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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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..
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!
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
Add the chopped tomatoes and white wine, bring to the boil then turn to a simmer for ten minutes
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
We ate this with a little picada/pesto to drizzle over and crusty bread
1 small slice bread, crusts removed and cubed
15-20 blanched almonds
1 clove garlic
small handful soft green herbs – I used basil but parsley or coriander would work too
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
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
1 large field mushroom – cut in half then into segments
Kale, sliced thinly
2 fatty garlic
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.
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.
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
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.
1 large onion
50g vegetable ghee or oil
25g fresh ginger
3 cloves garlic
2 cardamom pods
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.
Autumn is my favourite time for eating from the garden, there is such an abundance to choose from. The tomatoes in particular seem to have reached peak sweetness, perhaps it’s the long slow ripening on the vine. It is the reason we keep gardening as it’s impossible to buy this flavour.
We have harvested all our apples and potatoes and the beetroots are ready for eating. The beans and courgettes keep making a last ditch effort, everytime that the sun comes out they decide to have another go, so although we’re no longer picking bucketsful there’s plenty for dinner.
We have the best crop of pumpkins – almost ready- after the glorious summer. Pumpkins don’t like to grow below 18c and the prolonged heat this year really boosted them along. We’re delighted as this precious crop will store right through the winter.
The stars of the moment are the cauliflowers, which have appeared like aliens in the brassica patch. All at once! Which means there’s quite some cauliflower eating to be done so it goes without saying that this months recipe is with cauliflower.
I’ve combined the cauliflowers with pumpkin so it could also be a Halloween recipe.
The measurement for the pumpkin and cauliflower are guidelines as obviously cauliflowers don’t grow in half kilo units. They do not have to be exactly 500g, just roughly equal amounts of each. The amount of eggs also depends on the size so use two large eggs or three smaller ones.
I used salted ricotta for these fritters. Pecorino and Parmesan would also be good substitutes and who knows, maybe cheddar would work too but I have not tried this variation.
Cauliflower and Pumpkin fritters
2-3 eggs – lightly beaten
200g salted ricotta – grated
a large handful of parsley finely chopped
salt and pepper
oil for frying
Put a large pot of salted water to boil.
Peel the pumpkin and remove any seeds then chop into equal sized pieces of roughly 2cm each.
Wash the cauliflower well then cut into florets.
When the water is boiling add the pumpkin, as soon as the water returns to the boil turn the heat to medium /low because if the pumpkin is belting around in the pot the pumpkin will become fluffy. Cook for 10-15 minutes, until a knife will enter without resistance. Lift the pumpkin from the water then leave to drain in a colander.
Return the pot to the heat and add the cauliflower, cook for 4-5 minutes, just enough to take the edge off the rawness. Drain into a colander and give it a good shake to remove excess water.
Gently mash the pumpkin and season with salt and pepper.
Put the cauliflower florets onto a chopping board and chop to small pieces paying particular attention to the stalks.
Put the pumpkin and cauliflower into a large bowl together with the beaten eggs and grated cheese and mix together with your hands.
Give the mix a good squish and it will hold together. Form the mix into golf ball sized pieces.
Heat a large frying pan and add enough oil to cover the bottom. Gently flatten the fritters and fry on a medium heat, flipping half way, until golden on both sides.
These are best served with some kind of sauce/salsa. We ate ours with chopped tomatoes, olive oil and balsamic but when the tomatoes are gone we’ll move onto avocado salsa, yoghurt sauce or mayo.