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Monday, 29 August 2011

Post the Fifteenth (in which our heroine dies a death)

Today was not one of my better days.  I had a hangover of Dionysian proportions, compounded by the fact that I only got five hours sleep.  And the cause of this delicate state?  Was I carousing in some city hotspot with the beautiful people?  Was I engaged in an imbibing session in one of the country's many salubrious drinking establishments?  No.  I was at a family day in my parents' house.  There was a bouncy castle.  And I still managed to get myself into such a state that I had to leave work early.  To be honest, I think that's quite impressive.

So now I'm sitting here suspiciously eyeing the glass of wine that my sister swears blind will cure me.  I'm not entirely sure I believe her.  I think possibly the only thing for it is to order pizza, eat too much of it, then go to bed and settle in for the inevitable DTs, night-sweats and mad dreams.

Anyway, I was did things a bit arseways yesterday and gave you the recipes for the pesto and baguettes that I brought along to the Fambly Day yesterday.  By the way, if you ever decide to host a party, you could do worse than adopt the Ken Coffey way of doing things:

1. Announce to your family at large that you're "organising" a family day as a last hurrah for the kids before they go back to school.  Go a bit mad and tell them you're getting a bouncy castle.

2.  Inform everyone that they have to bring at least one dish with them for the food.

3.  When people ask you what kind of food everyone else is bringing, inform them that your youngest daughter is co-ordinating the food.

4. Neglect to inform said daughter of this fact until after she's already fielded several phone calls from siblings wondering whether anyone has already baggsed doing pasta salad.

5.  Forget to tell your eldest daughter about the family day until after she's already bought tickets to a show for that morning.

6.  Get your long-suffering youngest daughter to find the cheapest bouncy castle in Dublin.

7. Sit back and enjoy the party in which you've had little to no part in actually organising.

8.  Bask in all the thanks for setting it up while your youngest daughter drinks herself into an epic state.

Anyway, tonight you're getting the recipe for Saturday night's dinner.  It sounds a bit weird, but it's really, really good.  If you like spice, that is.  If you're nursing an ulcer, a blistery mouth or have a senstive, erm, bum, then maybe you'd best give it a miss...

Chicken Tequila Fettucine - serves 4

4 chicken fillets, diced            Large handful coriander, chopped
Half a jar of sliced jalapenos, finely diced, or 3 fresh ones, finely diced
3 cloves garlic, diced              2 tbsps butter
450ml chicken stock              100ml tequila or rum
Juice of 1 lime                        1 onion, diced
1 red & one yellow pepper, diced
250ml cream                          250g pasta (use any shape you like, it doesn't have to be fettucine.  Which is just Yank-speak for tagliatelle anyway).

(I'm aware that that looks like a lemon, but it's a lime, believe me)

1. In a small saucepan, sauté the jalapenos, coriander & garlic in two tablespoons of the butter for 5 minutes. Doesn't it smell freakin' AWESOME?  Add the tequila, lime juice and 3/4s of the stock and boil like a madwoman (or man) until it's reduced to a paste-like consistency.  Set aside.

2.  In a separate large pan or wok, sauté the onion & bell peppers for until the peppers have wilted a bit.  Add the chicken, the jalapeno-tequila paste and the cream, mix well, bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until the chicken is cooked and the sauce is nice and thick.  Add the reserved stock if it looks like it's reducing too much before the chicken is cooked.

3. Meanwhile, cook & drain your pasta.  Taste your sauce and if it's not hot enough (I have a shameful chili addiction), add a few dried chili flakes.  Season, toss with the pasta, garnish with a little extra coriander and serve.  Laugh at the big red faces on your guests if you've served it to people who aren't quite as addicted to chilies as you are.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Post the Fourteenth (in which our heroine apologises yet again)

Ok, I know this song is starting to get really old, but I am sooooo sorry for the extremely sporadic nature of my posting recently.  Two days of temping in Dublin turned into two weeks, so all routine has gone out ye olde fuinneog.  I've been living out of my sister's wardrobe in my parents' house, and my mother seems to have some kind of fundamental mistrust of my cooking, so there hasn't been a whole lot of kitchen action in my life recently.  Fear not, however - I'm going to make up for it by giving you not one, but TWO recipes today.  Never let it be said that I'm a dirty welcher.

First up is pesto.  The end of our (abysmal) summer approaches, and with it comes use-it-or-lose-it time for my basil.  You can grow basil indoors all year round, but I have mine in huge pots outside, so rather than watch it wither and die on the plant, I decided to make pesto.  Homemade pesto is almost ridiculously easy to make.  I'll be honest, though, it's not worth doing unless you have the basil to hand - if you were to make it using those stupid flat-pack packs of basil you buy in the shops, it would cost you a bleedin' fortune.  But, on the off-chance you happen to be looking at a huge basil plant right now and wondering what to do with it, here you go:

Pesto - makes one large jar

110g basil                           200ml extra-virgin olive oil
50g parmesan, grated          25g pine-nuts, lightly toasted

1) Wash and dry your basil.  110g doesn't sound like a whole lot, but believe me, it is.  I scalped two whole plants and still managed to come up 2g short.  So here's what 108g of basil looks like:

2)  Whizz the basil, cheese, pine-nuts & oil in a food processor.  Taste, season & add more oil if you need to.  Give the whole lot another good stir, then spoon into a sterilised jar*, wipe the neck of the jar clean, cover the surface of the pesto with a layer of olive oil, and enjoy.

NOTE:  If any of the surface of the pesto is exposed to air it will oxidise and go a horrible brown colour.  Every time you use the pesto, wipe the neck of the jar clean again and re-cover with a layer of olive oil.  This sounds like a righteous pain in the hole, but to be honest with you, you'll use the pesto so quickly (cause it's bleedin' gorgeous, like) that you won't have to do it very often.

*How in god's name do I sterilise a jar?  Boil the jar and the lid in loads of water for ten minutes.  Allow them to cool completely before putting the pesto in.  Handle the lid with tongs and only touch the outside of the jar.

And today's second recipe is authentic French baguettes.  Thanks to Jude at http://www.applepiepatispate for this recipe.

A word of warning  - this recipe looks a bit intimidating at first glance, simply because there's so many steps. Please, please, please don't be put off trying it.  There's literally four ingredients in it and apart from taking a bit of time, it's not at all difficult and the end result is, to borrow a phrase from my friend Niamh, totes amazeballs.  Give it a go, that's all I ask.

