Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Irish Stew

Back after hiatus! Stews are historically peasant food found in cultures across the globe but the Irish stew stands out as one of the best for me.

"Irish Stew" is served in Irish Pubs all over New York City but rarely done correctly.
Let's dispel the main myths. Firstly, it's not made with Beef, that is an American adaptation.
It should be made with the tough meat in mutton or lamb. Mutton would have been the cheaper version historically as lamb has a sweeter flavour compared to the complex flavour of mutton.

Anyway, I decided that for my Irish stew I was going to make it the classic way with a few tweaks to impart more flavour.
So with that I give you The Ingredients.


  • 2lbs lamb shank/neck bone in chopped into equal size chunks by butcher
  • 4 sticks celery chopped.
  • bag of baby carrots
  • potatoes, the waxy type so they don't fall apart.
  • 3 onions
  • rosemary
  • thyme
  • parsley
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Broth/Stock
  • Irish Butter
  • Oil
  • Brown Irish soda bread
Optional but awesome.
  • Guinness
  • Red Wine
  • Barley
  • garlic
  • Bouquet Garni

Now, fire up a pan with a small bit of oil and start browning that lamb!
Traditionally it would all be thrown in the pot but these days you have to make an effort otherwise will think you're some sort of lazy bum. Which I am, but whatever... Season that meat!

Don't eat this.

Once it's browned stick it to one side, and leave it there! Don't eat it moron you need it.

Grab a big pot or dutch oven or whatever you use for this kind of thing and stick it on some heat.
Chop celery, carrots and onions and throw in pot, it's like you would make a ragu, these three ingredients in a pot are like the three amigos of cooking.

Come girl let me see you break sweat

Usually at this point you want to sweat down those veggies and soften them to make room for MORE STUFF in the stew. Chops the spuds and lash them in there. Then lash in your bouquet garni.

Bouquet Garni is for wankers

Then lash in your meat, and two gloves of mashed garlic.

Don't eat that lamb yet

Now you wanna amp up the flavour, for this I use Guinness and Beef Broth.


And some wine and Tomato Blood.

Aren't I Hilarious?

Ok, just the wine then. Not too much either, this isn't a fucking french dish.
Now keep that shit on a low heat for THREE hours, you hear me? THREE! and skim off the crap at the top every now and then. I like to swear a lot during this portion of the recipe.

Skim that crap.

Three hours, three guinness left. Coincidence? No. Drink them.

Get Merry!

With 30 minutes to go add the barley, which will thicken it up.
And your stew is ready. Remove from the heat and remove the bouquet garni you bum.

You won't care that it looks rubbish, you'll be buzzed.

Taste and season to preference.
Now get yourself some proper thick wedges of Brown bread, I couldn't find Irish so had to use some Italian crap and IRISH BUTTER. No excuses or margarine or any of that stuff.

Hearty and Heart Attacky.

Garnish with Parsley and Serve.
While it was cooking I made an appetiser of Bruchette avec Fromage du Chevre et fig. Because I'm a wanker.



That's some good eating right there. Devour!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Great Mexican in NYC

You often hear that there's no good Mexican food to be had in NYC. Usually based off the fact that the person spouting this is from California, so only they know what good Mexican food is.
I am writing this to debunk that myth. It's bullshit, there are plenty of good Mexican places in NYC, you just have to know where to go.

As an Irish person growing up everything outside my Mother's kitchen seemed bland to me. My favorite food was Chicken Fajitas for a long time until they too became bland and I wanted something new to amaze and delight my taste buds, that's when I started exploring other Mexican options.

Mexican food is awesome, the freshness of the coriander and the zing of lime, the versatility of the tortilla and the bite of the chilli pepper. The people of Arizona don't seem to want it there and I for one don't think they deserve it. Which is fine, it means more Mexicans will avoid that desert shithole and they can keep their Burger Kings that litter I-40.

Tomorrow is Cinco de Mayo when the Mexicans celebrate their Victory over the French, and I'm dedicating this post to Mexico and to fighter Saul Alvarez, the most Irish looking Mexican I have ever seen.

Saul Alvarez
From Limerick via Mexico.


Definitely my favorite mexican dish they're basically everything you could ask for in a street food, cheap, easy to stuff in your gob and taste great.

Patty's Taco Truck.

