Beef and Irish Stout Stew

by Kristin on March 14, 2013

I have a confession to make: I don’t like Guinness.

When I first moved to Ireland, I tried to like it. I was determined to like it. It was practically my patriotic duty to like it, wasn’t it?

At my first publishing job in Temple Bar in Dublin, the five of us who worked there would often go to the pub for lunch together, and the man from Manchester who I worked with would sometimes skip food altogether and only have a pint of plain. My husband would order it in the pub, sigh contentedly after the first long sip and say, Now that’s a good pint, not that I could ever tell the difference between a good one and all the rest.

My first six months here I kept ordering it in pubs in the hopes that it might be an acquired taste, but I could only ever get halfway through the pints. I moved to Ireland in May but I officially gave up by Christmas. I was out with the same publishing crowd at the Stag’s Head in Dublin and they suggested I order it with a shot of blackcurrant syrup, saying a lot of girls drink it that way. It made it taste even worse — think cough syrup mixed with beer — and I could only take one sip before pushing away the glass. It was ales and lagers and Pinot Grigio for me after that.

But here’s the thing: it took me over 10 years to realise that Guinness and stout are not one and the same, and that even though I don’t like Guinness, Ireland has more to offer than that. The light bulb moment came at a beer tasting at the first Inishfood festival in 2011, when I was handed a cup of Dark Arts. Ugh, stout, I thought, but I guess I may as well try it, it would be rude not to. Instead of the metallic tang of Guinness, I tasted roasted coffee. I took another sip, and tasted chocolate. Cue Green Eggs and Ham–style revelation: Say! I do like stout! I’ve been making up for lost time ever since. Oh hello, Belfast Black, Carraig Dubh, Leann Folláin and Knockmealdown Porter, where have you been all my life?

Irish food

Before I started drinking stout, I would still buy a few bottles from time to time to cook with when I made Nigella Lawson’s chocolate Guinness cake, Catherine Fulvio’s apricot, date and Guinness slices or Jamie Oliver’s steak, cheddar and Guinness pot pie. These days, though, I cook with (and drink!) a craft beer instead — all that flavour goes right into the pot, making a classic beef and stout stew even better. As the saying goes, there’s both eating and drinking in it. Sláinte!

Beef and Irish Stout Stew

Serves 4

My version of this classic stew has a secret ingredient: some dried porcini mushrooms and their soaking liquid for an extra umami hit. To make this into a one-pot meal, add some whole or halved baby potatoes right into the stew along with the stout, beef stock and herbs instead of serving with mashed potatoes. Or for an extra-comforting version, try adding dumplings to the stew, like Nessa does.

Craft beers to try in this recipe — and, of course, to sip alongside it — are Dungarvan Black Rock Irish Stout, Eight Degrees Knockmealdown Porter, O’Hara’s Leann Folláin Stout or Whitewater Brewery Belfast Black.

olive oil
1 kg (2 lb) stewing beef, cut into 1-inch pieces
25 g (1/4 cup) flour
salt and freshly ground black pepper
10 g (1/3 cup) dried porcini mushrooms
4 carrots, cut into thick slices
2 onions, roughly chopped
3 large garlic cloves, chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
500 ml (2 cups) Irish stout
500 to 750 ml (2 to 3 cups) beef stock
freshly ground black pepper
2 bay leaves
champ, colcannon or mashed potatoes, to serve
chopped fresh parsley, to garnish

Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F).

Heat some olive oil over a medium heat in a Dutch oven or a large, heavy-bottomed pot. While the oil is heating up, pat the beef dry with paper towels and toss it in the flour seasoned with some salt and pepper, making sure all the pieces have a dusting of flour. Tap off any excess flour, then brown the beef in batches in the pot for about 5 minutes per batch, turning occasionally. Don’t crowd the pot, otherwise the beef will steam instead of brown, and don’t be tempted to raise the heat too high or the flour will stick to the bottom of the pot too much. Transfer the browned beef to a plate and set aside.

