Donal Skehan
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  • Filmed at one of Hanoi's oldest and most famous restaurants today, Cha Ca La Vong, where they have been serving the same one dish for over 100 years- turmeric fish which is marinated for 12 hours with galangal and fish sauce then threaded onto bamboo skewers and chargrilled over hot coals- the fish pieces are then fried in shallot oil and served to the table on a hot plate where diners mix in dill and spring onions and serve over rice vermicelli noodles with peanuts, coriander, chilli and shrimp paste. Hugely popular here and I can see why! #DonalVietnam
  • Street food at the bustling market in Sapa- this lady was selling spicy pigs ear salad... #DonalVietnam
  • Morning market shopping in Sapa! On the way to Hanoi... #DonalVietnam
  • BBQ Pork with ginger, turmeric, mint and toasted sesame seeds... #DonalVietnam
  • Just can't get over the stunning scenery here! Not bad for a Tuesday! #DonalVietnam
  • On the streets of Sapa making apple wine with apples grown by the Hmong tribe... #DonalVietnam
  • Sad to say goodbye to our fantastic Red Dao hosts for the past three days... Heading to Hanoi tomorrow to focus on street food! #DonalVietnam
  • The incredible dry store at the top of a Red Dao tribe house- here they store corn, rice and pumpkins through the winter. The kitchen is just underneath so the heat and smoke helps to dry the produce out... #DonalVietnam
  • Brilliant few days filming with the Red Dao tribe just outside Sapa! #DonalVietnam with @jonnyrocksville @lenocks...
  • Best experience of the day- a traditional herbal bath with herbs picked from the mountain and steeped in boiling water! It is used to soak the muscles after a hard day in the rice paddies! Nothing like taking a bath with a big group of strangers watching! :) #DonalVietnam
  • This little girl is eating sticky rice cooked in a bamboo shoot! The rice is stuffed into the hollow shoot and sealed with a banana leaf, then boiled until tender... Then the whole rice filled bamboo shoot is grilled over an open fire- it results in a chewy sweet rice cylinder with the most incredible texture! Really special! #DonalVietnam
  • The colourful and detailed clothing the women of the Red Dao tribe wear can take up to a year to embroider by hand... #DonalVietnam
  • Incredible day spent learning from and cooking with the Red Dao tribe in North West Vietnam- their are 5 different tribes in this area and each has their own language and distinctive traditional clothing... #DonalVietnam
  • View from my breakfast table! Stayed in Sa Pa last night high in the mountains, 1500 meters above sea level... Off to spend the day with a local Red Dao family to learn more about their traditions... #DonalVietnam
  • Have just eaten from this fairly intimating platter of mystery meat! You choose what you want from pig tongue, liver, heart and blood sausage and it gets boiled up and served with a fiery hot dipping sauce with chilli, meat broth, fish sauce and spring onions. Also interesting they eat it with potato noodles rather than rice noodles, in broth and mint... Swallow the fear, get in there and eat like the locals do! #DonalVietnam
  • Chicken for sale at Bac Ha market- incredible experience, like nothing else, have whiplash from everything I have to look at! #DonalVietnam
  • Flower Hmong tribe at Bac Ha market this morning selling fresh vegetables and sugar cane... #DonalVietnam
  • Great meal this evening! Finally in Sapa after the longest bus ride ever today 8am-11.30pm! Up early tomorrow morning to film at Bac Ha Market... #DonalVietnam
  • BBQ pork and pumpkin greens at the most rocking little restaurant in Sapa! #DonalVietnam
  • Wok fried lunch today! Lots of greens including Morning Glory or water spinach stir fried with pork fat and fish sauce... #DonalVietnam
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Semlor (Swedish Cream Buns)

Semlor or cream buns are incredibly popular in Swedish bakeries. Traditionally they are eaten on pancake Tuesday know as fettisdag or Fat Tuesday in Sweden. During winter taking a break for “Fika” the Swedish word for taking a break from the day to enjoy some coffee, tea and something sweet would normally include one of these cream and almond paste filled sweet buns.

Makes about 18 buns
700g plain flour
140g caster sugar
A pinch of salt
2 teaspoons of freshly ground cardamom
350ml milk
2 x 7g sachets of dried yeast
150g salted butter, softened
1 large free range egg

Almond paste:
250g of skinless, blanched almonds
225g caster sugar
A few tablespoons of milk
A little icing sugar to dust
750ml double cream, whipped

Melt the butter in a large saucepan and pour the milk in, heat until lukewarm. Mix in the yeast.

