Thursday, May 22, 2008

Stout and Onion Soup

Stout and Onion Soup

This dish is a perfect ‘Southern-Irish’ fusion number, taking the freshest ingredients grown in the Deep South and combining them with the Ulster’s favorite gourmet eats. So, on that note here is my version of a classic French onion soup, but with an Irish twist…

Why should the French have all the great recipes anyway? We all know Guinness is good for you, so combine that with the uniquely sweet and flavorful Georgia onion that is great for your blood and you have got a brilliant combo! If I ever move back to Ulster I will need to find a way to have the famous Georgia Vidalia onions shipped over.

The red Georgia clay can be a chore to produce home grown vegetables but in this case the soil hits a home-run and produces the best onion in the South and some would agree in the world. The wonderful ‘Vidalia’.

My sister had this soup at a restaurant in Ireland and called me up to tell me that I needed to have it in my cook book. I served this soup to my friends as an appetizer in my dinner party last week, and everyone agreed it was the best soup they had ever tasted. The flavor is amazing and the gruyere croutons add to the taste bud explosion. I can safely say this is now my number one favorite soup. Hope you all love it as much as we did.

Stout and Onion soup (made with Georgia Vidalia onions)

1 ½ Lbs Vidalia onions (thinly sliced)
¼ cup (2oz) butter
1 Tbsp all purpose flour
1 tsp sugar
2 ½ cups (1 ¼ pints) chicken stock
2 ½ cups (1 ¼ pints) Beef stock
½ cup Guinness stout
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper

(Cheesy Croutons)
6 slices crusty French bread
1 clove garlic (peeled and cut in half)
2 Tbsp butter
½ cup (2oz) Gruyere cheese (grated)


Melt butter in large sauté pan. Add the onions and sugar and cook over medium heat stirring constantly. Reduce heat to medium/low and cook the onions slowly for 30 minutes or until they are light brown in color.

Add the flour to onions and cook for 1 minute, stirring with a wooden spoon.

Gradually add the stock and Guinness stout. Bring soup to a boil and the lower temperature allowing simmering for 20-25 minutes. Taste soup and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.

To make croutons slice bread and rub with the cut garlic. Brush both sides with melted butter and toast one side on preheated grill. Turn toast over and sprinkle with freshly grated cheese

To serve preheat serving bowls and then fill with soup. Place a slice of the cheese topped toasted bread on top of each bowl. Place bowls under broiler until the cheese melts and bubbles. Serve immediately.


Monday, May 12, 2008

So, what's so great about Irish food anyway?

Isn’t it all cabbage and corned beef I hear you ask!?

Sadly, my experience over the years whilst living America is a widely borne misconception of Irish cuisine. Sure, most people admire the Irish beauty and adore the Irish culture and love the smell of Irish Spring (!)…but just don’t know much about Irish food. The truth though, is that Irish food is greatly admired in Europe, but greatly misunderstood in the United States. You’re all too focused on ‘Lucky Charms’ and green tinted beer…but fear not! I am here, ‘The Irish foodie’, and my mission is to set things right! Yes indeed!

So, here’s the scoop…the green island of Ireland boasts some of the most ‘organic’ farms in the world. No mass production here! Just lush, green rolling hills bringing with them prized produce that is deeply in demand throughout Germany, France, and throughout Europe. Beef cattle are raised on farms grazing grass, not artificial feed, and without any hormones. Big fat sheep wonder the hills chewing the herb, not restricted to small smelly enclosures. Our rivers are clean, and the Atlantic west coast of Ireland has some of the most unpolluted waters of the world harboring the most wonderful seafood.

My point? Well, as a cook I know that good produce means good food, and in the case of modern Ireland…the food is very good indeed! Belfast and Dublin are bursting with top class restaurants serving the most incredible Irish organic produce that keeps the tourist trade buzzing.

The Irish culinary arts are inspired by the land, the sea, the rivers, game shooting sports and vibrant and rich cultural traditions. There is something wholesome about knowing the story of ‘from the farm to the table’, and in this age of scary cancers it just makes sense to be as organic as possible.

So, this is my quest. To introduce you to the wonderfully ‘green’ cuisine of Ireland, and to remain true to the naturally organic nature of Irish food.

It’s not just the beer that’s green!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Oatmeal Cookies, perfect for afternoon tea:

Anyone for tea?

An old BBC TV commercial for a famous brand of British biscuits (or, cookies!) used to say “a drink is too wet without one”, and in my case ‘the one’ will always be an oatmeal cookie.

This week my Canadian friend, Charlotte came over to my kitchen and we spent the morning baking my two favorite Irish cookies, butter shortbread and oatmeal cookies. The recipes came from my grandmother’s handwritten, torn cookbooks and I cannot bake or eat them without reminiscing about her.
She and my grandfather owned and ran a B&B overlooking the Irish Sea in Co. Down, Northern Ireland, and afternoon tea was served every day at 3.30 pm in the parlor. Back in ‘those days’, tea-time was an occasion to dress up, pull out the china and the silver 3-tier cake stand. The savories were served on the bottom tier, scones and tea breads on the second layer and the top plate was filled with cookies, pastries and fresh cream cakes. OK, I know most of us cannot pull this off every day, but we can all enjoy the pleasures of a simple cookie and a cup of tea and think about times past.

Oatmeal cookies are buttery rich with a crunchy texture, but, to add balance, are made from oats and rice grains. So, don’t feel too guilty when you’ve discovered you’ve eaten all two dozen cookies in one session!

Oatmeal cookies:

½ cup (4oz) butter
¼ cup (1oz) all purpose flour
¼ cup (1oz) rice flour
½ tsp baking soda
1 ¼ (5 oz) cup quick cooking oats (makes 1 cup ground)
¼ cup (1 oz) organic dried unsweetened coconut
¼ cup (2oz) light brown sugar
¼ cup (2 oz) granulated sugar (plus 2 Tbsp to sprinkle)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grind oats in food processor.
Combine flour, baking soda, ground oatmeal, coconut and set aside.

Cream together the butter and sugars in electric mixer, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bow. Continue to beat until light and fluffy.

Add all the dry ingredients to the creamed mixture and mix to fully incorporated.
Lightly flour surface and roll out the dough using a floured rolling pin to a thickness of about ¼”.

Cut cookies using a 1 ½” round cutter.

Place on cookie sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes. Sprinkle with sugar and allow to cool for a few minutes before transferring to a wire wrack to cool.