Monthly Archives: February 2015

Kale ‘n Pasta


The longer days mean the green things are kicking back into action in the garden. I even found enough nettles last week to make a soup – admittedly I had to search – which is a funny thing to do with nettles as come another month and we’ll be tripping over the bloomin things.
Nettles apart, some green things soldier on through the winter here. The kale, spinach and chard have managed to quietly survive the colder months and now that there is more daylight the growth is taking off and we are out picking leaves again.


We put kale in soups, salad and stir-fries, it’s a very versatile, it’s also one of those ‘feel good’ vegetables, so wonderfully green that you know it’s good for your nutrition

My new favourite way to eat kale is with some pasta. My pasta cooking skills have come along way since I left home. It was one of the first things that I cooked = Spaghetti buried in vegetables and sauce. The first time I went to Italy I thought they were very mean with the sauce and even meaner with the Parmesan cheese. I’ve since learnt to dress the pasta and use one or two key ingredients rather than everything that’s in the vegetable basket.

I have used orecchiette, which look like little ears and scoop up the sauce beautifully but you could use other pasta shapes.
Try to co-ordinate cooking the pasta with making the sauce.
Put a big saucepan of water to boil, blanch the kale and then use the same water to cook the pasta, just add more salt. The pasta cooking time varies from brand to brand and also from shape to shape so check your packet for cooking times.
The fried breadcrumbs are known as ‘pangratto’, which translates as breadcrumbs but it’s also known as Poor Mans Parmesan. They are easy to make and give an interesting flavour and texture to the dish.


Orecchiette with Kale, Chilli and Garlic

500g kale, stems removed
3 cloves garlic
6 anchovies from a can
1 tap fennel seed
1tsp chilli flakes
2 slices old bread
200mls olive oil
25g butter
500g orecchiette
150g grated Parmesan to serve

Put a large pot of water to boil. When it’s boiling add 1tsp salt and the kale. Submerge the kale with the back of a spoon and when the water returns to the boil drain the kale and refresh under a cold tap.
Squeeze any excess water from the kale and slice into thin ribbons. Season with a little salt and put aside.
Remove the crusts from the slice of bread and buzz to crumbs in a food processor.
Heat a frying pan, add 25g butter and 25mls olive oil, when the oil and butter bubble up throw in the breadcrumbs and toss well. Cook the breadcrumbs on a medium high heat until golden and crispy. Put aside.
Peel the garlic and slice thinly, chop once or twice and put aside.
Bring the large pot of water back to the boil. Add 1dsp salt and the orecchiette. Give them a good stir.
Heat the frying pan, add 50mls olive oil and the garlic, fennel seeds and chilli flakes. Cook on a medium heat for a few minutes then stir in the anchovies. Stir the pan until the anchovies break down then stir in the shredded kale. Cook gently until the kale is heated through.
Strain the pasta into a colander. Tip the pasta into a bowl and then stir the kale through.
Drizzle over a little extra olive oil and sprinkle the crispy breadcrumbs over the top.
Serve with freshly grated Parmesan.

Banh Xeo – Sizzling Pancakes


Banh Xeo are the most delicious Vietnamese savoury pancakes. They are fried until crispy then rolled up in salad leaves with mint and dunked in dipping sauce before popping into your mouth
Guaranteed to make you swoon. Our family thought they’d died and gone to heaven when I made them for dinner. Just silence and appreciative grunts coming from the dinner table.
The pancake is made with rice flour, or a combo of rice and wheat flour mixed together with coconut milk, spring onion, egg and turmeric. This is whisked to a smooth batter. I made them with prawns, mushrooms and beansprouts but the filling is fairly free lance. Whatever you fancy but don’t put too much in as the pancake will be unmanageable when you flip it.
The inclusion of regular flour makes them more manageable for non coeliacs but the recipe works well both ways
Here’s the recipe

200g rice flour or combo of rice and regular flour
2tbs cornflour
1 egg
half tsp turmeric
a handful of chopped spring onion greens
150mls coconut milk
about 100mls water
half tsp salt

Put the dry ingredients into a bowl, make a well in the middle then crack in the egg and add the coconut milk.
Whisk everything together and thin with water until you have medium pouring consistency – like melted chocolate. Stir in the spring onions.
Leave to stand for at least 10 minutes


For the filling
20 raw prawns – 2 for each pancake
250g mushrooms
250g bean sprouts
a little butter or oil to cook the mushrooms

Salad leaves – washed and spun
a big bunch of mint leaves

Heat a frying pan. Slice the mushrooms, drop a knob of butter or a glut of oil into the frying pan and add the mushrooms. Toss them well and cook on a high heat until they are cooked the way you like them. Season with a little salt and pepper and put aside.
To make the pancakes heat a small to medium size frying pan. Add a little oil and a couple of prawns, cook them for a couple of minutes – until they are pink- then add a few mushrooms. Drag the mushrooms and prawns to one side and pour in a small ladle of batter.


