Banh Mi


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…]

Ballotine of Chicken

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Ballotine of Chicken is something I have been meaning to try for ages.  When I say ages I mean about ten years and after finally getting around to it last Sunday I really can’t work out what took me so long. From what I gather Ballotine is usually made using chicken thigh stuffed with forcemeat or pork of some kind or other but to make life simple I used chicken breasts and stuffed with nice flavoursome sausages, with a little fennel and rosemary thrown in for good measure.  The chicken is flattened and wrapped around the filling, shaped in to nice neat parcels and cooked by poaching and then unwrapping and finishing in a frying pan for colour so the result is soft tender meat with a beautifully bronzed exterior.  I was really pleased with how they turned out and my husband and son declared them a winner.  I think Ballotine is ideal if you have people coming over for dinner – they can be wrapped up and kept in the fridge well in advance and the ingredients couldn’t get any simpler.   Next time I think I will buy some pork and whizz it up in the processor together with some herbs (sage would be nice) and try that too.  I served with sautéed Savoy cabbage with bacon, spring onion mash and a very simple gravy made with some sherry and chicken stock. [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…]

Barbecued Pork Fillet with Vietnamese Caramel Sauce

From Bill’s Everyday Asian

For my second experiment with Everyday Asian I had to try this recipe – I couldn’t resist the promise of barbecue, caramel and chilli so I apologise for posting another pork recipe so soon but I think you will forgive me if you try this out – it is really delicious!

Similarly to the last recipe this has few ingredients and is a really quick and easy dish to prepare. I was curious to know how the caramel sauce would work – I wasn’t sure if it would be too much but it works perfectly thanks to a little sourness from the lime juice and heat from the chilli.  I also admit to being a bit sceptical when I removed the pork from its marinade – the fish sauce was quite strong but once cooked it gives the meat the most amazing savouriness – I imagine this is similar to the umami effect of pairing anchovies with lamb.  My husband and son wanted to eat the pork straight from the griddle pan.  Don’t be put off by the ‘barbecue’ in the title – although I am sure it would be great cooked outside on a char-grill it can also be done on a griddle or frying pan.  I didn’t quite reduce the sauce enough – it was still delicious but next time I will give it a little more time on the hob which will make it that little bit thicker and stickier. The recipe says that the pork should be cut in to two pieces however I did 4 which made it that bit quicker to cook. [Read more…]

Stir-fried Chilli Pork

From Bill’s Everyday Asian by Bill Granger

Last year I made a conscious decision to cut down on the amount of cookbooks I was buying – not only was I running out of space but I just didn’t have enough time to try out all of the recipes that I wanted to.  This means that I am a little more select now in the books that I do buy and that’s no bad thing really.  I had my eye on this book ever since it was released last year – I am fast becoming a big fan of Mr Granger since receiving my first book of his, Bill’s Basics.  I always find around New Year that I start craving simple but spicier food after all the rich indulgences of Christmas so Bill’s Everyday Asian made perfect sense as the first book purchase of the year. And this book really didn’t disappoint – there are so many inspiring, simple, fresh and no doubt delicious dishes in here – I love that in the introduction Bill states that his one rule is “that nothing should require a list of a hundred hard-to-find ingredients”.  This is my type of cooking. [Read more…]

Toad in the Hole


When we were kids growing up in London my mum used to make Toad in the Hole all the time – I suppose it was a very economical way of cooking for a big family and ensuring bellies were full. It is very much an old traditional English dish and I don’t recall ever hearing anyone mention it here in Ireland.  I only recently starting making this for my own family and I really don’t know why it took me so long – we’re big fans of Yorkshire Puddings and sausages so what could be better than a dish made of both?  You can fancy it up a little by smearing the sausages in Dijon mustard before adding to the batter, or by using fancy sausages, or perhaps you could maybe play around by adding some herbs to the batter.  We like ours served with lashings of onion gravy – the more mopping up the better! [Read more…]

Chicken curry with yoghurt and tomatoes


Recipe from Bill’s Basics by Bill Granger

I have wanted to blog this recipe for some time – it is one of the first things I tried from Bill’s Basics and it has since become one of our favourite curries.  I have tried so many curry recipes over the years, most of which involve lists of ingredients as long as your arm and lots of toasting and grinding spices so I was rather intrigued by this recipe’s simplicity and to be honest a little suspicious that the end result would have enough depth of flavour thanks to the concise list of ingredients.  As it turns out this is a great little curry that is fresh and light and bursting with flavour but it isn’t overly fragrant or spicy and that makes it perfect for the whole family – it’s certainly one of my son’s favourites. It is also so quick to put together and the only thing that will take time is cooking – so once all of the ingredients go in the pot you can leave it on a low heat to blip away with the occasional stir to keep it from sticking.  This is a perfect dish to prepare in the evening to be reheated for dinner the next day and it’s quite economical as apart from the spices, which you will get many dishes from once you buy them, there are only a handful of ingredients to buy.  Bill’s recipe used lamb which of course needs a longer cooking time than chicken so although the meat will be cooked through sooner I do still give the curry one-and-a-half/two hours cooking as the as the sauce really does benefit from that time.  This is also great made with chicken pieces on the bone.  The original recipe doesn’t use garlic or coriander but I love both in curry. [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…]

Chicken Tikka Masala – Rick Stein’s Far Eastern Odyssey

Rick Stein’s fabulous Far Eastern Odyssey was recommended to me by the lovely Tina of Cook with Tina as I recall it following a discussion on Thai  Mussaman Curry and I am eternally grateful as this truly is a brilliant book and contains a fantastic recipe for one of my favourite dishes – Chicken Tikka Masala.  I have tried lots of different recipes for this dish over the years without great success – some cheaty quick ones with ready-made pastes and others more detailed and long-winded.  Rick Stein’s recipe doesn’t really contain that many ingredients but is definitely more suited to a day when you have a bit of time on your hands but it is worth it – it is the best I have tried by far and I really think that this particular dish doesn’t benefit at all from shortcuts.  I buy my spices at fairly reasonable prices online from Spices of India and I also bought the cast iron Karahi pictured below for around £15 and it has become much used and valued. [Read more…]

Beef & Guinness Pie

When the Irish Foodies decided upon a Winter Warmer theme for the November cookalong I was delighted – one of my favourite things about winter is the comfort food that warms the cockles on cold dark days. It was quite hard for me to pick just one recipe and I must have changed my mind at least ten times but in the end I decided upon a rich, deep, savoury Beef & Guinness Pie, served up with some creamy mash. The great thing about this recipe is that with the addition of extra liquid it can be served as a rich hearty stew. [Read more…]