Wednesday, April 28, 2010
I am a little bit off the healthy eating track for this blog posting but sometimes sugary, glittery, swirly icing is yer only man. One of my favourite chilled out babies got christened last weekend so I had to make her some extra special fairy cakes. Personally I like my cakes pretty plain or choclately but for a christening some sparkles, swirly icing and rose water was called for. I have a tendency to find some new ingredient, over use them and then get sick of them. However given a sufficient body of time, I usually return to the ingredient with a more measured approach. Such is the case for rose water in my repertoire, which I over indulged with a couple of years ago, but now is returning to favour.
I used my regular fairy cake recipe. But feel free to use whatever works for you. I include ground almonds in mine as it I like the flavour and they keep moist for longer. It was really all about the icing. I found an icing recipe on this lovely Australian blog after much searching for one that inspired.
I adapted it slightly by adding a few drops of pink food colouring paste, a teaspoon extra of rosewater and I also added chopped pistachios to some of the cupcakes. I love the contrasting colours of the pink and green. I also only needed half the amount for 24 cupcakes but I think its because I used a different piping nozzle.
I made little minis for the kids - though I did spy a lot of adults eating them too ;-)
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
This is another one of those dishes that doesn’t really know if its coming or going.... in a good way. By that I mean its got a touch of winter about it with the roasted root veg but the cous cous brings a nice light feeling of spring to it. I am not sure its really a recipe more of a throw-together but I had a busy week last week and I wanted something that was portable but not a sandwich for when I was out and about. It takes a little time in the oven about an hour but there is very little work involved. I doled up the last of it to my impromptu barbeque guests after an afternoon walk and a lot of lounging on Howth Head. They seemed happy enough to munch away on it.
Couscous and feta with herb roasted root vegetables.
For roasted veg
1 packet of vacuum packed beetroot - cut in half or quarters ( can use fresh , mine haven’t grown yet)
3 parsnips peeled - cut into wedges
4 carrots peeled - cut into wedges
2 sweet potato, peeled - cut into wedges / Some new potatoes cut in half
1 red onion peeled- cut into quarters
4 plum tomatoes cut in half
1 whole head of garlic cut in half ( leave skin on and pop them out after cooking)
A few sprigs of rosemary or thyme chopped - I used thyme from my garden
A glug of olive oil
Drizzle of balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper
For cous cous
300g of cous cous
500 ml of stock or water
Zest and juice of a lemon
Good handful of chopped coriander/ parsley/mint ( I had coriander in mine)
Drizzle of olive oil
1/3 - 1/2 packet of feta.
1. Preheat oven to 180C/gas 3
2.Put all the vegetables bar tomatoes into a large roasting tin
3.Pour over the olive oil and balsamic vinegar, chopped herbs and slat and pepper and toss all the vegetables around using your hand to ensure they are all coated
4.Put in the oven for 1/2 hour and then add the tomatoes and cook for a further 1/2 an hour. ( If you notice your garlic has got a little too brown, cover it with a little tinfoil.)
5.Meanwhile prepare the couscous by placing in a medium sized bowl and pouring over the salted water or stock. Leave for about 5-8 minutes for grains to absorb the water and soften.
6.Let the couscous cool down a little then rub in a drizzle of olive oil. Use your fingers to rub the cous cous and get rid of most of the lumps
7.Then place the cous cous in an oven proof dish and place it in the oven with the roasted vegetables for about 15 - 20 minutes. This gives you lovely fluffy cous cous with nicely separated grains. ( You don’t have to do this step but I think it is worth it especially as you have the oven already on.)
8.Take the cous cous out of the oven and stir in the lemon zest, chopped coriander, drizzle of olive oil, lemon juice and more salt and pepper if needed.
9.Place your roasted vegetables on top and sprinkle all over with feta.
*This is lovely served warm or as a cold salad. If you are going to serve it is as a cold salad, try and remember to take it out of the fridge a little bit before serving as it is much nicer when it has come to room temperature.
