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Home Fried Potato Hoops with Parmesan, Cumin and Chilli, Nominated for the Red Woman of the Year & Kate Bush, Before the Dawn

Home fried potato hoops with parmesan, cumin & chilli.

Home fried potato hoops with parmesan, cumin & chilli.

Well, this week has been pretty good. I was nominated for the Red Woman of the Year yesterday. It was my second time being nominated, and I was really honoured to be included among such brilliant and inspiring women. It was awarded last night to a very deserving Deliciously Ella in the blogger category. Ella has achieved so much at the tender age of 23, and all in an effort to manage a debilitating illness. The result? Success (she no longer requires her medication as the result of her very healthy diet), a beautiful health food blog, a recipe app and a book on the way. She is self taught too. Thomasina Miers, food writer and restaurateur (Wahaca) and Laura Bates of Everyday Sexism, two women that I hugely admire, were recognised too. Good on Red for recognising these women, and also for illustrating their achievements so that they can inspire those coming behind them. You can see all of the winners on the Red website, and in the magazine soon too, I am sure.

I spent last night at Kate Bush’s new mesmerising show, Before the Dawn. You got tickets?! Yes, I was one of the lucky few to secure tickets, I made sure I wouldn’t miss out, and had 2 friends try for me (one succeeded so I am going twice!). I myself had two browsers and five tabs open in each, so I managed to get some too. She, too, is an inspiration. I am a lifelong fan (I heard Wuthering Heights when I was 3, and have been hooked since) and I was so thrilled to be there. The whole audience was so engaged and committed to her every note and move and she got several standing ovations throughout the show. It was the best gig of my life, but so much more. It was theatre, it was drama, it was fantasy, it was powerful and tender. It was all encompassing. After 3 hours, I didn’t want it to end. If you can at all, go. Read more

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Kimchee, Kale & Cheddar Curd Quesadilla

Kale, Kimchi & Cheddar Curd Quesadilla

Kale, Kimchi & Cheddar Curd Quesadilla

I started to write this morning, but it was so moany and so dull, I had to stop myself. I mean, who wants to read that? I had fallen into a little pit of self pity. Woe is me, I couldn’t sleep last night, my tum was so poorly, I still have some of my book to do (panic! stress!) and so much work to finish. I am SO-VERY-TIRED.

And then I thought, pull yourself together, life is very short, and it isn’t much fun down this tiny shallow pit of not even proper despair, now is it? Especially when you are despairing because you are busy doing what you love to do? I don’t understand myself sometimes.

Right.

So I dragged my carcass to the kitchen and made myself a banana, raw honey and bee pollen smoothie (all whizzed with milk & a little yogurt, simple as that). Very worthy and I hoped, redeeming. I sipped away and thought, right! Lets get on with it.

I have an extensive cookbook collection – nay, huge – one that has got me into trouble because it becomes invasive, but I adore it and so I will fight for it. My favourites at the moment are Indian, Mexican and Italian books. Those cuisines remind me of summer, passionate places that make brilliant food (the secret ingredient is love, etc!). I particularly can’t get enough of three of the Grand Dames of cuisine – Diane Kennedy, Madhur Jaffrey and Claudia Roden. Such a pleasure to read, I don’t even need to go into my kitchen. I savour every bite with every word.

Today, I thought I would make use of my impulse purchased wildly expensive courgette flowers (zucchini blossoms if you are in the US), and make Diane Kennedy’s quesadillas containing them. Yes, definitely. I even contemplated making some queso blanco to go with them. I lined up a recipe, then binned that, before I thought about going to Peckham to buy some from the Gringa Dairy (it is very good). Then I got a hold of myself and told myself to calm down and get on with it. I was deep in procrastination now too. Read more

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Brazilian Pastel with Beef & Cheese (In Association with Magimix)

Pastels with Beef and Cheese

Pastels with Beef and Cheese

I was more surprised than anyone when I started getting very involved with the World Cup Columbia vs Brazil match last weekend. I was out with some friends and when one spotted it she yelled “Niamh, what the hell is going on?!”.

