Wednesday, 30 November 2011


Can you feel my excitement already? November's nearly over. It's December tomorrow and that means one thing and one thing only. Christmas. And more importantly it means I don't have to stop pretending I'm not excited about it any more. (that's two things isn't it?) I've been getting overly and prematurely excited for weeks (the lists are made, the puddings done, obviously, and the craft gifts being dealt with!) but I've had to keep it under wraps for fear of getting things thrown at me. But now it's open season. And what better way to celebrate than with a Christmas blogpost. Puddings to be precise. I actually made mine about two weeks ago. They're maturing away nicely in the press. I didn't want to inflict the Christmas theme on anyone before now so I held off on the blog-post. I know how appreciative you'll all be for this!

I've spent years trying to recreate my Granny's perfect plum pudding. The recipe for which got lost somewhere along the way in the great move of 2000. A lot of good stuff got lost in that move. And seeing as she's no longer around I can't very well go asking her for it. So year after year I toil away trying to recreate it and it's never very successful. This year I fear will be no different. I used a recipe from the Irish Times which you can find here. It's got all the stuff you'd expect. However, it's missing one vital ingredient. It hasn't got any suet. I only remembered after I'd made it that Granny's definitely had suet. I know this because I remember how ten year old me was particularly grossed out by the concept and practicalities of cooking with suet. I loved being grossed out by things as a ten year old and so remember this vividly.

Anyway, here's a few photos of the process. I made one big and a few mini puddings. I also made a few mini christmas cakes. No one in my family really goes for the cake at christmas and there's always tons left over so this year I just made a small offering. They too are maturing away in the press. I'm very excited about these as I think I may have found Granny's christmas cake recipe. Although I couldn't swear to it. What's more I'm really excited about decorating them. I've bought far too many cake decorations for them already and it's turning into a bit of a habit. I think I may have a problem.

The mincemeat gets made tomorrow.

I need to get out more.

from this... this...

...via a slightly less attractive this...

etc... get the idea...

and....ready to be steamed

the finished product (not quite actually, it'll get another couple hours cooking on the day!)

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Curry Club

I really am very far behind on my blog posting. I've just been very busy...things are getting on top of me..I'm sure you've all been there. Anyway, you'll all remember a few weeks ago when Dublin turned into one giant pond for the day? The day where God was really upset and cried all day long? He just wouldn't quit. He must have been watching a particularly weepy movie that day. Anyway, for some reason, beyond me, I thought that was the perfect day to go for a little stroll around our fair city to do some book shopping. Book shopping? In the middle of the worst deluge our town has ever seen? I have strange ideas sometimes. Off I went, tootling about town thinking how clever I was, not letting the rain ruin my day. In to Eason's I went. I thought it had been raining before I went in. I laughed in the face of rain. 'I've an umbrella you know, you won't best me', I said. But when I came out I found out what real rain was. Real manly rain. 'Where's your umbrella now?' it roared. Clearly my umbrella had died in fright at just one look at this rain. I felt just a little sheepish and to honest quite stupid. Why had I left my lovely dry house? And why on earth had I gone book shopping? Books. Made of paper. Paper that melts when it even looks at that kind of rain. Anyway, with the books bought and paid for and then swiftly shoved up my jumper I walked/waded home. Luckily the books survived with only minor damage and I just about made it too.

The reason I was so desperate to make such an idiotic life choice on this particular day is I REALLY wanted curry.  Dal to be precise. Those of you avid readers out there will remember this from a particularly exciting earlier post. My previous attempt wasn't up to much scrutiny so I needed a recipe. A real one. I would have to buy a curry book. 

I bought this one!

With curry book in hand the next obvious step was to invite the fabulous Rory over for another bake date. We set a date and a menu and we two intrepid spice explorers cooked up a delicious dinner of tarka dal, lamb and spinach curry, pilau rice and chapati. It was a huge success. It tasted great and even looked vaguely like the real thing. 

