Diana Henry’s Roast Chicken with Dill, Leek and Potato

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There is something immensely soothing and satisfying about roasting a chicken. It gives me the kind of warm zen inner calm other people seem to get from yoga. Yoga, on the other hand, I find intensely stressful. There is nothing calming about discovering that you can count breathing among the many things you have yet to master after thirty years on the planet. Cooking a roast is one of those things that also makes a place feel like a home. The commitment to cooking something to share, the delicious smell slowly filling the kitchen, lounging around reading (ok, fine, napping) while you wait for it to cook, it all makes a place really seem like your own. This is a beautiful, simple recipe from Diana Henry. It is easy to throw together, and is a whole meal in itself. The active time is about 15 minutes, but you have a wonderful, impressive dish to share at the end.

This serves 4 by itself, you could stretch it to 6 with some extra side dishes and bread.

Ingredients

  • 1.5kg chicken
  • 1 bunch of fresh dill
  • 75g unsalted butter, slightly softened
  • 1 lemon
  • 500g waxy potatoes, peeled
  • 500g leeks (2-3 leeks)
  • 3 shallots
  • 5 cloves of garlic
  • 400ml chicken stock
  • 3-4 tbsp dry vermouth or white wine
  • 4 tbsp crème fraîche

Method

  • Preheat the oven to 200C.
  • Remove the fronds from the dill and finely chop (keep the stems for stuffing the chicken).
  • Mix the butter with half the chopped dill.
  • Carefully lift the skin of the chicken breast and legs, and smooth half the butter under it.
  • Spread the remaining butter over the chicken skin and season well.
  • Place in a deep roasting tin or flameproof casserole.
  • Squeeze the lemon over the chicken and put the lemon halfs into the cavity, together with the dill stalks.
  • Roast for 20 minutes at 200C.
  • Meanwhile, slice the leeks and potatoes, and bring the stock to the boil.
  • Remove the chicken from the oven, lift it up, and place the leeks and potatoes underneath (this is ideally a two person job).
  • Pour the stock and wine in, season the leeks and potatoes, and return to the oven at 180C for one hour.
  • Remove from the oven.
  • If the stock hasn’t reduced enough (mine hadn’t), remove the chicken and place on a warm platter or additional tin and cover with tinfoil.
  • Place the oven dish on the stove and boil for 10 minutes or until the liquid has reduced to a thick sauce.
  • Add the creme fraiche and mix.
  • Place the chicken back on top, add the remaining fresh dill and serve.

St. Patrick’s Day Twice Baked Potatoes

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Ireland is a small country, both in size and population. What this means in practice, is that everyone knows everyone. When you meet someone for the first time, you will inevitably try and work out who you both know, and will almost certainly succeed. Facebook has of course helped with this, but there is also the old school approach of “oh, so you’re one of the Borris-In-Ossory Murphy’s, Sean Murphy is my dad’s cousin”. It’s a stereotype, but it is also very very true. There are whole swathes of counties that you can discard from your potential dating pool due to the high risk of everyone there being related to you.

This is kind of inevitable in an island, and is part of the reason Ireland has higher rates of genetic illnesses like coeliac disease. As a result of this, Irish restaurants were doing gluten free dishes long before it was trendy. So, this is a vegetarian, coeliac friendly recipe to celebrate Paddy’s day. These twice baked potatoes are an update on colcannon, a traditional Irish potato dish made with mashed potato and kale or cabbage. Then I added a Greek flavour, courtesy of my stalwart fridge ingredients, feta and greek yoghurt.

Ingredients

  • 6-8 medium sized baking potatoes
  • 3 leeks, trimmed and thinly sliced
  • 150g kale, washed, trimmed and chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 4 tablespoons of greek yoghurt
  • 150g feta
  • 75g cheddar cheese
  • 1 tablespoon dried mixed herbs
  • 2-3 teaspoons chilli flakes (optional)

Method

  • Poke some holes in the potatoes with a fork and bake at 180C until cooked, about 45 minutes -1 hour depending on size.
  • Meanwhile, saute the leeks over the medium heat in some olive oil for 5 minutes.
  • Add the garlic and cook for a minute.
  • Add the kale and cook until it’s wilted and the leeks are soft and starting to turn golden.
  • When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, scoop out the middle and add to a large bowl, leaving shells with just enough potato to give structure.
  • Mash the potato in the bowl with the yoghurt, salt and pepper until smooth.
  • Stir in the remaining ingredients.
  • Fill the potato skin shells the potato/kale/cheese mix.
  • You can either freeze them now to cook later, or go ahead with the next step.
  • Bake in the oven at 180C for 15 minutes or so, until the top starts to brown and crisp.
  • Serve.

