Wednesday, April 28, 2010

An Evening with my Irish Family

Patrick's parents live outside of Galway. Truth be know, Patrick is a Galwegian, making us both blow-ins out here on the Loop Head Peninsula. We love life out here, although getting out of West Clare for a night can be just what the mind and body need. In my case a bit of fresh air to reintroduce creativity and productivity.

Eileen, Patrick's step mom is great! In the midst of caring for her horse and others' horses, teaching classes, among other things, she always strolls in, whips up dinner and before you know it we're all full and well into our drink and wonderful conversation. Tonight will be no different; she's already informed me that dinner is in order and if I'd like to bring dessert, that would be appreciated. Heck, that's the least I can do for a wonderful meal and evening away.

Anyway, you ask me where am I going with this post. And here it is, my point, I've decided to make an apple and sultana crumble. Which is an excellent dessert to post in this blog. It's quick, always a real hit and at the end of the day, it's nearly impossible to screw up.

For today's crumble, here's what I did.

7 small apples, peeled and sliced (I used JonaGold since that's what I had on hand)

I place the apples, about 1/2 cup sultanas, a knob of butter, about 1/4 cup of sugar (brown or Demera are my favorite) and loads of spices in a medium saucepan and cook on medium heat until the apples are tender.

At this point, remove the pan from the heat and pour into a pie plate or similar baking dish and allow to cool a bit.

In a small bowl, mix together the following ingredients until crumbly
1 3/4 cups oats
scant bran
scant flour
handy sprinkle of Demera or brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 to 3/4 cups butter or other vegetable spread

Crumble the topping over the apples and bake in a preheated oven 375F/190C for about 30 minutes or until the crumble on top is golden and the apples are bubbly.

Serve with ice cream, cream , or whipped cream.

This is a delicious, mostly healthy, and quick dessert. It's great to take up to Galway, since Patrick's dad has a Gluten intolerance. I can omit the bran and the flour and still make a tasty crumble that everyone enjoys.

Hope you find a quick minute to enjoy a fruit crumble soon!!!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Blackened Cod... it's what's for dinner

Yesterday was beautiful! I spent a bit of time outside transplanting and planting seeds for our "fish box" garden. If all goes well, we'll have tomatoes, potatoes, onions, shallots, heaps of garlic, spaghetti squash, beets, carrots, pears, apples, blueberries, strawberries, and a nice variety of herbs. Not bad for two people that don't want to spend their days in the garden. And since our washer is still broke, it was a perfect, breezy day for all the laundry I washed by hand to dry on the line. The garden was filled with songs from all the birds and at one point I even heard one singing that sounded a bit like how my grandpa used to whistle.

While I was having loads of domestic fun, Patrick was out fishing yesterday. He's still getting a few velvet crab, but mostly brown crab and a handful of lobster. I've figured out the best and most fun way to learn about his day is to ask if he found anything fun and unusual in the pots. It opens the door to a broad conversation, generally leading to what the water was like, whether the crewman sang while he worked, how the boat operated, if they spotted dolphin or if the seagulls had to be kept at bay from the bait. Last night, was no different. Although I did walk down to the pier to meet Patrick after his day at sea, so the conversation started while he was cleaning a small cod on the deck.

Imagine my excitement when I realized the fish was cod (first of the year) and would be the main coarse for dinner! Immediately my mind trailed off to the ingredients at home and what I could prepare that would be light, tasty and full of summer flare. To my delight, I created a lovely blackened cod with brown turmeric rice and mango salsa. It was simply divine at our Sunset Diner.

When we got home, I began rummaging through the fridge and press to find the ingredients necessary for our dinner. Of course, I never stray too far from the hundreds of thousands of recipes online; usually paying attention to cook time and basic ingredients. I knew straightaway that I needed a recipe that used mango since I had about a quarter of a mango that really needed to be used up.

In case I haven't let on by now, I believe I am the queen of turning leftovers into delicious meals and stretching ingredients as far as they will go. In the case of the mango, it had seen 2 salads and was a side with pancakes. It's final destination was the salsa for the cod.

So, rather than keeping you waiting, here's my recipe for Blackened Cod with Brown Rice and Mango Salsa

Prepare your favorite rice, while boiling sprinkle in a handy amount of turmeric and a bit of salt.

