Another Great Dinner with Eggs as the Star!(serves 4)

Sometimes I wish I was one of those women I see in the supermarket (sometimes men, but truly not very often) pushing those giant shopping carts overflowing with a week’s worth of groceries. They usually have a big list and a pen and industrially check off whatever it is they tip into the basket as they go. Why can’t I plan ahead like that?

This is not me!

Well I just can’t because it is not me.  And now I know that it is ok and that my spontaneity when it comes to cooking a dish is why it is good. If I did plan a week ahead, would I lose that excitement about cooking? I don’t know for sure, but this particular dish would not have been made if my cupboard was overflowing with ingredients for my set menu plan. And that would be a tragedy because, this delicious feast was born out of happy desperation and was amazing!

DSC_0356

My Lovely spontaneous Dinner

The desperation was that I only had protein in the form of eggs and three thin slices of bacon, and cilantro was my green vegetable (actually the only vegetable, besides garlic, which I view more as a condiment so it is always on hand in my kitchen, much like salt). The only other thing I can safely bet on always having in my pantry is pasta of one kind or another. In this case it was spaghetti.

So, if you only have eggs in your fridge and you have to make dinner, try this, and breathe a sign of relief as you whizz by the supermarket on your way home!

DSC_0355

If you have Parmesan cheese, that is an added bonus!

You will need:

  • Extra-Virgin Olive oil (5-6 tablespoons)
  • 4-6 cloves garlic, finely chopped(as much as you like really. If you adore garlic, use more!)
  • 1 bunch of cilantro OR Italian Flat-Leaf Parsley, chopped (the bundle you get in the supermarket is good but if you have less, use whatever you have on hand)
  • 3-4 slices bacon, cut into pieces (optional). If it is very fatty, trim it a little
  • 8 large eggs
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper flakes (optional, but amazing addition)
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 3/4 lb pasta..so not the entire box (spaghetti works best but penne or any other pasta you have will work)

Method:

boiling spaghetti

Put pasta on to cook first (see Instruction 1. below)

1.Put pasta water on to boil and cook pasta according to instructions while you continue with the rest of the dish (the pasta should be ready right when everything else is done if you time it right. So take into consideration how long the water takes to boil and how long the pasta will take to cook and use that to gauge when you think you will have completed the rest of the dish. This is ready in 20 mins from start to finish if you are efficient)DSC_0353

2. Put big saute pan on stove top on medium heat and let it warm up for a minute. Add 2 tablespoons of the oil and after it warms add the and cook until it begins to get a little crispy. Add the garlic and pepper flakes and swirl everything together. Cook for about a  2 minutes before adding the chopped cilantro. Saute until the cilantro wilts into everything. Turn heat down to low and set aside.

DSC_0354

3. While the pasta is cooking and the rest of the dish is waiting in the big pan, start frying the eggs sunny side up in about 1 tablespoon of olive oil to start (for two eggs) and add more as needed (it should be a generous amount  – look at photo above. My eggs are swimming in lovely oil!)

4. In the meantime, when the pasta is cooked, drain (do not rinse!) and toss directly into the saute pan with the garlic mixture. Toss everything together adding a little more extra-virgin olive oil if you like. Taste at this point for salt and pepper. Divide into bowls and as the eggs are done, place on top of the pasta and serve. If you have fresh Parmesan cheese: Splendid! You may drizzle with more oil or toss some fresh cilantro on top and a sprinkle of finishing salt

DSC_0352

Total Yumminess

 

 

Time To Make & Steam The Christmas Pudding. Nov. 12, 2017🎄

It’s time for you to get your Christmas Pudding made and steamed if you want it to taste luscious on December 25th! This has been a fun little process of building up to the actual making of the pudding (check out this and this and this and this).

chocolate toffee pudding with fresh cream and toffee sauce

Christmas Pudding with rum butter sauce and Fresh Cream

This is what I did yesterday at about 5pm. It is totally easy (even though the list of ingredients and instructions look crazily daunting!) and requires only that you stick around as it steams. I made dinner (and ate dinner) while hanging around the stove last night.

The recipe is below and it has some options. I decided to be a little adventurous and added an element of chocolate to my pudding mixture this year. I have no idea how that will turn out but it’s chocolate: how can I go wrong!