Salted Peanut Butter and White Chocolate Blondies

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In hindsight, baking blondies for my office in the second week of Lent was probably not the best idea I’ve had. Lent is a Christian tradition of penance for the 40 days preceding Easter, usually involving giving up whatever little vice you like the most.Like most things involving guilt and denial, it caught on like wildfire here in Ireland. As a child, I used to give up sweets, but would stockpile the sweets I would normally eat, and then end up eating them all in the space of about a week after Easter. 

Other places like Rio de Janeiro and New Orleans kick it off with amazing carnival celebrations that last days in a flurry of parties, music, and vibrant costumes. We decided to go the other way and instead have a day where we eat a few pancakes, followed by six weeks of complaining about not eating chocolate.  The key to survival is to adopt strict definitions of what you are giving up. So, for example, giving up chocolate, but not white chocolate, as that does not have cocoa powder. That’s how you can manage to wrangle yourself something as gloriously unhealthy as these. They are soft, chewy and just the right balance of sweet, salt and fat.

Makes 20-25 blondies

Ingredients

  • 450g brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 85g honey
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla essence
  • 225g flour
  • 225g butter
  • 225g peanut butter
  • A handful of roasted sated peanuts, chopped
  • 100g white chocolate, chopped

Method

  • Beat the eggs and sugar together until well combined.
  • Melt the butter and leave to cool slightly (make sure it’s still liquid though).
  • Add the butter, peanut butter, honey and vanilla essence to the eggs and sugar and combine well.
  • Add the flour and stir to combine thoroughly.
  • Stir through the peanuts and white chocolate.
  • Pour the batter into a well greased brownie tin.
  • Bake at 180C for 30 minutes, then cover with tin foil to stop it browning more and bake for another 15 until it’s set.
  • It will still seem a bit liquid, but a skewer in the middle should come out clean.
  • Leave to cool for an hour before slicing up.
  • This keeps well for a few days in a tin although it’s unlikely to last that long.

Herbed Chili Labneh

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I am a sucker for those articles that tell you how to make the type of products you normally buy. You know the ones, with pictures of East London/Portland/Brooklyn types with plaid shirts, tattoos and massive beards standing outside the shed on their allotment that they use for home smoking their own duck prosciutto, or ridiculously photogenic young couples on farms posing with their pet goats, Poppy and Sunflower, whose milk they use to make their own organic cheese with. I love the idea of making my own cheese, smoking things, preserving things. I just never do it. I bought cheese cloth with great intentions, but instead I just make labneh. It’s straightforward and quick to make and provides just the right amount of smug DIY satisfaction. Labneh is a traditional Middle Eastern strained yoghurt ‘cheese’. Basically you just buy some thick yoghurt, and strain it through cheesecloth for a day or two with some salt, garlic and spices until it has a thick, smooth consistency and a rich tangy flavour. You can use it as a dip with some crispy pitta bread, as a substitute for cream cheese, dress some roasted vegetables with it or really anything you fancy.

Ingredients

  • A tea towel sized piece of cheese cloth or muslin
  • 250g natural or greek yoghurt
  • 1/2 clove of garlic, crushed
  • 1-2 teaspoons chili flakes of your choice (plus a bit extra for topping)
  • 1-2 teaspoons dried dill (as above)
  • 1 teaspoon zaatar
  • A pinch of salt
  • Olive oil

Method

  • Line a sieve with the cheesecloth, folded to make a double layer.
  • Add the yoghurt and remaining ingredients besides the oil and stir well to combine.
  • Leave in a fridge overnight over a bowl to drain the excess liquid.
  • Grab the corners of the cheesecloth in the morning to form a bag and squeeze the labneh well to drain out any remaining liquid.
  • Serve topped with some extra dill, chilli flakes, chopped fresh chili if you have it, and olive oil.

