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.

Afternoon Tea Part 1- the non posh kind

It’s a given thing in our house, that anyone around the farm at approximately 4 o’clock in the afternoon, heads to Alan’s house for “tea”.  This has been happening for as long as we are in Waterford (15+ years), and I’m sure it happened before then too.  And the tea consists of tea, with a maximum of 2 biscuits.  In fact that was my first foray into speaking Finnish.  My nieces and nephews would ask Liisa (my Finnish sis in law) how many biscuits they could have.  And to this day, she still will say “kaksi keksejä”, which means two biscuits!  But sometimes it involves cake…

Some rather untidy pear tart for afternoon tea

Some rather untidy pear tart for tea

The key ingredient of course, of any afternoon is the tea. I try to use looseleaf when making a pot.  And I’ve lots of teapots. Lots. But sometimes only a bag in a cup will do.  My favourite is Breakfast tea blend, but try to have Darjeeling later through the day. And I know it sounds ridiculously snobby to have a a favourite tea.  But people have favourite coffee don’t they???

Afternoon tea can be fun- but also glamorous, and is a very relaxing way to spend time with friends and family. Afternoon tea, is in the fact the new cocktail hour in many hotels.  At some stage I want to try the one served in the Ritz Hotel in London.  They have served this meal since 1906!! But at £52 per person it’s a bit steep.  The more up to date version in Claridge’s (who have only been serving it for 150 years)  is a more informal setting focuses more on the food.

 Making the Perfect cup of Afternoon tea:

Using fresh water (very important because of aeration) bring the kettle to the boil.

Immediately “scald” the pot, leaving the water in it for around 5 minutes.  

Empty this water out.

Add one teaspoon of loose leaf tea per person into the warmed pot. Reboil the kettle and add onto the tea. Leave for about 3 minutes, stir and serve.

Perfect!

  Time for tea

Darjeeling, as it happens, is a perfect flavour to have with a creamy pastry, so says the king of pastry, Eric Lanlard.  So who am I to disagree? Course now that he’s said that, I’ll have to try it.  Won’t I??

 

Back in the Bubble Again- Litfest 2016

Litfest 2016 was on in Ballymaloe and it’s environs.  And I was there with bells on.  Well not quite bells, chef’s whites and apron was the deal for the Saturday and Sunday.

Working with the tireless duo of Florrie Bolger and Pam Black, they make the demonstrations look effortless and streamlined.  And I know both would say that they are backed up by a team.  But the team is only as good as it’s leaders.  And despite one of them being fired (Sorry- in joke) in the middle of service- it went so well.

The first thing that always hits me is the variety- of everything- be it people-

The Team

“Kate’s” Team

The flowers…

Flowers for Litfest Demonstrations

Flowers for Litfest Demonstrations

The flours….

Flours for Claire Ptak's Demo

Flours for Claire Ptak’s Demo

Add the recipes into the mix and you’ve the perfect combination.  When you work behind the scenes you don’t always get to see whats going on in “front”, but this year I must have been extra specially good as I was promoted to Number 2 for the wonderful Claire Ptak’s demonstration.  She is an absolute dote.  And a real baker, knowing by the feel of the ingredients whether to add more or subtract.  I really learnt so much from her about using different flours, which was great.

Rye Digestives

Rye Chocolate Dipped Digestives

Claire was a complete natural in demo, and herself and Jeremy made a great team

Demo at Litfest

Claire and Jeremy

All in all it, once again was a great experience.  Meeting so many old friends, and making new ones.  I didn’t get to spend any time at all in Ballymaloe House or the Big Shed, but I believe, once again, it was fabulous.

I’ll definitely be back again next year.  And hopefully sooner.

Chicken & Chorizo Bake Recipe

I just love Chorizo. And the family love it too, in fact it probably is the daughters favourite ingredient in any savoury dish.  She expressed her undying love for it recently at dinner.  Just as well the rest of it like it too!

Often we use it in pasta dishes, but I add it to this simple chicken bake to add a little spice. As chorizo traditionally uses smoked paprika, it adds a little smokiness to a dish aswell.  As an aside I sometimes add the pimentón to freshly boild new potatoes to jazz up a warm potato salad.  Of course if I’m feeling particularly flahulach I might buy some Gubbeen Chorizo.  Just to eat as is.  It really is a product so superior it’s a shame to cook with it.

