Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Apple season - Pork and Bramley bake

Growing up in Ireland, one of the strongest memories of baking at home was helping my mother peel and cut apples for apple tarts. In fact apple tart is such a favourite speciality among friends that you could almost feel convinced into never making one for Irish people, in the knowledge that almost every person in Ireland has a favourite apple tart recipe that you could never beat. For years now Ive received apples from people at this time of year and have made all host of apple dishes but had never actually visited an orchard or picked any.

This all changed a few weeks ago when the lovely people at Bord Bia organised a trip to Stagrennan farm near Drogheda to line up with Bramley apple week. Stagrennan farm is a family orchard run by the lovely McNeece family since 1962, although with a family history in the apple business since 1890. The McNeeces grow a number of dessert apples on their farm at Stagrennan along with the Bramleys to help with cross pollination. Many of their apples are sold around the country for juice, cider making and bakery produce along as for eating. They will also shortly be bringing out their own lovely cloudy Apple juice (far superior to imported orange juice) and range of jellies.

Bramleys Seedlings have been growing in Ireland for over 3000 years and have old Brehon laws have protected them from harm over this time which has helped Ireland produce over a third of the worlds supply. Bramleys are the main apple used in cooking and baking and have quite a sharp taste when eaten (although this never stopped me as a kid when my mother was baking apple tarts). They break down to a lovely fluffy texture when baking which is great when baked as a sweet treat or even  for making a simple apple sauce. The other main benefits to the lazy cook are that they are typically quite big which comes in handy when peeling and can last quite a long time from when you buy them to when you eventually go to make something with them!

This time of year its great to have a good one pot meal to make when you get home from work and this one is as quick and tasty as they come. Its also seriously in terms of the amount non fussy and involved just one tray, a chopping board and one knife for preparation!

Pork and Bramley bake, with thanks to Bord Bia for the recipe which I have slightly modified here due to the amount of ingredients I had available to me at the time. 

Serves 2 but can be easily multiplied

  • 2 medium size potatoes (I used Kerr Pinks)
  • 1 medium sized red onion
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 1 bramley apple
  • 400g of pork fillet chopped into inch thick slices
  • a sprig of rosemary or a handful of fresh sage leaves
  1. Preheat the oven to 200C
  2. Chop the potatoes and onion into wedges and place in a roasting dish along with the garlic. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake for 15 minutes
  3. Meanwhile chop the apple into wedges and the pork fillet into inch thick slices. Sprinkle salt, pepper and olive oil over the meat.
  4. Place the apple wedges on top of the potatoes and onions and then the meat on top of the apple. Add the sprig of rosemary but if you are using sage leave it until 5 minutes before the end of baking
  5. Return to the oven for 20 further minutes and then serve
You can find a whole host of other apple recipes here on the Bord Bia website, including possibly the best sandwich I have ever tasted.

Thanks again to Bord Bia and Olan and Fiona McNeece for laying on such a fantastic spread of appley goodness and the tour along with Tara Walker for the great demonstration on cooking with Bramleys

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Irish tapas - Potato cake with smoked salmon or goats cheese

After months of not being able to get a date that suited everyone I finally met up with the 3 lovely ladies that I met a year ago through a night class I was doing at the time. We had been trying to meet up for so long and all had so many things on the cards that a final decision was made that we would meet and all bring tapas, anything else for a week night was probably going to be an awful lot of hassle.

Strangely you can feel just as hassled making small things as big things so I opted for the really simple option. Id brought some lovely Knockdrinna goats cheese back from my weekend in Kilkenny and had some very swish beechwood cold smoked salmon from Inishturkbeg sitting in my fridge. When you have fantastic ingredients it seems a shame to do anything but show them off so I went for very simple potato cakes with these very simple toppings. 

Potato cakes are a crazily simple thing to make and were always made by my mom without any recipe at all. They are a great way of using up any mashed, boiled or baked potatoes you might have hanging around the house.

Potato cakes (makes 20 small canape size cakes) 
  • 300g boiled and peeled potatoes (I used lovely floury Kerr Pinks)
  • 1 dessertspoon of cream
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 dessertspoons of flour and some extra for dipping the cakes in before frying
  1. If you dont have some left over mashed or boiled potatoes waiting to be used then boil your potatoes in salted boiling water. 
  2. Remove from the water and, while still hot, peel and mash/rice with some salt and pepper.
  3. Add the cream or some milk to help mash. 
  4. Once finely mashed add the flour until the mix feels dry enough to shape, depending on your potatoes you may need more or less. What you are aiming for is for the dough to be dry enough so that it wont stick to the frying pan. 
  5. Heat a frying pan to a medium heat with a mix of oil and butter or just some oil on its own. 
  6. Roll out the dough and cut into quarters or shape small discs
  7. Dip both sides in flour seasoned with a little salt and pepper
  8. Fry for a few minutes on each side until golden brown, the frying pan should be relatively dry
  9. Remove from the frying pan and eat while still warm (fantastic with any cheese) or leave to cool.
I made 3 different versions above:
- Smoked Salmon with Creme Fraiche
- Goats cheese with Blackberry and Apple jam
- Goats cheese with walnut

Inish Turk Beg organic beechwood cold smoked salmon is part of a new range of smoked fish from Inish Turk Beg, a small island in Clew Bay, Mayo. This along with their honey roast hot smoked salmon are really something quite special. They also have smoked mackerel and Albercore tuna as part of the range. Inish Turk Beg smoked fish is currently available in Donnybrook Fair in Dublin and will be available in selected other stores throughout Ireland in the near future. Admittedly it is on the more expensive side (€9.95 for 100g) but well worth the splurge for a special occasion. Only a week after hearing Dr. Susan Steele of BIM speak about the fact that we are exporting over 86% of our fish, it was great to hear of a new company doing something fantastic with some of that fish before selling it around Ireland and exporting to foreign shores.