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Blimey. It’s been ages since I last wrote.

Wait a minute, can I even say Blimey?

How about Crikey? Have I been here long enough to warrant the use of such wackadoodle colloquialisms? I realise we are in Ireland, not England (or Australia for that matter), but folks here are constantly uttering the likes of blimey, and crikey and other funny expletives that I never, EVER would have imagined spewing out of my own mouth like I do now. I also say things like GARE-EDGE (Garage) and toilet instead of bathroom (Ewwww) too.

God help me.

Lo and behold, it looks like my last post was a potato post too. Sorry. But, this is Ireland, right? Spuds are a staple. Plus, since it’s time to dig up some new season potatoes, so why not slice them up and make a pizza out of them while you’re at it? I knew you’d agree.

So, Potato.ie and Lovepotatoes.co.uk are doing a fun campaign called Potatoes: More Than A Bit On the Side, and they reached out to ask if I’d want to develop a recipe for it. Clearly, they did not realise that I am essentially the Potato Queen of Kilcolman.

It went like this…

#TastyPotatoes: Hi Imen, want to do a potato recipe for us?

Me: (3 cartwheels and a herkie later) Are you kidding, I’d love to! I love spuds!

#TastyPotatoes: Great, thanks!

Me: I’ll be perfect, I even have a whole chapter in my book dedicated to the art of potatoes, I loooove potato pancakes, lefse, latkes, potato bread……

#TastyPotatoes: Fantastic, thank you!

Me: Did I tell you how much I love potatoes?! (round-off into the splits)

#TastyPotatoes: Okay, we will be back in touch.

Me: Omg wait! potato pizza!!!

#TastyPotatoes: Talk soon.

Me: …..Roasted potatoes………colcannon…..tatties….ahhhhh (back flip, Can-Can)

Here’s what I came up with: a recipe inspired by an unforgettable pizza with a layered potato “crust” we experienced at Blue Hill at Stone Barns in New York last year that Geoffrey has been begging me to try and recreate in our kitchen ever since. We improvised on how to create the crust and you can go crazy with any combination of toppings, we love this little mash-up, and looking forward to our next experiment too.

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I hope you will love it as much as we do!

Potato Crusted Pizza with Gruyère, Carmelised Onion, Rosemary & Thyme
Serves 4-6
The potato crust is the star of this crispy, savoury pizza that is super easy to prepare, gluten-free and delicious.
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Yield: 1 (12-inch) pizza

Ingredients:
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly-cracked black pepper
4 tablespoons cornstarch
1 1/2 pounds waxy, round potatoes (about 4 medium), scrubbed
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
40ml beef, chicken or vegetable broth
250g gruyere cheese, shredded
125g prepared caramelised onions (here’s a great technique)
Sprigs of fresh rosemary and thyme

Method
Preheat oven to 200 degrees C.

In a small bowl, stir together the salt, pepper, and cornstarch; set aside.

Using a food processor or mandoline, slice potatoes very thinly and place them in a large mixing bowl.

Sprinkle half of the cornstarch mixture over the potato slices; toss the potatoes, then sprinkle them with the remaining cornstarch mixture, and toss again.

Brush 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over a 12-inch round pizza pan or pizza stone covered with parchment paper.

Layer the potatoes, overlapping the slices in concentric circles. Sprinkle the potatoes with the broth, brush them with the remaining oil, then press the potatoes down firmly with your clean hands to compact them into a crust.

Move the oven rack to its lowest position, and bake the potato crust for 20 to 30 minutes or until edges are browned and potatoes are tender.

Remove the potato crust from the oven and spread the carmelised onions, gruyere and herbs over the potatoes.  Return the pizza to the oven for another 10 minutes, or until cheese is softened and the pizza is heated through.  Remove from the oven and cut into wedges and devour.

Slan Abhaile,

Imen

 

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A Farmer’s Ramen

05 Dec 2012

I am constantly searching for role models or examples or just mere kindred spirits that I can learn from, be inspired by, be comforted with a feeling of being less of a stranger in this world of rural living, or to just plain witter on with about the fact that chicken plucking is grissly work. 

