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Q-Tron’s Celery and Blue Cheese Soup

Hello there.  This is my first contribution to Bock’s endless quest for edible fun, and I’m going to start with an old favourite: celery and blue cheese soup.  Try it.  I hope you like it.

Q-Tron

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Cooking

Roast Beef

I cooked a joint of beef this evening for the ravening children.

And when I say “children”, I really mean hungry men and women.

You know, old ways are often best, and certainly, when I was growing up, my mother had only one way of doing a roast : slowly.  It went into the oven as we retired, at a low temperature, and came out in the morning, swimming in intense dark juices.

It was delicious, and I haven’t added anything to it, because there’s no point trying to improve on perfection.  All I did was to insert a little piece of shallot or onion in the meat for added flavour.

 

80 degrees, nothing more than that.  Into the oven for hours and hours.  Wake up to the delicious aroma of roasting beef.  What could be more delicious?

The gravy makes itself, with perhaps a little reducing to intensify the flavour.

I usually let the joint cool down so that it can be carved finely, and I serve it with — of course — roasted potatoes.

I also like to do some Balkan braised carrots, fried in butter with paprika and demerara sugar.

 

The guest-vegetable can be anything you like.  Mangetout, parsnips in honey, even the tried and trusted cauliflower cheese, though I don’t like it myself.

Whatever.

Wash it down with good wine and fine company.  How can you go wrong?

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Cooking

Bock’s Quick Lasagne

I fancied a lasagne and the Bullet indicated by grunting that he would also eat this meal.

Very well.  Let us not interrupt the drinking too much.  Let us produce this food with the minimum of fuss.

I chopped up an onion, a couple of carrots and a stick of celery.  Personally, I detest celery and if I had to eat it raw, I’d throw up, but it adds nice punch to a meal when cooked beyond recognition.

I chopped them all up, with some garlic, not in the picture, and fried it all gently in extra-virgin olive oil for about 10 minutes.  Gently, I say.  Gently.

When the vegetables were sufficiently sweated, I added the mince.  I had no pork, so this is all beef, but if you want to do it right, you should use about half and half, minced beef and minced pork.  You can chop up a few rashers to give it a kick if you like.  I often use smoked bacon.

Make sure all the meat is browned.  Break it up and keep turning it, but don’t use a heat that’s too high or you’ll burn it.  Add a good amount of tomato purée and let that cook into the meat for about five minutes.

Then add a glass or so of wine.  Some people like red, some like white.  For these pictures, I had no red, because I drank it all during the week, so I used white.  Chardonnay or something.  It doesn’t matter really when you’re tossing it into a dish of meat, veg and tomatoes.

Let it cook away for a while.  The alcohol will disappear very quickly because it has such a low boiling pint, so you needn’t worry too much about this.  There will be no liquor left in this dish when it’s done.

Throw in some herbs.  Some people like oregano, and others like basil.  Try a bit of everything until you find something you like.  You can’t really go wrong with oregano.  Some people like to use a dash of Worcestershire sauce, but I had none today.  Add a can of tomatoes and let the whole lot cook for a while.

Meanwhile, you need to make the white sauce, and for this you’ll start by making a standard Béchamel sauce.

This is a very easy thing to do, but cheffy-type people will sometimes try to bamboozle you.

You start with a roux.

Melt some butter  in the pan.  Don’t burn it, for Christ’s sake or you’ll have to start again.  Keep the heat nice and gentle.

Add flour until it thickens, bit by bit.  Sprinkle it on while you stir the butter, bit by bit, using a wooden spatula and keep sprinkling until it becomes fairly thick.

It will thicken to a paste, and you should cook this gently for about five minutes to make sure there’s no floury taste left.  That’s a horrible taste.  But don’t burn it or you’ll have to start again, so be careful.

Be careful out there.

It will cook, and it will end up looking a bit dry.  Don’t neglect it or it will start to feel sad.  Keep turning it.

Then add some milk, bit by bit, stirring all the time to keep it creamy.  The sauce will thicken.

