Thursday, November 17, 2011

Make. This. NOW!

Up until this point I would definitely have said that I love Mexican food, but I would not have known how very limited my experience of Mexican food actually was. My experiences of the genre until very recently would have leaned more in the direction of the watered-dow Tex-Mex type of dishes that have adapted/travelled from that country to many, many others around the world. All, in themselves, decent representations of that particular food culture, but offerings really don't do it justice, not when you begin to delve a little further into a rich and frequently healthy food tradition. Thomasina Miers was the first winner of British Masterchef, and a spell in Mexico fostered a great love and enthusiasm for Mexican food. Her restaurant, Wahaca, brings the joys of Mexican market food to London, and her bright, inviting book Mexican Food Made Simple was a little present from me to me on a recent mooch through TK Maxx. And, guess what? It features recipes using ingredients other than minced beef and tortillas! I KNOW - crazy!!!!! From soups to sweets, it has a ton of fruit n veg-loaded delights inside. But, of course, the first recipe that my greedy little eyes zoned in on was probably the least healthy one in the book. A no-hassle, Sunday night plate of perfection that uses black pudding in the way that you might ordinarily use minced beef - a new one to me, and a meaty revelation. Black pudding polenta is a flavoursome comfort food that won't be making it into the Weight Watchers cook book any time soon, but once you taste it you really won't give a fiddlers.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

An Egg Dish: Too Many Cheesy Puns, Frankly

Cooking a good curry fills me with glee. Ever since the very first time I made a curry - which, if I recall quite correctly, was Jamie Oliver's Thai green chicken curry back in autumn 2004 - I have not failed to amaze and delight myself with the ability to create from scratch something that I used to only get occasionally from a take away. Something else that I really love: buying a food magazine and settling down to tuck into the lovely mix of bits and pieces on offer. You get a generous fraction of the recipes that you would get in a cookbook at a very justifiable fraction of the price. There is also a lovely, life-friendly mix of types of recipes. In most good quality food magazines there will be a variety that offers speedy dinners, nice lunches, a bit of baking; perfect for a lil foodie fix, particularly as the seasons change and the contents adapt accordingly. Delicious magazine is a firm favourite of mine. It's not as glam and fancy as Donna Hay or Jamie mag, but it really doesn't need any of that suave business, it's a warm, friendly publication, jam-packed with reliable, normal person-friendly recipes. And you can't always say that about cookbooks, can you? I know that you can get tons of great recipes online, but really nothing compares to sitting down with a magazine, or pulling it off the bookshelf if you fancy some inspiration. I generally cook a few recipes from issue, and among the ones that I tried from the September issue was sambal telur. But just so we can use our brains for cooking the dish and not trying to remember the name of it, lets just call it egg curry. I know, I know - stinkus maximus. But seriously worth it if you can convince your co-diners that if you're all honking you'll cancel each other out. And I totally promise that if it is a bit whiffy...well I certainly didn't notice, such was the extreme tastiness.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Chill-Busting Chilli

I do like chilli, I really do, but it lacks adventurousness and, while not particularly unhealthy, doesn't really pack much of a punch in the nutrition stakes. Don't get me wrong, I'll never turn down a big steaming bowl of chili, but when picking something of a hearty, inexpensive nature to cook, it tends to get sidelined by other dishes that have a little more, well, personality. This vegetarian version, on the other hand, I feel will become a regular fixture in my eating schedule, and one I'll turn to again and again in the winter months when I need nutritious warming up from the inside on the cheap. It is absolutely rammed with health-givingness, thanks to an abundance of pulses and veggies. It isn't invaded by any (relatively) sneaky, treaty ingredients like cream or cheese - though obviously it is entirely possible to make these additions if you so wish. For me, it's the loveliest kind of healthy food, that which leaves you feeling neither cheated nor empty, but, rather, full and satisfied and not wanting of any further addition or embellishment. It's from the kitchen of one Gwyneth Paltrow, a recipe she conceived to feed her vegetarian daughter. The recipe says that it serves four. I put away the lot within 24 hours, initially scoffing it down with basmati rice after a cycle, and then I finished it off the following day in a pitta to quell the devious hunger brought on by wedding celebrations the night before. A more ladylike and decorous appetite than mine should find that it will serve up four to six portions. This is definitely one for the athletes among you: it does that essential task of refueling after a training session and allowing the option of further portions in a healthy manner, significantly reducing the urge to tell yourself that you have earned the right to recompense your body's efforts with empty calories.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Ode To Sponge Bob

So, apparently myself and Moses Paltrow have something in common: we were both curious as to precisely what Sponge Bob and his Bikini Bottom-residing pals are ingesting when they tuck into a krabby pattie. Until Gwyneth (literally) stepped up to the plate and solved that great mystery. See, Moses was actually willing to admit that he didn't know, and came straight out and asked the question. Me, I just sat there on the sofa for years acting like I totally knew what krabbie patties are, sneaking sidelong glances at my nephews to discern if they didn't know either so I wouldn't look like a moron if I asked. So, thanks for that, Moses. Mystery solved in his mommy's cookbook. Not that it's the world's most mysterious mystery - they are very simple crab cake burgers, and the Gwynster serves them up with a little something she calls spicy remoulade: it's amazing. While crab cake burgers are speedy and easy and tasty, this rather special condiment requires a little more time, but it will make you immensely happy and really must feature in further adventures in seafood-eating. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Feel The Beet

It is oft lamented that those who say they hate beets do so on the basis of the dodgy vinegary stuff that our mothers sliced onto salad plates in the 80s. That was definitely not its finest hour, but proponents of the knobbledy red super-staining power veg have made valiant efforts in recent years to showcase its beauty beyond that tongue-stinging incarnation. Beetroot seems to be one of these superfoods that is continually cropping up in those "OMG ten foods that will TOTALLY make you beautiful/skinny/smart/live to a million/generally amazing" features. Beetroot juice has become something of a trendy food fad among athletes in recent years, as studies have found it to boost athletic performance. Honestly, yes it is pretty crammed with quite a quantity of vitamins - A, C, loads of the B ones...I won't go on, in case the other vegetables start to hate it and pick on it for being too perfect. But above and beyond all the virtuous goody two-shoes vitamin action, it is a delicious vegetable, and one that is definitely worthy of a second chance from anyone who harbours the scars of childhood beetroot trauma.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Use Your Loaf

Yup, they just keep on coming; the courgettes are still popping up outside, and after a bout of courgette fatigue I just had to take a break. But of course, when I ventured back in amid those large coarse leaves there were tons of little green marrow curving out hopefully in defiance of gravity, anxious to be picked and eaten before they turn into watery oversized marrow fit only for the compost heap. I decided to turn my hand to a sweet creation, having heard a bit about courgette cake here and there. I wasn't looking to create a fancy tiered-and-frosted affair, just something in a loaf tin that I could hack ginormous doorsteps off to eat with coffee in the morning. And the afternoon. And when people call in for coffee. And any other time I might be in the mood for it, really. I found a recipe to fit the bill in the Tess Kiros book Apples For Jam, a very pretty, nostalgic sort of book with recipes inspired by her childhood favourites, as well as what she cooks for her own family, and chapters divided up on the basis of the colour of the food. A tad quirky, perhaps - but then I never necessarily search for a recipe in a book on the basis of a title of a particular chapter; I would generally mark out a few after leafing through the whole book, or look for specific ingredients in the index at the back. This recipe is a nice simple, straightforward one, requiring minimal, if any, grocery shopping. I popped it in the oven right before I had my brekkie, it was in the oven just long enough to eat and get a few things done, and out just in time for a mid-morning coffee break.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Easy Peasy

