Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Burrito time!!!!!

What delights are lurking inside?
I freaking love burritos. There I said it.  I had my first one on a trip to Boston. I was handed one as I "watched" the Superbowl (some big final in a ball sport type game thingy).  The game was irrelevant but sweet holy zombie Jeebus was the burrito GOOD!!!!!

Marinade ingredients
I was devastated when I got back to Dublin and couldn't get a decent version anywhere. So naturally I started trying to make my own. I knew the basics of what was in a burrito so I thought to myself "ah sure this will be grand".  The problem was it was never "grand".

Over the years I've learnt a lot about Mexican cooking. The flavours are simple but when layered together become intensely complex. From the tanginess of a lime, to the sweet earthiness of corn, to the fiery heat of a chilli. It takes a lot more than an 'old el paso' fajitas kit and a bottle of corona to make a good Mexican meal!

Chipotle Salsa ingredients 
I used to think a chilli was a chilli. I was wrong. The smokiness of a chipotle is a world away from the intense savouriness of an ancho chilli.  Recently I've been building up my arsenal of chillies and I wanted to put them to good use. So I gave burritos with a homemade salsa and guacamole a go this week.

The how to bit...

Juice of 2 small oranges
Juice of 1 Lime
2 cloves of garlic (crushed)
1 Tbs of Olive oil
2 Tsp of freshly crushed cumin seeds
1 Tsp of freshly crushed allspice berries
800-900g of Beef (I prefer Rump or Skirt)

Roast ingredients in a dry pan before blending
Chipotle Salsa
3 tomatoes
2 cloves of garilc
2 Chillies
1/2 an onion
1 tbs of Chipotles en adobo
Lime juice to taste
Coriander to taste

For the salsa just blacken the tomatoes, chillies, garlic and onion in a dry frying pan first. Chuck them all into a blender and puls (you don't want it too smooth). I then mix in the chipotles, lime juice, coriander and season to my liking.

It's completely up to you what to have with your burritos. I like mine with blackbeans, lime rice, corn on the cob and a big helping of GuacaMowldsy.

I can sense a lot of burritos this summer.....

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


This was truly delicious! 
If like me you would murder for a good bit of guacamole then you'll love this. It's a recipe I knicked off of Thomasina Miers (Original Master chef UK winner). She has a book on Mexican food that I'm in LOVE with at the moment.

I've always had a soft spot for a burrito or two but I could never really make great guacamole. Now I can!!! The key to this is to make a fine paste with your onion and chillies first and then to add mountains of lime juice and coriander....No problem!

I used mine on a chicken club sandwich I made for lunch and then kept the rest for chips and dip with Pino later that night. It didn't last very long but it was well worth it. 

2 ripe havas avocado
1 lime,  juice (and a bit of zest)
1 small red onion
2 red chillies
1 small bunch of coriander
salt and pepper to taste.

The how to bit.....
Finely dice half of the red onion and one red chilli. Place them into the pastel and mortar with some salt and bash into a  smooth paste. Once you have your paste, mash in the avocados and mix in the rest of the finely dice onions and chillies.
Squeeze the lime juice on top, add some chopped coriander and mix it all together.
Chilli and onion paste
I like mine a bit on the chunky side so I tend not to over mash the avocados.

So once again sorry for the quick and cheeky blog but I'm still very much trying to get myself settled after the move. Also it seems that I bought all of IKEA last week and now have a mountain of things that need assembling. Anyone want to help?

Monday, March 14, 2011

Paella of deliciousness (and tomato salad)

The main event
This is a bit less seasonal than I'd normally like to post about. I'm in the middle of moving apartments so I had to dig through my photo library to see what pictures I had to scrape a blog together with.

Last summer in London was a scorcher! My cravings like everyones (I assume) changes with the weather. So because the weather was heating up I started having real cravings for "summer" food. Stuff like seafood, tomatoes, lemon, can probably see where I'm going with this. Paella combines all of these things and more!

I spent more than I should on some amazing chorizo in borough market so I needed to make it stretch. Hence the starter of tomato and chorizo salad. Also Pella like risotto is one of those things best cooked and served straight away so the tomato salad buys you some time in the kitchen! Also it's upsettingly simple to put together.

