Just last week one of the most keenly anticipated cookbooks of the year landed on my desk and it was certainly worth waiting for — The Brother Hubbard Cookbook.
However I have to declare a special interest in the author. Garrett Fitzgerald is a past student and he has an exciting story to tell.
In 2012, in the depths of the recession he and his partner James had a ‘rush of blood’ to the head and decided to open a little restaurant on Dublin’s Capel Street, literally on a ‘wing and a prayer’.
Well the fledgling café called Brother Hubbard more or less took off from day one and is now much more with a team dedicated to bringing the best of breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner and baking to its ever-growing community of customers.
Sister Sadie opened in September 2014 to start her own culinary journey.
The customers eagerly embraced the fresh, exciting new flavours of Garrett and his partner James’ interpretation of Middle Eastern and Southern Mediterranean food.
The adventure began several years earlier in the heady Celtic Tiger era, Garrett and James enjoyed their jobs but often found themselves day-dreaming about doing something else.
It takes mega courage to chuck in a secure job but on a bleak January morning in 2007 after a few sunny weeks in Argentina and a baking course which helped Garrett to recognise his real passion, they decided to take the plunge.
By then, having turned 30, they were acutely aware that ‘life isn’t a dress rehearsal’.
An article in The Guardian about the psychology of regret really resonated. It spelled out loud and clear, a fundamental message: “better to have a go even if it fails rather than live one’s life pondering, What if.”
Within a few weeks Garrett had reserved a place on the Ballymaloe Cookery School Certificate course and together “myself and James jumped off the cliff, (so to speak), packed in our jobs and hit out for adventure”.
After the full-on Ballymaloe Cookery School experience they headed off for two years to see the world.
After a year of wandering like nomads around the markets and stalls all across India, Nepal and South East Asia, they arrived in Melbourne, famous for its casual dining and coffee scene.
Garrett found himself working with two amazing women in two amazing small owner owned businesses, a café and a little artisan bakery. Both businesses were committed to quality, creativity and doing their best for their customers.
At the end of Garrett’s time in Melbourne, he had firmly made up his mind that Middle Eastern cuisine was the type of food he loved and felt particularly passionate about vivid, fresh, vegetarian-friendly, healthy food.
They spent four months discovering the flavours and histories of food in Lebanon, Turkey, Syria, Jordan, Israel and Palestine and then came back to find an economically devastated Ireland.
What to do? They looked around, people were still eating out but certainly seeking a more value driven experience, altogether now more careful with the €5 notes than they had been with their €50s – diners wanted casual, affordable, delicious fresh tasting eclectic healthy food.
The rest is history.
Here are a few to whet your appetite but you may find yourself buying several copies to give to friends for Christmas – not all that far away…
As with a lot of our dishes, these are full of herbs and flavour — please don’t be shy with the fresh herbs, as they make such a meaningful difference.
The sauce packs a welcome punch to make these a wonderful lunch, dinner or supper.
This recipe bulks up incredibly well if cooking for a larger group. It will take a bit more effort to hand-roll more koftas, but honestly, it’s worth it.
In fact, this is one of my go-to recipes for entertaining at larger gatherings.
- 750g lean minced beef (rib mince is good)
- 150g feta cheese, crumbled
- 50g fresh parsley, chopped
- 50g fresh mint, chopped
- 5 garlic cloves, finely minced or crushed (2 tbsp)
- 2 tsp dried mint
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp allspice
- Tomato and Roast Red Pepper Sauce (see recipe on left)
- To Serve
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 6.
To make the koftas, put all the kofta ingredients in a large bowl, reserving a quarter of the feta and a quarter of each of the fresh herbs to use later (don’t add salt, as the feta will bring saltiness to it all).
Mix well with your hands until everything comes together as one, but don’t over mix or it will turn into a fine paste! When well combined, test the mix by frying a little bit in a pan with a little oil. Leave to cool for a moment and taste.
This step is critical: decide if you need to add more pepper, garlic or spices if you feel it’s needed. You can also add a little salt if you feel it’s necessary.
Adjust and repeat the tasting step if necessary until it’s just right. Using a kitchen scale, weigh out small 50g balls of the mixture — or just do one like this to get an approximate idea of how much you need, then shape the others to that size (about the size of a walnut in its shell).
Form the balls into slightly oval shapes and place on a baking tray. If you’re not cooking these right away, they can be covered with cling film and refrigerated for cooking later.
To cook the koftas, we char them on a preheated griddle pan (at maximum heat) for 1–2 minutes on each side, making sure they are well browned on a few sides.
A frying pan would be fine here, though you won’t get the char marks. This step sears the meat and adds additional flavour from caramelising (browning) the outside of the kofta.
Transfer to a baking dish and pour the warm Tomato and Roast Red Pepper Sauce over. Place in the oven and cook for 20 minutes.
If you have a thermometer probe, they should hit 71C — if you’ve minced the meat yourself and are confident as to the quality, you may prefer them to be a little rarer.
Bring the koftas to the table in the baking dish, with the remaining feta and herbs sprinkled over, for serving alongside any accompaniments (the wedding couscous, flatbread and perhaps some salad).
Otherwise, plate up the individual portions, sprinkle with the feta and herbs and serve with the accompaniments.
- olive oil
- 2 red peppers, diced into 1cm cubes
- 1 medium red onion, finely chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced or chopped
- 50ml apple cider vinegar
- 2 tsp ground star anise or fennel seeds
- 2 x 400g tins of chopped tomatoes
- 150ml water
- 2 tbsp tomato purée
- pinch of caster sugar
- salt and freshly-ground black pepper
Heat a little oil in a medium-sized pot.
