Saturday, February 27, 2010

Pancake Dinner Extravaganza

Course 1 - Potato Blinis with Smoked Salmon
So as pancake day approached we started to think of what we would make to mark this most singularly culinary celebration. If Christmas was changed to roast turkey day, and Halloween was barn brack day, when instead of going trick or treating/giving presents everyone would be at home making cakes/turkey. It will soon be national fish and chips day too - well in May! 

We thought we’d like to bring a random group of people together in our house, for a feast of pancakes. So we put an invite up on our own facebook, and within 15 minutes we’d reached our quota for the dinner.

We decided on a menu that encompassed a different type of pancake for each course
Starters were smoked salmon blinis
Main course was pancake cannelloni with bolognaise sauce
and ricotta and leek cannelloni with tomato sauce for the veggies
Dessert was Crepe Suzette - kaboom!
Smoked  Salmon and Potato Blinis

6 boiled potatoes
2 eggs
1/2 pint of milk 
about 2 tbsps four
creme fraiche (or cream cheese)
smoked salmon

The potato blinis were made by mashing about 6 boiled potatoes and combining this with 2 eggs, about 1/2 pint of milk and about 2 tbsps four. I just added things until I got the right consistency- very instinctive of me but not so good for blogging recipes! The batter should be thick in consistency, like whipped cream. I cooked them by getting a heavy frying pan really hot, smearing on some butter with a wadded up paper towel, and putting a tablespoon on the mixture at a time in the pan. I could do about 8 at a time. Cook on one side for about 3 or 4 mins, until golden brown and then flip. 

We served with creme fraiche and smoked salmon but you could top with anything- I was thinking cream cheese would be nice with roasted tomatoes. 

Recipes for pancake cannelloni and crepe suzette to follow before Easter I promise!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Paneer Tomato & Green Bean Masala

So it's been a while since we went to the land of curry. I'm on a bit of an 'eat less meat buzz' right now, and I had some paneer lurking in my fridge for a week or two now. I think I should prob brush up on new Indian recipes, I've fallen into a rut with the spices and herbs I use - but hey they work - so why change!

Paneer is a lovely dense cheese, used in Indian cooking, like tofu, but much nicer. It comes in a block, and can be added to curries and cooked in the mixture, or I prefer to fry it a little to give it a nice golden brown colour and then allowing it to bubble away in the mixture to absorb all the depth and spice of your chosen curry. I made a Panner Butter Masala which is delicious, creamy and rich, make this if you feel like a treat, this however is a more healthy way of using this great cheese - inspired by the delicious food served at Govindas if you've never been it's well worth trying one of their three restaurants in Dublin City for a HUGE portion of healthy delicious food.

I block of paneer - cut into small cubes 2cm squares
2 small red onions - finely diced
4 large tomatoes - chopped (skins removed if you prefer)
3 cloves garlic crushed
1 inch of ginger root grated
a handful of green beans cut in half
1 red chilli (seeds optional - I optioned them in!)
1 teaspoon of mustard seeds
1 teaspoon of cumin seeds
1 teaspoon of turmeric
1 teaspoon masala curry powder
1 pinch of asa foetida (optional)
3 curry leaves (bay leaves will do)
3 cardamon pods
1/2 teaspoon of funugreek (ground)
1/4 stock cube

First dry roast the whole spices (mustard seeds, cumin and cardamon seeds) in a dry frying pan for a few minutes until fragrant. Remove to pestle and mortar and crush to release the flavors. The heat some oil in your frying pan and fry the cubes of paneer 10 or so at a time - till a nice golden colour on a few sides. Then remove to a plate and continue till they're all done.

Alternatively - use a pre-mixed spice - like garam-masala - or any type of curry powder/paste that you  have, don't let my extensive list of spices put you off!  

Add in the onion, cook for one minute before adding in the garlic and ginger. Cook these for several minutes until the onion is translucent. Then stir in your crushed spices and cook for a further minute or two, then add in the dried spices and stir. After this tip in the chopped tomatoes and stock cube add a little water and bring up to simmer, cover and leave o cook for about 20-25 minutes. Before you're ready to serve put the green beans on top of the curry - cover for two minutes, and then shy should be cooked but not mushy, stir well and serve.