I refuse to make any apologies for the extreme cheesiness (mmmm, cheese) of the above, but it very neatly sums up what this post is all about: an easy dish that is full of peas. Keeping up with me, now? Good. On the basis of my most recent blog posts you would be forgiven for thinking that I live on some sort of courgette farm; incorrect: I live in a small mid-terrace house with a garden that is busting out with veggies. Thing is, they are not all quite as high-maintenance as that oh-so-prolific marrow, and so they don't really get so much of a look in when I'm burying myself in cookbooks looking for something new to conjure up in the kitchen. So, before my peas come and go with ne'er a mention, here is a small tribute to that little round sweet nutritious veggie. My sources (various internet pages that look vaguely reputable) tell me that they are full of calcium and folic acid, as well as vitamins A and K. I am quite sure that they have plenty other wonderful things in them, but they are bright green and that is good enough for me. I had it in my head that peas are a difficult sort of veggie to grow, but I was just being veggie-ist; just because they grow differently to other vegetables does not mean that they are more trouble than they're worth. You just need to get some bamboo and pop out every now and then to tie your shoots to the sticks as they grow. And there is such a prettiness about the delicate, spindly green bits that bind themselves to anything they can cling to. The only downside that I would see in growing peas is that the pods can be difficult to spot amid the leaves, so occasionally you get a sad, withered, inedible old one that got left behind. Apart from that, they are a joy to grow, to cook and to eat. They are so very tasty that I never do anything madly exciting with them; I just cook them and land them on the plate - they cropped up alongside fishcakes on more than one occasion over the summer months. Anyhow, with my last blast of peasies I thought I should make more of an effort - not too much effort, mind, can't be having that. I took one look at this simple pea and prosciutto spaghetti recipe from Sophie Grigson's Vegetable Bible and I could practically cook it there and then without the book. Not quite, but...oh you get what I mean. EASY.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Inspiration From Any Source Always Welcome

I spend money on cookbooks and time trawling through them; I fritter away hours online finding new food blogs and bookmarking recipes; I agonise over whether to buy cookery magazines and stand for torturous lengths of time in front of newsstands deliberating, when I know they'll end up coming home with me anyhow. And then I go and use a bread recipe that I find on the back of a packet of impulse-purchased flour. Yes, my idea of an impulse buy is a packet of flour, I know, I'm a bit wild like that. Listen smartarses, if all Celtic Tiger-era impulse purchases were along these lines the national debt levels would be significantly lower, so lets see me as an example and not an object of ridicule, ok?! 

Monday, August 22, 2011

Things I Love

The things I love, that make me happy, are so very humdrum and mundane that it makes life quite simple, really. None of them require vast amounts of money or long-haul flights. Well - my yearning for some consistent sunshine could be remedied by both of those, but it doesn't do to dwell too much on the weather these days. Instead I like to distract myself with the more minor content-making things in life: food blogs; recipes that only require me to buy a couple of things in the shop (or even, though a rare treat, those that don't even require me to leave the house); curry; meals that are a total treat but still manage to stash a load of veggies in there too. So when I found a new blog to love and drool over - The Spice Spoon - featuring a curry that required only a few purchases that featured lovely fresh tomatoes (er, lets conveniently overlook the whole large quantity of oil thing, ok), well I was just about made up. Making curry from scratch always makes me marvel at how some spices and some veggies and sometimes a little meat come together in a seemingly simple way and then BOOM you have a totally exotic dish, a flavour that seems so very very far away from the simple few things you started out with. And you don't have to buy a jar with a load of numbers in the ingredients list or pick up the phone and call someone who is more than a walk away and sit there wondering when it'll eventually get to you and hoping that it will still be nice and hot. Just stock up well on spices and it's right there in your kitchen. And for Murghi ka Saalan - though maybe we should just stick to calling it chicken in the Pakistani manner - all you need in your eastern arsenal is turmeric, chilli powder and cardamom pods, so if you don't already have them you won't exactly have to get yourself in the red building up your spice collection.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Fried Courgette Spaghetti - Need I Say More?

The words 'comfort food' are bandied about a lot. We all love it, we all crave it at certain points, and we all have our own particular version of it. Common traits include a high level of stodginess, created by substantial quantities of carbs and creamy dairy, and the absence of anything remotely healthy. Pasta, and, indeed, Italian food in general, is perfect comfort food, containing as it does all of these elements and still comprising an entirely legitimate meal (unlike, say, super noodles, tayto sandwiches or rice pudding), and though it can often be healthified by upping the veggie content and laying off the butter, it can similarly be dehealthified by lashing in the cream, parmesan and salt. This little beauty of a dish goes one step further and requires frying the only vegetable that goes into it. And, much as I love courgettes, they aren't exactly a powerhouse of hardcore vitamin action  - though, as someone pointed out to me, fried courgettes are considerably less unhealthy than, say, fried chorizo. For all of you who think that G Paltrow is a po-faced health freak, then in your faces mofos because this stodgefest is from her book Notes From My Kitchen Table. It's speedy, it's inexpensive, it's a good refueller if you've been out exercising, it's perfect for curling up with a big bowl of and getting lost in a book, it provides all kinds of warmth when the unseasonal August weather leaves you damp and cold to the core - it's one of those dishes that's like an old pal you can always rely on to make you feel better when you need a pick-me-up. Not a crazy-night-out sort of upliftingness, but more the heartwarmingly cheery by-the-fire variety.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Soup That Sates My Appetite

I feel like I'm very generously letting you all in on a secret and improving your lives immeasurably by posting this recipe. It astounded me a little, I must admit. I love a tasty soup as much as the next person, but it's never the whole deal for me; if it's not a precursor to something more substantial, or served up with something substantial (i.e. definitely not salad) then I become quite alarmed in anticipation of that sensation of really just not being full enough and having to source alternative means of sustenance. Yes, I am rather neurotic, and yes, it is exhausting being me sometimes. But on occasion there are some things that take me by surprise and distract me away from my indulgent, endless over-thinking of the various mundanities that make up my life. And, believe it or not, this soup was one of them. My quest to make the most of the courgettes in my garden while they are still small and sweet and full of flavour started out as something that I felt involved more effort than I am ever in the mood for on a daily basis. I have now grown to really love some of the recipes that I have tried out, as well as appreciating the nice speedy ones. This soup is bound to become such a staple in my home that I may even stretch to *gasp* actually  buying courgettes when the garden supply dries up. And, possibly an even more shocking whodathunk it turn of events: I ate this for dinner and finished feeling full and complete. There wasn't even any bread involved. I have always wondered what is wrong with those people who eat soup for dinner; it's even more suspicious behaviour than soup for lunch, in my book. Well I may have joined their ranks. This recipe comes from the same handy feature in Jamie magazine where I also got the recipe for courgette fritters.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Frittering Away