Sweat the red peppers, red onion and garlic together, covered, until softened for 10–15 minutes on a low-medium heat should do it.
You want them to be well softened without falling apart too much.
Next add the cider vinegar and the ground star anise or fennel seeds (if you can’t get ground star anise, use two whole ones) and simmer for about 15 minutes, keeping an eye on it to make sure the dish doesn’t dry out.
Add the chopped tomatoes, water, tomato purée, sugar and seasoning.
Reduce to a quite thick sauce, like pasta sauce, stirring regularly to prevent it from sticking.
When the sauce has reached your desired consistency, remove from the heat and taste, adjusting the sauce with sugar, vinegar or seasoning as you see fit — you want a really fragrant sauce that’s full of flavour.
If you’ve used whole star anise, take them out at this stage. Put to one side.
- 3–4 heaped tablespoons thick Greek yoghurt
- ½ banana per person, chopped (or equivalent of other fruit, such as apple or melon)
- ½ tablespoon tahini
- ½ tablespoon honey
- Small handful of nuts, toasted and chopped
- ½ handful pomegranate seeds (optional)
- A few fresh mint leaves
Place generous spoonfuls of the yoghurt into an individual wide-bottomed bowl and add the chopped banana.
Drizzle the tahini over the yoghurt in a circular motion.
Follow by drizzling over the honey, loosely tracing the path of the tahini.
To finish, scatter the chopped nuts over the dish, then the pomegranate seeds, if using.
Finally, tear some fresh mint over it and serve.
A vibrant, beautiful dish, this is ideal as a brunch or supper.
- 4 eggs
- 50ml cream
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- olive oil
- 4 slices of good bread
- knob of butter, softened
- 2 small handfuls of baby spinach leaves
- 6–8 Kalamata olives, pitted and sliced (optional)
- Onion Chilli Herb Mix
- ½ small or medium red onion
- 1 medium red chilli
- 20g fresh mint
- 20g fresh parsley
- 10g fresh dill or coriander
- Feta Yoghurt
- 50g feta cheese
- 100g plain yogurt
- Tomato and Roast Red Pepper Sauce (see recipe above)
First make the tomato and roast red pepper sauce, see recipe.
Then remove the sauce from the heat and set aside — it’s best added to the dish when it’s quite warm but not boiling.
While the sauce is simmering away, cut the red onion into the finest dice you can manage — ideally about the size of the head of a match!
Cut the top off the chilli, remove the seeds with a teaspoon and then dice the chilli very finely too, similar in size to the onion.
Finely chop the stems of the herbs (except the mint), then give the leafy bits a medium chop. Mix the onion, chilli and herbs together and set aside.
Make the feta yogurt by crumbling the feta into the yogurt and adding some black pepper (you don’t need salt because the feta is already quite salty).
Now you’re ready for the final steps.
Crack the eggs into a bowl with the cream. Whisk well and add a little salt and pepper. Heat a frying pan over a medium-high heat. When it’s good and hot, add a dash of olive oil.
You should be warming your plates and toasting your bread at this point too.
Pour in the eggs and let them sit for about 20 seconds before stirring to scramble them. This dish is to be cooked very quickly, so keep scrambling.
When they are nearly fully cooked but the egg is still glistening, add the tomato and pepper sauce, mixing well, and scramble further for another 20–30 seconds.
To serve, spread the toast with some butter or a drizzle of olive oil and put on each warm plate with a small handful of baby spinach leaves on top.
Divide the scrambled eggs between each plate.
Top with a dessertspoon of the feta yogurt, scatter over the sliced olives, if using, and finish with a few spoons of the onion chilli herb mix.
Limerick’s first co-operative community grocery store has moved to new premises at Tait House, Roxboro Road Limerick. The Urban Co-Op supports sustainable, cooperative and social business principles.
The Co-Op proudly supports local producers and currently stocks a range of organic fruit, vegetables, breads and tasty treats; www.theurbanco-op.ie or tel: 061 314707.
Free from Ireland Intolerances Allergies & Wellbeing in Dublin on October, 15-16, and in Cork on November 5-6.
This is a family oriented event with information and advice for those suffering with intolerances and allergies. Think seminars, cookery demonstrations, talks, advice; freefromireland.com
Imagine the perfect pizza. Its base is made from a delicious sourdough with a thin bottom and a crunchy crust. Its topping is homemade tomato sauce, the freshest buffalo mozzarella and a few leaves of basil or perhaps wild mushrooms, chorizo and homemade goat’s cheese, shrimps from Ballycotton.
In this three-hour masterclass, Philip Dennhardt of Saturday Pizzas will take you through all the basics (choosing ingredients, making dough, getting the best results from your oven and so forth) before explaining how to create both traditional and contemporary pizzas.
We’re talking everything from the classics (Margherita, Pepperoni and Calzone) to modern gourmet masterpieces - think shrimp with watercress and dill-mayo and homemade cottage cheese with mint, caramelized red onion and salsa verde!
As Philip will, in essence, be cooking pizzas for the duration of the class, there will be lots to sample www.cookingisfun.ie
Wild and Slow, November 12-13. The 5th Wild and Slow at Brooklodge, Macreddin Village in Co. Wicklow promises to be action packed with walks, talks, foraging, hunting, wild food dinner.
See the website for full details: www.wildandslow.com