Friday 19 January 2018

Recipes: Mickael Viljanen shares some of his secrets

As chef at Gregan's Castle Hotel in Ballyvaughan, Co Clare, Mickael Viljanen won Best Chef Ireland at the Santa Rita/LIFE Magazine Awards last May. In this dinner-party menu, the gregarious Finn shares some of his secrets

Mickael Viljanen
Mickael Viljanen

I am originally from Finland, but I feel I have a particular affinity with Ireland. Maybe it's partly because my wife, Brenda, is from Tullamore, Co Offaly. We moved here permanently in 2007 and I've been with Gregan's Castle since 2008.

I believe some of the finest ingredients in the world are to be found here. The quality of meat and fish is especially good, and I add some influences from my native Finland to create inspiring recipes that taste of home and a little of abroad. Finnish elements include curing, pickling and smoking with blackened wood-chips, while the fragrant berries of sea buckthorn can be found off the west coast of Ireland.

I only use the best of what is in season to create my recipes. The flavour and texture is so much better than mass-produced or out-of-season products. It is also a hell of a lot cheaper.

All the recipes can be broken down, and parts of them can be served on their own. I wouldn't expect somebody to get all five elements of the sea buckthorn dessert made at home, but parts can be easily reproduced.

The most important thing for me when cooking is to cook the food I'd like to eat. It may not be everybody's cup of tea, but if you're not cooking what you want to cook, the number of people you please is going to be even smaller.

All the recipes serve six.

Jerusalem artichoke veloute, malted truffle dressing, raw scallop

For the veloute, you will need:

50g (1 3/4oz) shallots, finely diced

1 garlic clove, crushed

50g (1 3/4oz) butter

300g (10 1/2oz) Jerusalem artichokes, peeled

1 sprig of thyme

100ml Riesling

600ml (1 1/4pt) chicken stock

300g (10 1/2oz) cream

Salt and white pepper

In a pan, soften the finely diced shallots and the crushed garlic in the butter, add the peeled Jerusalem artichokes and the thyme and cook on a low heat for 10 minutes. Pour in the Riesling and reduce to a syrup, then add the chicken stock and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the cream and simmer for five minutes, then blitz in a blender until the mixture is smooth. Pass it through a fine sieve. Season with salt and white pepper.

For the malted truffle dressing, you will need:

30ml (1fl oz) sherry vinegar

20g ( 3/4oz) barley malt extract

50ml (1 3/4fl oz) olive oil

50ml (1 3/4fl oz) truffle juice

15g (1/2oz) honey

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a bowl, whisk all of the above ingredients together until they make a smooth mixture. There is more than enough for six; any leftover dressing will keep for up to two weeks in the fridge.

For the scallops, you will need:

12 scallops


50g (1 3/4oz) fresh truffle, grated

20ml (3/4fl oz) fresh lemon juice

Slice each scallop into five thin slices and divide the slices among six bowls. Sprinkle with salt, the grated fresh truffle and a little fresh lemon juice. To assemble the dish, drizzle the malted truffle dressing around and over the scallops. Pour the warm veloute over the scallops and the dressing. The heat of the veloute will cook the thin slices of scallop. Serve immediately.

Hare faggot with celeriac, smoked onion, pear, red wine sauce, caramelised walnuts

This is a gamey recipe, so if you can't get hare, the best substitute is venison. The Irish hare is a protected species, but it may be hunted under license during the open season -- the last week in September to the end of February.

For the faggot, you will need:

300g (10 1/2oz) minced hare from shoulder, or minced shoulder of venison

Liver from 1 hare or 5 chicken livers

100g (3 1/2oz) pork back fat

50g (1 3/4oz) foie gras

1/2 teaspoon thyme leaves

5 allspice berries, cracked

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Caul fat, ie stomach lining from the hare (if you can't get it leave it out)

Butter, for searing

Red wine sauce, see recipe below

Put the minced hare or venison, the hare or chicken livers, whichever you are using, the pork back fat, the foie gras, the thyme leaves and the cracked allspice berries through a coarse mincer.

Season the minced mixture with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Divide the mixture into golf-ball-sized portions and wrap each one with the caul fat, if you're using it. Preheat the oven to 140 C, 275 F, Gas 1. In a pan, sear the faggots in the butter on a medium heat and place them into the preheated oven with the red wine sauce (see recipe below) for six minutes, basting and glazing them every two minutes. Leave to rest for 10 minutes before serving.

For the celeriac, you will need:

50g (1 3/4oz) shallots, finely diced

1 garlic clove

30g (1oz) butter

250g (8 3/4oz) celeriac, peeled and diced

250ml (8 3/4fl oz) chicken stock

150g (5 1/4oz) cream

Soften the finely diced shallots and the garlic clove in the butter, then add the peeled and diced celeriac and cook for 10 minutes. Add the chicken stock and cook until it has fully reduced. Then add the cream and reduce by half. Puree the mixture in the blender and season to taste.

For the smoked onions, you will need:

6 small onions

Coarse sea salt

Thyme sprigs

Wood chips

Butter for frying

Wrap the onions in foil with the coarse sea salt and the thyme, bake in a 85 C, 185 F, Gas ? oven for 24 hours. Let the onions cool down, then peel them and cut them in half. Put the wood chips on a tray, light them and let them burn until they are black. Sit the onions on a rack which you have placed over the tray, cover them with foil and let them smoke for eight minutes. In a frying pan, caramelise the onions in a little butter until they are golden. Season and serve.

