Category Archives: Vegetarian

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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A Tale Of Two Burgers

A good burger is something beautiful to behold. A symphony of texture and flavour, a million combinations of buns, meats and toppings to choose from.

My favourite places allow me to pick and mix these to suit my moods. The Counter is particularly good at this – I love the ticky-box ordering system – It satisfies some primal accounting need. The fact that it’s allergen and vegan friendly is an added bonus – Their website has a complete breakdown of everything on the menu.

On this occasion, I selected burger in a bowl – It comes with a huge serving of lettuce instead of a bun, and I always feel much better about myself. Chicken, pickle, corn salsa, grilled onions, grilled peppers, aged cheddar, and bacon – a carefully chosen composite of some of the best parts of the Counter. This is one of the only places I will trust for chicken, so in fear I am of receiving that grey, chewy sponge some restaurants try and pass off as poultry. My accomplice opted for beef, red cheddar and onion strings. The handful of chips that come in a single serving is depressing, so always go for the large version between two.

As is typical when you’re ravenous, our burgers took an an awfully long time, with everyone around us getting their food before our plates arrived. Eager, mild starvation setting in, I dug into my bowl as soon as it was placed in front of me. As per usual, the grilled chicken was beautifully cooked, succulent and packed full of flavour, all the vegetables vividly fresh, the onions and peppers melt in the mouth good and the crispy bacon just to die for. Just looking at the picture below makes my mouth water. And, oh, the cheese… The cheese was… absent.

I looked up, dismayed, and met the shocked face of my companion; her beef burger was made of chicken. This was disastrous.

Though, not really, as we had new, correct dishes in front of us in minutes, and an upfront offer of a discount – Achievement unlocked, impress the food blogger.

Wanting to extend the evening and the amusing banter, I suggested dessert and ordered an adult smoothie – less ‘xxx’ and more ‘mmm’ – strawberry and banana spiked with alcohol, topped with that hideous can cream. Nice, but not worth the €8 price tag. Twisting her rubber arm, she ordered the oversized chocolate chip cookie with ice cream. The cookie was huge, gooey, sweet and sticky, rich vanilla ice cream melting into the warm dough. Decadent, delicious, and a dessert big enough for two.

Not that she had much of a choice in that matter.

2 burgers, 1 fries, 1 coke, 1 adult smoothie €37 (cookie unknown, as taken off the bill)
The Counter, Suffolk St, D2

This brings me on to the next burger bar in the ongoing battle for my affections. Bobo’s, another joint priding itself on locally sourced ingredients, has always caught my eye. A young gentleman, soon flying to far lands, offered to take me and I jumped at the chance. The first thing I noticed were the creepy, realistic cows painted on the wall. I sat directly underneath one, so its big soft eyes couldn’t watch as I devoured its friend.

The place had a canteen feel, not helped by the white tin plates I could see being dropped to other tables, but the menu was intriguing. Lamb, beef, chicken, fish, pork and two different kinds of vegetarian burgers – I almost chose beef until..

I couldn’t – I went for the Miss Piggy instead; pork and chorizo with goat cheese, rocket and garlic mayonnaise, accompanied by a half and half of onion rings and chips. My travelling friend chose The Grafton, minus the cheese and bun, with a side salad.

Quickly, our food arrived. My burger towered in front of me, menacing but inviting. I glanced over. The bun had been replaced by two lettuce leaves holding the burger, giving an oddly sad look to the plate – Worst presentation of a dinner, ever.

I was more interested in the imposing structure in front of me, and tentatively begin to devour.

The food was, in many parts, excellent. Pork mince has a tendency to dry out, but I didn’t find this at all with my burger, juicy with chunks of quality goat cheese disintegrating in the heat, their flavour being brought out by the contrast of peppery rocket – a classic combination for a reason. The chorizo was bland, a rather pointless addition as it faded into the background – a spicier version should be used. Home made onion rings always tempt me, and I need to stop giving into it – I am always let down by how greasy and tasteless they are, and Bobo’s were no exception. The chips, however, were crunchy and good, and my counterpart’s salad was great, with a lip smacking vinegar kick.

2 burgers, 2 sides, 1 coke €33
Bobo’s, Dame St, D2

In this round, yet again, The Counter has come out on top – will there ever be a true contender?

Well, I don’t know – it was a hypothetical question.

As I write this, I am procrastinating from packing for another trip – this time to London and Paris. I leave in 12 hours, and my suitcase is miserably agape on my bed. As I shall be marching up the Eiffel Tower, drinking coffee and eating cheese all weekend, there will be no post.
Again, fear not, for a Consumation does Paris will follow!

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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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