Nollaig na mBan

Last Tuesday – January 6th – was Nollaig na mBan.  For the past six (or maybe seven?) years, I have celebrated the tradition in my home by inviting several of the wonderful woman I am pleased to know into our home for dinner, drinks and chat. This year was no exception. About a dozen women joined me for dinner (my girls scarpered upstairs with plates – feeling at the same time both too old and too young to be in the same room as the rest of us).   I cooked a few dishes. We had red lentils with sweet and sour sauce (I made the sauce first, then rinsed two cups of red lentils, covered them with cold water, brought it to the boil with a teaspoon of salt, turned the heat down low and let them simmer for 40 minutes, then added the sauce).  Then we had  Moroccan ‘chicken’ with green olives and lemons, carrots with orange and chickpeas (which Ishthara made), a spinach salad, idlis, mint sorbet and pears in caramel with blue cheese.   The recipes that haven’t already been posted on this blog are below:

Carrots with Orange and Chickpeas

500g of Carrots

50g of Butter

4 Garlic cloves

2 Teaspoons of cumin seeds

1 Tablespoon of oil

Zest of 1 orange and its juice

400g tin of chickpeas

1 Teaspoon of smoked paprika

Salt and pepper to taste.

Peel and bash or press the garlic.

Peel and slice the carrots into batons.

Drain the chickpeas.

Heat the butter and oil in a frying pan over a medium heat.

Add the cumin seeds and fry, stirring, until they brown slightly and release their fragrance.

Add the carrots and paprika and fry, stirring, for about ten minutes.

Turn the heat to low and add the garlic, orange zest, orange juice and chickpeas.

Cook until the chickpeas are heated through – about five minutes.

Remove from the heat and season with salt and pepper.

Spinach Salad

250g of Fresh spinach leaves

50g of Pine nuts

1 Tablespoon of balsamic vinegar

Splash of Olive Oil

This is so easy, I’m not sure it’s fair to call it a ‘recipe’.

Anyway……if you’re not using washed spinach leaves, then wash the leaves. Otherwise, tip them into a bowl.

Gently brown the pine nuts and add them to the spinach.

Drizzle enough olive oil into the bowl to make all the leaves glisten.

Gently shake the balsamic vinegar over the salad. Toss.

Mint Sorbet

300 mls of water

150 mls of sugar

20 Stalks of fresh mint

Strip the mint leaves from their stalks and rinse them in a sieve.

Bruise the leaves slightly with a pestle.

Put the sugar in a saucepan and pour the water over it.

Bring the sugar water to the boil and add the mint leaves.

Once the sugar has dissolved, remove the saucepan from the heat.

Leave the mint leaves to steep in the sugar-water for an hour or so.

Strain the mixture through a sieve into a plastic container and discard the mint leaves.

Once it has cooled, pop it into the freezer.

Leave overnight.

Remove from the freezer and, when the sorbet has started to thaw slightly, whizz it through your blender (or stab it a few times with your stick blender). This will improve the texture of the sorbet. Re-freeze.

About forty minutes prior to serving, move the sorbet to the fridge in order to ensure that it has thawed enough for you to get a spoon in to it between courses!

Pears in Caramel with Blue Cheese

100 mls of Water

200g of Sugar

300g cream

1 Tablespoon of Butter

1 Teaspoon of Ground Black Pepper

Pinch of Sea Salt

6 Pears

Unlike most of the recipes on this blog, this recipe serves six.

Halve the pears and scoop out the core and pips.

Put them on a baking tray, cut side down.

Heat your oven to 180 degrees and, when it’s hot enough, add your pears.

Leave them in the oven for about an hour, until they are browned and softened, but not squidgy and falling apart.

To make the caramel, heat a pot over a low-medium heat and pile the sugar in the middle of it.

Add the water and mix by gently shaking the pan rather than stirring the mixture (this prevents the sugar from crystallising). When the sugar is dissolved, crank your stove up to medium-high until it bubbles.

Keep shaking the pan slightly while the sugar-water bubbles away for about another five minutes. It will turn pale amber. This is the colour you want – if it gets any darker, it’s burnt and you’ll have to start again, which is a major PITA (pain in the ass).

Remove the saucepan from the heat and pour in the cream.

Continue to move the pan in a circular way to incorporate the cream.

Turn the stove back on low again to thicken the mixture.

Stir in the salt, pepper and butter.

Remove from the heat again and leave to cool.

The mixture will thicken as it cools.

When it’s time to serve, assemble the pears on a serving platter, reheat the sauce and transfer it to a jug.

Serve the pears with the jug of caramel and a plate of blue cheese for people to help themselves.

I’m sorry I have no pictures, but I completely forgot to take any of the food!

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Stone Soup

These days, the anxiety is worse than it has been for a while. Actually, it’s worse than it’s ever been – anxiety is a new one for me; I’ve only been dealing with it for a few months. But I’ll tell you this much – I wouldn’t wish it on my worse enemy. This isn’t a mental health blog, so I won’t go on about it, I’m only mentioning it because sometimes it keep me from leaving the house, answering the phone or engaging with anyone at all. Today is one of those days – the idea of leaving the house is too much for me. I can’t do it. I still, however, have kids to feed and that means I need to rustle something up with what’s in the house when that is, actually, very little.

