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All Gods Creatures Macaroni Cheese

 

Well, two of them anyway, and I had hoped for three, but was otherwise occupied this weekend so didn’t get to the farmer’s market to buy some buffalo milk. I was instead at the Ben & Jerry’s Summer Sundae in Clapham Common, London, where there was unlimited free ice cream, thankfully, for the first time there was sorbet this year and I didn’t feel as left out as before. It is torture watching your friends gorge themselves when you can’t have any. Well, you can but then have to go home early because you are sick… I learned my lesson two years ago!

So, as mentioned in a previous post I have really wanted to make some lactose free macaroni cheese. I spotted a recipe in Nigel Slater’s The Kitchen Diaries recently for macaroni with fontina and it looked so good! It’s a great book, if you don’t have it. Styled as a diary, it reminds me of a food blog in print. I really like Nigel Slater’s approach to cooking, as stated on his website: “I have always felt that a recipe should be something to inspire, remind and lightly influence rather than a set of instructions to be followed, pedantically, to the letter.” I absolutely agree, and while this has lent it’s influence to some failures in the kitchen, it has also led to the discovery of some culinary delights, like my recent random broad bean effort.

I’ve never developed a taste for soya milk as a substitute for cows milk. It’s too grainy. I do like my soya latté in the morning but that’s really as far as it goes on a regular basis. Goats Milk is a much better substitute for cooking, both milks have similar fat contents so it’s easier to substitute goats milk for cows in a conventional recipe. I don’t like to use goats milk for baking as it’s a little goaty, buffalo milk is a better substitute for this and occasionally I do use soya milk, especially for muffins and the like. The goat flavour can work really well in a savoury dish if yout twist it to your advantage by using ingredients that will complement this.

So, for this, I used St Helens Farm goats milk & butter, Ossau-Iraty – a brebis (sheeps) cheese from south west France and manchego – a sheeps cheese from La Mancha in spain. The Ossau-Iraty is quite mild, I didn’t want a cheese that would fight with the goats milk and butter for dominance and produce an intense dish. I used it in the sauce and used the manchego to finish off the dish by mixing it some breadcrumbs made from day old bread from our local bakery.

The finished product was really good, a delicate goats cheese flavour blended with the mild Ossau-Iraty and topped off by a mature manchego. A successful experiment overall!

Note: not all lactose intolerants can substitiute goats milk for cows, the only way to find out is by trial and error unfortunately. In the same way, some lactose intolerants can have cows yoghurt and hard cheeses, there are different severities of intolerance.

If you don’t have any problems with dairy you can make this with cows milk, butter and cheeses. It’s a very adaptable recipe and really serves as a guideline. I would encourage you to use your favourite cheeses and play around with it as the sauce itself is very mild and the dish will take on the flavour of whatever cheese you choose, next for me is to use buffalo milk with blue sheeps cheese.

This recipe serves 4.

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Broad bean, leek, bacon & roquefort potato skins

Broad bean, leek, bacon & roquefort potato skins

I had a bit of a culinary disaster the other night. I had planned to make a lactose free macaroni cheese and had gone to great pains to get my ingredients. Buffalo milk, goats butter & sheeps cheese, all ready to go. I had planned to make a bechamel and sink the macaroni in it with some manchego & blue cheese throughout and panko breadcrumbs and manchego on top. Alas, it wasn’t to be, my buffalo milk was unpasteurised and was already sour having bought it on Sunday. I was devastated! I had been building up to it for a few days buying my ingredients. So, stranded in my kitchen, with the makings of a bad macaroni cheese and so annoyed I was ready to give up and sulk and watch trash tv with a glass of wine, I reviewed my options. We had had braised sausages and mash the night before and had baked potatoes for the mash in order to get a better texture for our mash. We still had the skins. I had a kilo of broad beans from the farmers market. I had goats cream from St Helens Farm for the dish that shall not be spoken of. Some leeks and a nice big block of roquefort. I started to feel better. In the end, waste of food aside, I was almost happyto have failed as I was so pleased with the outcome of the stuffed potato skins. They were delicious! I served them with grated raw beetroot dressed with balsamic and some redcurrants and washed it all down with a glass of robust red wine.

