Toots & The Maytals – Grilled Jamaican Fish

Posted on: 27 July 2012 No comments

Thirty seconds into my interview with Toots Hibbert and we both realize that we’re having a major communication breakdown. I’m having serious problems getting my head round his Jamaican accent and my Irish brogue isn’t helping things on his end.  But once we’ve both resolved to chat at an exceptionally slow speed, the lead singer of Toots & The Maytals and I are finally off to talk food and music. Actually, the decelerated conversation level makes it all the more enjoyable. Hearing him list off all the exotic Jamaican fruits and veg that he was raised on is comfortably hypnotic and makes one yearn for a holiday. “Coconuts, guava, pineapples, callaloo, yams, breadfruit, ackee, June plums. All them wonderful tastes of the Caribbean.”  He had me at guava.

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When we got round to discussing his massive body of work that goes back as far as the early 60’s, he tells me it’s his 2004 album that he’s most proud of. “Everybody from Keith Richards and Manu Chao to Bunny Wailer, working with all them greats. Such a beautiful blessing.” Add to that list other luminaries like Bootsy Collins, Bonnie Raitt, Eric Clapton and Ryan Adams and you can see why he likes that album so much.  If any of them were really lucky, then he would have made for them one of his favourite Jamaican dishes. Grilled Goatfish and plantains, a somewhat more tropical version of the humble cod and chips. Give it a go. It’s probably as close as you’ll get to any sunshine this summer.

GRILLED JAMAICAN FISH & PLANTAINS

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INGREDIENTS AND METHOD FOR SAUCE:

1/2 cup brown sugar
6-8 garlic cloves

½ cup of all spice berries, aka pimentos
3 Scotch bonnet peppers, cored and seeded – wear rubber gloves while doing this and just to be on the safe side, wash your hands afterwards!
2 tablespoons thyme leaves
2 bunches scallions
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2 tablespoons of soy sauce

2 tablespoons of water

Drop everything into a blender and blitz it all into a paste. Place it into a jar, it will keep for a few weeks once refrigerated.

INGREDIENTS FOR FISH AND PLANTAINS:

2 red mullet fillets (unless you can get Jamaican Goatfish)

2 whole plantains – you can get these in African or Asian stores

Oil for pan frying and a couple of pinches of nutmeg for seasoning.

Turn on your grill to a medium heat. Grill the skin side of the fish first until crispy, then turn it over and spread no more than a teaspoon of the sauce all over the flesh side of the fish. Cook until it browns. Peel each plantain by making two incisions on opposite sides of the skin and then peel. Cut into 1 inch slices and pan fry lightly in some oil. Season with salt and nutmeg.  Plate the plantains with the grilled fish, garnish with some lime wedges.

Toots & The Maytals play Liss Ard Festival, August 5th. This piece can also be read in today’s copy of The Ticket in The Irish Times.

Slow Food Versatile Crumble Topping

Posted on: 20 July 2012 3 comments

Remember that shitstorm that kicked off recently with Centra? Forgotten already? Well then, let me remind you. Courtney’s Centra store in Fairview ran a promotion that was specific to children’s allowance day. Offering rock bottom deals on such kiddie friendly items as HB Twisters and cases of Budweiser. The Irish Times ran a story on it and then it all blew off. Every radio DJ in the country covered it and everybody with a twitter or facebook account shared the photo of the Centra flyer.

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I think the term that PR companies use for this type of story, is clusterfuck. That would certainly have been an apt way to describe the situation.  Encouraging parents to use government money to buy cheap gargoyle is not an ethically responsible business practice. What I found interesting though was, after they saw past the cases of Miller & Budweiser, people started saying to each other, “Hang on a minute – is it such a good idea to be flogging mass produced pizza and cheese at €2 a pop?” I noticed a lot of people having those conversations online and it needs to be examined further.  The reason why there are 12 year old boys walking our streets with moobs, is because they are being fed total shite,  like boxes of pizzas for two fucking euros.

Global forces like supermarket chains don’t give tuppence ha’penny about selling garbage as food. They can lash out €2 packets of easi singles and still make a killing.  There are certain people who don’t agree with overly processed food cheap and fast products such as these. You will find some of them getting involved in the Slow Food movement. An international, ongoing association with thousands of members. All of whom are committed to preserving and maintaining traditional regional cuisines and techniques. They’re a fantastic bunch and there’s plenty of them here in Ireland. And it just so happens that the Dublin crew are hosting a fundraiser in The Sugar Club next Tuesday. It’s a culinary quiz so if any of you lot reckon that you know your grub, then put an auld team together and we’ll see what your made of.

To give yez a flavour of what Slow Food is all about, one of their members, the baker extraordinaire, Caryna Camerino very kindly shared one of her wicked recipes with me this week.  It’s a multi purpose, all in guide to make a crumble to accompany whatever fruit you’re in the mood for.

Slow Food Versatile Crumble Topping by Caryna’s Cakes

Crumble

Serves 4

This is a wonderful recipe for a delicious, crunchy and versatile sweet crumble that will do any fruit filling justice. You’ve got apples? Use apples. You’ve got plums? Use plums. You haven’t got any fruit? Use frozen berries or drained tinned fruit. Go wherever the fruits of the season and your creative food mind take you. This crumble topping will make your filling sing!

