Friday, 16 March 2012

Men.... It's Mothers Day!

Easy Sunday Roasts
Ok,  so Mothers Day is on this Sunday 19/3/2012 and women all over will deserve a relaxing day without having to even consider cooking. Now I'm sure there are plenty men out there that do their fair share of cooking so I'm not going to generalise, but it is mothers day so mum's all around deserve to be treated.
I have made these roast dinners as easy as possible but they turn out with a great result. Timings shouldn't really be an issue here and while your lady is watching some TV in front of the fire you can be following this easy guide, but don't forget to make noise and pretend you are doing a lot of work!!
Cooking doesn't have to be a chore for us men, stick on some music, take a deep breath and be in control... after all apparently men are the dominant species (my god its hard to keep both sexes sweet doing this).
And lastly for those men who thinks 'cooking is for women and any man who cooks needs to catch himself on', I would say this... Grow a pair, it takes more of a man to carry out household duties and split the everyday running of a house than it does to go out to work then come home and laze around expecting to be hand fed! 

The one tip I would give anyone cooking is to be prepared. Read a recipe and understand it before diving in. So if a recipe says to put carrots cut into batons into a wok... don't be standing with a full carrot in your hand at that point. Make sure all your prep work is done first, like veg peeled and cut where asked, stock measured out, fish skinned etc etc etc... what ever the recipe calls for, if you can do it in advance then do so, it will save time and panic and possibly a finger in the long run!

So here are 2 simple ideas for roast dinners, for both the side dishes are the same because they are idiot-proof.

The Perfect Roast Chicken

Serves 4:
1x 1.6kg (affordable) chicken
1 medium onion
1 carrot
2 sticks of celery
1 bulb of garlic
1 lemon
Olive oil
Sea salt & black pepper


Ø  Remove the bird from the fridge a half an hour before you start. Preheat oven up at max. Wash and chop the veg roughly, no need to peel them. Break the garlic bulb into cloves and give them all a bit of a smack with the flat of the knife.

Ø  Throw all the veg into a suitable sized roasting tray minus 3 cloves of garlic. Cut the string that ties the chicken so it ‘relaxes’; push a sharp knife down the inside of the leg beside the breast, as this is the last place to cook fully. Prick the lemon all over with a knife and stuff it into the cavity along with the 3 cloves of garlic. Drizzle with olive oil and rub with salt and pepper. Wash your hands well.

Ø  Pop the bird on top of the vegetables and place in the hot oven. Keep it up max for 15 minutes then turn it down to 190ºc for 1 hour 15 minutes, baste it a few times during that time, spooning the juices over the top. Add a little water to the veg if it’s looking dry but there should be enough juices coming from the bird.

Ø  After the cooking time is up skewer the meatiest part of the leg with a fork insuring the juices run clear. If not then put it back into the oven for 10 minutes.

Ø  Set the cooked chicken on a clean chopping board and cover with foil and a clean tea towel. Allow to rest for at least 15 minutes. Resting just means that the meat relaxes after being in a hot oven and becomes more juicy. 
Ø  Carving: Pull off the wings (these can be used as flavouring in your gravy) cut down between the leg and the breast, cut through the joint and pull the leg off. This can be cut again between the thigh and the drumstick to give you 4 leg pieces. Angle your knife along the breastbone (this is easier done with wishbone removed) and carve the whole side off, you can them proceed to slice this. Repeat on other side them get stuck in pulling the remainder of meat off with your fingers, especially on underside. Serve all on a platter in the centre of the table.

       To make a quick gravy, pour most of the liquid from the roasting tray into a separate bowl (which will be discarded) then pour a glass of wine into the oven dish. with a wooden spoon scrape all around the dish and pop back into hot oven for 10 mins. remove from oven and sieve into a pot on a hot hob. add in a cup and a half of stock and let this bubble down by a third, season well, add a splash of soy sauce and its good to go.

                                                                  Roast beef
 For the best accompaniment to Roast beef why not try the simplest Yorkshire puddings

Serves 4-6:
1.5kg roasting joint (of your choice)
1 small onion
1 carrot
2 sticks of celery
Small bunch of rosemary and thyme
1 bulb of garlic
2 tablespoons of honey
Sea salt and black pepper
Olive oil


Ø Take the beef joint out of the fridge about a half hour before u plan to start. Preheat oven up to max. Chop the vegetables roughly no need to peel them as they are for flavour purposes only.

Ø Toss them into a suitable sized roasting tray along with the herbs and the garlic cloves. Drizzle with olive oil. Now drizzle olive oil over the roasting joint and rub it all over.

ØPlace a pan on a hot hob and when it is screaming hot seal all sides of the beef joint then place on top of the veg in the tray. With the pan still on the heat; pour in the red wine vinegar and honey. Stir around and reduce by half. Pour the reduction over the beef.

