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Take a look at this – isn’t it pretty? Award-winning image too.

Irish moss, or carrageen moss, is on my list of ‘things to play with in the kitchen’ but I haven’t gotten around to it yet. Mind you, that’s a long list…

It’s also interesting to see all the different names for it in different languages. So far, I like ‘curly gristle moss’ because it sounds like a poisonous plant that might be used by the villain in a Miss Marple novel* and the Galician ‘carrapucho’ for the way it rolls around the mouth when you say it.

*In which case, the cook did it – of course.

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Overheard in a Dingle tourist shop:

Person 1: ‘Did you enjoy lunch?’

Person 2: ‘Yeah – it was great. It didn’t really taste like chicken. But it didn’t really taste like fish either.’

If I were a braver soul, I’d have asked what ‘it’ was. But I’m not. And now the curiosity is killing me!

I joined the Foodie Blogroll the other week but forgot to write about it because I’ve been too busy clicking through the 500-odd blogs on the list!

Anyway, in homage to the Leftover Queen, Jenn, who set up the Foodie Blogroll in the first place, I thought I would make a dish with some kind of ‘left over’ element to it.* So, when my eyes landed on a wine bottle with some of the red stuff still in it (after a night of drinking to forget Ireland’s lacklustre performance at the Rugby World Cup last week), I seized the opportunity and made tomato sauce.

It’s a pared-down version of a recipe from Moosewood Restaurant Low-Fat Favourites, which originally suggested throwing in a lot of ground fennel and dried basil, along with the red wine. That proved to be just too many overpowering flavours** when I first followed this recipe a couple of years ago and I dismissed it as a bad ‘un. But seeing the last of the red wine last week set off a little memory alarm bell somewhere in my brain and I figured that I should have another go. Every recipe deserves a second chance. In fact, does any recipe ever turn out perfectly first time round? I guess that’s why there’s so many food blogs out there. Everyone likes tinkering, tweaking and offering their own spin on how to make things work 🙂

For this particular recipe, I’m much happier with the result second time around. The wine adds a pleasant depth of flavour and was good to have a change from my usual tomato sauce recipe (which is a cracker but it was getting monotonous).

Of course, Ireland is about to play another rugby match tonight and, seeing as it’s such an important game for the tournament, we’ll soon have some more wine leftovers for tomato sauce, whichever way it goes…

Tomato wine sauce, adapted from Moosewood Restaurant Low-Fat Favourites

You’ll need:

2 teaspoons olive oil
1 cup finely chopped onion
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/3 red wine
3 cups undrained canned tomatoes (or 2x 400g tins)

1. Warm the olive oil in a saucepan. Add the onions and garlic, sprinkle with the salt, cover and sauté on a very low heat for 5 to 7 minutes or until the onions begin to soften.

2. Add the oregano and cook for another minute. Pour in the wine and bring to a boil.

3. Whirl the tomatoes in a blender until just puréed and add to the pan. Cover the sauce and simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

4. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Cook’s notes

I made double the batch because there was a wee bit more wine left in the bottle… So now I have some tomato sauce stashed in the freezer for one of those ‘can’t-be-bothered-cooking’ days. Yep, they happen more often than you might think.

The very dark picture at the top of this post shows orecchiette pasta with tomato wine sauce, mozzarella and olives.

* A lot of our weekday meals are recycled leftovers but, you know, it’s a tenuous link to a recipe. Any excuse.

** The original combination of two teaspoons of ground fennel, plus the other herbs and the red wine made it taste kind of medicinal. Food as medicine, sure – but does it have to taste like medicine too?

Well, that’s an amusing result, considering I’ve just moved to Ireland…

You’re Ulysses!

by James Joyce

Most people are convinced that you don’t make any sense, but compared
to what else you could say, what you’re saying now makes tons of sense. What people do
understand about you is your vulgarity, which has convinced people that you are at once
brilliant and repugnant. Meanwhile you are content to wander around aimlessly, taking in
the sights and sounds of the city. What you see is vast, almost limitless, and brings you
additional fame. When no one is looking, you dream of being a Greek folk hero.

Take the Book Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.

I do love a good ramble, that much is true – as I think this blog makes clear. Not sure about that ‘brilliant and repugnant’ bit. But I am going to look up my big book of Greek heroes to see which one I’d like to be.

Time to use up some of that produce I dragged home from the Temple Bar Food Market the other day…

First up is some lovely-looking kale from McNally’s Farm, North Co. Dublin. The lady at the stall suggested that all I needed to do to keep the kale fresh was trim the stalk ends and plonk the lot in a jam jar of water – no need to bother with the fridge.


And she was right. The kale was a bit limp after the trip home but perked up when I gave it the recommended treatment. That’s osmosis at work, folks.

