Monday, October 29, 2012

From London to...

Ah. Just another rainy Monday morning in London.

Next stop: Sri Lanka.

We've been planning this trip for so long and then all of a sudden it jumped up and shouted 'hiyah it's time, let's go'. 

Our very close friends have recently moved to Colombo, Sri Lanka and of course we'd have to visit and help them get settled in wouldn't we? Selfless friends and all that. I'm heading over a week earlier than Mr. Moustache for some quality time with my lovely friend Sandrine, otherwise know as Ma Gaufrette (little waffle). 

Colombo, photo courtesy of ma gaufrette 

Guidebook - check. Giant suitcase - check. Sun cream - check. Umbrella - check. 

Let's just say the weather is looking a little stormy there this week...

But that won't matter when there's a new country to explore, friends to catch up with and Sri Lankan cuisine to taste. Some cooking. And of course some new lunchboxes

Sandrine tells me we'll be having lobster on the beach tomorrow night. Now that I can handle. With a brolly.

Sri Lanka here I come...X

Friday, October 26, 2012

A (sort of) spooky Lunchbox Of The Week

For this week's Lunchbox Of The Week there wasn't really a choice. Halloween? Mini pumpkins? Yes please. 

So these mini pumpkins might have made my week month I must confess. Better still, they're called (get this): Munchkins. Nearly too cute to carve. Nearly. 

Halloween Lunchbox Of The Week


Spicy parsnip crisps, served in a munchkin
Ghostly chicken, garlic and cream puffs (my 5 year old self coming out)
Butternut squash risotto, in a munchkin of course 

Mr. Moustache's verdict? 'Deux munchkins does not a full lunchbox make'
Easy now Mr. M, easy.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Je ne regrette pas La Tartiflette

Brrr. 

It's getting colder and darker isn't it? I've just the thing to warm you up: Tartiflette. Or a giant cheesy potato bake to you and me.

It almost sounds fancy in French doesn't it? How do they do that? Which brings me off on a little tangent (there's a recipe too I promise). 

What is it about the French that makes them so French?




It's that certain je ne sais quoi. That accent. Those baguettes. The clichés that exist for a reason.

I've had a love affair with France since I went to school there. 16, lanky, dictionnaire in hand, I thought I'd fallen into a dreamland. The pâtisseries,  the crêpes,  the chocolat chaud, the cheese. That accent. Swoon. 

And then they served tongue de boeuf in the canteen and les enfants terribles laughed at my accent. Kids can be so cruel. 

But that didn't break my heart and the affair continued. Over the years I've tried to understand just what is it about the French?

Having observed one of this beautiful species under close quarters I've concluded the following random generalisations about les français: 


  • They make wearing a scarf look elegant. Males included. 
  • And a jumper tied around their shoulders. 
  • They can drink coffee from a bowl without looking like a dehydrated lunatic.
  • Tracksuits are for exercising in. Not popping out to the shop in. Quelle horreur.
  • Sooner or later you'll fall in love with them. I blame the accent.
  • They don't snack. Which means they fill up on large meals. A bit like this one:

Tartiflette

Special thanks to Ms. French Foodie In Dublin for the recipe. Last week I had the pleasure of finally meeting her when I was back home. A fantastic evening of food (French of course) and chat. And she's even more fabuleuse in real life! 

Think comfort food for a second. Are you thinking:

Potatoes?
Some bacon?
A bit of cheese perhaps?

I know I am.  Now let's put all three together. It may not turn me into Amélie Poulain, but something about this dish makes me imagine I'm traipsing up the steps of Montmartre or skiing in the Alpes. OK OK, I drink hot chocolate while Mr. Moustache skis. 

Non, rien de rien. Je ne regrette  rien
Especially not this tartiflette. 

