Tag Archives: wine

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


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


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.


A French Supermarket marathon

I love to shop in a French Supermarket.  The bigger the better. The one we visited in Strasbourg was just mahoosive. We were of course on a mission. To purchase as much as we could, for as reasonable a price as we could, for the team in Switzerland for the next two weeks.  So this meant LOTS of pasta etc.  With enough fresh produce to see himself and myself over the weekend until everyone arrives.

E. Leclerc is one of the main supermarkets in France, along with Carrefour (another firm favourite.  And my kids were probably counting their luck stars that they weren’t being dragged along.  As it was I’d say I looked a little like a Chinese tourist in Trinity College- click, click, click.

Of Course the first thing you see in a french supermarket is all the wine.

French Supermarkets


And all the cheese

French Supermarket Shopping

Every type of cheese including my all tine favourite Tete a moine

And all the fish

French Supermarkets


And all the veg and salads.

French Supermarkets

I have a serious tomato fetish. Seriously.

Basically it’s like an Irish Supermarket on steroids.  And not only does the french supermarket stock only in season vegetables, it also stocks cheese that’s in season.  Oh yeah baby.  I was in HEAVEN.

French Supermarkets

A little more choice than just “superquinn” sausages here!

The patisserie caught my eye (OBVS) and after drooling carelessly over just about everything I persuaded himself to sit down for a coffee to *try* a little something out.  You know, cause we were on holidays??  It’s very convenient to have a cafe in the middle of the Supermarket. As we were actually starting to wane at that stage!

French Supermarkets

“Come to Mama”


I could have taken a thousand pictures, and will take more when we are back in France in two weeks time.  It’ll be interesting to compare it to the Swiss Supermarket.  We will see if the rumours about price are true.  I really hope not, as we’ve a lot of mouths to feed!





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


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


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

It’s been a while- Hodson Bay Hotel

I was trying to work out as I drove up from Waterford when I was last in the Hodson Bay Hotel.  I think it was about 1990.  The hotel I was working in at the time had just received it’s ISO certification, and as a thank you they brought us to the Hodson for the day.

We didn’t stay on that occasion, and from the website it looked like there had been a few changes.

Lough Ree

Lough Ree

The hotel is situated right beside the lake.  And on a day like the one I was there for, really beautiful.  There is ample car parking close to reception which was lovely.  I was staying the night as was attending a conference in the hotel at 8 the following morning, and the thoughts of a 3 hour drive at 5am didn’t appeal to me.

I was put in a “retreat” room.  It was so full of light, and the personal touch made me feel very welcome.

The Welcome Card

The Welcome Card

As I arrived quite late, I booked dinner in the restaurant straight away.  There are a number of dining options, but the menu looked lovely and seasonal in the L’Escale.  After a very quick freshen up, I arrived by myself down to the restaurant.  The staff were so nice, and I asked for wine recommendations with the meal, as I had been disappointed to miss the complimentary wine tasting that the hotel runs for guests.

I started with the wild mushroom risotto, which was quite a large portion, but a lovely flavour.  Even if the parmesan crisp wasn’t quite crispy.

Wild Mushroom Risotto

Wild Mushroom Risotto

Next was the recommended Loin of Venison, another rich dish, but went beautifully with the recommended wine, and now that I understand what it means to have single grape, and single estate on the bottle, I enjoy it even more!

Tuesday 21 April 2015 020

The dessert choices looked very appealing, with multi layers of texture and tastes, and it was quite a difficult decision.  I went with the rhubarb composition, as I felt it was the most seasonal.

The Rhubarb Composition

The Rhubarb Composition

The three layers of macaroon were the star attraction, I think the fruit on the top of the mousse was un-necessary, as there was enough with the rhubarb.  I think a little simplification would have heightened the dish.

The wine accompaniment was a great success, however.

Dessert Wine

Dessert Wine

The sleep quality was helped by the quiet room, and for someone who doesn’t generally sleep well away from home, I had a good nights rest.


  • The Restaurant Staff are very professional and friendly, as was the Duty Manager on that night, who very professionally dealt with a small issue in the room
  • The Room was modern, airy, with incredible views of the lough.
  • The menu in the main restaurant was very reasonably priced both for wine and food, with good choices, and food both tasty and well presented.

And the most important positive for me? The social media person made the stay for me exceptional and personal.  So often people use twitter to complain and moan, or businesses use it to purely sell.  The twitter account for the Hodson Bay hotel makes the brand accessible and customer focused.  Stand up, take a bow @Hodsonbayhotel I’ll be back ,and the family are insisting on coming with me!



A night in the City

During Wine Lecture, our esteemed lecturer, Colm McCan mentioned he was attending the “Variations on a theme ” night in Jacques, Oliver Plunkett Street, as part of the International Wine and Food Society launch of their 2015 calendar.  He was looking to bring some students in to see what it was all about.

Jane Murphy from Ardsallagh Cheese spoke about her business, how she got started, and how it expanded.  She is passionate about her product, and not afraid of sticking to her guns, and doing it her way.

