Quick and Creamy Potato Salad

Potato Salad

 

               As a kid I used to always look forward to going shopping with my Mom or Dad on a Saturday morning to get the weekly shop in from Dunnes or Superquinn. Me and my sister would run around the shop trying to trick our parents into buying us treats. One of these was the salad bar. There was always some exciting new thing there that I always wanted to try and sure as the sun will rise, Mammy would never allow it. “It’s too expensive!” “It’s a waste of money!” etc. And one I usually remember being there was the trusty potato salad.

           This is a fairly basic version but I think it is all the more delicious for it. Make sure you get the bacon seriously crispy and crunchy as that will send your senses into overdrive while you eat it.

1 bag of baby potatoes

Small bunch of chives

6 strips of smoked streaky bacon

4 tbs of olive oil

1 tbs greek yoghurt

Salt and Pepper

-Take the potatoes out of the bag, give them a bit of a wash, then chop them up so they are all roughly the same size.

-Get a big pot of water on to boil. When it is boiling add a pinch of salt and put the potatoes in.

-They should take about 20 to 25 minutes to cook fully.

-While they are boiling, get a frying pan on a high heat. This is for the bacon.

-Slice up the bacon fairly thin and add it to the really fucking hot pan with a little olive oil.

-When they are nice and crispy (almost burnt), turn them out onto a few pieces of kitchen paper to get rid of any excess oil and grease.

-Get out an old jam jar, in it add the olive oil, yoghurt and a pinch of salt and pepper. Put the lid on the jar and give it a really strong shake.

-The only thing left to do is dice up the chives to whatever size you prepare.

-When the potatoes are done, strain them and pop them in a big serving dish.

-Pour over the salad dressing and bacon bits.

-Garnish with the chives and serve with whatever you see fit.

Enjoy,

 

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Easy and Spicy Chicken Salad

Spicy Chicken Salad

 

           So this is a bit of a quick and healthy lunch I whipped up a few days ago. Its mostly made from a few bits and pieces of leftovers in the fridge but is seriously tasty. If you have some homemade Thai red curry paste that would be great but if not any store bought one will be fine.

2 Chicken breasts,

2tbs Thai Red Curry Paste

1 head of romaine or cos lettuce,

1 Ciabatta bread,

1 stalk of rosemary

4tbs olive oil

1 handful of rocket

1 Lemon

-First preheat your even to about 180 degrees.

-Next slice the chicken breasts into 1cm thick slivers. Mix these in a bowl with the red curry paste.

-Take out a roasting dish and roughly tear up your chiabata into small squares into it.

-Finely dice the rosemary and add it, along with some salt and pepper to the chiabata in the roasting dish.

-Sprinkle over a tbs of olive oil and pop them in the oven.

-Now take a heavy based frying pan and get it on a high heat.

-Once the pan is hot pop the chicken into it. (these no need to use any oil or anything as the curry paste will stop the chicken sticking.

-Make sure to keep the chicken moving as it cooks and get all of the sauce coating the chicken. It should only take about 5/10 mins.

-Check the croutons to make sure they aren’t over cooking and give them a bit of a move about.

-While they are cooking nicely, take out your lettuce and rocket.

-Slice the lettuce about 1 cm thick and add it to a large mixing/salad bowl with the rocket.

-Add 3 or 4 tbs of olive oil, the juice of half a lemon and a pinch of salt and pepper and mix it all through thoroughly.

-By now your chicken and croutons should be ready to go.

-Plate the salad up on two plates, pour some croutons on top and arrange the chicken in whatever fancy manner you see fit.

-Now all thats left to do is sit back and enjoy the fruits of your labours.

 

Steak and How to Cook it.

The finished Steak Sandwich

 

This week I thought I’d tackle one of the classics again so I turned my attention to the staple of so many men’s diets. The Steak! The humble steak, so easy, and yet so easy to do it wrong. All too easy to over or undercook, depending on your taste. But also fairly interesting once you take into account what kind of steak you are cooking.

 

The main ones in the shops these days are the cheap as chips Sirloin, the slightly fancier Rib-Eye and the Fillet which is so upper class it has more servants than it knows what to do with. Now don’t get me wrong, all three of these cuts will give you a damn good meal however I personally prefer the Rib-Eye myself. It tends to have the best meat-to-fat ratio and it’s also the biggest… which is important… ya’know,.. just saying.

 

Anyways the type of steak you get will ultimately determine how it should be cooked. Generally speaking the more fat and marbling the longer it should be cooked for. For a rib-eye or sirloin the most you want to cook it is medium, any more and you are ruining a perfectly decent piece of meat. Why would you do that? Shame on you!

 

Fillet on the other hand is, by the fact of where it comes from in the cow, incredibly tender and free of any marbling. This means it needs little or no cooking whatsoever. Carpaccio is a dish the Italians do with raw fillet steak and should definitely be tried by everyone at least once.

