Friday, 19 June 2015

Roasted Vegetable and Avocado Pita Pizzas

Okay, I’ll admit it. I have a problem. A problem with how ridiculously adorable these little bastards are! Look at them! They’re so cute they should be locked up. Or eaten.

Oh, and I promise this’ll be the last bready recipe for a while. Seriously, tortillas, tacos, burritos and now pitas. I gotta try branch out a little. But I had to share this recipe, ‘cause it’s become my go-to vegetarian dinner. I’m a sucker for anything with avocado, and as far as I’m concerned there’s not a meal out there that couldn’t be improved by the addition of roasted garlic. Spiced crunchy chickpeas and soft chunks of sweet potato are really just the icing on the cake. And if all that sounds like something you can get on board with, then you’ll love these Pita Pizzas.

To save time, you can just buy pita breads from the supermarket. But if you want to go full-homemade, making your own pitas is as simple as throwing together this dough, rolling it into little disks and baking them in the oven for a few minutes. Easy.

Credit where credit’s due, this recipe was ripped off from inspired by Pinch of Yum’s version. Lindsay’s photos are a constant source of deep burning jealousy inspiration, and her recipes are just depressingly amazing so inspiring. I’m not bitter, shut up.

You should be. She’s much better than you in every possible way. Just sayin’…

Friday, 29 May 2015

Mozzarella Mustard Meatball Marinara Madness

Italian-style meatballs are a true comfort food. There’s something undeniably joyful about sitting down to a big plate of spaghetti meatballs, slathered in sauce and cheese. That dangling participle was just for you, grammar nerds. But you know what isn’t just for grammar nerds? These marvellous marinated meaty miracles with a mild mustard makeup.

I know what you’re thinking. “Is there anything more appetising than alliteration?”. How ‘bout rich, flavourful meatballs soaking in a tomato and red wine sauce, covered in a blanket of grilled mozzarella cheese… That do anything for you?

In all seriousness though, I did actually come up with the idea of packing these meatballs with dijon mustard when I was pondering a way to gratuitously shoehorn another word starting with ‘M’ into the title. True story.

Should I really be taking cooking advice from you?

Thursday, 30 April 2015

All Day Breakfast Burrito

You know that saying “necessity is the mother of all invention”? Well, random stuff in the fridge is the mother of all recipes. Or at least is was for this recipe. Throwing stuff together to see what works and what doesn’t is a really fun part of cooking. And by damn is this one of the things that works!

I’ve called this a breakfast burrito because that’s when I first ate it. And also it’s got an egg in it. Which I’m fairly sure is, like, Latin for breakfast, or something. But it’s an All Day Breakfast because you don’t have to wait for the man to tell you when you can and can’t eat something deliciously awesome.

This recipe is pretty much as quick as you want it to be. You can make the tortillas and the hummus completely from scratch, or you can just use pre-made stuff from the shops if you wanna save a bit of time. Hummus is crazy easy to make though, so I’m gonna include the instructions for that. Best part is, you can adjust it to how you like it. Want more lemon? Less garlic? You the boss.

Then it’s time for breakfast á la Boss!

Sunday, 29 March 2015

3 Cheese, Courgette and Rosemary Pasta

The last tendrils of a fading winter are clawing at the door, the world outside my rain streaked window is one of steely greys and bending boughs.

It's still cold as balls out there.

Spring has most certainly not sprung, and I ain't coming out until it does. So with food being the cure for pretty much everything wrong with this latitude, I've been eating a lot of comfort grub lately. That's where this little creamy, cheesy number comes in.

Don't worry, it's got like... an orange... vegetable and a... a green vegetable in there somewhere. So that's like, most of your 5 a day right there! Just make up the other three with cheese. That's how it works, right?

Yes. Yes it is.

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Irish Tacos with Spiced Chicken

With Paddy’s Day coming up I wanted to have a little fun and make a twist on an Irish culinary classic, like… em… uhh… huh. I guess Ireland doesn’t really have much of a culinary legacy. Screw it, let’s just make something with potatoes in it and call it Irish. That work for you?

I kinda made these by accident when I was experimenting with my tortilla dough. Exactly like the discovery of penicillin. Alexander Fleming was trying to make tortillas, right? Only I’ve got a feeling this discovery’s actually gonna change the world. You tried your best Alex, I respect that. But it’s not as though you invented the potato taco.

Yup, you read that right. Potato. Taco.