While the beef is browning, put the dried mushrooms in a bowl and pour over 125 ml (1/2 cup) just-boiled water to rehydrate them. Set them aside to steep.

Once all the beef is browned, add the carrots and onions to the pot along with a pinch of salt to keep the onions from browning. Cook for 10 minutes, until the vegetables are softened. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Strain the mushrooms from their soaking liquid (save the liquid!) and finely chop them, then add them to the pot along with the tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce and thyme, stirring to coat all the vegetables. Cook for 1 minute more.

Add in a little of the stout to deglaze the pot, scraping up as much of the browned bits as you can. Add in the rest of the stout, the mushroom soaking liquid and 500 ml (2 cups) of the beef stock, then add the beef back to the pot along with any juices from the plate and a generous grinding of black pepper. Stir to combine everything, then drop in 2 bay leaves.

Cover the stew and bring it to a boil, then either transfer it to the oven and let it cook for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or else reduce the heat to medium and simmer it, uncovered, on the stovetop. Either way, stir it from time to time and add in any or all of the remaining 250 ml (1 cup) of beef stock if you think it needs it. The stew is done when the beef is fork tender and the liquid has reduced and thickened a bit.

To serve, spoon off any fat that may have risen to the top of the stew and taste for seasoning. Spoon some champ, colcannon or mashed potatoes into individual shallow bowls or plates, making a well in the centre. Ladle the stew on top of the potatoes, garnish with the chopped parsley and serve. Like most stews, this one actually improves in flavour after a day, so the leftovers are even better.

{ 20 comments }

Postcards from Ireland #11

by Kristin on March 8, 2013

The entrance to the 5,200-year-old passage tomb at Newgrange, Co. Meath.

You can see more of my photos on Instagram as edibleireland.

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Dublin Coddle

by Kristin on February 28, 2013

In Ireland, people don’t say How are you?, they say, What’s the story? They say, Sit down. Have a cup of tea. Come here to me, wait till I tell you. Because people want to hear the story. There’s always a story.

Ireland is a country in love with language, with words, with writing. The Long Hall in Trinity College, built in the 1700s, is one of the most beautiful libraries in the world. Before the euro, there was even a writer, James Joyce, on the £10 note. In his visit to Dublin last year for his Layover TV show, Anthony Bourdain said, ‘It seems that every great poem, every great story, every great thing ever written not by a Russian was written by an Irishman. Point is, they like books around here.’

Then there’s the slang. When I moved here, not only did I have to work hard to understand the accent, but Irish slang is like a language all its own. Fourteen years later, I’m still learning. Go away out of that. I’m as sick as the plane to Lourdes. The head on him and the price of turnips. Sure this is it. I still sometimes get that panicked, apologetic smile when I haven’t quite caught someone’s meaning or the lilt of their accent and have to lean in closer while I ask them to repeat themselves.

Roddy Doyle said, ‘Dublin is the sound of people talking. Dublin city is the sound of people who love talking, people who love words, who love taking words and playing with them, twisting and bending them, making short ones longer and the long ones shorter, people who love inventing words and giving fresh meaning to old ones.’

Take this, the capital’s namesake dish: Dublin coddle. When I asked some Irish friends if anyone actually ever eats it, a born and bred Dub compared the boiled sausages you’d commonly find in it to ‘widows’ memories’ (I’ll leave that one to your imagination). It was said to be a favourite dish of Jonathan Swift and Seán O’Casey, two more wordsmiths, and James Joyce referred to it in Finnegan’s Wake (‘to cuddle up in a coddlepot’). The name of the dish itself comes from the verb coddle, which means to gently cook in liquid just below boiling, which itself comes from the word caudle, a hot drink given to the sick in the Middle Ages.

Can an expat – a blow-in no matter how long you live here, no matter how firmly you try to put your roots down since they don’t go deep – ever really know a place? The way I finally hit on was through the lens of Ireland’s food. I may not have grown up eating Dublin coddle or soda bread or seed cake, but I’m learning to love them now. I’m still trying to make this place mine, one new dish, one new word at a time: barmbrack, boxty, colcannon, coddle.

