The Dublin City Soul Festival is almost upon us again, which means I and my foodie spies will be combing the Restaurant Trail looking for this year's winner for best 'Soul Food.' There are 17 nosh spots on the trail and I get the distinct impression the bar has been raised for Soul Fest 2011 - get a loada the gospel brunch planned for the Gallery restaurant at the Church (http://www.dublincitysoulfestival.ie/category/events/music-whats-on/brunch).
I've also heard some other places will be hosting impromptu sessions with singer-songwriters from the Rising Stars camp...more on that later!
However, last year's winner, Seagrass in Portbello, has set the bar high enough already, with their inspiring platter that really captured the meaning of 'soul food.' Here's what the judges had to say about Seagrass:
'The seagrass special soul food menu fitted all parameters of the soul food brief - the food of peasant people, made with whatever they had, and lots of soul! Four dishes from four continents: Coddle (Ireland), Matata soup from Mozambique, southern fried chicken with grits pancake, and soy/sesame slamon with coconut and pea rice cake with wasabi yoghurt.
The coddle was a large garlicky sausage floating in an ultra umami stock - vegetable we were told - but almost beef like in intensity. Lots of tasty lardons and onions with rosemary and other herbs - utterly soulful. Next was the spicy mussel soup with peanuts, capers, and a refreshing sour flavour that acted as a cleanser as much as a pick me up for the palate (and soul). The southern fried chicken with grits pancake was tender breast in a tasty batter (textured rather than crunchy due to the lack of white flour used in the kitchen, but still adhering fairly well), topped with a sweet home-made catsup. Horseradish yoghurt sauce was also present to cut through the sweetness and fried flavours. Finally, salmon with a sweet soy and sesame coating with wasabi and peanut sauce was damn tasty.
Strongly recommend Seagrass - it was full of happy diners enjoying themselves.'
So there you have it, not one but FOUR soul dishes, and a very imaginative and delicious interpretation of soul it was too. This year's eateries will have to work hard to top that, and I for one am looking forward to the contest!
In the spirit of the Soul Festival, I have another recipe to contribute. Now, I know I did barbecue last time and I know it's a bit of a cliché, but the good weather of April gave me lots of opportunities for experimenting with the Weber and, well, these ribs are just too good not to share. It's an adaptation of a Jamie Oliver recipe, tweaked for my fondness of salt and spice (especially cinnamon and aniseed) and a bit less fruity and sweet. Hope you enjoy - this is definitely one for eating with a napkin close at hand.
Caroline's sticky barbecued baby back ribs
I never know how much of anything I'm putting in so beware of any quantities I give!
Rack of baby back (loin) ribs (with the membrane taken off)
250ml balsamic vinegar
few good glugs of soy sauce
ketchup (enough to make the mixture gloopy)
big bunch of thyme, picked
juice/zest of half an orange
1 fat garlic clove, crushed
1 tsp toasted cumin seeds, crushed
1 tbsp fennel seeds, cruched
2 star anise, crushed
1 heaped tbsp smoked paprika
1 heaped tsp cinnamon
some ground black pepper
pinch chili flakes (if you like)
Put the ribs in a large bowl or basin and cover completely in the marinade. The longer you can leave it the better - no less than half a day.
Light the coals and wait for them to reach the right temperature (white with no flame) - if you can get hickory then use that. Put the ribs on the grill with the lid on, vents fully open for the first five minutes. Then close the vents so only a small amount of air gets in to slow the roasting process.
Depending on the weight, you should have juicy sticky ribs in about 40 minutes. I closed the vents 10 minutes before the end just to make sure they'd be juicy enough.
Rest the meat for 10 minutes under foil before carving and serving. Drink good fruity pinot noir, such as Bogle from California or Waipara Springs from New Zealand, or a fruity full-bodied beer like Dungarvan Brewing Co's Copper Coast Red Ale or Curim Gold from the Carlow Brewing Company.