Unusually for me, there was no dithering over what to do with this bunch of kale. It was always destined to become soup.

A couple of weeks ago, we were in Limerick to visit some good friends, M. and S.. S. is also a keen cook, so talk inevitably turned to favourite recipes, new cookbook finds and what we’d both been making recently. Unsurpisingly, I raved about Dorie Greenspan at great length. When I finally stopped to draw breath, S. took the chance to recommend an excellent recipe from The Soup Kitchen, a book we’d both picked up for a song in the bookshop bargain section. No idea why it was going so cheap as it’s a great book, full of interesting recipes – ranging from the simple and comforting to the ridiculously complicated/slightly intimidating… Oh… Maybe that’s it.

Anyhoo, colcannon soup has been on my hitlist ever since that chat with S.. It’s one of the easier recipes from the book – much more my style. But simple doesn’t mean that it isn’t good. And it makes the perfect lunchtime meal to combat the chillier weather that’s creeping in.

Sometimes less messing around leads to better results.

Colcannon soup – recipe donated by Darina Allen to The Soup Kitchen, edited by Annabel Buckingham and Thomasina Miers

(Serves 4 to 6)

For the soup, you’ll need:

55g butter
450g floury potatoes (I used Roosters), peeled and diced
120g onions diced
salt and pepper to taste
1.1 litre chicken or vegetable stock
130ml creamy milk

For the buttered cabbage/kale, you’ll need:

450g Savoy cabbage/kale
40g butter

1. Melt the 55g of butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. When it foams, add the potatoe and onion and toss in the butter until well coated. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and sweat on a gentle heat for 6 to 10 minutes. Add the stock, increase the heat and cook until the vegetables are soft.

2. Meanwhile, make the buttered cabbage/kale. Remove any tough stalks or leave and then cut into fine shreds. Put 2 to 3 tablespoons of water into a wide saucepan with 20g of butter and a pinch of salt. Bring to the boil, add the cabbage/kale and toss constantly over a high heat, then cover for a few minutes. Toss again, add salt and pepper as needed and then stir in the remaining butter.

3. Purée the potato and onion mixture in a food processor/blender and return to a clean pan. Add the cooked cabbage/kale to the soup. Taste and adjust for seasoning. Thin with milk to the required consistency.

Cook’s notes

OK, I did mess with it a little bit. Colcannon is traditionally a creamy mashed potato dish with cooked cabbage mixed in. Kale is sometimes substituted but cabbage seems to be more usual.

And, when I weighed the kale, it turned out I only had about 250g rather than the 450g specified. Oh well, I could always bulk out the greens with some spinach that only had a couple of days left before it started going mushy. But it turned out that I wouldn’t need it. Although the kale cooked down, it was still pretty bulky and filled the soup nicely (see pic above). So I’m not sure what 450g would look like. Maybe it would be more cabbage/kale with a bit of soup at the bottom of the bowl.

There’s a lot of butter in the recipe. I balked at just how much to start with but then shrugged my shoulders and thought,’Try it this way first, then adjust later (and go for a run in the meantime)…’ So if I work out a way of reducing the fat without compromising the buttery flavour, I’ll update this post.

It would be easy to walk straight past the narrow entrance to the Temple Bar Food Market and never know it was there. But the noise echoing up the alley from the square gives it away – the hum of people chatting, laughing, bargaining and generally enjoying themselves in the end-of-summer/early autumn sunshine, along with the tempting aroma of good things cooking… My kind of place.

Part market/part tourist attraction (it is in Temple Bar, after all), the market gets extremely busy, very quickly. By the time I finally remembered to take a couple of pics for this blog, it was a bit tricky as my shoulders were weighed down with a treasure trove of goodies. Since that pretty much doubled my body mass, people kept bumping into me and I inadvertently kept thwacking them with overflowing bags of veggies every time I turned around, camera in hand. At least one person out there has a bruise from unintentional celery-related assault. I can only apologise.

So here’s only a tiny slice of Dennis Healy’s enormous veg stall (note the troublesome celery lurking on the left):

And another pic on the run (Dennis Healy’s stall again) – the last of this year’s tomatoes, along with yellow runner beans and a bumper crop of squash…

Swinging around to to the right, there was a fragrant cheese stall from Cavan, just called ‘The Cheesmaker’ – where I bought some tangy hard goat’s cheese called corleggy (in the lefthand foreground of the pic):

Just beyond the cheese stall, you might be able to make out the Real Olive Company from the English Market in Cork (and someone else taking a photo). They also pitch up at the Dun Laoghaire market on Sundays. For some unknown reason, when I wrote this entry a couple of weeks ago, I thought they were called the Cork Food Company. Oops. That would be why I couldn’t find a link to them online.

