Fig, Goat’s Cheese and Candied Bacon Toast (and Repealing the 8th)

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Sometimes I have a great recipe sitting in my drafts for months, because I don’t know what to write about it. This is one of those. It is heavily adapted from one in Sabrina Ghayour’s glorious cookbook Feasts and the perfect easy brunch dish. I thought about writing about why I could buy figs at my local market in February. I didn’t know if they were imported or from one of the many greenhouses around Holland. But the words didn’t flow. Thinking now about importing and exporting things, something else comes to mind.

Anyone who knows me outside of this blog knows that I am a very opinionated person. I am always more than happy to share the opinions I hold passionately and debate about them at length if necessary. Usually until well after the person I’m debating with has stopped caring and is just wishing I would stop talking. And I usually keep this side of my personality separate from the blog. This is a space to talk about lovely food and share great experiences. And after this, normal programming will resume. But, there is a referendum coming up in Ireland on 25 May and when it’s something this important, I need to share my opinion any way that I can. So here it is.

I am a woman in my thirties from Ireland. I have been incredibly privileged. I have never needed an abortion. I have never had to travel abroad to access one. I have never had to worry that financially I would not be able access one to if I needed to. I have never had to worry that I wouldn’t have people to support me if I needed to have one. I have never been a victim of a crime that would force me to make a difficult choice. I have never had to worry that my immigration status might prevent me from leaving the country in time. I have never been so sick that I could no longer get on a plane or a boat. I have never been in an abusive relationship where I could not access my own finances or passport if needed. I have never been told that a longed-for pregnancy would not end with me leaving the hospital with my child. I have been fortunate. Thousands of women living in Ireland have not shared my good fortune. You can read about these women here. Repeal the Eighth.

Ingredients

  • 125g bacon
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1-2 teaspoons harissa
  • 100g ricotta
  • 100g soft goats cheese
  • A few sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 1/2 of a lemon
  • 4-6 figs
  • 4 slices of sourdough bread

Method

  • Dry fry the bacon in a frying pan over medium heat until crispy.
  • Crumble the bacon in a bowl and mix with the honey and harissa.
  • Whip the ricotta, goats cheese and lemon juice with thyme leaves until light and fluffy.
  • Slice the figs into sixths.
  • Toast the bread.
  • Divide the cheese between the four slices of toast, top with the bacon and finally add the fig slices.

 

 

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Chilaquiles Rojos

 

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Chilaquiles are a traditional breakfast dish throughout Mexico, and as such, they vary from region to region and home to home. The baseline dish consists of fried strips of tortilla cooked with a sauce and cheese. They can be made with a green tomatillo salsa, red tomato salsa or a mole sauce.  They originated as a method of using up stale tortillas, much like panzanella in Italy and fatteh in the Middle East. I have been making these semi-regularly for brunch and occasionally dinner over the past few years, and they are truly one of my favourite things to eat. While this may not sound like a ringing endorsement, they remind me of the nachos that I used to have as a child in an American theme restaurant in Dublin, which I still remember vividly 25 years later. They have a wonderful combination of crunch and softness. Whenever I have a tortilla or two leftover at the end of a pack, I chop them up, stick them in a zip lock  bag and freeze them until I have accumulated enough to make a batch.

This recipe is basically a template that you can build on with whatever meat or vegetables you want to add, although it’s also great without any additions. I have sometimes added a handful of finely chopped spinach to the sauce, or mixed some roasted cubes of sweet potato in between the layers. Pulled pork or fried chunks of chorizo would not go amiss. Add more cheese if you like, or scale it down if you’re attempting some semblance of healthy eating.  The sauce can be made a day ahead and refrigerated or frozen so that it can be put together quickly for breakfast. I have also used it as a sauce for baked beans. The one shortcut I have tried and do not recommend is baking the tortillas. They don’t puff and crisp the same way, and end up tasting greasier than if they had been fried. You don’t need to deep-fry them, a thin layer of oil is enough to get the right effect.

Serves 2 very hungry people.

Ingredients

  • 1 tin of tomatoes
  • 1 bunch of fresh coriander
  • One shallot or half of a red onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 chipotle in adobo plus two teaspoons of the sauce
  • Honey to taste
  • 4-6 large corn or flour tortillas, cut into triangles
  • Neutral oil
  • 1 tin of black beans
  • 50-75g grated melting hard cheese like cheddar or gouda
  • 40g feta, crumbled (optional)
  • 2 avocados
  • 1 lime or lemon
  • Sour cream, creme fraiche or yoghurt