...hours in the kitchen, hours in the garden, hours online...there is no end to the frittering away of time in my household, also referred to variously as pottering, moseying and real life avoidance. For the purposes of this post, all frittering is confined to the pan, as the marrow with the mostest gets the fritter treatment. My travels on the path to courgette nirvana led me to back issues of Jamie magazine (the June 2010 issue, to be precise), where I found a two page feature focusing on the little green wonder - a very handy piece it is too, and I predict that it will become splashed and splattered to the point of illegibility as I messily make my way through the quick and simple recipes. This little beauty is the summer veggie version of a fishcake; a tasty little patty that uses up bits and bobs around the kitchen, something that can be tinkered with according to what's on offer and what you're in the mood for, and can be paired up with just about any sort of side dish that you can cobble together, whether you need to up your veggie quotient for the day with some colourful healthy bits, or you feel like being a bit of a boldie and tucking into a plate of big fat chips.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Get Fresh

Hello everyone, I am here to report from the trenches of smugness, where one grows one's own vegetables and beams with the good life-y-ness of it all, trilling "you can do it too, it's SOOOOOOO easy". Sorry about that. But honestly, courgettes really do pretty much just grow themselves. One minute you're shoving this seed into the middle of a bit of potting compost and then the next you're wondering how many courgette recipes actually exist in the world and if this will be in fact enough to absorb the supply of courgettes springing up in your very modestly-sized garden. Along with the zucca, another couple of my garden efforts that have turned out to be bountiful are mint (no surprise there, it's well known for making its presence felt in a garden) and rocket. There is a quote on the front of Sophie Grigson's The Vegetable Bible that says it's "Perfect for veg box users". I would also contend that it's quite the bible for veggie growers as well. If your recipe repertoire is feeling a little jaded, then you can just look up recipes by the veggie to add interest to your haul of crops. What I really loved about this Moroccan-style courgette salad was that it epitomised a few of the reasons why I love having to go no further than your own back garden for some fresh vegetables. Firstly, I obviously tried a new recipe, and I like to pull myself out of my fairly unexciting cycle of old reliables. Secondly, people don't really grow their own vegetables because it's cheaper than buying them in the supermarket. Seeds are not cheap, and it is considerably less expensive and time-consuming to go and buy them in the supermarket (courgettes are currently going for €1 in my local Superquinn). But where I find the saving to be made is when you find yourself with a core ingredient or two from the veggie patch, you rummage around in the cupboards for something to bulk it/them up, make it all more interesting with some spices and there you have cut out a trip to the supermarket that may have started out just with the intention of buying that €1 courgette but ended up with minor change from a €20 note after a few more things caught your eye. Finally, it's also a good chance to combine a simple vegetable with bits and pieces in the bottoms of packets that may have otherwise ended up in the bin, and it's always desirable to avoid food waste. Smug? Me? Well...

Friday, July 15, 2011

Flavour On The Go

I often get in quite late of an evening, and so walk a skinny little tightrope between wanting to eat as soon as possible, but also wanting to eat something tasty. My default speedy meal is mushrooms on toast with an egg on top, and then there's good old stir fry prawns, but both dishes have exhausted their charms at this stage. I'm always on the lookout for something I can cook up in a jiffy, something that packs a flavoursome punch and doesn't leave me feeling as though I'm doomed to evenings full of bland dinners as an unfair punishment for my annoying schedule. So the description of this black pepper tofu dish in the Ottolenghi cookbook Plenty as something that is comparable to a dish from a top Chinese restaurant reeled me in immediately. There is a fair whack of oil and butter going on here, but I think that this is balanced out somewhat by the lack of meat. The black pepper, in such a quantity, was a revelation; I was quite dubious as to its potential as a spice, but it hit it off with the red chillies to add quite a distinctive fiery flavour. And yes, I would most certainly be very happy to part with cash for this at a good Chinese restaurant, but I am delighted to not have to.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Gardener's Delight

What grow-your-own-ers don't always confess is that sometimes you are left with a glut of fruit and veggies that you actually just can't eat. I find this to be particularly true in the case of courgettes, which spring up in an almost cartoonish manner; you can practically hear animated popping sounds out in the garden as you pull back leaves to uncover yet another perfect little green specimen. The trick is to pick them while they're still small and sweet; rest on your laurels and the fruits of your labour will burst out of control and transform into increasingly grotesque oversized marrows. It's a sight that fills me with dismay, because the larger they become the more watery and less flavoursome they are, and I always feel so very wasteful turfing the product of a good six months of planting and growing and watering into the compost bin. What impedes my diligence is generally a lack of recipes and imagination that does not tally with this surfeit of zucca. This year I have vowed not to let any of my carefully-grown produce fall foul of such laziness and end up rotting among the eggshells and the juiced-out lemons. I have been rooting out recipes to beat the band, so you can expect to be bombarded with courgetteful postings on this blog over the next couple of months. But to start out with, I celebrated the first courgettes of the season using a recipe that I discovered and perfected during the summer months last year, one that used not one but two of my homegrown veggies: Antonio Carluccios's pasta with courgette sauce and spinach balls (from Simple Cooking), an old favourite in the Carluccio restaurant chain that appears as penne giardiniera on the menu. 

Friday, July 8, 2011

Infinite Eating

Nothing says Sunday to me quite like sitting around eating and talking and eating and drinking coffee and eating. The argument could quite easily be made that this is a fair approximation of my life as it currently stands seven days a week, but I will dignifiededly (it's Friday, I'm allowed to make up new words, ok) ignore such jibes and soldier on with my all-inclusive greed. Brunch means second and third helpings of sweet and savoury courses, as well as sides. And somehow, I mysteriously still always manage to always be ready for dinner only a couple of hours later. Anyhow, the crucial thing with Sunday brunch, for me, is that it is low maintenance and fuss-free, in keeping with the chilled-outness of the day that's in it. Another reason I was drawn to Gwyneth Paltrow's new cookbook (*threatening look in the direction of dissenters*) was the chapter on breakfast, which doesn't always get the attention it deserves as a meal in cookbooks. And, joy of joys, Signe Johansen's Scandilicious, another book from my birthday voucher binge on Amazon, has chapters on both breakfast and brunch. I don't look for a Blumenthal-esque tastebud-busting culinary statement in my brunch dishes, just something flavoursome and satisfying and a teeny tiny bit different to my usual efforts and offerings. So, while I'm ordinarily not wild about smoothies (I'm inclined to find them high on sugar and fat and low on anything that I ever feel I need more of in my diet), Signe's recipes are really enticing because they each have a little bit of a twist - the raspberry, vanilla and ginger smoothie caught my attention because I wanted to try out the spicy heat of the ginger with the fruity dairyness of the rest of it. To follow, Gwyneth's slow-roasted tomato, basil and mozzarella frittata and then her french toast, made with brioche. And, not only was this a low-stress operation, but when I did the grocery shopping it all came in under €20, which, for that amount of food for three people, is considerably less than what you would pay if you were eating out.

