Thursday 22 March 2018

Flavour of Ireland

Mark Ahessy shares delicious recipes showcasing Irish produce

Basil and potato gnocchi
Basil and potato gnocchi
Seared yellowfin tuna in a sesame and pepper crust with crab, guacamole and gazpacho
Rhubarb brulee with rhubarb and strawberry compote

Mark Ahessy

It's a very exciting time to be a chef in Ireland. Having previously worked at L'Ecrivain and Chapter One in Dublin, and now as head chef of Clonmel's Stonehouse Restaurant, one of the things I am very keen on is using great Irish produce.

The basil and potato gnocchi we have featured is so versatile. A lot of people are used to packaged gnocchi, which does not have a lot of taste and is a bit chewy. When homemade with potato, it is soft and has a meaty texture.

It is brilliant for vegetarians as it has that bit of body. Back in autumn, I used it with butternut squash, goat's cheese and crispy sage. Delicious.

The tuna is a great summer dish. If we get the weather, this is a nice meal to enjoy outdoors with a glass of wine. The recipe uses a tasty sesame crust, and guacamole with an extra zing from the chilli. And I love the gazpacho. Served with a salad and crab meat in mayonnaise, you have a delicious yet simple meal that will impress.

Whenever I eat out, I tend to go for a dessert of creme brulee, and rhubarb is one of my favourite fruits. My creme brulee with rhubarb and strawberry compote is a nice light way to end the meal, with just the right amount of sweetness.

For more,


Basil and Potato Gnocchi

Gnocchi can be prepared and stored in a refrigerator for at least two days in advance until it is ready to be used. Not only is it a delicious light dinner dish but it is perfect for breakfast served with bacon, spinach and a poached egg.

Serves four.


500g mashed potato (about eight baking potatoes)

60g good-quality Parmesan, grated

1 egg

1 egg yolk

180g type 00 flour (available in good supermarkets)

100g sun-dried tomatoes, chopped

200g spinach

Sea salt

100g soft goat's cheese

20g fresh basil, chopped

Parmesan, finely grated

Good-quality olive oil


Pre-heat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4.

Put the potatoes on a baking dish and place in the oven for about 45 minutes or until they are fully cooked through. Test with a sharp knife – you should have to gently push the knife through the skin; it should not slide in easily, otherwise the potatoes will be overcooked and mushy.

Peel them quickly, as the cooler they get, the less fluffy they become.

Mash the baked potatoes and then push through a sieve into a bowl, using a spatula or ladle, so they form the consistency of a puree.

Bring a saucepan of salted water gently to the boil, ready for your gnocchi, and have a bowl of iced water prepared for the final stage.

Make a hollow in the mashed potatoes and pour in the Parmesan, egg and egg yolk, then gradually add the type 00 flour. Work the mixture together with your hands. As a dough starts to form, press and stretch with the heel of your hand.

Work carefully and quickly, as the more you handle the dough the harder and bouncier it will become. The dough should have the same lightness as a pastry.

You should now have a soft dough that holds together, doesn't feel sticky and can be easily shaped. Turn the dough out on to a floured surface and lightly flour the dough ball.

Cut the dough into eight equal pieces. Take each individual piece and roll into sausage forms that are about an inch-and-a-half wide, working lightly and quickly.

From the sausage-shaped dough, cut each piece into even pillow shapes that are each about two inches long. Holding them very lightly, form each pillow into a small concave gnocchi shape. Then hold them against the prongs of the back of a fork, pressing only firmly enough to get the imprint.

Using small quantities of the gnocchi at a time, drop them into the boiling water. Gnocchi normally takes about a minute, but when it is ready it will float to the top of the water. Remove from the boiling water quickly using a spoon and place the cooked gnocchi into the iced water.

Repeat this for each batch of gnocchi.

Once the gnocchi has cooled completely, spread the pieces out evenly on a cool tray and place in the fridge until you are ready to begin cooking and serving the dish.

Heat the olive oil in a pan over a medium heat. When it is nice and hot, place one layer of gnocchi in the pan and lightly brown the gnocchi to a golden colour.

Add the sun-dried tomatoes, followed by the spinach. Season with some sea salt and, just moments before removing the pan from the heat, add some soft goat's cheese, allowing it to slightly melt.

