Friday, 28 June 2013

It's all about being spicy

That's right and you know it! Spice not only helps appease our hunger but it also gets those endorphins buzzing and whizzing and tingling all over your body. And boy do I need some tingling and whizzing. The weather has turned foggy and misty (in other words, nasty), I'm feeling pretty blue and missing summertime. This recipe is adapted from the fabuloso Yotam Ottelenghi and his book Plenty. Having grown up on mediterranean/middle eastern food I'm a fan of his most of the time. A lot of the time I find his recipes have so many blinking ingredients that I give up reading what I need before even trying. Yep, that's the type of person I am. Don't judge.

So taking that in mind and having a bunch of aubergines, egg plants to those stateside, a magical creation was formed! One that had the bosses tell me they want it repeated a lot! Brownie points for Jette *happy face*.

One thing you need and can make is the genius that is THE chilli oil creation that is: whacking some dried chillies/chillies going off/chillies looking wrinkly in the blender with some oil. This keeps in the fridge for Yages. Literally yages. Yes, that word is Yages.

Cut into the flesh to make diamonds trying not to cut through the skin. Stick a garlic clove in as many 'x' as you want. I used roughly 3 clove per half an aubergine the first time and then my peeps asked for more.

At only 28 calories cooked per 100g, this is one veggie to keep around. The latin name is Solanum melongena which means 'soothing mad apple' due to it's reputation back in the day of producing 'instant insanity in the unwary eater'. Genius.

Now it's time to whack on that chilli oil. Slather on a good amount as the aubergine is a sucker for oil. Literally. If you like it really spicy make sure you get lots of the flakes in. The longer the oil as has been sitting the spicier it gets!

While we're are on the subject, let's talk chillies for a moment. Now, we all know there are a ton of varieties and every country worth their chilli metal wants to be the one that introduced the world to the chilli. They are a massive source of antibacterial, antiseptic and stimuli properties (did you read the first paragraph about the whizzing and tingling?) Things that chillies are said to help with are: normalising blood pressure, improving circulatory system, feeding cell structures. They contain Vit A+B+C but, they come with a highly addictive warning. You've been warned.

As part of the nightshade family which is a poison you should be afraid. Afraid of how much goodness this veg has. People use it for helping tumours, preventing cancer, the bioflavonoids it contains are great for renewing arteries, preventing strokes and other haemorrhages. It's a pretty powerful thing. Give it a go. Try and put it into your diet at least once a week when in season. The thing I love most about aubergine this way? The crispy bits around the edge with a spicy tang fading to soft flavourful flesh. Nom nom.

half an aubergine per person
chilli oil
garlic cloves
2tsps greek yoghurt
buttermilk/goats milk/milk
chilli flakes/lemon/coriander

Cut aubergines in half and score the flesh. Peel the garlic cloves and stick into the 'x' of your cuts. Brush with chilli oil. Put into an oven 200C for about 20-30mins. When they are ready they will be squidgy to the touch and a knife will go in no problem. The bigger the aubergine the longer time in the oven.
Mix 2tbsp of greek yoghurt with enough buttermilk/goats milk/milk to turn  into sauce consistancy. Add some more chilli flakes/squeeze of lemon/chopped fresh coriander or all of theses. Drizzle a little over the middle and serve warm.

P.S. If you make too many halves or have left overs. Remove flesh from skin, blitz with a little oil and you have a fabulously yummy dip. You're welcome.

Monday, 24 June 2013

In a right Pickle

It's summertime. I don't blame you for not realising, noticing, seeing the sun. I haven't in a long time.. This Irish summer is supposed to better than the last 2 years. Heaven help me, and all the Irish, thinking this is better than last year. Wow.

With summer comes the new things. Buds, sprouts, summer veggies and while there is this abundance why not make the most of it and get pickling. In America they call it canning. And while I kind of get this, I do not use cans, I use jars so I'm going to stick with pickling.

Today it was cucumbers. Bright green prickly baby cucumbers. They are crunchy and sweet with a bitter taste on the peel. It's the perfect time while they are at this stage to get them in a jar.

I did three separate jars with three varieties of flavours. A crushed garlic and peppercorns. A chilli flakes and a wild garlic. It's pretty idiot proof. Three sterilised jars. Make sure they are sterilised. Should I say this again? MAKE SURE THEY ARE STERILISED.