 

Review: The Temporary Bride by Jennifer Klinec

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This post is a bit of a change of pace for the blog, reviewing a memoir rather than a restaurant or recipe. The author of The Temporary Bride, Jennifer Klinec, contacted me and asked if I’d like to review it here (yes this means I received it as a gift, but rest assured this review is my own opinion) . Jennifer is Canadian of Croatian descent and travelled the world for quite a while, settling (coincidentally) both in South Dublin, near where I grew up, and Clerkenwell in London, where I lived. She set up a cookery school in London after escaping the corporate world, and travelled to different countries in the Middle East to learn to cook traditional food. When she travelled to Iran, she found herself drawn to the son of the woman teaching her to cook, and, as you can probably guess from the title, temporarily married him

I thought a lot about this book, and writing this review. I haven’t reviewed a book since English class circa 2001 and it’s not an area I feel very comfortable in, which is odd since I’m a compulsive reader. I also struggled a bit with this book, and it took me a fair bit of work to realise why; I was trying to turn it into something it’s not meant to be. By way of background, I studied public international law, and so when I think of Iran, I think about it through a certain prism.  I tend to read about it from the perspective of activists, international relations experts, and journalists. The two Iranian people I have actually met were both people damaged by the regime, an academic desperate to leave but unable to abandon his ageing parents, and a student who protested in the 2009 uprising, was imprisoned, and saw his friends executed before fleeing.

But the politics or morality of the Iranian regime not what the Temporary Bride is meant to be about and that’s what makes it interesting. It’s about everyday life, for ordinary people, in an extraordinary country. This is a book about food, and travel and identity, and it does what it says on the tin.

At first, I found it challenging to get into, it struck me as slightly ‘Eat Pray Love’ and I found some romanticising of arranged marriages and patriarchal control a little difficult to stomach. But as the author settles into Iran, the book relaxes into it’s style and subject, and captures the culture and the people beautifully. It seems like a complex society to get a handle on, and the extent that Jennifer manages to understand it and integrate into in a short period of time is impressive. Although it is of course about romantic love, a consistent theme of the  book is the authors love of food.  She describes food in evocative, glorious detail, and her pleasure in remembering those experiences shines through from the page. You want to try everything she describes, even kalleh pacheh, the mutton head stew she gets up at 5am to eat. I would have loved to see some recipes worked into this book Like Water for Chocolate style but that’s just me.

I don’t think it is possible to read The Temporary Bride, and not want to visit Iran. The descriptions of beautiful cities, bakeries, little courtyard gardens and bergamot forests are enchanting. At the same time, Jennifer’s relationship with Vahid throws the complete culture shock of the experience into sharp relief. The limitations, constant vigilance and caution feel stifling to read about, and make for compelling reading. The claustrophobic control of the police state and societal opprobrium does weigh heavily as the relationship develops. I found it interesting how well she adapted to the boundaries, having described her childhood and adolescent as particularly unrestrained and free. The solution which they come to, a temporary marriage, is an interesting phenomenon in and of itself, and gives an interestingly pragmatic sheen to the otherwise dogmatic approach to sexuality of the authorities which control their relationship.

Ultimately, the book provides an insightful, and atmospheric look at a country that doesn’t often get an outsiders perspective.

 

 

Lemon and Rosemary Cake

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My attempts to grow herbs can be summarised as a series of small victories overshadowed by great losses. I have wiped out fields of basil and mint plants at this stage, not to mention the tarragon bush that slowly slipped away despite my best efforts. Rosemary is the sole thing I can successfully grow, even when there is ice on the ground outside.

My window box of herbs has become a battle ground of a different sort. Located on the ground floor windowsill of my house, it is routinely stolen and dumped somewhere around the neighbourhood every month or so. The first time it happened, our lovely local binman found it and returned it, providing a rollercoaster morning for my faith in humanity. Since then I have painted the address on the back, and now each time it is stolen, without fail, someone brings it back to my doorstep. It’s reassuring to know that the balance between the amount of (insert insulting description of the kind of person who steals a windowbox of your choice here) and decent people in my area seems to be at least 50/50.

I am not a habitual cake maker, so when I came across this recipe from Suzanne Brady, who makes beautiful cakes for a living, I knew it was one to trust. The recipe is from her site Cove Cake Design. It’s simple, fresh and pleasantly zesty. It is also dangerous, because it is the kind of cake that tastes delicate enough to eat any time of day. This amount makes a 9 inch bundt cake, or in my case 9 inch springform cake and one 8 inch loaf tin cake.

