Tuesday, 25 June 2013

pork belly with black pudding, scallops, fondant potatoes, oyster mushrooms and wild garlic

With the starter out of the way, next up was the main course; the main event of the meal, and expectations were high. Not that I was panicking or anything of course, but I started this dish at around 10am!

Preparation is the key here. The pork is cooked, cooled and cooked again, and there's a fair bit of last minute flying around before plating up, but thankfully the end result tastes like a little bit of heaven. I love all of these ingredients, and together they're just perfect. Loads of different flavours, half a dozen different textures, and a real showcase of a meal to impress even the in-law-est of in-laws!

Enjoy making this; you'll get a real sense of achievement as a cook and what you end up eating is guaranteed to be one of the nicest meals you've produced all year!


For the pork belly
  • 1kg - 1.3kg pork belly, bones/ribs removed. skin scored
  • Handful of fresh thyme sprigs
  • 2 bulbs garlic, halved horizontally
  • 350ml white wine
  • 500ml warm chicken stock
  • Olive oil
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

For the fondant potatoes
  • 3-4 large potatoes, peeled & cut into 4cm cubes (2 cubes per person)
  • 150g butter
  • 75ml chicken stock
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed/broken slightly with a knife
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

For the rest!
  • 8 slices black pudding
  • 8 scallops, cleaned & patted dry
  • Good handful of oyster mushrooms
  • 2 tbsp butter, diced
  • Olive oil
  • Good handful of wild garlic
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

  1. For the first stage of the pork belly, preheat the oven to 180c / 160c (fan) / gas mark 4.
  2. Season the pork with salt & pepper on both sides and rub with a couple of good glugs of olive oil.
  3. Place the garlic in a roasting pan, cut side up, and cover with the sprigs of thyme. Place the pork belly on top, skin side up, and pour around 250ml of the wine around the edges into the pan.
  4. Cover loosely with tin foil, cook the pork for 2 hours before resting on a board for 10-15 minutes.
  5. Place the pork in a clean tray or dish, with another on top. Weight it down (cans of food are good for this) and leave to cool for around 3-4 hours.
  6. The gravy comes next! Place the original roasting tin on the stove top over a medium-high heat and deglaze with the remaining 100ml of wine. Reduce for 3-4 minutes then add the stock and reduce again by half, making sure you break the garlic & thyme down as much as possible with a wooden spoon to get all the flavour out.
  7. Sieve the sauce into a jug and set to one side for reheating later when plating up.
  8. When the pork is cooled (and a lot flatter), divide it into 8 equal portions and get the oven up to its highest setting (around 220c). When the oven is nice & hot, cook the pork skin side up on the top shelf until the skin crisps up (around 15 minutes or so).
  9. In the meantime, you can deal with the fondant potatoes. Put the butter into a saucepan & heat until foaming. Place the potatoes in and cook for around 5 minutes, until they start to turn a nice golden brown. Turn over and cook for another 5 minutes before adding the stock, garlic and thyme sprigs. Cover & reduce the heat slightly, and simmer for another 5 minutes or so, until the potatoes are tender.
  10. For the mushrooms, just fry in some olive oil with a little black pepper until cooked through & tender.
  11. Next up is the black pudding. Heat a little olive oil in a non-stick pan, add the black pudding and fry for 2 minutes on each side until crispy. Remove from the pan & place to one side on a warm plate.
  12. Season the scallops lightly with salt & pepper. In the same pan as you cooked the black pudding, add a little more oil and when nice & hot add the scallops and cook for 30s-60s on each side. The time will depend on the size of your scallops, but you're looking for a nice brown sear before turning.
  13. Finally, sauté the wild garlic in a knob of butter until nicely wilted. You should also reheat your sauce at this stage - in a microwave will do, especially as you probably don't have any clean pans left by now!
  14. To serve, place two pieces of pork belly on each plate, then two pieces of black pudding with a scallop on each, and two potatoes with a couple of the mushrooms on top. Place your wild garlic in the middle of the plate & pour the sauce into the gaps in between it all!
  15. This is a fair bit of faffing around; I do understand that, but trust me, it's very much worth every second!
The dish is lovely served with pretty much any wine too! Red is great with the pork and black pudding, white is great with the potatoes, pork, scallops & black pudding, and rose is great with everything!


Serves 4

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

pan fried sea bass with carrots, leeks & caper butter sauce

The outlaws were heading into town.

Wait, let me start that again...

My girlfriend's lovely parents were coming round for dinner.

Unfortunately for me, my cooking has been bigged up somewhat by my loved one (and admittedly, also by me), so I had quite a lot to live up to. As you know, I always try to come up with dishes that have the look, feel & taste of restaurant standard plates of food, but which don't break the bank, so this was my chance to go with that & give la familia something very special without having to use any ingredients that rhyme with 'mobster'.

Vegetables are always a good option. They're cheap, versatile, tasty, and good for us! So they were on the shopping list without a second thought. The nice people over at Kish Fish in Smithfield had also just sent me a text message informing me that sea bass fillets were on offer, so that also seemed like a no-brainer - who doesn't like fresh, simply-cooked fish, right?! And as we know, many people have the notion that fish is ridiculously difficult to cook - when in fact it's one of the simplest (shhh don't tell anyone!), so always a good one when trying to impress an Irish Mammy...

Then I just needed a sauce. Butter sauces are light, so great with fish dishes like this. The lemon is lovely with the bass, and the capers add a nice bit of zing against the sweet vegetables.

Try this dish out, and if you can't get hold of sea bass, go for whatever fish you can - trout, salmon, mackerel etc; they all work just as well.

Suffice to say, The Parents were suitably impressed, and loved the food. Phew! Ah but then there was the main course...


  • 4 fillets sea bass, cut into 2 or 3 pieces each
  • 4 medium carrots, peeled & cut into matchsticks
  • 1 large leek (or 2 medium), cleaned & cut into matchsticks
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • 150g butter, diced
  • 2 tsp capers, drained
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • Small handful of samphire, to serve (optional)

  1. Heat a large sauté pan (or deep frying pan) over a medium-high heat, add 100g of the butter and throw in the leeks & carrots. Sauté for 5 minutes or so, until starting to soften. Lower the heat to keep warm & soften a little more, whilst you cook the fish.
  2. Heat a separate non-stick frying pan until hot. Season the fish lightly on the flesh side with a little salt (not much), and add the oil to the pan.
  3. Carefully place the fish in the pan, skin side down, being careful not to splash yourself with the hot oil (lay the fish away from you to prevent this).
  4. Press the fillets down for a few seconds if necessary to stop them curling up and stay nice & flat - this helps give you a lovely crisp skin. If you're having the samphire, blanch this in boiling water now for around a minute or so until softened, then drain and put to one side.
  5. When the skin has coloured and crisped up, turn the fish and cook for another minute or so on the flesh side, until cooked through. Remove and place on a warm plate.
  6. In the same pan as you cooked the fish, add the remaining 50g of butter and add the capers. When the butter has melted, squeeze in the lemon juice and mix together gently to ensure all the capers have taken on the flavours.
  7. To serve, spoon the carrot & leek mixture onto a plate and place the sea bass on top before spooning over the caper butter.
  8. Finally, to finish off the samphire, just throw it into the remainders of the caper butter and stir around for a few seconds until warmed through. Place on top of the plate, and of course, don't forget to arrange pretentiously!
This is lovely with a nice big glass of cold, dry white wine - which is also useful for drowning your sorrows once you start wishing you'd have made more!

Serves 4