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Dinner at Apsleys restaurant by Hienz Beck

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A stunning dinner cooked by Chef Massimiliano Blasone.


Apsleys, a Heinz Beck Restaurant, winner of the prestigious Michelin Star.
This is the first restaurant outside Italy created by internationally renowned chef, Heinz Beck holder of 3 Michelin stars at La Pergola in Rome. As Beck has said of his cooking, it is "light cuisine of Mediterranean flavours". The Executive Chef, and the man responsible for ensuring the quality and consistency of Beck's menu is Massimiliano Blasone, who was the Executive Chef at Castello Banfi, the Tuscan estate producing Brunello di Montalcino wine. Apsleys has two private dining rooms and two wine tasting rooms which offer an impressive list of wines, and many are available by the glass.


Chef Massimiliano cook for us one of the most memorable dinners I have eaten in years.


Here is what we had.

















First Course :- Fish 'Crudo'
A selection of four types of cured fish, very light and served with a very refreshing melon salsa.
This dish was a perfect balancing act of subtle flavours, each working perfectly together.
















Lightly grilled Langoustine, topped with crispy breadcrumbs and served with braised fennel,
grapefruit, toasted almonds and olive oil crushed potatoes.
The outstanding dish for me. This dish had the touch of elegance, very subtle flavours (which Massimiliano seems to excel in) which all married perfectly.
















Lobster Salad :- Very gently, just cooked (almost transparent) lobster served with artichoke, pickled white asparagus and strawberries!!!
I thought at first 'strawberries and lobster' never a combination I would put together, but trust me in the hands of Massimiliano it was a triumph!!!


Foie Gras Terrine :- A very delicate terrine of foie gras sandwiched with an apple filling served with smoked apple puree and jelly and amaretti crumbs. Fantastic.


A second foie gras course was an unusual preparation but proved to be one of the best :- lightly poached foie gras topped with maple syrup and glazed. Came to the table siting on Quinoa and toasted rice kernels, then the waiter poured a crystal clear Porcini mushroom consomme over.
This was a beautiful, perfectly executed dish, full of deep mushroom flavours.
  
 
The pasta course :- As in every fine Italian restaurant there has to be a pasta course, even at this level. Out came pillows of melt in the mouth pasta, filled with egg yolk and Pecornio cheese, served with asparagus, asparagus puree, broad beans and a light tomato sauce.
I wish I could make pasta like this!!!!


Next came a slight move in style but never the least very good :- A feather light tempura battered cod served on tomato, butter bean and mange tout and as a side dish came scallops with a samphire salad and red pepper sauce. Very tasty.


Next came the Suckling pig from Tuscany :- Tender pieces of melt in the mouth suckling pig wrapped in its own crispy skin and served with apple puree and parsnip
top quality ingredients cooked to perfection yet again.


Next the pigeon :- A very rich, deep flavoured pigeon breast sitting on top of a globe artichoke, the whole lot wrapped in puff pastry and baked until golden, served with beetroot, parissienne carrots and a wonderful mustard seed jus.
Second, only just, to the Langoustine this was another highlight to an altogether perfect meal.


Coffee parfait with chocolate and pineapple.


Rum Baba beautifully flavour with rum.


A very fine display of chocolate creations from the pastry chef. 7 different chocolate desserts. a Chocolate lovers idea of heaven.


Mille Fueille of apple with meringue topping, chocolate ice cream, apple and vanilla puree.


Selection of petite fours served with coffee.


An altogether outstanding meal that I would highly recommend to any lover of very fine dinning Italian food.
Can't wait to my next visit!!!!!!!!! 




Irish Smoked salmon with poached eggs, hollandaise and potato bread

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My childrens favourite breakfast, we make this every Sunday morning.
Ireland is blessed with some of the best salmon in the world, even though wild salmon are getting harder and harder to find, Northern Ireland has a fantastic farm just of the coast at Glenarm. These fish are farmed out at sea in the strong tidal currants, which help the fish to develop strong musscular bodys similar to that of their wild cousins.
At the Merchant hotel all of our smoked salmon comes from Walter Ewing, he produces a fantastic quality of smoked salmon an has been for many years.
I hope you enjoy this recipe as much my family and I do!!!


