Tag Archives: Wine

Recipe: Ragu Giorgio (aka the best spag bol)



Extra virgin olive oil
3 x carrot, halved lengthways and chopped
3 x celery sticks, halved lengthways and chopped
3 x onions, finely diced
3 x garlic cloves, finely sliced
1 x anchovy
5 large tomatoes
50g sun-dried tomatoes, finely chopped or blitzed in a blender
150g tomato puree
2 x large handfuls of fresh basil, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Pinch of ground cumin
500g lean mince beef
2 x bay leaves
500ml water
250ml wine
300ml Italian tomato sauce

Once you have completed all the preparation, get a large saucepan, pour in a generous lug of olive oil and get it onto a high heat until the oil just starts to smoke. Add the anchovy and fry this hard until it starts to break up and disappear. At this point add your carrots and bring the heat down to a medium heat.

Fry these for about 5 minutes, then add the onion and celery and reduce the heat to a low heat and continue to fry this until the onions begin to caramelise (usually twenty to twenty five minutes) stirring occasionally.

While this is happening you need to skin, quarter, core and de-seed the tomatoes. To skin them you will need a pan of boiling water and a bowl of ice cold water. First score an X on to the bottom of each tomato, with the water boiling hard, carefully pop the tomatoes in for about 1 minute, then remove with a slotted spoon and place them in the bowl of ice water to stop them cooking and make them easier to handle. Now you should be able to remove the skin by simply tearing from where you made the X. Next quarter the tomatoes and using a teaspoon remove the core and seeds in one go, you only want the flesh of the tomato. Remember to keep an eye on the main saucepan while you are doing this.

If the onions are starting to caramelise by now, simply remove the pan from the heat. Begin to fry the mince, with a pinch of cumin powder, in a large frying pan over a high heat. You want to brown the meat as quickly as possible, making sure that you brown all the meat.

Depending on the quality of the mince you may find that it releases some water once you start to fry it, if this happens keep the heat as high as you can and keep turning and moving the mince until all the water boils off. This can take a bit of time so don’t forget about the other pan, and remove it from the heat if the onions start to caramelise before the meat is done. You want to keep frying the mince until it is completely dry looking and starts to stick to your frying pan.

At this point your onions should have started to caramelise and you may have removed them from the heat, if you have, get them back onto a low heat for about a minute then add the meat. If the onions haven’t started to caramelise then turn the heat down on the meat and give it an occasional stir until the onions start to caramelise and then add the meat and stir the lot together.

By now there may well be some mince and fat stuck to your frying pan, this is great because that’s pure flavour. Add a good splash of your wine to the frying pan and using a wooden spoon or spatula gently stir and scrape those little bits off the pan, the heat and wine should make this very easy and in less than a minute all that flavour should have combined with the wine which you can now pour into the saucepan.

With regards to the wine: The conventional wisdom is to use red wine. If you have some available great, however the day I came up with this recipe, I looked at our collection of unfinished bottles and there were no reds, as I didn’t want to open a bottle of red just for this, I picked up a bottle of white wine, a Sauternes (very sweet wine) that had been open too long and had started to vinegar a little. A quick bit of measuring and in it went.

Now if my mum was still alive I would have gotten an earful, not only letting such a good wine start to vinegar but also for using it for cooking, that is until she tasted the end result, this gave the whole dish a different flavour than if I had used a red wine and exaggerated the caramelised flavour of the veg in a way that’s hard to describe.

Next you will need to add all the tomatoes, tomato purée, the blitzed sun-dried tomatoes, Italian tomato sauce, oregano, the rest of the wine, basil, bay leaves and stir gently.

Now bring this up to a medium heat and start to add the water, while stirring continuously. You want to add enough water so that the sauce is slightly thinner than you want the end result to be. In my case this turned out to be 500ml almost exactly but depending on the water contents of your ingredients you may require less or more. Once you’re happy with the consistency bring it to a very gentle simmer and cover the pot.

You want to simmer this for at least an hour stirring it occasionally. After an hour give it a good stir, if it’s still a little thinner than you like leave the lid off and let it simmer for a few more minutes and it should thicken up. I’ve had this Ragu simmering for up to 3 hours on occasion and if anything it just improves the flavours.

Finally, taste it and season it with salt and pepper if required and stir in 2 tablespoons of the best extra virgin olive oil you can find.

