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Posts from the ‘Soups and Stews’ Category

Comfrey Cottage Chervil & Chive Vichyssoise

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I love Tipperary. Especially in the summer.

Despite the drought we’ve been experiencing these past weeks, things are still fairly green. Each day, the sky is an array of gorgeously arranged clouds. My kids run around the yard (well, two out of three of them run… the baby bum-shuffles), playing in their playhouse and making mud pies, Pat is busy fixing things around the farm and helping his dad milk the cows.

And me? I’m on “holiday” from The School of Food. Which actually means I’m run off my feet chasing after children, hosting playdates, writing articles (like this recent one for Irish Country Living on the Keenan Brothers, who grow heritage grain), selling cakes and sausage rolls at the Thurles Farmer’s Market and doing pop-up restaurant nights with Lucy at The Green Sheep.

So I’m still working, I guess. Just not teaching! I will be taking a proper holiday next week and the week after – we will be going “glamping” in County Clare with the kids. We are so excited; can’t wait to tell you all about it.

Lucy and I also recently signed up for Traveling Spoon. If you don’t know what that is, it’s  sort of like airbnb… but for food! Visitors can peruse the website depending on which country they’re visiting and choose from a selection of unique dining experiences. Some experiences are in people’s homes, while others – like ours – are in private dining establishments. When we get a reservation, Lucy and I close up the cafe and prepare the long, wooden communal dining tables for our guests.

We offer three types of experiences: a cooking lesson, dinner and local beer pairings, just dinner, or just dinner with beer pairings. We only take one group of visitors at a time, making it an intimate, unique travel experience.

The menu changes with whatever is in season and tasting good at the time, but last week, when we fed a group of Americans (visiting via Irish Fireside bespoke tours – a fantastic travel experience in itself!) the menu was this:

Comfrey Cottage Chervil & Chive Vichyssoise

Crawford’s Farm Pulled Chicken Empanada

John Lacey’s slow-roast Lamb Shoulder with Buttered Turnip, Crispy Kale and Gastrique

Ripe Cooleeney Cheese with Cherry Consomme, Walnuts and Lavash

Sweet Ricotta Dumplings with The Apple Farm Strawberries and Raw Lavender Cream

The menu featured all local (like within 50km of Thurles) ingredients and the group we had were all so wonderful and fun. They enjoyed their food (and beer pairings from White Gypsy Brewery) and even serenaded us in between courses.

I thought I would share the recipe for our first course because it’s so low-maintenance to make – it actually intensifies in flavour as it sits in the fridge. A classic French Vichyssoise is a chilled, creamy, mild leek and potato soup. It’s lovely.

At this time of year, in Tipperary, my friend Sarah at Comfrey Cottage has an abundance of bright, flavoursome chervil. I love its mellow, refreshing flavour – with a squeeze of lemon and a handful of chives, it literally transforms a classic into something entirely new and exciting.

This will keep in the fridge for up to four days. Do not add the fresh chervil until the soup has chilled – otherwise the lovely green colour will turn grey and the flavour will be less vibrant.

*If you can’t get fresh chervil, you can substitute with: 1 bunch flatleaf parsley, 1 bunch fresh dill, 1 bunch fresh chives, 1/4 bunch fresh mint

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Comfrey Cottage Chervil & Chive Vichyssoise

Ingredients:

1 Tbsp rapeseed (or olive) oil

1 Tbsp butter

3 leeks, pale green and white bits only, finely sliced

1 large onion, finely diced

3 stalks celery, finely diced

4 large potatoes, peeled and cubed (keep submerged in cold water until ready to cook)

4-6 cups/1L hot chicken or vegetable stock (depending on how thick you like your soup)

1 cup/250ml heavy cream

salt and pepper, to taste

Juice of one lemon

1 large bunch fresh chervil (around 200g)

1/2 bunch fresh chives

Directions:

  • In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, heat 1 Tbsp rapeseed oil and 1 Tbsp butter over medium-high.
  • Gently cook the leek, celery and onion together until pale and translucent – you don’t want them to brown, just soften and cook through.
  • Add the potatoes and gently cook, stirring regularly, for another 3-5 minutes.
  • Add 4 cups of hot stock (reserve the extra for after, in case you want to thin out the soup) and bring to a gentle simmer.
  • Simmer the soup for 20-30 minutes, until the potato is completely cooked through.
  • Add the cream, stir, remove from heat and allow to cool for 1 to 1.5 hours.
  • Once the soup has cooled, transfer for the fridge and chill completely for 1-2 hours.
  • Add the chervil and chives – allow to steep into the soup overnight or for at least 3 hours. Continue to chill in the fridge.
  • In small batched, blend the cold soup completely in a vitamix or good quality blender. A hand blender would probably work, but I haven’t tried.
  • Once completely blended, season with salt, pepper and lemon juice to taste.
  • Continue to chill until ready to serve, Garnish with chive flowers, nasturtium, a drizzle or oil and microgreens.
  • Serves 8-10 people (starter size, approx. 200ml per person).
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Vegan Creamy Tomato Soup with Foccacia

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I’ve learned so much over the past few months.

I’ve learned that it’s possible to function on one hour of sleep. I’ve learned that you can learn to function on one hour of sleep and absolutely no coffee because coffee affects your baby’s reflux. I’ve learned that you become a really awful person when you only had one hour of sleep and no coffee, and your other children tend to bear the brunt of that (sorry Maeve and Ciara; I’m going to make it up to you!).

I’ve learned that, whenever possible, you shouldn’t have a baby around silage/calving time. I’ve learned to let some things go – ok, a lot of things – ok, ALL OF THE THINGS.

I’ve learned to give my husband some extra credit, because he works really, really hard and is a good human being.

Most importantly, I think, I’ve learned to go easy on myself. Because this parenting thing is hard. Because I, like so many other women out there, am my own biggest critic. And I don’t blog enough/exercise enough/play with my kids enough/read enough/socialize enough. And I drink too much wine/avoid annoying tasks/spend too much money/am too selfish. Enough, already.

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Life is short. You’ve heard it before. But in the past few weeks there has been a lot of death – deaths in Canada, deaths here in Ireland, horrible atrocities committed around the world in the name of religion/ideology. And I’m here, safe and healthy with a safe and healthy family. In any case, life is far too short to spend it irrationally angry and blaming myself for not being perfect.

My posts have become a lot more introspective lately. I really think writing helps work out the kinks in my brain (and there are many). I also think the early days of motherhood can make you lose sight of yourself and your abilities. This can be kind of devastating in a first-world-problem kind of way, when you’ve spent your life having a really firm, if fluid/constantly changing, view of who you are. When I write down phrases like “first world problem” I tend to cop on a bit.

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The way you treat your body helps work out brain kinks, too. Now, I’m in no way vegan. I’m not really interested in giving up cheese. Or my thrice daily latte (doesn’t bother the baby anymore!). But I have drastically changed my diet, and it’s not only helped me lose that last bit of baby weight – combined with a good daily dose of vitamin supplements, it’s helped my mental health a great deal.

I love this soup because it has all of the comfort and warmth of a full-fat cream of tomato soup with none of the dairy. The coconut milk is just sweet enough to balance the acidity of the tinned tomatoes and the whole thing comes together in just a few minutes.

The foccacia is made with my mom’s famous pizza dough recipe. I make the recipe and allow the dough to rise for around 1.5 hours. When it’s doubled in size, I punch it down, divide it in half and press each half of the dough into two rectangular cookie sheets. You can roll it out on a floured surface to fit the pan or just press it into an oiled cookie sheet with your hands.

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Once it’s spread out, I gently dent the dough all over with my fingertips, brush the top with olive oil and sprinkle with an array of toppings. The toppings can literally be anything (olives, roasted peppers, rosemary, garlic) but if I’m rushing I just give the top a good sprinkle of flaky sea salt and dried mixed herbs. Bake it in a really hot oven (up to 500°F/250°C) for 20-25 minutes, until the edges are golden brown and crisp. Use another sweeter in the dough if you’re vegan and don’t like honey. This is the perfect dipping bread for a creamy soup. Like this one!

