Sunday, 30 September 2012

Day 141: Beef pie

Ok, when you look at the picture of my Beef pie and then compare it with the picture of Rachel’s beef pie, I think it’s fair to say that any creativity I possessed as a child has been well and truly spent over the years. Seriously, every time I look at my picture, it reminds me of the river beside my parents' house after a severe flood. I had it in my head for quite a while to make this one and, at long last, I had the time this weekend to do it. If you look at the recipe, you’ll appreciate the importance of time as it said it required 20 minutes to cook and 2¾ hours to cook. Once I factored in that it would take me probably twice the time to prepare everything, I knew I needed quite a bit of time for this one. So, that said, onto the recipe…
Rachel's lovely looking beef pie
  My not-so-lovely-looking beef pie

Like so many recipes, I insist of preparing everything first before anything gets near heat. Once I had all the ingredients prepared, I added olive oil to my large casserole dish and let it heat. Once hot, I added seasoned stewing beef and let it fry for about 4 minutes until each piece had browned. I then added a small bit of flour and let it cook for a further minute. Next, it was the turn of the vegetables – chopped carrot, celery, onion, leeks and sliced garlic along with some tomato purée. They cooked for just over 5 minutes until they softened. Then, I added red wine, red wine vinegar, freshly cut orange peel, a bay leaf, a sprig of rosemary and 300ml of water. I seasoned the lot, brought them to the boil and covered with a lid. I popped the dish into the oven for 2¼ hours and then took it out of the oven. It was time then to sort out the pastry and, thank goodness, I had bought ready rolled puff pastry so all I had to do was flour my worktop and trim it. The recipe said to then ‘scallop’ it and the cookbook did include eight separate photos for the pastry part (which was great) but, I can safely say that, until today, I had never heard of ‘scalloping’ pastry. I think the purpose of scalloping the pastry is part decoration but more so to let the steam from beef mixture escape. I think. Well, I did try as best I could but pastry lid was not good; far from good. It looked a bit ridiculous if I’m really honest. After I put the pastry lid on, I made the pastry leaves (which I actually did a good job of) and brushed the lot with a beaten egg. And as if my pastry wasn’t bad enough, for some strange, strange reason, I put the lid on the dish again before putting it back in the oven!!! I only wish I was joking! I was cleaning up and thought “Oh, I’ll put the lid in the dishwasher now. Hang on, where’s the lid? Em, uh oh”!. Well, that’s the milder version of the conversation in my head. Yes, I had to grab the oven gloves and thankfully this time, my brain did engage and put on the gloves before grabbing the lid. Unfortunately, by that time, the gravy part of the beef had started to drown the pastry so it looked like a brown tide coming in on a sandy beach. I had a right bit of fixing to do to sort that out but, eventually, I did make progress and put the dish back in the oven; this time with the lid off. The pie took a total of 15 minutes in the oven.

The verdict…

Thankfully, this recipe was worth the effort – 9 marks out of 10 from Dear Husband. Dear Son ate it and so did Baby Daughter. She particularly liked it because, when I was feeding hers to her, every time I went to blow on her spoon, she thought I was eating it and starting squealing! Thankfully, she is a child who loves her food and God help the person who thinks they are ever going to get her dinner. Not a chance. Dear Son, on the other hand, would gladly give his dinner away to anyone. Dear Sister No.1 and the brother-in-law called over so there was plenty in the large dish for them too and both of them loved the recipe.

Overall, this recipe was a big effort both, in terms of preparation and cooking; that said, it was worth it. When a recipe gets 9 marks (especially from Dear Husband), it automatically goes on The List. I’d never made a meat pie recipe before using pastry so it’s great that I can now cross that one off the list. It’s not a recipe to make on a work night but it’s definitely worth putting the time in at the weekend. Just remember to not put the lid on the dish the second time you put it in the oven…

Saturday, 29 September 2012

Blog Awards 2012

I just thought I'd also mention that I didn't make the final seven of the Ireland Blog Awards 2012 but congrats to those of you who did and thank you to my many readers who nominated me in the first place! Stay tuned here for more recipes...

Day 140: Pork stir-fry

My Aunt Rosemary describes food shopping as soul destroying work and I totally agree. You take the food off the shelf and put it in the trolley, you then put it on the belt, you then pack it into a bag, you then put it in the car, then you have to lift the bags out of the car into the house, you then have to take everything out and put it away. There goes half my Saturday. Is it any wonder that there’s an increasing trend of ordering online and the supermarket delivers to your door? A friend of mine swears by it. However, here’s the thing…it has become a ritual now that Dear Son and I do the food shopping together every Saturday. Being a creature of habit, I park in the same spot (God forbid anyone else thinks about parking in it! Lol!), we see the same other customers, I navigate around the aisles in the same manner (please don’t let them have changed everything round this week!), Dear Son sneaks things into the trolly, I sneak the same back out and, most importantly, Dear Son has taken to this particular sales Assistant called Mary who has ‘high 5s’ and cuddles for him every week. You see, as much as I love online shopping, online shopping doesn’t give you the same experience. That’s where the supermarkets have me. Plus, I love to see what new items they now stock and how I can use them in my cooking. Therefore, for now and the foreseeable future, I will continue to shop in store.

Being a Saturday, I did my usual food shopping which involves no less than five different stops. Well, it used to be four until recently because Harry’s of Bridgend now run their Made in Inishowen local food market (10:30am-2:30pm). Five stops is the only way I can manage to get through a full week of cooking without having to run every five minutes to the supermarket for something that I’ve forgotten. I have a shopping list and I’ve tried many variations of this – Post-Its, electronic lists on my Blackberry, light cardboard from the box of tea bags/mansize tissues (a favourite of Dear Father’s and my late granny) and spiral notebooks. However, what I’ve found is that an actual bound notebook is my saviour. There’s no chance of me losing that thing. I have different pages for different shops/supermarkets and each item goes into the appropriate page accordingly. It’s a bit of organising but it sure beats that dreaded feeling when you are mid-way through cooking a recipe only to remember that you forgot to get something. Horrible.

So, being all stock up for the week ahead, I decided to give my new wok a go. Yes, I finally did round to buying one. I decided to make a stir-fry which is a recipe don’t do often and chose Pork stir-fry in particular.

The cookbook said to prepare the pork and then make the sauce but I know me (obviously!) and knew to sort out the sauce first as it usually takes me longer to prepare the ingredients than what’s stated in the cookbook. So, the sauce is exactly where I started which involved putting the following ingredients into a bowl – cider vinegar, soy sauce, tomato purée, caster sugar, chicken stock, cornflour and sesame oil. The recipe also said to use rice wine but I couldn’t get any; therefore, I relied on my good friend Google and it said that a dry white wine or sherry could be used as a substitute so I went for the wine option.

