Bord Bia is running a competition where you have to create a meal that you would cook for a foreign friend if they were coming to visit and explain the thought process involved. The idea is to show Irish produce at its best so I’ve chosen mainly common staples along with a few foraged ingredients to give a more local accent to the dish.
Beef is the obvious choice for the main meat given lamb isn’t in season anymore and rather than use something like a fillet I’ve gone for a braise which is a far more traditional way of cooking meat here anyway; it’s only quite recently that people could regularly afford to buy prime steaks but for me the flavour is far better in the hard working muscles of the cow such as the cheek and shin. And instead of using the more common Guinness as the cooking alcohol, I thought it would be much better to support an Irish microbrewery as opposed to a faceless multinational: the Porterhouse Oyster Stout is a fine beer and as beef and oyster was once a very common combination I thought it would be a good match.
I reused a trick from an earlier recipe which involves mixing the flaked meat with the cooking liquid and rolling the mixture into a sausage shape using cling film and allowing it to set in the fridge. You then slice up the cylinder into rounds and fry on both sides until crisp just before serving. You have to be careful though because too long on the pan and they will break up so after a brief exposure to a very high heat, finish reheating in a low oven.
Of course, the reason why Irish beef is so good is because we have some of the best pastures in the world and this is also why our dairy products are of such high quality; there’s no way you could cook a meal for someone visiting the country without making use of this great resource. The classic marriage of butter, milk and potatoes for mash is still one of the finest ways I can think of showcasing these ingredients although I went a step further by enriching with double cream too. I just used normal Kerrygold butter and Avonmore cream but the milk was from Kellys Organic Farm, small producers from Westmeath who sell excellent unpasteurised milk in the Dublin Co-op every Saturday. A final non-dairy addition was the seaweed dillisk (otherwise known as dulse) which I thought would be a good counterpoint to the oyster stout.
Potatoes being synonymous with Irish cuisine, I thought it would be fun have a couple more different preparations on the plate as well. The first is very conventional, I used an apple corer to make some cylinders of potatoes and roasted them in the oven using lard: Darina Allen recommends this as the best fat for roasties in Forgotten Skills Of Cooking and it’s certainly more traditional than the trendy goose fat that’s become popular in the past decade.
The other preparation was inspired by a meal I had in Gregans in Clare where one of the courses featured a baked potato jelly. I used agar agar instead of gelatine though which due to its much higher melting point meant I could serve the jelly hot; it was also a thrifty way to use peelings that would otherwise have gone into the bin.
For the foraged part of the dish I had planned to get some of the hazelnuts growing all over the place around this time of year but when I went to Bushy Park in Terenure to get some the squirrels had got there before me and there were none to be had. I’d much more luck with the mushrooms though: I was out for a run at lunchtime and I just happened to find some beautiful shaggy ink caps which are basically the only wild fungi I can reliably identify. I then had to run the 3km journey back to work with them in my hand all while making sure not to crush them! These are a troublesome type of mushroom though because they begin to deteriorate very quickly (when picked they start to digest themselves to release their spores) so as soon as I got home I had to stop the process by cooking them and then store in the freezer until needed.
It takes a bit of planning to get all the components onto the plate in time and still warm but everything apart from the potato cylinders can be made ahead and then reheated just before they’re needed. It also helps if you don’t have to take about twenty photos of the plate before you actually get to eat what’s on it!
For the beef
125g onions, thinly sliced
500g beef shin, whole
250g beef shin, minced
15g tomato paste
250ml Porterhouse Oyster stout
60g carrots, diced
60g celery, diced
500ml veal stock
5ml mushroom ketchup
2.5ml fish sauce
2.5ml Worcestershire sauce
6 sprigs parsley
2 sprigs thyme
2 bay leaves
2.5ml sherry vinegar
15g butter, diced
For the dillisk potato puree
125g potatoes, cooked weight
60g cold butter, cubed
15ml double cream
For the potato cylinders
2 medium potatoes
For the baked potato jelly
Potato skins of 4 medium potatoes
100ml chicken stock
0.5g agar agar
For the rest
2 shaggy ink cap mushrooms, halved
80g hazelnuts, unshelled weight
2 edible flowers
6 small watercress leaves
- For the beef, heat a pan over a low heat and melt the butter.
