Monday, October 17, 2011


Dear Blog - it's not you, it's me
I just got very busy
With some other nice things
A rest will do you good
This is not goodbye 
Just a little see you later ...

Other nice things

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Baby Gem Salad with toasted chickpea and garlic croutons

I ain't gonna call it Ceasar
While all else are roaming round a wet and soggy field in Stradbally, I spent Saturday morning filling up my freezer. Maybe I'm getting old - or maybe I didn't have the money (hint - I'm not old!) First with pots of delicious spicy anchovy and tomato pasta sauce, then with a whole heap of cinnamon bagels. For a light lunch I knocked together this lovely little salad. It feels like summer is one it's last legs so I'll get a few more tasty salads down before it's final death rattle!

Serves 1
1 head of baby gem
1 small tin of chickpeas
1/2 heel of bread - cubed
1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 tablespoon of flour - plain or chickpea
1 teaspoon of mixed herbs
zest of half a lemon
juice of a quarter of a lemon
1 teaspoon of mayonnaise
1 teaspoon of plain yogurt
1 clove of garlic crushed

  1. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees.
  2. On a greaseproof tray - mix together chickpeas, lemon zest, olive oil and flour.
  3. Bake for 15 minutes - then allow to cool
  4. Mean while - mix the garlic with the bread cubes, extra virgin and season well.
  5. Pop these in the oven for 10-15 minutes until golden, turning once
  6. Mix together the mayonnaise, lemon juice and yogurt.
  7. When the chickpeas are cool and crunchy, arrange over a bed of baby gem along with the croutons and a generous serving of dressing.
  8. Set to dusting out your wooly tights!
I made a batch of croutons - they should keep in an airtight container for a  week or two, like mini crunchy garlic breads to go on your soup/sandwich or wrap. 

Monday, July 18, 2011

Fried haloumi & peach salad with a mint, lemon & caper dressing

Super Success Summer Salad

I'm pretty proud of this salad, I must say. It's the perfect balance between salty and sweet, crunchy and smooth, hot and cool. It's similar to the Grilled Peach and Mozzarella Salad we made inspired by Junior's in Ringsend. This would be lovely served as a starter sitting outside in the sun - oh we can only dream of sun today! Also it could be wonderful on a buffet, sitting on a nice bed of leaves. Some crisp lambs lettuce or peppery rocket would work well. These Pan Tao peaches are just perfect and arrived in my veg box this morning, begging to be made into something special. They're flat and have a white flesh, supposedly you can push the stone out from outside, I haven't managed it! 

Serves 1
3 sliced of haloumi - a little less than 1cm thick
a little plain flour
sunflower oil fro frying
1 ripe peach or nectarine
For the Dressing
1 heaped teaspoon of capers drained
Juice and zest of 1/2 lemon
Handful of fresh flat leaf parsley
Handful of fresh mint
Good quality olive oil for dressing - a good tablespoon

  1. First chop the fresh herbs roughly along with the capers. Mix the in with the rest of the ingredients for the dressing, season and set aside. 
  2. Next lightly toss your slices of haloumi in the flour. Heat the sunflower oil in a non stick pan. When the oil is relatively hot pop your slices into the pan. they should sizzle but not spit - cook for about 2 minutes on each side until golden. Drain on kitchen paper.
  3. Next slice up your peaches, arrange alone with the haloumi on a plate and drizzle with the amount of dressing you like. Welcome to my new favorite salad

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Holidays in Devon

Knockin' on Devon's Door....

The holiday plans were, to spend some time in Devon and Cornwall. Some bad weather and some very painful wisdom teeth were to convince us to hop on a boat to France. We spent a nice week in the UK despite my gloomy summary. We camped on a farm and had delicious farm raised sausages for our breakfast. The site ran along the edge of a large stream and made for a tranquil few days in Exmoor National Park. Sadly the wisdom teeth meant little to no real eating. Cream teas, fish 'n chips and Cornish pasties will have to wait till next time.
Camping breakfast in England
River side farm camping in Exmoor
 France was as sunny and hot and oozing with good food. Here are but a few of my snaps - in case you were wondering what happened to June on the blog!
Breakfast in France

