, brush with virgin olive oil.
4. Smoke the salmon for five days at a temperature of around 32 degrees. We do this in a smoking room, but it’s possible to do it over smouldering wood chips, in a conventional home barbecue with a lid. It is difficult to regulate the temperature this way, but do try to keep it low, as the smoked fish will last longer. When it is sufficiently smoked, the salmon should have a slight brown tint. The salmon will last for a couple of weeks in a fridge. Once smoked, remove the outer skin from the salmon.
5. Carve the salmon thinly.

Cucumber jelly method
1. Peel, de-seed and roughly chop the cucumber. Juice it in a juicer, remove and strain through a fine sieve.
2. Heat the stock in a stainless steel pot. Add carrageen moss. Cook at medium heat for two minutes.
3. Remove from the heat and strain the mixture into the cucumber juice. Add the diced cucumber and salmon eggs to the cucumber juice. Taste for seasoning and correct with salt and pepper.
4. Pour the juice into a deep stainless steel tray and refrigerate until set. Remove from the fridge and, using a 6mm pastry cutter, cut the jelly into circular shapes.

Assembling the dish
1. Place the cucumber jelly into the centre of the plate. Arrange the cucumber, salmon and caviar around the plate.
2. Arrange the salmon on top of the cucumber jelly and squeeze a little lemon juice on top.
3. Place the potato triangles around the salmon. Sprinkle with lemon oil and serve.

Taking stock of chicken

Sunday, November 16th, 2008

Poultry is an extremely versatile meat with which to cook, and none more so than chicken.

It has come in for some bad press in recent years, but if you pay a little more for a homegrown, free range organic chicken, you will have peace of mind and taste the difference immediately.

This is a great lunch dish and is a relatively light, wholesome recipe, as well as a move away from traditional, heavy winter dishes.

If you have the time, I’d recommend you have a go at making your own chicken stock in advance for this dish. It will keep fresh for about four days in the fridge or it can be frozen in small containers, allowing you to use only the amount needed.

Free range chicken breasts poached in stock, served with oven-roasted vegetables; serves four

4 chicken breasts (free range or organic) skinned, or one large chicken
2 large carrots
3 celery stalks
2 large courgettes
140g unsalted butter, diced
1 head of cauliflower (cut into florets)
500ml of chicken stock (recipe below)
50ml of virgin olive oil
25g unsalted butter
Sea salt
Freshly-milled white pepper
Juice of half a lemon

Method
1. Pre-heat the oven to 240C. Wash and peel the vegetables (leave skin on the courgettes). Cut the carrots, celery and courgettes into equal halves across and then cut each half again lengthways.
2. Heat an oven-proof pan and add 28ml of olive oil. Keep on a medium heat and add the carrots and the cauliflower florets. Toss well in the oil and season lightly.
3. Remove from heat and place the pan in the oven for a couple of minutes, turning occasionally. Add the remaining vegetables, toss well and season again lightly. Return the pan to the oven for a further couple of minutes until the vegetables are a little crisp. Remove from the pan and keep them warm. Don’t wash the pan as you’re going to use it again shortly.
4. While you are preparing the vegetables, bring the chicken stock to the boil in a separate pot. Lightly season the chicken breasts and lay them into the stock. Gently simmer chicken breasts for around five minutes, being careful not to let the stock boil again.
5. Once the chicken breasts have cooked through, remove them from the stock. Pour a little of the stock over the breasts to prevent them from drying out and then cover them. Transfer the chicken stock to the vegetable pan and boil the stock over a high heat until it reduces by half.
6. Place the vegetables and chicken breasts in an oven-proof dish and heat them in the oven for a few minutes.
7. Add the lemon juice to the stock. Remove from the heat and add the unsalted butter piece by piece, whisking until it has all melted. Pass the sauce through a fine strainer, but do not reheat as this will cause the butter to separate from the liquid. Remove the chicken and vegetables from the oven, pour the sauce over and serve.