Pain a l'ancienne Francais - makes 3 baguettes

500g plain flour                        325ml cold water
9g salt                                      5g dried yeast
50ml cold water

Day 1
1) In a large bowl, mix the flour and the 325ml water with a fork til you get a rough ball of dough.  Turn out onto a floured surface and knead for 4-6 minutes until smooth & elastic.  Stick in an oiled sandwich bag and refrigerate overnight.

Day 2
1)  Remove the dough from the fridge an hour before using.  Mix the 50ml of water, salt and yeast in a bowl, add the dough and knead well until all the extra water is absorbed.  You'll be looking at it initially going "This is never going to happen" but believe me, it will, and quicker than you'd expect.

First Improvement  -cover and stand at room temp. for 90 minutes

2)  Stretch and fold the dough over itself a few times.

Second Improvement - re-cover and stand at room temp. for another 90 minutes.

3) Stretch & fold again.

Final Improvement - cover & stand at room temperature until doubled in size, about 3 hours.

4) Cut the dough into three pieces.  On a floured baking tray, gently shape into loose ovals by tucking the sides under.  Allow to rest for 15 minutes, then gently stretch into baguettes. Preheat your oven to 240C while they're resting.

5) Cut 3 or 4 diagonal slashes into each baguette.  Place a pan of boiling water on the bottom of the oven (don't be tempted to skip this part, it's very important!) and bake the loaves for 9 minutes.  Rotate by 180 degrees & bake for another 10-15 minutes, until the crust is a gorgeous deep reddy-brown.  Cool on a wire rack, then devour with real butter.

Yet another tip:  My life changed for the better the day I thought to wear surgical gloves (which I always have at home for handling chilies) while handling dough.  No more icky-goo between your fingers.  No more spending days picking concrete-hard bits from under your fingernails.  I genuinely wouldn't bother making bread anymore if I hadn't copped onto doing this.  Oh, and rather than using a fresh pair of gloves every time you handle this dough (cause let's face it, you'd fly through them) simply wash & dry your hands while wearing them, and re-use them for the next stretching & folding/kneading/whatever.  You're welcome...

Today's Top Tip: Regular-sized Mars bars make great fun-sized Mars bars for giants.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Post the Thirteenth (in which Ireland lose to France for the second week in a row)

Pre-season friendlies.  Everyone pretends they don't really give a fiddler's about them, but it'd still be nice to win them.  We've a world cup to go to next month, like.  Unfortunately, the IRFU seem to have enjoyed the 2007 debacle so much that they've decided to try and recreate it exactly and have started by renewing Kidders' contract before the world cup.  Somewhere, someone is hearing the ghost of RockSteady Eddie howling "Noooooooo...".  Not that Eddie O'Sullivan is dead, mind.  I'm just using my artistic licence.

Ireland has a hooker crisis (insert dodgy joke about legalising prostituion here).  Rory Best should just go away somewhere and never come back.  Gerry Flannery must have the body of a calcium-deficient, arthritis-ridden nonagenarian woman, he's so prone to injury.   Richardt Strauss will be Irish-qualified next year, but will probably be roundly ignored by Kidney & Co., who have shown themselves to be rather, erm, set in their ways in the past (Mick O'Driscoll, anyone?).

So, it's England next week.  We have a bit of a history of pulling a performance out of the bag against the chariot-lovers, but as satisfying and all as that might be, it's not enough.  Here's hoping the lads can pull themselves together by September 9th. 

In related news, Emmet and I are no longer allowed to watch rugby together.  It does not make for marital bliss, let's just leave it at that.

Anyway, there has once again been a woejus lack of cooking going on, for which I must apologise profusely.  I've only spent two nights at home in the past fortnight, almost, so my routine is all over the place.  The last thing I cooked was steak, which I know is a very subjective thing for people, but for what it's worth, here's my favourite way to serve it.

Steak with Cottage Cheese, Parcel Potatoes & Spinach Salad - serves 4

4x 8oz fillet steaks                            400g low-fat cottage cheese
Juice of 1 lemon                               Bunch fresh thyme, leaves picked
Olive oil                                           Salt & pepper
Aromat                                            Garlic granules
1kg baby potatoes                           2 large onions, sliced
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced              Large bag baby spinach leaves, washed & drained

1)  Take the steaks out of the fridge AT LEAST an hour before you plan to cook them.  I really can't stress enough how important this is.  Oil each steak and season each side with equal parts black pepper, garlic granules and aromat (no salt, the aromat is salty enough).  Press the seasonings into the steaks, cover with clingfilm and leave to sit at room temperature for the hour.

2) Mix the cottage cheese, lemon juice, thyme leaves and a swirl of olive oil in a medium bowl.  Cover and stick back in the fridge until you're dishing up.  Make the salad by mixing the spinach leaves with one of the onions in a large bowl and pop that into the fridge too. (I usually cut another lemon into wedges too, for extra squazzing.)

3)  Preheat the oven to 210C.  Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil and cook your potatoes (cut any bigger ones in half) until they're just tender.  Drain and bung into a large bowl with the other sliced onion, the sliced garlic, lots of salt & pepper and a good few glugs of olive oil.  Toss together.  Take a sheet of tinfoil, big enough to hold all your potatoes, then double it.  Put the potatoes onto the foil, fold over and double-fold the edges together to make a good seal.  Pop into the oven and bake for approx. half an hour.

4)  Get a large frying-pan onto a high heat - as high as your ring will go.  Don't oil it, as you've already oiled the steaks.  Get your pan really, really hot.  When you think it's hot enough, leave it for another 5 minutes.  You need to be thinking "Holy shit, this thing is going to go on fire any minute now".  That's when it's ready to cook on.  Have your plates warming in the oven.  Now, I eat my steak blue, so I literally cook it for about 90 seconds each side.  I've been told, however, that not everyone appreciates steak that's still cool in the middle.  Weirdos.  For rare, give them 3 minutes on each side, for medium-rare, more like 5 or 6.  And that's where I'm out of my comfort zone with steak.  If you want it more cooked than that, you shouldn't really be wasting your money on steak in the first place.  But if you insist on ruining it, give it 10 minutes per side in the pan, then move it to a baking tray, cover with foil and let it continue to cook in the oven.

5)  Once your steaks are cooked, move them to the warm plates and allow to rest for 5 minutes.  I like to just plate the steaks up and serve everything else in big bowls on the table, but it's up to you.  The most important part is to make sure everyone has a big dollop of the cottage cheese on their steak.  The contrast of the hot, peppery steak with the cool, creamy cheese is just amazing.  Use another dollop to dress your salad, along with another squeeze of lemon.  Heaven on a plate.

