So why would I call this meatball dish Moroccan then? When I cook with lamb and spices like cumin and cinnamon I think of Middle Eastern or North African cooking so there you have it, the simple explanation is that it just makes me think of Morocco or Moroccan cooking. Though I’ve never been to Morocco and neither have I eaten in a specifically Moroccan restaurant so I have absorbed this probably mostly from cooking programmes. There definitely was a Jamie Oliver one where he was in Morocco and oh let me tell you the spice markets are amAAAAAAAzing there. And how would I know – because I saw it on the telly of course.
The secret is the cinnamon I think. It’s something that Westerners traditionally associate with sweet dishes, particularly with apple dishes likes pies and crumbles. It sets these meatballs on a more exotic path than the Italian one’s that we’re more used to.
This recipe is from my first cookbook ‘Gimme the Recipe’ – I haven’t cooked it in ages and it will be gracing my table this week. Perfect warming Autumnal fare. I hope you get a chance to try it sometime too.
You will need 1 large red onion
3cm thumb-width piece of ginger
3 garlic cloves
1 red chilli
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground cinnamon
800g minced lamb
1 tbsp olive oil
2 x 400g cans plum tomatoes
250ml chicken stock
Handful of fresh coriander to garnish Method: Peel and roughly chop the red onion, ginger and garlic, and blitz together with the deseeded chopped chilli, cumin and cinnamon in a mini chopper or food processor to create a spicy paste.
Use a fork or your hands to mix the lamb with half of the spicy paste in a bowl and then shape them into meatballs the size of golf-balls.
Heat the olive oil in a large pan over a medium heat and brown the meatballs.
Push the meatballs to the sides of the pan and cook the rest of the spicy paste in the centre of the pan for 1 minute
Add the plum tomatoes to the centre of the pan and roughly chop them with a knife. Add the chicken stock and stir to combine with the tomatoes, paste and meatballs.
Bring to the boil then reduce to simmer for 25–30 minutes. (Test the centre of a meatball to check that it is cooked through.)
Serve with a sprinkling of chopped fresh coriander and Moroccan couscous or rice.
With three of my kids studying away from home this year I’m cooking with them in mind lately at home too. This means that what I’m sharing on my Instagram feed may give them some ideas that are simple, tasty and easy should they take the figary to chop an onion. Chilli Con Carne is one of those versatile dishes that can serve a party or a gaggle of students. Usually served on rice I really find a baked potato to be a more satisfying vessel on which to prop the chilli. And by the way if you don’t eat the skins of your baked potato you are really missing out on something special – load with some sour cream, some melting butter or better again melting cheese – delicious. This recipe is one of the mainstays from my first book ‘Gimme the Recipe.’
Ingredients – serves 6
You will need: 1 tbsp olive oil
500g round steak mince
2 medium onions
1 red pepper
2 garlic cloves
1 tsp hot chilli powder
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp cumin
2 tbsp tomato puree
1 tsp white sugar
1 tsp oregano
500ml beef stock
1 x 400g can chopped tomatoes
1 x 400g can kidney beans
Fresh parsley or chives to garnish
Baked potatoes or boiled rice to serve. Method: Heat the olive oil in a large deep frying pan or saucepan and brown the mince over a medium/high heat until the juices run clear.
While the mince is browning, finely chop the onions, dice the pepper into small pieces and crush the garlic.
Push the browned mince to the side of the pan, add the chopped onion and red pepper to the centre, and cook on a medium heat for 5 minutes.
Push the onion and pepper towards the sides, add the garlic, chilli powder, paprika and cumin, and cook for 1 minute.
Add the tomato puree, sugar, oregano, beef stock and canned tomatoes and mix well.
Bring to the boil then reduce the heat to a simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Strain, rinse and add the kidney beans and return to the boil.
Reduce heat again and simmer for 5 more minutes.
Great served with a baked potato and a dollop of sour cream with a garnish of chopped fresh parsley or chives.
