Friday, November 29, 2013

Ragu: Meat sauce, Bolognese style... based on recipe by Marcella Hazan.

Spaghetti is one of the most favourite dishes in my house. I always want to freeze a portion, so I can have it as a quick dinner during the weak, when I get back from work but... there's usually nothing left to freeze... This recipe intrigued me from the very beginning as I've never made my spaghetti sauce with milk. I must admit - I was missing something really good. The meat is only sauteed, not browned and the milk makes it extra soft and delicate. Long, slow cooking creates creamy, thick and slightly sweet tasting sauce. A great recipe, easy to make - you just have to leave it bubbling away so the time can do its wonders!

This recipe comes from a fantastic cook book "The Irish beef book" and was inspired/based on Marcella Hazan's famous ragu recipe.

How to make it...

Monday, November 25, 2013

"The Irish Beef Book" by Pat Whelan & Katy McGuinness (book review)...

"The Irish Beef Book"
by Pat Whelan & Katy McGuinness

Hardback (256 pages)

Chapters: Introduction; Steaks; Roasts; The Classics; Quick; Long & Slow; Burgers, brisket, meatballs & dude food; Pasta & Pizza; Pies; The other bits. 

"Many supermarkets now offer little choice beyond steak and mince, and I think that over the past few decades the knowledge of what to do with the less familiar cuts has been lost. That's one of the reasons I wanted to write this book, to share the recipes and tips I have accumulated over the years, so that everyone can learn to enjoy the rich diversity of wonderful meals that can be prepared using the best of Irish beef." - Pat Whelan

I think there are no better words to start this review, to describe purpose and character of this great cook book, than Pat's original words. I think it was a long overdue, that Ireland finally had a cook book almost entirely about one of its greatest food products - beef. I just couldn't wait to lay my hands on it and start flipping through the pages. Pat and Katy share values that are close to my heart too - respect for tradition, skills (which are unfortunately being forgotten in today's world) and respect for the animal itself.

Introduction is quite long (in comparison to other cook books) but there's a reason for it. Pat explains/describes his passion for Irish beef, for good quality meat and tells us a little bit about his background and family business - a butcher shop. It's a very interesting introduction to the recipes which are to follow and he also teaches us about basics when it comes to choosing your beef - as well as good quality butcher.
Selection of the recipes in the book will give you ideas and  help you to deal with not so popular cuts like: shin (which I think is overlooked way too often!), oxtail, beef cheeks, liver etc. But you'll also find many recipes for so popular steak. Recipes are easy to follow, clear and use ingredients that you will find around your house (lots of vegetables like carrots, parsnip, potatoes; also pasta and many herbs to name few). You can easily half or double the amounts given and trust me - you would want to do the latter and make use of your freezer! You'll find recipes for light lunch, Sunday family dinner, a weekly quick supper, a friend's get together and many more.

All in all - a fantastic collection of "all beef" recipes (not only those of Pat & Katy's), a reference to which I'll be going back again and again, a must have if you're a "carnivore" ;) and would like to eat/use more of a beef than steak alone (and it has so much more to it!) also a fantastic idea for a present!

The only thing that I wasn't very fond of in the book are... photos. Way too dark for me and I think they weren't doing any justice to the dishes. But I guess it's a personal thing, a matter of opinions.

Some of the recipes I've already tried:

Braised steak stew

 Quick buttermilk cornbread

Ragu sauce, spaghetti bolognese

About the authors:
Pat Whelan is the fifth generation of his family to be involved in farming and meat production and has established a reputation as the foremost butcher in Ireland, recognised as an Irish Food Hero by Rick Stein. From his farm at Garrintemple, Pat supplies all the beef and lamb to his family business, James Whelan Butchers, with shops in Clonmel, Co. Tipperary, Avoca Monkstown, and Avoca Rathcoole, Co. Dublin. Pat was also Ireland’s first online butcher. His rigorous approach to animal husbandry and devotion to exemplary standards and the craft of butchery has earned him numerous accolades. As chair of the Tipperary Food Producers, Pat is a key member of the flourishing Irish artisan food community. Pat lives in Clonmel with his wife and three children. Pat is the author of An Irish Butcher Shop.

Pat & Katy (photo by

Katy McGuinness is a restaurant critic and food writer. Her work has been published in the Irish Times, The Irish Independent, The Sunday Tribune, Image and Image Interiors. She is a contributing editor at The Gloss and writes regular food features for The Sunday Times. Katy is a member of the Irish Food Writers Guild. - by

I received a free copy of this book to review from Gill & Macmillan Books. All thoughts and opinions stated in this post are 100% mine.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Tribute to the Queen of all Daring Bakers and my friend - Lis...

