I have quite a few Christmas recipes up my sleeve, but lets take a break from the chocolate, the alcohol and the spice, and think about a comfortable Christmas lunch for the days before and after the crazy indulgent one. I am thinking soup, and who doesn’t love soup? Nourishing and soothing, soup is what I reach for when I am ill, or when I need comfort. Oh, and toasted sandwiches too. Continue reading
I wondered about sharing these photos, I really did. I had to rush them before dashing to the airport, and I risked it, and got up at 6am to make them, because I really wanted to share this recipe with you. It is perfect for Christmas. Stress free and it takes a little care but otherwise, just fine, anyone can make these. Of course life and work intervened, and I was too busy in Germany and too tired at the end of every day to do any decent writing. So, here it is now.
But then the photos, I can’t help but think they look like I dug up some mushrooms and then coated them in fine soil. I can’t worry about this though, isn’t it much better that you get the recipe? And maybe a little reassuring to see that, yeah, you can make truffles, and they might look a little rough, but hey! They are still delicious. There aren’t enough hours in the day and there is plenty of other bothersome things, I shouldn’t worry myself so much about photos of truffles.
Or should I?
Anyway, lets drive on. You must make these. All you need is a little salted caramel from my recent recipe, some cream, some good dark chocolate, and some cocoa, and then we are all set.
Christmas is on its way, there is no longer any denying it. I am woefully under prepared, as is my form. I just paid through the nose for my flight home this year for a start, which eats into every other Christmas budget. I guess all of the other ex pats must be very organised this year. After that, there is not a child in the house washed, as we would say at home. (Calm down dear, I haven’t had any children since my last missive, it merely means there is nothing organised and we can’t even see where organised might be, over the horizon).
However, I have some recipes to share that will help you be a bit more organised for Xmas, and that will make me feel a lot better. A good place to start is a lovely salted caramel, and it is something that every cook should have in their armoury besides. It is so easy, as long as you watch over it, as it will burn as soon as you stop to look at it. I burned my first batch this morning, and I have made it many times. Watch it carefully, and it will behave, I promise.
My salted caramel is very simple, and very quick. It is thick, but pourable, and a perfect Christmas condiment. It is a great gift too, if you make it late enough. It will keep in the fridge for a week or so too.
How to eat it? It is a perfect sauce for most desserts. It is superb on toast for a luxurious Christmas breakfast. Or you know, like nutella, you may just want to eat it with a spoon. Continue reading
Beef cheek chilli is a gorgeous dish. Tender, robust and sublimely yielding, once you do the initial work, it basically cooks itself. The best bit? It is a relatively cheap cut of meat, and has a wonderful deep flavour and texture. Winner. You will find yourself buying this instead of steak for dishes like this, I promise you.
When I first started making chilli, I would make it using minced beef, and yes this is fine, but once I started to experiment with other meat cuts like shin and cheek, I could see that a chilli has much more potential than the one that I was making.
Then there are chillies to think about. I used to make beef chilli with whatever chilli I had, then I progressed to smoky punchy chipotle, and then, with an appetite for more and a geeky drive beneath it, I decided to explore different chilli combinations. Then I could see what all the fuss with chilli was about. Layers of chilli playing with the beef, enhancing it, some bringing searing heat, others smoke and others a low rumble. You can make your beef chilli as hot or as mild as you want, and you can make it really interesting. Chilli can be good, and chilli can be superb. Lets talk about a superb one.
Beef cheeks are a terrific cut of meat. Easier to source now than before, as we all become more aware of cheaper flavourful cuts and the importance of nose to tail eating. Ask your butcher to get some in for you if you can’t find them anywhere, that is what I do. They need long slow cooking, and start firm and obstinate, but under that low gentle heat, they yield gently and let the chillies mix in.
I use three chillies for this dish: chipotle, pasilla and ancho. The chipotle brings smoke and a low throaty rumble, the pasilla is hotter but just medium hot and quite fruity and the ancho is medium hot too, with more of a sweet dried fruit flavour. I use a combination of three, with more chipotle. It results in a nice hot chilli, not in a face melting way but it will definitely warm your cockles on a chilly night.
Yes, more roast pumpkin. But you probably have some left over from the last recipe, and I bet you are not averse to roasting some more. Or is that just me?
In Winter my salads become a little more robust. More kale than lettuce, wilted or crisped, chunks of pumpkin or similar dense veg, roasted into submission. No salad should be heavy, so I lift mine with spritely dressings, this time a pomegranate molasses and lime dressing with no oil, so you know, healthy and lower calorie (I did say I was going to try, right?). Over this, soothing pops of sharp creamy feta, and then to give it some sparkle, a gorgeous sprinkle of juicy pomegranate seeds.
