Category Archives: Ireland

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

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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.

THIS IS FOR SUKI

When I think about my sister June’s Dog Suki, I think of her like this; happily, but stubbornly sitting in the car waiting for a “spin”

Suki passed away peacefully early Friday morning, August 8th, and this post is for her.

Suki making a final plea to come along (if only we had a bigger car!)

Suki making a final plea to come along (and June gave in most of the time)

This big Rottweiler, with the fierce reputation, was June’s most faithful and most loyal companion. I know this word is used for dogs very specifically and it is truly the best word to describe what a dog seems to embody for its human counterpart. Suki, June’s companion, was her travelling partner and the perfect complement to her self. Each needed the other on a daily basis to feel normal. It wasn’t really anything they thought about; it was just love, plain and simple. And we forget that love is work, and can be hard sometimes because the reward is far too terrific to even contemplate giving it up.

A brisk walk after eating is always nice

Suki loves walking by the Barrow River (Calder, Suki, Ide and June)

When I first met Suki she gave me a big snarl, (which frightened the life out of me!), but instead of June consoling me, she told me to be more sensitive when I approached her dog. I did learn how to behave around her but we joked that no matter what the circumstance, it would never be Suki’s fault. June was Suki’s champion at every turn, and she knew it.

Suki and Ide

Suki and Ide. Ide LOVED walking beside Suki. It made her feel safe and powerful all at the same time.

One of Suki’s favorite things to do was to go for a drive.  She could sit in the backside of a car and happily be driven around all day and all night. If June made the mistake of leaving her back door open while say, taking in groceries, it was guaranteed that Suki would quickly install herself, and there was no budging her until she was taken for a spin. June spent countless hours placating her dog on the back roads around our house, and I know that today it is nothing she regrets.

Mother and pup playing

Suki and Ketut

It is generally understood that we are going to outlive our pets and that we are the ones who will be left to grieve. And, when that day comes, the pain is heartbreaking. But when I think that Suki got to live with such a wonderful person like June I know that all I can feel is happiness for that lucky dog. Suki would most certainly have been someone’s dog, but I am so glad that she got to be June’s companion. June was her companion for life and she never had to live without her. I don’t know how Suki would have fared without June.

Suki enjoying the lovely day

Suki enjoying the lovely day

 So, just thinking about Suki’s life, there is no doubt in my mind that she had a most wonderful one, filled with; walks by the river, endless spins in the car, countless head rubs and cuddles, lazy naps in the sun and all kinds of forbidden dog treats. And all of this with the comfort of knowing that June was always right there. There is comfort in that.

We love you June.

Roast Duck in Remembrance (serves 4)

We were invited to dinner yesterday, (the 22nd of March to be exact), to our friend’s house, and I told my friend Celine that of course we would come, but that I had to bring a duck. “But I have a chicken”, she said. I told her that this duck had to be cooked because I had promised a friend that I would cook it as a token to him to honor the 30th anniversary of his mother’s death.

A surprise of sweet crocuses amidst the rubble of winter

A surprise of sweet crocuses amidst the rubble of winter

I feel the passage of time acutely when there is an anniversary of a significant event. The ritual of remembrance of that exact day and time of an event, brings the thing that happened back in a way that makes you feel close to that day all over again. It is on this date that we acknowledge that person or occasion anew, and usually try to do something to honor the day and make it special. It can be happy or sad, or a mixture of both depending on the importance of the milestone and how long ago it happened.

The river Barrow at Milford, County Carlow

The river Barrow flowing through Milford, County Carlow (where I’m from)

I was reminded that the 22nd of March was special to, and by, a very old and dear friend. Some of us would not talk about our very first “real boyfriend” like this, but I am one of the lucky ones who doesn’t cringe with regret and mortification when I think back to my first real attempt at a relationship. Suffice is to say that decades later, (I gulp when I think how many) I am the better for still knowing him. Perhaps living on two different continents doesn’t hurt either (that was a joke!)