Friday, June 17, 2011

In Defence Of Gwyneth

Gwyneth Paltrow is one of those actresses that I kind of grew up with - you know what I mean? She was a real, proper glamorous star before all of that celebutard lunacy kicked in and Lindsay Lohan et al made the gossip mags week after week with their dramas and meltdowns. I always though that she was really elegant and understated - even though she was in madly 'sleb-ful relationships with Ben Affleck and Brad Pitt, it never got undignified. She does a mean English accent (Sliding Doors is a SUCH a great comfort watch), I thought that she made a great joy of portraying Sylvia Plath and, more recently, it was really entertaining to see her more fun side in Glee. Sure, she has a fair few turkeys on her CV, but don't most actors? People seem to see her as a smug celebrity who is quite irritating with her lifestyle website thingy and her kids' trendy names and that whole macrobiotic diet business, but I think that the Gwyneth-bashing is pretty snide and to some extent also quite mysoginistic. It's so easy to slag her off, and when it comes to her new cookbook, Notes From My Kitchen Table,  I find that really irritating. The main criticism of the book that I have been able to discern is that she is just too annoyingly perfect. This comes through so much more than any reference to the actual recipes in the book, and then there is a video on youtube where someone reads extracts from the book in a hammed-up poetry reading-style to highlight the pretentiousness of it. Yeah, yeah, ha ha ha, etc etc - but there are so so many cookbooks/food writers that you could do that with. And, having seen her on the Graham Norton show last month, I reckon that she probably laughs all of that stuff off. Check it out - here she actually does a mean version of Gangsta Gangsta, with the help of one of my favourite comedians, Jason Byrne. If you still think she's prissy and po-faced after that then there's no pleasing you. Anyhow - to the book: I love it! It was part of a cookbook-binge that I indulged in when I got a birthday voucher. It's simple, straightforward, unfussy cooking; very American, very family-oriented, full of healthy recipes while still not being preachy-preachy. There's a whole chapter on burgers and sandwiches that I'm particularly excited about tucking into.  I have it covered in sticky tabs and there's a ton of things that I want to try out - I started with grilled salmon teriyaki and polenta with fresh corn.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Gift Of Loveliness

By which I mean a gift that is lovely and also a gift from someone who is lovely. When the human ray of sunshine that is Nathalie Marquez Courtney said that she had bought me a cookbook that she was going to pop in the post for me, well, I couldn't have possibly guessed that it was going to be such a surprise and delight. What did she get me only the energetic and inspiring Ms Marmite Lover's new book, Supper Club! There is nothing quite like a parcel at the door that you haven't paid for and you hadn't quite anticipated. And the lovely thought that went into it, a very sweet note with it too. See, I have a million, billion cookbooks and I can never justify buying another, so when I get one as a present it is cause for much celebration, not to mention a few sessions with a load of sticky tabs and a shopping list. Essentially this book is a guide to running your own underground supper club, but even if you don't have inclinations in that direction there is still plenty to get you cooking, be it for dinner á deux, a bit of a get-together, or a simple solo effort. There are even some truly glorious themed menus, including a diabetes and/or cardiac arrest inducing Elvis menu. It's charming and personable and utterly usable - if you're like me and you need to justify each and every cookbook that you add to your collection then you'll find plenty of reasons to put this one on the shelf alongside the rest of them.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Competitive Snacking

There is a heartiness goes along with outdoorsyness that I feel demands rewarding snacks of a wholesome nature. Admittedly, this opinion is derived largely from competitiveness with and jealousy towards the slightly-more-senior-than-us types who brave the cold of the 40ft for a brisk morning dip, followed by a major tea-drinking session. See, I've been going out there with my partner in outdoorsy crime Raedi* to get some decent open water swim practice in before my next triathlon (which is in - how did that happen - three weeks - GULP), and, in typically greedy and juvenile fashion, I've been wistfully eyeing up the treats that the oldies bring along. And while their flesh-baringness seems far more worthy of reward than our comparatively wussy wetsuitedness, our hearty half-hour swims surely merit celebrating through the medium of food. Such seemingly nutty behaviour is deserving of some nutty snacks.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Good Habits We Picked Up During The Whole Celtic Tiger Thing

Brunch - that was a bit of a Celtic Tiger era-adopted habit, wasn't it? Admittedly I was a bit too young and without income to be 'doing' brunch prior to that time, but I don't recall it being around pre-the late nineties/early noughties. Well, either we learned it from watching Friends or having fake credit card money stuff, but it has persisted long beyond the departure of those two particular phenomena. It's attractive on so many levels: it's technically two meals combined, therefore you get to eat more; the time is nice and flexible (like, any time really from 11am to 2.30pm) and there's a wide enough window there to schedule it comfortably around other activities without feeling rushed; it's spread over a long period of time, therefore you get to eat more; it's very sociable and relaxed, generally less expensive and fussy whether you're eating out or at home; there are both sweet and savoury options on offer, therefore you get to eat more. So, really my own personal love for brunch stems mainly from the fact that it's pretty much an excuse to eat twice as much as is usually socially acceptable, and even though it's supposed to be when you have both your brunch and lunch at the same time I generally manage to squeeze in a lil early brekkie and late lunch around the main event. Can't be going to hungry, now, it impedes the enjoyment of food, it's very important to remain topped up. When entertaining at home, I find brunch to be a far more chilled out endeavour than dinner. And even though going out for brunch is considerably less expensive than going out for dinner, I do find that my tendency to guzzle coffee gets a little bit pricey after cup number three. Not to mention the fact that I like to incorporate both a savoury and sweet element to proceedings, and I don't always find that menus quite accommodate that. So when the sun is out and a long, lazy bank holiday weekend is there to be enjoyed and exploited and just generally made the most of, what better way to catch up with pals than hang out and stuff face in the back garden for very chatty hours on end. 

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Happy Birthday To Me

Things have been quiet round these parts of late, unlike in my actual real life, which has been pretty jam-packed - hence my absence. My efforts have mainly been concentrated on throwing a party to celebrate my thirtieth birthday and cleaning up afterwards. I'm not the only one who has aged this past week; my floorboards look like they fairly lived, quite a deal of food has passed through the door of my fridge and many glasses have met their fate in smithereens that I'm still finding in the oddest places. Rather than simply throw the front door open and invite my guests to come in and get drunk to mark my waving goodbye twenties and hello thirties, I figured I would make the festivities as food-filled as time would allow. Were I a more calm and organised hostess, this post would be peppered with pics of the lovely spring rolls that I made (for the first time - highly recommended - I'll be making them again), the crunchy, spicy Thai aubergine salad and the sticky honey & soy sauce marinated saussies, but there was no time or space for camera-wielding during my slightly frantic preparations. So, instead, the only documentation that remains of me eating my way merrily into my fourth decade (apart from an alarmingly rapid increase in the size of my thighs) is this lonely little slice of baked chocolate Oreo cheesecake. I had hit on the idea, you see, of making a cake for each decade; the chocolate ice-cream pie was an easy-peasy crowd-pleasy no-brainer; for those not so wild about chocolate, I decided to go for a lovely moist carrot cake - nice with tea or coffee for anyone who was deciding against alcohol; and since I'm quite a fan of a nice baked cheesecake I thought I would give this baked Oreo one another try, as I had already given it a go back in March and wasn't over the moon with the results. And so, while the sample slice in the above photo may seem rather jaded and forlorn, it is in fact a very triumphant little piece of cake that battled through the festivities of the night before to survive and become my breakfast the following morning. As for the rest of my culinary efforts, I feel that it is only fair I throw another party in the near future to share those tasty, picky little triumphs with you. Watch this space.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Oh I Do Like To Eat Beside The Me-Side