Next, it was the turn of the pork. The site of a tenderloin isn’t exactly appealing to me as a vegetarian so, once again, thank goodness for the invention of latex gloves. I simply sliced it into 1cm cuts and seasoned it. I put the wok on to heat, added rapeseed oil and, once hot, added grated garlic, sliced scallions and grated ginger. It fried for about 30 seconds and then I added in the sliced pork. It cooked for about 3 minutes until the pork was cooked through and then I added in the sauce along with half of a diced red pepper. Once it came up to the boil, I let it cook for a further 3 minutes until the sauce had thickened. Once ready, I served it with boiled rice.

The verdict…

Dear Husband’s words were ver batim “First class! 7 marks out of 10!”. Eh? Well, you know by now he's a hard marker. Anything over 7 apparently is 'first class'. It was a chinese-inspired dish so I thought it would do well with him.
Overall, it was very easy and quick to prepare and cook. It's definitely made The List and I think it's a perfect recipe for a Friday evening after a long week when you don't exactly feel like starting into a longer recipe - especially when you have that other work to prepare for the next day - food shopping...

Friday, 28 September 2012

Day 139: Banoffee pancakes

If there is one night in the whole week that justifies a dessert like Banoffee pancakes then it’s a Friday night. As I mentioned yesterday, Dear Husband has turned a Friday night into CTM night (that’s Chicken tika masala, just to remind you). That said, I just had to blitz out another dessert. I also had to use up the remainder of the dulce de leche from the Banoffee pots from the other night. Well, I too hate wasting food so everything needs to be used!

To make the pancakes, I sifted self-raising flour into a bowl and added caster sugar, a beaten egg and milk. I brought it together and then dolloped four pancakes onto a frying pan with melted butter in it. When making pancakes, I always use an ice-cream scoop so that each pancake is the same size. That wee trick is extremely handy on a Sunday morning when I so often make pancakes stacked one on top of the other with bacon and maple syrup. Anyway, getting back to tonight, once the pancakes were ready, I served them with some freshly whipped cream, dulce de leche and sliced banana. Oh, and a big cup of Barry’s tea, of course.

The verdict…

I’m not sure if I should tell you Dear Husband's verdict. Ah, what the heck, of course I will. I have to! He reckoned that maybe the dessert didn’t go with the CTM. He gave the recipe 5 marks out of 10. To be honest, I think he just associates pancakes with Sunday morning breakfast and I think I’m the same which is why I can’t really fault his verdict of 5 marks when that’s exactly the same score that I gave the recipe also. The pancake mix is the exact same pancake mix I use from Rachel’s other book Rachel’s Favourite Food so there is nothing for me personally to really differentiate between the two. It really is a great pancake mix though albeit for breakfast.  

Overall, it was an extremely easy recipe to make but, in all honesty, I don’t think I’ll make this particular version of pancakes again. I’ll stick to pancakes on a Sunday morning with bacon and maple syrup for Dear Husband and Dear Son and the plain pancake mix for me and Baby Daughter which is what we’ve become accustomed to on a Sunday. Therefore, sorry Banoffee pancake recipe - you haven't made The List.

On another note, last week, I slowly came to the realisation that I am well and truly through a substantial part of this Challenge and I always had it in the back of my mind that when I do get to the inevitable end, I’m going to do something special. So even though ‘something special’ would (ideally) involve me getting a brand new kitchen (I have dreamt up my dream kitchen many a time!), I settled on something much more realistic – or so I thought. But I’m telling you, whenever I do get a new kitchen, I really am going to town with it and have every gadget under the sun in it. I do love gadgets and I absolutely love kitches! Anyway, I decided that I’d book dinner in MacNean House in Blacklion, Cavan which, as many of you already know, is owned by renowned chef Neven Maguire. So, there I went onto the iPad to Google it, arrived at the website only to see the message along the lines that (as of 3 September 2012) they were now taking bookings for the first half of 2013! Uh oh, I really am going to have to wait for this dinner, I thought. I had heard Neven on the Ray D’arcy Show earlier this year and clearly remembered him mentioning about a waiting list so I was kind of prepared. So, I picked up the phone and dialled; it was engaged so although I would usually ring and ring and ring until the person at the other end picks up, I just left a message. I pondered how long it would take for them to phone me back (I'm not exactly the patient kind) but I was pleasantly surprised that Andrea (who was lovely on the phone) rang me back within about 20 minutes. I politely said to her that it would probably be easier if she could tell me the next Saturday night that they would have a table available but I was shocked to learn that it would be Saturday, 16 March 2013. I then asked if they had anything on a Friday night and she said they had a table in February and it just so happened that they had a table on the night of my birthday so I took it as fate and booked the table. I am lucky in 2013 you see as my birthday is at the weekend (instead of during the week) which means that Dear Husband can’t do what I call the “two-for-one meal deal”. What’s the “two-for-one meal deal” you ask?  Ok, here’s the low-down. My birthday is in February as is, of course, Valentine’s Day. My birthday is the week before Valentine’s and both days are more often than not week days; therefore, in the weekend in between my birthday and Valentine’s, we end up going out that Saturday night for my birthday and Valentine’s; hence, the name “the two-for-one weekend”. I have such fun every year with that one. Around that time of year, I regale everyone who comes into our house about the “two-for-one” because, the best part is, if I really, really wanted to go out both nights, Dear Husband would instantly oblige; however, the real reason is that I have a rule whereby I don’t go out on weeknights but sure, where would be the fun in telling people that?!  :) 

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Day 138: Asparagus and goat's cheese risotto

In my mind, I have always held risotto as being one of those recipes which would seem easy to make but is anything but. I had also seen Jamie Oliver on one of his cooking programmes making risotto and I think he referred to it, along the lines of being, labour intensive. For those reasons, I avoided making risotto. That is, of course, until this Challenge. Also, any time that I have eaten risotto in a restaurant, the rice is usually undercooked and the overall dish tastes rather bland. But therein lies another joy of being vegetarian – whatever one vegetarian recipe is on the menu, well, that’s what I’m going to have. Fortunately though, there are restaurants where I actually get a good choice but, usually, the vegetarian options are limited.

So, tonight’s recipe was Asparagus and goat’s cheese risotto and it was also a vegetarian dish so I summoned Dear Sister No.3 to the house as my independent taster. Well, there was no way that Dear Husband was going to like this recipe – or so I thought.

I began by sautéing a diced onion in olive oil on a low heat for about 6 minutes and then added the risotto rice and seasoning. I let it cook for a minute before adding in white wine and vegetable stock. On that note, I always use the reduced-salt Swiss vegetable bouillon which is MSG-free. Once it came up to the boil, I popped the lid on and into the oven it went for 8 minutes. At that point, I took it out and added in chopped asparagus spears which cooked for a further 9 minutes. Next, it was time to add frozen garden peas which cooked in the oven for another 2 minutes. Once the oven cooking part was over, I took the saucepan out and beat in a small bit of butter (Kerrygold, of course!) and grated parmesan cheese. Seeing as none of us actually like goat’s cheese, I used a few blobs of buffalo mozzarella instead and then added a sprinkling of black pepper.

