“I know that grin… Well hello Monica! We’ve missed you. It’s so nice to see you again”!

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So I am officially in the bad books with my foodie friends and fellow bloggers. I have not blogged or posted new recipes in months… The hate mail is adding up.

Ok, maybe “hate mail” is a bit dramatic. Shall we say, “disgruntled, unimpressed messages”? Yeah, we’ll go with that. 

But seriously, I am terrible (hangs head in shame). I warrant a smack (slaps back of hand) and I don’t deserve my faithful, back-whipping followers (puts hands in praying position hoping you will stay a motivational devotee)…

I DO have a legitimate excuse though. These past few months, heck, this entire year has been so beyond hectic.

Stormy hectic.
No. Gale force hectic.
Actually screw that; TORNADO hectic.
 

My life has changed in so many ways and majority for the even better. I have a new, fantastic job which has me travelling in all different directions every month. This career advancement is my 2013 delight which not only means I am working with my love of marketing and travel, but my boss is also fantastic and this global company I am a part of is so morally sound, I walk into work every day with pride. It’s a dream.

Life is sunny.

 

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The mushy aspect of my existence has been…well… worthy of note! Plenty of positive changes, ups and downs, a bit of lingo and a bit of ringo (“left” and “right” to those not in the know) and it has been interesting! There have been unforgettable moments and I had to make myself paramount for the first time in years and remove what was a destructive restriction in order to experience them. And since this positive change, I have met a few interesting characters, most have made me smile even more! Yes, I have had tough times since this change but they just kicked me in the gut to wake me up to the good I wasn’t paying attention to.

I refuse to dwell on anything that was negative, past or recent.

And so, I entered the final quarter of this year with such positivity and gratitude for all my lessons learned over this circus themed 2013, no matter how emotionally draining they may have been. It’s simply amazing how, when you have the strength to change and remove the poison, life just shines back through your veins… It also helps to consistently have the same loyal, fantastic and loving friends known to mankind. (Always keep those close to you that are good and who you would most want to be like because you will be a better person for it). 

And most importantly, for the first time in a long time, I look and feel like myself. As a friend recently said to me;

“I know that grin… Well hello Monica! We’ve missed you. It’s so nice to see you again”!

 What a dynamic year.

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So, back to recipes! Jeez, I’m so self-involved. I was only meant to type a brief explanation for my absence and then this came out! Two words… Blog vomit.

Well, I am currently in my labratory cooking up a yummy Kerry Lamb Pie (the smell from the kitchen has me in a food coma with little ability to wipe the drool from the corners of my mouth as I type) and I am putting together a blog for a chicken and chorizo stew which I will post this weekend.

So that’s it! Ciao or “chow”! (Ok that’s terrible. I’m hanging my head in shame, beating the back of my hand and praying I haven’t lost you all over again).  

Right. Now I’ve got to run because I am smelling something burning in my kitchen laboratory and I’m pretty certain creating  a carcinogenic meal was not my intention.

 See you later!

Categories: About Me & The Blog, Loves, Life & Thoughts | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The “Holy Cow” Rainbow Cake- A True Picture Baking Story

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So I mentioned in my previous post that my friend and I were going to make a rainbow cake for her daughter ‘Amelie’ who also goes under the status name of ‘My Goddaughter’. It was her first birthday and so, it needed to be especially epic.

And what can I say? Well we came, we baked, we pellet-gunned those bad boy Gummi Bears to the icing and we blew the socks off the party. There were “ooooooooooh”s and “woooooooooah”s and even the occasional “holy cow”* was featured.

*(The word “cow” may have actually been replaced with a swear word of the excrement variety)…

It is because of this that this post shall be a picture one, with few words. The awesomeness of our achievement speaks for itself.

We barely followed a recipe (coz we’re crazy and that’s just how we roll) and the link to such recipe is at the bottom of the page.

The colours are immense. Sunglasses please.

 

Suzy vs. Batter; A Test of Whips…

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Adding the colourants to the batter; First batch to bake!

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First set of sponges that I shall name “Spongii”…

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Next batch of batter to face the colourants and oven for a Spongii Round 2;

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Whipping and colouring the icing layers;

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Icing done and spread between the layers? Ok, now it’s time to stack; Lets do this…

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Look at those layers; those beautiful layers!!!