Chorizo Chicken & Potato Bake

Ingredients

50g chorizo

4 chicken legs

500g new potatoes, scrubbed

1 teaspoon of fresh herb leaves

Bay leaf

Olive oil

5 cloves garlic, unpeeled

1 lemon, quartered

Salad to serve
Chicken

Method

Heat oven to 1800C.  Pour the olive oil into a large roasting tin and add the potatoes, chorizo, lemon quarters, bay leaves and garlic. Toss everything together so it’s coated in oil and evenly distributed.  Add the chicken thighs, skin-side up, and season well. Put the roasting tin in the oven and roast for 1 hr, basting with the meat juices halfway through cooking. After 1 hr, check that the potatoes are soft and the chicken is cooked through, then return to the oven for a final 15 mins to crisp the chicken skin.

Super easy chicken and chorizo

Super easy chicken and chorizo

Remove the roasting tin from the oven. Press down on the roasted garlic cloves with the back of a spoon, discard the skins, and mix the mashed garlic with the meat juices. Serve with salad leaves on the side.

 

Make Entertaining Easy

The good weather just begs you to eat outside.  Let’s face it, we eat in the other 363 days of the year.  So as soon as the sun comes out for at least 4 hours, we just want to get the wine chilling and the family over and start entertaining.

Entertaining

The Table outside is the first step

The impromptu get together initially started out as drinks and nibbles.  But we got a little* adventurous.  We had some fresh minced beef that we were going to make into burgers for our own dinner, so we changed that idea and made lots of mini burgers to share.  I had already made the pre-requisite brioche dough to make burger buns, so these were just made a little smaller.  

Mini Burgers

Mini Burgers

I decided to bake these in the oven, so as to avoid the messiness of the BBQ.  They are too small to cook without careful supervision, after all the time my better half spent shaping them, it would not do well to burn them! Course I don’t need an excuse to make the brioche.  One of my favourite breads.  I just love it.  

Brioche

Brioche after it’s first proving

Next on Nigel’s list was the focaccia and grissini. Both are perfect for a party, and went down extremely well.  He loaded the focaccia with lots of garlic and rosemary, which was really tasty, but if we’d been catering for a group that were not family- i may have cut down on the amount of garlic!   We also grilled some asparagus rolled with prosciutto, some sausages were also baked for the smaller members of the family.  

Entertaining

Fresh from the oven, the softest of focaccia

And although Nigel mentioned at one point that there were ALOT of sausages- they all were eaten. I thought I had a bottle of Pimms in the pantry.  But must have used it for entertaining at some other point.  So we went with a limoncello mixed with lemonade and some strawberries for the adults.  And some Naturally Cordial Lemonade mixed with the same white lemonade and strawberries for those not partaking in alcohol.  

Entertaining

Limoncello with strawberries and white lemonade

It’s then simply a matter of putting everything on the table and waiting for your guests to arrive. Something sweet isn’t necessary, but it’s a good way of signalling to the guests that their time is coming to an end, on this occasion I made a lemon scented sponge with a sugar syrup icing, and salted caramel chocolate brownies.  As it happens when I put them both on the table, I went to the other end of the kitchen to whip some cream as an accompaniment- when I cam back they were nearly all gone!

Entertaining

Something Sweet to finish the evening off

If you like entertaining, but don’t have the time to cater, call me for help! I’d be delighted to turn your party into a feast. 

 

Beef Stroganoff- my super quick recipe

The first recorded Beef Stroganoff recipe originated in 1871, in Russia, in a cookbook entitled “A Gift to Young Housewives“.  It has evolved over the years and my recipe uses finely sliced beef, but the original would have used cubes instead. Count Pavel Stroganoff’ was unlikely to have invented it, merely used it when entertaining, and the name stuck.  Very fashionable in the 80’s, I like it as an alternate to stir fry, when a slightly warmer and creamier sauce is looked for.

Beef Stroganoff

Getting the ingredients together sometimes takes longer than the cooking

 

Beef Stroganoff- my way

Ingredients

400g beef steak

25g butter

1 tablespoon of olive oil

300g mixed type mushrooms

1 onion, finely chopped

25g plain flour

250ml beef stock

50ml red wine

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon of tomato purée

3 tablespoon of crème fraîche

Fresh herbs, finely chopped

Method

Slice the steak as thinly as you can, then season. In a large, frying pan, melt half the butter with half the oil.  Increase the heat, then quickly sear the meat in batches until browned, a lovely caramel colour on both sides.  Remove the meat from the pan and set aside.  Repeat with the mushrooms, then set aside with the beef. Add the remaining butter and oil to the pan and soften the finely chopped onion for a few mins.  Stir in the flour for about 1 minute, then gradually stir in the stock and wine.

