Category Archives: Recipe

Tomato and Balsamic Vinegar Sauce

As much as I revere convenience in all its forms, I don’t understand shop bought tomato pasta sauces. I will admit to having lived off these for years, but when I started creating my own, the jars became such an unbearable let down. Expensive, dull and packed full of salt.

The sheer simplicity of tomato sauce creation is not beyond anyone – it is practically impossible to get wrong.

(Apart from that time I fancied myself quite the Michelin chef and, in a seasoning fervour, over-oreganoed to the point of inedible – the beans on toast that night were particularly sour in my mouth.)

I serve this with garlic bread, homemade, with real butter – the pasty, soggy rolls from the supermarket don’t even come close.

Ingredients (serves 2)

1 tin chopped tomatoes with basil
1 large red onion
3 cloves garlic
1 or 2 red chilli
2 dessert spoons tomato purée
2 or 3 dessert spoons balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons pepper
Salt to taste

Garlic bread
3 cloves garlic
100g butter
Bread rolls

Fresh pasta (much better than dried)

Steps to deliciousness

1) Chop the red onion finely and fry gently in real butter until soft. (Or, if making vegan, use olive oil)

2) Add all the other ingredients. See, I told you this was simple.

3) Bring to boil, and turn down heat to low. Let this cook away until the sauce has reduced by a third.

4) While it’s simmering, mash about 100g butter with the 3 other cloves of garlic, chopped really finely, and spread this generously onto the bread rolls. (Again, if cooking vegan, use olive oil)

5) Wrap in little packets of tin foil, and put into the oven at 200 degrees. They’ll take about 20 minutes. Open the packet and let the edges crisp up for a few minutes.

6) This is when my favourite part happens – taste your sauce. Think about the flavours, now that they’ve intensified, and how you can improve them. Generally, I add a little more balsamic and pepper. There’s no point in following a recipe word for word when everyone’s palate is different. I love black pepper – it makes up about a quarter of every dish I make – and I drink balsamic vinegar from the bottle at any given opportunity. You may love chilli or salt – I don’t know, I am not you – but be flexible and adapt the recipe to your needs.

7) Dump the cooked pasta into the pan, mix, and serve with cheese.

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Vegetarian Jalfrezi

When I want my entire apartment to smell mouth-wateringly good, I cook Indian food. Or, more specifically, jalfrezi. The time spent making this dish is so worth it, as it has a gorgeous balance between the spices, chilli and citrus.

You can cook this with chicken – replace the vegetable stock with chicken stock, and the chickpeas with 400g of chicken – but it tastes much better without it.

Ingredients (serves 4)

625g chickpeas (Big tin and a little tin)
Vegetable oil

6 cardamom pods (ground with mortar and pestle)
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon medium curry powder
1 teaspoon turmeric

3 large peppers
1.5 large onions
2 large chilli
4 garlic cloves (mashed)
1 tin chopped tomatoes (400g)
1 small tin tomato purée
6cm ginger (grated)
1/2 vegetable stock cubes

1 lime
Half a lemon

Naan/rice/cous cous

Steps to deliciousness

1. Toss the chickpeas in a little vegetable oil and bake at 200 degrees for a half hour/40 minutes, until they’re crunchy.

2. Heat the spices in six dessert spoons of vegetable oil, but don’t let them burn.

3. Chop the onions and peppers into large pieces, and add the onion to the spices to soften.

4. Add the peppers, garlic and chilli, and cook for 5 minutes on a low heat.

5. Add the chickpeas, tomatoes, tomato purée and ginger, with a tin of hot water and a stock cube – taste for saltiness. Generally, I use 1.5 stock cubes.

6. Simmer for about a half hour, until the peppers are soft and the sauce has thickened. You may need to add another half tin of water if it gets too thick and the peppers aren’t soft.

7. Remove from the heat and add the juice of a lime and half a lemon.

8. Serve with something nice – Tesco finest garlic and coriander naans are fantastic.

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Chicken Cashew Nut

Some day I will manage to recreate the perfection that is Koh’s Chicken Cashew nut, but until then I have to make do with my (more than) adequate stand in.

I’ve been adding to and modifying this recipe for about six months and I’ve finally reached a point at which it has become a regular dish on my dinner rotation. It’s very simple, and easily edited to suit mushroom lovers or chilli haters or people who think onion is the devil’s food. However, I’ve yet to discover a stand in for oyster sauce so, to the vegetarians out there, I ask you – what do you use?

