Nando’s Unpretentious Chicken

As someone who abhors puns but has a grudging respect for good ones, the “Man Eating Chicken” sign outside Nando’s left me torn. The fact I was frustrated, out of breath and sweaty due to a simple misunderstanding that anyone could have made – there are two Nando’s in the city centre: The one I was actually eating in, and the one I arrived at – did not help. Groan and roll my eyes, or giggle? I gave up.

A friendly, “Hi there, welcome to Nando’s! How can I help you today?” greeted me as I entered which swept away the annoyance, but not the sticky, sweaty feeling. I was ready for a beer.

Thankfully, because of my utterly blamelesss lateness, my tablemates had already selected dinner from the simple, clear menu, with no spritz in sight. With three of us dining, the full platter seemed to suit best; a full chicken, with 2 large sides.

Next came the spice discussion – go with highest spice level that suits everyone. If one person doesn’t like spice at all, then choose something along the lines of mango and lime. With the full range of peri-peri sauces available for dipping – my favourite being garlic – each person can spice their meal up to the correct level.

(Attributed to Verndogs)

I went up to the till, Nando’s being an odd mix of both self service and table service, and ordered the platter, a Portuguese bread roll, a slice of cheese and two beers.

I warned the waitress about keeping the bread roll separate to everything else, as one of my companions was coeliac, and she scurried downstairs to warn the kitchen staff. Nando’s is particularly good for food intolerances, with an allergen book in each branch covering every dish and who it’s acceptable for. Also, according to my friends who are that way inclined, the veggie burgers are fantastic and, surprisingly, vegan.

As everything is cooked when ordered, it was about twenty (heart breaking, stomach rumbling) minutes before our food arrived. The Superbock was sating my thirst, a light and refreshing lager, but doing nothing for the gaping, bottomless pit in my stomach,

It’s this hunger that accounts for the lack of food pictures in this post, as I fell upon the BBQed corn, sweet and crunchy, smothered in butter, as soon as it arrived, following it quickly with most of a leg of chicken stuffed into the bread roll with cheese, ketchup and garlic peri-peri sauce. By the time I remembered my camera, I was already wiping the smears of sauce from my face and hands.

Nando’s serves the chicken skin on, and the tart lime mellowed with mango marinade permeated right through the meat. It was perfectly cooked and juicy, and I was a little sad when I finished picking the bones and there were no more delicious morsels left.

The chips are nothing special at all, disappointingly, as the quality of the other dishes raised my expectations – I would opt for garlic bread side next time.

Unfortunately, we had to rush off, but from previous experience, the white chocolate and raspberry cheesecake is worth a trip to Nando’s by itself. Like none other I’ve ever tasted, it is extremely firm, as if the cake has been compressed, increasing the flavour intensity. Sweet and cheesy and sharp and decadently heavy, you’ll think the thin slice you’ve been served is too little, but it is the perfect amount.

Too long, didn’t read?

Good quality, healthy food at relatively good prices, with no ridiculously pretentious bells and whistles, fantastic at catering to food allergies and very family friendly – there’s something for almost everyone in your group.

If you manage to go to the right branch, of course.

Platter (Whole chicken, 2 large sides), bread roll, cheese, 2 beers €37
Nando’s, St. Andrews Street, Dublin 2

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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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Bank Holiday Break

The Consumation is down for scheduled maintenance (sleeping) on this beautiful (soaking wet) bank holiday weekend.

Regular posts will resume next weekend (when I wake up)

This lunch was brought to you by the letter (Cafébar) H

En route, with my mother, to the utterly fantastic and perfect production of Phantom of the Opera in the Grand Canal Theatre, it was CaféBar H that caught our eye for a quick pre-theatre lunch.

Previously I had dropped in for coffee and had been intrigued by the hanging hams and dried chillies, and many words on the menu I couldn’t understand; at a two minute walk from the theatre, in yet more lashing rain, the decision was quickly made.

Unfortunately, the first thing I noticed as we were seated was Adele being blasted from the speakers. This in itself is not a crime.. but it was followed by more Adele and then, yet more.

Dear reader, do not get me wrong – I love Adele. Just not the entire tormented, melancholy album – twice – whilst trying to have a nice light lunch.

Thankfully this was replaced by Debbie Harry during dessert but my advice to the staff member who brought the Adele CD in – take it one day at a time, you WILL get through it and cut out the monumentally depressing music – It’s only making things worse

I ordered the bikini sandwich with a side of rocket and parmesan salad and my mother decided on the soup and sandwich of the day – butternut squash soup and an open face smoked chicken sandwich.

25 minutes passed and my lunch arrived, with no sign of my mother’s. Confusion abounded until it turned out it had not yet been ordered.

With less than ten people in the restaurant at this point, I was irritated. Annoyed, even, with some very choice words running through my mind. However, her soup and sandwich landed on the table within five minutes, with some effusive apologies, and all thoughts of revenge were forgotten as I turned and realised half my sandwich had disappeared.

