Donal Skehan

Last of the summer tomatoes…

As I write this, it is literally bucketing rain outside, the heat has been turned on full blast and any glimmer of a late summer which was present when I made the tomato tart above, has now completely disappeared.  This year was the first year I didn’t grow tomatoes in my garden, after a rather disenchanting season of green ones, last year.  I did miss them in the garden but fear not I was certainly not left short.  Every now and then in my kitchen I end up with a glut of one ingredient. It happened last weekend when I was invaded by cherry tomatoes.  I got a big bag of cherry tomatoes from my mom, who was doing a fridge clear out and then, just a few hours later, one of our neighbours dropped in a bag of ones he had grown himself. As the mountain of tomatoes began plotting, I came up with a plan of my own; half would be roasted off and stored in a little olive oil to be stirred in to pasta or piled on a bruschetta for breakfast and the other half would be transformed into a tomato tart for dinner.

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Tomato, Ricotta and Thyme Tart

This surprising little dish makes the most of the last of this year’s tomatoes. Serve it as a light lunch or dinner with a side salad.

serves 4-6
300g of cherry tomatoes
250g of ricotta cheese
A few sprigs of thyme
A small handful of oregano, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon of olive oil
Sea salt and ground black pepper

For the pastry:
250g plain flour
170g very cold, butter (cut into small cubes)
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 egg
1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar
30ml ice cold water

Place the flour and butter in a bowl and using a butter knife, cut the butter into the flour until you have a rough pebble mixture.

Whisk together the egg with the balsamic vinegar and sea salt. Add this to the butter and flour and using two forks gently toss through until the dough begins to come together.

Add a little cold water to bring the dough to a rough ball. Turn the pastry out on to parchment paper or cling film, parcel up and place in the fridge to rest for 30 minutes.

While the pastry is resting preheat the oven the 190˚C.

Slice the tomatoes in half and place in a bowl. Toss with a little olive oil, thyme, oregano and season with sea salt and ground black pepper.

When the pastry has rested, roll out on a clean well floured work surface using a rolling pin, until you have a large round which will fit a 23cm tart tin with a removable base and is about 5mm in thickness.

Transfer the pastry to the tart tin and cut off any loose edges. Prick the base surface with a fork and then spread with ricotta cheese.

Place the tomatoes on top and bake in the oven for about 35-40 minutes until the tomatoes have reduced in size by half, slightly charred and the pastry has turned a nutty brown.

Remove and allow to cool slightly before serving with a side salad.

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Éclair? Don’t mind if I choux…

Apart from brushing up on my terrible punning skills, last weekend, I decided to brush up on my eclair making skills.  One of the first jobs I ever had was working in a school uniform shop, restocking shelves during the summer, near Fairview in Dublin.  The highlight of my days was surprisingly not when I would find the perfect amount of school blazers to fit the shelves, nor was it when I went to town polishing the fitting room mirrors with a shit load of Mr. Sheen or even when I got to break down the cardboard boxes out the back.

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Salted Caramel Banoffee Éclairs

Banoffee Pie has to be one of my favourite desserts of all time. It’s right up there with sticky toffee pudding and chocolate fondant, but what sets apart a banoffee pie for me is that wonderful combination of sweet caramel, rich cream and exotic bananas. With those key ingredients it made sense that it would make the ideal filling for an alternative eclair. The results are pretty stunning not to mention the extra dimension of deliciousness a crisp choux pastry bun adds to the mix!

Makes 13 eclairs

For the choux pastry:
60g of salted butter
130ml of water
80g of plain flour, sifted
3 large free range eggs

For the creme patisserie:
6 large free range egg yolks
120g of sugar
50g of cornflour
450ml of milk
1 vanilla pod
50g of butter

For the salted caramel sauce:
100g  butter
150g soft dark brown sugar
3 tablespoons of golden syrup
50ml of double cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
A generous pinch of sea salt

100ml of double cream, whipped to soft peaks
3 bananas, cut in slices

Preheat the oven 220˚C and line two large baking sheets with parchment paper.