‘If you’ve got any kind of a heart, a soul, an appreciation for your fellow man, or any kind of appreciation for the written word … then there’s no way you could avoid loving this city,’ said Anthony Bourdain. Beneath its tough, gritty, ‘dirty old town’ veneer, Dublin is all heart. And the city — this country — now has mine. Come here to me and wait till I tell you.

Dublin Coddle

Serves 4

Traditionally, Dublin coddle is made simply by throwing all the ingredients into a pot and cooking them together for hours. The result, though, isn’t the most aesthetically pleasing, or the tastiest: ‘slimy onions and slimy sausages’, as someone put it on Twitter. Even Darina Allen says in her book Irish Traditional Cooking that when cooked that way, it looks ‘distinctly unappetising (lots of chopped parsley scattered over the top would take the harm out of the sausages, which still appear to be raw)’. Like any good soup, the key to this dish is to spend a bit of time at the start by browning the sausages and onions, though apparently this step is a bit controversial. ‘The sausages are supposed to be pink and raw looking. Sorts the men from the boys,’ said Séan. ‘You browned the sausages? I heard only Protestants do that!’ said Claire. And of course, since there are so few ingredients, use the best sausages, the best bacon and the best produce you can find for some pure Dub comfort food.

olive oil or rapeseed oil
450 g (1 lb) good-quality butcher’s sausages
200 g smoked streaky bacon or rashers, chopped into bite-sized pieces
2 onions, sliced
450 g (1 lb) baby potatoes, halved
500 ml (2 cups) chicken stock
salt and freshly ground black pepper
a small bunch of fresh parsley, chopped
good crusty bread, to serve

Heat a splash of olive or rapeseed oil in the bottom of a large, heavy-bottomed pot over a medium heat. Add in the sausages and cook on all sides just until they have a nice colour. Transfer them to a plate, then add the bacon and sliced onions to the pot. Cook for about 10 minutes, until the onions have softened and have a little colour. Add in the halved baby potatoes and transfer the sausages back to the pot, then pour over the stock. Season with some salt and pepper, but go easy on the salt because the sausages, bacon and stock will already be salty. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat, cover the pot and simmer for 1 hour, until the potatoes are cooked through. Stir through the chopped fresh parsley and ladle into soup bowls. Serve with plenty of crusty bread to soak up the broth.

If you don’t want to make Dublin coddle yourself, you can find it on the menu at these Dublin restaurants: The Gravediggers pub (aka John Kavanagh’s) in Glasnevin, Gallagher’s Boxty House in Temple Bar or The Bakehouse on Bachelor’s Walk or in the IFSC.

 

 

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Chocolate Stout Truffles

by Kristin on February 11, 2013

I’ve never been a fan of Valentine’s Day. When I was 17 years old and working in the town grocery store, I remember the line of men in the express checkout lane, all clutching their last-minute bouquets of tired-looking roses, picked-over cards and a box of Fannie May chocolates, bought in a rush on their way home from work. It all seemed arbitrary instead of romantic and it made an early cynic out of me.

As jaded as I am about a Hallmark holiday, it would be a shame to pass up an excuse to have some chocolate. I’ve upped the ante on the usual chocolate box selection and incorporated beer into these truffles. Believe it or not, a craft stout is a surprisingly good match with chocolate (think chocolate stout cake or porter brownies). The stout gives these truffles a deep, dark, bitter edge — a little like love?

Chocolate Stout Truffles

Makes about 24 truffles

Dungarvan Brewing Company’s Coffee and Oatmeal Stout, Eight Degrees Brewing Company’s Knockmealdown Porter or Trouble Brewing’s Dark Arts Porter would all be excellent choices, either to use in the truffles themselves or to sip alongside them. In the future, I’m going to take a cue from Adrienne at Bake for the Border and roll these truffles in crushed pretzels instead of cocoa powder. A little finely chopped candied bacon sprinkled on top wouldn’t be half bad either.

