Saturday, 30 June 2012

Day 51: Spicy fried chicken

Better than KFC” were the words that emerged from Dear Husband’s rather stuffed mouth as he gobbled at the Spicy fried chicken which I made for tea this evening.

I decided to make paprika wedges (again!) to accompany the chicken so I got working on them once I had the oil on to heat for the chicken. It just so happened this week that I noticed in M&S that they have started doing smoked paprika so if you’re looking for it, that’s where you’ll get it. Up until now, any time I made the wedges, I just used ordinary paprika. Once the wedges were in the oven, I moved onto the chicken. I had to toast cumin seeds for a minute in a frying pan and then grind them using a mortar and pestle. In a bowl, I put self-raising flour, smoked paprika, salt and caster sugar along with the cumin powder. I used chicken thighs so I dipped them in milk, then into the flour mixture and repeated. I fried them two at a time for 10 minutes each.

The recipe said to fry them until they were a ‘rich golden brown colour’ and, if you are in any doubt as to the difference between a rich golden brown colour and chicken that is blatantly incinerated, then see the photos below. I do have a deep fat fryer but I think I’ve used it twice in the past three years for homemade chips so it’s stored away. I just couldn’t be bothered to go hoking about for it and then having to clean it again. Therefore, I did the frying in a saucepan on the hob and had the fire extinguisher near to end – just in case. The recipe said that when heating the oil, I’d know if the oil was hot enough if a cube of bread came back up the surface quick enough. In actual fact what happened was that the cube of bread didn’t even go below the surface so I should have known then that the oil was too hot. The rapid ring on my kitchen hob is obviously seriously powerful – to the point where it is probably faulty. I really don’t think it’s supposed to get as hot as it does. I ended up heating another saucepan of oil seeing as I burnt the first one.
The burnt chicken

The not-so-burnt chicken

Well, as you probably guessed from the opening sentence, the fried chicken went down well. Dear Husband gave it 10 marks out of 10. Dear Son didn’t want any as he had his dinner in the early part of the evening. However, Baby Daughter (who has a hearty appetite) had some and really enjoyed it although she didn’t eat a lot but, then again, she’s one 14 months. Dear Husband said he would ‘definitely’ eat the chicken again so that’s as good an indication as any that the recipe was good. However, I’ll know next time to monitor the oil temperature a lot more closely. Either way, the dogs were quite happy that I burnt the first batch this evening and I’m quite sure they’d be happy if I did so again the next time I’m making fried chicken. It really is a dog’s life you know…

Friday, 29 June 2012

Day 50: Chicken and chorizo with rice

Day 50

Complete and utter psycho are the only words that I can use to describe Dear Father’s rooster. Well, it’s no longer his rooster as Dear Mother told me he sold it to a man the other week. Hey, wait a minute! That’s what they used to tell me when I was child when suddenly there was one less poor old chicken or duck up the garden!!! I can’t believe I didn’t cop that one on before now. Well, all I can say is that the chicken used in tonight’s dinner definitely wasn’t our rooster. It really was a complete and utter fruit cake. Any time Dear Father would go up in the morning to let it, the chickens and ducks out or to put them all to bed at night, the rooster would go berserk and start attacking him by jumping on him and pecking him. Of course, it was ok for us safe within the confines of the house, looking out the kitchen window at this comedy show. We’re all heart, aren’t we?! Well, if he is gone to another home, it’d be fair to say that we won’t be surprised if it lands back with the owner looking for a refund on the grounds of the rooster having mental health issues. Speaking of which, I think I’ve mentioned this before but one of our dogs (Darwin Dog, to be exact) is also in need of a pet psychologist because I’m convinced that he is a compulsive eater. He honestly can’t stop eating. If we were to continually give him food, he’d keep eating it. He is the size of a sheep, the poor thing but he is never happier than when he is eating. Hmmm, reminds me of someone else…

Anyway, as I said, tonight it was chicken – Chicken and chorizo with rice to be precise. Dear Husband and I were going out for dinner so the babysitters were summonsed which consisted of Dear Sister No.1 and her husband. I had to find a name for him and thought of Rugby Dude but Dear Sister insisted that I called him something else which I have shortened down to the initials – the GG. Not sure if we thought that one out but that’s his name for now until he protests and wants a different name! So, the deal with babysitting in our house is that they do the babysitting and I feed them. Usually, they are en route home from work too. And if there is any mention of me making anyone else dinner other than Dear Husband and the two children, then Dear Sister No.3 lands. Dear Sister No.3 is the youngest and all four of us sisters live within a mile of each other so she spends a lot of the time going from house to house for dinner. She’s the youngest and most spoilt, of course. And yes, my Dear Mother has been known to still send her down dinner with one of my other sisters for fear she’d starve! Seriously.

Well, seeing as it was my first day of summer holidays (one of the many joys of working in education), I was able to get dinner started earlier than normal on a Friday. First of all, I added rapeseed oil to my lovely big casserole dish. I then fried diced chorizo for about 4 minutes before taking it out and putting it aside on a plate. I then put the chicken into the dish which I had seasoned beforehand. Now, the recipe actually said to use 1kg of chicken thighs or drumsticks but I actually used a combination of chicken thighs, a few breast of chicken and diced breast of chicken – simply to use up what was already in the fridge. After 8 minutes, I added diced onion and sliced garlic which I fried for about 5 minutes. In went 200ml of white wine and 300g of rice which simmered for 4 minutes before adding chicken stock. Once it came up to the boil, I put the lid on and simmered it for 20 minutes. To finish, I added in the diced chorizo again and garnished with freshly chopped parsley. I took a photo of it and, at that point, ran out the door as my chariot awaited.
The verdict...

Dear Husband and I had the most delicious meal in the Beach House again and when we got home, I had to get a full rendition of how they enjoyed (or didn’t enjoy) the chicken. Unbeknownst to me, I had actually received a text towards the end of our dinner from Rugby Dude/the GG to say (in his Galway accent) that it was a ‘fine feed’ and gave it 10 out of 10. Dear Sister No.1 gave it 10 out of 10 and so did Dear Sister No.3. Really delicious, they said. What a result!
I enjoyed making this recipe because it was a one-pot-wonder and the preparation wasn’t difficult. It probably took me closer to 20 minutes to prepare but I’m not a proper chef who is super-practised in peeling and chopping but I’m definitely getting faster. It looked nice in the dish even though my photography skills don't do the picture justice.

Overall, I was most happy with the scores for tonight’s efforts but, as if that wasn’t enough, Dear Sister No.1 had managed to put Baby Daughter to bed and got her to sleep even with Dear Son in the room yapping away. Amazing! I can’t even do that. Usually, it requires me bribing Dear Son to watch TV while I put the baby down to sleep. Oh, the joys of having super sisters and them being super aunties! A really good evening all round on many counts. Now, that’s the kind of thing I could get used to over the summer. Hmmm, I wonder if they are doing anything tomorrow night?!!