DSC_0383

 I chopped 4oz of a good quality dark chocolate bar in my food processor

I also used a sherry I never tried before ( pedro Ximénez) and as one of my dried fruits, I used blueberries. 

I cannot wait to see how it turns out and I love and hate that I will not know the answer to that question until I bite into my dessert on December 25th! I will be sure to write about it and let you know!

Walnut-Nutella Torte for Christmas Party

Totally tacky and wonderful Reindeer!

 

You will need:

  • 3  cups dried fruit of your choice: I used 1 cup each of dried blueberries, cherries and currants. But you can also use, figs (cut up), prunes (cut up), raisins etc
  • 1/2 cup of liquor such as good quality sweet sherry or golden rum
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • t tbsp unsweetened cocoa (optional)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp All spice or mixed spice or Pumpkin Pie Spice mix
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs (you don’t have to go out and buy breadcrumbs. simple toss a slice of bread in your food processor and blitz into crumbs or great the bread by hand with a cheese grater)
  • 1 medium apple – peeled (grate into mixing bowl when instructed below)
  • zest of an orange (zest the orange straight into the mixing bowl when it’s time to add it)
  • 4 oz dark chocolate (70% cocoa), crumbled in a food processor and chopped into little pieces (Optional)
  • 1/2 cups plus 2 tbsp brown sugar (dark brown sugar is best, but don’t go buying it if you have the lighter version)
  • 10 tbsp (5oz) vegetable shortening (such as Crisco) OR Beef Suet
  • 3 large eggs, beaten in a separate bowl (just beat together with a fork)
  • Vodka (about a 1/2 cup but you only need this on the day you serve the pudding  – it is to flambé to serve)

Method

Soak the fruit in the liquor overnight but for up to a week. cover the bowl and store in a dark cool spot. (look here if you want more detailed instructions on this)

Dried Fruit for Pudding

Enter a caption

  1. Place all the dry ingredients in a large bowl and mix together with a wooden spoon or a hand whisk (flour, baking powder, breadcrumbs, spices, sugar, salt, cocoa powder (if using), chocolate bits (if using)
  2. grate in the apple and zest the orange into the mixture and mix

    DSC_0376

    Add the dry ingredients and then add the wet ingredients

  3. mix in the shortening in little blobs, along with the eggs into the bowl. Stir everything together really well

    DSC_0387

    I asked my daughter to stir the ingredients together just so she was part of this grand event.  And she, like most young people think this pudding is disgusting. Ah…they have a lot to learn about true deliciousness

  4. Butter the inside of your pudding basin/tin and add the pudding.
  5. cover the top of the pudding with some wax paper (I cut a bigger round than the diameter of the top of my pudding tin and made a fold in the middle and it also went up the sides a bit. Put the pudding lid on securely.

    DSC_0396

    Cover pudding with Wax paper before adding lid

  6. Cover the pudding basin with tin foil to seal it completely.
  7. Place a large pot on the stove top  (big enough to hold the pudding basin with about an inch to spare at the top) and put the pudding basin into the pot. Add water until it comes about 1/3 way up the pudding basin( a little higher is fine too) and turn heat to high until the water comes to a boil.
  8. cover pot with a tight-fitting lid and turn heat down until water is at a gentle steady boil.

    DSC_0397

    Cover pudding basin with foil and place in pot, top with pot lid and boil gently for 4 hours

  9. Boil for 4 hours, topping up the water level as needed. You will need to keep checking this and add water at least every hour.
  10. Turn off heat and remove pudding basin from water and when it has cooled completely, unwrap the foil and remove the wax paper. Put the lid back on and store in a cool dark spot until Christmas day.CHRISTMAS+PUDDING

ON CHRISTMAS DAY YOU WILL NEED TO DO THE FOLLOWING (about 5 hours or more before serving):

  1. Re-steam the pudding for three hours – look above for steaming instructions, as a reminder (it is not as stressful as it seems as it needs no real attention).
  2. When it has steamed again, let it cool and then remove it to your serving plate.
  3. Right before serving, pour about a 1/2 cup of vodka into a pot and bring to a low boil. when it is boiling, set it alight and when it is flaming, pour it over your pudding.