Ingredients

1kg Charlotte potatoes (or any type of waxy potatoes)
200g bacon lardons
1 onion, chopped
100ml white wine
3tbsp crème fraîche
Salt and pepper for seasoning
1 Reblochon cheese (approximately 400g)



  1. Preheat the oven to 200C/400F.
  2. Peel and slice the potatoes into quarters. Cook in a large saucepan of salted boiling water for 15 minutes or until soft. Drain and set aside.
  3. Heat a frying pan until hot. Fry the lardons and onion until golden-brown (approximately 5 minutes). 
  4. Add the white wine to the frying pan and cook for 3 minutes. Stir in the crème fraîche and simmer for a few minutes until you have a creamy sauce. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Slice the potatoes thinly and layer in a large baking dish. Pour the sauce on top.
  6. Scatter the Reblochon cheese in slices on top. Bake in the oven for 25 - 30 minutes until golden-brown and bubbling. 

Serve. With a glass of red, bien sûr. Close your eyes and transport yourself to the dreamland that is la belle France. 


Saturday, October 20, 2012

Back home in Modern Ireland

Hiyah!

As I'm back home in Dublin this week I'm doing all sorts of crazy stuff like drinking copious amounts of (real) tea, eating homecooked meals, lots of chatting. And, oh, there was a book launch. As you do like.

The Goodall's Modern Irish Cookbook launch to be precise. Here's how I reacted when I first found out I was going to be in a book. 

I'm quite calm about it now.

O
M
G


It's a modern Irish cookbook with recipes from 43 Irish bloggers.  Two of my lunchbox recipes are in there - madness! Now I've always known that the way to a man's heart is through his lunchbox...but I didn't know it would get me into a buke.

Kate Lawlor, Head Chef in Fenn's Quay, Cork and me
Photo thanks to the creative Evin

So this Thursday in the Merrion Hotel, Dublin the offical launch took place. For only €2.99 you can dowload a digitial version here. Or order a hard copy for €12 (plus post and packaging). All proceeds go to two very worthy charities, Cork Penny Dinners and Crosscare. And for that you get 50 recipes, ranging from light bites to full dinners. And lunchboxes (ahem). I might have picked up a FEW copies. Chances are if you know me you'll find it in your Christmas stocking this year.

The best bit about Thursday was getting to meet the lovely people I chat to on Twitter. And we didn't have to restrict our conversations to 140 characters. Such a novelty. I'd love to know, is it just me, or was anyone else nervous about meeting people they've just 'spoken' to on the internet?

A special thanks is due to Margaret and Goodall's for everything. Plus she's a Cork lady. Now you can't go wrong there.

We chatted, we ate, we took photos, we tweeted. And I'm still smiling. Thanks everyone.

That little heart breaker, LB (not you Michael before you start) is Evin's adorable little boy. Even more gorgeous in real life. I kid you not.

Roisin from Goodall's, Emma, Adam and Caitriona


Nessa and me striking a pose

Irish Examiner Friday 19 October

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Baked Brie Pops (oh yes)

So I had some brie and puff pastry. But no tea or coffee. No no, somebody forgot. I don't want to name names now, but he's French and it begins with a 'M'. Ahem.

Thankfully these little Brie Pops eased some of my lack of caffeine rage:


Move over cake pops, brie pops are where it's at. I came across the idea on the brilliant site of Joy The Baker. I added my own little twist by making them into pop versions instead of squares and with pecans.

Yum.

Please try.

Now I'm off to have a cup of tea. Oh. Hang on. I'll think some happy thoughts and give you the recipe instead.

Preparation time 10 minutes
Cooking time 10 - 15 minutes

Ingredients (makes 12 Brie Bites/Pops)
1 sheet of ready-made puff pastry
1 egg
A splash of milk 
40g brie
20g pecans, chopped


1. Pre-heat the oven to 200C/390F/Gas 7.

2. If you're going for the brie pop look (and you really should be), you'll need some of these little sticks. You'll get them in craft or toy shops. OR. Get friendly with your local café and they might just give you some coffee stirers for free.  I am not condoning stealing... :)

3. Using a pastry cutter cut out 24 puff pastry circles. I used a 7cm cutter.

4. Whisk the egg in a small bowl and add the milk. Brush the pastry circles with the egg wash.

5. Press each stick halfway up and in the middle of each circle. Add a little sliver of brie.


6. Then some chopped pecans join the party.


 7. Place a second pastry circle on top. Gently press the edges together. Use a fork to crimp the edges and brush with the egg wash.


