Jen's Kitchen offers a fresh approach to home cooking with exciting recipes and blog posts that emphasise hands-on cookery using local and organic produce.

My Big Fat Greek Moussaka

Sometimes you’ve got to have a big cheesy sauce topped, rich red wine sauce soaked moussaka to end your day. I love it, and make it with aubergines and potatoes. And an enriched bechamel sauce.

The Greek moussaka is traditionally a layered dish comprising of aubergine, a tomato sauce based meat layer, and a cheesy sauce topping (my enriched bechamel). And as I’ve said before in a previous moussaka post (yes- it’s so good I’ve written a second recipe), the turkish version is NOT layered.  But equally as good.

As a dinner offering, this one is quite labour intensive. The aubergines need to be sliced and cooked, the potatoes need to be peeled and par boiled, the mince and tomato sauce needs a long slow cooking time, and the sauce needs last minute assembly.  So not your jamie-oliver-15-minute-meal really.  But worth it.  Trust me.

 

My Big Fat Greek Moussaka

Ingredients:

1 aubergine, thinly sliced

3 tablespoons of olive oil (preferably greek!)

500g good quality minced beef

1 tin of tomatoes

½ bottle of red wine

1 bay leaf

300g potatoes

25g butter, melted

25g flour

250ml of full fat milk

200g of grated cheddar cheese, a vintage one is preferable

1 egg yolk

Seasoning
Moussaka

Method:

Aubergine Layer:

Using 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, oil a roasting tray. Preheat the oven to 1800C.  Thinly slice the aubergine and lay the slices on the tray.  Roast for about 20 minutes.  Set aside.

Meat Layer:

Add the remaining olive oil to a heavy based saucepan and heat gently.  Brown the minced beef very slowly.  Season well.  Add the tinned tomatoes, the bay leaf and the wine.  Cook very, very slowly over a very low heat for at least two hours, cover the saucepan partially to prevent too much moisture escaping.  Set aside.

Potato Layer:

Peel and place the potatoes in a pot of cold salted water.  Cover and bring to the boil.  The potatoes can be left over ones, and you can slice the uncooked potatoes before you boil them, if it’s easier.  Bring to the boil and cook for 8 minutes until half cooked.  Drain and set aside.

When you are ready to assemble, melt the butter, add the flour and stir continuously over a medium heat for one minute to cook the flour out.  Gradually add the milk, stirring constantly to avoid lumps.  Bring to a simmer and stir until thickened.  Remove from the heat, add and add half the grated cheese.  Stir in the egg yolk just prior to adding the sauce to the dish.

 

 

Moussaka

Grease the baking dish, add a layer of potatoes, then a layer of aubergines, then add the mince (remove the bay leaf first).  Repeat the layers on top, and add the béchamel sauce.  Add the rest of the grated cheese, and bake for 30 minutes.

Moussaka

For extra carb loading serve with a baked potato and some green beans. Divine.

Moussaka

 

Slow Roasted Lamb Shanks Recipe- my favourite

Slow Roasted Lamb Shanks are my favourite food for a winters day.  When you’ve been outside working and really want some comfort food with a big bowl of mashed potatoes and a glass of red wine.

The shank has become very popular, unfortunately, as the prices have started to creep up.  About 3 years ago I could buy them for 50cent each. Now they are a bit more expensive.  But still as tasty. The shank comes from below the knee on the animal.  The flavour comes from the bone aswell as the meat and needs to be very slow cooked.

Lamb Shanks
As an aside, one of my favourite Italian dishes is Ossobuco alla milanese, which is an Italian veal shank dish. Something I’m dying to make myself. But veal shanks are next to near impossible to get.

Re the wine- I don’t profess to be an expert.  And really rely on opinions of others (@Colmmccan, or @WorldWideWines) but in this case, the Greywacke Pinot Noir 2014 is a match made in heaven. Incidently the wine I use in the cooking of the dish is a white wine.  Traditionally red wine is used for slow braising, but in this case, the shank is quite a delicate flavour and you want the flavour of the lamb to shine, not the accompaniments. Save it for drinking with the meal.

