Sunday 21 December 2014

Cheater’s Steak and Chips with Garlic Broccoli

Ever have one of those moments in the supermarket where you just decide… Hey, I deserve a steak! I’ll be damned if I know what the heck I think I did to deserve it, but it was on special so you can be sure I bought it.

Steak and chips holds a special place close to my heart. Namely my stomach. It’s the kind of thing that just naturally feels like you’re celebrating something. Like the universe has just said “Here you go champ. Have a slab of meat for your troubles”.

And for anyone who grew up with a parent trying their best to instil good eating habits, chips were always a treat.

Why I love broccoli so much… that might take a bit more imagination. But basically it all comes down to a little movie called The Land Before Time. If you’ve seen it, you might already know where I’m going with this. There’s a scene where a small grove of trees, full of leaves, is discovered by our hungry, herbivorous heroes. In moments, they see it descended upon by Long-Necks, who strip it bare before their eyes.

So, I, uhh… Liked to pretend that I was a gigantic Jurassic beast, and the broccoli was a hapless tree. And, I, uhh… Maybe still do from time to time.

Anyway! Put all those things together, (and add garlic, because of course you add garlic) and you get one of my favourite comfort meals. The only problem is, good chips take a bit of effort. As awesome as these fries are, chipping, soaking, drying, blanching, then deep-frying are not always what you’re in the mood for at the end of a long day. Even if you just go for those vaguely disappointing oven chips, they still always seem to take about half an hour to cook.

So I found a better way to do it, for when you just can’t wait to sink your teeth into a plateful of juicy steak and thick chips. And even better, the whole thing is done in just one pan! Minimal effort, minimal clean-up, and tasty as hell. Heck yes.

I can’t wait to get that meat in my mouth!

Thursday 11 December 2014

Brandy and Chilli Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ho-ly butt monkeys. Let me tell you, I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I decided to make my own cookie recipe. Pfft, cookies? They have, what, 4 ingredients? Butter, sugar, flour and egg. How hard could it be to make the perfect cookie? Turns out, there’s like twenty variables. Butter temp, sugar colour, sugar crystal size, flour type, ratio of egg white to yolk, fridge time, oven temp, cooking time… you name it, it makes a freakin’ difference. Now I haven’t double checked my calculations on this one (or done any in the first place), but I’m fairly confident that there ends up being, like, a billion different possible combinations.

So, long story short, I may have just given myself diabetes this weekend.

But ’twas all for a good cause, for now I can present to thee… Fire Cookies! Sink your mind-teeth into these bad boys. They shouldn’t even be legal, because these sugary snacks are packin' heat! Plus, they’re like, totally not fit to drive. Brandy and chilli flakes, mixed with salted chocolate chips and toasty almond flakes. Slightly crispy edges, with a soft, chewy inside. Heck. Yes. Get festive on their asses eat those baked goods UP!

Seriously, the melty chocolate with the hint of chilli makes these the definition of perfection for cold winter evenings. There’s just enough heat in them to leave a tingle in your mouth, which has the magical effect of making you actually feel warmer. Plus the brandy makes them taste of Christmas.

But the best part? You can make them in the same amount of time as it takes to heat up the oven. No laborious creaming of butter, no chilling for hours in the fridge. Just mix, scoop and bake. That’s like, 20 minutes between the point that you realise you could really go for some cookies, and actually stuffing your face with them. Well, 25 minutes. Gotta let them cool first. Which, by the way, is honest to god the hardest part of the whole process…

You can call me Mister Cookie Monster.

Wednesday 3 December 2014

Winter Warmers 3: Seafood, Asparagus and Fried Mushroom Risotto

This is the third in a series of three meals which are perfect for the cold winter months. The first two (Chicken Paprikás and Moules Frites) feed into this one by providing the ultimate stock, so you can try making all three in one week to get the most out of them. You can of course cook this dish with commercial stock, but where’s the fun in that?

You know how you cook rice by sticking the little grains in hot water, so they absorb it and get all fat? Risotto is basically the result of some genius saying “Hey, what if instead of absorbing water, they absorbed something that tastes a little less of absolutely nothing?”.

