Wednesday, August 20, 2008

McNeill Irish Oatcakes With Blue Cheese and Pear

This recipe is named after my great great grandfather who claimed on his 100th birthday that these crunchy little bites and plenty of Irish tea were the secret to extending long life. Of course the Irish have been making oatcakes for centuries cooked on a griddle over an open fire, and next week I may publish another blog touching on this…

These versatile bites can be served with cheese as an elegant appetizer or eaten the way my two little boys devour them when getting home from school, with butter and jam. When making these oatcakes, go shopping for Scottish Oats otherwise known as ‘Stone Ground Whole Grain oats’. They are available often in the organic section of most US grocery stores, and can be found with some searching. As I may have mentioned before, Scottish Oats are different from rolled oats. They are made by grinding the whole oat kernel to produce a coarse meal. These Oatcakes have a ‘wee taste of Ireland’ in every bite.

(makes 12 Oatcakes)
1 cup of Stone ground Scottish oats
6 Tbsp all purpose white flour
1/8 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
¼ cup butter
2 Tbsp boiling water
2 Tbsp brown organic sugar
3 Tbsp Apricot Preserves
1 pear (thinly sliced)
3 oz Blue Cheese crumbled (Irish Cashel Blue or Stilton)


Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Combine the oats, all purpose white flour, baking soda, sugar and salt. Make a well in the center with a large metal spoon.

Pour boiling water over butter to melt. Combine with the dry ingredients and mix.

Sprinkle surface with flour and roll dough out in a circle ¼“thick. Use a small 1 ½” cookie cutter to form 12 oatcakes or cut with a knife in to 8 triangles. Transfer to a lightly greased cookie sheet.

Bake oatcakes in at 325 degrees oven for 20-25 minutes, or until hard and crisp. Leave them in the oven with the light on to dry out for a few hours or even better overnight for a crisp oatcake. Cool on a wire wrack.

To serve appetizers spread oatcakes with a little apricot preserves. Crumble blue cheese over preserves and broil for a few minutes to melt. Cut pair in half and remove center core. (Leave the skin on for color). Place pear on top of preserves and place cheese on top.

Assemble pear on top of melted cheese and serve straight away.

Enjoy!...(and watch out for my next blog to see how old oatcakes really are!)

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Fire up the grill!

Hey everyone! I hope your summer is going well…we just returned from the Low Country & Hilton Head Island and it was so stunningly beautiful that we wanted to stay home and grill most evenings, hence my blog entry this week. The one exception being the day we spent at the Inn at Palmetto Bluff where we indulged in the spa and had lunch at the restaurant where one of my favorite Food Network celebrity Chefs’ Tyler Florence frequently hosts shows and cooks. My reading choice whilst my toes nudged the sand was a cookbook by Pat Conroy called “Recipes of my Life”. Thanks to his incredible word pictures of sight, touch and taste from his childhood in South Carolina and my own sensory experiences my soul was able to drink deeply. The salt marshes, oak lined trees and the distant cries of the herring were charmingly unfamiliar from the small Irish pastures with forty shades of green.

Cooking Barbeque is intensely personal in the South. It seems being able to cook great barbeque is like a true religion with strong opinions about dry rubs, marinating and of course having the perfect sauce. I am still forever learning and taking it all in, but I know that in Georgia barbeque sauce is made sweet, and comes with a choice of mild or spicy. I also learned whilst in South Carolina that their barbeque sauce is mustard based.

In this particular case, the famous Kentucky bourbon barbeque sauce and the sweet Georgia sauce influenced my own Ulster Kitchen barbeque to create a sweet Irish whiskey barbeque sauce….get ready to lick your fingers!

I served this recipe to a native of South Carolina earlier this summer and he gave me the thumbs up. It’s great with avocado-corn salsa and I serve some extra barbeque sauce.

Grilled Loin Rib Pork Chop with Ulster Whiskey Barbeque Sauce
Sweet Pork Dry Rub

(6 Loin rib pork chops)
1 Tbsp kosher salt
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp cracked black pepper
1 Tbsp ground cumin
2 Tbsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp cinnamon

Sweet Irish Whiskey Barbeque Sauce

1 cup Irish Whiskey
1 cup ketchup
1 cup apple cider vinegar
½ cup brown sugar
3 Tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
1 Tbsp onion (minced)
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
1 tsp cayenne pepper

Combine all the dry ingredients to make the rub. Apply rub to the surface of the uncooked pork chops before grilling. This can be done several hours in advance or else just before grilling.

To make barbeque sauce combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and simmer gently for 30 minutes or until the sauce has been reduced to about half.

Preheat grill to medium/hot.

Place chops on the grill and cook for about 7-10 minutes on each side. To check that pork is cooked use a sharp knife to cut the thickest part of the chop and check that it is done to your preferred liking. Brush a little barbeque sauce over both sides of chops and cook for 1 more minute on each side.

Remove meat from grill and rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Brush pork chops with a little more barbeque sauce.

Enjoy, while the summer lasts!