My Virgin Cheesecake

We all get that need sometimes. A powerful desire from deep in the bones for something. It becomes a necessity. Life should not, nay, could not proceed without it. One day in particular I needed Cheesecake. Now me and Cheesecake have had a very strange past, I didn’t try it for years as the idea of a chocolate cake or Victoria sponge with grated cheese on top was enough to turn my stomach. But a few years ago I ate a piece, almost by accident and I have never looked back since. However until recently I had never actually made one.

On this great day of Cheesecake need I was walking home along the quays and decided I was going to make one. My phone was dead so I couldn’t look up a recipe and I was on my way to meet my girlfriend so time was very much of the essence. I ran the aisles of a small Tesco and grabbed all of the things that I thought might go in a cheesecake. Half dozen eggs, double cream, cream cheese, biscuits, more butter than is usually acceptable in polite society, sugar, etc. Before long we were trawling though recipes in my galley kitchen trying to find something doable. We settled on a simple enough sounding one and got to it.

After a lot of messing, lollygagging and general merriment we had a fairly well put together Oreo and White Chocolate Cheesecake in front of us.

Plates, knife, slice, spoon, bite… stop.

Something was off. A sort of musty fungal flavour somewhere. I checked to see if everything was in date. It all seemed fine. Everything except the cheese. An earthy smell, not bad, just not what I was expecting. I checked the pack again and there it was, in miniscule writing on a mini green flag; “Blue Cheese and Garlic Flavour.”

I had been in such a rush in Tesco that I never even checked what I was grabbing, as long as it had “Cream Cheese” on it I was happy. We begrudgingly ate the cake. I’m not in the kind of financial situation where I can throw away relatively edible cake. It wasn’t good. Google tells me that indeed Blue Cheese Cheesecake is a “thing.”

This monstrosity was definitely not that “thing.” Take note kids, read before you buy.

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Mexican Pork Tacos

I recently moved from the city centre into slightly more compact digs on the Southside. This led me to the inevitable trip to Ikea on Wednesday last. Originally planning a morning trip it was close to six thirty by the time I got home (typical day off right?). So I needed to get myself fed and back into action fast. The answer? Tacos. Tacos is always the answer.

These tacos are the best. I had four and I would have had more if my Sister was not equally as endeared to them as I was. Seriously give these a go. Really speedy to put together and even fast to chow down and get to building that Austmarka Brimnes set.

The portions here are perfect for two people so just double it up as necessary for yourself. I got the shells from Tesco around the Old El Paso stuff and they are pretty handy to have around the kitchen for just such a taco related emergency.

The Ingredients

500g Pork Belly Slices (skin removed)
1tsp Cumin Seeds
1tsp Smoked Paprika
1 Lime (zested)
8 Small soft flour tacos
Any assorted extras you fancy

-Dice up the pork belly into 1cm cubes and mix with the cumin, paprika and the lime zest.
Diced Pork
-Fry these on a medium/low heat for about ten to fifteen minutes with just a touch of oil. the fat from the belly will render out once it starts cooking.
Pork in the pan
-Now is the time to set up all of the bits and pieces you are going to use to pimp up your tacos. I went with lime wedges, avocado, coriander and sliced spring onion but you could use rice, beans, sliced peppers, iceberg lettuce or anything you have in your fridge really
Salad
-Once they have coloured a little bit crank up the heat and squeeze in the juice from the lime you zested earlier.
Pork after adding the lime juice
-Keep these moving around in the pan as it sizzles away but be very careful as the juice can burn easily. Remove from the heat and set aside.
-Gently heat the tortillas under a medium grill for about 2 minutes while you plate everything else up.
-Serve everything on a great big platter and get everyone to tuck in.

The finished product

This is a hands on job and everyone is going to get a little messy. They will love it though, I promise.

Super Healthy Granola

Granola

Granola is something I have had a bit of a mixed history with. I started eating it religiously a few years back as my “Healthy Breakfast Alternative” but when I was in culinary school and making it I realised that the recipe called for quite a bit of sugar and honey and some other not so nice things. Looking into it a little more I saw that most granolas sold in stores are about as healthy as putting crushed cookies on top of your yoghurt in the morning.
This is the first time I have made this recipe and I really like it so far. I did away with all of the sugar and questionable ingredients and am just relying on the natural sweetness of the oats and the spices to bring this dish to flavour-town. It is still fairly adaptable, use whatever nuts and seeds you like or have around your kitchen. I find this combo is perfect for me but everyone has a different desire when it comes to breakfast.

1 Handful of Sunflower Seeds
1 Handful of Sesame Seeds
1 Handful of Walnuts
1 Handful of Hazelnuts
1 Handful of Pumpkin Seeds
1 Handful of Porridge Oats
1 tsp Cinnamon
1 tsp Nutmeg
1 Handful of Raisins

Granola Ingredients

-Preheat your oven to 180°.
-In a food processor or a blender, blitz the hazelnuts and the walnuts together to break them up a bit. Don’t make them too fine though or your Granola will have no texture.
-Mix together all of your ingredients except the Raisins in a large bowl, making sure that everything is well combined and coated with the spices.
-Pour out your nuts and seeds mix onto a large baking tray and lay them all as flat as possible.
-Place the baking try in your oven for five minutes at a time until the start to go a delicious golden brown. Don’t be tempted to leave them any longer than five minutes at a time. Nuts are notorious for turning on even the best chefs at a moment’s notice.
-When they are coloured to your liking, remove from the oven and lay out on a large flat surface to cool evenly.
-Add the raisins to the mix when everything is cool and store in airtight jars until needed.