Place the butter and water in a saucepan and bring to a steady boil until the butter is melted. Remove from the heat and add the flour, beating with a wooden spoon until a dough comes together. Place back over the heat and beat the dough in the saucepan for about 40 seconds.

Remove from the heat and set aside. Beat one of the eggs in a small bowl.

Add the the remaining two eggs to the warm dough, one at a time, beating thoroughly until completely incorporated after each addition. Add a little of the beaten egg at a time until you have a consistency that will hold it’s shape when piped. It should be smooth, shiny and just about fall from the spoon.

Using a spatula, scoop the dough into a large piping bag fitted with a large round piping nozzle and pipe 10cm lines on the lined baking sheets, leaving about 4cm in between each line to allow for spreading. Brush each one with the little leftover beaten egg.

Place in the oven, reducing the heat to 190˚C, for approximately 25 minutes until they have risen and are golden and crisp.

Transfer to a wire wrack and allow to cool completely. Using a bread knife split each bun in half.

For the crème patissière, split the vanilla pod in half and scrape out the seeds. Add this to a medium saucepan with the milk and place over a medium high heat. Bring to the boil and then turn off the heat. Scoop out the vanilla pod.

While the milk is coming to the boil, place the sugar, cornflour and egg yolks in a large mixing bowl and beat with a whisk until thick and pale.

Pour the hot milk into the bowl, whisking quickly and continuously until it is smooth and incorporated. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and place over a medium heat beating continuously until it has thickened. Transfer the crème pâtissière to a cold bowl, create a flat surface with the back of a spatula and wipe the top with a little butter (this will prevent a skin forming). Cover directly with cling film and allow to cool completely.

To make the salted caramel sauce. Place the butter, sugar and golden syrup in a saucepan and bring to a gentle boil until the sugar is dissolved. Add the cream, vanilla extract and salt and whisk together. Bring to a steady simmer for 3 minutes until the sauce is sticky and thick.

To assemble the eclairs, mix the crème pâtissière with the whipped cream and fill a piping bag, fitted with a small round nozzle. Pipe the cream on to the inside of the bottom of the choux bun, add slices of banana, pipe another layer of cream and place the choux bun lid on top. Spread the salted caramel glaze over the top of each eclair and repeat with the rest.

Serve straight away or the eclairs will keep for 1 or 2 days in the fridge.

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Dark Chocolate Hazelnut Éclairs

Chocolate eclairs might be enough for most people, but I love the addition of roasted hazelnuts here, they add a lovely texture and nutty taste.

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Wild mushroom hunting in Gothenburg and a Vasterbottenost and chanterelle mushroom tart…

It started a few years ago, we were visiting Sofie’s parents in Gothenburg and one evening I curiously followed my Swedish guides in to the forest, on the promise of golden chanterelle mushrooms.  I had no idea that evening, that it would start my love of mushroom hunting.  Since then it’s become an annual tradition, we have our own picking spots and I even have my very own mushroom knife.  Earlier this month, we were in Gothenburg for a couple of days and it went without saying that part of the trip would be spent in the forest, looking for mushrooms.

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Västerbottenost and Chanterelle Mushroom Tart

This recipe makes a wonderful Autumnal tart which can be adapted to use any type of mushrooms or cheese you can get your hands on. While I suggest västerbottenost a cheese common in Sweden, you could use a good Irish blue cheese or cheddar. There are lots of varieties of mushrooms you can get your hands on in most good food shops, so experiment with them, this tart is a lovely way to show them off.

Makes enough for 6-8 portions
For the pastry:

125g butter, cold and cut into pieces
225g plain flour
1 tbsp water

For the filling:
200g of chanterelle mushrooms (or any mushrooms you can find)
150g grated Västerbottensost (or Gruyere Cheese)
3 eggs
200 ml double cream
A pinch sea salt and black pepper

Preheat the oven to 225°C/425°F/Gas 7.

Using your finger tips combine the flour and butter in a bowl until you are left with rough bread crumbs. Add in the water and bring the dough together. Cover and place in the fridge for at least 10 minutes.