I didn’t know.

I figured that this must be a very good game if it had managed to suck me into it. Or I was having a mini stroke? You see, I don’t really get football, nor do I watch it, normally. I never have. That goes for most sports. There are exceptions – the Olympics, for example, especially when they were on in London, limited amounts of tennis, that kind of thing – but when everyone you know is watching the World Cup, you want to be involved, right? Somehow? Well, we can do the snacks!

4200XL Satin 18434Magimix challenged me to come up with a Brazilian recipe using their kit (a Magimix 4200XL), so that was a good start. I already have a Magimix, battered from love and use and melted on the side as I placed it too near the cookers gas flames when I moved flat, but it still chugs away perfectly, and is one of my most treasured pieces of kitchen equipment. It is compact and speedy and it chops, grates, slices and kneads. Essentially, it does everything that I don’t want to do or can’t do when I am rushing. Which is a lot. I quite like the serenity of chopping and slicing and kneading when I have time, but more often than not Mr Magimix does it. It is more patient with kneading than I am, and it makes great pastry, as my super warm hands destroy it when I allow my paws to do it (I believe that that might be my super crap super power).

Ok! A snack challenge. The game was on for me. A game I could enjoy, finally!

I have never been to Brazil – a big black mark right there – but I know food, and I am already familiar with a lot of Brazilian specialities. I wanted something that would be a great snack, that would taste great, and that would have the right amount of challenge to be different and delicious, but not be too challenging to prepare. I whittled it down to about five things, the others will probably appear here in the near future.

I opted for home made (from scratch, natch) pastels with beef and cheese. Pastels appear to be the Brazilian version of the empanada. Maybe it is the other way around? I don’t know which came first, most South American countries have something similar. It seems fitting that the Brazilian snack that you cook for the final could also double as an Argentinian snack (sorry Brazil, I wanted you to win too). You can pretend, or to be authentic change the filling a little (no cheese, add eggs and olives to approximate my favourite empanadas from Mendoza, still one of the best things that I have ever eaten), and use lard in the pastry in place of oil. Remove the vodka too.

I always try to make wrappers myself, whether for pastel, empanada, dumplings, spring rolls or any other little parcel of gorgeousness wrapped in something crisp or steamed. It is always worth the effort, as you get a far superior result and lots more satisfaction. I love the geekery of it, getting down to the nitty gritty and understanding where the recipe came from. Also, it is not always possible to source wrappers if you don’t live in an urban centre, or a particular country, so I always like to provide a recipe for those of you that can’t, as well as for myself.

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Recipe: Hot Wings with Blue Cheese Dip (Because We Must)

Hot Wings with Blue Cheese Sauce (Recipe)

Hot Wings with Blue Cheese Sauce (Recipe)

Some days demand chicken wings. Today is one. The best bit of the chicken for snacking on, the skin to flesh ratio being somewhere in the region of can-solve-most-of-lifes-problems, chicken wings are also very reasonable. Even in my local posh butcher, a kilo of lovely free range wings costs just over £5.

Everyone should have a recipe for hot wings in their repertoire. So easy and so gorgeous, spiked hot crisp wings dipped into a soothing cool blue cheese dip is all that you have ever wanted after a bad day. Or any day. Frank’s Louisiana Hot Sauce is what makes the wings sing, you could make your own, and it is the kind of thing that I often do, but in this case, truly, Frank’s have done all the work and made a great sauce. So, like every other hot wing fanatic on the planet, I use that.

They take little work. I roast the wings until the skin is just crisp, prepare the hot sauce which takes, oh, 2 minutes, then douse the wings in the sauce before returning to the oven for a little bit. Then I prepare the dip, which again is very complicated, ridiculously easy, a mish mash of strong blue cheese with natural yogurt, blended until they yield, and embrace each other.

Easy, and perfect for January blues, right? Enjoy.