Chicken stock, makes two and a half pints

6lb chicken bones, wings and carcasses
2lb white of leek
2 onions
4 stalks celery
2 garlic cloves
Water to cover the bones
Half pint dry white wine
2 sprigs parsley
2 sprigs thyme
1 bay leaf
1 tsp crushed white peppercorns

Method
1. Wash and peel all vegetables and garlic, and finely chop.
2. Remove excess fat from the chicken bones and rinse the bones in cold water. Place the bones in a large saucepan and cover with fresh water. Bring to the boil. As it comes to the boil, skim from time to time. Once boiling, reduce the heat to simmer and skim again.
3. Pour in the wine and add the vegetables, herbs and peppercorns. Simmer for about two hours, skimming as necessary. Pass the stock through some muslin material to strain.
4. Allow to cool and refrigerate, or freeze in small containers.

Cook up a confit storm

Sunday, November 9th, 2008

As the game season continues, duck has become available in butchers and some supermarkets.

Wild duck has a stronger flavour than farmed duck and a dense aroma when cooking. However, one way to intensify the flavours of any meat is to prepare it as a confit. This method is a perfect way to serve duck, as it also ensures the meat is tender and succulent. It is also ideal for those who prefer their meat presented without any trace of blood.

There are a few elements to this recipe and, as with a lot of my food, a fair amount of preparation will ensure great end results. However, the recipe can be prepared in stages.

This recipe for wild mallard duck necessitates that the duck be ‘deboned’. Your butcher may do this for you, if asked nicely. However, if you want to give it a go yourself, this guide is easy to follow:

1. Remove the wishbone
Place the bird with its cavity facing away from you. Feel around its collar/ neck to find the wishbone and cut around it with the tip of the knife. Take a firm grip of the bone and give it a sharp tug. It will pop out.

2. Remove the legs and thighs
Place the cavity facing away from you. Cut through the skin between the thigh and the body of the bird, on the left hand side as it faces you. Pop the hip socket, put the bird up on its side and proceed to cut close to the bone. Extract the ‘oyster’ as you go. Cut through the ball and socket joint; at no stage will you have to cut through bone. Turn the bird over and do the same to the other side, this time with the cavity facing you.
Place the cavity facing towards you. Feel the bird to find where the divide is between its breasts. Cut down the left hand-side of the divide, close to the bone. Follow the rib cage with your knife. The breast will come away easily when you cut through the shoulder socket. There should be no meat remaining on the carcass.

4. Boning out the thighs
For a mallard, or anything smaller, only bone out the thigh. Following the line of fat in the thigh, scrape the flesh gently until the thighbone is visible. Free it from the thigh and then pull it back a little to reveal the joint. Cut through the joint.

5. Preparing the breast
Clean the skin, remove the veins from the breasts, and trim the fat around the edges.

Wild mallard duck with puy lentils; serves four

Marinade
1 bunch of thyme
2 bay leaves
24 whole black pepper
2 garlic bulbs, cut in half
500ml olive oil
1l sunflower oil

Method
1. The duck meat should be marinaded for two days. First, mix up the marinade, then place the duck breasts flesh side down on the rock salt for ten minutes. Then remove, wipe off all the salt, and score the remaining fat on the breast without cutting the flesh. Place the legs and the breasts in the marinade.

Confit of duck legs
½ tsp ground cumin seeds
½ tsp ground coriander
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground allspice
½ tsp ground ginger
½ tsp freshly ground nutmeg
¼ tsp ground cloves
¼ tsp finely crumbled dried thyme
1 bay leaf
Garlic from the marinade
250g duck fat (for the confit)

Method
1. Preheat the oven to 135C.
2. Remove the duck legs from the marinade, draining any excess liquid. Mix all the spices together and rub them on the duck legs.
3. Place the duck legs and garlic cloves in a large pot and cover with the duck fat, ensuring that the pot is not filled beyond three-quarters full.
4. Place the pot on a low heat until the duck fat has melted. Then cover the pot with a lid and place it into the oven and cook until the garlic cloves have turned a deep golden colour, which will take about two to two-and-a-half hours. Let the meat cool in the fat for a few hours.