Chicken Casserole, but this is no ordinary chicken casserole. You might call it ‘Chicken Thighs Braised in Cider with Sweet Potatoes’ because that’s what it’s actually named by the chef Neven Maguire!
I ran with my friend Deirdre this morning and we were blown to bits by the wind and came home absolutely saturated from the rain. I am well and truly demented with this weather. – forgive me, I’m Irish and it’s an obsession. It’s mid April but it may as well be mid November and thus this type of comforting food is called for. My kids and their cousin Kate all devoured this dish and have demanded that I make this again. Neven is a chef and owner of a renowned restaurant however his recipes are always accessible. Granted I did not have redcurrant jelly (I could have easily bought some) but chose to use cranberry sauce instead as a half jar of it langours in the fridge waiting to be used up.
The recipe is one that Neven Maguire has contributed to ‘The Mixing Bowl – Second Helpings’ cookbook produced by ‘Our Lady’s Hospice & Care Services.’ More than just a cookbook, each recipe gives a lovely snapshot or anecdote relating to the people who contributed recipes. All these people are connected in one way or another by the services of ‘Our Lady’s Hospice’ and it is a beautifully varied collection.
From Seafood Chowder, Buckwheat Galettes, Chinese Sweet Pork Chops to Kebabs Robana Bhorat, Fig Pudding and Granny’s Oat Cakes you can tell that this is not fixed into any one style or trend of cooking. I’ve just flicked onto a page with a recipe called ’21st Century Bread and Butter Pudding’, replacing the bread with hot cross buns, panettone or brioche, this is a clever recipe to have on standby after Christmas or Easter when those baked goods are about to go past their best.
Perhaps if we get to bask in a few of the rays that have been promised by the Met Eireann weather service over the weekend I might have a go at the Parsley Lemonade Liquor for when I’m parched with the thirst but for now I’ll be turning the heat up and looking forward to ‘second helpings’ of Neven’s ‘Chicken Thighs Braised in Cider with Sweet Potatoes‘ (click the link for the recipe) or if you can please think about buying the book. It would make a wonderful gift for someone and in a tremendously good cause. (again please click this link for details – The Mixing Bowl – Second Helpings Cookbook).
‘Til next time, Sheila.
Quinoa with Beetroot & Feta.
Triple Quinoa is a mixture of white, red and black seeds that fluff up when cooked. This salad can be served hot or cold and would be perfect with some chicken or lamb for a substantial meal. I cook the quinoa with some halved garlic cloves for flavour and never one to throw things away these get added to the salad too as a lurking surprise for the lucky recipient. Quinoa with Beetroot & Feta. You will need:
500ml chicken stock
2 fat cloves garlic
1 lemon (juice of)
Block of feta
Cooked beetroot (i usually buy this vacuum packed) Method:
Rinse the quinoa under cold water in a sieve and then place in a saucepan with 500ml chicken stock and two fat garlic cloves peeled and cut in half. Bring to the boil then reduce to a simmer for 20 mins. Keep an eye on the liquid level and top up as needed.
Once cooked drain off excess liquid and set aside.
Dry fry the pinenuts until golden brown.
Cube or crumble the feta and cut beetroot into bitesize cubes.
Place the quinoa into a serving bowl and stir through the juice of a lemon then roughly chopped rocket leaves followed by the cubed beetroot and feta. Scatter the toasted pinenuts on top and serve.
’til next time, Sheila.
Simple to make. Just add time! As below in the picture you can see how a dollop of red onion relish can lift a simple crostini. Great in any sandwich or even as a pizza topping and perfect on a cheese board, a jar of this would make a very welcome gift for the foodie in your life.
