Sunday, May 30, 2010

Chilli & Garlic Gambas, Fried Green Beans, Puy Lentil & Sausage Cassoulet

Eating is the one thing that I can do without messing up. Clothes excluded. It's great, even if I decide to eat curry with chopsticks, or cut my steak with a spoon, it really doesn't matter as all I have to do is get the food from A) the plate or bowl or whatever to B) my mouth using C) spoon, fork, fingers. In fact, apart from trying to stuff food in my ears (great days!) I am pretty confident that I can get the food from A) to B) via C) most times.

This is why I enjoy eating. I am really good at it. It's just a shame that you can't be a 'professional eater' as such. Like maybe I could be one of the guys that tastes food for the President. That would be great, but I am not sure if I could hand back a great plate of food to The Pres just because, well just because they are the President.

A food critic could be a type of 'professional eater'. But then you can't just eat, you have to critique, which, to me at least, sounds too much like multi-tasking. And I haven't tried multi-tasking since trying to scratch my nose while holding an ice cream. That, and I also guess to be a food critic you have to be able to write and 'regular reader(s)' would by now have wondered if it is in fact a 5 year old writing the texts on this blog. And I also have a vocabulary that can be jotted down onto a post-it note. This would also limit me to writing such poetic prose of how 'the contrast of flavours and textures was like a ballerina slam dancing on my tongue with her rocker, stoner mates'. No, I don't think I could do that.

But all is not lost, as I can still eat despite these failings and I can still enjoying stuffing way to much food into my gob before proceeding to tell Miss Salty Squid how nice her dress is. I also imagine if you were to write about food you would need to be able to tie things in together at the end. Eh, not a chance! This is just random ramblings!

Also Tapas Friday was in fact Tapas Saturday - special thanks to our friend Sinead for the lovely nibbles and drinks on Friday.

Top and tail the beans. Blanche. Make a batter of flour, sparkly water, paprika, salt, then shallow fry and serve. They look like I sneezed on them. But these are really nice and Irish and in season!

Again, this is not really a technically challenging dish. Get some good fresh prawns. Add some vegetable oil to a wok and heat. Add the prawns. Keep them moving around the pan for a couple of minutes, then add a generous helping of garlic, chili and parsley. Cook for another min or so, give it s squeeze of lemon juice a serve straight away. Good solid, messy finger food.

First, pre-heat your oven to 180. Place the sausages onto a baking try and slip into the oven until done. Remove and let cool. Finely dice a carrot, a stick of celery and an onion. Chop some garlic and sweat the lot in a pan with the lid on. Once soft, add the lentils (about 500g) and stir. Cook for a min the add some vino and reduce. Add some stock, maybe a pint and a half and herbs - bay or thyme or whatever you have. Cook with the lid on stirring now and then for about an hour until the lentils are cooked. Add more stock or hot water if needed. Chop your sausages to whatever size suits and add them to the pan for the last 30mins of cooking. Season and serve.

Shopping List:
Lentils €2.00
Eggs and veg €2.87

Green Beans €3.10
Prawns €8,60

Total €15.57

Tesco Cava, Brut, 11,5%
Rasteau, Domain Grand Nicolet, 14,5%

On the stereo:

Basement Jaxx, Justin Timberlake, Eurovision Song Contest, Oslo 2010

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Egg & Boquerones Canapes, Spicy Avocado And Bean Crostini, Lemon, Roacket And Parmesan Risotto

I always find it hard to start a new entry. I never really know how to. It's easy to kick off with the usual 'another week' or 'my o my how time flies' or 'I can't believe it is another week'. Don't get me wrong, these are totally fine but if you scroll through the entries, I probably re-phrase 'here we go again' over and over. I wish I could do a better start, that's just me. Something less predictable, but not different for the sake of it. Not trying too hard. Just being able to let it flow. But I can never find a way to start the entry. I just can't find a simple, nice way to do it. Which is a shame as simplicity and nice - well, totally blooming gorgeous - are the theme this week. Tuck in!

