Thursday, February 17, 2011

Masterchef audition dish!

Vanilla and lime mash sounds a bit crazy but trust me it's amazing! The flavours just melt perfectly together. 
So this year I was really lucky to have made it onto the UK version of Masterchef. I feel I need to mention that I didn't make it very far on the actual TV show but I had a blast doing it. My friend Janice was the one to push me to go for it. It was a random rainy Wednesday and as usual I was avoiding doing work by googling new recipe ideas and chatting with Janice on skype. She sent me a link to the application page and said "just do it".

A couple of phone interviews, a screen test and 3 audition menus later I got a call to tell me they wanted me to be on the show! I remember my embarrassment because as I was chatting with the producer of a great foodie TV show I was trying to disguise the fact that I was shoving a Big Mac into my face (having been out drinking the night before). 

They've changed the show format this year so there's no more group cooking or ingredients challenge like in previous years. This time around you have to make your own dish for the "auditions" section. You then finish your dish off infront of John and Greg and either give you a Masterchef apron, or rip you a new areshole and make you cart off your dirty dishes in a march of culinary shame. 

So how far did I actually get? Well you'll have to wait to find out. In the mean time here's my recipe for my audition dish. Roast duck breast with vanilla and lime mash and a blackberry jus.

Blackberries for the jus


  • 4 Duck breasts 
  • 600g of good mashing potatoes 
  • 1 vanilla pod 
  • zest of 1 lime 
  • 1 tbs honey 
  • 150-200mls of reduced chicken stock 
  • 80g butter
  • 100mls of cream 
  • preheat oven to 200c 

How to bit:

Peel and cut the potatoes into even sized pieces. Place them into a pot of salted cold water and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 30-40min (until soft but not crumbling). While your potatoes are cooking, score the vanilla pod in half and place it into a pot with the cream, butter and lime zest. Heat over a gentle heat until the butter and cream are combined. Turn the heat down low and allow the zest and vanilla to infuse into the cream. 

Trim any sinew from your duck breast. Season the breast with salt and pepper and score the skin of the duck breast with a sharp knife (try not to cut into the flesh of the breast). In a hot pan place the duck breast skin side down to render off the fat, immediately turn the heat down to medium and cook for 3-4 min before turning the breast and cooking on the other side for 2min. Transfer to the oven and cook for about 8min (until nice and pink inside). Allow to rest for a few min before cutting. 

Blackberry jus, this is really simple. Reduce your chicken stock down and add a handfull of crushed blackberries. Check the flavour and adjust the sharpness of the just with some honey. 

Make your mash by using the cream and butter that is now infused with vanilla and lime. Slice the duck breast and serve ontop of the mash, and drizzle over some of that lovely jus. 

Friday, February 11, 2011

Kickass Katsu Curry!!

Beautiful Katsu Curry 
For me there's nothing as comforting on a miserable evening than huge bowl of katsu curry with a heaped mound of steaming fluffy white rice. Now, I'm by no means a curry snob, as many of my friends can testify! I'm more than partial to a "durty" curry form my local Chinese takeaway, but sometimes I want more than a bowl of guilt.

I'm not going to lie. I have a fetish for katsu curry. It's probably very uncouth of me to admit that this long lasting love affair started in a Dublin branch of Wagamama. However shameful food chain origins aside, this curry is a seriously good winter warmer. So when Pino came over the other night with a mountain of work still to do. I decided to throw together a katsu curry, partially to reward him but let's face it, it was really to satisfy my own glutinous needs.

I make my own curry powder and garam masala and I'll be posting about that soon enough but for most people this would be too much work. Instead I'd recommend you buy a good quality curry powder and garam masala from your local Asian market.

With Katsu curry you should officially use panko breadcrumbs for your meat but I have on many occasion thrown a chunk of baguette into a blender when I haven't been able to get my hands on some panko. As always use the recipe as a guide and add subtract things as you like.