Caramelised Red Onion Relish You can store caramelised red onion relish in a jar in the fridge for a couple of weeks to use whatever way you fancy. Makes 2 medium jars (2 x 350ml Kilner) You will need: 6 medium red onions
2 tbsp rapeseed or coconut oil
4 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp dark muscovado sugar (or any dark brown sugar) Method: Peel, halve and thinly slice the red onions. Heat the oil in a frying pan over a low to medium heat and gently soften the sliced onions for 35 minutes.
Raise the heat to medium and add the balsamic vinegar and muscovado sugar. Stir well and cook for 3–4 minutes, then set aside to cool before spooning into sterilised jars.
‘Til next time, Sheila.
Sea Bass Parcels We’re getting there! Week by week inching closer to the revelry and indeed you may be contemplating some in-house entertainment in advance of the festivities yourself.
In need of a no hassle but grown-up dinner party recipe? This is it. No-one wants to be entertained by a flappy flustered chef who is so bothered with timings and enslaved to stirring that they don’t get to sit down and enjoy the company. Don’t be that chef. Be prepared! Make a couple of dips/hummus etc. the night before. Get in a good selection of cheese and crackers for your cheese-board, a delicious box of good chocolates – no-one needs or wants a heavy dessert – and of course some amazing wine and you’re sorted apart from the mains which I guarantee you is easy. Note: Cooking everything as described below in a parcel is obviously the easiest but be warned the green beans will be super al-dente, so if you have an audience of veggie lovers this won’t be a problem if however they are heathens you may wish to cook them separately.
Sea Bass Parcels
Serves 4 You will need: 250g baby potatoes
4 sea bass fillets
100g slow-roasted cherry tomatoes (deli counter or just use sun-dried tomatoes if cherry not available), drained and chopped
100g fine green beans
4 spring onions
4 tbsp Sauvignon Blanc or any white wine that you like to drink Method:
Preheat a fan oven to 200°C. Cut out four 30cm square sheets of baking paper.
Par-cook the baby potatoes, skin on, in the microwave for 4 minutes and set aside.
Place the four sheets of paper on the worktop and place a sea bass fillet in the centre of each one.
Slice the baby potatoes and place them close along one side of the sea bass.
Scatter the drained, chopped slow-roasted cherry tomatoes over the potatoes. Halve the fine green beans and finely chop the spring onions and scatter them on top of the sea bass fillets.
Pour 1 tablespoon of white wine over each fillet.
Fold the edges of the paper in by 1cm all round to stiffen the paper. It should still be a large square. Bring in the two opposite sides to meet and fold them together, then fold in the top and bottom ends. You want a little room in the package for steam to circulate but not escape. Place the parcels onto two baking trays, two parcels per tray.
Cook in the hot oven for 10 minutes, then swap the shelves and turn the trays around and cook for 5 minutes more.
Bring the parcels straight to the table for your guests to open themselves.
‘Til next time, Sheila.
I love crisps and sometimes instead of buying them I try to make a healthier option at home when I can. These chips are simply wholemeal pita breads cut into triangles, drizzled with oil and dusted with something spicy like chilli powder or paprika or whatever you fancy and then baked on a high heat for five minutes .
The hummus is another 5 minute job and loving all things spicy I love this harissa version from my new cookbook Enjoy!
You will need:
1 x 400g tin of chickpeas
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1 tbsp rapeseed oil (or olive oil)
1 tbsp harissa paste
1 tbsp tomato puree
Drain and rinse the chickpeas and then use a food processor to blitz all the ingredients together adding more oil if you prefer a smoother consistency.
Enjoy with home-made pita chips.
‘Til next time, Sheila
This is my tasty, easy version of a crab tian. Instead of layering things up individually I create a nice fresh and vibrant salsa married with crab meat, lemon juice and creme fraiche served in one large layer to slice into portions at the table.
To serve make some homemade melba toast triangles.
You will need:
Slices of bread – I use whole grain.
Cut the crusts off the bread.
Roll thinly with a rolling pin and cut into triangles.
Toast under a hot grill on both sides, the corners should curl up.
Cool and then store in airtight box before serving.
