The Quickest Easiest Tastiest Prawn Dish

I call my blog Taste Explosions because in cooking I am always looking to find just that.  The taste explosion is when you are eating something so good, so full of flavour that the taste literally explodes in your mouth, you want to savour it and wish this amazing taste would never end.  I found this taste explosion recently in a very old Jamie Oliver book, ‘Happy Days with the Naked Chef’.  Jamie is without doubt, a food hero of mine and this recipe, I think will shows why.  It is brilliant in its simplicity; the flavours work so well together every mouthful is a delight.  I love Jamie’s food because he is non-pretentious, encourages you to experiment and I think that he also tries to bring every dish to the level of taste explosion.  So here it is, Prawns with chilli, parsley, ginger and garlic on toast.  Try it and I challenge you not to love it, I served this up last night to a chorus of ooooohhhs, ahhhhhs and mmmmmms, always a good response, mopping the sauce with crusty bread is a joy!

Prawns with Chilli, Parsely, Ginger and Garlic on Toast.

Serves 4
A young Jamie

Extra virgin olive oil
1 thumb sized piece of fresh ginger peeled and finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely sliced
2-3 fresh chillies, deseeded and finely sliced
16 large whole raw tiger prawns
1-2 lemons to taste
1 handful of flat leaf parsley roughly chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 long slices of ciabatta bread, toasted
Tasty little feckers

Into a large hot frying pan put about 4 tablespoons of olive oil, your ginger, garlic, chilli and prawns.  Fry for about 3 minutes , then turn the heat down and squeeze in the juice of 1 lemon,  Add the parsley and a couple of lugs of olive oil.  Toss over and remove from the heat.  You should have a nice juicy sauce – have a taste.  It may need a little more lemon juice.  Season to taste.  Serve over your ciabatta, to mop up the juices.

Family Thai's

Fish Cakes (Tod Man Pla)

Oh I have been looking forward to posting about this; my day the Cook’s Academy on South William St for a Thai workshop. It was a Christmas present from my brother who I must thank again, best present ever! (that is in no way a hint to family members for future Christmas or birthday presents…).  The course started at 10am on Saturday morning and we were welcomed with coffees and cookies.  The first thing I noticed was the incredible amount of men in comparison to women, but it soon became clear when we were addressed and split into our two groups; the Thai workshop and a Men only class, ah ha the penny drops (great idea by the way, I already have the boyfriend in mind for that class!).

Our class were sent down to one half of the massive kitchen where there were four stations each accommodating 6 students.  We were provided with an apron and introduced to our instructor Hilary who described herself as being passionate about Thai food because it’s delicious, easy and also healthy.  There were also 2 more chefs there to help us called Arnie and Kari.  We got right down to business by watching a demonstration of how to make homemade Thai Green curry paste which was followed by returning to our groups and attempting a version ourselves.  Each group got a different paste to make, then a curry to make out of the paste and also a Thai starter.  This was a good way of mixing everything up as we were encouraged to visit the other groups and see what they were cooking also.  Our group got a Thai red curry paste with which we made a vegetable curry and our starter was chicken satay skewers.  We made the paste as a group and then did everything else in pairs. I learned from talking with my group that the majority of us at the course had received the workshop as a Christmas present, there were also a number of couples there and groups of friends, which is nice to do together but I quite liked going there alone and meeting new people.

 Ingredients for the curry paste

Thai Red Vegetable Curry

Hilary explained the basics of Thai cooking to us and assured us that once you have that down it is quite easy to master any dish.  To perfect Thai you need to achieve a perfect balance of flavours namely; salty, sweet, spice and sour; there is also a 5th flavour the elusive ‘umami’.  The umami taste is a little difficult to describe, Hilary defined it as a distinctive savoury/salty flavour that is found in the likes of fish sauce, shrimp paste and Worcestershire sauce.  Wikipedia describes it as “Umami has a mild but lasting aftertaste difficult to describe. It induces salivation and a furriness sensation on the tongue, stimulating the throat, the roof and the back of the mouth”, which basically sums it up but then again doesn’t!  So that’s what we were trying to master with our Thai cooking, the perfect balance, and the umami, simples! Learning to make the paste was fantastic and I will never return to jars, the difference is vast and that is down to the fact that you fry your spices (coriander and cumin seeds) and grind them yourself and also because we learned to use more exotic ingredients like shrimp paste and tamarind which can be bought easily in any Asian market.  You can also make the paste in large quantities and it will keep in the fridge but do not freeze it and also don’t add fresh herbs like coriander because this will cause the paste to go brown.  Add the herbs at the last stage of cooking when you are adjusting your flavours.
Thai Chicken Salad

