Category Archives: Easy

Moving away from home and an Asian Pickle Salad

So it has been a crazy few months since I last updated this blog. I left my job in Dublin, I moved to London and I have started working in an incredible Barbecue focused place here. This experience has been something that I was not nearly as ready for as I thought I was.

Moving away from your home, your family, your friends, your pets, the streets you walk every day, the coffee shops you frequent, the bars you imbibe in, the busses and trains you ride, it is a scary thing to do. You are left, as if suspended in mid-air, with not just the rug pulled out from under you, but the floorboards torn up and the entire building seemingly razed to the ground beneath your feet.

The first couple of weeks were probably the strangest, not necessarily the hardest but definitely odd. I had rented a room for the two weeks after I arrived as a way to get to know the area and have a place to search for more long term arrangements from. I ended up staying there three weeks because, as I probably don’t need to tell you, the housing market in London is bat-shit-cray.

Several times I would be on the way to meet with an estate agent only to get a curt message saying the apartment was already let, or they didn’t accept references from “overseas.” “It’s Ireland mate, it’s like a twenty minute walk from here.” That in combination with the rent prices I was looking at was a pretty daunting thing to overcome. But in the end, I found a nice little place in the East End and moved in.

The strangest feeling was that when I was leaving the first place I stayed, my mind seemed to think I had been on holiday or something. Like now that I had been away for a few weeks and was packing up my stuff I was going back to Dublin to see my life again. But to then find myself in another new apartment and new area was really tough.

The first day I had off from work after moving in, I did the only thing I know how to do when I don’t know what to do, I made a home cooked meal.

1 Red Chilli
1 Lime
2 Spring Onions
1 Bunch of Coriander
1 Tbsp Mirin
1 Tsp Sesame Oil
1 Tsp Soy Sauce
1 Tsp Rice Wine Vinegar (White Wine Vinegar will do or any white vinegar in a pinch)
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-First off you want to make up the pickle dressing for the salad. In a bowl, mix together the Mirin, Sesame Oil, Soy Sauce, Rice Wine Vinegar and the Juice of the lime.
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-Mix it well and then taste it. It should be a little sharp from the vinegar but if it is offensively strong, tone it down by adding in a little sugar and a little more Mirin.
-Next, half and deseed your chilli.
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-As finely as you can, slice up each of the halves. I like to do it length-ways (purely for aesthetic reasons) but you can do it whatever way you like. Just make sure the pieces are quite fine so the pickle easily.
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-Add the chilli into the pickle dressing.
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-Peel the spring onions of any nasty outer leaves and chop them into manageable pieces.
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-Slice them in half, length-ways and then slice them again as finely as you can. The thinner they are the better they will pickle and the better they will look on the plate.
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-Add these into the dressing aswel.
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-Pick the leaves, gently so as not to bruise them, of the coriander from the stalks.
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-Chop the stalks into similarly sized pieces to the spring onion and chilli and add them into the dress with everything else.
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-The salad can stay like this for a few days and then as soon as you are ready to serve, add in the coriander leaves.
-Pluck the salad out of the dressing and allow it to drain for a moment on a piece of kitchen paper. Then it’s ready to be placed atop anything you fancy.
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Homemade Flatbreads

When thinking about street food you have to think of a few key principles. It has to be fast, it has to be big on flavour, it has to be cheap but most of all it has to be easy to eat. Wraps, sandwiches, tacos, falafel, Kofta, every major street food is wrapped in some kind of bread. And most of these are quick to make, quick to grill and quick to eat flatbreads.

Here I am going to give you a basic flatbread recipe that you can pimp in pretty much any direction you want. If you want Indian, swap the water for yoghurt and add turmeric. If you want Moroccan, use cumin and cinnamon. If Middle Eastern is your style, sumac and cardamom are your man.

Really as long as you have flour, raising agent and a liquid then you can take it to whatever cuisine you like. Or simply add in whatever odds and ends you have left in the press.