When you’re happy with the sauce consistency, it’s time to flavour it.  If you have a bay tree, as I’m fortunate to possess, run out to the garden and snip off a couple of leaves.  Otherwise, toss in some dried bay-leaves.

Then crush up a whole nutmeg.

Throw it all into the sauce.

Meanwhile, grate some parmesan and some cheddar.  About twice as much cheddar as parmesan.

Add the grated cheese to the sauce gradually, allowing it to melt and blend.

It will thicken fairly quickly and become a rich cheese sauce.

Now spoon about half of the meat sauce into a lasagne dish.  Over this, spoon the cheese sauce and spread it out evenly.

Put a layer of lasagne on top of this and repeat the procedure, with a layer of meat sauce and a layer of cheese sauce.

Cover this with another layer of lasagne sheets and then spoon on the rest of the cheese sauce.

Cook it all in the oven for about half an hour at about, oh, I don’t know, maybe 150 degrees.

When it’s done, sprinkle grated cheese over the top and grill it for a while to make it look nice and tasty.

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Cooking

Beef Boogienyon

After enjoying a thoroughly grown-up weekend where I was wined and dined and generally having a great times with lovely people I re-entered the dominion of my kitchen. I’m a student, I said to myself as I sent my kids off to school with bread an butter sandwiches. Nothing wrong with that, I hear you say. Ah still, it’s Monday, so plenty of time to get back to good Mammy for the week. A proper dinner is the order of the day so here it is.

I cooked with:

2lb stewing beef from the butchers shop I love, O’Connells on Little Catherine St

Onions 3 organic Irish ones from Dunnes

Mushrooms Organic Irish from Dunnes

Half bottle red wine, I used this lovely Shiraz from Dunnes, reduced from €14 to €7

Bacon bits from Lidl

Thyme, from a pot in the yard

Salt n Pepa

Flour – a bit

1. Toss the meat pieces in some seasoned flour, heat a few tblsp oil in a large pot till pretty hot

Brown the meat in batches in the pan, it should do in about 4 batches, and keep on a plate

Roughly chop the onions and fry with the bacon bits

Return the meat to the pot and throw in the mushrooms, unwashed and roughly chopped

Pour in plenty of wine, but leave enough for yourself, hic! Top with some hot water or stock if you need more liquid but not too much, barely cover the ingredients. Season and cook in the oven for about 2 hours at 180 degrees C.

Steam some scrubbed spuds and carrots for about 30 minutes

Nom, burrp!

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More cookery

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Val’s Kitchen

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Cooking

Fishy Business

A trip to the food market at the Crescent Shopping Centre ( on Wednesdays) inspired me to rustle up a less than traditional Ash Wednesday fishy feast. I’m not religiously orientated enough to choose to eat only fish today but when I saw the selection on offer this morning, monkfish, halibut, hake, cod, gurnard and some of the fabbest looking spider-crab claws I was hooked (sorry!)

I’d started cooking before I really decided what I was making. The claws were flung into a pot of boiling water with a halved lemon and cooked for 15 minutes. They don’t need much dressing up to be taken out.

I got some hake too, three big fillets, and sliced these into chunks. I made a batter with some self raising flour, water and seasoned it with salt and pepper. Just whisk in enough water until the consistency is like pouring cream.

Heat some cooking oil in a pot or wok and when it’s hot enough, dip the fish pieces in the batter to coat lightly. Drop them into the oil carefully, they will only take a few minutes to cook, turn them if you need to.

Stir fry some veggies with ginger and soy sauce, I had some rice steaming while all this was cooking.

Serve up the fish goujons, tempura, or whatever you want to call them with soy sauce or any dipping sauce, or just a squeeze of lemon. I love Nature’s Bounty Chilli and Garlic Sauce, you can get this at the same market.

To serve the crab claws, you’ll need a tea towel and a heavy knife, or cleaver. Cover the claws with the towel and wallop them with the blunt side of the knife till they crack. You can then pull them apart to yank out the sweet, juicy meat.

