2017 has been a big year so far, for me at least. I have moved job twice, house twice, and country once. I am now back in the canal-strewn city that gave this blog its name a long time ago. Very little has changed since I left in 2011, as befits a city where you can live in a house that was built in the 1590s, but returning to a student city as a proper adult makes you see it in a whole new light. So, in honour of the theme of the same but different, an updated recipe from the early days of the blog. I have been making gazpacho for years, and didn’t think it needed improving until I tried a watermelon version at Guts & Glory in Amsterdam. The watermelon balances out the heaviness of the garlic and oil, and brings out the sweetness in the tomatoes. It’s simple and quick to make, but chilling it properly is the key to bringing all the flavours together.
Serves four as a starter portion
- 500g cherry tomatoes, roughly chopped
- 2 red peppers (preferably the sweet, pointed kind), roughly chopped
- 350g watermelon, peeled and cubed
- 1 fat garlic clove, roughly chopped
- 1 shallot, roughly chopped
- 2 tablespoons sherry, white or red wine vinegar
- 3 tablespoons olive oil + a little extra for drizzling before serving
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika (optional)
- Salt & pepper
- 2 tablespoons of toasted pumpkin seeds
- Blend all of the ingredients together in a food processor or with a stick blender until you have a thick, smooth soup.
- Chill overnight, or for at least two hours.
- Season well before serving, according to your preference.
- Serve topped with some toasted pumpkin seeds, and a swirl of olive oil.
Lately, I have started to experiment with different ways of cooking rice. I’m in my thirties, so it seems like the right time. I can no longer get away with experimenting with blue hair, cocktails made from whatever bottles of drink were left behind from the last party or unsuitable romantic partners, so I have to make my own fun and embrace my sad hobbies. This chelow rice is a traditional Persian dish from Greg and Lucy Malouf’s beautiful book Saraban and it’s simply a foolproof way to cook perfect rice. There are quite a lot of instructions, and it’s a bit more complicated then your standard plain boil approach, or even Anna Jones’ lovely ‘high heat, low heat, no heat’ method, but it is worth it for the fluffy but defined rice with the slightest bite that it yields. You can just use the method to make plain rice, with the butter and oil, and it will still be an outstanding dish.
Serves 4-6 as a side dish
- 300g basmati rice
- 2 tablespoons sea salt
- 350g peas
- 70ml rapeseed oil
- 1 large Spanish onion, chopped
- 1 tablespoon flour
- 1 bunch of dill, chopped
- 100g pistachio nuts
- 40g unsalted butter
- 1 garlic clove
- 1 strip of lemon peel
- Neutral oil e.g. sunflower or rapeseed
- Wash the rice in cold running water, and then leave to soak for 30 minutes in a large bowl of lukewarm water, stirring occasionally with your hand to loosen the starch.
- Strain the rice and rinse again with warm water.
- Boil two litres of water in a large saucepan, add the salt and then the rice.
- Boil, uncovered, for five minutes.
- Quickly blanch the peas in boiling water in a separate pan for thirty seconds then drain.
- You can test the rice by biting into it, it should be soft on the outside but still hard in the middle.
- Drain the rice in a sieve and rinse with warm water, then shake and toss it a few times to try and drain as much water out as you can.
- Melt the butter in a small saucepan and add two tablespoons of warm water.
- Heat the saucepan again over a medium heat and add the oil and two teaspoons of water (be careful, it might spit a bit).
- When the oil begins to sizzle, carefully spoon in a layer of rice to cover the base.
- Quickly mix the peas with the remaining rice and then gradually, spoon by spoon, build a pyramid of rice over the base of rice in the saucepan.
- Poke five or six holes into the pyramid using the handle of a wooden spoon to allow the steam to escape.
- Sit the garlic and lemon peel on top of the rice.
- Drizzle the melted butter and water evenly over the rice.
- Wrap the sauce pan lid in a tea towel, being careful to tuck it in so none of the towel ends up burning on your stove, and cover the pan with it.