Our morning session ended with a huge buffet lunch where we got to sample everyone’s dishes and was I ready for it; all the cooking had me salivating and I’m not ashamed to say that I went for 3 rounds (no judgement! I had to sample everything, it would have been rude not to).  All the food was fab, now I might sound a bit biased here but I definitely think that our group’s satay skewers and Thai red vegetable curry were the best! Close second were the fishcakes and the chicken salad which I will be attempting soon. In the afternoon we had a quick demonstration of how to make a fast and delectable Pad Thai which we then got to attempt, at this stage I was rightly stuffed so I packed that into my Tupperware for later.  Finally we were shown a simple exotic fruit salad and that was it! The time flew and I can’t stress enough how much I enjoyed the day; the team were amazing, very helpful and answered any question we had. They were enthusiastic and also easy to follow so big kudos to the cooks academy (I am already planning to return for the Sushi workshop, *cough, hint!!).

Chicken Satay Skewers
One final note, after my success at the workshop, I somersaulted in spectacular style off the sobriety wagon, 21 days, ENOUGH!! I felt I deserved it and yes I enjoyed my first glass of wine, and my second..and my gin and tonic…you get the drift! Yes I’m weak but I’m also Irish, I can’t help it (that’s my excuse..).  Oh and Sunday I cooked a family dinner of  chicken satay skewers and Thai red vegetable curry, that’s where I was going with the ‘Family Thais’ title, get it…THAI’s…*tumbleweed.

#TweetSeats @Skinflint

I was lucky enough to be chosen to avail of tweet seats at the new restaurant, Skinflint in Crane lane, Dublin.  For those of you not au fait with the notion of tweet seats, it is a digital market device whereby the twitter user must follow @SkinflintDUBLIN and then tweet the time and date they would like to dine.  Skinflint reply if you are successful with a private message and confirm your tweet seats.  This model was created by Skinflints successful sister restaurant CracKbird (which I have previously reviewed) and both restaurants are owned by the owner of Jo’Burger, the entrepreneur Joe Macken.  The location of Skinflint was also the first location for Crackbird when it was a pop-up restaurant.

My tweet seats were confirmed for 2.30 on a Friday, I was meeting up with a friend from college and said I’d give it a shot, lo and behold it worked.  I was as excited as a kid at Christmas; I never win anything!!  After being seated we were informed by our waitress of how tweetseats worked, we were entitled to a free pizza each and I had to tweet a picture of the meal. Perfect! Instant marketing for Skinflint and a free lunch for me. (Perhaps Skinflint didn’t know that I only have a measly 32 followers on twitter so word wasn’t going to spread that far but I kept schtum!)  The pizzas have ladies names like the ‘Tess’ and the ‘Sadie’ which I have learned are named after the staff member’s mothers (awh!).  I chose the Grainne which was sweet bacon, celeriac, tomato, mozzarella and pecorino, have been on a bit of a celeriac buzz since the Christmas soup so decided I’d like to know how it tasted on pizza.  Laura ordered the Vonie which had harissa, egg, Serrano ham and mozzarella.  We also ordered some delicious inhouse-made hummus and bread to start along with a glass of wine and a pink grapefruit lemonade for me (still on the wagon!!!! 20 Days, Longest time off booze in my adult life!).  The pizzas are grilled so I presume the bases are cooked then the toppings are added then it’s grilled again.  They come out on a massive bread board and are oblong shaped rather than round.  This is when Laura remarked that maybe the restaurant had a Moroccan/Turkish feel as that is how the North African cultures serve pizzas.  Also the coffees are served on little kitsch trays that reminded us both of an Arabic harem add this clue to the fact that Laura’s pizza came with Harissa a typical North African chili sauce; just call us Holmes and Watson!

So to the food; the pizza was terrific and also huge, and I have a big appetite! You could easily get away with sharing one and then maybe get a side dish too.  Skinflint offers a ‘one pot wonder’ every day plus a choice of 3 ‘torpedo’ rolls, a meatballs option and a choice of Lasagna on a Sunday.  I ordered rocket on mine and I have to say it did come out looking like an overgrown garden.  There was far too much for my liking so I decanted half of mine over to Laura which suited us.  The celeriac worked well on the pizza, it was cooked till tender and complimented the sweet bacon to give a lovely mellow-tasting pizza – I’m not a fan of strong flavours on my pizza.  Laura’s harissa gave it an extra kick but she enjoyed it, the egg was mixed with the cheese and not just plonked on top as you can see on some pizzas.  Despite valiant efforts neither of us could finish our pizza and both left 2 slices which our waitress kindly wrapped up.  I also got a chicken breast torpedo roll to take away for a friend.  Including the roll, 2 drinks, the hummus and an espresso the bill came to €19 Euro which is great value.  Our pizzas were free but are normally priced from €8-€13; Skinflint lives up to its name, good food on the cheap, especially if you tweet!

