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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Creamy, basily, mushroomy pasta

The Fella and I spent this weekend in Melbourne, where we had a frickin’ deadly time. We were visiting with some of my good friends and had a very enjoyable night out with them on Saturday. Needless to say we were feeling a tincy wincy bit delicate yesterday morning. So in the name of recovery, we all sat around in our jim-jams, drinking coffee, eating sweets and watching reality TV. It was possibly a perfect Sunday morning.

I’m a bit of a closet reality TV fan; my favourites include Four Weddings, Come Dine with Me and One Born Every Minute. But reality TV in Australia takes things to a whole new level; it’s all just so damn dramatic. For example, yesterday we watched a number of episodes of My Kitchen Rules. The premise is very similar to Come Dine with Me; however the contestants not only cook for each other, but also for two professional chefs, who then rate the meal. However unlike CDWM, it was all so very very super SERIOUS. There was minus craic, but plenty of dramatic music and lingering looks. Not so many ridiculous drunken antics but more food snobbery than you could shake a stick at. It was just not enjoyable.

Perhaps I’m wrong, but I think most people just like easy to cook and eat simple and delicious food? Surely food snobbery just alienates people and makes the kitchen seem even scarier than it should? With that thought in mind I decided to share with you all my quickest, most yumbo pasta-surprise recipe. Haute cuisine it ain’t but it sure tastes goooood.

Creamy, basily, mushroomy pasta

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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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Dreaming of Darina

OK, so I got this book recently and it’s – as we’d say at home – feckin’ deadly! It’s called 700 Forgotten  Kitchen Secrets by Darina Allen, and I recommend that everyone goes out and buys it, immediately.

I know it almost sounds like I’ve been paid to endorse it. Ha! Wouldn’t that be something? No, I’m just really obsessed with it, so much so, I’ve even considered bringing it to read on the train to work in the morning. But, if sales do sky rocket, Darina you can reach me through this blog. And, I won’t want to be paid or anything, a short spell in Ballymaloe will do me just grand, thanks!

Anyways, this book is amazing. It’s full of handy hints, beautiful pictures and great little anecdotes. Reading it makes me want to move home to Ireland and live on a goat farm somewhere on the west coast, making cheese and maybe soap for the tourists. I could keep my own chickens and a cow for milking and maybe even a little hive of bees. Oh, the daydreams I have while trudging through the Sydney underground every morning. Unfortunately, the Fella, having been born and raised here thinks he’s far too cosmopolitan for all that craic. He won’t entertain these notions I have at all, even when I send him pictures of goats being super cute and fun.

So, this post will be the first of many recipes from this fab book. I decided to make creamy chicken and ginger, mainly because I already had all of the ingredients and thus didn’t need to leave the house. But also, it’s just a really interesting recipe. Darina recommends letting the chicken soak in milk for about half an hour before you cook it. The lactic acid in the milk works as a tenderiser; breaking down threads in the meat and making it super soft and delicious. This was just too good an experiment for my super-nerdy-chemist-brain to pass up on, and the result: score! I’m not always a fan of chicken breast, but this was lovely and juicy and tender, and not at all dry or bland. Also, the combination of ginger and cream was something I’d never have put together myself, but it works really well.

Creamy Chicken and Ginger

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