** You can roast up these vegetables in the same way without the cous cous to go with your sunday roast chicken, whole red chillies deseeded and butternut squash make nice additions.
Friday, April 9, 2010
I don’t think I have being anywhere in the world they don’t eat eggs. They are the perfect whole food coming ready-packaged in their pretty shells. For anyone trying to be more healthy, eggs are a real superfood and also cook quick smart. What more could you ask for?
While I love to experiment with new dishes for lunch and dinner , I do find its easy to become stuck in a breakfast rut. My go-to-while-still-half-asleep breakfast tends to be granola, yoghurt and fruit. But I am aiming to eat eggs 3 times a week. Last week it was boiled eggs and brown toast soldiers/purple sprouting broccoli soldiers.... yum.
However wednesday I decided to inject a bit of spice into my brekkie. One advantage of working from home , is that I can be at my desk at 8.00, albeit still in my pjs. I don’t like to eat that early so I can do some work and then sit down to a leisurely half-hour breakfast at 9.30. I adapted this recipe from an Ottolenghi (if in london make sure to visit) one, I read in the Guardian a while ago. I probably didn’t remember it right but its in and around, I could have probably googled it but I decided to live life dangerously and make it up as I went along ;-). You will need to ramekins for this recipe.
Baked eggs in a bed of spinach with some spicy butter on top.
This serves 2 people
Large bowl of baby spinach
dash of olive oil
1 small garlic clove crushed
Squeeze of lemon juice
3 tablespoons of low fat yoghurt
15 -20g of butter (about a heaped teaspoon) If you were being very virtuous you can substitute some olive oil
1/2 tsp of sweet paprika
1/2 tsp of chilli flakes
Salt (I used maldon smoked sea salt but its not fundamental)
1. Preheat oven to 150c/Gas mark 2
2. Wash your spinach and whizz it in your salad spinner
3. Heat a dash of olive oil in a frying pan or wok, and throw in your spinach with some sea salt and a dash of lemon. Cook for about 3 mins until it has wilted. Using a large wooden spoon, push the spinach to one side of the frying pan to drain out as much water as possible from the spinach ( the leaves can be quite watery sometimes)
4. Divide the spinach between the 2 ramekins. Make an indentation in the centre of the spinach with enough room to pop the egg in.
5.Carefully crack the egg into the little hole you have made for it , repeat with the other ramekin.
6. Bake in the oven for 12-15 minutes depending on how well done you like you eggs
7. Meanwhile add the crushed garlic to the yoghurt with a pinch of salt
8. 2-3 minutes before the eggs will be ready, eat up a small frying pan to a medium heat, add the paprika and chilli - warm for about 10 seconds then add the butter until its just melted.
9.Take eggs out of the oven, spoon over the yoghurt and then drizzle over the spicy melted butter.
** Big ups to Miriam who sliced all the clementines for my St Patricks day brunch (see previous post) with such style and precision - I forgot to give her a mention - muchos apologies!
Thursday, April 1, 2010
Its the time of year when all the fashion magazines talk about transitional wardrobes ..........those clothes that one should be wearing between seasons.......clothes that will see you through the day........ whether a ‘summery’ spring day or a ‘wintery’ spring day. As far as I can gather the mainstay of advice seems to be buy a very expensive burberry trench coat! For the moment with my bank balance, I think I will just have to continue being unstylish ;-)
The weather here in Ireland this week has being transitional to the extreme - t- shirt weather on sunday , snow boot weather by wednesday ?!? So just as the fashion editors think we need transitional wardrobes, much more importantly, I think we need transitional cuisine. Food that takes us from the rib tickling, comfort stews and soups of winter to the lighter summer dishes of BBQs, salads and ice-creams. Those in-between days where you need something to warm you up but which also require a nod to the coming summer and a certain lightness of touch.