Roast Duck with Sage and Bread Stuffing

Roast Duck with Sage and Bread Stuffing

He told me in an email ten days earlier that the 22nd was the 30th anniversary of his mother Margo’s death. I could tell it was a date he had on his mind and he told me that he and his siblings were going to do something special together in her memory. This is such a lovely and wonderful thing that we humans do for our dead. We remember them. When my kids tell me (and it sounds morbid when I say this out loud, but really it doesn’t feel like that) that they will miss me when I am gone, I always say, “I will miss you too” I really mean it, and perhaps when I am dead, and my children get together to think about me specifically for a few hours, it will feel like happiness is in the air for all of us.

 first foal of the year in Mount Juliet's Ballylinch Stud.

First foal of the year in Mount Juliet’s Ballylinch Stud. (photo by Dave, who loves horses and the Horse Races!)

So yesterday, when Dave and his family were together to remember “Mum” I was trying to tie myself to the moment in a very small way by cooking something that Dave said he would like me to cook if he ever popped over for dinner. Okay – I roasted a duck and I was nervous about the whole thing because I really wanted it to turn out delicious. It is easy to mess up roasted fowl, as people tend to dry it out by being nervous about undercooked meat. So, I went extremely traditional and by the book. It worked.

jyg

Winter Woods in Thomastown, the place Dave lives (photo by Dave )

I thought about the fact that Dave’s mother may have cooked duck and thought about how she might have gone about it. Thinking about that made me remember that one night I had cooked something quite “game-y’ in her kitchen, a hare, that was a complete disaster. I remember being freaked out about the wildness of it all, and the strong smell in the kitchen. I was more used to the ordinary “farmer” diet of beef and pork. Dave’s house had the air of the “gentleman farmer” about it, mainly because his brother went out regularly to shoot things like pheasant and other birds that were not chickens! I also remember opening the fridge one time and seeing a giant cow tongue sitting on a dinner plate. Yes, I was full sure that duck may well have been an ordinary dish in Mrs. Donohue’s house.

A peek at the garderns of Mount Juliet

A peek at the gardens of Mount Juliet (where those lucky horses live!)

I figured that stuffing it with a simple sage and bread stuffing and then roasting it would be the most appropriate. In trying to stay traditional, I took the neck, giblets, kidneys and heart and made a stock from which I made the gravy. After it came out of the oven and rested, it was the moment of truth. I tasted the meat with a little stuffing and a little swipe of gravy, and, it was amazing; tender, juicy and not a bit of the wildness that may have made me winch and remember that God-awful hare I cooked decades earlier. I brought it over to our friend’s house and as we ate and I thought about the significance of the day, I hoped that there was an extra bit of happiness in the air, just for sweet Margo.

How

Happy Spring

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You will need:

for the bird and stock:

1 5 lb duck (save innards for stock)

1 medium carrot – diced

1 medium onion – quartered

1 small celery rib – sliced

1 bay leaf

2 or 3 sprigs fresh thyme

4 or 5 black pepper corns

stuffing:

3 tbs unsalted butter

1 sm onion – finely diced

1 tbs fresh sage leaves – finely chopped

1/4 tsp black pepper

1/4 tbs freshly ground black pepper

2 cups breadcrumbs

for the gravy:

3 tbs unsalted butter

3 tbs all-purpose flour

21/2 cups duck stock (or canned chicken stock if you are not making the stock form the duck giblets).

salt and black pepper to taste

Method:

*If you are going to make stock from the innards for your gravy, you need to do this step 3 hours earlier (maybe in the morning, or the night before, or just put it on 4 hours before you plan to serve)*

1 – Put the innards from the duck, onion, carrot, celery rib and peppercorns into a saucepan and cover with water (about 3 cups). Bring to a slow boil and cover with lid. Turn heat down to a simmer for about 3 hours.

;oih

Make stock for gravy

2 – Strain stock through a fine sieve and reserve the stock for making gravy.

srtain solids from liquid

stain solids from liquid

Preheat the oven to 350* (180 celsius).