A note on buying steak:  I have a fantastic butcher at home and I buy all my meat from him.  With the exception of steak.  I finally had to accept that Aldi's Specially Selected Irish Angus steaks are far better (and cheaper) than anything I was getting from the butcher.  He just wasn't hanging his beef for long enough, unfortunately. 

Today's Top Tip:  Nissan Micra drivers - attach a lit sparkler to your radio arial.  You drive the things like bumper cars, so they may as well look the part.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Post the Twelfth (in which our heroine muses about her Bucket List)

So.  Ye olde Bucket List.  What's on yours?  Mine is very short.  I'm a woman of simple needs and more importantly, I'm ridiculously lazy.  No point in having a yard-long list of things I know I'll never actually getting around to doing.  My one big, huge thing, though, is to swim in the Devil's Pool at Victoria Falls.  Google it there.  Doesn't it just look like the most friggin deadly thing ever?  I should probably get the finger out, though.  It requires a four-hour trek through to jungle to reach it, so probably the kind of thing you'd want to do while still relatively young.  The logistics are a bit of a mare too - you can get there from Zambia or Zimbabwe, and I don't think Zimbabwe is currently on the Department of Foreign Affairs list of Great Places for White Europeans to Go on Holidays.

I also want to do the Ice Hotel in Sweden and see the Aurora Borealis.  Eh, that's pretty much it.  How boring am I?  Oh, and I'd also like to do the Man V Food tour of America, but only if I've been diagnosed with a terminal illness and dying of a fried-stuff-with-cheese induced heart attack seems like the better option.

Anyway, speaking of food, I really, really need to try and behave myself a bit, because I've decided to break out the oul Slave Leia costume this Halloween and I would prefer not to look like Jabba the Hut raided her wardrobe while wearing it.  In that vein, today's recipe is quite virtuous - Cheat's Coq au Vin.  In the interest of saving calories I've made it with chicken fillets, but it really would be much better with thighs.  Try both and see which you prefer.

Cheat's Coq au Vin - serves 4

4 chicken fillets, cut in 3 pieces each, or 12 thighs, left whole
6 shallots, peeled & diced                       Handful fresh thyme, leaves picked
100g diced lean bacon                            425ml chicken stock                            
150ml dry white wine                              Worcestershire sauce  
100g mushrooms of your choice (not that I ever get to put them in, as Emmet is a total fungus-phobe)

1) Dry-fry the chicken & bacon in a large pan for a few minutes until just beginning to colour.  Add the shallots & mushrooms (you can use mixed peppers instead, if you prefer) with a few tablespoons of the stock and cook until most of the stock is gone.  Add the rest of the stock, the wine, the thyme leaves and a good dash of Worcestershire sauce.  Season with pepper, but no salt - the bacon is salty enough, believe me.  Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes if using fillets or 25 if using thighs.

2)  Taste & adjust seasoning if needed.  Serve with green beans and mashed potatoes.

I've also decided to add a Viz Top Tip to the blog every day, just for fun.

Today's Top Tip:  Cyclists - if stopped by the police for cycling at night with no light on your bike, ask them how the fuck they saw you, then.

Til tomorrow, peeps.          

Monday, 15 August 2011

Post the Eleventh (in which our heroine reflects on a weekend of pigginess)

The rag on a stick cometh.  Tribeca yesterday.  A house party on Saturday.  Chinese on Friday.  Lunch in the Two Sisters, also on Friday.  Did I mention I don't even like Chinese food?  Didn't stop me eating it, though.  Lunch out and a takeaway in one day *shakes head*.  I'm disgusting.

Here's a picture of that lunch.  I wish I was eating it again right now.

And here's some bellinis.  Yes, more shameless filler.  There was a disgraceful lack of cooking over the weekend.

I'll make with the recipes again from tomorrow, I promise.

Good news!  I have a job interview next week - I really, really hope I get it, otherwise, if you're passing Leeson St. at night over the next couple of months, giz a wave.

A bientot, mes amies.

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Post the Tenth (in which our heroine apologises for her tardiness)

I'm a terrible blogger.  Two whole days with nary a recipe, a moan or a rumination.  I really am sorry.  I'm on my holliers in Dublin (i.e. staying in my mam's for a few days) and have been doing entirely too much drinking and the blog just fell by the wayside.  But I'm going to make it up to you now by giving you the recipe for a friggin amazing cannelloni that's almost guilt-free because I've replaced the ricotta cheese and bechamel sauce with cottage cheese and the ultimate lazy white sauce.  Having had a good look at myself in a full-length mirror this morning, I think I need to do a lot more cheese replacement in the coming weeks.  I'm looking rather more Rubenesque than I'm entirely happy with, I have to say.  I blame being a bum.  Too much time on my hands to cook nice things and bake bread which simply demands to be eaten with real butter.

Spinach & "Ricotta" Cannelloni - serves 4

2 knobs butter                                     4 cloves garlic, peeled & finely sliced
Handful fresh sage or oregano              1/4 of a nutmeg, grated
8 large handfuls spinach, washed          Handful fresh basil, stalks chopped, leaves chiffonaded
2 tins tomatoes                                    400g low-fat cottage cheese
100g grated parmesan                         Sugar, salt & pepper
500ml fat-free natural yoghurt              1 egg
16 cannelloni tubes

1) Put a knob of the butter and a dash of olive into a large pot/pan.  Add two of the garlic cloves, the sage or oregano (chopped, obviously) and the nutmeg and turn the ring onto high.  By the time the oil is hot, the garlic should be softened.  Add the spinach (pull off any really tough stalks) and cook down - as it wilts, you'll be able to keep putting more in - nothing does a more impressive disappearing act than spinach.  Allow to wilt thoroughly, then stick it into the bowl/jug of a food processor and leave to cool a bit.

2) Put the pan back on the heat and add the second knob of butter and a bit more oil.  Add the basil stalks and the rest of the garlic and cook for 5 minutes without browning.  Add the tins of tomatoes, a pinch of sugar and salt & lots of black pepper.  Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes or until you get a nice sauce consistency.  I usually chuck in a good tablespoon of oregano at this stage too.

3) Preheat the oven to 180C.  Add the cottage cheese and half the grated parmesan to the blender.  Whizz it all together, then spoon it into a sandwich bag and tie it off.  Find a shallow tray that will take all your cannelloni in one layer, and put the tomato sauce in the bottom.

4) Cut one of the corners off your sandwich bag and pipe the spinach mix into the cannelloni tubes.  Lay them on top of the tomato sauce.  Make your white sauce by mixing the yoghurt, the egg and the rest of the parmesan, and loosen with a few drops of water.  Spread over the cannelloni and bake for 20 - 25 minutes until golden and bubbling.  Serve with a green salad and garlic bread.

