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.
- 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
- 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.
Weekend trips to Holland are not the best for my waistline. Holiday food traditions have sprung up over the years, and are difficult to escape. A kaasbroodje, liquid cheese wrapped in puff pastry, as a late breakfast on the train out of Schiphol. Bitterballen, balls of shredded meat wrapped in bechamel and deep fried dipped in mustard, as a reward after long cycles across the coastal dunes. Freshly made Turkse pizza, or lahmacun, from the elderly Tunisian/Greek man on the main street who takes more pride and satisfaction in his culinary skills than a Michelin chef. Fresh bread from the market with chunks of hard goats cheese, devoured on the banks of the canal because the ducks there have developed not only the size, but the tenacity of feral cats and will snatch food straight from your hands.
One of the only healthy traditions which has sprung up is cooking a large pot of mussels, a staple at Dutch supermarkets, at some point in the weekend. Mussels are full of vitamins and acids which are said to help brain function and reduce inflammatory conditions. While this may not be the most photogenic dish, it is a very tasty one, especially combined with a dollop of aioli and fresh bread to mop up the sauce. The recipe is adapted from the ever reliable Morito cookbook. The recipe allows for some mussels to be thrown out, because it’s never a good idea to take a chance on shellfish.
Serves 2 as a main course, 4 as a starter/tapa
- 1 sliced bunch of spring onions, green and white parts
- 1 thinly sliced bulb of fennel
- 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 5 finely chopped cloves of garlic
- 1/2-1 teaspoon chilli flakes
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
- 1 teaspoon of sugar or honey
- 50ml white wine
- 1 kilo mussels
- 150g feta, crumbled
- 1 handful of chopped fresh tarragon
- Olive oil
- Sort through the mussels and find every mussel that is open, even slightly.
- Tap each opened mussel sharply on the side of a counter top or sink.
- If it closes, keep it.
- If it stays open, throw it away.
- If you’re not sure, throw it away.
- Rinse all the now fully closed mussels thoroughly with water.
- Heat the oil in a large pan over medium heat and cook the fennel and fennel seeds slowly for five minutes.
- Add the chopped spring onion and cook for another five minutes.
- Add the garlic and chilli flakes and cook for a minute or two more.
- Add in the tomato, sugar/honey bay leaves and white wine and bring to the boil, then reduce to the heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes.
- Bring the mixture back to the boil and add the cleaned mussels to the pot.
- Put on a lid, and cook until the mussels are opened (about 3-4 minutes).
- If there are any closed mussels when the majority have opened, discard them.
- Stir in the tarragon and feta, and stir immediately.
Cassoulet is the anti-Valentine’s day dish. It takes all the stereotypes about French food being refined, romantic and poised, and turns them on their head. It’s a pretty vulgar dish really. As many different bits of meat as you can find, bound together with beans and duck fat. So much duck fat. Horrifying amounts. By the time you finish making this dish, the very air in your kitchen will be greasy. This is not a dish you cook for a romantic date. A reasonable person will take one look at your red, shiny, duck fat laced face peering into a pot of bubbling meat, and run the other way. Cassoulet is the gastronomic method of letting yourself go.
It is also a meal you make when you have too much time on your hands.It really does take the guts of an afternoon to make. This is not the best dish to impress with because despite being very tasty to the casual observer, it looks straightforward. If that is what you want, try this Chorizo Stew. I prepared a few days in advance by making the chicken stock from the remains of Roast Chicken with Leeks and Dill or you could just buy some good quality stuff (not the cubes, not for this). This serves four people pretty comfortably, especially with bread for mopping up after, and a green salad.
- 350g haricot or cannelini beans, soaked in cold water overnight
- 750ml chicken stock
- 1 onion, peeled
- 1 head of garlic, unpeeled, plus 4 cloves
- 2 sprigs of thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- 250g chunk of solid pork fat, or one small unsmoked ham hock
- 2 confit duck legs and their fat (about 6 tablespoons)
- 250g pork belly
- 4 garlicky sausages like Toulouse or Kielbasa, whatever you can find really
- 1 tbsp sun-dried tomato past
- 120g breadcrumbs
- Drain the beans well and put them in a large, ovenproof casserole.
- Pour in the chicken stock until it comes about 3cm above the top of the beans, then add the onion, whole head of garlic, herbs and bacon fat or ham hock.
- Bring it all to a boil, then cover and simmer for about an hour and a quarter, until the beans are tender but not mushy.
- Fry the duck, pork belly and sausages separately in plenty of duck fat until crisp and golden.
- Once they have cooled, chop the sausages into large chunks and pull the meat from the duck legs in as large pieces as you can manage.