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500g Flour (Plus extra for dusting)
1 tsp Baking Powder
1lt cold water
1 Tsp Sea Salt
1 Tsp Cumin Seed
1 Tsp Dried Oregano
1 Tsp Dried Chilli Flakes

-Place the flour in a large mixing bowl.
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-Add in the oregano, chilli, cumin and salt.
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-Sift in the Baking powder.
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-Mix the dry ingredients together well with your hand and make a well in the centre of the bowl.
-Make a claw shape with your hand; this is going to be your beater for bringing together the dough.
-Place the bowl on a flat surface with a dish cloth underneath to stop it moving too much.
-Gently start to add the water into the well little by little while also bringing in the flour in from the sides with your claw hand (that’s what it’s called, you are now a Bond villain, Henchman Claw Hands)
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-Keep adding water bit by bit until it all starts to come together.IMG_7899agrv (Large)
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-As soon as it does turn it out onto a large, flat work surface and with the flour set aside for dusting, start to knead the bread together.
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-The best way to do this is with the ball of dough in front of you, press and push it away from you with the base of your hand, fold it back on itself, give it a quarter turn and repeat.
-Do this a few times and you should be left with dough that is smooth and not sticky. If it’s sticky, add a little more flour and knead it again.
-Get your grill/griddle pan on a high heat.
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-Take out balls of the dough about the size of golf balls for taco sized breads or a little bigger for tortilla sized ones.
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-With the dusting flour and a rolling pin/wine bottle roll them out to a little thiner than a €2 coin.
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-Place each one on the grill for about two to three minutes each side. Your grill should be searing hot but without any flame ups.
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-Flip them as soon as they start to bubble and colour.
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Once they have cooled they can last for a few days wrapped up in the fridge and brought back with a few seconds on the grill or even in a microwave. But for me they are best straight off the flames and into your waiting gob.

Baked Mackerel Parcel

Summertime food for me will always be mackerel. For some it’s strawberries and cream, for others its caprese salad. For me it’s mackerel, straight out of the Atlantic, fishing with my Dad, collecting a bucket-full of the little torpedo shaped blighters, still contorted with rigor and ready to be devoured as soon as possible.

This is one of the easiest and most fool proof way of cooking fish. You will see it crop up time and time again on restaurant menus and in cookbooks. It can be made in advance if you are having a dinner party or whipped together in minutes on a lazy Wednesday night.

It is also seriously adaptable. I used the ingredients here but you can use it with any herbs and light vegetables and pretty much any small fish. Experiment and you never know what combinations you will find.
The Ingredients
1 Whole gutted Mackerel
1 Small Leek
1 Lemon
1 Small Bunch of Coriander
1 Small bunch of Thyme
50ml Cider/fish stock/chicken stock/veg stock/white wine/water

-Rinse and finely slice up the leek, (remove a lot of the thick green tips as they are a bit tough to eat) and slice the lemon.
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-Take one long piece of wide tin foil and double it over so you parcel is good and thick.
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-Place a few of the sliced leeks and lemon slices in the middle of your foil along with a little coriander and thyme.
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-Now place the Mackerel on top.
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-Stuff the Mackerel with more of the leeks, lemon and the herbs.
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-Cover the fish with any remaining stuffing and season well with salt, pepper and a little olive oil.
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-Now wrap the fish by folding one of the long sides of the tin foil over the other and sealing it tightly.
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-Roll up one end of the long tin foil tube you now have until you reach the body of the fish. This should leave one end open.
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-Into this end, pour the liquid. I had a bit of cider in the fridge so I used that but any stock or wine would work well. You want some kind of flavourful liquid that is going to steam the fish in the oven.
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-Wrap up that end tightly so you are left with a completely sealed, tin foil parcel of goodness.
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-Place this parcel on a baking tray and cook in a pre-heated oven at 200 degrees for about fifteen to seventeen minutes depending on the size of your fish.
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-When it comes out of the oven pierce the foil and savour the smell and the steam. This is a glorious thing to eat.
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The foil parcel makes a ready-made bowl. The leeks and herbs have cooked down to create an incredible salad. The oil and juice from the mackerel have combined with the cider to create an incredible sauce and the fish is light and flaky and fragrant. I can’t imagine a more perfectly well contained meal.

