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Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Post the Sixty-third (in which our heroine attempts to resurrect the blog)

Behold, we shall have a Lazarus-style moment.  This blog, which many (your correspondent included) presumed dead in January of this year, shall walk again.  Having fallen victim to the fatal scourge of its author not doing enough cooking to maintain it, it is being resuscitated by virtue of the fact that I have finally moved out of my parents' house (two years after having moved back in) and am now back cooking on a nightly basis.

The good news is, this allows me to blog again.

The bad news is, I'm well on the way to gaining back the stone I lost when the Ex and I broke up.  Le sigh.

Anyway, the 25-odd of you who actually bothered to follow the blog can now breathe a huge sigh of relief that the giant blog-sized hole in your life has finally been filled.  Or something.

Now, normally this is the point in a blog where the author would fill you in on all the drama and happenings in their life during the eleven months they were missing.  I can't do that, because virtually nothing has happened to me during that time.  I continued dating (none of it went anywhere), I continued working (desk-jockeying) and I went from blonde to very dark brunette to blonde again (cause I didn't like it), and that's pretty much it.  Kind of depressing, when I see it (or rather, the lack of "it") written in black and white there, actually.

Another thing that hasn't changed in the past year is my love of and addiction to chillies.  So, it should come as absolutely no suprise to anyone that my first recipe back is a Mexican-inspired one.  It's a lot like a lasagna, only with Mexican-style ingredients, so I call it Mexican Lasagna.  Original, eh?

The filling for this, like all mince-based sauces, improves with age, so feel free to make the filling the day before.  Or you could just use leftover chilli, if you ever happen to find yourself with two pounds of chilli leftover...

Mexican Lasagna with blue cheese bechemel - serves 6

450g round mince                                                 2 large onions, diced
Tin tomatoes                                                         125ml beer
2 chillies, finely diced                                            2 - 3 large flour tortillas
2 tbs oregano                                                        Juice of 1 lime
Tin refried beans                                                   Salt & pepper
25g blue cheese butter*                                        25g flour
350ml milk                                                            75g grated sharp cheddar
Tsp each of cayenne, paprika, ground cumin, paprika, ground coriander, garlic granules

1. Brown the mince in a little oil, and drain off any excess grease.  Add the onion, chillies and beer, and simmer til the onions have softened.

2. Stir in all the dried spices, and have a little taste to see if it needs a bit more of any in particular.  Stir in the tomatoes, turn the heat down nice and low and leave to simmer for as long as possible.  Keep an eye on it and if it looks like it's drying out at any stage, add a splash more beer (if you haven't already .  Just before assembling the lasagna, stir in the refried beans and lime juice and season with salt & pepper to taste.

3. Melt the blue cheese butter in a saucepan and stir in the flour to make a roux.  Cook for a couple of minutes, then whisk in the milk a little at a time, until you have a lovely thick, smooth bechemel.  Season with salt & pepper.

4. Spread half the chilli mix on the bottom of a lasagna dish.  Cover with tortilla, tearing them to fit if you need to.  Add the other half of the chilli, add another layer of tortilla, then pour over the bechemel.  Scatter over the grated cheese, then bung into an oven preheated to 190C for 30 - 40 minutes, until golden brown and bubbling.  Allow to stand for a few minutes before cutting into six and serving with a spinach salad, and accompaniments of choice.

Being a bit of a guac fiend, and having tried many a guacamole recipe, I can safely say that Thomasina Miers' is the absolute best by far that I've come across.  Do yourself a favour and make it -

*Blue cheese butter is something that's always worth having in the fridge, because it makes for the most awesome steak sandwiches you have ever tasted in your life.  Simply mash real butter and crumbled blue cheese together in a roughly 2:1 ratio.  Shape into a log, wrap tightly in clingfilm and it'll keep happily in the fridge for a couple of weeks, as you just slice off what you need.  Seemples.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Post the Sixty-second (in which our heroine is on the business end of some Schadenfreude)

Serves me right, really.  It's not like a haven't indulged in it myself over the years.  Come on, we all have.  It's one of life's little pleasures.  This time around, I was on the receiving end of my boss's delight in my misfortune, which came in the form of Leinster being unceremoniously dumped out of the Heineken Cup at the weekend.  Only the second time ever that the reigning champions haven't made it out of the pool stages, ladies and gentlemen.  And, typically, it happened the year the final was in Dublin.  The bloody money I've spent going to finals the past few years, and we collapse like an over-beaten souffle the year it's on our doorstep. Le sigh.

