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Picking Blackberries & my Blackberry Madeira Pie Recipe

Everybody loves Blackberries. There are quite a few runs of pretty good wild Blackberry hedges around where I live. As the roads are quiet enough too, they don't get infused with exhaust fumes so much. But this year, while nosing around a few old back roads I hit the jackpot and found a good quarter-mile of the biggest,  juiciest, most bountiful blackberry bushes I've ever seen!


I parked up the car and pulled out the wee bowl my daughter and I had taken with us just in case we found some of these luscious fruits of the forest. It turned out that I needed to use the basin I had in the boot of the car since the last cooking demo I had done! There were blackberries as far as my eyes could see - I was like a wee boy again - smiling to myself as we picked the berries, eating almost as many as we picked! They were so perfectly ripe they almost fell off their husks into our hands. 



I was reminded of when my brother and I used to stay with our aunt, Nora Boyle, a few miles out of Donegal town, for two weeks during the summer months, so that Mum could have another room for the Bed & Breakfast guests. Nora is a great baker and instilled in me a lot of the older Irish recipes that I still love to make. She grew fruit and vegetables at home, baked every day, dried Dillisk on bedsheets in the garden and used to send us out picking blackberries so that she could make her Apple & Blackberry Jam to put on to the yummiest homemade Treacle & Ginger Bread ever.

We'd spend half the day away up fields and back-roads, with our cousins, picking and eating the juicy wild berries until we were sore!


I'm a great believer in 'smell' and how it can trigger memories and transport you to a particular point in your life with the deadliest of accuracy. Well, for me, the smell of blackberries means 10 years old, on holidays, "in the country".


The smell of fresh ripe blackberries is something so heavenly and unique as to enchant even the most distinguished wine connoisseur's scent glands. When it's said that there are "notes of Blackberry" in that Stag's Leap Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 or whatever, well they probably haven't had the chance to stick their sniffer into a hand-picked bucket of the real juicy blackberries, just off the 'vine'!


Anyway, so Lily and I picked just under 3KG of these large, shiny, blackish-purple berries in about 40 minutes! On the way home I was wondering what to make first, a Crumble, a Tart, just Jam, some Chutney... but I decided to make a blackberry variation on the classic Irish Apple Cake of pastry bottom, apples and sugar, sponge topping.

Blackberry Madeira Pie

A 10" Pie Tin
Preheat your oven to 170°C


My Ingredients:

Sweet Pastry
200g Plain Flour
100g Butter
75g Caster Sugar
1 medium egg
a little Cold Water

Madeira Sponge Mix
100g Butter
100g Caster sugar
2 medium eggs
125g Self Raising Flour
1/2 tsp Vanilla Essence
a little milk


Filling:
500g Blackberries
4 tablespoons caster sugar

Glaze:
2 tbls. Honey
2 tbls. Orange Juice
(or Marmalade Jam)


My Method:

1. Wash the blackberries gently, with cold water, in a sieve and let them drain while you make the rest of the pie.
2. For the pastry rub the butter into the flour until it's like breadcrumbs. Add the sugar and mix in. Break in the egg and pull the pastry together using a little cold water if needed. Refrigerate.
3. For the Madeira, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add one egg with a tablespoon of flour and beat well until smooth. Add the 2nd egg with a little flour and beat well until smooth. The little bit of flour helps to stop the mix from curdling as you mix in the egg.
4. Add all the flour and mix in well. Add the vanilla essence and mix in. Add a little bit of milk to bring the Madeira mix to a dropping consistency.
5. Grease the pie tin with a little butter and dust with flour. Roll out the pastry and line the tin. Press it in gently and trim off the extra bit.
6. Fill the lined tin with the blackberries and dust with the caster sugar.
7. Spoon the Madeira mix over the top and using the back of a spoon dipped in cold water gently smooth out the mix to fill all the gaps.
8. Bake in the pre-heated oven for approx. 40 minutes or until the sponge is firm to the touch and golden brown.
9. Heat the honey and orange juice together, for 20 seconds, in a cup in the microwave and brush this glaze (or some marmalade jam) over the warm pie.


10. Stand back and see how long you can wait before you start eating it!

Enjoy.

My post on Making Hedgerow Blackberry & Apple Jam is Here and my Blackberry Ice Cream is Here!

Zack

Zack's BBQ Sauce & Basting Stock!

