You love pork belly, I know you do. You saw that pork crackling right there and thought – PORK BELLY! Look at that crackling! But, with miso? Read More
A trip to Kyoto would be remiss without several things. While I accept that it is impossible to do everything, I have many more trips to make before I have, I will give you a starter list. You need to do a full exploration of the tea culture, including attending a tea ceremony as Kyoto is renowned for the quality of their tea and their beautiful antique pottery. You must have a kaiseki dinner and a proper Kyoto breakfast (my favourite was at Touzan at The Hyatt Regency). Finally, you cannot visit Kyoto without a visit to at least one sake brewery. Read More
Wild garlic pesto does feel a cliché but when it is so delicious, why shouldn’t it be? Wild garlic, if you haven’t cooked with it yet, is a broad garlic flavoured leaf, slightly sour, and fantastic with anything creamy, cheesy and it is the best pal for the humble spud. It grows abundantly in the shade, white flours sprouting out in clusters on elegant stems, leaping towards the sunshine.
It is wild garlic season here, but near me we mainly have three cornered leek (often confused for wild garlic), which is too grassy for pesto. I tried to source some proper wild garlic, I cried out for secret sources – I WON’T TELL ANYONE, I SWEAR! – but no joy, I failed. I am deeply impatient, and I had a visceral need for the stuff. Praise the internet for intervening and saving my brain and wild garlic free larder, a very kind twitter friend sent me some in the post, and I have been playing with it ever since.
Wild garlic pesto is made in many ways. I chose almonds for body, 36 month aged parmesan for that perfect cheesy umami hit, a lovely fruity extra virgin olive oil with a hint of bitterness and some wild garlic. I played with the volumes, and while they suspiciously come to the same amount in grams, the volumes are different, and they work very well, with just the right garlic punch and shade of green. The oil may seem a lot, but it needs this as a minimum or it is too dry. It also helps keep it fresh, protecting it from the air. Hey, it is healthy too, particularly as unheated and retaining all of the goodness. When using this pesto, I sometimes add more to thin it out or help it spread. Use your own judgement for yours.
As lovely as this is used in the traditional pesto sense as a dressing for pasta, it is great as a condiment elsewhere. This was lovely as a dressing for a crisp potato hash with bacon and eggs for brunch today, and beautiful on toast with some radishes.
Enjoy, and if you do make it, let me know what you do with it. Tag me if you make it and share it on instagram too.
I love me some beans, I can’t get enough of them. It shocks people often to discover that I used to be vegetarian (WHAT?!), but you know, I was worried about industrial farming (I still am), and my degree studies were in physiology, including anatomy, which involved human dissection. Yes, HUMAN dissection. I went home one evening after an anatomy dissection, cooked some chicken and thought that it all looked too similar, the flesh and the fibres (sorry, but it is true), my stomach turned and that was that, for a long while. Then as the farmers market movement took hold properly, and people and even supermarkets started to become more concerned about meat and meat sourcing, I came back on board.
These years of vegetarianism taught me a lot. I explored pulses, vegetables, herbs and spice. I learned how to add flavour without adding meat, and I resurrected my university nutrition studies to ensure that I was eating nutritionally balanced meals. I studied more, I learned about new and exciting ways that I could eat. I devoured cookbooks, I obsessively read online. I fell in love with pulses, completely. All sorts of beans and lentils, I would fill my suitcase with bean shaped curiosities from everywhere that I travelled and bring them home.
One place I have yet to travel to is Egypt, but I have explored the food in London and in my own kitchen. One of my favourite discoveries when I first moved to London was the wonder of a bowl of ful medames (always spelled in a myriad of ways like dal|dahl|dhal!), a beautiful breakfast dish of small ful beans (dried baby broad beans), gently spiced and cooked for hours with garlic and eggs boiled within, which are served on top. I used to eat it all the time and made it my mission to perfect it at home. I think I feel a post coming on!