I though I knew what I want to write, what I want to share with you about Lisa, but no, as I still can't believe that she's not here anymore, I really don't know where to even start...

My heart hurts, I don't believe that I won't receive an email from her anymore - and those were some epic emails! Her sense of humor, wit, care and a very big heart for others, joy of life was always coming through those words I was reading. Although I never had a chance to meet Lis in person (and yes, we were planning to meet eventually!) it felt like I knew her my whole life. She would make me laugh, give me a kick to do something or just listened (well more like read) when I just needed to "went". She was always thinking of others. When she learned that I'm a big fan of The Sopranos she... sent me The Soprano cook book! Who else would do that?! She was a friend, a true one. She was a good person and there are so little of those nowadays. Well, I can assure you, that world just got a little bit more grayer without her in it...

A tribute to dear Lis - co-founder of The Daring Kitchen and a blogger on La Mia Cucina. Nothing would be good here now. But what I've done is I created a dish  myself, just thought of some ingredients, thought it may work together and I just went for it! Lisa always encouraged us (Daring Bakers and Cooks) that no matter the result - you at least gave it a go! And results were not always perfect! How many of those "not so pretty" cakes we've seen on blogs, how many pictures of some perfect cakes but... upside down on the floor! ;) How many times I've spend hours in the kitchen, sweating and swearing, but still I would come back for more. Daring Kitchen is a place where you're asked to push your boundaries, to try something new, learn and in the process discover some new tastes, ingredients, dishes. I think that at this stage Daring Kitchen has traveled all around the world with its monthly challenges. What a legacy to leave behind! I don't know what will happen to The Daring Kitchen now. Lisa was the one holding everything together, making sure that there are challenges each month, that everything is running as smooth as possible (mind you, there were some hiccups sometimes, but it just made things more fun!). I would like Daring Kitchen to go on, to continue, as I think that's what she would like. No, it won't be the same thing without her, but I think she would like us Daring Bakers and Cooks to continue being brave in the kitchen, to just "go for it", learn and what's even more important - have fun in the process!

Going back to my dish. I was thinking of cooking something from the cook book I got from Lisa but... I got a sudden inspiration and (with the daring spirit within me!) I decided to cook just that! It's partially based on one of previous challenges Ricotta Gnocchi, but it's totally my own take on it.

So, I'll leave you with the recipe below and... Thank you Lis for everything! For helping me discover the "daring chick" within me (something we were calling each other), for the laughs, for kind words. You'll be missed dearly! I hope that you're having fun up there! Cooking like a storm with Julia Child, drinking some red, enjoying that big slice of chocolate cake and listening to Cher in the background! Goodbye my Friend.

How to make it...

Monday, November 11, 2013

Pumpkin fritters...

It's only this year, this Autumn to be exact, that I discovered wonderful, tinned pumpkin puree. I know - better late than never! After baking with it a little bit - delicious brown butter pumpkin bread - I wanted to use it again. I've found an interesting recipe on Pinterest (to which I'm a little bit addicted, but who isn't?!) and decided to give it a go (changing it only ever so slightly)...

Pumpkin fritters! So good I couldn't stop eating them - probably not the best thing for my waistline now... What's more - my 2 little sous chefs ate 3 each! I can't really find a better recommendation that a toddler munching away, with a smile on her face asking for more :) I Hope you'll give it a go. It's very easy (my little sous chefs made the batter almost all by themselves) and it's quite quick to make too. It's at its best on the same day of making - but don't worry, it won't last longer than that anyway...

How to make it...

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Braised beef shin and chorizo...

This is only my second time making stew using beef shin - why, oh why I'm not using it more often?! Such a fantastic piece of meat, soooo good in stews and in general for slow cooking, so delicious and tender when cooked properly, so very "beefy" and so not expensive like other cuts of beef! This recipe is "all in one pot" type - which saves you a lot of mess and cleaning, washing up after too. I'll definitely make it again, very soon, as it's this type of comfort food which goes very well with the weather we're experiencing at the moment (miserable, windy, rainy, wet, cold days and nights).

Recipe taken from "The Irish beef book" by Pat Whelan & Katy McGuinness.

How to make it...

Friday, November 01, 2013

Quick buttermilk cornbread...

I've already attempted making cornbread once, but as I wasn't entirely happy with the result I decided to give it a go one more time. This time my bread turned out completely different. It had more bread than cake consistency. Little crumbly but still moist. Could probably have more colour on it, but I'm thinking of slicing one loaf and frying with some butter :) First loaf was used entirely for dipping in hearty stew - which created rather perfect relationship.

This recipe comes from "The Irish beef book" by Pat Whelan and Katy McGuinness.
I halved the recipe and ended up with two nice size loaves, so if you don't have a big family (like myself) half of the quantities below will be plenty.

How to make it...