What lovely radishes you have

Evening beer in the forest camping

Non edible flowers

Lovely La Rochelle

Boudin Noir 

Cheese mobile - yes all of it!
River side camping in La Marais

Pilgrims walk across the sands to Mont St Michel

Innovative use of brie box
Must eat more brie

ehh final breakfast in France

Next years breakfast in France 
Farm camping in France

That way!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Salmon with Fennel and Sesame Bulgur Wheat

A Store Cupboard Supper

So just back from my holidays it's time to get back to some good simple eating and balance out some of the boldness from my time away. This is a store cupboard meal as I had some salmon and peas in the freezer. It's super fast to prepare and delivers a good bunch of flavours from a limited amount of ingredients.

Ingredients (Serves 1)
1 small piece of salmon
1/2 cup of bulgur wheat
1/2 cup of frozen peas
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 teaspoon of sesame oil
1 teaspoon of fennel seeds
1 teaspoon of mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon of vegetable bouillon
Fresh coriander or flat leaf parsley

Place the salmon on a greased baking tray and pop under the grill. Grill for about 5 minutes each side until cooked through. Make the bulgur by boiling twice the quantity of water as bulgur in a pan. Add the bouillon and bulgur and cook for 10 minutes until tender. Add the peas for the last two minutes of cooking, I just popped them in straight from the freezer.

In another pan dry fry the fennel and mustard seeds. When they begin to release their fragrance pop them into a pestle and mortar and give them a quick grind. Return them to the hot pan along with the two oils, allow them to infuse a little over a medium heat being careful not to burn them.

When the bulgur is ready stir through the oil and spices. Serve the salmon over the bulgur with some freshly chopped coriander or parsley.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Vantastival Camper Van Cook Off

Van-tastic Fun

Vantastival is a camper and family friendly festival now in it's second year. It takes place on the gorgeous Dunanny Estate in lush county Louth, a gust away from the Irish Sea. The cook off sees 6 campervans competing to win the 2011 prize. This year's sponsors were Cully & Sully. Cully himself was down to do the judging, bringing along with him their chef Ivan, and also the Cheffactor 2010 winner Christine. Read about here experiences at Ballymaloe here.
Some of the finished dishes

The ingredients for the 45 minute cook off included Minced beef, green pepper, chick peas, onion, chili, chopped tomatoes, wild garlic, rice, black pudding, brie, cream & a banana. All teams could use a few store cupboard ingredients from their van cupboards. The brief was to produce two dishes, but all vans turned out three in the allotted time. 

Ivan gets comfy
Disco Dinner
Christine finds one of the entries hilarious
Well done to all the great chefs who could well under the baking hot sun and in front of the huge crowd that grew around them hungrily licking their lips. 
Did someone say dinner?

The judges get down to some hard work

The winners
The festival was such a success that it's back on the calendar for 2012, so if you're looking for a great family festival that has great music come on down to Dunanny. Or better still beg/borrow/steal a campervan and see if you can be crowned champion for 2012!

Like I said family friendly!
That'll be me
And a big thanks to Delo for the amazing photos! 

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Chana Masala

Guest Chef No 10 - Ferdia McLoughlin

Let me present the glorious Ferdia McLoughlin who catered for up to 80 people using only beer kegs, an open fire and his manly prowess.  Well I lie, there was a gas hob as well as an open fire.

Ferdia catered for the staff and crew of Vantastival, which is a great family and campervan friendly festival located on Dunanny Estate in Co Louth. The sun was splitting the rocks all weekend, and a great time was had by all. There was music, dancing, bouncy castles, a campervan cook-off (post on this to follow) a scrap heap challenge and hidden midnight surprises in the woods.

Ferdia kept the crew well fed all weekend. I popped my head in to say hi and chop the occasional onion. His cooking gear was manufactured by the creative crew from old beer kegs - sure why not! Even including the big stirring spoon.

One outstandingly tasty dish that made it's way out of this multicoloured tent was Chana Masala. Ferdia spent a year in travelling/cycling in India. He makes some amazing Indian dishes with a great understanding of all the spices and ethnic nuances.

