Life is uncertain. Eat Dessert first.

Side dish

Beyond The Bottle – Perfect Potato Rosti

Considered by many Swiss people as their national dish, the basic rosti consists of nothing but potato, and is mostly served as an accompaniment to other dishes.

Potatoes are such a versatile vegetable that you have a huge variety of options for how to use surplus spuds when cooking them for babies. The Guardian ran a great article during the week about how to cook the perfect potato rosti. Parboiling, then chilling and THEN grating the potatoes makes a big difference as the finished rosti loses the raw potato taste, but be careful not to over boil them or you could end up with more of a mashed potato cake then a traditional rosti – when cooked you still want to be able to recognize the grated strands of potato. Cooking with goose fat is a great indulgence (and I recommend using it to cook your roast potatoes too!), but if you don’t have a jar of goose fat, then use a spoon of olive oil with the butter instead – the oil will stop the butter burning.

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Private Dining Event – menu, photos and wine notes

All the courses served at this meal for ten people were inspired by recipes from both Le Champignon Sauvage in Cheltenham and The French Laundry in California. The wines were matched with each course by The Corkscrew Wine Merchants on Chatham Street. As always their research and attention to detail ensured that each wine was the perfect compliment to the food being served (where possible I have linked the wine to their online store).

Upon arrival guests were poured a glass of Dominio de la Vega Cava while they waited to be seated.   The sparkling wine accompanied the first course: A Puree of Garden Pea Soup with Truffle Oil, topped with a Parmesan Crisp “lid”, and served with Guinness and Walnut Bread (photos to right show the soup with and without the “lid”).

The next course was a Salad of Petite Summer Tomatoes on a Tomato Coulis, and a Brioche Crouton topped with Vine-ripened Tomato Sorbet and a Garlic Tuile, with Basil Oil Garnish. Made entirely from fruit grown in the Pieropan family vineyard (situated in the Soave Classic Zone in Italy), the 2009 Pieropan Soave had a great depth of fruit on the palate and a long length that was a perfect match for the three different types of tomato served in this course (the photos to the left show it with and without the Garlic Tuile).

The main course consisted of Crisp Belly of Pork with Cauliflower Puree, Tenderheart Brocolli, Morels and Pork Sauce. I needed a wine with a strong depth of flavours and a fine acidity, so I served a 2007 Quinta do Perdigao from Portugal, which balances Tempranillo’s red berry fruits with slight with slight balsamic notes, and the black fruits delivered by the Touriga Nacional.

For dessert I served a Chocolate and Coriander Tart with Lexia Raisin Ice-Cream. Lexia Raisins are very difficult to track down at this time of year (I think I bought the last packet in Dublin!) but they are so much more juicy and succulent then normal raisins, especially when soaked first in a rum syrup to let them swell up before adding to the churned ice-cream. Made from low-yielding Grenache grapes, the 2008 Pietru Geraud Banyuls Rimage I served with this course has a powerful and intense nose of wild strawberry and raspberry, with a rich, velvety palate.

To finish the meal, the cheese course consisted of slices of Mature Comte, served over a Spiced Carrot Salad on a Golden Raisin Puree, alongside a Carrot Powder. The Comte was 16-24 months matured, and the Spiced Carrot Salad included an intense Carrot Reduction. The wine to accompany this dish is a 1997 Castelhinho LBV Port, a traditional LBV who’s palate is dense, pleasingly sweet and extremely long.


Minted Melon, Feta and Fennel Salad

For a long time I’ve been put off Gordon Ramsay’s Fast Food book due to it’s clunky layout, but I’ve been revisiting it a lot lately to prepare some really interesting, quick meals. As a concept for swift cooking, the recipes are a lot more appealing and user-friendly then the similarly themed Jamie’s 30 minute meals.

For this salad to serve 2-3 people, remove the tough outer leaves from a fennel bulb, and trim the top and bottom. Slice the fennel as thinly as possible – if you have a mandolin this will get the fennel wafer thin. Immerse the fennel in a bowl of ice water and set aside.

To make the dressing, whisk together 1 and a half tablespoons of white wine vinegar, the juice of half a small lemon, 50ml of good quality olive oil, and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Take a quarter of a canteloupe melon, deseed and peel it, then slice it into long wedges. Cut those across into thin slices. Drain the fennel, pat it dry with kitchen paper and place it in a salad bowl with the melon and some mixed leaves. Crumble 100g feta over the top. Add a handful of finely shredded  mint leaves to the dressing and pour over the salad. Toss well and serve.


Happy Thanksgiving! – Sweet Potato with Marshmallow

A favourite dish this time of year in America, this casserole-of-sorts is served as an accompaniment to the traditional Thanksgiving dinner of Roast Turkey, Potatoes, Cranberry Sauce, and followed by Pumpkin Pie.

It’s incredibly easy to make: bring some sweet potatoes to the boil, simmer for 15mins until they’re soft, then mash with some cream, cinnamon and ground nutmeg. Spoon into a dish and cover with marshmallows, and bake in the oven for about 10-15 mins until the marshmallows go soft, taking care not to let them burn.

A lot of Americans I spoke to about this dish have a version particular to their own family, but effectively they’re all a variation on that recipe. Everybody told me how much they love it, and were at pains to tell me how well the combination of ingredients works as a side dish to a savoury main course.

However, I remain to be convinced. It looked pretty unappetising, but with the endorsements ringing in my ears I tucked in. As I ate it I expected the starchiness of the sweet potato to counter-act the sweetness of the topping, but ultimately the two flavours were just too diverse to work in harmony together. I liked the gooey marshmallows. And I liked the rich, creamy sweet potato.

Just not on the same plate.

With chicken.

It’s entirely conceivable that some minor tweak in the cooking process would enhance my effort at this dish immeasurably. Or that it’s not possible, at my first attempt, to re-create a dish that has had generations of minor refinements and improvements. Or maybe, like an inability to understand irony, or not possessing a passport, enjoying Sweet Potato with Marshmallows is just one of those inexplicable anomalies that separates the average American from the rest of the world.