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Denis Cotter is definitely one of my favourite chefs.  I lived for a while in Cork, Ireland’s second city and home to Denis’ restaurant Cafe Paradiso, and I probably didn’t appreciate at the time what a rare privilege it is to live near a restaurant you love so much!  These days I have to content myself with Denis’ cookbooks, and his latest ‘For the Love of Food’ is out this month.

While I wait to get my hands on a copy, I thought I’d write about one of his recipes that I use the most, from his first book, ‘The Cafe Paradiso Cookbook’.  His recipe for Almond Tartlets includes a mouth-tingling filling of gooseberry and amaretto custard, but I have used the base tartlet recipe with all sorts of fillings.

The base is gluten-free as it is made with ground almonds rather than flour, and even though the orginal has a gorgeous buttery taste, I have made vegan versions with vegan margarine which also turn out well.  Besides making an excellent tartlet base for fillings, this recipe makes great biscuits, which are crisp and melt in the mouth!  The secret is probably to act quickly and not mess with the mixture too much, but I’ve always found this recipe surprisingly easy, and the tartlets lift out of the tin without collapsing every time!

For the photos below, I filled the tartlets with lightly stewed mixed frozen berries, topped with whipped cream and poured the juice from the berries over the top.

Almond Tartlets

Almond Tartlets

80g unsalted butter (or vegan margarine)
80g ground almonds
80g caster sugar
 
Preheat the oven to 350F, 180C, gas 4.  Cream the butter, almonds and the sugar together.  Lightly butter eight shallow tartlet tins.  Put one rounded dessertspoon of the pastry in each, and flatten it slightly with the back of a spoon, but don’t attempt to shape it into the tin in any serious way.  The pastry will rise a little in the baking and collapse to form a shallow-lipped base.
 
Bake the pastries for 20-25 minutes, until lightly browned, then leave them to cool in the trays.

the empty tartlets

If you get the chance to visit Cafe Paradiso, the address is:

Cafe Paradiso, 16 Lancaster Quay, Cork City, Ireland

What’s a potato farl, I hear you ask.  Well, it’s a northern Irish potato bread, made flat and cooked on a griddle pan.  It is an integral part of an Ulster Fry, a variation on the full cooked breakfast beloved of the people of the islands of Britain and Ireland, and containing all sorts of fried ingredients including egg, sausage, bacon, black pudding and white pudding, as well as the slightly healthier beans, tomatoes and mushrooms.  Alongside the potato farl, you may also find fried soda bread!

Well, you can build a healthier, veggie version of this meal with grilled tomatoes sprinkled with dried basil, mushrooms cooked in a small amount of olive oil and the usual or reduced sugar baked beans.  And this recipe for a gluten free potato farl makes a delicious base.  I’ve added grated apple to the mix as this keeps the farl from being too dry at the end.  They freeze well, so make a stack and keep some for later!

gluten free potato farls

gluten free potato farls

Gluten Free Potato Farls

500g /1lb potatoes
2 tbsp butter or vegan margerine
1 mug / 100g / 4oz gluten free flour (I used Dove’s Farm white gluten free flour)
1 small apple, grated.

Scrub or peel the potatoes, but leave the skins on if they’re good enough.  Boil them until tender (20 – 30 minutes).  Drain and add the butter, then mash the potatoes thoroughly.

Add the grated apple, then sift in the flour a little at a time, until it forms a soft dough.

On a floured surface, roll out the dough until it is approx 1cm or 1/2 inch thick.  Cut the dough into rough squares.

Use a griddle or heavy bottomed frying pan and place it over a high heat.  Adjust the heat down a little once the pan is hot.  Don’t add any butter or oil, but place the farls, one or two at a time on the griddle, cooking until they start to brown.  Flip them over and repeat on the other side.

Serve with a cooked breakfast or as pancakes drizzled with maple syrup.

a stack of potato farls

a stack of potato farls

Inspired by my recent trip to Ireland, where I seemed to eat delicious brown soda bread at every turn, I had a thought that this wonderful bread might be the ideal basis for a gluten free bread recipe.  Soda bread is always flattened to make something of a disc shape, rather than a ‘loaf’ shape, so it’s less of a concern that the bread won’t rise very much.  The texture is also dense and moist.

I’ve tried this recipe several times now, including making a large loaf, which I hoped would make bigger slices for sandwiches and slices that would fit nicely in the toaster.  But the larger loaf just wouldn’t cook in the middle, so it really is best to make the small loaf or the rolls as below.  This is a basic and simple recipe, which I’m sure is ripe for adaptation!

The flour I used was a mix of Doves Farm white gluten free flour, brown rice flour and buckwheat flour.

Gluten free soda bread

Gluten free soda bread

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Following on from Wednesday’s post about Ireland, I’ve got a couple more eating places to recommend.

The first is in Lahinch the area’s surfing paradise.   Well, I don’t surf and the huge crashing waves look pretty scary to me, but there are always plenty of surfers in the water, so I guess it’s good!

surfers in Lahinch

Surfers in Lahinch, Co. Clare, Ireland

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Last week was spent in Co. Clare on the West Coast of Ireland.  As usual in that part of the world we went from shorts to raincoats in a matter of minutes, from lounging on the beach to huddling by a peat fire.  There’s no point in trying to fight it, you just have to go prepared!  It’s a wonderful part of the world for walking along the coast, as the views are spectacular.  And while the weather can make dressing for the occasion difficult, the light is amazing.

The Clare Coast, Ireland

The Clare Coast, Ireland

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