 

Icing on the cake? Get your pellet-gun (or fingers) and you go add those Gummi’s and candles;

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Now, cut into it. Be prepared. Be proud. Yes, you are now SUPER cool;

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http://www.woodlandbakeryblog.com/how-to-make-a-rainbow-cake/

Categories: Desserts | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Colours, Cake, Bears & Birthday Baby

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Tomorrow I am going to help my friend bake a colour extravaganza.

It’s going to mega. Epic even.

There will be layers;  6 vibrant and dynamic layers.

There will be icing between each of these layers. This icing will be rich. This icing will be smooth, sweet yet buttery and creamy at the same time. This icing will then cover this 7 tiered stairway to heaven like a cloak of heroism. It will hug and kiss these vibrant levels in an embrace of gooey greatness.gummi

Then there will be gummy bears. Haribo gummy bears.

We shall pellet gun these bad boys to this tiered frosted pile of grandness and there they shall lie… Like insects stuck in a web. Stuck in this gooey mass. And there they will remain.

Finally, at the top of these immense colour blocks of deliciousness will stand tall and proud; the number 1…

My 1 year old Goddaughter better like rainbow cake.

Categories: Desserts, Loves, Life & Thoughts | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Poached Salmon Miso Soup

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So it’s practically summer* and I’ve decided to blog about a type of dish to reflect such a season. Now yes, I know; a soup is hardly a summer course, but this is a lovely and light poached salmon soup which leaves you satisfied but does not fill you up and bloat you out of your bikini or swimming trunks.

It’s a beautifully executed dish and the colours are lovely. It’s served with Asian vegetables and the broth is made from miso paste and fish stock, so it’s all goooooood. Oh and low in fat too. I saw this recipe on a Gordon Ramsey programme once and tweaked it a little by using dark miso paste instead of white miso paste and shiitake mushrooms instead of enoki mushrooms.

And by the way, the above substitutions did not come from some divine chef-minded inspiration or anything… I just couldn’t find the original white miso and enoki fungi. Simple. But hey, these replacements worked really well and probably just as good as the original! You can find Gordon’s recipe in his book “Ultimate Cookery Course”.

Tip; Dark miso paste is A LOT more salty than white so use only a little and taste as you do. This is a truth that I and my 3 beautiful guinea pigs discovered when I served this one evening… The equivalent of a bathtub full of water was required and handed out with the rest of the meal. It was a near, death-by-dehydration.

*(A fact widely observed by the study of weather apps highlighting that this season is everywhere in Europe, but definitely not here in the jolly Emerald Isle of Ireland)

Difficulty: Easy-Medium

Prep and cooking time: 20 minutes

Price:  €17

Music I listened to: 

“Time for Change”, Mötley Crüe

“I Found A Boy”, Adele

“Second Crisis”, Ennio Morricone

“Slow”, Rumer

“Rocks”, Primal Scream

Wine I drank: Prosecco

Serves: 4

Ingredients:

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  • 1-1½  tbsp (approx, taste-test) dark miso paste
  • 750ml fish stock
  • 2 kaffir lime leaves
  • 1-2 red chillies, deseeded and finely chopped
  • 3cm piece of fresh root ginger, peeled and finely sliced
  • 500g side of organic salmon, skin on, scaled and pin-boned
  • 1 pak choi
  • 150g tenderstem broccoli
  • 25g shiitake mushrooms
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • Sea salt

Method

Place the miso paste in a large pan and whisk in the stock. Taste and add a little salt if necessary. Bring to a simmer, but don’t boil too rapidly as it may separate, and then add the lime leave, chilli and ginger.

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Cut the salmon in half widthways if not already sliced, then add to the stock, skin side down and gently simmer for 8-10 minutes, basting the salmon in the liquid until cooked through.

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Separate the pak choi leaves from the stems. Chop the stems into bit-sized pieces and shred the leaves. Trim the broccoli and slice in half from top to bottom.

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Carefully transfer the salmon to a plate with a fish slice and pour a small ladleful of broth over it. Bring the remaining stock in the pan to the boil.

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Put the broccoli and the mushrooms into the broth and after 30 seconds add the pak choi stems. Cook for a further 1-2 minutes, then add the pak choi leaves and cook for about 1 minute.