First Tasting plate of Ardsallagh Cheese

First Tasting plate of Ardsallagh Cheese

She was absolutely perfect to talk about, and showcase her cheese on the five tastes.  On one course we had the cheese with a kind of cooked potato and beetroot mash/ pancake.  The little bit of chilli on top helped lighten this dish.  The lamb chop was beautifully cooked and the addition of the goats cheese did not make the dish too much which was surprising.

My favourite was the sweet course, it was so simple.  Some slightly sweetened and seasoned with vanilla cheese, stuffed into a date, on top of a round of blood orange.  The colours, textures and flavours were so good we were practically begging for more.  We also found a bottle of this wine on the menu.  And were delighted!

Beauregard Mirouze

Beauregard Mirouze

The two sisters Jacques and Eithne made us feel so welcome, and their staff were so very good at their job.  It was lovely to see Billy Lyons in attendance, even if Clare was in absentia. I am seriously considering joining, and looking at the itinerary, I’d better join quick before word spreads.


The Healthy Option?

Week 8 has been hectic.  After the Opera night I went straight into theory day.  The morning was a full blown express train journey through cooking for vegetarians.  The flavours and smells were exciting and exotic, and the dishes just kept coming.  I’ve no idea how Rachel and Emer got it all done.

Dishes at the End of Vegetarian Demo

Dishes at the End of Vegetarian Demo

Needless to say lunch was a real success, even if I did sneak a lamb chop in there.

Ahem.  Vegetarian Day

Ahem. Vegetarian Day

The afternoon was the wine lecture, this week we had a guest speaker, Pascal Rossignol, from Le Caveau Wine Imports and Shop, Kilkenny.  The topic of the lecture was natural wines, organic wines, and bio-dynamic wines.  Pascal is originally from Gevrey-Chambertin, Burgundy, and has wine in his veins so to speak.  Still softly spoken in that Gallic way, Pascal spoke very clearly about the differences between the three sections.  Sulphur is naturally occurring in all wine, but the addition of sulphides to wine is the differentiator here.  Organic white wine is allowed a level of approx. 150 ppm (red wine lower again, 100 ppm), whereas bio- dynamic, a kind of super charged organic growing style, allows a much lower level, by EU standards.

In the United States however, they have completely gone in the opposite direction, they only allow a measly 10ppm in white wine (it can be as high as 350ppm in “conventional” wine).  Leading experts to believe that this is damaging the organic section of wine in the US, creating an even more niche market, when organic wine is so much more than the level of sulphides.  All countries monitor the amount of SO2 present in wines. Sulfur dioxide occurs naturally as a by-product of the fermentation process. Sulphites in wine have been added for hundreds of years as a preservative. Ancient Greek texts refer to sulphur as having beneficial properties in wine.

In case you are still confused, here’s some information you may find on wine labels in relation to organic wine:

  • On the US market, for a wine to be labelled ‘Organic’ and bear the USDA organic seal, it must be made from 95% organically grown ingredients. It thus may contain up to 5 % produce from conventional farming. Certification is handled by state, non-profit and private agencies that have been approved by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).
  • Europe organic label
  • A European Union regulation states that only foods containing at least 95 % organic ingredients may use the EU organic logo. This Regulation allows the ‘accidental or technically unavoidable’ GMO (or GE food) up to 0.9 % in products thus labelled GM produce may notably reach fermenting grapes.
  • France organic label

    AB is a logo owned by the French state. It stands for ‘Agriculture Biologique’. Products can be labelled with this mark when they contain at least 95 percent organic components, were produced or processed within the EU, and were certified by one of the inspection bodies accredited by the State agency.

Does this help? Probably not, as we heard Maria from the vineyard in Barcelona talking about how difficult it was to attain and maintain the organic standard paperwork, almost requiring an extra member of staff.  Therefore producers may well be producing, organically, or hopefully sympathetically with the environment, but not having the “mark”.

Some of the wines tasted in the Natural/ Organic/ Bio-Dynamic Wines Class

Some of the wines tasted in the Natural/ Organic/ Bio-Dynamic Wines Class

There are four points at which sulphites are commonly used in conventional wine-making, although the winemaker may choose to make further additions if he is feeling nervous.

  • Picking: Sulphur is applied in the form of metabisulfite to inhibit the action of native yeasts and prevent oxidation. It means the grapes don’t have to be rushed to the winery.
  • Crushing: Sulphur is added to prevent fermentation from beginning with ambient yeasts before cultured yeasts can be added. Commercial yeasts are bred to be more resistant to sulphur dioxide.
  • Fermentation: Sulphur is applied at any point during fermentation, but most commonly at the end to stop or avoid malolactic fermentation. A natural winemaker has to wait for the malo to finish naturally.
  • Bottling: Sulphur is added to prevent oxidation or any microbial action in the bottled wine. In sweet wines there is the danger that fermentation will restart.

A natural wine maker would only ever use sulphur at bottling, only in white wines, and only in very small quantities. This sets the natural wine maker apart, almost grape and vine led wine making, as opposed to a commercial timeline.  I look at it like this, Natural wines are a movement, not a label.

