I was at the Honest2Goodness (H2G) Market in Glasnevin on a recent Saturday (if you haven’t been, you must go–it’s fantastic) and was delighted to see that J. Hick and Sons were selling game at their stall: rabbit and venison. I picked up a pack of venison goulash (marinated in Ed Hick’s secret blend of spices) and a jointed wild rabbit. I love both but I’m a sucker for rabbit. Farmed rabbit tastes like really flavorsome chicken, but wild rabbit is unmistakably rabbity. As it was browning for the rabbit ragu (recipe below) I caught whiffs of fur and straw coming from the pan. It smelled wild and wonderful. The ragu made enough for two meals, one with pasta and another with grilled polenta.

Ed’s venison goulash makes for a really easy meal. My friend Caryna (of Caryna’s Cakes fame) said she made a very tasty stew in a half-hour with just a pack of the goulash, a can of tomatoes and an onion. The recipe below is a bit more work but really good as well. It also made two meals, one with toasted sourdough from Arun Bakery and  buttered kale and another with some buttered, boiled new potatoes. By the way, Caryna and Arun Bakery both have stalls at the H2G Market–you can do your weekly shop there and help out amazing, local artisan producers.

Venison Stew

70g diced pancetta
500g Ed Hick’s venison goulash (or diced venison leg)
1 onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
1/2 c red wine
500 ml beef broth
1/4 c sun-dried tomatoes, chopped (e.g. the smoked tomatoes from the Real Olive Company)
1 sprig thyme
1 bay leaf
100g unsalted butter, softened
100g flour

Heat the oven to 150C/300F/gas mark 2. In a skillet fry the pancetta on medium heat until golden and fat has rendered, about 7 minutes . Remove to a medium hob- and oven-safe casserole leaving the fat in the pan. Add the venison to the skillet and cook until well-browned on all sides, about ten minutes. Remove to casserole. Reduce heat, add the onion, carrot and celery and cook until tender, about ten minutes. Add the wine, increase the heat and cook until the wine is almost evaporated. Add the broth, tomatoes, thyme and bay and bring to a boil. Pour into the casserole. Cover the casserole and bake in the oven until the venison is tender, about two hours.

Meanwhile, make the beurre manie. Mix the flour and butter together in a bowl until a soft dough forms. Roll into small balls the size of marbles and place on a small parchment-covered rimmed sheet. Chill in the fridge. Remove the casserole and place on hob over medium heat. When the stew is simmering add two dough balls and stir until completely dissolved. Keep adding the beurre manie one ball at a time until the stew is glossy and the desired thickness (about six balls total).

Rabbit Ragu

125ml cup olive oil
1 rabbit, cut up (have your butcher do it)
salt and pepper
1/2 cup flour
2 onions, minced
1 carrot, minced
2 stalks celery, minced
2 fat cloves garlic
2 400g cans plum tomatoes, crushed
1 sprig thyme
2 bay leaves
500ml chicken stock
Parmigiano reggiano, grated

Heat 60ml olive oil in a large dutch oven over medium heat. Season the rabbit with salt and pepper and roll in the flour. Shake off the excess flour and add to hot oil. Cook until golden brown on both sides, about five minutes per side. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. To the pot add the remaining oil, onion, carrot and celery. Lower the heat to medium-low and cook until caramelized, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 140C/300F/gas mark 2. Add the tomatoes, thyme and bay leaves and cook another 30 minutes. Add the chicken stock and rabbit, increase the heat and bring to a boil. Cover, place in oven and cook until the rabbit is very tender, about 2 hours. Serve over pasta or polenta and top with grated Parmigiano. The rabbit can be left on the bone or shred and return to the sauce.

Did you know that millions of people in Italy eat Italian food every day? It’s true. So, I don’t find it odd or feel the need to justify in any way the fact that Bill and I have found ourselves partaking of the pasta several times over the last few weeks. This is completely normal. It is to be encouraged. In fact, you should do it.

Here’s how.