- Add the onions and cook until golden brown and then transfer to a pressure cooker.
- Heat another pan over a high heat and when very hot melt half the lard.
- Brown the whole beef shin on all sides and then transfer to a pressure cooker.
- In the same pan, add the mince and thoroughly brown.
- Add the tomato paste and cook for a few minutes.
- Deglaze the pan with the stout and boil for a few minutes to burn off the alcohol.
- Transfer the mince and liquid to the pressure cooker.
- Add the carrots, celery, veal stock, mushroom ketchup, fish sauce, Worcestershire sauce, sugar, parsley, thyme, bay leaves and peppercorns to pressure cooker.
- Bring the cooker up to pressure and cook for an hour.
- Using the natural release method allow the pressure to return to normal and then remove the whole beef shin piece.
- Flake the meat using a fork into a bowl
- Strain the braising liquid through a fine sieve into a large saucepan and reduce over a high heat by about two thirds.
- Add two thirds of the reduced liquid to the meat, mix thoroughly. Reserve the rest of the reduction in the fridge for the sauce.
- Taste the meat mixture to see if it needs salt and pepper and add accordingly.
- When cooled put the meat mixture the fridge to firm up a bit.
- Get a large rectangle of cling film, shape the meat into a cylinder and place in the middle of the film and wrap it tightly around the meat. Twist the ends a few times and roll the mixture to make a nice solid sausage shape. Place in the fridge for a few hours (or overnight) to solidify.
- Slice the sausage into rounds and put a non-stick frying pan over a high heat.
- Melt the remaining lard and fry the slices briefly to create a nice crust on each side.
- Keep warm in a low oven (around 80°C) until required.
- Over a low heat, put the remaining braising liquid into a pot and stir in the butter.
- Swirl the pan until incorporated and then add the sherry vinegar. Reserve.
- For the dillisk potato puree, preheat the oven to 180°C and bake 2 medium potatoes brushed with oil for around an hour.
- When done, cut the potatoes in half and scoop out the contents, reserving the skins.
- Rehydrate the dillisk is some hot water for two minutes and then finely chop.
- Measure 125g of the cooked potato flesh into a pot and stir in the cubes of butter one by one.
- Add the milk, cream and dillisk and stir until a loose puree forms (you may need more milk to achieve this). Adjust the seasoning if required.
- For the potato cylinders, peel the potatoes and reserve skins.
- Using an apple corer, take three cylinders out of each potato and trim so you have have three different height cylinders. Reserve the cored potatoes.
- Preheat the oven to 180°C and put the lard into a roasting tray and into the oven.
- When the lard has melted and is very hot add the potatoes and some salt and bake until golden all over (the pan must be shaken regularly to ensure even colouring).
- For the baked potato jelly, preheat the oven to 180°C and roast the reserved potato skins for around 15 minutes until crispy.
- Add the skins, reserved skins from the potato puree, chicken stock, cored potatoes, bay leaf and peppercorns to a pot and cover with 300ml water.
- Simmer for 45 minutes (top up with extra water if too much evaporates) and then over a bowl strain the liquid into a sieve lined with cheesecloth.
- Allow the contents of the cheesecloth to cool a bit and squeeze out any remaining stock.
- Weigh 100g of the stock and bring to the boil in a pot.
- Whisk in the agar agar and stir until fully dissolved.
- When dissolved, weigh the liquid again and bring it back up 100g.
- Pour the liquid into a small square container and put in the fridge to set.
- When set, chop the jelly into small cubes.
- Preheat the oven to 180°C and crack the hazelnut shells.
- Roast the nuts for around 15 minutes.
- Rub the skin off the nuts and finely chop. Reserve.
- Heat a frying pan over a medium heat and melt the butter.
- When the butter stops foaming add the mushrooms and fry until golden brown.
- To plate, pipe five blobs of the potato puree in increasing sized circles down the middle of the plate; place one round of meat at two o’clock and two at seven o’clock; heat the cubes of potato jelly under a grill for 60 seconds and then place at 12 o’clock and six o’clock; place the three cylinders of potato at 4 o’clock; place the mushroom halves overlapping each other at 11 o’clock; top the meat with the sauce and sprinkle with the chopped hazelnuts; garnish with watercress and edible flowers.