While the pastry rests, place a large frying pan over a medium high heat and add in a knob of butter. Fry the mushrooms until any moisture has disappeared and they are tender and have a nice colour. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside to cool.

Roll out the pastry until about 1/2cm thickness and use it to line a pie dish with a removable base. Prick the base with a fork and place in the oven for about 10 minutes until light and golden.

While the pastry blind bakes, mix together the eggs and cream, whisking to combine. Stir in the cheese and season with sea salt and black pepper.

Place the cooked mushrooms on the base of the pastry and then pour the cheese mixture over and bake for about 20 min or until the pie filling is set.

Allow to cool and serve in generous slices.

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September Update!

Hi folks,

I can’t quite get my head around the fact that we are smack bang in the middle of Autumn.  Where did this year go?  While long sunny summer evenings are more like a distant dream that never really happened, worry not as there are so many food related things to get excited about this harvest season.

For those who like to forage for their food, now is the one of the best times to get out and in to the forest and hedgerows to pick wild mushrooms and fruit.

I spent a few days in Sweden recently where we picked the most incredible giant golden chantarelle mushrooms, super green apples (perfect for an oat buttery apple crumble) and the juiciest plums, eaten right off the branches.

Since my new book came out in May, we have had a wonderful reaction with it spending quite a few weeks on the Irish Non-Fiction Bestsellers list peaking at number 2! A big thank you to everyone who has sent me photos on twitter and Facebook of the dishes they have been cooking from the new book “Kitchen Hero: Great Food For Less”.  It might sound ridiculously obvious but seeing people cooking the recipes you write is always the most rewarding thing about writing a book.

Lots of people have been asking me on twitter, when the next part of the TV series Kitchen Hero: Great Food For Less is coming out and I can tell you that it will be back in November for a 7 week run on RTÉ One.  There are lots more wonderful cheap and delicious recipes coming up to inspire you to get cooking in the kitchen, with visits to my grannies kitchen, my old school, BLOOM in the park and lots more.

One of the main reasons I’ve been a little quiet online this summer, has been due to a very exciting project which we filmed in London throughout August which will air this Autumn.  I’m literally bursting to tell everyone about it but I’ve been told I have to wait just a little longer.  Don’t worry you’ll be the first to know! :)

There’s also lots of exciting news overseas, where Kitchen Hero has now been released in both Swedish and German and the TV series has started airing in Brazil and France.  In July, I spent a day in Hamburg shooting with German magazine, “Fit For Fun”, for their October issue, they really did a lovely job and were great to work with.  I’m also going to be heading back to Stockholm in October to appear again on one the popular breakfast shows, “Nyhetsmorgon” speaking Swedish (hold me!) and to give cookery demonstrations at the “Hem Och Villa” exhibition.

Check out some of the things I’m very excited about this month below and keep checking the blog for updates!

Until then have a great September!

Donal x

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Asian Aromatic BBQ Summer Lamb with Tangy Sesame Salad!

If you’ve never BBQ’d lamb before you are totally missing out on one of my favourite flavours.  It works particularly well with the smokeyness the BBQ gives and the addition here of lots of wonderful Asian ingredients really heightens that flavour.  Lamb also BBQ’s equally well with a simple studding of rosemary and garlic.

Serves 4-6

For the lamb:
2kg leg of Irish lamb butterflied
4 cloves of garlic, finely minced
1 thumbsized piece of ginger
4 spring onions, finely sliced
2 tablespoons of honey
2 tablespoons of sunflower oil
3 tablespoons of rice wine vinegar
3 tablespoons of oyster sauce
5 tablespoons of dark soy sauce
3 teaspoons of sesame oil

For the tangy salad:
1 chinese cabbage, finely shredded
3 carrots, grated
1 cucumber, finely sliced
3 spring onions, finely sliced
1 teaspoon of sesame oil
1 tablespoon of soy sauce
1 tablespoon of fish sauce
1 tablespoon of rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon of honey
3 tablespoons of sesame seeds, toasted

Place all the ingredients for the lamb into a large resealable bag and seal.  Give it a good shake so that everything is combined and the lamb is completely covered in the dark mixture.  Place in the fridge to marinate for 2-6 hours.