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
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-Once they have coloured a little bit crank up the heat and squeeze in the juice from the lime you zested earlier.
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-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.

Vietnamese Bánh Mì

Ingredients

When you think of really great street food one of the name that comes to the tip of most tongues is Vietnam. The bustling, ant-colony like streets and lined with carts and stalls selling all manner of hand held delights. One of the most famous and well-tried of these is the Bánh Mì. A remnant of French Colonialism and local herbs and vegetables the Bánh Mì has been a staple in the Vietnamese diet for years. A crusty French baguette filled with pickled daikon radish and carrot, mint, coriander, pork, beef, prawns whatever was available, mayonnaise, pate it is a fragrant smack in the tastebuds. One that we are going to recreate here.

I have made this sandwich a few times before but this has to be my favourite version of it. Incredibly quick to make and so fresh it’ll knock you into next week. The key to this, in my opinion is good bread. Buying a really good quality baguette from a baker or somewhere like Fallon and Byrne will pay dividends when you tear through it to the zingy pickled salad inside. The baguette is where you want to spend a little extra cash, trust me.

For this one I am going to use king prawns I got in the Asian Market on Drury st but any prawns will do, even frozen ones will work. You can also do the exact same thing here with chicken breast of pork fillet. Whatever you have in the fridge really. The salad will also last a fair while so keep it in a jar to liven up another meal. The daikon radish (also called a mooli) can be found in any decent ethnic vegetable store like the Asian Supermarkets or Fallon and Byrne again.

8 tiger prawns or 12 shrimp
2 limes
Half of a daikon radish.
1 bunch of coriander
1 bunch of mint
1 x 12” French Baguette
Mayonnaise

-First off take the heads and shells off your prawns or if you are using frozen ones, defrost them and pat them dry.

Prawns

-Zest the limes and finely chop the stalks of the bunch of coriander. Add these to the prawns with a tablespoon of sunflower oil. Leave them to marinade for as long as possible but they could pretty much be used straight away.

Prawns in the Marinade

-Finely slice the leaves from the coriander and the mint and mix together in a large bowl.

Finely Sliced Herbs
-Using a box grater or a food processor, if you are one of the lucky few, grate both the carrots and the daikon radish.

Grated Root Vegetables
-Add these to the mixing bowl along with a pinch of salt and the juice from both limes. The salt and the acidic juice will pickle the carrot and radish giving you an incredibly zingy kick. Thoroughly mix the salad together and crush it between your hands. This helps the pickling process.

Pickled Salad
-Preheat your oven to 100°c and place your baguette inside. It only needs about 5 minutes

Prawns
-Heat a medium sized frying pan or wok on a medium to high heat. Add the prawns once the pan begins to smoke. They should only take about 2 minutes on each side.

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-When the Prawns are cooked you are good to go. Smear a spoonful of the mayo on each side of the baguette, layer in the salad and top with the prawns.

 

Banh Mi

All that’s left now is to tuck in and imagine yourself floating down the Mekong delta as you sit and watch the world go by. Soundtrack supplied by Robin Williams is an optional extra.

Snickers Rice Krispie Squares

Snickers Rice Krispie Squares

Rice Krispie Squares are one of life’s great nostalgic pleasures. They bring you right back to being a kid in the school hall on bake sale day, selling these puppies off like they were going out of style, which of course, they never were.
These are probably my favourite incarnation of them, Mars bars work great as well but I think the few extra peanuts in them really bring it up a notch. This isn’t so much a recipe as a set of very vague guidelines. Rice Krispie Squares are designed to be made by three year old. So we shouldn’t have much trouble right? … Right?

