My Trip Home

So I’m just back from my first real trip home since I moved away in January. It was a hell of a few weeks, rounded out very nicely at the end with a little referendum you may have heard of.

The big highlight for me was making my (now annual) pilgrimage to east Cork for the Ballymaloe Literary Festival of Food and Wine. An incredible three days of talks and demos from a huge array of people from all walks of the culinary life. From the First Lady of Slow Food, Alice Waters to London Restauranteur Mark Hix, to New York Chef April Bloomfield. It really is an amazing weekend.

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Last year was a huge eye opener for me. I had only recently begun working a lot more on the new blog and pushing myself with the photography end of things aswel. Going down to Ballymaloe gave me a huge push to pull the finger out and work harder and harder at it. This year however was different. I learned a lot more about style and audience and what kind of cook I want to be.

After coming back up to Dublin for another few days I got to spend some time horse-riding with my sister. One of my secret terrors but thankfully she mercifully gave me the littlest pony she could find so I didn’t feel too petrified.

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Afterwards we headed up into the Wicklow mountains a little to Powerscourt Waterfall for a bit of an afternoon Barbeque. I made up a quick marinade for some chicken and a couscous salad. It was a delicious little dish, perfectly framed by the epic backdrop of the falls behind us.

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But I am back in London now and far away from that idyllic Irish countryside. I’m not sad though. I really am loving my new life in this awesome city. It is tough being away from home but I do also consider this home now. I have two homes. The place I am from and the place where I live. And that is a very cool thing indeed.

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Borough Market – My Happiest Place on Earth

This weeks post isn’t a recipe so much as it is a day in the life kind of thing. I am still fairly new to this city. Still finding my way around and figuring out my favourite places to go and things to see. One of the first things I fell in love with and one of the first things I started doing regularly is going to Borough Market. This is one of those places that is pretty high on the list of anyone interested in food or anything for that matter.

It is an incredible sight to behold and the atmosphere there on a sunny afternoon is immense. Here are just a few of the photos I have collected over that last month or two of the stalls and some of the surrounding area. I hope it gives you some send of the grandeur, elegance and character of this culinary mecca.

Clams and New Potatoes in a Spring Bacon Broth

I have been thinking a lot recently about how much I seem to love the idea of Comfort Food and just what exactly that means.

I work a lot. Probably a lot more than I should but what can you do? I love my job. I spend my day cooking high quality food for hundreds of people. When I get home, the last thing I want to do is to start cooking yet another huge dish. I want to sit down, maybe have a beer, eat some delicious food and Netflix myself to sleep.

Most of these dishes seem to manifest themselves as some kind of meat in sauce on rice/noodles/pasta and almost always served in a large soup bowl.

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Man I really love bowls…

Comfort food for me is easy to make, easy to eat and incredibly moreish. That being said, sometimes I have a little extra time and a little extra ambition and that is where a dish like this comes in. I had a hankering for something a bit more luxurious and when I saw these incredible clams in Borough Market I knew they were just what I wanted.

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500g Clams
200g Smoked Bacon
1 Fennel
100g Wild Garlic Leaves
2 Spring Onions
1 White Onion
1 Small Bunch of Parsley
200g Baby New Potatoes
300ml Ginger Beer
100g Frozen Peas

-We are going to start off by making up the bacon broth/stock. First slice up the smoky bacon.
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-Place that into a cold pan with a little sunflower oil. Turn onto a low heat and cook for five to ten minutes (to render the fat) or until the bacon starts to darken. Then turn the heat up high for another minute or so until crispy.
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-The bacon will have rendered all of it’s fat into the oil so you want to keep that. Carefully scoop out the crispy bacon and leave to drain on a piece of greaseproof paper.
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-Remove the pan from the heat while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
-Place the clams into a small pan of cold water. This will help them purge any grit and sand they may have inside them. Leave them to the side for about fifteen minutes.
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-Take the fennel and break it down into three pieces, the herbs, the stalks and the bulb. You can keep the bulb for another recipe, we aren’t going to use it here.
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-Chop the spring onions in half, the roots and the tip.
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-Quarter the onion, there’s no need to peel it.
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-Take the leaves from the parsley stalks, keep the stalks for the sauce because judging by this picture parsley seems to be grown by Goddamn ENTS or something here.
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-Chop the Garlic leaves away from the stalks.
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-Give the baby potatoes a good clean and scrub away any rough skin.
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-Bring up the heat on the pan with the bacon fat and then add in the Fennel stalks, the Spring Onion roots, the Onion quarters, the Parsley stalks and the Wild Garlic stalks. I also had the rind from a block of parmesan around and decided to throw that in, totally optional though. It adds another layer of rich, creaminess to the stock.
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-Fry these in the bacon fat on a medium to high heat for five minutes or until they just start to colour.
-Add in the ginger beer and about one litre of boiling water.
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-Allow the broth to simmer for about forty minutes. Scoop off any scum that forms on the surface every few minutes.
-When the broth is ready, strain it over a bowl to remove all of the roots etc. Add the liquid back into the pan.
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-Finely chop the Parsley leaves, Wild Garlic leaves, Spring Onion tips and the Fennel Herbs.
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-Add the potatoes into the broth and bring it up the boil. Cook for five to ten minutes or until the potatoes are just under done. A knife should face a little resistance when inserted into one.
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-Drain the clams and add them into the boiling broth with the potatoes.
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-After two minutes add in the frozen peas and bring them up to the boil again for two minutes.
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-The last thing is to add the herbs, I like my broth quite herby so I added in a lot but this is up to your own personal taste. Allow them to wilt into the broth as you mix it for thirty seconds.
-To serve it up, get a large soup bowl and a slotted spoon. Scoop the potatoes and clams into the bowl. Then using a ladle, spoon over some of the broth. Be careful not to scrape the bottom of the pan too much as there will still be some grit and silt from the clams.
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-Top with some remaining herbs and the crispy bacon and you are ready to eat.
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