It is winter? Who cares, when you have this salad? I quite like winter anyway.Continue reading
Almond crusted tuna frequently pops up my idea periscope when my mind wanders. I first had it in Sicily a few years ago in San Vito Lo Capo, when I was a judge for the International Cous Cous Festival (yes, I really was, and it was bonkers, and a lot of delicious fun). There are many almonds in Sicily, pistachios too, and they appear a lot in the cuisine. Almond crusted tuna was one of my favourite dishes that I tried, a fabulous alternative to breaded fish, the tuna remains crisp and is – obviously – nutty. Continue reading
Today has been stressful. Yesterday was worse. Because of stupid but unavoidable things, in isolation fine, together brain stuffing. Delayed planes, trains and automobiles (yes, all three), a broken front door, mysteriously vanished side gate, and lots of other dull stuff. My brain was starting to tense, my heart was pounding and I was being taken away by fury, a red mist.
What a bloody nightmare, eh? What to do? Sort the essentials, ignore the rest, withdraw from the world for a bit, and think of curry.
Chicken curry to be precise, I don’t think you can beat it if it is made right. A nice plump chicken from a happy home, whatever cut you fancy, or the lot. I bought a small bird, brought it home and removed it from the carcass, which I will use soon for stock along with the chicken skin and wings. I removed the leg, thigh and breast, the legs I kept whole, the rest I diced chunkily, and added all of the meat to a creamy turmeric bath. I love fresh turmeric, but dried will do, added to yogurt and chilli, the colour and the possibilities lifted my spirits. I put it in the fridge and let it rest.
After a couple of hours, and I was starting to feel better, I sautéed some finely chopped onion in some coconut oil (any oil will do, I had that). It soothed me to see it gently sink into the oil and release its own tension. I gave it time and cooked it gently, until soft. Then I added ginger, garlic, and more fresh chilli. I toasted some spice, cardamom seeds, cloves and black pepper. I ground them until a powder, and added them to my onion mix.
I don’t like telling you what to do, but on this occasion, I must. It is almost the weekend, and it is very much Autumn, so what I need you to do, is to go out and buy a couple of raw chicken carcasses (most butchers will have them, and failing that 500g chicken wings), some ham bones, if you can get them, or a ham hock. You see with these, and some veg, you can make a sublime broth which will keep you in gorgeous soups for the week, as I have done. I just needed soup and lots of it.
A home made broth is wonderful, far surpassing any commercial pretenders. Even those home made ones you see in shop fridges will not have been made with the love and care that yours can be made with at home. Love and care brings flavour, and health, and joy. I am insisting that you give this a go.
A good home made stock will have clear strong flavours, but it is gentle too, and only ever supports what you add to it, it never dominates. Shop bought stocks, especially the cubes, always do. It is an effort, but making a big batch when you have the time is very rewarding, the bulk of the work lies in waiting for it to be done.
There are many things you can do with this stock. A steaming mug of it on its own brings great pleasure and sustenance. With shredded chicken, leftover or not, some spring onions, some coriander and some chilli, you have a vigorous bright chicken soup, with a ham backbone. It also freezes well. Continue reading
Making Heinz Beck’s Green Tortellini with Fruitti di Mare
So, you have just been out foraging for clams with a 3* chef. You have fallen over on the boat (just a few scratches), and you have a wicker basket full of clams. What do you do next? Head to the kitchen, of course.
Getting a chance to cook with Heinz Beck in his kitchen at Gusto at The Conrad, Algarve was a treat. He is (obviously) talented, but he is also very thoughtful, helpful and open to food writers blundering around his kitchen. We cooked 2 dishes, Bacalhau with Herbs, Pepper sauce and Fennel and Green Tortellini con Frutti di Mare, both flavourful, light and healthy, and just what my body is screeching for at the moment. I am on a bit of a fresh pasta kick – you will have noticed – so I will share the pasta recipe with you now. It seems complex, but it is all achievable, and it is a perfect lunch for friends. Just give it time, perhaps get your friends to pitch in as you do it.
Ps. – passionate pastanistas out there, there are only 2 places left for my full day pasta cooking class on Saturday 18th October. There are still places for the later dates, but they are filling up.
RECIPE: Green Tortellini con Frutti di Mare
adapted from Heinz Beck
Brunch! Boiled Eggs and Tabasco butter soldiers; Feta, Corn & Tabasco Cakes; Tabasco Crab Devilled Eggs; Louisiana Crab Cakes with Poached Eggs & Tabasco Hollandaise
Brunch is my thing. I have brunch everyday when I am at home. I am a sleepy morning creature and my body is not ready for anything except coffee for the first few hours. I have always been like this. My body likes evenings and night time, and while early morning is beautiful and, increasingly, I do wish I was a morning person, it is not when I am at my best.