- Leave the rice on a high heat for two to three minutes until steam is escaping from the sides of the pan, then turn the heat to low and leave for 40 minutes without opening the lid to check on it.
- Meanwhile, season the flour with salt and pepper, toss the onions in it, and fry in a tablespoon or two of neutral oil over a medium heat for 20-25 minute until golden brown and crispy.
- When you are ready to serve, put the saucepan into a basin of cold water to separate the crispy rice from the pan.
- Stir through most of the pistachios and the chopped dill, saving a bit of both for the top.
I know, a recipe called chickpeas and kale is the kind of thing you will only click on in the depths of January guilt. It sounds bland, and unnecessarily wholesome. But bear with me. I had seen the recipe for chickpeas and spinach in the Moro cookbook dozens of times while leafing through it. And I had ignored it. Every single time. It sounded boring, it didn’t involve cheese or tahini and I worked off the logic that there were so many amazing recipes in there, there also had to be some duds. I was wrong. Every recipe Sam and Sam Clarke turn out is consistently wonderful, and often deceptively simple. When this recipe appeared on Food52’s Genius Recipes column, and again on Smitten Kitchen, my interest was finally piqued.
I’m trying to get back into the swing of cooking quick and easy work meals after a long Christmas break, and this recipe fit the bill. I adapted it extensively from the original, using a different spice combination, white wine vinegar instead of red, kale instead of spinach and added some tomato sauce (inspired by Smitten Kitchen). It’s easy, wholesome and inexpensive to make, which is perfect for January cooking. You can prepare the bread paste in the advance and keep it in the fridge, so the whole thing can be assembled in about ten minutes. When I first cooked this it was at the end of a twelve hour working day which had been followed by a cheeky pint. Every route to my house from work involves passing at least one chipper so I felt like I should get a medal for cooking this at 9:30pm.
I can’t properly articulate why this recipe is so good, because I can’t wrap my head around it. It’s some magical alchemy involved in the combination of the sharp vinegar, rich breadcrumbs, earthy chickpeas, mineral kale and the, well, garlicky garlic. This is a recipe I can see myself making again and again.
Makes two generous main course portions.
- 75g slice of bread, torn into small cubes
- 3 garlic cloves, chopped
- 2 teaspoons Herbes de Provence
- 1 teaspoon caraway seeds
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 teaspoon mild chili flakes, like aleppo chili.
- 1 1/2 tablespoon red or white wine vinegar
- 200g kale washed, with the spines removed and leaves torn into small pieces
- 2 x 400g tins of chickpeas, drained
- 2 tablespoons ,of any basic tomato sauce, passata, or 2 teaspoons tomato puree mixed with two tablespoons of water
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- Olive oil
- Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat.
- Add the bread cubes and fry until golden, turning frequently.
- Add the garlic Herbes de Provence and spices and cook for one minute more, stirring frequently.
- Remove from the heat, and blend in a pestle and mortar, or with a stick blender together with one tablespoon vinegar to form a paste.
- Wilt the kale in batches in a hot frying pan with a little bit of water to prevent burning and a sprinkling of salt, then leave aside.
- Add the bread paste to a frying pan together with the chickpeas and tomato sauce and cook for 5 minutes over medium heat to combine well.
- Add the wilted kale and cook for a few minutes until heated through and well combined.
- Top with smoked paprika and serve warm.
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.
- 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
- 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.
Falafel have been a staple part of my diet for as long as I can remember. As a child, my favourite restaurant was the Cedar Tree, a Lebanese restaurant in Dublin. How exactly my parents managed to get two incredibly fussy eating children to devour falafel, hummus and other things that were incredibly exotic in Dublin in the eighties is beyond me, but it was one of the few places the whole family loved. One of my favourite childhood memories is emerging from the basement restaurant onto the street above to discover that the whole city had been freshly coated in snow while we’d been having dinner.