The verdict…

Well, for the first time ever, Dear Husband scored a vegetarian recipe higher than what I did – 7 marks from him, 6 from me and 5 marks from Dear Sister. He said, and I quote “Aw, that was so tasty, so chickeny!”. Yes, for some reason, he thought there was some sort of chicken in it so I said nothing and never let on that it was actually a vegetarian recipe. To be honest, I only gave him a small bowl of it the first time because I’d made him lamb chops and salad for his dinner. However, I then went and gave him another helping seeing as he liked it so much. Dear Sister said it was ok (!). I’ll say nothing.

Overall, it was an easy recipe to make. I’ll definitely make it again as this recipe will be tucked safely up my sleeve for evenings when I really, really can’t be bothered to make two separate dinners. Oh, I almost forgot! Dear Son ate a full bowl of it!!! For that reason alone, I am going to make the risotto again for lunch on Sunday! Well, tomorrow is Friday and that can only mean one thing on the menu for Dear Husband's dinner - chicken tika masala...     


Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Day 137: Roasted new potatoes and buttered cabbage (with bacon)

Other than stew, you probably can’t get a more Irish dinner than potatoes, cabbage and bacon. That’s why I decided to do an Easy Meals’ version in the form of Roasted new potatoes, buttered cabbage and bacon. Well, I had to put meat in somewhere! I could only imagine Dear Husband’s face if I handed him a plate of veg and no meat! :)

So, to make the roasted new potatoes, I boiled them for 5 minutes and drained them. The recipe said to take a fork to them and press down on them which I tried but it was turning into a bit of a task so I took the potato masher instead and just lightly pressed down on them. They were then ready to go into the oven. I already had a roasting dish with rapeseed oil in it heating for about 10 minutes so I tumbled the potatoes in (this is the part where you have to be careful not to burn yourself and is highly recommended that you keep the saucepan and roasting dish at arms’ length). I also added in a tablespoon of semolina and seasoning. Into the oven they went for 40 minutes.

Next, it was the turn of the cabbage. Now, the recipe said to use savoy cabbage but when I went to get cabbage, I could get white cabbage, York cabbage and kale but no savoy. I even got Dear Husband to check shops on his way home from work but to no avail. Therefore, I settled on the white cabbage which I quartered, cored and finely sliced sideways. Into the frying pan it went on top of some melted butter, two tablespoons of water and seasoning. I popped the lid on and cooked it for about 5 minutes.

For the bacon, I simply fried it seeing as the oven was already in operation and I don’t have a fancy oven whereby the grill and oven are separate. When everything was ready, I served up.

The verdict…

Dear Husband gave the recipe 8 marks out of 10. I am furthermore convinced that you can’t go wrong with traditional Irish cooking of potatoes, meat and two veg. Indeed, on my way home from work yesterday, I called in to my parents’ house and Dear Mother was making the dinner so, she’s a bit like me, and no one can leave the house without getting fed so I was only too happy to oblige. I sure love it when someone makes me dinner and especially if it’s my Dear Mother’s cooking. She was making her own traditional dinner of potatoes, turnip and bacon so I had potatoes and turnip and she’s such a fantastic cook that even with two simple vegetables, my dinner tasted gorgeous. It’s just something about the way she cooks them. Of course, she was scolding Dear Father about putting bacon gravy on top of his turnip but, sure, some things never change and it does him no harm. Yes, remember how I said he eats butter like wedges of cheese?! I ate the roasted potatoes and cabbage and I must say how tasty they were. I must say that the semolina made a difference to the roast potatoes - in a nice way of course. I'd seen Nigella Lawson before on one of her programmes make roasted potatoes at Christmas with semolina and it was something that I had always intended to do but never got round to doing. With this recipe, I had the perfect opportunity. I would give my dinner 7 marks out of 10.

Overall, this was a very simple recipe to make. The biggest problem was getting savoy cabbage which is strange to think. I will most definitely make this again and I suppose if you were to start making recipes from the Easy Meals book, this would be a recipe which I would highly recommend as it’s very traditional and not much can go wrong. Enjoy this one!

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Day 136: Little banoffee pots

I am always eager to get the opinion of others when it comes to the recipes in addition to Dear Husband’s. Let’s just say it provides a more generalised view of a recipe. So, it was perfect that Dear Sister No.1 called round last night just as I was dishing up yet another dessert and the recipe I chose was Little banoffee pots.

The biggest task in this recipe was to have dulce de leche ready which you know is just boiled condensed milk. Luckily, I had three cans already made from the time I made the Toffee peanut squares. I am still amazed how condensed milk can go from that to the lovely caramel it becomes once boiled.

To begin, I whipped up some double cream. In a different bowl, I added in about 100ml dulce de leche along with two tablespoons of double cream and gave it swirl. I then folded the dulce de leche into the whipped cream. Using four small glasses, I crumbled digestive biscuits into them followed by sliced banana followed by the creamy mixture and repeated once more. To finish, I sprinkled some digestive biscuits on top and served.

The verdict…

Dear Sister No.1 loved the recipe and gave it 10 out of 10. Dear Husband gave it 6 marks and I was in between on 8 marks. Dear Son said “ick” and wouldn’t eat his. Now, I eat bananas but only because Dear Mother told me when I was 17 that all the sports people ate them! Never underestimate the power of a mother coaxing her child to eat healthy things! However, that said, I wouldn’t like banana ice-cream nor would I be big into banana desserts – this recipe was an exception though.

Overall, this was a quick recipe to prepare and it was super easy. It’s definitely a good idea to boil a number of cans of condensed milk in advance whenever you have the time so that it takes less time preparing a recipe that requires them. Will I make this recipe again? Yes, without doubt and the beauty is that it can be prepared in advance too. So, there’s another handy yet delicious dessert recipe to have on The List. Now all I have to do is convince Dear Son that all the Donegal players eat bananas!

Monday, 24 September 2012

Day 135: Sardines on toast with basil and rocket

One of the many great things about the Easy Meals cook book is that there is such a variety of recipes in terms of the time it takes to prepare them and, indeed, cook them. I think the quickest preparation time has been in the region of 2 minutes but, for days when you have time to spend longer, there are recipes which maybe take much more. Today’s recipe, however, was one of those recipes which took the least amount to prepare and no cooking; well, as long as you don’t count putting bread in a toaster cooking! Just like everyone else, there are many occasions when I am pushed for time so today’s recipe was a very quick supper in the form of Sardines on toast with basil and rocket.