With this wonderful weather upon us and the whole of Ireland pulling out their BBQs to take advantage of the sunny afternoons, I thought that I’d give you a tip that will help turn your Barbecue into something really special!



The first thing to note is that you should not coat your meat (any type) with the Barbecue sauce until it is almost finished cooking. The reason for this is that the sugars and tomatoes in the BBQ sauce will caramelise and burn on the outside of the meat before it is actually cooked on the inside!

Instead you use a Basting Sauce (aka basting stock) while it's cooking to keep it moist and add flavour. Use a 1” paintbrush to coat the basting sauce over the meat as it is cooking. 


When your food is cooked, brush the BBQ Sauce over the meat and give it another few minutes on the grill to glaze and finish the flavouring.

My Basting Sauce Recipe:
500ml apple juice
100ml olive oil
50ml malt vinegar
Juice of 1 lemon
1 Chicken stock cube
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tspn thyme
1 tspn rosemary
½ tspn paprika
½ tspn black pepper
½ tspn salt

Put everything in a pot and bring to the boil. Turn off the heat and let it cool. Use this to moisten your meats as they cook.

My BBQ Sauce Recipe:
50ml olive oil
1 medium onion
5 cloves garlic
1 red chilli (deseeded)
1 red pepper
1 yellow pepper
1 green pepper
2x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
50g brown sugar
4 tbls honey
50ml soy sauce
300ml tomato ketchup
100ml brown sauce
1 tbls Treacle
1 tbls Sesame OIl
1 tbls Dijon mustard
1 tbls Worchester sauce
juice and zest of 1 lemon
juice and zest of 1 orange
1 tspn Tabasco sauce
½ tspn cracked black pepper
100ml water


Chop the vegetables roughly because your going to blitz the sauce in a food processor when it's cooked. Put them into a large pot and add all the other ingredients. Bring it all to the boil. Turn down the heat and simmer the sauce for 30 minutes. Blitz in a food processor or with a blitzing gun, you can make it smooth or leave it a little rough for a bit of bite. You can use this BBQ sauce straight away or you can put it in the fridge overnight to help the flavours develop. 

When your beef, chicken, ribs, lamb, Kebabs, burgers, sausages, fish, prawns, or whatever you're using, is cooked to your liking, simply brush the BBQ sauce over your meat, give it another few minutes on the Barbecue to add a tasty, shiny, crispy delicious glaze that will have your guests licking their fingers with delight!

My BBQ Sauce is also excellent for rubbing on Chicken Wings or Pork Ribs. Cook the meat in a pre-heated oven at 180°C until its done. Take it out and brush with the BBQ Sauce and pop back in the oven for another 10 mins. Delicious!


Both sauces can be made in advance and kept in the fridge. The BBQ Sauce will keep for months, if you jar it when its still hot. 

Enjoy the Sunshine and insist on locally-sourced Irish food for your BBQ!


Zack

Roast Leg of Irish Lamb with Fresh Mint Sauce, Roasted Vegetables and Champ Potatoes

The smell of roasting Spring Lamb, with garlic and rosemary, creates one of those food memories that can take your mind back to your childhood and make your mouth water at the thought of it!




Easter Sunday was always a big occasion in our house when I was growing up as Lent was finally over and we hadn't eaten a sweet thing for the last 40 days!

The history of the Easter Sunday Roast Lamb goes back to the biblical Passover of the Jewish people. A sacrificial lamb was roasted and eaten with unleavened bread and herbs in the hope that the angel of God would "pass over" their home and bring no harm. Christians often refer to Jesus as The Lamb of God and as religions merged, lamb became a traditional meat for Easter Sunday.




Here's my recipe for a delicious Roast Leg of Irish Lamb with fresh homemade mint sauce, roasted vegetables and champ potatoes with real roast gravy. If you make all this for any Sunday dinner, you'll certainly impress your guests!



Roast Leg of Irish Lamb 

1 Leg of Lamb - on the bone is better because the bone will add even more flavour as it cooks.
(2kg (4lb) weight will feed around 8 people)
6 cloves of fresh Garlic
1 bunch of fresh Rosemary
50g Butter
Freshly ground black pepper & Sea Salt

Pre-heat the oven to 180°C. Place the Leg of Lamb on a roasting tray.

