Brother Hubbard’s Middle Eastern Breakfast Plate

THE Dublin restaurant and café scene is really humming once again.

Every now and then the Ballymaloe Cookery School team of teachers go on a research trip to see what is happening on the culinary food scene. Recently we did an intensive trip to the metropolis and tasted some very exciting food in a variety of restaurants and cafés.

We began our trip to the Fumbally in Fumbally Lane run by Aisling Rogerson and Luca D’Alfonso and a vibrant young team. The food is simple, delicious, uncomplicated but put together in a chic and edgy way we loved the brunch dishes — in particular their take on the Dr Suess green eggs and ham toasted brioche with avocado and scrambled eggs and chorizo. The fresh produce for the kitchen is piled against the wall in wooden crates like a glorious still-life in this airy contemporary space with a cool, retro, comfy, shabby chic feel yet elegant feel.

The GreenHouse on Dawson Street served a totally different style of food. Mickael Viljanen from Finland is one of the most talented young chefs cooking in Ireland at the moment. He and his team cooked us a delicious three-course lunch — a carpaccio of scallop, shoulder of suckling pig and apricot tart with elderflower ice cream.

At Fallon and Byrne we found lots of new ingredients including Teff flour which I’d been looking out for to make an Ethiopian flat bread and red rice from the Camargue. We also fled past the Pepperpot in the Powerscourt Centre where a past student of our’s, Marian Kilcoyne’s Café Restaurant was throbbing with lots of unbearably tempting treats.

Ananda is the flagship restaurant of Asheesh Dewan’s Indian restaurant empire under the stewardship of Sunil Ghai and his team of Indian chefs. The tutors were totally wowed by his tasting menu. Garrett Fitzgerald and James Boland at Brother Hubbards in Capel Street have built up a fantastic reputation for their café cum deli since they opened two years ago.

At Palais des Thés in Wicklow Street Niall did a tutored tasting with us so we tasted a beautiful selection of exquisite teas, including Thé du Hammam, Japanese Green Tea, Sencha Ariake.

A light lunch at Cornucopia the long established vegetarian restaurant in Wicklow Street was another enlightening experience.

Brother Hubbard’s Middle Eastern Breakfast Plate

Serves 4

For our menu, I draw from our experiences of travelling around the Middle East — this is what I would have had most mornings before going off to visit the souks and the various ancient wonders.

As we head into summer, it feels like a wonderfully refreshing, light-yet-substantial, and healthy, brunch dish. It is amazingly simple to put together and to make in bigger quantities for entertaining — despite its name, I imagine it would work equally well with a glass of white wine for a refreshing and light summer supper. As with all recipes, the better the quality of your ingredients, the better the outcome!

1 cucumber

2 (or more) good quality tomatoes

1 block Feta Cheese (180-200g) (classic Greek Feta or similar style — white, crumbly, salty)

12 – 16 olives (we use Kalamata)

4 good sprigs of fresh mint

4 hard-boiled free-range and organic eggs (freshly cooked by boiling for 7 minutes, but cooled in cold water and then peeled)

1 quantity of Hummus (have fun with the recipe below, or a very good deli-bought variety)

Pitta Breads (1-2 per person)

Optional: smoked salmon, cold meats, chorizo, fresh radish cut into chunks

Cut your cucumber in half lengthways and then each half cut diagonally into large bite-size chunks. Cut the ripe plum tomatoes into wedges and break the feta into larger chunks.

Place chunks of cucumber, tomato wedges and feta on large individual plates (or one giant platter to share), add a few big spoons of the hummus in a little bowl, the mint sprigs and 6-8 olives per person (see the end for a hummus recipe). Arrange so it looks like a lovely platter of freshness, colour and flavor. Serve with the egg on the plate.

We usually sprinkle some sumac over the hummus and a little za’atar over the feta — these are spices which we have gone to great trouble to source, but are often difficult to come by in Ireland. Replace with a little sprinkle of cumin or good paprika, a drizzle of lemon juice or just really great olive oil (or all of the above!).

Have this with some warmed pitta bread on the side — splash a little water on the pittas, shake off the excess and just heat under a grill or in a toaster.

If you fancy, you can serve slices of smoked salmon, cold cuts, or even some pan-fried chorizo on the side to make it more substantial.

When eating, mix and match the flavours and textures — have morsels of the bread, dipped in the hummus, with a little cucumber, mint, feta and the other ingredients. No two mouthfuls will taste the same!

Hummus

170g (6oz) chickpeas, cooked, save the cooking liquid, use tinned for easy entertaining

freshly squeezed juice of 2-3 lemons, or to taste

2-3 large or small cloves garlic, crushed

150ml (5fl oz/generous 1/2 cup) tahini paste (available from health food shops and delicatessens)

1 teaspoon ground cumin

salt

Drain the chickpeas, save the cooking liquid. Whizz up the remainder in a food processor with the freshly squeezed lemon juice and a little cooking water if necessary. Add the crushed garlic, tahini paste, cumin and salt to taste. Blend to a soft creamy paste. Taste and continue to add lemon juice and salt until you are happy with the flavour.