Dice a shallot, celery and finely slice a clove of garlic and cook until soft, but don't colour, unless you have crayons close at hand. Add the risotto rice - allow about 80g per person but for our tapas I used 80g for us both. Give it a good mix like Dj whatshisface and add some white wine. Ideally you opened the bottle earlier, alone and are giggling now as you have drunk...drank? the bottle and forgot to reserve some for risotto. Nail polish remover does not a substitute make. Just remember that. If you have managed to keep some of that grape nectar, add it nnnnnow! Stir and allow to reduce. Miss Salty Squid has a habit of drilling small holes at the base of our pans and inserting a long, narrow straw like..straw and siphoning off the vino. She thinks I don't notice but I do. Oh I do. Next up add a ladle full of hot stock. I refuse to make any joke about stocks. Keep adding your stock, ladle at a time, stirring constantly and only adding the next when the last has almost been absorbed. This should take almost 20mins using up a litre and a half of stock. If you run out of stock you can use hot water. Just make sure it is hot as cold stock just stops the cooking process and gives a below par risotto. After 15ish mins taste the rice and continue to do so until you no longer feel the need to spit it out onto the floor, but don't overcook it... it's not baby food. Once you are happy with the rice add a couple of hand fulls of chopped rocket, zest of a lemon and a good squeeze of lemon juice. Stir and continue to cook for another minute and season to taste. Empty a dump truck full of butter and as much Parmesan as life throws at you and stir like it matters. Remove from the heat, put the lid on the pan and allow to rest for 2 mins. Serve with some lemon oil and thyme sprigs and some shaved Parmesan to make it look posh. If you are cooking for someone you really like, put some fudgy goats cheese onto a warmed plate and sprinkle with some fresh thyme. The when you add the risotto on top, it will melt the goats cheese into a gooey goodness. A nice surprise. Unlike the nail polish remover.

Just because these next 2 tapas are kinda easy, don't let that fool you into thinking they are any less divine. Simplicity rocks. And on a hot evening, these are perfect.You can use Anchovies here if you have no idea what Boquerones are. I hadn't a clue but pretended to be all knowledgeable when buying, you know, like 'oh wow, i LOVE Boquerones!' Running home to consult my Larousse bible. It wasn't in there.

Make your own mayo, using egg yolks mixed with mustard, vinegar and salt. Slowly add rapeseed oil, whisking all the time until you are tired and regret not just buying some in the shop earlier because it's too hot in hear to be making mayo!!! Give it a squeeze of lemon juice and adjust the seasoning when done. Next up, finely chop some boiled eggies, shallot and Anchovies or Boquerones, parsley and some lemon juice. Mix, taste, season and serve on some fresh crusty bread, toasted if you are that way inclined.

Use only ripe avocados for this. You can tell the ripeness by gently squeezing them. When they are soft, they are ripe. Bring this ripe avocado to your green grocer and hold it in front of his or her face and squeeze it as hard as you can until your fingers go through the skin and the flesh covers your hands. It's best to do this while roaring like a loin or perhaps another monster that does not exist. It really depends on how you feel. This is, sadly, the only way to 'peel' an avocado.

To the avocado we add some roast garlic, coriander, mint, chili and mashed cannellini beans. Mix well and add some olive oil and lime juice. Season to taste and serve with some excellent bread. Simple tapas that is simply amazing.

Shopping List:
Herbs € 2.00
Eggs and veg €8.50

Risotto Rice €3.80

Total €14.30

Cremant De Loire, Brut, 12,5%
Koine, Puglia Aglianico, 13,5%

On the stereo:

Blind Melon, The National (again, new album is amazing), Sun Kill Moon

Friday, May 14, 2010

Pork & Chicken Liver Pate, Caponata, Savoury Muffins

While out walking in the woods one fine day, Pat felt at unease with himself. Birds were singing, squirrels were gathering nuts and a pretty little butterfly was breaking into a ferocious sweat trying to keep up with Pat and his pace. Yet despite all of these beautiful acts of nature, something was amiss. Perhaps it was the blob of custard that he had accidentally put his elbow in while sitting down to dinner with Helga. Ah Helga, how he loved her, sadly she didn’t love him. She liked him and they had know each other for quite some time, but she could never fall for him the way he had fallen for her, literally, he slipped on a sausage the first time making lunch for her. Sadly a hot pan went airborne and resulted in Helga having to take a Sunday drive to the emergency room for some stitches. Helga found it quiet charming in a way, he made her laugh and cry, a lot like a good movie but it was the 4 days in bed with chronic gastroenteritis she could not forgive after he cooked her a valentine meal.

Yep, Pat was not exactly a culinary genius or so he thought. And, as he walked home that afternoon he could feel his one true friend, hunger, calling. At home and wondering what to eat, Pat decided that, while he was thirsty AND hungry he would combine both acts and make a savoury smoothie for himself.