In a large bowl mix together the flour, sugar, salt, and the cardamom. Make a well in the dry ingredients and mix in the wet ones along with the egg. Bring a dough together and knead on a clean floured work surface for 4 minutes. Place back in the bowl and cling film and a tea towel and leave to prove in a warm, dark place for 45-60 minutes or until the dough has doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 190°C. Turn the dough out onto a clean work surface, divide the dough into 18 pieces (80g each) and roll each into a ball. Put the buns on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Brush the buns with a little beaten egg or milk and bake in the centre of the oven for about 10 minutes. Leave to cool on a wire wrack.

Prepare the almond paste by blitzing the almonds and caster sugar in a food processor. Then add a few drops of milk until you have thick smooth paste. Place in the fridge to firm up and become solid.

Cut a triangle out of the top of each bun and scoop out some of the insides, to make a small hole for the filling. Save the breadcrumbs in a mixing bowl.

Grate the almond paste into the breadcrumbs and bring together a creamy paste using a few tablespoons of milk. Fill the buns with tablespoons of the filling and then pipe whipped cream on top. Place the the tops back on, dust the buns with icing sugar and serve.

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Kitchen Dresser and Jerusalem Artichoke Soup…

Let me introduce you to Pearl Skehan, my grandad’s cousin, from Co. Tipperary, 97 years young and the inspiration for my kitchen dresser pictured at the top of this post.  Pearl has always been a bit of a dynamo and has us in stitches with stories of times gone by.  I was visiting Pearl last year and was reminded of the fantastic old kitchen dresser she has in her kitchen.  Mint green all over with pale yellow shelves and knobs, and a beautiful old collection of plates, which are her prized possessions.  All last year I was on a mission to try and find something similar for our cottage.  During the summer I got a text from Sharon Hearne Smith with an image attached of a sweet little vanilla yellow, kitchen cabinet/dresser she had seen at Herman Wilkinson auction house in Dublin.  I knew it was the one.  Some fairly nerve wracking bidding took place the following day, I won with a bid of €100 and that was that, she was coming home with us!  On closer inspection, the dresser was sticky with dirt and the shelves had been covered with a horrible red plastic- that was first to go.  After a lot back and forth, sanding and painting we finally decided on a vintage blue colour with yellow shelves.  My two favourite features however are both gifts from Pearl, vintage wallpaper from her house, which I used to line the back of the cabinet and the photo of my great grandmother Molly which now sits pride of place on the second shelf.  Both complete this kitchen dresser story perfectly.

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Jerusalem Artichoke Soup with Rocket Pesto

There are many ways to enjoy Jerusalem artichokes, but soup is one of the easiest ways to create something wonderful with them. Cooking them gently with onions brings out their sweet, earthy and slightly smoky notes. You can serve the soup simply as it is, or make a quick pesto to drizzle over the top. Crispy pancetta and Parmesan shavings are also good garnishes.

Serves 6
A good knob of butter
1 medium onion, finely chopped
800g of Jerusalem artichokes, peeled and cut into 2cm cubes
800ml of vegetable stock
60ml of cream
Sea salt and ground black pepper

For the rocket pesto:
A generous handful of rocket
A small handful of pine nuts
A small handful of freshly grated Parmesan cheese
6-8 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and ground black pepper

Place a medium pot over a medium high heat and melt the butter until it begins to foam.

Add in the onion and sweat for 6 minutes until tender. Add in the Jerusalem artichoke cubes, cover with a lid and allow to cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Pour in the stock and bring to the boil. Cook for 15-20 minutes until the Jerusalem artichokes are tender when pierced with a fork.

Remove the pot from the heat and using a hand blender, blitz until completely smooth. If you find the soup is too thick, add a little boiling water, to loosen it. Season with sea salt and ground black pepper.

Pour in the cream and continue to blitz until the soup is frothy.
Serve straight away drizzled with rocket pesto.

For the rocket pesto:
Place all the ingredients in a mortar and pestle and bash until you have a smooth mixture. Taste and season with sea salt and ground black pepper. Add a little extra oil if you prefer a looser pesto.

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