Terra Madre

Terra Madre is a new Italian restaurant down some stairs on Bachelor’s Walk on the quays. I don’t know exactly how new it is, but it’s new enough that I learned about it on Twitter. Terra Madre is tiny. I counted seven tables. I saw several parties turned away on the recent Saturday while enjoying an early dinner. The menu at Terra Madre is small, with just a few starters, slightly larger specialty plates and mains. Two wines. Two desserts. A tiny restaurant with a small menu has to be selective and committed. No faffing about.

Our starters were simple dishes which highlighted the main ingredient: Crostini with lardo, and bresaola (dried beef) wrapped around Parmesan and celery served on a bed of rocket. Stuff you could make at home. If you were lucky enough to have lardo and bresaola.

For mains I got the pasta with wild boar ragu, and Bill got pasta with a rabbit sauce. (Fact: Bill will almost always choose the rabbit dish when one is on the menu.) The rabbit pasta in particular was delish with a nice spice. I imagine you could be served either of these dishes in an Italian kitchen and be very happy and feel that you are truly part of a family. Add in an apple tart and a cake made with amaretti biscuits (that had the interesting texture of Mexican flan), a bottle of red wine and two espressos and you’ll be nicely fed. All for €70.00.

Pasta with Wild Boar ragu

I had to call upon the twitterverse for Terra Madre’s phone number, so I’ll save you a few clicks: 01-8735300.

Terra Madre, down the stairs on Bachelor's Walk

Dunne and Crescenzi

On the other end of the spectrum, Dunne and Crescenzi has been open in Dublin for over a decade, has perhaps seven times seven tables and the menu spans several pages. It definitely isn’t a Twitter secret as it was buzzing when we stopped by for lunch yesterday. Even though the menu is large, it seems grounded. We chose an antipasti of roasted aubergine, olives, artichoke hearts, tomato/garlic salad, marinated mushrooms and Tuscan beans. Lots of great flavors to wake up the taste buds. And I adore borlotti and cannellini beans!

Antipasti plate

Bill chose a special–orecchiette with broccoli cream sauce and sausage , and I had linguini with walnut pesto, anchovies and pecorino. The orecchiette was very broccoli-forward with a succulent fresh sausage. The nuts and anchovies in the linguini provided that savory kick that kept me coming back bite after bite. Both pasta dishes were rich tasting but not overwhelming. Comfort food for a cold day.

With two glasses of house red and two espressos (very reasonable for Dublin at €1.50 each), our bill was around €50.00.

I expect to return to this Dublin institution, if only to try out the Mozzarella bar.

Cafe Tiesan

Cafe Tiesan is very near my office, and is one of my favorite lunch spots. Tiesan isn’t wholly Italian, but it does have Italian leanings, and has recently started serving lasagne made with homemade noodles on Thursdays. The fresh noodles make a tender lasagne, and I liked the less tomatoey version of this beloved dish. Other dishes I can recommend at Tiesan are as follows:  aubergine sandwich, lentil burger, eggs Florentine, Irish breakfast, and ham and cheese omelette (fantastic!). Yes, that’s everything I’ve ever tried there. In the sunnier months they serve an evening apperitivo menu with a terrific cured meat platter and bruschetta.

Coffee ToGetHer

Have you heard that popping into the George Bernard Shaw during the day when the Coffee ToGetHer cafe is open is like stepping into Italy? Well, it’s true. The Italian staff is lively, serving up panini and lamb skewers and delicious coffee. And cannoli available for impulse purchase at the till.

Pistachio cannoli: a perfect afternoon treat

Carluccio’s

Carluccio’s on Dawson Street has been our Go To dinner spot for many years. It may be a chain, but it’s a chain started by an Italian dude named Antonio, and their caponata is one of my absolutely favorite things. They always have something we need to buy in the shop as well.

 

Potato dauphinoise (a.k.a scalloped potatoes, au gratin potatoes) is a perfect cold-rainy-weather, i.e. Irish-weather, dish. Cream, garlic, spuds, an interior that stays mouth-searingly molten like the sun for ages–what’s not to love? Well, it’s not exactly January post-holiday detox food so I thought I’d make it a bit less guilt-ridden by using some sweet potato, too. Mature Gubbeen cheese is fantastic with potatoes of all kinds so a light sprinkling goes on top.