Prepare the dressing for the tangy salad by whisking together in a large salad bowl, the sesame oil, soy sauce, fish sauce, rice wine vinegar, honey and sesame seeds. When you are ready to serve add in the cabbage, carrots and cucumber and toss to coat completely.

Remove the lamb bag from the fridge about 40 minutes before you are ready to cook it.  Thread two large metal skewers across the lamb to make it easier to transfer to the BBQ and also to turn.

To cook the lamb on a Gas BBQ, bring the BBQ to a high heat to start and sear the lamb on either side for about 4 minutes, then turn the heat right down low cover with a lid and cook for about 40 minutes until a meat thermometer registers 130˚F (for medium rare), turning the meat halfway through the cooking time.

To cook on a charcoal BBQ prepare the grill by placing a double layer of coals on one side of the BBQ and a single layer on the other.  This way you can sear the lamb on one side and then move it to the side with the single layer to cook for the longer cooking time.  Follow the same cooking times and temperatures. If the lamb blackens too much simply place it on a sheet of tin foil.

When the lamb is cooked, transfer to a chopping board with grooves to catch the juices, cover with tin foil and allow to rest for about 5 minutes.

Slice the lamb thinly and serve with the tangy salad.

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Banana Foster Brown Butter Tart!

One of the highlights of my visit to New Orleans was a trip to Brennan's restaurant. Established in 1946 it is one of New Orleans most loved restaurants and many of it's signature dishes have become famous worldwide. After an amazing meal we were shown how to make the world famous Bananas Foster, a dramatically flambéed dessert of bananas and rum served with ice cream. To this day it remains the restaurants most requested dish and thirty five thousand bananas are flamed each year to create this delicious dessert. This is my take on the classic, taking all those wonderful flavours and combining them in this rich tart.

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Deep South Pulled Pork Sliders with Buttermilk Coleslaw

These pulled pork sandwiches are wonderful for outdoor eating. The slow cooking of this cheaper cut results in spectacularly tender meat which slapped between a soft floury bap with buttermilk coleslaw is truly a thing of beauty. You can easily play around with the spices in the marinade and feel free to make your own additions.

Serves 8
1 boneless pork shoulder (about 1.2kg)
8 floury baps

For the Marinade:
1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped
8 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
1/2 tablespoon of Tabasco
1/2 tsp coriander seeds
2 tbsp English mustard powder
150ml distilled white vinegar
2 tsp paprika
6 tbsp tomato ketchup
1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp treacle
75g dark Brown Sugar
Sea salt to season

For the Coleslaw:
1/2 head of cabbage, finely shredded
1/2 head of red cabbage, finely shredded
3 carrots, peeled and grated
6 spring onions, finely sliced
3 tablespoons of buttermilk
3 tablespoons of mayonnaise
1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar
1 garlic clove, finely minced
Sea salt and ground black pepper

Blitz all the ingredients for the marinade in a blender or pestle and mortar until you have a smooth mixture.

Place the pork in a large pan or dish, add the marinade and turn the pork until coated.

Cover and allow to marinate in the spicy mix for a couple of hours or overnight if you have the time. If you don’t have the time, don’t worry just cook the meat.

Place the pan over a high heat, add just enough water, about 1 litre (1 3/4 pints), to cover the meat and bring to the boil.

Reduce the heat, cover with a lid and cook at a steady simmer for about 1 1/2 hours until the meat pulls apart easily with a fork.

Make sure to turn the pork during the cooking time.

Remove the pork from the sauce with a carving fork and shred, then place the shredded meat on a plate, cover with foil and set aside.

Bring the sauce to a steady simmer and reduce until it is thick.

Spoon the sauce over the pork and serve in toasted burger buns with a little coleslaw.

For the coleslaw:
Whisk together the buttermilk, mayonnaise, vinegar, garlic in a large bowl.

Toss in the carrot, cabbage, spring onion until coated.  Season with sea salt and ground black pepper.

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