The guilt ridden face on the opposite side of the table told the whole story.

One bite and I realised why it was irresistible – flaky, light bread, the manchego cheese softened but not melted giving a smooth, creamy, slightly crumbly texture to contrast with the peppery kick from the romesco sauce and, oh, the crispy toasted edges of serrano ham – it was just divine. Not in any way heavy or dense, simple, full of flavour and definitely my main reason to return again. I think it was complimented very well with the rocket and parmesan salad – fresh, with a drizzle of balsamic dressing, served with a chunk of fluffy white bread.

Perhaps how good my dish was negatively impacted our opinion of the soup and sandwich, but it was bland; The butternut squash soup had no flavour and the fact it had a nice texture was just about the only compliment one could give it. The open faced sandwich was completely lacking in… anything. Smoked chicken, lettuce, tomato, onion and an inadequate scrape of some sort of chilli or sundried tomato pesto. It needed an additional flair, perhaps caramelising the onions or bumping up the pesto would’ve brought this dish up in our estimation, as the ingredients themselves were perfectly adequate.

Thankfully, as Phantom is two and a half hours long, the coffee was good and strong, and the dense almond based Tarta de Santiago absolutely dissolved on the tongue with a nice hint of sherry.

Some of sweetest words a daughter can hear, “Oh, this is my treat,” came after the opportunity passed to order expensive champagne and every dessert on the menu, but a lovely lunch was had nonetheless.

Too long, didn’t read?
A few gems, with the bikini sandwich being one of the nicest lunches I have had in a long time. Perhaps avoid the soup/sandwich of the day, as there is plenty of variety on the menu, and this will suit most tastes.

Also avoid if you’ve had a bad break up recently, for obvious reasons.

2 mains, 1 side, 1 dessert, tea and coffee €35
Cafébar H, Grand Canal Plaza, Dublin 2

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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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Bacon Pancakes

Saturday morning is my favourite time of the week; the whole weekend stretching far out in front of me, full of opportunities and possibilities for eating. It is a magical time, a time when I come up with some of my most genius of ideas.

The follow recipe, I feel, I will never be able to top. This will be the pinnacle of my life achievements and I’m fine with that. If there was some way to eat this dish for breakfast, lunch and dinner without getting morbidly obese, I would do it.

It’s possible I’ll do it anyway – I could just Skype into work…

Ingredients (Serves 2 hungry people or 3 normal people – makes 8 thick handsized pancakes)

6 slices bacon/300g bacon lardons
300g plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
Pinch of salt
2 eggs
500ml buttermilk
50g butter
Maple syrup

Steps to deliciousness

1) Turn on oven to a low temperature – 50 degrees.

2) Fry bacon in a little oil until half cooked, and remove from the pan. Shred – It is easier than shredding them raw. Put back into pan until fully cooked. (Or fry lardons instead.)

3) Wipe pan, or use a new pan and put the butter in to melt.

4) Sieve flour, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda into a bowl. Add a pinch of salt.

5) Crack eggs into a measuring jug. Beat with a fork for a minute.

6) Add buttermilk to the eggs, and beat.

7) Pour most of the liquid into the dry ingredients while whisking. You will end up with a thick, sloppy batter and probably won’t use all the buttermilk/egg.

8) Tip in the fried bacon, and most of the butter, and mix well.

9) Put two/three tablespoons of batter into each pancake.

10) The bacon will prevent the telltale bubbles from rising to the surface, so keep a close eye on the bottom, and when golden brown, flip the pancake
If you are me, the uncooked batter on top will go everywhere.

11) When cooked, place on a plate and into your warm oven. Add a little more butter to the pan, and start on the next batch.

12) Serve with maple syrup, and a steaming cup of hot coffee – and enjoy your Saturday morning.

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Bear, a steak epiphany

A restaurant dedicated solely to the oft forgotten cuts of beef, despite its connections to a certain chicken based eatery, was too interesting of a prospect to pass up.

With the return of my mysterious companion from his travels, a celebration was most certainly in order. So, on an extremely wet, cold, Julember Tuesday, we headed in to sate our curiosity and, hopefully, our raging appetites.

The first thing I noticed, apart from the shared tables, was the fact that one could move easily and freely around the place; a vast improvement on Crackbird. The decor was low key, the atmosphere relaxed and welcoming. I felt like the staff wanted me to be there, as opposed to my presence being an imposition.

We were seated by the window, and began to survey the menu. For starter, I chose ricotta, celery salt with pickled beetroot, and he chose white bean, rosemary and roast chilli oil; both of these came with brown crusty bread, flecked with shiny salt crystals.

Despite having very little knowledge of beetroot, I could tell this was good – great, even. The sharp vinegar complimented the creamy ricotta, and I could’ve eaten a loaf of the bread by itself. His was similar to hummus with a kick of rosemary, chilli and I swear, despite his protests otherwise, orange. But, thankfully, it was equally as good as mine.