This is a great beginners curry book. Very simple recipes and all the old favourites are in there. I always think it's better to start with dishes you're familiar with when experimenting with a new cuisine, so at least you've some idea what it should taste and look like and then when you know where you're at with the spices and flavours you can start getting a bit more adventurous. It seemed that most of the curries in the book were started by making a paste with spices and tomoatoes and then when this paste has been cooking down for about 30 mins you can start the curry proper. It went something like this:

Curry paste


20g fresh ginger
3 tomatoes quartered
6 cloves garlic
6 tbsp vegetable oil
2 black cardamon pods (I used green)
4 cloves
5cm cinnamon
2 bay leaves
1 onion chopped finely
2 tbsp ground coriander
3/4 tsp turmeric
3/4 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp chilli

  1. blend the tomatoes, ginger and garlic until smooth
  2. heat the oil in a large pan and cook the whole spices for 15 seconds, then add the onion and cook until the onion is golden
  3. add the tomato paste, the ground spices and salt, cook over a moderate flame for 15-20 mins until it becomes a paste and droplets of oil start to release on the base of the pan
  4. reduce the heat and cook for another 5-7 minutes (This was where my patience was lacking. It's definitely worth holding your nerve here)
  5. it's now ready to use as the base of your curry 

Spinach and lamb curry


portion of curry paste as above
500g lamb
10g fresh ginger julienne
2 green chillies
1 tsp garam masala
oil for frying 


For the lamb and spinach curry you simply add the lamb (about 500g) to the paste and cook over a moderate flame for 5 mins, until the paste has been absorbes by the lamb. Then pour enough water to cover the meat, bring to the boil, reduce to a simmer and cover. Cook for an hour. You may need to reduce the sauce at the end if there is too much liquid. The liquid should come about 1/4 way up the lamb by the end. Fry off the ginger and fresh chilli in a frying pan, wilt the spinach on top and add to the lamb. Add the garam masala and cook for another 5 minutes.  Check the seasoning and serve.

And now the Tarka Dal......

Not as complicated as one would think. There's two stages to this. First you cook the dal.


150g chana dal (you can also use 100g chana and 50g masur dal or as I was assured, red lentils)
1/2 tsp turmeric
3 cloves garlic grated
10g fresh ginger grated
fresh coriander to serve 

  1. wash the dal well
  2. place in 1 litre of water and bring to the boil, scim off any scum that forms
  3. add the turmeric, garlic, ginger and salt and simmer for 40 mins, stirring occassionaly 

Stage two - the tarka (which means a few ingredients fried up and added to the main, in this case dal, ingredient at the end) - start making after dal has been cooking for 30 mins


3tbsp oil
1 rounded tbsp butter
3 dried red chillies
1 round tsp cumin seeds
1 small onion chopped finely
2 small tomatoes chopped
1/2 tsp garam masala

  1. heat the oil and butter and fry the dried chillies and cumin seeds until they start to brown
  2. add the onion and fry until browned
  3. add the tomatoes, garam masala and salt and saute for around ten minutes, until the oil starts to release (again this is a patience moment. this releasing of oil seems to be key in good curry making!)
  4. pour some of the cooked lentils into the pan to incorporate all the spice, then add the contents of the pan into the pot of cooked lentils
  5. cook the dal for another ten minutes, squishing some of the lentils against the side of the pot to achieve the texture you want (I think I would blend some of the lentils seperately to make the texture slightly thicker the next time, but I think that's a personal thing)
  6. taste, adjust seasoning and sprinkle with fresh coriander to serve 

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Single's Supper Club Menu

Finally have a menu for the next Supper Club on the 25th November. It has me excited, so I hope the guests will like it too. I also hope I can find quinces. Any ideas anyone? If anyone would like to come please let me know. Remember though this is a special one off singles supper club for the gay men of Dublin in association with Singledom Town,  so you have to be a man who quite likes other men to attend. Them's the rules.

 aperitif by the fire *
winter warming drink
apple chips


potted crab with pickled cucumber 

mushroom and pesto lasagne
bean salad 


apple and quince tart with custard



donation of 20 euro per person 
please let me know if there's any allergies etc and I'll see if I can whip up an alternative 

*As my fire has been smoking out my living room of late the fire element is tbc!