Dried broad beans are a superb ingredient. I loved how they cook them in Puglia, until soft and served as a gorgeous dip rich with local olive oil and mountain oregano, ripe for you to drag some crusty bread through. I brought lots home, but I buy them in local Turkish shops too. Jane Baxter, the originator of this falafel recipe, highly recommends British grown organic beans from Hodmedods, who sell them online too. You need these unassuming beans in your life, I promise you.
Which leads me on to what exactly an Egyptian falafel is. It is a falafel shaped from broad beans with spices, herbs and other joy, coated with sesame seeds. A lovely alternative to the chickpea falafel we all know so well. The falafel recipe is adapted from Jane Baxter & Henry Dimbleby, and it has a lovely story associated too (see after the recipe).
Have you got a favourite falafel recipe or story? I have many! I used to live on them when I was fresh out of university and living in Amsterdam. Another day for those, but tell me yours!
Everyone needs a bolt hole, even people who live in a city like Sydney. About three and a half hours inland from Sydney, and over the Blue Mountains, lies a gorgeous small town and wine region called Mudgee. Wine is not new here, winemakers have been active in Mudgee for over 150 years, but it is growing quickly and it is now the third largest winemaking region in New South Wales. At that, it is emerging in terms of tourism, and it is still under the radar for international visitors like you and me. Read More
It was one of those mornings. I was out of eggs – what, how could I let that happen?! – and out of coffee beans. I was staring glumly at a bag of Moomin coffee, a hasty Helsinki airport purchase, and wondering how nasty that might be and what I could have for breakfast. On my counter were some very brown bananas, barely a patch of yellow left. I had some buckwheat flour, but not a lot, and a bag of hazelnuts. I thought I might try a new take on banana bread.
It is worth buying bananas and letting them go really brown to make banana bread and pancakes. This is when they are at their best for cooking, rich and syrupy sweet. I never do this intentionally. I buy bananas and let them sit on the side. I feel guilty when I see them every day. I worry about waste, and then eventually they go completely brown, and they become banana bread or pancakes.
I love the flavour of buckwheat, I use it a lot. For pancakes, waffles, bread and now banana bread, the nutty flavour goes very well with the bananas here. It is gluten free as it isn’t actually a wheat, and as I used coconut oil too, this bread is dairy free also.
A quick word on coconut oil, I know it is being heralded as a new discovery and superfood, but you know, in Asia they have been using this forever, and in Asian shops it is very easy to buy, and much cheaper too (ok, so it isn’t extra virgin, but you know). Often in bottles, which in Asia wouldn’t be a problem as it being warm, the oil would be liquid. Here, I put mine in a pot of hot water so that it melts a bit and I can pour it. You can get jars too.
Once I discovered that coconut oil was a good butter substitute (I am lactose intolerant so I must take care), I started using it for fruit curds and in cakes that demanded to be dairy free. Texturally it is similar, unlike oils, and so it works very well. I should really share my lactose free life hacks with you some day. I have many! Of course you can use butter instead, if you prefer. Buttery bananas are good.
Lets crack on with the recipe, shall we? This banana bread is dense and fruity with nutty pops of hazelnut. It didn’t last a day in my flat, and I ate most of it. I am going to make more this weekend.
Enjoy – recipes now have their own page in my new website design, so that you can save and print the recipe on its own. PDF downloads are coming soon too. Both reader requests, and good onse I think! Let me know if there are any bugbears or things that you would like to see changed too!
Oh and you know what, the Moomin coffee was actually ok! :)
Brunei, a tiny country on the island of Borneo, surrounded by Malaysia, Sabah on one side and Sarawak on the other, is one of the worlds wealthiest countries, thanks to their plentiful supply of oil. It is also one of the smallest, with a population of 415,717, approximately 10% of the population of the small country that I hail from, Ireland. With one major city, Bandar Seri Begawan, and the rainforest beyond, Brunei makes a good stopover en route to Melbourne or other destinations, like Sabah, on the Royal Brunei flight network. But what do you do when you get there? Read More
This is the second of two sponsored posts written in partnership with Triumph, as part of their #FindTheOne campaign. Most of you ladies, and perhaps some gents, will already know Triumph. A long established and trusted lingerie brand who want to help 500,000 women find the perfect bra. I spent a day with them so that I could #FindTheOne for me. Details on the competition are at the end of the post. The odds are super, so do enter, and the very best of luck! Read More
One for the veggies? No! One for all of us. This was one of those things that came together randomly in a helter skelter way, and I am so glad that it did.
