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.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Creating Heat

Hmmm, apparently me concentrating really really hard does not make it get any warmer. Whoulda thunk, eh?!! So, just in case anyone thought that the reason it's been chilly is because I've been slacking off, actually no, I've been getting up every morning thinking that surely it has to be warmer today - but to no avail. It appears that we have to sit this one out, and be patient until things heat up out there. There is, of course, the positive angle of all those lovely warm-making clothes that you get to wear in this weather. And how, oh how, could we forget the immense warmth to be derived from stew-y type concoctions, rich in flavour and only appropriate at this time of year? The only thing about such dishes is that they tend to require a big old spell in a pot while one whiles away the time at other activities until the occasion comes to eat, generally a period of at least a couple of hours. If the timespan involved is a source of frustration to you, as it certainly is to me, then listen up because I have a dish that delivers these rich qualities in about three quarters of an hour, and the texture is such that you won't feel hard done by if you can't be bothered with a carby side offering. It's lentil and chorizo stew, a dish that offers saintliness and sinliness in one time-pressed, winter-friendly package.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Porridge Topping Du Semaine

Pears can be quite the head wreckers, as fruit goes. They're one of those one-minute-it's-too-hard-the-next-minute-it's-half-rotten fruits. Life, quite frankly, is far too short for all of that messing around, so personally I'm more inclined to opt for the more predictable, reliable types, like apples and oranges. I found a whole new way to incorporate the pear into my life, however, as I was flicking through the Ballymaloe Cookery Course on the hunt for a marmalade recipe the other day. It turns out that Darina has a whole chapter devoted to breakfast! Swoon. Yes, the book is that huge that I have had it for over two years and never noticed the entire section on breakfast. Doh. Boy-oh-boy do I plan to make up for lost time with those lovely brekkie-filled pages. First stop: ginger pear compote, a sweet n spicy complement to the first meal of the day.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Peachy Keen (Wa)

So is it keen-wa or quinn-oh-ah? Somebody needs to write a new song about that, cause I've tried fitting it into the to-may-toe to-mah-toe one and it doesn't work. Either way, quinoa is pretty frickin healthy. It's totally  busting out with good stuff, actually; amino acids (no, I had no idea we needed those either, GREAT, another essential thing to try and fit in on top of all the vitamins), fibre, calcium, iron, get the picture. Apparently it's fairly trendy right now, though I'd say it's probably a bit bitter that it hasn't taken off the way the sundried tomato did in the nineties - I'd put that one down to the recession. Although you'd assume its nutritional qualities might give it a lofty sort of air, it is in fact a very low maintenance sort of grain in the almost-cooks-itself mold. Perfect for throwing together a salad on a Sunday night so that you can get your week off to a smugface-inducingly healthy week.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Skinny Chick

Now, this blog post could very easily be called Ravinder's Revenge. After all, I gave out stink about the state of her cookbook and proceeded to male about a bazillion recipes from it. This is yet another one. In spite of my snippyness towards Cook In Boots, it really is an extremely accessible book with tons of inviting recipes that have appealed to me again and again. This Hanoi poached chicken offered fulfillment on a number of levels; I had all of the ingredients, including some chicken that I had stashed away In Case Of Emergency in the freezer, it's not time consuming, it's low fat and it provides that all-important dose of spice. Very Sunday evening appropriate. I must hastily add that this is not to suggest that I had been on the tear for the weekend; on the contrary - I had done a 42k cycle and a 17 mile run and hadn't touched a drop of alcohol. But it's a crowd-pleaser of a dish, guaranteed to provide satisfaction for the pure-of-liver and the over-indulged alike.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Out Of The Way Of Temptation

The temptation to spend money, that is, money that I don't have and that doesn't exist. It was time for a catch up with Orlaith, but this was liable to take hours, and hours equal many cups of coffee, which equals many euros, if one is to drink that coffee in town. So, rather than have both of us face the potential hazard of accidentally wandering into shops and accidentally parting company with funds that should be employed elsewhere, I suggested brunch in my house. This was found to be a most agreeable arrangement, and a little menu planning ensued. I settled on onion and cumin hash browns with poached eggs, followed by lemon and raspberry muffins for dessert. What?! YES there was dessert, I don't care what meal of the day it's supposed to go with. I had dessert after breakfast this morning, in fact. Anyhow, this particular meal was to follow a long run that turned out to be 17 miles in the end, so it was responsible refuelling. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Post-Cycling Sustenance

I have gotten into a semi-organised state of creating a loose plan in relation to upcoming meals and shopping accordingly. It is with immense trepidation that I use the word 'plan'; it is not a favourite word of mine, I am a spontaneous sort, and I have a touch of commitment-phobia. I do, however, believe in the creation of loose plans - they give direction and structure, without tying one down to anything specific. In other words: organised chaos never killed anyone, but in fact provides something of a guide while still allowing flexibility. When I was doing my grocery shopping on Friday, I was thinking ahead to what kind of feeding I would need after heading out for a cycle on Saturday morning. I have just joined a new triathlon club, and I was going out on a Saturday morning cycle to Howth Summit that turned out to be a total of 42k in the end. Though I do not have the power of seeing into the future, I was able to hazard a guess that a steaming bowl of soup and some scones would warm me up nicely, and how very on-the-button I was. 

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Porridge Topping Du Semaine

They may not be the sexiest substance around, but prunes are packed full of nutrients and life-giving essentials that make them a particularly worthy foodstuff to put on your porridge. The prunius maximus is generally considered the preserve of the elderly, given, in particular, its bowel-shifting properties, but they are also full of vitamin A and antioxidants, among other superpowers. Good enough for me, then, particularly in my ongoing mission to consume responsibly after runs, swims and cycles. Bring it on - but in a tasty fashion, please. So, how to make some wizened prunes more appealing to the palette? I decided to soak mine in orange juice and tea. Yes, tea.