This recipe was written for 80 portions - Ferdia kindly scaled it down to serve 6

2 onions - diced
1 clove of garlic
3 teaspoons of corriander seeds
2 teaspoons of cumin
1/2 tsp of paprika
1 teaspoon of turmeric
200g of tinned tomatoes
800g of tinned chickpeas - drained
1 teaspoon of tamarind paste disolved in cup of water
3 teaspoons of amchoor powder
1 teaspoon of garam masala
1.2 tsp salt
1/2 teaspoon of sugar
3 teaspoons of lemon juice
1 chili
1 teaspoon ginger
100 ml of cream

1) Fry onions.
2) Add in corriander, cumin, paprika & turmeric.
3) Add in tomatoes, cook for a few miutes before adding in the chickpeas, tamarind including the water.
4) Add in the rest of the spices, bring to simmer cover and cook for 10 mins.
5) Uncover and cook for a further 30 mins
6) Remove from the heat and stir in the cream before serving over boiled rice.
7) Enjoy in the County Louth sun
For a lighter option use low fat yogurt instead of cream
What a guy!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Lamb Madras

No speel just one hugely yummy recipe. I learnt this recipe on the Cooks Academy Certificate course - it's really good, especially the next day. Worth considering if you're cooking for a dinner party reduce the stress on the day in question.
 Serves 6
Sunflower Oil for frying
1kg of diced lamb - trim off excess fat
2 big onions 0 diced
4 large cloves of garlic crushed
1-2 tablespoons of fresh root ginger grated
1 handful of coriander roots - chopped
400g / 1 tin of tomatoes
1 pint good chicken stock
3 tablespoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon of curry powder (depending on strength and taste)
1/2 tablespoon of ground coriander
2 tsp of cardamon pods - seeds removed and ground in a pestle and mortar (or a spice grinder if you have one - please santa - hint hint!)
a big bunch of fresh coriander roughly chopped

1) Brown of the lamb in the sunflower oil. Do in batches and set aside.
2) Sweat the onion off for a few minutes after you have finished the lamb.
3) When the onion has gone clear, add in the garlic, ginger, spices and coriander stalks. Cook out the ground spices for a few minutes stirring constantly.
4) Then add in the tomatoes and chicken stock. Cook for 10 minutes.
5) Liquidise the mixture with a stick blender.
6) Return the lamb to the pan and bring to a gently simmer. Cover and cook for 1.5 hours - 2 hours depending on the size and quality of your lamb.
7) Serve with rice or naan and some nice homemade chutney - or Sharwoods mango chutney. That stuff is like crack cocaine for me honestly can't get enough of the stuff.

I made my own naans for this recipe - but the recipe is not quite perfect so I'll wait till it is before I post one. If anyone has any good naan recipes they'd like to share that would be great. I also served it with a spiced vegetable and lentil dish and rice.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Thyme & Tallegio Potatoes with Ham

A Side Tasty Enough for a Main

You know those dishes that are meant to be a side but are so good you could just eat a large plate full by itself. Macaroni Cheese is often listed as a side in American diners, where as I could happily eat it all on it's own.

Tallegio is a wonderful rich, moist, oozy Italian cheese. It's a washed rind cow's cheese. I still don't like to use much of the rind - some of it, but not all. Totally up to you though. It goes beautifully with cooked ham and melts over the hot pan fried potatoes, to create a gooey decadent potato dish, to die for. I exaggerate not.
Serves 2 as a large side
5 large new potatoes
4 sprigs of thyme stalk removed
2 cloves of garlic crushed
1 onion sliced finely
Tallegio (as much as you'll allow yourself to eat in one sitting)
Leftover cooked ham (leftover chicken would also be nice) 

1) In a large saucepan fry up your onion over a medium heat with some olive oil and a small knob of butter, until approaching translucent but not quite there. 
2) Add in your potatoes, thyme, seasoning and garlic. Cover the pan and cook over a medium to low heat for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. After 15 of those mins pop in the ham to warm through.
3)Now the secret to getting some of the lovely deep flavour into this dish involves getting some nice brown areas on your potatoes and onions. If your mixture at this point appears slightly anemic, whack up the heat and allow to stick a little to the pan before mixing around. 
4) Break your amazing cheese into bite size lumps. Sit on top of the dish - allow to stand for a few minutes and then the cheese should have melted all round the gorgeous browned potatoes and you're  done.

mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm very sad that I no longer have the ingredients for this in the fridge.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Celeriac & Potato Rosti

Another Brunch Recipe
It appears that of late I'm writing a lot of brunch recipes. Maybe that seems more romantic than calling them light dinners for one - which is what they are!