It was all a bit slap dash given my frustration with preceding events, and while I had a kilo of broad beans, they actually weren’t the best and I had to bin some, so this recipe is approximate. I don’t think changes in the ingredients will compromise this dish though, it’s very rustic and the flavours work well so a little more of one and less than the other should be fine, so feel free to play. It’s the flavour combinations that work well here.

As with all dishes, you’ll get a better result with the best ingredients but I would particularly encourage using a good bacon for this. We get ours in our farmers market from Grassmere Farm and it’s so good! It retains its moisture and the flavour is really distinct, even alongside the strong blue cheese, it really stood up to it. Roquefort is one of my favourite blue cheeses, it’s made from sheeps milk so is great for lactose free dinners.

We were hungry and our potato skins were small so we had three each but two might suffice per person if they were large enough.

Here’s the recipe:[Read more]

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Parsley & thyme potato salad with homemade mayonnaise

Parsley & Thyme Potato Salad

My animal instincts have kicked in, all I seem to want to do is eat high fat foods and go hibernate, I blame this weather! Half the country is flooded and the rest seems to think it’s November. What’s the answer to this misery? Potato salad. Proper homemade potato salad with a homemade mayonnaise packed full of tasty herbs. Mayonnaise is a tricky one. I’ve made it by hand and have had some heart breaking moments when it has split, once in desperation when it had I added the leftover egg white and discovered that it was a rescue remedy (and could be done in the blender!) and so I have this quick mayonnaise recipe, which, while it isn’t a traditional french mayo will fool you into thinking it is with it’s concocted french tones. My aching hand was delighted to dispose of the wooden spoon. I still make the real one when I am feeling purist but I wasn’t this day, I was happy with my speedy compromise and wanted my potato salad and wanted it fast, so here it is. It’s worth making the extra effort to make your mayonnaise, especially in a blender as it takes such little time and you get a much better result than that gloop you buy in jars. Although (French people look away!), I do use that too on occasion…

I used small new charlotte potatoes for this but you could use any potatoes atall. I left the skins on mine as they’re new and the skins are thin and delicious, if yours aren’t new probably best to peel them. Lots of herbs go well with potatoes but I used parsley and thyme. You could use rosemary, sage, mint or maybe even oregano. For the mayonnaise, I like to use half extra virgin olive oil as I love the flavour but you can use just vegetable oil if you like. The mayonnaise recipe will make more than you need and will keep for a week in your fridge. Make sure your egg is at room temperature if you keep them in the fridge. I prefer not to as eggs don’t need to be in there and they’re best used at room temperature. Also, as eggs are porous they can, and have, absorbed the smells of strong cheeses or other strong smells from your fridge. They are best kept in their little boxes away from strong smells in a cool spot, not necessarily a fridge. I buy mine weekly from the farmers market and rarely have them for more than a week so it’s fine.

The recipe follows.

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Peyton & Byrne, Bake-a-boo & Cupcakes

Peyton & Byrne Cupcakes

Peyton & Byrne is a treasure trove of cupcakes and other sweet & savoury delights nestled between Heals & Habitat on Tottenham Court Rd, London. Owned by Oliver Peyton, a Mayo born London based restaurateur, it opened in September 2006 along with Meals in Heals next door. This is not Peyton’s first venture, far from it, he started with nightclubs which he proclaimed a means to an end, dallied with the import/export of Japanese beer & absolut vodka and then moved into restaurants with the opening of the critically acclaimed Atlantic Bar & Grill in Picadilly. Since then he has opened Mash, Isola, the Admirality restaurant at Somerset House, Inn the Park at St James Park, The Wallace Restaurant, Peyton & Byrne, Meals, The National Dining Rooms & finally The National Café.

Peyton has always championed the use of quality ingredients and British cooking and this is obvious in his establishments. He is well known as one of the judges on the Great British Menu, a BBC show where top UK & Irish chefs compete to cook part of the banquet for the Queens 80th birthday in the first series and to the British Ambassador to France at the British Embassy in Paris for the second series.

