Luke cooks tartlets

Pissaladiere Tartlets:
Pissaladiere is a dish originating from Liguria, specifically Genoa, and then making its way across to Nice in France where its popularity flourished. The traditional pissaladiere dish is prepared on a bread dough slightly thicker than that of pizza margherita, however in this recipe, they have been adapted and prepared in short crust pastry tartlets. Although caramelised onions constitute most of the filling, the salty taste of the anchovies balances well with the sweetness said onions.
For the pastry, you will need:

  • 250g Plain white flour
  • 125g Butter
  • Pinch of salt
    For the filling, you will need:
  • 5 small onions (Preferably French onions) peeled and chopped.
  • Black olives, Pitted and sliced
  • Anchovies, one small tin
  • 2 tablespoons Balsamic vinegar
  • Red wine (optional)
  • Salt to taste

Short crust Pastry:
Begin by making a short crust pastry. To do so, add the flour and butter (cubed) to a food processer, alternatively you can mix these together by hand, but the warmth of your hands may make the butter greasy. Pulse in the food processer until a fine crumb. Add the pinch of salt and pulse once more. Next to get the pastry to come together add a tablespoon of water, then pulse. Repeat until the crumb begins to clump together. Once the pastry begins forming in the food processer, tip out onto a clean worktop and form into a ball. Cover with cling film and leave to chill in the fridge for at least 30-45 minutes, ideally overnight. Take the ball of pastry out of the fridge, unwrap and place onto a floured worktop. Begin rolling out the pasty to roughly a third of an inch thick. For this next part you will need a cupcake tray, cut pastry into circles that will fit the holes of your cupcake tray, lay pastry into the holes and cut accordingly.
Caramelized Onions:
Pre-heat oven to Fan 180 degrees. Get a large frying pan, giving the onions plenty of room, add olive oil and bring to a medium-high heat. Add onions and some salt to draw out the moisture from the onions helping caramelization. Stir occasionally and add a small amount of water to enhance the colour. As onions begin to brown significantly, add the red wine (optional). Lastly add the balsamic vinegar and stir.
Slice anchovies and add to taste, use very little as they have a strong taste and may easily overpower the onions, mix into the caramelized onions and scoop mixture into your pastry.
Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until pastry is a golden brown.

Lockdown restaurant

As I walk through the restaurant
My breath still on the silent air
Hearing my heart cause the music has died
My steps ring out hollow no laughter to fill the  void
The air still
the sound of chatter long lingering in the memory
The clinking if glasses replaced by the tick of a clock I never notice before
Hollow  , relentless as I watch it it tick by
Eating the soul that was once joyous seaming to fill the room …tick
Once a place of laughter & banter, of hopes & loves, of celebrations & commiserations
Now it sits silent
Like a great ship on the ocean bed
No longer serving its purpose
The kitchen full of noise & heat of steam and ructions
Now a cold quite void as my breath lingers in the fridget air ,
Ovens sit silenced , burners gone cold , chargrills no longer see dancing flames
It smells of ….nothing ,
A nothingness

menu by noel

menu writing is a strange thing to be honest , you have to balance what way and what dishes the customer wants and want you would like to cook which i can assure yo are very different things , to give an example steak the usual trio sirloin fillet and ribeye wouldn’t make the cut , for me the filet is tender yes but lacks any flavour sirloin has more flavour but is well blaa just yea blaa the ribeye is the best of the three and sells the least , where as the feather blade or bavette steak has oodles of flavour yes not tender but for me it is always about flavour, what else matters really just flavour in all senses really isn’t it a flavour packed meal , relationship, life , you don’t want any to be blaa , a night out a great conversation life is all about flavour isn’t,

oh yes menus it is the same on starts , a lot of the best sellers are there for the customer not the chef , and you might think well yes that’s why i go there they have so and so on the menu, but shouldn’t you be going to a restaurant to try something different something you wouldn’t normally have , something by the chef his dish his way , what are you afraid of …….. worst thing ever is someone saying they wouldn’t like that and then saying they have never had it but wouldn’t like it , sweet baby Jesus , if you always took that you would never eat or drink anything ever what a waste of a life , one of life’s greatest joys is eating.

it is one of the purest things really , so go to restaurant that are chef lead , how do youo know if they are…. look at the menu it will tell you everything you need to know , same old stuff on it as everywhere else or things on it you dont know combinations you never heard of then thats chef lead.

