Eating lately (according to my phone)

So according to the gallery on my camera I have been stuffing my face with a surprising amount of veggie food. Not entirely by design, although, I have been trying to limit meat to once or twice a week.

 

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Pickles…all the pickles. These beauties are rainbow beets. The gift that keeps on giving.

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6 minute eggs, hummus and those beets, pickled onion & flatbread of course.

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Cauliflower tacos, fingerlicking, spicy, so good. Thug Kitchen: Eat like you give a F**k  – highly recommended

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More eggs. Scrambled with chorizo, smoked cheese, herbs, chilli and garlic.

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Cardamom falafel & the trimmings. Honey & Co. Food from the Middle East again highly recommended.

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An assault of tomato salads. Nothing says summer quite like a tomato salad. Unless it also has pomegranate seeds like this Ottolenghi one. Ottolenghi: Plenty More 

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These sweet potato & quinoa fritters. You will want to eat vegetarian food all day everyday after one of these. One of my most favourite dinners.

Also dabbling in the art of fermentation with water kefir and ginger beer which is bubbling away nicely. The water kefir was outrageously good. White peach for the win.

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Now I am starving.

Currently making 5 hour slow cooked chickpeas which on starvation reflection was a seriously bad idea.

 

 

In situ

This was to be a lovely post about a tart until I got home from work to find my dear neighbour had unceremoniously butchered the boundary hedge eliminating any privacy we had heretofore enjoyed.

Clearly that sentence was simply an excuse to use the word heretofore.

The world of home ownership is going swimmingly. Hedge wars and all. This goes hand in hand with having neighbours I presume. We are coming from a house where we were literally the only house in the townland. So slowly readjusting to neighbours, civilisation etc.

We do, despite appearances, have a functioning kitchen, not kitchen o’dreams but a kitchen nonetheless. Complete with a delightful gas oven that just about gets the job done. Going from celsius to gas mark is a joy. Yes there is sarcasm oozing out of this post. My computer and desk are right by a window that has a vista of the butchered hedge. Can you hear me gritting my teeth?

This chocolatey orange tart might just distract me from the view.

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Chocolate, Orange & Hazelnut Tart

1 quantity of sweet shortcrust pastry (use this recipe)

Filling

200g hazelnuts, roasted, skins removed and roughly chopped

75g dark chocolate, finely chopped

75g softened butter

150g caster sugar

2 eggs, beaten

1 tsp orange zest

25g plain flour

40ml freshly squeezed orange juice

9 inch tart ring

Preheat oven to 180 degrees/gas 4.

Roll out the pastry and line the tart tin. Lightly prick all over with a fork. Cover with greaseproof and and weigh down with baking beans or dried beans/rice. Bake blind for 15 to 20 minutes.

Remove the greaseproof and baking beans, brush the bottom of the pastry with a little of the beaten eggs and return to the oven for 2 minutes or just until the eggs has cooked and sealed the base of the pastry.

Cream the butter and the sugar. Add half of the beaten egg mixture. Fold in the flour, orange zest, chocolate, hazelnuts and orange juice. Add remaining egg mixture.

Pour the filling into the pastry case and bake for 20 to 25 minutes. The filling should be slightly soft in the centre. Leave to cool in the tine. Serve with softly whipped cream.

In absentia

M.I.A, A.W.O.L either would have been a succinct title for this post. I have been both lately. Thing is, we bought a house. I have also been otherwise engaged with some paid work which combined have left me wondering exactly what my kitchen looks like. Well, slight exaggeration, but things have been a tad frantic.

I have however, been endeavouring to keep pace with my monthly recipes in the West Cork People www.westcorkpeople.ie

Small consolation for those of you who have been checking in here to find well, tumbleweed. Sincerest apologies. You have temporarily lost me to the land of floor sanding and wallpaper scraping and the most unfun job in the world, painting!