Cornucopia’s Chilled Carrot and Avocado soup

Makes 8 portions

The main flavours here are carrot, garlic and lemon. Using the carrot juice, avocado and olive oil as a base, try substituting fresh ginger or your fresh herb of choice instead of the garlic and lemon for variety and after a few attempts you may settle on your own personal favourite.

1½ litre carrot juice (about 2½ kg Carrots)

2 avocados, cut in half, stone removed and peeled (280g when prepped)

100ml lemon juice (about 4 medium lemons)

1 large clove of garlic, peeled

½ tsp sea salt

150mls extra virgin olive oil

Use a juicer to make the carrot juice. There are two ways to do this, using peeled or unpeeled carrots, and it all depends on the freshness of the vegetables and how much precious time you want to spend peeling them! We have found that very fresh carrots, and taking the time to peel them, ensures a brighter coloured soup. If you want to skip the peeling process then by all means do as it won’t affect the taste. To make 1½ litres of juice, it takes approximately 2½kg of carrots. Make sure to measure the juice from the carrots as the recipe needs 1½ litres, if you produce more juice then drink it as a reward for all your hard work!

If you don’t have a juicer, bottled carrot juice can be substituted but as it is likely to have been pasteurised it may not taste as fresh and bright, but is a decent alternative.

Method: Pour 750ml of the carrot juice into a large jug then add the prepared avocado, lemon juice garlic and sea salt. Pulse with a stick blender to puree then slowly pour in the olive oil and the remaining carrot juice until creamy and well combined. Pour the soup into a lidded container and place in the fridge to chill for at least two hours or more.

To serve: Bring the soup to just under room, or desired temperature then stir well and pour into eight medium bowls.

Vanilla Ice-Cream with Pedro Ximenza

Serves 12-16

Really good cream makes really good ice-cream. This recipe is made on an egg-mousse base with softly whipped cream. It produces a deliciously rich ice-cream with a smooth texture that does not need further whisking during the freezing period. This ice-cream should not be served frozen hard; remove it from the freezer at least 10 minutes before serving. You can add other flavourings to the basic recipe: liquid ingredients such as melted chocolate or coffee should be folded into the mousse before adding the cream. For chunkier ingredients such as chocolate chips or muscatel raisins soaked in rum, finish the ice-cream, semi-freeze it and then stir them through, otherwise they will sink to the bottom.

4 organic egg yolks

110g (4oz/½ cup) sugar

1 tsp pure vanilla extract and seeds from 1/3vanilla pod

1.2 litres (2 pints/5 cups) softly whipped cream (measured after it is whipped, for accuracy)

Pedro Ximenza

Put the egg yolks into a bowl and whisk until light and fluffy (keep the whites for meringues). Combine the sugar with 200ml (7fl oz/scant 1 cup) of water in a small heavy-based saucepan. Stir over heat until the sugar is completely dissolved, then remove the spoon and boil the syrup until it reaches the ‘thread’ stage, about 106–113C (223–235F): it will look thick and syrupy, and when a metal spoon is dipped in the last drops of syrup will form thin threads. Pour this boiling syrup in a steady stream onto the egg yolks, whisking all the time by hand. (If you are whisking the mousse in a food mixer, remove the bowl and whisk the boiling syrup in by hand; otherwise it will solidify on the sides of the bowl.)

Add the vanilla extract and vanilla seeds and continue to whisk the mixture until it becomes a thick, creamy white mousse.

This is the stage at which, if you’re deviating from this recipe, you can add liquid flavourings such as coffee. Fold the softly whipped cream into the mousse, pour into a bowl, cover and freeze.

Scoop the ice-cream into chilled bowls onto plates. Drizzle a little Pedro Ximenez over the ice-cream on the plate just before you tuck in.

Hot tips

Sumac, Za’atar and other Middle Eastern ingredients available from Fallon and Byrne, Asian Shops and from Ottolenghi by mail order at www.ottolenghi.co.uk.

Slow Food: Wild salmon is now in season for a few short weeks. Slow Food is organising a Celebration of Wild Salmon at Belleek Castle, Ballina, on Sunday, June 22, at 1pm. Phone: Suzanne 087-9170422 or email: suzanneobrien14@gmail.com

Slow Food Four Rivers in the South East of Ireland has launched a brilliant initiative, a ‘Hens for Schools’ competition For details and how to enter, see www.slowfoodireland.com/hens-for-schools

Date for your diary: The Westport Festival of Music & Food, at Westport House, Co Mayo, on June 28 and June 29. Rachel & I will be doing cookery demonstrations on Saturday 28, at 4 – 6pm. www.westportfestival.com/

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