Today, we salute that genius by cooking rice in something that tastes of absolutely everything. Wine, vegetables, chicken, cream and seafood. Sound good?

Let’s make ‘em proud.

Monday 1 December 2014

Winter Warmers 2: Moules Frites - Creamy Mussels with the Crispiest French Fries

This is the second in a series of three meals which are perfect for the cold winter months. The first two feed into the third (this sexy Seafood Risotto) by providing the ultimate stock, so you can try making all three in one week to get the most out of them. The first recipe, Chicken Paprikás, is here.

This is like Fish ’n’ Chips taken to the nth degree. Shellfish ’n’ Chips! Now, you might associate a meal like this with lazy summer evenings by the seafront, but here’s three reasons why it makes a perfect winter dish.

One! There aren’t many things as enticing on a chilly day as a big, visibly steaming bowl of mussels. Two! Molluscs spend the warmer seasons, ahem… “gettin’ jiggy wit it” (for serious), so they’re all worn out from the exertion. In winter, they get fat and extra delicious. Three! Well… it’s tasty, innit? Comfort grub, like.

Unimpeachable logic. I’m sold!

Saturday 29 November 2014

Winter Warmers 1: Chicken Paprikás with Garlic and Bacon Nokedli

This is the first in a series of three meals which are perfect for the cold winter months. The first two feed into the third (a rather fetching Seafood Risotto) by providing the ultimate stock, so you can try making all three in one week to get the most out of them. The next step is the Moules Frites.

Before my recent trip to Hungary, the only reference point I had for paprikás was from When Harry Met Sally. So I didn’t exactly class myself as an expert on the matter. But it did teach me two important lessons. First, make sure it doesn’t have too much pepper on it. Second, don’t leave Budapest without trying it.

When I sat myself down in an empty basement restaurant hidden up some side street at too-damn-early-to-be-ordering-dinner o’clock, I was presented with a rich, creamy chicken stew served side-by-side with tiny buttered dumplings. This traditional accompaniment, nokedli (also called spätzle), is as much a part of the dish as the paprika, so I’m including them in this recipe. That’s as far as tradition goes around here though, because I’ve messed around with the dish and added some ideas of my own.

If the nokedli sound like more effort than you're willing to put in, rice is a great substitute. One thing’s for sure though, you won’t go Hungary after this meal! Eh? Eh?

Your jokes are bad and you should feel bad!

Saturday 8 November 2014

Shredded Chicken, Mango and Avocado Salad

Did you know that a salad is basically defined as a bunch of raw (or cooked) stuff, cut up and served cold (except when it's served warm)? Seriously. Look it up.

Did you also know that a salad is basically the single easiest meal to prepare? Well it is. If you want the most effortless job at a potluck, volunteer to make a salad. It’s also got the added bonus of carrying really low expectations, so when you actually turn up with a sexy number like this one, even your dad will be proud of you.

That’s all I’ve ever wanted…

Friday 31 October 2014

Pumpkin Gnocchi with Sage and Crispy Garlic Breadcrumbs

Look at me, being all seasonal! I was going to call this Pumpkin Gnocchi with Pumpkin Sauce and Extra Pumpkin, but I thought that might be overdoing it a little. If your only previous experience with pumpkin anything is in latte or lantern form, prepare to have your mind blown. But even if you’re a regular pumpkin eater, this gnocchi recipe is damn awesome. It can be made with pretty much any squash (butternut, gem, kabocha), but seeing as the shops are currently infested with those big orange bastards…

Brown butter, sage and pumpkin is apparently a classic combination. Who knew? But throwing in the crispy breadcrumbs really adds to the flavour, as well as giving a great crunch. Lemon with pumpkin is used a lot in desserts, so squeezing some on at the end lifts the whole…

Shhhhhhhhhhhhhh. Shhh. You had me at gnocchi.

Monday 29 September 2014

The Birthday Cake

The first chocolate cake recipe I ever followed involved simply adding cocoa powder to standard sponge. I was scandalised and thought there must be a mistake, but was assured that this is how it's most commonly done. Years later, when I'd adopted the Tohellwiththat method of cooking, I just added a tonne of melted, high quality chocolate. No-brainer, really. It still rises perfectly, but it's much richer and not nearly as dry.

