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Chickpea, spinach and onion curry (Vegetarian, but don’t tell anyone.)

10 Apr
Curry sunbathing

Curry sunbathing

I really like this recipe. It’s very easy. Secondly for those of us who like to pretend to be healthy every once in a while, this isn’t the wort recipe in that regard, it’s actually pretty good. And if it isn’t please don’t shatter my illusion.

I’ve spent a lot of time in the last few weeks in Doha, and the spices down here are brilliant, so whenever I cook here I like to use them wherever possible.  Also the red onions are fantastically sweet and are a joy to cook with. They lack the harshness that most raw onion has at home. I used a curry powder mix that you can buy in the Souq here. It’s cumin/chilli/coriander etc. As always use whatever you can find easily. Or you could make up your own, there are plenty of recipes online.

Ingredients: (Makes three very generous portions- 4 normal ones.)

2 tablespoons curry powder mix

1 tablespoon Garam Masala

oil of your choosing- enough to make the spices into a loose paste

1 red onion

1 tin chickpeas

1 tin tomatoes

1 bag of fresh spinach

Method:

Heat a pot, before adding the oil, fling the spices in and let them toast for a short while. Probably best to stir them around a bit so nothing catches. When you start getting their aroma, add in the oil. (The proportions above make a punchy curry. Feel free to reduce or increase the spices.)

Before this mixture catches, which can happen very quickly, throw in your chopped red onion. Fry this at a gentle heat until it softens, you don’t want it to get too much colour. Then add in the chickpeas and toss them in the spicy oniony goodness. Add in the tin of tomatoes and let it bubble away gently. It’s not a bad idea at this point to scrape the bottom of the pot for any of the spices etc that may have stuck during the frying stage.

I left this bubble for about 15/20 minutes while some brown rice cooked. With about 5 minutes to go I flung in the spinach and let it wilt.

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Chocolate and beetroot brownies

29 Mar
Swear I didn't eat them..

Swear I didn’t eat them..

 

Recently the nice people in Green & Black’s got onto me to let me know about their easter egg range. Even nicer, they sent me a few bars from their product range to sample. Rather than eat them all myself, I thought I would make some brownies and treat my friends. In my house, my sister makes the best brownies- so to rival them, I needed to do something a little different. I had heard chocolate and beetroot went well together so I thought I would give it a whirl. As we have someone who eats gluten-free in my house, I was also seeking a recipe with a low flour level so I can adapt it for them in the future, without too much hassle.

 

Ingredients:

250g Green & Black’s dark chocolate

250g softened butter

3 eggs (room temperature)

250g Caster sugar

100g self-raising flour

Pinch of salt

50g ground almonds

250g grated cooked beetroot. (Not pickled. Fresh preferably!)

 

Method:

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius and line a suitable baking tray with grease-proof paper.

Over a pot of simmering water, place a glass bowl and melt the butter and chocolate.

While they are getting to know each other, beat the eggs and the sugar until they get creamy.

While this is all going on grate the beetroot.

When the chocolate and butter have melted whisk it into the sugar and eggs mixture. After they have combined, sift in the flour and add the ground almonds- fold them in gently. Lastly add the grated beetroot and gently combine it into the mixture.

Bake for about 40 minutes. After 30/35 check how they are getting on to avoid the brownies over-cooking. Stick a skewer into the brownies, it shouldn’t come out completely clean but equally it shouldn’t be liquidy.

The Hot Stove, Parnell Square

26 Mar

Dublin has a lot of new restaurants. They are sprouting up everywhere. One such example is The Hot Stove on Parnell Square. It’s in a basement on the square, on the Rotunda entrance side.

Off the bat, the room didn’t appeal to me. It was nearly painfully bright. Personally I do better in soft lighting. The white walls, coupled with bright lights, meant that if you were there with the in-laws it could feel like an authentic interrogation chamber. On the plus side- the photos of the food turned out really well. Nicely lit.

We were greeted warmly and our soggy outer garments were taken, it was biblically wet that day. Other waiters circled, and gave some solicited and unsolicited advice re: the menu. The wine recommended was towards the pricier end of the spectrum, and coupled with one of the more expensive dishes on the menu, would be quite pleasant for my taste-buds I was assured, but perhaps not for my wallet. Additionally when we were asked did we want a side dish and the duck fat fries at €5 were recommended, we skipped them and went for the crushed artichokes. We were then asked *again* did we want fries. Up-sell tastic. Apart from that the service was attentive and friendly throughout.

An amuse-bouche of parsnip soup, parsley pesto and chorizo was exactly what we needed to start our defrost from the night outside and was very pleasant. Breads, one home-made and one from the Paris Bakery nearby were lovely and served with in-house churned butter.

I started with the seared mackerel. A nice piece of seared mackerel, the rilette was a little unremarkable, but it was with a crunchy and fresh fennel and apple salad. The cube of apple jelly, added nothing to the dish as it lacked any discernible flavour. The confirmed foodie, again my partner in dining went for the oxtail raviolo. The filling was flavoursome and unctuous but I thought the pasta was a little under, but she reckoned it had just been overworked.

