Posts Tagged ‘vegetarian’

Deceptively simple Dauphinoise

Sunday, June 22nd, 2008

The Savoy and Dauphiné areas in the French Alps are renowned for rich dairy pastures. A typical dish from these regions is gratin, in which local milk and cheese is used.

There are at least half a dozen recipes for gratin Dauphinoise, the best known of which is the sliced potato and milk mixture. Some use cream, some are topped with cheese; others are flavoured with garlic or layered with wild mushrooms.

The perfect gratin Dauphinoise – a deceptively simple dish to make – is soft and melted with just the right balance of seasoning. If it is cooked too fast or too long, the milk in gratin Dauphinoise has a tendency to curdle, as potatoes have an unexpectedly high acid content.

In this lovely, rich recipe, the potatoes should first be blanched in milk to remove the acid, then simmered in cream.

This recipe is a great accompaniment for many meat dishes but is also a perfect summer meal that can be served hot or cold and teamed with a simple chicken salad.

Gratin Dauphinoise (potato gratin with cheese and cream)

Ingredients (Serves 6)
Half clove garlic
750g potatoes (1 and half lbs)
Salt and pepper
Pinch of grated nutmeg
600ml milk (1 pint)
300ml (half pint) double cream or crème frâiche
45g (1 and half oz) grated gruyère cheese
30g (1oz) butter
And a shallow baking dish (about 1.25l/2-pint capacity)

1. Rub baking dish with the cut side of the garlic and then butter the dish.

2. Peel the potatoes and cut them in thin slices. Don’t soak them in water as this removes some of the starch needed to give the gratin a creamy consistency. Season the slices with salt, pepper and nutmeg.

3. Bring the milk to the boil in a large saucepan, whisking occasionally to prevent it from burning. Add the potatoes to the boiling milk and simmer for 10-15 minutes, or until slightly tender. Drain the potatoes and discard the milk. Set the oven to a very hot temperature (220C, 425F).

4. Return the potatoes to the saucepan and add the cream. Bring to a boil and simmer, stirring occasionally, for another 10-15 minutes or until the potatoes are tender but not falling apart. Taste for seasoning.

5. Spoon the potatoes and cream into the buttered baking dish, sprinkle with cheese and dot with butter. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown. Serve hot from the dish.

Bowled over by beetroot

Sunday, June 15th, 2008

My mother told me long ago that there were two things in life everyone should be able to do: cook and repair clothes.

That way, you’d never go hungry or naked. Cooking is still an essential skill, but one that is fast disappearing in homes all around the country.

Creating good food takes time and patience, but the best advice I can give is not to be intimidated and just get stuck in.

Cooking, I believe, is both a science and an art. As with the creation of other works of art, you can’t be too cautious in the kitchen.

Cooking has always come relatively easy to me, but I know that’s not the same for everyone.

So in my recipes I take different elements of my dishes and present the best and easiest way to create them, without losing the ethos of Thornton’s in the process. So go on, take the plunge!

Beetroot salad

Beetroot, with its magic burgundy colour and smell of summer, is perfect in salads at this time of year. When I was young, most beetroot was bought in a jar, because it took so long to cook, and there is a certain knack to capturing the rich colour – which can be lost when beetroot is boiled.

The best way to protect beetroot’s flavour and colour is to bake it in the oven, unpeeled. When working with beetroot be careful – the colour gets everywhere.

I use surgical gloves which you can get in the chemist and which protect my hands from staining.

Roasted beetroot summer salad, serves ten

2kg fresh beetroot
2 grapefruits
2 oranges
100g of rock salt

1. Wash the beetroot, arrange the salt on a tray covered with tinfoil. Then wash the grapefruits and oranges and cut into small pieces. Place the beetroot into the centre of the tinfoil, squeeze the citrus fruit on top and drop it on top of the beetroot, fold the tinfoil into a parcel around the beetroot and close.

2. Place it into a warm oven at gas mark 3 or 130 C in a fan for about four hours. Then remove it from the oven, insert a knife into the beetroot and if it goes in easily, it’s cooked. Open the tinfoil and you will get a wonderful smell as the beetroot cools down. The citrus fruit helps the beetroot retain its colour without taking away from its flavour.

