Banh Mi

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Friday night in our house is take-away night.  However, living as we do on the very edge of the west coast of Ireland where the next village is Greenwich, New York, the choice of actual take-away is fairly limited so we make our own.  It’s the perfect little treat to end the working week and I tend to keep it simple but tasty – like homemade pizza with chilli and basil, yuk sung or juicy griddled chicken and pineapple with satay sauce.  The common theme is a bit of heat, lots of flavour and not too much effort.  Banh Mi fits the bill perfectly – it’s a Vietnamese sandwich consisting of crusty fresh baguette, spicy meat, crunchy pickled carrot and cabbage, creamy mayo and hot hot chilli sauce.  For the meat element I make spicy pork meatballs but you can use any meat you want, as long as there is lots of flavour.  Whilst the meat should add some spice to this the real heat comes from the chilli sauce and I use Sriracha, which is fast becoming one of my favourite things.  It’s a seriously hot inexpensive Thai sauce and leaves behind a tingle to the mouth that has to be good for you!  It’s available in Asian supermarkets and I got mine in Eurasia on the Fonthill Road in Dublin.  Just one tip on the roll – proper Banh Mi calls for crusty French baguette and some of the inside bread is scooped out to leave a shell to hold the fillings.  If you are really lucky to live near a great bakers and can get your hands on good baguettes then perfect, but the ones available around here are a certain brand that is part-baked in store and too heavy and dense for my liking so I use fresh salad rolls from the local bakers that have the requisite crisp outer crust and a really light interior so I don’t bother to scoop any bread out as they squish down perfectly to accommodate all of the filling when you take a bite.  There is enough here to serve 4 which means that in my house there is usually leftovers for a Saturday afternoon lunch for me too.  I use three meatballs per roll (in the pic above I have cut each meatball in two so there are six halves spread out on the roll). [Read more…]

Hot Chilli Bean & Feta Soup for a cold day.

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I make this soup quite a lot – it’s spicy and warming and perfect for this time of year.  It’s also very simple to make and quite healthy so I tend to cook this for my weekday lunch and it’s chunky texture needs no bread to mop it up.  I do tend to make this quite spicy and the addition of lovely creamy Feta is a match made in heaven for me.   One thing I tend to find myself adding more and more to different dishes these days is a little bit of vinegar of some sort or another, which really seems to enhance the flavour of curries, soups and stews and here cider vinegar really adds a nice tang and subtle sweetness to the flavour of the chilli. This is also probably the only soup that I don’t add salt or pepper to! But feel free to add if you want.  [Read more…]

Poached Leek and Cheddar Tart

As anyone who reads this blog will surely know I am a huge fan of Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall and one of the first recipes that I earmarked in his River Cottage Everyday book is Gill’s poached leek and Dorset Blue Vinny tart which, despite it’s use of blue cheese, sounded right up my street.  Whilst it may look like and sound like a quiche it really isn’t – it is lighter, creamier and softer, which I guess is down to fewer eggs.  I substituted the blue cheese for my favourite cheese of all, the humble cheddar, and it was delicious. I recommend using a really strong vintage cheddar as this is quite a creamy tart so it really needs that strong sharp flavour. The tart can be eaten warm or at room temperature and is so light and full of flavour and I will definitely be making this again, and again, and again. It makes a perfect summer lunch or dinner served with a green salad tossed with bacon lardons. [Read more…]

Chicken Satay

If there is one thing I miss about city life since moving to the country it’s the lack of choice and convenience when it comes to eating out or ordering in.  It became a little custom in our house on Friday nights to go out to our favourite Chinese restaurant or order in a pizza, a little treat at the end of a busy working week and I missed this a lot when we moved.  As with all things we learn to adapt and so now our Friday evenings feature our very own ‘homemade take-away’. We make things like pizzas, or burritos, or chow mein or curries, depending on the mood and how much effort we want to put in. [Read more…]

Cauliflower Soup

 

