Thursday, July 23, 2009

The final Alack + smoked chicken

It is the day of Doom. Alack the day arrived and L plus CH plus DCs flew off to ne'er be seen again (ok in 7 weeks but i never let that kind of reunion ruin a good moaning blog,,,)

Yes, they left and i am somewhat bereft. Life goes on of course but it is much poorer without Louise, Brian and the DCs.  So the only way forward on this awful evening is with comfort food-how else would i get over the loss?-those of you with suggestions of walks, baths and evening classes-get a life! Food is the only emotional conduit that can fill the hole i am currently feeling.

So i am roasting some free range chicken drumsticks which i bought earlier on a special in Dunnes Stores on the way home from work. i have tucked in cut up field mushrooms, zucchini chunks, halved tomatoes and garlic cloves and am now cooking the bejasus out of the lot of them-as befits my mood.

When they are done i shall sprinkle over some parsley and mint that i have chopped and frozen ( and if you are new to this, read back and get with the programme-yes i am in that kind of fierce humour tonight).

And a bit of balsamic vinegar. Cos i don't care about my WW leader this week(i am in mourning so sue me...), i am also cooking some couscous with the juice that pours out of the chicken dish, topped up with a wee bit of water. When all is done, i will pile it up on a plate and go and watch CSI New York to remind me of my sis and my years there. And I don't care, i fall upon the thorns of life, I bleed (thanks Keats, you said it for me)


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

More alack the woe + coriander chicken..

Well, the momnt of doom has arrived and my kitchen is full of my sister's cast offs. Let's get one thing clear-I wanted them. I am innately incapable of throwing stuff out that might, in 5 years, come to useful fruition, and i simply made her give the crap to me. CH was mystified but he just does not understand the Favier squirreling intstinct so here it is and indeed i shall find a home for that medium sized sieve if it bloody kills me.

I will miss them so much and can't wait to head to NY in September. My yearly visits have taken on a regular pattern, most of it cellulite inducing. Manhattan Ave Thai for sesame noodles, Long Island Bar for company and getting gently pissed under the ministrations of Hungary's finest bartender this side of this Atlantic (or any Lantic for that matter) and Eggs Hollandaise in the Greenpoint Coffeehouse-ok, i admit my sister owns this joint but i don't care, the food there is simply wonderful. And the coffee-they will make perfect coffee even for an Irish milksop like myself-the patience and tolerance of these people knows no bounds!

After the excesses of the last few days (Mum turned 80 and we pretty much let rip food wise-commendations to Kevin for his roasted sweet potato and his couscous with whole roasted garlic cloves-I wub woo Kevin....), my thoughts now turn back to healthlier stuff-ie my WW meeting looms large..

So tonight i am simply grilling some chicken which i have marinated since i got home from work in chopped fresh coriander, crushed garlic, chili, ginger and soy sauce. All the flavourings i have in the freezer and i got out the chicken breast this morning. It is well worth buying the fresh coriander, chilis and ginger, chopping it up finely and putting it into Ziplock bags (the ginger into one inch chunks that you can grate from frozen) and then all you need is the meat and garlic I stuck it all in a bowl with some sesame oil and a tablespoon of soy sauce and let it sit. you can put it in the oven if you don't have a grill. Meanwhile, boil some Basmati or jasmine rice and sit the chicken on top. Steam some broccoli florets or baby spinach if you have it to hand. Yummy. Easy food to have in the mourning period!


Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Alack the woe! plus fishcakes

When we were wee bairns in school studying the good books (aka Shakespeare), there was always a fierce amount of oh woe is me, alack the day, oh woeful day etc going on. We shorthanded this amongst ourselves to alack the woe to describe any terrible situation. And lo, it has come to pass. My sister Louise, her current husband (CH) and the kids (aka Dreadful Creatures) are moving back to Brooklyn in 10 days. Only my therapist really knows how to handle traumas like this and i shall be wringing €60 of comfort out of her the minute they depart. For those of you who have not been following CH's take on being a Yankee in-law in Ireland for the last year, i heartily recommend his blog:

For those of us left rebuilding our shattered lives-and seeing as this is MY blog  I shall make it all about ME, I can only say they shouldn't have come in the first place. Better we would have remained in our little Irish lives with no furriners coming in with their furrin good cheer, furrin lovin' and furrin ways. I shall stand forlornly on the Musgrave terraces watching Munster storm to yet another victory all on my onyo, with no FH to share Laura's hipflask or to explain what the hell is actually going on (as opposed to my own slow backwards version). No popping over from the hospital to have coffee with Louise and assorted DC's. No Friday nites after work for a V & T with FH and herself accompanied by the comforts of the mini off license they always kept in their flat. And most of all, no laughing with Louise til we almost choked, the way we've been doing since we started sharing a bedroom at age nought.