3. Remove the skin on the beetroot by rubbing it with your fingers (still wearing gloves). It should come off easily.

4. You can slice the beetroot thinly or dice it, but again be careful where you do it, as the colour gets everywhere.

5. Dress the beetroot with the following dressing and serve with salad leaves.

Salad dressing
4 oranges
1 lemon
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
100ml virgin olive oil
20ml of cider vinegar
1 egg yolk
Sea salt
Fresh milled white pepper to taste

1. Peel the lemon and oranges and chop into fine pieces, place in a pot and barely cover with water. Then place on the stove and bring to the boil.

2. Remove and place in a blender and cool. Add the egg yolk and mustard, seasoning, cider vinegar and olive oil, mix for one minute, taste and season.

Salad leaves
With so much variety in salad leaves and herbs available in the supermarkets now, there is no reason why you can’t make an exciting salad with the best, fresh, young seasonal leaves.

Try lambs lettuce, sorrel – which gives a slight lemon taste – frizze, baby oak leaf, leaves from young broccoli, chives and chive flowers.

Experiment with other flavours, too. I picked a bunch of wild rocket recently when out walking, and it made a beautiful, simple salad with balsamic vinegar dressing and parmesan cheese.

All you have to do is wash the leaves, dry them on kitchen paper or in a salad spinner, and place them in a bowl and season. Slice the beetroot into thin slices, arrange them on the plate and make a little bouquet of salad leaves.

Mix a little dressing just before you sprinkle it around the salad. Serve with a few beetroot crisps.

Meeting the vegetarian challenge

Sunday, May 4th, 2008

Eating out can be a frustrating task for vegetarians. My partner and youngest son were non-meat eaters for 12 years, and finding a restaurant with good vegetarian choices was never an easy task.

But living with non-meat eaters challenged me to develop lots of new vegetarian dishes, and I am proud of the vegetarian menu at Thornton’ s.

A ridiculously high proportion of vegetables consumed in Ireland are imported from other countries. When cooking with vegetables, try and opt for locally grown, seasonal produce, which should have a good flavour.

Ingredients – open celeriac ravioli with St George mushrooms and shallot sauce

Celeriac mousse
1 diced shallot
200g celeriac, peeled and diced
100ml cream
3 egg yolks
1 whole egg
7g sea salt
4g fresh milled pepper
10ml of truffle oil
Butter for the mould

Ingredients – lasagne
12 celeriac slices (thinly sliced)
1 celeriac mousse
2 shallots
5 strings of chopped chives
10g unsalted butter
12 sliced St George mushrooms
4 morel mushrooms
10ml olive oil
250ml water
Sea salt
Fresh milled pepper
Sliced spring truffle

Ingredients – truffle sauce
1 diced shallot
100ml of truffle juice
200ml of vegetable stock
5g truffle trimmings
20ml Madeira wine
Drop of truffle oil
20g unsalted butter, cubed
Sea salt
Fresh milled pepper

Ingredients – garnish
12 peeled pearl onions
12 morel mushrooms
12 white turnips, washed and peeled
12 slices of truffle
10ml truffle oil
5ml olive oil
1tsp honey
5g unsalted butter
100ml water
Sea salt
Fresh milled white pepper

Method: celeriac ravioli
1. Heat a pot and add the truffle oil, then add the celeriac season with salt and pepper. Cook on a low heat for ten minutes without colouring the vegetable. Add the cream and bring the mixture to the boil. Reduce the heat and cook until the celeriac is soft.

2. Remove from the heat and pure´e the mixture in a blender, then cool slightly.

3. Mix in the egg yolks and whole egg, taste and correct the seasoning.

4. Butter a medium-sized terrine dish, add the celeriac puree and put the lid on top.

5. Place the terrine in a bain-marie (a container half-full with hot water) and put it in the oven at 110C for approx 50 minutes.

6. Stick a knife into the mousse to test if it’s done – if it comes out clean, it’s cooked.

7. Remove from the oven and let the mousse rest for 20 minutes. Place a tray on top of the terrine, turn it upside down carefully and remove the terrine from the mousse. Cut into slices for use in the lasagne.

Method: lasagne
1. Heat a pot and bring the water to the boil, along with the butter and sea salt. Add the sliced celeriac and cook for two minutes. Remove and season with pepper.

2. Season the St George mushrooms and saute in a hot pan, using a drop of olive oil. Add the chopped chives, taste and correct the seasoning.

3. Assemble the lasagne by placing a slice of the celeriac mousse in the centre of the plate, then laying a celeriac slice on top.
Add another layer of mousse and place the sliced mushrooms on top. Place a few slices of truffle on top of the mousse, then cover with a slice of celeriac, then mushroom, then truffle.
Finish off the top with a whole St George mushroom.

