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It's the Friday Food Forum

Rachel Collins Fri, Nov 15
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  • 13:01
    Good afternoon and welcome to our second Friday Food Forum.
    It’s been a busy day for us here with the launch of our Winter Food & Wine Magazine – free with The Irish Times today.
    We’re here for the next hour to help you with all your food, wine, cooking, baking and kitchen conundrums. The Irish Times food and drink team is on hand and we have two guests with us today - Paul Flynn from the Tannery restaurant in Dungarvan and Catherine Fulvio from Ballyknocken House & Cookery School in Co Wicklow
    So please send us your questions here and we’ll do all we can to help
  • 13:04
    First up, we’ve received a couple of questions about muffins:
    Miriam’s was: How can I get a proper 'muffin top' on my muffins? Mine always taste fine, but they never rise up into a dome - instead, they just spread out across the top of the tin.
    Wannabebaker:  Each time I bake muffins the tops bake normally but underneath remains uncooked. Is it the temperature?
    Eunice Power: Muffin tops - so refreshing to hear people looking for muffin tops - I am always trying to hide mine . . . 
    If you increase the oven temperature to 200C/Gas 6, the batter will cook and set at the edges while the centre is still liquid. Then the centre continues to bake and the muffins will cook inwards and puff up, giving a proper muffin top.
    For the second question - same principle applies - maybe turn down the temp slightly when the muffin has puffed up - the mix may  be too loose - it should be spoonable not pourable.
  • 13:05
    Kate: Please tell me more about Irish seaweed. Which are most useful, tasty and popular varieties. What are the nutritional benefits? Where to locate each variety? How to cook seaweed in an interesting way on its own and integrating it with different ingredients? Thank you!
    Marie-Claire Digby: Hi Kate, If you are interested in learning more about identifying Irish seaweed and cooking with it, I recommend you pick up a copy of Sally McKenna’s great book, Extreme Greens: Understanding Seaweeds, published by Estragon Press and available from bookshops and online from for €20. It’s full of useful information on how to identify the different types of seaweed and the properties of each, as well as recipes for delicious sounding things like mussel, coconut and kelp soup, and prawn and sea vegetable paella. 
    Prannie Rhatigan’s Irish Seaweed Kitchen is another publication you might find informative and inspiring. It can be purchased online for €25 from Tom and Ria Jones, who make Sea of Vitality seaweed-enriched brown bread in Dungarvan, Co Waterford, are about to begin selling a seaweed brown bread dry mix, as well as milled dillisk and ground sugar kelp which you can add to soups, stews and braises. They will be available in health food shops, and you can buy it direct from them by phoning 086-2324270.
  • 13:12

    Ciara: Hi - I buy meat in bulk from my butcher when it's on special offer and freeze (vacuum packed by my butcher). Defrosting large joints such as a big shoulder of lamb (up to 3kg. . .) always baffles me. If I leave it in the fridge it can take up to 3 days which seems a long time for it to be just sitting there. Is there any harm in cooking (slow cooking) lamb or beef that isn't defrosted right through?
    Paul Flynn: For me, that would be a big no-no to try to cook meat that is not fully defrosted.  Equally, I understand what you mean about the big joints.  They take forever to defrost in the fridge.  Although technically, this is the only way we should do it.  
    But practically, like people had to do before refrigeration (when there were larders and pantries)  just find the coolest room in your house – crucially with no access for pets! Leave on a tray, cover with a cloth and it will significantly shorten the defrosting time.

  • 13:15
    Peter Malone: Can you advise how to 'spruce up' a Saturday night steak dinner? We normally get rib-eye.
    PF: I am a big fan of flavoured butters.  They are something that you can get ready ahead of time, make an abundance of, freeze and take out and slice when you need.  The classic accompaniments for me with steak are garlic, mustard and parsley.   A little tip might be to incorporate a little caramelized onion jam, which you often see ready made in supermarkets or delis.  Cook the steak, allow to rest and serve with this delicious butter melting over the top. 
    Parsley and Garlic butter
    225g of butter
    4 tbsp finely chopped parsley
    6 finely chopped cloves of garlic
    Juice of half a lemon
    Let the butter soften at room temperature for an hour or so.  Put into a food processor or Kenwood mixer with a K-beater, and cream for a couple of minutes until smooth, add the rest of the ingredients.  When evenly distributed spoon out on to kitchen paper and roll securing both ends like a Christmas cracker. 
    Herb Butter - add as much chopped soft herbs as you like, such as Dill, Chervil, Chives, Parsley, Marjoram.
    Mustard Butter- equal amounts of Dijon and Grain mustard with chopped Parsley and Worchester sauce.
  • 13:15

    Amanda: I'm just looking for ideas for how to get my kids to eat more fish? Any meal ideas?
    Catherine Fulvio: Well I’m a bit of an expert on that having had one great eater and one fussy eater. I suggest you start with finger food – fresh fish breaded and made into and dippable sticks, they won’t even know it’s fish!  Start with more solid fish so salmon, tuna or cod and always be sure there are no bones.  I also a big fan of pies, so fish pie is also worth a try with tasty mash on top.