Scary looking? Or tasty Looking? 

150g Chroizo (Not cured)
250g king prawns (2-3 per person)
300g Squid
500g of Mussels
150-200g peas
4 large tomatoes
1 large white onion
1 Yellow pepper
4 cloves of garlic
3 red chilies
3 tsp of smoked paprika
1 tsp pd saffron strands
1 lemon
2-3 Sprigs of fresh thyme
1/4 glass of dry white wine
400g of short grain rice (paella rice)
800mls of stock (fish, vegetable or chicken)
Boiling water (enough to top up later)

The how to bit....
Heat some olive oil in a pan and soften the onion, garlic, pepper, red chilies and thyme. After a minutes or two add the chorizo and paprika and cook on a high heat until you see the chorizo start to ooze a beautiful golden oil. Now dump in the rice and mix it around really well so all the rice is coated in the oil. Now add the wine and let it cook off. Add the stock and bring to a boil but don't let it boil. Turn the heat down and let it simmer. This is a good point to stir in the saffron.

 Heads on the prawns = Tasty deliciousness! 
The thing with paella is you need to resist stirring it too much as that woud release too much starch and we're not making risotto here! Let the rice simmer for 15 minutes then add in the prawns and muselles. You want to make sure they are totally submerged in the stock/rice (if not, top it up with some boiling water). Cook them for 4-5 minutes, when the prawns turn pink and the muselles open they're ready! Throw in the squid and peas now, again cover them in the rice and let cook for no more than 2 minutes. Take off the heat, cover the pan with foil and let stand for 5 minutes (season to taste). Arrange some lemon slices on the top and serve with some crusty bread. Yum!!

Tomato Salad:
Tomatoes roughly chopped
Chorizo (Cooked in olive oil, keep for dressing)
Red onion finely sliced
Fresh basil

There's no need for me to list how to put this salad together. There is no right way or wrong way just bang all the ingredients together and drizzle with the cooking oil. Salt and peper to taste and a splash of balsamic vinger never goes astray.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Lasagna, plain and simple.

OK I know everyone has their own version of lasagna and this isn't a ground breaking, michelin star winning, deconstructed, evolved attempt or anything like that. It's just my lasagna.

However, this is one of my go to dishes when I'm feeling like I need a bit of comfort food. It's easy to put together when you have big group coming over and it's always a crowd pleaser.

Just by serving it with a simple rocket salad you can feed a lot of people for not a lot of money. Also it keeps/freezes very well.

Ingredients for Ragú (serves 8-10)
500g Minced beef
500g Minced pork
2 cans of plum tomatoes
1 large handful of Basil
Nutmeg (freshly grated, 10-12 shavings)
Chicken stock (500-600mls)
Red wine (1/2 a glass)
Red Onion finely diced
2 sticks of celery
2 cloves of garlic
Tomato purée (1 Tbs)
Lemon (Juice of one and half the zest)
Honey (1 Tbs)
Mushrooms (250g)
Chilli (finely diced, seeds and all)
2 Carrots sliced
Salt & Pepper
Oregano 2 tsp

The how too bit...
Soften the onion, celery, garlic (with salt) in some olive oil for 5min on a medium heat.Turn the heat up, add the red wine and let cook off. Turn heat back down to medium and add the meat. Brown the meat fully and let the fat cook off. Now add the tomatoes, carrots, mushrooms, puree, chilli and mix around for a min or two. 
Add the chicken stock, lemon juice, zest and honey. Let this come to the boil and turn down to a simmer. Grate in the nutmeg (about 1/4 of a whole one) and add half the basil. Leave it to thicken and adjust the seasoning. This can take up to an hour. Make sure to keep an eye on it and stir it often.

While the ragú is thickening I normally make my béchamel sauce. For this you'll need, 

500mls of Milk 
Half an onion 
1 bay leaf 
7-8 whole peppercorns 
Fresh parsley 
40g of butter
40g of flour 

Warm your milk with the onion, bay leaf, peppercorns, nutmeg and parsley in it. Let this infuse for 10min. While this is happening melt your butter in a sauce pan, before it browns sift in the flour and mix to make a roux. Once you've cooked the roux for a min begin to slowly add your flavoured milk. Keep stirring while you pour. Simmer and reduce the béchamel sauce until it's as thick as you like it. 