I came across this truck when I was up watching Ireland playing Rugby on the upper East side, it's always parked outside the Subway on 86th and Lex during the day.
Stumbling into the van after too much Guinness I was feeling brave and went for Tacos de Lengua (Beef Tongue Tacos). They were amazing. spicy, with moist meat and perfect toppings of lettuce and pico de gallo.

I tongued this Taco, it was romantic.

Dos Tacos Taquiera
This place is just off union square, on 4th Ave a small hole in the wall place, a little pricy but everything is organic and the packaging is all biodegradable and sustainable so I'm willing to pay a little extra. I got the tacos carnitas (pork tacos) and when asked if I would like super spicy I naturally said YES! They weren't joking, this thing nearly blew my head off, but It's now a go-to place for a taco any time I'm in that neck of the woods. They pack it with meat and the tortillas are tiny but taste great, I believe they ship em directly in from a supplier in Queens. These things are amazing.

Dos Toros


I'm not sure when I first heard of Sopes but I liked the idea, they're like a cross between a burrito and a taco, with a hard shell with the refried beans but without the rice.

I heard about a little hole in the wall place called...

La Rosita Grocery & Taquiera

Now this place is cool, it's a tiny Mexican shop in Hell's Kitchen with a window in the back and a few tiny seats. When I went the seats were all full of Latino guys on their lunch break getting stuck into some great looking Mexican food. They serve all the usual fare along with their Sopes.

I took my order to go and went down to the Hudson to eat it in the Sunshine. Sitting in the shadow of The Intrepid Aircraft Carrier I pondered America's love hate relationship with Mexico and immigration in general while I ate my Sope.

Fold it and stuff in face.

NBC's Rachel Maddow had this to say about the Sopes from this small Family run place:
“I not only ‘like’ those chicken sopes, if those chicken sopes ran for Congress, I would quit my job on TV to go door-to-door campaigning for them.” - I have to agree with her, they're bloody great.

Taco Muncher.

One thing is certain, racist lawmakers or not, with food this good, the Mexican people will be always be welcome in my house for lunch.

Felices fiestas Amigos!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

A Pizza Odyssey

I love pizza, I fell in love with it in the courtyard of a small pizzeria in Naples when I was 14. It was covered in vines hanging from the wooden beams above and had a wood burning pizza oven in the courtyard itself. I was on a school trip and we got to climb Mt Vesuvius, I still have a bit of rock I brought home from there even though you're not supposed to remove it. I guess I was a bad kid... Anyway! I've been trying to find places to recreate what I had in Naples my whole life, from takeaways, restaurants and even cooking myself.

Living in New York I'm surrounded by the stuff, however it's the NYC kind, it has a completely different style and taste to the Italian style, while I also chow down on it regularly it doesn't invoke memories like the Neapolitan does for me.

So with this in mind I set out to make myself a perfect Margherita. Now the Italians take their pizza very seriously. So much so they even have 'Vera Pizza Napoletana' to certify places that make it.

I decided to borrow as much as possible from that and try to make my own version at home.

I have a book called '
In search of perfection' by Heston Blumenthal.
In it he travels to Naples to sample San Marzano tomatoes and laments that he thinks that the rise in their use is probably more to do with the fact that the canning industry rose to prominence around the same time as the rise of pizza and san marzano's shape made them perfect for canning and shipping to pizzarias around the world. (Pizza had been brought back to the United States by GIs that had been stationed in Naples in WWII).

Napolitana will have you believe that they're perfect for pizza because of the acidity levels due to the volcanic ashes in the soil there. For me, this was about creating what I had when I was 14 so went with the wisdom of the Italians and got myself some certified San Marzano Tomatoes for the sauce.

For the base i used refined white flour 1kg, 750g for the initial dough (most people will say use 00 flour for this but I think that's more likely because places that used to make pizza also made pasta and 00 flour is used for this purpose)

Pizza Week Monday: Irish Fatty's Neapolitan Margherita fail.

The cheese was a no brainer, buffalo mozzarella. Other ingredients for my Margherita included:

  • pint water
  • salt
  • pepper
  • yeast
  • fresh basil
  • Parmesan
  • olive oil
  • garlic
Lets get this baby started.

I started out by making the dough. to do this mix a pint of warm water with a sachet 7g yeast, teaspoon of salt and teaspoon of olive oil. let it rest until the yeast starts fermenting, you should see foam at the top.

Dump 750g flour out and make a well.

well well well...

Slowly mix in the yeast water gick until a dough starts to come together, your hands will get messy but warm tap water should clean them off.

