Posts Tagged ‘summer’

The knowledge of salmon

Sunday, August 17th, 2008

17 August 2008
Most wild fish found in Irish waters is exported to countries such as France, Spain and Japan, with the result that it is getting increasingly difficult to get hold of at home.

Ironically, Ireland imports a huge amount of farmed fish from around the world.

Much of the tuna available from Irish fishmongers and supermarkets, for example, comes from Indonesia, while a lot of the sea bass comes from Greece. A supplier recently told me that he gets great scallops from the US and Canada, as well as farmed halibut from Iceland.

So when you get the chance to get hold of wild Irish salmon, don’t miss the opportunity. Over-fishing in the past means that it is only possible to get the genuine article over the next two weeks.

At Thornton’s, we only buy Irish fish. Although imported fish is available to the Irish consumer at a cheaper cost, wild Irish fish is far superior in quality. Farmed salmon available in Ireland is around €4 per kilogram, organic salmon is about €10, and wild salmon is around €25.

Labeling fish organic does not necessarily mean that it has lived in its own natural environment. Much organic salmon is farm-reared and fed with organic food. I can’t tell much difference in the taste between farmed and so-called organic fish.

However, farmed salmon bears no resemblance to wild salmon and it is worth the extra cost. This recipe includes truffles but they can be omitted.

Sautéed fillet of wild Atlantic salmon with summer vegetables and summer truffle
Serves 4

Ingredients: Salmon
4 pieces of wild salmon fillet, 110g each
Olive oil
4 carrots
1 celeriac
1 bunch of samphire or sea asparagus
Olive oil
1 lemon cut in half
Rock salt
New boiled potatoes (3to 4 per person)

Ingredients: dressing
50ml virgin olive oil
15ml truffle vinegar
10g diced summer truffle (or 30 black, stoneless olives)
5ml madeira
10ml spring water
2 tomatoes skinned, seeded and chopped
Sea salt
Fresh milled white pepper
One small bunch of chopped chives
Half a lemon

Method: salmon
1. Season the salmon on both sides and sauté in a hot pan (flesh side down) in a little olive oil for two minutes.

2. Place salmon in hot oven at 170 degrees centigrade for four minutes.

3. Remove and brush with olive oil.

4. Place under a hot grill for about one minute. Remove, squeeze lemon juice over the salmon, and serve.

Method: dressing
1. Wash and chop the truffle (or olives), and place in a bowl.

2. Add the chopped tomatoes, vinegar, olive oil, madeira, water and chives.

3. Mix well, and season to taste.

Method: vegetables
1. Dice all vegetables and cook in boiling, lightly-salted water for two minutes.

2. Remove and strain off water.

3. Return to pot. Add a little olive oil and season to taste. Heat through for a further minute.

4. Toss the samphire in a hot pan for a few seconds with a little olive oil and a little rock salt.

5. Remove and serve with boiled new potatoes.

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

Tomatoes: a taste of the sun

Sunday, July 20th, 2008

Tomatoes are a true reflection of summer. Believe it or not, there are around 4,500 varieties of tomatoes available in Ireland.

They come under the various headings of beef, plum, vine, cherry, red, green, black and yellow, each of which has an incredible range of shapes and colours.

When the first organic, fresh tomato enters our kitchen each year, we marvel at its slightly sweet, acidic smell. Just picked from the vine, the skin of a good tomato should be smooth and firm with a deep, rich colour. The best way to serve tomatoes is to slice them and sprinkle them with rock salt, chopped, fresh basil leaves and extra virgin olive oil.

When shopping for tomatoes, ask about varieties and origin. To recognise a good tomato, trust your own sense of taste and smell. A good one should be juicy and firm with a balance of acidity and sweetness. Look for quality in supermarkets and farmers’ markets around the country.

Tomatoes are a versatile food, but I love to marry them with just a few other seasonal foods, such as basil and wet garlic. It’s a great dish for lunch or early evening.

For this tomato tartlet, the tomatoes can be cut roughly into quarters for a rustic look. Unlike most other pastries, puff pastry works with both savoury and sweet dishes.

Tomato tartlet with confit of cherry tomato and basil oil

Ingredients, serves 4
250g puff pastry
200g pesto
16 firm plum tomatoes
8 red cherry tomatoes
4 yellow cherry tomatoes
2 shallots
3 cloves of wet garlic
4 basil leaves
50ml basil oil
10ml olive oil
sprinkle of rock salt

Pesto ingredients
30g of pine kernels
140ml of first press virgin olive oil
20g of fresh basil leaves
Sea salt and fresh milled pepper
1 clove of wet garlic
pinch of sugar

Pesto method
Place all the ingredients into the blender for a few minutes. Remove and taste for flavour. Correct the seasoning as required. Remove and place in a clean container. This stage can be done in advance and the pesto kept in the fridge.

