The real reason I moved to Australia

Avocado on toasted sourdough with a squeeze of lime

Was it because the troika have taken over Ireland, and now you’re all poor?

Or maybe, because you’re allergic to rain?

Perhaps you just had enough of being called a culchie by all those Dublin jackeens?

Oh no, it was for love right? For the grá of your Australian Fella, the one you’re going to marry, it’s got to be for that, right?

WRONG!

Folks, the real reason I moved to the big red land down under had nothing to do with recession, rain for even love. Let’s be honest here; it was for avocados.

Yes. I said avocados.

Avocado on toasted sourdough with fresh cracked black pepper

When I was a child, my mother had a strict rule. Whenever any family member went abroad to warmer climates, they were warned not to bring home duty-free or Toblerone. Instead they were charged with smuggling ripe avocados into the country. My brother and I must have been the only children growing up in the north east of Ireland in the eighties who had avocado addictions. Hell, we must have been the only children for miles around who knew what avocados were! They weren’t spuds that much was for sure.

Things haven’t changed much since then. When I still lived in Ireland I would buy (imported) avocados in bulk and ripen them in the hot press. Yes, like a crazy lady. Now, I live on a much bigger island, one where ripe avocados are very commonplace; and they taste unreal! Gone are the days of waiting ages for an avocado to be ripe; now I can buy a luscious, nutty fruit in my local corner shop, open it up, and immediately spread it on my toast. I’ll repeat that for the folks back home, yes, I did say SPREAD. In Australia, the avocados are spreadable, like some kind of delicious, green butter. Are you beginning to understand my reasons for emigration?

You might all think that avocado on toast is pretty much a non-recipe, but I say, don’t dare knock it until you’ve tried it. I eat this about three times a week, for breakfast, brunch or even a midweek dinner.  And I can guarantee, if you can get quality avocados with super-fresh sourdough bread, you too will fall in love. Don’t take my word for it, try it for yourself!

Avocado on toasted sourdough

Avocado on toasted sourdough slice

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Autumn crème brûlée with spiced pineapple

frangipani and pineapple

Seasons are funny things, aren’t they? In Ireland we tend to have on average, oh, about two days of summertime a year. Three if we’re really lucky. When I was a student these days always conveniently coincided with major exams; in fact I think the gods of Irish summertime still do this. Those guys must hate students.

In Sydney, they have pretty much the exact opposite case. Here, we’ll get about three weeks of winter, tops. Summer glides into autumn, which sometimes threatens to turn into winter, but generally thinks better of it and simply glides back into spring again. We had sunshine and highs of 21 last week, but it is starting to get much cooler and wetter.

spiced pineapple brulee

A major hint that winter is on the way are the two rapidly-shedding frangipani trees outside my house. During the summer these tress keep our bedroom shady and cool, while filling it with the lovely scent of frangipani. At the moment however, they are covering my car in a deluge of dying flowers and leaves, meaning I have to practically dig my way into it every morning.

Two weekends ago, I picked what I think will be the last frangipani flowers of the year and paired them with the last of the autumn pineapples to make a totally-tropical desert. Crème brûlée with spiced pineapple is actually a great choice for this in-between season; the Chinese five spice gives a lovely autumny accent to the summery pineapple. And crème brûlée is just plain awesome no matter what time of the year.

As The Starks say – Winter is coming. Even to Sydney.

Autumn crème brûlée with spiced pineapple

five-spice pineapple creme brulee

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Upsidedown Paddy’s day tricolour salad

Irish flag Aussie salad

Well it’s that time of year again, when the entire world commandeers my nationality and dyes everything green. Lá Fhéile Pádraig!

Paddy’s day as an expat is a strange experience to say the least, although I’d say it would be worse for Irish people living in the States. It’s such a big deal, a day that everyone knows about, but no one is really sure what’s it for. According to the rest of the world St Patrick was some drunk bloke who wore oversized green top hats and said thirty-three and a third a lot.