Sir Mixalot.

knead for about 15-20 mins, its important to do this to get plenty of air into the dough.
Let rise for about an hour in a warm place, it should double in size. You can also let it rise overnight in the fridge.

I like my dough to reference what I'm making.

Michelangelo's bulging eyes mean lots of air pockets.

Punch the dough down and you should hear air leaving the dough like a fart.
Let it rise again until it's increased it's size by half again.
Your dough is now ready to fridge or freeze. I was using mine exclusively for pizza bases so I cut in 5 and froze.

pizza dough!

Now I was ready to make the pizza sauce.
Take the tomatoes put them in a pot, add salt and pepper to taste, i added 2 cloves garlic and some chopped fresh basil. Simmer on a low heat for a few minutes and mash the shit out of them with potato masher. You can also blend them but I don't have a blender here.

Smashy smashy.

Ok genius, now time to roll the dough, remember I used 750g of the 1kg bag of flour?
The other 250g is just enough for dusting with you take a rolling pin to the dough (or wine bottle in my case).

half way there, I was aiming for about 11" diameter.

Now, assemble and voila! I added a lot of shaved Parmesan and slices of buffalo mozzarella because everything tastes better with cheese.

Little did I know this would be the last time I would see this beautiful sight.

Now let me tell you about the oven. The VPN says that pizza should be cooked in ovens at a temperature of 370C+ 700F+. Mine only goes to 500F so I had to figure out a way to apply more direct heat to the pizza from the top and bottom. After reading more of Heston's science and a few pages on line I decided I would use my 23cm blue steel crepe pan to cook the pizza on and cook the pizza as high in the oven as possible.

Firstly heat rises to the top. So that's where your oven is the hottest unless it's a fan oven. secondly the top of the oven is going to be metal which will retain heat well and lastly, the direct contact heat from the pan will act like a pizza stone and crisp the base.

So I let the oven heat up and then tried to move the pizza to the.... oh shit, wtf, how am I going to do this? I don't have a pizza peel/shovel and my spatula is tiny. The only thing for it was to try quickly move the pizza to the pan with spatula and hands combo...and bake for 15-20 mins.


Moving the dough had created a faultline down the dough and ruined my perfect pizza. I ate it anyway and figured out how I could attack it again following next day.
The new plan was assemble the pizza in the pan (slighly greased with olive oil). I also rubbed olive oil along perimeter of the dough base to get it to char a little more...

Pizza Week Tuesday: Irish Fatty's Neapolitan Margherita.

All your crispy base.

Now by success I mean I accomplished making what i consider to be a delicious pizza at home. It was however no match for the pizza I had 14 years ago in Naples.
This raised an interesting question. I still have 3 dough balls left... That's where things got a bit strange...

Pizza Week Wednesday: Irish Fatty's Mexican taco pizza!

I bought Dave's Ultimate Insanity Hot sauce a few weeks ago and I have been looking for an excuse to put it in something. I also had chilli in a can in the kitchen. Could I make pizza that would blow my head off using what I had learned the previous day?

Why, yes... Yes I could.
If I was going to melt my face off with the hot sauce why not add Tabasco, and some chilli flakes, and peppers, and cheddar cheese! For science!

If you can't stand the heat.

The result?

That doesn't look very Mexican...
That's better!

To say this thing was fantastic is an understatement, it was honestly one of the best pizza's I've ever had. Anyone who knows me knows I'm sucker for mexican and for pizza, but any I had tried always came up short, this however, Mind Blown.

Pizza Week Thursday: Irish Fatty's Irish Fryup.

Next up I decided to experiment with some traditional Irish foods.
Superquinn sausages smuggled into the US at Christmas, Irish bacon stolen from the good people in my local Irish pub, black and white pudding, and a fried egg.

Come to Fatty.
This doesn't look like pizza.
Oh dear god.

This one was actually pretty weak, not that I don't love all the components on it, it just doesn't work and the tomato sauce base kinda overtook the flavours of everything else. I still love my Fried breakfasts, just probably best to keep them off a pizza!

Pizza Week Friday: Irish Fatty's wtf special.

When I had the idea for this it was because I was sick of eating pizza.
I'll just let the pictures do that talking on this one.

What are you doing?
This is so wrong.
Is that ketchup?!
Wow. Just wow.
Fatty Pac-Man

One slice was enough, the rest went in the bin, and I went to the pub for a well earned pint.