Ingredients (Serves 2/3)

300g chicken
3 dessert spoons corn flour
1 teaspoon rice wine
1 teaspoon sesame oil
Vegetable oil
1 pepper
150g baby corn
1 onion

4 dessert spoons oyster sauce
5 dessert spoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 large chilli, chopped finely
2 teaspoons black pepper
Chunk of ginger (6-10cm, depending on your tastes), grated
2 garlic cloves, chopped finely
Half teaspoon sesame oil

Handful of cashews per serving
Cous cous/Rice

Steps to deliciousness

1) Chop the chicken into bite-sized chunks, and add the rice wine and corn flour.

2) Fry the chicken until fully cooked through with 2 dessert spoons vegetable oil and 1 teaspoon sesame oil.

3) Remove the chicken from the pan.

4) Chop the vegetables.

5) Fry the onions until soft, add the corn and peppers.

6) In a bowl, mix 300ml of water with the oyster and soy sauces, cumin, coriander, cayenne pepper, chilli, black pepper, ginger, sesame oil and garlic.

7) Add chicken back into the pan, with the sauce.

8) Bring to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes while toasting cashews in another pan – don’t add them to the sauce, or they get soft and mushy in your leftovers (if there are any!)

9) Serve with rice or cous cous – I always use cous cous, as there is a lot of sauce in this dish, and it soaks it up beautifully.

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Red Wine Stew

We are currently having one of the worst summers on record in Ireland. I try to avoid mentioning it when I write about restaurants but I’m usually dripping at the table, my trousers sodden and clinging to me with my jacket creating a small moat around my chair. What starts off as deceptively nice morning sun can become a torrential downpour with hail stones within hours. I’m surprised we haven’t been washed off this tiny island yet, as this seems to be the ultimate goal of whoever is determined to punish us.

With this in mind, I present one of the most comforting, tummy-warming foods I can make; a stew that is packed full of flavour with melt in the mouth beef. This never lasts long in my freezer.

My mother will tell you this should be served with floury potatoes… but I wholeheartedly disagree and highly recommend buttered fresh, crusty bread instead.

Ingredients (Serves 4/5)

500g beef (Some sort of braising steak, like stewing beef or skirt. It needs to have the fat and connective tissue which break down during the long cooking.)
2 onions
4 cloves garlic
5 carrots
2 peppers

1 tin chopped tomatoes (~400g)
1 tin tomato puree (~140g)
1.5 sprigs of rosemary
375ml red wine
2 beef stock cubes in 1 can of hot water (I use the chopped tomato can)
3 dessert spoons soy sauce
3 bay leaves
Salt, pepper, vegetable oil.

Steps to deliciousness

1) Coat the beef in some vegetable oil, pepper and salt.

2) Fry on a high heat until it is browned, and put aside.

3) Chop the onions and garlic. Saute in some vegetable oil until the onions start to wilt.

4) Chop the carrots and peppers, and add to the pan. Fry for a few minutes.

5) Add the beef back in and the rest of the ingredients.

6) The rosemary has to be chopped finely but he bay leaves should be left whole so you can pick them out at the end. Add as much pepper as you want – I usually just grind it in until my hand gets sore but I adore pepper. Follow your own heart.

7) Bring to a boil, and then turn down to a simmer for about 2 hours – You may need to add a little water during the cooking to make sure you’ve plenty of sauce at the end.

8) When the beef falls apart when you poke it with a fork, the stew is ready.

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Cheese and pepper scones

I have already mentioned in my mother’s brown bread recipe post that I cannot resist freshly baked brown bread. This weakness extends to almost all baked goods. It’s dangerous for my waistline for me to have access to an oven, flour and butter but it’s a risk I must take on a daily basis.

One of my favourite things to make, because they’re quick and simple and can be changed to any taste are scones. Also, because when I get a craving at ten at night for hot baked goods, these can be on a plate in front of me, smothered in butter, by ten thirty.

Ingredients (makes 4/6 depending on size preference)

225g self raising flour
40g butter
25g mature cheddar
150ml milk
3 teaspooons cayenne pepper
3 teaspoons black pepper
Pinch of salt

Steps to deliciousness

1) Preheat the oven to 220 degrees Celsius.
2) Sieve the flour into a bowl, and add the pepper and salt.

3) Chop the butter into cubes, and add.

4) Rub the butter into the flour – As before, do not overwork it, and if it goes grey/greasy, you need to start again.

5) Grate and add the cheese.

6) Add most of the milk (You probably won’t need the whole 150ml) and quickly mix with your fingers until it turns into a kneadable dough. Add a little more flour/milk as needed.