Lockdown life

Lockdown ramblings 

Since all this started, I like many of my colleagues across the industry and in general the public have been afforded an opportunity to evaluate life, and the work life balance. Many people will have experienced this differently to what I did. 

I’m fortunate in a sense that I live in the countryside, far from town and near to forestry walkways. 

My wife has adapted to her new learning from the college i.e online classes and exams quite well with a nice set up in the kitchen. 

All exams passed with flying colours. 

For me I need to get out to and into a kitchen as they seem to be the only place my life makes sense I don’t know why it just does for me. I get to kill 2 birds with one stone I get to give back to the community and get out of the house and build a network for myself for the future. I’ve known my kitchen comerades Paul and Karl for a while but never really got to know them. 

By providing meals on wheels for SVP I have learned that we are still a community at heart something that many believed myself included non existent previous to lockdown. The community approach to this has been fantastic across the country and the rural community ramped up production on their existing efforts in the rural centres for Irish life. Yes, I’m referring to villages and small towns with senior groups or aid groups for the community prime example my own village Knocknagoshel already providing meals laundry etc from the community centre added extra delivery and shopping from the village and they deserve a massive thank you. 

Now as it eases and “normality” resumes now I hope that this community sprirt and local support continues. I now myself have had time to think and contemplate what aspects of what I want the new normal to be. I now have rearranged my priorities and I needed a kick up the backside to see what everyone has always said to me and others no doubt in my shoes since the dawn of time, choosing family over my career is now to the forefront of what I want and desire. Honestly I always believed it myself and was going my own way about it by putting in the work for my life to enable an ease of life later. Seems logical to me, not any more thankfully.

Paul’s thoughts on video interview

Post interview reflection

After having a chat with Aidan from the maherees veg, we went on a wander around the farm to see the cattle geese ducks pigs and goats, to chat about the rest of the farm thats little known. 

We spoke about many things includong the lack of shared information between people, regarding different things. I knew ducks can be sporadic egg layers so how do you have a supply of duck and chicken eggs year round, is anyone’s guess, Aidan provided an answer buying them at a particular tine of the year so they mature at the tine thw rest of the flock are stopping laying more so with the chickens than the ducks. 

We had a group following us around like a shadow getting pecked wasnt a worry, just odd behaviour as far as i was concerned.

Then on for the onion field and a chat about the crops and seeding and harvesting. There was a few onions flowering and the begining of the process to seed naturally. 

Then the conversation to an eye opening turn, should a crop fail for whatever reason the cost is borne entirely by the growers, so success of a crop is paramount to survival of the vegatable farmers of this country. While Aidans produce is the best in the country in my opinion so naturally tasty and forgive the expression how they should taste. We spoke about the cost of production per kilo and what its for sale for. 

Its selling at about the price he can grow it for thats not including the cost of his time and associated costs to grow the vegatables. So whos really losing out is the grower as you know they are being driven to tighter and tighter margins and struggling to make ends meet. 

Then seeing his diversification to juicing and the use of the tops and misshapen carrots to feed pigs to cut waste costs, to supplement income. 

We have always spoken about the importance of supporting local and buying local, and will continue to do so, so I implore everyone reading this to drop by a farmers market talk to the veg man, especially Aidan, and youll taste tge difference, its worth the extra few euro and ypull feel it in yourself as youll be getting fresher, more nutritious veg as it will have only been pulled from the ground instead of being treated and sent on a trip around the world before it gets to you. 

.check out the farmers markets in kerry every week in your local town 

Inspiration by Paul

Inspiration 

The following piece is random even by my own admission. 