It will be lit up and you need to rush it to the table so everyone can see its grand entrance!

 

 

Christmas Dinner Prep Nov. 2, 2017. Time to Soak the Dried Fruit for the Christmas Pudding. Please make this. It is easy and amazing, and…there is still time!

Christmas Pudding has the reputation for being stodgy, heavy and full of unappealing dried fruit, and in general, it is true. When I was growing up I tasted many truly terrible puddings. We would be dragged to relatives houses over Christmas and sure enough a cup of tea with a slice of pudding would be set in front of me. There were the aridly dry ones that would crumble in your mouth and I would need to drink two or more cups of tea to help wash them down. Next most awful were the  puddings that were chock full of candied mixed fruit peel. The luminous artificial dye in the peel would run into the cake part and the taste was tinny and chewy in a very unpleasant way. Horrible pudding memories!

https://i1.wp.com/cookingisfun.ie/sites/default/files/Mini%20Christmas%20pudding.jpg

This lovely pudding was made by Darina Allen, an amazing Irish chef, food writer and founder of the famous Ballymaloe Cookery School in Ireland

I steered clear of making Christmas pudding for years, but, when one year I decided to try my hand at making one, I realized that Christmas pudding didn’t have to be heavy, stodgy and unpleasant. My pudding was rich and intensely flavorful but with a wonderful sticky pudding moisture that was addictive. Yes I am praising my own pudding, but my effort came with lots of help from taking a large portion of my mother’s Christmas spirit and combining it with the things I liked and a hefty dose of advice from various cookbooks and cooking gurus. 

Pedro Ximénez Sherry (sweet sherry is used to soak the dried fruit for your pudding)

My pudding is a little different every year and the main difference is I change the liquor I used to soak the dried fruit and, I change-up the dried fruit I use. I have used conventional fruits like currents and prunes to things like dried blueberries and figs in my pudding. This year I want to try a sherry that Nigella Lawson swears by for her pudding and use dried cherries as one of my fruits. I also think I want to add something from the chocolate family, be it cocoa powder or actual dark chocolate pieces…I haven’t decided yet.

soaking fruit for christmas pudding

I don’t always use sherry to soak my fruit. One year I used rum and it was amazing too (so don’t run out and buy sherry if you have something else that might work in your liquor cabinet that has sweet notes)

Today all I am going to do is get my fruit soaking for a few day (up to a week), in some delicious sweet sherry and make my mind up over the next few days.

If you are going to try your hand at this pudding along with me, you will also need to soak your fruit. For this stage you will need:

  • 1 cup Good Quality Sweet Sherry. If you know nothing about sherry, just get a recommendation from where you buy it. (I am using Nigella Lawson’s recommendation of Pedro Ximenez Sherry. She waxed on about it, so I believe it must be good. It is also used by Darina Allen for her pudding so I don’t think you can go wrong here. It is expensive though…close to $30 for a bottle, so if you plan on buying this, just know that it is great for sipping and can be added to plenty of other desserts).
  • 3 1/2 cups GOOD QUALITY dried fruit (choose 3 or 4 that you like…such as: currants, golden raisins, dried cherries, dried blueberries, figs (chopped), prunes (Chopped).

Method for Soaking Fruit:

Put fruit in a bowl and add the sherry. Stir. Cover and place on a shelf or cupboard somewhere for a few days. Give the mixture a quick stir every day (if you remember).

Dried Fruit for Pudding

This year I am using currants, dried cherries and dried blueberries

IN A FEW DAYS YOU CAN MAKE THE PUDDING!

*And if you are just discovering this recipe or feel in the mood to try this, you will also need a Pudding Basin*

 

 

 

 

Gigot Chop Lamb Stew (serves 6)

I am reposting my most searched recipe as I have updated it with a little more information on this curious cut of flavorful meat, (as well as tweaking the recipe). Hopefully this will prompt you to try it out now that the weather is getting colder and we are craving more luscious comforting food.

Gigot Chop Lamb Stew (serves 6)

Gigot Chop Lamb Stew

The picture of this dish says it all. Just looking at it makes me want to run to the butcher shop for some luscious Irish lamb chops! I may be bias, but at this moment I have to announce that there is absolutely no better lamb in the world.

