Archive for December, 2008

Eating well and 2009 Resolutions

Wednesday, December 31st, 2008
Special K

2008 draws to a close and I’ve noted the usual TV adverts that come with the end of a year when folk are thinking of change. The main two adverts are: 1) Nicorette, to stop you smoking and 2) Special K, to make you thin. Whatever about giving up the ciggies the Special K ad makes me mad.

Special K is no better for you than Corn Flakes. Read the nutritional information. The two are surprisingly similar. Kellogg’s have created a myth around Special K in so far as they have people believing Special K is some kind of essential diet food. Some kind of wonderful. Kellogg’s appeal to people’s competitive side by challenging them to eat two 30g (about a cup full) servings a day along with a proper dinner. Do this for two weeks and you will lose weight. It will just fall off, a done deal. Of course you will lose weight! If you eat two 30g servings of sausages a day and have a proper dinner I’d wager most folk would lose weight after two weeks. Dieting is not about eating one particular food, it is about being sensible. Special K is all very well, it is tasty and of course it will work as part of a calorie controlled diet but don’t be fooled! Special K is only a breakfast cereal just like Frosties. Just like Rice Krispies.

If you want to lose weight after Christmas eat a balanced diet. Learn the food pyramid. Eat apples. Eat tuna. Eat wholemeal bread. Eat healthy food. Forget the stupid Activia challenge. Forget the Special K challenge. Both are nonsense designed to make you buy product.

Take the Messy-Chef challenge: Eat well, eat healthy and eat the good stuff in moderation.

All the best for 2009. Happy New Year!

Heineken Five Litre Keg Review

Monday, December 29th, 2008
Heineken Keg

The annual Christmas get-together was held in Messy Towers on the 26th December this year, along with the Pineapple and Cheese Hedgehogs and the Ferrero Rocher we planned to spoil the guests even further by investing in a Heineken 5L Keg. I’ve had real kegs in the house before complete with gas and coolers but this is a party fellow that you can pop in the fridge with no extra setup needed. It is sizeable enough but should fit into the fridge with a little forward planning. However it will probably be at the expense of something less important, like the children’s food.

The time had come to crack it open. The tap just clicks into the top, you press down and pour. Very easy so far. We got a glass of foam. Tried again. More foam. Five litres later all it would do was pour foam. Five litres of foam and a lot of thirsty guests. If the same thing hadn’t happened last year I would have thought it was bad luck or maybe pilot-error but these things are a true nightmare. Luckily we had backup tins of beer. Never buy one.

Christmas Dinner

Monday, December 22nd, 2008
Christmas Dinner

Christmas week is finally here and every TV show under the sun is telling us how to cook a fancy-ass Christmas dinner. The plethora of sprout dishes thrown at us is both immense and mind boggling: sprouts in cider; sprouts in 7-Up; sprouts with bacon; sprouts without bacon; sprouts in bacon and cider; sprouts with beansprouts … the list goes on. Fair play to Darina Allen in Irish Examiner who gave a recipe for sprouts with salt and pepper. Just salt and pepper. It coudn’t be easier and it tastes great. Thanks for keeping it real Darina.

The over-fancification of Christmas dinner has reached epidemic proportions, ridiculous TV shows put unnecessary pressure on people on what is already a busy enough day. You’re in the kitchen brining Turkeys and pealing chestnuts when you should be with your family. Its about the people, it’s not the food. It’s not about showing off, make the most simple dinner you can and enjoy sharing it with your family. Here are some top tips for a festive dinner.

– Wild Smoked Salmon on brown bread is one of the easiest starters ever.

– Roast your Turkey in the oven. A covering of olive oil (or butter) and salt is all that it needs.

– Do the ham a day or two before.

– Do your roast spuds in duck fat.

– Keep the veg simple.

– A couple of nice bottles of Wine will make all the difference.

Happy Christmas all! Enjoy your diner whereever you are.

Chili Con Carne with Sun Dried Tomato and Bourbon

Thursday, December 18th, 2008
Bacon and Cabbage

The weather here in Ireland has turned a bit nippy and the hustle and bustle of Christmas has started. With all the parties, late nights and hangovers I was thinking of something quick, easy and savory. There are lots of ways to do a Chili Con Carne, I like this one as the dash of Southern Comfort gives it a smoky flavour. This keeps for days as well, gets better with age. Perfect to take out of the fridge and microwave for a quick “after-party” snack at 2am. Ugh, I sound like Nigella…better move on.

Ingredients (for 2):
200g Mince
Olive Oil
1 onion
1 clove garlic
1 red chili, sliced.
Teaspoon cumin
2 tablespoons of sun dried tomato paste
Small Tin kidney beans
400g Tin tomatoes
Dash of Southern Comfort (2 or 3 tablespoons depending on taste)

Finely slice the onion and garlic and fry in some olive oil on a medium heat until soft. Add chili, cumin and seasoning. Turn up the heat a little, add the meat and brown. Stir in the sun dried tomato paste along with a tin of tomatoes and the Southern Comfort. Add the the kidney beans and a little water to loosen if necessary. Simmer for an hour. If you want the beans with a little more bite add them towards the end of the cooking.

Pasta with Bacon and Cabbage in a Creme Fraiche sauce

Thursday, December 4th, 2008
Bacon and Cabbage

Last week’s recession-proof bacon recipe reminded me of another. This time a quick and easy pasta dish. For me, the recipe has the added bonus of using locally sourced bacon from the family run Gubbeen Farmhouse in West Cork. I love that you can find these sort of cheese makers and meat smokers on your doorstep all over Ireland, and even better that large retailers like SuperValu support them by stocking their products. I frequently mention Ryan’s SuperValu in Grange as a great place to shop and this is exactly why. Local produce that was once the domain of the markets only is now far more accessible. Great to see, I hope it lasts.

Pasta and cabbage is an unusual mix but you’d be surprised. The slightly bitter taste of the cabbage mixes well with the salty bacon and creamy pasta. Cook the cabbage for as long as you like your veg cooked, 5 minutes will still produce a good flavour so adjust accordingly for less flavour if you wish.

I have also added a few spoons of Creme Fraiche to loosen it up a little, you could go further and make a Carbonara sauce by beating two eggs into about 120g of Creme Fraiche and you’d have a Bacon and Cabbage Carbonara.

1 Head of Savoy Cabbage, chopped finely.
Fresh pasta for 2
1 pack of Rashers, Lardons or Streaky Bacon.
3 Heaped teaspoons of Creme Fraiche
Salt & Pepper
Pinch of Thyme.
Pinch of Cinnamon
1/2 clove of garlic, grated or finely chopped
Olive Oil

Fry the bacon in a little olive oil along with the garlic, thyme and a pinch of cinnamon. When golden, lower the heat, add the chopped cabbage, cover and cook slowly for five minutes or to taste. When the cabbage is cooked to your liking loosen with the creme fraiche and mix well. Cook the pasta, drain, and add the mix to it. Stir well, season, add some Parmesan and serve.