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Day 49: Chocolate and marshmallow biscuit cake

When it comes to chocolate, I love it as much as the next person. I seem to like certain bars of chocolate for months on end and then get fed-up and change onto a new one. So, effectively, that means that I will eat, for example, a Bounty for months, then it will be a Dairymilk Hazelnut bar for a few months; then, it’ll be Tracker bars (which is my favourite at the minute!). Never one to deprive myself of anything, chocolate is no exception. That said, the strange thing is that there are certain chocolate delights that are just too chocolatey for my liking. For example, chocolate ice-cream, chocolate mousse, chocolate cake. However, then there are others which I really like. I’m thinking Mars Bar Squares – remember them?  I don’t make them too often but they are gorgeous. With that in mind, I was inspired tonight to make something chocolatey so it was the turn of Chocolate marshmallow biscuit cake.

First of all, I melted cooking chocolate in a large bowl over a saucepan of boiling water. The trick to this was to actually turn off the heat once the water came to the boil and let the chocolate melt slowly. Normally, I would just keep the heat on but I was sticking exactly to the recipe. While the chocolate was melting, I got working on the rest of the ingredients which involved a lot of sweet things. There were Snickers bars, Crunchie bars, mini marshmallows and ginger nut biscuits. Basically, the biscuits and bars had to be cut or broken into tiny pieces. Once the cooking chocolate was cool enough, I added in everything else. I probably waited about 20 minutes before adding them all in because the cooking chocolate would have melted the marshmallows if it had been too hot. Once I had mixed it all together, I put it all into a square cake tin and pressed it all down with a spatula. Into the fridge the cake went for 2 hours to chill. Once they were ready, I cut them into squares.

The verdict…

Dear Husband said the squares were a ‘chocolate-lover’s dream’ and gave them 10 out of 10.  He particularly liked the mini marshmallows in them. I almost fell over when Dear Son said he didn’t like them! Em, my son doesn’t like these chocolate-filled squares?! Maybe that’s the effects of putting him on a sugar-free diet – they get to the stage where they actually don’t like sweet things?! Maybe. But I’m not convinced.
Overall, this was an extremely easy recipe to make. The thing I loved about it also is that the squares can be shared with people when they come into the house when having a cup of tea instead of plain old biscuits. I love having homemade biscuits and cakes about the house for visitors. I think it's a lot more homely. Somehow though, I don't think they will last too long in the tin though. In the mean time, I have them safely stored in a secret hiding place in the kitchen. Well, doesn't every kitchen have one of those and, no, I'm not telling you where mine is! Enjoy making this recipe - you and yours won't regret it!

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Day 48: Chicken paillard with creamy cucumber and courgettes

Another guinea pig – yay! This time it was my Dear Friend who I mentioned before - the one who packed up my beloved kitchen and wrote the funny messages on the boxes the time we moved house. Now, Dear Friend would literally eat chicken until the cows come home but Dear Friend has just gotten to the magical Week-12 of pregnancy and, as many women know, that does all sorts of things to one’s appetite. You begin to hate foods you normally love and begin to love the ones you normally hate. Sure I told you before about me and the bags of parsley! I’m telling you, anything goes when it comes to appetite and pregnancy. Anyway, I thought I’d be ok if I made Dear Friend a chicken dinner and never worried until she was there eating it, enjoying it and telling me that it was the first piece of chicken she’d had in 8 weeks. However, all was good in the hood and she said that she was thoroughly enjoying it! Phew…

So, what I made tonight was Chicken paillard with creamy cucumber and courgettes. To start off, I took the breasts of chicken and slit them length-ways and then pulled them apart slightly before seasoning them on each side. I added butter to the frying pan and fried the chicken in it for a few minutes on each side on a high heat. Having started last night’s recipe by burning the ingredients, I didn’t have the pan as warm tonight so although the recipe said to only fry for 2 minutes on each side, I actually ended up frying them for 5 minutes on each side. The last thing I wanted was to give food poisoning to a pregnant woman!

Once the chicken was fried, I put it on a warm plate, covered it with tin foil and put it in a warm oven. Then I got on with the rest of the recipe which involved me sautéing grated courgettes and cucumber in a wee bit more butter in the frying pan. After a minute, I added in cream, brought it up to a simmer for 2 minutes before adding freshly chopped basil leaves. I served up the chicken and sauce with green beans.

The verdict…

Dear Friend said, and I quote, “It’s like something you’d get in a restaurant” and gave it 10 marks out of 10. Yay!!! She said it was so tasty and although she hadn’t eaten chicken in 8 weeks, she really liked it. Result. Dear Husband gave it 8.5 marks out of 10 and said it was the nicest dish I’d made in a week!!! Cue Dear Friend who promptly told him that I had him spoiled (which I do!) and he should be so glad that I’m doing the Challenge – which he is. I asked Dear Son was it ok, nice or very nice and he said “very nice!” which is a better way of gauging his opinion. Although, he still says “2 out of 10, Mum!”.

I liked this recipe as it was a totally different way of cooking something which I cook a lot of i.e. chicken. It was one of the few times that I cooked with courgettes which I was a wee bit iffy about; however, a Dear Friend and colleague told me today at work that she loves courgettes and cooks with them all the time so that kind of changed my mind about them. The recipe was definitely easy and, if you make this recipe, I would recommend that you grate the courgettes and cucumber into a large bowl as that will make it easier to tip them into the frying pan. When I cut each breast of chicken, I should have made the cut deeper so that they could have been flattened more and, therefore, would have reduced the cooking time but sure I’ll know for next time.

If you like chicken, make this recipe. You’ll see chicken from a different perspective and you'll include two really good but different vegetables such as courgettes and cucumbers in a dinner so again, you're increasing your veg intake without much effort and that’s something we all should do.

So there you go. Great to have had a dinner guest around who has a scoring system which is definitely more in my favour. In fact, she is coming round for dinner again next Monday so I know she definitely liked this evening's effort because, believe me, the same doll would tell me if she didn’t and that’s the great thing about friends like that…

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Day 47: Chicken noodle stir-fry

Note to self…buy a wok. I love gadgets in the kitchen. I love dishes. I especially love cups. I especially love floral ones. I love plates. I love nice bowls. I love bright casserole dishes. I love different types of jugs and my delf butter dish but do I own a wok? No. And the only time I remember to buy one is when I’m exactly in need of one as I embark on yet another new recipe. So, I really am going to have put sticky notes everywhere to remind me to buy a wok! Tomorrow. Deal.