Make stuffing:

1 – Put butter in saute pan on medium heat and add onions. Cook for about 7 minutes.

cook onions in butter

cook onions in butter

2 – Add sage and cook for another minute before adding the breadcrumbs, salt and pepper. Stir everything together and transfer to a bowl and place in fridge to get cold.

sage and bread stuffing

sage and bread stuffing

3 – When stuffing is cold, wash and dry the duck and place in snug roasting pan. Stuff the bird with the sage and bread stuffing and tie the legs together loosely with kitchen string.

stuff and truss duck

stuff and truss duck

4 – Place in oven for 1 hour and 50 minutes. Halfway through cooking baste the bird with the collected juices and fat and continue to cook for the remainder of the time. Remove from the oven and rest for 20 minutes before carving.

rest cooked duck for 20 minutes before carving

Rest cooked duck for 20 minutes before carving

Make gravy:

Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper if necessary..

Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary..

1 – Put a saute pan on medium heat and melt the butter. Add the flour and mix to a paste. Cook for about 30 seconds before adding the stock 1 cup at a time. Stir and cook until the gravy thickens. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed. *When I tasted my stock, I thought it tasted a bit bland so I added about 1/2 a good quality bouillon cube to my gravy, which added the layer of flavor I was looking for. Just letting you know so you can “doctor” your gravy up until you get it right.

Serve the duck, stuffing and gravy with whatever you want: mashed potatoes and a green vegetable like peas or green beans, or serve with another starch like pasta and some sautéed greens such as spinach or kale.

the river Nore, Thomastown

The river Nore, Thomastown (photo by Dave)

Meatloaf with a “Reservoir” & The Sultry Voice of The Splendid Table!

I don’t like TV cooking programs – there I said it. When I meet new people and they figure out how much I love food, they automatically think I also love to watch the Food Network (or something similar). I have to say that I’m not a big fan.

meatloaf

Marvellous Meatloaf

It’s not because I think I know more (far from it!) or that I am above it all in some way or another –  it’s just that the majority of them are either hokey, annoying, or so formulaic that their predictability is a little insulting  – I mean how many times can you watch the guy on Hell’s Kitchen poke a hole in someone’s food and scream, “this is bleeping slop” I wouldn’t mind but he’s actually a great chef, but somehow, his ratings are better when he verbally insults people than when he cooks something amazing.

Mexican Bush Sage from my garden

Mexican Bush Sage from my garden

The contrived set where the kitchen is pristine and the cook even more sterile-looking does not feel like real life to me. And now we have trendy cooking talk shows like The Chew who boast exposing viewers to “smart and intelligent talk” of “food, life and fun”.  Somehow I can’t help thinking of a Gravy Train (pun was most definitely intended)!

some cookbooks

Some cookbooks in my kitchen

I am however a fan of cookbooks and, while Mario Batali on The Chew doesn’t remotely interest me, I have several of his cookbooks. He is a great writer and his love of Italian food and culture along with his recipes suck me right in.

The other thing I like to do is listen to the radio while driving. When my kids were young I would play those awful children’s songs in the car. I had to, it was the only thing that would lull the crying! When they fell asleep I would switch to something more intelligent, something that would stop my brain from turning to mush. I was desperate for some connection to the adult world as my world at that time consisted of book’s and movies with titles like My first ABC and Thomas The Tank Engine and Friends Have An Adventure.

Cookbook from turn of 20th century with great illustrations (Now sitting atop my piles of cookbooks in the Crappy Kitchen)

Cookbook from turn of 20th century with great illustrations (Now sitting atop my piles of cookbooks in the Crappy Kitchen)

I immersed myself in Public Radio stations and got my news, current affairs and culture throughout the day, but the weekends were the best. This is when my public radio station let their hair down with programs such as This American Life, A Prairie Home Companion, Radiolab and the cooking program which airs on Sundays, and the thing I want to talk about: The Splendid Table.

my new little cookbooks

Little cookbooks which I bought in Tuscany last year

It turned out that most Sundays around noon I would find myself driving somewhere, to the supermarket for that big weekly shopping, to the movies with the kids, to a museum, a park, a day in a city etc and I invariably caught the voice of  woman who literally crooned about food. I couldn’t decide if her voice was annoying or intoxicating, but after years of finding myself not reaching for the radio knob to turn the dial I would have to say it was the latter.

a little white wine

Cooking on the beach in Slea Head, Ireland

Radio voices are either compelling or repelling, and whether you listen to a program or not hinges on how this voice makes you feel when you are listening. A voice is like a book, where you have the glorious opportunity to use your own imagination to fill in the blanks. Like when someone says, “the movie was good, but I think the book was much better”.  And all I have to say to that is “Bravo” to that person’s fine imagination and how the movie playing in their head was a superior version of the story!