My friend Rosie dropped by for dinner yesterday with some delicious sea bass so we had an impromptu cooking lesson. She was ravenous as she had being outside all day in the brass -monkey- weather, cleaning her boat. I had made some spicy tomato, carrot, sweet potato and coconut soup earlier - it was a bit of a dustbin soup as I had some carrots and sweet potatoes to use up. I added some spices and coconut milk, red lentils, tin of tomatoes and some veggie stock and it turned out quite well. I made a crunch topping to sprinkle on top. Simply by crushing up some pistachio nuts, fresh coriander and some desiccated coconut and a couple of tablespoons of water and voila a slightly fancier soup to serve to the guest.
I had some lovely pink rhubarb which I simply chopped and roasted in the oven with some thinly sliced stem ginger, some of the lovely gingery syrup from the jar , the zest and juice of an orange and about a dessertspoon of brown sugar. I love rhubarb compote but roasting is a nice alternative and allows to rhubarb to keep its shape. I made a very basic custard (follow your favourite recipe) , I just added a few saffron strands and a crushed cardamom pod for a touch of the exotic and a hint of summer.
So then for the fish. I am a big fan of doing as little as possible to fish. One of my favourite (and also super healthy) ways of cooking fish is en papillote ( just fish cooked in the oven in a bag made of greaseproof paper) The tightly sealed bag creates a little steam room for the fish to cook - what a nice way to finish out your days - I like to think. You just add a few flavours in with the fish, cook it up and bring your fish parcel directly to the table. Absolutely none of the juices are lost and and you have a complete meal there in the bag. You can vary the flavours according to your mood.
This recipe is loosely adapted from a lovely book by Sally Schneider, an american food writer who I am quite a fan of. Ideally get a 800g fish to share but Irish fishmongers don’t always stock them at this size. The alternative is to get 2 smaller whole fish and you can each have your own individual fish parcel. Go with whatever you prefer. If you are going with the 2 fish just half the following ingredients between the two fish parcels. Fish cooked on the bone has much more flavour, I find. But I do use this method for fillets just as successfully.
Lightly curried ‘steam room’ fish with all the fennels, white wine and leeks
1 fennel bulb - very thinly sliced, keep the fennel fronds ( feathery green leaves) and chop coarsely
1 small leek - white part very thinly sliced
1/2 tsp of fennel seeds
1/2 tsp of a good quality curry powder
2 tsps of butter softened
2 tablespoons of white wine
salt and pepper
1. Preheat oven to 210C/400F/ Gas 6
2. Rinse the fish and pat dry, season the inside and outside of the fish with salt and pepper and then stuff the fish cavity with the fennel fronds. (If you are using 1 large fish - use a sharp knife to cut 2-3 diagonal cuts either side of the fish)
3. Chop the fennel seeds and mix with the curry powder and butter
4. Cut a square(s) of greaseproof paper large enough to make a parcel to enclose the/each fish. Approx. 40 cm by 40 cm - you may need larger squares for larger fish.
5. Rub a little olive oil on one half of the paper, then place half the fennel and half the leeks on the paper, dot with a little of the butter
6. Place the fish on this bed of leeks and fennel. Dot the fish with the remaining butter. Scatter more fennel and leeks on top of the fish.
7. Seal the fish in tightly almost all the way round by making little folded pleats starting at one corner. Continue nearly the whole way round, leaving just a small gap that you will close after adding the wine
8. Place the fish on a baking tray, pour the wine in the little gap and seal completely
9. Bake the 2 x 400g fish for about 18-20 mins, allow to rest for 2 minutes before serving. One large 800g fish will take 25 to 28 minutes and 4 minutes resting time.
I like to serve the fish in its bag at the table either individually or in the centre of the table depending on which size fish you have chosen. Use a scissors to cut open the fish , being careful of the escaping steam. But you can fillet it if you like and serve on plates. I find two spoons are the best tools for doing this.