7) Divide into vaguely scone shaped circles and pop onto an oiled baking tray. (As one does not have a rolling pin, one has had to make do with this technique)

8) Bake for 10/12 minutes, until the scones are browned, and sound hollow when you tap the bottom. As usual, serve with vast quantities of butter.

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My Hot Mess

Dubbed so because it’s an absolute mess of some of my favourite ingredients, and made in honour of the sunny June bank holiday when beers in the garden take precedence over hours in the kitchen. The creaminess of the goat cheese offset by the tang of sundried tomatoes and rocket. Garlic combining with the oil to seep into the bread, leaving it crispy on the outside and gooey centred, and the sweet cherry tomatoes exploding on the plate as you press them against forkfuls of the bread.

However, this dish simply could not be possible without the thick, acid-sweet syrup that is balsamico crème. If you do not have this in your press, rush out immediately to buy it, and try to refrain from squeezing half of it down your neck. This is gorgeous on so many things – topping tomato sauce on pasta, spreading on oven baked peppers, dipping garlic bread into.

Do yourself a favour and introduce your tastebuds to the joy that is this sauce.

Handful of cherry tomatoes
Olive oil

10 sundried tomatoes
1 garlic clove
1.5/2 inches of a roll of goat cheese
Half teaspoon cayenne pepper
Half teaspoon black pepper
Sprinkle of chilli
Balsamico crème
(Optional) Few roasted hazelnuts

Steps to Deliciousness

1) Put cherry tomatoes into a bowl, and toss with a little olive oil, salt and pepper.

2) Place onto baking tray, and bake at 180 degrees celsius until the tomatoes begin to split open (About 15/20 minutes)

3) Combine the chopped sundried tomatoes, garlic and goat cheese with the pepper, chilli and a dessert spoon of the oil from the sundried tomato jar.

4) Top the bagel with the mix and drizzle with balsamico crème.

5) Bake until the goat cheese begins to melt.

6) Serve with rocket, cherry tomatoes and if you like an extra crunch, some crushed roasted hazelnuts.

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Vegan (Or not so much) Maple Pecan Caramel Squares

I must admit, I love a challenge. The sense of achievement after a hard fought success is particularly nice, especially for the chronically competitive such as myself. So, when a vegan friend bemoaned and lamented the lack of dairy, egg and honey free desserts, I immediately thought

and my mind began ticking over. It did take a while, but when it struck me, I knew it was simply the only way to go; how to combine the two most complimentary dessert flavours into a sufficiently interesting vegan dish?

Maple Pecan Caramel Squares (capitalisation deserved)

As the work crowd demolished the dairy filled version of these in mere hours recently, I will also supply you with the substitutes that should be made, in case you would like to attempt them instead.

200g plain white flour
150g vegetable shortening/Butter
75g castor sugar

Condensed soy milk:
1 litre soy milk (unsweetened)
150g soft brown sugar
Half teaspoon vanilla
Or replace these three with one tin condensed milk

2 tablespoons golden syrup
100g soft brown sugar
100g vegetable shortening/Butter
1/2 tablespoons real maple syrup

Chopped mixed nuts

10inch x 7inch deep baking tray.

Steps to Deliciousness

1) Pour soy milk and sugar into pot.

2) Take book in one hand, wooden spoon in the other, and reduce to one third over a moderate/high heat while stirring. Do not let it stick to the bottom of the pan.
This took one hour, despite my staring at it accusingly, knowing it could condense more quickly, it just didn’t want to.

Jean’s tip of the day: Pour one third of the soy milk into the pan first. Then mark the height on something – a straw, a knife, the wooden spoon. Now you have a measure of height so you can identify when it has reduced enough.

3) When the mixture has reduced , it will be slightly thicker. Add the vanilla essence.

4) Preheat your oven to 180 degrees celsius.
5) Line the baking tray with greaseproof paper.

Cut a rectangular piece of the paper, and slit the corners. It will slip nicely into the tray.

6) Beat the vegetable shortening/butter into the castor sugar. If you’re using butter, it should go a little white.

7) Rub in the flour with your fingertips. Do this quickly, and do not over work it. You want the consistency of breadcrumbs. If it goes greasy or grey, start again.

8) Press this evenly into the baking tray and bake for 20-25 minutes until it’s golden brown. It will be soft to the touch.
(Warning: Do not actually touch – From experience, as it is just out of the oven, it is very hot).

9) Put a small plate in the fridge, and move onto the caramel creation.

10) Add the condensed soy milk/milk, vegetable shortening/butter, brown sugar, golden syrup and maple syrup to a pan.