Photo shamelessly stolen from my friend R, as I totally forgot to take one!


Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Post the Ninth (in which our heroine has a moan about the weather)

Have a look out your window there.  Go on, a good long one.  If you are staring at an unbroken vista of slate-grey cloud, then you are obviously one of my Irish readers.  According to my stats, I have a reader in the Maldives.  I kind of hate that person a little bit.  Here we are in August, supposed to be the apogee of Irish summer (even though it's technically Autumn) and all we have is rainy wind and windy rain.  Which we also had in July, June and May.  There was a nice week or two at the end of April, but that was pretty much it.  I, for one, would love to know what the Irish as a people have done to offend the weather gods so much.  It must have been heinous.  I will admit to having dropped history like a hot snot after the Junior Cert., but even still, I'm pretty sure there aren't any genocides or rape-of-the-Sabine-women type episodes in our past that would merit such a punishment.  It's enough to make you wish for winter again.  But only if it's another brilliant winter like last year - bring on the snow!

The shite weather is causing a phenomenon called the Curryolis Effect in our house.  This is a little-known natural occurrence whereby you crave the sweaty armpits, red face and runny eyes that should really be supplied by hot weather, but which you have to generate artificially with hot food because summer has apparently abandoned us for all time.  I'm only a week into this blog and I'm about to post my second curry recipe.  How depressing.

Chicken & Chickpea Curry - serves 4

2 onions, quartered                       4 fat garlic cloves
3cm ginger, peeled                        1 large red chili, roughly chopped (seeds & membrane left in)
Bunch fresh coriander                    2 tbsp hot curry powder
Half tsp turmeric                            2 tsp paprika
1 tsp salt                                        1 chicken stock cube
500ml boiling water                        4 or 5 chicken fillets, cubed
Tin of chickpeas, drained

1) Stick the onions, garlic, chili, spices, salt, curry powder and half the coriander into a food processor and blend to a puree.  Tip the mixture into a large pot and cook over a low heat for 10 minutes, stirring frequently.

2) Crumble in the stock cube, add the boiling water and bring to the boil.  Add the chicken, stir, then lower the heat and simmer for 20 minutes, until the chicken is tender.

3) Chop the remaining coriander and stir into the curry along with the chickpeas.  If, like me, you love chickpeas and if, like me, you've already eaten half the first tin out of the colander, feel free to add another tin.   Heat through and divide between four bowls, swirl over some natural yogurt and serve with rice and poori breads.

Poori - makes 10 (WARNING! WARNING! WARNING!  Highly addictive little bastards, these)

175g self-raising flour                      1 tsp salt
1 tbsp vegetable oil                         1 tbsp natural yoghurt
3-4 tbsp water                                Oil for frying

1) In a large bowl, combine the flour, oil, yoghurt and salt.  Mix well and add enough water to make a soft dough.  Cover with a tea-towel and leave to rest for 15 minutes.

2) Turn onto a lightly floured board and knead well for 3-4 minutes or until smooth.  Divide into 10 balls and roll each into a very thin disc around 8cm in diameter.  Like-a dis:

3)  Heat about an inch of oil in a deep frying pan til it browns a cube of bread in 30 seconds.  Or, just guess when it's hot enough, like I do.  Carefully slide a poori into the pan.  When it puffs up (isn't that cool!) turn it over and fry for another minute.  Drain on kitchen towel and keep warm til they're all done.  They should be lovely and soft, not crispy at all.  Serve immediately.

You can thank/curse me later, when you're spreadeagled on the couch wondering whether it was really necessary to eat four of the damn things...

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Post the Eighth (in which our heroine gives you her storecupboard basics)

I have a confession to make.  I had another very lazy night last night and just did pasta with pesto.  What can I say, I was home alone and wasn't bothered doing anything more complicated.  Having said that, pasta with pesto (or pasto, as I like to call it), like carbonara, gives you a taste return far in excess of the effort required, and is preferable to sticking a ready meal in the microwave if you're lazy/in a rush/pushed for time.  I don't have a microwave, by the way.  Or a toaster.  Some people find that ker-azy.

Lest I be accused of getting lazy, here's a picture of the P&P:

Homemade pesto is also dead easy to make, but I'll save that for another day.

Anyway, all this is leading me up to the real point of this entry - that if you have a half-decent store of basics, you'll always be able to throw something half-decent together for dinner.  Simples :-)

So, things I always have to hand are:

Milk (obviously)
Butter - real and the low fat shit (and I always keep half the butter in the fridge and half in a butter dish in the press)
Cheese - mature cheddar and parmesan
Chorizo (the sausage kind, not slices)
Lemons & limes
Natural yoghurt

Bacon lardons (buy the bacon offcuts in Aldi and chop & portion them into freezer bags)
Flour tortillas
Wedges/Chips/Frozen Pizza (cause yeah, we all get totally caught out sometimes)

Rice - long grain & arborio
Beef & chicken stock/bouillon
Olive oil - I keep blended for cooking & extra virgin for dressings, etc.
Sunflower/veg oil for frying
Vinegar - malt, red wine, white wine, balsamic & cider
Tins of tuna in brine
Tinned tomatoes (buy whole and blitz in the blender before using.  They're cheaper and tend to be better quality)
Tomato puree
Tins of kidney beans, chickpeas & cannellini beans
Puy lentils
A can of condensed cream of chicken soup
Squeezy honey
Cheapo red & white wine for cooking

Coarse salt in a mill
Maldon salt
Fine/table salt
Black pepper in a mill
Garlic granules
Ground cumin
Cumin seed
Chili powder/flakes
Garam masala
Curry powder

Veg - I know veg can go off very quickly, but I always have a bag of spuds in the garage (cool & dark).  I like roosters or Kerr's Pink.

I could go on and on and on about things that I genuinely consider essentials, but A) I'd sound like a pretentious arse and B) I don't want to scare off any burgeoning cooks out there.  To give you an idea of the depths of my obsession, though, here's a pic of about half of my basics - I have another full double press in addition to this.


Meanwhile, back in the real world, London is being torn apart by gangs of knackers in hoodies.  I was purposely avoiding Sky News because I can't abide their barely contained glee when something like this happens, but eventually swtiched it on today.  I should have known better.  They just continuously looped the same 15 minutes of footage whilst Kay Burley interviewed an increasingly irrelevant array of "experts" and witnesses.  What's happening over there is genuinely disturbing stuff; Sky News making news porn out of it for people who are too stupid to read the papers is just ambulance-chasing of the worst sort.