A natural wine is one with:

  1. organically-grown grapes;
  2. harvested by hand;
  3. rushed to the winery;
  4. fermented on wild yeasts;
  5. low levels of sulphites(or none at all).
A further selection of wine tasted during the lecture

A further selection of wine tasted during the lecture

Although the prosecco was not to my taste, the wines were very pleasing on the palate, and there was certainly no feel of dirty boots so to speak.  I think these methods of production are only going to improve, both the wine, and the environment, and that can’t be a bad thing surely?

After all, it is said the best fertilizer for the soil is the farmers boots. Never a truer word was said.



Say Cheeseeeeeeee….

Today, being theory day, was focusing on cheese and yoghurt production. I am a massive fan of cheese, and it was great to see that so much could be made on a domestic level.  We had Eddie O’Neill, from Teagasc, to instruct us in best practice when producing milk, cheese and yoghurt on both a domestic and commercial scale.  The highlight for me was Eddie’s cool tie!

Dairy Tie

Dairy Tie

When I studied food micro with Dr Upton in UCD all those years ago, I never thought, 20 years later I would be remembering the spelling of Lactobacillus thermophilus!  We spoke about lots of cheeses, and it particular Darina mentioned the “brown” cheese much eaten in Scandinavia- Brunost.  This cheese is made from caramelising the whey, and has a very specific taste. I read up on it tonight and came across an interesting story about it;

In January 2013, the Bratli Tunnel at  Tysfjord, Norway, was damaged when a lorry load of caramelised brunost caught fire. The high concentration of fat and sugar in the cheese caused it to burn fiercely at sufficiently high temperatures that the fire was still burning five days later!

Darina Allen and Eddie O'Neill

Darina Allen and Eddie O’Neill

I am not sure about making  cheese- it really involves an enormous amount of work- hats off to the artisan producers- but yoghurt, definitely, and maybe I’ll try my hand at butter.  As an aside if you are visiting the Cliff House Hotel in Ardmore at any stage (HIGHLY recommended), the smoked butter is to DIE for.

Some cottage cheese and herbs made this morning by Darina

Some cottage cheese and herbs made this morning by Darina (NB it had been attacked by students

The morning flew, and we were all glad to partake in the obligatory tasting of the tray bakes.  My personal favourite was the raspberry and coconut one.

Beautiful traybakes prepared by the talented Tracey

Beautiful traybakes prepared by the talented Tracey

After lunch we were onto wine lecture 2.  Everyone was really looking forward to it, as Peter and Colm make it sound fun, while imparting an enormous amount of knowledge at the same time.  We covered a lot of material, and had 5 tastings.  For me, the surprise of the afternoon was how much I enjoyed the New Zealand Riesling. A sweet wine, Seifried Nelson “Sweet Agnes” Riesling, has transformed my jaundiced view of sweet wine (too much pouring of muscat de beaume de venise while waitressing in Truffles all those many years ago).  This wine bears no resemblance to the sickly sweetness, and syrupy mouthfeel often associated with sweet wines.  I will definitely be looking for a bottle (all donations gratefully accepted”)


More Adventures in Wine….

I entered, as you know, the Cono Sur Food Bloggers Competition this year, and have really enjoyed the experience.

I was on Facebook the other day, and spotted an event they are running this Monday in The Shelbourne Hotel, in association with TheDiningRoom.  As I am in Dublin that day I am definitely going along!

Cono Sur

While I’m at it, BEST OF LUCK to Billy and Clare Lyons heading to Paris this weekend as part of the Cono Sur Food Blogger Competition, I hope they bring back the silverware to Ireland.



Perfect Summer Dinner with Cono Sur Wine

My goal when cooking, like Cono Sur, is to make incredible and inspiring meals.  Although I am not sourcing my ingredients in South America, we are very lucky to live on the family farm where my father in-law grows all our own vegetables.  So the first thing I do when starting the dinner preparation is dig and pick the veg.  We are very lucky here in the south east to have a mostly temperate climate which means our growing season is long and fruitful.  Like Cono Sur, our commitment when growing our produce is to think green.  Our horses provide manure, and our waste goes to feed the chickens and deer also living with us on the farm.


Fresh Vegetables from the garden

Fresh Vegetables from the garden

Next marinade the butterflied lamb in an enormous amount of garlic and herbs.  I get my lamb from our local supplier direct, it’s Comeragh Lamb, which I think gives a full flavour that stands up to the strong marinade well.


Butterflied leg of lamb after two days in the marinade

Butterflied leg of lamb after two days in the marinade

Bake the freshly dug and washed spuds,  adding the lamb to the hot oven for about an hour, adding a dash of olive oil.

Scrub and slice the beetroot into a oven dish lined with tinfoil, add a head of peeled garlic and lots of olive oil, salt & pepper.  Wrap the parcel up tight and place in the oven alongside the potatoes and lamb.  This also needs about an hour, add a splash of balsamic vinegar half way through cooking

Leave both to rest while preparing the salads.

Chill the Cono Sur Sauvignon wine to the perfect temperature.

Slice the lamb, drizzle with the fresh pesto.  Add the fluffy baked potato, the beans, beetroot and serve with the tomato and lettuce salads.

The Perfect Summer Dinner

The Perfect Summer Dinner