I absolutely love Cauliflower Cheese, it is one of my favourite side dishes for a Sunday roast but as no one else in this house eats it I tend to make a small individual dish using a few florets, which leaves me with a substantial part of the cauliflower left-over to make lovely creamy soup for lunch the following days.  On Sunday I decided to try out Mark Hix recipes for both from his lovely book British Seasonal Food.  I only slightly deviated from his recipe by not using leeks (I had none) and by using less milk and no cream. The soup was delicious and I served it in the picture above with some diced chorizo lightly fried in rapeseed oil, which adds a welcome bit of heat and spice, and on day two I threw in the rind of some old parmesan from the freezer whilst it reheated and it was every bit as tasty as the first day. It is a really gorgeous simple soup to make.  [Read more…]

Falafel Burgers and Flatbreads

For the last couple of weeks I have been craving something different for lunch, something a bit spicy, hot and light and these Falafel Burgers, based on a recipe I found on the BBC Good Food website, turned out to be just what I was looking for.  They are very simple to make and make a great lunch when wrapped in some homemade flatbread with some crunchy lettuce and natural yoghurt (perhaps flavoured with some chopped mint) or mayo.  I used a flatbread recipe from River Cottage Everyday and one thing I discovered is that if you keep leftover dough in the fridge overnight it makes a softer, chewier flatbread the next day and makes excellent mop-ups for curry.  [Read more…]

Tuscan Bean Soup

 

This soup was one of the first things I earmarked to try in Catherine Fulvio’s lovely new cookbook – I knew I would love it and have been making it regularly ever since.  What I particularly like about this soup is that thanks to the pancetta, beans and macaroni it could easily be served up for a light supper with some lovely crusty bread and I doubt any one would complain.  I have to confess something here – I have been adding a little diced chorizo to mine at the start with the pancetta.  I know this is probably sacrilege to some but when it comes to food I think if you like it and it tastes good, then go right ahead.  I have added it in to the recipe below and also slightly changed the method. If you prefer leave the chorizo out but it does add lovely ‘depth’ as they say. Or you could just use chorizo, it’s up to you.  I leave the parmesan for sprinkling because my husband doesn’t eat cheese (strange man) so if you prefer you can add this in at the end of cooking to allow it to melt through.  This is such a warming, deeply flavoured soup – perfect for chilly days. [Read more…]

Twiced-Baked Cheddar & Chive Souffle, Beetroot & Spinach Salad with Walnut Oil Dressing

When a vegetarian theme was selected for the Irish Foodies September Cookalong I instantly decided I would try to use some of our own produce and also cook something I hadn’t tried before.  We have some fabulous beetroot in the garden and a lot of eggs thanks to our lovely hens so I opted for a twice baked Cheddar and Chive Souffle with a roasted beetroot and spinach salad with walnut dressing.  The one thing that this cookalong did teach me was that I don’t really prepare a lot of meat-free meals – something I will definitely rectify. [Read more…]

Butternut Squash & Pancetta Risotto

I think a lot of people are put off making risotto for fear of overcooking or being chained to the cooker for hours on end.   Risotto really isn’t anything to be scared of – once you have everything prepared and to hand then it is simply a matter of 15/20 minutes stirring and you will be well rewarded for your efforts.  The most important thing is to stir almost constantly to help the rice release starch and to absorb the liquid, which should only be added one ladle at a time. [Read more…]

Chicken and Coconut Laksa

There are many different variants of and recipes for this spicy noodle soup but this one is very simple and uses ingredients that are very easy to find.  It is so delicious and fragrant and is wonderful served in small bowls for 6 as a starter or 4 for lunch.  This recipe does use 2 tins of coconut milk – if you prefer not to use that much by all means don’t but it does give a much creamier, richer flavour.  Occasionally I substitute prawns for the chicken and if you wish to do that the prawns should be added towards the end to avoid over-cooking. [Read more…]

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