Ready-made puff pastry method
1. Preheat the oven to 170 degrees, then roll out the pastry and cut into 10cm rings.

2. Dust a baking tray with flour. Place the cut puff pastry on the tray and prod it with a fork to stop it from rising. Place another baking tray on top of the pastry and put it in the oven for seven minutes.

3. Remove the top tray and return the pastry to the oven for a further two minutes or until it is a light brown colour. Remove and rest.

Tomato concasse method
1. Wash the plum tomatoes and cut an X into the top of each with a sharp knife.

2. Blanch the tomatoes in boiling water for 30 seconds. Refresh them in cold water, then remove the skin, cut in half horizontally and remove the seeds.

3. Cut half the tomatoes into small discs, place them in a little olive oil and set aside.

4. Dice the remaining tomato trimmings, dice the shallots and finely-chop the garlic.

5. Add a little olive oil to a heated pan. Add the diced shallots and sauté for two minutes without colouring. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Add the diced tomato and cook for a further minute, then season.

6. Remove the tomatoes from the pan and drain off the excessive juice.

Confit of tomato method
1. Place the olive oil and a clove of wet garlic in the pot.

2. Pierce the cherry tomatoes with a knife and place them in warm olive oil (40 degrees) for about 30 minutes, then remove and place them on kitchen paper to absorb the excess oil.

3. Dip the four basil leaves in hot water and cook them in hot oil for five seconds until crispy. Remove and place on kitchen paper. Sprinkle with a little sea salt.

Tartlet method
1. Cover the base of the tartlet with the pesto. Sprinkle a little tomato concasse on top.

2. Assemble the tomato discs on top.

3. Place the tart in a hot oven (190 degrees) for five minutes.

4. Remove from the oven and place the tartlet in the centre of the plate. Sprinkle with a little rock salt and place the basil leaf on top. Pour a little basil oil around the tartlet and assemble the cherry tomatoes on the plate.

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

A currant work of tart

Sunday, July 13th, 2008

Sunday, July 13, 2008
By Kevin Thornton
With an abundance of fresh fruit, vegetables and salads, the summer season is a chef ’s dream. Today, most produce is available year round but, in truth, fruits and vegetables have quite a short season, meaning locally-grown produce is only available for about three weeks of the year.

So, it is extra special when your favourite fruits and veg are in season and can be bought locally. In August, for example, pick up Irish tomatoes and eat them washed, sliced and sprinkled with rock salt, a dash of olive oil and shredded basil leaves.

It is worth trying to shop and eat seasonally. If some foods aren’t in season, there are always plenty of other foods that are. At this time of year, berries such as whitecurrants, blackberries and redcurrants take centre stage. They are all so different in flavour but taste great mixed together, so they are ideal for tarts which can be prepared in advance for Sunday lunch.

I have provided the recipe for vanilla ice cream below, for which you will need to use an ice cream maker. Of course, a good quality vanilla ice cream can be used instead.

Black and whitecurrant tart with vanilla ice cream and redcurrant sauce

Ingredients, serves eight
For the short crust pastry
500g plain flour
3 egg yolks
125g granulated sugar
200g unsalted butter
5g sea salt
1 vanilla pod
1 zest of orange
100ml orange juice

1. Sieve the flour into a mixing bowl and add the sugar, salt and egg yolks.

2. Cut the vanilla pod in half, remove the seeds, chop them and add to the flour. Blanch the orange zest. This removes the acid from the orange peel but keeps its flavour. To do this, cover the zest with water, bring it to the boil, strain it and then add to the mix.

3. Mix in the bowl for a few seconds.

4. Cut the butter into small cubes, soften and add to the mixture. Mix for a minute and add the orange juice a little at a time. The pastry should bind together and come cleanly away from the bowl.

5. Remove, place into a clean bowl and refrigerate for about an hour.

6. Remove the pastry. Butter the tart mould and dust it with flour. Dust the counter top with a bit of flour and roll out the pastry onto this surface. Cover the mould with the pastry and, with your hands, press the pastry into the tart tray.

7. Blind-cook the tart. This can be done by covering the pastry with parchment paper and adding dried marrowfat peas or rice onto it, to put pressure on the pastry to keep it flat while it cooks. Place it into a hot oven at 180C for five minutes.

8. Remove the paper and the rice or dried peas. Put the tart back in the oven for a further couple of minutes to finish cooking. It should be a very light brown colour.