Salsa, mix all ingredients and set aside
1/4 ripe mango, diced and scrape away any pulp from the seed
1 kiwi, diced
1/4 english cucumber, diced
1/4 green bell pepper, diced
1/8 cup cilantro, fresh or dried (I used dried, since our coriander isn't ready for harvest)
1 small red chili pepper, oven roasted and peeled from the skin, diced
1 tablespoon white vinegar

Rub for the Cod
2 fillets cod

1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon chili pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon chili seasoning
1 tablespoon Tabasco Sauce
1 tablespoon olive oil
a handy sprinkle of salt
(black pepper would have been nice; however, we're fresh out)

Mix all the ingredients together and rub on all surfaces of the cod, set aside and heat about 1 tablespoon of oil in a frying pan on medium heat. When the pan is hot, place the cod, skin side up on the pan and fry for two minutes. Flip the cod and fry for an additional two minutes. Finally, grille the cod in it's pan in the oven for about five minutes. Make sure to use a frying pan that has an oven proof handle or wrap your pan's handle in foil and don't get it too close to the grille.

When everything is ready, dish out the rice, place the blackened cod on top of the rice and spoon a handy mount of salsa onto the fish. I recommend enjoying in a room, on a patio, wherever the sun is shining and make sure you have plenty of beer or water because this dish is spicy!!!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

A Taste of Ireland

What a great weekend, we just enjoyed! My family was supposed to visit us last week; however, the Icelandic volcano kept them in Colorado. My brother's trip which was scheduled in the middle of my folk's trip went on as scheduled and so we enjoyed a few short days with him.

We enjoyed plenty of food, wine, beer, hill walking, sight seeing, wildlife viewing, visiting and even managed to find a Trad Session on Friday night in Kilkee.

Chadd arrived as scheduled on Thursday. Patrick was out fishing, so I made my way to the Shannon Airport to pick my brother up. We made our way back to the house, I gave him a quick tour, then went down to the village for lunch and a pint at The Long Dock. I love the feel inside the Long Dock, it's cozy, like the whole pub is a "snug" and the food and Guinness are pretty good and as local as you can get without enjoying a meal at our Sunset Diner.

After our lunch we strolled into the square and I introduced Chadd to our Post Master, the first person I met when I arrived in Carrigaholt last June. Our village isn't very big, even though it is considered a "Large Village" by the County Council, so Chadd's quick tour ended with another pint inside Keane's, the first place I enjoyed a pint when I arrived last June.

When we were finished we made our way back to the house for afternoon tea and finally met up with Patrick who brought home fresh crab claws and mussels.

I could continue to describe many of the details while brother was here; however, this blog is about food, so I'm going to change the format and give you highlights from our dining experience.

We started with fresh crab claws and a fruity salad of mango, apple, kiwi, cucumber, onion, spinach and butter lettuce with an apple and poppy seed vinaigrette followed by baked Pollock with mushrooms, onions, green peppers, leeks, and a few knobs of butter accompanied by baked potatoes. For dessert I made Toffee Bread Pudding which was heavenly.

We started Chadd's first full day in Ireland with a Full Irish Breakfast which included: 1 poached egg on toast, bacon, rashers, white and black puddings, beans, fried mushrooms and tomatoes before setting out on a tour of the north side of the peninsula.

Chadd enjoyed his first "99", although is was sans the Flake, in Kilkee and also enjoyed a pint and a bag of crisps at The Lighthouse Innon the bay in Kilbaha. Before returning home for homemade crab cakes and mussels. For dinner Friday night we had a bit of a BBQ and enjoyed chicken on the grille and homemade potato salad. We finished out evening with Banoffee Pie that was even more heavenly than Thursday's night's bread pudding.

We finished the evening in Kilkee at Fitzpatrick's for a Traditional Irish Music session.

I think we all agreed when we woke up Saturday morning (mind you, we didn't get to sleep until 3:00 am) that we were full from all the previous meals and drink... that didn't stop me from making us Apple and Banana Pancakes with a bit of fruit on the side. I think we rolled to the College Bay for our walk to the Battery.

Chadd got a taste of rain Saturday afternoon, but not before Patrick gave him a tour of the Fiona David, Patrick's boat. When we got home, we enjoyed a hot mug of tea, the last of the BBQ chicken and potato salad then nibbled on the treats Chadd picked up in Heathrow - Chocolate and shortbread.

Patrick's parent came down from Moycullen, outside of Galway, to meet my brother and spend the evening with us. We had a great evening, as the rain cleared and the sun came out just in time for us to enjoy dinner at our Sunset Diner. On the bill, I made us Crab and Lobster salad and Patrick made Bacon and Cabbage with mashed potatoes and boiled turnip. We sweetened the deal with the last of the Banoffee Pie, a cowboy cookie and chocolate.

