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.
This recipe is inspired by two Dublin sister restaurants, JoBurger and Crackbird. JoBurger was the first place I ever tried sweet potato fries, and I’m pretty sure the first place that sold them in Dublin, back in the dark days at the end of the Celtic Tiger. It was a pioneer of the casual gourmet fast food scene. It was and is a place where the menu told you they had put a lot of care and attention into it, but it was served in a setting where the music, decor and nonchalant staff feel more at home in a club. A lot of places offer this now, but JoBurger to me remains the best for a very simple reason: they know their food (with a hat-tip to Bunsen, another Dublin burger place that keeps their food game on point).Dublin is rife with gourmet fast food places passing off frozen oven chips, supermarket burger buns and pulled pork slathered in hot sauce to disguise the lack of flavour who looked at the business model, but forgot to factor in the food knowledge.
This recipe recreates the sweet potato fries from JoBurger with the whipped feta dip from Crackbird. The sweet potato fries are a little different, coated in polenta to keep the outside crispy, and smoked paprika and chilli to add a bit of heat. Feel free to add more paprika, I use even more than this when I’m making these for myself, but not everyone is as mad for it as I am. If you can’t find wild garlic, you can substitute with a finely chopped clove of garlic.
Serves 4 as a generous side
- 2 x large sweet potatoes (about 1.5kg in weight)
- 4 tablespoons polenta
- 3-4 teaspoons sweet smoked paprika
- 1-2 teaspoons of chilli flakes (optional, I use mild pul biber flakes)
- Neutral oil e.g. sunflower or rapeseed
- 200g feta
- 2-3 tablespoons Greek yoghurt
- 1/2 large lemon
- Small bunch wild garlic (15-20 leaves)
- A handful of spinach leaves
- 1 teaspoon honey
- Preheat the oven to 190C.
- Peel the sweet potatoes and cut them into finger sized wedges.
- Mix the polenta and paprika together with a decent amount of salt and pepper.
- Toss the sweet potato fries in a large bowl with 1-2 tablespoons of neutral oil, then add in the polenta mix and toss well to coat the fries.
- Lay them out on foil lined baking trays so that none of the sweet potato fries touch each other (you will need to do this in batches) and roast in the oven at 190C for about 20 minutes until the fries are crispy and browned on the outside, and soft in the middle, carefully turning them halfway through so they crisp evenly.
- Meanwhile, burn the lemon half on a hot pan until blackened and completely soft on the cut side (you can also skip this step and use the lemon juice straight up).
- Crumble the feta into a bowl with the yoghurt, wild garlic and spinach and blend with a stick blender until smooth.
- Add the juice of the burnt lemon, and the honey to taste (I like things very citrusy, so I usually scape all the lemon flesh in, add it slowly until you get the taste you like).
- Serve with the warm sweet potato fries.
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.
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.
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.
- 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)
- 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.
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.
An unusual little shop opened on the slightly desolate stretch of Dun Laoghaire Main Steet near the People’s Park recently, taking the place of a perenially empty Indian restaurant. To the untrained eye, it looks like a slightly spartan newsagent, but inside it’s filled with a selection of all the random things a Guardian reader could need. Family members have sourced Sheridan’s cheese, olives, and tamarind paste in recent weeks along with fresh vegetables like baby aubergines and okra.
Recently they’ve been selling glorious Irish broad beans (fava beans) for next to nothing and today I bagged myself a kilo out of the sheer excitement of seeing them. Broad beans scream cliches like ‘summer in a bowl’ and ‘fresh and healthy’. Which is what you need when your last meal was a mountain of chips from the fantastically named ‘Legends of Dun Laoghaire’ chipper at stupid o’clock. Unfortunately, if you’ve had an evening where garlic cheesy chips seemed like a good idea, the chances are the next day isn’t going to be a very productive one. Sunday afternoon laziness kicked in. So I turned them into a lovely dip, the ultimate in lazy cooking. This is quick and easy to make and moderately healthy.
Serves 4 with bread and other things to dip in
- 300g shelled broad beans (from about 600g weight in their pods)
- 1 medium white onion, finely chopped
- 3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
- 1 heaped teaspoon butter
- 2 tablespoons Greek yoghurt
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon finely grated parmesan/pecorino/vegetarian-friendly hard cheese if you’re that way inclined
- 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- A few fresh mint leaves
- Shell the peas, and boil in their skins for 3-5 minutes in a medium saucepan until soft.
- Drain the beans from the saucepan, run a paper towel over it to dry it and return it to a low heat
- Heat the butter in the saucepan, and cook the onion until soft and glistening, about 6 or 7 minutes
- Add the garlic for two minutes until it colours slightly
- Remove from the heat and add the broads back in (you don’t need to take them out of their pale outer skins for this)
- Add the remaining ingredients, and blend.
- The puree won’t be completely smooth, but shouldn’t have any big chunks.
- Check the seasoning and serve with warm pitta bread.