Pat began to gently cook a chopped onion, some garlic and celery in lard until soft, he then added some pork mince, he had just under 500g and felt that this smoothie would help in giving him some energy on such a day. After colouring the mince, he added 170g of chicken livers and continued to cook until the livers were cooked through and gave it a good seasoning with salt, pepper, chilli powder and smoked paprika, before accidentally spilling a glass of red wine on top. Reaching for the blender, Pat transferred the contents of the pan to the blender and blitzed its contents, adding butter, sherry and crème fraiche and some herbs - parsley, thyme and chive, I believe. Giving it another season, Pat was at awe with the consistency, it had turned smooth and thick, perhaps too thick to drink? He mixed in some cranberries he had been soaking in whiskey when suddenly he heard his front door open. Startled, Pat heard his name being called. It was Helga! She had just been released from hospital again, and after some thought, she felt that as Pat was the only male left in the village, she should probably just marry him, but she would do all the cooking. On hearing Helga coming down the hall, Pat panicked, he did not want her to see that he was doing another terrible thing in the kitchen, he poured his ‘smoothie’ into a cake tin he had lined earlier, for no apparent reason, and covered it with more greaseproof before hiding it in the fridge and putting some heavy bowls and plates on top, making it harder to find.

The next day, Helga awoke (well they are engaged now!) and went to the fridge. Thinking that Pat had, yet again, stacked the dishes in the wrong place, she began to unload the fridge. On discovery of the baking dish, she unwrapped the cling film and removed the greaseproof. What Helga found was perhaps the greatest thing Pat had ever made - a rich buttery Pate. Helga melted some butter and poured it over the top and returned it to the fridge to set, once the butter had hardened, Helga made sure to remove the Pate from the fridge at least 30mins before serving it with some cornichons and salad (and a beautiful Sourdough made by Mrs Salty Squid!). Perhaps she would let Pat do the cooking from now on, she thought to herself.

As the other two dishes are a bit on the heavy side and also a bit light on the veggie side, I though I would try to bring balance if not to the world, at least our world on a Friday eve.

This goes beyond easy. All your veg is to be chopped small or diced or whatever you want to call it. First up, chop the aubergine and season with salt. Leave it to stand while you prep the rest of the veg. Cook your onion, celery and garlic over a low heat, now wipe the moisture from the aubergine with a paper towel and add to the pan, followed by the 2 courgettes and the chopped red and yellow peppers. Continue to cook before adding some chopped tomatoes that have been peel and de-seeded if you are bothered, or not, if you are not bothered. Continue to cook slowly until all the veggies are cooked but not mushy. Serve it with some nice bread.

I will hold my hands up and surrender. I have cheated and before I get accused of trying to lie to you all, let me at least have the opportunity to explain myself. You see, the best thing about these Savoury muffs, is that well, they didn’t impact on our 15eur budget. We had all the ingredients already sitting around, from the flour, eggs and milk to the out of date blue cheese in the freezer – where I also found the grapes. The basil we are growing here and the other cheeses were kinda in the fridge. Every time I opened the fridge door, they all looked at me with such hope and excitement that this time I would take them out and cook with them. Eat them for carrots sake that is what they are there for! I thought to myself. Alas, I could not deny them their destiny any more. But I can bet that you can make up these with anything you have lying around the house. There are no rules, so perhaps you have an amazing tapas dish sitting in your kitchen waiting to be made! So go check, after of course, you have read the rest of the entry and left some sort of obscene comment.

You want to get a lot of air into these so borrow you neighbours ladder and sift 275g flour, a tablespoon of baking powder into a bowl. Come down from the roof and return the ladder to your neighbour. Beat one egg and the milk together and gently fold into the flour mix – you should have added a pinch of salt first though, I was supposed to say it after the ‘baking powder into a bowl’ sentence but I forgot and was too lazy to go back and change it.

Now divide the mixture in 2 and add some crumbled blue cheese and frozen grapes to one half of the mix and some grated mature Wexford cheddar, pecorino and basil to the other. Mix and spoon into muffin cases, greased ramekins or whatever you have handy. Cook at 200c for about 20 mins.

Shopping List:

Pork & Chicken Liver €5.20
Cranberries and veg €8.50

Salad €2.00

Total €15.50

Cidre Fermier de Normandie, Brut, 4,5%

On the stereo:
Lali Puna, The National, The Beach OST

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Beetroot Fittata; Mini Hot Dogs, Baked - Baked Beans

Sometimes, life is all about compromise - or in my case, perhaps letting friends down occasionally. One recent occasion comes to mind - Tapas Friday just gone. We were supposed to join a friend at the launch of her exhibition. Sadly, tapas took over and we never made it - it just shows how much we care about our blog, right? It was a shame and with perhaps better time management we should have made it. So in an attempt to buy her love back, the mentioned artist is having an amazing exhibition on in Bernard Shaw on South Richmond Street ( for the next few weeks. You should go AND if you mention Salty Squid you will get a free strange look from the barman. So Denise, we are so sorry, however, our legion of fan(s) will take comfort knowing, that while we could have been looking at art, we were busy making our own form of art, we like to call 'a mess'.