The conversation was great, and different and carried us well into the night. A little after 11:00 pm, Chadd, Eileen (Patrick's step mom) and I walked into the village for a serving of Curry Chips from our local chipper. As Chadd was informed, Curry chips after a night on the drink is considered an Irish delicacy! I'd say they weren't as good as something Patrick and I could create in our kitchen - it was worth the experience anyway.

Chadd flew out Sunday, mid-day from Shannon, which made for a whirlwind morning getting ready and eating before departing. We had leftover mashed potatoes so Eileen showed me how she makes potato cakes and Patrick made us a big fluffy omelette after he and Chadd washed and dries the pile of dishes from the night before. It was a great food finale to Chadd's expected-unexpected visit.

All those highlights behind us now, I'll leave you with Eileen's Potato Cake Recipe, perfect and easy for any morning.

1 onion, chopped small
1 clove garlic, minced
Any amount of mashed potatoes (we had about 3 cups)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
salt and pepper, a handy sprinkling of both
seasoning of your choice, Mixed herbs, Curry powder, Aromat, whatever you like

Preheat a frying pan to medium/medium high with a little oil. Fry the onion and garlic in the heated oil, until tender.
Meanwhile, mix last four ingredients together in a bowl and add onion and garlic when cooked through.
Next set out about 1/2 cup of flour to coat your hands before forming the mixture into cakes (any size you like).
Fry the cakes in the hot oil for about 3-5 minutes, on either side until golden brown.
You can enjoy them straightaway or keep them warm in a moderate oven.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Expected-Unexpected Visitor

Wow, it's 6 o'clock. I'm up. The birds are up. The sun's not quite up. And the house is too peaceful to do anything other than sit in front of the computer.

We expected my family to visit us this week; however, due to the Icelandic volcano activity my parents' and grandmother's flights were cancelled. Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your view. My brother's flight, last night out of DC, was not cancelled. As I type he should be preparing to land in London and in a few short hours he'll be in the car with me driving back to Carrigaholt.

Just last night I was enjoying steak and lobster, Surf and Turf where slices are made in the steak and lobster slivers are inserted just before you put the steak on the grill. This is something Patrick and I have dreamed of enjoying together for a very long time and now it is muted by the surreal feeling surrounding my brother's expected-unexpected visit to Ireland.

Usually, when I've seen Chadd in the last 10 or so years he's been with his family - some of my favorite people in this world, and this time, it's just him. Plus, I don't think he's ever stayed at "my home". I've stayed at his a handful of times and enjoyed great company, great food and one heck of a schedule. With four children, there's a lot to be said for any "free" time a person can make or find. Not to mention, there's so many "firsts" we'll get to experience together...

being in Ireland together
enjoying our first Guinness or whiskey or Irish Coffee, in Ireland, together
Driving my brother around, on the right side drive, left side of the road and in another country
blah, blah blah

You get my point. Who can think of last night's dinner when the days ahead have a new air of excitement about them.

All this excitement, and I only bought messages for Patrick and I for the week (messages are, in fact, groceries or they can also be a shot of liqueur or similar in your coffee or tea). In this case they're groceries. Heck, we don't even have any messages for our drinks! What's a person to do...

And so, we figure out why it is I am awake before the sun and before Patrick. My mind is working through all the food possibilities.

Pollock tonight, Bacon and cabbage tomorrow, BBQ chicken Saturday. And then of course we've got breakfasts and lunches in between. Maybe a Traditional Fry tomorrow, Pancakes Friday, an Omelet Saturday. Oh and I can't forget to serve him crab claws - one of the foods I love most about Ireland, especially since my fisherman brings them home for me.

Did I mention dessert? I was thinking of bread pudding to use up the last of the Tiger Bread or possibly Banoffee Pie, think Chadd would enjoy that one. Luckily I have Cowboy Cookie dough in the freezer, so those can be baked for treats.

Now to move this growing list from my head to paper.

Imagine, I'll be back here on Sunday afternoon to post of the short weekend with my brother, food we enjoyed, drink too. Stay tuned!!!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Mexican Style Zucchini Pizza Pie

When I was growing up, my mom would make food we (my brother and I) hardly ever enjoyed eating. From rabbit, to liver and onions there were many dinners my brother and I didn't want to eat.

However, for as many unappetizing dishes that she made, she made equally as many tasty dishes that I enjoy to this day. Taco salad, Nine bean soup, and this dish that was like beef stew only it emphasized potatoes and a can of green chilies. Heck there's even dishes my mom claimed to make often, that I can hardly recall, like the Zucchini Pizza Pie.

Not like your usual pizza, this one has a "crust" made from shredded zucchini (courgettes as they're called here) and egg, baked before being topped with browned ground beef (mince) and onions, tomato sauce and cheese. Just thinking about it, sounds a bit like a finger food you might enjoy at a shower or dinner party. Nevertheless, when the pizza ingredients are all layered together it is baked again and the result is a bit like a lasagna or better yet a gluten-free pizza.