When I first arrived in Holland, with a giant suitcase, a map, and very little else, falafel was my first meal. It hadn’t really occurred to me that not speaking a word of Dutch might pose any problem, until I realised I was hungry and had no clue what anything on any of the cafe menus were. Too embarrassed to ask, I ended up finding one of those fast food places with pictures of everything, relieved I could recognise a plate of falafel. Later, living in Aarhus, a roll of freshly baked flat bread stuffed with falafel, cabbage, chilli sauce, leaves and tahini from the Palestinian take away a few doors from my flat cost about €4. It was one of the few things my two day a week salary would stretch to, and became a weekend staple.
I was always disappointed when I tried to make falafel myself.Many past attempts ended with bland results. The key to this recipe is using dried chickpeas soaked overnight, but not cooked. I tried using tinned chickpeas, and ended up with spicy garlic mush that dissolved on the frying pan. Being completely honest, this recipe, while delicious, is a million miles away from the falafel you get in Middle Eastern cafes, with their crispy brown deep fried shell giving way to tiny grains delicately spiced grains of broad beans. For starters, broad beans are difficult to track down in Dublin, so I make these with chickpeas. Also, pan frying just doesn’t give quite the same effect.They’re inspired by falafel sold from a Turkish deli stand at the market in Leiden. The recipe makes about 20 falafel. They freeze and keep well, and are great combined with tabbouleh to make a packed lunch for work.
- 250g dried chickpeas, soaked in lots of water for 12 hours
- 1 large red onion, finely chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 chipotle chile in adobo
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 8-10 slow roasted cherry tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon tomato puree
- 2 tablespoons chopped parsley and/or coriander
- 1 teaspoon toasted cumin
- 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
- 2 tablespoons of sesame seeds
- Rapeseed or sunflower oil
- Mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl or measuring jug.
- Use a stick blender to break them down and mix them together.
- The chickpeas should take on a consistency like grains of sand, you don’t want them completely pureed to a paste.
- Check the seasoning, they can take a good amount of salt.
- Form the mixture into golfball sized balls, flatten them slightly into patties, and then roll them in a bowl of sesame seeds to coat.
- Heat 2-3 tablespoons of oil in a frying pan over medium heat.
- Fry the falafel in batches, about 2 minutes on each side (watch carefully, they burn easily).
- Drain on kitchen paper and serve warm.
If talking about the weather was an Olympic sport, I’m confident I could medal in it. I’m not unique in this respect, I think all Irish people would be able to do the same. This is probably because we have so much of it. For a garden party last week I brought sunglasses, sandals, shoes, umbrella, hat and raincoat. We go abroad to places with normal, seasonal weather and confuse everyone by observing repeatedly that it’s hot on a June afternoon. Talking about the weather is conversational stretching. Whether you’ve known the person for 5 minutes or 5 years, it eases you into talking about real things.
I say talking about the weather, but really, it’s mainly complaining. There’s a sweet spot of 25C with clear skies and a light breeze which makes me happy. Everything else is moan worthy. Having spent the past two months complaining about how cold it was, I stepped off a plane in Amsterdam recently to 35C at 8:00pm, and the conversation instantly changed. How can anyone stand this heat? It’s the kind of weather where the day is just one long process of getting in and out of various bodies of water interspersed with lying in the shade and groaning. In this kind of weather, you want long, relaxed meals with minimal stove time, so I made this supper with a little help.
If you have two people working together, it’s quick to put together, with lots of great summer flavours. The pappardelle is adapted from a recipe in Helen Atlee’s wonderful book on Italy, The Land Where Lemons Grow.You need really good, sweet and very red tomatoes for the bruschetta, the kind you only get around this time of year. This serves two with some bruschetta topping left over for lunch the next day.
- 4 medium sized vine tomatoes, de-seeded and diced
- 1 small shallot, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon chopped basil
- 1/2 tablespoon chopped thyme
- 1/2 loaf of bread, chopped into slices
- 1 clove of garlic
- Extra olive oil for drizzling on bread
Orange, Lemon and Tarragon Pappardelle
- 1 orange
- 1 lemon
- 1 shallot
- 15g butter
- 1 tablespoon (ish) white wine
- 100ml cream
- teaspoon chopped tarragon
- 200g pappardelle
- Grated parmesan (to taste)
- 500g broad beans (unshelled weight)
- Mix the tomato, shallot, basil, thyme, olive oil and vinegar in a large bowl, and season well.