My heavenly lunch (truely)

My heavenly lunch on a beach in Wexford Ireland

The voices on the radio are exactly the same for me. I get to decide what kind of person this might be just by listening to them. Of course what they are saying is important too, but how they say it, the tone and their use of the language is what will keep me listening. The “voice” of the radio program The Splendid Table is the voice of Lynne Rossetto Kasper and when she talks about food she makes me feel like I am looking at a person eating something so delicious that they cannot help sort of humming through the entire dish. Well, Lynne Rossetto Kasper hums through her entire show, whether she is talking to a chef who is cooking a dish right beside her or when she is advising a caller on what to do with the boatloads of basil in their summer garden.

As she interviews and talks to these different people you can feel her total passion for the entire food world. She has the power to convince even me that eating a hotdog from a road-side stand in the middle of nowhere should be on my list of things to do before I die! It is the voice of love and the voice of love is a very powerful tincture. I’m sure she has won many a male listener (and hopefully turned them all into the kitchen!)

DONE!

Simple food from the Crappy Kitchen

Now that my kids are older and have inherited my love of food, if we happen to catch The Splendid Table on Sundays while driving to the supermarket there is a very large chance (99%) that I will get a sidelong glance from my son in the passenger seat or a little tap on the shoulder from my daughter behind me when something is described by Ms. Rossetto Kasper with such reverie that I will be quietly begged to stick those ingredients on my shopping list.

Ide's request every year is for this chocolate cake. The frosting color is the only thing that changes!

Birthdays are a great excuse to make cake and have a party (stay tuned as two are coming up!)

As was the case a few weeks ago when she watched the chef Lucinda Scala Quinn make her mother’s recipe for meatloaf. I am really not a big fan of meatloaf, I suppose because I did not grow up eating this ubiquitous American dish, but her sultry voice won me over and I ended up making it to the utter delight of my children (who are now old enough to cook this themselves!).

This is what I made for Tom's Christmas Party

This is what I made for my friend’s Christmas Party

As you can see by the pictures, it is mouth wateringly good-looking, but I am in no way qualified to really expound on how wonderful it is as the voice of The Splendid Table does a far better job than I could ever do, a job she has been doing now for 16 years.

meatloaf from the Splindid Table

Meatloaf from The Splendid Table

  I have never looked her up on the internet to put a face to the voice for the same reason I have no real desire to meet a celebrity or talk to a renowned writer: it would probably not match up to how I see them in my head, and don’t you find that they always seem smaller in real life! I’m being silly of course but the satisfaction I get from reading a book or watching a movie, and yes, listening to the voice of The Splendid Table is enough, is perfect in and of itself.

mix eggs, vanilla, oil adn vinegar together

My daughter is now the baker in the family!

So, if you are pottering around your house this Sunday or driving along some lonely stretch of road, turn on the radio and find the voice of The Splendid Table. It will make you smile, make you hungry and most certainly decide that daily question of “What’s for dinner!”

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*I did alter the recipe a little to suit me better. I added some fresh herbs just because they are in my garden at the moment and I added some hot pepper flakes for a little zing*

You will need:

2 lbs ground beef (use something with some fat content) OR mixture of ground lamb and beef

3/4 cup breadcrumbs (I made them by whizzing a few slices of bread in my food processor)

1/3 plus 1 tbs milk (any %)

1 small onion, grated

1 medium carrot, grated

1 large egg

2 tsp sea-salt

several grinds black pepper

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper flakes (optional)

2 tbs finely chopped Italian parsley

1/2 tsp thyme leaves

1 small sage leaf, finely chopped

“Reservoir”  ingredients:

1/2 cup ketchup

1 tsp sriracha sauce (or other hot sauce)

1/4 cup sweet pickle relish (If you don’t have this, use 1/4 cup finely chopped sweet pickles)

Method:

Preheat oven 375*

1 – . Combine the breadcrumbs with the milk in a small bowl and let sit. Crack the egg into a large bowl and whisk for a moment with a fork. Add the meat followed by the herbs, salt, pepper, cayenne pepper flakes, onion, carrot and the soaked breadcrumbs. Mix it altogether with your hands until it is fully combined.