Simmer for about 7 minutes until thickened, then stir in the mustard, purée, crème fraîche and seasoning.  Bubble again for 5 minute more, then return the beef and mushrooms to the pan.  This sauce has a gorgeously rich deep velvety flavour, that begs to be mopped up with some bread at the end, so don’t be shy in serving some. Traditionally I serve this with some creamy mash, rice or some pasta, but you decide whatever you fancy.  

Beef Stroganoff

Tartiflette Recipe- a French Classic

I had this wonderful dish for the first time while in Bath.  It is just divine, if slightly high on the calories.  Traditionally from the SAvoie region of France, it was re-developed by the cheese-maker Reblochon with great success.  Tartiflette was first mentioned in a book of 1705, Le Cuisinier Royal et Bourgeois written by François Massialot ( a VERY important chef in his day) and his assistant B. Mathieu.  A very popular dish in ski resorts, I think I’ll put it on my meal planning for my Swiss Cooking Adventure.

Copyright Jeni Pim

Even looking at the ingredients makes me hungry

 

Tartiflette

Ingredients:

Waxy potatoes, large, to make a weight of 350g

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large red onion, sliced

175g of smoked back bacon, rind removed, cut into strips

100g of Vignette or Reblochon cheese, cut into 1 1/2cm cubes (including the rind)

100ml Double Cream

Optional: sprinkling of crushed chillies 25g of white breadcrumbs

Method: Peel and thickly slice the potatoes into 1.5cm slices.  Boil these in salted water for 6-8 minutes until just tender, then drain. While the potatoes are boiling, heat the oil in a large frying pan.  Fry the onion over medium heat until it becomes almost transparent.  Add the bacon to the pan and carry on frying for 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions and bacon are golden in colour.

Copyright Jeni Pim

Onion and bacon ready to go

Heat the grill to high.  Add the potatoes to the onions and bacon, and brown the potatoes briefly.  Nestle the chunks of cheese among the potatoes and bacon and drizzle with the cream.  Sprinkle with the chilli if using, then evenly scatter with breadcrumbs.

Copyright Jeni Pim

Sprinkled with breadcrumbs and chilli flakes

Grill for about 5 minutes until the top is lightly browned and just on the point of bubbling.

Tartiflette bubbling and ready for devouring

Tartiflette bubbling and ready for devouring

 

Stuck in a moment-

I often find that if there is a bank holiday, the rest of the week is unbearably long.  Mind you the sun was been shining all week so it’s been lovely and bright. I was listening to this on the radio and it really stuck a chord with me, (although it’s not my favourite U2 song).

Sometimes even the simple tasks like putting out the washing or walking the dog can be an insurmountable task.  And that is definitely the way I felt the other day.  I most certainly felt like I was stuck somewhere and just couldn’t get out of it.

But on other occasions, you just want to stay stuck in the moment. Like when it’s a lovely evening and everyone is in a good mood, and you are having just the perfect family moment.  Knowing full well that all it might take is for the dog to spill someone’s drink, and in the blink of an eye, the perfect moment is gone.

Other perfect moments include singing at the top of my voice in my jeep as I drive along.  Or crying with laughter at something on the radio, also as I drive.

 

Benny and Charlie stuck in their perfect moment

Benny and Charlie stuck in their perfect moment

Sometimes the perfect moment is a smile between you and someone else at a joke, or a text.  You may not even be with them.  But it’s better if you are.  Life’s too short not to spend time with the people you love.  Nothing wrong with planning for moments either, be it a meal out, or just a walk in the rain.

Missy at Belline

Another perfect moment

Sometimes just fresh sheets on the bed as you fall into it exhausted after a hard day is all it takes. a pure moment of bliss. But sometimes you need to make your perfect moment.  Do it. Today.

perfect

 

Butter, many forms, but pure flavour

Butter, for me, is the best way to introduce visitors to the Irish flavours in food.  You name it, we add butter to it.  Nowadays, of course you can get any amount of flavoured butters.  And recently we decided to have a tasting lunch. (Any excuse!!)

 

Many types of Butter

A melody of butters

We got a selection, of what I would call, gourmet types from Ardkeen Stores.  We knew we would definitely get a good selection as they always support Irish brands of quality. The Abernethy selection just looked so inviting.  And I’ve had a penchant for the Glenilen one anyway.  I love the texture and mouthfeel.  Which sounds a bit poncy, but this kind of product is a little posh, if the truth be told.

My ever resourceful husband put each on a plate with a different coloured knife so that we would know which we were tasting.  The other pre-requisites were blaas and my own brown bread.

