Author Archives: lettercollumkitchenproject

About lettercollumkitchenproject

A cook that gardens. Sun addict. Not a good addiction in West Cork hence the travel addiction. Add in a splotch of kitchen snooping while away, a big walled organic garden while home and a kitchen full of a bit of everything. Runs an organic bakery/delicatessen/food shop with her husband using food from the garden and the years of accumulated kitchen snooping. Check out the shop and garden at www.lettercollum.ie

Tagliatelle with Asparagus and Shiitake Mushrooms

I’m just about all ‘kaled’ out. We have eaten some amount of kale and spinach in the last six weeks and I am almost happy to see the plants bolt. We will miss them but the new baby salad leaves and rocket are much more exciting.

There’s not much else ready to pick in the garden at this time of the year unless you are lucky enough to have an asparagus patch. We don’t. I tried to grow asparagus some years back but eventually lost patience and pulled it all up. There never seemed to be enough for dinner, just the odd alien popping up here and there but not enough for a bunch.

Luckily there are successful asparagus growers in West Cork and now is the time to grab a bunch before it’s moment of glory passes and there’s another years wait.

This recipe is a kind of vegetable carbonara, a bit of an oxymoran as any self-respecting Italian will tell you that carbonara only has four ingredients – eggs, pancetta, pecorino or parmesan and spaghetti but as with all recipes tweaking can produce great results.

I have used asparagus and locally grown shiitake mushrooms. Shiitake mushrooms are feather light when fresh but become meaty and super tasty when cooked.  Any long wiggly pasta will work for this recipe. If you get your timing right this dish can be cooked in the time that it takes to cook your pasta

 

Tagliatelle with Asparagus and Shiitake Mushrooms

Serves 2

 

1 small onion

7-8 stems asparagus

100g shiitake mushrooms

50g butter

50mls olive oil

2egg yolks

4tbs cream

50g grated parmesan or pecorino

250g tagliatelle/spaghetti/linguine

salt and cracked black pepper

 

Put a large saucepan of water on to boil, ready to cook the pasta

Peel and finely chop the onion

Snap the tough end from the asparagus and discard or put aside to make soup. Chop the rest of the asparagus in 3-4cm pieces

Slice the shiitake mushrooms.

In a small bowl mix the egg yolks, cream and grated cheese.

The vegetables are going to take roughly eight minutes to cook so now is the moment to decide when to add your pasta to the boiling water. Read the packet, add a large spoonful of salt to the water and cook the pasta according to the instructions – the vegetables can spend a minute or two resting whilst the pasta finishes cooking if needed

Heat a large frying pan or skillet and add the olive oil. When the pan is hot add the asparagus and cook for three to four minutes stirring every now and again. Season with salt and cracked black pepper and put aside. Next melt the butter in the pan and add chopped onion and the shiitake , mushrooms, cook on a high heat for three or four minutes, season with salt and cracked black pepper then put the asparagus back in.

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Take the pan off the heat.

Before draining the pasta reserve a few spoonfuls of the cooking water.

Drain the pasta, add to the vegetables and the egg mix then toss together adding some of the reserved water to get a creamy dressing.

Eat immediately


Torta Pasqualina

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Moros y Cristianos, a recipe from Cuba

This recipe comes from Cuba, it’s not exactly a culinary hotspot but the music is wonderful. Sitting in the Caribbean, this fiercely independent island is big – more than one thousand kms long and more or less one hundred and fifty kms wide, surrounded by picture postcard sea which produces an abundance of fish, prawns and lobsters
We landed into Havana, a city of crumbling elegance and lethal footpaths.

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We stay in casa particulares – Cuban B and Bs. These rooms in private houses are super simple and clean, furnished with furniture of the fifties and sixties or before. The hospitality is fantastic and we have travelled from one casa to the next through the owners network of connections. The casas provide breakfast too. It was pretty paltry in Havana but once in the countryside there’s plenty of fruit and eggs. The people are super friendly and everyone has time to chat. Most houses have a porch where the family hangs out and rocking chairs are the norm.

