Monthly Archives: October 2011

Shiitake, Rosemary & Onion Meatballs with Spaghetti and Tomato Sauce (serves 6)

Deliciously flavored meatballs

It was a night for good old spaghetti & Meatballs. We had a crazy snowstorm and after a day of no electricity I wanted to satiate my family with gobs of comfort food.

Meet Bridget!

It was very satisfying


For the meatballs; You will need: 3 tbs olive oil, 1 lb ground lamb, 1 lb lean ground beef, 1 egg, 1 med/lrg sweet onion, diced, 1/4 lb shiitake mushrooms, cleaned & diced, 2 tsp freshly chopped rosemary leaves, 2 slices white bread, 1/2 cup milk (any %),  1 tsp sea-salt, 1/2 tsp freshly cracked black pepper, 1 cup of flour (for coating meatballs)

For the Tomato Sauce: there are several choices for you here. You can buy a good quality sauce from your supermarket if you are stuck for time, or just don’t want to bother. To make one of my sauces, simply type “tomato sauce” into my search box to the right of my blog.

Preheat oven 425*

saute onions & shiitake mushrooms

1 – Put big saute pan on medium heat and add the oil. Add the onions and shiitake mushrooms and saute for 10 minutes. Add the rosemary and continue to saute for another 5 minutes. Turn off heat.

make meatball mixture

2 – In the meantime, crack the egg into a big bowl and beat with a fork. Add the ground meat, 1 tsp salt and a few grinds of black pepper. When onions & shiitake mixture has cooked, add to bowl along with the bread mixture, and mix everything together with your hands.

                                                     Place meatballs in oven.

3 – Form meatballs and roll in flour and put on plate, (a little smaller than a golf ball in size). When they are all made, place a baking sheet in the oven with 1 tbs of olive oil for 3 minutes. Remove and place pork on sheet in a single uniform layer. Cook for 12 minutes, turn and cook for another 12 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside until ready to add to your sauce.

make tomato sauce

While meatballs are in the oven, make the tomato sauce, or, warm the jarred sauce in a big saute pan. 

About 12 minutes before the meatballs are ready, put water on for the pasta and cook according to instructions. save about a 1/2 cup of pasta water for your sauce in case it is too thick. Add spaghetti to sauce when it is cooked (and the pasta water if needs be)

All ready to eat!

Serve meatballs and pasta in shallow warmed bowls. add a little Parmigiano Reggiano cheese if you like.

Tofu & Spinach Curry with Pigeon Peas & Avocado Fan (serves 2)

This is my first completely vegetarian meal to be posted on the Crappy Kitchen (see new page at top of blog “A reluctant Vegetarian” for more details) and I was quite pleased with the results.

Tofu & Spinach Curry with Avocado Fan

I wanted something comforting, and nothing says comfort better than a good heart-warming stew. The really fabulous thing about this dinner is that it was lightning fast to make, but it still had that slow-cooked flavor.

I wanted to add some lentil-type element to add more girth, along with protein to the meal, and so included lovely little pigeon peas.

Pigeon peas are a protein packed legume and hail from India. They grow best in tropical and sub-tropical climates, but luckily for me, I can buy them dry or in a can from my local supermarket.

This was a very good start to my vegetarian journey; no lentil loaves will be cooked in this kitchen, ever!


You will need: 12 oz box firm silken tofu, cubed, 2 tbs extra-virgin olive oil, 1 small onion, diced, 1 cup pigeon peas (I used organic canned), 3 cups fresh spinach, 1/2 good quality vegetarian stock cube (I used Rapunzel brand; see pantry for more info.),  1 or 2 tsps curry powder, (depending on your taste.), 1 tsp fennel seeds, bashed up a bit, 1 tbs all-purpose flour, 2 cups water, 1/2 an avocado, sliced.

1 – Put saute pan on medium heat and add oil. When it is hot, add the onions. Cook for about 15 minutes, or until the onions are nice and soft. Add the curry powder and crushed fennel and cook and stir for another minute.

saute onions, add spices

2 – Add the flour and stir to incorporate. Add the liquid and stir until everything is blended. Add the tofu and pigeon peas and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook on gently simmer for 10 minutes.

Add liquid, tofu & peas

3 – Add the spinach and cover. Cook for a further 3 minutes.

add spinach and cover

4 – Take off of heat and let sit until the spinach is nice and soft.

ready to serve

Serve in warmed bowls and top with a nice avocado fan. If you want to be good (Type A good), do not do what I did and add sriracha sauce………or do, if you just have to have it.

the addition of a few drops of hot sauce (sriracha) gives everything a pleasant kick

Mirin ; The magically Sweet Elixir

I have cooked lots of recipes with mirin and realize I haven’t explained what it is to those of you not in-the-know!