Slow Roasted Lamb Shanks

Serves 6

Ingredients

6 lamb shanks

1 carrot

1 onion

A few whole peppercorns

2-3 cloves garlic

a bunch fresh thyme

a small bunch fresh rosemary

1 bottle white wine

250ml Stock

Method

Place the shanks in a large casserole pot. Make small cuts on the meat and push in some pinches of rosemary.

Add the carrot, and onion, a few whole peppercorns, the herbs and two to three lightly smashed whole cloves of garlic.

Pour over enough wine to cover the meat of the shanks – this is about a whole bottle and then leave overnight if you wish.

Lamb Shanks
The next day, place the pot, covered with tinfoil and a tight fitting lid in a preheated hot oven at 1500C and cook for about two hours or more. If the simmering becomes too lively during cooking, reduce the temperature slightly.  Slightly uncover the pot for the last hour so that the liquid will start to reduce.

Lamb ShanksBest served with some green veg and literally tonnes of mashed potato.  Tonnes. Divine.

 

Hampers, Hampers everywhere

As it’s getting a little closer to December I’m taking orders for my hampers, Christmas cakes and other goodies.
All are available for collection or delivery within reason!

Jen's Kitchen Hampers

There is a sweet hamper containing:

Jams, Cupcakes, chocolates, meringues, biscuits etc.

Christmas Cupcakes
And this year I am also introducing a smaller savoury hamper, with chutneys, breads and dips.

You can of course, have a mix of both.

Hampers

Christmas cakes, both chocolate biscuit cake, and traditional fruit are also available to go into the hampers. They are finished to a high standard and painted in a Christmas scene.

Christmas Cake

Christmas Cake

Hampers:
Sweet Delight 50.00
Food Lovers Feast 30.00
Cakes:
6″ Hand painted luxury fruit Christmas Cake 30.00
8″ Hand painted luxury fruit Christmas Cake 40.00
6″ Chocolate Broken Biscuit Christmas Cake 30.00
8″ Broken Biscuit Chocolate Christmas Cake 60.00
Mince Pies 6 7.50
12 12.00
24 20.00
Christmas Themed Cupcakes 12 15.00
24 20.00

Contact me jeni@pims.ie , or by Facebook.  By phone 0879295673 is best by text due to the whole coverage issue!

Dance if you want to dance

I love how lyrics can sometimes completely capture the way you are feeling at a particular point in time. And although not an avid Oasis fan, these lines just spoke to me this morning. “The Masterplan”

 

dance if you want to dance

Take the time to make some sense
Of what you want to say
And cast your words away upon the waves
And sail them home with acquiesce
On a ship of hope today
And as they land upon the shore
Tell them not to fear no more
Say it loud, and sing it proud today
And then dance if you wanna dance
Please brother take a chance
You know they’re gonna go
Which way they wanna go
All we know is that we don’t
Know how it’s gonna be
Please brother let it be
Life on the other hand
Won’t make us understand
We’re all part of the masterplan
Say it loud and sing it proud today
I’m not saying right is wrong
It’s up to us to make
The best of all the things
That come our way
’cause everything that’s been has passed
The answer’s in the looking glass
There’s four and twenty million doors
On life’s endless corridor
Say it loud and sing it proud today
For me, there is no masterplan.  Even in my professional life I sometimes struggle to put in place the “5” year plan.  Although I’ve got better at it over the years because I’ve had to.  And even now with my fledgling catering business I would be a little speechless if someone said- so what’s the plan?
And others are great at it.  My better half is the visionary in the relationship.  I’m more of a roll up the sleeves and do it til you drop kinda gal.  But still, it’s always good to make time to dance.  If you want to dance.

