Dec 19 2012

Merry Christmas from the girls

Wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas and a great New Year

from all of us who post here on Alpha Dog Food.

Have a good holiday and see you early in January (and if you are a lady reader

and over 18, come and join us in the New Year – see the new recruits page link above).

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!



Helen 2












Fiona 1

Andrea 2



...and a Happy New Year

…and a Happy New Year


Dec 13 2012

Alternative Christmas Dinner (Kate)




Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!


Civet de Sanglier is a ragout of wild boar slowly cooked in red wine – or to put it more simply, a red wine stew. It is a recipe that can be used for a tough shoulder, leg or fillet of boar – or any other larger game such as venison if you prefer. In Provence, this would be called a “Daube de Sanglier“.

Being game, it’s an ideal alternative as a Christmas or Boxing day meal if you are looking for something a little bit different to the traditional turkey or want something that can be prepared in advance and simply heated up when it is required.





For a main course for two, use the measures below.


  • Leg/Shoulder of boar cut into 1 inch pieces (500-700g      is plenty)
  • Bacon lardons (small packet)
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 large carrot
  • 2 stalks of celery
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • A cup of mushrooms (your own favourites – I use      button mushrooms for this)
  • 1 bottle of robust red wine
  • 1 small glass of Cognac
  • 2 Tablespoons of tomato puree
  • 1 Tablespoon of flour
  • Herbes be Provence (dried), bay leaf and fresh      parsley (a good handful)
  • Butter & olive oil
  • Salt & pepper


How To Cook It

Use a deep thick pan or casserole dish with a lid.

Place a knob of butter and good glug of olive oil in it and then add the bacon lardons. Warm up on a medium heat for a couple of minutes.

Put the onion and the carrot in, cut into small’ish chunks rather than thin pieces. Cook for a couple more minutes then add the garlic cloves (whole).

Turn up the heat to ¾ (not all the way to full on) and add the cubes of meat – you must keep stirring regularly so that nothing burns or sticks. Add a little more olive oil if necessary.

After about 5-10 minutes, reduce the heat and sprinkle in the flour and stir in making sure it turns brown but doesn’t burn (I usually take it off the heat to do this and then return it to the heat when all the flour is well mixed in).

Then add the tomato puree, mushrooms and herbs du Provence and mix in

Add the Cognac and the bottle of wine so that all the meat is covered (top up with a little water if necessary to cover it). If you don’t need to use all the wine to cover it, put the remainder in a glass and drink it while you are cooking!

Add a good pinch of salt and black pepper, bay leaf and the fresh cut parsley.

Turn up the heat to bring the wine up to boil, stirring continuously.

After a couple of minutes reduce the heat to low, put the lid on and gently simmer for at least 2 hours – check regularly to ensure it’s not sticking to the bottom of the pan or reducing too quickly. Cut the celery into slices no thicker than the width of your little finger and add in about an hour into this simmering stage. Take it off the heat when it is at a consistency you like (a good thick stew that’s not runny).

As with all stews it will taste better the next day so allow to cool properly and then put into the fridge until required (try not to leave it in any longer than two days).


How To Serve It

Roast some vegetables – parsnip, potatoes, large peppers, etc. See the picture below of my roast veg before they go into the over. Just drizzle some olive oil over and cook at 180 degrees until they are done to your liking.

Alternatively, some ribbon pasta or rice is just as nice with this.



I had it with chestnuts and small chunks of strong French and Spanish (Chorizo) sausage in with it once in Corsica. Stronger taste but nice. You would add the sausage in at the same time as the bacon lardoons, the chestnuts at the same time as the celery.


Civet de Sanglier

Civet de Sanglier


Roast Vegetables

Roast Vegetables

Dec 11 2012

Christmas Gifts for Cooks (Jenny)




I have been searching the web trying to come up with three perfect gifts for the man who cooks for you and here they are:


1. Mandolin



This is one of the most versatile instruments in the kitchen when it comes to preparation (and presentation) of food. But please mind your fingers – I faint when I see blood. The best ones usually come with changeable blades that allow you to cut, grate, dice, slice and have adjustable cutting thickness. Even professional models are relatively inexpensive. I use the ProCook model and I think I paid around €35 (£30 $40) for it.


2. A Simple Wok

A Simple Wok




The deeper and heavier the better. You can cook everything in one of these – from stir fried vegetables to a pasta sauce (it reduces quicker). It really is one of the most useful pans to have around in any kitchen. It’s better to invest in one of the heavier, better quality non-stick versions if you can. Mine is a 26cm Raymond Blanc (Anolon) version, again it was relatively inexpensive at around €35.


3. A Good Set of Knives

Sabatier Knives



All men love mucking around with knives (and barbeques!). If you really want to push the boat out you can buy him a set of Kai Shun Damascus knives for a couple of grand (!) but for those of us with more limited budgets, I would suggest either buying a cheaper set or – if you think he’s a ‘keeper’ – buy him one really good, different knife a year of the same brand until he’s built up a good set and you’re the only one he’s every going to be cooking for. I use Sabatier but there are plenty of choices of good quality knives out there in all price ranges. Go to your local kitchen shop, tell them your budget and they will find something in that range for you. Like most things in the kitchen, you get what you pay for so go for the best you can afford.