Copyright Jeni Pim I think the colour of the butter is very important.  And this is, for me, an indicator of the quality of the product.  It generally has a pale golden colour from the Irish Cream that goes into it , but varies from deep yellow to nearly white, depending on the country of origin. Its unmodified colour is dependent on the animals’ feed and is often, unfortunately manipulated with food colourings in the commercial manufacturing process, most commonly carotene or annatto.  But back to pleasantries: (In no particular order)

Smoked butter-

I lovely smokey flavour which worked on both types of bread, and would be gorgeous, we felt with some fish.  A really Irish taste as far as I was concerned.

“Traditional”-

This was such a gorgeous colour, and although it was the first to be eaten, it was just because it was a familiar, homely flavour that we all know and love.  

Handcrafted Butter (Glenilen)-

As a small disclaimer, I’ve had this butter before.  Very regularly.  I really love it.  It’s my sandwich butter of choice.  And it didn’t disappoint in the tastings either.

Dulse & Seasalt-
Copyright Jeni Pim

Dulse & Seasalt

This was the winner for us on the “lunch tasting”.  I think, in part, because of it’s unique flavour and look.  I’m all about the foraging and local resources.  And this just ticked all of those boxes.

However, I feel there can never truly be enough testing, so now I have an excuse to buy asparagus.  Not that I need an excuse. well, maybe a small one when it’s not in season.

And the verdict? FABULOUS!

 

Copyright Jeni Pim

Steamed Aspargus with melted butter

   

Chicken & Asparagus in a White Wine Sauce

I just love asparagus.  And tis the season as they say.  I’ve a few recipes that I want to try, but this one  is a constant reminder of the good things in life.  And, to be honest, it’s sometimes nice, as the saying goes to pour one glass for the recipe, and one glass for yourself!

Wine

 

Chicken & Asparagus in a White Wine Sauce

Ingredients

4 chicken breasts

25g Butter

25g flour

1 glass of nice white wine

125ml of chicken stock, or water if you don’t have it

2 cloves of garlic, peeled and mashed

Large handful of fresh asparagus spears

1 tablespoon lemon juice

Fresh herbs, chopped.

 

Method

Place each chicken breast half between double sheets of clingfilm; flatten the breasts by approximately half.  Sprinkle chicken breasts evenly with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Melt the butter in a large nonstick pan over medium-high heat.  Place flour in a shallow dish.  Cover the chicken in flour.  Add chicken to pan, cook for about 5 minutes on each side or until done.  Remove the chicken from the pan and keep warm.  Add wine, stock, and garlic to the pan, scraping pan to loosen browned bits; cook this for about 5 minutes.

 

Break the asparagus stems where they naturally break, add the spear heads; cover and cook for 5 minutes or until the spears is still crisp but tender.

Remove this from the heat; stir in the fresh herbs and lemon juice. Serve the asparagus and sauce with chicken.  And of course a little extra glass of wine…

Chicken and Asparagus

Chicken and Asparagus, in a white wine sauce

The Table Quiz Dilemma

Last weekend, as part of the Irish Orienteering Championship activities, we naively decided to hold a table quiz.  Initially supposed to be held after the AGM in Mount Mellary, it got too late and we moved it to after the prize giving in Lemybrien.

I am not a fan of Table Quizzes myself usually as I’m pretty rubbish at them.  But was looking froward to putting this together.  That is until I actually had to write questions.  I decided to come up with the “round” titles first.  There would have to be a sports round, current affairs, etc etc.  Then I did a Waterford Themed round. Who wouldn’t like a question about Blaas??

I figured a picture round would give my voice a break, so I printed off 8 pictures and the tables had to identify them, here’s a sample… (I’ve put the answers at the bottom of my shop page…)

 

meatball maker

Picture 1

avocado cutter

Picture 2

Table Quiz

Picture 3

And I found it’s hard to be funny when writing questions, mind you my favourite attempt was the last question of the sports round…

Q8:Brian O’Driscoll is the second most capped player in Rugby Union History, and the 8th highest try scorer in Rugby Union History, holding the six nations record for the most tries scored.  Name one of his children (or how many tries he scored in the six nations games)

Answer:       Sadie, Billy (or 26)

Which did get a laugh to be fair. It was quite a struggle to try to get a balance of questions.  If there were smaller children playing I wanted to make sure that they would know at least one answer per round, otherwise they might lose interest and start getting creative with activities.

I also decided to make the Quiz a bit more interesting by adding in bonus prizes for activities.  For example after one round of the Quiz, I suggested a waltz off- which was great fun, mind you the attempt at an Irish Gig was tear worthy.

All the teams had hilarious names, but the winning team was “The money was just resting in my account”

tablequiz

Table Quiz winners