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,




Dec 7 2012

Alpha Dog Food Christmas News (Kate)


Hi everyone. Just a quick note to let you know what’s happening in December and about our new recruit, Asami from Japan.

Next week, we start our run in to Christmas with seasonal recipes, ideal presents for the avid cook, places to eat and one or two other surprises. Expect a couple of posts a week for the rest of the month so please subscribe if you haven’t already done so and you won’t miss any new ones as they will be sent directly to you.

Our latest recruit is Asami  麻美  (picture below) from Yokohama in Japan. Asami means “morning beauty” in Japanese and she is going to pass on some Japanese recipes that are easy to cook. We hope to see Asami’s first blog post in January.




The only other thing I can say is a very Merry Christmas from all the girls here at Alpha Dog Food. Have a good one.


Merry Christmas!

Nov 27 2012

Potato Salad (Anna)



This is a really easy to make German cold potato salad that can be used as a starter or a side dish to a main meal. It’s also very good for picnics. It’s an ideal starter for any romantic meal you may be preparing as it can be made in advance and left in the fridge so that you can spend less time in the kitchen and more time with your lady when she arrives!

Guten appétit!






For a starter course for two, use the measures below:

  • 2 large potatoes (firmer new potatoes or waxy red type tend to be best)
  • Small bunch fresh chives – finely chopped
  • 2 spring onions – finely chop the white bulbs (discard the green)
  • 2 small pickled gherkins (pat dry with paper towel)
  • 1 frankfurter
  • 2 tsp pickled capers (drained)
  • 2 tbsp mayonnaise
  • 1 tbsp cream (thicker rather than runny cream)
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard (or similar milder mustard – not hot English style mustard)
  • Salt and pepper to taste (rock salt and ground pepper is best)


How To Cook It

Bring a large pan of water to the boil and add salt and the potatoes still in their skins (you don’t need to peel them at this stage). Cook for about 20 minutes or until just tender (less time for smaller potatoes). Try not to overcook the potatoes or they will turn to mash. Drain the potatoes and wrap individually in silver kitchen foil until you are ready to use them (let them stand and allow them to cool for a little while).

Chop your chives and onions. Cut the gherkins and the frankfurter into medium-size slices.

Mix together the mayonnaise, cream and mustard – give it a good whisk (use a fork if you haven’t got a whisk).

Unwrap the potatoes and peel them. Cut them into bite-size cubes and place into a large bowl.  Add the onion, gherkins, frankfurter and capers to the potatoes. Spoon the sauce on top and gently mix together, taking good care not to break up or mush the potatoes.


How To Serve It

Split into two, onto your serving plates. Season each portion with salt and pepper and sprinkle the chives over the top. To make more attractive or into a larger lunch course, place the potato salad on top of some small crisp lettuce leaves…. and add a nice glass of Reisling too!



You can replace the frankfurter with bacon or pancetta but blanche in hot water for a couple of minutes first to get rid of some of the saltiness. If you prefer a vegetarian option, try some small chunks of cucumber or roasted bell peppers instead of the frankfurter.



Potato Salad