Archive for November, 2008

:: SIMPLE ANTIPASTO SALAD

What is it with caterers who seem to think the only solution to feeding a large amount of people means sticking everything in a deep fat fryer?  Recently I have been to more than 3 events which have resorted to battered chicken nuggets, onion rings, and cocktail sausages!  Now I’m not going to completely condemn them as I did have a quick nibble, as most people do, but I would far rather some simple, fresh finger food with healthy ingredients which don’t rely on a vat of boiling fat to make them look pretty!

This little antipasto salad is my simple solution to any pre dinner nibbles.  Three tasty ingredients combined to make a delicious little starter which can be thrown together in no time at all.  Best of all it looks so damn good your guests will think you went to a whole lot of bother!  To be honest this is more of a sit down affair, but if you did want to transform this dish into proper finger food, simply toast some small slices of bread, spread with a little pesto, wrap a few rocket leaves, wafers of parmesan cheese and crushed olives in some parma ham slices, place on the pesto toast and hold together with a cocktail stick.

Simple Antipasto Salad
This is a great base for any salad so feel free to throw in some lovely extras if you so wish.  Things like toasted pine nuts, garlic croutons, and sun dried tomatoes would all work great in this.  If you buy olives unpitted, simply crush them with the back of a knife and remove the stone with your fingers.

3 large handfuls of rocket leaves. (Arugula)
Half of a 100g jar of green olives (pitted).
1 packet of parma ham slices.
1 Large handful of wafer thin parmesan cheese slices.
3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil.
1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar.
A small pinch of ground black pepper.

The method for this one is so easy-  Simply mix together the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and black pepper in a large mixing bowl.  Add the remaining ingredients and toss gently.  Tumble the salad onto a large serving dish and serve.  Make sure to provide lots of crusty bread to eat alongside and enjoy!

November 30, 2008 at 11:54 pm 16 comments

:: CHUNKY GARLIC BREAD

Rehearsals for the panto are in full swing at the moment so I have been doing a spot of batch cooking to keep up with posts on the blog.  If your hoping to come along to the show, it starts on December 11th and runs right through to the end of January.  But according to inside sources the tickets are going pretty quick, so make sure to get your tickets early!

I have a serious weakness for garlic, and even more severe weakness for this garlic bread!  It’s great to plonk on the table when you have friends over or even as a simple snack.  This recipe can easily be made ahead of time, wrap it up in tin foil and pop it in the freezer until you need it.  It should last for at least a month.

Chunky Garlic Bread
You can use any bread for this really, but try and pick a loaf with a chunky crust.  The bread on the inside will stay nice and soft and you will be left with a crunchy crust.  I love garlic and have used four cloves here, but reduce the amount if don’t want to be warding off vampires for the next week!

1 loaf of wholemeal bread.
5 tablespoons of butter at room temperature. 
4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped.
A large handful of freshly chopped parsley.
A pinch of sea salt.

Preheat the oven to 200oC/390oF/Gas 6.
Slice the bread into slices being careful not to cut the whole way through and set aside.  The slices should all still be joined at the bottom.  Mash the butter, salt, garlic and parsley together on a chopping board with the back of a fork.  When the ingredients are combined scoop up the garlic butter and slather the slices on the inside.  Don’t be afraid to get messy here, if there’s butter on the crust all the better!  Wrap the loaf in tinfoil leaving the tops of the slices exposed.  You can also sprinkle the tops of the slices with a little grated Parmesan cheese at this point.  Place the wrapped loaf in the oven and bake for 10-15 minutes or until golden and crisp on top.
Serve piping hot!  If you can’t get through a whole loaf in one go, freeze the slices individually and pop them in the toaster when you want to reheat them!

November 28, 2008 at 8:29 am 19 comments

:: PERFECT PARSNIPS!

OK it’s official, Christmas has arrived! And it’s only November! I know people give out about the festivities starting earlier each year, but to be honest it doesn’t bother me. I’m not afraid to say it, I LOVE CHRISTMAS AND EVERYTHING THAT GOES WITH IT! Partly because of the presents, partly because of the tree, but mainly because there is no other day in the year that the focus is so intensely on FOOD!

For our traditional Christmas dinner at home we have turkey, ham and a great selection of veggies. That selection usually includes these super parsnips! To be honest these have become a regular addition to meals all year round recently and are no longer just spared for Christmas. There just that good!

Perfect Parsnips
Try to select interesting shaped parsnips, they look great when they’re roasted. I try and cut the parsnips as thin as possible because when they start to roast in the oven you should end up with tasty crispy ends and thick fleshy pieces.

1kg of parsnips.
3 tablespoons of wholemeal flour.
1 tablespoon of ground black pepper.
1 tablespoon of sea salt.
1 generous handful of Parmesan cheese.
2 tablespoons of olive oil.

