Braised Oxtail Tacos

When I’m in on an open shift in the restaurant I usually get out of there between five and six in the evening. This will usually give me time to catch a film with the girlfriend, a few pints with the lads, an early night or a bit of experimentation in the kitchen. Rarely do I get to fit in more than that. So when leaving work I have to choose carefully. On this particular evening most people were busy, there wasn’t much on the big screen so I decided a bit of home cooking was in order. Wondering the aisles of the supermarket I saw that there was Oxtail on special. An evening to do a slow braised dish with an off-cut? Challenge accepted.

I decided to go with a recipe I had previously tried out in my time in Cooks Academy for a mock exam. Mexican Oxtail Tacos. The meat is succulent and rich enough that you only really need a small amount to deliver big flavour so it was ideal. How to get it to cook in time for me to eat without trespassing into the wee small hours of the morning? I realised recently that if you are cooking in a dutch oven, like this one, the meats cook a little faster. This is due to many boring reasons such as heat conduction, thermodynamics and the “Painting it red makes it go faster” trope.

The bottom line? What would normally cook in six hours cooks in three. Happy days.

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They like to watch me cook. It’s weird.

1 Whole Oxtail (about 800g)
2 Carrots
2 Red Onions
1 Red Pepper
2 Chillies
3 Cloves of Garlic
1Tbsp of Smoked Paprika
2 Tins of Chopped Tomatoes
1 Tin of Tomato Puree
1 Cinnamon Stick
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-Preheat your oven to 160 degrees.
-If your oxtail is still in one piece then roughly chop it into five or six segments.
-Get a large Dutch oven style pot onto a high heat with a little sunflower oil in the bottom.
-Add the oxtail pieces into the pan. We are going to brown them off really well before cooking all of our vegetables.
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-Finely chop up the carrots, the onions, the red pepper, the chillies and the garlic.
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-While you are chopping make sure to continuously turn the oxtail every few minutes to ensure the brown on all sides.
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-Once you are happy with the colour, remove the meat from the pan and set it aside. Reserve the oil and fat in the pan for your vegetables.
-Return the pot to a high heat and vigorously fry off the onions and carrots.
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-After about five minutes they should have taken on a decent amount of colour, at this stage you want to go in with the red pepper, the chillies and the garlic.
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-Cook these for about another five to ten minutes on the high heat. Keep stirring it every minute or so so that everything gets an equal amount of heat and contact with the pan.
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-When you are happy with the colour you can add in the smoked paprika for a minute of cooking.
-Then place the browned oxtail pieces on top of your sautéed vegetables.
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-Pour in the two tins of chopped tomatoes and the tin of tomato puree.
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-To make sure that everything doesn’t reduce too much while cooking you should also add in a full tin worth of boiling water.
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-Bring this all back up to the boil, then place a tight fitting lid on top and put it into the centre of your oven.
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-Each oven is different but I cooked this for about three hours at 160 and the meat came out perfectly. Test it after two and a half hours and if the meat falls off the bones without any resistance, then you are good to go.
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-Take the oxtail pieces out of the sauce and set them aside to rest.
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-Use a soup gun, food processor or blender to puree some of the braising liquid. This will give you an impromptu barbeque sauce.
-When the meat has cooled a little, start to pick the meat off the bones. There shouldn’t be too much work to this but I find a fork really helps to get around the awkward bits.
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When all of your meat is picked and your sauce is blended you are ready to go. I like to serve these on some flatbreads with a little pickle, chopped spring onion and coriander. It is a winner every time.

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Asian Style Breakfast Noodles

I am no stranger to an interesting breakfast dish. On an average weekday I either forgo the breakfast thing (bad idea), neck a can of Redbull (worse idea) or manage to swindle a bowl of porridge off the Sous Chef (better idea.) Weekday breakfasts don’t really inspire me a whole lot. There’s no time to sit and eat well at breakfast. There’s always a bus to catch or an extra five minutes in bed that keeps you from making that delicious granola.

Slightly more relaxed breakfasts however pique my interest somewhat more effectively. Recipes like this are what I like to experiment with when I have a morning of leisure. What is amazing to think of is that all over the world they have startlingly different ideas of what constitutes a breakfast dish. In Vietnam, Pho (one of my all-time favourite dishes) is traditionally eaten solely in the morning. There is a similar story all over Asian. A well-seasoned noodle dish to give you the energy you need to tackle the day ahead.