Score the leg of lamb with a sharp knife making 5mm deep incisions through the skin and push the garlic cloves and sprigs of rosemary into the cuts in the meat. Rub the butter all over the leg and sprinkle liberally with freshly ground pepper and sea salt.

Cover in tin foil and cook the lamb for about 1 hour 20 minutes. Spoon the juices over the meat every half hour. 20 minutes per pound (½ kg) will give you a lovely pink medium-cooked meat - but adjust the timing to how you like your own meat cooked. Take the tin foil off for the last half hour to crisp up the skin.

When it's cooked, transfer the lamb to another tray and cover it with a clean dish cloth, to rest for about 10 minutes, before you cut it. This allows all the muscle to relax, keeps the juices from flowing out and the meat really juicy and tender.




Real Roast Gravy

To make the gravy, place the roasting tray on top of your stove over a moderate heat, use a scraper to lift all the tasty residues off the bottom of the tray and let the juices caramelise a little for about 1 minute. Add a pint of boiling water. Bring this back to the boil over the heat and let it reduce down by 30%. Sprinkle a little flour on to the tray and whisk it in to the juices. Let it bubble away for another minute and this will thicken up the gravy. You can add a drop of Browning, if you wish. Strain the gravy into a warm serving jug.







Fresh Mint Sauce

50g  finely chopped fresh Mint
2 tablespoons white Sugar
2 tablespoons Vinegar
75ml Water
3 tbsp freshly squeezed Lemon juice

Combine the water, sugar, vinegar & lemon juice in a small pot and bring back to the boil. Boil for 1 minute until the liquid thickens slightly and then add the chopped mint. Turn off the heat, let it sit for 10 minutes. Pour it into a serving jar and refrigerate until required.





Roasted Mixed Vegetables

400g each of carrots, parsnip, turnip, sweet potato - peeled and chopped into chunks
2 red onions, peeled and cut into eight
Olive oil
Honey
Sea Salt and freshly-ground black Pepper

Put the vegetables in a large bowl and drizzle with olive oil and a little Honey. Season with sea salt and pepper and toss about to coat them. Transfer them to a roasting tin and spread out into a single layer. Cook for about 30 minutes, or until cooked. (You can use whatever vegetable you prefer!)







Irish Champ Potatoes

Simply add some chopped scallions, salt, a little white pepper and some real butter to well mashed potatoes, to make Champ Potatoes and serve it piping hot, with your Roast Lamb!


Enjoy & Have a Peaceful and Happy Easter!
Zack

Hot Cross Buns for Easter!

One a Penny, Two a Penny, Hot Cross Buns!



Hot cross buns are traditionally baked to be eaten during Lent, the 40 days before Easter. The bun acquired mythical properties over the centuries and early literature reveals that the hot cross bun was also known as the Good Friday Bun.

The most famous story says that the origins of the Hot Cross Bun date to the 12th century when an English monk was said to have placed the sign of the cross on the buns to honor Good Friday. Throughout history the bun has received credit for special virtues, among them that of ensuring friendship between two people sharing a bun. An old rhyme states, "Half for you and half for me, between us two, good luck shall be."

Another tradition holds that a hot cross bun should be kept hanging from the kitchen ceiling from one year to another to ward off evil spirits. Healing properties were also attributed to it. Gratings from a preserved bun were mixed with water to provide a cure for the common cold.



There are loads of delicious ways to eat this legendary treat: you can slice them, toast them and butter them! I love them toasted with real butter and strawberry jam! This recipe is an old family one and it makes about 10 buns - but we always double it up!

Hot Cross Buns


My Ingredients:
450g bread (strong) flour
pinch of salt
2 tsp mixed spice
75g butter
7g fast action dried yeast (generally 1 sachet)
50g caster sugar
1 egg
275ml warm milk (40 seconds in microwave will do)
200g dried raisins or currants (I don't like the traditional dried mixed fruit - but if you do, use that instead)
grated rind of an orange