And to the parents of the scumbags causing all this - get out there and drag your fucking kids into the house.  Lock them in if you have to.  Unfortunately, the nose-breathing parents of these scumbags are probably staring slack-jawed at Sky News and haven't given a second thought to where their progeny actually are.

I really hate people sometimes.

Monday, 8 August 2011

Post the Seventh (in which our heroine abandons her dinner plans)

So, yesterday's dinner was supposed to be Chicken & Chickpea curry.  I had everything organised for it, even remembered to take the chicken fillets out of the freezer on Saturday night, but then, as is my wont, I changed my mind at the last minute.  You see, I remembered that my sisters were going to Tribeca for lunch.  And that got me thinking about Tribeca's smoked turkey BLT.  Specifically, how much I wanted one.  So the curry went out the window (not literally, mind) and I decided to try and make STBLTs instead.  Now, you should probably be aware that the last time I tried to make these, it resulted in an all-out Kitchen Episode (patent pending).  The cause was my inability to "stack" the sandwich properly, and the upshot was that I refused point blank to eat the resulting, and, to my mind, mockingly flat, sandwich.

Yesterday's attempt, thankfully, was much more successful.  Here's a rather boring photo of one:

I'm not going to insult you by giving you the recipe.  It's a sandwich.  With smoked turkey, bacon, lettuce and tomatoes on it.  Not exactly rocket science.  Although I do like to live dangerously by putting melted cheddar cheese on mine.  Oh, and there's guacamole on it too.

Anyway, I thought I'd use this opportunity to post the flatbread recipe I was too lazy to give you on Wednesday.  At least I think it was Wednesday.  The days tend to all jumble into one when you're an unemployed bum with no job, vim or vigour.  These are really easy to make, go beautifully with curry and are also lovely to have with a barbie, or with kofta, lamb skewers or falafel.

Easy Flatbreads - makes at least 12, so feel free to halve the recipe

500g plain flour                            1 scant tbsp dried yeast
1 tsp salt                                      300ml hand-hot water
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil            Drizzle of runny honey

1) Sift the flour into a large bowl, mix in the yeast, salt, water, olive oil & honey.  Work together with a fork until it forms a ball, then turn onto a floured board and knead for 5 - 8 minutes, or until smooth and elastic.  Pop the dough into an oiled bowl, turning it so that the dough gets a sheen of oil, cover with a damp cloth and leave in a warm spot to prove.

2) Once the dough has doubled in size (about an hour), knock it back and knead lightly again.  At this stage, you can add extra flavourings if you like.  If I'm serving it with curry, I tend to leave it plain, but if it's being used for kofta, falafel, etc., I like to add a tablespoon of cumin seeds, or maybe a heaped teaspoon of chili flakes.  Simply place the spices in the middle of the knocked-back dough, fold up the sides, and knead until they're evenly distributed.

3) Divide the dough into pieces around the size of a satsuma and, using a little extra flour, roll them into very flat breads about 6" long.

4) Have a very hot pan or griddle ready (they can also be done on the barbie) and cook the bread for about 1-2 minutes without touching it, until you can see bubbles forming on the surface.  Turn over and cook the other side.  Do the bread in batches and keep warm until needed.

I've just noticed that all my followers have disappeared.  I'm choosing to believe that this is the result of a ghost in the Google machine, and not that I'm such a crap blogger that they've all abandoned me.  Only time will tell.  Until tomorrow, dear reader, I bid you adieu.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Post the Sixth (in which our heroine bemoans the lack of places to let dogs off-lead)

So, I've already mentioned, I have three boxers at home.  If you're not familiar with boxers as a breed, they are stubborn, loyal, loving, lovable rogues that are widely regarded to be eternal puppies and are generally wired to the moon.  What this essentially boils down to is that it's nigh-on impossible to tire one out by walking alone - they really need to get off the lead at some stage during a walk so they can have a good run and burn off some of that boundless energy.  Unfortunately, safe, secure, secluded places where you can do this are increasingly rare.  You can forget public parks or beaches - even walking a dog on-lead in some of them will earn you either daggers looks or the kind of fearful eyeing usually reserved for furtive men in trenchcoats.  Why are people so afraid of dogs these days?  I've had grown men shriek like Ned Flanders if Tink sniffs at them while walking.  I've had people literally crossing to the other side of the road when they clock me with one of my dogs.  The vast, vast majority of kids I come across are afraid of them.  The only theory I can come up with is that when I was a chiseller, all the neighbourhood dogs roamed loose and we knew all of them, so even if you didn't have a dog, you were well used to them.  These days, no-one lets their dogs roam, so if a child doesn't have a dog at home, they have no exposure to them at all, and just don't know how to deal with them.  Or maybe parents are just over-sensitising their kids to dogs as well as everything else, I don't know.

So anyway, we used to take our dogs up to the scrub-ground at the top of the hill near our house to run off-lead.  But then the landowner leased the land out to someone who cleared it and is using it to grow hay, so that's not an option anymore.

Then we used to take them down to the local school football pitch, except other idiots who did the same but never cleaned up their dogshit ruined it for everyone else and the school blocked access and installed a motion-sensitive loudspeaker announcement that demands you vacate the area if you do manage to get in.  And believe me, it's LOUD.  You can hear it from our house, half a mile away.  So that's not an option anymore.

So then we used to take them to a tiny little park down by the river.  It was literally only about the size of a softball pitch and fenced in on all sides and there was never a soul in the place, so it was ideal.  Only they built a playground in it and now it's always infested with kids, so that's not an option anymore.

So, we recently found a small little green area near our house that also enclosed on all sides, and we're using that for the time being.  Unfortunately, it's also earmarked to be developed into Tullow Tennis Club, so it's not going to be there indefinitely.  God knows where we'll go then.  I really don't fancy having to drive an hour somewhere just to be able to let my dogs go for a run.

Here they are, by the way. 

 In other news, I had a bit of an episode the other day regarding the kind of crap people put into their carbonara, which clearly doesn't belong there.  This was precipitated by a recipe on the Cooking Club thread which the poster called carbonara, but which had cream and mushrooms in it.  No, no and thrice no.  Carbonara has five ingredients in it.  That is all.  No more, no less.  I'm not ordinarily a food snob, but this one really grinds my gears.  I think what annoys me most is that adding extra shite is just needlessly complicating a recipe that is, quite frankly, one of the easiest things you can cook.  Carbonara also has the added attraction of being perfect hangover food - stodgy, cheesy, salty and ready in a flash.  So, of course we had it last night.