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Vegan Creamy Tomato Soup

Ingredients

1 large onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 carrot, diced

1 Tbsp coconut oil

2 cans diced tomatoes

1 can full-fat coconut milk

2 cups/500ml hot vegetable stock

Salt and pepper, to taste

Fresh basil, for garnish

Directions:

  • In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, heat the coconut oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and carrot and sauté for 10 minutes, then add the garlic and cook for an additional minute.
  • Add the tomatoes and hot vegetable stock; bring to a boil.
  • Turn the heat down to medium and simmer for 20-30 minutes, adding more stock (or water) if necessary.
  • Blitz the mixture using a hand blender and return to the heat. Add the coconut milk and bring back to a simmer. Cook for another 10 minutes, then season liberally with salt and pepper.
  • Serve hot, garnish with basil and serve with warm foccacia.

Coconut Chickpeas with Spinach

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The past four months have been both one of the hardest times of my life and, mercifully, one of the fastest. Here we are, after a summer full of Canadian visitors and weekend trips, back to just the five of us in our little, ramshackle farmhouse. And I’m happy.

I did not spend the past four months feeling happy. Sleep deprived, unnerved and slightly depressed were my main emotions, with brief respites of happiness. But now I’m feeling happy again.

Postpartum Depression is a real thing, and something that shouldn’t be as stigmatized as it is. That said, I don’t think I had it – a form of it, perhaps, caused by a very irritable newborn and no sleep – but it was close enough to the real thing to make me understand how mothers suffering from extreme PPD must feel. It’s certainly not something I want to go through again.

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Photo by my brother Rory. Thanks bro!

My baby girl is happy now, too, though, which is the reason I’m happy. The hours-long screaming sessions are a thing of the past, she is feeding regularly, finally seems to actually *enjoy* eating and loves being out and about. She’s even handling short car rides with very little crying. We took her for her first “swim” at a local community pool today and she happily floated around in my arms while Maeve splashed, jumped and played (Ciara stayed in her Dad’s arms the entire time – she is not a fan of the pool).

Sure, she still doesn’t sleep through the night. Maybe she never will. But she is happy and content, which makes my life a lot less stressful and worrisome. I can handle the sleep deprivation for a while longer.

So, with a happier baby, my days spent caring for three-under-four have been less daunting. Some days are bad, but for the most part we’re having fun, the house hasn’t been condemned and I haven’t torn out my hair. My mom, after spending two months here, went back to Canada last week, though, so I definitely find myself running low on energy by the end of the day.

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I’d love to know what other moms out there do to make their day-to-day more organized and efficient, to the extent that they’re able to sit down and eat something other than toast scraps and cold tea.

I have a small system in place that is mostly working. Mostly. If we’ve had a bad night, the day is going to be terrible – there’s no way around that. But if I was able to get a bit of sleep, my weekdays usually look like this:

  1. 7am – Maeve comes into my room to let me know she and Ciara are awake (as if I couldn’t already hear them shrieking in their bedroom).
  2. 7:30am – both kids have eaten breakfast, baby has nursed and is *hopefully* playing in her playpen (sometimes she’s crying).
  3. 8am – Maeve’s lunch is packed and she is dressed for school.
  4. 8:30am – Ciara and Aine are dressed and I have somehow managed to make donut dough.
  5. 9am – I have some kind of outfit on and have plastered my face with BB cream and mascara (though no amount of BB cream will erase the last five years, I fear).
  6. 9:15am – Kids are in the car (no small feat) and Maeve is dropped at school.
  7. 9:35am – The other two kids are dropped to my friend for two hours.
  8. 10am – I make donuts at The Green Sheep (though currently this is only three days per week).
  9. 11:30am – Collect the two small kids and drive to Maeve’s school.
  10. 12pm – Collect Maeve from school and drive home.
  11. 1pm – Ciara goes down for a nap, I try to eat something, Maeve watches TV or goes outside to play.
  12. 2pm – Hopefully Aine is napping, Ciara is still napping and I am getting housework done. Also starting dinner now.
  13. 3pm – All kids are awake. We go outside, or to the shop, or if it’s raining and dreary we watch TV, do puzzles and colour.
  14. 5pm – I call Pat to make sure he’s leaving work (work is a 1.5 hour drive away!). I try to handle a cranky baby, cranky toddler and demanding four year old while keeping my cool and finishing dinner. Sometimes I shout. Ok, I usually shout. Any cleaning I’ve accomplished during naptime has been ruined. The entire house is a mess.
  15. 6:30pm – Pat arrives. I immediately throw the baby at him (not literally; I’m not that bad… yet). We tackle bedtime together – bathing, a bottle of milk for Ciara, stories, pj’s, songs, teeth-brushing and cuddles.
  16. 7pm – The bigger girls are in bed. Pat eats his dinner and sometimes I try to tidy again, but not always, then I try to have a shower, but not always and a few nights a week I run, work out or meditate (but not always). I always end up on the couch with a sleeping Aine sprawled over me.
  17. 10pm: I try to put Aine down in her bassinet, which is sometimes but not usually successful. Sometimes she’ll sleep til 2:30am and sometimes she’ll wake up immediately. She always ends up in bed with me and will wake 2-3 times before we all wake up and start again.

