Jerk Seasoning

My love of Jerk has been well documented so I won’t go into too much detail here. I honestly cannot remember when I tasted that zingy smoky goodness for the first time but I know that when I started making it up myself I relied heavily on the pre-packaged jerk seasoning you can get in most supermarkets.

After doing a little research and learning about the history of Jerk I started making my own version of the spice mix. The pre-made ones are usually about 45% salt so not very healthy in the long run, plus making up your own mix allows you to tailor it to your own particular tastes.
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2 tsp Ground Allspice (Pimiento)
1 tsp Nutmeg
1 tsp Crushed Chillies
1 tsp Ground Cinnamon
1 tsp Cloves
1 tsp Cumin Seeds
1 Vegetable stock cube

-In a pestle and mortar grind up the cumin seeds and the whole cloves.
-Add in the crushed chillies and stock cube and break them up well.
-Mix together the rest of the ingredients and place your whole mix into a small jar. Seal it up and use it to give any meal an extra kick. It works incredibly well with barbeque with the smoke bringing out the true flavour of Pimiento, the heart of Jerk.
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Mexican Sweetcorn Soup

The bars and watering holes of Central American are incredible places. Open plan, laidback affairs with doors swung open to the midday sun in the hopes of catching some non-existent breath of cooling wind. Neon cerveza lights flickering above wooden countertops emblazoned with ice cream adds and chalkboard menus.

These menus are a minefield of equal part tourist traps and incredible local fare. Here is a basic recipe for a soup I had a few times while in Costa Rica, the grilled corn adds great texture while bringing the smoky sweetness up a few notches.
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50g Butter
1 White Onion
1 Leek
4 Medium Potatoes
1 Vegetable Stock Cube
500g Frozen Sweetcorn
3 Corn on the Cob

-In a large, heavy bottomed saucepan melt the butter on a medium heat with a small pinch of salt.
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-Finely dice the leek and the onion, don’t be too worried about precision, it’s going to get blitzed later.
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-Fry the onion and leek until translucent and sweet.
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-Peel and finely dice the potatoes.
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-Add the potato chunks to the pan along with the vegetable stock cube.
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-Half fill your pot with boiling water and boil the potatoes until you can cut them easily with a knife.
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-Add the frozen sweetcorn to the boiling water and cook for about two minutes.
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-Now you can blend the soup with a blender, food processor, soup gun or whatever you can think. Or you can just leave it chunky but I like it smooth.
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-Once you soup is done, get a griddle pan or frying pan onto a really high heat. The hottest it will go. It should be smoking. Get the extractor fan on and open a window.
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-Strip your corn cobs down.
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-Get them on the pan and rotate every few minutes until they take on a golden charred colour and are cooked through. About ten minutes.
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-Mix the charred corn through the soup and serve with a little sliced coriander.
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This recipe is an incredible accompaniment to an afternoons light drinking. Or if serving it as part of a meal, try it in a hot class with a dollop of sour cream on top. It’ll launch you straight to the beaches of the Caribbean. I guarantee.

The Big Grill BBQ Festival

Last week I had the opportunity to work with some absolutely incredible chefs and food people of all walks of life at the first Big Grill Festival in Herbert Park. Here are just a few of the adventures we got up to over the weekend, including the pain event, the 30 hour slow roast of a whole pig.

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I said BBQ is delicious, I didn’t say it was healthy.
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Legs of lamb searing off before being smoked for a few hours over Irish turf and apple wood.
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Apple Wood, Cedar, Oak and Irish Turf provided the fuel for the weekends festivities, along with a healthy dose of lumpwood charcoal
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The setup for John Relihans demos.
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The smoker, hard at work.
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Smoked Lamb legs
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John working on the meats in the smoker
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Beer can chicken. Not sponsored by Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. It’s just delicious.
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Beer can chicken, smoked and ready to go.
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The Lamb legs getting carved up for the crowds

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In our cosy little demo area we also had the lads from Living Wilderness Bushcraft School to show us how to make a fire without matches, build any and all cooking equipment out of nothing but a pocket knife and some branches and even fillet the entire skeleton out of a fish.

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OUr demo camping area.
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That kid is loving his Ice Cream / Fire demo combo.
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Not just a great Barbeque chef, now also a fire master.
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Johns Fire in it’s infancy

The showpiece of the weekend though had to be the Whole Hog. We smoked this bad boy for about 30 hours in a cylinder block pit. John had the apparatus made up for his own festival in Duagh, Kerry the week before and we got some seriously good use out of it aswel.