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Val’s Kitchen

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Cooking

Flaps a la Jack

Hot on the heels of the huge success of the Beef recipe (it doesn’t take much to encourage me), I whipped out the camera today to snap one of our favourite sugary treats; flapjacks. I featured these in the early days of my blog.

So, without further ado, here’s the how to;

You need:

140g butter

140g brown sugar of some type

280g oats, I like Bunalun but Flahavans are equally fab

3-4 tblsp honey or golden syrup

Gently heat the butter, sugar and honey to a simmer. Don’t rush it or it won’t like you

When the mixture is nice and hot, throw in your oats and give them a good stir so everything is nice and sticky

Protection is always a good idea, so line a nice, big 10inch tin (or similarly sized receptacle) with some baking paper

Empty all your oats and sticky stuff into the tin and bake it at 180 degrees C for 20 minutes or so

Before this is fully cold, carefully run a knife around the inside of the tin and pop out the hot flapjack slab.

With a large knife, press down gently but firmly to cut into segments. Eat up before the pesky kids get them.

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Val’s Kitchen

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Cooking

The Icing on the Cake

Cake is an illusion. Indeed all cakes, buns, and sweet things are big, fat liars. Be they filled with cream, oozing with jam or tartily enticing you with their pert, pinky icing tops, don’t trust them. I’m not talking about fat here. I have no fear of fat.  Bring it on I say, eat more butter and cream, it’s real food from living things we can put names on, just don’t say I told you.

The reason why cakes are such good liars is that their simple, tempting beauty tells nothing of the story that went into making them. So I’m going to tell you mine. Cooling on my kitchen table right now are 24 of the fluffiest, spongiest, lightest cup cakes known to humanity. A bold statement I know but I learned from the best so I can’t take all the credit. I love baking, when I feel like it. I love to make chocolate brownies you’d leave your wife for, oatmeal cookies you’d blow your diet on and these feathery ladies here, American style cupcakes.

My son, the fairy, ordered these from his Mama two days ago when he announced a fund-raiser for Haiti was to be held in his school. A good cause we all agree, without one bit of begrudgery. I agreed to make the cakes, the school is super-human when it comes to cake sales and would give the stepford wives a run for their money in terms of quality and quantity. I’m in, I said, bring it on. Cupcakes and cookies, he said.  No worries, said I.

That was before today. Today was another bananas day in college when we spent a lot of time doing a lot of not a lot. Followed by the hour-long drive home I was limbering up nicely for my bakeathon. The lads were in two separate houses, one in town, and one in the country. No bother. The rain came down, the cake ingredients had to be got. Son no 1 was collected, shopping was done on the way to get son no 2. Son no 2 had made a new friend in a lovely house full of lovely people with endless dogs and cats and grown up kids, like Southfork without the oil, fence n all. I got cosy with coffee and time wore on. I’d forgotten the chocolate for the cookies. More shopping to do on the way home. Now it’s 9 O’Clock. I’m getting ratty. The house is that kippy way it is when you go out and you come in again and can’t believe you live like this. I order Son No.1 to do the sink full of dishes and set Son No.2 up with a mixer and begin lobbing butter and sugar at him, into a bowl. He decides that the mixer may be more effective mid air so he yanks it out into the sky and splatters butter/sugar goo all over the walls. That’s nothing. keep mixing.

Son No. 2 walks into his room and yells, bleeaagghh, the cat has puked, on the carpet. It’s always on the carpet. I order him to get some bog roll to clean it up, after he has walked into the hall in his puke-covered socks. As I begin scooping up cat vomit, swearing old Limerick style obscenities I step backwards into more puke. I’m loving today. Now there’s puke on my Uggs. Ugg. In three different spots the little bastard has thrown his guts up. There’s only carpet in one room, why does he always pick that one? It’s all cleaned up, and the cat is ejected from our lives for the evening. He clings on, suicide style from the kitchen door, way too dramatic and it won’t get him in. I open the bin to put in the be-puked kitchen paper and cloths. It’s full to the brim so I decide to empty it. I pull at the bag and yank it up, yes yes, it rips and cat puke and three day old dinner come spilling out onto the floor. I start cursing people in my life who are lovely and sweet and have nothing to do with all this. I yell at Son. No 2 to get a bag and remind him that all Men are idiots while he does it. I clean up the crap off the floor, I hate everyone.