By which I mean: staying in is the new going out again. And also: I heart the 'burbs. Another one: I am so lazy/poor that I prefer to have pals over to my house so that we (actually, lets be honest, I) can eat as many portions as hunger/greed demands and refill endless pots of coffee and tea without having to fork out for the very unhardcore (but not without its own perils) substance addiction that is caffeine. Sitting chatting and eating for as long as time and responsibility allow is one of my favourite things to do. This is an activity that takes place primarily at weekends, and many of my weekend eating hours have been spent in pursuit of the perfect croque monsieur. C'est parfait comme brunch food: bread - check; cheese - check; eggs - check; meat - check. No invasion from healthy, green foodstuffs here, just carby, dairy, processed meatsy indulgence. It can be pretty hard to get an aw-fen'ick croque monsieur round these parts. I do love the cheese and ham toastie that they call a CM in Fallon and Byrne, but it just lacks the essentials (incidentally, those who think that a CM is 'just a toasted cheese and ham sandwich' need a good KICK). The beaut of a CM in Chez Max is certainly the real deal, but the €7.90 pricetag is only the start of it - add the price of at least two coffees and then a tip to that and you're talking the guts of €20 - OUCH! Non, merci. So when I saw that Nigella, ever the friend of the greedy lady, had come up with this beauteous wonder of a croque monsieur bake I was more than a little excited. It's low maintenance, squidgy weekend perfection. It'll even do for those times when you want the best of both worlds: a bit of a mad one on a Saturday night, without missing out on crucial home entertaining catch-ups over Sunday brunch. Get your shizzle together before you head out on Saturday night and it'll be sitting there ready to crack into the oven on Sunday morning, filling the house with smells that will warm you right to the core.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

More Cake? Don't Mind If I Do

Hmmmm, yes I have indeed been up to my tonsils of late - yet somehow I have managed to fit a large amount of cake into my life. Curious. Or not so much - I mean, everyone thinks that baking is really hard but to be honest once you stick to what you're told then you're not going to go too wide of the mark. And time-wise I personally think that you get more return on your investment than when you cook a regular meal - like, it'll be there for the guts of a week, whereas a savoury, main coursey type meal things, well, they kind of disappear in a jiffy to be honest - in my presence, at any rate. When I was tweeting/FBing excitedly about my new Ottolenghi cookbook, my friend Gemma commented that I really must make the apple and olive oil cake with maple icing. Given that decisions are not always my forte when faced with an array of attractive options, I considered this one made. 

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Jam Session

When I was, I think, about seven or eight a nurse came to school to instill some nutritional wisdom in us small mid-eighties Irish kideens. What I took away from her visit was that jam and tea are bad for you, so I diligently trotted home and told my parents that I would be having neither from thereonin, thank you very much. To this day I am mystified as to the allure of tea, not to mention the assumption that every living person drinks it, and sure what else would you have with your fry up/when you visit someone's house/when your head is done in. People just plonk it down on the table in front of you, and I think that it's only recently that my own family have stopped asking me if they'll put my name in the pot. Jam, however, I have become very happily reacquainted with, particularly since my exercise habits have really ratcheted up my sugar cravings. Since I began making my own bread I take particular pride and pleasure in having a slab of hot toast covered in lumps of rough-n-ready homemade jam or marmalade along with a big pot of coffee of a morning. I have hazy memories of my mam making jam (oooo, sounds like a Dr Seuss book!) when we were small. We had lots of fruit growing in our garden, and as far as I can remember gooseberries and blackcurrants were the most frequent visitors to the ginormous jam saucepan that wasn't used for anything else and went into hiding in the back kitchen when it wasn't jam season. I have similarly hazy memories of a particular type of jam sugar that was a key part of proceedings, but for the life of me I can't remember the name of the brand; it came in a blue tin and the name was written in curly, swirly writing, and I think that it began with a G...anyone want to help me out on this?! Argh, not only is it only going to drive me bananas, now I want one of those old tins to plant herbs in. Why don't I distract myself by telling you about my grapefruit, orange and lemon marmalade.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Cheer-Me-Up-Quick Cake

I reckon it's fair to say that I'm not the only person in the country who has needed a fair bit of cheering up of late. Cake is quite the cheerer-upper, I find, a comforting friend that doesn't disappoint. And what could provide more perk-me-up solace than a cake made from some beamingly orange vegetables? Carrot cake is a fresh, moist joy of a cake; I know that 'moist' isn't a very appetising word, but it perfectly describes that 'just so' texture between my-fan-oven-isn't-so-amazing-after-all and dammit-why-did-I-spend-so-long-in-the-shower. There's the nuts chunking out through the fluff, and somehow carrots taste like a natural treaty dessert ingredient, not at all like that gag-inducing Kelkin juice stuff that I went through a (frankly, pointless) phase of forcing into myself. Then there is the lovely chilled slab of icing on top; lets face it, the majority of the joy derived from a cake is via the icing, and I think that this applies to carrot cake more so than any other kind. This recipe came from my not-so-new-anymore Ottolenghi cookbook (as recommended by the lovely Lilly Higgins), which I haven't had much time to pore over and experiment with, unfortunately - but as things are slowly becoming less hectic I'm hoping to have some more quality time with this delight of a book in the near future. In the meantime, I honed in on this classic beauty to brighten up my little world. 

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Still Alive, Still Stuffing My Face

Oh my, I have been quite the absentee blogger lately, haven't I? Only about a month ago I would have felt deprived if I didn't get the chance to blog every day, now I try to pinpoint one single day in the week that I might actually have the time and energy to devote to a blog post. Things are thoroughly hectic with me at the mo, I am up to my tonsils, and some of favourite things have fallen by the wayside - blogging, clearly, being one of them. Stuffing my face, however, has managed to sustain and retain my devotion, only my meals are considerably speedier, and, being conscious of the scope for making excuses and veering off into wildly unhealthy eating habits, I am constantly jamming in the veggies. Lunch is one that I like to have some vague semblance of a plan for, plonked in there, as it is, in the middle of the day, where the potential for the lack of a plan also means potential for tasteless, unhealthy, unsatisfying muck - and there is nothing quite like a crap meal to make me narky. The veggie-centric book by The Other Sophie In My Life is super handy on the 'my body needs LEAVES' or 'I need to feed myself with bright things like carrots and tomatoes' front. Pick a veggie, any veggie, find yourself a recipe in that section of the book, and get cracking safe in the knowledge that you won't be wrestling with with over-carbed & -dairyed & -animal proteined guilt at the end of the day. 

Friday, March 25, 2011

Nasai Noms

Sorry my beauties, for my lack of dedication to blogging over the past while; life has become hectic and some of my favourite things have gone by the wayside: reading, exercise, and blogging. I did, however, manage to cook some seriously tasty grub. I am a huge fan of nasai goreng, but always assumed that since it is so delicious it must be really difficult to make. Also I suspect my subconscious mind must have been ticking away telling me that I shouldn't learn to make it or else I will never be able to justify getting it as a take away or eating out again. And how true that is, because now I know what a cinch it is I couldn't possibly justify eating it any way other than home made. It's total comfort food treat-y-ness and one to crack out when you need to give yourself a little foodhug.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Fishy Friday

I bought some saffron recently, I was...amused by the price. Though, on Google-aided inspection, it may actually be worth more than its weight in gold. Some of these lofty claims flying around the internet are so ridiculous that they pretty much could lead you to believe that it is in fact a wonderdrug, if one were sufficiently gullible: fends off cancer and depression, enhances memory, combats insomnia - you get the picture, a true superhero. In the absence, however, of any actual scientific proof that it delivers such uber-duber-amazingness, I'll settle for the flavour. On this occasion, it loaned its tasty colourful beauty to a posh-sounding salmon and asparagus lasagne. See, there's a new Sophie in my life, courtesy of those cursed bargain bookshops that reel me in during moments of weakness. This is Sophie Grigson, and the book is The Vegetable Bible, an exhaustive compendium of veggies, just what the doctor ordered for my not-infrequent bouts of veggie-angst (lately, somehow, replaced by red meat-angst. Seriously, sometimes it is really hard being me). It breaks them down according to family - roots, fruits, etc - and then each veggie gets a wonderful biography, followed by some recipes. As soon as I spotted the salmon and asparagus lasagne I knew it had to get itself made and into my stomach sooner rather than later.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Porridge Topping Du Semaine