Serve immediately and finish the gnocchi dish with the freshly chopped basil, a sprinkling of finely grated Parmesan and a drizzle of olive oil.

Seared yellowfin tuna in a sesame and pepper crust with crab, guacamole and gazpacho

This is a light, crisp summer dish perfect for long summer evenings. It can be created in minutes and is so simple. Serve with a fresh side salad and delicious crab meat in mayonnaise.

Serves four.

You will need

For the gazpacho 1 cucumber

2 red peppers

2 vine tomatoes

Half a red chilli

1 clove garlic

200ml tomato juice

Sea salt and lemon juice (to add after blending) For the guacamole 2 ripe avocados

2 cloves garlic

2 limes

1 red chilli

Sea salt For the crab meat 1 vine tomato, deseeded and diced

1 or 2 sprigs coriander

Half a red chilli

1 clove garlic, crushed

Zest of one lemon

1 tbsp mayonnaise

400g crab meat For the tuna 200g sesame seeds, toasted

50g cracked black pepper

1lb yellow fin tuna For the salad Spinach


Sun-dried tomatoes

Spring onions

Baby gem lettuce

Balsamic dressing

Garlic flowers (now in season, available across the country)


For the gazpacho: Put all of the ingredients into the blender and blitz until smooth. Pass through a fine sieve. Finish with some sea salt and lemon juice to taste. Place in the fridge to keep cool.

For the guacamole: Peel the avocados and remove the stone. Place in the blender with the rest of the ingredients and blitz until smooth.

For the crab meat: Mix together the tomato, a handful of chopped coriander, chilli, garlic, lemon zest and mayonnaise. Mix into the crab meat, then season to taste.

For the tuna: Toast the sesame seeds. Allow to cool and then mix with the cracked black pepper. Spread them out on a tray and roll the tuna in the seeds and pepper to form the crust.

Heat up a non-stick pan with olive oil to very hot. Sear the tuna for about 30 seconds on each side. Serve with the guacamole, lightly drizzle the gazpacho over both and accompany with the crab mix and the salad.

Rhubarb Brulee with rhubarb and strawberry compote

Serves four to six.

You will need

For the creme brulee 800ml cream

2 vanilla pods

100g caster sugar

200g egg yolk For the compote 8 sticks rhubarb

Rind and juice of 1 orange

1 vanilla pod

200g caster sugar

400g strawberries


Pre-heat the oven to 120°C/250°F/Gas

Mark ½.

To make the creme brulee, pour the cream into a heavy-bottomed saucepan over a medium heat and bring to a simmer. Carefully split the vanilla pods down the centre with a large knife and scrape the seeds into the cream mixture. Stir well to combine. Remove the mixture immediately from the heat once it has warmed.

Put the caster sugar into a bowl with the egg yolks, and whisk together until well combined.

Pour the cream mixture into the sugar mixture and stir thoroughly for a minute or two to dissolve the sugar. At this stage, you can chill the mixture in the fridge and cook the brulee the following day, or carry on.

When ready to cook, ladle the creme brulee mixture into ramekins and place these into a deep baking tray. Pour hot water into the tray until the water reaches halfway up the sides of the ramekins – this is called a bain-marie.

Place the bain-marie into the pre-heated oven and cook for about 30-35 minutes, until the creme brulees are set firm but still with a slight wobble. Allow to cool. You can place them in the fridge at this stage if you're not serving them immediately.

For the rhubarb and strawberry compote, pre-heat the oven to 160°C/325°F/Gas Mark 3. Cut the rhubarb sticks into even ¼in slices and place them in a shallow oven dish. Remove the rind and juice of the orange and pour over the chopped rhubarb.

Split a vanilla pod down the centre with a large knife and scrape the seeds into the dish, then sprinkle the sugar over the top.

Place the dish in the oven for 30 minutes, then add strawberries to the dish and continue cooking for 15 minutes. Allow the compote to cool, then push it through a fine sieve for a smooth texture or leave as is and stir for a more rustic, fruity texture.

To complete the creme brulees, sprinkle some fine caster sugar on top and heat the surface under a hot grill, or with a mini blow torch, until it forms a thin layer of caramel. If you are using a grill, take care not to re-cook the creme brulees.

Place the compote mixture into small dishes and serve on the side.

Irish Independent

Life Newsletter

Our digest of the week's juiciest lifestyle titbits.

Editors Choice

Also in Life