Ingredients;

2tbsp white wine vinegar
4 eggs
4 egg yolks
2tbsp water
1  lemon, zest and juice
200ml clarified butter, slightly warmed
to taste sea salt and freshly ground white pepper
4 slices smoked salmon
Potato farls (recipe follows)

Method;

Bring 2ltrs of water to a boil in large shallow pan. Add white wine vinegar to the water. Lower heat to simmer. Break eggs into six small bowls, one per bowl. Gently slide the eggs into simmering water. Poach until whites are firm, about 2 minutes. Remove eggs with a slotted spoon. Drain on a paper towel. Keep warm.
Combine egg yolks, water, lemon zest and juice in stainless steel bowl. Whisk over double boiler until light and fluffy. Remove from heat. Slowly whisk in clarified butter. Season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground white pepper.
Arrange the smoked salmon onto 4 serving plates; place a poached egg on top of the salmon and spoon over a little hollandaise.

Serve with some freshly made potato bread pan fried in butter.

For the Potato bread

Ingredients;

4 medium potatoes, peeled and halved      
1 pinch salt   
¼ cup plain flour, plus extra for dusting          
1tblsp melted butter


Method;

In a pot, cover potatoes with water and bring to a boil over high heat. Simmer on medium-high heat until the center of the potatoes are tender when pricked with a fork, about 20 minutes. Turn off heat. Drain, return potatoes to pot and allow to completely dry out over remaining heat. Mash with a potato masher until smooth.
Place warm mashed potato in medium bowl. Stir in flour, salt and melted butter. Mix lightly until dough forms.
On a well floured surface, knead the dough lightly. The dough will be sticky. Use a floured rolling pin to flatten into a 20cm circle about 1cm thick. Cut into quarters using a floured knife; alternatively shape the potato bread into small cakes as we do in the merchant.
Sprinkle a little flour into the base of the skillet or a dry frying pan and cook the farls
The potato cakes are now ready to use as you wish.

Pimm’s Cup

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Pimm’s No.1 cup, which is the main ingredient in the Pimm’s cocktail, is a brown burgundy-coloured ,gin-based, semi sweet fruit liqueur is so strongly associated with the Pimm’s cocktail that the drink is often called the Pimm’s cup.
The Pimm’s history begins in London in 1823, when James Pimm’s opened Pimm’s oyster bar in London’s financial district. He served oysters alongside the ‘house cup’; a gin sling with a proprietary mix of liqueurs and fruit extracts. The drink was initially served as a digestive tonic in a tankard and was such a big hit, he expanded the business to sell it buy the bottle to other taverns. In 1859, he began to sell Pimm’s No.1 commercially and the drink became a must have concoction among the fashionable socialites of England.
After the Second World War he followed with the Pimm’s No.2 cup, made with a scotch base and the Pimm’s No.3 cup made with a brandy base. Eventually six Pimm’s cup versions were released, with base spirits of rum, rye and vodka completing the line. It is hard to find these Pimm’s today as onlt No1 and No.6 are produced any longer.
In England, the beverage is almost as much a tradition as the cup of tea and the English drink it by the gallon during the summer months. It has also become the drink of Wimbledon.  

Ingredients;

50mls Pimm’s
25ml Lemon juice
10ml stock syrup
10ml fresh ginger extract

Garnish;

Soda
1 slice of cucumber
1 orange slice
1 lime slice
1 raspberry
1 blackberry
1 strawberry


Pour the Pimm’s, lemon juice, stock syrup and fresh ginger extract into a cocktail shaker. Shake over ice. Strain into a glass mug filled with freshly cracked ice.
Top with soda and garnish with cucumber, orange, lime and berries, add a sprig of mint and serve.

