book review, cookalong, Cookbooks, Cookery Classes, Cooking, entertaining, family meals, Food, Healthy Eating, Recipes

Cookbook Cookalong No. 11 – Simple

Let me start by confessing that I’m a big fan of Ottolenghi – I use a lot of his recipes in my kitchen. I borrowed Jerusalem from a friend a few years ago ( I gave it back, honestly!) and tried lots of recipes from it. As a result Lamb shawarma became a favourite on my buffet menu along with a version of his chicken with freekeh .

I bought Simple about 2 years ago but had only cooked one dish from it before this week – I think because the ingredient lists were shorter than his norm I kind of treated it as ‘Ottolenghi Light’ adn pushed it to the back of the shelf. Having rescued it for this week’s cookalong I’m going to try a few more recipes from it

Simple Book cover

So what did I cook:

The dish that topped my Facebook poll was Bridget Jones’ pan-fried salmon with pine nut salsa (p.246) . Apparently this dish was introduced after it was in Bridget Jones’ Baby – the salmon was delicious – the timings were spot on and the salsa was almost perfect. Almost. I’m not against dried fruit in savoury dishes – I grew up with sultanas in curries. I just don’t think the currants added anything to this dish and next time I make it they will not be included. Also I’m going to take on board a suggestion from Sinead and use black olives instead of green for colour.

salmon with salsa
Salmon with Pine Nut Salsa
Pine nut salsa
Salsa

I also made the Cauliflower ‘tabbouleh’ (p.46). I love tabbouleh but am still on the fence about the use of cauliflower as a grain substitute so I was interested to see how this dish would work. And even with the allspice, it did😊 . I can see this becoming a regular here over the summer months – with lots of fresh herbs from my garden ( if I win the slug battle 🤞 ). It will complement the barbeque perfectly.

Cauliflower Tabbouleh

My verdict:

I feel like I should apologise to this book for ignoring it for so long (what do you mean – of course books have feelings). This week I also tried the roasted asparagus with almonds, capers and dill – yum! Next on my list is the ciabatta fritatta. However if you are buying your first Ottolenghi book I’d say have a look at Jerusalem or Plenty . Also check out Ottolenghi’s recipes and articles online. You’ll find the salmon recipe here and the cauliflower one here (along with a few more interesting ideas)

Dinner is served

If you missed my Simple Cookalong you can catch up here


The Friday Cookbook Cookalong happens every Friday at 6.30 pm on my facebook page – why not drop by and say hello – we’re a friendly bunch 😊

Happy Cooking!

Yvonne xx

If you’d like to join the weekly Hey Pesto! cookalong or attend one of my online cookery classes then please click here  for details. 
📷Special thanks as always to Jeff Harvey for the great food photography 📷

book review, cookalong, Cookbooks, Cookery Classes, Cooking, entertaining, family meals, Food, Recipes

Cookbook Cookalong No. 10 – Mexican Food Made Simple

Can you believe it’s been a year since life as we knew it stopped? Little did I think that when I started the Hey Pesto Cookalong Group last year that we would still be sharing our kitchens virtually 12 months later. We’re almost at 500 members ( come on we only need 8 more to get there!) and thanks again to those of you that interact regularly and keep me on my toes

This week’s cookbook choice was Thomasina Miers’ ‘Mexican Food Made Simple’ – a book that has been in my collection since July 2011 – if I remember correctly I bought it on a recommendation from my great friend and fellow cook Georgie. There are a few food splattered pages and lots of scribbled notes which attest to the fact it has been well used over the years.
Don’t expect recipes for fajitas like ‘marinate chicken in spice mix and fry’ , her recipes are a lot more involved than that but she does explain things very well – salsas, making your tortillas, how to fold a burrito etc are explained with step by step instructions with pictures 😊

book cover

In advance of the cookalong, I did an online shop with Picado Mexican and huge thanks are due to Lily for ensuring my order arrived in time. I have lots of lovely new ingredients to play with 😉

