Well the pandemic wasn’t a big pile of craic was it?
Now that things have hopefully calmed down a bit, the supper club is back.
If you haven’t been to one before, we have a max of 8-9 diners and past guests have been a mix of couples, friends catching up on “mate dates” and solo diners who love food but who’s friends just aren’t into eating out. It’s all very laid back and a chance to have dinner people from different walks of life while enjoying some great food (After lock down aren’t you fed up looking at the same people) .
You’ll be greeted with a welcome drink (people are welcome to bring their own beer or wine, with no corkage), and then everyone eats the same 3 courses (we’re happy to cater for vegans/vegetarians, just let us know in advance).
The theme of the supper club scheduled just as lock down hit was decided by a vote. So, I’m putting it to the vote again (in case our taste buds have changed over lockdown). I’m sticking with French Vs Italian.
So check out the menus and vote for your favourite, and we’ll maybe see you at the next supper club.
Traditional lasagne is pretty epic, but it does no harm try new versions of things and this is pretty amazing. This was a giant lasagna, but you can reduce the recipe if you need to make a smaller one.
1Kg Chicken Breast (cut into 2-3cm chunks)
500 Grams Mushrooms (roughly chopped)
50 Grams Dried Mushrooms
200 Grams Spinach
750 Mil Milk
75 Grams Butter
75 Grams Plain flour
1 Tsp Salt
1 Tsp Black Pepper
2 Tbsp Oil
250 Grams Cheese (grated, I used a mix of mozzarella and Cheddar)
1 Tbsp Rosemary (chopped)
4-5 Cloves of garlic (crushed or finely chopped)
12 – 14 Lasagna dried sheets (the type that don’t need pre-cooked)
Before doing anything else, place the dried mushrooms into a bowl and cover with 350 mil of warm water
Add 1 table spoon of oil to a large high sided pan and heat over a medium heat. Add the chopped chicken and colour on all sides before removing from the heat and setting to one side
Add a second table spoon of oil to the pan and add the roughly chopped mushrooms, cook for around 10 minutes (don’t stir too often or they will start to release water)
Drain the dried mushrooms (keep the water they were soaked into one side as it will go into your sauce later)
Stir in the dried mushrooms and spinach to the pan with mushrooms (it will look like it won’t fit, but it quickly wilts down
To make the sauce, melt the butter, and add the crushed garlic to let it infuse and flavour the butter. Add the flour and stir well to make a loose paste
Over a medium heat, gradually whisk in the milk and a water the dried mushrooms were soaked in as this will be packed with flavour.
As the sauce starts to thicken, stir in the rosemary and salt and pepper (you can adjust the seasoning to your own taste). Cook the sauce out for a further 10 minutes, stir regularly until the sauce no longer tastes floury. The sauce should not be especially thick, so add more milk if you think it needs it.
Pre-heat you over to 180 degrees (Celsius)
In a lasagna dish, ladle in enough sauce to cover the bottom of the dish add about a third of the chicken and mushroom mix before topping with lasgna sheets. Repeat this on two more layers, making sure you ladle in liberal amounts of the sauce over the lasagna sheets
Top with grated cheese and bake for 45 minutes until deep golden brown Enjoy with salad and garlic bread
“Mauritius was made first, and then heaven: heaven being copied after Mauritius”, Mark Twain
As much as I loved relaxing at a resort, old habits die hard and I wanted to explore a bit more of the island.
You can rent a car relatively cheaply, and as Mauritius is a former British colony they drive on the left hand side of the road, and road signs are in English (speed signs are in kilometers). However, rather than having all the stress of getting lost and driving unfamiliar roads we hired a local driver for a day. Rajesh was super helpful and knowledgeable and brought us to the North of the island. Not slowing down at intersections and tail gating seem to be common practice, so I was glad we had a local to help out.
Our first stop was the capital, Port Louis. This was a bit of a culture shock after the laid back vibe of a resort. Full of hustle and bustle the city is loud and frenetic with epic traffic jams during rush hour. Once there you’ll find busy markets selling everything imaginable, with traders barking out their bargains in French/Creole.