The bad news is we are not entirely there yet. Right now I sit surrounded by boxes, hands slightly stained with last week’s Sunday Times but extensive collection of chinaware securely boxed away.

Don’t feel too bad for me though, I am a pro at this moving malarky. This will in fact be our 7th house in 9 years. Clearly we thrive on this life altering, stress inducing activity. Nothing like a room full of black bags containing god only knows what seeing as you never bothered to label them.

Along with all this house buying/moving stress, life is throwing up the usual obstacles but we are resolute in grinning and bearing it.

So on we go.

Fear not, I will return just as soon as I can borrow 10 minutes from all these distractions to post something food related.

Summer Rolls in Spring

 

DSC_0083Of all the places I have travelled (not that I am very well travelled) Vietnam has to be the most inspiring. A veritable food lovers paradise. It’s food culture changes as you venture north to south. A rich tapestry of culinary influences from the very French to the Thai, Czech, Chinese and Cambodian.

Banh Mi deliciousness; french baguette, pate, caramelised spicy pork, pickled daikon and the one thing that is found wherever you travel there, mountains of fresh leaves and herbs. Giant bowls of fragrant herbs that would make anything taste exquisite. Lime and pepper dip, a revelation. Coarsely ground black pepper and a wedge of lime to be squeezed over the pepper. Literally the simplest most flavoursome thing I have ever tasted. Served with freshly grilled whole red snapper. Thinking about it transports me right back to Hanoi.

We spent a month in Vietnam on our honeymoon travelling from the very north in Sapa near the Chinese border right down to the island of Phu Quoc which Cambodia may or may not claim to own! It is safe to say I left a little part of myself there. Before we travelled there I had a huge interest in asian cuisine but after spending a month eating everything put before me it cemented in me a greater passion for all things hot, sour, salty & sweet.

We ate giant crabs, kilos of tiger prawns, chillies to beat the band and the odd chicken foot. Bia Hoi in Hanoi and several passion fruit trees worth of rum cocktails in Hoi An. It is most definitely somewhere I will return to and has influenced my cooking more than anywhere else.

In reminiscing I decided to make some summer rolls in an effort to warm myself from the inside out and pretend if only for a short while that I am back there.

For the rolls you will need:

Rice paper wrappers

1 cucumber julienned 

1 carrot julienned

Ginger finely chopped

1 red chilli finely chopped

Coriander, Mint, Chives torn and mixed together

Cooked, peeled, deveined prawns sliced in half

Cooked  and cooled rice noodles

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Place rice paper wrapper on a plate and using a pastry brush and warm water, brush the rice paper all over on both sides.

Starting with the edge nearest to you place a mound of the herbs followed by cucumber, carrot, chilli, ginger & noodles on top. Arrange 4 halves of the prawn with pink side down next on the rice paper  2cm away from the noodles and herbs. Start rolling the paper up and when you get to the prawns tuck the edges in and continue rolling. You can tuck a few chives in halfway leaving some of the stalks sticking out one end of the roll after you have tucked the edges in.

 

For the spicy peanut dipping sauce you will need:

3 stalks of lemongrass bruised

1 tbsp light miso paste

2tbsp crunchy peanut butter

1 tsp of chilli flakes 

1 cup of water

1 tbsp hoisin sauce 

2 tbsp vegetable oil

1 tsp of sugar 

Heat vegetable oil in a frying pan and add the lemongrass and garlic. Fry for 1 minute. Add the rest of the ingredients and simmer for 4 minutes. Remove the lemongrass. leave to cool.

 

For the Ginger Chilli Dipping sauce you will need:

Juice of 1 lime

1 small red chilli finely sliced

1 tbsp of grated ginger

1 tbsp caster sugar

3 tbsp fish sauce 

2 cloves of garlic minced

Mix all of the ingredients together, stirring to ensure sugar has dissolved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

When life gives you limes….

 

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…make mojitos! Or you could make this Pistachio & Lime Yoghurt cake and save the rum for another occasion.

