A pinch of spice

Ever since I can remember, I have loved the taste of salt. On chips (along with a good dousing of vinegar), in butter, and liberally sprinkled on lots of other things too.

While a little bit of everything in moderation is fine, too much salt is not generally regarded as a great idea.  So, instead of using as much salt as I used to, I now try to experiment more with herbs and spices.

A selection of spices

A selection of spices

A good selection of dried herbs and spices are great friends to have in your kitchen. On those days when your cupboards are bare, and you’ve very little to work with ingredient-wise, spices will work miracles — livening up a sad fridge-leftovers omelette, adding some oomph to the tin of chickpeas lurking in the press, making a quick marinade for some freezer meat.

My current favourite is smoked paprika, which has a Tex-Mex type of flavour and is really nice on sweet potato chips. I just have to resist the urge to sprinkle lots of salt on them too!

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Dahl for dinner

Failed recipe-following attempts can be frustrating. Despite following the instructions carefully, you end up with something a million miles from the tasty looking picture you’d set out to recreate, and are left wondering where you went wrong. That was the case in my kitchen yesterday.

A red lentil dahl was on the menu, using this recipe from the Fit Foodie blog. As with all of Derval O’Rourke’s recipes, it was easy to follow and fuss-free. The problem was not with the recipe, but with my execution of it.

I chopped, diced, added, stirred and simmered to my heart’s content. However, the finished product was less creamy, and sadly less tasty looking than I’d expected.

But, there’s always a solution. A drizzle of natural yogurt added moisture, and I chucked on some lemon juice and chilli flakes too in a bid to spruce up my dinner.

Lentils

Lentils

Similar to many people who like to cook (or simply eat!), I’m prone to the odd Instagram wander. I’ve fallen down that rabbit hole many times, scrolling through endless images of delicious looking dishes, set against a backdrop of gleaming, light-filled kitchens.

Last night’s dinner certainly wasn’t one for Instagram. But despite a dubious texture, it was surprisingly tasty. And healthy. And quick. And cheap.

And sometimes, that’s exactly the right recipe.

Get grillin’

BBQ days are long gone, but midweek kebabs brought the taste of summer back for me this week.

I used a recipe from Rachel de Thample’s book Five. It’s a nice book with some good ideas for getting more fruit and veg into your diet.

To start, mix cubes of lamb and aubergine with a simple sauce: garlic, ginger, yogurt, some garam masala and some chilli. Next skewer the aubergine and lamb and grill on a high heat for about 10 minutes, and then turn over and do the other side.

Ready for the grill

Ready for the grill

Rachel de Thample’s recipe suggests serving the lamb and aubergine skewers with a chickpea curry (which looks delicious). However, I had a chickpea curry just the other day, so decided instead to make a cauliflower salad, and have some pitta and yogurt on the side.

For the cauliflower salad, I used this recipe from Calgary Avansino, and added some pomegranate seeds too. Blitzing the cauliflower in the blender takes a little time (my blender required me to do this in batches). But that aside, it’s just a case of a quick chop, and mixing it all together, which can be done while the kebabs are grilling. All in, less than 30 minutes and there’s enough left for lunch too!

Lamb kebabs

Lamb kebabs

 

The best possible fuel

“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.” – Virginia Woolf

In the last few months, I’ve been doing a fair bit of running, and work has been busy, so eating decent food has been important for keeping the show on the road.

One Saturday, attempting a long-ish run after a 14 hour work day the day before, powered by multiple cups of tea and far too many biscuits, I felt awful. Sluggish, heavy-legged and not in the humour to run anywhere but to my couch (for more tea and biscuits).

Usually I eat reasonably well, but am certainly prone to eating too much junk. And generally, the busier I am, the more junk I eat. Which, when  you think about it, is really rather stupid.

So in recent weeks, I’ve been trying to think more logically about food as fuel. Dodgy petrol won’t do much for a car, so why would bad food be of any use to a human?

Running has made me much more aware of this, which is silly as it is not exactly rocket science. Even something simple like getting enough water in the day before a run can make such a difference.

It’s not a question of being virtuous, but more ensuring you eat whatever you need to get you through the day you are facing.

So now, if I’m asking a lot of my body, it seems reasonable that I give it the right food in return. Happy fuelling!

A taste of the weekend during the week

Certain meals always feel like more of a weekend affair, especially those that take a bit of preparation or require you to hunt for unusual ingredients.

A couple of weeks ago I was flicking through TV channels and came across an episode of chef Donal Skehan’s Cook, Eat, Burn and found myself drooling as he made a roast chicken with a twist, using pomegranate molasses. He served it with a lovely side of bulgur wheat and roasted veg.

