Life is tough for a Vegan. There are the obvious things like not being able to eat steak, pulled pork sandwiches, cheese, ice-cream and most chocolate (they can’t even buy Easter eggs without remortgaging their homes first.) Then there are the even tougher things: the social exclusion and ridicule. Be honest, have you ever met a vegan and inwardly not rolled your eyes (what kind of person forgoes carrot cake and other such delights out of choice?!) The everyday persecution of vegans is getting worse.
However I know one vegan who is wearing her vegan stripes with pride, cooking up all sorts of meat-free, dairy-free, egg-free dishes without a care in the world. She veganifies my recipes where possible and updates me as to her progress, however I don’t want her to struggle with her recipe recalibrations any longer. This juicy bad-boy burger is just for her and there is not a crumb of meat, cheese or egg in sight! But don’t get jealous and let the vegans have all the fun, try this out for yourself and enjoy a dinner that is “Vegan’d to F@$%”!
Chickpea burger ingredients:
2 cans chickpeas
3 tbsp olive oil
3 Cloves of garlic crushed
1 bunch spring onions finely chopped
1 tsp cumin
Salt & pepper
1. Through all chickpea burger ingredients into a blender and whizz until just combined and some of the chickpeas are still whole to allow for a bit of texture and bite. Its best to add the oil after whizzing as you may need more or less, you want the texture to be sticky and slightly rough… Definitely not smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
2. Form the chickpea mix into patties by hand and dust with a little flour. They will be delicate so use a fish slice or flipper to move it from workspace to pan without them breaking.
3. Fry the patties in a little oil until golden on both sides.
4. Toast the buns and smear with relish (or a mint yoghurt is heaven… if you’re not vegan of course!), the cooked burgers, sliced tomato, sliced avocado and salad leaves. Enjoy!
Chicken dippers have a bad rep, and for a fair reason. They usually come in a cardboard box, they’re processed, unhealthy and the actual meat content is pretty questionable. I don’t eat much chicken at all, I certainly never order it when I’m out in a restaurant, and rarely buy it for dinners during the week. It’s all a result of watching a pretty nasty documentary on chicken farming a few years ago that gave me the heebie jeebies. However, I feel like I should start eating it more and reintroduce it to my diet (if even only to help ween me off my pulled pork addiction which definitely isn’t healthy either). I always buy chicken that is free-range, and sometimes organic if I’m feeling flash, which helps me forget aforementioned documentary… Shudder.
The other thing that puts me off chicken is that it’s usually so boring and bland. So my mission for the next month is to make more chicken dishes and shake it up a little to shrug of my weird preconceptions.
This chicken dish is really yummy and so tasty. As far as chicken dippers go they’re about as good as they’re going to get, you could always use gluten free flour or breadcrumbs if you’re coeliac. The honey mustard sauce gives a nice kick as well. This is a fuss free recipe that feels a little naughty, but is still kind of nice. Give this a shot and let me know what you think!
Ingredients (serves 2)
2 chicken breasts
1/2 cup flour
salt & pepper
Zest of 1 lemon
4 tbsp natural or Greek yoghurt
1 tsp dijon mustard
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp wholegrain mustard (optional)
Assemble your dipping line in three separate bowls. In the first bowl mix in the flour and a generous seasoning of salt and pepper. In the second bowl beat and egg. In the third bowl mix the breadcrumbs and lemon zest.
Slice the chicken into strips/fingers and dip them in the flour, the egg and then the breadcrumbs.
Fry on a medium high heat in about 2 tbsp of oil (I used coconut but whatever you have is fine). They will take about 5 minutes on each side, maybe a little more depending on thickness. There should be no pinkness in the middle whatsoever when they’re cooked.
Mix all of the sauce ingredients together in a bowl and serve with the dippers.
This lasagne is probably one of the nicest things I’ve cooked in ages. While I’m definitely not a vegetarian (sorry fluffy animals, you’re still not safe from me), I do love good vegetarian food and during the week I often unintentionally go a few days without eating meat as a result. Vegetarian options are so much much better nowadays compared to when I was younger. A friend of mine is vegetarian and when she was small going for family dinners meant getting a portion of potatoes or chips and a bowl of carrots and broccoli. There were hardly any decent veggie offerings. Now there is so much delicious vegetarian options that it makes forgoing meat so much easier.