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Recipe: Bajan Pepper Sauce Chicken Wings

Bajan pepper sauce chicken wings

Bajan pepper sauce chicken wings

So, you’ve made some Bajan pepper sauce, and you really like it. What next?

So many things! It takes a little work to make but lasts for ages and it is so flavour packed that it is the perfect base for lots of marinades and sauces. I have come with several recipes which I will share with you. Starting today, with Bajan Pepper Sauce Chicken Wings.

Chicken wings are fantastic. Boney, yes, but who cares? Those bones bring moisture and flavour. The ratio of skin to meat is deliciously high, and when cooked those wings are so crisp and juicy. They are relatively cheap too, even from the best organic free range birds.

I baked these ones. Baking them is healthier, you still get lovely moist flesh and crisp skin, although it won’t be as crisp as fried. They are still lovely though, I have just eaten a big bowl of them and I want more.

The marinade is very simple: Bajan Pepper Sauce (homemade, of course), natural thick yogurt (with no sugar), 2 cloves of peeled chopped garlic and the juice of a fresh lime. That is it. Marinade overnight for best flavour. I use one third pepper sauce to yogurt so that the heat is present but gentle and then use half and half for a more firey dipping sauce. Feel free to adjust to your taste if you want it punchier.

Enjoy!

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Recipe: Chipotle and Brown Sugar Candied Bacon Honeycomb Butter

Chipotle Brown Sugar Candied Bacon Honeycomb Butter Brioche Toast

Chipotle Brown Sugar Candied Bacon Honeycomb Butter

It is an indulgent time of year, and this recipe is at the pinnacle of indulgence. Despite the bacon, it is a sweet, and is wonderful on pancakes or simply on brioche toast as I have done here. I also fancy some with some eggy bread.

A nod to Bill Granger first. The first time I had honeycomb butter was with his ricotta hotcakes at one of his cafés in Sydney about 6 years ago. I was captured by it. Searches for honeycomb recipes at the time failed, and I was not happy with the alternative of chopping a crunchie and putting it in my butter.

I researched further and figured out it was a simple combination of sugar, brought to temperature and bicarb to make it aerate. I played around with sugar and golden syrup combinations until I got the perfect chewy crisp honeycomb. Too little golden syrup and it is dull and too fragile, too much and you will lose your fillings. I also add a little cider vinegar to boost the bicarb and I add water, as this makes it less likely to fail in the early minutes when it is very easy to scorch the sugar.

Candied Bacon Honeycomb

Candied Bacon Honeycomb

Lovely!

Next is my candied bacon, one of my many recipes for it. This is a recent favourite, a simple light brown sugar and chipotle blend. The bacon is smothered in it, and it is baked until the sugar is approaching toffee. You are left with a wonderful sweet, smoky, hot and savoury candied bacon that is wonderful on its own or – honestly – most things.

Chipotle & Brown Sugar Candied Bacon

Chipotle & Brown Sugar Candied Bacon

Combine the two and mash them into butter? Divine. Just be careful, as in my enthusiasm to devour it, I injured the top of my mouth (slightly) with the sharp honeycomb. Totally worth it though.

Enjoy! It is a cracker. Ban the brandy butter and bring on the bacon and honeycomb butter.

Notes on the recipe: if you can’t get chipotle, substitute chilli. If you don’t want the heat, just omit it.

RECIPE: CHIPOTLE & BROWN SUGAR CANDIED BACON AND HONEYCOMB BUTTER

Chipotle and Brown Sugar Candied Bacon

250g bacon chopped into strips or bacon lardons, I prefer smoked
100g light brown sugar
1 heaped tablespoon of chipotle powder or blitzed dried chipotles

Combine the bacon, sugar and chipotle, insuring every bit of the bacon is covered. Spread on one layer on a buttered greaseproof paper on a baking tray and bake at 180 deg C for 15 – 20 minutes until the sugar is dark and glossy like toffee. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.