When I was in France recently I bought some dried chickpeas from a farmer at the market. I cooked half of them last week, and they were so lovely. Great texture and taste, and even though they were dried, they were fresh, if you know what I mean? The cooked until plump and with bite. I was thrilled with them and saved the rest of my stash for this week. Read More
This post was sponsored by Triumph as part of some work that I did with them on their #FindTheOne campaign. Most of you ladies, and perhaps some gents, will already know Triumph. A long established and trusted lingerie brand who want to help 500,000 women find the perfect bra. I spent a day with them so that I could #FindTheOne for me.
Before I begin, this post is definitely one for the girls. Read More
Yesterday, when I wrote about the Ballymaloe Lit Fest, I mentioned that I was lucky. It goes even further than that. In my small home town, curved along a small slice of the Atlantic and in the shelter of the Comeragh mountains, we have all kinds of wonderful too, and ample reasons to return. Read More
[Photo: Maggie Beer, Yotam Ottolenghi, Darina Allen and Sami Tamimi – they were having so much fun I couldn’t get a photo of them that wasn’t slightly blurred!]
I have many food related excuses to go home to Ireland, and I am clucky, for some people travel from Australia, the US, and many other places to go to one of my favourites, the Kerrygold Ballymaloe Lit Fest, a smart and fun gathering of some of the worlds best food writers and chefs, who convene in a corner of East Cork to share their knowledge and to discuss pertinent matters in the world of food. The weekend is full of chat, talks and debate, there are cooking demos, and ultimately everyone ends up in the fringe festival in The Big Shed for some wine and a bit of a boogie later on. Read More
I never did love ketchup. I know everyone does. It is said to be the perfect combination of sweet, sour, salty and savoury, and tomatoes are one of my favourite ingredients, but I just find ketchup to be wanting, and something that is used to blanket other flavours not actually add to the dish. The flavour profile feels a bit two dimensional and dull to me, so I don’t have it in my pantry. Not out of snobbery, I love proper Asian instant noodles and all sorts of other things. I love good eating, and that comes in many forms, I am completely open when it comes to this. Read More
It is St Patrick’s Day tomorrow, and I am declaring this Irish week on the blog. A national holiday in Ireland and a day of celebration of Irish culture worldwide, if you would like to hit a city where you can have a superb day and where they don’t dye the rivers or beer green, well, go to Dublin. I never did understand why people would want to drink something green (and that kind of applies to green juice too, although I have succumbed on occasion).
You have to make this, this weekend. No dilly dallying, you won’t regret it, Hummus Kawarma is a wonderful thing. Creamy thick hummus topped with pops of aromatic spiced and flavouful neck of lamb, finished with a garlic-lemon-parsley-chilli dressing (lemon sauce). Hummus is so lovely when you cook it at home, it is worth the time planning and paying attention to the small details in this terrific recipe from Yotam Ottolenghi & Sami Tamimi’s book Jerusalem. Jerusalem is a must for any passionate home cook, rammed with wonderful recipes and gorgeous photography all from their home city. It is one of those books that demands dreamy browsing. Read More
Can I tell you something ridiculous? I am nursing a selfie stick injury. A selfie stick injury?! Am I embarassed? Not even a tiny bit.
I was always a bit snooty about selfie sticks. The first time I saw one was in the Pantheon in Rome (oooh er, but really). Two guys were perched beneath it, grinning up. I scoffed internally. What in gods name is that? I thought it a little shameless and wondered how the world had come it. I mean I just never would. Never ever. Read More
Sometimes the world is with you, and sometimes it is not. Equally sometimes your fridge is with you, and sometimes it is not. Sometimes your fridge can be a nasty twisted beast. Last week when I came home from France to discover that my fridge had been off all weekend, well that was a moment where my fridge was being a poison troll. Today, when I shuffled through it and put together the makings of lunch, it was definitely trying to make amends.
