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Dublin: 24 °C Tuesday 2 June, 2020
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Master pastry chef Shane Smith shares his Covid-19 isolation tips and recipes

Tuck in to your weekend food destination with master chef Shane Smith.

Shane Smith

NO AMOUNT OF time can prepare any of us for the shock of this Covid-19 change, as well as the sense of loss or lack of purpose that you feel if your work has been affected or has ended. 

I am a big believer that you must, no matter how hard, look for the positives in any situation. It took me a few days to get my head around what was going on and it took a few more for me to figure out why I was feeling such a void.

I have been a chef for almost 22 years, specialising in pastry for 18 of those. Apart from family & friends, my life revolves around what I do. Making people happy through food, makes me happy.

The delight I see when I drop off a birthday, wedding or any celebration cake is one of the main reasons I do what I do. In my opinion, food can be at times more powerful than words.

A family affair

I have always been a huge advocate that families should spend more time together in the kitchen and while the nation was on house arrest it made perfect sense for me to reach out and try to rekindle their love of baking.

My ‘cupboard creation’ cooking videos have been a huge success over the past few weeks on my social media. I have stripped it back and tried to show people you don’t need to be a pastry chef to bake a delicious dessert. 

It’s not all sugar and spice in my videos, there are tasty dinner ideas in there too. The tutorials range from simple cookies, fried potato cakes, lemon drizzle loaf, soda bread to loaded potato skins.

There short, snappy, nostalgic, informative and fun. People love the fact its a step by step tutorial and that you’ll find no fancy hard to get ingredients but instead cupboard staples. I just want to inspire people to get back into the kitchen and whip up something tasty. 

Viewers are engaged

Over the past few weeks, I have received hundreds upon hundreds of messages and pictures from people baking at home. Its been a really humbling experience for me to see families and flatmates in isolation baking together. The joy it brings them has made this whole experience much easier for me and most importantly filled that void I had been feeling. If sharing these short videos means, families spend more quality time together or simply switch off for an hour, that’s my job done.

I see countless people online making promises to throw the biggest parties with family and friends when all this passes. I would also ask people to make another promise. Promise to book your favourite restaurant, give back to these eateries that turned into takeaways overnight to help you through this. If you’re having a party at home, promise you’ll buy your meat & veg from your local butcher or market, the market that kept you stocked up throughout this uncertain time. 

Livestock have needed to be milked, fruit and vegetables planted months ago have continued to be harvested as the processes of nature continue.

These are the people who have kept our fridges and cupboards full so what better way to thank them and local businesses than supporting them, just like they have supported us.

I believe the road ahead is going to be long but I am hopeful we will all bounce back from this. It’s going to be vitally important we remember, now more than ever to support our own through this time. We are one big family and are in this together, once we have each other, we have everything we need.

SHANE’S WEEKLY RECIPES

Each week, we’ll be sharing some recipes for you to try at home:

Cajun chicken pasta bake

Cajun Chicken pasta bake

Serves 4

Ingredients

300g fusilli pasta

3 skinless chicken breasts

1 tbsp cajun spice

2 tablespoons oil

80g smoked bacon

3 spring onions

50g butter

50g flour

800ml milk

Salt & Pepper

Grated cheese

Chopped parsley

 

Method

  • Cut the chicken into cubes and dust with Cajun spice and drizzle with oil and allow to marinate in the fridge for a few hours. If you’re really stuck for time you can cook straight away but the longer you leave to marinate, the better the flavour.
  • Meanwhile, cook the pasta to ‘al dente’ stage and set aside.
  • To make the white sauce, in a pot melt the butter and add the flour to create a paste and then add the milk. Whisk this over low heat until the milk thickens up. Season and set aside.
  • To assemble the pasta bake, simply sear the chicken on the pan with the bacon and place in a large oven baking dish with the pasta.
  • Top with the chopped spring onions and pour the white sauce over all of this and mix ingredients. At this point feel free to add any extra vegetables you have in the kitchen.
  • Top with grated cheese and bake in a preheated oven at 165C for 35-40 minutes or until the chicken is cooked fully and the cheese is golden brown. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and its delicious served with a side of garlic bread!

 

Jam drop cookies

Jam drop cookies

Makes 24

Ingredients

225g soft butter

140g caster sugar

1 medium egg yolk

dash vanilla essence

280g plain flour

2 tsp cornflour

pinch salt

100g berry jam

 

Icing

150g icing sugar

2tbsp water

 

Method

  • In a mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and pale in colour.
  • Scrape down the sides and add the egg yolk and vanilla. Mix to combine.
  • In a separate bowl, sieve the flour, cornflour and salt.
  • Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix until fully combined leaving a soft dough.
  • Divide the dough into 24 balls (you can freeze the dough at this point if you wish to make a smaller batch)
  • Roll the dough between your hands to smooth out and place these balls on lined baking trays. Allow some distance between each cookie as they will spread during cooking.
  • Using the back of a teaspoon or a clean thumb, press into the centre of each cookie leaving a large indent. This will hold your jam.
  • Make sure there are no cracks as the jam will leak out.
  • Place these into the fridge for 40 minutes to firm up or in the freezer for 20 minutes.
  • Once rested and cold, spoon some berry jam into the centre of each cookie.
  • Place these into a preheated oven set at 190C/170C Fan/Gas 5 and bake for 11 minutes.
  • Once lightly golden brown, remove from the oven and allow to cool. Please take care at this point as the jam is extremely hot.
  • When cooling, in a bowl whisk together the icing sugar and water to make a thick paste.
  • Using a fork you can drizzle the icing over the cold cookies and serve.

 

Shane Smith has nearly 22 years’ experience working in some of the world’s most celebrated pastry kitchens across the globe. Over these years he has received numerous award from “Best Bakery Manager in Ireland”-Shelf life magazine to “The top 10 best pastry chefs in Ireland” Food & Wine Magazine. Along with baking he writes for many national publications and can be found cooking up a storm at some of Ireland’s most prestigious food festivals. Shane also has a regular cookery slot on RTÉ on The Today Show where he can be seen bringing his natural flair and love for all things sweet to the nation’s homes. More at www.chefshanesmith.ie.

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Shane Smith

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