Jamie Oliver’s chicken challenge

Blackened Chicken and San Fran Quinoa Salad

This week I took the plunge and decided my kitchen needed to get messy. So I tried a recipe from Jamie Oliver’s Jamie’s 15-Minute Meals. Oh hells yeah! I decided to bring it.

Did I manage it? Eh…. no.

Now, I love Jamie as much as the next person. His recipes are delicious, no nonsense and always work, but I’m not too sure what he’s at with this everyone-can-cook-faster-than-the-speed-of-light malarkey. Honestly like. I know there have been about 20 bazillion blog posts written about how it’s nigh-on impossible to make any of his meals in either 30 or 15 minutes, so I’m not going to go there again; but I do think it’s a shame he’s made such a rod for his own back. I get the point he’s trying to make: food can be quick, easy and tasty if you’re clever about how you prepare it. However, I think that people in general are pedantic and once they can’t make something in the allotted time limit they will immediately call the whole venture a failure.

Well, this beautiful salad took me longer than 15 minutes to make, and afterwards my kitchen did look like a bomb had hit it; but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try it, in fact I urge you to. The mix of flavours, texture, spice and sweetness is incredibly yummie and it’s pretty healthy to boot. It’s definitely one worth waiting for!

Blackened Chicken and San Fran Quinoa Salad

Blackened Chicken and San Fran Quinoa Salad close up

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Barbequed shrimp Aussie style

I wonder if there is a nationality on earth that doesn’t have a stereotype associated with it?

As an Irish ex-pat, I sometimes get wished a lovely morning; and while I always appreciate the sentiment, I’m not usually a fan of the delivery. Let me be clear here, Irish people don’t, nor have they ever used the phrase ‘top of the morning to you’.

When Australians say this to me, my response is always the same. I say ‘Ahh yeah, throw a shrimp on the barbie mate’.

That usually gets a reaction.

And I just love a reaction.

Prawns on the barbie, BBQ, Aussie BBQ
If the only thing you know about the Land Down Under comes from Crocodile Dundee or Men at Work songs, you need to throw out those misconceptions. I’ve never seen a deadly spider or snake;  I’m still not entirely sure what a billabong actually is; I don’t carry around large knives; The Fella hardly ever drinks Fosters or rides kangaroos to work. It’s all a bit disappointing really. Although I still hold out hope of one day finding a koala bear living in my back garden.

Barbequed crustaceans are sadly lacking from my life, so in honour of Australia Day I decided to turn that around. God damn it, I threw some shrimps on the barbie and they were bloody bonzer mate!

Barbequed shrimp Aussie style

Barbequed prawns

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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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Holiday-substitute chicken pilaf

Finances feeling a bit tight? Recession starting to bite? If you’re living in Ireland or the States, I imagine you might be able to relate.

Not the Australians, I’m pretty sure the Australians don’t even know how to spell the word recession.

Chicken with coriander and spinach rice

There might be no recession in Australia, but finances are a still a wee bit tight here in Chez Yumbolicious. A large tax bill, coupled with saving for two possible trips home next year, car insurance, wedding presents, vet bills and other BORING stuff mean we’re not going on any exotic holidays this year. Oh well.

So if you’re not going to make it on that dream-trip to South America this year, fear not mes amigos, make this and bring South America to you instead.

Cumin-spiced yoghurt

It a recipe adapted from one of my very favourite books: falling cloudberries by Tessa Kiros; and I am deadly serious, it genuinely tastes like something you’d eat on your holidays in Peru or someplace fierce exotic like that. Coriander, chilli and cumin-spiced yoghurt blend together for a fiesta in your mouth. Sounds pretty good, right?!

Perfect with a cerveza in the back garden.

¡Buen viaje!

Chicken with coriander and spinach rice

Chicken with coriander and spinach rice with cumin-spiced yoghurt

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Feeling chilli

About two months ago, in a fit of romance, The Fella gave me a chilli plant. Now, I’m pretty dire at all things plant related. Most green and sprouting things like to shrivel up and die if I even so much as look at them, but it seems chillies are a hardy lot. Or else, maybe I’m getting better.

So my plant stayed green and the chillies stayed red and shiny and very pretty. So pretty, I didn’t want to pick any for fear of ruining my bourgeoning green-fingered illusion. That was until last week, when I noticed some of the chillies were starting to look more shrively than shiny. It appeared I’d done it again.

I pruned and managed to save a lot. But then I had to think about what to do with a large quantity of fairly hot chillies at extreamly short notice. As neither I, nor my digestive system, fancied eating curries for a month; I decided it was time to learn the ancient art of preserving. Enter Darina Allen’s Forgotten Skills of Cooking (I heart her!) and hey presto we have lift (your head) off chilli jam. Delicious on sangwiches, cold meats, cheese, or anything that needs a wee bit of a kick!

Tomato and chilli jam

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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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