If you decide to try recipes from this week’s book then may I recommend you stock up on authentic Mexican ingredients from Lily & Alan’s online shop.
If you’re in Tullamore you will also find some ingredients at Bia Cantina‘s stall in Tullamore Food Fayre – Conor sells ready tortilla dough for you to roll out and cook at home and if you follow my insta stories you’ll know that I’m a fan of his homemade crisps

So what did I cook:

The dish that topped my Facebook poll was Steak Burritos (p.117) . I love dishes like this with lotTs of salsas and side ‘bits and bobs’ so I was happy with the group choice. The recipe looks for skirt steak which I was unable to get so I opted for striploin from my local farmshop instead. In hindsight rather than cutting this into thin slices and marinating it I might have been better to leave the steaks whole and slice them after cooking as I felt I didn’t get enough flavour from the pieces.

The charred spring onions on the other hand, were very more-ish , I recommend cooking twice as many as you think you’ll need!

beef in bowl
Steak Bowl

This dish is the sum of a number of parts- the beef, the tortillas, the beans, the rice, the salsa and the add-ons such as the avocado, creme fraiche and cheese. Ideally I would make everything up , leaving the beef til last, and lay all the dishes out to let everyone help themselves – this is my favourite way of family dining.

I made the Green Rice (p.64), in honour of St. Patrick’s Day, as you do! I’ve made this dish before and love the fresh herb flavours. There’s also a recipe for a delicious red version which uses tomatoes, peas and carrots.

Rice for ST Patrick’s Day!

I cheated on the black beans – I opened a tin, heated them and seasoned with lime juice😉

I did attempt to make my own tortillas (p. 100) but they fell apart. I checked with Conor in the Market this morning and he said my mistake was to roll the dough – he recommends flattening with the base of a pan. I’ll try this and report back.

salsa
Roast Chipotle Salsa

The star of the show for me was the Roast Chipotle Salsa (p. 29) . This was a flavour sensation that I will certainly be making again. You dry roast a quartered red onion, 2 garlic cloves and 4 plum tomatoes in a pan until the tomamotes are blistered and soft . The onions and garlic will roast quicker so remove them from the pan as soon as they are done. Blitz them all together with a chipotles en adobo , lime juice, coriander and salt. Voilá.
There is a recipe in the book for chipotles en adobo but I bought a tin of same – and now I have the perfect excuse to make the salsa again 🤗

To round off any Mexican evening there has to be Margaritas ( despite everyone’s Tequila horror stories!) There is a section in the book on how to make the perfect margarita with a few variations. I made a chili infused sugar syrup and added some to two part tequila to one part cointreau and juice of 1 lime – all topped up with limonata. More diluted than those in the book but hey, I have my tequila story too, but that’s for another time.

Plated burrito
The whole enchilada, so to speak 😉

My verdict:

I like this book and it has a place in my library. If you want to explore Mexican Cooking then I definitely recommend that you buy it too. Otherwise if you’d rather try a few more of her recipes (and the steak burrito) before committing check out this article and her blog .

If you missed my Mexican Food Made Simple you can catch up here
The Friday Cookbook Cookalong happens every Friday at 6.30 pm on my facebook page – why not drop by and say hello – we’re a friendly bunch 😊

Happy Cooking!

Yvonne xx

If you’d like to join the weekly Hey Pesto! cookalong or attend one of my online cookery classes then please click here  for details. 
📷Special thanks as always to Jeff Harvey for the great food photography 📷

Chef, Cookery Classes, Cooking, entertaining, family meals, Food, Recipes, slow cooking, Wine

Every goal deserves a (crispy) reward, right?

I love figures. I know you might think it strange , but I see a spreadsheet as a thing of beauty. Neat , organized columns of figures, with built in checks to make sure there are no errors.
So why then does the thought of doing my accounts fill me with fear and dread? Every October it’s the same routine – panic and chaos to get the previous years receipts and invoices in order to give to my accountant.