Confit is also a great method of preserving meat. If you are making this recipe in advance, you can place the duck legs into a clean preserving jar, cover with the duck fat by at least three centimetres, and refrigerate for up to two months. Allow meat and fat to fully cool before refrigerating.

Confit of duck parcels
Confit of duck legs
50g duck fat
1 shallot diced
1 carrot diced
1 parsnip diced
1 head of leek diced
2 sprigs of tarragon
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
20ml of duck stock
4 large spinach leaves

Method
1. Place a little duck fat in a pan along with the shallot, carrot, parsnip and leek. Add the duck stock and cook for about ten minutes.
2. Remove the duck leg from the duck fat. Remove the rest of the bone from the meat (it should come away easily). Add the duck pieces to the pan; taste and correct the seasoning, add the chopped tarragon and mix well. Taste and correct the seasoning. Remove from the heat and cool slightly.
3. In a pot of water, add the picked spinach leaves and blanche for a couple of minutes, remove and refresh in cold water.
4. Squeeze the spinach leaves to remove the excess water, and lay them flat on a sheet of cling film. Season each leaf lightly, and fill the centre with a spoonful of confit mix.
5. Cut the cling film around each leaf so that you can fold each leaf into a parcel shape. Seal the cling film by rolling the ends.
6. Heat the parcels in a shallow pot filled with water on a medium heat for about ten minutes. Remove from the water and peel off the cling film. Brush with melted duck fat, and they are ready to serve.

Duck breasts
1tsp honey
100g chopped pistachio nuts
Sea salt and fresh milled pepper

Method
1. Heat the oven to 170C. Then place the breasts fat side down in a warm pan over a low heat, then sprinkle flesh with black pepper.
2. Drain off fat as often as possible, until the edge of the breast is crispy and no visible fat remains.
3. Once fat has been rendered down completely, allow the breast to rest for up to an hour. If you leave it any longer the flesh will become tough.
4. Spoon over the honey on the breasts. Sprinkle with finely chopped pistachios. Place it in the preheated oven for five minutes.
5. Remove the duck from the oven and sprinkle again with pistachio nuts and let rest for two minutes.

Puy lentils
200g puy lentils
1 diced shallot
½ crushed garlic
Knob of unsalted butter
1 small bunch chives
100ml duck stock
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper

Method
1. Wash the lentils, then cover with water for two hours.
2. Melt a small amount of butter and add the shallots and crushed garlic. Strain the lentils, add them to the pot and cook over low heat for two minutes.
3. Season lightly and add the duck stock and bring it to the boil. Cook for about 15 minutes or until the lentils are soft, then add the chopped chives.

To serve
Place the confit parcel in the centre of the plate, slice the duck breast and place it on top, arrange the lentils and serve.

Rise to the turkey challenge

Monday, November 3rd, 2008

Cooking the perfect turkey is often perceived as a challenge. If it is overcooked, the family faces eating dry turkey for days to come. If it is undercooked, everything else will be ruined by the time it has caught up.

But it doesn’t have to be like that. To make the task seem less daunting, just think of it as a large chicken. Its legs can be cooked separately, confit style (the recipe for which I’ve given before), and I recommend cooking the stuffing separately.

I like to cook my turkey in goose fat,very slowly, legs first, followed by breast, which makes it tender and succulent. This method also gives you more control over different elements of the final dish, so it is easier to get everything cooked perfectly.

When choosing a turkey, it is better to choose a young bird that is plump and with a short neck, as its meat will be more tender. If the turkey is old, its feet will be reddish and scaly. Consult your butcher about what size bird you will need. Choose the best quality turkey you can source and afford (a true Bronze is best). Ask your butcher to pluck it and remove the sinews from the legs so that it is oven-ready for you. Retain the giblets for making gravy.

