Month: January 2012

ducklegs

Recipe: Rich Roast Duck Legs (Chinese Style)

It is duck weather, so we might as well just get on with it. Not weather for ducks, where it is so wet, ducks will love it. But weather for eating ducks, when the richness of the flesh and creamy duck fat is so appropriate, I can’t quite think of eating anything else. Today at least. I may change my mind tomorrow. I love roasting duck legs, I’ve blogged about them before and they’ve featured in my book Comfort & Spice too. They are cheap, full of flavour, and perfect for cooking for large numbers. On this occasion I cooked just for myself, and marinaded them in a wet marinade, sacrificing perfectly crisp skin (although still getting some crispness) but being rewarded with intense umami flavour on the already beautifully rich duck. Before Xmas, I was sent a wonderful Chinese hamper from See Woo to try, and while moving flat I smashed the bottle of oyster sauce. I panicked, ran to the kitchen with this broken bottle looking more weapon than culinary source of joy, …

Where to Eat in Paris: Brasserie Balzar

Food is changing everywhere all the time. That’s life, and that’s a good thing, in the main. You’re as likely to find Scandinavian inspired haute cuisine in Paris now as a soufflé, so it takes a little research to find somewhere that does the old school classics and does them well. When in Paris, and especially when in Paris in January. I want French Onion Soup. I need French Onion Soup. I need it’s comforting rich beefy stock and sweet sleepy slippery onions beneath their heavy cheese blanket. I need to pierce that cheese and bread with my spoon and drag some soup out, savouring every gentle spoonful before diving back in. It helps if I can then follow this with a fresh rich steak tartare, sharp with mustard and capers, and creamy with egg. Spreading it on toast, all the while not really wanting to talk but to watch everything going on. Watching the waiters, the other tables, sipping some wine, soaking it all in. Enjoying Paris, enjoying the characters, the families eating Sunday …

Evening Standard Recipe Column: Beetroot Latkes

I love latkes! What’s not to love? Grated potato shaped into a cake and fried before being served with apple sauce and sour cream. LOVE. I do a twist on them occasionally. Favourite Irish combination of parsnip and carrot is a favourite as is my recipe in today’s Evening Standard for beetroot latkes. A perfect recipe for January that is indulgent but also quite healthy. Those beetroot will help your liver detox. Recipe on the Evening Standard: Beetroot Latkes

A Belated Kung Hei Fat Choi (Have a Happy & Prosperous Chinese New Year!)

I love Chinese New Year in London. I love popping to Chinatown and having lunch and spotting the red envelopes being handed out. I love all of the celebration around it and the food. Yesterday, I popped down to Chinatown to soak it all up and to have some of my favourite dumplings. Not traditional Chinese New Year food but comfort food of the highest order, (pork) Xiao Long Bao, gorgeous steamed dumplings with pork and soup inside. I like to have them at Taiwanese restaurant Leong’s Legend, they’re the best I have found. They’re tricky to eat as the soup is molten when the dumplings are steaming. Remove them gently from the steamer by their tip using your chopsticks, plonk them (gently!) on the soup spoon before dipping them in the delicious black vinegar and ginger. Then bite the top off, suck the soup out (trying not to burn yourself) and eat the dumpling. And do it 7 more times before leaving happy. Love it. Some more on my trip to China & Hong …

Where to Eat in Paris: Les Papilles

When I travel, one of my first pit stops is twitter, where I ask the hivemind for recommendations. Results are mainly successful, sometimes bizarre, but always a brilliant starting point when travelling and wanting to eat well. Particularly when you want to eat as locals do and off the tourist track. When I recently asked for recommendations for Paris, two people I really rate resounded “You have to go to Les Papilles”, so I took that as an order and I did. Les Papilles is part epicerie, part wine shop, mainly restaurant. It is wooden and warm with a big round table in a bay window / alcove at the back and all other tables seemingly proceeding towards it, lining a long counter and shelves of wine with occasional food bits lining the walls.  There is also a downstairs area with a huge table, and lots more wine. The menu is fixed, you have it or you don’t, although a vegetarian friend in Paris has told me that they can prepare a vegetarian menu if …

Evening Standard Column: Beijing Dumplings (Jiaozi)

When I wrote my book, I hadn’t been to Beijing, but was obsessed with Beijing dumplings. Now I have been to Beijing and am even more obsessed, and not just with the dumplings but with Peking Duck, Noodles with Pork & Black Beans and lots more lovely things which I am adding to my repertoire. More on those soon…. For this weeks column on Beijing dumplings, and the recipe, head over to the Evening Standard.