Thank god for leftovers! Like this time, I felt really lucky to be able to recycle some fantastic Toulouse sausages we had left from the week's saucy dinners. So, the concept of mini-hotdogs was quickly created, with an enrichment of home baked sourdough rolls. Yes sir, I can do sourdough, well, at least since I brought a couple of mysterious sachets from my last visit to Germany. 'Sourdough extract' doesn't really sound trustful, even if it's manifesting itself as 'organic' of origin. All you can do is to give it a shot. And earn the fruits of the reward!

Combine 400 g whole wheat flour with 200 g normal flour, make a mould in the middle and pour in half a cup lukewarm milk, including 1 packed of dissolved dried, active yeast. Add a good pinch of salt, 1 Tbs of honey, a packet of 'Sourdough extract', 25 g melted butter and another cup of lukewarm milk. Knead well until you get a smooth ball of dough. Leave it to prove in a warm place for 45 mins. When it has doubled in size, take it out, punch it in the middle and give it another workout. Then leave it to prove for the second time, another 45 mins. Again, it should double its size, and this is when you knead it again, shape into a roll and cut to 3-4 cm pieces, which will be shaped individually into small rolls. Place into a buttered oven tray, brush the rolls with cold milk, and sprinkle half of them with sesame seeds (or poppy seeds if available). Place an additional oven dish with some hot water to create steam,into the preheated oven at 180 degrees. Bake for 30-40 mins, until the crust is dark and golden.

Now it's time for the sausages. Fry them up in a bit of oil ( I used 2 sausages for 6-7 mini-hotdogs). Cut the rolls in half and butter them slightly (feel free to use mayonnaise, or whatever yummy spread you fancy). Then simply place some green leaves, tomato, onion, piece of sausage and a slash of ketchup on top of each other, and cover with the top of the bun. Regarding some moans about the raw onions, coming from Mr Salty Squid, feel free to fry the onions before building those miniature Leaning Towers of ... eehm Ranelagh.

From the moment I saw this recipe in an amazing cookbook called "Falling Cloudberries" by Tessa Kiros, borrowed from a friend, hoping she already forgot about it ;). A truly finger licking journey through a world of family recipes from at least 5 different countries of origin. Beautiful photography goes along with some of the finest recipes. When I came across the recipe for baked butter beans, there was no way back, and a second dish for tapas Friday made it to the menu!

I got some dried butter beans, which I soaked in water overnight. Then all you have to do is place the beans in a saucepan, cover with cold water, bring to boil and cook for 1,5 hours, until beans are soft. Under NO circumstances add any salt to it, as you will end up with some hard-like-stone-like beans if you do. Only towards the end of cooking you can allow yourself to season a little bit.
Meanwhile, chop a good bunch of flat parsley, 2-3 cloves garlic, 2-3 celery stalks and combine with 2 tins of tomatoes. Chop 1-2 onions and fry them in 4 Tbs olive oil, until golden, soft and not burnt. Add the onions plus oil to the tomato mix together with another 4 Tbs olive oil. Season slightly. Drain the beans, reserving the water they were cooked in. Place the beans in a buttered oven dish, add the reserved bean water to the tomato mix and pour it all over the beans, mixing all throughout well. Cover with tinfoil, bake in preheated oven (180 degrees) for 45 mins, then remove the foil and add some water if you feel the beans are getting dry. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs and return to the oven for another 30 mins.

For this beautiful summer frittata, I simply roasted 4-5 beetroots with fresh thyme leaves, garlic, pinch of sea salt and olive oil. When cooled down, peel the roots and slice in thin slices. Wash 2 hand fulls of fresh watercress, drain and de-stalk. Place 3-4 potatoes in sauce pan with cold water, add salt and bring to boil. Cook until soft (but not falling apart!). Take out the potatoes, drain and leave to cool down. Then you can peel them (I personally always prefer to leave the skin on) and cut into slices, as thin as you can get. Fry a finely chopped onion in a pan with hot oil, add 2-3 chopped garlic cloves, let it simmer, but watch the garlic does not to burn. Add the potatoes, beetroot and the watercress, reduce the heat, leaving it simmer together for couple of minutes. Break 6-7 eggs, and beat with some milk and good bit of freshly ground nutmeg. Pour over the veggies in the pan, season with salt & black pepper. Leave it cook for 5 mins without stirring, but carefully shake the pan from time to time. Before the eggs set, place some soft goat cheese ( I used the beautiful Irish Ryefield goat log) on top of everything, leaving it there for another couple of minutes. Instead of turning the pan, place into a preheated oven (200 degrees) and grill for about 5-10 mins. Take out and enjoy this yummy pan of goodness!

Shopping List:
Water cress €3.00
Dried butter beans €2.95

Goat cheese € 2.00
Veggies € 7.00

Total €14.95

Cusumano, Insolia, Sicilia, 2007, 13%

On the stereo:
Postal Service, Angus and Julia Stone