The Most Beautiful Train Trip Ever

Fields and fields of sheep with their lambs. They can be seen everywhere munching down on the famous green grass in Ireland. (Woolly sheep happily grazing in County Wexford)

I grew up eating the best lamb stew in the world and only realized that fact when I moved away and could not find lamb that equalled it anywhere.

The cut of lamb that I prefer for lamb stew is the gigot chop, and if you can find them, you are on your way to making something fabulous.

What is a Gigot Chop?: It is a cut from the leg of an animal (I usually think of lamb but gigot pork is also a common cut). This chop has a small bone in the center helping provide a wonderful sweet flavor to a dish like a stew or any type of slow braise.

Lamb Gigot Chops

If you cannot find gigot chops, a good alternative is a cut from the shoulder.

Gigot Chop or lamb shoulder chop stew

Yum

_______________________________________

You will need:

3 tbsp extra-virgin or regular olive oil

4 to 6 lamb Gigot chops (if they are large, use 4. If you cannot find gigot chops, use a cut from the shoulder)

coarse sea-salt or kosher salt to season chops (about 2 tsp)

Several grinds of black pepper (optional)

10 small onions, halved

4 medium carrots, cut into thick diagonal slices

4 medium potatoes, washed & quartered

2 parsnips, peeled & thickly sliced

3 or 4 small/medium potatoes, cut into 4 wedges each (I used golden or yellow potatoes as they have a nice creamy sweetness and hold up well to long cooking)

3 sprigs fresh rosemary

2 tbsp all-purpose flour

2 tsp coarse sea-salt (I use Maldon sea-salt flakes)

several grinds black pepper (optional)

1 cup white wine

4 cups veggie or chicken broth (or 1 good quality bouillon cube & water)

Method:

Preheat oven 450*

1 – Season the chops with salt (and freshly ground pepper if you like), and sear in large saute pan on high heat in olive oil. Make sure to cook in one layer at a time, adding olive oil as you need it. Transfer to plate as you go and set aside.

Gigot Chop Lamb Stew (serves 6)

sear chops

2 – Turn heat down to medium and add the onions and rosemary and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Gigot Chop Lamb Stew (serves 6)

saute onions and rosemary

3 – Add carrots and parsnips and continue to saute for another 5 or so minutes, letting them take on a little brown color. Add the flour and stir into veggies. Cook for about 1 minute, stirring constantly.

Gigot Chop Lamb Stew (serves 6)

add carrots and parsnips

4 – Add the wine and stir to a thick paste. Next, add the broth (or water & bouillon). Turn heat up to high and stir everything together. Let the liquid come to a boil. When it bubbles, turn heat off. Taste the broth and add salt and pepper if it needs it (until you are satisfied)

Gigot Chop Lamb Stew (serves 6)

add liquids, next meat and top with layer of quartered potatoes

5 – Add the chops back to the pot in an even layer (meat will overlap slightly and that’s fine). Next scatter the quartered potatoes on top of the lamb. Cover with a lid.

Gigot Chop Lamb Stew (serves 6)

top with potatoes and cook in hot oven

6 – Place in preheated oven and cook undisturbed for 1 1/4 hours. Remove from oven and leave to cool down and settle for 10 minutes.

Gigot Chop Lamb Stew (serves 6)

serve

Divide chops between six plates or shallow bowls and top with lots of vegetables and broth. You can also serve with other things such as rice, pasta noodles, bread, cooked greens or leafy side salad.

My Easy Dinner: Pizza with a Fried Egg…Seems so Obvious Now

I know its hard to make dinner after a long day, but… if you don’t make it a monumental task, it can be done! I am one of those people who really likes a little activity in the kitchen in the evening. I have to smell something cooking to feel that “Ah, I’m Home” feeling. Last night this is the quickie dinner I came up with. Why didn’t I think about doing this a long time ago.