The wearing of the green was a bit of a week-long thing for me, as I got a lil bit festive with my brekkie and, not content with eating my morning oats from a green bowl, I got in another of the 40 shades with a good glug of apple juice. I've been reading about soaking oats in juice here and there, and the only reason I've avoided doing it up until now is that I have an aversion to fruit juices; stick to the real thing, I feel, as it is sugary enough as it is and shouldn't really comprise the greater part of your five-a-day - unless you're after the face-full-of-brown-teeth look. Things like juice tend to spend a bit of time hanging out in my fridge, hogging space while more popular ingredients come and go as they jostle for space and get used up very quickly. I was looking for something to complement some lovely fat sultanas, though, and this was just the job. A little calcium-anxiety kicked in, when I realised that milk would not feature in the basic equation, and so a blob of very indulgent yogurt on top made a more balanced start to the day.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Begosh, Begorrah And A Big Beef Stew

Our national holiday was put in perspective in a whole new way for me by my big bro in NY, who mailed me with a bit of a rant about the horrors of being an Irish person in the US on March 17th. The drunk Irish jokes and fake accents put on by news anchors have worn rather thin for him at this stage, to the point where he finds it all offensive and racist. I was in NY for St Patrick's day a couple of years ago, and the drinking that was being done in the name of Irishness was, indeed, cringeworthy. In fact, the drunkenness that I witnessed in the city at 11am was above and beyond any homegrown disgracefulness that I've witnessed over the years. As someone who prefers to celebrate through the medium of food, I was thrilled skinny when Fi told me that the thing her two Japanese visitors were looking forward to on their visit to Ireland was...Irish stew! Now, while I object to countrywide Shaun Of The Dead-esque drunken displays, I do have to say that we produce alcohol that is worthy of celebration, which is why I thought that a beef and Guinness stew was the perfect way to show a little national pride. Since I'm up to my eyes at the moment, it was also rather convenient that it's a really low-maintenance dish, taken from the ultra-useable Café Leon cookbook, the source of some of my favourite hotpot-style dishes.

Monday, March 14, 2011

It Sounds Like Catfood But It Tastes Like Amazing

Clearly I'm being a bit of a lapse-daisical Catholic with my Fishy Friday post on a Monday, but allow me to very quickly distract you: TUNA MEATBALLS. Ok - what's your reaction? It sounds like a variety of Whiskas, doesn't it? But here's the thing: they are delicious, refreshing, comforting, easy to make...what more could one want from a dinner, eh? I am inclined to think that they might be a good way to get some omegas into fish-haters, being, as they are, deceptively chunky and tomatoey and herby. Small children, in particular, could be duped into munching up their EFAs by leaving out the word 'tuna' that goes in there before the word 'meatballs', if a parent were so inclined - not that I'm saying you should lie to your children in order to get them to eat healthy things, mind. Anyhow, if you have to disclose to your butcher what you are using the tuna for when you buy it, prepare to be laughed at - that's what happened to me, anyhow. I just love me some fresh tuna, lightly seared on the pan with a dose of sesame seeds is absolutely delish, but it's worth spending a little bit more time with your tuna to make these meatballs. It also makes your tuna go a little further, a bonus for the budget-conscious among us. Eating it all chunked up in meatballs gives a whole new perspective on the fish, in terms of both flavour and texture. This one is courtesy of Jamie's Italy, a loving celebration of the simplicity of Italian cooking - as ever, JO's enthusiasm really fires up the book, he clearly very genuinely fell for the country and its people. Though it's hard not to, it's one of my favourite places to visit, and the simplest food can taste just incredible there. The sunshine, of course, could be a factor there. Er, yeah, ok, there's usually a glass/bottle of something involved as well.

Friday, March 11, 2011


It's Friday, I have tons to do, I'll be slaving away for the weekend and, in fact, weeks to come. This means that my spending will be curtailed. I was a very good girl and went to the pool and spinning class this afternoon, ignoring all of the excuses that sprang up left, right and centre in the hours preceding my sportiness. Can you see what I'm doing here? Yes, you smarties! I am justifying something! Today it is the spending of money, some of which involved cake.

Porridge Topping Du Semaine

Passion fruit are probably up there with figs on the whole bad pun potential end of things. But I have more respect for you and, indeed, myself than to yak on about putting a bit of passion into your brekkie. I'll just give you a succinct rundown on the concoction that I put on my porridge this week. I was dubious as to the nutritional qualities of the fruit - look at them, sure what are they really other than a gathering of seeds in some brightly-coloured gloopy gunk? In fact, there is quite a lot of virtue packed within the walls of that smooth brown rind. Apparently, according to the tinternet anyhow, passion fruit are full of vitamins A and C, potassium and fibre. So judge ye not. They're not the cheapest - I bought four for €3 in Superquinn - but I guess it all depends on the serving size that you go for. It goes without saying that cracked into a serving of all four at once, but guessing that I'm in an extremely greedy minority I would suggest that half of that is sufficient to top an average-sized bowl of porridge.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

All Rise

Bread: it gets a bad rap. Like - everyone loves it. But it's the very first thing you'll be told to cut out  if you want to skinny up. Lets not even get started on that Dr Atkins and his hideous diet. And yeast is a bit of dirty word in the world of flat stomachs. Plus, it's hard not to load it up with lumps of butter and sweet, sugary jam. So, on a scale of Nigella Lawson to Gillian McKeith, it's not exactly mung bean soup. There was no white bread in my house when I was growing up, our parents would only buy brown, so I was extremely envious of all the kids with their white bread sandwiches, it always looked so springy and pillowy soft. Then I went to boarding school, and bread was one of the few edible offerings on the menu there. When I was in college I don't remember it being a prominent part of my diet to any great extent, maybe because it was just around when wraps were becoming popular. I do, however, remember a particular phase of not eating a whole lot at all and being dangerously obsessed with getting by on as little as possible. Thankfully I somehow eased out of that behaviour, and really and truly fell in love with food. Bread was never high up on my agenda until recently, when I got really stuck into exercise and my body started craving sugar more than it had before. I had to get out of my bold biccie-eating behaviour and plugged the gap with carbs instead. No better time to get making my own bread. And where was my first port of call for a recipe? Why the lady I love to rant about right before I use a load of recipes of course, Sophie Dahl!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Smile, Though Your Taco Is Breaking

You know the way some people have religious food apparitions, like they see Jesuses in their toast? Well, I see smiles in my tacos. Except it's not an apparition - they are totally there!!! Would you look at it, grinning away in all its cholesterol-raising enticingness, ready to shatter the second your teeth touch it. And that smell? That, my friends, is eau de Sunday night; it's a melty, cheesy, spicy scent, with top notes of squidgyness, middle notes of inelegant messiness and base notes of one-last-bold-meal-before-the-weekend-is-over. Tacos are really a way of making nachos into a legitimate meal. Nowt wrong with that, I say. It is, in fact, to be embraced. I do love a good tex-mex mash-up; it's all very DIY, dive right in, leave your table manners at the door-type food. I do, however, realise that Mexican cuisine has been hijacked by people like the folks at Old El Paso, and that my understanding of it is incredibly limited, which is why Thomasina Miers' Mexican Food Made Simple is on my increasingly lengthy cookbook wishlist. At least I have the decency to avoid packets of suspicious powdered substances that claim to spice things up authentically - the ingredients lists on those things give me the heebie jeebies. In fairness, since I was having Mr and Mrs Newlywed over for a Sunday night nosh-up, I could hardly go opening packets and sprinkling things with numbers in them on their food, now could I? Only the freshest would do.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Fishy Friday

