Yumbo feta and chickpea salad

Salads: Love them? Hate them? Nothing them?

Mmmmm? This is a difficult one.

When I was a small child, I don’t remember ever having salad. Then at some point in the latter half of the eighties, Ireland must have discovered iceberg lettuce. And thus began the many crimes against salad that my poor home country is so guilty of. Wet. Limp. Tasteless. Familiar to anyone?

“Eat your salad, it’s good for you” my mam would growl across the dinner table; leaving my brother and me with the firm belief that anything good for you couldn’t, and probably shouldn’t, taste nice.

Then the nineties rolled around and with them the Celtic tiger. We were suddenly awash with such foreign goodies as sun-blush tomatoes and balsamic vinegar. Things in the salad department were suddenly starting to look up. And in fairness, we’ve come a long way since then: like Iarnród Éireann, we’re not there yet, but we’re getting there.

These Australians on the other hand, they have this whole salad-making lark down. They know their stuff and they are not afraid to flaunt it. This recipe was given to me by The Fella’s sister; she’s a great cook and always willing to share her secrets. I think this salad actually started out as a way to serve feta from Falling Cloudberries by Tessa Kiros. But, it has now morphed almost beyond all recognition into a hearty dinner salad (yes, a salad can be hearty!). Just serve with a crispy bread roll on the side and you’ve a super tasty meal for two.

I know some of you will be tempted to skimp on the garlic, but don’t be afraid of it! It totally makes this salad. You’d do it an injustice by skimping, and salads have been done enough injustice already.

Yumbo feta and chickpea salad

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Taking back Sunday

I work full time. My dreams of becoming a yummie-mummie and staying home all day baking fabulous cupcakes and rearing my own chickens will just have to wait until I win the lotto. So, sometimes it’s hard to find time to spend in the kitchen. Much as I enjoy cooking, on weekday evenings it can be exhausting and weekends can sometimes be super hectic. Plus I hate cleaning up, life is just too short for cleaning up.

But a few years ago, while flipping through The Guardian, I found a recipe by Hugh Ferning-Whittingdale that changed everything . I duly clipped it out, and boy has it served me well on many a lazy (read hungover) Sunday afternoon. It’s as simple as throwing everything in a roasting dish and popping into the oven, but it tastes as good as if you had slaved over a hot stove for hours. And, there’s very little cleaning up to be done afterwards. Brilliant.

Roast Chicken with Sweet Potatoes


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Pumpkin predicaments

If I say the word ‘pumpkin’ to you, what do you immediately think of? If it’s Hallowe’en, then you were probably born in the northern hemisphere.

This week I was given a present of a pumpkin. It was beautiful: green with orange speckles, home-grown and organic. It could not have been any cuter. But all I could think was: it’s May, who the hell grows pumpkins in May?? The answer: Australians.

Figuring out the seasons is one of the stranger adjustments I have had to make since moving here. At home, on the fair emerald isle, we all know Australians celebrate Christmas during the summer. We giggle at their stupidity for not knowing Christmas revolves around frost, mulled wine, fairy lights and a whole lot of hearty winter fare; all the while secretly wondering what it would be like to spend it on a sunny beach. This is all well known, so when Christmas rolled around I was prepared for the strangeness of it. It has been other things that have caught me off guard, such as eating hot-cross buns as the leaves are changing colour, sunshine on St. Patrick’s Day and now being given pumpkins in May. Where will it end?!

If Australia is the opposite to Ireland, then May is pretty much like October, right?

So once I had recovered from the shock of all this, I had to figure out what I was going to do with this May pumpkin. And I’m afraid I was very unoriginal, I opted for risotto and pumpkin pie. And here is my rational: pumpkin risotto is all kinds of yum, so that’s pretty much a no brainer; and I’ve never actually tasted pumpkin pie before, so while it might seem unoriginal to some, it’s totally left of field for me.

So that was the menu planned, all that was left to do was crack open the gourd and a bottle of red, cook and enjoy on a (very warm) Sydney autumn evening.

Pumpkin and rosemary risotto

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