Once you have all your sauces ready it's a simple layering procedure. I only make my own pasta on special occasions I find the fresh pasta sheets available in most shops now is good enough for this. 

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Masterchef audition dish!

Vanilla and lime mash sounds a bit crazy but trust me it's amazing! The flavours just melt perfectly together. 
So this year I was really lucky to have made it onto the UK version of Masterchef. I feel I need to mention that I didn't make it very far on the actual TV show but I had a blast doing it. My friend Janice was the one to push me to go for it. It was a random rainy Wednesday and as usual I was avoiding doing work by googling new recipe ideas and chatting with Janice on skype. She sent me a link to the application page and said "just do it".

A couple of phone interviews, a screen test and 3 audition menus later I got a call to tell me they wanted me to be on the show! I remember my embarrassment because as I was chatting with the producer of a great foodie TV show I was trying to disguise the fact that I was shoving a Big Mac into my face (having been out drinking the night before). 

They've changed the show format this year so there's no more group cooking or ingredients challenge like in previous years. This time around you have to make your own dish for the "auditions" section. You then finish your dish off infront of John and Greg and either give you a Masterchef apron, or rip you a new areshole and make you cart off your dirty dishes in a march of culinary shame. 

So how far did I actually get? Well you'll have to wait to find out. In the mean time here's my recipe for my audition dish. Roast duck breast with vanilla and lime mash and a blackberry jus.

Blackberries for the jus


  • 4 Duck breasts 
  • 600g of good mashing potatoes 
  • 1 vanilla pod 
  • zest of 1 lime 
  • 1 tbs honey 
  • 150-200mls of reduced chicken stock 
  • 80g butter
  • 100mls of cream 
  • preheat oven to 200c 

How to bit:

Peel and cut the potatoes into even sized pieces. Place them into a pot of salted cold water and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 30-40min (until soft but not crumbling). While your potatoes are cooking, score the vanilla pod in half and place it into a pot with the cream, butter and lime zest. Heat over a gentle heat until the butter and cream are combined. Turn the heat down low and allow the zest and vanilla to infuse into the cream. 

Trim any sinew from your duck breast. Season the breast with salt and pepper and score the skin of the duck breast with a sharp knife (try not to cut into the flesh of the breast). In a hot pan place the duck breast skin side down to render off the fat, immediately turn the heat down to medium and cook for 3-4 min before turning the breast and cooking on the other side for 2min. Transfer to the oven and cook for about 8min (until nice and pink inside). Allow to rest for a few min before cutting. 

Blackberry jus, this is really simple. Reduce your chicken stock down and add a handfull of crushed blackberries. Check the flavour and adjust the sharpness of the just with some honey. 

Make your mash by using the cream and butter that is now infused with vanilla and lime. Slice the duck breast and serve ontop of the mash, and drizzle over some of that lovely jus. 

Friday, February 11, 2011

Kickass Katsu Curry!!

Beautiful Katsu Curry 
For me there's nothing as comforting on a miserable evening than huge bowl of katsu curry with a heaped mound of steaming fluffy white rice. Now, I'm by no means a curry snob, as many of my friends can testify! I'm more than partial to a "durty" curry form my local Chinese takeaway, but sometimes I want more than a bowl of guilt.

I'm not going to lie. I have a fetish for katsu curry. It's probably very uncouth of me to admit that this long lasting love affair started in a Dublin branch of Wagamama. However shameful food chain origins aside, this curry is a seriously good winter warmer. So when Pino came over the other night with a mountain of work still to do. I decided to throw together a katsu curry, partially to reward him but let's face it, it was really to satisfy my own glutinous needs.

I make my own curry powder and garam masala and I'll be posting about that soon enough but for most people this would be too much work. Instead I'd recommend you buy a good quality curry powder and garam masala from your local Asian market.

With Katsu curry you should officially use panko breadcrumbs for your meat but I have on many occasion thrown a chunk of baguette into a blender when I haven't been able to get my hands on some panko. As always use the recipe as a guide and add subtract things as you like.