One Pot Lamb Steaks

I saw Irish lamb steaks recently in my supermarket.  Yum.  So off to conjure a suitable back drop to such a delicious and lean cut of meat.  Easy peasy. Lamb in Ireland is probably the best and healthiest meat you can eat.  Our grass is second to none, and those sheep scamper over mountains and moorland every day.  Therefore you have the right amount of fat to fibre ratio.  With most of the local sheep around here being grazed on land that’s never even seen a fertiliser truck, never mind being fertilised. And they are ostly left to fend for themselves.  No interaction with antibiotics or growth hormones.  Win win.  Grassfed lamb is an excellent source of Vitamin B12.  Something the Irish have found lacking in their diet.

Just for the record, a  lamb is a sheep until it reaches it’s first birthday.  Then it becomes a hogget. Until it reaches it’s second birthday.  That’s when we have mutton.  All equally delicious.  Thought not all as easy to get.

Lamb benefits from a slightly longer cook, at a slightly lower temperature, then you would cook say, pork at.  In this dish I use steaks, but you could use loin, or some good quality chops also.  Save the joint pieces and rack for the Sunday dinners.

Lamb

One Pot Lamb Steaks

Ingredients:

Lamb steaks, if there are small allow 1 and 1/2 per person

2 Onions, peeled and chopped into quarters

2 Peppers, you  preference for colour.

2 Courgettes, or aubergines, sliced

1 Butternut Squash, peeled and cut into chip size slices

1/2 head of garlic, squashed, but not peeled

3 tablespoons of olive oil

Sprig of mint

Method

Splash some of the oil into a heavy roasting pan, add the onions and the butternut squash “chips”.

Season with salt and pepper and roast in a medium oven for 20 minutes.
Lamb

Next add the other vegetables, tossing everything together to coat with oil, and roast this for a further 15 minutes.

Next put the steaks on top, and season these well.  Adding the mint also.
Lamb
Roast for a further 30 minutes until the meat is golden and cooked through.  Although I like my lamb a little pink, in this case it’s nice fully cooked.  Remove from the oven and leave to rest, covered for 10 minutes for the juices to mingle.

Serve as is, lots of vegetables beautifully roasted and some fabulous lamb.  East AND divine.
Lamb
 

Nordic Cardamon and Raisin Pulla Breads

The eldest came back from Norway during the summer RAVING about some Cardamon and Raisin Bread (Boller).  I will make them… but they reminded me of an old favourite Finnish Pulla, that my sister in law makes so beautifully. Her being Finnish an’ all! Cardamon is the essence of Finnish cooking for me, and just the smell of the spice makes me think of snow and gingerbread.

Nordic Cardamon and Raisin Pulla Breads

Ingredients:

500g Strong White Flour

1 teaspoon salt

90g Caster Sugar

60g Warm Water

190g warm milk

30g of fresh yeast (15g of dried)

1 teaspoon of cardamom seeds, crushed

50g of raisins

100g soft butter

50g soft brown sugar

Method

Mix the milk, water and yeast into the flour with the cardamom, and bring it together into a dough, kneading for about five minutes until the dough is smooth and shiny, I use my kenwood for this.  Add the softened butter in stages to the dough and carry on kneading.  A little like Brioche, this dough looks a touch disastrous, as the butter smears all over the place just keep going and you’ll hit a point where the butter just seems to give up fighting and starts to melt into the dough, leaving it soft and smooth.  Cover this dough with cling-film and leave overnight in the fridge.

Nordic Bread

Nordic Bread

Next day roll out the dough into a rectangle, and spread over the raisins, and the soft brown sugar.  Roll up like a swiss roll, and slice whatever way you want.  Leave to prove on a tray until doubled in size.  Brush with egg wash and some more brown sugar.

Bake in a pre heated oven of 200oC for 15-20 minutes until golden brown.

BreadYou can drizzle them with some icing sugar mixed with a teeny bit of water, like you see on Danish Pastries, or leave them “au natural”.  But really they are good just straight from the oven.

Divine!

Manchester- it’s not all about football

Having visited the Cake and Bake show a number of years ago in London, I was anxious to return.  The theme of the cake competition that year was futuristic wedding cakes.  And genuinely hand on heart they were epic.  Tradeshows are good places to pick up tips, unusual items of equipment and generally see what’s trending.