Method: truffle sauce
1. Heat a pot, add the oil and saute the shallot without colouring it.

2. Add the truffle juice and Madeira and reduce by half. Add the vegetable stock and reduce the liquid by three quarters, taste and season. Fold in the butter and serve.

Method: garnish
1. Melt the butter in a pot, add the pearl onions, season and pour over 20ml of water. Cook at low heat for five to ten minutes, and correct the seasoning.

2. Heat a little olive oil in a pan, add the turnips and season. Add the honey and cook over a low heat for a few minutes (do not let the honey caramelise, all you are trying to do is take the bitterness out of the turnip). Add the rest of the water and cook over a low heat for a few minutes, then correct the seasoning, When all the liquid has evaporated the turnips should be cooked.

3. Wipe the mushrooms clean with a cloth, then heat a little truffle oil in a pan. Add the mushrooms, season and saute for one minute. Remove and serve.

To serve
Place the lasagne in the centre of the plate, arrange the vegetables around the plate, add the truffle sauce and serve with new potatoes.

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

Appetising asparagus

Sunday, April 20th, 2008

April marks the start of the season of one of my favourite vegetables – asparagus. Its young shoots have a wonderful, delicate flavour.

Asparagus is low in calories, contains no fat or cholesterol and is low in sodium. It is also a good source of folic acid, potassium and fibre and is rich in amino acid. Asparagus also has medicinal properties, being a diuretic. It is considered an aphrodisiac too.

The first asparagus of the season is the best, and the asparagus you’ll find in the shops at the moment comes from France; Irish asparagus won’t be available until late May.

Growing asparagus in your own garden is possible, but it’s quite tricky and it takes a few seasons to get it right. There are a few different types of the vegetable available. White asparagus has a different flavour and texture to green asparagus and is grown in the dark – hence its white colour. Both types are used in this recipe.

I devised this dish to marry together flavours that work with asparagus. It is a big hit at Thornton’s at this time of year.

Warm white asparagus with truffle hollandaise served with green asparagus bavarois, serves four

1 and half litres of fresh cream
2 bunches roughly-chopped green asparagus
60ml of water
20ml of olive oil
Sea salt
Fresh milled white pepper
1 and a half gelatine leaves

Bring the roughly-chopped green asparagus to the boil in lightly salted water. When the water has evaporated the asparagus should be cooked. Remove and puree in a blender, then pass through a fine sieve.

In a separate pot bring cream to the boil and reduce by 3/4 and remove from the heat.

Soak gelatine leaves in cold water until soft, then remove and squeeze out the liquid. Add to the cream. When dissolved pass mixture through a sieve. Pour the reduced cream into the asparagus puree. Refrigerate for about two hours until set.

Truffle hollandaise
Three egg yolks
50ml of truffle reduction
300g of clarified butter
2g sea salt
Freshly milled white pepper
20ml of boiling water
20g diced black truffle

Make truffle reduction by placing the following ingredients in a pot: 20ml truffle juice, 10ml truffle vinegar, 20ml white wine vinegar and one diced shallot. Bring to the boil over a medium heat and reduce by half.

Put the egg yolks and truffle reduction into a stainless steel bowl and place bowl over a pot of boiling water. Whisk until the mixture holds a figure eight pattern. Add the chopped truffle and slowly add the clarified butter, whisking all the time. Add a little warm water if you find that the hollandaise is getting too thick. Taste and correct the seasoning.

Truffle vinaigrette
20g diced black truffle
100ml of truffle vinegar
200ml of truffle oil
200ml of olive oil
50ml of truffle juice
20ml of water
Juice of half a lemon
Sea salt
Fresh milled white pepper

Place the diced truffle in a stainless steel bowl and whisk in the truffle vinegar, olive oil and truffle oil. Add the lemon juice and spring water, season with sea salt and freshly milled pepper. Taste and correct the seasoning if necessary.


20 white asparagus shoots
2 litres of water
10g of sea salt
8 chive strands
4 slices of black truffle

Wash and peel the asparagus and remove the ends.

Bring the water to the boil, add the salt and blanche the asparagus for four minutes. Remove and refresh in cold water.

Blanche the chives for a couple of seconds in the boiling salted water, remove and refresh in cold water. Wrap five pieces of asparagus together to make a portion, tying them with a chive strand.

Return to the water and cook for two to three minutes. Remove and season. Spoon truffle vinaigrette over asparagus. Arrange all the ingredients on a plate and serve.