I added olive oil and balsamic vinegar to a bowl and seasoned before adding in chopped sardines along with freshly chopped basil. I gave it a mix and popped two slices of sourdough bread into the toaster. Once it was done, I gave them a drizzle of olive oil, lay rockets leaves on top and then placed the sardine mixture on top of them. Finally, I seasoned the mixture and served.

The verdict…

To be honest, I was the least bit impressed with working with the sardines. I know I’m vegetarian but they would not appeal to me in a million years! However, Dear Husband loved this recipe and gave it 9 marks out of 10! I was shocked to say the least – in a good way, of course, because I now have a high scoring recipe that takes minimal effort. Yes, Sardines on toast with basil and rocket, you are going on The List and as long as Dear Husband continues to really like this recipe, I’ll have to stock up the cupboards with more sardines.  

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Day 134: Piadine with Kale and prosciutto topping, Mushroom and pesto topping and Smoked salmon and cream cheese topping

Donegal are All-Ireland champions! Woo-hoo! I didn’t get to the match but instead watched it from home. I managed to get through the first half ok but my nerves were shot in the second half, so much so that I had to get up and start tidying/dusting/ polishing the living room whilst listening to the match and glancing every few seconds at the TV. It was almost like watching a scary film (not that I like watching scary films) but it was certainly all getting too much. I dreaded the thought of Donegal losing and to go from a 7-point lead to a 3-point lead, it was Mayo’s for the taking at any second.  One goad would have wiped out that lead. Anyway, it's all history now - we won and that’s all that matters. Dear Sister No.1 phoned me afterwards and said the atmosphere was amazing and what better way to celebrate than “The Hills of Donegal” blasting around Croke Park! It’s an amazing achievement for Jim McGuinness, Rory Gallagher, all the players and backroom staff and there’s been such a buzz about the county for the past few weeks that it made me even prouder to be from Donegal. Such a great sense of community.

So, in relation to the Challenge, my main aim was to ensure that I had lunch read up long before the start of the match. I started early – around 12ish, I think. Being a Sunday, I can just about afford to spend more time on a particular recipe so I decided to make the Piadine with the three different toppings – Kale and prosciutto, Mushroom and pesto and Smoked salmon and cream cheese.

The cookbook said to make the Piadine (or La Piadina) and then the toppings but I did it the other way about as this recipe was really four recipes in one. I started by laying out all the ingredients I needed for the toppings and then got on with the piadine. For the piadine, I took a large bowl and into it went plain flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda. I gave it a quick swirl and then added in softened butter which I rubbed into the flour mix. Next, I added in milk and warm water and brought it altogether. I then cut it into four pieces, and rolled each piece on a lightly floured surface until each piece was very thin. I cooked each one on a griddle pan on a medium-high heat for a few minutes on each side.

Meanwhile, I got on with the Kale and prosciutto topping. I didn’t actually have prosciutto so I just used ordinary sliced ham instead. I got a lovely big bag of kale at Harry’s local food market yesterday so I began by removing the stalks and centre ribs. I then put it on to fry in a pan along with sliced garlic and seasoning until it wilted.

Next on the list was the Mushroom and pesto topping. I actually used regular mushrooms as I always find button mushrooms so tasteless. I just halved them and then sliced them before sautéing them in a pan with salt and pepper. Once they were slightly browned, I added in cream, grated parmesan and seasoning. I let it bubble on a low heat until I was ready to serve up.

There was no cooking involved for the Smoked salmon and cream cheese topping so I just arranged the ingredients onto plates or into bowls and set everything out on the table. I actually quartered the piadines so that each piece could have a different topping.

Once arranged, the piadine toppings consisted of the following:

Kale and prosciutto topping: Kale, olive oil, garlic, ham, mascarpone, seasoning.

Mushroom and pesto topping: butter, mushrooms, cream, pesto, parmesan cheese, seasoning.

Smoked salmon and cream cheese topping: smoked salmon, cream cheese, red onion, capers.

The verdict…

When I put everything out on the table, I thought to myself that there was no way that this would feed the four of us or, specifically, Dear Husband – he who has the big appetite; however, there was actually food left over. The piadines were very filling themselves and Dear Son didn’t manage to finish his nor did Baby Daughter. They probably ate half a piadine each. Dear Son had great fun putting together his own combination of toppings so anything that enthuses him to eat  good food I am all for! I gave Baby Daughter a combination of cream cheese and salmon. Dear Husband ate all the toppings and I had the mushroom topping and then kale and cream cheese.

In relation to the three toppings, Dear Husband ranked them as (1) Mushroom and pesto topping; (2) Smoked salmon and cream cheese topping; and (3) Kale and ham topping. The mushroom topping was my favourite by far. Dear Husband awarded the whole lunch 9 marks out of 10 and I would tend to agree with him on this one. It was a fantastic lunch!

Overall, it really was a fantastic lunch. Now, the cook book said it would take 15 minutes preparation and then 25-30 minutes cooking but, to be honest, it probably took me around 1 hour 15 minutes to make it all. In comparison to other recipes, this one required quite a bit of effort although it was very simple. When it came to preparing the three toppings, the cook book listed the ingredients but didn’t exactly state which way to use them so I used my instinct; I know from past experience that my instinct when it comes to cooking, my instincts aren’t always right - remember the meringues’ fiasco?!  Either way, I did use all the ingredients so I’d say I wasn’t far off. I loved preparing all the ingredients and then setting them out onto the table which made it nice for the photo too – just ignore all the scribblings from permanent marker that now feature on my table courtesy of Dear Son.

Yes, this lunch was definitely a bit of a star thus far in this Challenge. There was something to suit all four of us so if you made this recipe yourself, you could include/exclude ingredients to your liking. Despite my perception that this was a light lunch, it was actually very filling with food still left over. Yes, a star indeed, just like the 15 stars on the pitch at Croker today. Now, I’m off to make a cup of tea before The Sunday Game starts and I get to re-live today’s momentous game all over again. Up Donegal!

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Day 133: Spicy squid salad

Being the eternal optimist and also never one to admit defeat, as I sit here at 9:50pm in Donegal the night before the All-Ireland final, I think I have finally conceded that I will not be going to the match tomorrow. You see, I had that many people on the look-out for tickets for me but, to be honest, they have been like gold dust to get. Also, Dear Husband, with all his contacts throughout the 32 counties, had said that he would ‘definitely’ get me a ticket. Yes, he did use the word ‘definitely’. Yes, well, I know that’s going to be the other conversation we’ll definitely be having when I’m 90 (and he’s 95!) “Eh Dear Husband, remember the time Donegal were in the All-Ireland final and you said you’d definitely get me a ticket but you didn’t?!”. Well, I don’t want to tempt fate and say the time Donegal ‘won’ the 2012 final. Anyway, I just figured that eventually one would turn up but as the day drew nearer to 6 o’clock this evening, I knew I wouldn’t be going anywhere.