This year I’m OK with it though, people can think what they want to as long as it makes them happy. And if they get a bit of craic out of it, sure all the better.

Leprechauns and mangos

The Fella thinks I’m an absolute disgrace to my country for posting this picture, he thinks I deserve to get my passport taken off me because of it. But I say, if the world wants leprechauns, why not give them leprechauns?

You can all blather on about corned beef (baffling and disgusting in equal measures), leprechauns (just plain lame) and pots of gold (I don’t know if any of you folks heard, but Ireland is currently owned by the IMF) as much as you like and I won’t bat an eyelid. But, I would really like to remind everyone that there are actually two other colours in the Irish flag. Yes folks, believe it or not there is some orange and white in there too! I know right? It just blows your mind.

I made this salad as an homage to the oft-forgotten tricolour, where mango represents the orange and macadamia the white. An Australian take on my national flag if you were, as mangos and macadamia nuts are a little harder to come by in county Louth.

I will be celebrating Paddy’s day in Sydney CBD with The Fella and his family and I’ve no doubt there won’t be a tractor or a bunch of shamrocks in sight, but it will be fun none the less. And I hope you have the craic too, wherever you are in the world and however you choose to celebrate; but I do ask this: as you’re tucking into your green beer, do save a thought for the tricolour, sure it’s a grand wee flag!

Upsidedown Paddy’s day tricolour salad – spinach, mango and macadamia

Tri colour salad

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Sydney Swelters

Passion fruit, lemon and mint and creamy cherry ice-lollies

This is the counterpoint to my post Sydney sparkles. It seems in the springtime Sydney sparkles; but by the time January rolls around, Sydney simply sweats.

Last week, all of Australia struggled through a massive heat-wave. Temperatures were literally off the charts with the Australian Bureau of Meteorology having to come up with new colour indicators on their forecast charts. Bush fires raged across Tasmania, Victoria and New South Wales, but thankfully no one lost their lives. The weather in this country certainly is serious business.

Colourful fruit ice lollies

On Wednesday the mercury in Sydney reached over 41 C, which is just as uncomfortable as it sounds. When it was still 37 C at half eleven that night, I regretted my decision not to just sleep at the pool. So what do you do when you live in a country located – as Dylan aptly observed – three quarters of a mile from the surface of the sun, in a house with no air conditioning? You make ice-pops and eat them while sitting in the bath, isn’t it obvious?!

Don’t let the fact you’ve no ice-pop making accoutrements stop you, do what I did and make them in little shot glasses with straws instead of sticks. You can all judge me if you want, but I was hot and I wasn’t driving to the shops. Anyway, I think they look kind of cute in a DIY sort of way. They tasted good at least and they were cold, which was really all that mattered to me.

Lemon and mint, passion fruit and creamy cherry ice-lollies

Lemon and mint, passion fruit and creamy cherry ice-lollies

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Sunny blue swimmer crabs

New Year’s Eve in Sydney is something very special indeed. I would urge everyone, at some point in their lives, to try and spend it here. I mean, who doesn’t love fireworks? Or spectacular harbours? I’ve been watching some clips on the web, but none of them really do the experience justice.

Blue swimmer crab

However, perhaps I should mention that I don’t really have much else to compare it to. Like, I’ve never spent New Year’s Eve in Edinburgh, New York or even London. Up until the point I moved to Australia the majority of my New Year’s celebrations had been in smelly pubs, dodgy nightclubs and other equally glamorous venues throughout Ireland. One memorable year, my date and I were politely (not) asked to leave a county Louth nightclub in sub-zero temperatures because he had fallen asleep under a Christmas tree. Needless to say the relationship didn’t last. The last year The Fella spent at home was with friends, in what was almost certainly the coldest house in Ireland. The central heating broke just as it was beginning to snow outside; so we had to drink buckets of alcohol, purely to keep warm, obviously.