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Shops don’t exist as we know them but there are vendors selling bananas and pineapples and cubby holes in the front of the houses selling pizzas and pastries.
Finding a bus is a mystery but there are plenty of taxis – Chevrolets , Cadillacs, Buicks, horse drawn carriages and cycle taxis in the towns. Getting around takes time, we have been travelling by taxi collectivos – shared taxis, much easier to organise than the bus and the same price.

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KInd of fun as you never know who you might meet and what sort of vehicle it might be. We started one journey in an air con car feeling very chuffed with ourselves only to be decanted halfway into a little truck that bumped along for the next six hours.  There’s one main highway which is relatively well maintained but off of that the roads are well worn.

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We headed west out of Havana to Vinales, up to the hills, where horses are one of the main modes of transport,the fields are lush with tobacco, coffee, fruit and vegetables then we went east to Trinidad, an old sugar plantation town We fell in love with Trinidad with it’s cobbled streets, colourful houses, mojitos and music everywhere.

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Each evening the Plaza Mayor hosts different musicians and everyone hops up salsa dancing. There’s also the bonus of a beach, admittedly 14kms from the town but we rented bicycles and headed out to swim each day before hitting the town for the night. This is where our plan to traverse the entire island fell apart. The thought of more twelve hour bus journeys plus the return was easy to talk ourselves out of and we ended up behaving like Cubans and taking time to enjoy each day at a leisurely pace.
At the moment we are in Cienfuegos with it’s beautiful French colonial architecture, known as the Paris of Cuba but nothing like that in size..

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We’ll wind our way back to Havana via Santa Clara, a key town of the revolution  (where Che Guevara was finally laid to rest) then back to Havana to catch the famous ballet before travelling home.
We resisted travel to Cuba for along time as we’re so preoccupied with food but we are now totally smitten and do you know what, arroz y frijoles – beans and rice- the national dish isn’t too bad and you can survive quite healthily on this diet especially if you put prawns, lobster or a fried egg on top!

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Arroz y Frijoles – Beans and Rice

150g black beans
300g long grain white rice
1 onion – peeled and finely chopped
2 cloves garlic – peeled and finely chopped
1 tbs oil
Salt

Cook the black beans in plenty of water – they will take about 45 minutes. Check the beans are tender then drain, reserving the cooking liquid. Measure the cooking liquid and make it up to 450mls with water. Put the rice into a saucepan together with the cooked beans and measured cooking liquor and a good pinch of salt. Bring to the boil then cover with a lid, turn to the lowest simmer and cook for a further 20 minutes.
Fry the onion gently in a little oil until soft and translucent then stir in the garlic and cook for a few minutes longer. When the rice is cooked mix the onion and garlic through and you’re ready to go.
Recipe given to me by Aliente in Vinales


What’s With The Cabbage?

Before Xmas I received an email asking me if I had thought about what we were going to do for Veganuary in the shop (eating vegan food in January) it was from someone called Shane whom I presumed to be Shane Red Strand Coffee. I shot back an answer saying thanks for the idea, that it could be good fun and the next thing we got a box of samples in the post from a different Shane altogether of pretty vegan products!

The Veganuary idea does seem like a good idea  – to detox after Xmas, cut down on emissions by not eating meat and generally save our selves and the planet. And we have a lot of vegetables still growing in our garden.

The warm wet weather has the cabbages shining brightly, the leeks are standing to attention and the green stuff – parsley, spinach and kales are quite happy so there’s plenty for eating.

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Just the thing for a January detox – I have to say although I don’t take detoxes too seriously, I do think it’s good to make a little effort especially after all the feasting.

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My son Darragh came up with this recipe. He was home for Xmas and knocked this up for lunch one day. I had just come in from a walk and was ravenous. I thought this was delicious. The lightly pickled cabbage, grated beetroot, toasted seeds and something else that had a very interesting texture and flavour but wasn’t a vegetable. It was double toasted, shredded tortilla wrap. Highly recommended especially served with tahini sauce.

The recipe will make a large bowlful. Scale the recipe down proportionately if you want less.

Not yet named salad

2tbs olive oil + 50mls for dressing

1 fatty clove garlic

½ small red cabbage

½ sweetheart or york cabbage

1 tsp salt

1 large beetroot

1 bunch parsley – chopped

150g pumpkin seeds

tamari

2 large tortilla wraps

50mls lemon juice

 

Peel the garlic then finely chop – crush in a mortar if you have one – together with a little salt. Mix with 2 tbs olive oil . Leave aside.