Clean your turkey the night before you wish to eat it by washing it thoroughly under a cold running tap. Ensure the cavity is well cleaned, then fully dry the turkey using a muslin cloth or tea towel.

The perfect roast turkey

Ingredients
100g soft butter
2 tsp sea salt
2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
4.5kg (10lb) turkey, with giblets removed and cavity wiped clean
3 large onions, halved
Chestnut stuffing
3 shallots, finely diced
100g lightly smoked bacon fat, finely diced
1 turkey egg or free-range chicken egg
1 small bunch of flat leaf parsley
650g of old brioche bread crumbs
250g of braised chestnuts, finely chopped
50ml of turkey stock (or chicken stock)
5g of unsalted butter
Sea salt
Fresh milled white pepper

Turkey method

1. The turkey should be prepared the night before. Mix the butter with the salt and pepper, then season the bird’s cavity.
2. Rub the butter mix all over the bird. Fold a large piece of greaseproof paper to double thickness and lay over the breast the protect it during the cooking.
3. Leave it in the fridge overnight.
4. On the day of cooking, heat the oven to 220C/gas mark 7.
5. Take the turkey out of the fridge and allow it to come to room temperature while the oven is heating up.
6. Put the onions in a large roasting tray. Put the turkey on a trivet or wire rack in the tray.
7. Pour one cup of boiling water into the bottom of the tray, then cover the whole thing with greaseproof paper and two layers of foil, making sure it is sealed around the edges.
8. Cook for 20 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 200C/gas mark 6.
9. After 90 minutes, remove the foil and greaseproof paper.
10. Cook for a further 40 minutes and don’t open the oven door until the cooking time is up.
11. To test if it is cooked, insert a skewer or knife blade into the point where the thigh joins the breast – if cooked properly, the juice should run clear.
12. If it is pink, cook it for another 20 minutes and test again. Leave the turkey to rest in a warm place for at least 15 minutes before carving.
13. Strain the juice from the bottom of the tin into a large jug – the fat will rise to the top, leaving the aromatic turkey and onion juice beneath.
14. Skim off the fat and use the juices to make a gravy, or else serve it as it is.

Chestnut stuffing method
1. Sauté the shallots and bacon for a few minutes without colouring. Add the brioche crumbs and egg and mix well. Then add the chestnuts and stock, season and mix well.
2. Place mixture into a buttered pan. Cover with parchment paper and place it into a warm oven at 165C for about 45 minutes.
3. Serve the sliced turkey with the stuffing, baby brussels sprouts, fondant potato and your best gravy

Dessert tartlet a plum choice

Sunday, November 2nd, 2008


Practically the last indigenous fresh fruit of the year, plums will be in most shops over the next few weeks, and offer a real taste of autumn.

There are lots of ways to cook with plums; for example, try making a crumble or a simple compote to be spooned over hot porridge in the morning.

This recipe first appeared on our menu almost 20 years ago, when it was a firm favourite with our guests in the Wine Epergne Restaurant. It’s now on Thornton’s menu, where it is served with a choice of ice creams.

The crème patissière element of the dish is the base for a lot of sweet soufflé’s and also for fillings for tarts. Most recipes will need about half the amount I’ve given here, but it’s best to make it in larger quantities. You can refrigerate the rest for up to three days. You’ll need an ice cream machine to make the ice cream; otherwise, use a good quality bought chocolate ice cream with a high cocoa content.