Hence spending New Years in the sunny, warm and party-soaked atmosphere of Sydney is a welcome change. There are no deputes on where to go (see venues described above), or what to wear (party clothes don’t tend to be that warm), or how you’re going to get home (taxis mysteriously disappear on NYE at home). Instead you grab a nice bottle of vino and picnic blanket and make your way to the nearest park, to lounge in the sun for the day and enjoy the midnight show.

This year, I treated myself to a very special lunch. Eating seafood in the sunshine with a crisp white wine isn’t a bad way to finish off the year, not too bad at all.

Roll on 2013; I can’t wait to see what it brings!

Happy New Year!

Steamed blue swimmer crabs with vermicelli noodles in a lemon soy dressing

Steamed blue swimmer crabs with vermicelli noodles in a lemon soy dressing

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Christmas stollen

Christmas Stollen Loaf

I am writing this while basking in the (relative) cool of the evening, which is quite a strange feeling on Christmas Eve. Where I’m from, we tend to bask in the warm glow of turf fires on the 24th, instead I’m battling with the cats for who gets to sit closest to the fan. The cats are winning; they use their cuteness against me, clever things.

It’s still 24 °C at 10 pm, which is not generally a temperature that makes me think of mulled wine and mince pies. Or stollen for that matter, but I’ve got to make some concessions to this festive season, right?

Dried fruit, glace cherries and Cointreau
Nothing screams Christmas better than dried fruit, glace cherries and booze!

I have to admit (and I’m sure it’s already clear), this year I’m finding the summer-time Christmas a little difficult. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve no problem sitting in the sun sipping many cool drinks (like this one), but let’s call a spade a spade here, it’s just not Christmas when it’s over 30 °C out. Today I’ve been pining for Grafton St and Grogans and going out with my girlies.

But who can’t resist marzipan fruit bread? Not me I tell you, doesn’t matter what the temperature is! So I rolled up my sleeves, whacked on my oven and set to work, and the results were worth it, oh so worth it…..

Nollaig shona daoibh!

Christmas stollen

Stollen with cherries and marzipan

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The desert your dentist will love to hate on

Every kid loves Roald Dahl’s dark, twisted and hilariously grotesque stories, right? Or was that just me? I love that he got right to the crux of what kids really like, there’s no pink fluff or fairy godmothers in his stories, no sir. Instead there are disappearing twits, shrinking grandmothers, squish-able aunts and other villains coming to raucous, violent and; let’s be honest; hilariously funny ends.

One of my very favourite characters is Violet Beauregarde, maybe because I can relate to poor ‘oul Violet a little more than I’d care to admit. For those of you who don’t know, Violet, a serial gum-chewer, won a golden ticket to visit Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory.  But poor Violet comes to a colourful end when she insists on trying a prototype gum that doubles as a three course meal. Long story short, she sweals up, turns into a blueberry and has to be rolled away…. to be juiced.

I love the idea that you could eat so much of something, you could turn into it. I’m pretty sure it can’t actually happen, at least, I haven’t turned into a lump of chocolate just yet; although I do have a friend who insists her skin once started to turn orange after she over dosed on carrot juice.

Well, eating tonnes of this yummie desert won’t turn you into a blueberry, but it will turn your teeth and tongue a jaunty shade of purple. Hence why your dentist won’t like it, but I bet your friends will find it hilarious.

I threw this together after The Fella’s mother gifted me a whole bucketful of blueberries (yes, I am a very lucky girl). It’s like a cross between a fool and a fruit crumble, mainly because I couldn’t quite decide on what to make, but it doesn’t matter what it’s called because it is deeeelicious. I think it would work with any summer berry, especially raspberries, so if you’re not lucky enough to be gifted a pile of blueberries in the morning, feel free to mix it up, your teeth can take it.

Little pots of blue

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Sydney Sparkles

When it comes to weather, us Irish like to think we’re pretty hardy.  We just love to hate it, almost as much as we love to talk about it; and I did think we had it pretty tough, until I moved to Australia. The weather in this poor country is pure mental.

MENTAL I tell you.