  • 13:19
    Liz Kennedy: My 18 month old is allergic to eggs, nuts & honey. Is there a simple, not too sweet cake recipe I could make for the family without these ingredients? 
    Eunice: Hi Liz, I found this Date Loaf Cake recipe online - sounds good and got good reviews, also try flapjacks - my kids love them.
  • 13:25
    Fionnuala Smith, Marie Murray and Mary Egan all asked what to do with the abundance of apples in their gardens this year
    Eunice Power: We had a glut of apples this year and we made apple jelly, chutney and the stewed the rest and put them in the freezer. If you are more adventurous try making cider.
    Paul Flynn: Hi Fionnuala – This is a fantastic recipe for an apple and cinnamon butter which you can use as gifts for your friends for Christmas
    200g butter 
    900g cooking apples
    2tbsp ground cinnamon
    120ml dry cider 
    Brown sugar to taste
    Melt the butter until foaming, add the cinnamon and cook out on a medium heat for 2 mins.
    Add the apples and cook out for a further 5 mins. Add the cider and cook for 15 mins. Add the sugar until you get a nice sweet/sour balance. Allow to cool and store in the fridge
  • 13:26
    Brian: I am cooking Vietnamese food this weekend - what should I offer my guests to drink with it?
    John Wilson: Vietnamese food tends to be very herby and spicy - I find New World Riesling or Semillon works really well with fish prawns etc and a full-bodied shiraz with beef dishes
  • 13:29
    John: Can any of your panellists give any tips for cooking with wine? I tend to throw a good dash of red into the spag bol, but I keep hearing that white is better. I can't imagine that's the case, is it?
    Paul Flynn: Hi John, the way I approach cooking is if it works for you, it works. I’m not personally a fan of too much booze in cooking.  I think too much can quite easily ruin a dish.  So in my view, keep on trucking, use the red and enjoy a glass while you are cooking. 
  • 13:30
    Barbara:  I have recently been diagnosed with an auto immune disease. I also have arthritis. I would welcome any recommendations on foods to avoid and foods to eat? I have cut out gluten but unsure about other foods to avoid.
    Catherine: I am not an expert in this field so would refer you to a the reliable and excellent resource of Arthritis Ireland  but off the top off my head I believe tomatoes are one to cut down on while a banana a day is recommended by some sources.  
  • 13:34
    Jacqui: Hello, My question concerns Salmon en croute. No matter what I do, preheat the baking tray, cook on a rack, the bottom layer of the pastry has always a soggy bottom. Do you have any suggestions as to how to have it crispy? Thanks 
    Catherine: At a guess that’s because the juices of the salmon are leaking through the pastry.  You could do as they do with the Beef Wellington and place a layer of crepe between the salmon and the pastry keeping it nice and crisp.
  • 13:35
    Catherine:  Why do my potatoes go black when I try to make "pommes lyonnaise" (i.e. sliced potato cooked in cream and garlic)?
    Marie Claire: If you are using cream and garlic it's really a dauphinoise you're making rather than Lyonnaise which just has potatoes, butter and parsley, or Boulanger which has onions and stock too. Your potatoes might be going black because they have not been submerged in the cream. The best way to make dauphinoise is to gently cook the thinly sliced potatoes in the garlic and cream, or milk and cream, half and half, in a pot for about five minutes, then tip the mixture into an ovenproof dish and  smooth it out before topping with a few dots of butter and baking til cooked through and brown on top. This way you shouldn't get any black edges.
  • 13:38
    Mary: Are there any non-alcoholic wines you could recommend? The ones I have tried have been disappointing?
    John Wilson: I have tried them all but have yet to find any I could recommend. Far better to go for a good mocktail
  • 13:40
    Paul: Why do some recipes call for unsalted butter and then add salt?
    Catherine Fulvio: It's a way of controlling the amount of salt that goes into the recipe. I would also see it as an American influence where they use primarily unsalted butter and add salt. Here in Ireland our most common is salted is butter!
  • 13:41
    Mary: Are there any non-alcoholic wines you could recommend? The ones I have tried have been disappointing?
    John Wilson: I have tried them all but have yet to find any I could recommend. Far better to go for a good mocktail
  • 13:46
    Nuala: What exactly is fromage frais? What to do with it?
    Catherine: It is a soft curd cheese, technically translated it means fresh cheese and has the texture of sour cream but is lighter and has a sharper flavour.  It is delicious served with fruit compote as a dessert or indeed with warm toast in the morning and also works well on hot toasted brioche 
  • 13:48
    Deirdre Magenis: Can you tell me are there any cookery classes that specialise in the preparation and cooking of fish. That is boning, descaling etc.  
    Paul Flynn: Hi Deirdre, Funnily enough we have some courses coming up in The Tannery Cookery School in 2014 specifically for fish – in June, but I will say that I try to do as little of that as possible.  A good fishmonger will always do that for you and make the cooking process infinitely more pleasurable.   But if you share a house with a fisherman, this is another matter.  First thing, get a good knife and the rest is just down to patience.  
  • 13:51
    Sile: I need to buy wine for a party. Can you recommend a wine shop that will let me try some wines before I buy, and that will offer sale or return?
    John Wilson: Depends how many guests you are having to your party - if you have an O'Briens near you (or a local independent wine shop) they should be helpful and certainly open up a few samples if you are buying a couple of cases. Supermarkets are unlikely to offer this.
  • 13:52