For the chicken or pork: 

  • 100g of flour 
  • 200g of breadcrumbs
  • 1 egg beaten 
  • Chicken just ready for turning
  • salt and pepper 

For the curry sauce: 
  • 1 tbs of curry powder 
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1 onion 
  • 2 carrots 
  • 1 tsp garam masala 
  • 700mls of chicken stock 
  • 2 tbs flour 
  • 1 bay leaf 
  • 1 tbs soy sauce 
  • 2 tsp honey 

The How To Bit: 

Saute the onions and garlic in a pan with some groundnut oil for a few min. Once softened add the diced carrots and turn the heat down. Cook with a lid on for about 10 min. This will start to caramelise the vegetables and add a wonderful sweetness to the curry. Now stir in the flour and curry powder and allow to cook in the oil for a min. Slowly pour over the stock while stirring continuously. Add the soy sauce, honey and bay leaf. Bring this mixture to the boil, reduce and simmer for 20min or until it's at the consistency that you like. Add the garam masala and pass it through a sieve. I like my katsu smooth but if you like a chunky curry then leave the bits in. 
For the chicken or pork simply season the meat with salt and pepper dust in flour, dip in the egg and then cover in breadcrumbs. I then put these into an oven at gas mark 6 for 35-40 min. Turning halfway through. 

I like my curry with rice but it's also lovely with noodles.  Myself and Pino had a very tasty Monday evening!

The boy and his food 
Do you think Pino looks

  1. Confused as to why I'm taking a picture of him eating
  2. Exahusted from the mountain of work he has to do
  3. Happy at being fed 
  4. all of the above 
Answer on the back of a postcard.....or just leave a comment. Yeah that might be easier come to think of it. 

Monday, February 7, 2011

When the world gives you lemons, make....Limoncello!

OK so technically this isn't limoncello because I got my lemons at my local Waitrose and not from the Amalfi coast! That slight technicality aside I think what I've ended up with is a pretty good approximation. It does take a lot of perseverance to make a good batch (10-12 weeks).

I made this as a gift for my boyfriend Pino, who's Italian (If the name didn't give it away). I was struggling to think of good gift ideas and as he is a bit of a foodie too I knew he'd appreciate a bottle of tangy lemony goodness.

What you'll need:
  • 12 unwaxed organic Lemons (mine were small) 
  • 1 lime (zest only)
  • 750mls of grain alcohol (80-90%) 
  • 200g of caster sugar 
  • A large bowl or jar with a tight fitting lid
  • A lot of patience

The first thing you'll need to do is zest your lemons and lime. My advice for this part would to be invest in a good zester or microplane. I had neither! The goal is to remove all the zest but none of the white pith underneath. I ended up using a vegetable peeler and then scrapping the white pith off of each slice with a sharp knife. Not fun and also my hands smelled of lemons for about 3 days. 

10 weeks in and it looked ready to me
Once you've got all your zest off put it into your jar and cover the peel with your grain alcohol. I've read online that some people use high quality vodka for this part as grain alcohol isn't readily available in a lot of places. I found my grain alcohol in a small asian shop near Tooting broadway. 

The next part is where your patience comes in. Put a lid on the jar and place in a cool dark place for the next 8-12weeks. I gave my jar a shake everyday for the first 2 weeks, then once a week for the next 8 weeks. This just helps remove the essential oils form the lemons. You'll notice the alcohol turn a bright yellow colour. 

Next, I got myself about 150mls of fresh lemon juice (about 8 large lemons), 100ms of water and mixed it with 200g of caster sugar. Once the sugar was dissolved and the syrup boiling I added it to the lemon and alcohol. 

What really amazed me was the change in colour. It turned from something that resembled my toilet bowl after a heavy nights drinking, into a bright opaque, almost sunshine yellow colour. I'm told that Limoncello is suposed to be clear and the fact that mine was cloudy is a flaw. However I'm really impressed with my flaw! 

Once it had cooled down, I poured it into some really nice glass bottles that I bought in a shop in camden market. I used a white paint pen and a friend with better handwriting than me to write on the bottles. My only problem is that I'm not 100% sure of what the strength is of this. However being Irish this isn't a real problem for me.