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Leftovers have been my saving grace for a healthy mid-day meal, so I try to make larger amounts of our dinner and eat the remainder for lunch. This Coconut Chickpeas with Spinach is one of my favourite meals. It’s tasty, comes together in less than an hour, and is nice with brown rice but stodgy enough to eat on it’s own, like a stew.

If you don’t like chickpeas you can substitute them with: firm white fish (like cod), chicken, paneer (or, if you don’t have paneer, use halloumi – it’s just as good!) or sweet potato. If you don’t like coconut milk, like my husband, you might still like this, like my husband.

It’s a beautiful dish and I’m no nutritionist (I make donuts for a living) but I think it’s also really healthful and makes me feel good. And, bonus for us crazy-busy moms, it’s even better the next day (and the day after that!).

*Most importantly, if you think you or someone you love is suffering from postpartum depression, click on this link for some much-deserved support (and, by the way, you’re doing a great job).

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Coconut Chickpeas with Spinach

Ingredients:

2 cans drained chickpeas, rinsed in cold water

1 large head/bag of spinach, washed

1 large onion, thinly sliced

3 cloves of garlic, minced

1 hot chili (I use bird’s eye chilies here but any will do), finely chopped

coriander stalks, finely chopped (a handful)

1 Tbsp coconut oil

750ml/3 cups hot vegetable or chicken stock

2 tsp curry powder

1 can full-fat coconut milk

1/2 lemon, juiced

2 tsp salt

Fresh coriander leaves, for garnish

Directions:

  • Heat a heavy-bottomed pot or dutch oven on a medium high hob.
  • Add the coconut oil, sliced onion, minced garlic, chili and coriander stalks. Cook until soft and fragrant, about 8 minutes.
  • Add the curry powder. Cook for one minute.
  • Add the chicken or vegetable stock; bring to a boil. Then add the rinsed chickpeas.
  • Simmer on medium for about 30 minutes, until the stock has reduced by half and the chickpeas are tender. Add the coconut milk and bring to a simmer once more.
  • Continue to cook the chickpeas until they are tender and have taken on the flavour of the broth (you will have to taste to know for sure; canned chickpeas can taste artificial if they haven’t been cooked for long enough).
  • Add the spinach to wilt. Season with salt and lemon juice.
  • The dish is complete when the coconut milk has thickened into a light, gravy-like sauce and the chickpeas are fully cooked and tender.
  • You can eat this like a stew on it’s own, or with hot brown rice. Garnish with fresh coriander leaves.
  • It will keep in the fridge for up to four days. Served with rice or flatbread, this will feed four hungry adults. It’s nice paired with beer – a wheat beer or pale ale goes really well.

Tipperary Lamb + New Potato Curry

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Things are going to go a bit crazy in the next few weeks. Someone recently made fun of me and my penchant for list-writing, so I think I’ll go ahead and write this post in list form.