My Method:
1. Put the flour, salt and mixed spice in a bowl and give them a quick whisk to mix. Rub in the butter to the flour mix until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the yeast, sugar, beaten egg and milk and stir together into a soft dough.
      2. Knead for 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic. If you are using a mixer to make these buns give it five minutes on low with the dough hook. Add in the dried fruit and the grated orange rind and knead for another minute.
        3. Roll out the mix slightly and cut the dough into 10 pieces. Roll these into balls on the table using the flat of your hand and place on a baking sheet or tray. Leave their own width again between each bun so they will have room to rise.
          4. To make the cross mix 1 Cup flour with about 3 tbls cold water to make a basic soft dough. Roll it out really thin and cut into little strips. Dampen with a little water and stick to the top of each bun. Take a length of plastic wrap and brush with a little cooking oil. Place this loosely on top of the buns (oiled side down) and leave in the kitchen to double in size - about 20 minutes depending on the weather and the warmth of the room. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 390ºF (360ºF if a fan oven) for 20 minutes.
            Hot Cross Buns were traditionally brushed with a sugar & water glaze when they're still hot, but I prefer to brush them with local honey from the Saturday country market in Leghowney, near Donegal Town!


            And Here's my recipe for Hot Cross Buns with American Cup measurements
            http://www.irishcentral.com/culture/food-drink/Irish-hot-cross-buns-recipe-for-Easter.html

            Enjoy!

            Zack

            Video & Music by http://www.youtube.com/user/annshelaann

            5 ways to incorporate Guinness into your restaurant this St Patrick's Day

            Guinness is considered to be perhaps Ireland's finest export, and it's easy to see why. It's delicious, easy to drink, plus it looks great too. But Guinness is also rich in iron as well as folate, fibre, and ferulic acid — especially compared to most other beers. So, having a pint of Guinness on St Patrick's day is a tradition worth keeping alive.



            If you're looking to offer your customers something new this year as an alternative to the traditional pint, Alliance Online Ireland Catering & Hospitality Supplies, have put together five creative ways the hospitality industry can use Guinness this St Patrick's Day.


            1. Bake with it

            Why not add a black stuff twist to your dessert menu? Incorporating Guinness into the batter can add a lovely depth and richness to chocolate cakes or puddings. But, if it's a savoury aspect you'd like to add to your menu, try Guinness bread! Beer already contains yeast, so you don't need to add any of your own, just a bit of baking powder. And, if you add a good amount of sharp cheddar too, you'll end up with a deliciously beery cheesy loaf. Perfect for dunking in hearty stews or elevating your sandwich offering.


            2. Make a sauce with it

            Guinness' unique flavour means it can be used to make amazing sauces for all kinds of meals. Steak and Guinness stews, for example, will be richer and have a darker taste than if you used a lighter ale. But the stout can also add a wonderful, caramelised flavour to BBQ sauce that would be perfect for sticky ribs, burgers, hunters' chicken, and countless other dishes. The best part? You only need to add about one cup of Guinness (or around half a can) to your favourite BBQ sauce recipe, so it's a cost-effective way to add that extra bit of flavour.


            3. Roast your potatoes in it

            Crisp, perfectly roasted potatoes are arguably the most delicious component of any roast dinner. But you can take your spuds to the next level and impress your diners and give them a St Patrick's Day twist by cooking them in Guinness! Use Guinness and vegetable stock instead of water to parboil your choice of potatoes, we recommend Maris Piper, and roast in hot vegetable oil for the ultimate comfort food. Serve with your usual carvery and lashings of homemade gravy to treat your guests. 




            4. Infuse your 'mac and cheese' with it

            Elevate your standard mac and cheese recipe with a generous splash of Guinness in the cheese sauce. Whether as a main meal or a side dish, the hint of bitter earthiness from the Guinness adds to the complexity of flavours and allows the dish to feel altogether more grown up. Combine with a mature cheddar and Dijon mustard for a kick!


            5. Use it to clean with

            Don't worry if your Guinness is out of date due to the numerous lockdowns, you can easily repurpose the waste to help with the cleaning up! The acidity of Guinness means that it can be a great cleaner for pots and pans that may have been charred or used for stews — simply leave them to soak and the beer will do the rest. 


            "The countdown to St Patrick's Day is on and after two years of restrictions we can officially celebrate in style this year and enjoy a Guinness or two! And, there's plenty more things you can do with this wonderful beer than just drink it, including infusing traditional dishes and cleaning tarnished pots!

            The nutritious properties of the world's favourite stout mean that merely drinking it almost seems like a waste. So, if you wanted to raise the bar on your Guinness offering this year or you're just looking to try something new for your customers, give one of these alternative uses a go."

