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Dublin: 12 °C Thursday 2 July, 2020
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Enjoy some summer recipes and reflections from Daddy's Café in Dublin 8

Colm Keane opened Daddy’s Café in Rialto only a few months ago. He shares some recipes and his thoughts on an ‘unusual’ first year.

Colm Keane

MY FIRST JOB was in a restaurant in Naas, County Kildare when I was fifteen. I think I’ve always enjoyed making people happy, so hospitality was a career I naturally ended up in, after a few years working in TV production in my early twenties.

I was already pals with Joe Macken who ran several restaurants in Dublin and when I decided to make food and restaurants my future, I asked him could I join his team and learn as much as I could. I ended up staying with the company for six years.

After learning about management and margins, I took out a loan and headed off to Ballymaloe Cookery School to learn more about food. I saw it as similar to doing a Masters, rounding out the qualification to eventually start a food business of my own.

I had a little notebook (that I still have) packed with ideas, recipes, design formats and ethics that my business, or businesses if I was lucky, would have. I read and still read, as many books as possible about restaurants, recipes, seasons, foraging – anything to do with food.

I opened Daddy’s Café in Rialto, Dublin 8 in December of last year. It was going so well, mostly because I had found such a wonderful team, I think it’s true to say we are practically a family. Vickey Curtis is the chef. We write the menu together and both love the same type of honest, comfort food made with quality ingredients. I don’t know where I’d be without her.

Adam Cashman is the amazing assistant manager and makes every customer his friend, remembering their names and their regular orders. In the kitchen, there’s also Seán, Megs and Andreas. Out front, there’s Lauryn Canny (some of you might have spotted her in Normal People – we’re all very proud!), Stef and Aaron. All living, breathing dreamboats.

Our suppliers are so helpful as well and are as passionate as we are about the customer. While restaurants can be a very tight numbers game that you have to constantly juggle, it’s all these sound, passionate people that ultimately make it a success and where I put a lot of my focus.

Our Covid-19 tale, like so many

We were just three months old when I decided, like so many other business owners, to temporarily close due to Covid-19. As well as the customers, the safety of the staff is always a concern.

I don’t know why, but it didn’t upset me massively. It wasn’t my fault the situation had arrived at our doorstep. My job was just to deal with it. We just had to put the café to sleep for a while, basically.

Everyone was issued a temporary layoff pack with all the forms they would need and we closed on 15 March. The staff were sad, but we keep in touch a lot. I shared our scone recipe in our WhatsApp and everyone had a go at making them for their families. Stuff like that. We knew we’d be back at it when the time was right.

After four weeks, once we knew the team were safe and well, we opened again. We have a reduced team, but will get back to full strength eventually. Hygiene protocols in restaurants are such that we already maintain a solid process, so that part wasn’t a particular challenge.

A new serving model

We rejigged the setup for takeaway, tweaked the menu, added some retail items and off we went. We post the menu and different photographs of the day’s bake on Instagram @daddysdub every morning.

I am often seen running around with my phone taking pictures of loaves of bread out on the street – “Get the shot!” It’s been really great, the whole Dublin 8 neighbourhood has really supported us. We love making people happy with great food, so to be back doing that is a total winner.

The only part that has been really difficult, both in terms of stress and the confronting reality of the situation, is the re-opening plans. It has felt like the date of 29 June was just pushed out there by Government and we’ve been left to it. But how do we reopen? A guide has been issued, but every food business owner I speak to is scratching their heads.

Can the business survive with reduced seating? Is there any independent restaurant that can cope with that, having already suffered a blow in the first quarter? Restaurants are risky at the best of times.

This risk is enormous. I err on the side of positivity and solution-based thinking, but you can’t turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse. Aladdin’s lamp would be handy right about now! In the meantime, like everyone else, we’ll be doing our best and adapting.

Throughout all of this, I think it’s fair to say that most people have turned to food as their distraction. There’s been a cooking revolution. People are developing their kitchen skills, paying more attention to the seasons and shopping locally. It’s brilliant to see and as the owner of one of those small local businesses, I’m beyond appreciative.

Here are a couple of recipes that sit nicely on a dinner table or out the back garden for a barbecue. I’ve chosen ingredients that are inexpensive and easy to find and both recipes are easily scaled up if there are more people eating. Enjoy the rest of the summer and hopefully, we’ll see you soon at Daddy’s Café in Rialto.