  1. My daughter is going to preschool on the first of September. My daughter. Is school aged. I could have sworn we just brought her back from the hospital. I could have sworn I wasn’t old enough to have a child in school. But there you go. Next week, my baby will be taking her first step toward complete and utter independence from Mama. I’m not sure how I feel about that.
  2. My other baby is going to be minded by someone other than me for a few hours a day while Maeve is in school. I’m not sure how this is going to go either, but I’m happy enough knowing she’s being cared for by a good friend and I will literally be across the street the entire time.
  3. I’m starting a business. I have no capital, no “starting a business” experience and no idea how this is going to go. I’m giving it a shot. I’m giving it a year. If it works, great. If not, I’ll be content in the knowledge that I started off small enough to (hopefully) not lose that much money.
  4. “Janine! You’re starting a business?! What business?”, I hear you asking. Well, readers, maybe I’ll be ready to speak more about it next week or the week after, but since I’m still waiting on a few things I will keep a lid on the details for now.

So yeah. Things are happening. Scary, exciting, crazy things. I hope you tag along with me for the journey.

A good curry always calms me down at the end of the day – especially lamb curry made with delicious Tipperary lamb from Lacey’s Butchers in Thurles and new Irish potatoes. I threw in some spinach to make it look healthier, but honestly – it’s not a bad dish. It’s made with really great ingredients, a little olive oil and lots of spicy TLC (and salt). A bit of basmati rice, a dollop of natural yogurt and a sprinkling of fresh coriander bring it to proper meal status.

Tipperary Lamb + New Potato Curry

Ingredients: 

1 lamb shoulder, deboned and cut into large-ish chunks

500g new potatoes, cut in half or thirds (make them the same size as the lamb chunks)

1 really big onion, or two smaller ones

3 cloves garlic, smashed and finely chopped

1 Tbsp fresh ginger, finely chopped

1 bunch fresh spinach, washed and coarsely chopped

1 tbsp tomato paste

2 tsp garam masala

1 tsp turmeric

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

1 L (4 cups) hot beef stock

Salt, to taste

Juice of one lemon

Natural yogurt and Fresh Coriander, for serving

Directions:

  • Heat a large dutch oven or any heavy-bottomed, large pot on the stovetop on high. It needs to be smoking hot before you start cooking.
  • When it’s well heated, add 2 Tbsp olive oil, then add the chopped onion. Cook the onion for 5 minutes, stirring frequently to avoid burning. Then add the lamb to brown.
  • When the lamb is browned, add the garlic, ginger and spices. Cook an additional 2-3 minutes, until fragrant (don’t get scared if the bottom of your pot is starting to look brown – that’s all flavour).
  • Add the tomato paste and mix thoroughly through the other ingredients, cooking an additional minute. Then add the hot beef stock. Bring to a boil.
  • Turn the heat down so the curry is at a simmer. Cook until the lamb is slightly tender and the sauce has reduced by half (about an hour), then add the potatoes. (If you need to add more stock at this point, go ahead. Even some hot water is fine if you think the sauce is too thick).
  • Continue to simmer until the potatoes are fork tender, the lamb is completely tender and the sauce coats the back of a spoon. Add the fresh spinach and stir through until wilted.
  • Season to taste using the salt and lemon juice. I like lots of acidity, but some don’t. Just go with your gut.
  • Serve over hot rice or warmed flatbreads, a dollop of yogurt and a sprinkling of fresh coriander.

PS: I wasn’t asked to write nice things about Lacey’s Butchers in Thurles. I just really like their stuff. They don’t even know I’m writing this, or that I made this delicious curry with their gorgeous lamb.

 

What’s On My Mind:

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  • Over the April long weekend we took a gorgeous drive along the Copper Coast from Tramore to Dungavan. I’ve been hearing about The Moorings‘ outdoor patio for some time now. As every Canadian knows, there’s nothing better than beers on a patio on a beautiful, sunny day. This patio didn’t disappoint (and neither did the food or beer).
Scrummy fish chowder & zingy chicken wings at The Moorings

Scrummy fish chowder & zingy chicken wings at The Moorings

  • Breathedreamgo is one of my favourite travel websites. It specializes in travel – mostly to India but also to other areas – and focuses on solo women travelers. Even though I’m married with a bebe I still like to travel alone and I enjoy following the author, Mariellen, on Twitter to see what she’s up to. There’s an amazing giveaway on her website right now: a 14 day food adventure to India, in partnership with Intrepid Travel. You can enter here.
  • I know Maeve’s only 8.5 months old, but I think she may have a promising future in hip hop. She poo-poo’s Raffi but goes crazy for Wu Tang. I’m both proud and slightly scandalized.