When I first moved here and was house hunting, I amused quite a few real estate agents asking in-depth questions about central heating. At that stage I was such a FOB (Fresh Off the Boat) I didn’t realise the buzz phrase in Sydney is ‘reverse-cycle air conditioning’, doh! One actually guy laughed in my face. Well what can I say? I love to keep people entertained.

So, last week, when the reverse-cycle air conditioning in my office gave up the ghost, it wasn’t a good day. The system was kaput, defunct, dead. And it got hot. Oh so very hot. I started to glow, then to glisten and then to sweat profusely; all over my keyboard. As this was happening I also got progressively more stressed and stupid. Apparently my mental faculties are inversely proportional to the temperature of my immediate environment; which means if I ever move to Finland or Antarctica or someplace, I would probably be SO smart.

When I got home I needed alcohol, cold alcohol.

So I made this, and it was yum. I got the idea when browsing Heidi Swanson’s pop-up shop, QUITOKEETO. Heidi made hers with a straightforward thyme-infused syrup, but I decided to take things a step further and use lemon thyme instead of the regular variety. Lemon thyme is wonderful and I would urge everyone to get a pot, just for the beautiful smell if nothing else.

This cocktail is so very yummie. It’s lemoney and herby, aromatic and sweet, I love it; and I usually like my gin so bitter it makes my face turn inside out. So if you’re not a gin drinker, this might be the perfect introduction.

They fixed the air-conditioning, by the way; but the next day there was a hail storm, so it was a bit redundant really. See, I told you: mental.

Lemon-thyme gin sparkler

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Pork with a serious, devilishly good (chocolaty!!) twist

If you’re anything like me you will think chocolate and wine are thee very  bestest inventions in the whole entire wide universe. Fact.

They are delicious together. Or separately. For breakfast (well maybe not the wine), brunch, lunch or tea. When you’re happy, sad, bored, stressed or just feel like you deserve a treat. I honestly don’t know what I would ever do if, in a desert island type situation, I had to choose between The Fella and a chocolate-red-wine combo. I’d certainly need a glass of wine to help me mull it over, I may need several in fact.

But… what if you mix these two yummie ingredients with something totally left of field, something completely unusual, something like pork? Am I blowing your mind?! I hope so because this dish is very very special indeed.

This is a recipe from Rachel Allen’s Rachel’s Favourite Food for Friends, and it has been a major hit since the first time I made it a few years ago. Initially people are very reluctant to try it, but after a little coaxing and a taste, it gets gobbled up quicker than you can say: but chocolate isn’t supposed to be for dinner! Of course, you don’t actually taste the chocolate; it just adds a beautiful richness and sweetness to the sauce. Midweek dinner this ain’t, this is RICH and filling and unusual, but totally delicious. So I urge to mix it up a bit this weekend and try it, I guarantee you’ll love it, or your money back.

Sweet and sour pork with raisins, pine nuts and chocolate

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Wonky heirloom Caprese salad

heirloom & cherry tomatoes

There’s a building right at the edge of North Sydney with a giant digital time and temperature display that I’m kind of obsessed with.

Every morning, as I drive past, I mentally take note of the temperature. Without fail. It’s kind of a morning ritual for me, like coffee and newspapers. I think it might be an Irish thing; as a nationality, we do tend to be unreasonably fascinated by temperature.

Take your annual summer holiday for instance; sure you couldn’t be expected to have a good foreign holiday until the mercury reaches at least 30 °C. You see, you just wouldn’t be getting your money’s worth. Sure what would be the point of leaving the country if you didn’t get pure roasted alive?!

caprese salad with heirloom & cherry tomatoes

Likewise, hot days at home are monitored with fascination – jaysus, the winky weatherman said it’s going to be 23 °C tomorrow! Oh holy god! I may dig out the shorts, let’s bring the kids to the beach, and ring the neighbors, we’re going to have a barbeque, god it’ll be great to get a bit of tan! – would be the typical thought process of many an Irish person on the annual day of summer.