I serve this with some jasmine rice and a side of aloo-gobi.

All veggies came from our box from Fruitfellas - I feel healthier just looking at this!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Good News!

Lola and I have been nominated for the 'Best Irish Food/Drink Blog' at the Irish Blog Awards for this very here blog! We're totally chuffed, thanks you so much to whoever nominated us, it's a real compliment. Also a big thanks to Bord Bia for sponsoring the category -  if we get shortlisted there will be a boozy trip Galway on the cards for Lola and me!
Be sure to check out the other contenders, there are some great ones in there, including ones I read on a regular basis, but I'll let you have a browse yourselves.

Here is the list
Thanks again to everyone who has supported us and eaten our food over the last year it's been great fun

Lola & Lu xx

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Ginger cake

Post cake

Lu and I have a friend who is poorly at the moment and I really wanted to send him a care package. I thought cake sent by post would be a novel idea and might be just what the doctor ordered for a pick me up.

So I made this, as I needed something that would keep. Not only does this keep for a week but it actually gets better with age. The first day it was good, the 5th day it was spectacular! Gingery, sticky and delicious. All you have to do is wrap it up in greaseproof paper, put it in a good strong box and post it to who ever you know would appreciate cake delivered straight you their door in an unorthodox fashion.

This is a Nigel Slater recipe from one of the THREE Nigel Slater cookery books I got over the last month.... and it is pretty much as good as a cake can be. Next time Im making one I will keep it all for myself!

I've just copied the recipe here as I didn't make any changes whatsoever. Its simple and perfect!

250g self-raising flour 
2 level tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 level tsp bicarbonate of soda
a pinch of salt
200g golden syrup
2 tbsp syrup from the ginger jar
125g butter
3 lumps of stem ginger in syrup (about 55g)
2 heaped tbsp sultanas
125g dark muscavado sugar
2 large eggs
240ml milk
You will need a square cake tin measuring approximately 20-22cm, lined on the bottom with baking or greaseproof paper.
Set the oven at 180°C/gas mark 3. Sieve the flour with the ginger, cinnamon, bicarbonate of soda and the salt. Put the golden and ginger syrups and the butter into a small saucepan, and warm over a low heat. Dice the ginger finely then add it to the pan with the sultanas and sugar. Let the mixture bubble gently for a minute, giving it the occasional stir to stop the fruit sticking to the bottom.
Break the eggs into a bowl, pour in the milk and beat gently to break up the egg and mix it into the milk. Remove the butter and sugar mixture from the heat and pour into the flour, stirring smoothly and firmly with a large metal spoon. Mix in the milk and eggs. The mixture should be sloppy, with no trace of flour.

Scoop the mixture into the non-stick or lined cake tin and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until a skewer, inserted into the centre of the cake, comes out clean. Unless you are serving it warm, leave the cake in its tin to cool, then tip out on to a sheet of greaseproof paper. Wrap it up again in foil and leave to mature for a day or two before eating.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Valentines Dinner for Two

Guest Chef No 4. Lamb Stew and Gratin Dauphinoise

Guest Chef Number 4 is David Delahunty (it’s his first official guest chef title but he’s been involved in lots of the previous posts!)

So Valentines Day was started in a most romantic of ways - waking up in the back of the van, after Chinese New Year. Then it was off to the Stilorgan shopping centre for a fry. Nothing says I love you more than eating sausage and beans in the finest example of mid-80’s retail architecture!

After a nice walk on Bull Island - it was home to the couch and the fire, and successfully releasing Stephen (the canary) for his first flight around the sitting room, after 30 mins he was hungry and just hoped back into his cage.

Then we whipped up this, and it cooked and bubbled away in the oven, while we got our fill of rom-coms on the TV!

Lamb Stew - made by my valentie


2 lamb chops - cubed - or stewing lamb
1 red pepper
a large sprig of fresh rosemary
2 sticks of celery - finely sliced
3 large tomatoes - chopped
A glass of red wine
I red onion - cubed

Heat a little olive oil in a large frying pan, and brown cook the onion and celery until the onion is translucent.. Then add in the lamb to brown a little. Then stir in the red pepper and tomatoes and rosemary and cook for another 3/4 minutes. Add a dash of wine - bring up to a simmer and then remove.