250 ml (1 cup) stout
200 g (7 oz) dark chocolate, chopped or broken into pieces
100 ml (3.5 fl oz) double cream
a few tablespoons of cocoa powder, to dust (or crushed pretzels; see note above)

Place the stout in a saucepan and bring to the boil, watching it carefully to make sure it doesn’t bubble over, which it’s bound to do the moment you turn your back on it. Reduce the heat to a lively simmer until the stout has reduced to 50 ml (1/4 cup). Remove from the heat.

Meanwhile, put the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pot of simmering water (a bain marie), making sure the chocolate never comes into direct contact with the water. Place the cream in a separate small saucepan and heat it through. Allow the chocolate to melt, then stir in the cream, which will thicken the chocolate. Gradually whisk in the reduced stout. Don’t worry if the mixture looks grainy or if it starts to separate – just whisk like mad until it turns smooth and shiny and the stout is fully incorporated.

Spread the chocolate into a shallow casserole dish or tray. Cover the dish with cling film and set aside at room temperature for a few hours, until the mixture firms up. You could also put it in the fridge overnight, then set it out to come back to room temperature when you’re ready to form the truffles (fridge-cold chocolate will be too hard to scoop).

Fill up your sink with some warm soapy water or have a damp cloth ready so that you can clean your hands if you need to as you go along. Sift a few tablespoons of cocoa powder into a bowl or a shallow plate. Use a teaspoon or melon baller to scoop out a little chocolate, then form the chocolate into small, bite-sized balls by rolling the mixture between your hands. Gently roll the truffles around in the cocoa power until they’re thinly coated. Store the truffles in the fridge.

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Postcards from Ireland #10

by Kristin on January 11, 2013

Knocknarea, County Sligo, on New Year’s Day

You can see more of my photos on Instagram as edibleireland.

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Edible Ireland Best of 2012 Recipe Round-up

by Kristin on January 2, 2013

From Inchydoney to Italy, Sally McKenna’s sea grass and lemon butter on the beach in Inishowen to Sarajit Chanda’s Indian feast at Fuchsia House, 2012 was defined by food and friendship, travel and new opportunities. I continue to be amazed and humbled at the possibilities blogging has opened up and the inspiring, creative, dedicated people I meet in the Irish food sector.

Looking back at 2012, the most popular recipe by far is the one that kicked off the year, my oven baked Scotch eggs, though this chocolate biscuit cake and a classic Irish soda bread aren’t too far behind. Scrolling back through the recipes I shared is a reminder that whatever else blogging might be about, at the end of the day it all comes back to the kitchen, to celebrating our farmers, our food producers, our friends and family with the food we share and put on the table every day.

Here’s to a delicious and adventurous 2013!

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Christmas Pudding Truffles

by Kristin on December 19, 2012

I’m not really a fan of Christmas pudding. It’s not that it’s not tasty — it is. And lighting them on fire is always fun. But they’re also very heavy, and they need to be steamed for hours when stovetop space is at a premium with all the other things cooking for Christmas dinner.

Christmas pudding is perhaps better known abroad as fruitcake, which is laughed at in America but loved in Ireland. I have to admit that I don’t understand the appeal. My Irish mother-in-law likes it so I buy one every year, but I eat it only as an excuse to have a generous dollop of brandy butter alongside. I was having dinner with a friend last week and she even ordered it for dessert, passing up the chocolate pavé that was also on the menu. Who passes up chocolate for fruitcake?

But what if you broke Christmas pudding down and put it back together, but this time bound with dark chocolate and laced with rum (or brandy, whiskey or sherry)? And what if you rolled it into small, bite-sized truffles with a cap of white chocolate and marzipan holly decorations? Well now. That would change things.

These truffles are the perfect thing to make if you have leftover pudding or you can make them well in advance and keep them in the fridge. They’re a small sweet bite if you don’t want too much after a big holiday meal, they’re a fantastic treat to have stashed away if visitors call around and they’re the perfect little pick-me-up alongside a cup of afternoon tea or coffee. Plus, being miniature and cute, they have the wow factor working in their favour.