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Overall an incredible weekend and I am seriously excited for next year!

 

Baby Baked Potatoes

Baby Baked Potatoes

These delightful little bites are something I first tried in Culinary School a few months back but had tried at a few parties and such before. They are incredibly flavourful and so so easy to whip up that you will start doing them for every party and get-together.
They suit perfectly with a BBQ or instead of chips with some burgers. They are also pretty delicious straight out of the fridge during a 3A.M. Kitchen raid. The batch I did here were from a few I had almost forgotten and decided to whip them up. They can be done in huge batches if you are expecting big numbers, they might just take a little longer in the oven.

1kg Baby Potatoes
2 tbs Sunflower Oil
Salt and Pepper
Dried Rosemary


-Preheat your oven to 180 degrees.
-Rinse and dry your potatoes well.
-When they are dry pour over the sunflower oil, add the rosemary and season well with salt and pepper.
-Mix the potatoes well, ensuring they are coated with the oil and seasoning.
-Place them into a baking tray and put it in the oven.
-Once the potatoes are in, turn the oven up to 200 degrees.
-Bake for about 35/40 minutes or until golden and crispy on the outside. Give them a shake and a turn about half-way through.
-Sprinkle with a little more salt if desired and serve while still piping hot.

 

Mighty Mac N’ Cheese

This, for me, is one of the ultimate comfort foods. A staple food to grace the tables of impoverished students the world over, it has always held a special place in my heart. It’s cheap, it’s a main course or a sumptuous side dish, perfect for using up leftovers, and there are few people that don’t appreciate a good steaming place of this creamy God-send.

To make this you will need to make one of the classic French sauces, Béchamel. With the few techniques you will see here you will be able to whip up a cracking white sauce for Christmas dinner or a meaty gravy next time you are visiting home for Sunday Lunch. They are all based on the same thing, a Roux.

It is with this, which we are going to bring to life your perfectly smooth and rich Macaroni and Cheese. I hope you enjoy.
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100g Butter
1 White Onion
Three Cloves of Garlic
About 100g Plain Flour
1 Bunch of Thyme
2lt Whole Milk (maybe more)
300g/400g cheese
500g Macaroni

-Cook the macaroni according to the packet instructions, leaving a little bite to them.
-Drain them but keep a little of the cooking water to help bring together the sauce later.
-Set these both aside.
-Finely dice up your white onion and crush the garlic.
-In a large saucepan warm your milk with the thyme to allow it to infuse gently.
-In another large saucepan melt your butter over a medium to high heat.
-Add the onions and garlic and fry gently until they start to go clear.
-Turn the heat down on the pan and add some flour, one tablespoon at a time. After adding each tablespoon, combine it thoroughly with the melted butter.
-Keep doing this until you have a consistency of wet sand. It should look grainy and slightly lumpy but still loose enough to stir. This is your Roux.
-When you reach this stage turn the heat back up to a medium/high. You want to cook out the flour here so when you are done, the sauce doesn’t taste bready and stodgy.
-Cook the roux until it is slightly golden, then begin to add in the warm milk bit by bit.
-A whisk is advisable here to combine the milk with the roux. It will begin to look lumpy and like it has split but keep whisking like a mad-man until it all comes together.
-Only add more milk when the previous ladle has been combined, think of it like a risotto. Always stirring, always moving and always combining.
-When you have added the two litres of milk (not adding the woody thyme stalks) add in your cheese.
-This can be any good melting cheese and a perfect time to use up the ends of blocks in your fridge. I used cheddar, mascarpone and parmesan in this one but I have used edam, emmental, brie, blue cheese it all works.
-Now go in with your pasta, make sure it is combined well with the sauce.
-It may get a little thick and stodgy but just add some of the cooking water to let out the sauce.
-You are now ready to eat! But if you want to take it a step further, continue reading
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    Breadcrumb Crust

400g breadcrumbs
100g grated parmesan cheese
1tsp dried rosemary
1 rasher of smoked bacon

-In a food processor blitz together all of the ingredients.
-This is a great way to use up leftover bread or bacon.

Ha! I never have leftover bacon either. How stupid.

-Spoon the warm mac n’ cheese into a baking dish or individual ramekins and pile some of the breadcrumb mix over the top.
-Bake in a hot oven (200 degrees) for about twenty minutes and then serve.
-Be careful though, they will be seriously hot.

Baked Mackerel Parcel

Summertime food for me will always be mackerel. For some it’s strawberries and cream, for others its caprese salad. For me it’s mackerel, straight out of the Atlantic, fishing with my Dad, collecting a bucket-full of the little torpedo shaped blighters, still contorted with rigor and ready to be devoured as soon as possible.