Seared Finnebrogue venison loin with onion tarte tatin, beetroot, carrots and a chocolate glaze

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We are so lucky in Northern Ireland to be blessed with a bounty of amazing produce, and one of the finest examples of this is a small farm just outside Downpatrick Co Down. Found in the ancient woodland, they have a passion for great food. Their world famous Oisin venison has a delicate flavour which has earned them followers far and wide.
This is a very popular dish served in the great room restaurant, at the Merchant hotel. It is not the easiest of dishes to make, but it is well worth giving it a go, it will really impress your guests at your gourmet dinner party.

Serves 4

Ingredients:

For the vegetables;                                                                                                                            
500g mixed colour beetroot
100ml sherry vinegar
100g sugar
15g salt
12 chantenay carrots, peeled and topped
1 celeriac

For the red onion tart tatin;
2 medium red onions
100g puff pastry
1 egg beaten (for glazing)
30g caster sugar
Knob butter

For the venison & sauce;
760g finnebrogue venison loin
40ml jus
10g dark chocolate
Couple drops raspberry vinegar
50g spinach, washed and picked
10g butter

Method:

For the vegetables garnish; Wash beetroot well and place into a pot large enough to hold them all. Cover with water the sherry vinegar, sugar and salt, bring the pan to the boil and reduce to simmer. Simmer for 45-50mins or until the beetroot are tender.  Leave the beetroot to cool in the pot. When cool enough to handle remove all of the outer skin and dice into 1cm cubes. Set aside ready for service.
Place the chantenay carrots into a pot and cover with cold water, add 2g salt and bring to the boil, cook for 7-8mins or until tender.
Peel the celeriac and dice into 1cm cubes, place into a pan and cover with cold water, bring to the boil. Then simmer until just cooked 7-8mins.

For the red onion tartin;
Peel onion and top and tail then cut in half so you can see the rings in the middle. Cut puff pastry with round cutter big enough to cover the onion half. Brush with egg wash then mould round onion, place the onion in the fridge and set for ½ hour. Place the sugar into a pan large enough to hold the 4 tarts, add tarts and cook until golden, add the knob of cold butter in with onions and place in oven at 185°c for 12 minutes. Pierce slight hole in the puff pastry to let the steam out.

For the sauce;
Place the jus into a small pan and bring to the boil jus, remove from the heat and whisk in the chocolate until completely incorporated, add a couple of drops of raspberry vinegar to taste. Set aside ready for service.

For the venison;
Remove all fat and sinew from the venison loin. Place a large frying pan over high heat and sear until golden brown. Place in 220°c oven for 8 minutes and then rest at room temperature for 5 minutes. Slice into 12 pieces.
To serve;
Cook spinach on medium heat with 5g butter.
Place a large pan over medium heat and add a little butter add all of the cooked vegetables and cook until golden brown.
Arrange the vegetables at the top of each plate, place the spinach and the onion tart at the front of the plate, place 3 slices of venison per plate on top of the spinach, drizzle over the sauce and serve.

Wheaten Bread

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Ireland has never had a strong tradition of yeast bread making. Baking was done in the home, usually over an open fire on a griddle. The addition of baking soda as a leavening agent has always been very popular in Ireland, it is quick, effective and it produced a much more consistent result than yeast did. Breads like soda bread, potato bread and wheaten breads are a staple of the Irish diet. Wheaten bread is heartier than most yeast breads and has always been used to add substance to all Traditional Irish meals, it pairs very well with soups, especially seafood chowder, stews of all kinds and it is always served with local seafood salads and smoked salmon, Which we have some of the best in the world.
It also makes outstanding toast smoothered with local Irish butter or topped with slices of Irish cheedar cheese and sliced onion, as I foundly remeber as a child.
If you have never tried to make bread before, this is a perfect introduction. It is very straight forward and quick to make, so do give it a go, you'll never buy store bought again!!!