In truffle form, I might begin to like Christmas pudding after all.

Nollaig Shona Duit!

Christmas Pudding Truffles
adapted from taste.com.au

Makes about 40 truffles

One of the great things about this recipe is that you can either use cooked and cooled leftover Christmas pudding or a store-bought pudding right off the shelf that you haven’t heated through first (just be sure to use a store-bought pudding that is already fully cooked). I’ve made these truffles with leftover and fresh pudding and found that when using leftover pudding, the texture of the truffles was stickier than the ones made with pudding that hasn’t been heated.

You could also try a coffee or orange liqueur instead of the brandy, whiskey, rum or sherry. Or if you’d rather leave alcohol out altogether, try using coffee instead.

This recipe can be scaled up or down, depending on how much pudding you have left over or how many truffles you want to make. You could also use red and green glacé cherries or coloured fondant icing to make the holly berry and leaves decorations instead of marzipan.

800 g (28 oz) Christmas pudding (see note above)
100 g (4 oz) dark chocolate, chopped
2 tablespoons brandy, whiskey, dark rum or sherry
200 g (7 oz) white chocolate, chopped
50 g (2 oz) marzipan
red and green food colouring

Crumble the pudding into a bowl and break it up into small pieces. Alternatively, if you have things like whole glacé cherries in your pudding, you could finely chop the pudding in a food processor (though it will probably bind together instead of reducing to crumbs, which is fine).

Put the dark chocolate in a bain marie (a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan half-filled with simmering water), making sure the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water and taking care that no water gets into the chocolate itself. Stir with a metal spoon or a spatula until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Add the melted chocolate and brandy to the pudding and stir until well combined.

Line a tray with non-stick baking paper. Roll 2 teaspoonfuls of the mixture into a ball and place on the lined tray. Repeat until you’ve used up all the pudding. Don’t make the truffles too big — you want them to be small and bite-sized. Chill the truffles in the fridge for 30 minutes, or until firm (though note that they probably won’t ever get very firm and will likely remain somewhat sticky to the touch).

Once the truffles are firm, put the white chocolate in a bain marie, again making sure the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water and taking care that no water gets into the chocolate itself. Stir with a metal spoon or a spatula until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Using a small spoon, gently dollop about 1/2 teaspoon of white chocolate on top of each truffle, spreading it a little with the spoon. Put the truffles back in the fridge to allow the white chocolate to set.

Meanwhile, to make the decorations, divide the marzipan in half. Colour one half of it with the red dye and the other half with the green dye, mixing well to make sure there are no streaks. Roll tiny bits of the red marzipan into balls to make the holly berry decoration and pinch off strands of the green marzipan to make the leaves. Gently stick the decorations onto the truffles after the white chocolate has set.

These truffles will keep in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

{ 5 comments }

Irish Stout Gingerbread

by Kristin on December 12, 2012

December was made for baking. Holiday visitors, the long, cold nights and evenings spent in front of a crackling fire all call for something sweet and comforting. Not a week goes by now where I don’t buy a fresh supply of sugar and flour, eggs and butter, and one of the first things I bake at Christmastime is this Irish stout gingerbread.

The earthiness of the stout provides a contrast to the zing of the ginger and the sour cream keeps the gingerbread moist for days — perfect for cutting into small squares or slices for a little nibble throughout the day or with a cup of tea.

Even if baking isn’t your forte, this recipe couldn’t be easier. It’s a dump-and-stir kind of recipe where everything gets melted together in one pot and then poured into the baking tin. It’s so simple and straightforward that I let my seven-year-old make it this year. You can have a tray of this gingerbread ready, from start to finish, within an hour. If you want to push the boat out and dress it up a bit, try serving it with a scoop of brown bread and Irish stout ice cream alongside (or why not try making two batches of gingerbread and using some instead of the brown bread in the ice cream?).

