Farmer Browns, Sandymount

I recently headed to Farmer Browns for brunch to try and recover from the Boy’s birthday party. I’ll admit it was a tall order, but they did well!!

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I had the Eggs Benedict with Smoked Salmon which were very tasty. I’m not usually a fan of mint, but I thought the minted hollandaise worked. The sun-dried tomatoes, again, were an unusual touch, but they married well with the salmon, eggs and sauce.

A small bit of advice would be to ask for less toast when you go – I tend to eat everything on my plate, and did on this occasion, but four doorstep slices of lovely toasted homemade bread was probably a little too much.

My (less hungover) dining companions had the full Irish and the Eggs Benedict with ham and they were all similarly impressed.

Our only criticism was the service – everyone was lovely but slightly scatty. We got the wrong tea. They didn’t have enough sugar bowls so ours got nicked. And we waited for the bill for 20 minutes before giving up and paying at the till.

Ultimately, the food is good, the portions are generous – so if you aren’t in a rush, Farmer Brown’s is worth a try!

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Bacon, Avocado & Roasted Onion Salad with a Red Pepper Creme Fraiche Dressing

This is a lovely salad, great punchy flavours and easy peasy to throw together!

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Serves 4

Dressing
Red pepper, halved
1 tbsp half fat creme fraiche
Juice of 1 lime

Salad
Mixed salad
2 red onions, cut in half and then into wedges
4 pieces bacon, chopped into lardons
Avocado, peeled and sliced

Roast the pepper halves and onion wedges in a preheated oven for about 30 minutes. When they’re cooked, put the peppers in a bowl and cover with cling film to loosen the skins.

Fry the bacon pieces until crisp.

After 15 minutes, remove the clingfilm, skins, seeds and stalks from the peppers. Whizz them into a paste in a food processor and then add the lime juice and creme fraiche.

Divide the salad leaves between the plates and scatter the red onion, bacon and avocado on top. Drizzle with the dressing and serve!

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Perfect Paella

You can’t beat a good paella…it instantly transports you to Spain and makes you feel like you’re on your holidays. I’ll be heading off shortly, but until then I’ll be relying on this saffron scented rice to give me that post-sun-bathing-tasty-food-with-glass-of wine-sure-why-not-I’m-on-my-holidays glow!

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Paella tends to be a pretty forgiving dish, so feel free to mess with the ingredients and quantity!

Serves 8

1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
650g paella rice (you can use risotto rice if you can’t find paella rice)
large glass white wine
good pinch saffron, soaked in a small cup of boiling water
3 peppers, two red, one yellow, chopped
3 red onion, cut into eights
small bowl frozen peas, defrosted
16 chicken thighs (or thereabouts)
2 handfuls prawns
net of mussels
2 handfuls of parsley, finely chopped
chicken stock

Preheat your over to 180 degrees C and pop your chicken thighs in, sprinkled with paprika if you’re trying to be fancy.

Start the paella by frying off your onions until slightly browned and then add the garlic. When the garlic starts to colour, add the rice and stir until all the grains are coated in oil. Add your veg – I had a mix of peppers and red onions, but anything Mediterranean will do.

Throw in the white wine and bubble away until it’s almost gone. Mix your saffron water in with your stock – the amount of stock needed will vary depending on the rice – check the packet, but if in doubt add about a litre and you can always top it up if the rice gets too dry.

Cover and pop the paella rice in the oven if your prefer – either way, you’re looking at 15-20 minutes until the rice is nearly cooked but still retains a good bit of bite. At this point mix in your peas and scatter your prawns (raw or cooked) and mussels over the top, replace the lid and cook until the prawns are pink (if they weren’t already) and the mussels are open.

Scatter the parsley over the top of the paella and if you have room in the dish, arrange the chicken nicely on top. I had so much food last time that it wouldn’t all fit in the same dish, so you can absolutely plate the chicken separately if you like! Serve with lemon wedges for that authentic feel!

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Not-So-Naughty Chocolate Mousse

This is my absolute new favourite dessert  – another BBC Good Food recipe. It’s gorgeous, feels rich and decadent and is a total crowd pleaser. And the best bit is that it clocks in at a (relatively) tiny170 calories, so it’s not even really bad for you!!

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Serves 4
85g good quality dark chocolate , 70-80% cocoa
1 tbsp cocoa powder
Shot very strong espressp
½ tsp vanilla extract
2 egg whites
1 tbsp  caster sugar
50g good quality full-fat yoghurt (I used Glenisk)
1/2 punnet rasperries

Break up the chocolate and add the cocoa, espresso and vanilla extract and melt the whole lot gently in the microwave, stirring regularly. When it has melted add 2 tbsp of boiling water and mix well. The chocolate mixture will thin out and look all shiny.

