When you see one bouncing merrily across your blog you know it’s been too long since you last posted anything. So after “that post” about quality over quantity you’re probably all expecting some really in-depth well written piece about nutrition or food hygiene or maybe even a recipe.
Unfortunately this is not the case, I simply have not been writing anything at all, but I have a really good excuse (All of a sudden I feel like I’m back in primary school, explaining to Miss Mc why I don’t have my homework done!). I got a job! Yup, you’re reading the words of a very happy professional chef.
Everything that I’ve been working for the last few years is starting to fall into place, I started my new role as a Commis Chef a few months back and I have to say I’m really loving it, I didn’t at first but I’ll explain that below.
First I want to extend a huge heartfelt thank you to Executive Chef, Cathal Kavanagh for giving me the opportunity, when many others simply weren’t interested. Months of rejection letters and being ignored have a way of wearing down even the most optimistic of souls but then a one day trial comes along and you give it everything you have. That was a Friday and I started at 3pm the following Monday.
That first week was incredibly tough, both mentally and especially physically. My first full day I arrived home with aching legs, lower back and stomach muscles as well as a minor burn and a teeny cut. My mind struggled to hold onto the 3 recipes I had learnt that evening long enough for me to scribble them down in my notebook, which now lives in my chef pants.
Each day has been the same since but thankfully both my fitness level and strength seem to be catching up with what’s been demanded of them. Thankfully this means those muscle aches are lessening, either that or I’ve just stopped feeling them. This is why I wasn’t loving the job as much when I started, I genuinely feared I wasn’t going to be able to stick the pace and I would let down all the people who have helped, supported and encouraged me. That thought also acted as a huge motivator for me and I managed to push through that first week.
Don’t get me wrong, the feeling of achievement and fulfillment that still washes over me when I finish a shift and am heading for home is unbelievable, if I’ve been on service it borders on emotional. I haven’t enjoyed what I do for a living this much in over a 15 years, not that I was that unhappy in I.T. and sales, it’s just that the further I got away from creating, the less I enjoyed my job. At the time I put that down to the increased responsibility and pressures of the job as I moved to more and more senior positions but it was actually just me becoming more and more jaded and bored with an industry, that in my opinion, has become more concerned about public opinion than it is about building great products.
So what does all this mean for NOT JUNK FOOD? I’m not sure, is the honest answer. It’s been 5 months since the last post and I don’t see myself having any more time in the coming months than I’ve had in the last few.
My biggest difficulty with blogging has always been the amount of technical work that goes into maintaining a self-hosted WordPress blog. Right now, there are updates that need to be done on this blog which involve updating databases and other elements of the dark arts that I simply don’t have the knowledge to complete. I could spend my time learning what I need to know to complete the upgrades but then I won’t need that knowledge again for a long time and so will have to re-learn it again at some point in the future if I am to continue the way I have been. I even contacted my hosting company to see if they would manage the techy stuff for me in exchange for payment, but they’re not interested. It’s ironic to think that my biggest barrier to blogging is my blogging platform, but that really is the case. In order for me to enjoy writing again I need to drastically reduce (or eliminate) the amount of time I spend doing the techy stuff.
I don’t want to close and delete this site because I use it as my own recipe book so I have to find a solution, if you have a suggestion I’m all ears.
In the meantime, I may decide to publish the occasional recipe but I’m not going to make promises regarding a schedule or anything else, until I can find a solution to my technical problems.
A while back you may remember me talking about how my thai yellow soup came into being. This is the very recipe where that chilli mishap occurred. You see, my beloved Elly is not a big fan of “spicy” food so I was trying to create a thai curry that she would at least like, so I could have a curry more often without feeling guilty that I was torturing her.
Honestly it had nothing to do with me wanting to slowly increase her tolerance for spicy food
On that fateful day the particular green chili I had decided to use was (unknown to me) not terribly hot and as I was cooking with Elly in mind I also removed the seeds. Since that incident I now cut a tiny amount of chilli off the end and touch my tongue with it to get an idea of heat. If I don’t feel a burn I use the seeds in the dish.
But that’s just me – I’ve known people who put lots more chilli in their cooking than I do, it’s all down to personal taste so it’s always a good idea to experiment with the strength and amount of chilli in a curry if it’s not to your liking.
1 stick of lemongrass
3 cloves of garlic
1 green chilli (seeds optional)
Half an onion
Thumb sized piece of ginger
Handful of fresh coriander (leaves and stems)
Handful of fresh basil leaves
Handful of fresh mint leaves
Half teaspoon ground coriander
Half teaspoon ground cumin
Half teaspoon pepper
3 tablespoons fish sauce
Juice of half a lime (zest the lime first and save along with the remaining juice)
1 teaspoon brown sugar
Roughly a quarter can of coconut milk
and the rest
1 and a half onions, finely diced
4 chicken breasts, diced
2 bell peppers, diced
Three-quarter tin of coconut milk
2 kaffir lime leaves
The Curry Paste
To make the curry paste, roughly chop the ingredients and add everything except the coconut milk to your blender. Give them a few pulses to break it down a little. You are looking for a this to become a thick but smooth paste, so add the coconut milk a little at a time and try to blend. As soon as it starts to turn into a paste stop adding coconut milk and blend to a smooth paste.