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  • The World’s 50 Best Restaurants was announced last night and I wasn’t surprised to see there are still no Canadian restaurants making the cut. As chair of Vacay.ca’s Top 50 Restaurants in Canada I know there’s some pretty amazing stuff happening in Canadian restaurants, from old-school Newfoundland cuisine to fine dining with Aboriginal flair. Maybe more 50 Best judges should visit more often.
My favourite Huevoes at Mildred's Temple Kitchen, Toronto

My favourite Huevoes at Mildred’s Temple Kitchen, Toronto

  • I ate at La Bohème again last Friday. They have some great value prix fixe menus – an early bird for €29 and a Market Menu, which is four courses for €35. The Market Menu had more interesting selections so we went for that. We also indulged in a kir royale made with the chef’s own creme de cassis – amazing. So many fine dining restaurants fail to hit the mark for me – trying to be creative, they get lost along the way. Chef Théze sticks to his French roots and doesn’t mess around when it comes to flavour.
Waterford Lamb Rump with Almond Cream at La Boheme

Waterford Lamb Rump with Almond Cream at La Boheme

  • I have been loving the spring-time weather in Ireland! Warm, sunny and beautiful. It puts you in a great mood. Hope you all have a wonderful week!

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The Whole Duck, and Nothing But.

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The other day, I was doing a quick shop in Lidl when I saw they had a special on whole duckling for roasting.

Now, if I want a good duck, I’ll get it from a local butcher. It’s worth the money because the bird is meatier and fattier – better for roasting as you’ll end up with much more of the succulent meat. But these whole ducks at Lidl were €8.00! For an entire duckling. I couldn’t pass it up. I mean, we are a family on a budget.

So I got this duck and wasn’t sure what to do with it. The thing about roasting whole duck is that the different parts are at their best cooked different ways. I like roast duck. The best I ever had was in an old restaurant called Hua’s on “Ghost Street” in Beijing – it was expensive, but the duck at this place was so good, my friend and I ended up ordering two. But I prefer a nicely seared, pan roasted duck breast and slowly confit’d duck legs.

So when I got home, I got out my sharpest boning knife and broke the duck down completely. I used every single part, getting four meals out of one bird. Here’s how I did it and what I made:

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  1. Make sure the bird is right side up. That means, the breasts should be facing the ceiling and the legs should be facing you, the butcher.
  2. With a sharp knife, slice down either side of the breast bone (or the back bone). It’s found at the very top and goes vertically from one end of the bird to the other. Give it a good slice on either side.13868049975_2e415afcc4_z
  3. Once you’ve done that, choose a side to work on. Now’s the time to remove the breast meat. You probably won’t be very good at this the first time you do it (I would practise on some chicken first, since there’s less breast meat on a duck and you wouldn’t want to waste any). Using your knife, lightly scrape (don’t slice) down the side of the duck, leaving as little meat on the rib cage as possible. Once you have enough of a cavity made, you can use the tip of your knife to scrape down the sides. Once the breast is nearly severed, slice through the remaining skin and fat to remove it completely.13868047445_cf2acbbcca_z
  4. Now, do the same thing on the other side to remove the other breast.13868422344_09f927e03f_z
  5. Once the breasts are removed, it’s time to take off the legs. Use your hands to move the leg around. Once you feel where the hip joint is, give the leg a good twist to dislocate the joint. Once the joint is dislocated, use your knife to slice through. First, hold the leg to one side to tighten the skin around the joint, then slice through it. Once you’re through the skin, you can see where the leg joint naturally separates from the body. Use your knife and slice through the hip joint.
  6. Again with your knife, slice through the skin above the leg to see where the thigh meat is located. Once you see it, scrape down the rib cage until you’ve removed the thigh meat.13868420284_f26983f7c4_z
  7. Repeat this on the other leg until both are removed.
  8. Once you have the major joints removed, take off the wings. I just, again, find the main joint, give it a good twist to dislocate, and then slice through the joint with my knife, removing the wing.13868066933_766f5efd49_z
  9. Now it’s time to remove all the skin and fat from the duck. There will be a lot of fat in the skin and a lot of fat in between the skin and meat and, also, just inside the cavity. Remove all the skin and fat from the bird and, also, clean the joints and breasts of any excess fat. Save all the skin and fat.13868038265_56b61ff328_z
  10. You should be left with the carcass (the body cavity). You can use a larger knife to chop through the bone or, if you have a big enough pot, leave it whole. Congratulations, you’ve just deboned a duck.