Our kind neighbours have been here for generations. They are lovely, but country living is not new to them. My experience is very different. As much as I embrace it this lifestyle, I admit that there are days that I double-damn the notion that I can’t just walk out my door and down the street with my family for a steaming hot bowl of Pho, a 10-minute freshly wood-fired pizza, the perfect donut that someone else made, potato latkes from the Jewish deli, or to be perfectly honest, a grande soy “holiday spiced” latte that hails from a certain mammoth coffee chain. The longer I am here I recognize that the upside to not having those conveniences is that I appreciate it all so much more when I do spend time in the city. {That girl jumping up and down for joy waiting for takeaway at Cecil’s?  Me!}

Then, I stumble upon a memoir…discover a blog….meet a person…whom shares a similar lifestyle, and if I am lucky, a remarkable recipe that widdles down my bouts of whinging.

This time the recipe is: ramen.

And, the person is: Nancy Hachisu. A kindred soul living on the other side of the world. A woman moved to a new country for the food and ended up falling in love with a farmer.

I love her story, a flipflop of ours, but more importantly, I am thankful that she has shared a beautiful, time-honoured recipe for ramen with me the world.

Using freshly plucked chicken(s) from the farm and as many home-grown + local ingredients as possible, we followed Nancy’s recipe.

Is there anything better than a steaming bowl of homemade ramen?

I think not.

We ladled up. I closed my eyes, took one slurpy mouthful and was instantly transported to my favourite noodle bar in NYC. It was better than a scene out of Tampopo. It made me cry.

From a farm in Japan to a farm in Ireland, I give you-

Ramen At Home

{Make sure you have tissues}

Recipe from Japanese Farm Food, by Nancy Hachisu

Serves 4.

For the broth:

2 carrots, cut into 1 inch lengths

2 small Japanese leeks, or 4 scallions, trimmed and cut into 1 inch lengths

1 inch fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced

4 bone-in free-range chicken thighs (or 8 wings)

1 tsp sea salt

2 TBS rapeseed or sesame oil

For the noodles:

TBS sesame oil

2 c. flour

2 eggs, at room temperature

2 egg yolks, at room temperature

For the toppings:

4 eggs

1 small bunch chopped bitter greens, such as bok choy or kale

3 TBS finely chopped Japanese leeks or scallions

1 sheet nori, cut into eights

Soy sauce, miso, or sea salt (to taste)

Make the broth.  Preheat the oven to 450°F.  Place carrots, leeks/scallions, ginger, and chicken thighs in a roasting pan, and toss with salt and oil.  Roast for 40 minutes.  Pour chicken, veggies, and all the juices into a large stockpot, and cover with 16 cups of cold water.

Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer, covered, for 1 hour.  After 1 hour, remove the lid.  Take out 2 of the chicken thighs and place in a small bowl.  Cover the thighs with hot broth and let cool to room temperature, then shred.  Continue simmering the remaining broth for another 30-60 minutes, until it is reduced to about 8 cups.  Strain broth into a clean pot and keep warm over low heat.  Discard vegetables and remaining chicken thighs.

Make the noodles: mix 2 TBS of the sesame oil into the flour with your fingers until it is crumbly.  Add eggs and egg yolks and stir with your hand until incorporated, then knead on a flat, clean surface for 5 minutes until the dough is pliable but stiff.  The dough takes some force to really work it into a pliable piece.  Let dough rest 10 minutes. 

Roll out the noodle dough to a thickness of about 1/8 inch using a pasta machine or a heavy rolling pin.  Cut into linguine-sized noodles by hand with a pizza cutter, sharp knife or by using a pasta machine.

Prepare the toppings: bring a large pot of water to a boil over high-heat. Add the eggs and boil for exactly 7 minutes, then remove with a strainer and place directly into a bowl of ice-cold water.  Let cool, then peel.  In the boiling water, blanch the bitter greens until just tender, then add to the cold water with the eggs.  Keep the water boiling – you will use it to cook your noodles just before serving.