Rabbit Pie

Apologies for the delay in posting about the long anticipated rabbit pie!  Thursday evening started out typically, the brother arrived home with his pre-made pie filling and pastry.  He tried to roll out the pastry only to experience an epic fail; the pastry was so crumbly it wouldn’t even roll. We reckoned he hadn't put enough water in his pastry so he began again with a simple shortcrust recipe.  If you haven’t seen the Fabulous Baker Brothers on Channel 4, I would highly recommend that you do.  It is hearty, filling, boys food but with a gourmet edge.  One of the brothers is a butcher, the other a baker and every week part of the show is a ‘pie-off’ where they compete to make the tastiest pie.  My brothers are huge fans of the show, being foodies themselves so it was a joint effort with the pies.   I should say something about how the rabbits were actually sourced, not from an epicurean butcher in Ballsbridge, but from the fields of Kildare.  The brothers and their farmer friend went out lamping on Tuesday night and returned with 5 plump rabbits.  Murdering poor bunnies you say!!  A quick word about shooting rabbits; rabbits are classified as pests as they destroy crops and carry disease to livestock.I am in agreement with the practice of hunting rabbits.  Eating rabbit is no different from eating chicken or beef, just the methods used to procure them are more rustic.  As the Baker Brothers say if you are more of a “bunny hugger” you can use chicken in your pie. 

 With the filling pre-made, we rolled out the 2nd attempt at pastry and filled the little beauties.  The filling is placed in the middle and you gather the pastry up and tie with string and stab with a final decorative sprig of rosemary.  Egg washed and baked for thirty the results were pretty impressive as were the appearance, if you compare ours to the ones on the website.  Unfortunately we were not able to savour the final result as we got one of those phone calls that you never want to receive.  Our father had been rushed to hospital with a suspected stroke.  Suffice to say we dashed to the hospital and the pies were left to go cold on the dinner table, I did have a bite but honestly cannot remember what it tasted like.  Thankfully this story ends well; it was in fact a transient ischemic attack (TIA) with no lasting damage.  We are incredibly lucky and thankful, Dad gets out on Wednesday and his and Mam’s pies remain in a Tupperware box in the freezer ready to be cooked on his return.

Recipe and picture for Rabbit Pie (from the Channel 4 Website)

500g rabbit, diced
2 tbsp oil
2 onions, diced
100g bacon lardons
2 cloves garlic, chopped
Good pinch of fresh thyme
Knob of butter
100g wild mushrooms, sliced
1 carrot, finely diced
1 potato, finely diced
1 tbsp plain flour
400ml chicken stock
Splash of sherry vinegar
Small handful tarragon, finely chopped
Sprigs of rosemary (optional)
1 egg, beaten
For the shortcrust pastry
600g strong white flour
150g cold beef dripping, broken into pieces
150g cold butter, diced
2 tbsp ice cold water

In a food processor, blitz the flour and fat together to make the pastry. Add the iced water and knead until it just comes together. Wrap tightly in clingfilm and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

Fry the rabbit until sealed in a hot frying pan. Set to one side.

In another pan heat the oil and fry the onions and lardons until brown. Add the garlic, fresh thyme, and a knob of butter, then season with a good pinch of salt and pepper.

Add the wild mushrooms, carrot and potato. Then add the plain flour and stir for a minute or so. Put the rabbit back in then slowly add the chicken stock and sherry vinegar. Simmer for 1 hour until the rabbit is tender and the sauce is thick. Cool the mixture down then chill until cold.

Preheat the oven to 200°C/gas mark 6. Roll the pastry out into discs and spoon the rabbit mixture into the centre of each. Fold up the sides of the pastry discs and pinch the tops together to seal. Tie rosemary round the tops of each and secure with string. Brush with egg and bake for 35 mins till golden.

Two Man Job

Seafood Risotto

Quick post tonight, the brother let me down!  He was supposed to be getting rabbit from a friend of his but it never materialised.  He has ordered 2 rabbits from his butchers and has assured me that he will be down on Thursday to make the pies.  I also made Dr Eva’s ‘Hot Mushroom Soup’ which is basically a low calorie mushroom soup with a flavouring of tom yum paste – it was truly middling and doesn’t deserve a picture!  Dinner tonight in absence of the pies was seafood risotto made from a pack of mixed seafood I had in the freezer, store cupboard ingredients and what was in the fridge.  The result was pretty pleasing, very tasty if not a little scant on portion size.  I have a feeling I might be hungry before the day is over, but overall a success.

