Much to our relief last month, we retained our Michelin star after another year of pressure -- and not to mind the nervousness created by a blog site on the morning of the announcements reporting that Chapter One had lost its precious award.
Thank goodness, the official press release confirmed that this was not true. Those bloggers, eh! Which could set me off on another diatribe but, after all, I am only a chef, and I guess I had better stick to the meat and two veg!
In times of economic unpredictability people become more conservative with their choices, and food is no different. We yearn for comfort foods, casseroles, stews, apple pies, and those foods on which we were reared. So I thought it would be nice to recommend such foods, with an emphasis on good value.
We start with a simple saffron risotto: a golden emulsion of rice, butter and Parmesan, underpinned by some acidity from the white wine. Rib-sticking goodness and the ultimate feeling of satisfaction in every spoonful. The main act is chicken in a pot, which I think says it all. Who could resist a good free-range chicken, cooked in its own stock with root vegetables and all smothered with a magnificent, warm, garlic mayonnaise sauce made with the juices from the chicken?
Myself, after all these years of cooking -- 25, to be exact -- I still marvel at the alchemy of cooking meat with stocks, alcohol, herbs and other aromatics. The resulting flavours are what cooking is all about for me. Pure magic!
To conclude, we have a simple, straightforward, refreshing salad of seasonal blood oranges with passion fruit and lime. Great flavours that spark off one another, bittersweet and sharp, balanced out with your favourite creme fraiche or ice cream. Enjoy.
You will need:
4 shallots, finely chopped
200g carnaroli rice
800ml chicken stock, heated
Pinch saffron (about 12 strands)
1 cup white wine
40g unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
2 tablespoons lemon juice
80g grated Parmesan
Cook the finely chopped shallots and the carnaroli rice in the olive oil until all the grains are well coated and the rice grains have a white dot. Put the chicken stock in a saucepan, heat it and then add the saffron strands and the white wine. Add half of this mixture to the rice.
Do not move from the risotto! Keep stirring the liquid and keep it boiling. When the level of the liquid goes down to meet the rice, add the other half of the liquid. Cook for about 18 minutes, stirring all the time, then take off the heat and stir in the cubes of unsalted butter -- add a little at a time, while agitating with a wooden spoon.
Test to see what the bite of the rice is like, and if you're happy with it, then add the lemon juice and stir in the grated Parmesan cheese.
CHICKEN IN A POT
You will need:
1 chicken (1kg)
2 onions, halved
1 small bunch thyme
3 bay leaves
Seasonal vegetables of your choice (such as leeks, carrots, celery, asparagus, artichokes)
Garlic mayonnaise (see below)
Basil, tarragon, parsley
Lemon juice, to taste
For the garlic mayonnaise, you will need:
2 crushed garlic cloves
1 cup mayonnaise
Dash of Pernod
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Place the chicken in a pot, cover it with water and bring it to the boil. Skim off the fat and leave it to simmer. Add the halved onions, the thyme, the bay leaves and the peppercorns. Simmer for about one hour, adding the vegetables in order of cooking time -- for example, carrots 20 minutes before the end, and asparagus four minutes before the end.
Draw off one litre of the cooking liquid and pass it through a sieve. Put it in a saucepan and heat it until it has reduced to one cup. Withdraw from the heat.
To make the garlic mayonnaise, blend together the crushed garlic cloves, the mayonnaise, the Pernod and the lemon juice. Vigorously whisk the garlic mayonnaise into the reduced chicken stock and then add as much or as little of the chopped basil, tarragon and parsley as you like. Season with plenty of lemon juice.
Portion the chicken and place some in each bowl and put an assortment of vegetables to the side. Then liberally pour the garlic mayonnaise over the chicken and serve.
Blood Orange and Passion fruit salad
You will need:
4 blood oranges (it is now blood orange season) or Spanish navel oranges
8 passion fruit
1 tablespoon sugar, to taste
Creme fraiche, cream or vanilla ice cream, to serve
Segment the blood oranges or the Spanish navel oranges, whichever you are using, and take the pulp out of the passion fruit.
Mix the orange segments and the passion fruit pulp together in a bowl with the juice of one lime and the sugar --you may need more or less sugar depending on the tartness of the fruit. Leave in a bowl at room temperature to marinade for an hour.
Serve with creme fraiche, cream or vanilla ice cream.
The Santa Rita/LIFE Magazine
Irish Restaurant Awards are the
largest and most coveted awards in
the Irish restaurant industry. This
year’s awards will be presented on
May 25 at the Burlington Hotel,
Dublin. As part of the awards, LIFE
is conducting a nationwide search
for Ireland’s Local Food Hero.
Sunday Indo Life Magazine