These pancakes are adapted from a recipe by Domini Kemp and serve as the perfect base for turning Christmas leftovers into a nice brunch or light dinner. If your house is anything like ours, you are looking at a fridge filled with cold ham, turkey, stilton and smoked salmon guarded jealously by a cat. Christmas for us involves two Christmas dinners, one on actual Christmas hosted by my aunt and uncle, and another hosted by my family the next day. By the 27th I’m usually sick of the sight of Christmas leftovers and looking for a bit of a change. The pancakes are quick and easy to make up from ingredients you probably have around the kitchen. I made some blini sized ones with herbed whipped feta and iberico ham and brought them as canapes for pre-Christmas drinks with friends. I’ve also had them with goats cheese and leftover Christmas ham, and with turkey and stuffing as a light dinner.
Makes about 12 4-inch pancakes
For the pancakes
- 225g frozen peas
- 1 egg
- 90g plain flour
- 60ml milk
- 65 ml cream
- 1 large banana shallot, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon lemon or lime zest
- Salt and pepper
- Cook the frozen peas for 1 minute or so in a pot of boiling water until soft.
- Submerge in cold water to cool and stop cooking.
- Meanwhile, mix the remaining ingredients together in a large bowl and whisk together to combine, seasoning well.
- Add the cooled peas and blend with a stick blender.
- It’s ok if some of the peas aren’t completely blended and have a bit of texture.
- Heat some neutral oil over medium heat in a large frying pan.
- Drop tablespoons of the batter into the frying pan (it doesn’t spread out too much and keeps a nice shape)
- Fry in batches.
- Cook for 2 or so minutes on each side until they are golden brown.
- Remove from the pan and drain on a plate lined with kitchen paper.
- Serve warm or at room temperature with your topping of choice.
This is yet another recipe from ‘Jerusalem’. *Insert grumble about food blogger Ottolenghi hero worship here*. One of my favourite things about the book is how is explores recipes in Jerusalem from the perspective of the many different cultures and traditions that exist there. It shows what makes up a local traditional cuisine and where the different facets of a dish or type of dish came from. This is something I have thought about a lot when it comes to traditional Irish food. I’ve often been asked, what is traditional Irish food? Most European countries can point to a distinctive cuisine, whether regional or throughout the country. When I taught in Denmark, I used to supervise the school lunches, and became aware of just how many traditional Danish dishes there were that every kid could name. I’m not sure the same could be said in Ireland.
An article in this week’s Irish Times tried to tackle the issue of ‘what is Irish cuisine’ and came to much the same conclusions as I have. The article found that what really typifies Irish food is the freshness and quality of ingredients, rather than a huge selection of traditional dishes. If you ask any Irish person, they’ll give you a different answer as to what a traditional Irish dish is. Irish culinary traditions that I have introduced the Dane to include breakfast rolls and putting crisps into sandwiches, so I may not be the best ambassador. What do you think of when you think of Irish food?
Anyway, back to the dish at hand. Mejadra crops up in a lot of cookbooks, and seems to be traditional across the Arabic world. According to Wikipedia, the recipe was first recorded in 1226 in Iraq. To put this in perspective, the food that most people think typifies Irish cuisine, potatoes, weren’t even introduced in Ireland for another 300 or so years! Mejadra (or mujaddara) is a tasty dish of rice, onions and lentils. It is so much more than the sum of its parts and is easily a meal in itself. It’s quite easy to make and is a good foundation to build a mezze around (particularly with this fantastic hummus). Serves 6 as a side dish.
- 4 medium onions, thinly sliced
- 2-3 tablespoons of flour
- 250g green or brown lentils
- 2 tsp cumin seeds
- 2tsp coriander seeds
- 200g basmati rice
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- ½ tsp ground turmeric
- 1½ tsp ground allspice
- 1½ tsp ground cinnamon
- Salt and black pepper
- 350ml water
- Neutral oil like sunflower or vegetable
- Greek yoghurt (optional)
- Cook the lentils in boiling salted water until cooked through but not completely soft (about 10-15 minutes).
- Sprinkle the flour on a plate and season well with plenty of salt and pepper.
- Toss the onion slices in the seasoned flour.
- Pour a couple of tablespoons of neutral oil into a frying pan.
- How much oil you use is up to you. You can get away with not that much if you’re very health conscious, but if you want really crispy and delicious onions, you’re going to need a fair few tablespoons.
- Depending on the size of your frying pan, either fry the onions all at once or in batches (there should only be one layer of onions in the pan at a time).
- Fry them in the oil over a medium high heat for 5-7 minutes until crispy and golden brown.
- Remove from the oil and drain on a plate lined with kitchen paper.
- Heat a large saucepan big enough to hold all the ingredients over a medium heat.
- Toast the cumin and coriander seeds for a minute or so until they start to pop.
- Add the oil and remaining spices and season well.
- Add the rice and toss in the spicy oil to coat.
- Add the cooked lentils and the water and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to low.
- It won’t look like there is enough water, but there is.
- Simmer for 15 minutes covered with a lid.
- Take off the heat, remove the lid, cover with a towel and leave for 10 minutes.
- Serve topped with the onions, and a dollop of Greek yoghurt (if you like).