8. Bake for 12 - 15 minutes or until golden brown.


Sweet little brie pops. Come to me now. Gotta go.

Monday, October 15, 2012

A little bit of Heston

Ah this weekend I'd a little bit of Heston in my kitchen.

Heston. Heston. Heston.

Have you seen him cook on TV and the way he gets so excited about the food? I love that.

But I'm not gonna go all crazy fangirling on you now. This is a serious post on a serious subject - macaroni and cheese. Oh yes. Did you know there are even mac 'n' cheese forums? Honest. 


So let's go back to the beginning. 

Last week I was chatting with the lovely Sinéad from Bumbles Of Rice on Twitter (you can take a look at her real kitchen here) and the subject of Heston's new ready meals for Waitrose came up. As you do like. So 140 characters led to another 140 characters and then: 

The challenge - reproduce his Cauliflower Truffle Macaroni Cheese and see which tasted better.

Yes cooking a chef's ready made meal is my idea of a good time. 

The judge - one totally unbiased he's-not-getting-anymore-lunchboxes-if-he's-not-careful Mr. Moustache.

Thankfully there was no molecular gastronomy involved, not a snail or bacon ice-cream in sight. 

First up: Cauliflower Truffle Macaroni Cheese by Heston: 


The verdict? 

We really liked it. £3.26 (approx €4.16). A crunchy breadcrumb topping and a sweet creamy sauce.  25 minutes in the oven and we were done. Well done Mr. Moustache. Although we would have liked more cauliflower. And it worked for breakfast. Please don't judge me. It was a busy day and we had to fit in tasting before I cooked my version...y'know how it is...

Next up. My version. Which turned into a giant pasta bake. And I didn't use truffle. I know. It's coming with my caviar order next week so I might just cook this again...

Cauliflower macaroni/pasta cheese  

Preparation time 25 minutes

Cooking time 20 - 30 minutes 

Purists may want to look away now: I used amori pasta instead of macaroni. Adding my own little touch. That and it was in the cupboard already.



Ingredients

200g macaroni pasta (you could also use amori or penne)
1/2 a head of cauliflower
40g butter
40g plain flour
300ml milk
200ml single cream
100ml white wine (if not using add an extra 100ml milk)
200g grated mature cheddar, grated
50g grated parmesan, grated
2 tbsp mascarpone
Salt and pepper, for seasoning
2 tbsp breadcrumbs (from 1 slice of bread)

Method

1. Pre-heat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6.


2. Cook the pasta in a large saucepan of boiling salted water until tender (usually 8 - 10 minutes). Drain the pasta, then rinse in cold water. This helps to prevent it sticking together in the dish. Although some might say that's the sign of a real mac 'n' cheese. 



3. While the pasta is cooking chop the cauliflower into bite sized florets then cook in a saucepan of boiling water for 5 minutes until tender. 



4. Melt the butter in a saucepan over a medium heat. Make sure the saucepan is large enough to hold the cooked pasta and cauliflower for when you add it later. Add the flour and cook for another few minutes to form a roux. 

5. Whisk in the milk, cream and wine a little at a time. Cook for 10 minutes until it has thickened into a smooth sauce.



6. Take the sauce off the heat and stir in the cheddar, mascarpone and half the parmesan. Stir until the cheese melts.

7. Add the pasta and cauliflower to the sauce and mix well. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

8. Pour into a baking dish. Bake in the oven for 20 - 30 minutes until bubbling and golden brown on top. 




And the verdict?


I'll leave it up to Mr. Moustache - 'Bien sûr, c'est toi chérie'.

Well now, I'm chuffed. What'll we have for lunch this week then Mr. M?
______________________________________________________________

Like cheese? You might also like the Cheesebox Of The Week.

Friday, October 12, 2012

The Big Cheesebox Of The Week

Psst. C'mere. Let me tell you a little secret about Mr. Moustache. He doesn't like cheese. 