I like to serve this with fresh Tagliatelle and some Parmesan cheese, grated fresh over the top at the table.

Thankfully this recipe freezes really well and is ideal for freezing in bags as described here, 150ml is a serving so we tend to freeze it in bags of 300ml for the two of us. Alternatively, we’ve found the leftovers make great pizza. just spread some on your pizza base, add some cheese over the top (crumbled Mozzarella if you want to be really decadent) and cook as usual.

Review: Taste of Dublin

On Friday evening last, Elly and myself hopped on a bus and headed into Dublin city centre to catch the Taste of Dublin Festival in the Iveagh Gardens. I have to say it was a gorgeous venue which added to the tasting experience no end.

It was our first visit to Taste and we were both pretty excited, which of course meant that we were early and ended up standing around with a lot of other people queueing to enter and trying to spot any celebs passing down the VIP lane, there were none (at least that we recognised).

Bang on time the gates opened and people started to flood in past the jazz band inside the entrance and on to see what the first stand had on offer. No freebies that we saw but a couple of glasses of prosecco with added strawberry were purchased to help get us in the mood. I was a little disappointed at being asked for more cash so soon after entering the festival (hey, I’m a tight fisted Irishman after all;)) but I needn’t have worried because for the next 20 minutes we were plied with more free samples than it was possible to consume even at the slow pace we were able to move past each of the stands.

Both Elly and myself had done a bit of forward planning with a list of “must sees” some that we both wanted to see/try and some “solo” events. First on both our lists was Gino D’Acampo‘s Cookery demonstration, albeit for different reasons :)

Gino D'Acampo
Gino D'Acampo's Cookery Demonstration

I have to hand it to Gino, his showmanship and stage craft were second only to his cooking and he’s obviously done a few of these demonstration things before. With the assistance of some audience members he started into preparing a courgette pasta dish, which looked and smelled fantastic. I was a little surprised to see him using dried pasta, however the rest of the dish was prepared entirely while the spaghetti was cooking so this firmly falls into the realm of a “quick and easy” dinner.

Gino (again with audience participation) also prepared a tiramisu, but more on that tomorrow 😉

At this point Elly and I began operation “divide and conquer”. To be fair Elly wanted to do a wine tasting demonstration that I was less than enthusiastic about, so I left her to sample the wines and I toddled off for a look around some of the other stalls to pass the time until the Ballymaloe Cookery School “class” that we had booked into was due to kick off.

Elly’s wine tasting Session:
The Edward Dillon Wine Experience was one of my must-sees at the festival and I was lucky enough to roll up just as a class started. They had different sessions on throughout the weekend, and on Friday evening it was “The Modern White Wine Styles of Rosemount“. A fast talking Australian shipped over specially from the vineyard was our host for the session and he rapidly walked us through 4 wines from their diamond label, starting with a peppery little pinot grigio. This was definitely an easy-drinking summer wine and he went on to explain that they had designed the wine to be so easy and light that you’d finish a bottle in one session!

Moving on through the wines we then tasted a Semillion Sauvignon, which was not to my liking as it was just too acidic for my palate. I started sipping ahead at this point and correctly guessed that the next two on offer were Chardonnays, easy to tell from their buttery texture. Wine 4 seemed to be a lot richer and more complex when wine 3, and this was confirmed when we were told that wine 4 was their Show Reserve Hunter Valley Chardonnay, which is oak-aged. Overall it was a fun little tasting session and really showed off the different characteristics of their white wines.

Portabella Mushrooms With Basil Pesto and Balsamic Vinegar
Portabella Mushrooms With Basil Pesto and Balsamic Vinegar

The Ballymaloe cookery class was an excellent introductory lesson in food preparation, that I thoroughly enjoyed. It began with a full demonstration of how to prepare “Portabella Mushrooms with Basil Pesto and Balsamic Vinegar” and we were then divided into groups, each group member was given their own task to perform and then all were brought together to “plate up”. All good fun and great to get another perspective on pesto, which seems to be very “of the moment” considering every food event I’ve been to this year has had at least one demo of someone making pesto or a pesto variation.

Once the meals were plated, we were directed to nearby tables and chairs to eat. I have to admit I had “sampled” most of the ingredients while in the class and was a little dubious as to how it was all going to come together, but it did and was absolutely delicious. I now have a first hand understanding of why Ballymaloe has the reputation it has.