I didn’t change a thing from Nigella Lawson’s recipe (other than to use an Irish craft beer instead of Guinness, of course!), so click here for a metric version or click here for the American version if you prefer using cups instead of weights (though the American version doesn’t list using a 9 inch square pan as an option, which is what I used). If you don’t have or can’t get golden syrup, you can use molasses or treacle instead, which makes for a darker, stickier gingerbread, but you might want to bump up the ginger to 2 1/2 teaspoons since the stronger flavour of the molasses/treacles mutes it somewhat.

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By now you’re probably starting to plan all the different courses of Christmas dinner, but have you thought yet about what you’ll be pouring? Wine will be getting a lot of press in the run-up to the big feast, but what about beer? Did you know that beer is actually a better match with food than wine?

  • The Irish craft beer industry is booming, with more selection than ever before, and the range of flavours and versatility of craft beer means there’s a match for any meal, be it a curry or Christmas dinner.
  • The bubbly carbonation in beer gives a refreshing lift to your palate, which is especially welcome at a big meal like Christmas dinner.
  • Beer can be used to complement or contrast the flavours in food. The caramelised and roasted flavours of some beers match particularly well with the roasted meats traditionally served at Christmas dinner.

Another point in craft beer’s favour is price. A top-quality bottle of wine could set you back anything from €20 and up, but a bottle of artisan beer is only €2 or €3, giving you greater scope to experiment without breaking the bank.

The good news is that Irish craft beer has never been easier to buy. BradleysOffLicence.ie, Drinkstore.ie and TheBeerClub.ie all carry a wide range of Irish craft beers and deliver nationwide – a good excuse to stock up! All the beers I’ve suggested here are available at these retailers, so they’re within anyone’s reach.

Be it a zesty IPA, a crisp, clean blonde ale, a chocolatey stout or a wintry spiced seasonal to sip by the fire, there’s a beer to match whatever you’re serving, so why not give Irish craft beer a place at the table this Christmas? The right beer matched with the right food will make the meal sing.

Craft Beer and Christmas Cheer: Beer and Food Matching Tips for Christmas Dinner

Image — StockFood.ie

Pre-dinner snacks
If you want something to sip while the nibbles are being passed around, start off with an all-purpose lager, a light pilsner or even a wheat beer.

Beers to try: Dingle Brewing Co. Tom Crean’s Fresh Irish Lager, O’Hara’s Curim Gold, Porterhouse Hersbrucker Pilsner, Whitewater Brewery Belfast Lager

Goose
Goose is very rich, so you want a zingy ale or IPA to cut through the fat and refresh your palate.

Beers to try: Eight Degrees Howling Gale Ale, Galway Hooker Irish Pale Ale, O’Hara’s Irish Pale Ale

Ham
A fruity ale is a good complement to a traditional glazed ham, which is both salty and sweet. An Oktoberfest märzen lager is also a good match.

Beers to try: Dungarvan Copper Coast, Eight Degrees Ochtober Fest Marzen Style, O’Hara’s Irish Red, Whitewater Brewery Clotworthy Dobbin

Turkey
If you want to complement the roasted flavours of a turkey, serve a malty red ale or a dubbel. Otherwise, a crisp, clean blonde ale is a good all-round choice if you want a beer that will contrast with the meat and all the different side dishes without overpowering the food.

Beers to try: College Green Brewery Belfast Blonde, Dungarvan Helvick Gold, Eight Degrees Sunburnt Irish Red, O’Hara’s Irish Red, White Gypsy Belgian Dubbel

Christmas pudding and chocolate
A dark, dense Christmas pudding or cake cries out to be paired with an equally dark stout or porter, while the espresso and chocolate undertones in many stouts are a natural partner for chocolate desserts.

Beers to try: O’Hara’s Leann Folláin Extra Irish Stout or West Kerry Brewery Carraig Dubh Porter for Christmas pudding; Dungarvan Black Rock Stout or Trouble Brewing Dark Arts Porter for chocolate

For contemplative sipping
If you’re looking for one final beer to finish off the feasting, go for a heavy-hitting special edition, such as the Porterhouse Barrel Aged Celebration Stout, which has been matured in Kilbeggan Irish whiskey casks and has a whopping 11% ABV – this is one to be sipped in a snifter. Or if you want to finish on a sweeter note, go for the orange, clove and cinnamon spices in the Eight Degrees A Winter’s Ale or the berry, coffee and toffee flavours of the White Gypsy Yule Ól.

