Awesome Dublin 1: Sheridan's

I love living in Dublin. Mostly it's because of the people I know here, but there are a few other things about Dublin that make me positively joyous whenever I encounter them. Because it's easy (for me at least) to sometimes forget about the things that make me happy, and concentrate on things that don't, I'm making a list of things that make Dublin particularly awesome. I've got several items on it already, in my mind, but I'll only make an entry on each one as I encounter them in my day to day life. This'll encourage me to actively seek them out, and it's much better to experience a pleasure than just to know that I could experience it if I wanted to!

Not everything on the list is to do with food, though many are. I won't be writing proper reviews (not that I ever have done) - these are just notes to remind and inspire myself. The first item on my list will come as no surprise to people who have been reading the last few days' worth of entries. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you.... Sheridan's Cheesemongers.

Yes, it is my favourite purveyor of Roquefort. The shop in the photo above is the smaller of their two Dublin shops, in Pembroke Lane (which I walk past every day on my way to work). The bigger shop is just off Grafton St, and they also have a stall at the Temple Bar market on Saturdays.

There are lots of good things about Sheridan's, but for me the very best one is their affinage. The cheese is perfectly looked after. Their Roquefort and Epoisses (two of my favourites) are always in the very best condition, and the staff can always advise about which piece of cheese will be at its best today, tomorrow, or in a few days. I love knowing that I can completely trust them, so I will never get a piece of cheese home and be disappointed.

I also love the different atmospheres of the two shops. The larger one is like a twisty tunnel, lined with cheese shelves, leading back into the building. It's a true Aladdin's cave, if a very busy and crowded one. The smaller shop is a single square room, with many fewer cheeses, but more light and space, a relaxing place to pause on my walk home.

Other points in their favour on the happiness scale: the size and diversity of their range, which includes Irish, English, Spanish, Italian and French (lots of French) cheese; the very generous tasting policy, under which staff will show no signs of impatience while you taste slivers of five cheeses and then buy a small wedge of the one you like best; and the good quality non-cheese items like olives, cured meat, bread, etc they also sell, which lets me buy an entire meal in one place when I feel like having picnic dinner.

Cheese at Sheridan's costs more than you'd pay in France for the same quality of cheese, but (a) I don't live in France, and (b) it's still worth it. Sheridan's, thank you for being awesome.

29 August 2006

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29 August 2006: Roquefort and pumpkin risotto

Ted is the risotto king. No-one, nowhere, makes a better risotto than he does. Especially when it is flavoured with roquefort.

knob of butter
splash of olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
200 g risotto rice (arborio, carnaroli, etc)
1 glass white wine or vermouth
vegetable stock
grated parmesan
crumbled roquefort
chopped roasted pumpkin

In a large saucepan, heat the butter and olive oil, then add the onion and stir over low-medium heat until it is soft and transparent. Meanwhile, bring the stock to a simmer in a smaller pan.

Add the rice to the onion, and stir over moderate heat for 2 minutes, until it is lightly toasted. Add the white wine, and stir until is all absorbed. Add a ladle of stock, and continue to stir until it is completely absorbed by the rice. Continue in this fashion, gradually adding ladles of stock and stirring, until the rice is still slightly firm, but no longer chalky in the middle. This could take anywhere from 16 to 26 minutes, depending on the stove, the rice, etc.

Add the parmesan, the roquefort, the pumpkin (warm this up first if it is leftovers like ours was), and a final ladle of stock, stir through quickly, and remove from the heat. Put the lid on the saucepan and leave to rest for a minute. Stir and serve.

Serves two greedy people.

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27 August 2007: Rejig

Hi guys - I'm experimenting with a new look. Let me know if anything is broken, or if it's too painful on the eyes.

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26 August 2006

As advertised: roast pumpkin. (Wash and dry the skin; halve; remove the seeds; cut into wedges; toss with olive oil, sea salt and pepper; roast at 200 C for about 30 minutes until flesh is soft and edges are brown. Eat, skin and all.)

Hot pumpkin-cooking tip of the day: seeding pumpkins is dead easy if you use an icecream scoop. We have a shiny new one and it took just four swipes to completely seed the pumpkin, leaving the inside lovely and smooth - no stringy clingy bits like those that remain after using a normal spoon.

PS: roquefort, you are my favourite cheese ever. Never leave me. Love and kisses, Meg.

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26 August 2006: Hello Autumn

We've done good things today. In the morning, we went across town to see the Hugh Lane Gallery, on Nora's recommendation. The reconstruction of Francis Bacon's studio is fascinating and horrifying in almost equal parts - I could feel my brain losing focus as I looked at it. I could see Ted was attracted to it though (the chaotic work environment, that is, not my mushy brain).

