Thursday, May 26, 2011

Whoah. That's a pretty big image. Still you get the point: the Chocolate Cola Cake was delish. Moist, tasty, good enough to eat for brekkie, to my eternal shame. Thanks to my heaving pantry, last night wasn't the orgy of excess it could have been. My friend brought 1 bottle of wine; I had one on ice here. I bought chicken legs instead of fillets. The veggies were from Tesco (pushed the boat out and splashed out on organic carrots, and went for the Tesco Finest new potatoes - not very thrift-tastic)... But I didn't make too much of an effort to save money - and my outlay for the evening was a grand total of €13. And I still have 2 chicken legs, half a bag of spuds, half a cake, half a head of broccoli and a few leftover veggies knocking around. Sometimes, I surprise myself...
Here's a blast of 60s nostalgia. The lovely Sergei mentioned that this song was No.1 the week he was born. Big Mistake. I had to google it and now I'm in love with the lead singer. It's the Alan Price Set singing Randy Newman's Simon Smith and his Amazing Dancing Bear. If this doesn't leave you with a smile on your lips, you're probably dead.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

It's one of my rare nights to entertain tonight! You have no idea how stressful this makes me. I'm pretty much used to my own lowly standards of hygiene and cuisine. Inviting people into my home to judge me is not a pleasant prospect. Luckily, the friend who's calling over is a good one. Unfortunately, she's also an amazing cook. Who's had the opportunity to sample most of the de Winter standards. So... on the menu tonight is a chicken dish I cooked for lovely Sergei a few weeks ago. It's from the much-lamented Slow Cooked in Blighty and is very tasty indeed. Even better, it's something I can bung in the slow cooker well before my guest arrives, allowing me to focus on the side dishes of roasted vegetables and spicy broccoli. For afters, I'm making Chocolate Cola Cake to a recipe gleaned from the marvellous Cake & Pie forum. I know: baking isn't thrifty but I have a few eggs which need using up (a work colleague gifted half a dozen from her own brood in Donegal!) and most of the ingredients are in the store cupboard. Right here we go...

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Rice to see you

I'm heading to work soon, so this will be just a brief post. I'm actually in the middle of preparing my teatime meal: a portion of the beef curry I cooked last week and rice. Obviously the curry is ready to chuck in the microwave, so it was just a matter of cooking up some rice while doing a few chores (ahem) prior to work. What made the task moderately more interesting a prospect was the opportunity it gave me to try out the Thai rice I picked up in Lidl on Thursday.
I've never understood the obsession with non-stick rice. Growing up in a house where non-stick rice meant raw rice, I was always pretty happy just to get edible grains on to my plate. And, unlike many people my age, I must have saved *years* of my life by not avidly collecting cooking methods from friends, work colleagues and acquaintances. To be honest, my sister brought home from a year spent teaching in Spain a pretty fool-proof method of cooking rice which has served me well for ten years.
Still, I quite like the faint whiff of jasmine which accompanies Thai takeaway orders. So when I spotted actual Thai rice in Lidl, I said I'd give it a go. What a disappointment. I've followed the cooking instructions, and a big wodge of rice is currently sitting in a sieve, looking up at me lumpenly when I shove grains over and back to make it look more appealing. Bah.
Look, I'll divvy it up into portions, take one to work, and stick the rest into the freezer - and I'll do it with a smile on my face, dammit. But next time, I'm going back to the idiot-proof method my sister taught me all those years ago...

Ruby's Ridiculously Easy Rice (named after my sister's exotic flatmate - and tutor in the ways of cooking rice)
If you have the time, rinse the rice you are about to cook. Don't bother with a colander (the finer raw grains will simply slip through and flow down the plughole - I learnt this the hard way) - either grab a sieve, throw the raw rice in and allow the cold tap to run through until the water running out the other side is clear, or place in a small pot, *almost fill with cold water from the tap, stir the grains, gently allow the cloudy water to flow out by tipping the pot, repeat from [*] until the water flowing out of the pot runs clear-ish, and drain the rice as much as you can (again, a sieve is handy here, but do the best you can) Put rice to one side. Chop one onion finely. Chop one clove of garlic finely. Now take the saucepan in which you will cook the rice - it has to have a lid (I use a non-stick pot that measures about 10 inches). Place a good glug of olive oil in the base and, on a medium heat, cook the onion and garlic until they soften. Switch on the kettle and boil about 1.5 litres of water. Now take your rinsed rice and stir into the saucepan so that the grains are slick with oil and incorporated into the onions and garlic mixture. Quickly flatten the mixture down to make it level. Slowly pour the recently boiled water into the pan - but not too much. The water should *just cover* the top of the rice. Throw in salt and pepper to taste, and cover the pan. Do Not Stir. After a few minutes, you may hear the telltale sizzle of a pot about to burn. By all means, pour in another 100ml of hot water but do not let the water reach the top of the rice. And Do Not Stir.
I'm afraid I can't give you a precise cooking time: at this stage, I just get the ball rolling about 40 minutes before I need the rice, and start sampling the stuff about 15 minutes after the water first goes in. Once I think it's done, I just take it off the heat, keep it covered, and know that when I need it, I will have deliciously fragrant steamed rice ready to serve from the pot. (Yup, the water just boils offf so there's no juggling colanders and pots of hot water over the kitchen sink as my imaginary dinner guests twiddle their thumbs.) Honestly, you'll never go back to the old way...
Right, I'm off to work. With a lovely curry, nice-ish rice and Tina Fey's A Mother's Prayer for Her Child (thank you, Mighty Girl!)Link

Friday, May 20, 2011

Bean there...