Types of Japanese Mirin

Mirin is Japanese and was first introduced as a highly prized distilled alcoholic drink. Sake (which is Japanese rice wine) was mixed with rice, and/or sweet rice to make this drink which could be as much as 14% proof. This is over-simplifying the whole history of this wonderful condiment but suffice is to say that a few years or century later, industrious chefs got hold of it and starting adding it to dishes to enhance flavors. You know, the way wine is used in cooking today.

kikkoman make a good mirin

Authentic mirin contains rice, sweet rice, and water, and it has no additives or preservatives. The alcohol content was lowered for cooking to around 1 % so it qualified as a condiment, and not a taxable liquor.

this one is on the too-sweet side but not bad if you're stuck

If you look hard to can find more authentic mirin. The local run-of-the-mill supermarket varieties have additives like fructose. This is still acceptable in a pinch. Mirin has a lovely sweet nuttiness and pairs great with salty things like soy sauce. 

It is Asian, so any kind of stir-fry is a vehicle for this lovely syrupy liquid. I also love it in a marinade for fish or soy sauce.

It is less expensive than a nice balsamic vinegar or olive oil, so buy a bottle and give it a try.

And, if you ever visit Japan, I would love a bottle of the real deal!

Elegant “Fish & Chips” in the form of; Sweet Potato Fries with Shrimp & Spinach Saute (serves 4)

This was wholly inspired by good old Fish & Chips of course!

Elegant "Fish & Chips" in the form of; Sweet Potato Fries with Shrimp & Spinach Saute

I love fish and chips from most any hole-in-the-wall joint in Ireland, or any pub that knows how to pour a decent pint. Fish and chips has to have the right amount of grease, but cannot be grease-y. I wanted that feeling, but I wanted to dress it up a bit.

the most delicious fries with a fresh rosemary scent

I made shrimp instead of cod, and sweet potato fries instead of the regulation white. I am partial to green stuff so though spinach would go great with my Asian style marinade, and, I was right!

This was one of those meals that you dive into, forgoing the use of utensils, for your fingers. It was gone in a quarter of the time it took to make it (which wasn’t very long) and I had requests to make it again as soon as possible.


For the Shrimp Dish; you will need: 3 tbs extra-virgin olive oil,  1 lb shrimp (use the 31-40 count per lb size), shelled & deveined, 3 tbs soy sauce, 3 tbs mirin, 1 tbs rosemary leaves, 1 tsp sesame oil, 1 lb spinach (about 10 – 12 cups).

For the Fries; you will need: 3 med/lrg sweet potatoes, washed & dried, 1 tsp sea-salt, 1/2 tsp freshly cracked black pepper, 1 sprig of rosemary cut into 4 or 5 pieces,  6 tbs extra-virgin olive oil.

Preheat oven 475*

1 – Prep the shrimp. Place the shrimp in a bowl with the soy sauce, mirin, rosemary, and sesame oil. Set aside until ready to fry.

put shrimp into marinade

1 – Cut potatoes into thick fries (If the potato is long, cut in half and then cut about 4 time crosswise, and then into sticks). Put potatoes into a bowl and toss with 4 tbs of the oil, seasonings and rosemary. Mix everything together.

mix seasonings and oil with fries

2 – Sprinkle the last 2 tbs of oil into the bottom of a large baking sheet, and place in the hot oven for 2 minutes. It will get very hot.

3 – Take out and scatter the fries evenly in the tray and place into the oven for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes take out and turn, and return to the oven for 8 to 10 minutes. (By this time the shrimp will be ready)

cook sweet potatoes

4 – Ten minutes before the fries are done, put large saute pan on high heat and add the oil. When it gets hot tip the shrimp and it’s marinade into the pan and cook quickly for 3 minutes. Add the spinach and continue to cook for 2 more minutes on high heat. Turn off pan.

saute shrimp, then add spinach

Divide fries and shrimp between warmed plates and serve! Some might want to add some sour cream mixed with a little sriracha with their shrimp.

Elegant Pub Fare for dinner

Hungarian Chicken Stew with Spanish Heat (serves 6)

Dinner last night; Heartwarming and zesty

Wow, this was pretty darn good!

While driving my car yesterday with the kids in the back, out of the blue, my son told me he was going to close his eyes and imagine what dinner he wanted that evening. I gulped. This could mean anything from sea urchin delicately wrapped in dried seaweed (is there such a thing?), or something laborious like slow roasting a pork shoulder to be used in some sort of extravagant broth?