Christmas Crab Salsa Starter
You will need:
Small red onion
4 pineapple rings
Half red pepper
Half yellow pepper
Half red chilli
Juice 1 lemon
400g crab meat
2 tbsp creme fraiche
Line a spring-form cheesecake tin with clingfilm, leaving enough film out over the edges so that it can be covered over when filled.
Peel and chop the red onion, pineapple, cucumber (deseeded) and peppers (deseeded), avocado – all into even size small pieces.
Finely chop the half red chilli.
Mix everything in a large bowl with the lemon juice, crab meat and creme fraiche.
Press the mixture into the lined cheesecake tin and cover over with the extra cling film.
Place a plate on top to weigh down and compact everything together.
Leave to chill in the fridge for a few hours or overnight.
To serve – remove the plate and open the spring-form sides and remove.
Pull back the clingfilm, place the serving plate or platter on top and then invert so that the cheesecake tin base is now on top. Remove the base and peel away the remaining clingfilm. (see picture)
Serve with melba toasts.
‘Til next time, Sheila
Polenta. The notion strikes me every now and again to try something new and with polenta I had decided that it looked crumbly and could crisp up to a nice coating on some falafel bites that I was making. I was wrong. Rolling the falafel in the polenta and then pan frying didn’t work for me at all as the polenta was still too uncooked and raw and tasted of nothing. So the almost full bag of polenta lay unused in the cupboard for a few weeks until I came across a recipe for polenta chips. The recipe sounded dull enough so I decided to have a go with my own take on polenta chips spicing them up with cumin and chilli as it really needs a help along in the flavour game. They turned out just as I had hoped, nice and crispy on the outside with a bit of bite yet softly fluffy and yielding in the middle. We had these with some juicy steaks and salad and a dip of Rebel Chilli sauce.
Note: Requires 1 to 2 hours for the polenta to set before cooking the chips.
You will need:
2 oiled baking trays, one medium (30x20cm), one large(35x40cm).
1 litre water
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp chopped red chilli paste (I use Goodall’s)
50g grated cheddar cheese
Oil for brushing
Boil one litre of water in a saucepan. Whisk in the polenta, cumin and chilli paste, steadily whisking over the heat as it starts to thicken up then reducing the heat and continue whisking until smooth and thick for a couple of minutes.
Take off the heat and whisk in the grated cheese.
Pour the thick polenta paste into the smaller of the two oiled baking trays and leave to set in a cool, dry place for 1 to 2 hours until set.
Pre-heat the (fan) oven to 220C.
Tip the set polenta tray upside down onto the larger tray and give it a few taps so that the set polenta comes away onto the large tray.
Cut the set polenta into chunky chips sized to your liking, space them out and then use a pastry brush to oil them on all sides.
Cook in the hot oven for approx. 35 minutes until golden brown and nicely crisped up on the outside.
Serve with ketchup, mayonnaise or a good hot rebel chilli dip if you like.
‘Til next time, Sheila
Putting together canapés, bites, appetisers, finger-food, call them what you will, can be an incredibly finicky and time-consuming affair. For something that will disappear in one mouthful is it really worth putting a lot of hard labour into this effort? I don’t think so. Paring it back and keeping it simple means using first class ingredients and doing very little to them as they will sing for themselves.
Galia & Parma Bites:
You will need:
Parma ham slices (prosciutto di parma or Jamón serrano)
(perhaps some chilli/garlic oil if the parma is dry)
(this hardly warrants instruction as the pictures tell the tale)
Halve and deseed the Galia Melon and then use the melon-baller to create galia balls.
Push a gali ball onto the top of a cocktail stick and slide some parma up from the other end (I used a third to a half a slice for each one).
If you think the parma is a little dry use a pastry brush to lightly oil them with some flavoured oil.
Assemble and garnish with a dusting of cracked black pepper.
‘Til next time, Sheila.
