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Recipes: Close to the bone


Two of my all-time favourite ingredients are used here, and they are both easy to cook with and inexpensive. I didn't grow up surrounded by fancy food, and my favourites are still the home-cooked classics that my mum served up.

One of my earliest memories is the smell of shin cooking in a pot of home-made soup. Ever since then, I have always loved the texture of beef shin cooked slowly. What is really great is the way the marrow melts into the sauce in this recipe. I still love to incorporate shin into some of the dishes in the restaurants at Balloo House and The Parson's Nose in Hillsborough.

Rhubarb is also a firm favourite of mine, especially forced rhubarb, sometimes referred to as champagne rhubarb. It is pink and elegant, and its sharpness contrasts beautifully against rich creamy desserts such as pannacotta. Although there was often a tasty rhubarb crumble dished out after Sunday lunch in our house, there was certainly no mention of champagne anything in those days in north Belfast!

Spiced Parsnip Soup with Crispy Bacon and Mussels


You will need:

8 slices streaky bacon, roughly chopped

1.5kg (3lb 4oz) mussels, cleaned (discard any mussels that remain open after rinsing)

175ml (6fl oz) white wine

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

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2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

50g (2oz) butter

1 onion, roughly chopped

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 tablespoon mild curry powder

500g (17oz) parsnips, roughly chopped

2 fresh sprigs thyme, leaves only

750ml (26fl oz) chicken stock

Heat a frying pan over a medium heat and fry half of the roughly chopped streaky bacon for 1-2 minutes, or until it is golden brown. Remove from the pan, using a slotted spoon, and set aside to drain on kitchen paper.

Meanwhile, heat a lidded frying pan over a medium heat. Add the cleaned mussels and the white wine, cover the pan with a lid and steam the mussels for 2-3 minutes, or until all of the mussels have opened. Discard any mussels that have not opened during cooking.

Strain the mussels through a colander and reserve the cooking liquid. Pick the mussel meat from the shells, place in a bowl and season to taste with some freshly ground black pepper. Stir in the chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley and the cooked bacon, and set aside.

Heat half of the butter in a saucepan until it is foaming, and fry the roughly chopped onion, the finely chopped garlic, the mild curry powder and the remaining half of the bacon for 2-3 minutes, or until everything has softened. Add the roughly chopped parsnips and the fresh thyme leaves and cook a further 2-3 minutes. Pour in the reserved cooking liquid from the mussels, bring the mixture to the boil and cook until the volume of the liquid has reduced by one-third.

Pour in the chicken stock and return the mixture to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 8-10 minutes, or until the parsnips are tender.

Blend the mixture in a blender until it becomes smooth. Pass the blended soup through a sieve into the saucepan and return it to the heat. Season to taste with some salt and freshly ground black pepper and whisk in the remaining 25g (1oz) butter. To serve, spoon some of the mussels into the middle of each of four serving bowls. Ladle the soup around the mussels.

Slow-cooked shin of beef with stout

You will need:

Drizzle olive oil

4 shin steaks, 285g (10oz) each, with the bone in

4 shallots, finely chopped

1 sprig fresh thyme

1 tablespoon sugar

500ml (18fl oz) stout

1L (2pt) brown chicken stock

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Steamed vegetables and potatoes, to serve

Heat the olive oil in a pan and brown the shin steaks and marrowbone for 3-4 minutes on both sides, or until they are golden brown all over. Add the finely chopped shallots, the fresh thyme and the sugar and cook for a further 2-3 minutes. Add the stout and the brown chicken stock, then transfer to a deep tray, cover and cook in the oven (140 C) for two and a half hours, or until tender. Check the seasoning and correct if necessary.

To serve, place each cooked shin on a plate and spoon the sauce over. Serve with steamed vegetables and potatoes.

Blood Orange and Buttermilk Pannacotta with Rhubarb and Orange Salad

You will need:

2 blood oranges, juice and rind reserved

1 blood orange, segmented

75g (2 1/2oz) condensed milk

150ml (5fl oz) double cream

1 vanilla pod, split lengthways

2 gelatine leaves, soaked in water for a few minutes until soft

300ml (10 1/2fl oz) buttermilk

300g (10 1/2oz) rhubarb, cut in 2cm (3/4in) pieces

1 tablespoon caster sugar

To make the pannacotta, preheat the oven to 140 C, 275 F, Gas 1. Place the orange rind on to a baking tray and bake in the oven for 20 minutes, or until it is completely dry.

Heat the dried rind, the condensed milk, the double cream and the split vanilla pod together in a small pan and simmer. Remove the orange rind and the vanilla pod.

Squeeze the excess water from the softened gelatine leaves, then add them to the cream mixture and continue to simmer until they have dissolved. Remove the saucepan from the heat and add the buttermilk.

Place four dariole moulds or ramekins on to a baking tray and pour in the pannacotta mixture. Chill in the fridge for 1-2 hours, or until set.

For the roasted rhubarb, preheat the oven to 200 C, 400 F, Gas 6.

Segment one blood orange, and squeeze the juice from the other two blood oranges. Place the rhubarb pieces in a roasting tray, sprinkle over the caster sugar, then drizzle over the orange juice.

Roast the rhubarb in the oven for 8-12 minutes, or until it is just tender.

To serve, remove the pannacotta from the fridge. Briefly dip the base of each mould into a bowl of boiled water. Gently slide a knife around the edge of each pannacotta and turn it out on the centre of a serving plate. Place the roasted rhubarb and orange segments on the side and drizzle over any juices that might be left in the pan.

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