 

I think the thing people find most difficult with steak is cooking times. The easiest way I find to test it is to touch your thumb and pointy finger together and press the bulge of flesh between them, that’s what a rare steak feels like. Now do it with thumb and middle, that’s medium. Then thumb and ring, well done. Then thumb and baby, that’s why-the-fuck-have-you-cooked-your-steak-for-so-long-get-out-of-the-kitchen. I’m not sure the culinary industry has a word for that yet, but they should.

 

So, taking into account everything we have learned about steaks and how not to overcook them (I’m looking at you; thumb and baby finger guy) lets put all this info to good use. And then stick the result in a sandwich. That’s always fun.

 

The Steak Sandwich

1 large rib eye steak

Salt and pepper

1 tsp fennel seed

1 large ciabatta

1 large tbsp of sweet and tangy chutney (My previous recipies for Red Onion Marmalade or Fig Chutney would be great here but use whatever you have lying around)

2 buffalo mozzarella

1 large handful of rocket

 

-Heat a non-stick pan on a high heat. You want this pan to be Really Fucking Hot (RFH)*

-Preheat your oven to about 150 degrees. Dampen some kitchen paper and wrap it around you ciabatta then put it in the oven. (This is to stop it drying out)

-On a decent sized chopping board lay out your steak and season well with salt and pepper.

-In a pestle and mortar (use a bowl and the end of a rolling pin if you haven’t got one) crush the fennel seeds until you are left with a reasonably fine powder.

-Pour these over the steak. Now its time for the elbow grease. Work all those seasonings into the meat; make sure every inch of the steak gets some tough love. The more you handle the meat (snigger) now the more tender it will be when it’s cooked.

Rib-Eye Steak

 

-Once you are sure the meat is well seasoned, place the steak on the pan. You must remember not to use any oil as there is enough fat in the steak to do the job.

-I usually give the steak 2 minutes on the first side and then one minute on the other side. This is perfect medium rare territory. Don’t move the steak about too much either; let it do its own thing.

-When you are happy with how it’s cooked (don’t forget the finger test) place it back onto the chopping board again. Now, leave it alone again.

 

Medium Rib-Eye

 

-Seriously, walk away from it for five minutes. This will allow the meat time to relax and release all the lovely juices stored up inside it, which will make it beautifully tender.

-While this is going on, get your ciabatta out of the oven and cut it down the middle.

-On the bottom, graciously spoon on your chutney of choice. (Most people use mustard but personally I prefer to use red onion marmalade or something like that for the sweet contrast)

-Now it’s almost time to go back to your steak. Trying not to man-handle it too much and using long knife strokes, gently cut the steak into 1 cm ribbons.

 

 

 

-Without letting any juices drop, bring the steak to the bread and lay it all out on the bottom slice.

-Rip up your mozzarella and lay it on top of the steak. Do the same with the rocket.

-Here’s where the magic is, using the top part of the ciabatta, mop up all the lovely juices off your chopping board, and make sure not to miss any because that is some serious flavour.

-Press the top half down over the rest of the sandwich, stand back and observe the greatness you have created.

 

Optional Extra: Cut it in half, tell your friend he can have half, don’t let him have it and it all in front of him. I’m not sure why but this always makes it taste that little bit better.

 

 

*trademark Dermot O’ Brien

 

Easy Bake Brownies

Easy bake Brownies

 

The rain seems to be back so I think it best to journey back to the kitchen with eggs, flour and enough chocolate to give a fasting priest a heart attack.

 

Brownies, possibly the only thing that makes people feel better than cookies. Though it’s difficult to tell with most people. This is one of the simplest recipies i have found for Brownies and personally I think it works a treat. I use a combination of white and dark chocolate but you can use whichever type or combination you want.

 

This would be a great opportunity to use the auld food processor. Just chuck all the ingredients in and give it a whiz for a few minutes. That or give the arms a workout and use a good old fashioned bowl 😀

 

2 packs of chocolate

200g of sugar

250g of Butter

6 Tbs of hot chocolate powder

150g of self raising flour

4 eggs

 

-Chop up the two packs of chocolate, measure out all the rest of the ingredients and load them all into your bowl or magi mix.

-Mix until it’s smooth (and delicious, no-one I know can resist a bit of  brownie batter) Then lay it out onto a non stick tray until it’s about an inch or so think.

-Pop it into the middle of an oven pre-heated to 170 degrees.

-At that temperature it should take between 15 to 20 minutes depending on your oven.

-Once they have risen and are starting to look done take them out and stick a knife in the middle, if it comes out reasonably clean then they are done. Leave them to cool then cut them up and enjoy with ice-cream, cream or whatever tickles your fantasy 😛

 

Rainy Days and Baking Cookies

 

Chocolate Chip Cookies

            So I have been bound in the apartment for the last few days, so I thought to myself how best to pass the time? And then the answer came to me,.. Cookies.