- Peel the lemon and orange and julienne the peel.
- Boil the peel for five minutes so remove the bitterness and drain.
- Melt the butter in the a sauce pan and add the shallot.
- Cook over medium-low heat for 5 minutes or so, until softened but not coloured.
- Add the wine and peel and reduce.
- After 2-3 minutes when the wine is almost gone, add the cream and tarragon.
- Squeeze in some juice from the lemon and orange.
- Taste after a minute and add more if you like, the original recipe called for the juice of two oranges and one lemon, but I thought this was a bit much. I ended up using about 1/2 of each, but it’s whatever you like yourself.
- Season well with salt and pepper.
- Meanwhile, shell the broad beans and boil for 3-4 minutes in boiling water.
- Refresh with cold water, and when you can handle them, squeeze off the tough outer coating.
- Cook the pappardelle in boiling salted water as per packet instructions.
- Rub each slice of bread with a peeled garlic clove, drizzle with some oil and toast until golden on both sides (you can do this under the grill or in a pan).
- When the pasta is cooked, toss it in the sauce and add the broad beans.
- Mix in some grated parmesan to taste (again, it’s up to you how much, I like quite a lot, about 1.5 tablespoons per portion, but that’s just me).
- Top the toasted bread with a spoonfull of the tomato mix and serve with the pasta.
I should start by saying this is not my most inspired blog post, thoughts outside of study and exams are pretty impossible at the moment, but it’s a good recipe so just bear with me. This is my eighteenth year of exams, and I’d like to say I’ve learned many skills and techniques for studying, balancing work and relaxation and all those other important things. But that would be a lie, exams continue to be as horrendous and stressful as they always have been. I still have a recurring nightmare twelve years on that I am forced to retake my Leaving Cert and it is far more terrifying than any other nightmare I have. As part of my current and hopefully last real exam season, leaving the house and cooking more than once a week is low on the list of priorities. A good store cupboard is the key to exam survival. I made a huge batch of this curry to freeze using ingredients I had lying around the house. It’s healthy, tasty and easy to scale up. It’s a miscellaneous curry, with Indian, Thai and Mexican influences and god knows what else besides. It’s filling, but you could bulk it out more with some rice or flatbread. You can really use whatever is to hand, I’d say it would be great with baby potatoes, kale, any kind of bean or lentil, whatever you have in your cupboard and fridge. If you leave out the yoghurt, it’s vegan, and also coeliac friendly. There isn’t a lot of active time involved, probably about 15 minutes, and it serves 4.
- 700g sweet potato, peeled and diced
- 1 x 400g tin of tomatoes
- 4 x garlic cloves
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 chipotle chilli with adobe (or any fresh chilli you have to hand)
- 1 tsp tumeric
- 1 tsp curry powder
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp coriander
- 250ml coconut milk
- 1 tablespoon peanut butter
- 1-2 teaspoons sriracha (or any kind of hot sauce you fancy)
- 2 x 400g tins of chickpeas, drained
- 100g spinach, roughly chopped
- 250g frozen peas
- 1 lemon
- Neutral oil
- Natural yoghurt (optional)
- Toss the diced sweet potato in some oil, season, and roast in the oven at 200C for 20-30 minutes until soft and starting to brown at the edges.
- Blend the tomato, garlic, onion and chipotle into a puree with a stick blender/food processor.
- Heat 1/2 tablespoon of oil in a large saucepan and fry the spices for 1-2 minutes.
- Add the tomato puree and cook for 2 minutes.
- Add the coconut milk and peanut butter and simmer for 5 minutes.
- Season to taste with salt and some lemon juice and stir in the chickpeas, sweet potato and spinach and simmer for 5-10 minutes, adding in the frozen peas for the final 3 minutes.
- Season with additional lemon juice and a dollop of yoghurt before serving if that’s your thing.