For the pastry cream
250ml of milk
250ml of cream
A drop of still water
1 vanilla pod
125g of icing sugar
165g of plain white flour
3 egg yolks
3 whole eggs

1. Put a drop of water into a stainless-steel pot. Add the milk and cream.

2. Cut the vanilla pod in half and add the seeds to the eggs.

3. Add the pod shells to the liquid and bring to the boil.

4. Put the flour, sugar, eggs and vanilla seeds into a stainless steel bowl and mix well with a whisk until it is forms a smooth paste.

5. When the milk and cream has boiled, pour half of it into the flour and egg mixture. Mix well and pour back into the pot with the liquid.

6. Return to a low heat and stir constantly for about five minutes. Cover with a lid and place the pot over a larger pot filled with simmering water to cook for a further hour, mixing regularly.

7. Remove, place into a clean bowl and cover.

8. The secret to making pastry cream is not to rush it or take short cuts. The flour takes time to cook correctly. It keeps for a few days and can be used with all kinds of pastry filling.

For the vanilla ice cream
10 egg yolks
3 vanilla pods
500ml cream
500ml milk
10ml of still water
125g icing sugar

1. De-seed the vanilla pod and add to the cream with the pods.

2. Line a stainless steel pot with water. Mix the milk and cream together and bring to the boil.

3. Whisk the egg yolks. Add the sugar and whisk well. Pour half the milk and cream into the egg-and-sugar and mix well with a whisk.

4. Pour back into the liquid. Return to a hot hob and bring to 95C using a sugar thermometer. Cook while stirring with a wooden spoon. When the back of the mixture coats the back of the spoon, remove the pot and place it into a sink of ice cold water. This cools the ice cream mix as quickly as possible.

5. When sufficiently cool, spin in an ice cream machine.

6. Remove and place in a sterilised container, then freeze until required.

To assemble the tart you will need
Pastry cream
Ice cream
Tablespoon of apricot jam
500ml vanilla ice cream
200g whitecurrants
300g blackcurrants
200g redcurrants
10g granulated sugar
8 sugared vanilla pods

1. Juice 100g of redcurrants. Add a little sugar and place into a pot on a low heat. Reduce by half, then pass through a fine sieve into a clean, cool container.

2. Glaze the remaining redcurrants by dipping them into egg white and cover with granulated sugar. Leave on a sugared tray over night at room temperature. The sugar glazing protects the berries so they will last for a few days.

3. Cover the pastry base with pastry cream and line the berries on top.

4. Heat the apricot jam and cover the berries with the apricot glaze.

5. Put the tart on the plate and line the plate with the sauce. Place the sugared berries beside the sauce and serve with a few scoops of balled ice cream.

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

Sweet pastry and tart lemon

Sunday, June 29th, 2008

Sunday, June 29, 2008
By Kevin Thornton
When it comes to defining the seasons, sometimes we just have to ignore the weather and go with our tastebuds. It’s the summer time and summer means citrus.

Citrus fruits are light and refreshing at this time of year, and are great palate cleansers during or after a meal. This lemon tart is delicious served with fresh raspberries or with a homemade sweet sorbet.

When buying lemons it is best to opt for relatively soft ones, as these tend to contain more juice. Taste the lemon mixture as you making it and add more lemon juice if a more tangy taste is preferred.

If you’re serving the tart with afternoon tea, try making your own tisane – a herbal tea which is a nice accompaniment to this zesty dessert. It’s made by placing either fresh lime leaves or fresh mint leaves in a teapot and adding boiling water.

Tarte au citron (lemon tart)

Ingredients (serves 6-8)
Sweet pastry:
250g (8oz) flour
4 egg yolks
Half teaspoon salt
100g (3 and half oz) sugar
125g (4oz) butter
Seeds from two vanilla pods

2 eggs
100g (3 and half oz sugar)
grated rind and juice of 1 and half lemons
125g (4oz) melted butter
60g (2oz) whole blanched
ground almonds
27-30cm/11-12 inch pie pan


Sweet pastry:
1. Sift the flour onto a clean work surface and make a large well in it.

2. Put egg yolks, salt, sugar and vanilla into the well and mix with fingertips until sugar dissolves.

3. Pound the butter with rolling pin to soften, add it to the well and quickly work with other ingredients until partly mixed. Draw in flour, pulling dough into large crumbs using fingertips of both hands. Press the dough together – it should be soft but not sticky.

4. Work on small portions of the dough, pushing it away from you on the work surface, then gathering it up with a spatula, drawing it towards you and pushing away again. Continue this until the dough is smooth and pliable. Press it into a ball, wrap and chill for 30 minutes or until firm.

Lemon filling:
1. Make the sweet pastry and chill for 30 minutes or until firm. Set the oven at moderately hot (190C/375F).

