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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Rabbit food anyone?

What do you think of when you hear the word: lentil?

Let’s be honest here, lentils don’t have a very good reputation do they?  One that’s not actually very fair.

If you hear the word and immediately think of greeny environmental types with dreadlocks and hemp clothes; who only eat grass, soy and hard-as-old-boots rye bread, then you seriously need to think again. And pronto, rabbit food they ain’t. In fact, these miniature pulses are so super yum it almost beggers belief.

When I was little, my Mam did cook lentils a lot. I remember eating them smothered in butter and lemon juice and really enjoying them. But for some reason as I got older, they fell off my radar, only recently to reappear. And to be honest, I can’t believe I’ve wasted so many lentil-free years. They would have been an absolute god send in my student years:  cheap AND nutritious AND filling AND tasty, how come nobody reminded me about them?

As it has been slightly chillier than normal here in Sydney these past few weeks, I’ve been eating them with lots of yummie winter veggies, making some frugal but filling and oh-so-tasty mid-week suppers.  I put this dish together myself, basically because I thought the flavours would go well together: the sweetness of the roast squash and red onion is perfectly balanced with the saltiness of the feta, the rocket gives a peppery twist and the lentils are nutty, rich and wintery.

If you’re out to change your opinion of these nutty little guys, give this dish a try. It’s best enjoyed on a cold, dark evening with a nice glass of red. Hemp scarves and hats are optional.

Puy lentils with roast squash, caramelised red onion, rocket and feta

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Spring green salad

I’ve been a bit hard on myself these past few weeks. Like that dude, Bear Grylls, I’ve been putting myself through a mad-hard endurance test. Except, I haven’t been scaling mountains or eating bugs. No, my fortitude has been tested in a far more boring manner: I’ve been working a lot, not sleeping much and drinking far too much alcohol than should even be allowed. Which is pretty much the same as the entire working world in the run up to Christmas.

Anyways, after a few weeks of this abuse, my immune system has finally given me the finger, packed up and gone on strike. And within seconds, my old friend herpes simplex seized his chance and erected a tribute to an erupting Mount Vesuvius on my bottom lip. Very attractive.

Apparently I need vitamins. Stat!

Isn’t it funny though, when your body really needs healthy nourishment; all you want to eat is beans on toast? Which are pretty vitamin deficient I think. But this salad saved me, and more importantly, it got my immune system and me into peace talks. It’s totally healthy but it doesn’t feel like you’re eating rabbit food. Oh no, instead you get all the lovely, herby goodness, nicely balanced with the salty feta and finished off with the crunchy toasted pitas; satisfying the demands of both taste buds and immune system in one go. Nice one!

Broad bean fattoush

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Pasta with feta, spinach and pine nuts

It’s actually a bit bizarre that in the few months I’ve been writing this blog, I’ve never posted any pasta dishes. The Fella and I eat a LOT of pasta, mainly because it’s cheap (his thumbs up) and quick (my thumbs up). Because don’t you hate it when you’ve had a long day at work and you’re faced with the stupid what to make for dinner dilemma? I don’t know about the rest of you, but sometimes I find weekday evenings frustratingly short. Some evenings I just want something quick and easy and I don’t like only sitting down to my dinner at 9 o’clock at night. For one thing, that’s when all the good shows start. Hence, pasta it is.

You would not believe the number of “pasta surprise” recipes we have, The Fella is especially good at these. Basically they consist of whatever we have in the fridge, and thus they are great for avoiding a condition called postworksupermarketrage. This dreadful disorder is particularly prevalent among 20 and 30 something childless professionals, who use their weekends for getting drunk and other irresponsible frivolities and neglect to do basic household tasks, such as shopping. Tut tut tut.

This is a wee step up from pasta surprise, and it is a little beaut of a recipe. I found it in Nigella Lawson’s Kitchen, and I guarantee you can get this on the table in 20 minutes flat. Beat that Jamie Oliver!

Pasta with feta, spinach and pine nuts

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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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