My cousin reminded me last week that when we got our tickets twenty years ago when Donegal were in their one and only All-Ireland that it was 1:30am on the Friday night that we actually managed to get them into our hands. They were as hard to get then as they are now but, back then, I had come up through playing camogie with the local club (Burt) and had two county medals (albeit at U-12) so they must’ve thought I qualified for them then. Ah sure I was only a child but I still vividly remember the excitement of it all. There we were, planted right behind the goals at the Canal End. It’s hard to believe that twenty years have since passed.

The reason the 6 o’clock deadline this evening was so important was because that was when Dear Sister No.1 and the brother-in-law were heading south of the border with or without me! Just in case, I had the house all tidied up and, mentally, knew where my bits and pieces were should I have to pack and be out of the house at extremely short notice. Dear Sister No.2 is away on honeymoon, of course, and then Dear Sister No.3 and her boyfriend were in Dublin for the match since yesterday so that just left me. So, seeing as I didn’t get to Dublin, that meant I was sticking around to make this evening’s tea and I decided on Spicy squid salad.

The recipe started off by explaining how to clean and cut the squid; however, thanks to the lovely butcher/fishmonger in the supermarket, I didn’t have to worry a thing about it. I think the only time I’d ever seen squid was when it’s been cut in ring-form so when Mr. Butcher pointed out the actual full squid, I’d never have guessed that’s where squid came from. I know that people can criticise large supermarkets but Mr. Butcher was an older man who obviously really knew his stuff and was so nice. And even though I live on a peninsula, it was also a supermarket north of the border that I had to go to (Sainsburys) – well, squid is difficult to get.

With the squid, I rinsed it, patted it dry and then cut it into roughly 3cm squares. In a bowl, I added olive oil, smoked paprika, salt and pepper, gave it a swirl and then added the squid to it before giving it another swirl. In another bowl, I added olive oil, rocket leaves and diced tomato. I then put on a griddle pan to a high heat and added the squid mixture. It cooked for about 4 minutes in total and, for the last 30 seconds, I added in capers. I served up by putting the salad leaf mix on a plate and then tumbled out the squid on top of it.

The verdict…

Dear Husband didn’t have a clue what type of fish or meat he was eating so he was mid-way through it before asking what it was. He said it was ‘very tasty’ and then the verdict arrived with the last bite – 7 marks out of 10. I tried in vain as usual to get more feedback but the only other thing he said was that he thought it would be a good recipe for either a start or a main course.

Overall, the recipe was super easy to prepare and cook – just as long as you have a friendly butcher who will very kindly sort out the ‘yucky’ part of preparing the squid. Will I make it again? Yes, definitely. With such a short cooking time and the high score, it’s a recipe which is worth sourcing good squid for. And, if you need another reason to make this recipe, there was minimal mess in the kitchen too which was perfect for me this evening as I really didn’t fancy messing it after all the tidying I had done.

As for the All-Ireland, I’m just thinking about the front page headline on our local paper The Inishowen Independent which read on Thursday “Last One Out Turn Off the Lights!”. Well, don’t worry people, I’ll be here so keep the lights on! Come on Donegal!!!

Friday, 21 September 2012

Day 132: Baked peaches with honey and pecans

You know how I mentioned before that Dear Husband will be halfway through one meal and then he’ll start to think about what he’s going to have for his next meal?! Well, at around lunch time today, I got a text from him saying “TLMII would like CTM tonight please”. Now, to explain, Dear Husband is the king of abbreviations in text messages and, every so often, he’ll send me a new one which I usually figure out. Well, I knew already that CTM was Chicken tika masala but the TLMII got me. It was of course The Luckiest Man in Ireland which Ray D’arcy called him the other day which I forgot about. However, since he reminded me, I think I will have to use that to my advantage. God knows, I’ll probably be 90 years of age and still be reminding him. The conversation will probably go something like this… “Hey Rodney, gone get me my walking stick!”. He’ll probably go “Ah, can you not get it yourself?!” and I’ll be saying “Uch, do you not remember the time I made you 180 new meals in a row and we were on the Ray D’arcy Show and he called you the luckiest man in Ireland?!”. Well, that’s how it goes in my head anyway.

To be honest, I don’t mind when Dear Husband actually tells me what he wants to eat as that’s half the battle for me. I hate when I can’t decide what to make and usually have to sift through cookbook after cookbook so one of the many pluses of this Challenge has been only having to pick a recipe from one cookbook. So, I made him the Chicken tika masala which meant that I had to pick another dessert for tonight’s post and so I settled on Baked peaches with honey and pecans.

This has to be, by far, the quickest recipe in the cook book to prepare which suited me down to the ground on a Friday evening after another hectic week – 2 minutes preparation! Two peaches into a bun baking tray, a smothering of butter, a dollop of honey and a scattering of chopped pecans. That was it! Into the oven they went for 14 minutes et voila! I served Dear Husband's with vanilla ice-cream and mine with double-cream.

The verdict…

Without giving you the marks just yet, this is exactly what I said to Dear Husband as I ate the first bite “Oh my God! I am sooo making these again!”. They really were that good. I was bowled over to be honest because I totally underestimated this recipe. And I know of course that Dear Husband isn’t too fussed on fruit in desserts (or maybe fruit in general) but he said that it was one of the nicest desserts he’d ever had! The marks – 9 from me and 8 from Dear Husband. Such an absolutely delicious combination of flavours. As I ate it, I also wished my granny (God rest her) was still alive to make this for her because she would have absolutely loved it! You see, there again, further evidence of why this Challenge has been so great – here’s a recipe that I probably would not have made only for the fact that I promised to make every single one in the book. I am now thinking to myself, how many other recipes in my many cook books have I skimmed past because I didn’t think they’d be anything special?! Okay, I’m going to try and not think about that.

Overall, the quickest, simplest recipe to prepare and quick to cook. Also, I must hand it to Supervalu for the very impressive new display of every kind of nut which they have in their Buncrana store. It’s by far the best I’ve seen in any supermarket north or south of the border and pecans can be relatively difficult to get but you’ll get them in Supervalu. I highly, highly recommend you make this recipe. It will be perfect after your dinner on Sunday – just remember to get the dinner read up before 3pm. Sam is for the Hills you know?! Donegal abu! Have a great weekend everyone… J

Thursday, 20 September 2012

The Irish Sun

If you click here you should be able to access the article which appeared in The Irish Sun yesterday.