Lovingly we get the cake batter into the paper cases and into the oven. It’s a miracle. There’s no way I’m making cookies too, I tell the small fella. But I made a sign saying Oatmeal cookies, he says. The rip it up, I hiss. I love him. The pile of new dishes is done by Son No.2, he hates me now. I want butter icing, he says. Just to goad me. I concede as we have reached a deal on the goods. Half pink and half white, who is this guy? I concede because I am an idiot and because I love him and because I’m a show off and I can’t resist. Icing sugar is sieved, so much icing sugar, and butter is beaten, it deserves it. The vanilla goes in, and much love, and swearing. Half of it is scooped out and I notice how like ice cream it looks. We pour in some red colouring and I lament the disappearance of cochineal food colouring that was made of beetles and made food the most magical pink colour.

As I begin to thaw and the love comes back into the kitchen, I open a cupboard door to put away the sugar and , smash! Nooooooooooo, my eyes see it in slow motion, it registers as it sails past me and onto the hard, tiled kitchen floor, a full, glass jar of honey. I point my head to God and open my mouth to yell, very loudly Motherucker so loud and for so long that the whole of O’Connell Street is offended. I close my mouth and look at the floor. A huge, sprawling lava gush has erupted on the floor. And it’s full of broken glass. As Homer Simpson said to Marge when she finally lost her temper at the dinner table “Now kids lets leave your mother alone to clean up this mess in peace”. So exited my Son from the kitchen so fast. I laughed at myself, as I always do when something happens to make me notice that I’ve got my knickers in a twist over nothing. Cos it’s always over nothing. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some cup cakes to ice.

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Val’s Kitchen

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Cooking

Greasy Grit Gravy

I was cooking this evening, you know?  Mice.  It was all I could afford.

Making a bit of grub, mainly of the vegetable sort, when an old song came popping into my head, as they do.

Songs.

Popping.

Head.

You can’t beat the silly songs.

I don’t want no lizard spleens.  Gimme greasy grit gravy and gizzard greens.

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Cooking

Beef Casserole with Guinness

It’s freezing.

How cold is it?

It’s this cold:

We’re freezing, and we need a nice hearty dinner to heat us all up.  An honest, old-fashioned dinner.

Now as it happens, I find myself in Aldi, where they have a very nice-looking cast-iron shallow casserole, which I buy because it’s great value at about a quarter of the le Creuset price and of equal quality.  Made in the same factory, for all I know.

I then drop in to the off-licence and pick up a box of five Guinness cans for five euros, with a glass thrown in.  Actually, I get two boxes.

Now for the dinner.

I have some carrots, mushrooms, peppers and onions and garlic.  I crush some peppercorns.

I have some diced beef.

I coat the beef cubes with flour and the crushed pepppercorns.

Then I heat my new casserole gently, and brown the beef cubes.

beef casserole with Guinness

When that’s done, I put the meat to one side and fry all the vegetables gently for about 5 minutes except the carrots.

I add a couple of bay leaves and some thyme, but you might prefer different herbs and seasonings.

Then I toss in the Guinness.

I add the carrots.

And return the browned meat to the pot with a little tomato purée.

Then I stick the whole lot in the oven at about 150 C for about two hours.  I go away and drink some of the remaining Guinness and when I come back, here’s the dinner, pretty much ready to serve.

I serve it with floury baked potatoes dripping with real, creamy Irish butter.

Yummy.

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Cooking

Recession Food

Now that we’re all starving, you can’t afford to throw out your potato peelings any more.

Do this instead.

Make spicy crisps.

Soak chillies in oil to make the oil spicy, or alternatively fry them.

Put the oil in a jar.

001

When you peel your spuds, don’t throw out the peelings.  Collect them.

002

Heat the oil.

Throw in the peelings.

003

Cook until crispy.

005

Eat.

Enjoy.

Depression-buster!!