Whisk the two egg whites to soft peaks and then whisk in the sugar. The egg whites should get thicker and look like meringe.

Mix the yoghurt into the slightly cooled chocolate mixture.

Fold in 1/3 of the egg whites and the follow with the rest. It seems hard to mix the whites in evenly without getting rid of all the air, but take your time and evertually you’ll get there.

You can serve the mousse in teacups or ramekins. Pop a rasperry or two at the bottom and then divide the mousse between the cups / ramekins. Arrange the remaining rasperries nicely on top and chill the mousses for at least two hours, or overnight.

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Sausage and Spinach Lasagne

This is a great recipe – it’s been handed around my friend and is impressing boyfriends all over the place!

The recipe is also very forgiving so feel free to chuck in whatever you have lying around. I’ve put mushrooms in the sausage ragout before to great success!

Serves 2

Three good quality flavoured sausages, casings removed
Tin of chopped tomatoes
Glug of wine if you have it
Onion, finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
Bag of baby spinach, wilted / two big handfuls of frozen spinach, defrosted and squeezed out
Tub of Quark fat free cheese / tub of ricotta
Lasagne sheets
Parmesan
Pinch nutmeg

Add the onion to a frying pan and cook until it begins to soften and take on some colour around the edges. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Add the sausage meat and mix in with the onions and garlic. Keep stirring it to break it up and mash any lumps with a wooden spoon etc – you’re going for a mince texture.

When the sausage is starting to turn brown you can pour off some of the grease if you like and then add wine (if using) and a tin of tomatoes. Allow this to bubble away for about 10 minutes.

In the meantime, mix your spinach and the tub of Quark or Ricotta and add a pinch of nutmeg and some salt and pepper.

You’ll be assembling the lasagne in a loaf tin – start with a layer of the sausage ragout (about a third and taking more of the meat and leaving some of the saucy bit if possible) and then top with lasagne sheets, breaking them to make them fit if necessary. Top with half the spinach mixture and more lasagne. Repeat the sausage and spinach layers again and then top with the remaining tomato sauce (don’t worry if there is sausage in it too) and sprinkle with a good handful of grated parmesan cheese.

Bake in a pre-heated oven for about 30 minutes until the top is bubbling and crispy. It the top is browning too quickly and seems like it might burn, cover the lasagne with foil for a while and then remove it 5 minutes before the end.

Serve with salad and garlic bread and enjoy!

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Grilled Halloumi Salad

I’ve made this little serving of summer twice now and it’s a real crowd pleaser. I’ve adapted it slightly from Domini Kemp’s version in the Irish Times.

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Serves 4

Punnet cherry tomatoes, halved and tossed with a tiny bit of olive oil
Bunch of asparagus spears
2 smallish courgettes
Pack of halloumi cheese (I used Tesco reduced fat)
Bag of Rocket Salad
Balsamic Vinaigrette
Lemon

Spread out the cherry tomatoes on a baking tray, cut side up and pop them in the oven for about 40 minutes at 160 degrees C. I sprinkled mine with mixed herbs, but anything you have on hand will be fine.

Cut the ends off the asparagus and toss them with a little olive oil. These (and the halloumi) can be cooked on the BBQ or in a griddle pan. Either way, get your BBQ / griddle very hot and lay the asparagus on. Turn them two or three times until they are glistening bright green and have good char marks. Remove them from the BBQ / griddle and cut each spear into three or four pieces.

Keeping the BBQ / griddle very hot, carefully sear the slices of halloumi on each side, turning when they have griddle marks. The slices have a tendency to split, but try and keep as many whole as possible.

Using a vegetable peeler, make courgette ribbons. It’s best to use the outer parts of the courgettes and discard the middle. Turning the courgette around to get a little skin on each peeling, will give your ribbons a little substance and also looks good! Put the ribbons in a bowl and sprinkle with the juice of a lemon and a little olive oil. Toss to coat.

Put a little rocket salad on each plate and top with the courgette ribbons. Sprinkle over the roasted baby tomatoes, asparagus pieces, halloumi and then drizzle with balsamic vinegar or dressing.

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Cheats Strawberry Cheesecake

This is the long suffering boyfriend’s creation – a quickie, healthy treat!

Strawberries
Good quality natural yoghurt (I use Glenisk)
Biscuits, smashed into crumbs

Chop the strawberries and toss with a little sugar and leave for 5 minutes to macerate. Put the biscuit crumbs in the bottom of the glass and half fill with the yoghurt. Top with the sweetened strawberries and enjoy!

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