So celeriac is a pretty ugly vegetable, maybe that's why I have never cooked with it much. Generally it's treated in a similar manner to a potato. That's where the idea came for combining the two in a lovely rosti.

I won't lie this fell apart slightly when I flipped it over - still tastes great and works really nicely with the poached egg and baby rocket from my balcony.

Ingredients - Serves 1
1/4 of a head of celeriac - outer skin removed and grated
2 small potatoes - grated
Pinch of thyme finely chopped
1 egg yolk

To Serve
baby spinach or rocket
1 poached egg

Pop the grated potato and celeriac into a clean tea towel. Push it all into the centre and then cover with the teatowel. Give it a really good squeeze to push out the excess moisture. Put into a large bowl add the thyme, egg yolk and seasoning. Mix thoroughly.

Heat a small amount of olive oil over a medium heat in a non stick pan. Spoon the mixture onto the pan into whatever size you want. I think mine were however too large, making it harder to flip over. You want to keep them pretty thin so that they'll cook right through. Press down firmly with a spatula. Give them about 3-4 mins on each side until a rich golden brown.

Serve with a poached egg sitting on top of some fresh baby rocket or spinach. My secret to perfect poached eggs (well I'd say good not perfect) First really fresh eggs. Secondly when your water reaches a good strong boil, twirl the water in the pan to create a mini vortex. Pull the pan off the heat. Then gently slide the egg into the spinning water from a cup. The movement of the water will keep the egg white together in a natural shape and will stop it from spreading out and getting thin. Always drain the egg well on kitchen towel to avoid soggy bread/rosti.


Friday, May 6, 2011

Rhubarb & Ginger Compote, with Honey Pecan Granola & Strawberry Yogurt Pots

Dashing Dessert Breakfast
Looking for a breakfast that tastes as good as a dessert. That packs a nutritional punch, with some great healthy fats and a good whack of protein and calcium. Then look not further. If all that nutritional waffle has put you off - do not be deterred! These are super yummy, pretty snacks that can be enjoyed at any time of the day.

Granola is an old favorite of mine - perfect start to the day with fruit and yogurt. I have three recipes here, here and here. To this one I added a good handful of crushed pecan nuts, desiccated coconut, a tablespoon of vegetable oil and a tablespoon of honey

Returning shame faced after a run in the park I tucked into one of these. Some lovely army men were doing maneuvers in the park. They promptly all sprinted passed me, they were however in full gear and carrying huge backpacks. Ah well - what can you do. I was carrying a set of keys!

Ingredients - Makes 6 portions
Rhubarb Compote
4 stems of rhubarb - cut into 3cm chunks
3cm of fresh ginger grated finely
1 tablespoon of brown sugar

750 ml of yogurt - I used Glenisk
1 punnet of strawberries
1 jar of granola (links for recipe above)

Pre-heat oven to 150c

To make the compote mix together the rhubarb, ginger and sugar in a small oven proof dish. Cover and pop in the oven for about 20 minutes, until the rhubarb is soft. Allow to cool.

Get glass ramekins, wineglasses or any small containers you have that are made of glass. Cut strawberries length ways in 1/4 cm slices. Push them up against the side of the glass to show the cut side out. Then layer in alternate layers of yogurt, compote and granola. Finish with a layer of granola.