Beers to try: Eight Degrees A Winter’s Ale, Porterhouse Barrel Aged Celebration Stout, White Gypsy Yule Ól

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Caramel Apple and Irish Whiskey Clafoutis

by Kristin on November 23, 2012

A few weeks ago I was in Galway for my annual freelance editing talk at the university. As a change from the hotel we usually stay at we went to the Heron’s Rest B&B instead, which is famous for owner Sorcha Malloy’s breakfasts. The menu is seasonal, but when we were there in October it included pearl barley porridge with apple syrup, dates and toasted almonds; scallops and black pudding with roast smoked paprika salsa; or poached eggs on fresh Burren greens with Gubbeen chorizo. And that’s in addition to the fresh bread and homemade jams, Irish farmhouse cheeses and poached fruits that are already set out on the table when you come down in the morning.

My friend ordered a clafoutis, made with the last of the season’s raspberries, which came in an individual heart-shaped Le Creuset casserole dish. The first thing I thought when Sorcha brought it to the table was how much my kids would like it, so I started experimenting at home the next week. By then it was November and apples seemed more fitting than raspberries, so I developed this caramel apple version. Clafoutis is a French dessert, but I’ve given it an Irish twist with a splash of whiskey. It’s decadent enough to serve if you’re having friends over for Sunday brunch, but easy enough to make for a weekday breakfast before school, especially if you prepare the apples the night before. Either way, there’s nothing like a little whiskey to get you going on a cold winter morning.

Caramel Apple and Irish Whiskey Clafoutis

Serves 4 to 6

If you cook the apples the night before and stash them in the fridge overnight, this would take only minutes to pull together in the morning. Just reheat the apples to loosen up the caramel sauce again, if necessary. You could also use brandy or calvados instead of the whiskey. Clafoutis have a tendency to sink soon after they come out of the oven, which can make them quite dense (but no less delicious). If you want it to be a bit lighter and airier and hold its shape better, add 1/2 teaspoon baking powder to the dry ingredients.

for the batter:
80 g (2/3 cup) flour
75 g (1/3 cup) sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch of salt
3 large eggs
100 g (6 tablespoons) butter, melted
250 ml (1 cup) milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

for the caramel apples:
30 g (2 tablespoons) butter
4 crisp eating apples, peeled, cored and sliced
60 g (1/3 cup) light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2 or 3 tablespoons Irish whiskey

Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F). Butter a 25 cm (10 inch) pie plate or cast iron skillet or large individual ramekins.

To make the caramel apples, melt a knob of butter in a large pan over a medium-high heat. When it’s sizzling, reduce the heat to medium and tip in the apples, sugar and cinnamon, stirring to coat the apples in the butter and sugar. Cook the apples for about 5 minutes, until they have softened and the sugar has turned syrupy. Keep warm.

Whisk the flour, sugar, cinnamon and a pinch of salt together in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, mix together the eggs, melted butter, milk and vanilla. Pour half of the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients, whisking until it looks like a paste, then add in the rest of the liquid, whisking until the batter is smooth and well blended. (Alternatively, you could just place all the batter ingredients in a blender and whizz until smooth.)

Place the pie plate or skillet on a baking sheet to catch any drips when the clafoutis is cooking in the oven. Pour in the batter, then using a slotted spoon, transfer the apples to the plate or skillet, leaving as much of the caramel sauce in the pan as you can and making sure the apples are evenly distributed. Bake the clafoutis in the oven for 25 to 30 minutes, until the clafoutis is puffed up and golden brown and the centre is set.

About 5 minutes before the clafoutis is done, reheat the caramel in the pan to loosen it again, then stir in the whiskey and allow to cook for 1 or 2 minutes to burn off the alcohol. Serve the clafoutis warm with the caramel whiskey sauce drizzled over.

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