Make meatloaf

Mix meatloaf

2 – Combine the Reservoir ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.

make reser

Make reservoir

3 – Place meat in a loaf pan and using your index and middle finger make 3 holes in the meatloaf, going almost to the bottom of the pan. Spoon the reservoir sauce into each hole reserving what is left over for later.

Assemble meatloaf

Assemble meatloaf

4 – Place in preheated oven for 55 minutes. Remove and let it rest on the stove-top or counter for 15 minutes before serving.

Cook in oven

Cook in oven

Serve this with whatever you like. It is traditionally served with mashed potatoes, gravy and a green vegetable but don’t let that stop you from serving it alone, with pasta, rice or even making it the star of a robust dinner sandwich!

A Great Summer Tea – Thai-Style! (makes 1 big pitcher)

All of a sudden it is Summer and time to decide on some cooling drinks to sip in the late afternoon. I did not grow up drinking Iced teas and in all the years I have lived in the United States it is still a drink that never comes to mind when I want to quench my thirst with something refreshing (besides a great summer cocktail!)

rhododendron

My lovely rhododendron which I planted at the bottom steps of the back door tree years ago is in full bloom!

However this Iced Thai Tea from my latest cooking mag. (bon appetit to be precise) has won me over completely. And, it was even something that I would have skipped over when making my first peruse through the new issue seeing as the title was “Tea It Up”

My son was the one who found it and said I just had to make it. We have this new ritual (me and him) which is when any new cooking issue comes to the house I bring it with me when I pick my kids up from school and leave it on his seat as a little treat for him. As much as I want to, I don’t even take the plastic off and have a sneak-peek.

Lovely Ice Tea - perfect for this weather

Lovely Ice Tea – perfect for this weather

He really appreciates having the privilege of ripping it open and getting to see what foods are being highlighted that month or season. But what he really loves is telling me what I have to cook, and if I hum and haw about it, he reads the ingredients to show me how quick and easy it will be. I’m afraid he is mostly a sucker for the colorful juicy pictures of finished dishes, and the picture of a giant glass filled with ice and a creamy pale orange iced-tea with the word “Thai” in the title was no exception. First of all, if the dish smacks of Asian flavors whatsoever it will always be demanded, not to mention he is going through a black tea phase, (my fault, as Barry’s Tea, the tea I drank growing up in Ireland is always being pulled out and brewed to have with a piece of cake or a biscuit (cookie)). How could I refuse!

The back steps to my little yard.

The back steps to my little yard.

I have to say that I am glad to have kids that push me to try things I would normally not bother with, like this glorious Thai-Style Iced Tea. It is a bit of work, a tad expensive (requires a vanilla bean which cost me $6) and it needs time to chill, but it was so good it is what I am taking to my friend’s house for Brunch this weekend!

_______________________________________________

You will need:

8 cups cold water

10 star anise pods

3 tbs sugar

1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped (instructions below)

15 black tea bags

1/2 cup heavy cup

1/2 sweetened condensed milk

ice cubes (for serving)

Method:

cut, then scrape seeds from vanilla bean pod

Cut, then scrape seeds from vanilla bean pod

1 – Scrape the seeds from vanilla bean like so: using a sharp knife cut vanilla bean down the enter length of pod.  Hold one end with finger and scrape the inside of the pod with a knife, running it down the entire pod. The seeds will collect on the knife as you go. (Don’t throw away the scraped pods as you can make vanilla sugar with it – see picture below!).

Place the scraped vanilla bean pod in a bowl of fine sugar adn it will infuse with lovely vanilla-y flavor. Perfect for sprinkling on toasted buttered bread or fresh berries like strawberrs for a quick summer dessert.

