Two salads and a monkfish stew!

Thank you all for the great reaction to my latest TV Series, Neven’s Irish Food Trails, which you can catch on RTE One at 7:30 on Wednesday nights and also on the RTE Player. On Wednesday’s show I visited West Cork and Glenilen Farm, where I met artisan dairy producers the Kingston family.

I popped into the farm kitchen with Valerie Kingston who taught me how to make a delicious homemade cheesecake recipe.

I also cooked two delicious salads and a hearty monkfish stew. The recipes are below. I hope you enjoy them.

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Bacon and blue cheese salad

I’ve used this delicious dressing just for lettuce leaves, but it would also be great poured over halved baby new potatoes, preferably Jersey Royals. Otherwise try adding a handful of croutons or a thinly sliced pear and a handful of roughly chopped walnuts.

Serves 4

225g (8oz) piece of rindless streaky bacon, cut into lardons

2 shallots, finely diced

1 tbsp red wine vinegar

4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 tsp wholegrain mustard

1 tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley

150g (5oz) mixed baby salad leaves

1 Granny Smith apple, thinly sliced (core discarded)

225g (8oz) blue cheese, rind removed

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

crusty French bread, to serve

Fry the bacon lardons in a dry non-stick frying pan until crisp. Remove from the pan and set aside, keeping warm. Add the shallots to the pan and sweat for 2–3 minutes, until softened but not browned, stirring occasionally. Deglaze the pan with the red wine vinegar, then stir in the extra virgin olive oil and mustard. Sprinkle in the parsley and season to taste.

Place the baby salad leaves in a bowl. Pour over the hot dressing and quickly toss to coat.

Just before serving, add the crispy bacon and apple and crumble the blue cheese on top. Divide between plates and serve with plenty of crusty French bread.

Warm chorizo and chickpea salad

This salad is a wonderful combination of flavours and textures that is incredibly simple to prepare. I like to serve it warm, but it would also be good at room temperature, especially as part of a feast. Where possible, buy the raw cooking chorizo rather than the salami-style chorizo.

Serves 4

3 tbsp rapeseed oil

3 red onions, thinly sliced

3 red chillies, deseeded and thinly sliced

12 garlic cloves, chopped

150ml (¼ pint) cider vinegar

8 x 50g (2oz) raw chorizo sausages, sliced in half lengthways and then cut in half again

2 x 400g (14oz) tins of chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1 large handful of fresh coriander leaves, roughly chopped

1 large handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves

1 large handful of fresh mint leaves

200g (7oz) feta cheese, chopped

8 spring onions, thinly sliced

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat 2 tablespoons of the rapeseed oil in a pan. Add the red onions, chillies and garlic and cook over a high heat for 5 minutes, until they are starting to catch, stirring quite frequently to prevent the mixture from sticking. Pour in the vinegar and boil fast for about 2 minutes, until it has evaporated. Transfer to a large bowl and leave to sit for 15 minutes before giving it another stir. Season to taste.

Heat the remaining tablespoon of rapeseed oil in the frying pan and add the chorizo. Fry for a few minutes to release the fats, then add the chickpeas and continue to cook for a few minutes, until the chorizo is cooked through. Tip into the onion and chilli mixture in the bowl and toss until well combined.

Fold the herbs into the salad with the feta cheese and spring onions, tossing until well coated. Season to taste and divide between plates to serve.

Mediterranean monkfish and potato stew with almond crumb

This is an excellent fail-safe recipe that I often find myself cooking at home. The almond crumb makes it into something just a bit more glamorous. Of course, you could use any fish you like and add some shellfish too if you feel like pushing the boat out.

Serves 4

25g (1oz) blanched almonds

1 tsp sweet paprika

4 tbsp olive oil

2 red onions, finely chopped

1 fennel bulb, trimmed and finely chopped

2 tsp fennel seeds

½–1 tsp dried chilli flakes

good pinch of saffron strands soaked in a little hot water

2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped

2 x 400g (14oz) tins of whole plum tomatoes

300ml (½ pint) fish or chicken stock (preferably homemade)

450g (1lb) small new potatoes, scrubbed and halved or quartered if large

675g (1½lb) boneless monkfish, skinned with all tough membrane removed and cut into bite-sized pieces

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, to garnish

Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F/gas mark 4).

To make the almond crumb, spread the almonds out on a baking sheet and place in the oven for about 5 minutes, until they are golden. Allow to cool, then roughly chop until they resemble coarse breadcrumbs. Place in a bowl and mix with the paprika and 1 teaspoon of salt. Set aside until needed.

Put a large casserole with a lid over a high heat on the hob and add the olive oil. Turn the heat down to medium and add the onions and fennel. Stir in the fennel seeds, chilli flakes and saffron and sauté for 10 minutes, then stir in the garlic and sauté for another couple of minutes.

Add the tomatoes to the onion mixture, crushing them with a wooden spoon, then pour in the stock and add the potatoes. Season to taste and simmer for 25–30 minutes, until the potatoes are tender when pierced with a knife.

Add the monkfish to the potato stew and simmer for another 5 minutes, until the fish is just cooked through and looks opaque.

Divide among hot bowls and sprinkle over the almond crumb, then scatter over the parsley to serve.

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