Cucumbers are hugely alkaline and rich in minerals that neutralise blood acidosis. This lowly green member of the gourd family is the best natural diuretic known and rather than excreting waste through our skin it allows waste to be excreted through the kidneys. It's also known to contain erepsin, an enzyme which helps to digest proteins meaning that it is a beneficial digestive aid and for those of you with worms, it helps. A lot. If you've got high or low blood pressure you should eat a lot. This summertime veggie is high in potassium. There are a huge number of benefits to eating this crunchy green thing so get to it!


As many cucumbers as you can squeeze into the jar you have (I used 4)
3tbsp white wine vinegar
½-1 tbsp salt
Add any flavour to taste, I used 4 garlic cloves in the first one, 6 chilli peppers. The second one I used 1 tbsp chilli flakes. The third jar I used a large handful of wild garlic.
Topped up with filtered water.

This recipe hardly seems a recipe. It's easy peasy! Promise. Literally put everything in the jar. Make sure you pack in the cucumbers. Once everything is in the jar, top up with filtered water. Every 12 hours turn the jar upside down. Enjoy after about a week. Enjoy.

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Do you remember a while back….?

I worked on a cook book? Neven Maguires Cook book to be exact. It seems like such a long time ago, but it was only 1 month gone. I can't believe it.
During my time with them, I took the opportunity to do some little interviews with the talented people in charge of every stage of the book so that you can have a little sneak inside peak at what it's really like to work in this seemingly glamorous world!

Who'd a thunk that 12+ hour days in a kitchen would be made seem so sexy and fanciful. It's actually bloody hard graft and all the work and energy that goes into creating a cook book is extreme. We worked from 8am to 6 pm non stop, churning out dish after dish, photo after photo all to make beautiful images and tasty food for you, the people to try and get excited about.

My first interview comes from  Joanne Murphy, the food photographer…oh hurry the day when I have a book and I can have Jo working on it!
She is freelance photographer but specialises in food. And how did she get into photography? An old boyfriend gave her a Nikon after seeing Jane Fonda with one and she thought 'why not give it a whirl, it's seems a romantic career'. The rest, is history. Please have a look at her work, she really is an amazing photographer and a lovely lovely person.
Her work can be seen in these books….
McNean Cookbook - Neven Maguire 2012
Sophie Cooks - Sophie Morris 2012
Blazing Salads Cookbook 2013
ICA Cookbook 2012
and many more!

1. What type of equipment do you use?

 I use a Canon 5d mark ii and a Hasselblad.

2. When and how did you get into food photography?

 Whilst working as Art Director/staff photographer for The Dubliner I met Domini Kemp who was the restaurant critic and I started to photograph restaurants and food for her column, the rest is history...

3. What are your 3 top tips for us instagramers/bloggers who try to make our pictures beautiful?

 Use natural light, get a piece of white card to reflect light back onto your food and think about what you put the food on. Textures are key!

4. What is your favourite food to photograph and why?

 Cakes, buns, all things sweet for obvious reasons.

5. Any tips on how to get into being a photographer?

 Assist a photographer. Its the best way to figure out if its for you. And keep taking photos, even if it's just going on instagram you'll start to see your own style emerging.

6. Any exciting future projects we can know about?

 I'm really excited about a project that will be published for Christmas 2014, thats all I can say for the moment... Also I have a couple of personal projects including one with Terry (Two Wooden Horses)

7. Favourite project you've worked on and why?

 Oh thats a tough one. I've loved all of the cookbooks I've worked on. I’ve been very fortunate to work with some of the best people in the business. I love the feeling of being part of a team and its such a lovely feeling to hold the final book in your hands. 

8. Is there another photographer you really admire and why?

Ditte Isager is an amazing Danish photographer also Michael Graydon a Canadian photographer.

9. One person you haven't worked with but would love to photograph or do the photography for?

 In Ireland I'd love to work with Racheal Allen, in the Uk Jamie Oliver. 

10. If you weren't a photographer what would you do?

 If I wasn't a photographer I'd love to be a painter or an archeologist!

11. Can I come and work with you?

 Yes please!

Sunday, 16 June 2013

This will make your heart sing with joy.

It really is that good. I'm amazed myself because I am the quintessential chocolate lover but after going through a particularly large chocolate sized hole I decided (quite grown up actually) that I really needed to get a grip and not eat so much processed chocolate.

This recipe is so easy, I made it up in 10 minutes. I've seen raw brownies or similar things here and here but as I rarely have the internet in my kitchen and not having the time to try and find recipes I made it from what I had, my memory and tastes I like. The waiting for it to set and get cold is the hard part. Go for a walk. A long walk so you can't eat it before it's time.