So the reason I needed a wok tonight was because I was making Chicken noodle stir-fry.  Now, I don’t like Chinese food – well, not the Western version anyway because of all the MSG in it. I just think it’s a tray of horribleness that isn’t good for anyone with all the MSG, salt, sugar etc. I’ve mentioned about Chinese food in my blog before and, since then, one of my students who works in a Chinese has confirmed to me that her Chinese employers do not eat the food they sell. They eat the authentic Chinese food but definitely not the Western version of Chinese dishes. Enough said.

For the chicken noodle stir –fry, I had to use rice noodles. Now, I searched supermarket after supermarket in Donegal and Derry for rice noodles and could find plenty of egg noodles but no luck with finding rice noodles so when I was ordering the sumac from Mr. Bell’s in Cork, I managed to get them. And why is it that you find things then when you’re not looking for them? The day I was in Sainsburys looking for tarragon, I found, of course, rice noodles – fresh ones in the fridge section next to the herbs. Typical. The rice noodles I got from Mr. Bell’s were dried so I had to soak them in boiling water for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, I had to use the gold old reliable frying pan on a very high heat. Also, this evening, I discovered the difference between a high heat and blatantly burning the bottom out of the pan. Not a good start to the meal; however, apparently the aroma wafting around the kitchen had caught Dear Husband’s attention and he said that if the food tasted as good as it smelled then it was going to be 10 out of 10!

In the frying pan, I added some oil followed by garlic and finely grated ginger which I fried for 30 seconds before adding in the sliced carrot and half of the chopped scallions. After about 3 minutes, I added in sliced breast of chicken and cooked it until it changed colour. Then, I added in a can of coconut milk and a tablespoon of nam pla. That simmered for just over 2 minutes while I drained the rice noodles and added them in. I finished it all off by adding the remainder of the scallion and some freshly coriander leaves.

The verdict…

Unfortunately, the noodles did not live up to expectations and Dear Husband scored them 5 marks out of 10. He said that it tasted a bit bland. I’m seriously beginning to think he had blocked sinuses or something. How can a dish with garlic, ginger and nam pla be bland?!!! However, in fairness, I admit that I did accidentally burn the garlic and the first half of the scallions which is why I need to get myself a wok! It really was the equipment that was at fault. Well, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it! Seriously, you’d think Dear Husband would even have tasted the burnt garlic and scallions but nope. A no-go with Dear Son, also.  

Despite all that, I’m going to try this recipe again when I get a wok. That’s the thing about cooking, you must accept that not every recipe will turn out perfect but as long as you learn from where you went wrong and try again, it’s not been a waste of time. Sure isn’t that life all over…

Monday, 25 June 2012

Day 46: Lamb meatballs

Another Monday, only this evening, after work, I had to make a mad dash around the supermarket en route home seeing as I didn’t get the food shopping done on Saturday. Honestly, am I the only one who suffers from slight shopping rage at times?! There I am legging it in the door with the trolley, totally focused, game plan agreed in my head i.e. mental shopping list mapped up to the different areas of the store and it seems that a Monday evening is when a lot of people decide to do their food shopping – a lot! Now, just in case my Mammy is reading this, don’t get me wrong – I am the epitome of good manners; I always give way, wait my turn etc. etc. etc. but you know when some people decide to go up and down the aisles almost sideways so as to maximise the area they take up and minimise yours? Well, that does not figure in my game plan and thus increases the time which takes me to shop - precious time that I never seem to have enough of.
I also have to say this, as in case you are under some sort of illusion (as some of you are) that my life is absolutely perfect and with the blog and cooking all these different dishes every day and everything is all so perfectly easy, it’s not. Just want to dispel that myth right now. For most people I know, life is hectic and mine is no different. Factor in two young children and it's even more hectic but I wouldn’t change it for a second. The reality is that I, like the everyone else, try to do my best and, although I have an ideal in my head of the way I want things to be or the way they should be, I think those ideals are something which aren’t exactly within my grasp right now and maybe they never will be. But, at the end of the day, we all get out of bed every morning and get on with it. Remember my saying – suck it up and get on with it?!
Ok, rant over and back to the focus of this Challenge…

I decided to make Lamb meatballs this evening purely because I hadn’t used my fancy wee cocktail sticks in about two months. I first saw them on an episode of one of Nigella Lawson’s cookery programmes and, after a bit of research courtesy of the good old Internet, I eventually found them on the Lakeland website ( and then type in 41071 in the search box). I always use them for cocktail sausages for parties or even if I’m simply making lamb meatballs for Dear Husband and Dear Son.

So, for the meatballs, I grated lemon zest into a bowl along with chopped garlic, a grated onion, cardamom seeds and seasoning. I then added in the minced lamb and squished it all together (with my latex gloves, of course!). I then rolled the mixture into tiny balls – about the size of a walnut shell before frying them for about 12 minutes. While they were cooking, I made the sauce which consisted of natural Greek yoghurt, turmeric, lemon juice and diced cucumber. Then, I just served it all up and put my fancy cocktail sticks on the meatballs.

The verdict…

Dear Husband gave the dish 9 marks out of 10 and Dear Son gave them 10 out of 10 – yay! Although I suspect that Dear Husband told Dear Son to tell me that! Regardless, both ate them and, even better, Baby Daughter was happy to munch away on one. The recipe was very easy and the only tedious part is rolling the mixture into tiny balls. Other than that, it’s quick. I did taste the sauce and it was nice with the turmeric which I have learned is native to South Asia and belongs to the ginger family so it’s hot, peppery with a mustardy smell.

Lamb meatballs have been a staple in our house for quite a number of years since I first used one of Rachel’s lamb meatball recipes from one of her other books so I’ll definitely make this version again. Lamb really is a popular meat with children so it’s an all-round family pleaser when it’s clearly enjoyed by my three and it’s not often that happens. Now, if only everything I make could be enjoyed by all three, I really would be getting to some sort of culinary perfection in this house...  

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Day 45: Sumac lamb chops

I almost had to go to the ends of earth to get one single ingredient for this evening’s Sunday tea. Well, maybe I’m exaggerating but I definitely had to go to two of the four corners of Ireland for it at least – metaphorically speaking, of course. That one single ingredient was a Middle Eastern spice called Sumac. I was reluctant to order it online from the UK in case Customs would open it and I’d have to throw it out which happened me once before when I ordered a food product through Amazon. Then, when I put the call out via Twitter, I had some helpful (!) suggestions as to where I might find it. Suggestions such as my local Asian supermarket, for example. Em, not so easy when you live in Donegal and I honestly don’t know if there’s even one Asian supermarket on the whole island of Ireland so, again, I had to rely on the Twitterati to come up with another suggestion. Thankfully, the Lady Herself, aka Rachel Allen very kindly put me in touch with two possible sources which both came up trumps. Firstly, Artisan Foods in Dublin via Simon Kilcoyne and Mr. Bell’s in the English Market in Cork. Two phone calls and I was sorted. I have put their details at the bottom of this post if you need to order it also.   