He started to describe the dish, “chicken, cooked in a paprika infused broth, with tomatoes and peppers, served on a bed of basmati rich” As he went through his ingredients I was checking them off in my head “have that, have that” and, when he was finished expounding, I said “sure!” I didn’t even have to make a trip to the supermarket to grant him his culinary wish!

That is how this dinner came about, and if you are in need of something warming, with a hint of the exotic, and, don’t want to do much to achieve this, then I suggest this dish strongly. The Hungarian influence came from the smoked paprika and the Spanish bit was the addition of hot paprika (it is very hot so use timidly)

It was nothing short of pure delicious (hey, just look at the pictures),  and my daughter declared it to be her “2nd favorite dinner!” High praise indeed.


You will need: 4 to 6 tbs extra-virgin olive oil, 8 chicken thigh cutlets, 3 chicken fillets, 1 lrg sweet onion, large dice, 1 lrg yellow pepper, large dice 28 ox can plum tomatoes with their juices (I used San Marzano), 3 tbs all-purpose flour, 1 1/2 tbs smoked Hungarian paprika, 1 1/2 tsp hot Spanish paprika, (optional, it is very hot, so if you don’t like a little heat in your dish, don’t bother with it),  1 tsp sea-salt (more to taste), 1 vegetable or chicken bouillon cube, 5 cups water, 1 cup fresh, flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped, 6 cups fresh spinach.

* If serving with rice, you will need to do the following: for stove-top, use 2 1/2 cups of rice and follow instruction on package. for rice-cooker method, use 3 cups of rice using the rice-cooker measure and follow instructions. Put rice on while chicken is in the oven.

Preheat oven 400*

1 – Put big saute pan, or roasting pan (you will need to be able to cover this when you put it into the oven), on high heat. Add 3 tbs of oil and let it get hot. In the meantime season the chicken with a sprinkle of sea-salt and black pepper. Cook in batches until golden on both sides. Do not crowd the pan to get the job done faster as your meat will not brown. You will need to add more oil as you go.

sear chicken

2 – Turn heat down to medium and add the peppers and onions. Cook for about 8 minutes.

saute onions & peppers

3 – Add the paprika and stir. Add the flour and repeat the stirring bit.

add paprika & flour

4 – Toss in the tomatoes and their juices, along with the bouillon cube into the pan. It will bubble and begin to thicken. stir for about 1 minute.

add tomatoes

5 – Add the liquid and turn up heat. As it begins to get hot, add the chicken, followed by the parsley. Stir everything gently and making sure the chicken is in an even (ish) layer.

Cover and place in oven for 45 minutes.

add liquid, chicken & parsley

6 – Remove from oven and add the spinach. Put lid back on and let the chicken rest while the spinach is wilting.

cook in oven, then add spinach

Serve a nice portion to each person with lots of broth. If you are adding rice to this dish, put it into the bottom of the bowl first. You can also cut the chicken or leave it whole.

Time to knuckle down!

The 99% Meal (The Occupy Wall St. Monday Dish) serves almost everybody

Occupy Wall St

Have you been wondering what kind of food the demonstrators are eating during Occupy Wall Street? – Me too!  I know that talking about food instead of commenting on the actual intentions of the group may seem trite, but this is a food blog, and I am going to write about food. If you happen to get a glimpse into something more than that, then I am happy my pictures served me well!

Liberty Plaza

So, last Monday, while in New York City, the whole clan took a trip down to Liberty Plaza to get a feel for what was going on. I had never actually walked through a demonstration before, and doing this with my kids was definitely something I will remember.

Demonstrators and Observers

What is Occupy Wall Street?

 According to their pamphlet (which we were given upon entering the space), this group of “concerned citizens” gathered in a plaza in the heart of the financial district in lower Manhattan, wish to “not remain passive as formerly democratic institutions become the means of enforcing the will of only 1-2% of the population who control the magnitude of American wealth”

Food being prepped

As we walked through the piles of people camped out, literally going through the motions of daily life, I found myself wondering about the dumbest things, like; where do they go to the bathroom, are they warm at night, where do they eat, what do they eat?

making giant sandwiches

Almost at that instant, I stumbled upon the feeding station. It was amazing. For all intents and purposes it looked like a restaurant prep kitchen, with pseudo chefs, sousChefs, dishwashers and servers, rounded out with a well-stocked pantry.

The Occupy Wall Street pantry

Two women were busy making sandwiches and using a method I had never seen before. A whole round peasant loaf was cut in half crossways, and promptly slathered with mounds of guacamole, followed by pepper jack cheese, and topped with a generous heaping of hummus; very healthy indeed.