Neither would a Skype conversation with anyone from home be complete without an enquiry about the temperature. It’s one hot topic!

So, true to my race, I check the temperature on my drive to work every morning, and think about what a mental country Australia is. Last Friday it was 19 °C at 7.03 am. I kid you not.

caprese salad with heirloom & cherry tomatoes

Let me just put that into context for you: at seven in the morning, in the spring, it was as warm as it sometimes ever gets in the middle of the day in Ireland in summer.

I think that means summer is officially on it’s way. Australian summer, obviously.   

To celebrate, I made a wonky heirloom Caprese salad, because nothing tastes more like sunshine than tomatoes and basil. I used some juicy heirloom tomatoes and chopped everything up so roughly, you’d swear I don’t even own a knife. Then, I sat in the back garden, soaked up some rays and enjoyed it.

Wonky heirloom Caprese salad

caprese salad with heirloom & cherry tomatoes

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Baba-ga-what-now?

One of the things I love about Sydney is the sheer amount and variety of restaurants there are. It’s astounding! In this town, you could eat out every night of the year and never get bored. In my small corner of the city alone there are several Thai, Indian, tapas, Mexican, Italian, Vietnamese, modern Australian, Japanese, vegetarian and Turkish places. There is also a French restaurant, a Polish place, a Brazilian barbeque joint, a Himalayan and a Chinese restaurant. And this is all just in my immediate neighbourhood!

If you start heading over to other suburbs the list just keeps getting longer and longer and loooonger. And, no doubt the pounds will begin to pile.

I guess this multicultural mish-mash is thanks to years of immigration. It’s strange that all these interesting and exotic people never thought to move to the sunny emerald isle and share their tasty treats with us, isn’t it?! In fairness we could have done with a bit of variation over the years, potatoes are yum, but even they can get a bit boring after a bit.

Or maybe it would have all be a bit too unusual for us? If they had thought to move to Ireland, perhaps all these new tastes would have just blown our little mind-holes. Like, I’m pretty sure if I mentioned baba ganoush to some folks I know back home, they would look at me with vacant faces and say baba-ga-what-now?

It’s aubergine (or eggplant) barbequed and all smushed up into pure deliciousness. Just in case you didn’t already know.

I saw this beautiful recipe in a recent issue of SBS Feast magazine and I am so excited to share it. Not only is it absolutely stunning and pure exotic, it’s also quick, easy and super delicious. Perfect for impressing people or for exploring a new cuisine; only if there are no spuds left in the fridge of course.

Haloumi with baba ganoush and pomegranate

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Rosemary and pine nut semolina cookies

Are you a Barry’s or a Lyons drinker yourself?

This is a question that can polarise Irish people. Friendships can be made or broken on the answer; in fact, it’s a question you should ask any potential partner straight up. It’s pretty much a deal breaker.

I am of course, talking about tea. Irish people can take tea very seriously indeed.

I am a Barry’s woman myself. I grew up in a Barry’s drinking household and I’ll stay a Barry’s woman until the day I die. Lucky for me, The Fella doesn’t drink tea at all, so we didn’t have to have the Barry’s versus Lyons debate. Instead we’ll have to discuss more trivial things, like what country to bring our kids up in and stuff.

Anyway, I love tea, but I love tea dunkers even more. I got the idea for these particular dunkers from the beautiful 101 Cookbooks website, but I have to admit, I didn’t follow Heidi ’s recipe. Instead, I adapted the semolina shortcake cookies I had made for Australia Day (because they were delish!), by adding some rosemary (from my garden) and toasted pine nuts. The result: très dunkable yumness for a classy afternoon tea. Someone stick the kettle on quick….

Rosemary and pine nut semolina cookies

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Roast baby squash with mozzarella and celery leaves

Since moving to Australia, one of my very favorite things is the abundance of interesting and seemingly exotic fresh fruit and vegetables. I know that sounds silly, and I don’t mean to diss fresh Irish produce in any way what so ever. Absolutely not. I firmly believe Ireland produces some of the finest fruit and veg in the world. All I’m saying is that, wonderful as our food may be, visiting the green grocers in Australian can be a tad more exciting and baffling in equal measures.