You can shop for souvenirs (haggling is expected) or head to the exotic food markets to stock up on spices. I would recommend asking for prices before buying spices (I think ended up paying some unofficial tourist tax due to not checking first).
Mauritius was an important stopping off point in the spice route and local food is fragrant and highly spiced.
If you are frazzled after Port Louis and want to get in touch with your inner history nerd, then visit the Sugar Museum (L’Aventure de Sucre). A short drive from the city, the museum is fascinating. It was a former sugar refinery and shows how sugar cane growth and production totally shaped the history of the island. Less then 300 years ago there were just 200 people living on the island, the population is now over 1.2 million. Sugar cane production, completely changed the eco system of the island, with new species of plants and animals being introduced. Mauritius is probably best remembered as being the home of the now extinct dodo.
Like most museums you’ll exit through the gift shop, but this is worth doing for the rum tasting that’s included in the entrance fee.
Private companies like the East India Company and then colonial powers from the Portuguese, French and British exploited the island and its inhabitants to make obscene amounts of money. Slaves were transported from Bengal and Africa, as well as indentured servants from India and traders from China all led to the multicultural nation Mauritius is today. The museum is honest about the legacy of the slave trade and the immense wealth created by sugar plantations. While the country is seen now as a tropical paradise, it has a much darker history.
As you drive along you’ll see vibrantly coloured, Hindu temples, Buddhist shrines, Mosques and Christian churches scattered through out the countryside. By all accounts Mauritians live in relative harmony and differences are respected and celebrated.
The botanical gardens are really impressive. Because of its climate and fertile soil probably anything could grow here. You can explore on your own or pay for a guide. Unless you’re seriously into horticulture I’d recommend just pottering about on your own. You can also see brightly coloured wildfowl, giant tortoises and deer.
Before heading back to our resort, our driver, Rajesh brought us to Cap Malheureux (Unhappy Cape), so called because of ships who ran aground in the past. The views were breathing taking and the area is most commonly known for the little red roof church that sits on the bay.
Just as the evening was drawing in we headed back to Bel Ombre across the mountain route. The Pitons are a range of jagged volcanic mountains that wouldn’t look out of place in Jurassic Park (the light was dropping so sorry no photos).
Due to an unusual piece of luck I was fortunate enough to stay in the Outrigger Resort in Bel Ombre, in the south western coast of Mauritius.
I’m usually a city break type of person, but if all resorts could be as heavenly as this place then I’m a convert.
The resort has large airy bedrooms, with luxurious bathrooms and dressing area (we had the largest bathtub I’ve ever seen). A well stocked mini bar and complementary snacks and fancy coffee machine make sure you want for nothing while in your room.
Accommodation either has views of the lush tropical gardens with banyan, and frangipani trees, as well as coconut and date palms throughout, or ocean views of the pristine lagoon with a coral reef about 100 yards from the beautiful sandy beach dotted with black volcanic rock. You can wander along the beach and watch the sea change from bright turquoise to dark lapiz blues as the sun moves throughout the day. (Top tip: aqua shoes are a good choice as the beach has lots of coral and can be uncomfortable to walk on in parts). The resort also has two large pools as well as a reflection pool for those who love an Instagram post. Although there isn’t a single view in the place that isn’t fabulous.
I went in early July which is the Mauritian winter, but it was still in the mid 20s (Celsius) everyday and was very pleasant. If you prefer it really hot then from August onwards is the time to go.
Other visitors were made up of a fairly cosmopolitan mix of European, Indian and Middle Eastern and this is reflected in the food offered.
There are several eating areas. The Mercado serves breakfast and dinner and served international buffet style food. Breakfast in the morning ranges from curries, a large selection of topical fruits and juices, omelette stations, cereals, cooked items and french breads and patisserie. For dinner there is a theme of a different country’s cuisine each evening (Mauritian night was my favourite, but all the food was excellent). There are always plenty of options for children, vegans and halal diners.
If you prefer a la carte dining the Edge Water restaurant is right on the beach, and Le Bleu is a beach front bar serving freshly made pizzas and panninis and is a good call for lunch. There are also plenty of sun loungers and comfortable seating areas along the beach and pools.