For the pear, you will need:

1 ripe pear, sliced wafer-thin top to bottom

Iced lemon water

Place the sliced pear in the iced lemon water and leave until needed.

For the caramelised walnuts, you will need:

80g walnuts, peeled

Sugar syrup (equal quantities of sugar and water)

Gingerbread spice

Boil the walnuts in the sugar syrup. Add a little of the gingerbread spice until the walnuts are fully coated. Preheat the oven to 180 C, 350 F, Gas 4. Place the coated walnuts on greaseproof paper and put them in the preheated oven until they caramelise.

For the red wine sauce, you will need:

2 shallots

1 garlic clove

1/2 carrot in large dice

Bones of 1 hare

5 button mushrooms

100ml (3 1/2fl oz) Madeira

500ml (17 1/2fl oz) full-bodied red wine

2L (3 1/2pt) veal or beef stock

Put the shallots, the garlic clove, the diced carrot and the hare bones in a heavy-based saucepan to roast on the stove top. Add the button mushrooms and continue to roast the vegetables until they are caramelised and golden brown. Add the Madeira and reduce the mixture until it becomes syrupy. Then add the full-bodied red wine and reduce the liquid until there is just a quarter left.

Add the veal or beef stock, whichever you are using, and reduce the liquid to a sauce-like consistency. Pass through a fine sieve. Season and serve.

To assemble the dish, divide the hare faggots into six portions, and put each portion on some celeriac puree. Remove the pear from the iced lemon water and roll each wafer-thin slice into little cigars. Place some pear cigars in a leaning position around each faggot portion.

Crush some of the caramelised walnuts and place them around the dish. Place half of a roasted smoked onion beside the faggots, and pour the red wine sauce around them.

sea buckthorn Dessert

The dessert I have chosen has five elements: you can mix and match them or, if you wish, you can make them all and assemble the different elements to your liking on the plate.

sea buckthorn sorbet.

For the sea buckthorn sorbet, you will need:

280g (10oz) sugar

285g (10fl oz) water

40g (1 1/2oz) glucose

22g (3/4oz) standard sorbet stabiliser

1 soaked gelatin leaf

470g (1pt) sea buckthorn puree

Boil the sugar, the water and the glucose together. Take the pan off the heat and add the sorbet stabiliser and the soaked gelatin. Mix in the sea buckthorn puree, allow to cool and rest for 1-2 hours, then churn in an ice-cream machine.

vanilla puffed rice

For the vanilla rice, you will need:

100g (3 1/2oz) long-grain rice

1 vanilla pod

100g (3 1/2oz) sugar

800ml (1 3/4pt) water

400ml (14fl oz) of vegetable oil

Place the long-grain rice, the vanilla pod, the sugar and the water into a pot and cook until the rice is fully cooked. Rinse off the rice, dry it on a cloth, and place into a dehydrator if you have one, or in a very low oven, at 60 C, 140 F, Gas ?, until it is fully dry and crisp.

Heat the vegetable oil in a saucepan to 195 C (383 F) and add the rice to the oil in batches. Wait until it puffs up and rises to the surface, then drain it, and put on a clean cloth to remove any excess fat.

crispy carrot juice,

Methocel F50 is a common thickening agent and emulsifier.

For the crispy carrot juice, you will need:

225g carrot juice

1 level teaspoon Methocel F50

15g caster sugar

Large pinch of xanthan gum

Whip the carrot juice, the Methocel F50, the caster sugar and the xanthan gum in a mixer until light and airy in texture. Spread it in a thin layer on a silicone mat or baking parchment and dry it in an oven, at 60 C, 140 F, Gas ?, overnight.

cinnamon milk mousse,

For the cinnamon milk mousse, you will need:

275ml (9 3/4fl oz) milk

125g (4 1/2oz) cream

2 cinnamon sticks

1 1/2 gelatin leaves

30g (1oz) sugar

Scald the milk and the cream with the cinnamon sticks. Add the soaked gelatin leaves and the sugar and leave to infuse for 15 minutes. Pass through a sieve and place into a siphon (cream whipper) bottle -- these which are readily available in kitchen shops -- and charge with two gas cartridges. Leave for six hours, and shake well before using.

cream cheese caramel

For the cream cheese caramel, you will need:

2 whole eggs

2 egg yolks

65g (2 1/4oz) sugar + 100g (3 1/2oz) extra for caramel

350g (3/4oz) milk

100g (3 1/2oz) cream

100g (3 1/2oz) cream cheese

Mix the eggs and the egg yolks with 65g of the sugar. Bring the milk, the cream and the cream cheese to the boil, remove from the heat and pour on the egg-and-sugar mix. Mix well without aerating the mix, and pass through a fine sieve.

In a pan, make a golden caramel by heating the extra 100g of sugar and a tablespoon of water. Add an extra 50g of water to thin the caramel down. Divide into six moulds, let the mixture set and then divide the cream cheese custard into the moulds. Cook in an oven, at 130 C, 266 F, Gas 1, in a water bath covered with cling film until the cream cheese caramels are softly set. Remove and chill.

When you are ready to serve, dip the moulds into warm water and turn the caramels out.


Mickael Viljanen will be taking up the position of head chef at The Greenhouse, Dawson St, D2

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