After this we wandered through the various stalls tasting the samples and purchased a number of the sample signature dishes. The stand outs for me were the “Panang Gai” from Diep le Shaker, ely‘s “Organic Burren Beef Burger” and Eatery 120‘s “Chocolate Soup with Tahitian Vanilla Bean Ice Cream”

The last of these three stood out for all the wrong reasons. I’m not sure what I was expecting from this dish but the positively ordinary tasting chocolate sauce with a melon ball sized scoop of bland vanilla ice cream left me regretting the purchase and with a very much less than favourable impression of Eatery 120. Maybe I just picked the wrong dish but if you’re going to pitch yourself as a fine dining experience then you should make sure that all your dishes are spectacular in each of their areas and this simply was not.

Now that said, both Diep le Shaker and ely are on my list of must visits for exactly the opposite reason. Stunning Taste sensations both of them.

Elly’s Picks:
I was lucky with my restaurant taster picks at the festival, as none of them let me down, except on pricing! After paying €20 in, if you taste 4 tapas-sized portions and drink 2 glasses of wine you’re lucky to get away for an additional €35. Leaving that aside, my first taste was the delicious Steak Frite with Bearnaise Sauce from The Saddle Room. I’d seen a review earlier in the day which had whetted my appetite for this, and it was yummy.

Balzac were up next, serving a tasty Foie Gras & Chicken Liver Caramel with Raisins & Pedro Ximenez. This was served with little bread toasts to spread the dish on. I quickly ran out of bread toasts, but the restaurant won me over when they happily provided me with some more for no extra charge. My final taste of the day was the one I had really been waiting for; Roasted Scallop, Confit Duck, Summer Squash Puree & Foie Gras Lollipops from Salon des Saveurs. From the first bite I was hooked, the scallop was cooked to perfection, the duck confit was pure melt-in-your-mouth goodness and foie gras lollipop studded with crushed nuts added a wonderful creamy note. You won’t believe it though, but the simple summer squash puree served with this dish was the real scene-stealer! Overall, Salon des Saveurs was the winner for me, and hopefully I’ll get a full dinner there before long!

I’d like to be able to sum up my experience at Taste in an overwhelmingly positive way, but there are two things that really impacted negatively on the experience for me. The crowd and the cost.

To explain, the crowd was ridiculous. In places you couldn’t move without bumping into people. No big deal at a trade fair but at a food fair where people had plates of food in their hands – not so good! It seemed to be partly down to the layout, a lot of the vendor stalls were crammed into one small area while larger open spaces went un-utilised. Either that or the tickets had simply been over sold. Whatever the reason I’m not sure how you can be expected to enjoy food while you’re being jostled about, even a plastic fork hurts when it gets rammed into the roof of your mouth by accident.

As for the cost I’m inclined to agree with Consumed Foodie because apart from the cost of the ticket Elly and myself spent about €100 between us on food and wine. Now, if we went out for a meal and spent that much, I’d be confident that I wouldn’t be thinking of eating again as I left the premises.

Then of course the festival is about more than the eating and considering the price of admission, there was plenty available by way of demonstrations and information to make it worthwhile, just not as a substitute for an evening meal. Will I be going again?

Well, of course, except next time I’ll plan to have a meal either before or after the event 😉

Recipe: “Blazing Saddles” Baked Beans

A Pot of Freshly made Baked Beans
Blazing Saddles Baked Beans


4 whole onions finely sliced
1 heaped teaspoon of (smoked) paprika
3 fresh chillies finely diced
25g butter
3 x 400g tins of Pinto beans
3 x 400g tins of Cannellini beans
2 x 400g tins of chopped tomatoes
4 bay leaves
White wine vinegar
3 tablespoons of molasses
Olive oil

Serves 8-10


Hmmm Beanz meanz Heinz, except in this case it doesn’t :) We are all familiar with baked beans in tomato sauce and how wonderful they are as a side order with a fry up or on hot buttered toast, it’s so easy to open a tin of them and bung ’em in the microwave, that we take them for granted.

When I made this first I was surprised by just how convenient the tinned version is by comparison to making your own, but when I tasted my own for the first time, I knew the effort was worth it.