Day 131: Artichoke salad

Thursday, 20 September 2012
Right, so my other 2.5 minutes of fame was being in The Irish Sun today. To be honest, I was only expecting a wee snippet but there I was – a large picture on page 20 with Dear Husband. And, just in case you were wondering, the photos were choreographed by none other than yours truly. Actually, that’s not exactly true. They were choreographed via email by Aoife Bannon from The Sun who contacted me to ask if she could do an article so of course I obliged. She was such a lovely girl. Well, it’s not every day you get a request like that. She did the interview over the phone and asked if I had any photos of me cooking – erm, no. Did I have any photos of me on my own? Erm, no. I’m usually in photos with other people. Therefore, I was under instructions as to how to carry out the ‘photo shoot’. Dear Husband was to take a photo of me cooking and I was to take a photo of him holding up a score card. All I could think was “thank God my hair is still ‘done’ from Saturday!”. When my hairdresser does my hair, she doesn’t do it by halves (hello Karen Porter!). She had done such a perfect job of it on Saturday that I managed to get 4.5 days out of it and, being a full-time worker and mother of two, any day that I don’t have to wash and dry my hair is sacred.

Anyway, back to the photo shoot - all very simple. Except, I could not for the life of me find my digital camera nor could I find Dear Husband’s – well, they had both gone AWOL in the midst of all the commotion of the wedding at the weekend. Therefore, I relied on the good old iPad to save me and, of course, no sooner had I emailed the photos through to Aoife when I found Dear Husband’s camera. Murphy’s Law. Not one to hang about, I like to get things done and dusted so the photographs really took about 10 minutes including email time. Well, I really did feel like a bit of an eejit and I did also have to get on with dinner.

Then, we were on to today and because Dear Husband was going to be home later than normal, I decided on Artichoke salad. As the recipe came from the Store Cupboard section of the cookbook, I had the ingredients stocked up on ages ago. So, here’s how it went…

This was the perfect opportunity to use my lovely new Pip Studio bowl which I got from Interior Dreams at Castle Furnishings in Derry last week and just had to take a pic of it too! Into the bowl went preserved artichokes which I had cut into bite-sized pieces followed by chopped roasted red peppers, semi-sun-dried tomatoes, red onion, olive oil, red wine vinegar, pesto and salt and pepper. I simply mixed everything together and dished up.

The verdict…

The first forkful was a real burst of flavour which was something I need as Thursday is the day whereby I do the most amount of talking at work. Therefore, I was rather parched and in need of something exactly like this recipe. I haven’t eaten artichokes too often but there were so many layers of flavours to this salad that I navigated my way around each ingredient. In terms of marks, based on flavour alone, I would give this recipe 7 marks out of 10. That said, I don’t think I could eat a lot of this on its own because there is a fair bit of olive oil in it so the next time I make it, I would use it as part of a salad but not the main feature – especially if I was having potato salad too. I was also thinking that this salad would be a nice accompaniment to a meat dish except I haven’t exactly figured which one out yet. Actually, you know what?! This would be perfect for a barbeque or for tapas.

Overall, it was one of the easiest and quickest recipes I have ever made and I am so glad to say that I now have another one on The List especially for me. I already have some packed into a lunch box for work tomorrow. Now you couldn’t beat a recipe like that…

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Day 130: Raspberry and coconut pudding

“It’s all a bit mad, Ted!” – that’s what I thought to myself today. If you’re a fan of Father Ted, you’ll know what I’m talking about. So, I was thinking that having been on The Ray D’arcy Show.  I’ve been a huge fan for years. Never did I think in a million years that I’d ever be on it but, there you go, you never know what life has in store. I must admit though, it was a bit nerve-wrecking. Even though I do a job where I stand up and talk in front of people on a daily basis, talking on national radio is a whole new ball game. A great experience all the same. So I must special thanks to Roisin O'Dea at Today FM for setting it up, to Ray D’arcy for having me on, Mairead Farrell, and of course, Rachel Allen (that was such a surprise!) and, last but not least, Dear Husband who sent in the email to the show in the first place. Oh yes, and thank YOU for listening and reading too! What a day. And, as if that wasn’t mad enough, The Irish Sun contacted me and they’re going to run an article in tomorrow’s paper so keep an eye out if you happen to get your hands on a copy. So, for now, back to the cooking…

It’s not that I have gone crazy on desserts as last while, it’s just that I don’t want to get to the end of the Challenge and have only desserts to cook so I thought I’d get a few out of the way. Therefore, next on my list was Raspberry and coconut pudding.

I took a large delf casserole dish (minus the lid) and smeared raspberry jam over the base. In a large bowl, I sieved in plain flour and baking powder. Next, I added caster sugar, dessicated coconut, vanilla extract, eggs, milk and melted butter. I gave it all a stir and once it came together, I poured it into the dish and popped it into the oven for 40 minutes. The recipe said it would be ready when the top was golden and the centre would spring up again when pressed.

The verdict…

Dear Sister No.3 had been on to me for a while to make this particular recipe so I duly notified her in the early evening that it was on the menu and to call round. She loved it to say the least. Her verdict was ‘amazeballs’ and gave it 11 marks out of 10 (!). Both Baby Daughter and Dear Son got some too and loved it. I thought it was something really different and gave it 6 marks out of 10 whilst Dear Husband scored it 5 marks out of 10. We all know now from the radio episode what his scoring system is and, it’s confirmed, he’s a hard marker!

Overall, I enjoyed making this recipe as it was really easy. Although it took a while to cook, it didn’t need a lot of attention which I loved. I’m definitely going to make this one again which Dear Sister No.3 will be glad to here. In fact, I sent her home with two more portions in those silver boxed trays as the recipe made a lot. I’ve decided though that tomorrow I’m not going to make a dessert so until then…

The Ray D'arcy Show

If you click here you should be able to listen to me and Dear Husband on the Ray D’arcy Show on Today FM this morning. It starts in Part 1 at 55:33 mins and then picks up again at the start of Part 2.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Day 129: Caramel rice pudding

As we say in Donegal, it was a ‘wile’ mess. Milk over-boiled all over the cooker, dripping onto the floor, running down each side of the work top. There I was, flat out trying to salvage my recipe and clean up the wile mess. In fairness, I had literally stepped out of the kitchen for two minutes to say hello to Dear Sister No.2 and my new brother-in-law who had called round before setting off on honeymoon tomorrow. Oh, and here’s a picture of the happy couple and the Dear Sisters – just in case you’re interested. And on a food related matter, the bride even baked her own wedding cake so I must also get a pic of it up on the blog when I get one.

The happy couple: Lisa and Seamus
The Dear Sisters: Me, Eileen, Lisa, Claire

Anyway, during those two minutes when I had temporarily evacuated the kitchen, that’s when things started to get really messy in the kitchen. However, I did manage to save the recipe which was Caramel rice pudding. Dear Husband (the poor soul) only managed to eat half of his steak dinner at Dear Sister’s wedding on Saturday because, by that time, the two babies were tired so he did something which was extremely difficult for him to do and abandoned the dinner. He said it was a fine steak too. Anyway, he got the beautiful babies bundled into the car and took them home. I think he ended up having tea and toast for his supper then. So, not to be hard done by, he asked I would make him a steak dinner this evening. I know. I have him spoiled. That’s why I decided on a dessert recipe for this evening then as part of the Challenge. Now, although Dear Mother would be fond of making puddings, this was something I had absolutely never made before so here’s how I made it…

I started off my melting butter in a large saucepan and, once it foamed up, I added in caster sugar and stirred continually until it was a dark caramel colour. Next, I whisked in milk, actually a lot of milk – 1.2 litres of Donegal Creameries’ finest. Then, I added in pudding rice, a vanilla pod and some salt. Once it came up to an almost boil, I let it simmer for 35 minutes and stirred occasionally. I served it up with toasted chopped hazelnuts.