Then we dashed back through the rain to the IFI to see The Ghost and Mrs Muir, so Ted could appreciate the references I make to it now and then (though my memories are of the TV series which was shown on perennial repeat on the ABC when I was a kid, not the movie).

When we emerged it was to brief brilliant sunshine, so we stopped off at the Temple Bar market on the way back to buy vegetables (the pumpkin above included) and cheese. The Corleggy cheese stall always looks the coolest, with its wrinkly hard goat and sheep cheeses, but I went for two French cheeses from Sheridan's instead: a slab of roquefort and half a log of slowly oozing ashed chevre. Since Ted and I both have work to do this evening, dinner will be just roast pumpkin, sauted rainbow chard, cheese and sourdough.

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21 August 2006: Roast tomato pasta sauce

I bought some tomatoes with good potential - almost ripe, but not quite enough - from Roy Fox a week a go. After several days sitting on the kitchen windowledge, they were ready to go, but it was overcast and chilly and I no longer felt like raw tomatoes. To preserve them for another day or two while I decided what to do with them, they went into the oven for a slow, slow roasting.

To do this, first halve the tomatoes, and put them, cut side up, onto a baking tray. Sprinkle with sea salt and black pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil. Toss with your hands, then set them all back wobbling on their curved bases again. Roast them in a very slow oven - about 80 C - for several hours, until they are curled in at the edges and deeply aromatic, but still have a pocket of concentrated juice remaining at the centre of each one. Remove from the oven and use at once, or you can move them to a plate, drizzle with any oil left on the pan, and keep in the fridge for up to a couple of days before using.

In the end we made pasta sauce with them, just before midnight on Saturday, after coming home from seeing A Scanner Darkly with Matt. A couple of glasses of wine at the IFI before the movie, coupled with a pint of Guinness at a pub afterwards, had left us alcohol-stomached and hungry, but unwilling to spend much time or effort on dinner. Pasta went into boiling water, two cloves of crushed garlic went into a small pan with olive oil, eight or ten tomato halves came out of the fridge, were roughly chopped, and were slid, with their juices, into the hot garlic and oil. After cooking down over the low heat for five minutes more, they made an intense and delicious sauce coupled with some toasted pine nuts and a few gratings of romano.

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20 August 2006: Easy lunch

Smoked salmon, on brown soda bread spread with salted butter, served with steamed green beans and a rocket salad dressed with hazelnut oil, white wine vinegar and seed mustard.

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19 August 2006: Cool soba with steamed greens

Although the weather in Dublin for the last few days has been insistently saying "That's it for summer! Autumn's coming!", it was warm enough on my way home to make me want a cool dinner. Hence this salad of cold soba noodles with just-warm green vegetables and soy sauce/sesame oil dressing. Writing it out like this, it looks a bit fiddly, but although there are a fair few steps they're all easy and the finished dish is well worth it.

150 g soba noodles
2 tablespoons sunflower seeds
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
1 small head broccoli, cut into florets
100 g mange tout and/or sugar snap peas
1 small avocado
1 clove garlic, grated
1 small thumb ginger, grated
soy sauce
toasted sesame oil

Bring a pot of water to the boil, and cook the soba noodles. Drain in a colander, and wash under cold water until the starch clinging to the noodles is gone, and they are cool. Place the colander in a bowl to catch drips, and put it in the fridge while you prepare the rest of the dish.

Heat the oven to about 150 C. Place the sunflower seeds and sesame seeds on separate baking trays, and toast them in the oven until they are golden (the sesame seeds will take less time than the sunflower seeds). Alternatively, you could toast the seeds in a small frypan on the stove. Put aside.

Steam the broccoli and peas. I use a two-layered bamboo steamer over a pan of boiling water, starting with the broccoli in one steamer basket, then adding the second steamer basket with the peas a couple of minutes before the broccoli is done.

Take the vegetables off the heat, and take the lid off the steamer basket. Allow them to cool very slightly while you halve, deseed, peel and chop the avocado into chunks, and grate the ginger and garlic.

Take the noodles out of the fridge, and toss them with a few drops each of soy sauce and sesame oil. In a separate bowl, toss together the broccoli, peas, avocado, sesame seeds and sunflower seeds. Mix up the ginger and garlic with some more sesame oil and soy sauce in a small bowl, then tip this over the vegetables and toss through. Make a bed of soba noodles on each plate, top with the green mixture, and eat.

Serves 2.

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