(As an aside the lime drizzle for this cake would make an excellent sugar syrup for your mojitos if you were that way inclined, and I sincerely hope you are that way inclined. It would mean we would surely be friends, rum buddies, if you will!)

This cake was inspired solely by giant mexican limes I found in the supermarket. I couldn’t help stocking up. Squirreling them away as I know the next time they won’t be there and instead there will be the usual miniature shrivelled limes blinking up at me from the shelves.

There is a slightly weird pistachio theme running through this blog, which is not intentional. I happen to buy them in large quantities and find any excuse to use them up.  I have expensive tastes as my darling sister pointed out yesterday. She made my pistachio feta dip and got a small fright when she discovered the price of pistachios. So another disclaimer here: Pistachios are expensive! Please feel free to use another nut or none at all.

In all honesty I probably wouldn’t have posted this recipe as the whole green nut theme is getting a little out of hand but I had a request for it on instagram after posting a photo of this cake.

So as I see it, in the cake world, lemon drizzle is like the granny of cakes. It’s soft and sweet, a little tart but classic and reliable and people love it. Lime drizzle on the other hand is more like an exotic great-aunt who spends time on Caribbean cruises and enjoys a g&t or two. Just a little more sunshiney, spirited and glamorous.  It too, loves a cup of tea, will keep for ages and will satisfy your cake craving like no other. Lemon drizzles and lime drizzles are definitely feminine cakes and perfect for say Mother’s day!

I love cakes that use yoghurt in the mix with little or no butter. It really keeps them soft and fluffy and you can feel marginally less guilty about having a slice.

 

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Pistachio & Lime Yoghurt Cake

As a homage to your granny we’re doing this the old-fashioned lbs & oz way

8oz plain flour

2 tsp baking powder

3oz ground almonds

3 1/2 oz caster sugar 

2 medium eggs

1tbsp honey 

9oz yoghurt

2oz melted butter or olive oil 

zest 2 limes

4oz chopped pistachios (reserve a small amount to sprinkle over the cake)

1fl. oz of milk 

Drizzle

3 1/2 oz caster sugar 

4 fl. oz  water 

juice of 2 limes 

*Optional: Add 1 tbsp of rosewater to the drizzle with the lime juice.

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Preheat oven to 170c, grease and line a 9 inch loose bottomed baking tin.

Sift flour, baking powder into a large mixing bowl. Add ground almonds and sugar.

In a measuring jug mix yoghurt, eggs, honey and lime zest. Add this to the dry ingredients adding  some of the milk to loosen the mix slightly. Stir in pistachios. Pour cake mix into tin and bake for 40 to 45 mins or until a skewer comes out clean.

Remove cake from oven and allow to cool slightly in tin. Make the drizzle.

Place sugar and water into a saucepan and simmer until all the sugar has dissolved. Allow to cool slightly and add lime juice. Pierce cake all over with a skewer and pour the lime syrup over the cake. Sprinkle with reserved chopped pistachios. Once cake has cooled remove from the tin and dust with icing sugar to serve.

If you used the rosewater then you could also decorate the cake with dried rose petals.

Whipped Feta & Pistachio Dip

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I should have called this pistachio, feta crack! It is moreish, creamy, nutty and fresh. It is one of my most favourite recipes. I even debated sharing it. Only briefly though, it is too good not to share.

I’m not even sure it is a dip, it could be a spread too I suppose. I used this as a spread in my Kebabish  recipe. So good with the lamb and pickled onions. Use it to top a warm flatbread and add some cooked spicy minced lamb for a take on a pizza. The possibilities are endless.

I served it with pitta chips, a cocktail on the side is also advised.

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While the recipe calls for pistachios I know these are at the upper end of the expensive nut scale so you could replace them with walnuts or almonds could work. Perhaps even sunflower seeds or a mix of seeds.