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Here’s what I did with the different parts:

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The Breasts:

  • Lightly score the skin of the breasts with a sharp knife or razor blade. Season well with salt and pepper – rub it into the scoring marks. Leave to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  • Heat a frying pan on medium-high. You want the pan hot enough to render all the fat from under the skin of the breast, but not so hot that you burn the skin in the process.
  • When the pan is hot, do not add any oil or butter. Lay the breasts, skin side down, onto the hot pan. The fat will render almost immediately and will begin to crisp up the skin. Let the majority of the fat render from the breast – cook it on the skin side for the majority of the cooking process.
  • When the fat is mostly rendered and the skin is crispy and brown, turn over the duck and immediately transfer the pan to a hot oven (about 200 degrees Celsius). Depending on the size of the breast, cook for 7-12 minutes for a nice medium-rare.
  • I served the duck with green beans amandine (made with lemon, olive oil and toasted slivered almonds) and a buttermilk mash.

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The Skin and Fat:

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  • When all the skin and fat was removed from the carcass, I transferred it to a Dutch oven and immediately put it over a medium- low heat to slowly render all the fat.
  • As the fat rendered, the skin got extremely crispy. When the skin was completely crisp and golden brown I knew all the fat had been rendered.
  • I strained the duck fat into a container to save away and seasoned the crispy skin with some sea salt. I squeezed some sriracha chili sauce onto a plate and Pat and I had a delicious snack of crispy duck skin to eat while watching Game of Thrones (the best way to spend an evening, in my opinion).

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The Carcass and Wings:

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  • I could have kept the wings and fried them for some crispy duck wings, but I didn’t really feel like it. I added them to the carcass, put the carcass and wings in a stock pot, added a chopped carrot, two chopped onions, some chopped celery, a few peppercorns, some whole star anise, some coriander seed, some lemongrass and ginger, a bay leaf and fresh parsley and coriander.
  • I covered it all in cold water and gently simmered for 2 hours. It made a beautifully aromatic broth.
  • I put the hot broth in the fridge overnight. As it cooled, the fat collected at the top of the container and I easily scraped it off the next day.
  • I made pho with rice noodles, rose oyster mushrooms, crispy fried cod, scallion, basil, fresh coriander and sriracha. I seasoned the duck broth with lime juice, fish sauce, soy sauce, sriracha and some tom yum paste I had in the fridge. It was amazeballs.

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The Legs:

  • I saved this for last because I haven’t actually cooked the legs yet. They’re in the freezer. The duck fat is in the fridge. This Friday night I’m making duck confit with lentils and Toulouse sausage. Traditionally, you’d have duck confit with cassoulet but that’s a bit too much work for a Friday night!
  • I’ll season the duck fat with bay, peppercorns and juniper berries before scooping it (cold or room temperature) over the legs. Then I’ll cook them in at a low heat in the oven for a few hours, until tender.

Say what you want about Lidl, but €8.00 for a whole duckling is a steal. They’re Irish ducks, too and they’re still available.