I know.

The man is French and he does not like cheese. 

I checked his passport when I found out. Not that I'd ever cast Mr. M as stereotypically French...

Mr. Moustache

Ahem.

Well he does like some cheeses. Give him a bit of cheddar and sure he'd be grand. But he wouldn't knock you over in the street for the last morsel, like this Cheese Monster. Outta my way now. 

So this week's Lunchbox Of The Week was all about ME. Uh-oh someone's turned into a diva after her 10 seconds of fame

This, dear reader, I like to call The Big Cheese Lunchbox.

There's also a certain French lady who might enjoy this. La fabuleuse Ms. French Foodie in Dublin who I've had the luck of meeting through my blog. Bon appétit Ms. FFID!


The Big Cheese Lunchbox


What's inside?

There we go: 



Deconstructed goat's cheese sandwich. Or goat's cheese salad if I'm not trying to be fancy
Cheddar and pancetta choux heart
Cheese basket with caramelised onion chutney
Parsnip and courgette rostis with Parmesan crisps
And of course, you'd have to have a bit of brie now wouldn't you?

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

When Cuisine Genie met Catherine...

Phew. 

I survived. 

My 10 seconds of fame on Ireland AM on TV3, with Baking Queen, Catherine Leyden. Last week I put my little heart on my sleeve and took a deep breath. Or gulped rather. 

Catherine Leyden, and that's me in my apron

If I was to write this the way my 10 seconds of fame felt it would go something like this:

Oh my god. Oh my god. Oh my god.

Where's my apron?

Hi Catherine.

Action.

Pistachios.

Whooooooosh.

Done.

Exhale.

And you probably don't want to hear about how my heart was galloping and all I could think was 'Is that really how my voice sounds? Eeek'. 


Presenter Aidan Cooney and me practising deep breathing exercises (just me, not Aidan)

It was an unbelievable experience and if you've seen the lovely Catherine on the telly she is even more fun in real life. She had me in stitches all morning. I'm very grateful to her, and of course Age Action, Bluebird Care and Media Box. Thank you for everything. 

A special thank you to Gary O'Hanlon, for all his kind words of encouragement, coming from a Chef like him it makes me think this might just work out after all. 

Just when I thought this morning couldn't get any better, I tweeted another Irish hero of mine, Marian Keyes. And she watched me! On the telly! Thanks Marian. U.N.B.E.L.I.E.V.A.B.L.E. 

And on a personal note, to my best friend Sarah, thanks for keeping me calm on the day pal - you're the best. 

Right I'll stop now. Is it just me or am I sounding a bit like I accepted an Oscar this morning? Diva alert.

Since I put my heart on show I've wondered if it was the right thing to do or not. While it's not a big deal to anyone else to me it was terrifying. Now I have to keep going on this crazy adventure. 

Well, as they say the proof is in the pudding. So who's making my bread and butter pudding? Ah go on.  

Pistachio Bread and Butter Pudding

(Warning, making this may not get you on the telly)


For the pistachio bread recipe (which is also great on its own) please click here


Prep time 30 minutes
Cooking time 35 - 45 minutes


Bread and butter pudding ingredients 
1 loaf pistachio bread
50g/2oz butter, softened and extra for greasing
75g/2.5oz pistachios, roughly chopped
450ml/15.5 fl oz whole milk
100ml/3.5fl oz double cream
1 vanilla pod (optional)
25g/1oz caster sugar
4 slices white bread
1 tablespoon demerara sugar

Custard ingredients 
570ml/1 pint whole milk
55ml/2fl oz single cream
1 vanilla pod
4 egg yolks
30g/1oz caster sugar
2 level tablespoons cornflour


