This year in Ireland, we seem to have gotten our autumn in November. Usually October here is full of blue skies and chilly days spent wrapped up in scarves while the leaves change colours in the trees. It’s lovely, and has always been my favourite time of year here.
2011, however, has had ideas of its own. October was a rather wet month while this November (with some exceptions) has generally been beautifully mild with a few of those chilly, sunny days scattered about.
(Can’t believe I’m talking about the weather. I think I have a point. Bear with me.)
I’ve decided this is actually a brilliant thing. Long has November been maligned as the worst bloody month of the year. After January, obvs. It’s that crappy month between the fun of October and the jolliness of Chrimbo, where you’re on a detox and aren’t spending any money. So having the weather on its side this year really has a lot to be said for it.
Today was a great day for crab meat. It was beautifully sunny outside but with a nip in the air. Enough of a nip to dust off my favourite bobbly hat and let it stretch its threads upon my crown, having spent a few months at the back of a drawer. After an afternoon walk in the autumn sun, I came home and whipped up a light supper of sweet crab on toast. Which turned out to be super fast and satisfyingly filling.
Don’t worry, I haven’t lured you in to this blog post under false pretenses. This recipe for Leek & Bacon Pasta Soup is, arguably, the easiest soup ever.
It takes very little preparation and about 15 minutes to cook. Even though it’s simple, it’s very comforting and perfect for cold evenings after a busy day. Or you can whip it up as a quick yet satisfying lunch, like I did earlier today.
An important part of this recipe is the chicken stock, so use the best quality that you can find, or even better, use your own home-made stock! I feel that shop-bought chicken stock is often too salty so I haven’t used very much in my recipe. Feel free to tweak that and add a bit more.
Potato-based cakes and I have a bit of a chequered history. No matter how much advice kindly bestowed upon me by The Daily Spud, my potato cakes never quite stick together.
So it was with some trepidation that I approached this recipe for a Potato Rosti Cake. I erred on the side of caution throughout the whole cooking process and, happily, it was a rosti-good success!
We had this as part of Sunday brunch, with a simple poached egg and some Scullery tomato relish on the side. It would be great with some herby fried wild mushrooms or with some smoked salmon and creamy cheese. Do you think it would work as a side for a lovely curry?
Regardless of whether you like to refer to it as chili or chilli, cupping your hands around a big bowl of spicy tomato-based bean-rich stew has got to one of the most comforting things to do. EVER.
I endeavour to spend a substantial amount of time perfecting my chilli recipe. I’ve made lots of good variations on the theme but I really want to bring it to another level as we head belly-first into 2012.
I saw this lovely looking vegetarian chilli recipe on Sprouted Kitchen which was served up in a baked sweet potato. Turns out sweet potato and chilli are a match made in kitchen heaven, and I think I’ll find it hard to eat chilli without popping a few sweet potatoes in the oven to enjoy alongside it.
Being a busy Tuesday and all, earlier today I went in search for a really simple way to use the beautiful kale I got in my Home Organics bag this week. I happened across this kale pesto recipe on the Delicious magazine website, and, my, am I glad I did.
I don’t know about you, but I am a friend of parsnips. If friendship means you like to eat things, that is. I know it’s not up there on the top of everyone’s Favourite Veg List, but I love the earthy flavour of it and how it sweetens up stews. It loves sausages and I often use it a sausage casserole like this, especially at this time of year when the parsnips are coming into their own, flavour-wise.
As I mentioned before, I’ve taken up horse-riding on Saturday afternoons. It’s motivation for me to get away from The Internet for awhile and do some exercise, but it’s also, like, the most fun thing ever. And it’s genuinely muscle-clenchingly hard work, too.
So I’ve been coming home the past few Saturdays after a morning’s trotting positively starved. As the days are getting a little nippier, it’s mainly soups that I’ve been craving, which is how I came to find Jamie Oliver’s Spicy Parsnip Soup recipe.
I’m under the impression that bacon and cabbage is not the most favoured combination for many an Irish person. I didn’t grow up on it, personally, but I think there are many folk who had unpleasant experiences with it as childers.
So when we see our stateside friends getting excited about bacon and cabbage around St Patrick’s Day, there can be reactions of “Bleurgh! Why would you ever want to eat that?”
But, guess what? Bacon and cabbage is totally yum. I found this recipe for Irish Coddled Pork with Cider and gave it a few tweaks to fit in with what I had in my fridge.
The recipe called for pork chops, which are really hard to get right. Even though I was really happy with this dinner, my chops were still on the dry side. I seared them on one side a hot pan on for 5 minutes, to give them a lovely brown colour. Then I steamed them on top of the vegetables for 20 minutes while this coddle-style stew when about its cooking business. They came out pretty tough, I won’t lie to you.
Does anybody know how to cook a perfect pork chop? Or is there a similar cut of pork that would work better in this dish? All suggestions on a postcard, please. Or in the comment box at the end of this post
My good friend and past flatmate Ben has always been a great sharer when it comes to recipes and foodie passion. After posting my minestrone recipe using the teeny tiny Ditalini Rigati, Ben emailed me a Jamie Oliver recipe for Pasta e Ceci, translated as Pasta with Chickpeas.
It turned out to be the most curiously scrumptious and thick soup. A chickpea-based dish which uses very simple ingredients, it somehow turns into a broth with intense depth. It also feels uproariously healthy to chow down on, yet comforting because of the pasta that acts as the other main ingredient.
It’s a real winner, and one to definitely add to your winter repertoire.
I’m feeling very into my old standard quick-fix suppers at the moment. It’s been a gloriously busy couple of weeks, in all the right ways. Throughout all the activity, I’ve been happy to have a few quick and easy suppers up my sleeve, ready to be pulled out when a hunger pang has hit.
Couscous is one of the more adaptable grains in the kitchen. It loves almost every roast vegetables, but most particularly the Mediterranean and of course North African veggies of its origin.
Some people complain of having trouble getting it to cook right and have found that the boiling water doesn’t get soaked up by the couscous, leaving you with a soggy bowl of floating semolina. I think the key here is making sure the stock you use to soak it is really, really hot as well as getting the balance between couscous and water right.
Another great method is Sarah from Home Organic’s method, where in she toasts the couscous in a dry pan and then add the hot water/stock straight into the pan. It adds such a luscious smokiness to the whole affair that it’s definitely worth giving a go.
This recipe uses the straight-forward soaking method, but if you’re looking for something more interesting, definitely try Sarah’s version. In fact, this whole recipe is amazing.
I’m sure I’m not alone in having survived my college years on a diet of pasta and pesto. The most essential items in my measly weekly shop in the early 2000s was a packet of value brand pasta and a jar of cheap and processed pesto. I sparingly added a dollop of pesto to my boiled pasta each night for my tea, and for a year or two, I was as happy as Larry.
Inevitably, however, I grew out of that dish. I also grew into cooking and my new found interest in food saw my horizons pass beyond pasta and pesto.
It was a few years until I returned to the loveliness that is pesto, and because I had a little more money at this stage, I was able to fork out for some really lovely stuff. I’ve also made my own and it’s THE easiest thing to make, as long as you have some lovely fresh basil.
In my years as a jarred pesto connoisseur, I also discovered that red pesto (which is tomato based) is often a lot more delicious than green pesto (usually basil based) as, naturally, the taste of the tomatoes can survive in a jarred environment. So, that’s how I discovered this super quick pasta supper. I add cherry tomatoes and a few pine nuts to add to the texture of the dish, but the key to it is using the best darned tomato-based pesto that you can get your hands on. Or, you could even use a recipe like this and make your own! Piece of cake.