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.
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 turned thirty last weekend, and it seems to be one of those events that makes you stop and take stock of how things have gone so far. Mainly because people keep telling you what a momentous occasion it is, then try and reassure you as they hand you a paper bag to hyperventilate into. In my lifetime, a lot of things have changed. Little things, like I no longer hate tomatoes, and basil, and so can make this recipe, and much, much bigger things. Exciting things, like careers taking off and people I have known for half my life getting married. Watching the country I grew up in change, sometimes for better and sometimes for worse. Saturday will mark a big personal occasion,celebrating the wedding of two lovely people. With a bit of luck, it will also mark a big public occasion, because I really hope that when I wake up on Saturday, Ireland will have passed a referendum which will allow same-sex couples to marry as well. I’m mindful of friends and family who will want to marry, and who currently can’t do so in their home country, as well as those who already have married far from home, and are not recognized as such here. I’m hopeful that we will be our best selves as a country this weekend; loving, brave and open to change. There are a lot of things we can’t alter about Ireland, but this is something within our control. We can be a country that values everyone equally, regardless of our differences. That would be a nice way to start off my thirties, and if I can grow to like tomatoes, quite frankly anything is possible. So, Irish readers, please get out and vote Yes to Marriage Equality on Friday 22 May 2015.
- 450g cherry tomatoes
- 1 head of confit garlic, or roasted garlic
- 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar
- Olive oil
- 40g Parmesan cheese
- 70g walnuts, roughly chopped
- A handful of basil leaves
- Chop the cherry tomatoes in half
- Toss in a few tablespoons of olive oil together with the balsamic vinegar and season well.
- Roast at 160C for 1 to 1 and a 1/2 hours until soft and a little browned and wrinkled.
- Once they are cooled, add the parmesan, walnuts, basil and top up with olive oil before blending.
- Check for seasoning.
- You can make this as thick or as liquid as you prefer your pesto to be.
- Store in the fridge with a layer of olive oil on top.
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.
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
- 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
- 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.
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.
- 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
- Juice half a lemon
- 100g icing sugar
- 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).
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.
- 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
- 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.