    Marie: Asparagus- what is the best way to cook it and how? Steam or boil? Catherine Fulvio: Asparagus is so versatile and it’s quick. The best way to cook asparagus is in unsalted simmering water, cook it until you can just pierce it with a knife.  Very quickly remove from water and place into ice cold water – it preserves that lovely green colour. In fact asparagus features strongly in my last cookbook, Eat Like an Italian; checkout out Asparagus & Pear Risotto perfect for winter warmer or as a salad I steam asparagus and serve with a Pistachio & Orange dressing YUM!.  

  • 13:53
    Claire: I have a vegan coming for dinner – any suggestions for a menu? Thank you
    Catherine Fulvio: So this means no dairy, no eggs, no meat and no fish… I would suggest you need to have menu that suits all – so you are not cooking different dishes for people. At this time of the year I would go for something like a celeriac & thyme soup served with home-made Focaccia.  Perhaps Roasted Stuffed Butternut Squash – filled with a medley of vegetables, herbs and rice, cous cous or quinoa.  For dessert I’d suggest a Lemon granita or go for a winter fruit flavour granita with blood oranges and pomegranate.
  • 13:53
    Charlie B: I always have issues with chicken stock. Do you have a foolproof recipe? I always add either too much water, or too little and don’t get enough. Also add salt, don’t add salt?
    Paul: Charlie, just cover the bones and veg with an excess of two inches of water and simmer gently for approx one-and-a-half hours, skimming regularly.  If the bones start to protrude through the water, top up with a little bit of fresh water.  A great little trick if you are inclined to do so is to drop a chicken stock cube into it.  Then strain, reduce and freeze in batches for further use. 
  • 13:54
    Eugene Doran: I currently bake a white loaf, using dried yeast etc. However, when it comes out of the oven the crust is never crispy, it is chewy. The bread itself is lovely, but is there any way of making the crust more crispy?
    Catherine: The key to crispy crust is a high oven temperature to start with. I usually go with 220C with a fan oven (gas 7). When the crust is formed, turn the oven down to about 190C/gas 5 to ensure the bread is fully baked.
  • 13:54
    Kate: I am going to Copenhagen soon and would like to eat in a good restaurant while I am there. I know you were there recently and would like to know what your favourite was?
    Paul Flynn: We had a great dinner in a restaurant called Manfreds & Vin - I really recommend it for a super Nordic experience and it also has the most amazing wine list with very different natural wines, completely different to what we are used to. Also make sure to try out a fantastic beer only pub around the corner from Manfreds & Vin which has 40 different craft beers on tap alone 
  • 13:55
    E  Costello: I use self-raising flour when making brown soda bread - 600 gms wholemeal, 400 gms flour. I also use bread soda - 4tsp -  and buttermilk. Is there any advantage in using self-raising flour? What is the effect of using self-raising flour?
    Catherine Fulvio:  My tried and tested recipe for Brown Soda Bread is 550g of stone ground wholemeal plus 550g of plain white flour, but I only use 2tsp of bread soda and the recipe doesn’t need baking powder.  
    So to answer your question, there’s quite a bit of raising agent in the recipe above. There appears to be twice quantity of bread soda as well as the baking powder that is also in the self-raising flour, so to me there’s no advantage in using self-raising flour in your recipe.
  • 13:56
    Sarah: How long does filter coffee stay fresh on a hotplate?
    Catherine F: Real coffee connoisseurs would say not to keep coffee on a hot plate but I understand that sometimes when entertaining it comes in handy, my rule of thumb would be serve coffee as soon as it is made where possible.  The truth is that if coffee is left on a hot plate it will continue to heat and thereby burn the coffee, so my advice would be max 15mins, if you must!
  • 13:59
    Megan: I've just discovered the majesty that is Dingle gin. How would you say it is best served? Any good hors d'oeuvres to pair it with for a simple cocktail hour?
    John Wilson: In the Netherlands they drink small shots from the freezer as an aperitif with beer. You could follow the Danes and serve it well chilled with marinated with herring or smoked salmon? However, for me a good G&T is the best option with a few freshly toasted almonds, cheese straws and olives.
    Paul Flynn: Hi Megan– I love the combination of good gin and cucumber, such simple clean tastes.  I think a perfect iced Dingle gin, garnished with cucumber and maybe if you can get your hands on some Fever Tree tonic is the perfect accompaniment to great smoked salmon on rye bread. 
  • 13:59

