Aubergine inspiration

As much as I love cooking, there are times when I just could not be bothered. Long days at the office, being focused, driven and cheery, while secretly wishing I was in the bath with a good book and a bottle of red, can be a sometimes be an inspiration drain. And don’t even get be started on the post-work supermarket free-for-all, some days I’d rather go hungry than face into that.

My poor Dad also seems to suffer from the same lack of culinary creativity. It’s his job to make the dinner on a Monday night (which, in fairness, is probably the most insipid of all the weekday nights); and so for the past 30 years he has made chili beef. Religiously. Every Monday. Now, don’t get me wrong, I like chili beef just as much as the next person. It’s just that after 30 years of it; I find it, well, not quite as exciting as it once was. Obviously I don’t get to spend that many Monday evenings with my folks, what with living on the other side of the plant and that. One major upside of which is not being subjected to what has become known in our family as ‘Monday night surprise’.

On evenings when I am feeling unimaginative and bored, I just need to open one of Tessa Kiros’ books to get the creative (and tummy) juices flowing. Her recipes are simple, wholesome and comforting and they are just so beautifully presented, I would challenge anyone not to fall in love with them.

This week I made her stuffed aubergines. Like all of her recipes, these are delicious and filling and a little bit different. Okay, so stuffed veggies ain’t exactly world-rockin’ stuff, but they may just brighten up an otherwise dull and same-y weekday evening.  Who knows? Even my Dad might like them.

Midweek beef-stuffed aubergines

Stuffed eggplant

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Pho bo

Time for another travel post methinks; it’s been a while.

Pho bo recipe

I’ve previously written about how the Fella and I packed up our lives in Dublin and took the slow boat other side of the planet. We stopped off in China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia and Singapore before making the final trek to this great red land Down Under. Truth be told, I only picked those countries because of the delicious and unusual treats that were waiting to be discovered. As I’ve said before: feck culture, I’m hungry!

Vietnam was …… oh god, how do you describe Vietnam in a few succinct words and do it justice? The simple fact is you can’t, well, I can’t. Not without gushing endlessly.

Asian ingredients

We started our Vietnamese adventures in Hanoi, the home of the famous pho soup. On nearly every street there is a stall selling this hot and savoury beef soup, you can smell the star anise at almost every turn. So many stalls and restaurants all claim to sell the best version in Hanoi, the competition is fierce. It is light, spicy, full of green freshness and yummie; oh so very yummie.

Images from Vietnam

I would urge any of you who can to visit Vietnam; the people, scenery and food all combine to make such a wonderful and interesting holiday. Just some of our highlights included sleeping at a gibbon sanctuary, celebrating the full moon festival in Hoi An and exploring the coffee plantations and waterfalls of the Dalat highlands by moped.

Pho bo (beef pho)

Pho bo

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Auntie V’s beef stroganoff (well, almost)

Recently I’ve been thinking about family recipes and how they get passed from person to person. It was sparked by a story I heard about a girl who’s friends put together a scrap book of all their family recipes as a wedding gift, how sweet is that?! Certainly beats a set of towels in my book.

I was taught to cook by my Mam. She is (and I can’t stress this strongly enough) an absolutely cracking cook. Everything the woman makes is super delicious. But she’s not very adventurous, so after she taught me the staples (bolognese, chocolate cake, Irish stew, seafood, etc.), I went on to do a lot of discovering and recipe testing all by myself. At the same time, I’d love to pick her brains and write down all of her recipes for safekeeping. Adventurous they may not be, but they formed a very important part of my childhood. Even just the thoughts of her Christmas baked ham brings me to my happy place, mmmmmm…

My aunt is also a wonderful cook, but I fear she’s quite like me and makes up recipes as she goes along, thereby making it slightly difficult to write them down or pass them on. Her stroganoff is legendary; it’s absolutely out-of-this-world delicious! When I was a kid, I loved it so much that whenever she made it, she’d always make an extra plate for me. I have been begging her for the recipe for years now with no luck, although I’m starting to suspect she doesn’t have a clear idea of it herself!

So here is my attempt to recreate my aunt’s stroganoff, but obviously this is subject to change, depending on what we have in the fridge on a given day!

Auntie V’s beef stroganoff (well, almost)

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Bœuf bourguignon and posh potatoes

Like all of my fellow countrymen (and women), I enjoy the odd spud. But then who doesn’t? Spuds are great. They are super cheap and filling (making them a firm favourite during my student days), but they’re also unbelievably versatile. As a famous hobbit once said, you can “boil ’em, mash ’em, stick ’em in a stew” not to mention bake them, gratin then, fry them, ferment them, and the list goes on! Well ladies and gentlemen, this weekend I brought the humble spud to whole new levels of fanciness: I got me a potato ricer.

I can just hear my Dad now, saying that it was far from potato ricers he was reared and sure what’s wrong with an ordinary masher and a bit of elbow grease? Well Dad, there’s nothing wrong with that at all. But with a ricer I promise you, you will make the most yumbo, softest, un-lumpy, creamy mashed spuds you’ve ever had in your life.

So, then all I had to do was think of something equally fancy to serve with the spuds. I figured beef bourguignon was almost posh enough. The spuds still held their own though, fair dues to them.

Bœuf bourguignon and posh potatoes

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