Paris Break: Living it Up at Hotel La Tremoille

Paris Part 2! Last weekend I journeyed a speedy 2 hours on the eurostar early Friday morning and found myself in Paris for a bistro lunch, caviar & champagne late afternoon snack and a brasserie dinner. We had a sneaky indulgent champagne breakfast on the eurostar too – we couldn’t resist. I love it and that was just Friday too. We stayed at Hotel La Tremoille in the 8th, an old school hotel with some modern twists. It was perfectly central allowing us leisurely strolls along the Seine. There was even a local caviar shop and truffle shop and restaurant. Tres luxurious. Part of our package was a Baguette to Bistro walk led by Meg of Context Travel and Paris by Mouth, a fun, informative and really delicious morning tour of St Germaine taking in a lovely boulangerie, cheese shop and chocolate shop. The highlight for me was the cheese tasting. We visited one of the oldest cheese shops in Paris, Androuet (now also in London). Proud and rich in history there were stories of …

A Postcard from Paris

Paris, so lovely, and even lovelier with the crisp, blue skies and sleepy breezes. We went last weekend and blissfully had no rain, and lovely wintry weather. Wrapped up warm, I do love the winter. Just not the rain, unless I am inside and listening to it. Lots to share but first some photos, and for me a little reminiscing. Back soon with details on where we ate and slept, and what we did there.  

iVillage Recipe: Hearty & Wholesome Lentil, Bacon & Spinach Soup

Originally published on iVillage Another soup this week, but it is soup weather, and I suspect that you are craving soups as much as I am. This is a really simple and very hearty staple in my kitchen. Red lentil and bacon being the base, and I occasionally add other stuff to it, on this occasion, some spinach. Lentils are very cheap, and really delicious. They get a bad rep. Some people ate too many while students (they are cheap!) but if you look to the cooking of France you see lentils everywhere. All types of lentils: puy, black, orange and yellow just some. For this soup I have used red lentils, as I love that they become mushy, and they also cook quickly so they make for a relatively quick and delicious soup. They are also available everywhere, some of the others can be more difficult to source. I say bacon here, but I actually use guanciale, an Italian bacon of sorts made from the cured jowl of the pig. You can substitute pancetta, …

Evening Standard Column: Smoky Lamb & Aubergine Rolls

This is another favourite recipe of mine and another one from ye olde market stall of yore. I love using leftover lamb shoulder in this – it’s just so moist and packed full of flavour – but you can substitute minced raw lamb shoulder here too. The king of all vegetables, the aubergine, really shines here with its lusty smokiness. I love it, and I do wish I had one to eat right now!  Full Recipe on the Evening Standard  

iVillage Recipe: Golden Flapjacks to Ease January Blues

It is January now, and the tradition is for everyone to feel a little guilty about their over consumption, and also feeling like they need a diet or detox. Personally, I don’t believe that January is the month for this, as it is one of the hardest months of all. But I will concede that I need to have better breakfasts, and snacks to get me through the mid afternoon. Flapjacks are the perfect thing, especially when they are homemade, even more delicious and usually better for you (unless you are buying proper homemade ones elsewhere). This is a very simple recipe and it takes minutes to prepare. Basically one part brown sugar, butter and golden syrup or honey to two parts oats. You can add dried fruit or similar at this point too. I often make chocolate flapjacks. But it’s January so I will behave and keep them plain – they’re still delicious anyway. If you do use any fruit it’s better to use dried as fresh fruit has more water and may mix …

Nollaig na mBan (Women’s Xmas): In Pictures

So, Nollaig na mBan! How was it? Fun! I made the classic error of starting on a glass of wine when my guests arrived which actually is not the cleverest thing to do when co-ordinating about 5 tasks in the kitchen at once and nowhere near complete. But hey, it’s important to let your hair down on Nollaig na mBan. Simple and delicious quail eggs, perfectly cooked so that the yolk is completely soft and the white set. A little fiddly sure, but they always go down a treat and once you have done a few, peeling the eggs becomes a lot easier. A grand Cork tradition, spiced beef. I got this one delivered from Jack McCarthy for Christmas in Ireland, but we decided to have a rib of beef for main course so it would have been overkill. I make my own normally but had no time (the recipe is in Comfort & Spice and has been made by North South Food here). Unsurprisling Jack’s spiced beef seriously impressed, as do his terrific black …

Nollaig na mBan faoi mhaise dhaoibh! (Happy Women’s Christmas)

So you thought that was Christmas? You took your decorations down? Oh, dear friends, Christmas isn’t over yet! It’s Women’s Christmas today, or Nollaig na mBan (in the Irish language). Christmas doesn’t finish until midnight tonight, and the tradition in Ireland is that today is a day for women to indulge and celebrate, and even for some, to be waited on for their men. Traditionally it was because women were working like crazy over Christmas and were allowed a day off, now it is more of an excuse for women to get together. It is said that women in rural Ireland used to rear turkeys to raise money for Christmas, and would spend any leftovers on today’s celebration. We’re not the only ones with a celebration today. It is Epiphany, the day when the wise men arrive at the manger (according to Christian tradition). We would have ours – literally – making their way across the window sill over Christmas to arrive at the crib today. We took it very seriously and raised eyes when we saw wise …