11) Keep this at a gentle boil and stir like your life depended on it. Make sure you are covering the whole base of the pan. Unfortunately, in order for the sugar to dissolve, the temperature needs to be high enough that it will burn if it’s not stirred.

12) The vegan caramel thickens in about 20 minutes, but the butter version can take almost an hour. When it turns rich golden brown and seems thick, drop teaspoons of the mixture onto the cold plate to see if it sets solid and holds its shape.
It is essential to eat these testers to ensure that you are, in fact, making delicious maple caramel.

13) Pour onto the base, and smooth out. Top with toasted mixed nuts and pecans, and leave overnight before attempting to cut it.

14) Success. Sit back and reap the rewards of being victorious, and possible diabetes.

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The one, and only, Brown Bread

Passed down from generation to generation and finally, with the tweaks and additions that make it perfect, passed onto to me at the tender age of 25. Of the innumerable things my mother has given to me, allowing me to post this recipe on the internet ranks right up there with Snape’s sacrifice.

Or, for the less nerd-inclined of you, an extremely selfless act, and please go read Harry Potter.

This brown bread, fresh from the oven, is an enduring memory of my childhood. Eight in the morning, shoving spoonfuls of cereal into my mouth, watching with sleepy eyes as my parents spread it with marmalade to accompany the cup of tea that wakes and greets the day. Then, as my own taste palate expanded, dipping the bread with cheddar cheese into fresh vegetable soup straight from the pot, or making sausage and ketchup sandwiches, or simply smothering it with real butter as I could never, and still cannot, resist nabbing a slice while it’s cooling on the wire rack.

Dragging myself out of bed before noon on a Saturday morning, and with moderate adult supervision, I set about making my version of this family classic, in the hope that I wouldn’t royally screw it up and ruin lunch.

The pressure was on.

Ingredients (Creates one 9 inch circular brown bread, 4 inches deep)

Vegetable oil
300g wholemeal flour

30g sunflower seeds
30g sesame seeds
30g pinhead oatmeal
30g oatbran
30g porridge oats
(Or any combination of the above to make 150g)

A handful of sunflower seeds and sesame seeds
225g self raising flour
1.5 teaspoons bread soda
Half teaspoon sugar
Half teaspoon salt
1 egg
750ml buttermilk

You will need a some sort of a pot with a lid, rather than cake tins, as it needs to be cooked covered.

Steps to deliciousness

1) Oil the pan, and put in the oven as it is preheating to 200 degrees C.

2) Put a big mixing bowl on the scales, and add the wholemeal flour, the 150g seeds, salt and sugar.

3) Sift the self raising flour and baking powder into the bowl.

4) Beat the egg with two dessert spoons of oil, and add to the mix.

5) Add most of the buttermilk.

The baking powder and self raising flour will activate when you add the wet ingredients so you need to move quickly from here on in.

6) Mix well, and add more buttermilk until you have a sloppy concoction that just about holds a shape. If you add too much, even it out with a little wholemeal flour – this recipe is very forgiving, lucky for me.

7) Sprinkle sesame seeds and sunflower seeds into the oiled, preheated pan.

8) Add the dough, spread evenly to the edges with a fork.

9) Top with more seeds.

10) Pop on the lid and put in the oven.

11) Leave for 50 minutes/1 hour until the top is dark brown, and the bread sounds hollow when you tap the bottom.

12) Add butter, and enjoy!

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Not-Vegetarian Vegetarian Chilli

Today I would like to talk to you about my chilli.

It does hurt me a little to send this recipe out by itself into the big scary unknown, but I need to stop being so selfish. You deserve to eat good food, and I am here to assist you in that.

I don’t like mince – I can’t remember the last time I willingly ate it outside burger form – so this is a (mostly) vegetarian chilli.

I find it particularly good piled high with cheese, sour cream and served with taco shells, or with cous cous.

Somehow, I inevitably manage to make even the healthiest of recipes into a cheese and carb fest through my serving suggestions – ignore me at your peril however; certain foods are simpy worth the calories!

For example, Aldi’s specially selected vintage cheddar is just beautiful – tangy, crumbly, creamy and tart, all for a ridiculously low price (€2.79 the last time I checked). It never lasts long in my fridge, and it is absolutely worth the lifetime of long, fat burning walks and short, heart clearing jogs that await me.

And, on to the chilli! Due to the size of the tins, it’s difficult to halve this recipe. But it freezes fantastically well, and microwaves in a few minutes.