I added this recipe to my ‘must make’ list, but had two minor hurdles: (1) I had never heard of pomegranate molasses, and had no idea where to get them and (2) I reckoned I’d need a free afternoon to prep this meal.

A quick Google told me that specialty food store Fallon and Byrne stocked pomegranate molasses, and after reading the recipe I realised it wasn’t as involved as I first thought, and, as such, was definitely a viable midweek dinner option – albeit with a bit of organisation required.

This morning before work, I took five minutes to stick the chicken in a bag with pomegranate molasses, garlic, chilli and seasoning, and then stuck it in the fridge for the day. After work, veg was chopped, bulgur wheat boiled and that was about it.  It required a bit of a wait for dinner while the chicken and veg roasted. But it was well worth it!

Roast chicken with bulgur wheat and roasted veg

Roast chicken with bulgur wheat and roasted veg

Lunch on a sunny day

What a day it was in Dublin today. Sun splitting the rocks all day. After working on Saturday, I was off today and it really was a lovely day to not be in the office.

A long run in the early afternoon nearly killed me, given the heat. So I wanted a healthy lunch on my return, but didn’t want something too heavy because it was so warm. I decided to have a go at making fish cakes.  I didn’t follow a recipe but cooked based on what was to hand. Continue reading

Pizza with a twist

When it comes to comfort food, you really can’t beat a gooey, cheesy pizza with lots of toppings and a hint of spice.

I’ve seen lots of recipes recently for a less doughy alternative, using cauliflower and ground almond to make a gluten-free crust. To be honest, I was intrigued…but not convinced. Cauliflower does not scream comfort food, does it?!

After a lazy Sunday that did not involve a trip to the supermarket, my fridge was pretty empty. I was tempted to order a pizza, but then decided to put the rather sad looking cauliflower that was lurking in the fridge to use.

To start, blitz the cauliflower florets in a blender until very fine. Then microwave for 4 minutes or so. Next, add ground almonds (approx 100g for a full head of cauliflower, or reduce accordingly), a beaten egg and some seasoning (salt, pepper and oregano).

You’ll now be wondering how the gloopy mess in front of you is ever going to resemble anything like pizza. But stick with it. Spread the mixture on a baking try and bake for about 20 minutes, until it starts to crisp.

Then knock yourself out with whatever toppings take your fancy and pop it back in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes. The aforementioned empty-ish fridge meant few options. I roasted some tomatoes and then blended them, sieved off some of the excess juice and used the pulp as a tomato base. Next I added some grated cheese, a sliced yellow pepper, some mushrooms, spring onions and chilli flakes.

A twist on pizza

A twist on pizza

Continue reading

The flip side

Cottage cheese is decidedly awkward. Recipes call for a dollop here and there, but invariably I’m left with a half-full tub of the stuff, wondering how to use it up. And let’s face it, it really isn’t the most inspiring of ingredients, thanks to its lumpy texture.

I’ve come across a few recipes for sweetened cottage cheese protein pancakes, but (1) I’m not a fan of protein powders as it all seems a bit artificial and (2) these recipes seemed a bit too breakfasty.

Instead, I decided to try a more ‘lunchable’ sort of pancake creation this week, albeit without a recipe. I had some cottage cheese to use up, so I winged it a bit! The finished result was actually quiet tasty, and the lumpy cottage cheese texture was well hidden.

Pancakes for lunch

Pancakes for lunch

What you need (makes 1 decent-sized pancake):

  • 2 tbsp of cottage cheese
  • 2 tbsp buckwheat flour
  • 1 egg
  • pinch of baking powder
  1. Blitz your ingredients in a blender. I use a very cheap, yet very efficient ‘mini-chopper’ from Aldi for small things like this (when I can’t be bothered taking the full-sized blender and all its paraphernalia out of the press).
  2. Heat a little butter in a medium-sized pan.
  3. Pour in the mixture, and cook on each side for 2 minutes
  4. You can use this as a base for whatever takes your fancy lunch-wise. I opted for sauteed mushrooms and spinach, some parmesan shavings and a little black pepper.

A taste of Japan

Food is a big part of holidays…and holiday memories.

In 2014, my boyfriend and I went to Japan. It was an amazing trip, a real adventure, and it was punctuated by delicious food.

Last week, we decided to revisit some of those holiday memories with a sushi making course. It was a lovely way to spend an evening, and best of all, we left with boxes of the sushi we had made to bring home for dinner.