Butternut squash is my favourite vegetable for cooking, it’s just so full of flavour, sweet and hearty. I’m always using it in soups, on bruschettas, in stews, risottos and recently in hummus too. I like squash okay? I thought it would make a great tasty but filling addition to a nice veggie lasagne. The spinach and ricotta give it a nice bit of cheesy naughtiness too. I made my own pasta, but you can use dried or fresh pasta just fine. This is so good I urge you to make it immediately. It’s the vegetable’s moment to shine… And nobody puts my butternut squash in the corner.
1 box of pasta sheets
2 butternut squashes
salt and pepper
1 bag spinach
1 tub / 250g ricotta (Try use Toonsbridge if you can find it… Amazing!)
salt & pepper
1 heaped tbsp flour
1 heaped tbsp butter
1 tsp nutmeg
350ml milk (maybe a little more)
1 handful parmesan cheese
Peel the two squashes, cut into cubes and roast in a little oil with salt and pepper in an oven (around 180-200C) for 45mins to and hour until soft. You’ll need to stir them around every 10 mins or so. when the squash is done mash most of it, leaving some slightly lumpy bits for a bit of bite. Grate in the zest of the lemon, a squeeze of it’s juice and season generously with salt and pepper. Have a taste and adjust as necessary.
Wilt the spinach in a large pan in a little oil and when wilted stir in the ricotta, a teaspoon of nutmeg and again be generous with the salt and pepper. Make sure to taste your seasoning as you go along.
To make the béchamel sauce in a pot on a medium low heat pop the flour and butter in and stir for a minute so it cooks a little, then whisk in the milk gradually to allow it to thicken. When it’s just about done stir in the cheese. Season with nutmeg, salt and pepper.
No matter what type of pasta sheets you are using (homemade, fresh or dried) make sure to pop them into a pot of boiling water before assembling… This is important! They only need a minute to soften so they cook nicely and get a nice texture. If the pasta you are using is homemade, it may only need 20-30 seconds.
Assemble! In a casserole dish lay a layer of pasta sheets then pour a little bit of béchamel sauce and half the squash. Top this layer with more pasta sheets and a little more sauce, then lay on top of this all of your spinach mix. Then lay another layer of pasta sheets, sauce and the remaining squash. Finish with a top layer of pasta and the remaining sauce (be generous with the sauce on the top layer). Grate some of the parmesan cheese on top.
Pop into an oven at 180C for 30-40 minutes until golden and bubbly on top. Serve hot from the oven with a side salad… Heavenly!
Fish fingers have been on my list of things to make for some time now. I think its a nostalgia towards all this comforting from my youth. For some reason I had been putting off making these for ages as I though these would be a little bit pernickety and time-consuming to make, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. These were incredibly easy to make and with the addition of coconut and lime flavours it felt really posh and grown up (a far cry from my Birds Eye days), the sesame also gave the crust a lovely texture and crunch. I decided to make an equally zingy dipping sauce with yoghurt, capers and lime juice. The whole thing felt pretty indulgent, but actually this is a really healthy take on the classic fish finger. No breadcrumbs and no mayonnaise were used. I can guarantee you that these have more flavour and kick than the shop-bought kind too. It’s got a nice Carribean vibe that upgrades these humble fish fingers from from kid food to posh nosh. These are definitely a reason to kick your Birds Eye habit.
Ingredients (Serves 2):
2 piece of hake/ cod/ other thick, white fish
1/2 cup sesame seeds
1/2 cup coconut flakes
Zest 1 lime
1 lime to serve
1/2 cup plain flour
2 eggs beaten
Salt & Pepper
1/2 cup plain natural or Greek yoghurt
2 tbsp capers
Juice 1/2 lime
Salt & Pepper
Firstly make the sauce by chopping up the capers and mixing them into the yoghurt with the lime juice and a little salt and pepper. Add more lime juice if necessary.
Chop the fish into equally sized pieces.
Mix a teaspoon of salt into the flour and put onto a plate. Place the beaten eggs into a bowl. Mix together the coconut flakes, lime zest, sesame seeds and a teaspoon each of salt and pepper into a third separate bowl or plate.
Take each fish finger and dip firstly into the flour mix so coated all over, then into the egg mix, and finally into the coconut crust mix.
When all are coated pop onto a hot pan on medium high heat with either some coconut or rapeseed (mild tasting) oil. Fry for about 5 minutes on the first side, and then turn over for another 3-4 minutes for the other side. Fry until cooked through and the crust is golden brown.
Serve with the dipping sauce and maybe some salad on the side.