INGREDIENTS:

150g digestive biscuits, crushed

150g Irish oat flakes

1 Tablespoon drinking chocolate

150g butter, melted

45g Irish honey

600g fruit of choice

100g hazelnut or almond pieces

EQUIPMENT:

1 lb loaf tin

METHOD:

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees

Mix the crushed digestive biscuits, oats and drinking chocolate. Melt the butter and mix in.

Place fruit in loaf tin. Mix in the nut pieces. Drizzle the honey over the fruit. Gently top with crumble mix. Leave it clumpy – don’t press it down too much and you’ll get a crispy crumble.

Bake in hot oven for 20-25 minutes. Serve warm with some Irish ice cream.

Creamy Pasta For Hungover Twatbags Like Me

Posted on: 13 July 2012 2 comments

Every now and then, something great comes along within the realm of what’s on offer to eat and drink in Ireland. Either somebody will have a killer concept that they may have properly innovated or even just ripped off from abroad, and we all go apeshit. The Aussie Barbecue right around the corner from The Bernard Shaw, is most definitely NOT one of those places. Had a bit of a head on me the other day and was  in the mood for some half daycent hangover food. Thought I’d give the recently opened down under joint a go, as char grilled protein was on my mind and I couldn’t shift it. Whiskey will do that to you. I ordered their ribs and this is what I got.

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Usually when I take a photo of a meal, it’s because how wicked I think it looks on my plate and I deem it worthy of an auld share of some sort. This shot I took because I couldn’t believe how utterly shite my grub appeared. Firstly, I don’t know how she got in there, but Helen Keller was obviously put in charge of butchering. That would be the only viable explanation as to why such a wonderful piece of meat would be so horribly brutalized.  Never in my life have I ever seen such a fucked up way to cut and serve pigflesh, specifically, the bone removed and served separately and none of the fat that sits on top of the meat was trimmed.  There was also a long piece of membrane that ran inside the bigger cut of meat that looked like a stretched out poodle mickey, literally had no idea what the fuck it was.

But at the end of the day, the proof is in the pudding. So I got stuck in anyway, but it was muck. The bits that should have been tender were burnt and dry and the bits that should have been really unctuous were covered in fat and gristle. I asked for some of their “secret Aussie sauce” to see what that could do. It tasted like a poor man’s KFC juice that was just flavoured with vinegar. In all fairness though, what the fuck was I thinking? The hangover meal is a sacred experience and it’s golden rule is that you should NEVER experiment with something you haven’t had before. You crave comfort,  a dish that gives you a reassuring fuzziness and a medicinal optimism that says, “stop moaning, you’re grand. A few bloody Marys and you’ll  be rockin’.”  If you haven’t eaten something before you don’t know if that’s gonna kick in or not.  For the record, the waitress who served me was really cool and on the ball and their chips were spot on, especially at only €2.50. So it aint like the place is without merits and doesn’t have the potential to improve.

Later that night, I made one of my old reliables. Just the kind of scram that I should have had earlier. Ed Hick’s Italian Sausages cooked into a creamy pasta sauce with some nice local Swiss chard from McNally Family Farm.

HICK’S ITALIAN SAUSAGE WITH SWISS CHARD AND PENNE

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Come on people! Just buy me the posh camera please. These iphone shots are just shite now.

INGREDIENTS:

1 packet of Hick’s Italian Sausages

Enough penne for 3 healthy servings

1 medium sized onion, diced

5 cloves of freshly crushed garlic

6 leaves of fresh swiss chard, end of stalks trimmed, you can get it at most Farmer’s Markets

Olive oil to fry with

150 ml of cream

METHOD:

Heat up some olive oil in pot and boil up some salted water in another pot.

Start squeezing out little meatballs out of the sausages. Try to keep them uniformed in shape. If you keep some water handy you can throw some on your hands to roll the balls into shape. The water stops the meat from sticking to your hands.

After you’ve got all the meatballs ready, start frying them off in batches. When that’s done, take them out with a slotted spoon and put them aside.

If it’s needed, throw in a little more olive oil into the pot and fry off the onion til it’s soft on a low heat. While you do that, blanch the chard in the pot with the boiling water for no more than 20 seconds. Take it out but keep the water in the pot and run the chard leaves under a cold tap to stop them from cooking. You then roll all the leaves together and gently push the water out of them. Once that’s done and they’re more dry, you slice them up into manageable pieces and put them aside.Then lash in the garlic in with the onions and fry it very gently.  Put the meatballs back in that pot and pour in the cream on a low heat with a quick stir.

Cook off your pasta but keep two ladles of the starchy water the pasta was cooked in and pour that in with your meat. Then you stir in your pasta with the swiss chard on a medium heat. When it’s all nicely combined, you’re ready to serve. Lash on a load of parmesan or pecorino and get stuck in.

If you’re still reading this, don’t go away! My mates and partners in crime at For Food’s Sake, Aisling and Luca, they’ve opened up a wicked cafe! It’s called Fumbally and it’s the corner of Clanbrassil St and Fumbally Lane, oddly enough.  It’s open Mon -Fri from 8am til 5pm. They serve up some wicked arancini, deadly breakfast options, a fantastic falafel and their porchetta roll is quite simply, the best sarnie you can get in the city centre.

On Thursday morning, they had local resident and funny dude David O’Doherty in there doing a morning comedy show. Apparently, he wanted to conduct an experiment. Could he make a load of punters laugh at 8.30 in the morning before they go to work.  He got a great result. I am most certainly not a morning person and he had me in stitches. Nice one.  He then asked everyone to make a contribution to the Fighting Words charity. Double nice one.

D.od.

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