Plum tartlet with chocolate ice cream and lemongrass sauce


Ingredients, serves eight
600g tart pastry
14 ripe plums (slice about ten plums and dice the flesh of the remainder)
Crème patissière
Chocolate ice cream
Lemongrass sauce
Tart pastry (pâte sucrée)
250g soft butter
18oz caster sugar
3-4 vanilla pods
2large free range eggs, beaten
500g plain flour
Two pinches of fine sea salt

Tartlet method
1. Beat the butter and sugar together in a bowl using a hand-held electric mixer until the mixture is smooth and creamy.
2. Slit the vanilla pods down the middle, scoop out the seeds and add them to the mixture.
3. Turn the mixer down to a slow speed and add the beaten eggs until the mixture completely binds.
4. Sift the flour and salt together in a separate bowl. Keep the mixer on the slowest speed as you add the flour and salt to the creamed butter and sugar in little amounts, until the mixture becomes a crumbly dough.
5. Turn mixture out on to a lightly-floured cool surface and knead it until it’s smooth (should only take a few kneads). Be careful not to overwork it and don’t allow it to get too soft.
6. Cut the dough into eight batches and wrap in cling film. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
7. Remove the dough from the fridge and knead it again gently for a few minutes. Roll the pastry out on a lightly floured surface using quick, gentle strokes, taking care not to use too much pressure.
8. Line eight tartlet moulds with pastry and set aside.

Crème patissière
350ml milk
150ml double cream
75g caster sugar
1 vanilla pod
1 large free range egg
3 large free range egg yolks
40g cornflour

Method
1. Put the milk and cream in a saucepan with one tablespoon of the sugar and the vanilla pod, and bring to the boil slowly.
2. Whisk the egg, egg yolks and remaining sugar together in a bowl until creamy.
3. Sift a third of the cornflour into the bowl and whisk thoroughly. Make sure the mixture remains a smooth consistency. Sift in and whisk the rest of the cornflour in two batches.
4. When the milk and cream is almost at boiling point, pour a third of it on to the egg mixture, beating well. Remove the vanilla pod. Return the egg mixture to the pot, whisking all the time as you let the mixture simmer gently for about three to four minutes.
5. Make sure the mixture is smooth and cooked through, then remove from heat and pour into a bowl. Cover and allow to cool, then place in the fridge until ready to use.

Chocolate ice-cream
Ice cream machine
500ml of cream
500ml of milk
10 egg yolks
Seeds of 1 vanilla pod
125g icing sugar
125 71 per cent dark chocolate
125g 62 per cent chocolate
25g 71 per cent of grated
chocolate chips
1 tsp cocoa powder

Method
1. Mix the egg yolks, vanilla seeds and icing sugar in a bowl with a spatula.
2. Line the bottom of a pot with a drop of water and add the milk and cream, then bring the mixture to the boil. Pour half of the liquid into the egg yolks and mix well with a spatula. Pour the egg mixture back into the pot and return to the heat.
3. Cook the mixture over a medium heat until you see the first bubble, then remove from the heat. Be careful not to allow it to boil as it will separate.
4. Chop the chocolate into small pieces and add to the liquid along with the cocoa powder. Stir with a spatula until the chocolate has melted. Do not use a metal spoon.
5. Place the pot into a bowl of iced water and allow to cool.
6. Place your mixture into an ice cream machine and when the ice cream is almost set, add the chocolate chips. Remove and place into a sterilised container, cover and freeze.

Lemongrass sauce
500ml water
250g caster sugar
1 vanilla pod
4 sticks of lemongrass (whole)
1 slice of ginger
20g unsalted butter
Juice of two lemons

Method
1. Place all the ingredients, except the butter, into a stainless steel pot and bring to the boil. Cook until the liquid reduces by two-thirds, then remove from the heat and pass through a fine sieve.
2. Heat the sauce again in a stainless steel pot over a medium heat until it boils, then fold in the butter and remove.

To assemble the dish
1. Put about a tablespoon of crème patissière into each tartlet mould and divide the chopped plum among the moulds. Arrange slices of plum in a circle on top.
2. Bake in an oven heated to 175C for about ten minutes.
3. Plate with a spoonful of ice cream on top of the tart, pour a little warm lemongrass sauce over, and serve.