Llewelyn’s Orchard Produce, another Dun Laoghaire regular, was there too – still with those delicious Discovery apples but also selling sweet homegrown grapes. Well, they’re already making cider so perhaps an Irish vineyard is the next logical step?

Other interesting stalls included:

  • McNally’s Farm from North Co. Dublin: lots of greens like watercress, mizuna, Chinese greens, kale… along with dairy produce and edible flowers.
  • Piece of Cake Bakery from Belfast: these guys do a mouthwatering foccacia with studded with whole cloves of garlic…
  • La Boulangerie Francaise: more lovely bread – can you detect a theme here? I picked up a delicious olive bread, which we snaffled over the weekend, and a rye loaf, which we’ve stashed in the freezer for later.
  • The Sushi Place: this isn’t the stall’s proper name – it didn’t have one. But it’s two Japanese ladies making up bento boxes and dishing out curried noodles to hungry passers-by.
  • Mero Mero – a Mexican food stall, selling chicken fajitas and veggie burritos, along with a range of salsas. I chomped a fajita for a (late) breakfast and picked up a jar of salsa adoba (medium strength) to pep up the next batch of homemade chilli.

But there were so many other stalls, selling a wide variety of products such as oysters, crepes, smoothies, meat, fish, chocolate, cake, pesto, shots of much-needed espresso… It’s well worth the trip – just bring your crowd-control elbows to deal with all the people.

Last night I couldn’t stop thinking about cookies – more specifically, chocolate chip cookies. Don’t know why but I got all twitchy around 10pm last night and had to make a batch. So, with my favourite baking book in hand, I marched into the kitchen like a woman possessed and this was the result:

Crispy round the edges and a little bit chewy in the middle, with big chocolate chunks melting slightly into the vanilla-scented dough… Just what I was after. (I was going to say, ‘Just what the doctor ordered,’ but I don’t think that cookies are an approved medical treatment. Yet.)

Mr. B waited for the shortest amount of time possible after they came out of the oven before crumbling warm cookies over homemade vanilla icecream (thanks again, David Lebovitz). Oh wow, that was good.

He was supposed to take the rest round to his mum’s house today on the way to work (Mr. B, not Mr Lebovitz) – but the tub is still on the kitchen worktop. I think this means he doesn’t want to share. And, secretly, neither do I…

Chocolate chip cookies from Baking – From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan
Makes about 45 cookies

You’ll need:

2 cups plain flour
1/2 teaspoon of salt
3/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
225g (2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup caster sugar
2/3 cup (packed) light brown sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs
12 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped into chips (about 2 cups)
1 cup finely chopped walnuts or pecans

1. Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/gas mark 5. Line two baking sheets with greaseproof paper

2. Whisk together the flour, salt and baking soda.

3. Working with a stand or hand-held mixer, beat the butter until smooth (about 1 minute). Add the sugars and beat for another 2 minutes or so, until well blended.

4. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating for 1 minute after each egg goes in. Beat in the vanilla too.
5. Using a rubber spatula (or reduce the mixer speed to low), add the dry ingredients in 3 portions, mixing only until each addition is incorporated. Then add the chocolate chips and the nuts.

6. Spoon the dough in slightly rounded tablespoonfuls onto the baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches between each spoonful.

7. Bake the cookies – one sheet at a time – and rotating the sheet at the midway point – for 10 to 12 minutes, or until they are brown around the edges – they may still be a little soft in the middle.

8. Pull the sheet from the oven and allow the cookies to rest for 1 minute, then carefully, using a wide metal spatula, transfer them to a wire rack to cool.

Cook’s notes

Doh, I forgot to add the nuts. That’s what you get for late-night baking.

I used a mixture of plain chocolate and Green & Black’s Mayan Gold – a spicy orange chocolate that added a little fillip to the flavour.

A slightly rounded tablespoon of dough may not look like much on the baking sheet but be warned – these babies spread. I added a bit more dough to the first batch in the oven, convinced that the amount specified would produce teeny cookies. I ended up with several mutant ‘figure-of-8’-shaped ones instead. Still tasted good though 🙂

Dorie notes that the dough stores well in the fridge for 3 days or that you can freeze it. Even in full cookie-craving mode there’s no way we could get through a whole batch. (Forty-five in one sitting? Maybe another day…) So I’ve taken her advice by freezing individual portions on a tray and bagging them when solid, ready for the next time I want cookies late at night.

To say that I’m not a morning person is an understatement. No one in my family is – except perhaps for Mum, who is now hard-wired to rise at about 6am after years of getting up early to cook for ungrateful school kids. But long-suffering family members, previous flatmates and now Mr B. can all attest to my, er, less than ladylike demeanour in the mornings (that’s the polite version).