It's rough lads, rough.

To comfort myself, i am having some comfort food tonight-fishcakes to be precise. These are dead easy to make, and if you have been brought up like me to act, culinarily speaking, as if the next famine was just around the corner, can be made with stuff you already have lurking uselessly in the fridge.

First of all, have some mashed spuds from another dinner left over-now, once you've dished up your dinner, WALK AWAY FROM THE SPUDS, JUST WALK AWAY.  Cover them up quick before you can go back with a teaspoon and, when cold, refrigerate. I eat a lot of smoked salmon, partly cos it's good for me, but mainly cos Weightwatchers doesn't have the word "Eveeel!"" asterisked beside it in the book like the way it does lamb chops, sadly.

Chop up the smoked salmon fairly small-you can be liberal with the amount-no you can, really. Check your spuds for flavour-don't eat them!- and add a good tablespoon of chopped capers, some fresh herbs (parsley and mint is good-i hate dill but it would be perfect for this)-see my post re freezing fresh herbs- and grate in finely the zest of half a lemon-you then juice the rest onto the cooked cakes.

Roll them around in Matzo meal or breadcrumbs or cornmeal or nothing if you have nothing to hand. Let sit for about half an hour. Add a beaten egg if, when mixing, it all seems very crumbly.

If you're not afraid of your WW leader (as i am), put 2 tabs of sunflower oil in a hot hot pan and heat well. Add the cakes and turn down the heat to moderate after a minute or so. Otherwise, spray some oil on. Turn over after about 5 minutes and the same on the other side. Meantime, make a yummy dressing with some natural yoghurt, garlic oil, and some fresh herbs like parsley etc. Prepare and dress a green salad. Serve and eat straightaway. Lots of cut lemon on the side.


Tuesday, June 30, 2009

What happened to Farah Fawcett?

Never mind Jacko, the one i'll miss is Farah Fawcett-like Mother Teresa, she was cursed by dying the day before a STAR. Back in the 70's when i was living in the miniature Stalinist world created by my father in the peatbogs of North Kerry, Charlies Angels was my conduit to kick ass sun and glamour. We weren't allowed to watch much of anything that came out of America for fear it would rot our nascent revolutionary brains but for some reason known only to the Great Revolutionary (AKA GR, aka my Dad) , Tom and Jerry, MASH and Charlies Angels were allowed. The FF hair flick was a sight to behold, and despite yearning in my 14 year old soul occasionally to look like Debbie Harry (i had long dark brown hair, freckles, thick glasses, goofy teeth and a general heftiness that went well with the cowstall i milked our cows in by hand every morning before school), i really did feel that, provided i was spirited away from my Appalachian origins, i should, could and would look like Farah. 

Well i left home eventually and ended up personally thwarting the revolution no end by going to work for Andrew Lloyd Weber for years. GR took this in good heart, mainly by having no clue or interest as to what i was up to for decades and indeed, providing i am still alive, compos mentis, interesting and visit him regularly in his country redoubt, doesn't much care now.  Strangely, this suits me very well. It's incredibly relaxing to visit someone whom, when you say I am well, takes it as read. No prying, no worrying, no expectations. Just walking the dog, cooking dinner and handing him a wrench when required. 

Speaking of dinner, like most men of my dad's generation, he doesn't do fancy (you can do it for him but don't expect any kudos). So tonite i'm simply grilling a lamb chop with some finally chopped fresh rosemary and garlic. I bought fresh garlic at the saturday morning market on the Coal Quay on Saturday. It's remarkably succulent and can be used liberally.  Or not, depending on one's incipient love life-it's OK,i don't have any-which leaves me free to scoff the stuff as only a middle aged spinister can-oh that sounded hard-must have a slug of Chardonnay to wash away the bitterness (to get just how bitter that word is you must mutter it in a Kerry accent between clenched teeth and pull your black shawl close around you..)


Thursday, June 25, 2009

Hurdy Gurdy-oh the pain of unrequited lust!

