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!