Place the scraped vanilla bean pod in a bowl of fine sugar and it will infuse with lovely vanilla-y flavor. Perfect for sprinkling on toasted buttered bread or fresh berries like strawberries for a quick summer dessert.

2 – Combine 1 cup of water with sugar, star anise and the vanilla bean seeds in a small pot and bring to a boil. When it begins to boil, turn the heat down and simmer gently for 10 minutes.

combine ingrediets and boil to infuse flavor

Combine ingredients and boil to infuse flavor

3 – Combine the tea bags with the 7 remaining cups of water in a large pitcher or bowl and add the cooked water mixture to it when it is done simmering. Place in the fridge and chill for 4 hours.

Add tea bags and more water

Add tea bags and more water

5 – Strain the mixture using a sieve into another pitcher and add the cream and condensed milk. Stir everything together.

Strain chilled tea (and add creams)

Strain chilled tea (and add creams)

Serve over ice, or as is if you want it to be more intense. Can be stored in the fridge for up to 4 days.

Serve over ice - yum!

Serve over ice – yum!

A Yummy Sausage and Pasta Dinner – Quick! (serves 6)

Have you every had one of those crazy spontaneous moments and asked people over to dinner that evening and it is already 5 o’ clock! Of course you have done this, and then arrived home to find yourself in a panic over what you can pull together quickly while screaming out loud, “what was I thinking inviting people over tonight!!!!”” That’s when you zoom to the supermarket (or do this before you go home to avoid this panic attack) and buy the few things you need to make this gorgeous, crowd-pleasing dinner! It is also a super inexpensive main course for six.

Quick and easy dinner for six!

Quick and easy dinner for six!

I also think when you see how easy this is, you might also decide to make a batch of brownies while everyone is sitting around after dinner: yes, it’s what I did and I wasn’t taxed a bit! (Recipe for Brownies below)

___________________________________

You will need:

2 tbs olive oil

1 lb seasoned sausage (I used an Apple & Onion, but feel free to grab whatever is available: mild Italian, garlic, wine & herbs, etc – * If I were on the East coast of Ireland I would use Lavistown Sausages*)

ALSO: you can use chicken or turkey sausage

1 large Vidalia (sweet) onion, small dice

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

2 celery ribs, including leaves, diced

4 sprigs fresh thyme (if you don’t have it, don’t worry)

4 cups chopped fresh spinach

2 tsp curry powder (any favorite variety)

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper flakes (optional)

1 1/2 cups chicken broth (or 1/2 bouillon cube & water)

1 1/2 cups heavy cream

sea-salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 lb medium pasta shells (I use Barilla brand)

Freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano (if you have it on hand)

*This can easily be a Blood Type A Diet recipe by using a poultry sausage (chicken or turkey) Also, substitute the cream with more stock (veggie or whole bouillon cube) and, if you are really strict, omitting the curry powder and chili flakes*

Method:

*Put large pot of water on for pasta, add about 2 tsp coarse salt to water. Cook according to instructions and reserve about 3/4 cup pasta water before draining. do not rinse pasta with cold water. It will take the pot of water about 5 or so minutes to come to a boil and the shells will take anywhere from 9 to 11 minutes (check package for cooking time). This adds up to about 16 to 20 minutes, so time the pasta to be ready at the same time as it is required in the dish*

first: dice onion, chop garlic

First: dice onion, chop garlic

1 – Put large saute pan on medium heat and a the oil. When it has warmed add the onions and garlic and cook for about 5 minutes.

Remove sausage casing by cutting the entire lenght of the sausge adn sliding it off. then it is easy to cut or break the sasge into your pan

Remove sausage casing by cutting the entire length of the sausage and sliding it off. Then it is easy to cut or break the meat into your pan

2 – While onions are cooking remove the sausage from casing (instructions above)

kuh

Add Sausage and thyme

3 – Add the sausage to pan be cutting it into pieces as you go, or breaking it off into pieces with your hands. Add the thyme and celery. Turn pan up slightly and cook the sausage for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until starting to brown on all sides.

Add curry powder

Add curry powder

4 – Add the curry powder (and bouillon cube if using) and stir into sausage mixture until everything looks golden.