Beef Kofta

The Ingredients

 

Kofta are one of the most prevalent types of street food in the Middle East. Everywhere from Turkey to Iran has their own style and flavour but what I wanted to go with here was a very accessible and full of spice version that can be made up in no time at all.
It’s actually kind of an insult to call this a recipe. It’s an assembly job. But the end result is something that you would swear was flown straight in from the streets of Tehran.
If you are going with beef use the best quality you can afford with the lowest fat content, this will help them stay together. Lamb or pork mince work equally well with this recipe.

500g Minced Beef
1tsp Cumin
1tsp Coriander
1 tsp Paprika
1” Ginger
2 Cloves of Garlic
50ml Greek Yogurt

-Finely dice the garlic and grate the ginger on a microplane.

The Ingredients

-Add the spices, garlic and ginger to the beef mince and mix together well with a pinch of salt and pepper.

The Rolled Beef Mince

-Shape the seasoned mince onto wooden skewers. You want them to be no wider than 2 cm in diameter.

-These are incredible over a BBQ but they work equally well cooked on a searing hot griddle pan or under a grill turned up full.

-You want them to be dark and almost burnt on the outside while keeping a good bit of juice in the centre so hot and fast is the way to go. Serve them up with the Greek yogurt as a dip and a few pitta breads if you have them around.

The Final Product

 

Fiery BBQ Sauce

Fiery BBQ Sauce
I made this sauce recently to have in the fridge for late night snacks after work. I have since then, eaten it on everything. It’s so handy to make up and keep and it instantly lifts anything it’s put on. Sandwiches, burgers, cheese, chicken, everything you can think of.

Give it a go and I promise it’ll become a standard item in your kitchen.

50g Butter
1 Red Onion
1 Red Pepper
4 Cloves of Garlic
4 Chillies
200g Ketchup
400ml Orange Juice
100ml Cider Vinegar
2 Tins of Chopped Tomatoes
3 tbs Tabasco Sauce

-Finely chop the red onion and red pepper. Deseed the chillies and crush the garlic.
-In a large, heavy based saucepan melt the butter on a medium heat with a tablespoon of sunflower oil.
-Fry the red onion, pepper, garlic and chillies in the butter for about ten minutes or until they start to brown.
-When they have browned off, add in the orange juice, ketchup, vinegar, chopped tomatoes and tabasco sauce.
-Using one of the empty tomato tins, add a tins worth of hot water to the pan aswel.
-Stir well and bring it back to the boil then lower to a simmer.
-Leave it to simmer for about two hours or until it has reduced to a thick saucy texture.
-Season with salt and pepper then taste for spice. If you want some more heat, add a little extra Tabasco.

Chicken Satay Skewers

The Ingredients

Chicken Satay is one of those dishes that everyone loves. The perfect combination of sweetness and zest and that huge hit of peanuts and glazed over creamy chicken breast. There are few who can say no to that. This recipe is a really simple and quick take on the ancient Asian recipe. Alternatively you could make it up the day before and throw it on the BBQ when your mates come round.
This satay paste turns out a lot greener than the usual golden brown due to the full bunch of coriander but it really lift the flavour and makes it incredibly fresh and sweet. There will also be a fair bit of the paste left over to use next time.

2 Chicken Breasts
5tbsp Crunchy Peanut Butter
2 Spring Onions
1 Bunch of Coriander
3 Cloves of Garlic
1” piece of Ginger
1 Lime

-Roughly chop up the spring onion, coriander and garlic. Grate the Ginger on a microplane and zest the lime.

The Ingredients-Juice the lime into a blender. Add the spring onions, coriander, garlic, ginger, lime zest peanut butter and about 5tbsp of sunflower oil.   Blend all of these together until you get a smooth paste. Add a little more oil if necessary.
In the blender-Thinly slice the chicken breast and thread it onto wooden skewers.
Sliced Chicken Breast-Coat with a few tablespoons of the paste and leave to marinade overnight, or use immediately.
The Marinaded Chicken Breast-These are great for a BBQ but if you don’t have one just crank your grill on to full.
Threaded onto a skewer-Cook for about 5/7 minutes each side until they are gnarled and crispy and dark.
On the BBQ

This recipe is is one that once you have tried, you will never be able to go back to the plasticy orange goop that is shovelled at you in Charlies. Actually scratch that, Charlies is great.

Preserved Lemons

Preserved Lemons

When I tried these at first I wasn’t sure but after the initial test I couldn’t get enough of them. They are a Moroccan staple and can be found on every street corner. I use them in so many different things now. Zesting up couscous or folding through salads, they also work incredibly well in Tagines, finely diced and added a the end to give the whole dish a kick.
It is hard to give exact measurements for a recipe like this. It depends entirely on how many of these you want to make. How big your jars are. How big the lemons are. I will say that I made two, two litre jars, each jar housed about 6/7 small lemons. Also to save a little time and cash I cheated and used pre-juiced lemon juice but you can squeeze your own if you are so inclined.

10/15 lemons
2 Cinnamon Sticks
4 Bay Leaves
Sea Salt
Lemon Juice

-First sterilize your jars but placing them in a 100° oven for 20 minutes without their seals. Place the seals in some boiling water for ten minutes. When handling don’t touch anywhere near the rim of the jar with your hands, use tongs or a clean dish cloth.
-Cut a cross in the top of each lemon, cutting almost down to the base but leave a little bit attached.
-Using your hands (you can wear gloves if you like) force large bunches of salt down into the cuts and into contact with the flesh. You want at least a tablespoon of salt in each lemon.
-Force the salted lemons into the jar as tightly as they will go. The tighter the better. Don’t fill the jars more than 1cm below the rim.
-Once your jar is full add in one cinnamon stick broken in half and two bay leaves.

Preserved Lemons
-Next fill the jar with the lemon juice to 1cm below the rim.
-Seal the jar tightly and store in a cool, dry place. Your lemons should be ready to go after about four to five weeks.