    Cormac: Kale has become extremely popular all of a sudden and is all over the internet as a crazy good super food. I've no idea what to do with it so what's the best way to cook kale?
    Catherine Fulvio: Yes indeed kale is all the rage – easy to cook and full of goodness.  I have made my own version of colcannon using kale, but it can also just as easily be added to a stir-fry for an added iron boost.  It can be braised in rapeseed or olive oil with garlic and stock and served as a side.  And of course you can make kale crisps aswell – just pop them in a low oven and let them dry, sprinkle with a little Atlantic sea salt and serve.

  • 14:00
    Susan: My curries always split when I add youghurt to them, even though I take them off the heat and don't bring them back to the boil. Can you suggest how I can avoid this please?
    Paul Flynn: Hi Susan, I wonder is it the yoghurt you are using.  Add a pinch of flour to the curry to hold it but I have a feeling it might be the yoghurt.  I always use thick greek style yoghurt
  • 14:01
    Laura: As it's getting colder I love a meat (beef) pie or stew but sometimes the meat ends up being chewy and unpleasant, even with low slow cooking. What type of beef is best for these dishes, and what is the best cooking method? 
    Catherine Fulvio: Definitely go to your local butcher and choose the meat – roundsteak is beautiful in pies and stews. Ask the butcher to trim to the meat, then I toss the meat in seasoned flour and fry it off in batches to brown.  This gives it a lovely flavour to the stew. Finally a long, slow cooking. 
  • 14:02
    Larry: Is there any need to deseed chillies? Or can you just chop them whole? Also, the green bit in tomatoes - is that carcinogenic or is this nonsense? 
    Paul Flynn: A lot of the heat of the chilli is in the seeds.  I think its always safer to deseed lest the heat overwhelm the dish.  Re the tomatoes, I don’t know if it is or isn’t carcinogenic.  I have actually never heard that before.  But I never eat it myself as I just don’t like it. 
  • 14:03
    Marie: What is the best temperature to cook creme brulee? I find that I have to set the temp to 200 degrees (way above what I have seen recommended in recipes) for over 60 minutes to get the creme brulee to set. I don't have a bain marie so I place the porcelain ramekins into a roasting tin of water. So is my problem the temperature, the recipe itself, or the baking method?
    Catherine Fulvio: I think there may be something wrong with the recipe. A crème brulée should be slow cooked at a low temperature.  There is a danger at higher temperature that the eggs will curdle.
    My other question is you mention a bain marie in roasting tin of water which is fine – but do you use boiling water?  I would suggest you do as if it’s cold water the cooking process is even slower.
  • 14:04
    And our final question for today is from Christine:  What new ingredients and trends can you anticipate will be most relevant for 2014?
    Catherine Fulvio: The move towards fresh, local, seasonal produce will continue. And I believe gluten-free products will continue to have a growing presence on the shelves in supermarkets.  
    When it comes to veggies, kale seems to be top of the charts right now and that will continue into the new year because of strong health & nutritional qualities. I also see sorrel making an appearance more.
    While Middle Eastern food is at the top of its game at the moment the upcoming one to watch is Korean Cuisine.
    Paul Flynn: I tend to steer clear from trends.  I am just interested in good cooking using great ingredients. 
    Marie Claire Digby: In no particular order these are some of the things I think we’ll be seeing more of  next year: Home baked bread,  single estate teas, ceviche, sweet and savoury waffles, beef back in favour,  seaweed products,  interesting/unusual sandwiches,  and food trucks.
  • 14:11
    And that’s it – we’re cooked!
    Thanks so much for all your great questions today, and thanks to our food and drink team working the keyboards, Eunice Power, Marie Claire Digby, Catherine Cleary, John Wilson, and our guests Paul Flynn from The Tannery in Dungarvan and Catherine Fulvio from Ballyknocken House.
    You can learn more about The Tannery’s cooking classes mentioned earlier here 
    Catherine's latest cookbook The Weekend Chef has been shortlisted for the Avonmore Cookbook of the Year – voting is here 

    For those of you who didn’t get the chance to ask your questions today, you can send them to us all week on on this form and we’ll be back at 1pm next Friday to answer them
    Thanks again, have a lovely weekend