I’ve been able to read a bit more now that I’ve changed position and mental state. I’ve begun reading a book IGNI it’s a book detailing the fall of a restaurant and the recovery road and rise of another restaurant. I suppose the plot seems all to familiar to me, albeit from a perspective of a person who’s literally lost everything uprooted and his road to recovery over the 1st few chapters. 

I’m not going to spoil it so go read it yourself contact James in Polymaths he’s great for different books.

Then I walk away and stroll by a stream and see a hazel tree or a beech tree with nuts attached, I’ve to collect them this year, otherwise another year wasted on procrastination. I plan on drying these and using them in place of pine nuts in a pesto or part of a salad, museli, or dessert, that’s just before you ask what you’d do with them as you have a random tree near the house. 

I suppose I could forget drying flowers this year and maybe concentrate on preserving the essence of them for future months.

As I sit here I can’t help wonder about doing this as a career, not the “cheffy” part the preserving part, I mean that I love doing it, it’s not rocket science by any stretch of the imagination compotes chutneys cordials pesto relish dehydration powder etc. Yes, use the chef’s skills and head that I currently posess, and go this way, am I driven yes am I mad well, that can be argued am I stable enough to do it, not a chance, I still feel a sense of failure and disappointment as you can well imagine. 

This is where I stand right now on chapter 2 beginning the road to recovery and success, failure is not something I’m used to, I’ve always put my heart and soul into everything I’ve ever done so some measure of success was always attained by me in some shape or form. 

Like the chef in the book I too will rise again, I heard on the radio once 11 to 1 club words of wisdom” life’s is about falling 7 times and getting up 8″ it’s a line that’s kind of stuck out over the last month to me. 

As always @chefpaulc on all social media platforms 

Forage

Forage 2019

Since last i wrote about this topic, Ive done my usual foraging plus some wandering. I found some beautiful mushrooms and new places to pick flowers and berries, 

Mushrooms were always the things that eluded me on my ventures in the forests. Then delight when i find my mushrooms on the rare occasion i find them. Ive dried pretty much all that ive found this year with the exception of the pheasant back which i believe got chopped up and sauteed with some butter and served with some turbot. 

By the coast right now sea beet is currently seeding, as such has lost most of its nutritional value, so i dont pick it. So instead I pick samphires, or beach mustard or baby oyster leaf, or sea aster, some sea lettuce and grasses. So not exactly short on things to pick on our vast coastline and arguably our best asset. 

I love our coast for its beauty and its bounty, its splendour and raw power of destruction when waves come crashing over rocks, seeing the quantities of seaweed thrust onto the rocks and beach after a storm is breathtakingly awesome. 

I still receive funny looks of intrigue and inquisition about how to cook it or what to use it with, people are always amazed with the response hot pan, butter salt pepper serve. Simplicity is key to food no point over complicating for the sake of it. Cook it simply, let the natural flavours sing. 

As always folks @chefpaulc on all social media platforms 

Al change for Paul

Career path.

Its been an emotional couple of months for me both personal and professional. 

Personally through mental stress and strain of a business, and added to that marriage and monetary issue’s, all compounding into one perfect storm for explosion. 

Professionally I stepped down from my role as a head chef, being honest i wasnt ready, I thought I was, backed myself all the way with my ability to cook, I now know what I lack and need to work on. I fell into a kind of a sweeper chef, in Croì and as time went on, decisions needed to be made. 

I needed to move away from a restaurant I helped build and take a position guaranteeing a wage to help my personal life, with more time for my neglected wife (Sorry Jen). 

In short I am a Junior Sous in Manor West Hotel, I want to thank the crew there for the welcome I received about 2 weeks ago. Its a family there that i just clicked, a monstrous food output on a daily basis, roll up the sleeve, hot pans, fryers, grills and food away. 

Many of the staff knew me personally from previous jobs. Others clicked with the Croì jacket, I wore on day 2/3, made no difference to me, I get to introduce new ideas to the kitchen to help it expand and help to raise the bar on a standard of food, some wild food, sone preservation, some vegatarian, all of which are met with nervous anticipation, or dismissal, a slight giggle, you know what, I dont mind its new Im expecting some resistance. New ideas, to a place thats used to a certain way, Im all for slotting in doing the job going home, thats ok but its not me, i have some freedom with specials so a little flair here to see where it goes. 