Obviously, I shouldn't be gulping down a Mexican Bean Tostada as I type this. Certainly not one I picked up for €3.99 in the local overpriced supermarket. But I have to be at a pub table quiz in, ooh, 75 minutes, my too-short hair needs attention, and I'm in the grip of a bean addiction right now. My new Tuesday lunch is a homemade bean burrito, with the kidney bean-base rustled up on Monday nights. Well, I say 'rustle'. Really, I just chop an onion, soften in some olive oil, throw in some chilli flakes, rinse the contents of a tin of kidney beans, and chuck them in. Add a little water, allow them to warm through and then mash vigorously. Turn the heat off, and let them sit overnight, ready to roll in Centra tortillas the following morning. Grab some fruit on the way to work, and you have serious noms that are ridiculously filling. (Pic courtesy of Groovy Vegetarian)

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Poor old Garret FitzGerald. I woke up to the news that the former taoiseach had died during the night. After the euphoria of Queen Elizabeth's visit and cúpla focal, the death of Ireland's favourite intellectual has been met with considerable dismay. So now I'm listening to the Pat Kenny Show, and pundits John Bowman and Diarmaid Ferriter talking about the legacy of an extraordinarily gracious, talented man. For people of my age, he will always be 'Garret the Good', the counterfoil to the dastardly Charles Haughey. But for a good 24 years after he left power, Mr FitzGerald served his nation as a commentator, the fatherly voice of reason who never chided us for our self-indulgent ways. The only thing missing from this radio discussion? Mr FitzGerald's own contribution. (image from

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

I'm still feeling nice n warm n fuzzy after watching so much of the coverage of Queen Elizabeth's trip to Ireland. I don't care who knows it, I think the Queen is all right. I think that for somebody who was thrust into a life nobody would choose, she's come out of it the other side with good grace. And a terrific line in hats. I'm not all that keen on the concept of royalty: it seems fundamentally ridiculous that somebody - anybody - should retain a job just because who their parents are. But, from what I can see, she doesn't make a habit of weighing into her government's business and seems quite content to promote her country, and the welfare of her people. Now, the physical area over which she has dominion, and the fact that her police and army have jurisdiction over a corner of this island, I find a little more troubling - but not enough to take a day off work, go into town and protest over it.
But I'd probably have a little more respect for the protesters if they, yanow, had a little integrity. Or consistency. Or wore something other than a football club replica strip which is lining the pockets of commercial interests on the same side of the Irish Sea as their professed enemy. Yanow, like...

Monday, May 16, 2011

The beef curry was... okay actually. Quite bland but very more-ish. I quite like the idea of throwing everything into a pot and walking away, freeing up your time to make your flat presentable, so the slow cooker will be getting an outing again before too long.
Yesterday turned into the very worst of non-days. Just about managed to read the papers, got no housework done, none of the small, not very onerous chores. Then at 11pm, I got an attack of the shouldas and stayed up until 3am trying to make the day worthwhile, which it was, if you count trolling on
Still. If my weekend was a little uninspiring, at least it wasn't disastrously seedy, like Dominique Strauss-Kahn's. The disgusting toe-rag. Obviously, I can't assume he's guilty of a sexual assault or attempted rape but it seems pretty clear that he has a knack for leaving hotel rooms in haste and hotfooting it to the First Class Lounge at JFK without bothering to bring his mobile phone with him.
Now it appears that he has enjoyed a reputation within France as a roué with an appreciative eye for women.
Christ. From Berlusconi to DSK, why do we think it's acceptable for decrepit older men to - haw, haw, haw - think they have a chance with beautiful younger women. Why don't we just label these superannuated would-be seducers for the DOM that they are.
And, M Strauss-Kahn: next time, remember that it's Ireland you're meant to be trying to screw...

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Note to self: if you are going to be organised enough to prepare a curry to decant into the slow cooker before leaving for work, at least make sure you know how the timer functions... It may save you returning home and finding a pot of uncooked Malaysian beef curry sitting lumpenly and coldly beside the takeaway menus...
In fairness, I wasn't too hard-up. I'd taken the precaution of swinging by the local Bombay Pantry and picking up 2 starters along with a portion of rice (Very naughty, I know, but it came to a not exorbitant €5.50 - on Eurovision night, people!) before popping into Superquinn to buy some fruit.
So although the Malaysian curry had to wait (until today: I can smell it now!), I had a *feast* of a pear starter, bhaji and samosa main course, and yummy Lily O'Brien chocolate (a present from Sergei) for dessert.
I'll get back to you on whether the beef curry was a success. Cos I've to go and weep for Jedward and the €2m they've managed to earn by not winning X Factor or the Eurovision...