Serve and enjoy. There are lots of alternative fruits you cold use such as blackberries, apple, mango or raspberries. Feel free to use other flavored yogurt, or make your own by stirring the compote through a whole pot of yogurt.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Home-cured Bacon Carbonara

My favourite pasta dish of all time

So yes Carbonara is my favourite pasta dish of all time. I've been making it for years. Every so often will get a craving for it that won't go away until I've made myself an enormous bowl of creamy spaghetti. I'm pretty sure it has to be spaghetti - tagliatelle at a push.

Now the most important ingredient in this dish is indeed the bacon. Just to say the pig wasn't a saddleback but a rarebreed Tamworth from the Wishing Well Farm. The University of Bristol carried out a taste test of all breeds of pigs in 1999 and the Tamworth came out on top. They are now in the process of getting a sow to start breeding. Most special about this particular pig is that, it was their first pig. 

We saw Ed Hick butcher a side of the animal at Inishfood in Donegal. Then we all got down to curing our own bit of bacon. I chose a cure that had some bay and juniper in it. The meat was pierced to allow the cure to get deep into the meat. Then you rub the cure well into the meat with your hands. Seal the meat in an airtight container and store in a cool dry place for two weeks for the curing to take effect. The meat needs a turn everyday to ensure both sides as evenly cured. I stored mine in the fridge.

The resulting piece of meat was just some of the finest bacon I've ever eaten. It's nice to have a large piece of bacon to cut from as you can choose how to cut it - ie rashers or lardons. I got 3 breakfasts and a carbonara for two from my piece. Sadly I forgot to weigh it at any point of the process - whoops. The cure brought lovely notes of bay to the meat. Also the fat when fried or grilled turned a lovely dark rich brown - whether that's down to the meat or the cure I'm not sure. There was dark brown sugar in the cure so that might well be it.

I will def be looking into curing my own bacon again providing I can find the same quality of meat to do it with. That might be some tall order though, given the tender love and care this pig received I'm sure.

Now onto the recipe which I took from Donal Skehans new book - Kitchen Hero. Like him I've experimented with many versions before often involving ingredients such as wine, cream, cheddar. The pared back version is more true to the genuine Italian version, and just as tasty.

Ingredients - Serves Two
3 egg yolks - broken up
5 rashers sliced / or pancetta / or my amazing bacon!
Spaghetti for 2 cooked al dente
Parmesan cheese

Cook your spaghetti in plenty of well salted water. While the pasta is cooking fry up your bacon till it's nice and crispy.

Drain the spaghetti and reserve about a cup full of the cooking liquid. Return the pasta to the hot pan - but don't return the pan to the heat. Stir through the bacon and a little of the cooking water. Then quickly stir through the egg yolks. The heat from the pasta cooks the egg yolks and makes a nice sauce that coats well. Stir quickly though to ensure you don't scramble the egg.

Serve with a good healthy amount of freshly grated Parmesan and a good crowd of black pepper.

This dish is full of flavour that belies it's simple ingredients, it will be a while before I go back to my more extensive ingredient list.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Plate to Page Cookoff

Germany Bound
Thursday night saw four of Ireland's top food bloggers descend onto Cooks Academy on South William Street, Dublin to cook up their very best Irish beef dish. They were hoping to win a trip to the Plate to Page Workshop in Weimer Germany, which is a bootcamp for food bloggers. The weekend offers workshops in all aspects of blogging including, styling, writing, photography, marketing and of course lots of lovely Irish and German produce.

The lovely Maeve Desmond from Bord Bia interview all of the contestants and Vanessa Greenwood from Cooks Academy. You can hear the interviews over here
The four finished dishes were incredibly diverse and did show a great range of what can be achieved with great quality Irish beef. I was very impressed with Kitchen 72's use of a pressure cooker to replicate the slow cooking of his beef cheek in the allowed 90 minutes.

Here are links to all the finalists and their recipes.
SmörgåsblogSurf agus Turf

The Runcible Spoon: Beef, and the beer that loves it

Wise Words: Ribeye to die for
Left to Right - Maeve Desmond Bord Bia, David Kitchen 72,
Mona  Wise Words & Vanessa Greenwood Cooks Academy

Sadly there could only be two winners - two is better than one now! David from Kitchen 72 and Mona from Wise Words - Congrats guys we'll be watching your blogs closely to pick up some tips from your trip