Anyway, allow me to furnish you with a little background on your heroine's fall from grace.  My boss is a very proud Ulsterman, from the wilds of Co. Down.  Any rugby fans among you will remember that Leinster beat Ulster in the Heineken Cup final last year.  Your correspondant may have placed a small wager with her boss at the Christmas party that Leinster would go further than Ulster in the competition again this year.  Your correspondant may have also foolishly agreed when her boss suggested upping the ante in said bet from €20 to €50, and shaken on it in front of several witnesses, despite all the indications that Leinster weren't heading for a record-breaking season, even back in December.  As it happened, our season effectively ended the very next day after that very party, when we allowed Clermont to beat us in the Aviva.  Rule #1 of the Heineken Cup is that you have to win your home games.  We were beaten by ASM both home and away, and come the final pool game in Exeter last week, we had done almost enough to qualify for the quarter-finals as the second-best runner-up, *if* one of several other results went our way.  We needed Toulon to beat Montpellier or Racing Metro to beat Munster.  As it happpened, neither of those teams turned up on their days, and Munster went through on try difference.  Our early season had been absolutely riddled with injuries and we had just left ourselves with too much to do, too late.

And so, to the schadenfreude.  I sent my boss a text on Sunday once we'd been knocked out saying I reckoned I could reasonably qualify for compassionate leave on Monday as I was in mourning for our cup dreams.  His reply?

"I'll show you the same compassion you showed to me last year..."

So yes, it may have been a slight mistake to leave the Heineken Cup on his desk the week after the final with a Post-It on it saying "Enjoy; it's the closest an Ulsterman will get to it :-)"

Touché, Boss. Touché.

And so, to the food.  This is one of those entries where I have absolutely no lead-in to the recipe whatsoever.  You'll just have to deal with it, I'm afraid.  These came about as a result of me drooling at something on Man V Food (a very regular occurrance), attempting to recreate it at home, and it actually turning out successfully (a not so regular occurrance).  So, avid readers, I give you...

Juicy Looseys - makes 4 burgers

750g round mince                                 3 cream crackers, crushed
1 clove garlic, crushed                          1 tbs Worcestershire sauce
1 tbs dried oregano                              1 egg yolk
200g cheese, cubed                              Salt & pepper

1. In a large bowl, mix all the ingredients except the cheese.  Give it a good going-over, til everything is really well-combined.  Divide into eight equal balls, then press out into thin, wide burgers - think McDonalds rather than GBK here...

2. Place a few cubes of cheese into the centre of four of the patties.  You could slice the cheese instead if you wanted, but I find that using cubes makes it easier to be precise (did you ever think you'd hear that word in relation to my cooking?!) and makes for more even melting.  Here's a pic, just in case you genuinely don't have a clue where I'm going with this...

3. Flatten the edges of the patties, stick one on top of each of the cheesy ones, and crimp the edges tightly with a fork, and then your fingers.  You really don't want any leakage potential - it defeats the whole purpose of the exercise. Stick back in the fridge for half an hour to firm up.

4.  Preheat your grill as hot as you can possibly get it.  Bung your burgers onto the grill tray and don't touch them at all until you're ready to flip them.  Turn them over, prick a few times with a fork or toothpick to allow the steam to escape, and brown the other side.  Serve, in a bun or nekkid, with whatever condiments y'all usually like on a burger.  I always have mine with sweet potato fries, but I confess myself too lazy to give you the method for them tonight, so sue me...