          This is a simple recipe a friend of mine Mia gave me many a year ago and I have tweaked over the last while to my own taste. Personally I love them with white chocolate chips but you can adapt the flavour to anything you like, dark chocolate, mint, peanut butter, oatmeal and raisen or lemon and lime juice.

125g Butter

120g Unrefiened cane sugar

1 Egg

160g Semolina Flour

1/2 Tsp Baking Soda

1 large bar of white chocolate.

-Preheat the oven to about 160 or 170 degrees.

-Mix the butter, egg and sugar together in a large mixing bowl.

-Mix the baking soda and the flour together and then add it to the mix.

-Bash the bar while it is still in the pack then pour it out onto a chopping board. Then with a large knife run through it a few times untill you get the chips the size you want. Mix these in and you are good to go.

-You can either spoon small portions straight onto a non stick tray. Or lay out a sheet of cling film and spoon some of the batter out onto the sheet. Then mould it out into a tube about the diameter of a golf ball. Wrap it up tight and pop it in the fridge for an hour or two. Then take it out and chop it into 2cm thick rings and bung it in the preheated oven.

-For cookies that are still sticky in the middle cook for about 11 minutes, a few more if you like them crunchier.

-Leave them to cool, then enjoy.

 

The Dublin Market and Fig Chutney

Fig Chutney

As you have probably guessed by now, I really love sauces. Don’t worry though this is going to be my last one for a while, then I’ll get back to real food, Promise.

 

I took a stroll down to the Fruit and Veg market in Dublin there this morning to have a browse. I must admit I was pretty nervous on my way in the first time as I wasn’t full sure on how open to Joe Public it actually was. After a few minutes of walking around as if I knew where I was going I started talking to one of the vendors and I couldn’t have felt more welcome. After all, to them, business is business. Since then I have made it a regular stop on my shopping trips and would recommend anyone to do the same, not only for the experience but the price and quality can’t be beaten.

 

So today my search was for fresh figs for this seriously good fig chutney. Figs aren’t something we see enough of in supermarkets and the like these days, they are beautifully sweet and delectably moreish, especially baked in the oven served with a little honey and a scoop of ice cream for dessert. Anyway I digress, this is a great little recipe and the chutney goes so well with so many things. Cheese, crackers, meats, salads you name it.

 

12 fresh figs
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
60ml dark spirits (I use spiced rum but any port or whiskey will do)
100g sultanas
1 star anise
50g dark sugar

 

-Cut your figs into eighths (or small if you like but I like it kind of chunky) and put them in a large heavy based saucepan
-Add the rest of the ingredients (don’t be temped to overdo the vinegar if it seems dry, as soon as the heat comes on all the juice will rush out of the figs)
-Leave the pot on a medium heat until the mixture turns to a kind of jammy consistency. (This usually takes about 45mins to an hour for me)
-Taste it at the end and add a little sugar or vinegar if it’s a little sweet or bitter.
-Jar it up while it’s still warm and then enjoy.

 

Vegetarians Beware! (Lets talk about meat)

Rib Eye Steak

 

           Let’s talk for a second about meat. The common conception among people is that there are good and bad cuts of meat in an animal. Untrue, there are just very different cuts. For instance there’s leg, shoulder, thigh, neck, fillet, rib, the list goes on. The main difference between all of these is the amount of fat running through it. The more work a body part does the more fat it will have and the longer it will need to be cooked for.

 

Knowing this we can now be a bit of a better meat shopper. When most people think of roast lamb we think of leg. Lamb leg doesn’t have much fat as it hasn’t had to do too much work so it is a good deal more expensive in a butchers shop (I’ll talk more about why to buy at a butcher not a supermarket another day kids) as it is quicker to cook. However a great alternative and personal favourite of mine is Shoulder. It is often less than a third of the price of a leg and even tastier. The compromise is that it must be cooked long and slow to melt all of that b-e-a-utiful fat out of it. By the end you will have fantastically moist and melt in your mouth meat that will make you never go back to leg again.

 

These principles apply to any meat; ask your butcher for lesser cuts that just need a bit more TLC and you, your pocket and your taste buds will definitely be rewarded. And just to get you started here’s  a simple recipe for lamb shoulder.

 

1 lamb shoulder,
Stalk of rosemary,
Salt and pepper,
Sunflower oil,
Fennel seeds,

 

-Preheat your oven as high as it’ll go (turn it up to 11)
-In a pestle and mortar grind up about a tsp of fennel seeds.
-Take the rosemary off the stalk and give it a quick rough chop then add it to the pestle.
-Add a pinch of salt and pepper, give it another grind and add some sunflower oil.
-Once you have your flavoured oil done, put your meat into a small baking tray and pour the oil over it.
-This is where the fun begins, work the oil into the meat with your hands, making sure to get it in all the cracks and crevices. It ain’t pretty but flavour isn’t an accident, it’s got to be earned!
-Wrap the tray in tin foil and bung it in the oven for four hours. The meat is ready when it can be pulled apart with a fork.

 

Enjoy,