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Irish chef takes boiled corned beef and cabbage to task

| Tuesday, March 11, 2014, 6:25 p.m.
Duncannon Smoked Fish Pie from 'Modern Irish Food' (Octopus Publishing, $24.99) by Kevin Dundon.
Cristian Barnett
Duncannon Smoked Fish Pie from 'Modern Irish Food' (Octopus Publishing, $24.99) by Kevin Dundon.
Chef Kevin Dundon, author of  'Modern Irish Food' (Octopus Publishing, $24.99)
Octopus Publishing
Chef Kevin Dundon, author of 'Modern Irish Food' (Octopus Publishing, $24.99)
Boock cover from 'Modern Irish Food' (Octopus Publishing, $24.99) by Kevin Dundon.
Cristian Barnett
Boock cover from 'Modern Irish Food' (Octopus Publishing, $24.99) by Kevin Dundon.
Skeaghanore Duck Breast with Black Cherries from 'Modern Irish Food' (Octopus Publishing, $24.99) by Kevin Dundon.
Cristian Barnett
Skeaghanore Duck Breast with Black Cherries from 'Modern Irish Food' (Octopus Publishing, $24.99) by Kevin Dundon.
Orange Pudding from 'Modern Irish Food' (Octopus Publishing, $24.99) by Kevin Dundon.
Cristian Barnett
Orange Pudding from 'Modern Irish Food' (Octopus Publishing, $24.99) by Kevin Dundon.

Before you boil up your usual St. Patrick's Day corned beef and cabbage combo, you might want to take a page out of Kevin Dundon's latest book.

Dundon is an Irish chef, television personality and cookbook author who enjoys putting a contemporary spin on classic Irish dishes.

He has cooked for Queen Elizabeth II, President George H.W. Bush and Bono. He created dishes as the signature chef for Raglan Road Irish Pub & Restaurant at Downtown Disney in Orlando Fla.

The more than 100 recipes in his latest book — “Kevin Dundon's Modern Irish Food” (Octopus Publishing, $24.99) — draw on recipes handed down from his grandmother and mother. The methods and techniques he learned while working in Switzerland, Canada and Dublin.

“This is contemporary Irish food. Every one of these recipes — Irish food,” Dundon says. “In Ireland, most chefs are classically French trained. I introduce that into Irish dishes.”

Some, such as Mum's Meatloaf or Duncannon Smoked Fish Pie, are traditional comfort-food offerings that would be at home in any cottage kitchen or village pub.

Others, such as Skeaghanore Duck Breasts with Black Cherries or Trout Fillets with Streaky Bacon and Flaked Almonds would fit right in on the white cloth-covered tables in the dining room of Dunbrody Country House Hotel, the Georgian-style country house Dundon and his wife, Catherine, own and operate as a luxury hotel on Ireland's south coast.

And, yes, the cookbook does contain recipes for corned beef and cabbage.

But in Dundon's hands, those ingredients are transformed into Pulled Corned Beef with a broth of Asian spices and Pickled Sweet and Sour Cabbage that retains its crunch even after it's baked with apples and golden raisins.

With choices like this, what, exactly, makes an Irish recipe Irish?

“I think what people think Irish cooking is, or is known for, is heavy, starchy and lots of stews,” Dundon says. “I take these dishes and strip them back to their ingredients.”

Those ingredients, he says, are generally those that Ireland has been blessed with — locally grown fresh vegetables, meats and cheeses and seafood that comes from nearby waters.

“We draw on the wealth of ingredients available on our doorstep, from beef that has grazed on lush pasture lands and sheep and lamb that feed on heathers growing in our rugged mountains to the sweet, delicate seafood from the seas that surround our beautiful country,” he says with a lyrical brogue.

Dundon is capable of assembling stacks of smoked salmon, cream cheese and tiny pancakes into showy Smoked Salmon Gateaux to start off a dinner party, or Lamb Sweetbreads with Shiitake and Broad Beans for a main course.

But his favorite dishes are the more simple comfort foods, such as the Orange Pudding that's really an upside-down cake decorated with orange slices, or a roasted chicken stuffed with lemons and a little butter under the skin.

“I get excited by ingredients,” Dundon says. “There's very few who can cook simple food well, because there's no place to hide.”

Alice T. Carter is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7808 or

Duncannon Smoked Fish Pie

Fish was traditionally eaten on Fridays in homes throughout Ireland, served with a topping of creamy mashed potato — what could be more comforting? Try to get hold of naturally smoked fish instead of dyed fish.