In university a friend used to call me MacGyver, not because I sported an awesome mullet or because I had impressive skills where I could construct something brilliant, unexpected and absolutely required at that instant in time with just a piece of chewing gum and any-other-thing, but because she believed that I could tackle a kitchen with hardly anything in it and make something good to eat. I have always loved a cupboard forage and it is exactly this MacGyver skill level that brought lunch to my door this lunchtime. Read More
L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue in Provence is a gorgeous little town, patches of land interspersed between strands of river and streams, with waterwheels, tendrils of moss hanging down, dragging themselves round. Known for a Sunday market full of antiques, food stalls and lots of randomness, I spent a lovely Sunday meandering it last weekend. I heard after that this is where Keith Floyd had an antique shop before he became a chef.
I wanted every antique knife, spoon, fork and copper pan but reserved the space for chickpeas and chickpea flower purchased from a grower and a huge fat plait of stinky purple garlic. I watched rotisserie chicken spinning around, glistening with fat and saying EAT-ME, FOR-THE-LOVE-OF-GOD-EAT-ME-NOW. I wanted to, I really did and I desperately wanted to just run and grab some of the potatoes drinking all of that gorgeous chicken fat underneath, but I behaved. As much as I wanted to grab a chicken and just eat it with some bread, I also wanted to sit down and have a nice lunch.
At the last minute we secured a reservation at Le Jardin du Quai, and surely the last one as the dining room was full. It took a while to find it, L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue is peppered with antiques arcades and I have a brutal sense of direction. But we found it, and sat down. Beyond a garden lies a lovely bar and restaurant, a large bright room, a dog called Scooby just outside, shelves with jars of marshmallow rolled around, cut with scissors and served with coffee, crystal candelabras stand sentry beside. In the corner, we perused the wine list, perched beside us on a large blackboard (and chose a lovely local house white). The menu was set and €40 for 3 courses and we were to eat what was on offer with no choice. I love to eat like that, it is often a sign of great confident cooking.
Truffle hunting (oink oink, SNORT!), gooey chocolate truffles, and doing the truffle shuffle (I inadvertently have earned the right through this food writing of mine), regardless of what truffles make you think of, the fungal variety, growing underground and snuffed out by dogs and less so now, pigs, are a wonder. Rich, funky, and smelling of things that most people won’t admit to (also male pig pheremones, which is why female pigs are so good at earthing them out), they are the ultimate flavour bomb, making simple things taste amazing with the tiniest bit of work. A small chop, slice or grate will do you just fine, and they will elevate eggs, fried, scrambled or in an omelette, to one of the best dishes in the world. Buttered bread becomes something you might fight your mother for, anything simple with fat and richness (lard works great), with truffles enters a My Fair Lady sort of situation, adopting a smart accent, elegant umbrella and dress.
I love a truffle. Read More
This post is the second in a sponsored series that I am working on with BRITA as part of their Better with BRITA campaign. I explore recipes that use BRITA filtered water as a key ingredient, in this instance a healthy and nutritious one pot dish based on cauliflower cous cous.
Not only is this a healthy and nutritious one pot dish, it is also speedy and very flexible. It is a frugal dish also, a perfect dish for using up the ends of veg that are lurking in your fridge. Combining lots of different flavours and textures makes this dish even better.
The base of it is a cous cous, well, kind of. It is a cauliflower cous cous, fond of dieters of all descriptions. I love cauliflower, it is so good raw, unbeatable with cheese and perfect with spice. It is great roasted whole, steamed in florets, and superb when blitzed in a food processor into a rice or cous cous. I am not generally a fan of veg a sa substitute for carbs, but this works so well, and the taste of cauliflower adds a lot to this vegetable packed powerhouse. Read More