Im proud of what Ive achieved, at the end of the day Im 30, married, opened 2 restaurants, and saw one not work, Ive made my mistakes, still have a few more to make. Just to learn from them now.

I feel like a failure, as I leave Croí and Grà behind me, I feel disheartened with the loss, but optimistic that I can learn more, to push my career further into the future. 

As always @chefpaulc on all social media platforms 

Paul talks first head chef role

New oppertunities.

A few weeks in and as predicted (slightly unsettling) it’s going ok which is why I’m nervous. I expected a few niggley issues, nothing I couldn’t work out new menu, new crew, new set up, new restaurant, always gonna have a few, teething problems. Now that they are solved I’m now trying to keep costs under control. 

I’ve done rosters before but never like this, I can’t predict the week. 

Thankfully I have a back up plan, in the form of my own business partner, mentor,friend, and gangster no.1 Chef Noel, I provide a rota he provides critique. 

Overall I’ve been happy with it so far, like everyone I’d love to have done more people as everyone has left extremely happy, even a few of the Croí bookings were happy to join us (no pressure then). As stated extremely happy, now I’m building my own relationships, with my butcher, veg guy fish man etc. 

A thing that has been said an awful lot lately is about slim and healthy options, I consider myself, a low fat kinda chef anyway, in that it dosnt have to be deep fried, it’s nice yeah, necessary no, and I’m willing to cater for that, I’ll roast potatoes for you, no oil/ butter on the veg, no problem. Seasoning yes, dripping in liquid not necessarily. 

I do love however a good burger, or a fish and chips. I’m not gonna preach about health as I don’t have qualification and my own personal experience wouldn’t be worth talking about. My weight has fluctuated over the last year, I’m down a stone right now, I’m stressed and not eating and constantly on the go so there you go, explained. Not diet, not advising doing this either. 

Tangent over, (promise) 

Healthy eating kinda my goal for the year, not looking for canonization for being a saint with food, I want to live, enjoy a greasy takeaway, a fish and chip, a potato gratin, a bacon and cabbage dinner. I also want to eat more healthy stuff, less fatty things, so I’m now devising a menu that I will implement for the slimming conscious people of the world, as well as vegatarian and vegan food as it dosnt have to be boring we can do more with veg than just boil or steam. Check out Vegtopia in July this year for a festival dedicated to vegetables and all things vegetable. 

Find it on Facebook @Vegtopia 

Follow me in Grá bistro @gra_bistrotralee on all social media platforms. See ye soon, 

Paul talks career

Progression

The past 7 years have a rollercoaster ride of ups and downs, from the bottom to head chef, even writing this piece is unnerving me slightly, I suppose in many respects I work hard, and put 100% everyday. I feel lucky and proud of what I’ve done since I 1st stepped into the kitchen, I’m never gonna be considered the best chef, ever and honestly I don’t want to be, I don’t want stars, I’ve no intention of chasing them either, nice to have the accolades it’s something I’ve never really sought out, nor do I intend to. 

Now as I progress to a position I feel I’m not totally ready for, I look back and realise I was never ready for anything in my working career. Yet I’ve done my best grew to the position with steep learning curves, now this isn’t more of a curve I’ve been taking the reigns as a sous over the past 2 years, pushing my own boundaries, I’ve stepped up before why now is it so daunting.

Well, I’m part owner in the restaurant.

Problem I run the risk of not only ruining my own life, I run the risk of taking my business partners with me for part of it. 

Solution. Don’t screw up, do what I’ve always done and try, try, and try again. 

I can cook, I can organise a crew, I can run service, I can do the paperwork, I can keep the place clean. 

Sounds easy enough when I put it like that dosnt it. Well easier said than done.

Aside from this I’ve been thinking about my past and cooking from my childhood to present day. I thank God mother could cook my nan’s could cook and pretty much all the women in my young child life could cook, and the best memories of food is what I know now as simple food well executed 

As always @chefpaulc