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

Taking the vegetarian option

Sunday, January 6th, 2008

With the new year comes a raft of resolutions – many of which will be diet related.

If you are making changes to your diet for a healthier and happier 2008, you may be considering the power of vegetables. Most dietary and medical experts agree that a well-planned vegetarian diet can be a more healthy way to eat than following a meat-based diet.

But can you follow a vegetarian diet and still get all the nutrients necessary to remain healthy? The answer is yes, although special care must be taken when feeding children and teens a vegetarian diet, especially if it doesn’t include dairy and egg products. As with any diet, you should understand that the nutritional needs of children change as they grow.

Vegetarianism was first recorded as a practice in ancient India, and in 6th century Greece and Italy. In both instances the diet was closely connected with the idea of nonviolence towards animals (called ahimsa in India) and was promoted by religious groups and philosophers.

However, it practically disappeared in Europe following the Christianisation of the Roman Empire. Medieval monks restricted or banned the consumption of meat for ascetic reasons, but none of them eschewed fish.

The practice re-emerged in Europe during the renaissance period and became widespread in the 19th century. The first vegetarian society was founded in England in the 1850s and other countries soon followed.

The movement grew in popularity in the 20th century as a result of nutritional, ethical and, more recently, environmental and economic concerns. Today, India accounts for 70 per cent of the world’s vegetarians.

Most chefs – especially French chefs – have a problem with vegetarians. For the life of me, I don’t know why, although I do take exception to people who call themselves vegetarians and then say they eat chicken and fish. There are four types of vegetarians, as follows:

Ova vegetarian: eats eggs but no meat
Lacto-ovo vegetarian: eats dairy and egg products but no meat
Lacto-vegetarian: eats dairy products but no eggs or meat
Vegan: eats food from plant sources only.

I first heard the word ‘vegetarian’ in the 1960s, the decade of peace, love and brown rice. A whole decade later I met my first vegetarians when I was picking grapes in Switzerland. I picked alongside two sisters from Germany who were vegans.

They insisted on buying brown bread, pasta and rice, but when it was my turn to do the shopping I bought white flour versions of these cupboard staples, just to annoy them. However, they taught me a lot about nutrition and the importance of variety within a vegetarian diet.

Vegetarians should keep a close eye on their consumption of the following vitamins and minerals:

Vitamin B12: dairy produce, eggs, cereals, bread soy drink.
Vitamin D: dairy produce, fresh orange juice.
Calcium: dairy produce, green leaf vegetables, chickpeas, fresh orange juice.
Protein: dairy produce, eggs, tofu, dried beans, nuts.
Iron: eggs, dried beans, dried fruit, wholegrains, green vegetables.
Zinc: wheatgerm, nuts, vegetables.

Some of my favourite vegetables include the following:

* Artichoke is a fantastic vegetable that can be prepared easily. Remove the leaves and place into water, milk and lemon juice (to prevent them from oxidising), then blanch for four to five minutes, strain and finish with olive oil and seasoning.

* Avocado has a smooth flesh when ripe and if you plant its large stone it will take root within a few months. Good in salads, where a few drops of lemon juice will stop it from browning. Also good pureed and mixed with garlic, mayonnaise and seasoning.

* Courgettes have a soft skin and flesh and are good thinly sliced and sauteed in a hot pan with olive oil, diced shallots, sea salt and fresh milled pepper. Finish off with fresh chives.

* Winter squash has a much harder skin and larger seeds than the summer squash. The seeds can be dried out and used for powder or roasted and eaten. Use winter squash in soups and sauces.

* Aubergines have a beautiful glossy skin and can be white, purple and black. The flesh is delicious roasted with garlic, thyme and olive oil, and seasoned with sea salt and fresh milled pepper. It is used in a lot of dishes, the most famous of which is ratatouille.

Serves 5
2 medium courgettes
2 aubergines
2 red peppers
2 green peppers
2 medium onions
5 plum tomatoes
3 cloves of garlic
10ml olive oil
1 bouquet garni (flat leaf parsley, rosemary, thyme, tarragon)

1. Wash the vegetables and peel the onions, garlic and aubergine.

2. Slice the courgettes 1cm thick, cut the aubergine into 2cm squares, half the peppers, remove the seeds and cut into 2cm square.

3. Blanch the tomatoes in boiling water for 30seconds, remove and refresh in iced water to stop the cooking process. Then remove the skin and cut the tomatoes into quarters.