Colm’s recipes

Crispy chicken legs, French-style peas, black pepper & lemon potatoes and a green salad

IMG_20200617_192513__01__01(3) Source: Daddy's Café

This recipe is perfect for summertime. The salad dressing doubles up as the marinade for the chicken legs. The simple sides are perfect for a variety of meats or vegetarian meals. Altogether, things that won’t have you in the kitchen for very long, but sing with flavour. Eaten in the garden with a cloudy cider, you’d swear you were in France…

(Serves 2)

Ingredients
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt + Pepper
2 lemons
2 chicken legs (free-range, if possible)
Dijon Mustard
1 small head lettuce (romaine is ideal)
2 spring onions
300g frozen peas (taken from the freezer around 15 mins before you need them)
50g butter
Parsley

Mixed salad leaves

Potatoes: Ballymakenny is one of Ireland’s most amazing potato growers and the variety ‘pink fir apple’ is my favourite. Golden Wonder, Kerr Pink or baby potatoes also work really well with this recipe. I usually like to serve two per person and maybe have some spare in case of hungry tummies or for the morning with eggs and bacon, it’s up to you how many you cook and the type of potato you use.

Equipment
1 bowl large enough to marinate the chicken legs
1 pot with steamer (my preference is to steam potatoes – if you don’t have a steamer pot that sits on another, you can boil them instead)
1 medium-sized heavy-bottomed pot
1 sautee pan/frying pan
1 roasting tray
1 empty jam jar and lid

I like to serve this family-style, in the middle of the table, in which case you’d need a serving dish for the legs, a bowl or dish for the peas and one for the potatoes.

Method
First, make the salad dressing. Using the classic 3:1 oil to acid ratio, juice the lemon and add triple the quantity in olive oil. Put it all into a jam jar with a teaspoon of dijon mustard, some salt and pepper and shake about. This will keep for a few days in the fridge.

Put the chicken legs in a bowl, cover them in a few tablespoons of the dressing and allow to marinate for 30 mins minimum or ideally overnight. These first two steps could be done the night before.

When you’re ready to cook the chicken, preheat your oven to 200′C. Start the legs on the hob, skin side down in a cold pan or skillet and turn the heat up high. This will give you lovely crispy skin. Do not move the chicken. You need this time to develop colour and flavour on the skin. Once the chicken is making a lot of noise, turn the heat down and turn them over – about 5-10 mins, depending on their size. Leave them to cook for another 5 mins and then into the hot oven. Again, depending on their size, they will take about 45 mins in here or until they read +75′C on a temperature probe.

Meanwhile, steam the potatoes until they are fork-tender. If you don’t have a steamer and need to boil them, start them in cold water, bring to the boil and after 7 mins on a rolling boil, strain out the water until there are about two inches left. Put on a tight-fitting lid and steam them this way until they are tender, about another 7-10 mins, depending on the variety. Once cooked, cut in half and toss through a generous amount of olive oil, the zest and juice of the other lemon and lots and lots of freshly ground black pepper.

Once the chicken legs are cooked and they have lovely crispy skin, take them out and allow to rest for 5-10mins.

Finally, the French style peas. I wouldn’t make these ahead of time as the ingredients aer delicate and should be lightly steamed, seasoned and eaten straight away. Remove just the very end stalk of the lettuce, then slice top to bottom and roughly chop across. You don’t want small pieces of lettuce that will go limp and disappear. Slice the spring onions diagonally about 2 cm thick, again quite chunky, with as much of the green part in use as you can. Roughly chop the parsley.

In a heavy-bottomed pot, put around a centimetre of water, we’re really just giving it a quick steam. Layer the lettuce, spring onion, parsley, peas and the 50g of butter. Put over high heat with a tight-fitting lid for 5-10 mins or until everything is hot and steaming. Season and stir all the layers together and serve immediately.

Shake the jar of leftover dressing and serve everything together with a big bowl of dressed mixed salad leaves. This would all be delicious with a blob of creme fraiche or feta or something sour on the side, but I’ll leave that to you. Any leftovers will make a great salad or frittata the next day.

Honey and thyme grilled apricots with almonds, whipped cream and shortbread biscuits

IMG-20200617-WA0067__01 Source: Daddy's Café

(Serves 2)

You can do this with any fruit all summer long. Of course, you can make your own shortbread biscuits, but shop-bought are as delicious and the fruit really is the star of the show.

Ingredients

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

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3 ripe apricots
A few of twigs of thyme
Good Honey
250ml Cream

Shortbread biscuits

Equipment
A bowl to marinade the apricots
A grill pan or BBQ
Whisk

Method
Slice the fruit in half from stem to base and remove the stone. Put them all in a bowl with a tablespoon of olive oil, a tablespoon of honey, the thyme leaves and a one-finger pinch of salt. Mix everything together and leave to sit for 30 mins.

Toast the flaked almonds in a pan over medium heat for a few minutes. Reserve.

Whip the cream until it is soft, or to your liking.

When you’re ready to go, put the apricots cut side down on a hot grill. Leave them to caramelise and char on the heat for about 3-5 mins and then turn for another 2 mins.

Arrange the dish with whipped cream on the bottom, topped by the apricots and almonds, another drizzle of honey and biscuits either crumbled over or whole on the side. Serve immediately and enjoy.

Colm Keane is chef/owner of Daddy’s Café in Rialto, Dublin 8. Follow his work at @daddysdub.

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