The sweet earthiness of the sweet potato helps to cut through all the richness of the cream and cheese. It also adds loads of vitamin A and other good stuff. Cooking the potato mixture a bit on the hob before baking cuts down on the total cooking time and also helps it to cook more evenly. We had this as a main with a side of simply-cooked green lentils (River Cottage Veg Everyday, pp. 237) and a baby spinach and rocket salad.

Sweet Potato Dauphinoise

Inspired by River Cottage Veg Everyday
Serves 4 as a main

Per serving: 418 Calories, 19g fat, 6.9g fiber, 13.2g protein

30g of butter
500g floury potato
500g sweet potato
400ml cream
2 large cloves of garlic, smashed
a few sprigs of thyme, leaves only
1 bay leaf
1/4 tsp freshly-grated nutmeg
salt and pepper
100g mature Gubbeen cheese, grated

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4.

Rub an 8x8x2″ square baking dish liberally with the butter. Peel and very thinly slice the potatoes and sweet potatoes. To a large saucepan add the potatoes, cream, garlic, thyme, bay leaf and nutmeg. Place on medium heat and bring to a simmer. Cook for about five minutes or until the cream starts to thicken. Season with salt and pepper.

Pour the mixture into the baking dish and spread evenly. Bake in the oven for 45 minutes or until tender and lightly browned and bubbling. Top with grated cheese, increase heat to 200C/400F/Gas Mark 6 and bake for another 5-10 minutes to melt and brown the cheese. Let cool 5 minutes before serving.

Notes

  • For a more traditional dauphinoise leave out the sweet potatoes and use 1 kg of floury potatoes.
  • Substitute double cream or whole milk for the cream depending on your mood.
  • Use a different cheese. Glebe Brethan (or Gruyère or Comté ) would be great. So would a blue cheese like Cashel or Crozier.

Looking through all the pics from Christmas. So much good eating: a lovely ham cooked in Cidona a la Catherine Cleary (with Highbank Orchard Syrup), plates of Christmas cookies, spiced beef and spiced pies and spiced beer. But this is my favorite picture. I don’t even like most of the veg in this pan, but they look so lovely and simply perfect, putting on their Christmas best.

This year the Irish Food Bloggers Association organized a holiday cookie recipe exchange. Bill and I love baking Christmas cookies, so I eagerly signed up. I was paired in the recipe exchange with Evin from Evin’s Cooking Peas & Q’s. Turns out Evin is a fellow American, so knows a cookie from a biscuit. And her recipe uses US measurements which is handy enough for me.

Evin sent me a recipe for one of her friend’s cookie traditions. First thing you’ll notice about the recipe is that it contains potato chips. Then you might wonder who Gladys Lum Bower is.

These cookies go together very easily. This is a flexible recipe; I used twice as many pecans for the heck of it, and the cookies turned out great. I used golden caster sugar and Kettle Chips potato chips. I’m not sure we would have identified the potato chips if we didn’t already know they were there, but the chips do add an extra bit of crunch. These cookies have a nice crumble and taste of butter and pecans. They are similar to a pecan sandie, which is great because I like pecan sandies.

I don’t know who Gladys is, but she makes a fine cookie.

Gladys Lum Bowers’s Pecan Crunch Cookies
1 cup butter, softened (of course) [225 g]
1/2 cup sugar [100 g]
1 tsp vanilla [5 ml]
1/2 cup finely crushed plain potato chips [?? g]
1/2 cup chopped pecans [50 g]
2 cup flour [240 g]

1. Preheat oven to 350 F  [180°C/gas mark 4].
2. Cream butter, sugar and vanilla. Add potato chips and pecans.
3. Sift flour and mix in gradually.
4. Form into small balls and place on cookie sheets. Press balls slightly with the bottom of a glass dipped in sugar.
5. Bake 14 to 18 minutes (until lightly brown around the edges).



See Evin’s take on my recipe from the swap: Frosted Oatmeal Cookies.