The thing I don't get about the way that people, in general, don't eat enough fish, is that recipes for fish dishes are generally incredibly simple. Obviously there are many lovely easy peasy things to create in the kitchen, but I personally think that fish is one foodstuff in particular where minimal input on the ingredients and effort front yields disproportionately high levels of tastiness. For the most part I tend to pop a little something on top, bung it in the oven for about ten minutes and then tuck in. A creature of many well-entrenched habits, most of them fattening, I tend to revert, with coma-inducing frequency, to my old reliable tomatoes and olives swirled around in a bit of pesto topping. But this blog would end quite abruptly if I were to trundle along in my boring old ways without giving something new a go every now and then. On the trawl for something speedy and fishy that I could bung very quickly in the oven on a hungry Friday evening after catching a movie at the Dublin Film Festival, I reached for my Tom Doorley book, Grow And Cook, and instantly happened on the perfect fish and side-veggie recipes for my needs - and, to add to the virtue of it all, perfectly within season in the February chapter. 

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Beyond The Sea

On a constant quest for high levels of nutritiousness in my food (if only so I can justify stuffing my face with treats), I'll try anything once. I notice that lately I have been sharing my more unhealthy exploits, like choccie ice-cream pie (you may as well just tape it to your ass and be done with it), maple syrup-laced banana mush for porridge (a sort of fake tan for teeth, in that if you eat enough of it they'll turn a highly unnatural shade of brown), a greens-free zone of refined carbohydrates and animal protein (no, the two sticks of celery do not count, particularly since they turn orange on contact with the chorizo), and additive-laden mince-based comfort food (mama nature does not create foodstuffs in that shade of red). I feel as though I'm leading you all down a path of blocked arteries and bloated body parts, so I reckon an act of responsible blogging is in order - and who better to make virtue taste attractive and enticing than the veggie bods at Cornucopia. Flicking through the salads section of the Cornucopia cookbook, I was looking for something I hadn't tried before, and when I saw the word seaweed I pounced. Well, it was 'sea vegetable', but I was translating the words into buzzy super-healthy lingo in my head - so, 'Japanese-style rice' turned into 'tasty without fattyness', and 'marinated tofu' jumped out at me as 'lean yet substantial'. So, basically a flavoursome, filling and highly nutritious work of wonder, then. 

Monday, February 28, 2011

Porridge Topping Du Semaine

Bananas - such a versatile word; I'm going a bit bananas over here; yer man got bananas drunk last night; that child is pure bananas; your ring tone is driving me bananas. The fruit - nyeh, I wouldn't be wild about it. It seems something of a treat-substitute to me, since it's so sweet and soft and sugary. I never see why you should overburden yourself with healthy substitutes for things when the thing you're substituting it for isn't exactly crack cocaine. It can be a significant part of some yum desserts and makes seriously tasty bread, but the only reason I am ever compelled to grab a 'nana is post-exercise, if there is a significant time barrier between me and my next meal. My cousin Sheila has diabetes and when we were kids she was constantly having bananas forced upon her like there was a banana famine on the way (a banamine, if you will), resulting in a loathing of them. That has also reinforced my view of them as pure pointless sugar. They are frequently cited as a favourite porridge topping, however, and I'll take whatever I can get on the inspiration front in my weekly quest to put something new atop my stirabout.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Dinner For Dummies

Funny how the recipes I always gravitate towards in Jamie magazine are the ones that are either short and snappy or, em, for small children. Rather ironically (I hope that it's ironic in the actual proper dictionary definition sense, rather than in the Alanis Morrissette sense - that song was a hit during my formative years and did some lasting damage as I now get very confused by irony), for someone who goes on and on and on when writing about food on this blog, I am very much drawn to recipes that are simple, straightforward and summed up in a few lines. In the back of every issue of Jamie magazine he has a cute illustration-led recipe that is succinct and light on words. The current issue has a recipe for the Creole classic Jambalaya, a carby-meaty comfort dish that was perfect for restoring heat to my bones after a Sunday morning run up Trooperstown Hill in Wicklow. 

Friday, February 25, 2011

Fishy Friday

Yes, before you ask, I was still hungry after I ate this, I'm pretty sure I ate a load of bread or chocolate or something as soon as I had wolfed it down, but it really was delicious. And, to be fair to it, even if I had doubled up on quantities, chances are I would still be hungry afterwards and find excuses to insert more food into my gob. So, don't let that put you off - it's a thoroughly filling dish for a normal human being. It's also speedy and comforting, deliciously creamy and full of flavour. I know that it looks like a very simple plate of scrambled eggs but it is, in fact, oeufs brouillés au haddock *haughty sniff*. So, scrambled eggs with fish, then. See, I was having a think about nutrition and how I need to eat feed my body responsibly in order to ensure that it doesn't protest at my relatively high exercise levels by packing in altogether. When I was upping the ante with my running initially, the immense sugar cravings took me by surprise, and I did what any normal human being would do under the circumstances - I took to the biscuits with religious fervour (chocolate caramel digestives, mainly), followed by a Haribo chaser if I was feeling indulgent. After a while the novelty of behaving like a small child who finds itself without authority and decides to eat chocolate buttons at every meal wore off, and I started to feel the need for some grown-up behaviour (kind of like Kevin in Home Alone, if you will). I increased the amount of carbohydrates in my diet and laid off the biccies. A little. Now recently I have been training even more, particularly since I'm preparing for my first marathon, and figured that I should perhaps be eating more red meat than I have been. Who better to instruct in the eating of meat than the French? Off I trotted to the library to source a suitable cookbook that might instruct me in my mission.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Mincing My Words

Nowt like a bowl o mince when you fancy a lil somethin-somethin - know what I mean? Ask any small child what they want to eat for dinner, and once you've fended off the usual chance-their-arm attempts to get sweets, cake, biccies, chocolate and ice-cream out of you, chances are they'll request a mince-based creation. And why not - it's nice and manageable in terms of shape and texture, it usually comes with a yummy sauce on it that makes it nice and squidgy, and it can also make veggies taste un-objectionable to those who refuse to eat things that are not either brown or white in colour. In the main, mince will crop up as part of an Italian dish, generally with a strongly tomato-y vibe - spag bol, lasagne and meatballs being the most obvious examples, as well as that Irish mammy staple the shepard's pie, chilli, and the inexplicably trendy burger (I do love a good burger, but is it really such a revelation that one can *gasp* make them oneself? And they are *OHEMGEE* nice and cheap? Don't get me started on the epidemic of self-consciously 'funky' burger restaurants either. Though I will quickly add that I love Jo Burger. Ok, rant over.). I must say, the rash of 'lets all get down with mince as a cheap n cheerful foodstuff' recipes that appeared when the recession was in its early days grew tiresome rather quickly, and I was at a loss, myself, to come up with a new way of making it interesting, so in my own bid to lower my grocery bills I chose to go down the route of eating more veggie-based food. Then along came Nigella's Kitchen to rock my greedy, face-stuffing little world and introduce me to a fabulous substance of radioactively unnatural bright colour called Gochugang in her Korean Keema recipe. Apparently this is originally an Indian dish, and the word keema simply means minced meat, but Nigella adapts it here to make her own speedy creation with this SUPER Korean hot pepper paste. Any excuse, frankly, to wander through the aisles of the incomprehensibly marked packaging in the Asian supermarket. I'm not the brightest spark when it comes to figuring out what's what in those places, so it took me a while, but eventually I managed to get my mitts on this tub of wonderousness. Right in time to make a spicy Sunday night bowl of pure comfort. 