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Meanwhile, carefully peel the skin off the salmon, discard it and flake the salmon flesh into large chunks.

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Just before serving, rub your bowls with a little toasted sesame seed oil, place the Asian vegetables into the bowl and tier them into layers while placing the salmon on top. Spoon a few ladles of broth around the tower of yummy-ness and serve!

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Categories: Fish, Starter Dishes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

This Morning, I Woke Up With This Thought…

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Categories: Loves, Life & Thoughts | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

My Fate of “Jeff, Who Lives At Home”

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I have pretty strong beliefs in life. My views on the world, morals, thoughts, religion, social grace, mortality etc are pretty firm and solid, but I also have an appreciation of everyone’s different opinion on these subjects. However, if there is anything I believe more in this world, besides the existence of God (you clever genius) is this;

EVERYTHING HAPPENS FOR A REASON. EVERYONE HAS A PURPOSE.

Now, along with music and soundtracks, I am a huge movie buff. I am a highly analytical person and when a movie excites my mind, I am in a diagnostic heaven. But give me a movie that awakens my mind AND my beliefs… well now I’m in an emotive, investigative ecstasy!

One of my favourite movies is ‘Signs’ and anyone who has seen it will immediately know from reading the above why I like it so much. (Seriously, how cool is it that M. Night Shyamalan put forward a scenario of aliens invading the earth on a global scale but just tells the story through the lives of a singular, humble little family living on farm and all the while explain the intricacies of fate)????

So one evening I decided I was in the mood for a superhero fest (I’m a nerd) and I went on to Sky Movies and pressed for ‘Avengers Assemble’. After it started, it took me a few minutes to realise that for some unusual reason, Sky had decided to start another movie. These few minutes were enough to have me hooked on committing to the entire movie… Fate.

“Jeff, Who Lives At Home” is a movie by the Duplass Bothers, starring Jason Segal, Ed Helms who is the hilarious Andy from the US Office and the timeless Susan Sarandon (who I swear I saw parked outside a mall in San Diego with her ex-partner Tim Robbins but my friend insists I was just being a victim of my bad eyesight. Whatever! I know it was them).

Anyway, the movie is about a man who believes in destiny, signs and that everyone has a purpose in life. He spends his time getting high on weed in his mother’s basement, doing nothing but being certain in his beliefs and waiting for the signs that will lead him to his life’s principle. He gets a wrong call from a man looking for a ‘Kevin’ and this is when his destiny path begins… The movie is so simply done yet with an epic theory. It really, really hit home to me and I could relate to every character. Every, single, one. 

This below is a little scene that is my favourite in the movie. So much so that I took the time to blog about it! Jeff and his brother are sitting fully clothed in an empty hotel bathtub discussing the breakdown of his brother’s marriage and of Jeff’s beliefs. The acting is amazing and the words are so truthfully straightforward.

Thank you Sky Movies for playing me the wrong film and giving me a lovely random bit of fate…

Pat: I wish that I could see the world like you

Jeff: Really?

Pat: I don’t know. You have this like, belief in this cosmic order. I really envy that.

Jeff: You don’t want to be like me. I’m not happy at all. You know, since Dad died I’ve had this feeling that it had to be for a reason. I keep thinking that the signs are all about me but maybe, maybe they are about you and your marriage.

Pat: My marriage is not good. It is a disaster. I just want to feel like I love Linda. And I want to feel like she loves me. And that we both wanna like, be in love. I miss it and I want it so bad.

Jeff: I think you should just say that to her.

Pat: It’s not that simple Jeff.

Jeff: I don’t know. I think it could be that simple. I mean, wouldn’t you be psyched if Linda walked in here right now and sat down in this tub next to you and said “Pat I want to be in love with you again”?

Pat: That would be awesome.

Jeff: Dude, you need to say that to her. You need to tell her that right now.

Categories: Loves, Life & Thoughts | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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Categories: Loves, Life & Thoughts | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Lavish Homemade Fish Stock!

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Anyone who values the love in preparing a dish from absolute scratch will most likely agree that nothing will ever compare using a homemade stock from the commercial stuff you buy in any supermarket. There is something “homemaker-ish” (yes I know that’s not a real word but I’m coining it!) about making a dish completely from the bare-bones-beginning and also a distinct satisfaction in being a thrifty cook as well! “Bones don’t go in the bin… they go in the fridge and then tomorrow we boil them up”!

