Well, I’ll tell you. The previous Tuesday I’d taken part in an educational and enjoyable butchery course with the totally awesome Pat Whelan (@Pat_Whelan) and his master butcher Liam Bourke (@ButcherIrish) of James Whelan Butchers in Clonmel. It’s a course Pat is hoping to make a more regular event, in his Clonmel shop as well as his shop in Avoca Monkstown. We learned about the different cuts of pork and lamb, we talked about free-range and organic and local produce, about abattoirs and the skill of butchery. We were each given a chicken and shown how to joint it, then got a bit of hands on practice by jointing the chicken ourselves, very fun work and a great skill to have.
Then, a skinned rabbit appeared on the butcher’s block and was jointed by Liam. Pat highlighted its origins were Italy, where most of the rabbits you’ll see in Irish butchers are from. It seems there isn’t much of a rabbit farming industry here and although it is possible to buy wild Irish rabbits, they’re hard to come by. Pat asked if anyone wanted to take the rabbit home to cook and I hopped (again, sorry Thumper and, indeed, anyone with a sense of humour) at the chance.
Halloumi is definitely one of my favourite things to eat. It’s the most wonderfully meaty cheese that brings a guilty edge to any vitamin-packed salad.
On Wednesday afternoon, I took Niall for lunch in BiBi’s, one of our favourite spots in our new neighbourhood. I was a little nervous and my tummy was being a bit belly-floppy. For, you see, after lunch I was planning to somehow get Niall to the Iveagh Gardens where, in the tradition of Leap Year, I was going to propose to him.
Boy, was I grateful to see an energy-boosting couscous with pan-fried halloumi cheese on the menu in BiBi’s that day. The beautifully seasoned bowl of tasty goodness was brought to life by the addition of harissa to the couscous and a sumac-flavoured yoghurt keeping the heat of the spicy couscous under control. Niall enjoyed his smoked salmon tart too, blissfully unaware of what was about to happen.
I nonchalantly suggested a trip to the park, as it was an unseasonally sunny day. He fell for it. We grabbed one of BiBi’s ah-mazing (and I mean ah-mazing) peanut butter brownies and some take-away coffees and headed for the park. And that’s when I started acting weird. I found a quiet tree, got down on one knee and asked Niall to marry me. And…
Poor old Jerusalem artichokes are often avoided due to their *ahem* flatulent properties. These interestingly tubular vegetables, which are a cousin of the sunflower, are native to North America and are quite like a mushroomy potato. They’re often found in soups, but I prefer to roast them and use as a base for a banging pasta bake. And I’ve since learned from fellow blogger Stef that roasting them does alleviate their propensity to cause parpiness.
Upon seeing a bundle of the ‘chokes in last week’s Home Organics bag, I thought I’d quite like to try them as a topping for a puff-pastry tart. On Saturday afternoon, I rolled out my shop-bought pastry, gave the ‘chokes a bit of a roasting and created a savoury tart that went down very well at lunch time.
Everybody knows that tomatoes taste their best from mid-summer until early winter, when they’ve had a chance to do a bit of sunbathing. So why on earth did I make a tomato-based soup in the very early stages of Spring?
I had my Dad, Eugene, over for lunch last week and figured I could make some kind of soup with a few red peppers and cherry tomatoes that I had in the fridge. I threw the lot in a roasting dish with a few extra ingredients. An hour later, I had one of the yummiest soups I’ve ever made at home laid out in bowls for myself and Eugene.
However daft it was of me to make this soup outside of tomato season, it tasted so glorious that I simply can not wait to make it with really seasonally ripe tomtoms in late summer 2012.
Before Christmas, I had been tweetering about my lack of grace when it came to baking. I was on the look out for simple, fool-proof recipes that might help build up my confidence when it came to cakes.
Sinead Ryan (@sineadryan) came to my assistance by emailing me her tried and tested recipe for a Tunisian Almond and Orange cake. She had made it for many a dinner guest and promised that it always turned out delectable.
I have since made this cake about seven times, and each time it has turned out without a snag and barely a pearl of sweat sweeping my brow. It’s a very straight-forward and simple cake, with a devastatingly sweet yet easy-to-make citrus syrup to drizzle over the top. It genuinely tastes better the day after baking which makes it extra brilliant if you’re cooking for a crowd and want to get the dessert well out of the way!
Cheesy Sentimental Scones – not just for Valentine’s Day.