All food memories aside, yesterday I was struggling to come up with an appetizing menu for dinner. Our weather's been so lovely it's hard to want to make hardy foods we enjoyed through the winter. I was hoping for something light and trying to incorporate the leftover "ranchero beans and chicken" from the previous nights Mexican Style Salad. I thought we'd cleared most of the food from the freezer, except when I opened the "Veggie and Fruit" drawer I spotted something green under the bags of sloe berries and blackberries. Upon digging it out - I realized I still had two packages of shredded zucchini - this ingredient instantly changed the direction dinner was heading in.

I flipped through our family cookbook and stumbled upon my mom's Zucchini Pizza Pie and figured this would be a good test to use the zucchini and leftover beans. For this blog, I'll provide my version and mom's original recipe. So interesting how you can twist the ingredients to make a tasty dish.

Original Recipe - Zucchini Pizza Pie

1 1/2 lbs shredded zucchini (courgettes), with all water drained out
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic, fresh or powder
1 lb ground beef (mince), browned
1 medium onion, chopped
1 8 ounce can tomato sauce
2 teaspoons Oregano
1 green pepper, chopped
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup olives, sliced

Brown beef, drain liquid and add in chopped onion. In a bowl, mix zucchini with 1/2 cup of each cheese (reserve other cheese for topping), and 2 eggs. Press into greased 10" x 15" pan and bake at 400F/205C for 10 minutes. Mix the tomato sauce into the browned beef and onions and spread over zucchini crust. Arrange the peppers, mushrooms, olives and any other toppings you like, sprinkle with cheese and bake for 30 minutes or until cheese is golden and bubbly.

My version of mom's recipe

1 cup shredded zucchini
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon taco seasoning
1/2 cup shredded cheddar

Mix above ingredients together and press into greased pie plate of similar baking dish. Bake for 10 minutes at 400F/205C.

Reserve 1 cup ranchero beans (or you could use 1 can of refried beans)

1 medium tomato, diced
1/2 cup spaghetti sauce (or tomato sauce)
1 tablespoon chili power
1 tablespoon cilantro
Mix above four ingredients together and set aside

1 medium onion, chopped
Any other veggies, chopped, about 1/2 cup each
1/2 cup of thinly sliced cheddar (or shredded)

Once the crust is out of the oven, spread the ranchero beans over the crust. Arrange any veggies on top of the beans and spread the tomato mixture over the veggies. Last cover with a thin layer of cheese and bake for 30 minutes.

I served our "pizza" with chunky swedes (parsnips) fried into chips. A nice light alternative to the usual potato version we enjoy.

All in all, the dinner was a hit! We would have had enough for lunches today; however, Patrick and I polished that baby off! And I would certainly make the dish again. Heck, the zucchini is so versatile you could make a light, healthy pizza with any twist - Indian, Thai, whatever you fancy.

Happy creating and eating!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Our First BBQ of the Year

We enjoyed our first BBQ of the year last night. It was a beautiful evening with the birds singing in the hedges, the smell of our freshly cut grass and the aromas of veggies and chicken on the grill. Our senses were full before we ever sat down for dinner.

I buy one whole chicken every week. We decided Sunday nights are our nights for a big dinner. Patrick usually roasts chicken and veggies and steams more veggies and mashes potatoes, makes gravy - the works. However, with the warmer temperatures, roasted chicken is less appealing. So last night, for a change, Patrick BBQ'd our chicken instead. He started by quartering the chicky. He then marinated it in a concoction of BBQ sauce,vinegar, soy sauce, chili seasoning, salt and pepper before precooking it in a moderate oven. To finish the bird off, he crisped it on the grill with kebab'd veggies of mushrooms, onions and green peppers.

Before Patrick got to the cooking, we went in to Kilrush for a few messages, stopped off in Kilkee to visit with some friends and pick up a few beers and a "99" before taking the Coast Road back to Carrigaholt. A 99 Flake is a lovely soft-serve ice cream cone. Usually Patrick and I will treat ourselves and share a cone. Yesterday I got my very own!!!

When we got back to the house, Patrick took on the lawn, one his favorite things to do. Honest. He really enjoys mowing the lawn. I helped by taking the clippings from him and then got the chance to mow a few rows in the back garden. Great fun and a pretty good appetite builder. A couple that mows together, grows together!