We had one afternoon with rain, and the ever helpful staff (thank you Sephora) arranged for me to be taught some Mauritian dishes with the very lovely Chef Matthieu. He is a great teacher, and showed me how to make apple chutney, yam fritters, Mauritian chicken curry and roti (flat bread). His enthusiasm and passion for his local cuisine really shone through, and to paraphrase Julia Childs, “people who love food are always the best people”
The Plantation Club provides a fine dining option offering old world luxury. You can opt to visit for afternoon tea or to dine a la carte. However, my suggestion would be to try one of their tasting menu evenings. We opted for lobster night, and having met Chef Matthieu the day before we knew we would be in for a treat. He is passionate about fusion cooking, and because Mauritius is such a melting pot who’s population is a mix of Portuguese, Indian, Chinese, African and French heritage, the range of flavours in Mauritian food is something else.
Everything on the menu was delicious but my two stand out dishes were the makki roll and lobster with arbarica sauce (coffee sauce with lobster might sound really strange but it was so well balanced, it was like nothing I’ve ever tasted).
You could spend your entire day just chilling and listening to the roar of the sea against the coral reef and the rustling of the palms (I can highly recommend spending at least one afternoon doing this to find your happy place). If you prefer to be a bit more active there are gorgeous beach walks and the resort offers free activities like snorkeling, tours of the lagoon in a glass bottom boat (we had a sea turtle come and swim along side us), and on set days there are activities such as aquafit, volleyball, and yoga.
The concierges at the resort are an excellent source of information if you’d like to get out and about and see more of the island. They can help arrange visits to see capital Port Louis if you like to shop and see the local markets, historic areas on the island or activities like swimming with dolphins or sea turtles, visiting the impressive botanical gardens or sailing out to neighbouring islands on a catamaran.
If you want something to do in the evenings the resort has live music every night which was always really good. My favourite was the Mauritian night which had local artists play traditional Sega music and display local dances, which are based on the African music played by slaves in the sugar cane plantations and made the colonial owners the equivalent of modern billionaires.
Staff at the resort are multi lingual (French is the most widely spoken language on the island), and were incredibly warm and helpful. Mauritius is developing quickly, but tourism is still the largest employer on the island, and it was hit badly due to Covid and also the global rise in the cost of living. You will always receive excellent service from the well trained staff at the resort, but the average monthly salary in Mauritius is around £600 per month. So if you do get a chance to visit this little slice of paradise, try to tip as well as you can afford to (and like most places cash is always preferable).
If you always end up with left over bread this is a really tasty way to use it up.
This dish apparently started with poor shepherds in Spain and Portugal. I like recipes that allow you to use up what’s available and this is perfect for using up scraps of streaky bacon, ham or other smokey meats or cold cuts
This dish does use a lot of oil, which is why I’ve included it amongst the poor filth recipes. It’s quick, easy to make and tastes great. I like for breakfast/brunch with fried eggs. It also makes a fantastic hangover cure.
500 Grams Stale bread (broken into chunks of various size, but not as small as breadcrumbs)
1 Onion (cut into fine slices)
2-3 Cloves of garlic
50 Grams Chorizo (peeled and sliced)
1 Red pepper (cut into 1cm strips)
50 Grams Streaky bacon or other left over meat or cold cuts (cut into 2cm slices)
1 Tsp Smoked paprika
2-3 Tbsp Olive oil
Heat a large high sided pan and add the chorizo, and streaky bacon until it starts to crisp up. Remove from the pan and set to one side
Add the onion, garlic, red pepper and paprika to the pan and cook in the juices released from the chorizo and bacon until the onion becomes translucent
Add some oil to the pan and then add the stale bread chunks. Fry until the bread starts to brown, stirring regularly so it doesn’t burn
These are not mojitos in the true sense (I’m not really a fan of rum). But they are incrediblely refreshing, and a great Summer drink.
I make individual ones in a cocktail shaker (a great addition to your Amazon wish list if you don’t already have one). You can also increase the ingredients and make a big jug of these if you have friends round.
I have included the recipe for a simple syrup, but if you’re short on time you can buy this pre made. Make sure to have plenty of ice.