So, once I had the sumac, it was plain sailing from then on for the Sumac lamb chops. I poured a teaspoon of rapeseed oil on each chop, seasoned them and then sprinkled sumac over each one. I then did the same on the other side of each chop. On a very high heat, I put them on a griddle pan for 4 minutes each side. While that was happening, I made the salad part of the dish which involved diced cucumber, diced tomato, natural yoghurt and salt and pepper.

The verdict…

Dear Husband really enjoys lamb chops anyway and gave the dish 8 marks out of 10 and, surprisingly, really liked the salad part of the recipe too. He didn’t notice a significant difference in the sumac spice compared to lamb chops without it but maybe that’s because I didn’t tell him about it beforehand. I wonder will he notice much of a difference next time if I tell him about the sumac being added?! That’s the thing - sometimes that trick of mine backfires on me! Regardless, this recipe was extremely easy and quick to prepare – as long as you don’t count the few days you have to wait for the sumac to be delivered! It has made The List and Dear Husband will surely enjoy them then as much as he did this evening!

Details of where to get the Sumac:
Artisan Foods Ltd., 38-39 Canal Walk, Parkwest, Dublin 12 Tel.: 01 - 620 4984
Mr. Bell’s, Unit 15, Grand Parade Market, Cork Tel.: 021 - 431 8655

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Day 44: Poppy seed scones

In case you are in any doubt as to Dear Husband’s love of food – get this. We had a wedding to go today (hence the late post!) and the ceremony was at 1:30pm with the meal at 5 o’clock but nothing would do him that we would have to scoot down the road to my local eaterie (the infamous Harry’s of Bridgend) for a ‘wee bite’. He justified it with the fact that although he had a cooked breakfast of scrambled eggs, tea and toast at around 10 o’clock and scones at 11-ish, that would never do him until, he said, the meal which was more likely to happen at 6 o’clock so, when I thought of it that way, fair enough. However, it was now 3 o’clock and I thought how in Heavens am I going to sit down for 5-course meal in 2-3 hours after a lunch? But hey, it’s amazing what one can eat when it’s put down in front of you! To be fair, I had the truly gorgeous creamed potatoes and walled garden salad so I didn’t have a great big main course. Dear Husband had the Dexter burger which he said was really, really good. Harry’s has an excellent business model and one of their unique selling points is that they source the majority of their ingredients locally from within Inishowen peninsula of Donegal which is the most northerly part of Ireland for those of you unfamiliar to the area – a real gem of Ireland for many, many reasons. In recent years, Harry’s has also developed their own walled garden whereby they grow much of the vegetables they use themselves which is where all the ingredients came from for my salad.

So anyway, Donal Doherty (manager of Harry’s), who we know well came up after we ordered for a chat and I was telling him that I already had the inspiration for my blog tonight after relaying the story of the day’s events up until then. Poor Dear Husband said that my readers will think that he is some sort of 40-stone eating machine so, to clear that one up, no – he’s not. He has a fast metabolism, does love food though and I had his full permission that time I referred to him as a ‘human bin’ (which he is, of course!).

You should have seen the way my walled garden salad was presented to me! I really should have taken a photo. It was laid out so nicely on this lovely chopping board and it was delicious. You really can tell the difference between home-grown produce. Absolutely delicious.

So, getting back to my own endeavours in the kitchen, because we were headed to a wedding today, I made something for elevenses which were Poppy seed scones. I absolutely love scones especially if they are home-baked. My mother (tied with my Aunty Eileen) make the best scones that I know of. I always say I’m going to use their recipe but when I ask Mammy for the recipe she’s like “Aw, this amount of flour and about this much buttermilk and a wee bit of that” to the point where I can never tie down the quantities and will probably never be able to replicate her own individual recipes.

For the poppy seed scones, I sieved the flour, added the salt, bicarbonate of soda and poppy seeds before making a well in the centre. I then added the buttermilk bit by bit and brought it together by hand. Once that was done, I patted it out flat and used a 6cm cookie cutter before setting them on a baking tray. I brushed them with a wee bit of the buttermilk which was left over and into the oven they went for just under 15 minutes. I let them cool on a wire rack before serving.

The verdict…

They were absolutely delicious. I gave them 8 marks out of 10 and Dear Husband gave them the same. I normally make plain scones but the addition of the poppy seeds made such a difference. With my beloved Kerrygold butter, strawberry jam and a lovely cup of tea, these are exactly the reason for elevenses. With that in mind, they have definitely made The List and I think I will have to make them tomorrow, also! The only thing I would say is that the outer part of the scone was just the slightest bit tough so either I handled the mixture too much when I was bringing it together or I had them in the oven the slightest bit longer than I should have. Either way, I will know for next time.

The thing about home-made scones is that they taste so good and they are so simple to make that when I do make them, I wonder why I don’t make them more often. A really simple recipe and hardly any cooking time. I think scones, in general, are going to have to become a staple in our house at the weekend from now on. So there you go, I highly recommend this recipe and, in honour of the scones and the beloved Kerrygold which accompanied them, I’ll leave you with this quote which I once saw on a hotel menu by Professor Joan Gussow who, amongst many things, is an American food policy expert and gardener...

          As for butter versus margarine. I trust cows before chemists”.

Never a truer word said…

Friday, 22 June 2012

Day 43: Artichoke puree toast

Dear Husband literally begged me to make him Chicken Tikka Masala this evening as it must’ve been 6 or 7 weeks since I made it. He really is hard done by, isn’t he?! Anyway, I gave in and the traditional Friday fish dish had to give way for my post-children Chicken tikka massala recipe. You see, pre-children, I used to spend 2-3 hours making homemade chicken tikka masala with mustard seeds, ground ginger, a mixture of all the spices, yoghurt, garlic, puree etc. It’s actually one of Jamie Oliver’s recipes. The post-children recipe involves a jar of tikka massala courtesy of M&S, a freshly chopped chilli and ready-diced chicken. Simple. Now, Dear Husband tells me that the modified recipe definitely isn’t as nice as the original but it’s the closest thing he’ll be getting to the real deal for the next 3-5 years. One good thing about the tikka massala is that Dear Son actually likes it as long as I add in some cream to cancel out the hotness a bit. So, with them fed, it meant that I could make a recipe for myself tonight instead and I decided on the Artichoke puree toast for my supper.

One of my favourite times of the week is a Friday night when the three children are in bed – and I emphasise the three in that sentence. It’s the start of the weekend and Monday seems a distant time away. I’ll have the kitchen and living room cleaned up all ready for Dear Son to wreck it all within 10 minutes of getting up in the morning and I can finally sit down with a cup of tea and a wee bite. Of course, a Friday night wouldn’t be a Friday night without the Late Late but with it being on its summer break, I watch some of the many, many programmes I’ve recorded but never get the time to watch.