Tagliatelle Carbonara - serves 4

320g tagliatelle                           120g guanciale or pancetta, cubed
100g parmesan, grated               2 eggs, and two egg yolks
Black pepper

1) Cook the pasta until just al dente.  While it's cooking, fry the guanciale or pancetta until crisp.  It will render its own fat, so you shouldn't need any oil.

2) Drain the pasta & turn off the ring.  Mix the eggs, egg yolks, parmesan & lots of black pepper.  Return the pasta to the pot, mix in the bacon, then stir in the egg mixture.  Mix well, and serve IMMEDIATELY on warmed plates, with a little extra pepper & cheese sprinkled over.  Carbonara really doesn't benefit from being left sitting around for any length of time.

And yes, I am aware that that's rigatoni and not tagliatelle in that there photo.  It was all I had, but pasta is pasta.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Post the Fifth (in which our heroine has her first hangover of the blog)

Bleurgh.  Gak.  Fnghhh.  These are all approximations of my current physical state.  I blame the sisters.  They came, they made me go to the pub, they brought wine.  The upshot is that I forgot to take a photo of the finished dinner.  If you have an issue with that, take it up with them.  Thank God I had the foresight to do most of the cooking before they arrived.

My hangovers are sly bastards.  I usually wake up feeling pretty ok, spring out of bed (kind of), make breakfast and generally think I got away with it, only to find myself on a steep decline into headachey, twitchy, moany horribleness.  While Emmet, who gets one hangover a year, gives me smug "hate to be you" looks.  Unfortunately, I'm also one of those people whose hangovers demand to be fed.  I'd love to be one of those "Oh Gawd, I can't even *look* at food when I'm hanging" people, but no.  I spend the day trekking from the couch to the kitchen and dreaming about Tribeca chicken wings.  This morning I made huevos rancheros for breakfast, had two mugs of tea and three glasses of blackcurrant cordial in mineral water, and was starving again an hour later.  At which time I finished off the baguettes I made yesterday, with real butter, cheese and a packet of chipsticks.  I'm still hungry, though.

In other news, rugby is back!!!  Ok, it's only friendlies, but still.  There has been a giant, rugby-shaped hole in my life since the end of May.  We're six minutes into Ireland V Scotland as I write, and I shall make the following observations:

- the new Scotland strip is very Leinster-esque

- Tony Buckley is shite.  (That's a general observation, and not just specific to this match.)

- Ireland are scrummaging well so far.  I don't have a whole lot of faith in Tomas O Leary, though.

Anyway, last night's dinner was nice, from what I remember.  It's adapted from a Jamie Oliver recipe, but his meatballs are literally just bits of sausage, which I thought sounded a bit crap.  I let the sauce reduce too much, though, so there wasn't quite enough of it.  The demon drink strikes again.

Pasta & Meatballs (or Amazeballs, as Sinead called them) - serves 4

1lb round mince                                       10 cocktail sausages
5 cloves garlic                                          3 tbsp oregano
Salt & pepper                                          1 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tins tomatoes                                         Bunch of basil
400g pasta                                               3 large sage leaves, or a good bunch of thyme, leaves picked.

1) Snip the skin of the sausages and squeeze the meat into a bowl.  Add the mince, 2 cloves of garlic (crushed), 2 tbsp of the oregano, salt, pepper and the red wine vinegar.  Mix really, really well and shape into little meatballs - think two-thirds the size of a golfball.  Pop into the fridge to firm back up for at least half an hour.

2)  Heat some olive oil in a large saucepan.  Slice your other 3 cloves of garlic as finely as you can, and chop the stalks of the basil.  Add to the oil and allow to soften.  Chiffonade the basil leaves while you're waiting.

3)  Add the tomatoes to the pan, chuck in the basil, season to taste.  Bring to a low simmer.

4)  Heat another bit of oil in another pan.  Brown your meatballs lightly on all sides.  Add your chopped sage or picked thyme leaves for the last 30 seconds.

5)  Add the meatballs to the tomato sauce along with any juices from the pan.  Mix well, add the remaining tablespoon of oregano and check the seasoning.  Allow to simmer until the meatballs are cooked through and your sauce reaches a nice thick consistency.  Cook your pasta, top with pasta & meatballs, add a few parmesan shavings and enjoy.  I also served homemade garlic bread, and was planning to do a salad too, but forgot all about it in my drunken state.

It's 25 minutes into the match now, and still no score.  I blame Tony Buckley.

Friday, 5 August 2011

Post the Fourth (in which our heroine ponders the free time paradox)

That sounds far more scientific than it really is.  What I am, in fact, pondering is the difference in how free time feels depending on how much money you have.  To wit; I've been out of work for a couple of weeks now, and am pretty much crawling the walls already.  Compare this to two years ago, when I was off work for three and a half months, and never wanted to go back.  The difference?  Fourteen grand in the bank.  The last time I was out of work, I had a nice, fat redundancy payment in the bank and basically lived the life of the proverbial Reilly for the few months.  This time, I'm pretty much destitute, and it turns out having absolutely shitloads of free time isn't half as much fun when you can't afford to do anything with it.  Who'da thunk it?

I didn't get the shitty money temp job in Tallaght either.  They said I was too experienced.  I'm not exactly sobbing my heart out, to be honest.  My lovely recruitment agency lady has, however, submitted me for a much better job, which I would very much like to get, so I'm currently waiting to see if I get called for an interview.  Fingers crossed, wha?

Anyway, onto more important things - food!  Last night's dinner was a Beef Calcutta Curry.  Yes, yes, I know cows are sacred in India, but they're not sacred to me, so I'll damn well have beef in a curry if it pleases me.  Here's a pretty photo of the spices that went into it:

I'm an artist, I'm telling you.

Anyway, this is a really, really mellow curry that really tastes far too good for the measly amount of effort that goes into it.  It's also a great stick-it-on-and-go-and-have-a-bath dish, and to be honest, those are my favourite ones.  If you fancy giving it a go, here's how:

Beef Calcutta Curry - serves 4

1 tsp salt                               1 tbsp chili powder
2 tsp ground coriander          1 tsp ground black pepper
1.5 tsp turmeric                    1 tsp ground cumin
1 litre milk                            7.5cm piece ginger, peeled & crushed
1kg stewing steak, cubed     50g ghee or butter
2 large onions, thinly sliced   5 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 tsp garam masala

1)  Put the salt, chili powder, coriander, pepper, turmeric & cumin into a large bowl and mix in just enough of the milk to make a thick paste.  Gradually whisk in the remainder of the milk, add the beef, cover and set aside for a few hours.  (How vague is that?  As long as you have, really.  Even overnight, if you're super-organised.)