Candied Bacon Honeycomb

Put 300g white sugar, 150g golden syrup, 1 tbsp cider or white wine vinegar and 100ml water in a pan with high sides – a stockpot for example.

Bring to the hard crack stage over a medium heat – 140 to 150 deg C (and do use a thermometer) – take off the heat and add the 2 tbsp of fresh bicarbonate of soda (it loses potency), ensuring there are no lumps in the bicarb. Stir through, the honeycomb will puff up.

Add two thirds of the candied bacon and stir through. Pour into a dish lined with buttered greaseproof paper. Leave to cool.

Making the butter

Take a palm sized amount of the honeycomb and smash it up in a sandwich bag with a rolling pin or something similar, until it is in small chunks (not powder). Combine well with 250g butter and the rest of the bacon. And you’re done.

Store the rest of the honeycomb for future use in a an airtight container, dip it in tempered chocolate to make homemade bacon crunchies.

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Recipe: Chicken Liver Pate for the Soul

Chicken Liver Paté

Chicken Liver Paté

As the nights close in and the days get colder, I increasingly reach for comfort. I want something rich and delicious and I want it fast. Some treats in the fridge, whether delicious cheeses or spreads that welcome toast, are perfect winter fodder.

Over the last few years I have become a little obsessed with duck and chicken liver parfaits and pates. Duck liver parfait is one of my favourite things in the world. Regular doses of it spread liberally on some bread or just from a spoon at times that required it, powered me through the intensity that was writing my book. I am going to share a recipe for that too, but for now I want to start with Chicken Liver Paté.

Easy, cheap, rich and delicious. That spells recession Christmas to me. People are afraid of chicken livers. Why? Liver in general gets a bad press because it is often served over cooked and rubbery. It is associated with times of deprivation, when those little chicken livers are so luxurious when cooked just right. Liver needs to be underdone to get the tenderness that it deserves, and that you deserve as you eat it.

Chicken Liver Paté

Chicken Liver Paté

My chicken liver pate is basically a butter rich chicken liver spread with some onions and spices, cooked gently, blitzed until smooth and then – if you want super smooth paté this is essential – pushed through a sieve. I also like to add cream for some extra luxury. In my current role as Spice Santa, with my giant jars of spices carted back from Grenada, I gently infused some cream with some whole bright red mace, like a mini jaded octopus, and some lovely bay. I also used rum, but really, it is barely detectable as this is about the spices and the liver, so feel free to substitute some brandy if that is what you have.

I think that this is perfect for Christmas, and you can make it in advance. I serve mine in little bright espresso cups, which I love.

Ps. this really is cheap. 400g of organic chicken livers set me back £2.50.

RECIPE: Chicken Liver Paté

Ingredients

400g chicken livers
1 clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 shallot, peeled and finely chopped
200g butter
100ml cream
100ml good rum or brandy
1 bay leaf
1 whole piece of mace of a pinch of mace powder
sea salt

ramekins or little cups for serving

Method

Bring the cream to just before the boil (take care not to boil it) with the bay leaf and mace and leave to cool and infuse for 1 – 2 hours. The longer the better.

Melt 125g of the butter and sauté the onions until soft but not brown. Add the chicken livers and sauté over a medium heat, turning frequently to ensure that they are evenly cooked for 4 – 5 minutes until brown but still soft, and therefore pink inside. Add the garlic for the final minute.

Blitz the liver mixture in a blender until it is as smooth as you can get it. Add the rum / brandy to the pan and reduce by half. Take the bay leaf and the mace out of the cream and add to the alcohol before adding to the livers and blitzing again. Taste and season with sea salt to your liking.

For super smooth paté, pass it through a sieve. If you can’t be bothered it will still taste great, but you will get a better texture if you do.

Divide the mixture between your ramekins / cups and leave in the fridge to set to cool. This will take about a half an hour. Then melt the remaining butter and pour on top of the little pots of paté to seal them.

Cool until the butter is set and you are ready to go. Or you can save for later.

Enjoy!