When I found out that to make genuine hard-shell corn tacos, you need specially treated corn meal, my response rhymed with duck fat. I’m sure I could get Masa Harina from a specialty store, but frankly that’s more trouble than I’m willing to go to. You don’t plan ahead for tacos. They just sorta happen. Like that kid who’s ten years younger than their siblings. We’re all thinkin’ it.

Except no, because I’m thinkin’ ‘bout TACOS!

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

East Meets West: Plum Duck and Sausage Pizza Dumplings

Dumplings. Hot damn do I love me some dumplings. And with it being Chinese New Year up in this joint, I decided to make my own for dinner. What could go wrong?

It was halfway through my 8th pork dumpling dipped in vinegar and soy sauce that I realised serving them as a main course could actually be a violation of the Geneva Convention. There’s no taste variation, they’re waaaay more filling than you remember them, and they pretty quickly become a chore to keep eating. The law of diminishing returns is strong with these. But I still really wanted a way to make dumplings work as a main, because they're too much effort for just a starter or side.

So I mooched around for a day, wondering how I could make them better. More than one flavour would help, but most dumplings still wind up tasting pretty similar to a western palette. Which is when it struck me: Don't confine yourself to just Asian flavourings. So I made one set of dumplings inspired by shredded duck pancakes, and the other... by pizza. East meets west. Italianese!

The second problem I found with dumplings from my first attempt was how repetitive it is to make the damn wrappers (and no, I won't just buy them from the shop! What kind of operation do you think I'm running here?). But I solved that too, as you will see.

You truly are a visionary. The hero we need, but don’t deserve.

Monday, 2 February 2015

Chile Con Veggie and Pale Ale Tortillas

I’ve been trying real hard to think of more vegetarian recipes for this blog. Unfortunately, my thought process usually goes:

Meat -> Things that go with said meat -> Recipe.

So I haven’t been hugely successful in that department. Meat simply makes almost everything more awesome. I’m just holding out for bacon ice-cream… wait, that’s already a thing?! Well then. Game-set-match, I guess. But taking a break from meat for a couple of days a week is probably a good idea. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, and all that. Or grow healthier, either works.

As awesome as Chile con Carne is, there’s so much going on besides the meat that it makes a great candidate for going full veggie. The trick to a great chile is to use way more chillies than you think could possibly be safe. Just remove all the seeds and ribs, and I promise it won’t taste like the surface of the sun. And once you smother it in cheese, sour cream, avocado and lime juice before bundling it into a warm, fluffy, beer infused wrap… yeah, you won’t miss the meat. You’ll be too busy proposing to your veggie burrito.

Now for the elephant in the room. Choice of spelling. I call the pepper a “chilli”, because I’m Irish. And due to a rather long and colourful history, that means I speak English of the Queen’s variety, as opposed to the Ronald McDonald dialect. I call the dish “chile”, because, in case the “con carne” didn’t give it away, it’s Spanish. As in “not English”. So with that cleared up, let’s be on our way.

Less linguistics, more cooking.

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Tangy Chorizo, Parsnip and Orange Tagliatelle

Freakishly fast yet fabulously fancy, this quirky pasta can be thrown together in no time at all, and has a taste like none other. It’s super comforting, slightly sweet, and slightly spicy. But unfortunately, much like the Matrix, no one can be told exactly how Chorizo-Parsnip-Orange-Pasta tastes… You have to eat it for yourself.

If you want to turn up the dial to 11 on the fancy-o-meter, you can try to make your own fresh pasta to go with it, like in this Oxtail and Pappardelle recipe. But the beauty of this dish is in its speed, and dried pasta works just fine.

The extraordinarily perceptive amongst you may have spotted that I’ve used green tagliatelle. It should be noted that green pasta of any kind is neither healthier nor (as you may have been led to believe) more eco-friendly than ordinary pasta. Practically a breach of deceptive labelling laws, if you ask me. The tiny amount of spinach used for colouring is simply for a bit of flair. And don’t the green and orange just go marvellously together? Excuse me for a moment while I salute the Irish flag, as is customary when weeping tears of pure patriotic pride.

Slightly less customary is putting orange juice in your pasta, but that’s exactly what I’ve done here. It’s a real kick in the ass for your tastebuds, which I love. And if that’s not something you love too, boy are you in the wrong corner of the internet. So… ready to have your mind blown?

Heck, I’m up for anything. Let’s give it a shot!