Of course, it helps to have something you actually want to eat ready and waiting as you stumble bleary-eyed from the comfort of your duvet. But, because of the morning grumps, I’ve always been incredibly bad about eating breakfast – with the inevitable consequence of craving something a little later on, usually when I’m somewhere near a big slice of cake. And so begins the blood sugar rollercoaster…

To try and tackle this, I’ve been looking for a good granola recipe for a while. Sainsburys used to make one I loved but then they messed with perfection and that was the end of that. Besides, I live at least a hundred-odd miles from the nearest Sainsburys these days (perhaps no bad thing), so I headed into the kitchen to create something that would, hopefully, make getting up worthwhile.

What I’ve ended up with is more of a toasted grano-muesli base. Doesn’t sound very exciting does it? But here’s why it works (for me, anyway):

· Many granola recipes call for a lot of honey or sugar, which is going to have the same effect on my blood sugar as that mid-morning slice of cake, whatever my good oat-based intentions. Cutting down on the honey helps combat this but, unfortunately, it means that the granola doesn’t really clump together properly.

· I’m a fickle creature. I very rarely want the same fruit/extra goodies in my cereal from one day to the next. Creating a ‘base’ means I can just add whatever I fancy on any given day (today it was raspberries and yogurt), rather than slowly coming to hate that large jar of, say, coconut and raisin granola that’s lurking on the shelf, casting injured looks in my direction. Yes, granola has feelings too.

So… am I springing out of bed these days, full of excitement about the day ahead? Well, let’s say it’s a slow work in progress but this nutty, lightly-spiced grano-muesli certainly helps!

Toasted grano-muesli adapted from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison

(Makes enough for 1 person for about 1-2 weeks, depending on your morning appetite)

You’ll need:

3 cups of rolled oats
½ cup of chopped almonds (or walnuts or pecans or whatever takes your fancy)
½ cup of sunflower seeds
½ cup of wheatgerm
½ teaspoon of nutmeg, grated
1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt
¼ cup of sunflower oil (or canola)
1/3 cup of honey (or golden syrup or maple syrup)

1. Preheat the oven to 300F/150C/gas mark 3. Toss the dry ingredients together, then add the oil and honey and toss again to coat thoroughly.

2. Spread the mixture on a roasting tin and bake until golden, turning every 10 minutes so that it browns evenly. This should take about 30 minutes.

3. Remove from the oven, allow to cool and then store in an air-tight container.

I love a good crumble, me. It’s the kind of comfort food that evokes autumn/winter evenings, curled up cosily inside the house while the weather gets a bit nippy. Forget the fact that we seem to be going through an Indian summer – it’s September, darn it, it’s supposed to be getting a bit chilly and I want crumble. (Let’s ignore the fact that my last recipe post was about frozen yogurt. I’ve never claim consistency in my food moods.)

Enter the humble greengage, the smaller, greener cousin to the plum.

I’d never cooked with greengages before but when I saw a bag at the farmers’ market last week, I snapped them up straight away, excited by the prospect of more seasonal bounty. But, as the story often goes with new (to me) ingredients, I wasn’t sure exactly what to make once I’d hauled them home. However, leafing through Nigel Slater’s The Kitchen Diaries I found the perfect solution – both in terms of what to do with my greengage haul and how I could satisfy my desire for crumble. I love it when a plan (accidentally) comes together.

There were enough greengages for about half the recipe, so I topped up the rest with plums – which is why the crumble in the pic below looks more reddy-purple than green. But it tasted pretty good, just the same.


Almond, greengage and plum crumble from The Kitchen Diaries by Nigel Slater
(Feeds 4-6)

You’ll need:

1kg of plums, greengages or a mixture
3-4 tablespoons of caster sugar (depending on how sweet your fruit is)

For the almond crumble:
120g plain flour
85g chilled butter, cut into cubes
4 tablespoons of unrefined golden caster sugar
4 tablespoons of ground almonds

1. Preheat the oven to 180C/gas mark4. Rinse and stone the greengages/plums. Toss the fruit with the sugar in a deep baking dish.

2. Whiz the flour and butter in a food processor until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Then add the sugar and almonds.

3. Tip the crumble mixture on top of the fruit and bake until the fruit is bubbling under the crust – about 40 to 45 minutes.

Cook’s notes

Next time I might add a touch of spice – maybe cinnamon (big suprise there) or ginger for a bit of zing.

I didn’t have any ground almonds in the house, so I whizzed some whole ones into rubble. This created a slightly more satisfyingly nubbly crumble than ground almonds, I think.

Some people might see art – I just see the makings of a really big apple pie.

And in other news today… I can understand why, at the time of writing, this would be the most-emailed story from the BBC website, seeing as it’s Friday, it’s boiling hot and there’s alcohol involved.

Hello

I'm short of stature (a family trait) but big of appetite (also a family trait). If you're reading this then you're probably big of appetite too. Or a member of my family (hello Mum).
September 2007
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