So, in preparation of my peaceful Friday night, I put artichoke hearts, olive oil, lemon juice, grated Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper into my electric mini-chopper and whizzed for about a minute. This was my first time cooking with artichokes and, to my knowledge, it was the first time I’d eaten them. I toasted a few slices of sourdough bread, spread it with butter and the purée before topping it with shavings of Parmesan cheese. Then, it was a lovely big cup of Barry’s tea. I am convinced that Barry’s tea is the nicest tea in the whole world and I’ve converted so many onto it that I honestly should be getting commission.

The verdict…

This recipe isn’t for me. I’d give it 2 marks out of 10. I probably have a very simple palate which isn’t sophisticated enough for artichokes. Either way, I can’t say that I’ll be in a hurry to eat them again. When I was putting them in the chopper, I ate one of them and must say that I wasn’t smitten with them but I thought maybe once all the flavours came together, they might’ve been nice but sadly no - not for me anyway. I don’t think Dear Husband would be fussed on this recipe either. To be honest, the chickpea toast which I made the other night was far nicer but the artichoke purée has not made The List. Now, I love Parmesan cheese so I could have eaten the sourdough bread with butter and the cheese without the purée. The only thing is, is that I hope it’s not true that eating cheese before bed gives you nightmares! If so, considering the amount of that lovely Parmesan I ate, I am in for one scary night…

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Day 42: Chicken open-pot roast

Apologies for the lateness of this post tonight but I had a work do so my day involved coming home from work, making dinner, going out and coming home to do my blog! But it's ok, I don't drink so I'm not under the influence if not a bit sleep deprived. It’s at these wee hours of the morning that I’m beginning to think this blog is becoming hard core. But not one to let my readers down, I am here blogging about the Chicken open-pot roast I made this evening.

It was the second outing for my nice new casserole dish so I’ve already halved its cost-per-use! To start off, I put olive oil in the dish and put it on a high heat on the hob. I used seven chicken thighs instead of the four which the recipe stated because I could fit seven in the dish. I seasoned them and, once the oil was really hot, I put the chicken into it skin down to brown for 5 minutes. After that, I flipped it over and added chopped leak, potatoes and chicken stock. Once it came up to the boil, I threw some sprigs of flat leaf parsley on and put the lid on before setting it in the oven. Now, the recipe said to use tarragon instead of parsley but I have found that tarragon is very difficult to get in this part of the world. However, for another recipe which I intend to use tarragon in in a couple of weeks, I had to call in the Twitterati and thankfully have that sorted. But, for tonight, parsley it was. I thought it was my safest bet. Because I used extra chicken thighs and potatoes in the dish, I added on more cooking time for fear of giving Dear Husband food poisoning.

Just as the sinking of the Titanic was a mathematical certainty, I am almost sure that it is a mathematical certainty that I will eventually end up giving someone food poisoning. The law of statistics, you see. That’s one of the reasons why (although he means well), I don’t like it when Dear Husband tells everyone about my cooking because I often fear that will happen. How it will really happen might turn out to be a bit of mystery though considering that I always err on the side of caution so I tend to over-cook rather than under-cook. Plus, between the latex gloves and constant handwashing to prevent me contaminating something or other, I am beginning to think I am a bit neurotic in my approach to cooking! Did I mention that I’m a germophobe? Honestly, anti-bacterial handwash, anti-bacterial wipes – if it’s anti-bacterial, I will surely own it. But it's ok, I have come to the conclusion that most people in the education profession have OCD-type tendencies. 

Anyway, getting back to the recipe, once it was finished cooking, I added in Dijon mustard and lemon juice. Finally, I sprinkled over some more freshly chopped parsley and left Dear Husband to it.

The verdict…

Dear Husband gave it 7.5 marks out of 10. It’s not often I cook him chicken thighs but he thought they were really nice. The potatoes were ‘lovely’. He said he would definitely eat again so it’s made The List. I liked it because it was extremely easy to prepare and it used one dish. Plus, I didn’t seem to make my usual mess in the process of preparing it which was fine for Dear Husband as he was left with the clearing up as I ran out the door!

So, there you go. Another good chicken dish which would be good for everyone at any time of year. Definitely one for the winter evenings though which is in contrast to today being the longest day of the year. Pity though that couldn’t extend to be the longest night too. At this rate, it will be time to get up before I get to sleep. Good night!

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Day 41: Mashed chickpeas on toast

A supper recipe it was tonight as I made Mashed chickpeas on toast. It was hitting 10 o’clock and I had to have a wee snack so I thought this recipe would be a good change to the usual tea and toast. I loved the fact that it was only going to take 5 minutes to make – yay!

First of all, I chopped up some fresh mint and put it in a large bowl along with the zest of a lemon, chopped garlic and a tin of chickpeas which I rinsed beforehand. In a small bowl, I mixed olive oil and paprika. I can’t get smoked paprika anywhere so I just used the ordinary stuff. I used a potato masher to mash the peas but, I must say, it was hard going and took a bit of ‘elbow grease’ as my mother calls it! I probably spent 10 minutes preparing it all. Next time I’ll have to get out my electric mini-chopper though. I toasted the sourdough bread, buttered it, spread the mash on it and drizzled with the paprika oil.

(Believe me, it tasted better than what it looked like!)

The verdict…

When I had made the mash in the bowl, I took a small spoonful of it and thought to myself that it was a bit bland. However, when I put it on toasted sourdough bread and drizzled the oil on top, I must say how tasty and filling it was. It was exactly what I needed. As far as suppers go, I would give this recipe 7 marks out of 10. Dear Husband wasn’t far behind – 6 marks out of 10 which isn’t bad considering the absence of meat! As I said, quite a bit of mashing to do so if you have a mini-chopper, use it! Even though there was garlic in the mash, it wasn’t too overpowering. I thought that the inclusion of the zest of a full lemon would make it very lemony but it didn’t and I have a real love of mint so all the flavours worked so well. Any time I eat sourdough bread, it’s usually got avocado and tomato on top so I ate a couple of slices of tomato on top of the mash too with salt. Can’t have tomatoes without salt!

To conclude, this was a nice surprise in the taste department and far more filling than plain old toast and butter. I’ll definitely make it again and that in itself is the best verdict of all!

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Day 40: Mediterranean pasta

For a change tonight, I made Mediterranean pasta. I think this may possibly have been only the second pasta dish I’ve made from the cookbook but it was a great recipe because many of the ingredients would be things that are usually found in the cupboards or fridge. That alone makes it a good recipe for nights when you don’t want to have to put in too much effort.

Firstly, I sautéed onions and garlic in butter and olive oil for 15 minutes. I then added chopped red pepper and sliced chorizo for 3 minutes before pouring in a tin of tomatoes, chicken stock, sugar, dried pasta and salt. Once it came up to the boil, I simmered it for 12 minutes. I finished it off by crumbling mozzarella and freshly chopped basil into it. I left the black olives out of the recipe though.