Rabbit and some glare

Rabbit and some glare

Mains- I went for the rabbit. It was seasoned nicely, but a little over, and the confit cannelloni was quite rubbery. The lentils it came with were very tasty. My companion’s hake was a nice dish, served with black olive gnocchi and salsify. The salsify was delicious, and cooked perfectly, however overall it was agreed the dish lacked seasoning. The side of crushed Jerusalem artichokes was actually the dish of the night. Wonderful texture, and had bags of flavour.

For dessert I was served a perfectly cooked chocolate fondant. I didn’t like the orange-blossom sorbet, it reminded me of a Vitamin C cordial I was force-fed as a child. Herself got a rhubarb crumble- which was her favourite dish of the night. The rhubarb had just been cooked enough that it fell apart so retained a very pleasing bit of bite.

All in all with a bottle of wine and two double espresso, it came in at €121. There is great potential in The Hot Stove. The menu reads well. They just need to turn down the lights, turn up some of the flavours and cooking- and stop the unnecessary levels of up sell.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

17 Mar

Happy Paddy’s day to all of you nice people in whatever corner of the globe this finds you. I googled Irish proverbs- you know, embracing the plastic Paddy for the day that’s in it. My favourite:

“If you put a silk dress on a goat he is a goat still.”

Well. That has upset my plans for today greatly.

Paddy’s Day always brings up conflicting emotions in my mind.

Today anyone (un)lucky enough to be in Dublin city-center will be surrounded by tourists tracing back their Irish roots, to a surname they can’t pronounce, because their great-granny’s cat once crossed the road in front of someone who was from Roscommon.

On Tuesday or whenever Joe Duffy is put back on the air, there will be the usual torrent of aul ones complaining about the youth of today, how the parade was a little too joyful and how this wouldn’t have happened if Bertie was still in charge- he wasn’t that bad after all.

My latest Paddy’s Day pet-peeve is the torrent of  Irish recipes’ I have seen from abroad. Making what typically look like pretty hideous concoctions.  Corned beef and cabbage cupcakes, topped with Guinness frosting, served with a healthy side-order of stereotypes.

Playful, tongue in cheek rant over. Good memories:

Standing on a window-ledge watching the parade with my godmother years ago. (Dame Street- it used to be the English tourism board’s office- think its something different now…)

When our school won a rugby tournament for the first time in 33 years and we walked the trophy across the Liffey. Then proceeded to walk it up O’Connell street and beyond. Gardai weren’t overly thrilled mind…. Someone was threatened with arrest for waving a flag…. no really. They remain at large.

And there was one, just one, in my living memory that was actually sunny. I remember walking around town sweltering. I don’t know what the forecast is for today, but I presume there will be several marching band members from Texas or similar that are treated for hypothermia. Batons frozen in hand.

So what are your Paddy’s Day memories? What does it mean to you?

M & L Szechuan Chinese Restaurant, Cathedral Street

28 Feb

I went to school in Dublin 1. Back then, on the verge of Celtic Tiger Dublin, it was colourful. Colourful in the ‘mind your wallet’ kind of way. This coming from a proud northsider. Back then one passed boarded up shop-fronts on the way to school. Dry cleaners and corner shops with grandiose names called after American cities. On a recent trip to my alma mater, with my food-blogger hat on, I was amazed and tantalised by the number of eateries on my old walk to school. One of which is M &L Chinese.

This came onto my radar on twitter a few months back- via Stefano over at WholeMeal. I was due to meet a school friend of mine for dinner- he is accustomed to good food- so I sought out recommendations of the ethnic and Dublin 1 variety. Many recommended this place, so I decided it was time to try it.

My dining companion, Dr. Food as he shall be known, was a little late arriving- no doubt a life needed to be saved (I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt.) While I waited, I was seated and some very friendly staff provided water and menus and encouraged me to ask them for assistance in choosing my meal. A good start.

When the good doctor arrived, fashionably late, we ordered a variety of dishes with some guidance from the friendly wait staff. I started with pork dumplings. I think these were the highlight of the meal- delicious little things- packed with pork mince that left your mouth salivating after the bang of umami. The good doctor started with some prawns in egg yolk- these were eaten cheerfully- a little unremarkable and dry for my taste but they were far from unpleasant.

After this himself had chicken with dried chillies and peanuts. This was happily munched on.  I had crispy duck with mushrooms and chillies and it’s not on the English menu. If I can digress for one moment- I find the best way to eat in these places is to ask the staff what to order. Often they take you off the beaten track with glorious results or indeed they suggest mythical dishes, not on the menu. This was one such dish. It was crispy, spicy and savoury all at the same time. It was also gigantic- to the extent that after the dumplings I was far too full- it made for a wonderful lunch the next day.

We didn’t bother for any dessert- we just lingered and gave a nod to the staff when we wanted to leave as they enjoyed a post work meal in the corner. They didn’t make even the slightest attempt to rush us out and let us chat away.

With 3 beers each and a side of fried vegetables the total came to €58. M&L is worth a visit- it came with good recommendations and didn’t disappoint. The staff are great and are eager to ensure you enjoy your meal. Can’t ask for much more.

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