You don't, as a matter of fact, have to wait for a birthday to make this awesomely chocolatey, cream filled cake. A cake is its own reward. But for general health reasons, restricting intake to once a year might actually be quite advisable. Especially if you plan on eating the entire thing yourself. Which you will. I mean, if it's your birthday and you're making your own cake...

Teach me how to cake! I want to, uh... make it for a friend...

Tuesday 2 September 2014

Sorta Stroganoff Pie

I was so bowled over by the discovery of how easy it is to make shortcrust pastry, that I can’t really stop making pies now. I can finally truly appreciate what The Oatmeal was talking about. This recipe is different enough from the Smoked Salmon and Leek Pie that I felt it deserved an entry.

Any excuse for pie is good enough for me!

Friday 22 August 2014

Irish Brown Bread Breakfast of Kings

Way back in my first post, I promised to divulge the ancient art of making Irish Brown Bread (Soda Bread), and the time has finally come. Brown Bread is the best thing to come out of Ireland since… no, actually, Brown Bread was the original awesome thing. Everything else is “since Brown Bread”.

This is the easiest bread in the world to make, requiring no kneading, no proving, nothing. It barely needs a kitchen. But despite all this, it’s sublime. You can eat it with just butter, or a spoon of jam, but here are two other great ways to enjoy this bread if you’re in the mood for a breakfast a little more… Fancy-Ass.

About damn time!

Monday 4 August 2014

Smoked Salmon and Leek Pie

There’s nothing better on a rainy afternoon than a freshly baked pie. Well, few things better.

A charming Frenchwoman I recently met threw together this pie in record time. I really wish I’d watched her do it, but thankfully its beauty is in its simplicity and I think I made a fair stab at it.

And if you’re thinking that pastry is too hard to do, stop right there. I hadn’t made pastry since secondary school, about a decade ago (yes, I was that kid who took Home Ec.), and I managed to pull it off. So you can too. Ready?

Mai bien sûr.

Saturday 26 July 2014

The Hannibal Special - Stuffed Roast Heart with Devilled Kidneys and Garlic Liver Pâté

I am absolutely in love with the new Hannibal series. I devoured season 1 on DVD, and now I’m hungry for more. One of the reasons I’m so smitten with Hannibal is the delicious set design, particularly the mouthwateringly gourmet meals prepared and served by everyone’s favourite cannibal. By the end of each episode, I was ravenous.

I know that that sounds like the sort of thing that might get one put onto some kind of watch list, but… well all I can say in my defence is that the food styling really is truly exceptional. Watching the first 2 minutes of this video might help you see what I mean (that, or convince you that I should be committed). Inspired by the assorted body parts based banquets Hannibal is renowned for producing for his dinner guests, I decided to try my own hand at such a feast.

Fair warning, this post ain’t short.

It puts the recipe in the basket…

Tuesday 22 July 2014

Goat’s Cheeseburgers with Hot Relish and Caramelised Onion

Cheeseburgers can be an almost religious experience for some, and there are many different creeds and faiths. I’ve tried Blue, Pepper Jack, Mozzarella, Cheddar, Brie… but I have seen the light and now I worship at the alter of Goat’s. I was first served a burger like this out of a humble food trailer at a festival, and the second I saw them slide a whole round of cheese onto the grill, I knew they were on to something. Here’s my take.

(If you're not a fan of meat because of what I can only assume must have been blunt force trauma to the head, try making it with a giant falafel instead of beef. Bada-bing bada-boom, veggie friendly.)

Hallelujah! Show me the way, Brother!

Friday 18 July 2014

Spicy Speedy Beef and Lime Noodles

I probably shouldn’t even be putting this recipe up on Fancy-Ass Food, it’s far too simple. But I’ve been cooking this tasty little number for years and it’s my go to “I can’t be arsed to do anything more complicated” dinner, so I thought I’d share it.

I’ll let you away with it this time.