2. Roll out the dough, line the pie pan and chill until firm. Bake blind in a heated oven for 12-15 minutes or until set, but not brown. Take from the oven, remove paper and let the pie shell cool slightly. Put a baking sheet in the oven to heat.

3. Meanwhile, make the filling. Beat the eggs and sugar until light and thick enough to leave a ribbon trail when the whisk is lifted. Stir in the rind and lemon juice, followed by the melted butter and ground almonds.

4. Set the pie shell in the pan on the hot baking sheet and pour the mixture into the shell. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the filling is golden brown and set. Serve at room temperature.

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

Succulent summer strawberries

Sunday, May 18th, 2008

Strawberries conjure up images of long summer days spent outside in the garden. During my childhood, strawberries grew in our small garden and we devoured them on site – they never got as far as the kitchen table.

Strawberries are a good place to start if you’re interested in growing your own food. They require little maintenance other than watering. With a decent enough summer, fresh garden strawberries can grow until late August.

Two years ago, I grew some Alpine strawberries in my garden to include in my photography book, Food for Life. To my surprise, I was able to grow enough to use some in the restaurant, as well as having enough for use at home.

As with all fruit, you should smell strawberries before buying them. Don’t put your money down if they don’t have that wonderful, unmistakable strawberry scent.

Sable and strawberries with crème anglaise

Ingredients, serves four
2 punnets fresh Irish strawberries, washed and with leaves removed
Crème patisserie
Sable pastry
Crème anglaise
20g icing sugar for dusting
50ml raspberry coulis for garnish

Crème Anglaise
9 egg yolks
130g icing sugar
1/2 litre cream
1/2 litre milk
1vanilla pod

Sable pastry
416g flour
250g butter
166g icing sugar
8g salt
3 yolks
1vanilla pod

Crème patisserie
4 eggs
4 egg yolks
180g icing sugar
150g flour
1vanilla pod
1/2 litre cream
1/2 litre milk
200g butter

Method: crème anglaise
1. Heat the milk and cream with the vanilla pod in a heavy-bottomed saucepan.

2. Meanwhile, whisk the eggs and sugar until smooth.

3. When warm, add the cream/milk mixture, little by little, to the eggs and sugar, stirring constantly.

4. Return to the pan and cook over a low heat, stirring constantly until the liquid coats the back of the spoon. Remove from the heat, pass through a fine sieve and cool quickly in cold water.

5. Store in a covered container in the fridge until needed.

Method: sable pastry
1. Dice the butter and cream until the mixture is smooth and white.

2. Add the sugar and salt and mix. Then add in the flour and finally, the egg yolks, and combine into a ball.

3. Remove the pastry from the bowl and flatten it out on a tray lined with parchment paper. Cover with film and allow to rest in the fridge for at least an hour.

4. When the pastry is ready, roll it out into a 4mm thickness. Rest the pastry.

5. Cut disks with a 5cm diameter round cutter. Rest the pastry.

6. Bake in the oven for 6-7 minutes at 175 C, until golden brown.

Method: crème patisserie
1. Whisk eggs, yolks and sugar in a large stainless steel bowl until smooth.

2. Heat milk, cream and vanilla pod in a heavy-bottomed saucepan.

3. When warm, add a little of the milk mix to the eggs, stirring all the while. Add the remainder of the milk mix to the eggs/sugar stirring constantly.

4. Return the liquid to a low heat and cook, stirring constantly (make sure the eggs don’t scramble on the bottom of the pan). The mix is ready when it coats the back the spoon.

5. Mix in the flour, place in an oven dish, cover with parchment and cook at 150 C for 25 minutes.

6. Let the mix cool a little and buzz in the diced butter when still warm.

To serve
1. Place five dots of coulis, (decreasing in size) from 12 o’clock to 3 o’clock on the plate. In between these, place five dots of anglaise, again decreasing in size. Draw a cocktail stick through them to make heart shapes.

2. Assemble the dessert by placing one sable disk on the board, and piping crème patisserie from the centre of the pastry out to the edge.

3. Quarter the strawberries from the top of the cone to the base.

4. Place the strawberry quarters (narrow end towards the centre) around the sable to make a flower shape. Put a dot of crème patisserie in the centre and place another pastry disk on top.

6. Repeat the above (crème patisserie and strawberries) for this layer. Place a sable on top, and place a dot of crème patisserie in the middle. Dust half of the pastry with icing sugar, using a knife to help you get a sharp line. Place half a strawberry on top (with the green leaf still intact).

7. Place the sable stack in the centre of the plate, on top of a small dot of crème patisserie.

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