Preheat the oven to 200oC/390oF/Gas 6.
Peel the parsnips and chop in half and then slice into four. You may need to slice the chunks in half again depending on what size you want them.  Place the parsnips in a pot and cover with cold water.  Bring the pot to the boil and simmer for 4 minutes.  Rinse with a little cold water and drain the chunks in a colander.
Combine the flour, pepper, and salt in a large bowl.  Tumble the parsnips into the bowl and toss to coat. Place in a large roasting tray, sprinkle over the Parmesan cheese and drizzle with olive oil.  Roast in the oven for 25 minutes or until golden brown and crispy.

November 26, 2008 at 10:08 pm 23 comments

:: Good Mood Food Irish Stew

Sofie recently turned 22 and to celebrate her mom and brother came over to visit. Since we are always treated to some tasty traditional Swedish dishes when we visit them, I thought I would try and serve something traditionally Irish for our first meal! One of the few dishes that I know well as being traditionally Irish is this Irish Stew.

We always had it growing up and I’m sure most homes across the country were the same. I used to have a serious problem with the potatoes, insisting they were picked out before I was served- much to my mom’s disgust!

There are many different takes on this recipe with many using lamb instead of beef, but this is the one we grew up with. I actually rang my mom the other day for the recipe, and she got a little bit excited and started adding all sorts of mad vegetables to it to make it more exciting, but at the end of the day Irish stew is Irish stew, so I’ve tried to keep it simple! Just like mammy used to make- without parsnips thank you very much! 😉

Irish Stew
This is a really tasty one pot dinner which is perfect for cold winter evenings. Ask your butcher for stew steak, which is normally available, but you can also use any other cheap cuts of meat. This recipe serves 6 people and you will need a large casserole.

3 tablespoons of wholemeal flour.
3 teaspoons of ground black pepper.
1 ½ pounds of stew steak.
2 tablespoons of sunflower oil.
4 large carrots, chopped roughly.
2 large onions, chopped into half moon pieces.
1 ½ litres of beef stock.
A good pinch of sea salt.
2 bay leaves.
5 large potatoes peeled and sliced into 1cm discs.
A good handful of freshly chopped parsley.

Preheat the oven to 200˚C/390˚F/Gas 6.
Place the stew steak, wholemeal flour, and black pepper in a resealable plastic bag. Seal the bag and give it a good shake so that all the steak pieces have a nice coating of flour and pepper. Heat a large frying pan with a good glug of sunflower oil and brown half the steak pieces. Transfer the steak pieces to the casserole. Repeat with the rest of the meat.
Fry the onions in the meat juices on the pan for 2 minutes, adding an extra drop of oil if necessary. Transfer the onions to the casserole. Add in the carrots, beef stock, sea salt, bay leaves, and stir through. Add the potato slices on top, season with a generous amount of black pepper and cover with the lid. Transfer the casserole to the oven and cook for 1 ½ hours.
Serve straight from the casserole to some large bowls with some tasty wholemeal bread. Sprinkle the parsley on top and enjoy!

November 24, 2008 at 10:28 pm 5 comments

:: Tagged!

Hello!

I had planned all sorts of recipes this week but with rehearsals the plan has basically gone in the bin!  However the lovely Lorraine from Italian Foodies has tagged me and asked me to share 7 things you may not know about me.  So here goes!

  1. I was studying for a degree in Media Arts after school, but dropped out to join a boy band!  I think my parents nearly had a heart attack!
  2. I generally eat a healthy diet, but I have a major weakness for Bacon flavored crisps, and lots of crispy Bacon!
  3. I’m addicted to American TV shows, Dexter, Desperate Housewives, Dirty Sexy Money, Nip/Tuck, Arrested Development, Prison Break, Samantha Who, you name it, I’ve seen it!
  4. I am violently compulsive when it comes to my music collection, I have everything labeled alphabetically, by year, artist, genre, and even mood!
  5. I am obsessed with Asian cuisine, I can read books upon books upon books about it!  One of my biggest dreams is to finally visit and eat my way across the continent!
  6. I’m a huge believer in positive thinking.  In the right head space you do anything!
  7. I read cookbooks in the toilet and I don’t care!!! 

So there you go!  Hope you enjoyed that little insight- no its my turn to tag people:

  1. The lovely Kay and her Kayotic Kitchen! 
  2. Culinary Cory!
  3. Darius T Williams!
  4. Polly Pierce!
  5. Deborah!
  6. Eating Club Vancouver!  
  7. Jo!

Wow I felt a bit like a Quiz show host there!  Have fun!

November 21, 2008 at 4:01 pm 12 comments

:: Mini Beef and Mushroom Pies!