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Porridge Topping Du Semaine

I would say that the only thing that I don't like about figs is when people write about them and feel compelled to crack horrendously lame 'jokes' about not giving a fig. There'll be none of that here; no, when I tell you all about the grilled figs that I've been putting on my porridge this week I'll be too busy oo-ing over 1) the taste, 2) the smell and 3) the price to resort to such over-trodden paths of pun-ness. 

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Choc It Up, Choc It In, Let Me Begin

A rather frequent culinary dilemma that I face is the shop-dessert-or-homemade-dessert dinner guest offering. My preference would, of course, lie in the direction of homemade, but time doesn't always comply. Of course, people always appreciate whatever you bring, I find (though, in general, I like to think that I have particularly nice friends). Also, when you're the hostess it's always nice when someone texts to let you know that you have one less course to think about, whether that was slaved over at home or grabbed from a shop on the way. But I think that if your host or hostess is going to the trouble of cooking dinner, then it's nice to reciprocate with a homemade offering of your own. The lovely Fiona, she of much neighbourousness, had invited me over for dinner last Thursday evening, and, in between getting home from work and completing some essential household tasks, I figured there was just enough time to conjure up a sweet concoction for dessert. This was a job for Ravinder, and wowsers did she come up trumps with her chocolate ice-cream pie.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Fishy Friday

Holy smoked mackerel, it's my weekly rose-tinted-edible-side-of-Catholicism slot! Except this beetroot, potato and smoked mackerel salad is WAY fancier than the fish fingers of my youth, and yet deceptively simple. This nutrition-packed gem is from the latest Jamie Oliver magazine. I love the Jamie mag, it's chock-full of recipes, as well as some lovely articles and travel features. It's also groaning under the weight of his own cooking utensils, tableware, etc - but it's so very lovely, and, indeed, Jamie himself is so very lovely, that I can't find it in me to mind. In fact, I almost want to be one of his Jamie At Home sales ladies, like the greedy girl's answer to an Avon lady. Almost. But not quite.

Porridge Topping Du Semaine

Since I have set myself the challenge of coming up with a new porridge topping every week, I've been eating fruit that ordinarily I wouldn't be bothered with. I used to eat loads of fruit, and then I realised that it is so sugary as to not necessarily be that good for you. Vegetables should comprise the majority of your five-a-day, and while fruits are obviously extremely healthy and good for you, it's best not to overdose. Breakfast tends to be the only time in the day when I tuck into some fruit, apart from fueling up on bananas after a cycle or a run, so it's lovely to try fruit that I haven't had in a while, and come up with new ways of preparing it. These ways can very often be ones that I would ordinarily associate with making dessert or cooking savoury foods. Like roasting; when I was trying to figure out how to jazz up a punnet of plums, I hit on the notion of chopping them up and popping them into the oven with some cinnamon and butter for some heat and added sweetness.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Tofu Or Not Tofu, That Is The Question

In anticipation of an artery-busting choc-fest of a dessert that I will share with you soon, I thought that I should attempt to cancel out the calories contained therein with another salad recipe. That works, right? Like the way chocolate consumed on a Friday (because it's Friday) and cheese eaten on holidays (because you're on holidays) have no calories? Anyhow, there is no more surefire way to make you feel as though you deserve to engage in some hardcore calorie consumption than tucking into the Substance Of Virtue that is tofu. 

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Someone's Been At The Chickpeas Again

When does an ever-so-major love of a foodstuff become something that requires you to join a support group and stop hanging out with the pals that are fellow addicts? Is there some maximum amount that I am freely allowed to blab on this blog about the amount of chickpeas that I've eaten before one of you is allowed to have me involuntarily committed to some sort of detox programme? OR - my greatest fear, revealed: have any of you twigged that I am actually a lazy wench and, though it is indeed a superior piece of protein, my extensive use of the chickpea is actually down to its super speediness, handiness and cheapyness?! Don't bother your pretty little heads answering any of those nonsensical questions - just read on for a salad that will make your morning a lovely anticipatory lead-up to tastiness and your afternoon a savouring of the wonderful (and healthy!) flavours that you devoured on your lunchbreak.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Winging It

When Couple O Loveliness, Donncha and Karen, were over for tea and what remained of my orange polenta cake, Karen happened to be sitting right beside my heaving shelf of cookbooks. She couldn't resist having a bit of a nosey - she's a woman after my own heart, a shared love of food and cooking is probably one of the many reasons why we are friends - and noticed the pretty and slightly underused Apples For Jam By Tess Kiros. They both then started to pretty much salivate as they recalled a delicious food memory involving TK's recipe for chicken wings. I was cautioned that these beauties took quite some time to cook, but the rave reviews were such that I felt I needed to cook them as a priority, and figured that they would make perfect Sunday Night Food. You know, a bit of a comfort eat-in to round off the weekend, making the most of Sunday night, fending off that Monday-is-looming feeling and treating yourself one last time before a week of smart and sensible meals. After my first foray into mountain running the next day, there could be no more fitting reward.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

If Sunshine Were A Cake

I live a mere hop, skip and jump away from the Museum Of Modern Art (IMMA), yet when it came to catching the Moderns exhibition that was there since November, I managed to put it on the longest of long fingers ever, until last weekend. Just in the nick of time, as it closes on Feb 13th - so very like me to achieve something right up against a deadline, of sorts. And to be honest, I would have probably been chasing in to see it half an hour before closing time on the 13th were it not for a pal date with Donncha and Karen, a very lovely couple who are a friend from college and now architect in London, and my PhDing (something economicsy) squash buddy and French movie-going partner, respectively. A big bonus of going with these two is that Donncha has a degree in art history and peppered our tour around the exhibition with interesting stories and arty factoids. It's a fair old while since they saw my lil house, and so it was the perfect opportunity to show them the finished product. It was also an excellent excuse (as if one were needed) to whip up a tasty cake.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Fishy Friday

Apparently my Irish Catholic upbringing has impacted on me than I had realised up to this point. More specifically, the habit of eating fish on a Friday is an old one that has died hard. So much so that I barely noticed until I started this blog. This, admittedly, could be more to do with the fact that I made a new years ressie to eat more fish, and somehow, in spite of myself, I have actually managed to stick to this. My fish eating appears to be a recurring Friday compulsion. Perhaps this is because I have found myself to be in an unmerciful grump this past few Fridays, and my subconscious mind steers me in the direction of gobbling up positive omega vibes. Last Friday I had the hump for some utterly unknown reason, but since I was up early the next morning to go on a cycle I couldn't mollify myself with a nice big glass of wine, so I had to rely on food to perk things up. I was flicking through all the cookbooks on my shelves and couldn't find anything to quite hit the spot, when I remembered the Ina Garten book I had borrowed from the library and never got round to using. I have heard a great deal about this Barefoot Contessa lady, but I've yet to get in on the love. Her easy peasy baked fish really reached out to me in my grouchy feed-me-now state.