Place the meat mixture into separate dishes - or one large on and place on the centre shelf of the oven at gas mark 6 for one and a half hours.

For Gratin

2 large potatoes
1 cup of cream
1/2 cup of milk
2 cloves of garlic crushed

Slice the potatoes as thinly as you can. I have a small handheld mandolin, which makes this easy. Rinse them under the tap and then pat dry. Mix the remaining ingredients together. Layer the potatoes into your dish and pour the cream mixture - 3/4 of the way up the edge of your dish. 

Cover and bake also in the oven for one and a half hours at gas mark 6. Remove the lid for the last 10-15 minutes if you want to get the top a little browner (I didn’t and it still looks good)

Serve with a nice glass of red wine, and some Barry White. A special thank you goes out to Pamela Quinn for buying me these awesome dishes for my birthday - thanks Pam - my first Le Crueset - very brilliant present

Monday, February 8, 2010

Roasted pepper and butternut squash soup

All the Kings Veg

The aforementioned Fruitfellas box of goodies arrived and we found we suddenly had what seemed like several hundred red and yellow peppers in the fridge and in the box, and we needed to do something with them. The communal fruit/veg bowl also harboured half a butternut squash that was approaching the end of its time on earth. Something needed to be done. Fast.

So of course, we made soup, and very delicious it was too.

Roasted pepper and butternut squash soup

1/2 a large butternut squash
6 red and yellow peppers
handful cherry tomatoes or 2 normal tomatoes, quartered
1 head garlic
about 1 pint light stock (chicken or veg)
Olive oil
salt and pepper

Peel and slice the squash and place in your largest roasting tin along with the tomatoes and the deseeded peppers which have been cut into quarters. Bash the head of garlic so that it comes apart but don't peel the cloves. Add them to the tin and drizzle everything with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

Roast in the oven at 200c or about 40 mins or until the squash is totally soft and the peppers are browned.

Transfer the vegetables to a saucepan. Peel the roasted garlic cloves and add these in too. add in the stock until it just covers the vegetables in the saucepan. Using a stick blender, whizz everything together until smooth. If its too thick, add a bit more stock until you get to the consistency you like.

Season to taste and serve with !

Lamb Tagine

Cinnamon girls

Never really having been a fan of cinnamon with meat/savory things, I had never cooked a Tagine. Now I see the error of my ways. Cinnamon and meat can be truly amazing as long as you are not too heavy handed with the spice rack. The balance of flavors in the spices in this recipe are just perfect. I found it on this great blog, and have altered it only ever so slightly.

Cook it for three hours and it becomes melty, savory, sweet and delicious. I really want to make this again soon, it was so the perfect supper for a cold Sunday. The kind of thing that makes me say 'MMmmmmmm' repeatedly and at an inappropriately loud level.

Serves 4
2 tsp turmeric
2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tbsp plain flour
600g diced lamb shoulder
1 large onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tbsp grated ginger
2 tbsp tomato puree
2 tsp coriander seeds, crushed
12 cherry tomatoes
12 dried apricots
2 tbsp sultanas
olive oil
salt and pepper
2 tbsps natural yogurt

Pre heat your oven to 160c. Mix together the flour and the turmeric, paprika and cayenne, then use this to coat your lamb chunks. In a large casserole (one that has a tight fitting lid) heat some olive oil and fry off the meat until it has browned. Remove from the casserole and set aside

In the same casserole, sweat the onions and garlic until they are soft and translucent. Then add the rest of the spices, and stir, followed by the rest of the ingredients and the browned meat.
Add in hot water until you have nearly but not quite covered the meat. Stir everything around to get all the meat juices and flour at the bottom of the pan to dissolve into the water.
Cover the casserole with the lid (or some tin foil if you have no lid) and bake in the oven for 2 hours and 30 mins (or longer if you like).