At Peyton & Byrne, the intent is to reproduce old favourites the way our mothers used to make them, specifically Peytons mother whose maiden name was Byrne – hence, Peyton & Byrne. Her recipes are, in fact, the inspirations for the produce at the bakery. Award winning chef Roger Pizey aims to put a modern twist on old classics and I think he does this quite well. These include savoury staples like tarts, pies, scotch eggs & fresh sandwiches (done well – lancashire cheese & picallili anyone?) and sweet treats like bakewell tart, victoria sponge, chocolate cake and amazing cupcakes, my personal favourite is the frou frou cupcake (raspberry & coconut), but there are 5 flavours in total to try and you should!

Peyton & Byrne Cupcakes

It’s done so well, it’s difficult to fault them. The design of the shop itself is lovely, fronted by a large window with gold lettering displaying their wares with the cakes on charming cake stands, it’s all so pretty and inviting. The packaging is also fantastic, pretty pastel cake boxes with bold lettering. It shouldn’t matter, but it does.

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Butter bean, red lentil & rosemary soup

Another quick lunch was required and I fancied some wholesome soup. I wanted something healthy so lentils and beans sounded good. I had also recently pilfered some rosemary from a friends garden so wanted to put that in. I toyed with the idea of making a chorizo, tomato, red pepper & butter bean soup but I’ve been eating so much chorizo lately that I thought that I should give those poor Spanish pigs a break, they’re probably having nightmares about me. I did use Spanish beans though, the giant Spanish butter beans – Judion de la Granja. These are huge white butter beans, quite creamy in texture. They can be hard to get and pricey so feel free to replace with butter beans, it will still be very nice, I just like using different ingredients and the drama of the large beans. If you do want them El Navarrico do them in jars and you can get them in most Spanish deli’s. You can also get them dry at Brindisa in Borough or Exmouth Market in London. Garcia’s in Notting Hill sell the jarred ones as do most Spanish deli’s, this just happens to be the one I know well.

Back to the soup. It’s important to use a good stock here. The soup is quite brothy and the stock delivers much of the flavour. You can use chicken or vegetable and preferably homemade. Mine was vegetable made by boiling some carrots, garlic, cloves, celery, leek, rosemary, just bits I had in the fridge really. As long as you think the veg will complement the veg in your soup it will work well. Stock requires alot of veg so make sure you use plenty. Alternatively, just be sure to use a good shop bought stock. The recipe follows. [Read more]

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Samphire Tabbouleh

Following on from yesterdays post -Wild salmon with samphire, broad bean & tomato salad and crisp sauté new potatoes, I have another samphire post. This one is vegetarian and is based on the salad recipe from yesterdays post. I was looking at the 100g of samphire that I had left and wondering what I could do with it that would be tasty and suitable for lunch the next day. A quick fumble in the cupboard revealed a forgotten bag of organic bulgur. Bulgur is very healthy, it’s more nutritious than rice or cous cous so I always have a bag to hand next to the quinoa. There’s lots of forgotten random bits in my cupboards, it’s like a bunker in there! I have promised myself that I will empty them over the coming months and base my recipes on what’s in there so it should be interesting.

For the samphire, I decided on a chunky samphire tabbouleh. I love tabbouleh, it’s so light and fragrant but can take really robust flavours. I decided that I would use the samphire in place of the herbs and rather than finely chopping the tomatoes, leave them in quarters as the tomatoes I have at the moment deserve prominence in this dish. This is very quick (except for double podding the broad beans but you could probably substitute with peas if you’re in a rush). The bulgur that I used was the medium type but you could use fine if you have it. My favourite tabboulehs are ones that have only the smallest amount of bulgur and are mainly green, like a lebanese tabbouleh, so I was aiming to recreate this. This one was new so there was a little bit of trial and error in the proportions.