Wash and tidy up the cabbage then slice thinly.

Begin slicing from the top of the cabbage, then half way down cut the cabbage in half and remove the stem. Finely slice the remaining cabbage

Put into a large bowl and toss with a teaspoon of salt. Leave the cabbage aside.

Peel and grate the beetroot.

Heat a small frying pan, turn the heat to medium and add the pumpkin seeds. Gently toss or stir until they begin to colour and smell a little toasty. Remove the pan from the heat and sprinkle over soya sauce or tamari. Tip into a bowl and put aside to cool.

Heat a large frying pan then reduce the heat to medium and fry the tortillas, on at a time, cooking each side until it becomes a little toasty (not burnt). Brush the tortillas with the garlic oil and cook briefly once again. Stack the tortillas then roll them into a loose cigar. Cut on the diagonal to make wedge shaped pieces.

Put a clean t-towel on the counter. Put the cabbage handfuls at a time over half of the towl – don’t tip the bowl because all the excess liquid will follow. Fold the t-towel over the cabbage and pat dry then gently roll the towel and pat again . Tip the cabbage into a clean dry bowl.

Add the grated beetroot and chopped parsley.

Drizzle over the olive oil and lemon juice then toss to mix.

Add half of the pumpkin seed and the shredded tortillas then toss again

Tip into a clean bowl and sprinkle pumpkin seeds on top.

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Tahini Sauce

 

Juice 1 lemon

1 clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped

2 big tbs light tahini

a pinch of salt

a little water to thin the sauce

Put all of the ingredients into a bowl except for the water and whisk until amalgamated. Thin with water to achieve a thick pouring consistency.

This salad is best eaten soon after making. Don’t forget to drizzle tahini sauce on top

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Fatty Chickpeas

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I have had a packet of dried chickpeas in my pantry for months. A packet that i carried all the way home from Spain but never got around to cooking. Mostly because I forgot to soak them. They are big chickpeas – bigger than the ones we can buy in Ireland by far –  I’d say double in size and delicious when cooked. It may sound mad to get excited about chickpeas but soaked overnight and cooked for 30 minutes they are ready to go, unctuous and creamy, which is quite something. The one’s we buy locally  take three or four times as long  to cook and are like little bullets.

It’s still the holiday season here and we have been valiantly making our way through our veg box which together with the pre-cooked chickpeas offered numerous possibilities for dinner. The winning dish was also a lazy dish. It didn’t take very much effort, more the availability to give the odd stir.

Take time sautéing the veg, they will become sweet and more flavoursome.

 

Chickpea Supper Pot with Almond and Basil Picada

1 onion – peeled and chopped

100mls olive oil

1 carrot – peeled and diced

1 small bulb fennel- sliced into skinny wedges

2 stems celery – diced

3 cloves garlic- peeled and chopped

2 ripe fat tomatoes or 1 can tomatoes – chopped

1 glass white wine (optional)

200mls chickpea liquor or water

2 bay leaves

a handful of parsley

salt and pepper

 

Heat a frying pan or skillet. Add the olive oil and the chopped onions, give them a stir and when they are sizzling  season with a little salt. Stir in the fennel, celery, bay leaf and carrots, give a stir and when the veg are all sizzling season with a little salt then turn the heat to medium/low. Cook, stirring now and then, gently sizzling for ten minutes. Add the chopped garlic then continue cooking for five minutes.

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Add the chopped tomatoes and white wine, bring to the boil then turn to a simmer for ten minutes

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Stir in the chickpeas and cook for a further ten minutes. Add a little chickpea cooking liquor or water if needed. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in the chopped parsley

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We ate this with a little picada/pesto to drizzle over and crusty bread

Picada

1 small slice bread, crusts removed and cubed

olive oil

15-20 blanched almonds

1 clove garlic

small handful soft green herbs – I used basil but parsley or coriander would work too

salt

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Heat a small pan, add enough olive oil to cover the bottom and the bread cubes, fry until they begin to go golden then add the almonds. Cook for another couple of minutes.