2) Melt the butter or ghee (snigger) in a heavy-based frying pan or wok, add the ginger, garlic & onions and cook over a medium heat until soft.  Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

3) Whack up the heat, remove the beef from the milk, add to the pan and brown.  Do it in batches if you have to.  Add the milk & onion mix back in, bring to the boil, then lower the heat right down, cover and simmer very gently for about 2 hours (go and have your bath here) until the beef is tender and the sauce reduced.

4) Just before serving, add the garam masala, increase the heat and boil off any excess liquid to leave a very thick, almost pasty sauce.  Serve immediately with rice/naan/whatever tickles your fancy.

I made flatbreads with it, but I confess myself too lazy to write out another whole recipe, so you'll just have to make do with something else until I get around to posting it.  Must dash, my sisters are on their way down to me and I'm like a knacker.  To the shower!

Oh yeah, almost forgot - here's a pic of the finished product.  And one of the flatbreads, cause I'm a bit mean like that...

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Post the Third (in which our heroine ruminates on her love of pizza)

Oh pizza, how do I love thee?  Let me count the ways.  Your friendly blogger is an unreconstructed pizza fiend.  I would happily eat it every single day, and have done, when I've been on holidays somewhere with a steady supply of the good stuff.  Unfortunately, most pizza served in Ireland is unmitigated crap.  Yes, there are some Italian restaurants that get it right, but the vast majority of takeaways serve utter rubbish, and charge you twelve quid for the privilege, the barstards.  In fact, a new takeaway pizzeria recently opened in Tullow, which had me positively hopping with excitement, while at the same time twitching nervously.  We shall outline the reasons for this below:

The Excitement -
well, obviously, I was very much hoping that the decent-takeaway-pizza-sized gap in my life was about to be filled.

The Twitching - the reason for this was twofold; 1) I have been known to opine in the past that a source of good pizza anywhere within delivery/driving distance of my house would have me washing myself with a rag on a stick within a year, and 2) I had a sneaking suspicion that, despite my high hopes, the pizza would disappoint.

Well, it didn't disappoint in that regard - it was, indeed, disappointing pizza.  There's potential there, certainly, but the bases were too homogeneous, the sauce was too bland for words and they hadn't been cooked for long enough.  The cheese on pizza should be golden, with little dark brown spots in places.  Not, y'know, blonde.  Pizza should also be so thin and floppy that you have to eat it with a knife and fork.  None of this picking it up nonsense, at least until you get right up to the crust.  It'll probably do a roaring trade, though.  Tullovians aren't exactly known for their broad palates.  Sorry, neighbourinos, but it's true.

So, in the meantime, I'm forced to continue having to make my own pizza whenever I need a fix, which is a bit of a pain, because the dough has to be started the day before and I'm not the world's greatest menu-planner.  Other than that, though, it's actually dead simple.  Which makes me even more annoyed at how many places get it wrong.  Anyway, without further ado, I give you...

Proper Homemade Pizza - makes two 12" pizzas

1 tsp dried yeast                              63ml warm water
1 tsp salt                                         250ml cold water
350g plain flour                               Tin of tomatoes
3 cloves garlic                                 1 red chili, deseeded
1 tbsp dried oregano                       Salt & pepper
Pinch of sugar                                 Handful of fresh basil leaves
Toppings of your choice

Day 1
1) Make your sauce by pureeing the tomatoes, garlic, chili, oregano, salt, pepper & sugar in a blender.  Stick in the fridge and leave til tomorrow.

2) Sprinkle the yeast over the warm water in a large bowl and leave to prove for 5 minutes.  Stir in the salt & cold water, then stir in the flour (use a fork, it's easiest), about a third at a time.  Bring it together in the bowl, then turn out onto a floured surface and knead til smooth and elastic.  Form into two tight balls, pop each one into an oiled sandwich bag, seal, then chuck in the fridge overnight*

Day 2 (or PIZZA DAY!!!!)

1) Remove the doughballs from the fridge an hour before using (but leave 'em in the bags).  Take the sauce out of the fridge at the same time.

2) Place your pizza stone (if you have one, and if you don't, I really recommend getting one) on the lowest shelf of a cold oven, turn the oven up to full whack, and let it preheat fully.  If you don't have a pizza stone, preheat the oven all the way anyway.  Alternatively, light your barbie.  More on this later.

3) Flour a clean surface and slap one of the doughballs onto it.  Using your hands only (a rolling pin will knock too much air out of the dough) flatten the ball as much as possible and stretch it into a rough circle.  (This takes a bit of practice, but don't worry if you have mutant bases the first few times, they'll still taste lovely.)  Place the first base onto a piece of floured greaseproof paper, set aside, and repeat with the second one.

(I can't take any credit for the almost perfect rotundity of this base; Emmet is the Minister for Shaping Pizza in our house.)

4) Spread a couple of tablespoons of sauce onto each base, then top your pizzas (still on the greaseproof paper) whatever way you like.  If, like me, you just aren't arsed buying a proper peel, grab the nearest person and get them to hold two corners of the greaseproof paper taut, while you do the same, and carefully move the topped pizza onto the stone.  You can remove the greaseproof paper after a few minutes.  If you don't have a stone, just stick your pizza on a baking tray (without the greaseproof paper), top it there and then and stick the whole lot in the oven.  It won't be as nice, though.

5) Once the first pizza has firmed up a bit, move it directly onto the top shelf (i.e., with no tray or anything under it) and repeat the whole process with your second pizza.

6) Serve as soon as they're ready, and commence nomming.

NB: The basil goes on top after the pizza comes out of the oven, otherwise it'll be black, papery and generally horrible.

*Hang on a second, why do I have to do the dough thing a whole day in advance? Yer having a giraffe, right?

Because it makes it way, way tastier.  Allowing the dough to prove in the fridge overnight is known as using a long autolyse and it allows the water in the dough to break the natural sugars in the flour down more completely, giving a much more complex taste than a shorter, warmer process would.  Try them both and see.  Believe me, you'll go back to the overnight method.

What's this about barbequeing pizza?
If the weather allows, this is actually the quickest & tastiest way to cook pizza, and gives you the closest result to a wood-fired oven.  Simply light the barbie and allow the flames to die down as usual.  Take your untopped base (folding it into loose quarters is the easiest way to handle a floppy, raw base, by the way), stick it directly onto the bars and watch it like a hawk until you see bubbles beginning to form in the dough.  Remove from the heat, top the cooked side (sparingly, as you have no upper heat source), then return it to the barbie and cook the underside.  Fandabbydozey!