We don’t have any links to sellers on Alpha Dog Food so I suggest the best thing to do is simply shop around online to find the best deal or go to a local kitchen shop if you want help and advice. If you are feeling really lazy, go to Amazon to do it. I know you can find all of these items there as I’ve checked.


Have a great Christmas,




Merry Christmas!


Dec 11 2012

Christmas Morning Champagne (Theresa)



Nothing says it’s Christmas morning quite like the pop of a freshly opened bottle of champagne…… well, nothing says it quite so eloquently or romantically anyway.

All the girls at Alpha Dog Food are going down the route of champagne with peach or apricot juice this year (depending on what we can get hold of in Ireland in December!): the Bellini made famous by Harry’s Bar in Venice and adored by all women. If you are looking for romance on Christmas day, you couldn’t get off to a better start than serving this up.

1. For the best bubbles try holding the glass at an angle while you fill it, rather than pouring the champagne straight down.

2. Corks from champagne bottles can erupt at speeds of up to 60 mph (97 kilometers per hour). At that speed, a cork in the eye can put a serious damper on any Christmas day romance you had in mind. The damage can range from corneal abrasions to retinal detachment. Ouch.

3. If you’ve navigated the cork-popping successfully, you’ll soon find yourself in bubbly bliss. In fact, champagne owes its flavor to these bubbles, which carry aromas directly to the nose.  In research published in 2009, scientists found that each bubble carries tens of aromatic compounds — compounds that appear in heavier concentrations in bubbles than in the liquid champagne itself.

4. The word champagne is now reserved for sparkling wines coming from the Champagne region of France, but bubbly was first produced in England in the 1500’s.

5. One of the biggest consumers of sparkling wine and champagne are Californians. In 2009, the state consumed 2,938,370 9-litre cases of bubbly.

6. Blood-alcohol levels rise faster in people drinking fizzy champagne compared with people sipping flat stuff, according to research conducted in 2001 at the University of Surrey in England. Forty minutes of drinking bubbly sent people’s blood alcohol to 0.7 milligrams per milliliter, compared with 0.58 milligrams per milliliter for people drinking the beverage flat. No one knows why bubbly has this effect, but it may be that the bubbles somehow influence how fast the alcohol gets taken into the digestive system.




Somehow seduction and champagne have always been linked. Perhaps it’s down to 18th century royal courtesan Madame de Pompadour (favourite mistress to Louis XV). She was the first beauty to drink champagne at royal court. Her favourite brand Moet is still the number one selling champagne around the world today and the current face of the brand is sultry screen star Scarlett Johannson.

Or maybe its thanks to twentieth century cultural icon James Bond, still just as popular with global movie audiences today as he was back in the 1960s. The world’s most sophisticated and sexy secret agent 007 is renowned for his love of employing champagne as a favourite weapon of seduction – whether he happens to be using Dom Perignon, Taittinger Comtes de Champagne or Bollinger Grande Annee, we just instinctively know that choosing the right champagne for the moment means James always gets his girl!

By the late 1700s in France the connection between seduction and champagne was well and truly established. Legend has it that the saucer-shaped champagne glasses called coupes were modelled on the the breasts of another famous French royal: Marie-Antoinette, who was the wife of Louis XVI

They were a saucy lot back at the court of Louis XV and XVI, but in fact the earliest reference to the magical seductive qualities of champagne was by an Englishman called Sir George Etheridge as long ago as 1675.

And remember what another Frenchman said about champagne. This time it was a famous gourmet from the 19th century by the name of Brillat-Savarin: “Burgundy makes you think of silly things; Bordeaux makes you talk about them, and Champagne makes you do them.”




You’re probably going to want something to eat with your champagne, so what’s it to be?

Well, strawberries and chocolate are two delicacies that spring immediately to mind and, apparently, scientific tests have shown that all three have a clear beneficial effect on your state of mind. If you saw the movie Pretty Woman you’ll remember that Julia Roberts used to love to drop a strawberry right into her champagne glass. Champagne purists might turn their noses up at this but, if you enjoy it, go for it, but I’d recommend using rosé champagne rather than white champagne.

For one thing the colour of rosé is enticing and romantic in itself, but the other reason is that rosé is a better complement to the strawberries.

This is partly due to the matching colour, but also because rosé champagne often contains a higher proportion of red grapes, particularly Pinot Noir, than the equivalent white champagne and it’s these grapes that give the champagne those lovely aromas and flavours of red fruit, including strawberries, so the two together are a match made in heaven.

What about chocolate? Well, I hate to be a kill-joy, but chocolate and champagne really aren’t that great a combination. It’s down to you of course, but I think you’ll get much more pleasure if you eat and drink them separately.

The reason for this is that chocolate is rich and creamy in texture and can be quite sweet to the taste. On the other hand, most of the champagne we drink is brut meaning that it has a low sugar content and is fairly crisp and fresh on the palate. These two opposites are best enjoyed on their own.

If you’re absolutely set on eating chocolate with champagne here are a couple of tips that are well worth trying:

  • Try white chocolate instead of dark chocolate      with champagne
  • Try a demi-sec champagne rather than a      brut champagne

Demi-sec is richer in sugar and makes for a much more satisfying, smoother combination with the sweetness of the chocolate. You’ll find demi-sec champagne on sale in most good wines stores.


Whatever you decide, have a great Christmas and a very romantic New Year in 2013.


Merry Christmas,