1 14 cups milk

9 ounces smoked cod

9 ounces smoked haddock

4 12 tablespoons butter

1 onion, finely diced

2 cups button mushrooms, sliced

3 tablespoons flour

1 teaspoon mustard

1 tablespoon chopped flatleaf parsley

1 tablespoon lemon juice

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

2 pounds potatoes (about 8 potatoes), cut into chunks

Salted water

12 cup light cream

2 tablespoons butter

12 cup cheddar cheese, grated

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Place the milk in a saucepan and add the fish. Bring to a simmer and poach the fish over a moderate heat for 6 to 8 minutes until it is softened. Remove the fish with a slotted spoon and flake it onto a plate, ensuring all the bones are removed. Keep the flaked fish warm. Strain the milk liquid into a jug or small bowl and set aside.

In a separate saucepan, melt the butter, then add the onion and mushrooms and cook until softened. Remove the pan from the heat and sprinkle in the flour. Gradually add the milk liquid, stirring continuously until the sauce is thickened. Add the mustard, parsley and lemon juice, season with some salt and black pepper and stir to combine. Add the flaked fish to the sauce, then pile the whole lot into an ovenproof dish.

In the meantime, place the potatoes in a saucepan of salted water, bring to the boil and cook for 20 to 25 minutes until softened. Drain well, add the cream and butter and mash to ensure all of the lumps are removed. Season with salt and black pepper.

Spoon the potato mixture over the fish and top with the cheese. Pop into the oven for 20 to 25 minutes until piping hot. Serve immediately.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Skeaghanore Duck Breasts With Black Cherries

The duck breasts from Skeaghanore in County Cork have a full flavor and succulent taste, which comes from being hand-reared for longer and being fed a natural cereal-based diet. They make a superlative dish, but any duck breasts will work well in this recipe.

2 duck breasts

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

3 tablespoons honey

Juice of 12 lemon

1 cup canned dark cherries, preferably Amarena, drained, liquid reserved

1 shot Kirsch liqueur, optional

Slit the breasts on the skin side in a grid pattern without cutting into the flesh. Season with a little salt and black pepper.

Place a heavy-based frying pan over a high heat and, when the pan is really hot, put in the duck breasts with the skin-side facing down. This will allow the fat to melt and the skin to crisp up.

Cook for about 5 minutes on each side over a medium heat, ensuring you regularly drain off the fat during cooking. Transfer the duck to a warmed plate, cover with foil and keep warm.

Add the honey, lemon juice, 2 tablespoons of the cherry juice and the Kirsch, if using. Bring the mixture to a simmer, scraping up any bits stuck to the base of the pan, and then reduce it by half. Stir in the cherries.

Coat the duck breasts in the sauce.

Makes 4 servings.

Orange Pudding

This tangy orange pudding — Americans would consider it an upside-down cake — will delight your taste buds, but don't be tempted to open the oven while it's baking, or you may not get the rise you want. Be sure to use a deep pan to avoid batter overflow.

For the pudding:

2 12 sticks butter, divided, plus extra for greasing

4 tablespoons demerara or other raw sugar

3 oranges, peeled, pith removed and segmented

1 orange, peeled, pith removed and thinly sliced

1 cup self-raising flour (or 1 cup all-purpose flour and increase the baking powder to 2 teaspoons)

1 teaspoon baking powder

34 cup caster (superfine) sugar

2 large eggs

3 teaspoons milk

For the topping:

1 cup heavy cream

Seeds from 1 vanilla pod or bean

To prepare the pudding: Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a deep ovenproof dish or cake tin with a diameter of about 8 inches.

Melt 1 stick of the butter in a saucepan over a low heat, add the demerara sugar and cook until slightly caramelized. Add the orange segments and cook over medium heat for 6 to 8 minutes until they are caramelized.

Arrange the orange slices in the bottom of the prepared dish and pour over the caramelized oranges and sauce.

Sift the flour and baking powder into a bowl.

In a separate bowl, beat together the remaining butter and caster sugar until fluffy and light. Don't rush this stage. Beat in the eggs, one by one, with a little of the sifted flour. Fold in the remaining flour and mix in the milk.

Spoon the mixture over the oranges and bake for 30 to 40 minutes until the sponge is golden.

To prepare the topping: Pour the cream into a bowl, add the vanilla seeds and whip to soft peaks.

Serve the pudding hot or cold with the vanilla cream.

Makes 8 to 10 servings.

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