Ingredients;

170g wholemeal flour
85g self raising flour
55g oatmeal
55g bran
½tsp baking soda
28g caster sugar
½tsp salt
85g unsalted butter, softened
350ml buttermilk

Method;

Preheat the oven to 180c.
In a bowl large enough to hold all of the ingredients, place all of the dry ingredients. Mix together well.
Rub in the softened butter to incorporate. Slowly add all of the buttermilk mixing by hand as you go. Making sure that all of the dry ingredients are mixed into a wet dough.
It is best to make the wheaten by hand and not in a mixing machine, this way the gluten in the flour will not be work too much and it will leave the finished bread light and crumbly.

Butter a loaf tin well and dust lightly with wholemeal flour.
Spoon the mix into the loaf tin and bake in a pre heat oven for 40-45mins.
Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack.

Tasty, simple and fresh Indian butter chicken curry

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These, along with my lamb Rogan josh are my two all time favourite Indian style curry dishes that I like to cook at home. The butter chicken is quite a mild curry and great for the whole family, my children love this dish, as long as it is not to spicy for them.
It makes a perfect dish to cook for friends as the large serving platter can be set in the middle of the table along with basmati rice, a salad and some naan bread and left for everybody to dig in.
Do try this dish at home as long as you have all of the correct spices it is quite a straight forward curry to make.
I will update kitchen files with my Rogan josh recipe soon along with a naan bread recipe also, so watch this space.

Serves 4

Ingredients;

To marinade the chicken;

1 x 4cm piece of ginger peeled and finely chopped
3 cloves of garlic peeled
Small pinch maldon salt
1tsp paprika
1tsp fenugreek
1tsp garam masala
1tsp ground turmeric
1tsp ground cumin
Juice of ½ a lemon
100ml natural yoghurt
4 chicken breast cut into 2cm cubes

 
For the sauce and to finish;

1 onion sliced
2 cloves of garlic finely chopped
1 x 5cm piece ginger peeled and finely chopped
5 green cardamom pods, seeds only (lightly crush pod and remove seeds)
2 cloves
1tsp ground coriander
1tsp garam masala
1tsp ground turmeric
1tsp hot chilli powder
1tsp curry powder
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
Juice of ½ a lemon
100ml chicken stock
100ml double cream
1tblsp cold butter, diced
2tblsp coriander chopped

Method;
 
For the chicken;

Pre heat the oven to 220c.
Place the ginger, garlic and salt into a mortar, grind with the pestle until a smooth puree is achieved. Add all of the spices and mix again until everything has been well incorporated. Mix in the lemon juice and the yoghurt and mix to combine.
Place the diced chicken into a large bowl, pour over the marinade and rub it well into the chicken. Cover with cling film and leave to marinade in the fridge for at least 2 hours.
Place the chicken onto a rack set over a baking tray. Place the tray into the pre heated oven and cook for 5mins, turn the chicken over and continue to cook for 5mins or until cooked through. The chicken will start to brown around the edges, this adds to the finished flavour.


 

For the sauce;

Place a medium pan over the heat and add a little oil or ghee, add the onion, garlic and ginger and fry until golden brown.
Place the cardamom seeds and cloves into a mortar and crush with a pestle to a fine powder, add all of the other spices and mix well.
Add the spice mixture to the fried onions and garlic and add another tsp of oil or ghee if needed to prevent the spices from burning. Cook until the spices have released all of their flavour. Add the chopped tomatoes, lemon juice and chicken stock, bring to the boil. Turn the heat to a simmer and simmer the sauce for 20mins over a very low heat.
After the 20mins add the cooked chicken and the cream, cook for a further 5mins. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the butter, keep mixing and stirring until all of the butter has been completely absorbed. Do this away from the heat to prevent the sauce from splitting.

The curry is now ready to serve. Place the curry into a serving dish and sprinkle over the chopped coriander, serve with basmati rice and naan bread on the side.