 

So this is another version of stone soup

 

400g Salad Potatoes

4 Carrots

1 x 400g Tin of Chickpeas

300g Fresh Spinach

Sage

Salt

Pepper

1 Litre of Stock

600mls water

Oil

 

Wash and chop the potatoes.

Peel and chop the carrots.

Peel and chop the onion.

Drain the chickpeas.

Heat the oil in a large saucepan.

Add the onion, potatoes, carrots, salt, pepper and a good handful of the dried sage.

Sauté the lot for about five minutes, until the onion is softened.

Add the stock and about 600mls of water.

Bring to the boil.

Turn the stove down low, cover the pot and let simmer for about 20 minutes.

Add the spinach and stir through for about two minutes – until the leaves are just wilted.

Blend with your stick blender, adding more water if necessary.

Toss in the chickpeas and heat through for about another five minutes

Serve with pasta, bread or rice to make a complete, filling meal.

 

 

Peppers Stuffed with Curried Rice & Veggies

Gosh, it’s been a while since I posted here. Not, obviously, because I haven’t been cooking but I have (to be honest) gotten a little bit lazy with writing the recipes up on the blog.

 

Anyway, the fabulous Anne Marie O’Connor inspired me to get back with it, as she posted a recipe on her blog made from the odds and sods in her kitchen. I was in the middle of looking at the fridge, cupboards and shelves here as well, trying to figure out what I was going to make for us. I had three bell peppers and mushrooms that needed to be used up and was trying to figure out how to tie them into a meal that would be delicious, nutritious and use nothing outside of what I had in the house.

 

So we ended up eating capsicums stuffed with curried rice and vegetables. ‘Twas yum! 🙂

Curried Rice and Vegetable-Stuffed Capsicums

3  Large Bell Peppers

3 Shallots

6 Cloves of Garlic

Knob of Fresh Ginger (about half the length of your thumb)

2 Fresh Red Chillis

250g of Button Mushrooms

200g of Frozen Spinach

1/2 Can of Coconut Milk

2 Tablespoons of butter

2 Tablespoons of Thai Green Curry Paste

3/4 cup of Basmati Rice

Salt and Pepper to taste

 

Very carefully, take the tops off the capsicums and remove the seeds, membranes and stalk from the peppers, keeping the ‘bells’ whole.

Chop the tops of the peppers into small chunks.

Peel and mince the garlic and ginger.

Peel and slice the shallots.

Chop the chillies.

Wipe and quarter the mushrooms.

Using a pot that will accommodate the peppers, but about 1.5 cups of water in the pot and bring it to the boil.

Add the peppers, cut side down.

Cook for about three minutes.

Retain the water and remove the vegetables from the pot (using tongs or salad servers), placing them cut side down on kitchen paper to drain.

Melt half the butter in a saucepan and add the shallots, garlic, and ginger.

Cook over a moderate heat for about five minutes.

Stir in the rice and cook until toasted – about four minutes.

Add the curry paste, the coconut milk, the reserved water from the peppers and the salt and pepper.

Cook for about 20 minutes, until the liquid is absorbed.

Meanwhile, turn the oven on to Gas Mark 4/ 180 Centigrade.

Melt the remaining butter in a pan and add the chopped bell pepper tops, mushrooms, spinach and chillies.

 

Cook, stirring, for about six minutes.

Once the rice is cooked, add the vegetables to the rice and stir to mix.

Fill the peppers with the rice mixture and put them, cut side up, in to a shallow baking dish.

Cover with foil and pop in the oven and bake for 45 minutes.

 

 

The Post With No Recipes (But a Word of Warning)

Just a quick note today to point you in the direction of my friend, Laura’s, website dairyfree.ie. Earlier this week, Laura interviewed me for her blog. You can see what we spoke about here (hint: there’s a clue in the title!).

 

I will be back over the weekend with some more recipes (we put together a lovely frittata the other day).  In the meantime, I’d like to bring your attention to these eggs:

 

Eggs August 2014

 

The egg on the left is from Lidl and the one on the right is from Aldi. They are exactly the same size and weight – but while Aldi market theirs as ‘medium’, Lidl sells theirs as ‘large’. Go figure.

 

At the same time, I’d like to bring your attention to this pizza:

 

Lidl Pizza

 

I bought this pizza in Lidl on July 16th. We rarely buy anything processed, so shop-bought pizza is a huge treat for my girls. The only reason I bought it was because I was going out that night and needed something I could give to the girls in a hurry.  I was disgusted and – to be honest – very upset when I opened the box and this is what I was met with. There wasn’t time to go back to the shop so we ended up raiding the fridge, throwing the ends of a round of cheese, a few spinach leaves and three mushrooms along with a jar of olives we hadn’t realised we had, on top and bunging it in the oven. I was mightily unimpressed at the fact that there was so little topping on this pizza. I certainly won’t be buying another.