The verdict... 

Dear Husband scored the dish 8 marks out of 10. He normally finds pasta quite bland but he said that there were lots of flavour and different textures. I strongly suspect that the inclusion of chorizo has a lot to do with that. Chorizo seems to be something which everyone should have in stock as it brings so much flavour to dishes. Dear Son ate a full bowl of it which was impressive. I also liked this recipe for a number of reasons. Firstly, because the leftovers can be stuck in the fridge and will do for lunch or tea the next day. I really love those kinds of recipes. Secondly, the only fresh ingredients I needed were a red pepper and basil leaves so if you have to whip up something from things you normally have in stock, then this is the dish to make. Thirdly, it really was an easy recipe to put together with minimal fuss. So there you go. Another one that’s made The List.

Just thinking there that considering I’ve just completed 40 days of recipes, if this was Lent, today would be Easter Sunday. Thankfully though, this is sooo much more fun J

Monday, 18 June 2012

Wow!!! Over 5,000 views of the blog! Thank you so much for reading! :)

Day 39: Seared beef salad

Not the most appealing of sights in my opinion but, then again, I’m not a meat eater. I’m talking about the great big lump of meat that our local butcher presented me for my approval. I’m saying “Hmmm, lovely. Thanks!”. I’m really thinking “Eugh! Gross! Thank God I don’t eat that stuff!”. And that is no reflection on the standard of the meat because according to my Donegal mammy who is an authority on the quality of meat, our local butcher supplies nothing but the finest of meats and won’t buy it anywhere else other than Grants in Buncrana. It’s a traditional butcher shop where the staff are friendly and it’s family owned so it's popular.

Remember when a few weeks ago and it was 26°C and I was making winter dinners? Well, it’s been bucketing down for the past two days in Donegal and although the winter dinners would be more appropriate now, I am, of course, making summer salad-type dishes. Not only do I have a time machine on my wish list but also a crystal ball which will predict the weather. Honestly, I don’t know why we even have a weather forecast. We would be better to assume that it’s going to be dull and raining and then if it’s a nice day, we’ll have a nice surprise! That’s my logic anyway.

Tonight then, I made Seared beef salad. It was my first time cooking a fillet of beef and I must admit to being slightly fickle about what meats I cook. If it doesn’t look remotely ‘normal’, I’m not cooking it. Therefore, I wouldn’t exactly have gone out of my way to cook a fillet of beef before but I can tick that one off my culinary to-do list now too.

Well, getting back to the salad and I started off by cutting two red onions each into six wedges. I drizzled olive oil over the wedges on a roasting tray and seasoned them before cooking in the oven for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, I made the dressing which consisted of olive oil, balsamic vinegar and Dijon mustard. I dressed rocket leaves with the dressing and put it on a plate. Then onto the part which I was least looking forward to as, armed with the latex gloves, I cut the fillet of beef into 12 thin slices. When the onions were nearly done, I put a griddle pan on a high heat on the hob and fried the slices of beef for 30 seconds on each side. When the onions came out of the oven, I drizzled them with balsamic vinegar and once the beef was done, I put it on top of the rocket leaves, placed some of the onion wedges on the plate too and drizzled some of the balsamic vinegar/olive oil on top. Finally, I crumbled some Gorgonzola blue cheese on top.

I had a wee taste of the Gorgonzola cheese. Firstly, checked that it was from cows rather than sheep or goats or whatever and saw the beloved ‘Suitable for vegetarians’ label. Secondly, I Googled it – hey, I like to know what I’m eating! To my knowledge, this was the first time I had tasted Gorgonzola and it was certainly the first time I cooked with it. I haven’t made up my mind about it yet – I ate a bit, couldn’t figure out if I liked it or not, ate some more and so on. From reading that, I think it’s fair to say I’d eat it again. So, onto the verdict…

Dear Husband gave it 9 marks out of 10 – major milestone in the history of salads in our house! Result. He described the meat as ‘tender and succulent’. He said that the Gorgonzola was the nicest cheese he’d ever tasted!!! Dear Son didn’t have any but he’d had his dinner in the early part of the evening. He only shouts “Mum, 2 out of 10!” now so that I’ll run around the house to tickle him! Crafty.

So, there you go. A salad type dish that will keep any meat-eater happy. Check. A dish that sneaks in part of your 5-a-day. Check. A type of meat which I hadn’t cooked before. Check. Tasted a new cheese which we’ve decided we both like. Check. Now, who’d have thought all of that would have been achieved from a simple salad???! Dear Husband will never look at salads the same ever again…

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Day 38: Leg of lamb with roasted vegetables

Absolutely delicious”. Words that put a smile on my face today. Hope you all enjoyed Father’s Day and thoughts to those of you whose fathers are here in spirit. Being Father’s Day, I had to pick a rather special recipe from the cookbook so I settled on Leg of lamb with roasted vegetables.

I bought Irish lamb yesterday when I was shopping and I was surprised at how much lamb costs but, the way I look at it, is that it was a large joint of meat and sure if you ordered lamb in a restaurant, it’d be the same price as a mains and only a fraction of the size. When it comes to Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, Easter etc., to be honest, I’d rather make dinner at home and go out another time for dinner. I suppose that I always think that because the restaurant will no doubt be booked beyond capacity, the service won’t be as quick and possibly the food not as nice. Plus, as much as I dearly love my two children, add in two little ones to the mix and my stress levels start to rise. Yes, I want my 3-year-old Dear Son to sit on his seat without hopping off it every 2 seconds. Yes, I want Baby Daughter to sit in her high chair without looking to get out. Yes, I want to be able to eat my dinner and enjoy every second of a meal which I have not prepared myself but does all this happen? No.

I remember the first time we went out for a meal as a family when Baby Daughter was merely months old. That was last summer and, as a family unit, we’ve only been out together once since. If we’re going out for dinner, it’s for two and the babysitters are summonsed. For a reason. That day last summer, the waitress put out my lovely dinner which I was soooo looking forward to and I had literally eaten one mouthful when Baby Daughter decided enough was enough and insisted on squealing the place down. Of course, I took her out to the car and pacified her whilst Dear Husband and Dear Son enjoyed theirs. You see, I would feel for other people in a restaurant there to enjoy a lovely meal and a squealing child isn’t really fair on them, is it? Pre-children, if I was them, I too would wonder why the mother (of course!) doesn’t just take the child outside. Now, if I see a child screaming, my thoughts are nothing but sympathy for the poor mother. Yes, I too have fallen victim to a screaming child lying down on the supermarket floor in a tantrum! Having children really does change your perspective on many, many things.  