Here’s the recipe:
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Wild salmon with samphire, broad bean & tomato salad and crisp sauté new potatoes

Samphire is the ingredient of the moment. It’s on TV (e.g. Great British Menu), in the newspaper food sections (Independent last week, Guardian last month) and on the web (Clotilde at Chocolate & Zucchini for example). Samphire has many names, sea asparagus, sea beans & salicornia. There are two types of samphire – Marsh Samphire & Rock Samphire, the one you’ve been seeing everywhere is marsh samphire, found growing in the tidal zone and found all along the coast. The Norfolk coastline is particularly rich in it. You can buy it from most fishmongers and farmer’s markets. It’s not cheap, mine cost £1.50 per 100g, 100g works out at approximately a handful so I bought a couple. If you’re having it on it’s own with fish you’ll need about 100g-150g a person, maybe a bit more.

I first had samphire two years ago when we went to the Salusbury Pub & Dining Room in Queens Park for my birthday. It was served with sea bream and roast potatoes and was absolutely delicious. I have been a fan ever since. My samphire that night was absolutely soaked in butter, it works really well with it, but as a lactose intolerant that generally isn’t an option for me. Besides, I wanted to make something light & summery that paired well with the rich wild salmon that I had bought on my way home from work. Salty samphire pairs extremely well with fish but is also beautiful in salads. I tried both with my 200g batch, for today I’ll talk about the fish dish.

I went to Marylebone Farmers Market at the weekend and bought beautiful Isle of Wight tomatoes and a large bag of broad beans. I was keen to use them in this dish so decided on a samphire salad to go with the salmon.

Recipe notes: Samphire is very easy to cook but it is very salty so I would advise soaking in several changes of water over a few hours. If this isn’t possible, at least wash it in a few changes of water. Early season samphire can be eaten raw, however, it’s no longer early season and besides I like it blanched briefly before eating – 2 minutes or so does it. Take care to remove the woody bits from the end of the samphire stems and any bad bits. Be warned that samphire doesn’t keep very long as I found out last time I bought it! While double podding the broad beans is painful, it really is worth it, otherwise the rubbery broad bean skin overpowers the sweetness of the actual bean. [Read more]

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Chargrilled peach & speck salad

This is a spectacular summer salad devised by Yotam Ottolenghi of Ottolenghi’s in London and published in the Summer BBQ series in the Guardian on Saturdays. I had wanted to make it since it was published (2 weeks ago?) but I didn’t have the orange blossom water required nor had I the time to go source it. I spotted it on a trip to Borough Market on Saturday and with that purchase was all set. I went to the farmers market in Queen’s Park on Sunday to get the leaves but the leaves specified in the recipe weren’t available so I bought mizuna & mustard leaves instead of baby chard, endives & watercress. These worked really well and I think, really, you could use rocket, it would counter the sweetness of the peach nicely and is readily available.

Speck is a meat that I only discovered 4 years ago when I started working in the Kings Cross area and started shopping in the italian deli, KC Continental Stores on Caledonian Rd. It’s a dry-cured smoked Italian ham from the Alto Adige region of Italy. We use it in the place of prosciutto regularly, it has a really strong smoky flavour and works well in dishes like carbonara, or wrapped around asparagus. The combination with peach is inspired and it’s one I plan to experiment with a bit more. The orange blossom water isvery sweet but is countered by the balsamic vinegar and works well with the richness of the speck.

The recipe doesn’t appear to be published on the Guardian website so I’ll reproduce it here. I haven’t tried any of the other Ottolenghi recipes but plan to try more and await his cookbook which will be published in Spring 2008. The Guardian Weekend Magazine publishes a vegetarian Ottolenghi recipe every Saturday. For now, I’ll continue to eat at one of his café’s in Islington or Notting Hill, one handy for work & the other handy for home :)

For more info on Ottolenghi visit their site.

Chargrilled peaches

I’ll write the recipe as it was in the Guardian as the only changes I made are to the leaves. [Read more]

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Leek & Chanterelle Frittata

Leek & Chanterelle Frittata

My lovely local Italian deli had more chanterelles and I couldn’t leave them there. They’re like a little golden treasure and with their subtle flavour are delicious. I was tempted to make the tagliatelle again but we’ve been eating alot of pasta lately. One thing we haven’t had for an age is a Frittata, so I decided on one of those.

