Planning on making a romantic meal for your partner? This three course dish is sure to get you lots of brownie points, and that is not just because the dessert is a chocolate brownie! Give these recipes a go and I can promise they will go down a treat. Get the candles ready!
Crispy Goat’s Cheese with Apple and Hazelnut Salad
This Crispy Goat’s Cheese with Apple and Hazelnut Salad is a delicious starter which uses one of Ireland’s most beautiful indigenous fruit – the brilliant and versatile apple. And remember support local and buy Irish apples! Hazelnuts go really well with both the goats cheese and the apple for what I think is a very different starter but yet one which is easy to prepare and ultimately very very tasty.
25g (1oz) fresh white breadcrumbs
1 tbsp finely chopped fresh
1 tbsp sesame seeds
2 tsp very finely chopped skinned, toasted hazelnuts
25g (1oz) plain flour
150g (5oz) log of Corleggy goat’s cheese, cut into 4 slices
sunflower oil, for deep-frying
2 crisp Irish eating apples
juice of 1 lemon
50g (2oz) rocket leaves
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
50g (20z) skinned, toasted
hazelnuts, roughly chopped
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
If you prefer to bake the goat’s cheese, simply cook it in an oven preheated to 180°C (350°F/gas mark 4) for another 5–10 minutes, until warmed through and soft. Look out for Irish apples in the supermarket, particularly when they should be in season, and if they’re not there, ask the manager why! Apples are one of our few indigenous fruits and there is no excuse for the shops not supporting Irish farmers. To prepare the crispy goat’s cheese, mix the breadcrumbs with the parsley, sesame seeds and chopped hazelnuts in a shallow dish and season to taste. In a separate dish, beat the egg and season lightly.
Season the flour and place in another shallow dish. Lightly coat the goat’s cheese in the seasoned flour, then dip each one into the beaten egg, gently shaking off any excess. Place in the breadcrumb mixture so that it is completely coated. Set on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and place in the fridge for at least 10 minutes to firm up.
Preheat the oven to 180 C (350 F/gas mark 4). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Heat the oil in a deep-sided pan or deep-fat fryer to 180 C (350F) and cook the breaded goat’s cheese for 1–2 minutes, until golden brown. Carefully remove from the oil and transfer to a plate lined with kitchen paper to drain off any excess oil. Arrange on the lined baking sheet and place in the oven for another 3–4 minutes, until heated through but still holding their shape.
Meanwhile, finish making the apple and hazelnut salad. Using a mandolin or a very sharp knife, cut the apples into wafer-thin slices and toss in the lemon juice to prevent discoloration. Cover each plate with a layer of slightly overlapping apple slices and add a small mound of the rocket, then drizzle with olive oil. Put a goat’s cheese fritter into the centre of each plate and add a grinding of black pepper. Scatter over the hazelnuts to serve.
SPEEDY COQ AU VIN
- 25g (1oz) plain flour
- 450g (1lb) skinless, boneless chicken thighs, well trimmed and quartered
- 2 tbsp rapeseed oil
- Knob of butter
- 175g (6oz) button onions or small shallots, halved
- 175g (6oz) button mushrooms, trimmed
- 100g (4oz) pancetta (streaky bacon lardons)
- 450ml (3/4 pint) chicken/vegetable stock
- 150ml (1/4 pint) red wine
- 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tsp chopped fresh thyme, plus extra leaves to garnish
- 2 tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Mashed potatoes
- Steamed French beans, to serve
Season the flour and toss the chicken pieces in it until lightly coated, shaking off any excess. Heat the oil in a large sauté pan over a medium-high heat and tip in the dusted chicken. Sauté for 3–4 minutes, stirring occasionally, until just beginning to brown. Add the butter and toss until evenly coated, then add the onions or shallots, mushrooms and bacon and cook for another 3–4 minutes.
Pour the stock into the pan with the wine and Worcestershire sauce, then add the thyme. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer gently for about 15 minutes, until the chicken and vegetables are cooked through and the sauce is slightly reduced and thickened. Stir in the parsley and season to taste.
Place the mashed potatoes on warmed plates and spoon over the coq au vin. Garnish with some thyme leaves and add some french green beans to serve.
WARM CHOCOLATE AND PECAN BROWNIE WITH BOOZY FUDGE SAUCE
Who doesn’t like a good chocolate brownie? The pecan nuts add extra texture and bite. If the brownies have gone cold and you want to heat them up in a hurry, pour over some of the fudge sauce and flash under a hot grill until bubbling. Any leftovers can be frozen and used to make an ice cream sundae or to flavour ice cream.
FOR THE BROWNIE:
400g (14oz) plain chocolate, finely chopped (at least 70% cocoa solids)
225g (8oz) butter
275g (10oz) caster sugar
100g (4oz) self-raising flour
75g (3oz) cocoa powder
100g (4oz) pecan nuts, roughly chopped
FOR THE FUDGE SAUCE:
150ml (1/4 pint) cream
25g (1oz) butter
1 tbsp caster sugar
175g (6oz) plain chocolate, finely chopped (at least 70% cocoa solids)
50ml (2fl oz) Coole Swan Dairy Cream Liqueur
crème anglaise (page 000), to serve
Malteser ice cream (page 000), to serve
spun sugar curls (page 000), to decorate
Preheat the oven to 160°C (325°F/gas mark 3).
Place 100g (4oz) of the chocolate in a heatproof bowl with the butter and set over a pan of simmering water until melted, then stir to combine. Remove from the heat and leave to cool a little.
Meanwhile, whisk the eggs in a bowl until 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 in. Add the melted chocolate mixture with the remaining finely chopped chocolate and the nuts and continue folding gently until all the ingredients are just combined. Pour the chocolate mixture into a deep-sided 30cm x 25cm (12 x 10in) baking tin lined with parchment paper. Bake for 35–40 minutes, until the top is crusty but the centre is still a little soft.
Meanwhile, make the fudge sauce. Place the cream in a pan with the butter and sugar and bring to the boil, stirring. Reduce the heat and simmer gently for a few minutes, until thickened and toffee-like, stirring occasionally to prevent the mixture from catching. Remove from the heat and leave to cool.
Place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water until melted. Whisk into the sauce until smooth and well combined. Leave to cool completely, then transfer to a bowl and stir in the Coole Swan liqueur. Cover with clingfilm and keep in the fridge until needed. It should keep happily for up to 1 week.
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. Transfer the fudge sauce to a pan and gently heat through, or pierce the clingfilm and heat in the microwave and pour into a squeezy bottle.
To serve, cut the brownies into 7cm (2 3/4in) circles using a straight-sided cutter. Arrange on warmed plates and drizzle over the hot fudge sauce followed by a little of the crème anglaise. Add quenelles of the Malteser ice cream to each plate and decorate with the spun sugar curls.
These brownies can be made up to 2 days in advance and kept in the fridge until needed. Remove from the fridge and preheat the oven to 140°C (275°F/gas mark 1) for 10–15 minutes to warm through before serving. The fudge sauce will keep for 2–3 days in the fridge – just reheat gently to serve.