Slow roast peppers filled with Boilie goat’s cheese

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This is a very simple dish that eats well hot from the oven, at room temperature or chilled. It is a very versatile dish to have in your repertoire as it works well as a starter especially for a vegetarian dinner, or as a light lunch as served hear with a little salad and shaved parmesan, but it is also a perfect picnic basket ingredient, served with crusty bread, salad and a nice chilled sauvignon blanc.
The sweet flavour of the pepper are further enhanced by the long slow cooking, this along with the garlic, basil and Goat’s cheese help to intensify the flavour of the pepper.
Any goat’s cheese can be used in this recipe, but do try to find Boilie as the subtle fresh flavours of this goat’s cheese work perfectly with the sweet peppers  


Ingredients;

4 peppers
8 cloves garlic peeled and thinly sliced
4 large basil leaves
2 plum tomatoes, peeled and cut into quarters
300g Boilie goat’s cheese
100g parmesan, grated
 Maldon salt and fresh black pepper to season
Olive oil


Method;

Pre heat oven to 140c
Cut the peppers in half cutting through the stalks, these lot good for the final presentation of the dish.
Remove the seeds and white membrane with a small sharp knife.
Lay the peppers cut side up onto a tray and season with maldon salt and cracked black pepper. Place a whole, sliced garlic clove into each pepper half; place a basil leaf on top. Place a quarter of tomato, then top with goat’s cheese, sprinkle over parmesan cheese and season to taste.

Cover a baking tray with tin foil, place the peppers onto the baking tray and drizzle with olive oil. Place the peppers into the pre heated oven and cook at 140c for 45-50mins, it is this slow cooking that makes this dish so delicious.

Remove peppers from the oven and allow and stand for 10mins.
Serve with a simple dressed salad and shaved parmesan.

Pancakes with blueberries and maple syrup

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Get the day off to a great start with these light, fluffy and fruity pancakes, perfect special breakfast or weekend brunch. Simple to make and very versatile, these pancakes can be served with any seasonal fruit or just simply stacked onto a plate and serve with whipped butter and maple syrup. Delicious!!!!



Serves 4

Ingredients;

150g self raising flour, sifted
pinch of salt
2 eggs
200ml milk                                                                                                                                                                                      
50g butter
250g blueberries                   
Maple syrup to serve

Method;

Sift the flour and salt into a large mixing bowl with a sieve held high above the bowl so the flour gets an airing. Now make a well in the centre of the flour and break the 2 eggs into the centre of the well, begin whisking the eggs, mix well.

Next gradually add small quantities of the milk, whisking continuously (don't worry about any lumps as they will eventually disappear as you whisk) until the batter is smooth, with the consistency of thick cream. Now melt the 50g of butter in a pan. Spoon 2tbsp of it into the batter and whisk it in, then pour the rest into a bowl and use it to lubricate the pan, using kitchen paper to smear it round before you make each pancake.

Place a large pan over high heat, turn the heat down to medium and spoon the batter into the hot pan, you should be able to get 3-4 pancakes in the pan depending on its size. It should take only a minute or so to cook; flip the pancakes over and cook for another minute on the other side.
Stack the pancakes as you make them between sheets of greaseproof paper to stop them from sticking together.

To serve, stack the pancakes onto a serving plate and arrange the blueberries on top, pour over the maple syrup and serve at once.


Ricotta Hot Cakes with Honeycomb Butter

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I love this recipe; it is a fantastic treat that can be served for a special breakfast, a sweet brunch or to end an evening meal as a dessert.  Get the children involved in making this dish, I have found that they can’t get enough of it and it is a great introduction for getting your kids into the kitchen and more involved in cooking. I have found that once the children have a go at cooking they love it and the more you cook with them the more familiar they become with different ingredients and in turn the more they start to enjoy food.