Now you have your curry paste, you can store this for a day or two in an airtight container in the fridge. Or you can use it fresh, which is always my preference. It’s nice to know that you could make this up in advance if you were going to be a little pushed for time.
and the rest
Next, you’ll want to heat a frying pan over a medium to high heat and when it is up to temperature add a little oil and then your paste. You just want to release the aromatics from it so don’t wait too long (about a minute) before adding the rest of the onions and allowing them to soften a little (about 5 minutes). Add the diced chicken and stir fry until sealed (about 5 minutes).
Now increase the heat under your pan and add the coconut milk, diced peppers and the kaffir lime leaves. As soon as the mixture begins to boil, reduce to a simmer for about 20 – 25 minutes and serve on a bed of pilaf rice.
Remember the lime zest and juice I said to save? Well, here’s a great way to use it up and add a real subtle zing and punch to this dish. When making the rice pilaf, add the lime zest and juice instead of the turmeric and cook as normal. Hey presto, zingy rice!
I’ve had this idea knocking round in my mind for a post about McDonald’s, they are probably the best known fast food chain in the world and there are people who say that the industrialisation of the food chain is their doing. In truth, the roots of industrialisation of food started during the world wars of the last century but that’s a whole other post
The problem is that every time I try to write this post it comes off sounding like it was written by some sort of dangerous fanatic. That’s not my goal, so I’ve decided to simply post some McDonald’s related videos and links to finally get this need to talk about McDonald’s out of my system.
How to Make Oatmeal . . . Wrong
Kids’ Nutrition Classes Brought to You by…McDonald’s?
Mayor McCheese? Newsom Vetoes SF Happy Meal Ban
McDonald’s and PepsiCo to help write UK health policy
US mother sues McDonald’s over Happy Meals
McDonald’s thrives as it sticks to its game plan for success
McDonald’s to Serve Sustainable Fish in Europe
McDonald’s® Announces Commitments to Offer Improved Nutrition Choices
15 Facts About McDonald’s That Will Blow Your Mind
So after reading through those and watching the videos, what do you think about McDonald’s?
This recipe takes me right back to my childhood, my mum used to make a very similar dish and I had completely forgotten about it until I was reminded about it in college last (academic) year. It came up in one of our practical cookery classes and since then I have experimented with it several times until I came up with this recipe.
The recipe that I give for the stuffing, is a large enough quantity for three or four fillets, I like to make up the stuffing and freeze what I don’t use in “portions” so I’m not making it every time. I can just stuff, roll and roast as needed then. It’s also surprising just how quickly this can be put together even on a week night, just roast a few potatoes and some fresh veg in the oven with it and you have a really simple impressive dinner.
Apricot and raisin stuffing
1 large onion, diced
115g dried apricots, soaked, drained and diced
115g seedless raisins
115g fresh white breadcrumbs
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
and the rest
1 x pork fillet
Packet of Serrano ham
Begin by making the stuffing, heat the butter in a small pan and fry the onion over a moderate heat for about 3 minutes until translucent.
Place the apricots into a large bowl. Add the onions (butter and all), raisins, breadcrumbs and ginger. Season the mixture with salt and freshly ground black pepper. If you pick up a handful of the stuffing and squeeze it gently in your fist it should just about hold its shape when you let go. if it’s too dry just add a little more butter, if it’s a little too wet add some more breadcrumbs. Allow the stuffing to cool before use.
Next you want to take your pork fillet and trim off any excess fat carefully. Once this is done lay it out on a chopping board and make a cut about three-quarters way deep into it and the full length. This should allow you to open the fillet flat onto your chopping board. Using the heel of your hand you want to begin, flattening both sides of the fillet. If you strike at the centre with a movement towards either edge alternatively you should flatten and stretch the fillet out as much as possible.
Now comes the construction part, lay out your Serrano ham slices so that they just about overlap and are about an inch wider than the length of the fillet. Next lay the fillet on top (across all the Serrano ham overlaps) and place a line of your stuffing down the centre. Now comes the difficult bit, you need to fold either end of the Serrano ham over the ends of the fillet and roll the lot into one oversized Serrano ham wrapped sausage type of thing.
Place this in an oiled roasting tray and bake in a 180C oven for one hour, once the juices flow clear you’re ready to rest it for 10 minutes, then simply carve and serve.
The first season of Kitchen Hero, Donal Skehan’s excellent TV show, returns to our TV screens tonight at 8.30 on RTE 1 after it’s mid season break. I really enjoyed the first 6 episodes so I’m counting the minutes already.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with Donal Skehan, he has a great biography over on his food blog. He first came to my attention with his original and excellently titled food blog thegoodmoodfoodblog.com alas it is no longer with us but the ethos behind that original blog is still very much alive on donalskehan.com
His first cook book, “Good Mood Food”, is a great read that reminds me of the early Jamie Oliver cookbooks with it’s direct and easy to follow style. Unfortunately, I haven’t had a chance to give his second book, Kitchen Hero, a review as yet but based on what I’ve seen in the TV show, I’m sure it will be every bit the match for the recipes and tips of the first.
As cooking shows go, Donal’s personality and enthusiasm shines through, there is no doubting that he loves food, loves to cook and most important loves to share that knowledge with others. His recipes are very accessible and any I’ve made, I’ve enjoyed both the results and the preparation.
The thing that really makes this show for me though is the attention to detail, I can’t remember the last time I saw a cookery show where we actually saw the cook washing their hands, not to mention washing them after handling raw meat. I know it’s basic hygiene and I know most people do it automatically, but I really hate the way so many shows seem to take hygiene for granted! Good on you Donal for keeping it real!