So, where from here? A frittata is an Italian omelette with fillings. These vary and unlike the Spanish Omelette, you can really put anything you like in there. A brunch favourite of mine, I often make a leek and mushroom omelette so I thought that I would replicate it with the chanterelles. The leek is very sweet and the chanterelles very delicate so it works well with a bold flavour like rocket on the side. Often frittata recipes have milk in but as I’m lactose intolerant I don’t bother. If you’re not please feel free to add a few tablespoons of milk to the egg. Sometimes there’s cheese on top but I didn’t want to distract from the deliacte chanterelle flavour. This is very easy and very quick![Read more]

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Foodie links

This is kind of a follow on to my food blog digest last week, except, it’s more inclusive. It’s more about interesting food things I’ve spotted on the web this week as opposed to a blog post about food blogs.

Stuff on the web:

If you live in London and are into Chinese food there’s an interesting article posted on DIM SUM (the Chinese community website) on where Chinese people eat in London. Royal China does fantastic dim sum, they’ve a few locations now but the most popular seems to be in Bayswater. Angeles (see last blog post) makes the cut too.

Chowhound have posted a topic about Goat Butter which is quite interesting. It’s very easy to get in the UK but I have never developed a taste for it (despite being lactose intolerant). St Helens Farm do sell goats cream (available in Waitrose). I love the subtle goaty flavour and would recommend trying.

The BBC food site have a Bastille Day Menu.

Food Blog Bits:

I bought alot of fruit at the farmers market this week and am all about desserts. Here’s some dessert links:

Fanny at Food Beam has started her internship at Pierre Hermé and has some beautiful photographs of the delicacies there.

Keiko at Nordljus has made the prettiest desserts – Perry Jelly and Summer Berries with Elderflower Mousse.

Nicky at Delicious Days has made beautiful strawberry dumplings.

& one coffee link. Because I really like coffee and absolutely agree with this:

It’s over a week old, however, Warren Murray talks about the state of coffee in London and the perfect cappuccino on the Guardian Food Blog, Word of Mouth in How’s your Crapuccino?.

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Angeles – Spicy Sichuan in Kilburn

And I mean spicy. REALLY spicy. So spicy that, at one point in the meal when I accidentally inhaled a chilli that had been idling on my prawn, I got an intense coughing fit, followed by streaming tears (which I swear were spicy too – they burned!) and temporarily acquired a breaking voice not unlike your average pubescent boy. But it was good! And I went back for more, ate loads more chillis and peppers and cried a little bit but left Angeles proclaiming – that was good! I’ll go back there again!

Angeles is in Kilburn, London, on the Kilburn High Rd to be specific. I have walked past it almost daily for the last 3 years but I’d never been. It doesn’t look that enticing from the outside, there’s a buffet on display with lots of pre-cooked food sitting under seemingly endless rows of nightlights which is very popular but not my thing so I’ve avoided it. Recently, however, I have heard & read some good things about Angeles. The clientele is primarily Chinese also which, in itself, is a great recommendation. Sichuan is quite the thing in London recently with Bar Shu in Soho & now Snazz Sichuan opening in Euston. However, it’s said that Angeles and Sichuan Restaurant in Acton are the originals. Now, I haven’t been to Bar Shu or Snazz Sichuan (yet!) so I can’t compare, but I’ve read that Angeles represents more of the home-cooked style Sichuan Food.

So, we had a look at the menu in the window and it really did not look like a sichuan menu, it was more like the cantonese menus you see in Chinese restaurants all over London. We thought we’d go in anyway and have a look. We were promptly approached by a friendly waitress asking if were here for the buffet or the restaurant. We said restaurant and were directed to the restaurant, but what surprised me was that the restaurant is actually two restaurants divided by a wall, one for the buffet and the one we were now about to try. We were given two menus each, the cantonese one in the window and a bamboo one – the sichuan one. Now, this looked to be authentic sichuan food. I was very happy![Read more]

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Prawn Laksa – an interpretation

Laksa is food for the soul. It’s delicious – spicy and fragrant and packed full of goodness. I always feel so good after eating it! It’s messy, it’s true, but I think that adds to the value. Although, I did have to suffer through an afternoon at work recently with laksa all over my top having treated myself to one for lunch. My lunch partner, who shall remain nameless, was also drenched in laksa. I think we pulled it off. Looked like it should have been there! Erm, maybe not.