Ingredients;

Hot Cakes;

300ml Ricotta cheese
200ml Milk
4 Eggs separated
120g Plain Flour
1tsp Baking powder
1 Pinch of Salt
50g Butter
Fresh strawberry halved
Icing sugar for dusting

Honeycomb Butter;

250g unsalted Butter softened
100g sugar honeycomb crushed with a rolling pin
2tblsp Honey

Method;

Hot Cakes;

Place ricotta, milk and egg yolks in a mixing bowl and mix well to combine.
Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl.
Add to the ricotta mixture and mix until just combined.
Place egg whites in a clean dry bowl and beat until stiff peaks form.
Fold egg whites through batter in two batches, with a large metal spoon.
Lightly grease a large non-stick frying pan with a small portion of the butter and drop 2tblsp of batter per hotcake into the pan (don't cook more than 3 per batch).
Cook the hotcakes over a low to medium heat until golden brown.
Turn hotcakes and cook on the other side until golden and cooked through.
Transfer to a plate and quickly assemble with other ingredients.
Stack 3 hotcakes on a plate and top with strawberries and a slice of honeycomb butter.
Dust with icing sugar.

Honeycomb Butter;

Place all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth.
Shape into a log on plastic wrap, roll, seal and chill in a refrigerator for 2 hours.
Store leftover honeycomb butter in the fridge for up to 24 hours, or in the freezer - it's great on toast.

Summer vegetable hot pot

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At Bert’s we serve this hot pot in individual dishes but at home it works perfectly served in a large pot, this can then be served family style, set in the middle of the table and everybody just helping themselves. Any vegetables can be used in this recipe just try to use the best of local, fresh seasonal vegetables, whatever the time of year.
Ingredients;
For the gravy;                           

1tblsp olive oil                                                  
1 onion diced                                                                                                                   
2 cloves of garlic, chopped                                                                                                                 
3 carrot peeled and diced                                                                                 
2tblsp sweet soy sauce                
150ml red wine                                                                                                                                                    
500ml vegetable stock                                                 
8 shallots peeled                                                                                    
8 gloves of garlic peeled
8 baby carrots, peeled                                                                                                                
1 small courgette cut into 8 even pieces   
1 fennel cut into 8 even pieces                                                                                                
200g broad beans, removed from their pod and shelled                           
1 red pepper roasted and skinned, cut into 8 even pieces            
1tblsp chopped parsley                                           
4 potatoes peeled and sliced thinly on a mandolin

Method;

For the gravy;

Pour the olive oil into a saucepan and place over medium heat, add the onion, garlic and carrots, cook until the vegetables start to brown around the edges, stirring all the time. Turn the heat down to as low as you can and continue to cook over this low heat until the vegetables are very soft and breaking down, check and stir every 5-10mins. This may take up to an hour. This stage is very important as the slow cooking of the vegetables releases as of the vegetables natural sugar and adds intensity to the finished gravy.  When the vegetables have broken down turn up the heat add the soy sauce and the red wine reduce by half then add the vegetable stock, turn to a simmer and cook for20mins. Remove the gravy from the heat and place in a blender. Blend until very smooth then pass through a fine sieve. The sauce is now ready to use. This gravy can be made in bulk and frozen for later use. I find that freezing them in an ice tray works well. When you need to use them just pop out a couple of cubes and melt in a pot.
Pre heat the oven to 180c
Place an oven proof pot over a medium heat and add a little olive oil, add the whole shallots and whole garlic cloves and cook for 5mins, add the carrots and cook for a further 5mins add the courgettes and fennel and continue to cook for a further 5mins. At this point add enough of the gravy just to cover and bring to the boil, turn the heat to a simmer and add the broad beans and diced pepper, season to taste and add the chopped parsley.
Remove from the heat and top neatly with the sliced potatoes, pushing then lightly down to compact the vegetable below so they sit evenly on the top. Place the hot pot into the oven and cook for 25-30mins or until the potatoes are golden brown and cooked through.
Serve with a lightly dressed green salad for the perfect vegetarian summer dinner.