Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Silky, Sexy Pasta

Not so long ago, I discovered a new and incredibly useful ingredient, Quark. Mum had spotted it in the supermarket and thought it looked like something I would enjoy. I'm not a huge dairy (never cheesy/creamy things) eater so I was more than a little skeptical about trying it out. Quark is a fat free soft cheese (really it's more like a very thick yogurt than cheese) that works as well in savoury dishes as it does in sweet - although a German friend of mine was almost horrified at the thought of using Quark in another other than desserts.

Anyway..I was making pasta arrabbiata one evening for myself and accidentally let a huge amount of chilli fall into the pot. DISASTER! Now, I love chilli and think I can withstand a relatively high level of heat, but I was coughing and spluttering quite a lot with the monster of a dish I'd just created. Then I remembered that sitting in the fridge was the Quark which with it's 'creaminess' may calm the beast of a sauce down.

To my delight, not only did it relieve my scalded taste buds it also tasted delicious! From then on I called the dish "Silky, Sexy Pasta" and is a firm dinner favourite for Isaac and myself. I know that it is totally un-Italian in origin however it is totally delicious and well worth a try if you spot it in your local supermarket!

Friday, January 25, 2013

Polenta with Mushroom Ragù

This recipe I got from the River Cottage Veg everyday cookbook, which has to be one of my favourite veggie cookbooks, everything looks gorgeous and none of the recipes are fussy or complicated. I'd been eying up this recipe for ages but never got around to making it. I've had a packet of gorgeous Italian polenta which my dad brought back from one of his trips and it'd been crying out to be used for too long. Polenta is perfect for this time of year, it's warming, comforting and it's sunny yellow colour brings some brightness on a chilly evening. 

You start off by heating up milk with garlic, onion, pepper corns, bay leaf and thyme. You then turn off the heat and while the milk is infusing, you start preparing the ragù with (even more) garlic, herbs and a mix of fresh and dried mushrooms. Along with the ragù I decided to roast in the oven a large field mushroom for extra depth of flavour and texture. Once your mushrooms are ready you heat back up the milk and in a steady stream pour in the polenta into the liquid and keep on stirring until the polenta is cooked and soft. The polenta I used was 10 min polenta, not instant (as the recipe called for) so I ended up needing more liquid (water from a recently boiled kettle) to get the polenta to the right consistency.

We both loved this recipe and thankfully we had a load of polenta left over which we left to cool into a solid block perfect for making polenta chips or griddled slices.

Monday, January 21, 2013

The BEST Scrambled Eggs

I know what you're probably thinking, "A post about scrambled eggs? They're so easy to make, everyone knows how to make scrambled eggs!"

Yes, they are very easy to make but up until very recently I felt I knew how to make them perfectly. But I was wrong. I had been making them all wrong for years and I guarantee I'm not the only one. 
Well, let me share with you the tricks that will leave you with gorgeous, silky soft and perfectly cooked eggs every time. I don't like to use milk, just a fat (butter, marg, spread etc.) and 2 large eggs per person.

1) Using fresh, large free range eggs will make all the difference for colour and flavour.
2) Low temperature. Perfect scrambled eggs take time, turn down the heat as low as it can go and keep stirring them, this could take 5-10 mins but I promise it will be so worth it.
3) Seasoning. DO NOT use salt (or pepper) until the very very end. If you add salt at the beginning the eggs can clump together and go hard. Not very appetising.

These little tricks will give you perfect scrambled eggs without fail every time.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Chermoula Aubergine

Aubergines are a love/hate kind of vegetable. Some find them a bit too bitter or tasteless or slimey. I however LOVE the humble aubergine, be it griddled, fried, baked whole or roasted. Their flesh absorbs any flavour you put on them and intensifies. I was gifted Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi's book Jerusalem and as soon as I saw this recipe for chermoula spiced baked aubergine with bulgar wheat I knew I had to make it as soon as possible! 

You start off making a chermoula paste. Chermoula originates from North Africa and is a heavily and heavenly scented spiced rub that can go on veggies, fish or meat. Ottolenghi's version has got preserved lemons, cumin, paprika, coriander, chilli, garlic and olive oil. This is then spread over aubergines, cut side up and baked in the oven until lovely and soft.

After the aubergines come out of the oven they are topped with a gorgeous sultana, lemon and herb bulgar, followed by a drizzle cool yogurt. It took a bit of prep and waiting around but it was a very easy meal to put together and tasted delicious! This was a gorgeous dinner that transported us to far away lands of colour and spice on a cold and dreary Dublin evening.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Heavenly Flapjacks

The other day I got an afternoon sweet craving and although we had lots of lovely fruit I needed something better for dunking into tea! I'm not usually a flapjack kinda person, I can't even remember the last time I had one before then but when you get a craving, sometimes it's good to give in!

Although organic oats are very good for you, flapjacks are notoriously unhealthy as they're packed full of butter and sugar. So, as I love a food challenge, I decided to make them dairy and sugar free. They actually turned out amazing. They're quick, easy and very moorish!!

For sweetness and binding I mashed up a slightly overripe banana, before adding sultanas (cranberries, dates or apricots would also be lovely), organic rolled oats, a teeny spoonful bit of sunflower oil, a squirt of agave and a little desiccated coconut. All of this was then tipped into a lined baking tray and put in a medium oven for about 20 mins or until it's turned a nice golden brown.

                             Cut while still hot and enjoy with a big cup of tea totally guilt free!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Terrible Food Blogging

So.. I've been a terrible food blogger, but I promise to improve! Over the weekend Isaac and I were invited to lunch with my family at The Cedar Tree, and I did not take ONE picture of the food! Awful, truly awful food blogging! The food was too good that we all just dug straight in and I never thought to take pictures until the very end when all of our plates were bare.

So here is a collection of empty plate pictures...enjoy!


We'd a wonderful meal of cold mezze including: hummus, baba ganoush, stuffed vine leaves, tabouleh, kibbeh, 2 types of sambousek, a mixed kafta for sharing, maghmour with Lebanese rice and lots of delicious warm flat breads. To finished we had fresh mint tea, Lebanese spiced coffee and a sharing plate of baklava sprinkled with ground pistachio.

I promise my next post will be choc-a-block with pictures of the food and not just empty plates!

Friday, January 4, 2013

Easy peasy effortless dinner

The simple things in life are so often the best. Sometimes you spend hours prepping and organising a meal and in the end it only turns out ok (my Christmas dinner this year), and the meals you pull together quickly, bung in the oven and let few and simple ingredients work their magic, turn out the best!

"You hungry?"
"Yeah a bit, you?"
"Yeah, I'll have a look in the fridge and see what's there…. Ehh.. roasted tomatoes and a bit of pasta sound ok?"
"Grand so!"

In a big roasting tray I put a a load of small tomatoes halved, a large red onion cut into slivers, a bunch of garlic cloves with the papery skins left on, springs of fresh rosemary and thyme, olive oil and seasoning. Leave it in the oven for 40ish mins and 10 mins before serving drizzle over some balsamic vinegar to reduce and sweeten. The cloves of soft sweet garlic mashed on bread has to be the best part of the whole meal!

To go with this I made a very simple arrabiata sauce to dress the last of my lovely Garofalo penne lisce pasta, topped with parsley. This and a bit of griddled Italian bread and you've got the recipe for a fantastic almost effortless dinner!

Yum! x