I just have to admit it…
Yes, I am a soppy sod.
My Saturday – Sunday – Monday…
Moral of this story? Never say “I’m actually not drinking much tonight” to an Irish friend.
A different blog this time.
Less about food. Something about travel.
I was in Prague for work last week. When I say I was “in Prague”, I mean I saw the outdoors from indoors within various restaurants, my hotel bedroom, conference rooms, a hotel lobby and random company coach rides that transported our 500+ army of selected European employees. We RULED the indoors of multiple Czech establishments.
We were the business cockroaches of the city. And the window was our friend.
I hate staying in a country and barely seeing it. You can never really say you were actually there. Even though you were there. But you weren’t. But you were. But you weren’t… Yes, this can go on for a while.
I did manage to get some time to myself though and venture out of our massive, towering hotel for an hour. I’m pretty sure I was approached by a spy as I was sitting on a bench by the river and actively throwing loaves of bread at ducks.
Spy Dude: “It is nice weather we are having, no? But not as nice as Is-ra-ale”.*
*Deliberate misspelling of Israel to sound like a Russian accent. It’s hard to type accents.
Spy Dude: <stares>
Awkward silence ensues…
Spy Dude: <stares>
Spy Dude: <stares>
He walks away. I sigh a relief.
I then ponder, “Was that tall, raincoat clad, briefcase wielding dude a spy? Hang on… Wait… Am I A SPY”??? I wonder if I am an agent of the shield and perhaps I blinked the wrong way which portrayed my amateur status and I have to be reprogrammed or destroyed.
I then realise I’ve allowed my thoughts to wonder into the random again… Back to the Hilton Prague.
Ugh. A “Hilton”. I wonder how many more dresses, cars, houses and private jets our company just contributed to the Paris Hilton brand. I shudder to think.
Despite barely seeing Prague, what I did see through the windows from indoors, I enjoyed and it was fun work-wise. I travel a good bit for work but this was intense. The 4 days were a marathon of rushing from meetings to more meetings to quick hotel room changes to bars to coaches to restaurants to more bars to more meetings and so on. I barely remember sleeping. Did I sleep? I remember a room, a bed, a floor… but did I sleep?
Ah sleep is for the weak!
Despite being part of the drab* Hilton brand, the hotel was nice.
*(Views and opinions of hotel brands, Heinz versus Hellman’s, twerking, Madonna’s British accent, why Canadian’s say ‘aboot’ etc, are of my own and do not reflect the opinion of my company, my butcher, the barista who served me my soy milk cappuccino in Starbucks this morning, my hairdresser or the ducks I threw bread loaves at).
At the top of our hotel was the sky bar, otherwise known as the “Cloud 9 Bar”. It was a fun maze to get to between catching an elevator to a random floor, following the hidden, ambient advertising signs that lead to a service corridor suspiciously resembling the one from a scene in “American Psycho”, then catching an additional lift that brings you to another floor. The elevator doors suddenly part and present a long corridor whose decor resembles the love child of Studio 54 and Hugh Hefner’s bedroom.
It made me want to crimp my hair and don a bikini.
But it did give us a great view over Prague.
More indoor to outdoor viewing. More windows.
At the end of this corridor, we reached the Cloud 9 Bar… “(or the Bar of Opposite Personalities)”.
This was the place where the flamboyant cocktails loosened the work ties and suddenly our very formal, corporate and powerful business colleagues were transformed into loud, vivacious, shot drinking hillbillies where business talk was supported by various slurs and “WE ROCK” high fives.
Thankfully, no one decided to strap their tie to their head, á la Rambo style. But it was close.
Talk about upstairs/downstairs.
On our final night we had the Gala Ball in a conference centre somewhere in Prague. I took in whatever view I could from our coach ride to the venue. This exercise was futile.
This time, the window was not my friend.
The centre was excessive and hired out for our company which basically gave us more room to carry out the usual nonsense, frivolity and networking. Except this time, woman wore cocktail dresses and the men wore… well exactly the same; suits. The food was formal (trout, veal and a selection of desserts), the waiters were EXCEPTIONALLY friendly and the wine tasted like a hangover in a glass.
On the large main stage, the Czech performances (which were designed to inject us with some local culture) went largely unnoticed… The necessary “What do you do for our company in your country?”, type questions and sizing-up chatter was abundant… But with alcohol, it’s called “Business banter, darling”!
Meal over, Czech performances generally unappreciated, a few of us ventured upstairs where we plonked into massive bean bags that overlooked the river and bridge. We drank champagne and drunkenly expressed our happiness to see Prague while we soaked in the views… More indoor to outdoor viewing. The window was my friend again.
It was pretty darn nice though and I was in Prague.
Well, not really, Kind of. Sort of. Well, I was practically there.
That dude was so a spy.
OBLIGATORY SHOUT OUT MOMENT: Photos taken by a colleague named Matt. He’s also a DJ “SLASH” Producer, the London based kind. He can be found on Instagram as MattRich91. Stalk him there.
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!
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.
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