Using your own homemade stock will completely elevate the flavour model of a dish from standard to gourmet. There really is zero comparison.

Now don’t get me wrong; I am not a complete Julia Child (oh holy Julia). I do cheat and use the generic stuff 70% of the time as it is more convenient and sometimes, I just simply don’t have any leftovers to prepare the stock. But when I do have these bones sitting and looking all morbid in my fridge, I rarely throw them out so I make a stock and then freeze it for future use.

Now about this recipe; one evening I was treating myself to a meal of Dublin Bay prawns from http://cavistons.com. On this occasion, I could not just get the prawn tails they frequently supply so I had to buy about 20 of the full prawns… head, claws and all. The price of this was over double what I normally pay as the weight of this yummy crustacean’s head and claws consequently pushed the price up.

Well, I got home, twisted the heads off (a very gooey sight to behold) removed the claws and the tail shell, extracted the meat and blanched them in salted water. It was a delicious meal but I couldn’t help looking at all the ravaged raw heads and shells that were sitting in the sink and realising the expense of this meal was actually about to go in the bin.

So I decided to make stock from it.

I have to say preparing this was not the most visually appealing experience (advance apologies) but the smell is amazing and when I did use the stock to prepare a mussel soup meal, I was astounded. It was absolutely delicious and definitely elevated the meal to a very lavish one! (I’ll pop the recipe up for this mussel soup later)..!

Difficulty: Easy

Prep and cooking time:

Price:  €9 not including the prawn carcasses

Music I listened to: 

Watched an ‘Ice Age’ movie instead!! Always cracks me up.

Wine I drank: Actually had a Gin & Tonic with Bombay Sapphire Gin.

Serves: Makes about 1.5 litres or 1 litre for a concentrated flavour.

Ingredients:

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  • 1 medium leek, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 celery stick, chopped
  • ½ bulb fennel, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, unpeeled
  • 100ml olive oil (not extra-virgin)
  • Roughly 1.5kg white fish bones and head or shellfish carcasses and heads
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 300ml dry white wine
  • 2 springs of fresh thyme
  • 4 springs of fresh parsley
  • ½ lemon, sliced
  • ½ tsp white peppercorns

 

Method

Put the leek, onion, celery, fennel and garlic into a stockpot or large saucepan. Add the oil and heat until the veggies start to sizzle. Gently sweat these under a low heat, covered for about 15 minutes, until softened.

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 Stir in the fish bones and head or prawn carcasses and heads. (Now this may start to resemble a major, prominent cast member of the movie Alien, Aliens, Alien 3 etc)… Add the wine and cook until almost all the liquid has evaporated. Pour in 2 litres of cold water and add the herbs, lemon and peppercorns. Bring to the boil, skimming off the scum off the surface with a wide spoon.

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Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered for 20 minutes, no longer. Remove from the heat and leave to settle for about 10 minutes. For a more concentrated flavour (which I prefer especially for soups and sauces), you can boil the stock down to 1 litre.

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Using a coliander or large sieve, strain the liquid through it, removing the larger bones with a draining spoon first. If you are not using it straight away, cool, then chill and use it within 3 days or freeze it in 500ml batches and use within 1 month.

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There you go!

 

* This recipe is loosely based on a Gordon Ramsey fish stock recipe from his booked entitled “Passion for Seafood”. I changed it by using more parsley, a bay leaf and the luxurious prawn carcasses and heads instead of just white fish bones.

Categories: Fish | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Pigging out! Fillet of Pork Wrapped in Parma Ham with Spinach, Prune and Pine Nut Stuffing

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I really love a bit of pig. It’s so versatile. Each part of the meat tastes different and you can do so much with it. I know some people are not hot on pork because the little brat can get stuck in between your teeth and it can be rather chewy. But there is a piggy option that won’t cause these little quandaries…

I present you with pork fillet. Ta-dah!