250 Grams Sugar
250 ml water
For the cocktail
1 Shot Simple syrup
1 Shot Gin
Soda or tonic water
To make the simple syrup, add the sugar and water to a pot and heat until the sugar was dissolved, set to one side and allow to cool
With a potato peeler shave ribbons of cucumber and add to a tall glass and top up with crushed ice.
Roughly chop a tablespoon of cucumber and add to a cocktail shaker along with 5 mint leaves and a wedge of lime. Muddle these in the shaker (this a fancy term for giving them a bit of a bash to release their flavour, I do this with butt of a wooden spoon, but use what you have)
Add a shot of gin and a shot of simple syrup to the shaker, along with a couple of ice cubes and shake for all you’re worth. If you are making a jug of these, then make sure to stir thoroughly
Pour into your prepared glass and top off with some tonic or soda water and a sprig of mint and wedge of lime if you’re feeling especially fancy
This is one of the quintessential French desserts and it’s actually quite easy to make. It’s basically a baked custard/batter with fruit.
Cherries are a traditional, but you can use other fruit like blueberries or apricots.
I use frozen cherries that I allowed to thaw. This is mainly because fresh cherries here in Ireland are really expensive, and because the frozen type usually have the stones removed. Purists argue that the cherry stones add an almond flavour, but I think this is nonsense.
If you have a blender you can make the batter in this or just use a bowl and whisk if you don’t. This should normally be cooked in a round pie dish and served in wedges. I didn’t have one, so my clafoutis is was probably a little deeper than the regular type. It also looks prettier cooked in a round dish but ho hum, you use what you have.
It’s usually served just warm or at room temperature. It’s traditionally served with whipped cream, but ice cream is also delicious.
For the fruit
450 Grams Cherries (fresh or frozen)
3 Tbsp Caster sugar
For the batter
100 Grams Caster sugar (plus a little extra to coat the baking dish)
1/2 Tsp Salt
1 Tsp Vanilla extract
200 Mil Milk
150 Grams Plain flour
30 Grams Butter (melted and allowed to cool slightly, plus extra for greasing the dish)
Cover the cherries with 3 Tbsp of sugar and allow to macerate for an hour
Pre-heat your oven to 180 degrees (Celsius)
Add the milk, salt, vanilla extract, and eggs to a blender and give a quick blitz
Add the flour to the blender and whizz for 1 minute, before adding the cooled melted butter. Whiz for another 30 seconds
Rub a knob of butter along the inside of your baking dish, and a couple of tablespoons of sugar to the dish and shake this around the dish so that it sticks to the butter. Discard any sugar that hasn’t stuck to the butter
Spread your fruit across the base of the dish, and then gently pour over the custard
Place in the oven and bake for 45 minutes. To check if the clafoutis is cooked, stick a knife in the centre of the dish and if it comes out clean the clafoutis is cooked. If it doesn’t give it another 5 minutes and check again
Sometimes random things pop up on your social media feed and this was the “Friends” salad, apparently the female cast members all ate the same thing every day for lunch for 10 years.
I followed the recipe provided by icecreamandneondreams.com and I have to say it’s very tasty (maybe not eating it every day for 10 years), but definitely worth including in your salad or lunch dish rotation.
Needless to say its very healthy with plenty of fibre and protein and full of lovely flavours that compliment each other. Like any salad you can play with the ratio of ingredients depending on your taste
The original salad doesn’t have any dressing, but you can also add some olive oil and lemon juice if you think it needs it.
250 Grams Bulgar Wheat (dry weight cook according the instructions on the packet)
1 Large or 2 small Cucumbers
400 Gram Tin of Chick Peas
1 Small red onion (finely sliced)
200 Grams Feta Cheese (crumbled)
50 Grams Shelled Pistachios
2 Tbsp. Fresh mint (chopped), or 2 tsp dried mint
2 Tbsp. Parsley (chopped)
Cook the bulgar wheat according to the instructions on the packet and allow to cool
Cut the cucumber in half lengthways and scoop out and discard the watery seeds on the middle. Cut each half in half again and slice into 1 cm slices (you can make them chunkier if you prefer)
Drain the chick peas and add to a large bowl along with all the other ingredients and mix well. Have a taste and add some salt and pepper if you the salad needs it
I love a hearty breakfast, and this is quick enough for a weekday breakfast but you might prefer to save it for the weekend as it makes a great brunch/lunch dish.
