Sunday 25 February 2018

RECIPES: Denis Cotter on cool veggies

Cafe Paradiso's Denis Cotter has plenty to tempt even the most committed carnivore


Denis Cotter

As a teenager, I wasn't a fan of liquorice. Which is no big deal, you might think, except that liquorice, in the form of long tubular straps, was cool, and cool kids liked liquorice.

Liking liquorice isn't something you can fake, and it's still quite the divider between those who get excited by the mere reading of the word and those who wouldn't touch it.

I crossed the border somewhere in my adult life. I don't remember it happening, I just ended up on the liquorice side of the fence, though too late to impress anyone.

We first tried to make liquorice ice cream using a recipe we came across that involved infusing the custard with actual pieces of dried liquorice root. The result was a very faint flavour and no discernable hint of colour, which was all very disappointing.

So the pastry chef, a man so innately cool he was born sucking liquorice, went to the sweet shop to get some black straps. It took a bit of trial and testing to get the balance right, part of the problem being that liquorice lovers will tend to make the ice cream too strong for normal folk.

Those who profess to have a revulsion for liquorice won't go for this, but I've seen plenty of fence-sitters converted by its rich, creamy texture and strong, yet somehow subtle, flavour.

I looked at different ways to serve the blood orange with the ice cream, from salad to sorbet and back again. But what I really wanted was the full, complex sweet/sour flavour of really good blood oranges, and a straight shot of juice on the side seemed the best way to do it.

You can sip the juice to follow a spoonful of ice cream, or you might prefer to pour some of the juice over the ice cream as you eat. The biscotti are a little bit of trouble to make but well worth it, and they will keep for weeks in a sealed jar or tin.

'For The love of Food' by Denis Cotter is published by Harper Collins , €21.99


Serves four.


500g/1lb 2oz beetroot, washed

2 tbsps olive oil, plus more for tossing

1.3 litres/2¼ pints vegetable stock

4-6 small shallots, finely chopped

3 garlic cloves, sliced

300g/11oz Carnaroli or Arborio rice

125ml/4½fl oz red wine

60g/2½oz butter

200g/7oz podded fresh broad beans

115g/4oz fresh goat’s cheese,


Salt and pepper

For the lemon-fennel oil

200ml/7fl oz olive oil

Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon

3 tbsps finely chopped fennel leaves


To make the lemon-fennel oil: Combine all of the ingredients in a jug or jar. Shake well or blend and set aside. To make the risotto: Put the beets in a saucepan of water, bring it to the boil and simmer for 20-40 minutes, until they are tender. Check by sticking a small knife into one of the larger ones. Don't check too often, as you don't want to bleed the colour from the beets. When they are done, drain off the water and cover the beets with cold water. With the tap still running, pull the skin off the beets with your hands — it should slip off easily.

Pre-heat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4. Chop the beetroot into 1cm/½in dice and toss them with a little olive oil and salt in an oven dish. Roast for 15 minutes. Keeping the oven on, remove half of the beets and put them in a food processor. Blend to a purée, adding about 400ml/14fl oz of the vegetable stock to get a smooth liquid. Pass this through a sieve and add it to the rest of the stock.

Bring to the boil and hold it at a low simmer. Return the rest of the beets to the oven for 10-15 minutes more, until beginning to caramelise. Heat the two tablespoons of olive oil in a wide, heavy pan over medium heat, and sauté the shallots and garlic for five minutes. Lower the heat, add the rice and toast it for seven to eight minutes, stirring often. Add the red wine and simmer, stirring, until it has been absorbed. Add a ladleful or two of the hot beetroot broth. Stirring often, let this simmer until it is absorbed, then add more broth. Continue in this way until the rice is just tender and almost dry. It will take about 20 minutes.

Now add the roasted beets and the butter. Season well with salt and pepper. While the risotto is cooking, bring a small saucepan of water to the boil and cook the broad beans for four to five minutes, until tender. Cool briefly in cold water and peel off the translucent skins, splitting the beans in half.

Dress the beans in a tablespoon of the lemon-fennel oil and set aside. To serve, spoon the risotto into warmed shallow bowls. Drizzle some lemon-fennel oil around, then scatter the broad beans and the goat's cheese over each portion.


Serves four.