The verdict…

Dear Husband gave it 6 marks out of 10 and, from me, 6 marks also. It was a very good recipe and although neither of us would eat pudding too often, we were both impressed with this one. As I mentioned, Dear Mother would occasionally make homemade rice pudding so it was great to have another variation of the dish. I must admit that I love hazelnuts so their inclusion really helped the scoring.

Overall, it was an extremely easy recipe to make but you really do need to stir it often whilst it is simmering; otherwise, you will (a) make a wile mess of the cooker and/or (b) the rice will stick to the bottom and burn. It took a fair bit of time but I don’t think any longer than other desserts and it needs a fair bit of attention. That said, will I make it again? Definitely. I’ll just try not to leave a path of destruction in my wake…  

Monday, 17 September 2012

Day 128: Chocolate, toffee and peanut squares

Ok, just to let you know, I didn’t fall off the face of the earth; instead, there’s been all sorts of mayhem over the past few days. In fairness, although I am up-to-date with the cooking part of this Challenge, I’ve a bit of catching up to do in terms of the blog posts but, alas, here I am! So, what kind of mayhem am I talking about? Well, two things – one good, one not so good. The good one was, of course, my Dear Sister No.2’s wedding – ok, I’ll give you her proper name – Lisa. We had such a fantastic wedding on Saturday – she looked absolutely stunning, the wedding mass went smoothly (I didn't manage to trip going down the aisel or anything - yay!), the reception was fantastic (thanks to Donal and all the staff of Harry’s), the band kept the dance floor filled and it was simply all round good fun.

That said, Sunday was a different story for me. Ok, nothing serious but picture this – you’re tired the next day after your sister’s wedding and a week of running here, there and everywhere for appointments; all you want to do is have a nice relaxing day; unfortunately, Dear Husband is about to have a canary because his laptop is seriously playing up, and somehow, instead of having that relaxing post-wedding Sunday, you somehow take it upon yourself to spend 7 hours taking the laptop apart and putting it back together. Seriously. Yes, 7 hours. I’m not joking. I always remember my late uncle who was a TV engineer telling me that the way he learned everything about TVs was to take them apart and put them back together. Well, I don’t know if I know much about laptops really but my suspicions as to what was wrong was correct – a heap of dust and dirt in the fan which just so happens to be the last part in a laptop when they’re taken apart. Anyway, Sunday became a priority for Dear Husband’s laptop so, in between that and us looking after the two babies, it was quick meals e.g. pasta instead of Sunday roasts.

With the Challenge, I always make sure I have a few recipes up my sleeve that I have already made which is good for days when life interrupts the Challenge but I really should write them up there and then also. Therefore, there’s going to be at least one day this week where I will have two posts on the blog for the one day. With the recipe that is featuring in today’s post (Chocolate, toffee and peanut squares), believe it or not, it took me three days to make and here’s why…

The recipe said to use dulce de leche (or boiled milk) which effectively means that you get a can of condensed milk, put it in a pan of water and boil it for two hours. I took Rachel’s advice and did a few (actually 4 in total) so that I would have some already prepared for future recipes. The can said ‘Do not boil’ so I Googled it and it said it was ok as long as I brought the water down to a simmer – just in case it exploded. Ok, I could really do without that. Anyway, I did that two weekends ago.

On Friday past (the night before the wedding), I made the base which involved self-raising flour, butter and sugar which I crumbled using my hands but you can use a food processor also. Next, I lined a baking sheet with parchment paper and patted the base mix into the tin and pressed it down firmly. This was then the part when I used the caramelised condensed milk to pour over the base and then I pressed chopped peanuts into the caramel before topping with melted chocolate. Into the fridge the tin went overnight and Dear Husband was on strict instructions to not even think about touching it until Sunday. Sunday arrived and I cut the tray up into squares and served with a nice, big cup of Barry’s tea.

The verdict…

I know this is extremely strange but Dear Husband only scored the peanut squares 5 marks out of 10. He said that he thought they would have been nicer without the peanuts. I scored them 6 marks out of 10 and just to have an objective opinion, I gave some to Dear Husband’s friend when he called by yesterday evening to see him and he gave them full marks but, then again, he said he loves peanuts. Nonetheless, I’m going with that verdict and will surely be making them again. I also think that I must try them with hazelnuts which I love. This was a recipe that I always wanted to try so I’m glad to say that I can now make caramel squares and as long as I continue to ensure that I can safely boil condensed milk, this recipe is definitely going to be a keeper…

Friday, 14 September 2012

Day 127: Beef and red wine hot pot

With Dear Sister’s big day upon us, it was important to get as much as possible done yesterday for today for tomorrow if you know what I mean (please - bear with me!). Effectively, that meant compiling a number of lists. As a champion list-maker and endless buyer of Post-Its in various colours, I had all my lists assembled and colour coded. Tonight, Baby Daughter, Dear Son and I are heading to my parents’ house for the night before the wedding. That’s partly why I needed so many lists. There was the baby pink one for Baby Daughter which detailed all I had to bring for her; there was the blue list for Dear Son which detailed everything I had to bring for him; and then there was the darker pink list for me. I know it’s no wonder that Dear Husband thinks it’s so amusing watching me run about the house like a busy-bee gathering and packing every time we go somewhere. Despite my parents’ house being only 20 minutes away, it’s still a night away that requires the same military logistical planning as going further afield. Lists are my saviour – they save me so much stress because I know exactly what I need, where it is and then it all returns home safely. There’s no such thing as having to make extra journeys for forgotten items which would further add to an already busy day.

Coming home this evening, all I had to do for dinner was pop it into the oven as I actually did all the hard work last night. Yes, I did end up cooking until about 10:30pm but, still, I preferred being able to do it then with the babies in bed rather coming home to start into it this evening. Well, to be honest, I just didn’t have the time to do it this evening. There was so much else to organise. The recipe I chose was Beef and red wine hot pot and it was another one-pot wonder so here’s how it went…

I added olive oil to my large casserole dish and then added mushrooms which I seasoned and fried for 3 minutes. I then took them out and put them on a plate before adding more olive oil to the dish and sautéing onions and garlic with seasoning for 5 minutes. Next, it was time to add the stewed beef, two teaspoons of fresh thyme and 150ml of red wine. Once it came up to the boil, I popped the lid on and into the oven the dish went for 1.5 hours. At that point, I took the dish out of the oven, stirred in the cooked mushrooms, placed sliced potatoes on top, added more seasoning and dotted butter on top of the potatoes. Lastly, I scattered another teaspoon of thyme over the top. Back into the oven the dish went for another 35 minutes.