There are also so many variations (see the very end) to this recipe that switching it up could become a regular thing meaning you will never get bored. Be careful when you've had a little too much wine as you'll wake up with half the thing gone…

Let's talk about dates. I adore them, literally could eat them till I'm sick. Especially the medjool date. It's a sticky, sweet moist little piece of fruit that contains good, natural sugar. It was one of four fruit used to help curing throat and chest problems back in the early medicine days and because of it's high good natural sugar levels it's great for those of us who do physical exercise regularly or heavy work.

I love that its considered one of the most ancient symbolic forms of the Tree of Life in subtropical desert regions, among Egyptians it is the symbolic Tree of the Year because it produces a new set of branches every year. Isn't nature amazing?!?

I'm warming up to the hazelnut outside of Nutella. I find it quite a nutty nut if that makes sense and sometimes I'm just not sure. But following the Nutella theme that hazelnuts and chocolate go well together I figured why not. Classically people seem to always pair almonds and chocolate and it works. But I like to be a little different. 

The hazelnut although tiny, is good for your teeth and gums. It is quite hard to digest even for those with a good digestive system so don't go crazy on them! They are also pretty good for normalising metabolism so lets go with a couple a day rather than a handful.

Two other ingredients were used in the making of this. The chia seed and raw cacao powder.
There is big talk about the chia seed at the moment and it's becoming a fad but it's still a great little thing of goodness. The plant itself is actually a member of the Sage family, which surprised me! Next to flax seeds, chia are the highest source of Omega 3 and back in the day these little seeds roasted and crushed were eaten to give enough energy to go desert walking in Central America. A lot of people make a chia pudding by soaking a teaspoon of seeds in almond milk. They swell up a little and form a jelly like surrounding and end up being similar to tapioca. I love it and it certainly energises me.

I used raw cacao (and cacao nibs to decorate) instead of cocoa powder as it's natural. There are so many benefits to raw cacao that range from reducing cataracts to improving heart function and alleviating stress. It's said that the theobromine which is naturally found in raw cacao is a mild, non-addictive stimulant that some people even believe can treat depression. Pretty good stuff huh?!?


2 cups of dates that I soaked over night as I didn't have medjool.
½ cup of hazelnuts, chopped up 
1 ½ dessert spoons of cacao powder
3 teaspoons of chia seeds
handful of cacao nibs to decorate.

If soaking dates, put them in a bowl and cover with water overnight. Next day, discard the water and put dates in a blender. Whizz till a pulpy mush that is not too lumpy. The smoother the better, but with a spoon mush it around a bit and see if it's a texture you're happy with. I had no lumps. Add the cocao powder, chia seeds and chopped hazelnuts. Whizz again and then spread out into your dish. Sprinkle the cacao nibs over the top, cover and freeze for at least 2 hours. Longer is better!

add a handful of cranberries
use almonds instead of hazelnuts
add hemp seeds 
add a little bit of rock/flaky salt
add a little desiccated coconut.

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

A view from the Castle

It's my second week at my job. I'm growing to love it. I love living in the countryside, I love choosing what I cook for the family, I love looking out my window and seeing the mountain.

The last couple of days have been a heat wave here in Ireland, today the rain and grey came back and it's not pretty. But at least the elderflower is blooming, the wild garlic is still growing and I'm meeting people.

I've had some mishaps in the kitchen, thankfully not ones I've had to serve but I've been trying new recipes. Let's say that they still need some work, but mistakes are good right?  They help us learn, teach us what to do differently. Like this one. I'm trying to make a dahl crisp bread. First attempt = no go. But I'll keep trying!

I've made Greek salads, raw slaws, nut bars, fresh breads, spicy soups and much more. Here's to the future menus.

Thursday, 6 June 2013

My quinoa and chickpea burger

It's been showering us with sunshine in Ireland. I'm loving it. The dresses haven't quite found their way past my wardrobe but, it's sunny enough to sit outside with sunnies and no jumper! Am I lucky or what? Who knew that my first Irish summer would be so sweltering (pinch of salt people).

The job is going well, great infact. I'm still getting into a routine but the fact I'm living in the countryside and the sun is shinning and I'm creating new recipes is pretty sweet. Life is good.

One of my latest creations came around from leftover quinoa and mint peas. There are plenty of quinoa/amaranth/chickpea burgers out there. And I'm sure they're all fantastic. Personally I've always been a bit of a 'I eat meat, why the hell would I make a burger without?' kind of person. Cue this job where the meals are all vegetarian and as vegan as possible. Cue, my veggie burger.

Quinoa is a fantastic little ball of grain goodness. For those of us who try to exercise, you may have heard of it being a complete protein and gluten free. Good for those allergic to wheat. Did you know that it contains more calcium than milk? A pretty nifty little grain.