So this recipe is not actually mine. The gravy I added to it is mine but not the stuffed pork recipe. My friend gave me this free supplement cookbook that came with The Irish Times one Sunday and it had this recipe in it. It’s by a lady called Domini Kemp and she created it specifically for dinner parties when the host desires as little leftovers as possible. Now when I made this, it was just for me and my mother (who eats sparrow sized portions. No joke) so we of course had leftovers. However, I know how yummy this dish is and the plates would have been licked clean if we had more mouths to feed that night.

If you are not completely sold on pork yet, give this a go. It’s good and tender and the stuffing is lovely as it has so much flavour with just the right amount of prunes to add a bit of sweetness.

Difficulty: Easy-Medium

Prep and cooking time: 90 minutes if doing it all in one go and not prepping it the day before you want to serve it.

Price:  €21

Music I listened to: 

I actually cooked this meal while watching re-runs of ‘The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’… never gets old!

Wine I drank: Pinot Noir

Serves: 4-6

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  • 1 pork fillet
  • 1 onion, peeled and diced
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 smoked streaky bacon rashers, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 150g baby spinach
  • 130g stoned and chopped prunes
  • 2 tbsp pine nuts
  • Salt and pepper
  • 4-6 slices Parma ham
  • Pork stock (optional if you want gravy)
  • Glass red wine (
  • 8-10 shallots, peeled
  • Big knob butter
  • 1 tbsp redcurrant jelly

For the gravy (optional):

  • 150ml red wine (approx)
  • 200ml pork stock (approx)
  • 1-2 tsp cornflour

Method

Preheat the oven to 180˚C/360°F.

Slice the pork in half, lengthways but not all the way through. Put it between two sheets of clingfilm and bash the life out if it with a rolling pin so you turn it into one large rectangle of flattened fillet.

Now make the stuffing; gently sweat the onions in the olive oil until soft. Turn up the heat and add the rashers. Fry until brown and crispy.

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Add the garlic, spinach, chopped prunes and pine nuts and sauté until the spinach wilts. Keep the heat turned up so that any water from the spinach evaporates. See ya H2O… Project2_Page000Season and set aside to cool.

Once the stuffing is completely cold, you can stuff the pork and leave overnight, ready to cook. If you’re cooking it straightaway, then it’s ok to stuff the pork while the stuffing is still warm. It won’t poison you.

Spoon the stuffing in a straight line down the middle of the pork, then roll the pork and wrap it up with the Parma ham, all nice and snuggy like. Tie at intervals with a string down the length of the pork fillet.Project3_Page000If you want to make a gravy, put some water with pork stock and a little red wine into the roasting tin and place the pork fillet on top of it. It will make a yummy gravy.

Roast in the oven for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat up the butter in a saucepan and gently seat the shallots until golden brown.Project4_Page000

Take the pork out of the oven and add the buttery shallots to the roasting tray and some more stock and wine if necessary and smear the fillet with the redcurrant jelly. Baste with the juices, season with black pepper and roast for another 20 minutes.

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So basically, the pork is roasting for 40 minutes in total.

Leave to rest for 10 minutes before carving. At this point, I thicken the gravy with a little cornflour in the roasting tin over the hob on a low heat. You just want it simmering. Stir gently and once thickened to your liking, take off the stove. Serve it with the delicious pan juices or gravy and whatever accompaniments you desire. My personal preference is roasted parsnips, carrots and potatoes.

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Mmmmmmmm, stuffed pig…

Categories: Main Course Dishes, Pork | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Bad Blogger

I know. I have been the worst blogger of late and have neglected my faithful food blog and online diary. Really, there is little excuse but I shall attempt to provide one;

Christmas was a busy time and I was distracted by a lovely 3 week visit from my drumming, dreamboat boyfriend. Walks, late nights, cooking, movies, and over indulgence on cheese, wine and Drambuie took precedence. Some may have thought I dropped off the face of the earth but in reality, I went into hedgehog mode and spent all my time pigging out and relaxing. But I’m alive, I’m alive… Just about.

Never eating again…

Until this meat busting pizza of mine is finished cooking in the oven.

Never drinking again…

Until my white wine has properly chilled in the fridge.

I will return with a bunch of recipes next week, I promise. I’ve been cooking up many storms the last few weeks and I am now in stretchy pants.

Ok, back to my sofa and my lazy Sunday. My pizza is ready. My wine is chilled.

Categories: Loves, Life & Thoughts | Leave a comment

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