The verdict…

It was only when I was typing up tonight’s post that I realised that I should have left the lid off for the second stint in the oven. That way my dish would have resembled the picture in the cookbook rather than looking like it was the dish before going into the oven. To be fair, the potatoes were slightly more golden than the rather pale colour that they look in my photo. Despite that, Dear Husband really, really enjoyed this dish and gave it 9 marks out of 10. He said the meat was very tender and was extremely tasty.

Will I make this dish again? Yes. It was a very simple dish to prepare but I will admit it took me nearer to 35 minutes to prepare instead of the 15 stated in the cookbook. Still, any dish that scores nine marks has to feature on The List. So on the high note, I am going to sign off as time is a ticking and I have to get Baby Daughter to bed at a reasonable time in Nana’s and I need some beauty sleep myself. Until tomorrow, enjoy the start of your weekend…

Of course, major congestion on my congestion-free broadband so, after 30 minutes of trying to upload the pic, it will have to follow tomorrow - sorry!!!

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Day 126: New potato salad

Ok so tonight I was doing another one of my cook-it-tonight-but-serve-it-tomorrow dinners seeing as that particular recipe takes 2.5 hours to cook. In the meantime though, I thought I’d tell you about the New potato salad recipe I made one Sunday lunchtime.

The first thing I had to do was boil new potatoes and a few eggs which cooked in the same saucepan only I took the eggs out after 10 minutes. While the potatoes cooked on, I cooled the boiled eggs by placing them in a bowl of cold water. Next on the list was to make the vinaigrette which consisted of olive oil, cider vinegar, Dijon mustard and chopped tarragon. Once the potatoes were ready, I tossed them in the vinaigrette and added capers, gherkins and scallions. I served the salad by dividing it up and adding a boiled egg to the plate.

The verdict…

Luckily, I had the services of two other guinea pigs other than myself which included Dear Husband (of course) and Dear Sister No.3. The marks went like this – 6 marks out of 10 from me; 7 marks out of 10 from Dear Sister; and 9 marks out of 10 from Dear Husband. I never thought I’d ever see the day when Dear Husband would give a salad a higher score than me as it’s usually the other way around. I did like the recipe but as someone who was only recently introduced to tarragon courtesy of this Challenge, I am still in the process of making up my mind as to whether or not I actually like it. Plus, I didn’t bother with the boiled egg for my salad although Dear Husband and Dear Sister ate theirs with gusto. I found the vinaigrette to be something completely different to any other salad dressing I had which, I suppose, was mainly down to the tarragon.

Overall, this recipe was really easy to make and it was a nice change to a typical potato salad. Would I make this one again for me? Probably. For Dear Husband? Definitely. As for Dear Sister, she is most definitely happy for anyone to make her any kind of meal. That’s the thing about being the youngest in the family, she has never grown out of people tending to her and, to be honest, I couldn’t blame her.

I suppose this recipe is definitely suited to summer days but it would be great as a lunch to take to work also. Having said that, when it comes to new potatoes, I’d be very happy eating them with scallions and a bit of Maldon sea salt and I don’t think there’s a dinner more Irish (to me anyway) than that. Ah, long live the spud…

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Day 125: Quick prawn korma

I appreciate that it’s probably not normal per se to ‘love’ plates and cups and bowls and large serving dishes but, I admit it, I love them. And the retail emporiums that stock such lovelies, well, I try to steer clear of them most of the time but, every now and then, well, I can’t help myself. That includes places like Avoca but unfortunately the nearest one to me is Belfast. On the good side though, I do have a place near my work which stocks similar lovelies and, today, I made a quick visit en route home.

On the subject of dishes, when we moved home three and a half years ago when Dear Son was one week old (yes, I know – crazy and not recommended!), I distinctly remember Dear Husband saying that if he ever had to pack one more plate or one more cup ever again, it would be too soon. My justification for having so many was that I needed them considering how many he usually ends up chipping or cracking when he tidies or empties the dishwasher. For some reason, he has never been too careful when handling my precious dishware.  Anyway, from that point on, I definitely cut down but, after three and half years, my stores have become depleted with only the occasional buy here and there. Not today though, I got plates, a sugar bowl and bowls and not just any kind of plates, sugar bowl and bowls but the Pip Studio ones which are absolutely gorgeous! Seriously, if you’re in Derry, you have to go into Interior Dreams at Castle Furnishings on Waterloo Street. It has such lovely stuff that, if I have to go into it, I have to remain focused on what I went in for; otherwise, I end up becoming distracted by other lovely stuff such as, well, just about everything. And the staff, well, Sinead is the owner who also runs it and is so lovely as are all the staff so you’re in good hands every time you visit. I’m a firm believer that staff make a business so this one definitely has it made.

Right so, I think I actually picked tonight’s recipe just so that I could use my lovely new Pip Studio pasta plate. The recipe was Quick prawn korma. Ok, the name also gives away the other reason why I picked this recipe. Anyway, I began by crushing cardamom seeds, cloves and fennel seeds into a powder using my pestle and mortar. In my large frying pan, I sautéed an onion, chopped garlic and grated ginger for about 10 minutes. I then added in the freshly ground spices and turned up the heat because I had to add prawns at that point. It all cooked away for about 3 minutes and then I stirred in natural yoghurt gradually. After that, I poured in 100ml of water and dessicated coconut. Once it came up the boil, I let it bubble for about 3 minutes and then served up.

The verdict…

You know that cliché about not judging a book by its cover?! Well, never judge a dish by the picture of it in a cookbook. I have to be honest and admit that when I saw the picture of it in Rachel’s cookbook, I didn’t exactly think it was too appetising looking and I would’ve been more inclined to think that Dear Husband probably wouldn’t like it; however, I needed a quick dish tonight and it fitted the criteria. Surprisingly though, Dear Husband actually liked this recipe to the point where he gave it 7 marks out of 10. He actually went back to the pan for seconds so that was a really good sign. It was a simple recipe to make and I'm sure that I'll make this again as I usually have all the ingredients in stock.

One of the many unfortunate things about being vegetarian and cooking for meat eaters is that I never taste the dishes so I basically end up cooking blind most of the time. That makes it a wee bit more difficult to perfect dishes. Anyway, I managed ok with this recipe despite not having an absolute clue as to how it would taste. One thing I did know for sure though was that it was most certainly going to look good sitting proudly in my new bowl. For now though, I’m already wondering which new dish to use tomorrow night and most definitely will have to store them in a different cupboard to my regular dishes – that’s if, of course, I want to keep them chip free…