This is my very general take on the concept. It is a handy recipe I keep around for mornings where I am feeling a little indulgent. The soft egg yolk acts as a sauce to help season the noodles as you slurp them down in their spicy, sweet dressing. Just what you need to kick the day into gear don’t you think?

200g Egg Noodles
1 Spring Onion
2 Cloves of Garlic
2” Piece of Ginger
1Tbsp Soy Sauce
1 Lime
2 Eggs
1 Red Chilli
1 Small Bunch of Mint
300g Fresh Green Vegetables (I had mangetout, green beans and tenderstem broccoli)
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-Firstly we are going to make our dressing. Peel and grate the ginger into a small bowl.
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-Finely slice up the spring onion and add it in.
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-Chop up the garlic as small as you can and add it to the mixing bowl.
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-Next half and deseed the chilli. Slice it into long lengths and then run through it cross-ways again to give you a very fine dice.
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-Add this to the dressing along with the soy sauce.
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-Add the zest and juice of the lime.
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-Top this off with about four to five tablespoons of olive oil or sesame oil if you have it.
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-Whisk all of your ingredients together well to make the dressing for the noodles.
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-When you are ready to eat, get a large pot with a lid, full of water, up to a rolling boil.
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-Add the noodles and all of your vegetables to the water and replace the lid. These should take no more than five to six minutes. Perfect amount of time to get a fried egg on.
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-Get a small pan with a few tablespoons of sunflower oil onto a high heat. When it starts smoking, add in an egg.
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-While the egg cooks away, pick and slice up the mint leaves.
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-Cook the eggs to your liking. I went with soft sunny side up. The classic fried egg.
-When the noodles and vegetables are ready to go (they should retain a bite to them when tasted) drain them and add them to a large mixing bowl.
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-To this, add your dressing and the sliced mint (reserve a little of this for serving).
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-Give the noodles a thorough mixing in the dressing and portion out into bowls.
-Place a fried egg on top and garnish with a few pieces of mint and chopped chillies, if you could be so inclined.
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My own Salted Lemon Couscous

A good few months ago I did up two big jars of Moroccan Salted Lemons as a bit of an experiment and finally they are ready! Imagine the scene when Doctor Frankenstein wakes his monster for the first time. It was nothing like that.
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The first thing that I noticed when I opened the jar was the smell. It smelled not like any lemon I had ever experienced before. It was more like stewed fruit. Sweet and fragrant but with a warm spicy twang. The cinnamon and bay had clearly done their work.
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Taking them out they had turned dark, and almost rusty in colour. The preserving liquid was now thick. Clearly the sugar and juice from the lemons has been brought out to create a silky syrup. I have always thought that there was something familiar about preserved lemons. Like something that I used to have a child. My sister thought the same but we still couldn’t figure it out. If you ever figure it out, do let me know.
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I aim to do a fair few recipes with these bay boys over the next few weeks so keep an eye out. Firstly though, a basic grilled vegetable and preserved Lemon couscous.

300g Couscous
1 Courgette
Half a Red Pepper
1 Red Chilli
Small handful of sultanas
A Quarter of a Preserved Lemon
2 Spring Onions
Small bunch of Coriander
2 Radishes

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-Get a griddle pan onto a high heat and boil the kettle.
-First slice your courgette into 1cm slices. I do them diagonally so they look a bit more interesting.
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-Place the slices of courgette onto the griddle pan and grill off for about two minutes on each side.
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-While they are cooking, place the couscous into a large bowl.
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-Cover over by 1cm with boiling water.
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-Flip the courgettes over. They should be starting to colour nicely.
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-Chop up the radishes, spring onions, sultanas and preserved lemons. Add these all into the bowl with the couscous.
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-Take off the courgettes.
-Half and deseed the red chilli and the pepper.
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-Place the halved chilli and the red pepper onto the griddle pan.
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-Again about two minutes per side is perfect for these.
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-Finely slice coriander leaves.
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-When the chilli and pepper are cooked, remove them a chopping board and then chop them up a bit.
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-Add the courgettes, the chilli, the pepper and the coriander leaves into the large bowl.
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-Add a few tablespoons of olive oil and mix everything together. Taste it and see if it needs more seasoning or lemon. Maybe a little extra chilli if you are feeling adventurous and you are good to go.

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Shakshuka – Moroccan Baked eggs. An alternative brunch option.

The jury is still out on how I feel about brunch these days. All too often it’s the same dishes done over and over again in every restaurant on a Sunday morning. On the flip side there are also a plethora of establishments doing various new fusion takes on the classic but they just reek of being different just to be different and are rarely based in any kind of culinary common sense.