I am great at brunch though. I love it. My body is awake and hungry and eager to eat. Often eggs. Almost always with some chilli. I love a brunch dish that packs some heat (as you will have seen regularly on my instagram). Eggs never cease to amaze me with the amount you can do with them. Fried, poached, boiled, gooey, oozy, spread on toast soldiers. Eggs are brilliant when you force fat into them, as you do when you make hollandaise or mayonnaise. Eggs also love Tabasco, so when Tabasco asked me to come up some recipes and host a brunch for my friends to showcase them, it had to be an eggy one. Continue reading
I know how annoying it is when I say: please go out of your way to find this impossible ingredient, I promise it is worth it. But it is! In this journey we have taken together over seven and a half years of blogging, we are all now toasting and grinding our own spices, right? And doesn’t it make a big difference? Well, trust me when I tell you that getting your paws on some fresh turmeric makes a huge difference here too. It is also fairly straightforward. I always used to peel it, but the chef that I cooked with in Malaysia (at The Meritus Pelangi Hotel) made a paste with it unpeeled and it made no difference. I now consider myself educated. I was fussing unnecessarily, which is really not how I like to roll.
Fresh turmeric is having a bit of a hipster moment, but some of us (cough) have been using it for a long time. The hipsters are on to a good thing with their turmeric tea though. It is ridiculously good for you. It is a really potent anti inflammatory agent, is brilliant for easing burns (the powder mixed with double cream – thank you Maunika for that tip) and there is lots of research that indicates that it is helpful in cancer treatment. It is very tasty too.
I suspect many people store dried turmeric in their cupboard for ages and then think it is tasteless. Dried turmeric, like all spices, needs to be fresh and stored in an air tight container. Fresh turmeric is very different and is an aromatic delight. A rhizome like ginger, it has some similar properties, but is floral by comparison. A lot of supermarkets stock it in the UK these days. Indian food shops do too. Continue reading
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. Continue reading
Shall we talk again about another much maligned dish? And more than that, a breakfast concept that some love and others think is bonkers. Even though over a billion people eat it! I am talking about Egg Curry and curry for breakfast (or any manner of spiced breakfast at that).
People, you are really missing out if you have not tried both of these things. It is my mission to open your eyes to it. Why is egg in curry even a funny thing? Eggs in curry are rich, light & gorgeous and curry makes the perfect breakfast (curry being a general term for over a thousand diverse dishes).
I often use leftover curry or make a simple curry fresh to poach eggs in (a la huevos rancheros, but Indian style). I love spice for breakfast when I am in Asia, and often at home too. A meaty congee (chicken or pork) pepped with chilli oil, nuts and tofu is a perfect start (would you like a congee recipe too?). One of my favourites was one I had in a small town outside Bangkok on the street. There was a queue of people, so I joined, and shortly after was eating a divine bowl of pork and pumpkin congee with shreds of deep fried tofu. All for less than £1.
You know that food you love? The one that is so everyday, common place, so simple, but so very good. You make it all the time, and eat it joyfully. It rescues you from every grey day, every brain cloud. It is perfect and it knows how to tackle your mood. It totally gets you. But, that amazing dish itself is misunderstood. Often because it is not made right, not faithfully, or with love and care.
Pasta e Fagioli is one of those dishes. Carbs and beans? CARBS AND BEANS?! Why is everyone so harsh about the carbs these days? They are delicious, and soothing, and yes, I do eat too much of them, but how can I not? They are pasta, sourdough bread, udon noodles. All of the most delicious things that soothe my week. I eat well, I don’t eat processed food (except for occasional crisp and haribo based lapses), I feel no guilt. Why should I? Carbs are ok folks. Just relax and enjoy your dinner. Life is hard enough without removing the carbs from it.
If people only knew how good Pasta e Fagioli could be, they would put down their carb warrior shields immediately, grab a spoon and eat it. With gusto! They might even ask for seconds. (They will). The simplicity and gorgeousness of leftover home made egg dough pasta scraps (maltaglati – literally misshapen), rendered tensile and silken by a last minute addition to a luscious fresh borlotti bean, tomato, herb and pancetta broth, that has been brewed slowly and gently, teasing out the umami from the pancetta, the sweet pop of fruit from the tomato and the aroma of herbs finished with gentle chilli heat. Continue reading
Fresh pasta is such a faff, right? You always want to do it but the stuff you get in the shop is just as good, right? I mean, who has that much time?
All of the above assumptions are incorrect. Fresh pasta is really quite straightforward and it is so much better (unless you are spending a lot of money on your dried pasta). It takes time but a lot of that time the dough is just resting and waiting for you. You make the dough – which depends on the pasta type, generally dough in the North is made with 00 pasta flour and eggs, and with water and semolina flour (a coarser grind of durum wheat) in the South – this usually takes 5 – 10 minutes. You let it rest as you have just beaten it about the place and it needs to unwind. Then you roll and shape it. Even hand rolling tagliatelle does not take that long, but some of the smaller shapes are super speedy, with practice. Of course this is a generalisation, but I use it just to give you an idea.