- Remove the onion and herbs from the beans and discard.
- Pick out the pork fat and discard.
- Squeeze the garlic cloves from their skins and mash to a paste with four tablespoons of duck fat and the fresh garlic cloves.
- Stir in the sun-dried tomato paste. Preheat the oven to 160C.
- Drain the beans, reserving the liquid.
- Pour the beans, and meat into the casserole dish, together with the sundried tomato and garlic paste.
- Top it up with the stock from the beans until just covered.
- Fry the breadcrumbs in one tablespoon of duck fat, and top the cassoulet with a layer of them.
- Bake for about 1 and a half hours, until you have a thick golden crust, with bits of liquid bubbling through.
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.
Just what the internet needs, another toast recipe. I met up with an old friend, now living in San Francisco this week. Among many other things discussed over sunny pints, the topic of the tech booms transforming our cities and hipsterfication of everything came up. It reminded me of a story I heard on This America Life on the origin of the San Francisco artisan toast trend that seems to make up 50% of Instagram right now. You’re probably rolling your eyes right now, but the story is both inspirational and sad. It originated in a cafe called Trouble, which is run by Giulietta Carrelli, a woman who struggles with schizoaffective disorder. She set up her cafe as a lifeline, against all the odds, after years of living rough. It was a way to stay connected to her surroundings and to interact with people and have a support network. Everything she sells is something which has helped her through the worst moments of her illness in some way. She started selling toast because it represented comfort and home. You can read the whole story here which I’d strongly recommend doing rather than going on my very flawed summary. It’s a nice reminder that people are more than the sum of their troubles.
Black pudding is something that will always remind me of Ireland, and home, so I’ve included it here. You could also use chorizo, or just keep it veggie if the idea of blood sausage is too creepy. This recipe makes about a cereal bowl sized amount of pea guacamole, it’s an easy thing to whip up quickly to share with friends.
- 250g frozen peas, cooked
- 100g goats cheese or feta
- 1 avocado
- 2 teaspoons lemon zest
- juice of 1/2 lemon
- 1 tablespoon Greek yogurt
- 1/2 teaspoon chopped garlic
- A pinch of chilli flakes (optional)
- Bread of your choice
- Black pudding
- Blend all the ingredient 6 ingredients, and check seasoning. Add chilli flakes if using.
- Fry some slices of black pudding, and serve the guacamole slathered on toasted bread with warm black pudding on top.
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.
- 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
- 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, shallots, garlic and potatoes, and bring the stock to the boil.
- Remove the chicken from the oven, lift it up, and place the leeks, shallot, garlic and potato mix underneath (this is ideally a two person job).
- Pour the stock and wine in, season the vegetables, place the chicken on top again 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.
I know, I know. It’s January 1st, and you are mentally replaying moments from last night. Like when you said ‘Champagne doesn’t give me a hangover’. And when you found that bottle of incredibly sweet liqueur at the back of the cupboard from three years ago. You just want to quietly sit and think how many kale smoothies you will drink to atone for the last week. How healthy, and energised and trim you’re going to become. And here I am putting up a duck confit recipe with boozy shallots to boot. But sure it’s Thursday, surely 2015 doesn’t properly start until Monday…
This was my dinner last night, along with lots of creamy mashed potato. I then discovered the Dutch tradition of eating Oliebollen (like a delicious cross between a doughnut and a hot cross bun) on New Year’s Eve and really made it my own. There may have been some baked Camembert thrown in as well. No regrets.
This isn’t a traditional duck confit, it’s a quick cheats way I borrowed from Melissa Clark by way of Food 52. The shallots are from Ottolenghi’s latest book, Plenty More. They make a thick winey sauce (not pictured) which is perfect for serving with the duck legs. This serves two, but can easily be scaled up.
- 2 duck legs
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- A crumbled bay leaf
- Some fresh thyme leaves
- Olive oil
- 8 shallots, whole but peeled
- 200ml stock (I used rich beef stock for maximum flavour)
- 400ml wine
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon black peppercorn
- 25g butter
- Olive oil
- Season the duck legs with the salt, bay leaf, thyme and pepper.
- Wrap in cling film and refrigerate over night.
- Heat the oven to 165C before cooking the next day (our oven was gas, and a little hotter so the duck turned out more crispy, though still very tasty).
- Pan fry the duck legs, fat side down, over medium heat in a pan or oven proof skillet for 20 minutes to render out as much of the fat as you can (don’t cook too high or they’ll just burn without getting all the fat out).
- Either transfer to a small oven proof dish with the duck fat or use the skillet.
- Flip the legs over so the skin side is up and they are surrounded by the rendered fat.
- Cover with tinfoil and cook in the oven for 2 hours.