Ø Place the tray in the hot oven and turn heat down to 200ºc and roast for 1 hour 10 mins for medium beef. If you prefer it a little rarer or a little more well done give or take 10-15 minutes accordingly. Take it out of the oven half way through and baste it.

Ø When cooked to your liking remove from the roasting tray and place on a clean chopping board, cover with tin foil and a clean tea towel. if making gravy, refer to the roast chicken recipe.

Ø Carving: Remove the string and with a long sharp carving knife cut in thin clean slices, holding it in place with a fork.

            Roasted vegetable mix... A one dish wonder

Serves 4:
1-1.5kg baby potatoes
3 carrots
3 parsnips
2 courgettes
2 red onions
1 red pepper
1 yellow pepper
1 green pepper
5 cloves of garlic
2 tablespoons of maple syrup
Olive oil
Sea salt & black pepper


Ø    Preheat the oven at 200ºc. Peel and par-boil the potatoes for about 10 mins. in the meantime peel the carrots and parsnips and cut into batons. Wash the courgettes and but into batons also, peel the onions and cut into wedges. De-seed and slice the peppers. Bash the cloves of garlic.

Ø  Drain the potatoes in a colander and give them a toss around fluffing the surface of them up them pour them and all the prepared veg into a roasting tray. Drizzle with olive oil and give a generous amount of seasoning. Place in oven for 30 minutes.

Ø    Remove from oven and drizzle the maple syrup over the veg mix and give a good toss around. Then back into oven for 10 minutes.

Ø    Serve hot and remove the garlic cloves if desired.

Here is a choice of very easy to follow desserts if you fancy the challenge:

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

One Year Old Today!

Happy Birthday To Me

One year ago today I started this blog site and I gotta say that it has been one hell of a year. I have made a lot of new friends through the wonders of blogging, Facebook and Twitter. Everyone has been so supportive and friendly which is a huge help when you dive into the unknown.

In the past year I have been on national radio station 2FM Chatting to Hector a few times, have had a few different regular slots on Clare FM (with a new one starting tomorrow morning) and been on Limerick 95FM. I also had 2 monthly pages with West Limerick based magazine Insight Magazine and was a taste tester for Easy Food Magazine.
Cooking a BBQ breakfast for 35 at Lahinch Surf Club with Stephen from Clare FM

I also done a few cookery demonstrations along with making video recipes on YouTube. Now I know it may sound like I'm blowing my own trumpet but.... Toot Toot, its my blogs first birthday, I'm allowed!!!
Cookery demonstration

And as for the next year I have my sights set on... it's gonna be a whopper. With a drive of motivation and the passion I have for what I love doing, this next year is going to be very exciting and rewarding... but as for now my head is down and the hard work continues!

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Get Growing Twenty 12

2-3-2012 And So It Begins

Ready for action (I ain't afraid of no ghost!)

So the start of the year has started of quite wet and has  really cut down the amount of time one can spend working in the garden. However this past week has been dry enough and gave me a chance to get the grass cut which really opened up the place again and made it look half respectable. And so with the first cut came the want to get back out and start to prepare the ground for this years growing.

Beds looking rough and over grown
Tidying the edges

I hadn't reaslised how over grown the beds had got over winter as it was very mild compared to recent years and because my regular maintenance of the garden in the latter part of last year was very limited due to the wash-out weather.

I had plans this year to section off all the ground level beds with 7x1 timber as it makes it a lot easier to cut the lawn around them and prevents the grass and weeds from creeping into the bed edges but being honest I just can't afford it at the moment so I will just make do with re-shaping the bed outlines and keeping them as neat as possible until next year. Just because something is out of your reach financially doesn't mean you should forget about it, just thing of an alternative and plough on... in this case, literally!

Strawberry bed getting a makeover

A welcomed guest in ant veg garden

All the strawberry plants dug out, some planted in tubs, the rest to
re-plant  and give away.

Ciara got stuck into the strawberry bed as it had become totally over grown. We had stripped it back last year removing about 30 runners leaving 10 plants in, this time around Ciara removed over 50. We are going to move some to a new bed and the rest will be given away in Crop Share to family and neighbours to plant out themselves and have a fresh supply of strawberries this year.

My raspberries had started to spread too and the roots went right into one of my beds and started to shoot there so I carefully dug out the new canes and will also give them away. As long as you keep control of the spread, strawberries and raspberries are wonderful to grow, you can start off with just a few plants and then reap the benefit of root spread and runners.

Spare raspberry canes dug out to re-plant elsewhere

Bed re-shaped and dug over

2 down, 4 to go!
The best way to ensure straight lines when digging is to use garden line on a reel or a length of timber and just keep an eye on the measurements to make sure you keep it square or rectangle, sometimes running your eye along it might not be enough, and the phrase 'Should have went to Specsavers' may pop up!

Using a length of timber to ensure straight lines.

Well it was only a start, still plenty more to be done but it is enjoyable work and is very rewarding in a number of ways.

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