Seafood Risotto
Serves 4
700g mixed seafood
200g Arborio rice
1litre fish stock
100g low fat crème fraiche
2 cloves garlic
2 shallots
Half a head of fennel
1 Tbsp olive oil
Half a glass of white wine
Juice of half a lemon
Chopped fresh parsely

  • Heat the oil in a non-stick pan; add the minced garlic, chopped shallot and fennel. Allow to cook for a few minutes until soft
  • Add the rice to the pan and stir to make sure all the grains are coated with the oil, allow to cook for another 2 minutes then add the wine and cook for another minute or so.
  • Have the stock hot in a pan beside your pot and begin to add the stock to the rice with a ladle.  After adding every ladle, stir the mixture over a medium heat until the liquid is absorbed.  Continue this method until all the stock has been absorbed.
  • Add the crème fraiche and the seafood to the pan along with the juice of a lemon, some chopped parsley and salt and pepper, cook until the seafood is warmed through.



 Oh I’m so angry, dam you blogger and dam myself for not saving my work! Just had a great post finished about January and my new cook book and as I was spell checking it DISSAPEARED!!! RAGE!! Will try and remember it but I’ve almost lost the will to blog, anyway,

So it’s January, the month of purity, parsimony and prudence.  I have unashamedly joined most of the country in jumping on the healthy living bandwagon directly after the debauchery of December.  January is traditionally a time to purge the body of the sins of the Festive Season and to convince yourself that you are once again a decent, contributing member of society rather that a greedy wine fiend. WINE ah wine, my particular demon; far too much over Christmas along with a new found love of mince pies (where have they been all my life) and I’m ready for a bit of clean living.  I have been clean and sober for 9 days now, no small feat for the girl who really enjoys a glass of vino with her latest creation (or just watching Desperate Housewives). I have not touched a drop since New Years eve and plan to stay clean and sober until the 28th of january when my family host its annual 'Flanagan Party' which is one of the highlights of our year, a chance when all my relatives on my mothers side get together for a good aul hooley.

Feeling clean, sober and productive, I have invested in a new cookbook (any excuse) and have relished (ahem) the challenge of attempting some new recipes that are delicious and also won’t send you into a spin of self-loathing.  The book is called ‘The Last Diet; Cook Yourself Thin with Dr Eva’, Dr Eva being the dietician from the RTE programme ‘Operation Transformation’ which is also rolled out every January to encourage us newly resolute life changers.  Dr Eva’s approach is simple; eat less and exercise more, if your calorie input is less that your energy output you will lose weight, eureka! I have been privy to this knowledge for quite some time and unfortunately that does not stop me going for the 3rd cracker with camembert and mango chutney! But now it is January, January and I feel the need to repent so repent I have, well in a way. Dr Eva’s recipes are actually very tasty even if she does in my opinion have a disturbing fetish towards turnip.  Don’t get me wrong I like turnip just as much as the next person but for breakfast? Cooked and mixed with egg, spread and baked like it’s trying to be a hash brown? Too much!
  Dr Eva’s way of adding flavour to bland diet food is to add spice which is low calorie and packs a punch, like her Green curry turnip (I know) soup with zesty lemon prawns.  This approach is fine by me as I like my meals with the added zing! So far the book is proving value for money; I have made the soup, low calorie coleslaw, creamy salmon quiche and a Finnish style pasty called a Korvapuusti.  Dinner tonight is Indian chicken with herbs and couscous and I have a pot of the curry soup bubbling on the hob as I type.  This weight loss initiative will not be however measured in pounds or inches, I find I get disheartened if the scales do not show the change I was hoping for and I inevitably give up.  No this diet, (no not diet, my healthy lifestyle) will be measured by my jeans and how snug they are, at the moment let’s just say they are reasonably secure with no danger of falling down, the only hazard perhaps is the risk of loss of blood flow to my legs!!

That being said, I do not want this blog to become a diet blog, it is a food blog and that is how it will stay.  Yes I am trying to be a bit healthier to cleanse myself from the excess of December but life wouldn’t be worth living without the ability to enjoying oneself and for me that is to cook and to eat, all in moderation of course…(!)  In other news, the brother is coming down tomorrow to make rabbit pies that he saw on the new Channel 4 food programme, ‘The Fabulous Baker Boys’, excited about that and will update the blog, another New Year initiative, update the blog more oh and yes find a great job as a food writer...ah January!

Smoked Salmon Quiche with wholegrain crust.

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