I’m the kind of tiresome dunderhead that decries the notion of Valentine’s Day as being a commercially-charged farce, yet, if poor old Niall didn’t get me anything on the day itself he’d be in serious trouble. Talk about mixed messages.
What I don’t like about Valentine’s Day is the idea that couples have to be reminded to do something nice for their special someone once a year. I wouldn’t like to be in a relationship that I never got any random treats out of (I live for treats, after all). I don’t like the way it can make single people feel either, which can range from rage to disgust.
I do, however, like recognising it as another day of the year to give your loved one(s) a little treat. It would feel weird to let it pass by without a little exchange of treats. I’m not quite sure if that makes me a hypocrite or a twit, or just a big softie underneath my tough exterior*.
I usually wake up earlier than Niall on Valentine’s Day so I can make some toast and slather it with honey and a sprinkling of cinnamon and cut it into heart shapes, then bring it up to him for breakfast in bed. He’ll get me some flowers - not roses – or nice chocolates – not Roses – and we’ll make each other horribly-drawn homemade cards.
This year, inspired by Instagram photos of homemade heart-shaped scones by Yvonne from Hey Pesto! I got up early this morning to sneak downstairs and start baking before Niall got up. The result of my pyjama-clad efforts were some Cheesy Sentimental Scones. Have a look at the recipe after the jump if you’re searching for a savoury treat for your loved ones today. Or even if you’re just into scones, rather than Valentine’s Day.
Perhaps it was the perfection of its fractal florets that stopped me from hacking away at one and throwing it in the oven. It just wouldn’t be right without having a suitably respectful recipe to treat it kindly with. But that was before my little love affair with roasting cauliflower and broccoli began.
For, you see, the Romanesco broccoli (also known as the Roman cauliflower) is sort of like broccoli and cauliflower’s cousin from outer space. It’s closer in taste and texture to the cauliflower, which means that it works beautifully in cheesy cauliflower style gratins or with pasta coated in Parmesan.
When I saw a Romanesco peeping out of my Home Organics bag this week, I took to the internet for more inspiration to make my inaugural cooking of this beautiful brassica extra special. This recipe for mackerel with cauliflower and caper salad caught my eye, which I thought would work well adapted to suit the Romanesco. I stuck with the mackerel but whizzed up a salsa verde to drizzle over the lot. The result was an almost devastatingly simple yet tasty supper.
Perhaps a more appropriate title for this post would be I Can’t Believe I’ve Never Made This At Home Before.
Ham. Egg. Chips. One of my most favourite indulgences ever. There is something deliciously childish about dipping your chips into the runny yolk of the egg. And then mixing those flavours with the sweetness of the ham.
It’s a dish that I’d sort of forgotten about over the years. I used to have it all the time for my staff dinner in The Walpole in London, when I worked there nearly 10 years ago. I had a wonderfully comforting plate of it for lunch at The Old Stand on Exchequer Street. And then a more flamboyant version at L Mulligan’s Grocer, which came sitting atop a grilled pineapple.
And then it struck me the other day. I’m an adult, capable of making my own decisions and choosing what I want to eat. Why have I never made this dish at home? What on earth was I waiting for?!
I’ve been raving about roasting broccoli and cauliflower for quite some time now. It has transformed my relationship with both of these (often uninviting) vegetables. Whereas once I might have approached a head of broccoli in my fridge in much the same way as the homework that I just couldn’t be arsed getting around to doing, I now get stuck into their florets with great ferocity and enthusiasm.
I whipped together this extremely quick and simple lunch of roasted broccoli, which made for an excellently comforting winter salad. I think a lot of us have great aspirations to detox a little bit at this time of year. But most of the time the cold weather has you reaching out for the carbs instead of the veg. This is the type of warm salad that is soothing to your soul without leaving you with the guilty aftertaste of a meaty pie.
When people ask me what are my favourite wines, my own answer is not totally dissimilar to Dan’s. I tend to say something along the lines of “Umm…red wine?”. Which is, upon reflection, a much crummier answer than Dutch wine.
So when I was invited by Host PR to review Knockranny House Hotel & Spa’sWine Weekend, it wasn’t just the allure of a complimentary stay in a beautiful hotel that had me packing my bags for Westport. The potential to educate my palate and to pick up some new wine adjectives – how many times can one describe a wine as “fruity” without feeling a fraud? – was too enticing to decline.