Pizza Fried Egg

I had the amazing luck to live in Tuscany, Italy a few years ago and obviously fell in love with the food. I finally tasted authentic Italian pizza and one that stood out to me was a pizza topped off with a fried egg. Eggs are poached and fried and featured as a sort of garnish in all sorts of not-so-obvious dishes…in ramen noodle soups, salads, Mexican dishes, middle eastern dishes…the list is endless. So why not Pizza!

Pizza in Rome

To see how to do it right, check out my post  Pizza in Rome This pizza is called the Montecarlo and it is from an amazing pizzeria in Rome called La Montecarlo

The one thing that can be frustrating  is ordering a pizza that will satisfy everyone. There is the squabble over meat or veggies, black olives or mushrooms and the person like me who wants onions! I solved that one a long time ago by getting a plain pizza and then adding whatever anyone wanted that happened to be in the fridge or pantry. The ONE THING I always have on hand is pesto. Pesto is as common in my fridge as ketchup or mustard. I make a batch of pesto as soon as it runs out. We use it on toast for breakfast, in sandwiches, quick pasta dishes, and you guessed it, on my plain pizza!

fried egg on pizza

Well last night I brought home a large plain pizza and discovered that besides my trusty jar of pesto, there was not much else to scrounge from? Then I remembered my pizza in Italy and problem solved. I warmed up the pizza, slathered on pesto and topped each slice with a softly fried egg, (the egg can also be poached instead of fried). I drizzled a little good quality extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkle of pepper flakes on my egg and it was complete heaven.

Of course you can do what you want. If you have leftover mushroom pizza, or a meat pizza….any pizza can be warmed up and topped with a fried egg and you too can transform the hum-drum into an unctuous delicious meal!

Pizza in Rome

La Montecarlo Pizzeria, Rome

 

OUI Yogurt By Yoplait: A Great Yogurt or Great Marketing? …Perhaps Both?

Oui 1

I was rushing through the aisles of my supermarket as I so often do the other day, to grab a couple of things for dinner when, my eye caught something that made me stop and linger. This is a hard thing to compel me do, so I went with it. These little glass pots of yogurt had the same effect on me as the dish ratatouille had on the food critic Anton Ego in the beloved movie of the same name and I hadn’t even tasted it….yet! 

oui 7

Even at a quick glance you can immediately see how it so different-looking from absolutely every other yogurt in a world that is now yogurt mad. The variety on the shelves today is mind-blowing…from the new craze of greek-style yogurt to yogurt that is touted to flatten your belly and keep you regular. Today it is so much harder to get people’s attention in a world where the choices for positively everything border on overwhelming. Why did this simple little thing do it for me?

oui 2

I could immediately see that this jar and the packaging was meant to transport me to the days where housewives made their own jams and jelly to use themselves and to sell or give away to neighbors. Their little glass pots would have handwritten labels that were cut with those zig-zag dressmaking scissors and glued onto the glass, all sealed with a round piece of colorful cloth held on with a sturdy rubber band. And here it was again before me, this quaint and comforting image that made me feel happy and homesick at the same time.

And I knew what was happening, and fully aware that the guys and gals in the marketing department had spent many hours getting the appearance of this yogurt to make me feel just that, but I didn’t care. I decided to fall for it and grabbed a couple of jars “just to try it” The price of this yogurt alone should have stopped me ($1.49: nearly twice the price of anything I usually buy) but those little pots with their old-world feel were too persuasive.

oui 4

I noticed it was made by Yoplait, a company that was started by six humble dairy farmers in France in 1965.  It is the only yogurt I remember growing up with in Ireland, so the Yoplait company had staying power.

So…was it good? I nearly wanted it to taste ordinary and run-of-the-mill just so I could say: while packaging is hugely important (hugely!), the actual product had to win me over if I was going to buy this again. But…it was sublime.

So why did it taste so dang good? I had to get the inside scoop? I learned that pretty much every other yogurt (including the yogurt made by yoplait), is made in large batches and poured into containers fully set and ready to eat. Oui yogurt is made more like how you and I would make it (but obviously on a huge scale), where  whole milk is added to yogurt culture, sugar, and fruit (if you choose). It is then poured into  little glass jars and there it sits to set for 8 hours before it is ready to eat. (And apparently glass also preserves the integrity of the favor better than any kind of plastic counterpart). This is why it tastes homemade and as you know, homemade is always a very good thing.

oui 3

Oui yogurt does not have the “tang” that permeates the newly popular Greek yogurt. Instead, it subtly sweet with a creaminess that feels like the best ice cream in the world. My favorite flavor so far is the tart cherry. I am one of those people who needs a little something sweet after dinner and it completely satisfies my craving. And there is something so wonderful about eating out of that sweet little glass jar wih its homemade label, (and yes, I am fully aware it is just a clever representation of a homemade, handwritten label, but I applaude the idea).