After the garden was tidy, Patrick started the grill and I whipped up a salad with butter lettuce, tomatoes, apple and a dressing which I made with some of the home made apple and cranberry jam I made last week, vinegar, poppy seeds and cranberry juice.

We were a bit busy on Skype with my parents and the chicky and veggies were a bit more crispy than Patrick intended (just like I like chicken - charcoaly). Nevertheless, dinner was beautiful at our Sunset Diner; sunset included.

All in all it was a perfect Sunday and tasty first BBQ of the year!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Porridge Pancakes

Since I started making pancakes from scratch, I have lots of fun incorporating extra ingredients. From bran, to oatmeal, to apples and bananas I find my pancakes turn out so much better, more tender and tasty. And of course, I get to control the ingredients which is something I like to do.

Today, I added a slightly new ingredient. Porridge. Our nephew spent a night with us last week and I made him porridge for breakfast. He only ate half of what I prepared so I put the rest in the fridge until this morning when the half-a-bowl became part of the batter. I also added in bran. The result was the ultimate tender pancake. Now I wouldn't go to the trouble of making porridge to add to my pancake batter; however, when Patrick makes it for himself, now I will be inclined to sneak a half-a-cup for pancakes the next morning!

The recipe I use is a variation from one I stumbled on a few years ago at, called Good Old Fashioned Pancakes. I was still living in Vancouver and a few friends and I decided to take advantage of the lovely weather, a friend's sun deck, breakfasts together that would be more quaint and less expensive, plus, no wait time at the local greasy spoon. The result was a new found love for pancakes, so here's the recipe to get you inspired and the extras I like to add in....

1 1/2 cup flour
3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar *can substitute with your favorite fruit
1 1/4 cup milk
1 egg
3 tablespoons melted butter

I mix all the dry ingredients together in a large measuring cup (makes it easy to pour the batter into the pan), followed by the egg, melted butter and the milk. If the batter is a bit thick I add water to the preferred consistency.

Now here's when it starts to become my recipe.

I put my favorite pancake pan on the cooktop and turn it to medium high. I add the butter, usually a handy knob to the pan and let it melt before pouring it into the batter. I use a piece of paper towel to wipe the butter around the pan which is usually good enough to cook through all the batter. I also place two plates in a moderate oven and use them to keep the pancakes warm until they're ready to serve. Or Patrick's method, which is pretty genius, is to place a plate over a saucepan of boiling water, keeping it just at a boil. As the pancakes are done, lay them on the plate (this is perfect for any food that you want to keep warm).

The ingredients are the next part that make the pancake recipe my own. And these include, but are not limited to the following:

1 banana mashed
1 apple pureed
1/2 cup apple sauce
1/4 or less bran
1/2 cup oatmeal
1/2 cup porridge
1 teaspoon cinnamon or other spice
1 teaspoon flavoring, like vanilla, almond or hazelnut
1/2 cup chopped nuts
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Any of the above ingredients can be mixed in, to your taste. An I find when I make the pancakes with the extra bits they're a nice treat to carry with you when you're on the go. Pretty healthy and hardy too, especially with a fruit, bran, oat mixture.

I suppose the final touch is topping the pancakes with homemade jam. So far, I've used blackberry and an apple cranberry, both were delicious and heck use the syrup and butter too while you're at. It's the best way to start any day!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Baking Soda or Bread Soda as they say in Ireland

I have a family cookbook. It's filled with loads of recipes, even repeats that I will probably never try. There are a few passed down through the generations and even tips and hints and substitutions for the kitchen.

One of my favorites is the use of baking soda (bread soda) in "acidic" sauces/dishes to tone down the acidity, therefore making it less likely that the enjoyer will experience indigestion.

I've tried this little trick in spaghetti sauces as well as curry dishes and have found it to help. Tonight I am trying a few pinches in the sausage gravy I've made to accompany the homemade biscuits. We'll see if it helps?

Based on the tip in my families cookbook, I usually mix in about a teaspoon when the sauce is nearly ready to serve. It's amazing the difference it makes, especially with tomato-based dishes.

It's worth a try and easy enough to add a little bit until you find the amount you're most comfortable incorporating.

Starting Today...

I spend enough time on the internet these days and I don't even have an office job anymore. I'm self-employed, self-creating and enjoying every moment life offers me whether it's on a plate, the sunset at our kitchen table or any other form unrelated to food.

I've decide it's time to branch out, personally, from my facebook and etsy related online activity in order to highlight the food I create and enjoy. Most of the treats I create are sweet in nature and take on new ingredients from the original recipe and some, tried and true recipes need only be enjoyed with the people you love.

Follow me, as I begin to formally document my life on the Loop Head Peninsula and the culinary delights I enjoy!