Ingredients

Cake

  • 225g unsalted butter (plus extra for greasing)
  • 300g caster sugar
  • 350g plain flour
  • ½ tsp bicarbonate soda
  • 6 eggs
  • 250ml natural yoghurt
  • Zest of 2 medium lemons (buy a microplane, it’s an excellent investment if you like lemon zest)
  • 3tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary

Lemon Rosemary Syrup

  • 100g caster sugar
  • Juice one and a half lemons
  • Sprig rosemary

Lemon Icing

  • Juice half a lemon
  • 100g icing sugar

Method

  •  Preheat the oven to 160°C
  • Grease your tin(s) of choice very well with melted butter.
  •  Sift flour and bicarbonate of soda together
  • Cream butter, caster sugar, lemon zest and rosemary together  until light and fluffy.
  •  Beat in eggs one at a time, adding one tablespoon of flour with each egg.
  • Fold in remaining flour, followed by the yoghurt.
  • Pour into greased  tin and bake for 45mins-1hour.
  • Keep an eye on it from about 40 minutes on (I covered mine with foil for the last bit when it had turned a lovely golden brown colour).
  • Slide a skewer or knife into the middle to test the cake, when it comes out clean it’s ready.
  • Meanwhile make the syrup by placing all the ingredients in a saucepan and heating gently until the sugar has dissolved and syrup has reduced a little. Remove rosemary sprig.
  • When cooked  leave the cake(s) to cool for a few minutes before turning out onto wire rack.
  • While still warm, pour syrup over cake and leave to cool.
  • Make the icing by adding lemon juice to sifted icing sugar until it has a liquid dropping consistency.
  • Drizzle over the cake once cooled a bit.
  • This stores well for a couple of days in a tin (if it lasts that long).

Dry Fried Green Beans – Two Ways

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This has become  my go-to after work weekday meal. It’s genuinely quick and easy to make and you can have all the basic ingredients lying around your store cupboard. Every time I cook Chinese food, I wonder why I don’t do it more often. Growing up, Ireland was the place which pioneered the three in one (fried rice, chips and curry/sweet and sour sauce) as a staple of Chinese takeaway food so it got a bit of a bad reputation as stodgy junk food. Pretty much all of our restaurants were Cantonese then, although the idea of regional cooking was still a long time away. It was living in Melbourne that opened up my eyes to all the different types of Chinese food. Now Dublin is leaps and bounds ahead of what it once was, and I actually tried this dish for the first time here, in one of my favourite restaurants, M&L Szechuan.

The general method and the first sauce are adapted from the beautiful Appetite for China website. The second sauce was made as part of an impromptu dinner on New Year’s Day, when all the shops in Holland were closed, and we were working off whatever we could find around the house. It turned out really well, and just has the kind of ingredients the odds are you already have lying around. You could use any kind of hot sauce instead of sriracha really, its all about getting the balance of sweet, spicy, salty and sesame together.

1 main course portion, or two side dish portions

Ingredients

  • 200g green beans or fine beans
  • 1 tablespoon neutral oil
  • 3 spring onions, finely chopped white and light green bits only
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 6 dried birdseye chillis
  • 1 teaspoon minced ginger
  • 1 tablespoon toasted, black or smoked sesame seeds

Sauce 1

  • 4 teaspoons black bean chili paste
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 2 teaspoons rice wine
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce

Sauce 2

  • 4 teaspoons sriracha
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon sushi vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sugar

Method

  • Trim the beans and chop into 1 inch pieces.
  • Make sure they are completely dry before frying.
  • Heat the oil over medium/high heat and add the beans.
  • Fry, stirring frequently for about 8 minutes, until the beans have some brown blistered skin and have softened.
  • Meanwhile, make the sauce by mixing the ingredients together in a bowl.
  • Remove from the heat and drain on some kitchen paper.
  • Add the ginger, chopped spring onion, garlic and birds eye chillis into the pan, and cook very carefully over low heat for 1-2 minutes until fragrant (burnt garlic is the absolute worst, I tend to alternate taking the pan on and off the heat to be extra careful as I have a gas stove).
  • Add the sauce to the pan and stir around to mix.
  • Add the beans back in and cook for 2 minutes to combine all the flavours and reduce the sauce a bit.
  • Serve immediately.
  • If you’re not a fan of overly hot things, fish the dried chilis out before eating, they are pretty fiery to eat.

 

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