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
- 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
- 4 teaspoons black bean chili paste
- 2 teaspoons sesame oil
- 2 teaspoons rice wine
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon soy sauce
- 4 teaspoons sriracha
- 2 teaspoons sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon sushi vinegar
- 2 teaspoons soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 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.
If there is one phrase which sums up spending Saturday night at home in your twenties, it’s FOMO (fear of missing out). As an addict of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, the decision to have a quiet night in is faced with a barrage of photos of everyone you know having the best time ever in an array of locations that don’t involve their sofa.As my twenties creep to a close, the battle with FOMO is slowly being won by the need to catch up on sleep and save money (my 22 year old self would have snorted with derision at this). That doesn’t mean I can’t make a night in as just as detrimental to my health and waistline as a night on the town. This dish is the kind of dangerously unhealthy thing I can’t justify making on a regular basis, but every now and again, when I want a treat, this is the way to go. This should serve four as a small side dish.
- 750g parsnips, peeled and very thinly sliced
- 1 large white onion
- 3 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped into large pieces
- a few sprigs of thyme
- 10 peppercorns
- 250ml cream
- a pinch of nutmeg
- Butter, for greasing the dish
- Butter a medium sized gratin dish or any oven safe dish.
- Heat the cream with the garlic, thyme, peppercorns, and nutmeg until it’s starting to boil then leave to infuse for 10 minutes.
- Layer the onion and the parsnips in the dish.
- Season the cream and pour over the parsnips.
- Bake at 200C for 30-40 minutes while wrapped in tinfoil, checking with a fork after 30.
- You want the parsnips to be al dente.
- Cook uncovered for an additional for an additional 15-20 minutes so the top can crisp (keep an eye to make sure it doesn’t burn).
- Leave to sit for 20 minutes to settle before serving.
I made this salad a few weeks back during one of my thrice monthly health kicks. These usually last a few days, in which I largely eat plants, go to the gym, take the stairs in work, then remember fried things are delicious and the whole cycle begins again. It was meant to contain all sorts of things other than carrots and peas but I was thwarted by my vanity. I went to the gym, had a long, bitter and thankless workout, and was smugly strolling into the changing room when I was confronted with a host of confused semi clothed women clutching towels around themselves. It quickly became clear that all the water to the building had been cut off, and I was destined to walk home looking and smelling as appealing as a secondary school changing room. I scurried through the backstreets of inner city Dublin like a fugitive, darting through alleyways that probably weren’t the safest to try and avoid human contact. Clearly, going to the supermarket was out of the question, and so I ventured home to raid my fridge, freezer and cupboards to salvage dinner. And this was what I found. The carrots were lingering at the bottom of the vegetable drawer, a little disturbingly since I’d bought them over a month ago. Mint is the only herb that doesn’t die in my dark and damp kitchen, and I had a hoard of bulgar wheat in the cupboard. Thank god for my borderline survivalist stash of dried goods. This salad keeps well for packed lunches, and is quite cheap to make once you have a good store cupboard.
Makes about 4 side servings
For the roasted carrots
- 6 carrots, peeled and sliced into batons
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2-3 teaspoons honey
- 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- salt and pepper
For the salad
- 150g frozen petit pois
- 150g bulgar wheat (unsoaked weight)
- 75g feta, crumbled
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 crushed garlic clove
- 1 teaspoon allspice
- 1-2 teaspoons honey
- a few shakes of togarashi or chilli flakes (optional)
- Mix the carrot batons with the remaining ingredients and roast at 200C for 25 minutes or until soft and a little browned around the edges.
- Meanwhile, boil the petit pois as per pack instructions.
- Soak the bulgar wheat in hot water until soft (approximately 20 minutes, but keep tasting)
- Make the dressing by whisking the oil, juice, garlic, allspice and honey together.
- Once the bulgar is properly soaked, dress and season with salt, pepper and togarashi/chilli flakes.
- Mix in the peas, carrots, feta and chopped mint.
- Serve at room temperature.