Check the Tagine, give it a stir and if its too liquid, place back in the oven with the lid off for about 20 mins. Taste and add salt and pepper to season if necessary. Stir in the yogurt before serving to give it a bit of extra richness and a lovely creamy texture

Delicious served with cous cous or bulghar wheat

Almond Pesto

With roasted vegetable pasta

Lu and I recently came across this new company, fruitfellas, who are better known as Rob and Gav, two lovely lads who for a mere 20 quid will deliver a box of gorgeous, colourful fruit and veg straight to your door. If like me you don't have a car, this is a godsend as it eliminates the need to carry tesco bags up a hill with your arm muscles straining and the bags cutting into your hands. Also, the produce is fresher & nicer than Tescos, and straight from the markets of Dublin to keep everything nice and local, kinda.

We got very excited about or box of fruit and veg, and, finding out that you can also get fresh herbs we ordered a silly amount of basil and flat leaf parsley. One week later, said herbs were still sitting around the kitchen looking slightly the worse for wear. 'We could make pesto if only we had some pine nuts' said Lu 'No way', I'm never eating pine nuts again, I'm too scared of getting Pine nut mouth' said I.

This pesto is subsequently made with almonds, which worked out perfectly. I don't know whey I never tried it before. Much cheaper than pine nuts too which I have seen at an aforementioned super market for €8 a bag!

Almond pesto
NB- I didn't really measure anything, so this is a kind of guesstimate recipe. Use your instincts about how pesto should look and you will be fine

1 big bunch Basil
1/2 a big bunch Flat leaf parsley
about a double handful of flaked almonds (i dunno, about 1 cup in American measurements)
about 100 ml olive oil
2 oz Parmesan cheese, finely grated
1 small clove garlic (or half a big clove)
salt and pepper

In a food processor, whizz up the herbs and almonds. Then add the olive oil slowly while you whizz until the mixture reaches your desired consistency (you know, pesto-like) stop whizzing and transfer to a bowl. Add the Parmesan and crushed garlic clove and mix with a fork. Add salt and pepper to taste, and more olive oil if you think it is too stiff.

We made a delicious pasta with this pesto.

We roasted some vine tomatoes, whole cloves of garlic(in their skins) red peppers and broccoli (that we had blanched in boiling water) all for about 40 mins. Then we cooked some pasta, threw in all the veg (took the skins of the roasted garlic first!) and a couple of big dollops of the pesto. Man was it good! It was so good I decided that Lucy and I are true culinary geniuses (genii?)

Speaking of which, I will be blogging a recipe from my new Julia Child cook book very, very soon, so get ready for butter, and lots of it.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Japanese Green Bean Salad

> The pit-falls of food photography

Sometimes it’s just very hard to take a photo food, to convey how delicious it was, to keep on re-arranging your composition while your dinner is getting cold, it’s a stressful business at time. In an ideal world I guess I would make an extra dish, but most of the time you’re feeding yourself and your housemates, or friends, so it’s all going to get eaten straight away. So here’s my first attempt at a recipe with no photo at all, none - zip!

Lola cooked some baked potatoes which we had with some butter and sea salt and a big grind of black pepper. Perfect. Along side this we served a nice salad of blanched green beans with a Japanese dressing. A wonderfully simple supper, but sometimes, this is as good as a super complicated dinner using 35 ingredients. The dressing was so good I thought it was well worth sharing.


1/3 Teaspoon of wasabi powder (you can use pre-mixed also though it may not be as hot)

1/5 Teaspoons of dark soy sauce

2 Tablespoons of toasted sesame seeds

1/3 large clove of garlic

Milled pepper

2 tablespoons of olive oil

Blanch your bean sin boiling water for two minutes, until they take on a bright green colour. Drain and rinse under a cold tap to halt the cooking. You could also steam the beans.

Toast the seeds until fragrant under a hot grill - keep an eye on them, they can burn in a few short seconds.

Mix the other ingredients together in a small cup. Combine all three and serve.

A few sliced and toasted almons would also be great in here, as would be a finely sliced red chilli, and some cubes of marinated and fried tofu. The hotness of the wasabi makes this a nice salad to serve in the winter, but would also work equally well during the summer months - on a picnic, with some nice salmon! Summer dreaming in the February rain!