Take the recipe below for instance, I will eat my own shoes and call them delicious if any of of the folks back home can honestly say they frequently find baby squash in the local Dunnes Stores. Perhaps pre-recession; but now? Doubtful.

When I was in Dublin, I’d have had to visit the always yumbo Fallon & Byrne (or the Temple Bar food market). And while I probably would have found them, I could pay through the nose for the diminutive gourds; and the taste of middle-class, carbon-footprinted guilt would have been hard to wash away; no matter how much wine I drank with dinner.

Not so in Australia my friends. The same sun that likes to mock my stupid Irish skin does wonderful things to mangos, pineapples, bananas, papaya, passion fruit, macadamia nuts, custard apples, and endless more exotic (and not so exotic) bundles of yumness. And I am busy reaping the rewards.

 Roast baby squash with mozzarella and celery leaves

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Upside-down Christmas and New Year

Overindulgence (over|in¦dul¦gence).
Noun.
1. the action or fact of having too much of something enjoyable: her alleged
overindulgence in alcohol

2. excessive gratification of a person’s wishes: his overindulgence of her whims

I’m sure many people are just like me, and had to look this word up in the dictionary yesterday morning. At least I hope I wasn’t the only one.

This was my third Christmas and New Year in the land down under. And while I do miss Christmas at home something shocking, I have to admit, I find New Years in the sun very pleasant altogether. Hot sunshine, beaches, laughing kookaburras, barbecues, factor-30, kangaroos and buckets of chilled white wine may not scream Christmas to most people, but they do make for some good times. A little too good, truth be told.

I did very little cooking over Christmas, but I did make this desert. It was an attempt to reconcile the two very different types of Christmases I’ve experienced. Because, despite the fact it’s thirty degrees outside, it just wouldn’t be Christmas without the pudding!

Upside-down Christmas pudding ice-cream

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Posh Lamb

Ohhhh, look at this, it’s poshness squared!

I’ve never been mad about traditional roast dinners, I don’t really know why. I know thousands of people think a roast dinner is what makes a Sunday, not me; perhaps I’m abnormal? Oh dear.

But there is something pretty cool about them all the same, and this lamb is not only yum but also looks seriously impressive to boot. And it’s much less effort than you’d think, always a plus in my book. I would definitely consider making it the next time the in-laws are due around, and hopefully they will be mucho-impressedo.

Posh spring rack of lamb with fennel

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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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Hallowe’en barmbrack

It appears that Australians don’t do Hallowe’en.

It makes a lot of sense; obviously October evenings in the southern hemisphere are a lot less cold, dark and, well, scary than they are back home. Which I guess is why Hallowe’en never took off here, despite the influx of Irish immigrants over the years, and why it flourished in the States instead.

It does slightly bother me that the American version of Hallowe’en is all that’s widely known here; no one realises that it’s an ancient Celtic festival. Therefore, the focus is all on trick-or-treating, and nothing else. No bobbing for apples, no bonfires and no barmbrack. I have decided that I’m on a one-woman mission to change all this. I did have to go to stupid work today though, so I only got as far as the barmbrack, but every little counts. Right?

Barmbrack is a traditional Irish fruit bread made to celebrate Oíche Shamhna (Hallowe’en night). It’s not only totally delish but is also loads of fun as it contains some odd little things you don’t normally find in baked goods, such as a ring, a coin, a pea, a piece of cloth and a stick. These objects mean different things for the person who finds them. The ring and the coin are the two best-known ones, they indicate that the finder will either get married in the coming year or get rich. The others are not so optimistic. The pea means the finder will not get married that year, the piece of cloth means they will be poor and the stick means they’ll have an unhappy marriage. Presumably, the stick was to be used a weapon! Lovely!