The peculiarly named malloreddus (it originates from the Latin mallolous, meaning small morsel, however, every time I say or read it I see malodour, anyone else?!) originates in Sardinia. It was traditionally shaped on wicker baskets, now more commonly using a grooved piece of class called a ciuliri or a gnocchi ridger. I have a gnocchi ridger so I use that (I bought mine at Sous Chef for just £4), but I have seen people use sushi mats too online. Continue reading
I started out making a peach pie. Shortcrust pastry, homemade with butter, some bourbon, lots of lovely ripe peaches. No, that is not entirely true, I started out working on BBQ recipes, and I was diverted by peaches towards a pie. Then I thought of the BBQ and the peach, and how they should combine.
Those peaches looked so good, so juicy, so ripe. My mind started to wander, no, sprint, to grilled peaches with bourbon caramel. YES, I had to do that. But something was needed in between that succulent peach and rich caramel. Cardamom cream? I love spice and a little cardamom is gorgeous with a peach, and also good with bourbon. I had just bought brioche buns at the bakers, so I was now starting to cement the recipe with the idea of brioche bread crumbs and coarse chopped hazelnuts crisped in butter, just on top. That bourbon could join some sugar in a caramel. And there we have a gorgeous succulent juicy grown up dessert.
I abandoned the pie. Briefly.
Caramel is very easy. You just need to take care and ensure that you don’t burn it or yourself. Disclosure: I burned my first one because I was distracted and I have made many many caramels over the years. It happens, but caramel is so easy, so don’t let it put you off. All you do is bring the sugar gently to caramel, when it is amber, add some cream, and then bourbon and boom – you are done. The cardamom cream is a simple whipped cream with toasted crushed cardamom seeds in it. The crumb speaks for itself.
Ready? This is a perfect summer dessert, even snack? It is mainly fruit anyway, right?!
Enjoy. Continue reading
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.
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. Continue reading
This morning something joyful, simple and full of flavour. I was thinking about corn, how wonderful it is and quick, and remembering how I had had corn in some Mexican restaurants. With a fresh tangy crumbled cheese on top, and of course, a kick.
I am working on a whole slew of BBQ recipes this week, and some sides are warranted, so let us start here. Working with what we have, instead of a Mexican cotija cheese, I use feta. Feta, a Greek cheese, is protected, and can only be called feta if it is the traditional cheese produced in specific areas of Greece from sheep’s milk, or sheep and goat’s. You, of course, know it, and it is widely available in supermarkets. The real stuff is aged for a minimum of 3 months resulting in a salty firm & crumbly cheese with a bit of a tang. Imitators pale by comparison and sometimes taste odd, but there are some fantastic British & Irish sheep’s cheese you can use too. Like Irish Knockalara (from my home county of Waterford).
Corn, well that is simple enough. Buy whole corn that is fresh and still luscious and moist, not dry. Preferably with the green husks still on as they keep it nice and fresh. Good juicy limes and a fresh bouncy chilli. As hot as you like, I went for a fresh jalapeno. Continue reading
It is hot. It is muggy. I know we aren’t supposed to complain, but hey, I have no air con and I work from home. I do love the bright light and long evenings, and firing up the BBQ, though. For the first time in 12 / 13 years in London, I have a little garden (same one as last year, but I am still rejoicing in it).
Summer has been busy, in a good way. I have had work related travel, travel related work, and lots of recipe development to get on with. Project Bacon is nearly there. I had forgotten how traumatic writing a book can be, or I thought that the second would be easier. Right now, I am the bottleneck and I have to finish it and let it go. I have a fabulous team who are waiting for me too, and have other projects that they are juggling.
Project: Bacon means a lot to me. It is a very personal project that will be a limited edition, firstly. So, it is special. There will be a digital one but right now the only hardback versions are available for pre-orders only (I need to get Shopstarter to change the date but you can still order there, if you want to). I love cooking, especially for friends and I want this book to inspire you to do the same. I want it to be different, brilliant and fun and I want it to send you rushing to your kitchens. I aspire for your faces to be joyful when you taste the results, and for you to want to share everything. Bacon is the ultimate seasoning, and while amazing on its own, it really brings some cakes, drinks and sweets to life too. It also contains a whole selection of bacon condiments, which are fun and utter flavour bombs too. Continue reading
I have never been to Brazil 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.
Hello! I’m Niamh (Knee-uv! It’s Irish).
You are very welcome here. Eat Like a Girl has been my place to scribble online since 2007. That’s 14 years of recipes and over 1000 posts to explore.
Eat Like a Girl? It’s simple, we love to eat too. Anything else you’ve heard about women and only eating salad? It’s noise and misogyny.
But, we really love an excellent salad too. Shouldn’t everyone?!
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