4. Cut the onions into 1cm square and chop the garlic finely.

5. Heat the olive oil in a heavy pan, saute the onions until lightly brown, add the aubergine and peppers and cook for two to three minutes. Then add the courgettes and tomatoes and, finally, the chopped garlic.

6. Mix all the ingredients thoroughly, seasoning with sea salt and fresh milled pepper.

7. Place the bouquet garni on top and cook with the gas at the lowest heat for 30minutes, Remove the bouquet garni and serve with a courgette flower.

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

Breaking bread: steps to success

Sunday, September 23rd, 2007

Good food makes people happy and, once you get some of the basics right, it really isn’t so difficult to cook successfully and creatively at home.

Your friends will love you for it and your family will grow up appreciating the wonderful smells and conviviality of gathering around a kitchen table, breaking bread with each other and eating food that has been prepared with love.

For me, acquiring good cooking skills involves mastering five essential kinds of dishes: good bread, stock, sauce, pasta and pastry.

Over the next few weeks, I will cover each of these kitchen basics and, once you have accomplished these dishes, you will be well on the way to becoming the kind of cook you want to be.

In the weeks following, I will illustrate how each of these basics can be worked up to create a stunning, seasonal autumn menu.

Bread is the first thing you eat at the table and so it sets the scene for the whole meal.

My first recipe is for a basic white bread mix which, once mastered, can be adapted to achieve a variety of results by introducing your favourite herbs, seeds and fruits.

However, remember that if you add fruit that contains juice, you will need to factor this into overall liquid content required in the recipe.

This recipe can be made into rolls as I have done here, or cooked as a loaf.

Basic white bread rolls

500g strong white flour

15g fresh yeast

175ml warm water

1 egg

15g salt

5g sugar


1. To make the bread, add 25ml of the warm water to the yeast. Mix well and add the egg.

2. Mix the flour, salt and sugar in a mixing bowl at a low speed for a few seconds, then add the yeast mix and slowly add 130ml of the water.

It depends on the heat of the room as to the exact amount of water you need, so it is best not to add it all at once.

3. Mix well and, if necessary, add the rest of the water.

4. The dough should now be coming away from the sides of the bowl without leaving any residue.

5. Remove the dough from the bowl and knead it for five minutes. This is important as it allows the molecules to expand. If you have problems kneading it, it is too dry. If it sticks to the table it is too wet. To ensure your dough is the right consistency, test it by rubbing the dough against the palm of your hand. Press hard and it should come away cleanly without breaking. If necessary, put it back into the bowl and add more liquid as required.

6. After kneading, place the dough on a marble chopping board, cover it with the mixing bowl and let it rest for one hour.

7. Knead it again, cover it and place it in the fridge. I often leave it overnight, as this allows the yeast to work better.

To prepare the bread for cooking:

1. Cut into 40g pieces – this will give you 18 rolls and a bit left over.

2. Place the dough pieces on the table and, with the palm of your hand, roll the bread with an anticlockwise movement. You should feel the pressure of the dough on your hands. Roll until it is smooth, then roll in flour, place on the tray and cut a cross to allow it to open. Sprinkle with flour.

3. Prove for six hours on the kitchen table or until the rolls have doubled in volume. There are ways of speeding up the process, but it is important to know the full process before you start taking short-cuts.

4. Heat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius.

5. Place a pot of water in the oven for steam, then place the bread in the oven. After five minutes, turn the temperature down to 175 degrees Celsius and bake for a further 20 minutes, removing the water after ten minutes.

6. Remove from the oven and serve warm with unsalted butter.

Tomato and basil bread rolls

500g strong white flour

15g fresh yeast

90ml water

75g butter


15g fresh yeast

5g sugar

1 whole free-range egg

30g flour for the finish

50g semi-sundried tomato (roughly chopped)

10 basil leaves, shredded

2ml of olive oil


1. To make the bread, mix 15ml of the warm water with the yeast, mix well and add the egg.

2. Mix the flour, salt, sugar, tomato and basil in a bowl at a low speed for a few seconds, add the yeast mix and slowly add 60ml of water.

3. Mix well and, if necessary, add the rest of the water. Add the oil and mix again.

In the restaurant, we make different flavoured oils, such as basil oil. It is an easy process – just add 15g of your preferred herb to 1 litre of good quality olive oil and infuse for 24 hours at 47 degrees Celsius.

4. Follow same steps from number four for basic white bread mix through to end of recipe.

Kevin Thornton is a Michelin-starred chef and the owner of Thornton’s Restaurant in the Fitzwilliam Hotel, St Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2.

Tel: 01-4787008;