There are several types of laksa originating from Malaysia and Singapore. It’s essentially a spicy noodle soup, usually containing seafood, sometimes chicken. It’s hugely popular in Sydney which is where I came across it. There are many types, the ones I normally make (and haven’t blogged yet) are penang & singapore laksas – I’ll blog these soon. This one is a little different, fruity with the addition of tomatoes with a lovely sourness provided by the tamarind.

Laksa recipes seem fiddly and time consuming but they’re really worth it and not all that bad. The laksa spice pastes that are available in oriental shops are never the same as a homemade paste. I usually make double the amount so that I can make two meals from that one effort.

Enjoy and let me know how it works out for you. I am curious![Read more]

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Courgette & Sweetcorn Soup

I haven’t been feeling very well recently so haven’t been cooking. Today I started again with something very gentle, almost medicinal, a really tasty courgette and sweetcorn soup. Both main ingredients are reasonably delicate and result in quite a creamy soup which is a pleasure to eat and perfect for tender tums. It’s also seasonal so the ingredients are at their best having grown naturally. I have a really lovely book which I have had for over 10 years and which has travelled with me from Ireland to London and through my many house moves since – The Kitchen Pharmacy by Rose Eliott & Carlo de Pauli. Both authors have great credentials, Rose Eliot is a renowned vegetarian food writer and Carol de Pauli is the Principal of the Institute of Traditional Herbal Medicine & Aromatherapy and the Director of the British and European Osteopathic Association. Their book associates specific foods with ailments and offers recipes for these which if nothing else provide comfort. You are what you eat, a cliché but so true. For a few years, if this were explicitly true, I was in danger of turning into a bag of crisps!

Having already decided to buy a big bag of courgettes at the market I decided I’d take a look at the Kitchen Pharmacy and see how courgettes might benefit me and, sure enough, they have cooling, anti-inflammatory and anti-spasmodic properties in your intestine which makes perfect sense considering that I am recovering from a nasty intestinal infection. Your body does remember foods and other ingested items and what it likes and it doesn’t like. I think my poor tum remembered how nice courgettes were to it before and requested them. Incidentally, this is why, sometimes when something doesn’t agree with you you find out the second time you eat it not the first. I was once a physiologist (I have a degree in physiology) and know this to be true but to my shame the precise scientific detail escapes me now.[Read more]

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Homemade Pesto

I love pesto. The first time I tasted it, my young irish palette was taken by surprise. I had never had such a flavour combination and wasn’t sure what to make of it. I grew to love it and it’s been a firm favourite ever since. I’ve read that there’s no pesto that can compare with Genovese Pesto in Liguria, that the basil grown in the slightly alkaline soil of the Genovese district of Pra is the best. I really need to go to try this out but for the moment I have to make do with what’s available to me in London.

It’s been a while since I made homemade pesto so I thought I’d make some last weekend. It’s always good to have some to hand and homemade pesto is infinitely superior to that bought in a jar. If you look at the ingredients in some shop bought pestos they often replace pine nuts with cashew nuts, replace parmesan with random cheese and the oil is low grade. There’s also usually a myriad list of ingredients which have no place there. It’s so good for quick pasta dishes, dips, dressings, whatever takes your fancy. It can be expensive to make in the UK but I think it’s worth it. If only I was in Naples growing the basil in my back garden and collecting pine kernels from under the trees. Must make do with being in London and gathering my crop from deli’s ;)

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Food blog digest

It’s time to do something other than cook, write & photograph obssessively. So, I thought, why not digest other blogs for eat like a girl’s readers degustation? Reading food blogs/sites is another form of sensory indulgence & a very pleasant one. It’s also quite passive and perfect for lazy days like today!