More pizza tips & tricks

- If you're using balls of mozzarella (as opposed to the fake, grated stuff, which I had to use here cause they'd no fresh mozzarella in the shop), slice it and leave it between a few sheets of kitchen towel at the same time as you take your doughballs out of the fridge, otherwise it'll exude little puddles of water onto your pizza during the cooking.  Unfortunately, but perhaps not altogether unsurprisingly, the reduced fat fresh mozzarella doesn't melt properly at all, so I wouldn't recommend using it.

- Mix a little pesto with some olive oil and brush the edges of your pizza crust with it & sprinke with sea salt before putting it in the oven.

- If you do end up buying a pizza stone, leave the pizza on it and bring the whole thing to the table - it'll keep the pizza warm and stop the base going soggy.

As much as I love Jamie Oliver's food, life is too short for all of this "never cut basil, always tear it" arseholery.  Clearly, no-one ever showed him how to chiffonade basil, which is way quicker and easier and leaves you much more time to have a glass of wine while cooking.  Never fear, though, for am I going to demonstrate right this very second:

1) Take a few similar-sized leaves of basil, rinse and dry them, then stack on top of eachother like so.  I'm only using two, but you get the drift...

2) Roll the leaves up lengthways into a tight cylinder.  Pretend you're a student making a rollie, if that floats your boat.

3) Cut the roll into narrow strips, crossways.


4) Loosen the strips up with your fingers and use as desired.  Voila!  You can now chiffonade basil.  Well done.

Until tomorrow, peeps.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Post the Second (in which our heroine contemplates a return to the workforce)

So, a bit more background - I was working in a soul-sucking, going-nowhere job that involved a 160km round-trip every day, for shit money and no respect.  So, I had the bright idea to pack it in - in the middle of a recession - with nothing else lined up.  What could possibly go wrong?  I ended up taking another job, 5 minutes from home, with a German discounter who shall remain unnamed.  Unfortunately, it turned out to be even more soul-sucking and respectless than the old job, so I lasted, ooh, around a month, before I packed it in.  Believe me, I'm not workshy, but this place was like a cross between an industrial school and a gulag.  Not for me, thanks.

So, my lovely recruitment agency lady came back from her holliers yesterday and rang me about a temp admin. job in Tallaght that's available for an initial three months.  The money is absolutely pants - 15c an hour more than I was getting at the National Socialist Discount Store, which would be more than subsumed by the fuel costs of commuting to Dublin again - but €12 an hour is better than nothing, right?  I told her to submit me anyway, but in the meantime, I can remain hopeful that a vacancy as G.R.R. Martin's proof-reader or as a professional first-class airline service reviewer lands on her desk.

In other news, dinner last night was raw-ver tasty.  You simply take these:

And turn them into this:

Ok, so I added the carrots after the first photo was taken, and I'm not exactly the Mario Testino of food photography, so sue me.

Creamy Dill Chicken with Dressed Potatoes & Braised Carrots
- serves 2 (Thanks to my friend C for the potato recipe!)

2 chicken fillets                                        125ml chicken stock
125ml white wine                                    1 tbsp flour
125ml cream                                           Salt & pepper
2 knobs of butter                                     4 tbsp olive oil
Large bunch fresh dill, chopped               Enough new potatoes for 2 (depending on how greedy you are!)
Bunch of scallions, chopped                    3 tbsp capers, chopped
Juice of 1 lemon                                      1 garlic clove, crushed
2 tbsp olive oil                                        4 carrots, julienned
Dash of white wine

It'll be come increasingly (and often frustratingly) clear over the course of this blog that I don't really "do" quantities.  I'm really, really going to try, but don't go writing me any stinky emails about exactly how much is in a bunch or a glug, cause I won't answer 'em.

1)  Melt 2 tbsps of olive oil and one knob of butter in a pan over a medium-high heat.  Season both sides of the chicken fillets with salt & lots of pepper, and fry for 5 minutes on each side, until golden brown.  Reduce heat, add the stock & white wine, then cover and simmer gently for 10-12 minutes, until cooked through.  Remove & keep warm in a low oven.

2) Increase the heat and allow your cooking liquid to reduce by half.  Meanwhile, combine the cream, flour and 2 tsp of your chopped dill in a small bowl, til smooth.  Add to the reduced stock, and cook, stirring constantly, til smooth & creamy.  If it's too thick, add a bit of milk and whisk like mad til you get a nice sauce consistency.  Turn off the ring.

3) Somewhere in the middle of all this, get a pot of salted water boiling for your spuds.  Halve your new potatoes (if needed), chuck 'em in the water, and boil until just tender.  While they're boiling, combine the rest of the chopped dill, the scallions, capers, lemon juice, crushed garlic, more salt and the remaining two tbsp of olive in some manner of container with a lid, and shake the bejaysus out of it.

4) Get about 300ml of water up to a gentle simmer, add the other knob of butter and a glug of white wine.  Add your julienned carrots (that's just a fancy way of saying carrot sticks) and simmer for about 10 minutes, until just tender.  Drain and plate.  Warmed plates, it should go without saying.

5)  Drain your potatoes - hopefully you haven't forgotten about them and turned them to mush.  Return them to the pot, add the dill/scallion dressing, stick the lid back on, and give the whole lot a good rattle.  Plate up beside the carrots.

6) Plop a chicken fillet onto the plate, and spoon over a ladleful of your lovely (hopefully) cream sauce.  Eat.  Enjoy.  Go to bed and think about what you're going to have for dinner tomorrow.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Post the First (in which our heroine tries to come up with a witty name for her new blog)

Tries and fails.  Miserably, as you can see by the pathetic attempt at a name I finally came up with.  Anyway, welcome to my blog.  I probably should have thought this through a bit better, rather than being seized by a fit of boredom today and going "Hey, I'm going to start a blog!  What the hell, I could be the next Julie Powell in a matter of weeks!"  But hey, what's done is done.  Here follows a little background on me, and on the crappy name I foisted on my poor, misbegotten blog:

Well, I'm a 29 year old Dub, living in Tullow.  Married to the long-suffering, patience-of-a-sainted Emmet, with three Boxers of dubious mental capacity.  I'm completely obsessed with all things food-related, and this blog was originally meant to be a food blog, but I couldn't think of any remotely clever foodie names for it, so I ended up with a blog named...

Ruminations:  Cause I've been accused in the past of having Tourettes of the thought process.

Rugby:  Cause I'm a huge fan - come on, Leinster!!!


Ruination:  Because I'm currently between jobs, but refuse to accept that this means I can't drink as much wine as I like or have fillet steak twice a week.

Clever, eh?

(That's your friendly correspondent below, btw, with the husband looking a bit less than impressed with something.)

Y'all come back now, y'hear?