Ms Marmite Lover's Underground Market

Ms Marmite Lover's lovely house

This weekend I had the privilege of being invited to my lovely friend Georgina and her lovely, now husband, Rich's wedding party. I was thrilled to be invited, not only because it meant I got to go to London for the weekend and celebrate George and Rich's wedding with them, I also got to catch up with a load of college friends I haven't seen in a million years and as if that wasn't enough, it also meant I had the perfect excuse to be in town on the Saturday afternoon with nothing to do, except nurse the teeny weeniest of hangovers from the night before (for teeny weeny read mind numbingly disabling). 

The reason I was so thrilled to have an afternoon off in London on this particular day was that it happened to coincide with the fabulous Ms Marmite Lover's Underground Farmer's Market in her house. For those of you who are a little confused by this concept, it is exactly what it sounds like. Ms Marmite Lover, a pioneer of the supper club movement in the UK, has started opening up her house to stall holders from across the land and their hungry customers, squishing stalls into the most unlikeliest of spaces. Cocktails in the bedroom, knitting circles in the bed, hot food in the garden, jam in the hall, crafts and take home treats in the living room and let's please not forget the oh so awesome complete complaints management service lady in the hallway who will tailor make a complaint for you for any occasion and find just the right words you didn't even know you needed to express your woes. Genius idea and an incredibly charming lady. 

What I loved most about the event, apart from the food of course, (my favourite being the authentic tacos and the incredibly fresh Greenwich Smoked Salmon which I was assured had been swimming in the sea not three days before and boy did it taste that way), was the incredible attitude of all the people involved, stall holders and punters alike. I've rarely been in a place with a more positive community spirit. When my friend Flora commented to one of the stallholders that it was a shame the garden wasn't a bit bigger so they could get more customers through and hence make a bit more money, he replied with a big smile on his face,  'it's not about the money' and it wasn't. (That said that I parted with more money at this market that I have at any other I've ever attended. I usually tend to be more of a market browser than a buyer, for two reasons, 1. I can never make a decision about what I want and 2. I can never afford what I want. But here, I was so elated with all the positivity, I was throwing the money about like nobody's business. Also could have had something to do with that hangover. I digress.) What was so wonderful about his simple answer was that it was true. This day wasn't about making money, of course people were hoping you'd buy, but everyone was so keen to interact with each other no matter who you were or what your reasons were for being there. The stall holders were as interested to hear what we had to say as we were to listen to them. It was community building in every sense of the word. 

Here's a few photos to give you a taste. Sorry about the quality. Ryanair does not facilitate bringing both good camera and wedding party dress. It had to be one or the other. Style's always got to win right?

she wasn't so sure about the pheasants
Kedgeree anyone? No?
Taco's on the other hand....
The busy garden
Arancini man
Fish smoking on the bonfire
A bit of atmosphere
More atmosphere
Cooking demos in the kitchen...
...they got pretty crowded
Cocktails in the bedroom
Jam in the hall
A table of loveliness
The sense of positivity and community at this market was palpable. But we so often associate community with location, where we live, where we work, so why was I feeling so much a part of this community that I had no experience of, never encountered in real life before?  I was confused. I suppose that's where blogging and the internet comes in. It's corny but true. The internet is shrinking the world. I lived in London for nine years and I think had I managed to stumble upon this event in any of those nine years I would have felt like I was intruding upon someone else's world (that says more about my nervousness than the welcoming nature of the event by the way), but since I've started blogging, I've started following people, started online conversations with a few more, and without realising it or even courting it, have become involved in a community. This kind of interaction is new to me and still a little strange but it was so wonderful to see it come together in the real world and see the amazing, inspiring, life affirming things that can be achieved through online communication. So often the internet is used as a way of avoiding real life communication but this market was the result of using those internet communications and connections in the most positive of ways, enabling real life interaction with people whom you may not otherwise have the opportunity to meet. It was a brilliant thing to be a part of so thanks to Ms Marmite Lover and all those who were involved in running and organising the event. You should all be very proud.