Manchester

A real canal viaduct in Manchester

With various dates that didn’t suit the travels, we ended up linking the trip to the patisserie course I would be doing in Bath with Will Torrent.  We got the boat from Dublin to Holyhead.  The crossing wasn’t the best, but is relatively short.  And we were travelling in November after all.  But we were late docking which meant we didn’t get to Manchester until 3am, which made for an interesting journey especially with all the diversions.

Cake & Bake

One of the amazing cakes

Roadworks seemed to be the theme for the weekend.  We were staying in a hotel deliberately picked as it was only 5 minutes from car to the Trafford centre where the event was on.  And really, a Saturday getting closer to Christmas isn’t entirely the best time to be visiting an area that contains one of the biggest shopping centres in England. It took us an hour to get there.  At one stage my normally sane GPS took us off the bumper to bumper carpark that was the motorway, only to take us right back on again.  So we took our own route, and got to sit, in the car looking at the wonderful canals.  And, yes the streets look like they are STRAIGHT out of Coronation Street.

Cake & Bake

Love this meringue company

Anyway, we got there.   Was it worthwhile? Kind of. I got a spray painting machine that I’d been looking at for some time, and was delighted with the offer.  The cake competition was “fairy tales”, and some were truly magnificent.  Not sure how some of them would taste though.  We were so late, we missed our booked masterclass, but the rooms were so packed anyway I’m not sure how much I would have seen.

Cake & Bake

Cake & Bake

Tallest Fairy Cake EVER

So we stayed a while, saw everything through the tumultuous crowds, and gracefully side stepped into the Trafford centre for a gawk.  We have most of the shops now in Ireland that we would have yearned for previously, so for me, the most exciting bit of the centre (after the obligatory wander around John Lewis) was the food section of the Centre.  It was EPIC.  We walked around all the Italian, eastern, fast food, pizza etc and settled on an “american” style restaurant, Coast to Coast, where I had my very first “HardShake”.  One word- fab.  Definitely going to recreate this delight in my demos once home.

Manchester

The lovely ceiling in the Trafford Centre

Beef Rendang- get it while it’s HOT

I had a guest over for dinner the other night (my nephew!) and asked him what he would like to eat, I said I would cook him anything! He went with Beef Rendang. Secretly delighted I rooted out my recipe, loosely based on Rory O’Connells one, which, is divine, but just too hot for me. Mind you -this was lip numbingly hot too.

Although the ingredients are mostly store cupboard, the quality of the meat is important here.  And as the cooking time is quite long I suggest cutting the beef into larger pieces so they don’t simply disintegrate. I’m not a fan of the mint either, so I leave that out too. Rendang is traditionally a Malaysian spicy meat dish, that is served at important social occasions.  It’s cooked down slowly until a sticky sauce is left around the meat, and is dryer than most curries, but I prefer a little more sauce.
Beef

My Beef Rendang

Ingredients:

1.5kg of good quality stewing beef

5 red chillies

2 red onions

3 cloves of garlic

1 teaspoon of turmeric

1 bay leaf

3 tins of coconut milk

Natural yogurt, if required

Rice, to serve

Method

Cut up the beef into pieces approximately 4cm square.  Add to a large heavy based saucepan with the turmeric and the bay leaf.

In a food processor chop the de-stalked chillies (keep the seeds in), peeled and quartered onions, and peeled cloves, until well diced.
Beef

Add this to the pan with tins of coconut milk.  I like to use organic coconut milk, but if unavailable use the best quality you can afford.

Stir to combine, at this stage it looks really nasty!
Beef

Bring to the boil, stirring occasionally then reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered for about 2 hours.  Towards the end it will look like the sauce has split.  Stir quite frequently at this stage to avoid it burning on the hob.
Beef

Taste the sauce, if it is too hot I add a good couple of spoons of natural yogurt.  Completely un authentic I know, but sure look it!