Friday, 16 January 2015

Calamari and Vodka Spaghetti

I’m a pretty big fan of reversing the concept of a liquid lunch. Instead of subbing alcohol for food, turn your alcohol into food. I guess a Bloody Mary is somewhere in between… Come to think of it, this is basically a cooked Bloody Mary, with seafood and pasta thrown in for good measure. You know what they say. If you like it then put a squid ring on it!

…Nobody says that, huh? Well they should.

This is a brilliant dish if you want to make something a little different, but aren’t really committed to spending much time on it. Or if you’ve ever watched SpongeBob SquarePants and thought “Man, I could really go for some squid rings rights about now”. And let’s face it, if you’re watching SpongeBob SquarePants, you’re gonna be feelin' them munchies pretty soon anyway…

The core flavours at work here are the cumin and the garlic, both of which go great with calamari (fancy cooking word for squid). The sauce is a little densely flavoured on its own, and when I first tasted it I wasn’t totally satisfied with the result. But as soon as you add a generous squeeze of lemon, the whole thing comes to life. I honestly just stood there with my eyes closed, chewing and nodding slowly to myself.

So, yeah, don’t forget the lemon. That shit ain’t optional.

Gotcha. Now let’s get cookin’!

Friday, 9 January 2015

Roast Pork Belly with Apple and Blue Cheese

I can’t even express how much more upbeat I become when the days start to make that noticeable shift towards getting longer again. Sunset at 4pm? No friggin’ thank you. I’m a firm supporter of the Human Hibernation Movement. Which, if it isn’t a thing, totally should be. Seriously, what are our politicians doing? Voice of the people my ass. But now that we’re into January, I’m already feeling more warmly disposed to the whole concept of, you know, getting out of bed.

Unfortunately, the weather isn’t similarly inclined. So it’s been cold. Wet and cold. And it will only continue to get colder. Wetter and colder. Hurraaaaay…

But lousy weather does have its upsides. It makes a great excuse to fire up the oven (or as I like to call it, The Ol’ Kitchen Heater).

Enter this brilliant Autumn or Winter recipe. I had a vague idea for this a couple of months ago, but the first draft was really lacking (read: it sucked). Which is unsurprising seeing as I basically dumped sliced potatoes and apples around a lump of pork and hoped for the best. Sorry, did I say basically? I meant literally.

But then the other day I was using up some cheeses that were in the fridge. When I got to a blue cheese, I was a little stumped. The first bite is always fine, but then it just gets difficult to keep going. The flavour is all up in your grill, and I can’t really handle it. Looking for something to soften the overpowering tang, my eyes trailed off towards the fruit bowl. And I was all “Bingo! Apples and blue cheese. That’s a thing, right?”.

Yes, past me. Yes it most certainly is.

Although the recipe is, as always, my own creation, a hat-tip towards Kenji over at The Food Lab is most definitely in order. His breakdown of how to get the world’s best crackling was the basis for how I roasted the pork belly, before adding the twist of surrounding it with apple and potato to keep the flesh from drying. The result is a piece of meat so tender that it would fall apart, if it wasn’t attached to that crisp, crunchy, yet somehow also juicy and chewy, amazing pork crackling.

I think I need a tissue.

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Thai-Style Pork Ball Noodles

Trigger warning: chowing down on this may bring back memories of eating out of polystyrene bowls served by busy street-vendors while tuk-tuks whizz by. If you’ve ever been to Thailand.

My sense of memory is really closely linked to my sense of taste. I’ll get transported by a taste that reminds me of a crab dish served on the Seattle Space Needle, or a fresh piece of sushi from the side streets of Tokyo’s Tsukiji fish market, or a sticky pork dumpling in a Guangzhou dim sum house. And although this particular recipe definitely ain’t the way this dish is made in Thailand, all the flavours are exactly where they should be. And it takes me right back.

It’s not even close to authentic. “Thai-esque” would be a more accurate description. The genuine article is made using stock and involves separate cooking of the ingredients in different pots of boiling water, only combining them as they’re served. But the vendors making it that way are serving hundreds of portions a day, and are using the most efficient way to work on that kind of scale. You’re making it in your kitchen for maybe just yourself. So… not exactly practical to go full metal jacket on this one.

You can of course use stock if you have it made, but what I love about this recipe is that it’s so easy to throw together, and is packed with flavour as it is. It also does a kick-ass job of stocking you up with the tools to fight off those winter sniffles. Garlic, ginger, lime, protein and fresh veggies in broth. Everything the body needs. (Well, not everything the body needs…)

I dunno… Meatballs are a close second!