I do actually love brunch though, I’m just not sure what we can do to keep people interested. Eventually we are all going to get tired of eggs benedict and French toast. Both of which are great dishes but variety being the spice of life and all that here is a dish I have seen in a few places that I cannot get enough of.

It’s wholesome and hot and rich and a hell of a good way to get yourself out of the bed on a lazy weekend morning. It was traditionally a dish made from leftover dinner, reheated and a fried egg on top so the underlying sauce can be anything you fancy. This was an assembly job of detritus left in my fridge. Really open to interpretation. Enjoy.

1 Courgette
1 White Onion
2 Cloves of Garlic
1 Bunch of Coriander
300g of Chorizo
Half of a Red Pepper
1 Red Chilli
6 Sprigs of Thyme
1tbs Smoked Paprika
1 Tin of Chopped Tomatoes
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-Preheat your grill to the highest heat it will reach.
-Start my chopping up the courgette. Take off the ends and then quarter it, run your knife along the centre to remove the soft spongy bit and dice it up.
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-Finely dice up the onion.
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-Chop up the garlic.
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-Chop the coriander stalks finely but leave the leaves for garnish.
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-Slice the chorizo into 1cm slices. I like to do this diagonally as it gives the dish more texture.
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-Take the core, seeds and pith out of the pepper and slice it as thin as you can.
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-Do the same with the chilli as you just did with the pepper.
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-Strip the leaves from the thyme.
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-Add the chorizo with a tablespoon of sunflower oil into a large pan on a medium heat. Leave it to fry for about two minutes on each side. It should start to go a little golden and as the fat renders out it should colour the oil a vibrant red.
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-Next go in with the onions, garlic, thyme and coriander stalks. Keep mixing everything together as it cooks over the medium heat for about five to ten minutes.
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-When they onions have started to sweat off and everything has taken on the colour of the chorizo add in the chilli, red pepper and courgettes.
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-Fry them off on a high heat for about five minutes and then add in the tinned tomatoes and about half a tin of hot water.
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-Allow the tomatoes to reduce a little, this should take between five and ten minutes.
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-Portion your tomato sauce into individual ramekins, leaving about two centimetres from the top for the egg.
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-Crack an egg into each one then place under the grill.
-Depending on how hot your grill is and what shape your ramekins are etc. these will take a different amount of time. Just keep checking them every few minutes to make sure they don’t overcook and remove them when they are done to your liking.
-Serve them up with toast or just on their own for an incredible new breakfast.
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A day of Forging with Calnan and Anhoj

 

 

 

 

Last Sunday, instead of doing normal Sunday things like having a lie in and going for brunch, Reading the paper in the pub or watching some football, myself and my mate Rob became Blacksmiths.

 

There is a very cool little forge by the name of Calnan and Anhoj in Russborough House near Blessington that run one or two day introductory courses in forging. It was one of these that Rob got me for my Birthday this year. On Sunday last we headed off to learn how to forge our very own knives. DPP_0001 (Large)

Gunvor giving us all a demonstration in the correct heats for forging.DPP_0002 (Large)

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Examples of knives we could make.DPP_0005 (Large)

A mock up of the design for my knife.DPP_0006 (Large)

The out line of Robs one.DPP_0007 (Large)

Before and (hopefully) after.DPP_0008 (Large)

Gunvor pulling out the chunk of metal that will become the knife.DPP_0009 (Large)

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The power hammer is a serious bit of kit.DPP_0012 (Large)

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Drawing out my handle.
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Flattening out the actual blade side of the knife.DPP_0019 (Large)

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Not sure if he is posing here or just stands this triumphantly all the time.
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DPP_0027 (Large)Rob putting the finishing touches on his knifes handle.
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DPP_0030 (Large)It is really starting to take shape now.

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My WorkstationDPP_0032 (Large)

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Robs knife ground and ready for sanding.DPP_0035 (Large)

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The final cutting edge being sanded onto the blade.DPP_0037 (Large)

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The end result.

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The knives made by the whole group.

The day was tough, the hammers and heavy and punding them off semi solid steel for six hours with give you fore-arm cramps like you wouldn’t believe, The heat from the fires was intense and your back gets pretty stiff pretty fast bending over an anvil. It is hard work but it was incredibly rewarding. The forge is an amazing space to work and every step of the way was clearly shown to us.

I can’t recommend this place enough. Definitely check it out.