Apples for anyone who needed a snack

The remaining half of the loaf was slapped on top, then thickly sliced, and hey presto, you had a sandwich that looked like a biscotti.

a lovely sandwich of Peasant bread, guacamole, pepperjack cheese, and hummus.

The sandwiches were piled on a tray and placed on a table full of other goodies, such as, fresh fruit, slices of delicious pound cake of all varieties, chips, dip, and drinks like water and juice.

Time to Eat!

They were being doled out constantly left and right to anyone with an outstretched hand. I would have grabbed one, only I had just eaten lunch.

As far as I remember these ladies were singing a Beatles song.

There was even a library of books.

We wound our way through the crowds before eventually hopping back on the subway, glad to have made the trip.

a lot of people in one place, but it didn't feel stifling in any way

Melted Onions with Cumin Seeds (serves 6 as side-dish)

Melted Onions with Cumin Seeds

I made a whole dinner around these onions last night, and, because they were so darn good, I thought they deserved their very own post.


Who doesn’t love slow-cooked, carmelized onions? I don’t know one person who would refuse such a delightful treat. I am a devotee of every variety in the onion family!

pearl onions.

Onions have been an important part of our lives since ancient times when bronzed Greek athletes would eat large quantities of them to enrich their blood and make them stronger, not to mention the fact that gladiators would rub their muscles down with raw onions to ensure a good performance!

cipollino Onions

I start almost every dinner with sautéing onions, and it makes the house smell sweet and mouth-wateringly delicious. Throw a couple of onions on the pan and it inevitably summons a crowd to the kitchen inquiring,  “when will dinner be ready!”

onions always part of my base flavors

In Ireland a favorite pub snack is a grilled cheese sandwich with a smattering of thinly sliced onions. If you have never tried it, now is the time. The crunch and tang of the onions in combination with the melting cheese and greasy bread is addictive.

Ramps (wild leeks)

Last night I bought two giant sweet onions just to have in the pantry, but, when I got them home, all I wanted to do was eat them both for dinner. if I were alone I would have cooked them up just how I did last night and simply piled them on a piece of toasted crusty bread, finishing it off with a shower of freshly cracked black pepper. Maybe next time…

big pan of sweet onions

If I remember in time, one of my favorite things to do with onions is to cook them in butter for a long time. It is nothing new and most people know how to do this. Sometimes sugar can be added to enhance the sweetness that comes from the slow-cooking. I was using sweet onions so didn’t bother.

Diced red onions

Darina Allen, Ireland’s foremost authority in the kitchen, makes a dish called melted leeks, which is basically the same thing, only using leeks. This is also nothing new, but I loved her description “melted” to describe what happened to them after a lengthy time on the stove top.

Grilled onions..

As I began to cook my big pan of  half-moon slices, I decided to add something new to the mix. I had bought a jar of cumin seeds to cook with some pork chops last week (see post “Crusty Pork Chops”) and still had the taste on my tongue. Why not flavor the onions with cumin seeds?

braising Vidalia onions.

What a great idea (of course, I’m sure it has been done before!). The onions and cumin were perfect partners, working off each other to bring out the most flavor possible.

shallots & peppercorns

I cooked some pork tenderloin and a side of braised collard green to go with them and it was delicious. Cumin can be an acquired taste so was hoping my kids would not balk. I am happy to report that I got rave reviews. With all the food piled on their plate they were unaware that the star of the dish was the melted onions laced with cumin.

onions and bacon

This side-dish would be great on so many things; pork chops, grilled chicken, steak, any fish, tossed in pasta with a little broth and cream, on a grilled cheese sandwich, on a cuban sandwich (on any sandwich), in an omelette, the list goes on.

Buy a couple of sweet onions this weekend and experiment.


You will need: 2 large sweet onions (or yellow onions and 1 tsp sugar), cut in half & sliced into medium-sized half-moons, 3 tbs unsalted butter, 2 tsp cumin seeds, 1/2 tsp cracked black pepper, 1/2 tsp sea-salt (I used Maldon salt flakes).

1 – Put a big pan on medium heat (one that has a lid) and add the butter. When it has melted, add the onions and cook for about 5 minutes.

Add cumin, salt and pepper

2 – Add the seasonings and give a stir. Continue to cook like this for about 15 more minutes, adjusting heat if necessary and stirring occasionally.

3 – Cover with lid and continue to cook for another 30 minutes, or, until the onions are meltingly soft.

Melted Onions with Cumin Seeds

Serve with whatever you please (see above for suggestions)

I served the onions with pork tenderloin and braised collard greens (will post recipe in the future)