Putvthe bread/almond mix in a processor together with a clove of garlic then buzz to a crumb.

Add the herbs then drizzle in enough olive oil to make the cicada move. Season with a pinch of salt

 

 

 

 

 


Pumpkin, Kale and Mushroom Supper

 

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Hungry and home alone was when I leapt out of my chair and threw this dinner together.

We have magnificent pumpkin supply that we’re enjoying and diced up in this dish made a delicious combination. I was sitting down eating  within twenty minutes of leaving my chair.

Crozier blue is an Irish sheep cheese which may not be available to you but any soft blue cheese or even fresh goats cheese would work just as well. Of course if you would like a vegan version leave the cheese out

 

Pumpkin, Kale and Mushroom with Orzo and Crozier Blue

 

1 small onion

50mls olive oil

300g pumpkin

1 large field mushroom – cut in half then into segments

Kale, sliced thinly

2 fatty garlic

150g orzo

a little crozier blue to crumble

 

Put a pot of water to boil to cook the orzo

Heat a heavy pan, add the olive oil then the onion.

Peel and dice the pumpkin – approx 1cm cubes

Add to the onion. Season with salt and pepper, Cook on a medium heat for 5 mins.

Add the field mushroom – slightly increase the heat.

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Put salt in the boiling water then stir in the orzo. Cook for the time specified on the packet then drain into a colander.

When the mushrooms begin to brown increase the heat a little more then stir in the kale. When the kale melts down add the garlic.

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Continue cooking for a few minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Stir the drained orzo into the vegetables then crumble a little crozier blue on top

Yum!


Bring on the Beans

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The shorter, cooler days of November give me the opportunity to indulge my bean and lentil obsession. Beans and lentils grow where the climate is warm and sunny yet I’m inclined to eat them more often when it’s cold. A bowl of thick, creamy lentils or beans is an inexpensive source of protein which will slowly release energy to fuel your body and comfort your soul.

 

Dal Markhani is a recipe from the north of India, which uses both lentils and beans served in a sauce of fragrant spices. Markhani is a sauce of butter, tomato and cream but in order to slot this recipe into my ‘live to be one hundred’ recipes file I have used coconut milk and vegetable ghee/oil instead of the dairy but feel free to swop it back.

 

The original recipe also uses black urad dal, a type of black mung bean, which takes an overnight soaking and then three or for hours to cook. Healthy as urad dal might be it’s not really in synch with our fast paced lives so they have been dumped in my recipe in favour of black beluga lentils, which are one of the gems of the lentil family. Black, round and robust they cook in 20-25 minutes and keep their shape whilst doing so. No mealy mass even if you forget them and decide to walk the dog whilst cooking.

 

There’s a fast version and a slow version for this dish, both have their merits but I’m going for the fast version and opening a can of beans. The lentils I cook from scratch.

 

Dal Makhani

 

1 large onion

50g vegetable ghee or oil

25g fresh ginger

3 cloves garlic

2 cardamom pods

3 cloves

2tsp ground coriander

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp turmeric

1 can tomatoes

½ tsp salt

1 can kidney beans

200g beluga lentils

150mls coconut milk

chopped fresh coriander to serve

 

Put the lentils into a saucepan with three times the volume of water. Bring to the boil then simmer for 20-25 minutes, until the lentils are tender. Put aside.

Peel the onion then chop finely.

Heat a medium saucepan then add the vegetable ghee or oil and the onions. Cook on a medium heat without browning until they soften.

Peel and chop the ginger and garlic then stir into the onions. Bash the cardamom pods with the back of a wooden spoon so they crack open then add to the pot together with the cloves. Cook gently for a couple of minutes then add the ground coriander, ground cumin and turmeric. Stir and gently cook for a few minutes more then stir in the tomatoes and salt. Allow the sauce to come to the boil then simmer gently for 30 minutes.

Drain and rinse the kidney beans.

Add the beans, the beluga lentils and residual cooking liquid to the tomato sauce. Cook gently for 15-20 minutes. Stir in the garam masala and most of the coconut milk then taste . It’ll probably need a little more salt. If it’s too thick thin with a little water

Serve with chopped coriander and a swirl of coconut milk to garnish.

Eat with rice or mop up with naan bread.