And then, I present the chickpea. For those of you living across the pond, you will know it as the garbanzo bean. I'm sticking to chickpea you hear?!? These golden balls are one of my all time favourite things to eat. Give me some chunky homemade humus or some chickpeas with turmeric, onion and garlic any day of the week. Yum. 

It's spring/summer time and I love spring onions. The spicy freshness that is so similar and yet so unlike an onion is something I love, plus the fact you can eat all of it is a winner. And since moving to Ireland I find myself cooking more and more with these green and white sticks.

The garlic clove is beautifully packaged. A food stylists dream that comes with it's very own packaging. And so pretty it's packaging is. Known throughout the world to prevent disease, keep away vampires and make armies stronger.

My favourite quote concerning garlic comes from John Harrington and The English Doctor: 'Garlic then have power to save from death; Bear with it thought it maketh unsavoury breath; And scorn not garlic like some that think; It only maketh men wink and drink and stink'

Now we all know the chilli. There are so many different varieties and so many contentions for where they originated it's a chilli minefield. I'm a fan. I love hot but you may not. The recipe will be just as good less spicy so you can decide how much you want to put in.


2 cups of cooked quinoa (mine had peas in from yday)
2 cups of cooked chickpeas
5 different sized spring onions
6 garlic cloves (less if you love vampires)
2 big chillies (less if you're not a hot person)
2 large eggs (or enough to bind)
large handful of herbs (parsley, coriander, basil. Anything you want)
Salt and pepper

Mix all the ingredients together. I used a food processor and roughly chopped all the ingredients. I'm new to the wonders of food processors so didn't really need to but. You CAN do this by hand. Mash the chickpeas and chop everything else finely, then mix.
Use 2 spoons to keep burgers even-ish. Cook in coconut the oil of your choice till crispy and golden then flip and repeat. 
This mix made roughly 20. They freeze really well.

Monday, 3 June 2013

Super bright, super food salad

I've started my job. It's pretty good so far. Nobody's died from food poisoning, nor have they had food poisoning I should add. And I'm rocking out between 5-7 new and individual dishes every single day. When I'm not working I've been walking in the countryside. Did I mention I'm living in the middle of a field? It's pretty nice and, considering I found a glut of wild garlic (that I'm calling mine just incase you thought of following me) I'm happy.

This salad came about because I liked the colours. Sorry. It's that simple. But. You know what, it really really really works. It has a summery zing of freshness and the colours can't help but make you happy!

There are three ingredients. Please ignore the onions in the photos but next time I would leave out the onion. You can of course put it in and it did work overall but I think I like the simplicity of only three ingredients.

First lets start off with pumpkin seeds. These nutty little green things are a powerhouse of goodness. This is definitely one for the men. For the male prostrate gland these are the most nourishing things you can eat thanks to their high levels of magnesium and zinc. Pumpkin seeds or pepitos are mainly made up of myosin. Now, myosin is the chief protein that makes up all of the muscles in our body. Pretty cool huh!

Give them a quick dry roast in a saucepan to release that deep sweet nut flavour.

Next, let's talk next about the bright orange veggie that is the sweet tasting carrot. Did you know that apart from beetroots they contain the most sugar out of any vegetable?

When consumed in large amounts this orange stick is considered one of the best detoxifiers. Not only do they contain huge and easy to digest amounts of vitamins, minerals and enzymes but they are also great for the liver and your digestive tract. Now, when your Mum told you that carrots made you see in the dark, she may have been slightly overstating their amazing qualities but, good quality carrots are antioxidant beta carotene rich which is a pre cursor to Vit A which, is beneficial to the eyes. Clever Mum!

And finally (if you forget the onions) is red cabbage. This vegetable amazes me every time and I really do find myself mesmerised by the curly wurly pieces when cut. Natural art. Raw cabbage, whether it be red or green is a great for detoxifying the stomach and upper bowls of waste which obviously gives you better digestion. With its sulphur and iron content it's a winner for those of us with bad circulation. And, due to its alkalisation properties its great for people with bad skin. 

I made a simple orange juice dressing which was as easy as juicing 2 oranges, mixing it with some olive oil (1:2 ratio) and salt and pepper.
I made this salad for 12 and went through 10 carrots, ¾ of a red cabbage and 2 handful of toasted pumpkin seeds. I'd say, if you were doing it for four, go with 4 carrots, ¼ cabbage and a small handful of seeds. I grated the carrots and chopped the cabbage finely against the grain.