Once the broth, noodles, and toppings are ready, prepare the bowls: add a small amount of miso, soy sauce, or salt to each bowl (according to diner’s preference) and pour a ladleful of hot broth over the seasoning.  Stir the broth into the seasoning.  Divide the shredded chicken amongst the bowls.  Drop the noodles into the boiling water and cook for 2 minutes – they will float up to the top when they are done.  Remove the noodles with a strainer and divide among the bowls.  Top off each bowl with a few more ladlefuls of hot broth, 1 egg cut into halves, a handful of the cooked greens, some of the nori pieces, and a sprinkling of scallions.

Serve very hot, with extra seasoning as desired.

Slan Abhaile,

Imen

Photos and styling by Imen McDonnell 2012. Ramen noodle cutting by Richard McDonnell + the slurping schoolboy is Geoffrey McDonnell. This post is not sponsored in any way by Nancy Hachisu or her publisher, but I love it, and would urge you to find the book if Asian or farm food interests you…it is really special. PS. Thank you Laila for introducing it to me!

 

 

 

 

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My name is Imen McDonnell and I am powerless over pizza.

Okay, maybe I’m not quite a pizza-holic, but pizza has always played a big role in my life.  My fondness for this Italian delicacy probably stemmed from my father’s adoration of the same…we’d often find ourselves sharing a pepperoni and cheese from our local, Port Sandy Bay {whom, I might add, also served the Infamous “Snowcoaster” pizza which was prepared on a shiny round snow sled} and it was such a treat. If I was ever home from school with a cold, my dad insisted that I eat pizza and it was remarkably healing.

As years went on, I would always find myself on a mission to experience pizza wherever I traveled or lived. In Los Angeles, Joe’s Pizza was a favorite; in New York I favoured Ray’s…I’ve had a brilliant pizza at BIKO in Mexico City and of course, in Italy…her birthplace, where pizzerias can be found around nearly every corner, but for me, most memorable at the  10 Corso Como cafe in Milan any choice of little pizza cafés dotting the streets of Rome or along a tiny windy road in Positano.  {I’ve yet to experience a Napoli pizza, my father’s favorite, which has been on my list since as long as I can remember}

When I lived in Minneapolis, brick-oven pizza was king and I had places like Punch and Biga on heavy rotation as I was a single professional who often worked late, couldn’t find time to cook at home in the evenings and longed for something healthy that went well with a glass of red after a long day. In fact, if I fancied, I could even have my pizza delivered to me by a superhero which was always divine.

Since moving to Ireland, I have had great luck with La Cucina, a sweet Italian eatery located in Limerick City near the offices of a production studio I worked at for a time. We would often pick up delicious pizzas or pasta for the crew from Lorraine, a friendly Irish girl who married an Italian and created a lovely restaurant together.

When we went to Inishfood in Donegal last month, we experienced Darren Bradley’s amazing brick-oven pizza at his home near the beach on the gorgeous Inishowen peninsula one evening….which reminded me a bit of going to the bucolic Pizza Farm, only with Irish microbrews accompanying our slices at twilight.

It goes without saying that after we moved into our country home, I would have to learn how to make my own pizza if we wanted to eat it on a regular basis. I started searching for pizza dough recipes and after going through at least 5-6 that seemed to have great potential; I stumbled upon this one from, of all places, Modern Country Cooking and I have never looked back.

If you love a super thin crispy crust, this is for you. I make up the batch and freeze or refrigerate half of it. We love getting creative and mixing it up, making everything from Moroccan to Thai pizzas and when there are odds and ends in the crisper after a week of meals, Sunday morning breakfast pizza is the ultimate.

Inspired by Darren’s potato version from Inishfood, I decided to add some of my favorite local ingredients, Crowe’s Farm streaky rashers and Ardsullagh Goat’s Cheese along with truffle oil, minced garlic and fresh rosemary which grows right in front of our house. This particular pizza does not call for a tomato base, but  the crust is just as delicious with passata and the toppings of your choice.

 

Hope you like it as much as we do!

 

Slan Abhaile,

Imen

Photos and Styling by Imen McDonnell. Assisted by Sonia Mulford Chaverri

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