- Remove the tinfoil and cook until crispy (another 40 minutes to 1 hour).
- Meanwhile, pan fry the whole shallots in a medium saucepan with some oil over medium heat until they start to colour – about five minutes.
- Add the wine, stock, bay, thyme, and black peppercorns.
- Bring to the boil, then simmer gently for one hour.
- Remove the shallots, strain the sauce and then bring the sauce to the boil to thicken.
- Season and add the butter to the sauce.
- Add back in the shallots and serve with the duck.
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.
During my most recent, technically ongoing, attempt at becoming one of those fit, healthy, exercise loving people, I signed up for the daily Women’s Health Magazine email. Ever since then, it’s been a daily barrage of guilt (“four foods you have to stop eating or your loved ones will turn against you”, “five ways your flabby arms are ruining your career”) combined with some fairly sweeping statements about physical intimacy that do not bear close examination. It’s a constant reminder that I am just not one of those gym junkie types.
I’ve heard a lot of people talk about the gym being both relaxing and addictive. For me, it’s cooking that offers the kind of buzz and sense of calm people get from exercise. I exercise based on a combination of Catholic guilt and fear. The most relaxing thing for me is a day with nothing to do but cook. This lamb dish from the Morito cookbook was made on one of those kind of days, a lazy Sunday with hours to spend in the kitchen. It’s a little bit time consuming, but not tricky to make, and it looks so pretty at the end that you get a fantastic sense of accomplishment. I followed the recipe pretty much to the word, but if I was remaking it, I’d add some tahini to the aubergine to give a bit of extra bite. This dish serves 6-8 as part of a mezze.
- 600g stewing lamb
- 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (or a cinnamon stick)
- 1 onion, halved
- a few sprigs of thyme and some bay leaves
- 3 aubergines
- 3 tablespoons greek yoghurt
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2-3 cloves of garlic
- juice of 1/2 lemon
- 50g butter
- 1 white onion
- 1 teaspoon toasted and ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- chilli flakes, to serve
- 2 tablespoons chopped mint
- 2 tablespoons pomegranate seeds
- 2 tablespoons toasted pinenuts
- Put the lamb in a large sauce pan with all of the ingredients down to and including the bay leaves.
- Simmer for around 45-50 minutes, skimming the froth off the top as you go (appealing, I know!)
- The meat should be very soft and easy to tear apart with a fork/your hands once cooled (test with a fork before taking off the heat)
- Roast the aubergines in a very hot oven, over a gas flame or over a barbecue until soft (around 45 minutes in an oven at 220C)
- Once they cooled, scrape the flesh from the skin into a bowl, and blend with a stick blender.
- Stir in the yoghurt, oil, lemon juice and garlic.
- Once the lamb is torn into small shreds, heat the butter in a saucepan.
- Cook the onion in the butter with a pinch of salt until soft and sweet, 10-15 minutes.
- Add the spices and cook for a minute, then add in the lamb.
- Fry until bits of the lamb are crisping up, then remove from the heat, and pile on top of the aubergine in a big bowl.
- Top with the pinenuts, mint and pomegranate seeds.
This is a salad for people who like denial. You can tell yourself you’re having a salad, and being healthy, if you just ignore all the deliciously unhealthy things on top.It’s pretty easy to assemble, the only bit of effort being that you have to massage the kale, which seems like a sick joke after a long day at work. What’s next, having to give your carrots a manicure? But then, of course kale is high maintenance. It’s the hipster of the green leafy veg world. If kale was sentient, it would reassure itself that it was organic and locally grown while downing a flat white and listening to The National. You could make this with any kind of salad leaf really, it doesn’t have to be such a highly strung one.
I was sent some beautiful Iberico ham from Iberico Dehesa Casablance in Extremadura by the nice people at Jamonprive which was just perfect for this salad. It’s inspired by one I had for lunch on a rare sunny day at the Drury Buildings a while back, and is perfect as a light lunch or dinner.
- 1 bunch of kale (curly or otherwise)
- 4 slices Iberico ham
- 3-4 tablespoons of ricotta
- 1 bunch asparagus
- 50g hazelnuts, chopped
- 1 quantity of Secret salad dressing
- Olive oil
- Trim the kale leaves from the stalks and roughly chop.
- Massage with olive oil and a little bit of salt for a couple of minutes until dark and soft.
- Chop the asparagus into 1inch pieces and blanch in salted boiling water for 1-2 minutes until softened.
- Refresh the asparagus with cold water.
- Dress the kale leaves.
- Tear the Iberico into small pieces.
- Top the dress salad leaves with the asparagus, little balls of ricotta, asparagus and the hazelnuts.
- Serve immediately.