Awards and lovely Halloween recipes are the theme for today’s blog. I will be sharing a beautiful Fragrant Pork and Pumpkin Curry and also a Chocolate and Raspberry Brownie so I really do hope you enjoy them. But first, what a few weeks it has been. We have been very honoured and humbled to have picked up some awards and what satisfies me most is that they have been in a variety of different areas. I think this shows what a great team I am lucky enough to have working with me right across the business.
The Blog you are reading now picked up Best Company Food and Wine Blog (Sponsored by Glenisk) at the National Blog Awards while MacNean House and Restaurant also picked up best Fine Dining Experience at the Yes Chef Magazine Awards and we also picked up Best Wine Experience at the ‘Hotel and Catering Review’s Keelings Gold Medal Awards.
The Blog has been going now just over 18 months and I am delighted with the response to it. A blog has been something that I have always wanted to do as I think it offers me a great opportunity to connect to people. We try to keep it fresh and up to date and share interesting recipes that are topical; and of course as the title of the blog suggests I want to inspire people to express themselves through their cooking. I work with Colm Bradley of Hype and Holler in the production of the blog and we work very well together. This blog is all about my passion for food and getting that passion across to people, and I hope we have managed to do that.
I want to thank everyone who voted for me to be included in the short list of finalists and also of course to the great people at the National Blog Awards. You do super work.
It was also great to see the restaurant pick up two awards in the shape of Best Fine Dining Experience at the ‘Yes Chef Magazine Awards’ and also Best Wine Experience at the ‘Hotel and Catering Review’s Keelings Gold Medal Awards’.
A special mention to our sommelier Blaithin McCabe who does such fantastic work and has such a wealth of knowledge when it comes to wines. Running a restaurant and a Cookery School requires a very good team alongside you and I think these awards are further evidence of the fact that we all work together and share a common passion for food and of course excellent service.
Now, on to the recipes. At this time of year we have lots of fun with pumpkins, carving out scary faces and lighting them up, But how many of us actually cook with pumpkin. Well if you haven’t tried it before we have a beautiful Pork and Pumpkin Curry below.
I’m also sharing a beautiful Brownie that you can involve all the kids in making. Get their hands dirty and messy when making the mix and I promise you it will taste even better the more help you have! Enjoy the recipes.
Fragrant Pork and Pumpkin Curry
I first tasted curried pork in coconut milk in Thailand, which is one of my favourite places. This is not an overly spicy dish, so it’s good for introducing children to Asian foods and widening their palate. Look out for kaffir lime leaves, which come fresh, frozen or dried. Fresh are best, and any that you don’t use can be kept in the freezer for another day. This recipe serves 4–6
• 50g (2oz) Thai red curry paste (from a jar)
• 1kg (2 ¼lb) pork shoulder, trimmed and cut into cubes
• 8 kaffir lime leaves, lightly crushed (optional)
• 500ml (18fl oz) chicken stock
• 2 x 250ml (9fl oz) cartons coconut cream
• 1 tbsp freshly grated root ginger
• 675g (1 ½lb) pumpkin, peeled, seeded and cut into cubes
• 2 tbsp fresh lime juice
• 1 tbsp Thai fish sauce (nam pla)
• 1 tbsp light muscovado sugar
• Steamed Thai fragrant rice or basmati rice, to serve
• 25g (1oz) fresh coriander leaves, to garnish
• 25g (1oz) fresh mint leaves, to garnish
• 2 spring onions, trimmed and shredded, to garnish
• 2 limes, cut into wedges, to garnish
Heat a wok or a large, deep, non-stick frying pan over a medium to high heat. Add the curry paste and cook for 1 minute, until fragrant. Add the pork and cook, stirring, for 4 minutes, or until the pork is well coated. Add the lime leaves (if using), stock, coconut cream and ginger and simmer, covered, for 25 minutes. Add the pumpkin and cover and simmer for another 15 minutes, or until the pork and pumpkin are tender. Stir through the lime juice, fish sauce and sugar.
To serve, divide the pork and pumpkin curry among serving bowls with the rice in a separate warmed serving bowl. Serve to the table with separate dishes of the coriander, mint, shredded spring onions and lime wedges so that guests can garnish the curry themselves.
Raspberry Chocolate Brownie with Salted Caramel Sauce
There is definitely something about chocolate that’s addictive. It contains several stimulants, including caffeine and pleasure-inducing endorphins. These are intensely chocolatey brownies, which get smothered in a salted caramel sauce. If the brownies have gone cold and you want to heat them up in a hurry, pour over some of the sauce and flash under a hot grill until bubbling. This recipe makes 16
• 400g (14oz) plain chocolate, finely chopped (at least 55% cocoa solids)
• 225g (8oz) butter, diced
• 4 eggs
• 275g (10oz) caster sugar
• 100g (4oz) self-raising flour
• 75g (3oz) cocoa powder
• 100g (4oz) toasted pecan nuts, roughly chopped
• 200g (7oz) raspberries vanilla ice cream, to serve
Salted caramel sauce:
• 100g (4oz) caster sugar
• 75g (3oz) butter
• 250ml (9fl oz) cream
• ½ vanilla pod, split in half and seeds scraped out
• 1 tsp sea salt flakes
Preheat the oven to 160°C (325°F/gas mark 3). Line a 30cm x 20cm (12in x 8in) deep-sided baking tin with parchment paper.
Place 100g (4oz) of the chocolate in a heatproof bowl with the butter. Set the bowl over a pan of simmering water until the chocolate and butter have melted, then stir to combine. Remove from the heat and leave to cool a little.
Meanwhile, whisk the eggs in a bowl until they’re stiff and holding their shape, then whisk in the sugar until you have achieved a stiff sabayon that can hold a trail of the figure eight. Sift the flour and cocoa powder into the sabayon and lightly fold them in. Add the melted chocolate mixture with the remaining finely chopped chocolate and the pecan nuts, and continue folding gently until all the ingredients are just combined. Finally, gently fold in the raspberries.
Pour the batter into the lined baking tin. Bake for 35–40 minutes, until the top is crusty but the centre is still a little soft.
Meanwhile, make the salted caramel sauce. Place the sugar in a pan with 150ml (¼ pint) of water. Bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for about 15 minutes, until golden brown, without stirring. Stir in the butter, cream, vanilla seeds and salt and mix well over a low heat until it’s a thick sauce consistency. Serve hot or leave to cool until needed.
To serve, remove the brownies from the oven and allow to cool in the tin for about 5 minutes, then remove from the tin and peel off the parchment paper. Reheat the salted caramel sauce in the pan. Cut the brownies into 16 rectangles and arrange on serving plates with the hot salted caramel sauce and scoops of ice cream.