Hurdy Gurdy (HG), aka the captain of the cruise ship, is missing me dreadfully-sorry, i am missing him dreadfully. (note to self-swap the Zinfandel for lemonade..) Why HG? Anyone old enough to remember the Muppets will remember the Swedish chef who was always fruitlessly chasing de chekans with a meat cleaver. Well, HG's accent was a zillion times stronger. After his initial address every morning in wonderfully mangled but perfect English, he then repeated it in Norwegian, and to be honest, i couldn't understand him then either. Did i care? With those grey eyes and that tattoo?-like hell i did. I even smuggled a photo into my handbag from the photo gallery that he had had taken with some nondescript 5 year old and was intending to ruthlessly take the scissors to it when my sister Louise, who unfortunately knows me better than myself, made me put it back, much to my chagrin. Thank God my siblings have some morals, god knows mine are sadly lacking.  When it comes to fantasising about cruise ship captains, my heinousness knows no bounds...Fine for her, she came home to a gorgeous man and 2 equally gorgeous children-i came home to exploding nectarines, and some furry Gubbeen cheese and salami, which, having been left by the front door for a hot week (don't ask), had developed a somewhat confrontational attitude.

The good news is that, having put on a pound for every day i was away, i am now losing a pound. God but my body works in mysterious ways and perhaps at the ripe old age of 39(ahem) i should just accept it.

2 of my favourite people are leaving the hospital and there is a big bash for them tomorrow nite.The Rubber Band is comprised solely of Cork hospital consultants who, when they're not out there earning gazillions of Euros every month, play the most amazingly brilliant gigs. Criostoir, the lead with an ego the size of the Rockies naturally, comes straight from the operating theatre. Funnily this man looks completely eatable in a suit and is far less noticeable in civvies. Is that the same with all men in uniform? Oh i feel a Carrie moment coming on....

Anyway this is all to say that i am having a proper dinner tonight cos tomorrow's dinner is going to consist mainly of Carlsberg. I adapted this recipe from the the Allen babe who makes my teeth grind involuntarily every time i see her on the telly (what, me, jealous?)

Get a large piece of squash (I use butternut) and peel and chop it into 1" pieces. Chop a few cloves of garlic and an onion.  Fry all of these gently in a large saucepan. Grate a thumb sized piece of ginger and chop a small red or green chilli, seeds and all. Bash about 2 stalks of lemongrass (don't used the stuff in the jar-it's so bad it's not worth it and lemongrass stalks keep for ages in the fridge) and set aside. Open a can of coconut milk. I use the lite version-works the same believe me. Chop a bunch of coriander (cilantro). The most important ingredient is cardomon seeds.  I procured somewhere the seeds themselves a while back and can't for the life of me remember where-which is a pity cos i'm going to run out soon and will have to resort to using the pods. If you have to, throw in about 10-and count them!! (Don't use black cardomon seeds, different baby entirely). They will float to the top and you can ladle them out and remove the seeds easily and crush them in a pestle and mortar (or under a rolling pin) and then throw them back in.

Anyway, your onion and garlic mix is frying away merrily so now add in all the other stuff except the milk and half the coriander. Stir around for about 5 minutes.  this is all on a gentle to moderate heat. At this point you can also add whatever you're having yourself: a finely chopped carrot, courgettes (zucchini), peppers etc. Add the milk and some chicken stock.Ok i hear you say, what am I? a domestic goddess that i'd have this to hand? Chicken stock is easy-if you cook a roast of any kind (tho chicken is best cos it's the blandest) at the weekend, throw whatever bones and gravy is left into a saucepan and add a fair bit of water. Cook up, strain and then put into the fridge. Guaranteed you will find a use for it during the week if you're even halfway into cooking.

Ok so don't cook this soupy thing too long-anything with these kinds of ingredients doesn't need the French casserole treatment. Take out the lemon grass and zap with a purieestab (sorry, only know the German-a hand held blender thingy-that any good?). Don't zap too much. At this stage i throw in fresh spinach just for the sheer hell of it and let the left over heat just about cook it. It freezes brilliantly-which is why i'm eating it this evening-natch!


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Being Home Again Bit-plus some seabream!

I have just read over my last posting-oh how the mighty are fallen! I have a bad case of Ozymandias Syndrome as i write this. I went, i ate, i came home 10 lbs heavier. Oh and i fell in lust with Captain Frank Martinsen whose mangling of English intonation (if not grammar) woke me every morning at 7.30 (or siffena surty as he so winsomely put it). I can't write much now, mainly cos my swollen digits can't manage the tiny keys on the laptop. Did i  say we would rise serenely and breakfast on biodynamic morning dew? Well we did actually-Frank saw to that-the rising bit i mean. The breakfast bit contained more calories than Friar Tuck could shake a stick at. I have managed to put on 10 lbs in 9 days. Curse my genetic inheritance. And equal curse to the Royal Carribbean suits who conceived of the 24 hour buffet for the oink oinks like me. Curse also to our wonderful dining room waiter Sherwin, who smilingly smoothed the carpet to obesity hell every evening at 7 pm. 