There are many, many food blogs out there. Most of them are excellent. Some are very well established – e.g. 101 Cookbooks, La Tartine Gourmande, Chocolate & Zucchini, Chez Pim… and on and on. I am intensely jealous of all of these bloggers! They are all extremely talented and are absolutely fantastic at what they do. There are so many of them, too many to write about right now, so, I’ll start with some of the ones that inspired me to get going.[Read more]

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Chorizo, Rocket & New Potato Hash with a fried egg

Hash is one fo my favourite things to eat. It’s a popular dish in the US and is said to have originated from Ireland, travelling to the US with the migrants around the time of the great Irish Famine in the 19th century, particularly to Boston where hash houses became commonplace. It’s particularly associated with Cork where it was a principal export in the 17th & 18th centuries. All that history stuff aside, it’s a dish I grew up with, well, without the corn beef as I wouldn’t touch the stuff as a child.

Hash to me is leftover potatoes fried with whatever’s in the fridge, whether that’s sausages, peppers, beef – whatever you have, it’s leftovers. Left over potatoes always taste amazing the next day, especially when fried. I just love them! They’re great for weekend brunches or quick dinners. I grew up in quite a rural part of Ireland surrounded by farm land. The predominant crops were potatoes, cabbage and sugar beet. We loved when potatoes were in season. It was before baby new potatoes were popular so they used to be left behind the field to be collected by us for food-play. I remember one particular day cutting them in half and carving faces in, the faces never survived the deep fat fryer much to my disappointment. We would do whatever we could with them. I remember trying to make crisps and being very disappointed when they all stuck together. That didn’t stop me trying again though.

This particular hash, like most of my recent dishes, has a Spanish flavour, chorizo being the spanish flavour of choice. I had hoped to use Morcilla (Spanish black pudding) but the one I brought from Spain didn’t survive the journey. It’s a shame as I think it would have worked really well here. For veggies, you could substitute red pepper for the chorizo, I frequently do, in fact it works really well with the chorizo too so feel free to add it. The recipe doesn’t absolutely require onion, but I love the sweetness of the onion with the sharpness of the chorizo. If you want to exclude it for whatever reason it will still taste good.[Read more]

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Rice paper rolls

Or, for me, they’re pretend it’s summer rolls. It’s Saturday and I am sitting in my flat looking at the pouring rain. I can’t bring myself to go outside, it’s too grim. I need to make something to lift my spirits that doesn’t require leaving the house. Something vietnamese would be nice, it’s been a while since I’ve made any vietnamese food and it reminds me of a lovely holiday I spent in Sydney last year with two old friends. A quick stocktake reveals rice paper, bean sprouts, rice vermicelli, chillis, a green pepper, a very big avocado and some fresh herbs. So, vietnamese rice paper rolls it is. Or a twist on them at least.

These look really tricky, but really they’re very simple. Rolling them is a little fiddly and you may lose the first couple through practice but once you get the hang of it you’ll wonder what all the fuss was about! I usually make these with prawns. They’re perfect for lunch and great for a light evening snack. I don’t have prawns however, so I’m making a vegetarian version. I want to make a dip using the avocado so I’ve dug out a recipe from one of my favourite cookbooks – one of the Moosewood Cookbooks – Moosewood Restaurant New Classics. I bought my first Moosewood Cookbook (The Moosewood Cookbook) over 10 years ago now. I spent the summer in Dingle on the West Coast of Ireland and this was my culinary bible for the summer. It’s a vegetarian cookbook with very creative dishes which are quick, healthy & usually very easy. I have many of their cookbooks but the Moosewood Restaurant New Classics is one of my favourites. In it, the author, Mollie Katzen concentrates on vegetarian and seafood dishes cooked in their restaurant in Ithaca, NY. For this I chose the firey & healthy avocado and wasabi dressing.

This recipe is lactose free and coeliacs can eat this too as there’s no wheat. I didn’t add cucumber or carrot but if they were in my fridge I would have chopped them into matchstick shapes and added them. If you are inexperienced at rolling these use 2 rice paper wraps at a time as they won’t tear as easily. Otherwise use one. With one they look nicer and taste a little better I think. The dip is firey, I am a big wasabi fan.[Read more]