You’d imagine with all the enforced spare time this year that I would have done it months ago, but no, it took a reminder letter to galvanize me into action. Even the Chief Taster knows better than to ask how the codeword A is progressing !
But in the spirit of Organized October, and building on Grainne’s foundation folder – yes even friends try to help me over this fear – I delivered the files (well the bulk of) to my accountant’s office on Thursday.

Cause for celebration right? Cue Crispy Roast Duck for dinner…

Crispy duck is big favourite in this house but last few times I cooked it I only did the legs and served the meat with pancakes and plum sauce. Last week I spotted full ducks in the freezer section in Lidl so I thought I’d experiment with cooking it in my slow cooker .

So once the duck was defrosted (overnight in the fridge) and the giblets removed, I stuffed the cavity with lemon, garlic, dried limes and star anise

Duck Cavity stuffed with lemon and garlic

I didn’t want the duck to be sitting in it’s own fat as it cooked so I put some vegetables in the base of the slow cooker to act as a trivet

vegetable trivet in slow cooker

To add more flavour, I rubbed a mix of cumin, coriander and seasalt into the skin.

spice rub on duck skin

Then I put the lid on the pot and left the cooker on high for 4 hours and then turned it down low for another 3 hours.

The Chief Taster arrived in to the most tantalizing, delicious cooking smells and suggested we walk down to find a suitable wine. I delivered my files to the accountant on the way and then a Beaujolais Villages was chosen (Yes I know, I should really have insisted on bubbles to mark my achievement!!) 😉

duck cooking in slow cooker

Post walk I transferred the duck to a very hot oven (220 C) for about 30 minutes to crisp up the skin. Plus remember the vegetable trivet – the vegetables had cooked beautifully in the duck fat – so I put them in the oven too!

Duck coming out of oven

In the meantime I made a quick plum sauce, by simmering the following together over a low heat, for 30 minutes :

  • 1 punnet of plums, quartered and stones removed.
  • 1 star anise
  • Good glug of Chinese cooking wine
plum sauce simmering

Dinner was almost ready – all it needed was a big bowl of delicious vegetable egg fried rice flavoured with some oyster sauce and finished with sesame oil.

dinner is served - rice, sauce and duck

Result? It’s made it to the favourite recipe folder and I’m in the running for girlfriend of the year!!!

Just in case you think we’re total gluttons there was lots of meat left on the duck and it’s gone into the freezer to be used at a later date.

Just a thought, in these strange times when we don’t know what will happen over the next few months – this dish would be perfect for a Christmas dinner for 2-3 people 🤶

STAY SAFE AND HAPPY COOKING!

PS I don’t like to brag but I also put all my summer clothes away in the attic this week – neatly sorted of course! Now onto my next organizing project…..

PS 2 Grainne, if you’re reading this, can you please come back and sort my accounts for 2020?

Cookery Classes, Cooking, family meals, Healthy Eating, Local food, Recipes

Tasty and Tempting ….

And not a takeaway in sight!

You know that feeling  – you’ve been out all day, you’re tired and hungry and you want dinner. NOW.

We’re not big takeaway fans here but I will admit I came very close to picking up the phone and ordering one last night.
Thankfully  I hesitated and did a quick audit of what we had on hand. The situation was much better than feared. Fresh haddock in the fridge, avocados and tomatoes in the vegetable basket , taco shells in the pantry.

The result –  fast fish tacos for supper – on the table in 10 minutes, Jamie Oliver would be proud of me!
Continue reading “Tasty and Tempting ….”

Cookbooks, Cookery Classes, Cooking, family meals, Healthy Eating, Recipes, Vegetarian

A paté to suit all tastes

Many Christmases ago a friend gave me a Rose Elliot vegetarian cookbook. It was in constant use for a few years with a mixed score of successes and failures. Some recipes like her vegetarian style chilli are still firm favourites. Others such as Hot Stuffed Avocados have been long sentenced to the ‘never to be attempted again pile’ 😉

A few years ago I was watching ‘Come Dine with Me’ (don’t judge me!) and was very taken by a vegetarian paté cooked by one of the contestants. On further research I discovered it was a Rose Elliot recipe which has made it the favourites pile and has been devoured by vegetarians and carnivores alike ! The original name of ‘lentil paté’ tends make people think of dark brown, unappetising sludge so I simplified it!