Here is my last recipe from my trip in Cloughjordan House and Cookery School. I was really glad to learn this recipe in the cookery class as I’m usually cooking for one and so often don’t cook such large pieces of meat. This was actually really easy to make, and would make a great Sunday lunch if you wanted nice change from the usual roast. Pork belly is typically an inexpensive cut of meat also.
The sauce made with this pork is absolutely delicious and really helped flavour the lentils and greens that we served this pork with. I’m sure this would be lovely with rice too. Definitely give this a go and let me know how you get on, it’s great one to add to your list for when you’re entertaining. Once everything goes into the pot, it doesn’t need much care until you fry up the meat before serving. If you like this recipe, check out the other two I put up from my stay in the beautiful Cloughjordan House- Beetroot and Parsnip Crisps and Self-Saucing Lemon Pudding.
Ingredients (Serves 4)
1.3kg free range pork belly
1 cinnamon stick
2 star anise
1 small red chilli
2cm piece fresh root ginger
4 cloves garlic
1 tbsp chopped coriander
70ml Soy sauce
50ml maple syrup
Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp vegetable oil
Cover the pork belly in a snug fitting pan with cold water. Bring it to the boil, then remove the pork, drain, rinse the pot and return the pork to the pot.
Add the pork, spices, chilli, ginger, garlic and chopped coriander, then add just enough water to cover the pork. Bring to the boil, then turn the heat down and simmer gently for about one hour fifteen minutes until the meat is cooked and very tender.
Carefully remove the meat from the pan and keep in warm by covering it in tinfoil. Turn up the heat and add the soy sauce and maple syrup to the pan. Let the liquid boil until it is reduced by half. This will take about 20 minutes and you will be left with a dark, rich sauce.
In the meantime slice the pork into equal portions and season with a little salt and pepper. Heat a large frying pan with oil until smoking and add the pork. Brown well on both sides. Serve the pork with the reduced sauce. (We has lentils and asian greens with ours too).
Last weekend I went home to Cork for the weekend and went on a little shopping trip around the English Market with my sister. I love these little trips as I always stock up on enough goodies to keep me going for lunches and dinners for the following week. I stocked up on the amazing Toonsbridge buffalo mozzarella and Toonsbridge buffalo cream cheese with lemon and herbs. I also stocked up on fresh pizza dough, pesto and artichoke hearts and all week I have been enjoying them!
It was on this little food trip that I bought a bag of the most delicious Irish chanterelle, shiitake and brown button mushrooms and decided to make a mushroom tart for Sunday lunch. This was really good an everyone seemed to love it. I used this pastry recipe which has a lovely bite and crumb to it, and is really healthy. It actually is a very easy tart to make and you could make individual tarts if you wanted, or use a smaller tart tin if you wanted a deeper tart. This is a really easy dinner idea, and a lovely mushroom recipe for your repertoire- it’s always good to have a few vegetarian recipes up your sleeve. We ate ours with roasted vegetables but it would be equally nice with a salad.
I followed this recipe as I wanted a nice texture and crumb which this recipe gives from the wholewheat and oats. Alternatively you could use any other shortcrust pastry recipe, or just buy pre-made shortcrust pastry.
1 kg mushrooms ( I used a mix of shiitake, chantarelles and brown button mushrooms)
1 tbsp butter
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
1 tbsp flour
1 tbsp butter
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
Leaves from 2 sprigs of thyme (Keep some extra thyme sprigs for serving)
15g (or 2 tbsp) grated Parmesan Cheese (keep some extra sprinkled Parmesan for serving)
Salt & pepper
If you are following this pastry recipe which I used, then when rolled out and pressed into a lined quiche/tart tin pop into the oven and let blind bake for 13 minutes. If you are using another pastry recipe or bought pastry, still put it into the oven for 13 minutes to blind bake and continue on with the following steps.
In a large heavy bottomed frying pan fry the mushrooms in the butter, cover to let sweat a little. Cook the button mushrooms for a minute or two first before adding the others as the chantarelles and shiitake mushrooms cook very quickly and you don’t want them to reduce down too much. Cook until tender. Season with salt and pepper to taste and set aside.
For the sauce heat the butter and flour in a saucepan on a medium heat to make a roux, when melted down and combined gradually add in the milk and whisk constantly to ensure it’s smooth. Season with the nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste and sprinkle in the thyme leaves and Parmesan just before taking it off the heat. Pour the sauce into the cooked mushrooms and stir to coat the mushrooms evenly in sauce. Then tip the mushroom mix into your pie dish and cook for 20 minutes at 180C (turn down the heat if it browns too soon).