Serve on a bed of rice- with lots of water available.
Beef

Divine.

 

 

Cheat’s Croissants- Don’t tell Richard

I love pastries, especially croissants and pain aux raisin.  Mind you the last time I did a course with Richard Bertinet, I had the most amazing almond croissant.  And for someone who really doesn’t eat nuts, it’s quite an achievement to find something with that has nuts in it that I’ll quite happily walk through hot coals for.

Croissant

However the homemade variety of any of the above are labour intensive.  A true labour of love.  So I’ve tried to come up with a variation that doesn’t stray too far from the true path of viennoise.  And yes, it takes time, but is not work intensive.

Are they as good as Richards? No.  But then I’ve had croissants from the depth of France that aren’t as good as his.  It’s all about balance.

My Cheat’s Croissants

Makes 16 croissants

Ingredients:
500g strong bread flour
300g cold unsalted butter, cubed
240g lukewarm milk
90g sugar
30g fresh yeast (15g- active dry yeast)
½ teaspoon salt
Egg Wash
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon milk
Method
Mix the flour, salt and sugar in a mixer bowl. Warm the milk to a little under blood temperature and add the yeast. Leave to “sponge” for 5 minutes.

Croissant

It looks like a huge amount of butter, I know!


Add the milk/ yeast to the flour and mix on low speed until it looks almost like a bad cookie dough. Add the cubed cold butter in three goes, mixing slowly each time. When the butter cubes look evenly spaced through the dough, cover and leave in the fridge for a few hours.

Croissant

The weirdest looking dough you’ve EVER seen

 

Remove from the fridge and gently start to bash the dough into a square with a flour duster rolling pin. Then roll out to a large rectangle. Working quickly, fold the outer edges in to touch, a little like a book. Give the dough a quarter turn and roll out again, repeating the folding and turning once more. Keep your work surface well dusted with flour and also remember not to turn the dough over. Just keep in sliding!
Fold again like a book, wrap in clingfilm and leave overnight in the fridge.
Next day roll out the dough as thin as you can on your floured surface. Using a very sharp knife, cut triangles out of strips. Roll up as demonstrated in the video clip.

Brush with egg wash (the egg yolk and milk, mixed well).
Leave to rise for about 1 1/5 hours before baking in a preheated 200oC oven for about 12 minutes.

Croissants
Enjoy with some strawberry jam and a hot cup of coffee. Or make the dough into pain aux raisin.  Double Divine.
Croissants

Feed your mind

Food is always at the forefront of my mind. But this week I’m focused on feeding minds.

hobbies

I was invited to speak to some hospitality students in the Waterford Institute of Technology about our software business (the day job- that pays for the eating), and also about my experience in running our own business for the last 15 years.  I was nervous.  I had jotted down a few notes but was really full of self doubt as to whether they would find it interesting, or more importantly useful.

2 hours later I had to stop talking.  They were the NICEST, most enthusiastic bunch of students I had met in a long time. I was privileged to spend time with them, and I hope they learnt something from our conversations.

Then that evening myself and Nigel went to a really really really interesting course by a gent called- Guy Flouch from Eunicas.  The European University Central Application Support Service, as the eldest is doing his Leaving Cert this school year. Both himself and myself were blown away by the courses available to students.  In Europe, unlike here- they WANT you to have an education.  And actually encourage it.  Therefore there’s no points, just a general level, and a myriad of ways to make it work no matter what your financial back ground.  Last year in first Year Vet in Warsaw in Poland.  Over HALF the class were Irish.  32 out of 60.

milan

We decided I was going to do Vet and he was going to get a Business Degree in some fancy Italian University where we could sip espresso to our hearts content. And ……. back to the real world.  In all seriousness there are some amazing opportunities out there for the next generation.  I’m always telling my kids to study somewhere exciting so I can visit!

In essence I am a big advocate of learning.  I loved Ballymaloe, and the new experiences and skills it gave me.  What’s next? No idea.  Suffice to say I’ll look forward to further feeding my mind.