Why not try it the next time you’re entertaining?
Continue reading “A paté to suit all tastes”

Chef, Cookbooks, Cooking, family meals, Healthy Eating, Recipes, Vegetarian

Irish Potatoes with a Spanish Twist

Today is National Potato Day so it’s only right to celebrate our most famous vegetable !

There are so many ways to cook our national treasure but as I’m still trying to keep the summer memories alive I’m adding  a Spanish twist to tonight’s dish. This dish will be perfect both as an accompaniment to some thing like a roast chicken breast or served as part of tapas selection.

I’ve tried a few different recipes for Patatas Bravas – you know the tasty potatoes in tomato sauce you get in Tapas Bars – and I always come back to Simon Rimmer’s version. He slow roasts the potatoes with chilli rather than the traditional method of deep frying the potatoes and then adding the sauce so it’s a healthier option.  I’ve tweaked it to my taste and I hope you like it !
Continue reading “Irish Potatoes with a Spanish Twist”

Catering, Chef, Cookery Classes, Cooking, family meals, Food, Healthy Eating, Recipes

Who’s on wash-up?

Any caterer will tell you that one of the biggest tasks we face after any job is the wash up.  I have some (not so good!) memories of trying to wash plates out the back of a wedding marquee using hot water drained off the potatoes – I kid you not. I hasten to add this was not in Hey Pesto! – we prefer indoor sinks and dishwashers!

As regular readers will know I love to cook –  both in my catering kitchen and my house kitchen – and I have a tendency to use a lot of dishes and pots.  Unfortunately I don’t always have an assistant to wash up after me so my dishwasher is a very essential piece of kit.
Continue reading “Who’s on wash-up?”

Catering, Chef, Cookery Classes, Cooking, family meals

Comforting Curry

I know, I know – it’s been a while since my last blog but now that the weather has changed I’m likely to spend more time indoors and I promise to try and be a better blogger ….

Sometimes you just need comfort food and last night was one of those nights. There were chicken fillets in the fridge,some random vegetables left in the basket and there’s always coconut milk and curry paste in the pantry so it had to be Thai curry for dinner, the perfect dish for these Autumn evenings.

I promise it will be ready in 30 minutes – quicker than waiting for a takeaway to arrive so why not give it a try. Continue reading “Comforting Curry”

Catering, Cookery Classes, Cooking, family meals, Farmers' Market, Healthy Eating, Recipes, Shopping

Celebrating Midlands Food

When we launched the Offaly Delicious Food Network in Tullamore at Easter last year I was so proud that we could showcase all the amazing food that we have in the Midlands.  It’s been a fun year watching it grow – there have been ups and downs but thankfully our market is now well established in its home in Kilcruttin Business Centre.

We’ve been planning the first birthday party for a while and I’m delighted to say it was huge success with lots of loyal and new customers enjoying the day . We had demonstrations, baking competitions, craft, cakes,  lots of great food stalls and even a visit from our local alpacas……

market anniversary 004

Check out this great record of the day by our favourite photographer

Continue reading “Celebrating Midlands Food”

Cooking, family meals, Farmers' Market, Food, Recipes, Shopping

Keeping It Local – Apple & Black Pudding Bread

I love shopping in Farmers’ Markets – I love talking to the stall holders and wondering how I’m going to use their products.  When I lived in Dublin I loved wandering around Temple Bar Market on a Saturday morning, deciding what to cook that evening. On a trip to San Francisco a few years ago I was in heaven in the Farmers’ Markets in Berkeley and in the Ferry Building.  And then there was the fun exploring the St Lawrence Market in Toronto with some of my fellow Fáilte Ireland Food Champions.

So why not have a Farmers’ Market in Tullamore? Continue reading “Keeping It Local – Apple & Black Pudding Bread”