I just have to admit it…
Yes, I am a soppy sod.
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.
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.
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!
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…
Adding the colourants to the batter; First batch to bake!
First set of sponges that I shall name “Spongii”…
Next batch of batter to face the colourants and oven for a Spongii Round 2;
Whipping and colouring the icing layers;
Icing done and spread between the layers? Ok, now it’s time to stack; Lets do this…
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;
Now, cut into it. Be prepared. Be proud. Yes, you are now SUPER cool;
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.
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.
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)
Prep and cooking time: 20 minutes
Music I listened to:
“Time for Change”, Mötley Crüe
“I Found A Boy”, Adele
“Second Crisis”, Ennio Morricone
“Rocks”, Primal Scream
Wine I drank: Prosecco
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Meanwhile, carefully peel the skin off the salmon, discard it and flake the salmon flesh into large chunks.
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!
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)..!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
For the gravy (optional):
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.
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… Season 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.If 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.
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.
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.
Mmmmmmmm, stuffed pig…
Some people are so afraid of cooking scallops and I just don’t understand why! They are not going to jump out of the pan and gnaw at your face; trust me, I know. They only take 2 minutes in a frying pan and really make a starter so full of class but simple at the same time.
This dish is so colourful! And I am now a huge pea purée devotee. I had never made it before and when I was whipping up my version I decided to throw in some parmesan cheese and wow… how awesome. I am so making this for my 5 month old Goddaughter when she is old enough to manage it. I literally could not stop eating it and it actually stood out more than the scallops on the dish.
You go little peas! Take on those scallops.
The black pudding also makes the dish a little more bulky so be prepared; if it’s a starter, be sure to have a break before you have your mains. It is very rich and filling, but so goddamn satisfying.
Prep and cooking time: 25 minutes
Music I listened to:
“The Adjustment Bureau” soundtrack by Thomas Newman
Wine I drank: Chardonnay
Ok so let’s start with the yummy pea purée…
In a small pot over a medium heat, melt the butter. Now add the shallots and garlic and sweat for five minutes. Throw in the mint, peas and the chicken stock and bring to a simmer and cook for five minutes. Add the parmesan cheese. Blend the pea mixture in a liquidiser until smooth. Season to taste and set aside and keep warm. Easy peasy! (Sorry…)
Now grab your black pudding slices. Heat the pan to a low-medium heat and fry the pudding on both sides until cooked. Try not to burn it. You just want it slightly crispy on the outside. Should be about 5 minutes each side. Set aside and keep warm.
It’s now the pancetta’s turn to face the wrath of the frying pan. Wipe the pan clean and fry the pancetta over a medium heat until nice and crispy. Not burnt…Crispy! That’s it. Don’t clean the pan as you’ll want to fry the scallops in the oil fat the pancetta omitted. Set aside.
Now onto the big guns; grab your scallops. Season both sides with salt and pepper. Heat 1-2 tablespoons of olive in over a medium heat in your frying pan. The amount will depend on how much oil the fried pancetta let out on the pan. Once the pan is heated, place the scallops on it.
After about 1 minute turn them over and cook for another minute. They should be golden in colour. As they are cooking, squeeze a bit of lemon juice over them.
Now get your plates and spoon 3 little blobs of the pea purée on it. Add a slice of black pudding on each and then a scallop. Sprinkle the pancetta over the little rounds and dash a little white truffle oil over them.
I never really understood why some people dislike avocados. Yes, yes I know; each to their own. But to me, they are just so damn delicious. They are creamy and nutty in flavour, so versatile and scrum-diddly-umptious in sandwiches, dips, salads etc, etc.
I’m not going to bore you with the nutritional facts of avocados because there are just so many positives and reasons to prove how unbelievably good they are for you. Yes, I can hear some people say ‘but they are so high in fat’?! Alright, they may contain 25% fat but this, my calorie conscious friends, is indeed the right fat. Ever heard of monounsaturated fat? Did you know this fat is good for you? Yep, it is! It basically reduces the bad (LDL) cholesterol and boosts the good (HDL) cholesterol. This fat is just so ‘fat-astic’!!!
(Ok, I’m sorry. I’m even face-palming myself right now for subjecting you to that pun. I’m sorry. Please forgive me).
So, here we have a recipe for Avocado & Cucumber Mousse with Cherry Tomato and White Truffle Oil Salsa. This is loosely based on a Mary Berry dish. Her example was more of a guideline really. I have changed the quantities, added different ingredients and of course, decided to add the divine white truffle oil to the salsa.
This starter is lovely, pretty and also a classy dish that is perfect for dinner parties! It’s made ahead so you don’t have to worry about preparing anything later but the salsa. It’s subtle in flavour but the truffle oil really accentuates the creamy, nutty taste of the avocado, the freshness of the cucumber and the sweetness of the cherry tomato salsa. Yummy!
So don’t delay! Get your ingredients ready and guac ‘n’ roll!!!
(Jeez, I’m really sorry again. I have a pun problem. I’m receiving treatment for it).
Difficulty: Easy – Medium
Prep and cooking time:
Mousse: Once cucumber has been drained with salt, prep/cooking is about 30 minutes then leave to set for at least 6 hours.
Salsa: 5 minutes
Music I listened to:
‘Supermassive Black Hole’, Muse
‘All My Days’, Alexi Murdoch
‘Brand New Day’, Joshua Radin
‘Mr. Brightside’, The Killers
‘Let Go’, Frou Frou
Wine I drank: Chenin Blanc
Grease the sides of 4 ramekins with a little oil. Peel the cucumber and cut it in half lengthways. Remove the seeds with a teaspoon and chop up into very small dice. Put the cucumber in a sieve over a boil and sprinkle with a teaspoon of salt. The salt will dehydrate the cucumber to remove some of the liquid. Leave for about an 1 hour.
Follow the instructions on the box for your packet of gelatine. It should be about 11g-15g per packet and you only need 1. If for some reason you don’t have any instructions, the normal way of preparing the gelatine is to put it into a bowl and sprinkle about 3 tablespoons of cold water on it. Leave to sponge for about 10 minutes. Once sponged, stand the bowl in a pan containing a little boiling water to dissolve the gelatine.
Now, put the avocado, cream cheese, fromage frais, mayonnaise and lemon into a bowl and blend with a handheld blender or put into a food processor and blend until smooth. Pour the gelatine into the warm stock and mix together. Pour into the bowl and blend again until mixed thoroughly. Stir in the diced cucumber with the dill and then season with some salt as desired.
Pour the mixture into the ramekins, cover with cling film and chill in the fridge for at least 6 hours or overnight until firm.
So, it’s about an 1 hour before you want to serve your smart, little starter. Make your salsa! Mix all the salsa ingredients into a bowl and lightly season (if necessary). Cover and ignore this colourful goodness for an hour in order to let the flavours infuse.
Hour is up and it’s starter time! Run a thin knife around the ramekins, then tip the mousse onto a plate and shake to release from the ramekins.
Serve with the salsa.
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