I have shown quantities per person, so just up the amounts based on how many people you’re cooking for. I know we don’t usually use herbs at breakfast time, but the coriander and mint really make this delicious (I love picking this from my window box). This meal has plenty of fibre and protein and will fuel you for a good part of the day. If you are gluten free, you can swap the wholemeal tortilla for corn tortilla (just make sure to check the label, to ensure they are GF)
Ingredients (per person)
1 Wholemeal torilla
1/2 Avocado (diced)
6 Cherry tomatoes (halved)
1 Spring onion/scallion (finely sliced)
1 Tbsp Mint (finely chopped)
1 Tbsp Coriander (finely chopped)
100 Grams Canned black beans
Chilli powder – according to taste
1 Tsp Oil
Heat oil in a small pan, crack both eggs into the pan (I like to add a little water and cover with a lid so they steam fry, but feel free to cook the eggs your preferred way)
While your eggs are cooking, slice the vegetables and herbs. Place the tortilla on a plate
Place your eggs on top of the tortilla, and use the same pan to warm through the black beans
Scatter the vegetables, herbs and heated black beans, across the tortilla and eggs and sprinkle with chilli powder (or sliced fresh chillies if you prefer) according to how spicy you like your food.
This dish is from the south of France, and is like a cross between a tart and a pizza.
Just warning you from the outset, this is what I would call a weekend recipe. Some elements can take a while. None of it is difficult but things like caramelising the onions, or proving the dough can take a while. So I usually make this at weekends when I’m pottering around and can do things like laundry while the dough proves.
If you see anchovies and immediately say no way, I would recommend giving this a chance. The sweetness of the onions, definitely tempers the fishiness of the anchovies and the combination works nicely.
If you really are anchovy phobic you can swap it for roasted red pepper, this also allows vegans and vegetarians to enjoy it (just remember to swap out the butter for olive oil if cooking for vegans or people who are dairy free).
This can also be eaten hot of cold, I love it with a cold beer or glass of wine.
For the dough
2 Tsp Dried yeast
250 Grams Plain flour
3 Tbsp Olive oil
1/2 Tsp Salt
For the topping
40 Grams Butter
1 Tbsp Olive Oil
1.5 Kg Onions (Finely Sliced)
1 Tbsp Dried thyme
24 Black olives
16 Anchovy Fillets (or slices of roast pepper if you don’t like anchovies
To make the dough, mix the dried yeast with 120 ml of warm water (not too hot or you’ll kill the yeast), leave in a warm place for 10 minutes until a froth appears on top of the mixture.
Sift the flour into a bowl and add the salt, olive oil and yeast mixture. Mix until the dough forms a ball. Turn out onto to a floured surface, and knead for 10 minutes (or use a mixer with a dough hook, but personally I like to do it by hand its very therapeutic if you’ve had a stressful week)
Rub a bowl with olive oil, put your kneaded bowl of dough in the bowl and cover lightly with olive oil. Cover the bowl with a clean tea towel (or I always use the little disposable shower caps you get into hotels), leave in a warm space for 1-2 hours
Remove the dough from the bowl and knock the air out of the dough with a light punch (like OI said this can be very therapeutic). Knead for a couple of minutes and then cover again and leave in a warm place until the dough doubles in size
For the topping, melt the butter and olive oil in a large frying pan, add the onions and half the thyme and cook over a gentle for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally until the onions are dark and caramelised
Preheat your oven to 200 degrees (Celsius), and grease a 34 cm x 26 cm baking tray. Roll your dough out thinly to fit the baking tray and transfer the dough to the baking tray and brush lightly with oil
Spread the cooled onion mixture evenly across the dough
Lay the anchovies on top of the onion mixture in a rough lattice pattern, and the olives should go in between the diamonds created in the lattice. It’s a rustic dish, so don’t panic if doesn’t look entirely uniform