For the spinach-cashew dumplings

75g/3oz spinach

75g/3oz cashew nuts, lightly toasted

2½ tsp ground cumin

½ tsp turmeric

Large pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

1 egg yolk

75g/3oz gram (chickpea) flour, sifted,

plus extra for dusting

Salt and pepper

For the laksa

2 tbsps tamarind pulp

1 medium cauliflower

2 leeks

2 carrots

2 tbsps vegetable oil

2 garlic cloves, sliced

2 fresh red chillies, deseeded and sliced

1 tbsp grated fresh ginger

2 tbsps chopped fresh coriander

1 tbsp chopped fresh mint leaves

2 tbsp chopped fresh Thai basil leaves

3 tomatoes, deseeded and diced

800ml/29fl oz coconut milk

400ml/14fl oz vegetable stock or water

2 tbsps light soy sauce for the rice noodles

225g/8oz wide flat rice noodles

Vegetable oil, for deep frying


To make the spinach cashew dumplings: Cook the spinach briefly in boiling water, then cool it in cold water. Drain and squeeze it as dry as possible. Put it in a food processor with the cashews and blend to a paste. Add the spices and the egg yolk, and pulse to mix. Transfer the paste to a bowl and stir in the gram flour. Season with salt and black pepper. Using lightly floured hands, form the paste into small, marble-sized balls and store these in the fridge until needed. To make the laksa (noodle broth): Put the tamarind pulp in a bowl, pour over 200ml/7fl oz hot water and leave to soak for 10 minutes. Strain the liquid through a fine sieve, pushing the pulp with the back of a spoon to squeeze all the liquid through the sieve.

Break the cauliflower into florets, discarding the stalk. Peel away one or two outer leaves from the leeks and cut off some of the dark green ends. Cut the leeks in half lengthways down to just below where the leaves separate. Wash them under cold running water, then cut them at an angle into 2cm/¾in-thick slices. Peel the carrots and cut them at an angle into 1cm/½in-thick slices. Heat the vegetable oil in a wok or wide pan over medium heat. Add the garlic, chillies and ginger, and fry for one minute. Add the cauliflower, leeks, carrots and herbs, and continue to fry for five minutes, stirring often.

Add the tomatoes, tamarind water, coconut milk, stock or water and soy sauce. Bring to the boil and simmer for five to seven minutes, until the vegetables are tender. At the same time, cook the rice noodles. Bring a saucepan of water to the boil, drop in the rice noodles and stir until they have softened. Turn off the heat and leave for seven to 10 minutes, until the noodles are done. Drain in a colander. While the noodles are cooking, deep-fry the dumplings in hot (180°C/350°F) vegetable oil in a deep-fryer or saucepan for two to three minutes, until crisp and golden. Drain on kitchen paper.

Put some noodles in deep bowls. Use a slotted spoon to take the vegetables from the broth, and divide them between the bowls. Pour some broth over each portion and place a few dumplings on top.


Serves four.


For the ice cream

375ml/13fl oz milk

100g/3½oz liquorice, chopped

5 egg yolks

125g/4½oz caster sugar

125ml/4½fl oz double cream

Juice of 4 blood oranges

For the pistachio-anise biscotti

2 tsps fennel seeds

200g/7oz plain flour

200g/7oz caster sugar

2 tsps baking powder

2 eggs, lightly beaten

Finely grated zest of 1 lemon

40g/1½oz sultanas

75g/3oz dried apricots, sliced

100g/3½oz shelled pistachio nuts,

coarsley chopped


To make the pistachio-anise biscotti: Preheat the oven to 170°C/325°F/Gas Mark 3. Grind the fennel seeds with a mortar and pestle briefly so that they are cracked and opened, but not ground. Mix the flour, sugar and baking powder together in a food mixer. Add one egg and mix well, then add the second egg and beat well to get a soft, slightly sticky dough. Stir in the lemon zest, dried fruit, pistachios and fennel seeds. Divide the dough into three pieces. Roll each piece into a long tubular shape of about 3-4cm/1¼-1½in in diameter. Place these well apart on baking parchment-lined oven trays, and bake for 30-40 minutes until pale golden. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for 15 minutes.

Turn the oven setting down to 130°C/250°F/Gas Mark ½. Slice the cooled biscotti dough across at an angle into slices of about 1cm/½in thick. Lay the slices on the oven trays and bake them again in the cooler oven for 10 minutes, then turn the slices over and bake for 10 minutes more. The biscotti will still be slightly soft, but will become crisp very quickly as they cool. To make the ice cream: Put the milk and liquorice in a saucepan and bring slowly to the boil. Blend with a stick blender, then remove the pan from the heat and leave to infuse for 30 minutes. Whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until pale and creamy. Strain the cooled liquorice milk through a sieve into the egg mix. Heat this custard gently for 10 minutes or so, stirring all the time, until it has thickened slightly, then cool it completely.

Stir in the cream and freeze the custard using an ice-cream machine. Serve the ice cream in deep glass bowls with a shot glass of orange juice and some biscotti on the side.

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