Anyway, back to today’s lunch and I liked the recipe from the start because all was contained within the one dish. Love it. In a roasting dish, I added sliced potatoes, sliced parsnips and wedges of red onion along with seasoning and rapeseed oil. I threw in freshly chopped rosemary and thyme leaves seeing as I had both. I then set the leg of lamb on top of the rack and scored criss-crosses across the top of it. Into the oven it all went for 1 hour 15 minutes as I actually used half a leg of lamb which was still a large joint of meat. Meanwhile, I make mint sauce as per my mother’s recipe which very simply is freshly chopped mint, sugar, boiling water and vinegar. When the lamb was ready, I took it out, wrapped it up in tin foil to rest for 10 minutes and popped the veg back into the oven until it was time to serve.

The verdict…

Having not cooked a leg of lamb before, I was afraid that I would over-cook it and not achieve the slightly-pink-in-the-middle finish. Thankfully though, Dear Husband said it was absolutely delicious and scored the whole dish 8.5 marks out of 10. He said the lamb was perfect though. He particularly liked the potatoes also. Dear Son was that tired after the swimming pool (first day without arm bands) that he slept all through lunch so he ate it later in my parents’ house and ate all of it although he keeps saying "Mum, 2 marks out of 10!". Best of all though was that Baby Daughter couldn’t eat hers fast enough. This is a major milestone in our house because, although she is a fantastic eater most of the time, generally she doesn’t eat what we are having for dinner. I will certainly be making this Sunday dinner again for that reason alone.

Another thing I loved about this dish is that because the joint of meat was large, there is plenty for Dear Husband to nibble at tomorrow for his lunch so again, I’m all in favour of that. A bit like post-Christmas Day with the turkey and ham for making sandwiches. My mother always insists that the day she most likes her Christmas Dinner is actually on St. Stephen’s Day – if that makes sense?!

So, to conclude, a highly recommended recipe for any special occasion and considering Neven Maguire reckons that Ireland has the best lamb, you can’t go wrong. Hats off to Rachel though for yet another straightforward, simple yet delicious recipe. It really is a keeper :) 

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Day 37: Easy lemon cake

Have you ever heard of Father’s Day Eve as in Christmas Eve? Well, Dear Husband came up with this concept following the birth of Dear Son in 2009. As if that wasn’t bad enough, he wouldn’t agree to a Mother’s Day present when I was 8 months pregnant so as “not to tempt fate”. Effectively, that meant that year I didn’t have a Mother’s Day but he had a Father’s Day seeing as Dear Son’s birth fell in between Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. It really is a man’s world at times. And sure any chance I get to score a present off Dear Husband is worth a try. 

So, getting back to the point about Father’s Day. The deal is in our house that for Father’s Day, I will make Dear Husband whatever dishes he wants. All he has to do is let me know what he wants in advance. Therefore, this morning, I was presented with a small piece of paper which detailed the dishes he would like for his Father’s Day Eve dinner and his actual Father’s Day breakfast. Top of Dear Husband’s list of all-time favourite foods is a sirloin steak, fried mushrooms and onions, pepper sauce and potatoes. So, that’s what I made except I made the paprika potato wedges instead of creamed potatoes. I’ve used Rachel's recipe for paprika wedges quite a few times now as they are incredibly quick and yummy. For dessert, the recipe which featured from Rachel’s cook book was Easy lemon cake.

Like most cakes, the recipe was straightforward. I no longer have a working food-processor and although a KitchenAid is on my wish list, to be honest, I couldn’t justify spending that amount of money now on something that isn’t essential – no matter how good they look. Pre-children, I probably would’ve bought one but must admit to having turned into one of those mammies who would feel guilty on purchasing unnecessary-big-spends. Like, it’s not to say a Kitchen Aid is a pair of shoes or a handbag which I consider essentials (!). Nonetheless, never did I think I’d see the day where I’d feel guilty about buying a domestic appliance but that’s what motherhood has done to me and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

So, I had to do with my good old electric hand whisk whereby I creamed the butter, added the caster sugar, eggs and milk before folding in the plain flour and baking powder. When I was putting the mixture into the baking tin, I actually did a double-check on the recipe as I thought I’d gotten the quantities wrong considering how small the mixture was for a cake but, no, I had followed the quantities exactly. Into the oven the cake went for 30 minutes which left me enough time to clean up the mess so far. Honestly, if you are under some illusion that I live in domestic bliss with a super-clean, super-tidy kitchen all of the time, you’re wrong. Before I commence any cooking, I do have to have the kitchen clean and tidy though because I will need every square inch of work top and table by the time I finish. And, I just love the sight of a tidy kitchen. Another thing is that I can’t go to bed at night without tidying up the kitchen first. That’s why I can often be found tinkering about in the kitchen at midnight emptying the dishwasher. Honestly, I don’t know what I would do without my dishwasher. Believe me, the last thing I want to be doing at night is tidying up a messy kitchen but I have this thing about dragging yesterday’s mess into tomorrow – not a good start to a day. I’m pretty sure there’s an ancient proverb about it too.

Back to the recipe and the icing was extremely easy to make - icing sugar and a few tablespoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice. Onto the cake it went once the cake cooled and voila!

The verdict…

Dear Husband gave the cake 8 marks out of 10. Typically it wouldn’t be something he’d go for and typically it wouldn’t be something I’d bake but it was, as they say, scrumptious. I loved it myself as did Dear Son. I also liked that it wasn’t a massive big cake so each slice was a nice portion without making it feel too heavy. I only wish that I’d had those wee crystalised fruit decoration thingys my granny used to have for decorating her cakes. They really would have finished off the presentation nicely so forgive me on the plain old icing. So there you go. A simple and probably a bit more sophisticated cake than the good old Victoria sponge.

P.S. Do not let on to your Dear Husbands about the Father’s Day Eve thing but keep in mind for next year when you propose a Mother’s Day Eve! Sure us mums are worth it! Happy Father's Day!

Friday, 15 June 2012

A Special Additional Post for Father’s Day: Baked Eggs

So you’ve heard me mention the infamous Baked Eggs which are a favourite amongst all who come to our house so, in honour of Father’s Day tomorrow, here’s my slightly adapted version of Rachel’s recipe. Enjoy!

Baked Eggs with Chorizo, Cream and Cheese
This recipe is adapted from page 105 of Rachel Allen’s cookbook Rachel’s Food for Living. This makes enough for one adult or two children.

2 teaspoons of tomato purée
4 tablespoons of double cream
Salt, pepper and sugar
14 slices of chorizo sausage cut 2cm thick (this is usually half of a full chorizo sausage)
2 eggs
2 tablespoons of grated cheese

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 230ºC (450ºF), Gas mark 8.
  2. Mix the tomato purée with the cream and season with salt, pepper and a pinch of sugar.
  3. Spoon half the cream mixture into the base of two ovenproof cups, bowls or ramekins.
  4. Cut the whole chorizo sausage in half. Put the other half back in the fridge and, with the half you have, run the knife length-ways down the sausage on each side and peel off the skin. Slice into 2cm slices. Add 3 slices of chorizo to each dish.
  5. Crack an egg into each dish.
  6. Divide the rest of the chorizo into each dish on top of the eggs.
  7. Spoon the rest of the cream mixture into each dish.
  8. Sprinkle each dish with grated cheese.
  9. Place in the hot oven and cook for 15 minutes.