7 Snickers bars

500g Milk Chocolate
100g butter
500g Rice Krispies
200g White Chocolate

The Ingredients

-First put a large pot, with about two inches of water in the bottom, on to a low simmer.
-Break up the snickers and chocolate and place them in a large bowl along with the butter over the simmering water. Keep these moving every minute or so to help them melt a little faster.
-Once they are melted add in the Rice Krispies (remember the weight is just a guideline, if you think your mix could use a few more or less rice krispies work away)
-Pour the mix out into a baking tray lined with cling film and flatten it out as much as possible.
-Pop the tray in the fridge for about an hour or so. The longer you can leave them, the better.
-Take it out, turn it upside down and lay the massive slab of hard rice krispies on a chopping board.
-Break up the white chocolate into a small bowl and microwave it for about 40 seconds, stirring halfway through.
-Pour this over the top of the squares and allow to set in the fridge.
-Cut them into appropriately sized chunks and serve to the masses of people that have collected in your kitchen after you said “I think I might make Rice Krispie Squares.”

 

Foolproof Cupcakes

Foolproof Cupcakes

          This along with my cookies recipe and chocolate cake are seriously great things to have stashed in your back pocket at all times. (The recipe, not the cake, that would be weird.) They are all simple, easy to remember and most importantly, easy to execute well. Making you look like a culinary hero instead of the culinary cock-ups we all really are. It’s about perception my friends.

          I have been using this recipe for a fair few months now and it never fails. Stick to these measurements and the recipe will not let you down. The only thing that might change is the cooking time. Baked goods are delicate and pretty fickle. You will just have to watch yours closely for the first batch and then use that time as a guide from then on. Once you get to know your oven a little better (it probably misses you) you will be flying.

           Once you have it down to an art the rest is up to you. Replace a little of the flour with hot chocolate powder and add a few chocolate chips for double chocolate cupcakes. Grate in a little pear or apple for a fruity twist. Berries are always a safe bet. I did these ones with Lime zest and white chocolate in that batter and a white chocolate and lime juice icing.

The Cupcakes
225g Sugar
225g Butter (must be room temperature)

4 Eggs

225g Self Raising Flour

1 Tsp Baking Powder

1 Tsp Vanilla Extract

The Icing

200g Butter

450g Icing Sugar

2 Tbsp Milk

-Cream together the butter and sugar until it turns to a light white creamy consistency. All of this can be done with a hand blender or in a food processor.

-Mix in the vanilla.

-Crack the eggs into the creamed butter and sugar one at a time and mix in thoroughly.

-It will initially look like its going to split but keep going and it will come together in the end.

-When the eggs are all incorporated sift in the flour and the baking powder.

-Mix these into the wet batter slowly. Make sure not to leave any pockets of flour in the batter. That will not end well, trust me.

-Preheat your oven to 180 degrees celcius.

-Line a cupcake tin with cupcake cases.

-Fill each case about 2/3 full.

-Place in the centre of the oven. About 12 minutes works a charm for me but everyone’s oven is different and will give you a different time.

-When they look nice and golden on top, stick a toothpick in the centre of one. Leave it for a second or two then pull it out. If it comes out clean you cupcakes are done. If there is still batter on the cocktail stick put them back in for abother minute or two then test again.

-When they are done, leave them to cool on a wire rack so they don’t get too moist on the bottom.

Icing

-Soften the butter a bit in the microwave before starting. This will make everything a lot easier.

-In a large bowl whisk up the butter so it is nice and airy.

-Then slowly start to add in your icing sugar a few tablespoons at a time.

-Keep whisking until all of the icing sugar has been incorporated into the butter.

-I then add a few tablespoons of milk just to let it out a little and make it easier to pipe onto the cupcakes but if you are going to spoon it on then there is no need.

-If you would like to add food dye at this stage feel free. You can see I went for red here but use whatever you have to hand.