Tuesday 8 July 2014

Raspberry Duck with Ginger Coconut Sweet Potato and Baked Asparagus

Duck always seemed luxurious to me. It’s got this great rich flavour, it feels a little exotic for some reason, and it’s the most expensive thing on the menu. Although I have no idea why that last part is the case. It’s actually pretty easy to find frozen duck that costs only a little more than decent quality chicken. So forget the restaurant and make your own decadent duck for dinner.

Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about!

Friday 4 July 2014

Three Meat Lasagne with Handmade Pasta and Crème Fraîche

I won’t lie, this started out as an attempt at a 1 hour lasagne. I feel there’s a market for that. And while I considerably missed that target, the end result of 2 hours wasn’t too shabby, considering the pasta had to be made from scratch and rolled out. But using crème fraîche instead of making a béchamel sauce really does save time. I reckon if you used dry lasagne sheets, pre-boiled, you could potentially have this on the table in an hour and a half. But then you’d be reading a different recipe, on a different blog, wouldn’t you? As for me, I’ve a reputation to uphold.

I call it… Fraîche Lasagne. It’s a pun, see? ‘Cause it’s made with fresh pasta sheets. But it’s also made with crème fraîche. See? Do you get it? It’s GENIUS!

I’ve got chills. Really. Now just tell me what to do.

Tuesday 1 July 2014

Vodka and Pear Pork Flambé with Pan-Fried Veggies and Baked Sweet Potato

When I was living in Japan, one thing that was difficult to find in the supermarkets was the great big thick slabs of meat that I was used to sinking my teeth into back in Ireland. These were replaced with wafer thin, incredibly marbled slices. Even the pork was marbled, which, I don’t even… yeah. The quality of the cuts was right up there, but they only lent themselves to certain styles of cooking. The closest thing I could find to a good old fashioned familiar pork chop was less than 1cm thick.

As well as thin cuts at the butcher’s counter, the other thing I had ample access to was alcohol, in the form of a well stocked liquor cabinet which I had inherited along with the apartment. I’m not much of a drinker, so I was always looking for ways to use up the various spirits I had. Not a common problem for an Irishman, I know.

This recipe is a result of those two core elements.

Yeah, real interesting trip down memory lane there. But can we, you know, cook now?

Thursday 26 June 2014

Pulled Lamb and Chickpea Curry and Creamy Chicken and Nectarine Curry served with Bombay Potatoes and Buttery Garlic Naan

Recently, this blog has been accused of not being ridiculous enough. Let’s rectify this, shall we?

If you don’t already have spices knocking around your kitchen, acquiring the ingredients for this dish could end up being quite pricey. I’ve used individual spices, because that’s what I have. But if you don’t have any of them, and don’t think you’ll use them after this dish, a spice blend would work out much cheaper.

That said, even without having to buy spices, the sheer quantity of ingredients required makes it relatively expensive. However, you should note that this “meal for one” is more like a feast. For one. That part’s non-negotiable. All the food you wind up with should last for AT LEAST four meals. And curries get even better over time! To make it more cost effective, you can bulk it up with rice.

Oh, and you’ll notice I just call these dishes “curry”. I’ve never been to India and I sorta made these up as I went along, so I feel entirely unqualified to attempt any sort of classification. But good Gandhi do they taste amazing, and really that's all that matters. They’re quite mild though, so if you like your curries hot, add more chilli peppers.

I came here to make curry and chew bubblegum…

Monday 23 June 2014

The Fantastico World of Homemade Pizza

Follow these simple instructions and you’ll never eat another frozen pizza again.

Pizzas are like sandwiches or résumés, you can put absolutely anything you want on them. I’m not going to stifle your creativity by telling you what should go on your pizza, I’ll just make some suggestions and you can take it from there.

Ah shaddapa you face!

Wednesday 18 June 2014

The Wonderful World of Homemade Ice-Cream

When describing a culinary delight, it’s customary to use an image of the meal after all of its constituent parts have been assembled, not before. I’ve made an exception here, because I really wanted to stress just how doable this is. Making your very own ice-cream may seem like a pipe dream to some, but it’s a very straightforward process. And there’s a hell of a sense of gratification when you’re scooping up an extra large helping of your very own creamy goodness ohmygod cooking is the dirtiest sounding thing ever!