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Savoury Beef Stew with Champ

While my friends and family have been enjoying unseasonable warmth in Toronto, Victoria and Cape Breton these past few weeks, we haven’t had a day warmer than 19 degrees so far in Ireland. Not that I’m complaining about the weather – I’m actually relishing the fact that my final months of pregnancy won’t be spent in the 40 degree sauna that is a Toronto summer. In total fairness, we’ve had very few awful days since we moved.

That said, my winter cooking habits haven’t changed all that much, even though it’s spring. The chill in the air, most days, is enough to make me want to curl up on the couch, in front of the fireplace with a big, hot bowl of something stodgy. Hence this beef stew.

I grew up on stews. When I was a kid, I hated them.

Turnip? I wouldn’t touch the stuff.

When I got older, as one does, I started craving them. But not necessarily the ones I grew up on (which are more like East Coast boiled dinners – another post for another time). I craved rich, caramelized flavours and well reduced sauces. Fork-tender vegetables and falling-apart chunks of chicken, beef or lamb. When I learned the proper technique for stew-making in culinary school, I never looked back.

Instead of chopping potatoes and adding to the stew, I prefer to make a mash and serve it alongside. Champ has been one of the most enjoyable Irish food discoveries I’ve come across over the years – a creamy mash mixed with chopped scallions. Enlivened with buttermilk and a knob of fresh butter, it’s the perfect accompaniment to this rich, meaty stew.

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Savoury Beef Stew with Champ

For the stew:

1 lb beef brisket, cut into cubes

1/2 pkg streaky bacon (or lardons), roughly chopped

1 large onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 Tbsp olive oil

1 Tbsp butter

1 Tbsp tomato paste

1 bay leaf

1 sprig thyme

1 sprig rosemary

1 L (4 cups) beef stock

Salt & Pepper

1 medium rutabaga, cut into 1 inch cubes

2 large carrots, cut into 1 inch cubes

Juice from one large lemon

For the champ:

6-8 potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks

1/4 cup buttermilk

1/4 cup butter

Salt and Pepper

1 bunch scallions, finely sliced

Directions:

  • In a large pot or Dutch oven on the stove top, heat olive oil on medium. Add streaky bacon (or lardons) and fry until the fat has rendered and the bacon is cooked. Remove bacon from the pot, but leave in the grease.
  • Turn the heat up to high and add the beef. Brown the beef completely on all sides (if the bits on the bottom of the pot are getting too dark, adjust the heat accordingly). When the beef is browned, remove from the pot.
  • Turn the heat back down to medium. Add the butter and chopped onion. Allow onion to cook for about a minute, then add garlic, bay leaf, thyme and rosemary. Continue to cook on medium for 5 minutes, or until the onion is tender and browning from the fond on the bottom of the pot.
  • Add tomato paste and stir to incorporate. Add back into the pot the beef and bacon, including all the drippings and juice from the meat.
  • Add the beef stock and stir the pot until everything has melded. Bring to a boil.
  • Once boiling, turn the heat down to a simmer. At this stage, you can transfer the contents to a slow cooker or just keep everything in the pot. Cover and allow to simmer for 1.5 hours.
  • While the meat is simmering, peel, wash and chop the rutabaga and carrots. Set aside.
  • Peel, wash and chop the potatoes. Put them into a separate pot and cover with water. Set aside.
  • Slice the scallions and set aside.
  • After 1.5 hours, remove the lid from the pot. Simmer uncovered for 30 minutes (to start reducing the sauce).
  • After 30 minutes, add the rutabaga and carrots. Continue to simmer for another 30-45 minutes.
  • While rutabaga and carrots are cooking, bring the pot of potatoes to a boil. Boil until tender, about 20 minutes.
  • After 45 minutes, if your sauce has not reduced enough to coat the back of a spoon, turn the heat up and allow to boil and reduce, stirring occasionally to avoid anything sticking to the bottom of the pan.
  • Once the sauce has reduced to your liking, pick out the bay leaf, thyme and rosemary. Adjust the seasoning with salt, pepper and  lemon juice.
  • When the potatoes are fork tender, drain and mash with butter. Add the buttermilk and season with salt and pepper. Add in the scallions and whip everything together.
  • Serve the stew over the champ (the stew is even better the next day so save your leftovers!).
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