The pancake should be thin like a crepe. Cook on a medium high heat for a couple of minutes then add a small pile if bean sprouts to the pancake and flip in half. Increase the heat to high and cook each side until crispy. You might want to add a little more oil.


To serve the pancakes make a little dipping sauce

Dipping Sauce

3tbs Lime juice
2tbs Fish sauce/Nam Pla
1tbs water
2-3 Chillies
2 cloves garlic
1 dsp Sugar

Peel and chop the garlic and chop the chillies then mix together with all the other ingredients.


Put the pancakes onto plates and break or cut a piece off and wrap it in a salad leaf with a couple of pieces of mint tucked in. Dunk in the dipping sauce and pop it in your mouth.


Truffle Hearts


Valentines day is coming and Con spent today making truffle hearts and plain old truffles which are delicious.
We think he makes the best chocolates ever.
Go Con!!


They had to be protected from sneaky fingers.



They’re all packed up and ready to head to the shop.
Serious limited edition


These are the ones that didn’t fit into the bags!!
Happy Valentines

Cinnamon Noodles

This is a very surprising recipe that I learnt in Bangkok with May Kaidee. Cinnamon with noodles didn’t sound attractive to me so I was very impressed with the result
It’s just the business for a cold day and a very warming and a fast lunch

It’s a very simple recipe and it’s also quite flexible – I’ve already changed it as I didn’t have all the original ingredients – and it still tastes just as good.
Here’s my ‘Irished’ home version. The original recipe used mushroom sauce and soya bean sauce – this keeps it vegetarian – but I didn’t have either in the house so I used a mix of sweet soya, tamari and a little bit of shrimp paste to give it some body.

This is my take on the dish but feel free to play around!

1tbs coriander seeds bashed up in the mortar and pestle
3 fatty cloves garlic
1 hot red chilli
1 stem lemongrass
all roughly chopped then added to the mortar and pestle and ground to a paste.


1 tsp ground black pepper
1 heaped tsp ground cinnamon
stirred into the paste

1 carrot, sliced thinly.
a little chopped cabbage
a handful of chopped mushrooms
the centre of a head of celery – the fronds bit, chopped
a handful of chopped spring onions
700mls vegetable stock


1tbs sweet soya sauce
1tbs tamari sauce
1 tsp shrimp paste

a handful of rice stick noodles soaked in tepid water for five minutes

Heat a table spoon on oil in the wok then stir in the spice mix and cook on medium heat for a few minutes.
Stir in the vegetable stock, add the carrots, mushroom and tofu and bring to the boil.
Cook for 3-4 minutes then stir sweet soya sauce, tamari and shrimp paste. Next add the cabbage followed by the noodles. Cook for a couple of minutes more, take off the heat and stir in the chopped celery and spring onions.

Ladle into bowls and serve with crushed roasted peanuts and wedges of lime on the side.


Breakfast Gold

Homemade marmalade is so delicious that even though each time I make it I say ‘ never again’ , come the next year somehow I don’t resist the temptation to buy Seville oranges. Especially when they are on special offer. I was passing by Urru in Bandon where, just beside the door, was HALF PRICE Seville oranges. Before I knew what was happening I had bought the lot. Five kilos.


Each year the epic chore of marmalade production seems to hit some kind of memory lapse. Maybe the hard work  entailed to achieve the result’s a bit like having a baby. The results are so magnificent the human brain conveniently bypasses the agonies involved in bringing this wonder into the world. My daughter says it’s obviously a long time since i had a baby!!



But I have to say five kilos was bit excessive. I spent two and half hours juicing, scraping out all the pith and pips and then finely slicing the orange peel.


And I only did half. Two and a half kilos of juiced , pithed and sliced seville orange peel lolling around in my kitchen in a bath of juice and water. The pith and pips have been parcelled up in a piece of muslin and are marinating overnight together withe the peel to encourage the relase of the pectin.


Fingers crossed tomorrow I just have to hop up, cook the peel then boil the lot up with some sugar to make marmalade.

Meanwhile it’s relaxing on the kitchen counter.

And there are another two and half kiosk looking for attention or a good home!!