After 20 minutes sprinkle the top of the pie the extra grated Parmesan and pop it under the grill. Scatter the pie with a few thyme sprigs before serving.
Last weekend my sister and her boyfriend were coming over for dinner and I wanted to make something delicious to impress them but I also wanted the whole thing to be a chilled affair in which most things would be prepared in advance and I could chill out and relax with a glass of wine while serving things up in an effortless and stressed-free manner. Ha Ha. What actually happened was a very different affair. The menu was roasted squash and chorizo bruschettas, these lovely meatballs with yoghurt and Naan for mains, and chocolate mousse with shortbread for dessert.
I should have known the night before that things wouldn’t be exactly plain sailing. A seemingly “fool-proof” chocolate mousse recipe, was not in fact so fool-proof and I ended up overcooking the chocolate into a dark lumpy mess and the booze in the mousse made it seize up. Thankfully I had more chocolate and eggs so we decided to start again with my boyfriend taking over the reigns (this was his signature dessert and so obviously I got it all wrong, having never made it before). Or not. Same thing happened second time around, but it being 11pm, and not really caring anymore, we decided lumpy chocolate mousse was better than no chocolate mousse and so we threw it in the fridge and hoped for the best. I had already roasted my squash for the starters the next day, and felt that tomorrow I would have ample time to prepare. Wrong again.
As it turns out, arriving home at 6.30pm from a day out in town was not a good idea when your guests are due to arrive at 7.30pm (which ends up being 7.15pm when you have a super punctual sister). Even worse, my “helper” decided to take a nap so I was left to my own devices… Never a good idea. As I furiously squished together meatballs, blitzed sauce and tried not to burn toast for the bruschettas the clock was ticking past 7pm and all of a sudden my guests arrived. With my not so helpful helper missing (‘man-flu”- fellow men will sympathise, women won’t), me dressed in old jeans and a wooly jumper rather than dress and heels as planned, no table set, no glasses out or no wine at the ready ,I though I would melt into an oozing cesspit of rage/stress.
Alas, miraculously after cracking open a bottle of wine everything seemed to fall into place (I find alcohol has that effect) and once these meatballs were served all was well again in the world and we actually ended up having a really great night!
Despite my lengthy rant, these really aren’t difficult or hassle to make, unless you only start making them when you’re guests arrive which I do not advise. These would be delicious with lamb mince instead of beef mince also, and you can leave out or add in any spices you want. These aren’t too hot, but you can always use less chilli if you have a sensitive palate, and if you’re coriander isn’t your thing, just leave it out along with the paprika and cumin, and throw in a bunch of chopped basil for Italian style meatballs instead. As always, these freeze perfectly.
Ingredients (serves 6):
2 lbs beef mince
1 onion finely diced
3 cloves garlic finely chopped
1 red chilli finely diced
1 handful of coriander chopped
500g tomatoes chopped
1 red chilli deseeded and chopped
1 onion finely sliced
4 cloves garlic chopped
1 handful coriander chopped
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
250g greek yoghurt
1 handful fresh mint chopped
1 tbsp lemon juice
(Optional- but grated cucumber is great in this yoghurt sauce)
3-4 Naan or other flatbreads to serve
Fry your diced onion and garlic in a large oiled pan until softened through. When softened set aside to cool for a few minutes and then add to a bowl with the beef mince, chilli, coriander, egg, salt and pepper. Mix together well with your hands and roll into little balls with your hands (about and inch high).
Fry meatballs in some olive oil on a high heat to brown all the sides. You may need to do this in two batches as this recipe makes a lot of meatballs. When all are browned on the outside (should take about 5-10 minutes per batch) set aside.
With a hand blender, blend your tomatoes, chilli, salt and coriander into a smooth sauce. Tip your finely sliced onions and garlic into a large heavy bottomed pot with a little oil and fry until soft. Then add in your sauce, stirring until hot.
Tip your browned meatballs into the sauce, add your cumin, paprika and additional salt/pepper if needed and let it bubble away until the sauce reduces down into a nice thick sauce. Let the meatballs simmer away on a medium heat in this pot for 20 minutes to ensure they are cooked through.
To make the yoghurt sauce just mix together the ingredients until combined.
If you are serving with Naan bread or other flatbread like I did, sprinkle the breads with a little water and pop into a hot oven for 5 minutes until hot.
Serve the meatballs with a dollop of yoghurt on top and slices of the flatbread on the side to mop up all the delicious sauces.\