This is one of the easiest and most fool proof way of cooking fish. You will see it crop up time and time again on restaurant menus and in cookbooks. It can be made in advance if you are having a dinner party or whipped together in minutes on a lazy Wednesday night.

It is also seriously adaptable. I used the ingredients here but you can use it with any herbs and light vegetables and pretty much any small fish. Experiment and you never know what combinations you will find.
The Ingredients
1 Whole gutted Mackerel
1 Small Leek
1 Lemon
1 Small Bunch of Coriander
1 Small bunch of Thyme
50ml Cider/fish stock/chicken stock/veg stock/white wine/water

-Rinse and finely slice up the leek, (remove a lot of the thick green tips as they are a bit tough to eat) and slice the lemon.
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-Take one long piece of wide tin foil and double it over so you parcel is good and thick.
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-Place a few of the sliced leeks and lemon slices in the middle of your foil along with a little coriander and thyme.
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-Now place the Mackerel on top.
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-Stuff the Mackerel with more of the leeks, lemon and the herbs.
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-Cover the fish with any remaining stuffing and season well with salt, pepper and a little olive oil.
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-Now wrap the fish by folding one of the long sides of the tin foil over the other and sealing it tightly.
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-Roll up one end of the long tin foil tube you now have until you reach the body of the fish. This should leave one end open.
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-Into this end, pour the liquid. I had a bit of cider in the fridge so I used that but any stock or wine would work well. You want some kind of flavourful liquid that is going to steam the fish in the oven.
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-Wrap up that end tightly so you are left with a completely sealed, tin foil parcel of goodness.
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-Place this parcel on a baking tray and cook in a pre-heated oven at 200 degrees for about fifteen to seventeen minutes depending on the size of your fish.
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-When it comes out of the oven pierce the foil and savour the smell and the steam. This is a glorious thing to eat.
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The foil parcel makes a ready-made bowl. The leeks and herbs have cooked down to create an incredible salad. The oil and juice from the mackerel have combined with the cider to create an incredible sauce and the fish is light and flaky and fragrant. I can’t imagine a more perfectly well contained meal.

Old School Sliders with Red Onion Relish

Sliders are one of my all-time favourite street foods. You can take a simple starting point which is in essence a mini burger and then go to (flavour) town on it. They are about experimenting and trying new things, about gluttony and greed for all things delicious. Why pick one type of burger why you can have three different types of burger? They have been adapted into every major (and most of the minor) food cultures in the world with even three Michelin star Chefs having a good go at them.Hopefully I will get to show you some of the wackier and wild things that have been done with this fast food staple but here I am just going to do simple cheeseburger with onion relish. A classic combination that will satisfy anyone when the hunger hits.

To do the onion relish right it really does need a bit of time so get it on early so you aren’t worried about timings. I guarantee it will be worth planning a little ahead. The long slow cook helps to develop the natural sweetness in onions and then you get this beautiful aniseed quality coming from the Fennel and Cumin. It also keeps really well in the fridge if you have some left over.

750g Beef mince
4 Small burger buns or slider buns if you can find them.
4 Red Onions
1 tsp Cumin Seeds
1 tsp Fennel Seeds
Lettuce
8 Slices of Cheese (cheddar or emmental for melting)

1. Get a large pan onto a low heat with two tablespoons of sunflower oil.
Ground Spices
2. As finely as you can, slice the onions and add to the pan with the ground cumin and fennel.
Sliced Red Onion
3. Saute on a low heat for about 45/50 minutes, stirring occasionally. They should be dark and soft and super sweet. (A little butter right at the end makes a big difference)
Onion Relish in the pan
Finished Relish
4. When the onions are ready season the mince well and shape into four patties.
Shaped Burgers
5. Get a pan onto a high heat and your grill on full
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6. Fry the patties on a high heat in a little sunflower oil for about four or five minutes each side, depending on the size of your burgers.
Completed Burgers
7. When they are nearly good to go put your buns under the grill (cut side up) to warm through.
Slider Buns
8. Next place two slices of cheese on each patty and sling them under your hot grill.
Sliders with Cheese

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9. Now all that is left is assembly. Bun first, then lettuce, patty (with cheese), caramelised onion relish and then the top of the bun.

Old School Sliders

There are few things in this world more satisfying that a really well prepared cheeseburger. Add this staple to your arsenal and you will have a lifelong skill with which to make friends and influence people.