Saturday, 3 September 2011

Basil Pesto

I'm quite proud of my herb collection but basil is the one herb I always have difficulty with. It does quite well on a kitchen windowsill, but really, one would need a half a dozen plants at the very least. I tried to grow it late in the summer in my greenhouse, but I'm not sure how well it's really flourishing. So every Saturday morning at the Milk Market in Limerick, I get my weekly fix of basil from the experts who have giant poly tunnels and all that craic. I think it's quite a beautiful herb, I love it's clove perfume, even though it's in fact part of the mint family. I hasten to add, never be tempted to buy the perfectly shaped Parmesan from a supermarket.  I buy from a proper cheese monger and the flavour is incomparable, plus, there actually very little difference in the price. 

As summer draws to a close (yes, I know we never actually had one) I'm making pesto on a weekly basis and giving it to friends. I'm in pesto frenzy mode, as a pesto famine is imminent as we approach the winter months. It's so simple, and since I started making my own, and comparing it to some of the popular jared varieties, I realise that I've been missing out on proper pesto for so long. It's so simple and and joy to make. 

My ethos on classic recipes is I research the heck out of them, I might read up 6 or 8 recipes, and I'll do my own take based on what takes my fancy. That way, the element of originality keeps me feeling like I'm a legend in the kitchen. Clearly, I'm not, but confident cooking makes pretty sexy food.

If my kitchen was on fire, I'd grab this.
Magimix, the reason my knife skills are pitiful.
Makes 700g of Pesto (that's loads, so adjust the recipe as you see fit)
2 bunches of fresh basil (do NOT be tempted to use the stalks, they are yucky and bitter and will ruin the texture)
2 garlic cloves
small pack of pine nuts, lightly toasted on a dry pan.
Juice of a lemon
200g of good quality Parmesan, grated

I use my food processor for this, but you could just use a pestle and mortar. That would actually make fab pesto, as it would release beautiful oils from the basil. Blend up everything, drizzle the oil in and season with salt (not too much as the Parmesan would carry some) and freshly cracked pepper. 

See I told you it was easy.... 
Basil Pesto

Come on in, I'll stick the kettle on....

This is my day spa.... arrrgh those damn downlighters!!
Growing herbs is easy peasy, anyone can do it!
So I've decided, seeing that this is a food driven blog, I'm going to have to show you around the hub of my food world, where the magic happens so they say. Modesty, may I add, is not one of my stronger points. My kitchen is very important to me. I regret every day I didn't make my kitchen an open plan kitchen/living room. Some people like to close their doors to the kitchen mess and aromas. I love the buzz and activity of the kitchen. The heart of the home and all that. Home economics has had to prevail in my kitchen. I did a clear out of my cupboard a few weeks ago and much to my horror, I discovered strange ingredients with a best before date ranging from 2006-2008. Figures- that was the boom, when I bought stuff 'in case' I needed it. Now, it's about buying as I need, sourcing nice fresh ingredients. I just got fed up of throwing out hairy vegetables.

I've also included a pic of my beloved herb garden. There's such a wonderful satisfaction from growing herbs. I love them and use them all the time. I don't think there's one herb I don't have. Well yes, there is one. And if I had it I'd have huge ESB bills and I'd probably never get stressed. But who needs illegal herbs when you've got eggs? When I'm happy, sad, hungover, in a rush or just simply hungry, I opt for the humble egg. I love it poached. Forget about your egg poachers, cling film or vinegar. You need a snug shallow pan, water and of course, the obliging, extremely fresh, and of course free range EGG.

Use fresh & Free range, no excuses.
Here's my twist on
Eggs Benedict 

I've made it our Christmas day traditional breakfast, but welcomed any time of year when I'm not counting points.

Serves 4, or 2 hungry people
6 large free range eggs
4oz Butter
half teaspoon Dijon
squeeze of a lemon
8 slices of streaky bacon
2 English Muffins

Grill the bacon to your liking. Keep warm.

For the Hollandaise:
I think Hollandaise is not as tricky to make as people think. I don't bother with fiddly double boilers or the like. I think a good heavy saucepan and to know your cooker does the trick. I use the smallest ring on the lowest possible flame.

This is my bockedy but trusty pan, note the itsy bitsy flame,
 key to success for perfect poachers and silky Hollandaise.
Put two egg yolks into a heavy saucepan, add a squeeze of lemon and add the butter bit by bit, whisking all the time until the sauce thickens. The idea is not to have a hot sauce, as too high a temperature and it will inevitably split, which is horrifying as there's no going back. If that happens, I'd reserve it and put them through mashed potatoes. No point in wasting perfectly good ingredients.

Poaching the perfect egg. 
There's a few necessities here: First and foremost use the freshest possible eggs. The next is your pan. I don't use a saucepan, I use a shallow pan. It was a cheapy yoke, bockedy and quite frankly embarrassing, but, it's the perfect size and it fits the eggs snugly and it's just the right depth. Forget about vinegar, you wouldn't shake vinegar on your eggs so why bother put them in the water I say. Fill the pan with water and bring to a gentle simmer. Crack the eggs into the water, keeping them as close to the water as possible. Allow to simmer for 3-4 minutes or until the white has become translucent.

Grill the muffins and butter them, top with the bacon, egg and top with the Hollandaise and snipped chives and cracked fresh pepper. It's a treat and a half.
Would you look at that.....Eggs Benedict. Because it's worth it. 

Friday, 2 September 2011

POP! And there goes my blogging cherry

I've never even read a blog you know. After watching the foodie flick 'Julie & Julia', I was inspired. Food & Cooking is one of biggest passions and if nobody ever gets to read this, that's cool too. I don't really know what blogging really means. I think it's like an online diary that everyone can read. I don't know at this point how this will go. Whether I divulge every aspect of my often complicated existence, or if I'll keep it strictly food. Either way, I hope the journey is fun. I have the excitement now that you get at an airport. My flights are free which is great because the celtic tiger ate all my money.

Ps, just like Julie, I cooked boeuf bourguignon. Except I didn't burn mine and it was pretty bloody fantastic.