 

 

Three Continents Mince

This is one of those recipes that organically happens when you give your imagination (and ingredients) free reign.

 

I’m running an austerity kitchen again this week (too many bills and a birthday assaulted me all at once!) and we essentially had a bag of  Quorn mince for dinner. As regular readers will know, I’m a great fan of the stone soup approach to cooking, so decided to jazz things up a little. The ‘three continents’ in the title refers to the Asian, European and South American influences.

 

Some of the things you'll need

Some of the things you’ll need

1 Tablespoon of rapeseed oil

2 onions

500g Quorn ‘mince’

400g Tin of tomatoes

2.5 Tablespoons of Thai red curry paste

2 Tablespoons of tomato paste

40g of Dark (85% cocoa) Chocolate

Mixed herbs

1/2 cup of robust red wine

Salt & Pepper

1 Cup of frozen peas

 

Peel and chop the onions.

Heat the rapeseed oil over a medium heat.

Add the onions and saute for five minutes, until golden.

Add the Thai curry paste and continue to cook for another three minutes or so.

Add the mince and continue to cook, stirring, for another three minutes or so – until the mince is coated in the paste.

Add the mixed herbs – I threw in enough to fill the hollow of my cupped hand. Then I put in as much again. I don’t believe in a ‘pinch’ of herbs!

Mix the herbs through the mince.

Add the tomatoes.

Rinse out the tomato tin with water and add to the saucepan.

Add the salt and pepper.

Add the tomato puree.

Mix the whole lot together.

Put the lid on the saucepan, lower the heat, and allow the mince to simmer for 20 minutes.

(If you’re having this with rice now – at the end of the 20 minutes – is the time to put it on so everything will be ready together).

Remove the lid from the mince and add the chocolate, wine and frozen peas.

Mix together.

Allow to continue cooking over a low heat, for a further ten minutes.

 

 

 

 

A Week In Dinners

The lovely Sinéad over at Bumbles of Rice invited me to blog our week of dinners and share them via a linky. 

 

I’ll admit I’ve never done this before, so I hope I’m doing it properly….

 

Monday of this week was a bank-holiday and we had what passes for a ‘ready meal’ in this house – a meal that was in the freezer and ready to eat once it had been defrosted! We had broccoli and chickpeas in that versatile sweet and sour sauce I blogged about a few months ago. 

 

On Tuesday, we were in late and I figured it would be as quick to cook a few dishes from scratch as it would be to defrost something else (we don’t have a microwave). So I did courgettes and mozzarella in garlic-lemon oil, potato wedges, mushrooms gently fried in butter with balsamic vinegar and our good old stand-by of Greek Salad.

 

By Wednesday, I was ready for some lentils, so I cooked up a big pot of comfort food and we had it with rice and braised leeks. I attempted to make chapatis, but couldn’t get the dough right because I was trying to make a wheat-free version by mixing various flours I had in the house. The result was not pretty – hence the boiled rice!

 

Thursday saw us re-heating the remainder of the red lentils. The girls scoffed them with crusty bread and I just had them carb-less. I sautéed  some asparagus, which we’d spotted in our local Tesco for less than a euro per 125g (they were short-dated), so we bought four packets. 🙂

 

Friday saw us using up the remainder of the asparagus in a frittata. It was yum! Eaten with wedges (baby roosters are such good value at the moment, there’s no reason not to).

 

On Saturday, Ishthara had friends over, and both my girls requested pasta with a puttanesca sauce. Easy peasy! For pudding, we had berries in syrup with freshly whipped cream (they are growing girls, after all!).

Berries in Syrup

The berries before they were cooked.

(Some of these recipes are already on this blog, but the ones that aren’t I’ll write up in the coming days.)

Bumbles of Rice Dinners Linky Badge

 

 

Almond, Orange & Rose Bake

Initially, I wanted to make a shortbread, but that isn’t how this turned out. I possibly should have used a bigger tin and spread it thinner, but this ended up being one of those recipes that was an experiment that went right.

 

almond orange & Rose Batter

Almond, Orange & Rose Cake

200g of Ground Almonds

150g of Butter

50g Light Brown Sugar

2 Small/Medium Eggs

7 Teaspoons of Rose Water

Zest of One Orange

Preheat the oven to 150 degrees.

Oil a flat ovenproof dish (I used an 8″ square Pyrex dish).

In a mixing bowl, cream together the butter, sugar and eggs until the butter is no longer lumpy. The mixture will be runny.

Add the rose water and mix through.

Stir in the ground almonds and the orange zest.

If you happen to have some food-grade rose petals in the house, add them in now as well. 🙂

Mix.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared dish/tin and press it down slightly with the back of the spoon or a spatula.

Bake for an hour.

Remove the cake and score into about 20 pieces.

Leave the cake in the dish/tin until it has cooled completely.

Serve as is, or with whipped cream, if you have some going spare.