For the chicken or pork: 

  • 100g of flour 
  • 200g of breadcrumbs
  • 1 egg beaten 
  • Chicken just ready for turning
  • salt and pepper 

For the curry sauce: 
  • 1 tbs of curry powder 
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1 onion 
  • 2 carrots 
  • 1 tsp garam masala 
  • 700mls of chicken stock 
  • 2 tbs flour 
  • 1 bay leaf 
  • 1 tbs soy sauce 
  • 2 tsp honey 

The How To Bit: 

Saute the onions and garlic in a pan with some groundnut oil for a few min. Once softened add the diced carrots and turn the heat down. Cook with a lid on for about 10 min. This will start to caramelise the vegetables and add a wonderful sweetness to the curry. Now stir in the flour and curry powder and allow to cook in the oil for a min. Slowly pour over the stock while stirring continuously. Add the soy sauce, honey and bay leaf. Bring this mixture to the boil, reduce and simmer for 20min or until it's at the consistency that you like. Add the garam masala and pass it through a sieve. I like my katsu smooth but if you like a chunky curry then leave the bits in. 
For the chicken or pork simply season the meat with salt and pepper dust in flour, dip in the egg and then cover in breadcrumbs. I then put these into an oven at gas mark 6 for 35-40 min. Turning halfway through. 

I like my curry with rice but it's also lovely with noodles.  Myself and Pino had a very tasty Monday evening!

The boy and his food 
Do you think Pino looks

  1. Confused as to why I'm taking a picture of him eating
  2. Exahusted from the mountain of work he has to do
  3. Happy at being fed 
  4. all of the above 
Answer on the back of a postcard.....or just leave a comment. Yeah that might be easier come to think of it. 

Monday, February 7, 2011

When the world gives you lemons, make....Limoncello!

OK so technically this isn't limoncello because I got my lemons at my local Waitrose and not from the Amalfi coast! That slight technicality aside I think what I've ended up with is a pretty good approximation. It does take a lot of perseverance to make a good batch (10-12 weeks).

I made this as a gift for my boyfriend Pino, who's Italian (If the name didn't give it away). I was struggling to think of good gift ideas and as he is a bit of a foodie too I knew he'd appreciate a bottle of tangy lemony goodness.

What you'll need:
  • 12 unwaxed organic Lemons (mine were small) 
  • 1 lime (zest only)
  • 750mls of grain alcohol (80-90%) 
  • 200g of caster sugar 
  • A large bowl or jar with a tight fitting lid
  • A lot of patience

The first thing you'll need to do is zest your lemons and lime. My advice for this part would to be invest in a good zester or microplane. I had neither! The goal is to remove all the zest but none of the white pith underneath. I ended up using a vegetable peeler and then scrapping the white pith off of each slice with a sharp knife. Not fun and also my hands smelled of lemons for about 3 days. 

10 weeks in and it looked ready to me
Once you've got all your zest off put it into your jar and cover the peel with your grain alcohol. I've read online that some people use high quality vodka for this part as grain alcohol isn't readily available in a lot of places. I found my grain alcohol in a small asian shop near Tooting broadway. 

The next part is where your patience comes in. Put a lid on the jar and place in a cool dark place for the next 8-12weeks. I gave my jar a shake everyday for the first 2 weeks, then once a week for the next 8 weeks. This just helps remove the essential oils form the lemons. You'll notice the alcohol turn a bright yellow colour. 

Next, I got myself about 150mls of fresh lemon juice (about 8 large lemons), 100ms of water and mixed it with 200g of caster sugar. Once the sugar was dissolved and the syrup boiling I added it to the lemon and alcohol. 

What really amazed me was the change in colour. It turned from something that resembled my toilet bowl after a heavy nights drinking, into a bright opaque, almost sunshine yellow colour. I'm told that Limoncello is suposed to be clear and the fact that mine was cloudy is a flaw. However I'm really impressed with my flaw! 

Once it had cooled down, I poured it into some really nice glass bottles that I bought in a shop in camden market. I used a white paint pen and a friend with better handwriting than me to write on the bottles. My only problem is that I'm not 100% sure of what the strength is of this. However being Irish this isn't a real problem for me.