I have mentioned here before that I like to have my finger in all the pies of life, and staying true to that statement I have a really tasty steak and mushroom pie recipe to share here. Not only that but I thought it was time to tell you that, I’ll be playing Peter Pan this year in the Tivoli theatre Panto in Dublin (For international visitors, panto is like a kids Christmas show). Will I have any self respect left after donning a pair of green tights while being suspended in mid air? Time will tell! We had our first day of rehearsals today and last week we all got flying lessons, which was so much fun! Check out this video, I think I still have a bit more practice to go until this looks perfect!

If you’re in Dublin at all over the next two months make sure to come to the show, there’s a really great cast, lots of laughs, and sure the kids will love it! Tickets can be bought here.


On to more pressing issues, I recently bought a huge quantity of stew steak from the butcher, so I have been trying to come up with ways to get through it. This is a really simple recipe, which makes a really tasty winter warmer. The process is fairly easy, for convenience I use ready to roll puff pastry and just place it over the top of the pie dish, but you can easily make your own and add it here. The steak and mushroom mix is really tasty and can even be eaten by itself with rice. So if the thoughts of pastry are all too much for you, don’t count it out just yet!

Steak and Mushroom Pie

These look great served in individual little pie dishes, but if you don’t have any to hand, simply use one large pie dish. You can cook the pie mix ahead of time, freeze and defrost when you want to use it.

2 tablespoons of sunflower oil.
1 ½ lb of stew steak or diced beef.
250g of mushrooms.
500ml of beef stock.
250g of puff pastry.
2 red onions, finely chopped.
4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped.
A generous pinch of sea salt and ground black pepper.
2 egg yolks.

Heat a tablespoon of oil in a large frying pan, and brown the meat on all sides. You may need to fry the meat in batches in order to get a nice colour. Remove from the pan and set aside. Add the rest of the oil to the pan and fry the garlic and onions until soft. Add the beef stock, meat pieces, salt and pepper and combine. Lower the heat, cover and cook over gentle heat for approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes. Make sure to give the mix a stir every now and then to prevent it sticking at the bottom. The aim is to get the meat as tender as possible, so you may need to add a longer cooking time depending on the meat you buy.
10 minutes before the mix is finished add the finely sliced mushrooms and stir through to combine. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.
Preheat the oven to 220˚C/ 430˚F/ Gas 7.
Dust your work surface with a little flour and roll out the pastry to about ½ a centimetre in thickness. Empty the steak and mushroom filling into your chosen pie dish or dishes and drape over the pastry. Leave about 1cm of pastry over the side of the dish and then push the pastry in to the dish so you end up with a nice crust the whole way round. Using a pastry brush, coat the pastry with the egg yolk, this will produce a delicious golden coloured crust.
Place in the oven for approximately 15-20 minutes or until the pastry puffs up and turns a nice golden brown.
Serve straight away with a tasty salad and enjoy!

November 17, 2008 at 8:37 pm 20 comments

:: Chilli Jam

I got this recipe from my auntie Annie who originally used Delia Smith’s. It’s a really tasty little relish which goes great with burgers, fish or in a tasty sandwich. It also makes a super Christmas present- make a big batch and decant to interesting jars, label them and hey presto a cheap a cheerful Christmas gift any foodie would love!

Chilli Jam
The original quantities are doubled here, as I prefer to make a larger batch. In this case you really need to sterilise the jars you use in order for the jam to last longer.
To sterilise the jars and lids wash with boiling water, rinse and dry in an oven for 5-10 minutes on a baking tray at 150˚C/300˚F/Gas 2. Be careful the glass gets quite hot!
This recipe makes approximately 1 litre of jam; I distributed this amongst a variety of jars. You can check what fits by filling them before hand with 1 litre of water from a measuring jug.

3 medium red chillies, deseeded and roughly chopped.
1kg of tomatoes (I used approximately 16 tomatoes).
4 cloves of garlic, crushed.
2 thumb sized pieces of ginger, peeled and roughly chopped.
2 tablespoon of Thai fish sauce (Nam Pla).
450g of Demerara sugar.
1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar.
100ml of red wine vinegar.

Place half the tomatoes into a food processor and blitz until finely chopped. Transfer to a medium pot. Place the rest of the tomatoes, red chillies, garlic, ginger and Thai fish sauce into the food processor and blitz until it becomes a smooth paste. Transfer to the pot and place over a medium heat. Stir through the sugar, balsamic vinegar and red wine vinegar. Bring to the boil stirring regularly, then reduce the heat and keep at a steady simmer for 35 minutes or until the jam has reduced by half its volume. Stir every 5 minutes. When the jam has cooked allow to cool and then transfer to sterilised jars. Cover and place in the fridge. Enjoy with sandwiches, alongside meat or fish dishes, or as a delicious dipping sauce.

November 13, 2008 at 8:35 pm 10 comments

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