Ahem. Perhaps the best part of all is that you get to completely define the flavours. I used strawberries this time, but once you’ve made the basic mixture, you can put absolutely whatever you want in there before freezing it. Alcohol is a great choice because (outside of the obvious reasons) it lowers the freezing temperature of the mix, resulting in a softer, easier to scoop final product.

Just hook it to my veins!

Sunday 15 June 2014

Slow Braised Oxtail Ragù with Fresh Pappardelle

Oxtail is probably the most over-looked cut of beef. Which is just how I like it, because that keeps the price down. You do need to slow cook it, but the result is an incredibly rich, sticky, tender meat with fat that melts in the mouth like only the best steaks. Drool-inducingly good.

Now, as a heads-up I should say that this meal takes 5-6 hours to prepare. The vast majority of that is just cooking time, with little-to-no input required. But that doesn’t sound very impressive, so let’s put the ridiculous back in this blog and use some of that time to make our own fresh pasta from scratch.

What? You got something better to do? (Spoiler, you don’t. This is one of tastiest things you’ll ever put in your mouth)

I’ll be the judge of that. Recipe me.

Sunday 8 June 2014

Crispy Southern-Style Buttermilk Quail with Roasted Wedges and Zesty Coleslaw

Quail is pretty much just miniature chicken, but with this added mystique that makes it perfect for whenever you want to make a meal instantly fancy. People will be all “Oh my god, quail! So fancy!” As proof of this, I made goddamn fried chicken, but with quail. And somehow it seems fancy.

If quail is expensive where you live (or just plain hard to get your hands on), you can in fact just use chicken drumsticks. They take a little longer to cook though, so keep that in mind.

You can see in the picture that I put the coleslaw right up front. That was to trick you, and myself, into believing that this meal isn’t just a big pile of grease. There are also lemon wedges on the plate. They are a yellow lie, used to balance out all the brown. At no point did I squeeze those.

Less talk, more BIRD MURDER!

Sunday 1 June 2014

Honey and Whiskey Roast Chicken served with Chilli Parsnip Fries and Baby Potatoes Simmered in Bay-Infused Milk

Possibly the trickiest meal to prepare is the Roast Dinner. Accurately cooking through the large bird or joint of meat, juggling the timing of the various side dishes, creating a rich gravy that balances well with the other flavours on the table. Many accomplished housewives spend years and years perfecting the culinary skills and building the experience required to serve up a roast dinner on Sunday.

Or that’s all horseshit, and the best kept secret of my parents’ generation is how just bonkersly simple it is to throw together a roast. It looks fancy as all hell, but it really couldn’t be easier.

Why in god’s name would I make a whole roast chicken just for me?

Because it lasts. You’ll get at least two full dinners (or lunches) out of the meat and vegetables you prepare here, and after that you’ll have a load of cooked chicken to do with as you please. Curries, sandwiches, salads, pastas, high-class pet food, anything. Sound good?

Alright, it’s go time!

Thursday 22 May 2014

Falafel in Pita Bread with Tzatziki

Holy hell these things are awesome! For one, they’re way easier to make than you could have hoped. For two, once you’ve made the mix, they can be stored in the fridge or freezer and kept for whenever you get the craving again. But best of all, they taste like happiness. So much happiness.

Give it to me straight, doc

Ultimate Super Simple Bread Dough

Okay, recently I've been on a bit of a bread buzz. Up until about two months ago, I'd never made anything with yeast in my life. It was always this mystical and slightly scary thing. Baking with yeast involved words like "proving" and "kneading", cryptic techniques presumably passed on from baker to slightly younger baker.

Then I found out that "proving" just means "waiting", and "kneading" just means "beating the sh*t out of". And I've been making bread ever since!

Seriously, this dough is super easy to make and is so versatile, I've been using it for pizza, naan, burger buns, pita bread, fancy herby loaves and everything in between. If ever I say "use some dough", this is the stuff I'm talking about. It keeps in the fridge for about a week, or for much longer if you put it in the freezer. So let's get stuck in.

I was born ready