Evening Standard Column: Rhubarb and Blood Orange Meringue Pie

From the Evening Standard, January 5th 2012 I love meringue pie, it’s utterly comforting, nostalgic and just beautiful to eat. It’s especially nice in January, after an endless parade of green and brown food, when gorgeous Yorkshire forced rhubarb and bright bloody oranges arrive. If you can’t get blood oranges, feel free to substitute normal ones. Many meringue pie recipes call for cornflour to thicken the curd but I prefer not to use it here. Some time in the fridge will allow it all to set. The results are a little sloppier than the traditional version perhaps, but the flavour is terrific. Rhubarb and blood orange curd Makes 2 small jars *200g rhubarb, trimmed and chopped *50g unsalted butter, plus a few knobs *50g caster sugar finely grated zest of 1 blood orange and juice of 2 *2 whole eggs, plus 2 egg yolks Preheat the oven to 150°C/300°F/gas mark 2. Roast the rhubarb for 15 minutes until tender. Drain in a sieve. Meanwhile, melt the butter and sugar in a double boiler. Add the …

Recipe: Warm Winter Salad of Sprout Tops, Pancetta, Chestnuts & Quail Eggs in a Mustard / Maple Dressing

I don’t do January detoxes. They’ve been rubbished recently anyway, but that aside, isn’t it the worst month to deprive yourself? The weather is awful, and everyone is borderline depressed. This is the best month to be nice to yourself, and I intend to be. I find I don’t do crazy excess over Xmas anyway. Back home in Ireland I don’t have any access to all my kitchen stuff or ingredients so I find that I am not that inspired to cook. I think I quite enjoy taking a little break from it. I only ate out one night – at my favourite restaurant at home, The Tannery – so I feel like I have actually behaved quite well overall, certainly compared to my normal standards. I came back to London and hit the veg shop, I wanted sprout tops. I hadn’t had any yet and was feeling the deprivation. Sprout tops are the leaves at the top of a brussels sprout stalk. A giant brussel sprout at the top with a loose arrangement of …

2012: To Review or Not to Review, that is the Question

And so on with 2012. Ta-da (that’s a little tap dance). I am ready. I have 5 to-do lists – things to cook | places to go in London/UK | places to go in Ireland | places to travel to | projects. I can’t wait to get stuck in. Doing the round up and the to-do lists was very interesting. Stand out was how few London restaurant reviews I did last year. I ate out a lot but I think things were so busy that I didn’t want to feel like I was working when I was out, analysing every meal. I also didn’t want to carry my bulky camera everywhere, especially given it was stolen in September and was very expensive to replace. Unless it was an exceptional or very interesting meal or somewhere where I love to spend my time, I wasn’t inspired to spend so much time editing photos, uploading them, and then going through each dish blow by blow. Even Duck Soup, where I have become a regular, took 5 visits …

2011 – the final instalment

So, where was I? 2011. So, Comfort & Spice had just been published, which was a heart stoppingly nervous time. I won the OFM Best Food Blogger Award (my heart still jumps when I type that!) and I started my Evening Standard column. I was also doing a little travelling, well a lot of travelling. Which makes me so happy, as cooking, writing and travelling are the three things that I love to do, and this is what I have been working towards for almost 5 years. Taking the jump was scary but I am glad I did it. It has been hard at times, and very hard work, but worth it. My next trip was to Istria. It had been planned for months with my friend Denise who writes The Wine Sleuth. She has some friends who import wine from Croatia – PC Wines – and they said if we wanted to come over, they had an apartment we could stay in and that – obviously – they knew lots of winemakers, but also some …

Then 2011 Ramped Up a Gear…

**HAPPY NEW YEAR! May your 2012 be bigger, better and brighter than any year before it** Following on from my previous post, I came back from Argentina to pick up the first printed copy of Comfort & Spice. Such an exciting moment but it was a Monday and I had no one to share it with as everyone was at work. Happily I bumped into a friend in Gelupo and we celebrated over an ice cream. The pace definitely changed then, it was only 2 months before my book would come out, and people started to show an interest in covering it, starting with a shoot for Sainsbury’s magazine, which was all hugely exciting and very busy. In the background lots of other stuff was happening and I had to shelve any serious travel for a while. I did do some great small trips though starting with a wonderful week long trip to Toronto and Niagara which was fantastic and definitely a highlight of 2011. I have yet to write about Dubai, I can’t locate …