Hallowe’en Barmbrack

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Haloumi salad

Is there anything in this world better than fried cheese? Really? I’m pretty sure it’s virtually impossible to beat, even with a super-long-great-big stick.

I actually wonder what was going through Mr Haloumi’s mind when he was inventing it? I like to think the thought process went something like this:

Mmmmmm, cheese really is some kind of super food, totally healthy and not at all packed with fat. No, no, no. So how could I make it appeal to the non-healthy eating market? … conundrum … I know, let’s FRY IT! Whoop!

Genius.

So to counteract it’s many health benefits, I’ve paired the Haloumi with super fresh, calorie-free veggies in a yummie salad of my own inventing (that sounds so way better then admitting these ingredients were all I could find in the fridge).

I know there are the Haloumi haters out there, who think it’s too chewy and salty and just plain weird. Well I just say bah to them, the less they eat, the more there is for me, right? But I did cook my Haloumi with a squeeze of lemon juice, just to cut through that saltiness, then paired it with a little lemon dressing and Bob’s your Uncle, you have yumness on a plate.

Haloumi salad

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The dreaded pesto

This recipe is for my dad.

Dad is usually very adventurous about what he’ll eat, with one major exception: he cannot and will not abide pesto.

He was raised on a diet of spuds, cabbage and bacon that bored him to tears; so now he has an appetite for absolutely anything. He has been known to disgust friends and colleagues in posh French restaurants with a penchant for things that crawl on the sea bed (raw, of course). And in college he was affectionately known as Two-Dinners-Dillon. This is a man who likes his food.

This all worked out well for him, as my mother is an absolutely cracking cook. However, as a working mother of four, she has, on occasion been known to favour convenience over taste. So when the first incarnation of this strange concoction called pesto arrived on Quinnsworth’s shelves in the late 80s, it didn’t matter that it actually tasted like something an animal might try and bury. No, no in my mother’s eyes it was new, foreign and exciting. And more importantly, it could be poured over a pot of just cooked pasta, meaning dinner for six could be prepared in approximately 14 minutes. Dad hated it and it became known in our house as “The Dreaded Pesto”. Eventually he just boycotted it, which drove my mother mad. And to the best of my knowledge, pesto (fresh or otherwise) hasn’t darkened the door of their fridge ever since.

I, on the other hand love love love LOVE pesto. It can be used to dress up absolutely anything, from a plain old cheese sandwich, to salad dressings, to meats; and (my favourite) baked spuds. Limiting it to pasta is just an injustice. This recipe is lovely; it has quite a different taste to basil pesto, not as sweet and with a hint of smokiness from the walnuts. I think it’s what pesto would have tasted like if it had been invented by the Irish.

So this one’s for you Dad, one taste and I promise you’ll be hooked!

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Tatanka! Tatanka! Tatanka!

Years ago, just after we first met, The Fella went on a trip with his cousin to Poland. While international travel broadens most people’s minds, The Fella came back with just one word (which he repeated a LOT) and significantly less brain cells. The word was tatanka. Or to be more specific: Tatanka! Tatanka! Tatanka! Tatanka! Tatanka! Tatanka!

Tatanka is a cocktail made with a very special type of vodka, Żubrówka is a Polish brand that is infused and flavored with bison grass. It tastes like no other vodka you’ve ever had, as in, it actually tastes nice and not even slightly like paint stripper. So when I saw a bottle in our local liqueur shop, I wasn’t even slightly deterred by the $49.99 price tag (it costs about 20 quid at home) and I snapped it up.

All the tatanka recipes I found on-line called for ice. However I have it on good authority from a Polish friend back home that using ice is a faux-pas, instead you should use super-chilled vodka and juice. The Polish can get very touchy about their vodka and it is mostly drunk undiluted and unadulterated.

This drink is super delicious, very simple and after just a few you too will be singing: Tatanka! Tatanka! Tatanka! Tatanka! Tatanka!……………

Tatanka

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