            - John Girvan, Manager at Alliance Online

            Irish Whiskey flavoured Coffee that assists US First Responders

            It’s no secret that a lot of St. Paddy’s Day celebrations are centered around alcohol, from green beer, whiskies, stouts, Irish Coffee and a full range of weird concoctions made with Irish spirits! 

            Well, a US-based coffee company, Fire Dept. Coffee, located in Illinois, has developed a way to directly infuse the coffee beans with whiskey before roasting, creating a a non-alcoholic alternative for making Irish Coffees! 



            Launched in 2016, Fire Department Coffee is veteran-owned and run by firefighters with the mission to make great coffee and an even greater mission to support their nation's fire-fighting heroes in need. The Fire Dept. Coffee Foundation helps first responders who are injured on the job, mentally or physically, or who are facing other serious health challenges.



            Their Irish Whiskey Infused Coffee is one of the most popular selections in Fire Dept. Coffee’s line of signature Spirit-Infused Coffee roasts. Each one features a rich, bold coffee accented by the distinct flavours of fine spirits. 

            The company uses a signature infusion process to create the ideal blend of tasting notes, and although the alcohol content of the spirits is removed during the roasting process, but it spares the aroma and the flavour of the spirit.



            Spirit-Infused Coffee goes through a process in which the green unroasted coffee is infused with the spirit. After the coffee is infused, they then roast the coffee. During this time, the alcohol roasts off, similar to cooking with alcohol.

            I think this is a great idea if you don't drink or are no longer drinking alcohol as you can create the flavour of a traditional Irish Coffee without the kick! 

            You can check out their website and  their Non-Alcoholic Irish Coffee Recipe here.



            Happy St Paddy's Day (Not St Pattys Day!!!)

            Zack





            Homemade Chocolate, Coffee & Baileys Cream Truffles

            With Valentines Day just around the corner, I thought I'd share a very simple yet delicious recipe, that you can make easily at home with the kids or for that special person in your life! Taking the time and effort to make this yummy Valentine treat is a lovely way to show someone just how much you really care!

            Cooking something yummy for the One you Love can bring more happiness than buying it! 

            These little home-made Chocolate Truffles are so easy to make. Beautifully balanced with a hint of bitter coffee and sweet Irish Baileys Cream, these rich little delicacies melt in your mouth. They taste divine and the secret ingredient is simply that big dollop of Tender Loving Care!

            My Ingredients:
            600g 70% Dark Chocolate broken in small pieces
            75g   Cocoa Powder
            35ml Cold Espresso or strong coffee
            35ml Baileys Cream Liqueur
            250ml Fresh Cream

            Cocoa Powder, grated Coconut, ground Almonds or any nuts, or Cake crumbs etc, for coating.

            Method:

            1. Melt chocolate together with the cream. You can do this in a bowl sitting over a pot of simmering water. Don't let any water get into your chocolate or it will go into a masse from which there is no return! You can also melt the chocolate, very slowly, in the microwave. Give it 30 seconds and then stir, 30 seconds and then stir... until it is melted. Don't let it burn!

            Make sure the bowl sits above the water level
            2. Take the chocolate off the heat. Mix together the cocoa powder, cold coffee and Baileys and quickly stir this liquid mixture into the melted chocolate.

            3. You have just made what is known as a "Chocolate Ganache" (if you were to let this cool a little, at this stage, it could be used for pouring over a cake as a covering.)

            4. Cover the bowl with cling film and put it in the fridge until cold. This will take 1 hour or so. You can leave it overnight if you wish as you long as everyone can avoid the temptation to steal little spoonfuls!

            Dip the spoon in hot water and dry it, before scooping out the ganache 
            5. Give the mix a good stir with a wooden spoon before you start to measure it out with a warm teaspoon. Dip the spoon in hot water and always dry it before scooping out the mix. When you have them all done, roll them with your hands, into little balls and refrigerate again for 1 hour.


            Simply and tasty - Chocolate & Baileys Cream Truffles

            6. Finally roll your Truffles in the coatings of your choice. This is best done by having your crumbs, cocoa, almonds or whatever all sitting in separate soup bowls so you can literally 'roll' the ball around in the coating.

            Simple, yummy, great to make with the kids if you have some and gone before you know it!

            Happy Valentines Day
            Zack

            The Wild Atlantic Way is the world's Longest Coastal Route