Make sure you buy a full chorizo sausage and not the ones that come already sliced. You can buy chorizo sausages at the deli counter in Sainsbury’s or in the fridge section in Marks & Spencers. They cost around £3 each in sterling - not sure about Euro. I can't get these in my local Supervalu - they used to stock them though. If you’re making eggs for more than one adult, I generally allow 2 eggs per person and 2 tsp tomato purée: 4 tbsp of double cream per person.

P.S. I'll still be  putting up a new post for Day 37 tonight so check back later! :)

Day 36: Yoghurt masala fish

I’m fairly sure that most houses have a pecking order for who gets fed first and our house is no exception. Ideally, we would all eat the same thing at the same time but between having a vegetarian, a fussy 3-year-old, a not so fussy 1-year-old and a husband who commutes to and from his work in Belfast, coordinating meal times in our house is a challenge itself. However, one thing for sure is that like all houses, without doubt, the children are always the priority. Then it used to be Dear Husband and then me. However, I slowly learned that didn’t work for me. Why? Well, what would happen is that I would feed all of them, clean up and then, before I’d know it, it would be time for the next meal without me having had a proper meal myself and that is no good for a busy mother. For she who cannot look after herself cannot look after others. So eventually, the revised pecking order became children, me, Dear Husband.

When it comes to Dear Husband, the rule that I now live by is that Dear Husband gets fed when I get fed. I have found this to be very effective. Another thing is that if I have to stop what I'm doing to see to the kids, that delays getting food out on the table and normally Dear Husband is hovering about the kitchen looking to see when dinner will be ready. Is it any wonder that I sometimes say I have three children instead of two?! For example, if I am making food in the kitchen and the baby starts crying, I drop what I’m doing and see to her; thus, delaying the time at which the food will be ready. If Dear Son insists on me playing golf with him in the kitchen, again, golf it is. Dear Husband eventually realised that if wants fed quicker, he has to take over temporarily as the sole entertainer of the household in order to let me get on with things. All learned behaviour, you see. I’m pretty sure I picked up that learned behaviour thing from watching Super Nanny!

So, this evening, it was, as usual, children fed first, then me and then Dear Husband and I made him Yoghurt masala fish. I’m fairly sure that I am fast approaching the last few of the fish dishes of the cookbook but I will continue on with them on a Friday until such times that they are all done. Then, I’ll have to find a Friday replacement!

I used haddock for the fish. It was prepacked and de-boned so I cut a few slits on each side and rubbed in salt (with the latex gloves on, of course!). I then let the fish sit for 10 minutes while I got on with the marinade which consisted of yoghurt, garam masala, salt, lemon, crushed garlic and freshly grated root ginger. I didn’t make up my own garam masala – I just used the ready-prepared stuff in a bottle. Once the fish marinated, I rubbed the spiced yoghurt over the fish – all but two tablespoons. I drizzled some of my Donegal Rapeseed Oil over the fish and then grilled it. After 10 minutes, I took it out of the grill, turned it over, spread the remaining spiced yoghurt and some rapeseed oil on it and put it back under the grill for 15 minutes. I served it up with boiled rice.

I also felt the need to take a picture of the Donegal Rapeseed Oil which I always use. If it has the word ‘Donegal’ on it, I will surely buy it and it is definitely good stuff as you’ll see from the ‘Great Taste Gold 2011’ award that it has. I must say, even when I see Marks and Spencers in Derry selling Donegal potatoes, I’m as proud as punch. Yes, I just have to say it - they’re not just potatoes, they’re M&S Donegal potatoes! J

The verdict…

Dear Husband said it was ‘nice’. However, there were many small bones in it and I know he really doesn’t like that. Despite that, he still scored it 7 marks out of 10 which is a surprise. The meal was very easy to make with no fuss really. Dear Husband also said that it has made The List so apparently it will be featuring in our house again. Because the fish needs marinating, this is a handy dish which could be prepared a few hours in advance and then stuck in the fridge until cooking time. I love those kind of dishes especially on evenings after coming home from work. It really is all go go go in our house but anything that makes me get dinner out on the table that wee bit quicker is good in my books. So, with that in mind, I’ll leave you with some parting words for your weekend…

 "Blessed is the person who is too busy to worry in the daytime and
              too sleepy to worry at night”.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Day 34: Thai steamed fish

Desperate. The worst I’ve ever experienced!”. I was going to say luckily he was referring to the efforts of the Irish football team tonight but I wish he had been referring to my dish instead. I thought when I predicted a 3-0 defeat to Spain yesterday that I was just being realistic if not slightly pessimistic but never did I think it would end up 4-0. We had such high hopes of this year’s Euros. I’m convinced that our proud Donegal man Shay Given is actually still injured but they decided to play him rather than give the opposition teams the psychological edge. Well, only time will tell.

On another note, remember the lamb burger competition I was telling you about on the Ray D’Arcy Show? Well, the girl whose recipe I mentioned is called Sinead Drew and she won! Lucky her! She gets (amongst other things), an individual cooking lesson with Neven Maguire up at McNean House. She really did deserve to win though. Her recipe sounded amazing!

Anyway, back to the Challenge and tonight it was Thai steamed fish. Being a Thursday evening, it had to be a quick recipe and quick it was.

First of all, I made the sauce which consisted of freshly chopped coriander, crushed garlic, nam pla, grated root ginger and lemon juice. I don’t have a steamer sauce pan and wasn’t about to start searching for my plug-in one so I used Rachel’s tip which is something I honestly think is great. You see, you get a large sieve, line it with kitchen foil or parchment paper and then put in the ingredients and wrap them up. Then place over a saucepan of boiling water to steam. So, into the foil went the salmon fillets, pak choi and the sauce. I wrapped them up and steamed them. The recipe said to steam them for 7-8 minutes but I think I steamed them for 17-18 minutes as I didn’t have the hob hot enough.

The verdict…

Dear Husband’s words were exactly “It looked like something I’ve seen on Bear Grylls (!) but it tasted like something from a 4* hotel (!)”. From that, I took that as a compliment. I really thought I was going to get a low-ish score tonight but he scored the dish 8 marks out of 10 – yay! Therefore, it’s made the list. Dear Son had something else earlier on in the evening so I didn’t chance it with him. I just knew that with one look what his verdict was going to be.

So, there you go. A surprise and a good one. If only tonight’s match had ended as well. The level of play left a lot to be desired Ireland but at least you can pride yourselves in having the best fans. Drobanoc…