Add the liquids, then the spinach

Add the liquids, then the spinach

5 – Add the broth (or water) and let it come to a simmer. Add the cream and wait until it is also simmering before adding the chopped spinach. Cover and lower heat until everything is at a very gently simmer and cook for about 5 minutes. Turn off heat and taste sauce and add salt and pepper if needed (purely personal). Add the just-drained shells and stir. If you like a looser sauce, add some of the reserved pasta water (and a little cream if you like) until desired consistency is reached.

Serve

Serve

Serve in warmed shallow bowls with a grating of Parmigiano Reggiano.

lovely brownies

If you want to make brownies quickly, click HERE for recipe!

Do You Want Curry Chips With That? (with your Baked Curried Cod that is!) Serves 4-6

The other day a very old friend tracked me down via this blog, and since then we have exchanged a couple of emails. The kind of “old friend” I am talking about is the one you are forever bound to because you were in the same place at the same time during those precious formative years; the years where you were beginning to become the person you ultimately became (for lack of a more evolved explanation).

Curried Chips: the reason for this post!

Curried Chips: the reason for this post!

I met Maria when we were thirteen and we were thrown together, for better or for worse, until we were grown women of eighteen (supposedly anyway!), and, except for a few occasions when we happen to bump into each other, and keeping up a little through mutual friends, we had never really kept in touch. I didn’t see this as a  failure on either of our parts. It was just life, and our school friendship was complete in and of itself, unchanged by the years in between and the cheery hello I received from her last week.

The River Barrow (10 minutes from our house)

The River Barrow (10 minutes from our house)

Of course the way in which friendships like this one are rekindled  is to connect over the events that our lives revolved around at that time; the place we lived, the people we knew, the food we ate etc. And so when we emailed, we both started off with “remember when?” comments.

Maria’s “remember when” was about running over to get batter burgers at lunchtime! What’s a batter burger you may well ask? Basically, the Fish & Chip shop was the only place to have something quick to eat in the 1970’s through the 80’s, and was (and still is) synonymous with the last stop on the way home from a drunken night on the town. It was thought to be a good hangover cure, or at least make it more bearable.

Crispy battered cod

Crispy battered cod from The Saltee Chipper in County Wexford

  ‘The Chipper”, as any one of these places was generally referred to, was by and large run by first generation Italians in Ireland, and they had accomplished the art of frying fish, meat and potatoes (the staples in Ireland back then), in a small vat of bubbling oil to crisp perfection. There is nothing quite like a meal of battered cod and chips (french fries) with a good soaking of vinegar. It can be such a deeply satisfying dish when eaten at exactly the right moment. The batter burger sounds awful, a beef patty dipped in dough batter and deep-fried to a golden puffiness – yep, that does sound awful, but I assure you I must have liked it at one point in my life. Battered sausages were also a popular item but I never had the nerve to try one. They looked like long blistered…well they looked pretty disgusting to me!

Approacing Christ's Church Cathedral

Dublin is a great place for Fish and Chips

Being reminded of foods like batter burgers made me think about the food from the Chipper that I really enjoyed. I still make Fish and Chips today (plenty of examples of this on my blog) but the memory of Curried Chips was what I became fixated on. In Ireland chips came with everything. It was simply unacceptable to serve a meal without a potato on the plate in one form or another. The Chinese restaurants that opened up were soon to learn that serving chips on the same plate as the chicken curry and rice gleaned more hungry Bar-goers and so it became common to eat chips accidentally soaked in curry sauce.

a peak at the view

County Laois

I am really just coming to my own logical conclusion that the flavor of  the curry sauce on the chips was so popular it became a frequent request at the Chip Shop, and slowly but surely Curried Chips became a popular item on the menu. So much so, that along with the obligatory question, “salt and vinegar?” after your chips were hot out of the oil and in a neat little rectangular bag, you were asked if you wanted curry sauce too. It was either poured into the bag or given on the side. As messy as it was to eat, I preferred it spilling out of the bag!

Curried Chips with Cod Fish

My Version of Curried Chips with Cod Fish

The logic continued to follow that I would have to make Curried Chips myself to capture some of that nostalgia. When my son took his first bite he declared, “hey, these are like the curried chips in Ireland”

Enough said!