I shall tell more anon but for now it's back to IRON rations. This evening it involves a lovely whole seabream i had in the freezer for crises such as these and i am roasting it on a bed of cherry tomatoes with garlic and a chopped red onion. i shall mix it with string beans (which i have just bloody well overcooked through writing this thing-damn!) and then season it with some Maldon seasalt and black pepper and a sprinkle of balsamic vinegar.   I shall then retire to the living room to scoff it cos i have been incredibly hungry since i got back-tho for the life of me i can't think why...


Saturday, June 6, 2009

Posh with a capital P

What is it about cruises that have traditionally always brought out the anti-bourgeois, anti fuddy-duddy, anti middle-aged American bias in me? Could it be (surprise) that i've never actually been on one? Not that I tend to let lack of experience get in the way of a good prejudice, as anyone who knows me could tell you (but won't-see first post re babysitting and my conditional supply thereof...).  But i am about to change all this and next Sunday shall see me trampling brutally over my siblings and my mother (my own mother!-is there no end to my depravity?) in my efforts to be first up the gangway on the Voyager of the Seas in Barcelona. Mum will be 80 and we are taking her on a cruise. As virgin cruisers of my genetic lineage, we are programmed to milk the 7 days on the Mediterranean for all its worth (Mum isn't-freebie greed in our family passes down generally through the male line).  Free 24 hour buffet? Really? Do they understand that on Day 7, my buffet plate will have to be surgically chiselled from my puffy white hand? Are they prepared for this? (Memo to self, put litre bottle of Gaviscon in suitcase now). 

There are of course many many other treats on the ship-gym, golf course, pools, rock climbing range, archery etc. but these all pale in comparison with the shrine to the Gods that is the 24 hour buffet. We are currently pledging ourselves to rise serenely every morning at no later than 8 am, break our fast on some fruit and then walk the 23 miles round the ship as a healthy start to the day, before ascending with equanimity to the buffet where we shall stroll calmly past the almond croissants and sausages to the museli and yoghurts. We have admonished ourselves in advance and have told each other that lunch is a mere 3 hours away: it's breakfast time, there's no need to be afraid..

On day 2 we are going on a 1,000 metre hike up Vesuvius, then down into Pompeii. I booked this for myself and my 2 sisters in a spirit of gung ho-ness, which will probably last for about the first 300 metres, then i shall have to face their hate filled eyes boring into my aching back for the next 700. There can, of course, be no museli that morning-we shall have to stock up or we could simply fade out of existence in the next 7 hours and shall be mere wraith like presences whom the guide cannot locate before returning to the ship.  He/She would lose their job-they wouldn't be able to pay the mortgage, their children would be left begging in the streets of Manila or Krakow, they'd turn to drugs and prostitution to dull the pain and end up in some flophouse, a needle in one hand and a condom in the other. I simply cannot let this happen. Even if i end up waddling off of that ship and have to book an extra plane seat home for my bum, it will have been worth it-I will have MADE A DIFFERENCE. And surely, isn't that all any of us can ask for in this life?

As i write this, i have some belly pork in the oven. (God i hope my WeightWatchers leader never stumbles across this blog). I have spiked it with about 2 cloves of garlic and stuffed lots of fresh herbs into the cuts. Mr. Bells in the market today finally got in sumac. I've always wanted to try this Lebannese spice mix-it has the wonderful tartness of pomegranite pulp and to be honest, i wasn't quite sure what to do with it today-so i rubbed some on anyway and i'll find out. When the pork is nearly fully cooked, i will sit it on a bed of chopped fennel bulb, peppers, courgettes, shallots,and  more garlic! I might throw in a couple of spuds so i'm not prowling the kitchen in a few hours looking for a carb fix. At the weekend i always cook big meals if i can (tomorrow is roast chicken like pretty much every Sunday) and then plate them up for the beginning of next week. At the risk of sounding smug (oh go ahead girl) it's great to come home on a Monday or Tuesday etc. to good food already on a dinner plate that you just bung in the microwave. I plate it up so it doesn't look like left overs by the way.  Saturday is market day for me. The English Market has convinced me that Cork is a great place to live as a food obsessed single woman with time on her hands and minimal love life. I have my favourite stalls and mix organic with cheapo as i see fit. 

Oh, i can smell the pork-time to do the rest.

So, altogether now: Port Out, Starboard Home, Posh with a capital P....