Method

  • Preheat the oven to 200C.
  • Make the sauce by blending the tomatoes, most of the coriander leaves (reserving a handful for the avocados), the shallot, cloves of garlic and chipotle with a stick blender until smooth.
  • Add some honey to bring out the sweetness in the tomatoes, and season with salt as required. You can either cook this sauce down a bit for 5-10 minutes in a saucepan on a low heat, or use it as is.
  • Heat a large frying pan to a medium-high heat and coat the bottom with a thin layer of oil.
  • Fry the tortilla triangles in batches, turning them in the oil and leaving them until pockets of air have appeared and they are crispy and lightly golden brown.
  • Season them with some salt, and leave on a piece of kitchen paper to cool.
  • Once all of the tortillas are done, put a layer in a heavy casserole pot or ovenproof dish.
  • Cover with 2 tablespoons of sauce and spread with a spatula to evenly distribute over the tortillas.
  • Drain the beans and add a handful of beans and a sprinkle of mixed cheese on top of the tortillas and sauce.
  • The sauce/bean/cheese ratio will depend on how big your pot is, and how many layers you can make.
  • When you reach the top, cover it with a final layer of grated cheese and stick it in the oven.
  • Cook for 10-15 minutes until everything is bubbling and the cheese is melted. You can also stick it under the grill for a minute or two at the end to melt and crisp a bit more.
  • While the chilaquiles are cooking, scoop out the avocado flesh and roughly dice.
  • Chop the remaining coriander leaves.
  • Season the avocado with lemon and salt to your preference, then mix in the coriander.
  • Serve the chilaquiles warm with avocado and sour cream.

Crispy Spiced Chickpeas

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After many years as an atheist, I recently found myself at mass. Afterwards, I was struck by how automatically the responses and prayers came back to me and my similarly lapsed family after years of neglect, buried somewhere in a part of my brain that could be dedicated to more practical things. We have so many of these automatic responses in our head. If you ask any Irish person of my generation, they will be able to reel off, word for word, the instructions given to us in our end of school aural Irish exams. And if you tell someone that you don’t eat breakfast, they will automatically tell you that it is the most important meal of the day. I know this, because I have heard that phrase more times than I can count.

I have never warmed to breakfast. I don’t like eggs or milk or any of those healthy sensible things that people start their day with. No matter how many berries, spoonfuls of honey and sprinkles of cinnamon you put on porridge, it is still just dressed up cardboard paste to me. What I do like are breakfasts that are indistinguishable from lunch or dinner. After the amazing fatteh I had in Berlin, I started thinking about how I could adapt a meal like that into a healthy, portable work breakfast, and came up with the idea of oven roasted chickpeas.These chickpeas gave the crunch I liked in the fried bread from fatter but not the fatty heaviness. Topped with some greek yoghurt mixed with tahini, a squeeze of lemon juice, and some torn up mint leaves, they make a simple breakfast. 

The trick is to get the plumpest chickpeas you can find, the ones that have been slightly overcooked so they are starting to split. Chickpeas from a jar are good for this, also the cheaper supermarket brands like Lidl. The plumper the chickpeas, the crispier the outside coating becomes, I can’t explain why. I like to make a big batch, which can be stored in an airtight container in a fridge for 5 days or so. This makes four breakfast servings, or you could mix them with chopped tomatoes, cucumber, fresh mint, dill and yoghurt dressing to make Morito’s famous crispy chickpea salad.

Ingredients

  • 2 x 400g tins of chickpeas, drained
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon each any combination of: smoked paprika, turmeric, ground cumin, mixed spice, garam masala (about four teaspoons of spice in total)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method

  • Toss the chickpeas in oil, then the spices, salt and ground pepper.
  • Roast in the oven at 200C for 30-40 minutes until crisped and browned.
  • Keep for up to five days in an airtight container in the fridge.

 

Leek, Taleggio and Thyme Toasts

Leek Toast

This was the first thing I ate in 2015. If you don’t count that 2am oliebol that no-one can actually prove happened. It was an attempt at brunch, that in fairness, ended up being more like early dinner. I don’t like brunch. I don’t like coffee, mornings, eggs or cocktails that pretend they could provide you with your RDA of anything. This is the kind of thing you can have ready to go on days when you know that eating something green will probably be the height of your achievements. It isn’t really a recipe, more of an idea for nice things you can put together easily on bread. You could substitute taleggio with whatever melty cheese you’d like. I’d say Crozier Blue, camembert or goats cheese would be winners too.You can also cook the leeks the night before so they’re ready to go when hunger finally persuades you to part with your duvet.

Serves two

Ingredients

  • 3-4 small leeks, chopped into 2cm rounds, white and light green bits only
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil plus a little extra for the bread
  • 4 large slices of bread (I used 1/2 ciabatta loaf, sliced in half lengthways)
  • 75g taleggio cheese
  • A few sprigs of fresh thyme

Method

  • In a large pan, heat the olive oil over a medium heat.
  • Add the leeks, cover with a lid and sweat for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until soft and sweet.
  • Season well with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  • Rub the slices of bread with a bit of oil, and toast until a grill until golden on both sides.
  • Add the leek, dot with little cubes of taleggio.
  • Grill until the cheese is soft (1-2 minutes).
  • Top with thyme leaves and serve.