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For the Curry Sauce:

4 tbs unsalted butter

3 to 4 cups chicken or veggie broth OR 1 good quality bouillon cube and water (which is what I usually do for this. I use Rapunzel brand cubes: really great)

1 1/2 to 2 tbs mild or medium heat madras curry powder

1 tsp sea-salt

freshly ground black pepper

Method:

1 – Put sauce pan on medium/low heat and add the butter. When it has melted, add the curry powder and sir until incorporated. Add the flour and repeat process. If using a bouillon cube, crumble it in, and stir well.

melt butter, add curry powder

melt butter, add curry powder

2 – Next add the liquids 1 cup at a time while mixing with a whisk. Cook sauce (stirring all the while) until thickened and flour and spices have cooked into the liquid, (about 10 minutes or so). Taste and adjust for salt and pepper according to your likeness. Cover and set aside.

Cook for a little

Cook for a little

*If you feel your sauce could be thinner, add more stock or water until the desired consistency is reached.*

add liquid, salt adn pepper

Add liquid, salt and pepper

Serve with whatever you like; in this case, chips or french fries (depending on which continent you grew up on!)

serve with fries

serve with fries (either on the side like this, or smothering the chips completely in sauce!)

Recipe for Chips (Fries):

4 large potatoes (not huge, just large!)

3 tbs olive oil,

1 tsp sea-salt

generous grinding of black pepper

Method:

Preheat oven 475*

1 – Wash and dry the potatoes and cut lengthways into thick slices (3/5″, 1cm) and put in large bowl. 2 – Add the salt & pepper and the olive oil to bowl and mix well with hands until potatoes are well coated. When oven is hot take your big baking sheet and add 2 tbs oil to pan and place in lower 3rd of oven.

from potato, to slices, to fries!

From potato, to slices, to fries!

2 – Add the salt & pepper and the olive oil to bowl and mix well with hands until potatoes are well coated. When oven is hot take your big baking sheet and add 2 tbs oil to pan and place in lower 3rd of oven. Let pan warm for about 4 or so minutes. Take pan out (it will give off a bluish smoke, don’t be alarmed) and immediately pour potatoes onto pan (should sizzle).

Mix in a bowl with rest of ingredients

Mix in a bowl with rest of ingredients (I added a few sprigs of rosemary that I discovered lurking in the back of the veggie drawer)

3 –  Arrange evenly in a single layer and place in oven for 20 minutes. Take out, let pan cool for about 30 seconds to 1 minute and then turn fries with a spatula (or egg flip/turner?). They should release easily….if not, put back in oven for another 2 minutes and try again. Turn and place back in oven for a further 8 to 10 minutes (peak after 8). Take out, give them a minute to release themselves and get ready to serve or keep warm as the case may be.

great fries

Great fries

Recipe for Baked Curried Cod:

1 1/2 to 2 lbs fresh cod fillets (use 2 lbs if cooking for six), cut into 4 to 6 oz pieces

1 tsp mild curry powder

sprigs of fresh thyme (about 2 dozen)

1 tbs olive oil

1 1/2 tbs unsalted butter

sea-salt and black pepper for seasoning fish

Method:

Preheat oven to 400*

1 – Wash and dry fish. Season fish with sea-salt and pepper and curry powder. Rub a baking sheet with the olive oil and toss the thyme sprigs in the bottom in the even layer. Place the fish on top of the thyme.

*If some of your fish is thick and some thin (the tail end), all you have to do is fold the thin pieces in two to thicken them out and to assure they cook around the same time as your thicker pieces*

Arrange fish on baking tray with other ingredients

Arrange fish on baking tray with other ingredients

2 – Place a pat of butter on each fish piece and bake in preheated oven for about 12 minutes. Take it our of the oven and cover with foil until ready to serve.

et voila!

et voila!

Serve this with whatever you like: if serving alone, add some lemon wedges. This is also great with egg noodles, rice and a sautéed green.

As you can see, I served the fish with curry sauce adn chips - delish!

As you can see, I served the fish with curry sauce and chips – quite delish!