Method

  • Grease an ovenproof dish with butter.
  • Cut off the crust of the pistachio bread. Then cut into slices. Halve each slice and butter. (You could toast the crusts and top with butter or jam for a snack).
  • Place a single layer of pistachio bread slices in the dish.
  • Sprinkle 1/3 of the pistachios on top.
  • Repeat another layer of pistachio bread and pistachios.
  • If using the vanilla pod, slit it down the middle and scrape the seeds out. Add the seeds to the milk and cream in a pan.
  • Warm the mixture to scalding point. Don’t let it boil.
  • Whisk the eggs and sugar in a bowl until pale.
  • Pour the warm milk and cream mixture on to the eggs and sugar and whisk.
  • Pour half the custard on top of the bread/pistachios.
  • Leave to soak for 15 minutes.
  • Pre-heat oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4.
  • Fancy an extra Irish touch? Cut out shamrock shapes using a pastry cutter from 1 slice of the white bread.
  • Cut the remaining white bread into quarters, remove crusts. Then layer (with the shamrocks if using) on top of the pudding.
  • Pour the remaining custard on top and sprinkle with the demerara sugar and remaining pistachios.
  • Bake for  34 - 45 minutes until golden brown and crunchy on top.
  • Serve warm with cream or custard.
Custard (if using)

  • Bring the milk, cream and vanilla pod to scalding point in a pan (slowly over a low heat).
  • Remove the vanilla pod. You could store in a jar of sugar to make vanilla sugar for baking.
  • Whisk the yolks, sugar and cornflour in a bowl.
  • Pour the warm milk and cream on to the eggs/sugar/cornflour and whisk well.
  • Put back in the pan and heat over a low heat until thickened (5 – 10 minutes).
  • Pour over the pudding and enjoy. 



Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Breakfast/Brunch/Lunch/Dinner

Do you love foods that you can eat at any time of the day?  Like:

Popcorn

Chocolate

Pastries 

All the essential food groups covered there. 

There's nothing better than a flexible dish. Like this one. Great for a weekend breakfast, or a quick dinner after a tough day in work. 

A dish that does exactly what it says on the tin:
Mushrooms on toast with a poached egg

Ingredients (serves 2 adults)
200 grams button or chestnut mushrooms
1 tablespoon olive oil
50ml single cream
Salt and pepper for seasoning 
2 medium free-range eggs
1 ciabatta
2 handfuls rocket lettuce 


Rub the mushrooms with a piece of kitchen towel. Chop roughly; they don't need to look pretty.

Heat the olive oil in a frying pan until sizzling. Add the mushrooms and lower to a medium heat. 

Fry on a medium heat for 5 minutes and then add the cream. Fry for another 3 minutes and take off the heat. Season with salt and pepper to taste. 

Poach the eggs. Easier said than done I hear you cry. 

How to be a crafty poacher
  • Take the eggs out of the fridge 1 - 2 hours before using.
  • Crack each egg into a small dish/ramekin.
  • Bring the water to boiling point in a saucepan. Then lower to a medium heat so it's bubbling gently. 
  • Whisk the water to create a whirlpool effect. Just as the whirlpool slows down slide in the egg. Easy now. 
  • Keep the saucepan on the heat for 30 seconds. 
  • Remove from the heat and leave for 3 - 4 minutes until set but still soft. 
  • Remove the egg with a slotted spoon to allow excess water to drip off before serving. 

Toast the ciabatta. Top with the rocket: 


That looks a bit lonely doesn't it? Add the mushrooms for some company: 



Just missing one last thing. Ah yes. There we go. Hello:


Sit back, put your feet up and enjoy. 

Friday, October 05, 2012

Back to reality

Well after a very unusual week (did THAT really just happen?), it's good to curl up back at home and get back to what I know.

Do you ever have those evenings where you lounge in your PJs, watch your favourite shows and scoff your guilty pleasures? That was me last night.

Bliss. Sometimes the simplest evenings are the best aren't they?

But I allowed myself one teeny prima donna touch for this week's Lunchbox Of The Week. After all a chicken pie just wouldn't be complete without a star on top now would it? Uh-oh. Diva alert.


Diva Lunchbox
Caramelised onion, feta and pistachio filo tart 
Diva chicken pie with a rich flaky pastry crust
Mini chippy potatoes with crispy parma ham and a balsamic glaze

Mr. M's verdict? ' You're MY star chérie '
(OK I made him say that)