Ingredients (for 6)

2 peppers
1 onion
5 garlic cloves
2.5 teaspoons of squeezy chilli. This is equal to about 2 chillis – stick in more if you like it hot, as this is a mild.
3 dessert spoons of vegetable oil

1 tin kidney beans
2 small tins of corn (400g in total)
1 tin black eyed beans
1 tin butter beans
2 tins of chopped tomato
1 small tin tomato puree

2 beef stock cubes dissolved in a half tin of hot water – Use vegetable stock cubes for vegan chilli.
1 teaspoon of cumin
1 teaspoon of coriander
1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper.
3 teaspoons of cocoa
2 teaspoons of black pepper
3 second “glug” of soy sauce

Steps to deliciousness

1) Chop the onions, peppers, and garlic,

2) Saute the onions in vegetable oil until softened. Then add the peppers, onion, garlic, and chilli.

3) Let this simmer away for a few minutes until the peppers start to look really bright in colour.
4) At this point add.. well, everything else!

If you’ve bought the tinned beans with the pull lids, washing them is so simple – Half open the tin and let it drain. Fill it with water and let it drain. Repeat, then dump in pan!

5) Leave simmering (bubbles lazily and slowly coming to the surface) for as long as you want. I generally cook for about 45 minutes before eating. It will reduce a little, and darken slightly in colour in this time.

6) I recommend eating half of it from the pot, as I normally do.

I do not have a nice picture of how I usually serve this, as “I don’t care, all over my face, as long as some of it gets in my mouth” is apparently not an acceptably classy serving method.

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Chicken à la King

Or, as someone who tried this recipe recently put it, “Chicken à la fookin’ delish”.

This is my ultimate comfort food – quick to make, tastes great with fresh bread, and absolutely packed with butter – A ‘recipe’ for success, if I ever heard one.

It’s the very first dish I learned to cook from the wonderful Mammy, as I loved it so much, and I make it every Christmas day for my family. It is gorgeously creamy, and can easily be made vegetarian by substituting the chicken for extra vegetables, and the stock for vegetable stock.

Ingredients (for 4)

3 Chicken breasts
1 or 2 peppers
1 or 2 onions
(These quantities can be changed, depending on your taste – I used 3 chicken breasts, 1.5 peppers and 1 onion, for 4 people)

Vegetable oil
50g Butter
Three/four dessert spoons white, plain flour
Three quarters of a pint Chicken stock (1 stock cube)
Half pint Milk
Three dessert spoons of mayonnaise

Rice/Cous cous/bread/quinoa – whatever you want to serve it with. I love a little rice, and some crispy bread.

Steps to deliciousness

1) Chop the onions and peppers.
2) Sweat the onions in 25g butter on a low heat until the smell in your kitchen makes your mouth water (and the onions are transparent – this is clearly less important)

(Make sure to peek..)

And finally, they will look like this

3) Add peppers.
4) Chop the chicken, and fry in small batches in vegetable oil, as you are cooking the vegetables. You could bake these also, if you wanted to reduce the calories (PAH!)

5) Add another 25g butter to the peppers and onions, once the peppers are cooked (this is not exact – it depends on how much sauce you want – you could increase this, increase the flour, and increase the stock/milk mix to give more sauce. However, this will lead to you being incredibly impolite, and lifting your bowl to pour the remaining sauce into your mouth. It’s ok – I won’t judge)

6) Add flour until the butter is soaked up – generally, for my quantities, this is 3/3.5 spoons. The picture below will give you a good idea of what this looks like. Depending on the freshness of the onion/pepper, this changes a little bit from time to time. Do not stress about this – this can be fixed later!

7) Dissolve a chicken stock cube in three quarters of a pint of hot water. Add the half pint of milk.
8) Throw this into the pan with the vegetables, and stir with the joy that comes from knowing dinner is almost ready.

9) Bring to the boil, then back down to simmer to thicken. Add the chicken.

(My favourite moment of this recipe is when it turns from the picture above into the picture below)

10) If you didn’t add enough flour at 6), you can add a little more now (if the sauce isn’t starting to thicken up after a couple of minutes). You’ll need to be careful to avoid lumps, so use a sieve (Fishing around with a fork to break them up delays dinner which no one, least of all me, appreciates), and then bring back to the boil again to get rid of the floury flavour, and then straight back down to simmer.

11) Season with a good amount of pepper – there’s plenty of salt in the stock.
12) Finally, turn off the heat, and add your mayonnaise just before you serve. Depending on your taste, add more or less mayo – I use a good three or four heaped dessert spoons. Try adding two, and tasting to see how you feel about it.

Last year for Christmas, my plate looked so nice, I took a picture – This is the finished product, in all its tasty glory.

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