Excited by our starters, we awaited our steaks; rosary was my choice, and feather his. Unfamiliar with the cut, I asked the waitress to recommend how it should be cooked. She suggested medium and explained why, which I appreciated, and then we chose smoky BBQ sauce, house gravy and garlic aioli to accompany the steaks, fries and salt & vinegar scallop potatoes.

The almost religious experience I had eating my rosary steak explained the name.

The meat itself was almost sweet in its flavour, and the caramelised, melt in the mouth fat was incredible. Chunks of salt, and a small brush of butter topped the chargrilled to perfection beef. I can only assume there are other herbs involved in the making of this sublime beast, but I was too engrossed to ask. His feather steak was meatier, with a completely different flavour, and absolutely fantastic nonetheless.

I had chosen correctly and my homemade fries were exactly to my taste; skin on, not greasy and the potato inside deliciously fluffy. His salt and vinegar potatoes were neither salty, nor vinegary enough and a bit of a disappointment. Not that we needed the two sides, as after our starters and life changing steaks, our trousers buttons were barely holding on by their last thread. However, I could not resist the garlic aioli, dipping chip after chip into it, and if my lovely companion was not such a polite man, he would’ve drunk the gravy boat dry.

Deciding not to roll out into the flooded street quite yet, we ordered another drink, and sat back looking out at the rain, listening to the surprisingly good music, and savouring our warm happy-tummy feelings.

Too long, didn’t read?

Knowledgeable, friendly staff and one of the best steaks I have ever eaten, even with my predilection for fillet. The unusual starters are a joy, as I can imagine they are all equally as quirky and flavourful, and the shockingly reasonable bill at the end of the meal was the icing on the Bear cake.

2 starters, 2 mains, 2 sides, 3 dips, 3 beers, 1 lemonade €61
Bear 35 South William Street, Dublin 2

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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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Koh, the way to my heart

Writing about perfection is difficult. Impossible almost, but that’s my burden to bear.

I’d like to let you in on a secret, share with you one of the best places to eat in Dublin, my steady favourite, my go-to joint; Koh.

What is it about this restaurant that places it so highly in my heart and makes me recommend it to every single person, whether they want to hear about it or not?

Is it the cocktails? The perfect end to a meal Toblerone, the award winning Citrus Flower or the delicious Chilli Mango Caipiroska?
Or the decor? A dark, well designed lounge, backed by rows of illuminated bottles gleaming like jewels behind the cocktail masters at the bar, which leads into a comfortable restaurant where individual booths with curtains can be booked, making everyone feel like Very Important Persons.
Perhaps it’s the food? The extensive list of starters and mains, touching all bases including Vietnamese, Thai and Chinese, as well a melt in the mouth steak?

No – What makes Koh outstanding is all of these things, and more; The absolutely unparalleled service by friendly, highly trained staff, the welcoming atmosphere, the low level hum of happiness that can only be created by fantastic food and drink, small touches like incense in the bathroom, and freezing cold jugs of water packed with ice on the table.
I cannot find fault, and I will not find fault.

Two omnivores, a vegetarian, a dairy intolerant coeliac and a vegan walk into Koh.

You think one of them would’ve seen it.

(Attributed to Karamell)

I didn’t need to open the menu, the chicken cashew nut being far and away the superior dish, but the motley crew hummed and hawed for what seemed like hours before coming to a consensus.

One chicken cashew nut, one sweet and sour duck, and three Phad Thais.

But these were not just any Phad Thais – These were special Phad Thais. One tofu, no egg, no fish sauce, one tofu with egg, no fish sauce, and one prawn with egg, coeliac, no soy, no dairy.
However, as soy sauce is an integral part of Phad Thai, the waiter assured us the chef could tailor a dish specifically to suit.

And tailor he did. It was absolute lovely, and lived up to every standard I set for Koh. As did the the vegan and vegetarian versions. The chicken and cashew nut was, as always, stunning; the quality of ingredients shines through, and I find it difficult not to lick my plate to clear every last drop of the salty garlic, ginger, soy based sauce that soaks into the sticky rice, making it completely irresistible.

The mango mojitos were on special offer, and were so good, I had to snatch a sip while an owner was away from the table, as I was reticent to ask any of the three to share, their exclamations of enjoyment were so exuberant.

I must also mention cheesecake at this juncture, the white chocolate and raspberry cheesecake, that no matter how full I am, I will order.
I will order, and devour, and spend an hour holding my splitting stomach in pain if I have to.
It is unbelievably creamy, and the exact mix of tart cream cheese, swirls of raspberry and sweet white chocolate to make this blogger dizzy with delight.

Too long, didn’t read?

Go. To. Koh.

1 starter, 5 mains, 1 dessert – €95
Drinks – Oh, hundreds. (Or, more likely, I don’t have the receipt, and don’t remember how much the cocktails were)
Koh Millennium Walkway, Dublin

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