These are close to being the best baked beans I have ever tasted, unfortunately that honour still resides with a man who served me from a fire pit when I was in Utah about 9 years ago as I haven’t managed to get the sweetness the same. Don’t worry, if I discover his secret I’ll update the post and let you all know 😉

First up you’re going to need a large saucepan on a medium heat. Add a lug of olive oil and once it’s up to temperature, add your sliced onion and paprika, give them a good stir and fry them for 10 – 15 minutes or until the onions soften.

Next add the butter to the pan and once that has melted, add the tinned tomatoes, 5 of the cans of beans (including the liquid), the bay leaves, a good pinch of salt and pepper.

Next, drain the liquid from the last can of beans and discard it. Then add the beans to the pot along with the chilli.

Now stir and bring this to a gentle simmer and bring the heat down, you just want them to burble and blurp (a little) at you rather than boil. If they boil, the beans will split and you’ll end up with mush rather than beans 😉

Leave them for about an hour and a half stirring occasionally.

Now taste them and season with salt and pepper to taste. Then add about a tablespoon of white wine vinegar, the molasses and stir well before serving or leaving them to cool and freezing them in portions.

These are great as a side dish with just about any meat and most fish, or used for the traditional beans on toast, or with a portion of boiled rice and a good ladle full of beans over the top.

Recipe: Allium and Root Veg Soup

A Bowl of Allium and Root Veg Soup with a drizzle of cream and some fresh chives
A Bowl of Allium and Root Veg Soup


2 large potatoes, peeled and diced
1 garlic clove peeled and diced
3 large leeks, sliced
1 parsnip, diced
1 onion, diced
110ml white wine
500ml onion stock (or vegetable stock)
100ml cream
700ml vegetable stock
Olive oil
Salt and Pepper

Serves 4-6


Place your saucepan on a medium to high heat and add a splash of olive oil. Once this is up to temperature add the potato and garlic and fry gently until the potato starts to soften. Stir this regularly to avoid the garlic burning.

Once the potatoes have started to soften add the leeks and continue to fry until they too have softened.

Next add the wine, onion stock and cream and bring this to a simmer, cover the saucepan and leave to simmer and reduce for 30 – 40 minutes, stirring occasionally.

At this point you should have very little liquid left in your saucepan. Add the vegetable stock and simmer for a further 15 minutes, then remove from it the heat and allow it to cool a little.

Next, pour the soup into a blender and blend until smooth. As always if the soup is thicker than you would like you can thin it with some additional stock. Give it a taste and season with salt and pepper if needed, and you’re ready to serve.

I’ve served this alongside a pizza base, drizzled with extra virgin olive oil, some Gruyère and goats’ cheese (no tomato sauce), baked for about 8 minutes as you would a normal pizza. This combination brings out the flavours, even more, in both.

This soup can be frozen although it is best served fresh with a little drizzle of cream and some chopped chives sprinkled over the top.

Recipe: Red Onion Relish

Fresh Caramelised Red Onion Relish ready to be stored
Fresh Caramelised Red Onion Relish ready to be stored


4 large red onions
1 clove of garlic
3 tablespoons of light muscovado (or brown) sugar
6 tablespoons of red wine vinegar
Olive oil


Start by cutting your onions. I like to do a mix of rings, half moons, chunks and diced to give some variety to the texture. Also finely dice the garlic.

Get a large pan onto a medium heat, If you have a sauté pan with a lid this is your best option. Once the pan is up to temperature add a good lug of olive oil and get all the onion and garlic in, fry this gently for 4-5 minutes until the onions start to soften, then reduce to a low heat and cover them.

Continue to cook like this for about 15 minutes stirring occasionally so they don’t stick. Then add the red wine vinegar (I use a red wine vinegar with raspberry juice, for extra colour) and 2 tablespoons of muscovado sugar. Mix this together and cover again.

Let this simmer for 20-25 minutes, or until most of the liquid has disappeared, again stirring occasionally so nothing sticks.

Mix in the final tablespoon of muscovado sugar and cover for a further 10 minutes, at which point all the liquid should have disappeared – if not give it another few minutes.

When all the liquid has gone this can be served immediately with any hot meats (particularly wonderful with a plain rare steak) or allow it to cool and transfer it to a sealed container and store in your fridge to use cold on sandwiches, with cheese or pretty much any way you would normally use a relish.