In the build-up to Christmas I really enjoy watching the cookery programmes specially produced for the event in the hope that I’ll pick up some tips. One of these for 2013 – Food & Drink Christmas Special BBC Two – was hosted by Michel Roux and featured Mary Berry demonstrating a number of her festive favourites. When I saw her doing these simple canapés I knew they would be gracing my Christmas celebrations too and they duly did, making appearances at parties and as pre-dinner nibbles on Christmas day.
These appetizers are simple to make requiring only four accessible ingredients and four steps, however be warned, they are a little fiddly and I would set aside half an hour for unhurried assembly.
The tricky part is the separation of the slices of ham from each other and then gently smearing them with some soft cheese without breaking them too much. Do not fret though as any damage is easily hidden when they are rolled up tightly. Patience is required so if you are rushed these are not the best option. Mary Berry’s Canapés You will need:
Thinly sliced Parma or Serrano ham
Soft goats cheese or any cream cheese
Dill Pickle (gherkins) Method:(as per photo above)
1. Lay out slices of ham and thinly butter them with soft cheese
2. Sprinkle over some rocket leaves
3. Place a slice of pickle at one end
4. Roll up tightly and chill. To serve, cut each roll in two and stand them up on a plate. These were universally enjoyed by children and adults and I’ve been asked for the recipe so that says it all really.
I do hope you get the chance to enjoy these and that you too had a wonderful Christmas. Looking forward to sharing another recipe with you in February. ‘Til next time, Sheila.
The beetroot have been bulging through the soil lately with their leafy tops waving frantically ‘pick me’, ‘pick me’ and as there’s only so long that those red veined leaves will wave so frivolously for, their time has come.
As I began assembly for this year’s Beetroot Relish I deduced that I must have cheated and bought some in to supplement their masses last year as there was no way I had reaped the 1.3kg that the relish recipe required. This year I had about half that so I just adjusted the recipe downwards and don’t have a plethora to dispense just yet but I do see myself buying some additional beetroot to make more relish as gifts for Christmas.
So ‘How do you cook beetroot?’
If you’ve dug it up from your own garden you will firstly need to top the beetroot to remove the leaves and most of the stalk (the leaves can be cooked like spinach leaves if you like – wilt them down and add butter, salt and pepper). Remove most of the leaves and stalks by cutting with a scissors leaving about an inch of stalk remaining.
I wear rubber gloves when preparing beetroot.
Once topped then gently wash each beetroot under the cold tap being careful not to be too vigorous and damage the skin. Place on kitchen towel to remove excess moisture. Once washed they are ready to bake. I prefer to bake/roast beetroot as I think it retains their flavour better and requires minimal monitoring. Roast Beetroot:
Pre-heat the (fan) oven to 180C.
Place the prepared beetroot on a tray lined with baking paper.
Roast in the oven until the beets are tender enough to allow a knife pierce through, still bitey but yielding to the knife. Roasting time will vary depending on size. My small ones took around 50 minutes+ with the bigger needing 1 hr 10 minutes.
Once cooked remove the tray from the oven and leave the beets to cool for a bit until able to handle.
Wearing rubber gloves the skin may gently rub away or use a small paring knife to peel them.
Delicious served warm with some goats cheese and wilted leaves or you could allow them to cool and prepare a beetroot relish/chutney.
As mentioned previously I do like to make Beetroot Relish and think it makes a lovely Christmas gift combined with some great Irish cheese and crackers.
Relishes and chutneys are a great way of making cheese a little bit more special and there are numerous variations on offer at farmers markets and on the shelves of the supermarkets. Recently I came across the Lara range in Scally’s SuperValu in Clonakilty and I tried both their Plum Compote and Beetroot Chutney . Tipperary brie by Cooleeney Farmhouse Cheese was on offer on the day so I picked up two wedges and it was delicously creamy and ripe.
I do hope you get to try some delicious Irish Beetroot Chutney soon.
‘Til next time, Sheila.