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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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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Dippage dips

Like most Irish people my age, I went to a Catholic school, and as such got loads of exposure to all the bible stories. One in particular always stood out in my mind: the story of the last supper. The reason being, that I could never understand how wine and bread could constitute a meal. As an eight year old, this was probably the detail that bothered me the most, which suggests I may have slightly missed the point.

Fast forward 17 or so years to a Friday night in one of the brilliant Italian restaurants on Millennium Walk in Dublin and I had an epiphany (most probably helped along by at least half a bottle of Chianti and this fantastic mural).Of course wine and bread could make up a dinner! How had I been so stupid all these years? All you need is to add a little balsamic vinegar, some extra virgin olive oil, maybe a few marinated olives and hey presto – you have the best dinner in the world!

And the word for this new dining sensation? Dippage. Yumo, delicious, dippage.

Ask any of my friends – they will concur that I am a dippage fanatic. I think it’s totally acceptable to serve some olives, maybe some char-grilled veggies, an array of dips, balsamic oil and vinegar with crusty bread and call it dinner.

One of my favourite dippage dips is hummus, it’s all kinds of yum and apparently it’s good for you too. Brilliant.

Roasted red-pepper hummus

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New Year beer fish

Today is the first day of the Chinese New Year, welcome ladies and gentlemen to the year of the dragon!

When The Fella and I packed up and moved across the world from Ireland to Australia, we took the long way down. Once we found out our furniture was going to take three months on the slow boat, we decided we also didn’t need to rush. So when we left Dublin we were initially bound for Beijing, not Sydney.  From Beijing we travelled down through China, into Vietnam, back up into Cambodia, then onto Malaysia and Singapore before finally deciding we should probably face reality again.

It was the trip of a lifetime and China was definitely a highlight. It’s such an enormous country with a hugely diverse culture, people and countryside. We spent three and a half weeks there and it was not nearly enough, I’d highly recommend it to anyone who’s planning a holiday. And the food? Oh my, the food! Sometimes it’s not for the faint hearted, navigating a menu can be more confusing than learning the modh coinníollach (a famously difficult tense in the Irish language); but it’s also so interesting and not at all like any Chinese take-away/restaurant you’ve ever been too.

I learned to make this recipe while doing a course at Yangshuo Cooking School. We spent a very relaxing few days in the little village of Yangshuo in Guangxi Province, surrounded by the most fabulous mountains I have ever seen.

This recipe is the local staple and it’s great, totally moreish and a cinch to cook. I also did a chicken version for The Fella (he’s allergic to fish) and it was equally delicious. If getting to China on your holidays is going to be a little bit of a stretch, make this and bring a little bit of China home instead.

Beer fish


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Chicken satay pizza

Oh dear, I seem to have created an uber-addictive and calorie ridden tour de force.

Anyone who is on a diet, please proceed with caution. I’m pretty sure this harmless looking snack contains oh, about 79 bazillion weight watchers points per slice. By all means make it, but when the top button of your pants starts to object don’t say I didn’t warn you.

This recipe is from one of The Fella’s cookbooks from back in his bachelor days. It’s a wonder he found a girlfriend at all, given how much he likes this pizza; although I suspect all the faffing about with yeast and dough probably put him off making it too often.

I’ve adapted the recipe and made my own satay sauce, rather then just using a jar. So now I have plenty left over for chicken or prawns or the more traditional satay companions. Satay makes a super interesting pizza sauce and this recipe has actually inspired me to experiment a bit more with what I would consider to be stapes in a recipe.

I would definitely recommend you chuck the diet out the window, go forth and be adventurous with peanuts!

Satay sauce and chicken satay pizza

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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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Put the lime in the coconut

Back at home I’ll quite happily have soup for dinner from Monday through to Thursday, especially during the winter. It’s so quick and filling and warm and healthy (kind of) and all-round delicious. And it can generally be made from whatever you have in the fridge, making it super cheap. Could there be a better combination of things for a midweek supper? But here in the Land of Oz soup just doesn’t suit the climate. That was until I was flicking through the lovely Rachel Allen’s Favourite Food at Home book and came across a recipe for coconut, pak choi and basil broth. It sounded pretty yummy.

This Asian inspired soup is perfect for the Australian climate. It’s fresh, hot, sour and very light. I have adapted it slightly, throwing in some red pepper (or capsicum – look at me getting down with the lingo!) and vermicelli noodles just to make it a bit more substantial for a hungry supper. Otherwise The Fella would only complain loudly that I was trying to starve him.

Coconut, pak choi and basil broth

Chopsticks + noodle soup = big giant mess.

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