Some reviewers tout all the different ways the jar can be repurposed, but there are only so many pencil and Q-Tip holders you need, and, since there is no lid it cannot really be used to store condiments like my homemade pesto or leftover dressing etc. So if you become addicted to this lusciously creamy pot of heaven, make sure to recycle the glass!

oui 5

The last word is that this yogurt is worth trying as it satisfies all of the criteria to make a wonderful eating experience: it creates a mood that reminds you of simpler days with its pretty homespun packaging, and, it tastes like a sweet treat that you perfected and made using milk from your very own cow grazing out in the pasture. This is a very idyllic take on a yogurt made by what is now one of the biggest food companies in the world (General Mills and Sodiaal) but I have to give them credit for finding a clever strategy that won me over both body and soul.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Prepping for Christmas October 11, 2017 The Other Not-So-Common-Ingredient for your Christmas Pudding Adventure: BEEF SUET

Atora Shredded Suet 200G

I am in the process of Doing the Work so that the Christmas holidays this year are extra special. It is so true that what you put into a thing is what you get out of it. I have most definitely found out that, hoping for something to happen is very different from, making something happen. I am in the making-things-happen mode of my life right now and one of the things on my list is that Christmas this year isn’t a disappointment. I have control over so much of what happens and food plays a major role. I have experienced all sorts of Christmases, and the ones that were the most fun and memorable were the ones where I worked hard in advance. Some say that happiness can be attained by achieving a goal, but also that the end result is not an isolated type of joyous accomplishment. The joy is elevated by all the things that made what you wanted possible. In other words, the laborious task of say making something like this Christmas Pudding, becomes part of the joy. So my looking on this as a pain-in-the-butt project (and it is a little) will only serve to making me hate the whole process. What’s the point in that? When I think about the joy factor that will come with it (me carrying it beef fat_000017219051_Small.jpglit to the table after our Christmas Dinner feast, and then getting to taste it), I can make this with a very happy heart. Oops, the cornball in me is rearing its ugly head, but no apologies for that whatsoever.

 So, one of the other things you will need, that you almost positively don’t have on hand (along with a Pudding Basin/Mold), is a packet of Beef Suet. Sounds awful right? It is that magical mystery ingredient that is used to make traditional pudding-based foods such as Yorkshire Pudding, soup dumplings, chicken pot pie crust, as well as this Christmas Pudding, moist and melt-in-your-mouth delicious. It is an odd-looking and very solid slab of fat. It is unlike the fat from drippings (the fat collected from cooking something such as bacon and can be used to flavor dishes and fry with). Suet is the hard fat that surrounds the kidneys and has a very high melting point. Because of its consistency and chemical make-up, it has so many uses  It is used in products from shaving soap, lubrication for engines, to leather conditioners, as well as making a dynamite shortening for this Christmas Pudding!

chocolate toffee pudding with fresh cream and toffee sauce

Chocolate-based Christmas Pudding with Freshly Whipped Cram and Toffee Sauce

When you make your pudding, you will disperse little flakes of it through the batter (as you might use butter to make a flaky pastry). This is why it is best to grate it into the batter OR do what I do: buy it already made into little gravel-y bits that you simple mix into the batter.

You can probably find this in your supermarket (but like shopping for a Pudding Basin in person and not buying it via a website, asking where it might be/or if it is in stock, is 99% pointless. “Hello, can you tell me what aisle the beef suet is in please?”. See what I mean).

You can find Beef Suet on a short list of websites (I know Amazon carries it), but peruse your supermarket next time you are there just in case.

Turkey 1

Turkey: another labor of love at Christmas

So get your pudding basin and beef suet and we can get on with the task of making happiness happen!