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Whipped Feta & Pistachio Dip

125g shelled pistachios

200g feta

Large handful of fresh basil 

2tbsp of fresh coriander leaves

1 crushed clove garlic

1/2 tsp of chilli flakes or more if you prefer

3 large tablespoons of greek yoghurt 

Zest of 1 lemon

Juice of 1/2 lemon

75ml olive oil 

Blitz pistachios and olive oil for 30 seconds in food processor or blender.

Add feta, herbs, garlic, chilli flakes, yoghurt, lemon zest & juice.

Blitz until smooth. Season with salt to taste.

Buttermilk Panna Cotta & Burnt Caramel Blood Oranges

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Hallelujah, the first signs of Spring are emerging in earnest.

The daffodils are here and I swear I could smell hyacinths the other day (this probably didn’t happen). What definitely has happened though is the bluebells tentatively emerging out in the garden. We are nearly there. Spring will be upon us before we know it and we will have turned our backs on another winter. In true style we will be all consumed with the newness it brings. Beautiful flowers and green shoots abound. Nothing like a bit of greenery to put a spring in your step.

The arrival of Spring can’t but inspire. Flowers lie unseen since last year deep under ground. You can’t see them. You have probably assumed they have died but no, they lie in wait. They know inherently that the temperatures will rise again, that winter’s grasp is brief and fleeting.  Just when all around you seems perpetually bleak and dark, green shoots emerge. They faithfully herald the arrival of the most beautiful of seasons. Now I am not a religious person. I am only sporadically spiritual. Yet I feel this great sense of hope and resilience every Spring. Though times may get tough we will all have our Spring, we can grow ourselves out of the most darkest of places, out of the worst situations and if you don’t believe me, watch those delicate shoots who persist year after year emerging to a brighter world and blooming, it would seem, solely for our pleasure.

This post wasn’t intended to be about Spring. It is another recipe. A buttermilk panna cotta with burnt caramel blood oranges. I suppose the blood oranges made me think of changing seasons and their colour has lifted my spirits on this cold cold day. From now on in we can look forward to life growing again.

Whenever I am lucky enough to have blood oranges I make a burnt caramel to pour over slices of the oranges. It makes a delicious caramel syrup after sitting for a couple of hours. I can’t recommend it highly enough. I could happily eat a big bowl of them just like this. This time however I had a carton of buttermilk in the fridge that was intended for soda bread but I thought a creamy, slightly tart panna cotta would be perfect with my oranges. So that is exactly what I did.

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Buttermilk Panna Cotta

Makes 6 x 4fl oz moulds

3 sheets of gelatine

350ml buttermilk

50g caster sugar

1/2 vanilla pod

250ml cream

Soak the gelatine sheets in cold water.

In a saucepan bring 100ml of buttermilk and the sugar to the boil with the vanilla pod. Remove from the heat and scrape the seeds from the vanilla pod, add to mix.

Drain the softened gelatine and add to the buttermilk and sugar mix. Stir to dissolve the gelatine.

Leave to cool before adding the remaining buttermilk and cream.

Pass mixture through a coarse sieve and pour into lightly oiled 4fl oz moulds.

Allow the panna cotta to set in the fridge for a minimum of 3 hours.

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A few hours before you want to serve the panna cotta make your blood orange and burnt caramel. Peel the oranges as above and cut into slices.  Lay the slices out on a plate and make your caramel.

Use 4 blood oranges.

Place 100g of caster sugar into a heavy based stainless steel saucepan. You need stainless steel so you can see the colour of the caramel changing.  Heat over a medium heat until sugar starts to caramelise. You can swirl the caramel around to dissolve any bits of sugar that aren’t catching but don’t stir. Wait until the caramel is good and dark and there is a slightly bitter smell. Pour the caramel over the slices of orange. Leave for a few hours so that caramel dissolves into a syrup.

 

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Unmould the panna cotta by placing it in a bowl of hot water for 3 seconds. Run a flat knife around the inside of the panna cotta and flip onto a serving plate. Serve with the orange slices and some of the caramel syrup.