Entrant 17

Hasselback Al Forno, Jamie Oliver, VEG

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It’s Wednesday night and Cian’s coming over for band practice (duo practice is probably more accurate). I’m on cooking duties and had my eye on several recipes from the Jamie Oliver VEG book that SPUD got at Christmas. One picture really stood out. It resembled a Thanksgiving gourd – those weird table centrepieces with pilgrim hats and squashes – and was very inviting. Yes, I decided that tonight I would be making Hasselback Al Forno: Root Veg Galore, Wilted Spinach, Lentils & Yoghurt Ripple.

I’d glanced at the recipe earlier that day and it sounded super-easy. But super-easy it was not. Even normal-easy it was not. The prep was painstaking and never-ending as it requires you to slice centimetre incisions into a smorgasbord of vegetables – carrots, onion, butternut squash, potatoes and parsnip. There was also meant to be a beetroot or two in there, but seeing them in Tesco all vacuum-packed and alien, I decided to give them the figurative chop instead.

I drop the needle on James Blake’s Assume Form and get peeling and slicing. There’s a great hack (as in shortcut, not cutting method) you can do here by placing a wooden spoon alongside the vegetables. The spoon handle catches the blade going all the way through making accordion carrots and parsnips. It’s time-consuming but you get into rhythm. Just as I’m starting on the potatoes, Cian arrives!

Since it’s getting on, I ask Cian to pitch in by making the dressing. He takes the pestle and mortar and starts pestling garlic cloves like there’s no tomorrow, adding stripped thyme, olive oil and red wine vinegar. Which should really be white wine vinegar but whoopsie. As he works away I roughly hew a butternut squash before quartering half of it, as well as an onion.

Veggies are arranged in a roasting tin and drizzled with the dressing before being shook to get it all coated. These are placed in the oven for an hour. TBH the dressing looked… odd. TBBH (to be brutally honest), the garlic resembled mucus as a spooned it out over the veg.

At this point I reread the ingredients list and realise I need tinned lentils and not dried, so I immediately start boiling some. Worried that the recipe will miss out on the tinned juices, I reserve some cooking water while draining them and add a tin of butter beans Cian finds in the press (Best until Feb 2020! It’s fate! Beany fate!) and the wine. What type? Red.

Judging by the pan it’s a lot of liquid, so I sieve some at the sink and return it to the boil. I add 100 g’s of spinach and let it wilt but there’s still too much liquid, dammit! More sieving, more simmering. Once the spinach is ready I season with salt and pepper, and tip into a casserole dish. I crack open some natch yog and drizzle it over, attempting the ‘ripple’ that Jamie describes but coming away with giant globs.

By the time the veggies are placed on a suitably rustic wooden board (depressingly also made by Mr Oliver) everyone is absolutely fa-mished. When SPUD and Cian are served no one really says anything as I desperately scan their faces for some sign of approval – it never comes…

We all agree the veggies tasted nice (Cian made the dressing so that’s no consolation to me) and while I loved the hassleback cut and would do it again with saucy or cheesy dishes to catch in the ridges, others who shall go unnamed thought they were more hassle than they were worth. WAHEY! Worse, the lentils were described as “tasting chemical-y” and “a bit weird.” You can’t win ‘em all.


Entrant 16

Cheesy Garlic Bread, At My Table, Nigella Lawson

Another recipe from the Goddess Nigella, which is quite fitting seeing as she turned (60!!!) this week. How on earth is she so resplendent?

Ever since I was gifted this book, I’ve had my eye on this recipe. I’d flick through the pages and get a giddy thrill just looking at it! Could I really make a loaf of bread this decadent when store-bought garlic bread is so easy to access, I mused…?

The opportunity finally presented itself when I had a family gathering in the apartment over Christmas. It ticked all the boxes for Christmas piggery; indulgent, cosy and cheeeesy.

If I was a Yank, I’d definitely keep this recipe in the back pocket for GAME DAY. I can picture it now, lying in my lazy boy recliner, wearing a foam finger on one hand, the tv remote in the other while Mark shoves this gooey, stringy, buttery bread down my piehole. Go Patriots! (Is that a team?)

Calling this a recipe feels like a bit of stretch since all you do is make a butter concoction and spread it on store-bought bread, but YOLO.

Nigella suggests using a loaf of sourdough, however, I decided to use the best-named bread in the bread kingdom. Sourdough’s much cooler cousin, Tiger bread.

Can anyone guess the main ingredient in the butter concoction? ‘Why butter, of course, the very thing I’ve been feeding them!’ (Hee hee maybe one person will get that hip 90’s ad reference 😀)

It’s unsalted butter, which I thought was a weird choice, but I trust in Nigella so obeyed her orders on this one.  You combine the softened butter with 3 cloves of garlic, sea salt, a Tinchy-tiny pinch of chilli flakes and a whole ball of mozzarella.

Next, you slice the bread, but not the whole way through so all the spread can’t escape. I was SO SO nervous doing this part, unreasonably so to be honest, but at the time it felt like there was a lot a stake. Maybe cos’ I’d dreamed about this bread for so long!

You spread the mixture thickly and evenly between the slices, using any leftovers on the top of the bread. The loaf was absolutely bulging and looked like a very well-fed baby grub. What a little cutie pie!

Give your little grub a tinfoil jacket and stick him in the oven for 30 minutes or so. This little creation filled the house with the warmest inviting smell, which was a great flex for our incoming guests.

When you’ve taken your futuristic baby grub out of the oven, carefully unwrap his tinfoil jacket and slice through.

I served him on a wooden board with the tinfoil still underneath- très chic.

The bread was crunchy on the outside and deliciously warm and gooey on the inside and was- dare I say very moreish. (‘Moreish’ always makes me lol, silly ol’ word!)

My one gripe is about the cheese. Considering how much was used I thought it would be consistently cheesy throughout, however, it was more like rare pockets of cheese and some slices fared better than others. This led to people (me, anyway) competitively side-eyeing the loaf to grab the best slices.

It was a big hit with my family and something I would 1000% make again. However, I will be 1000% amping up the ‘ZELLA. The perfect spruced up, fancy garlic bread for when you’re being kind to yourself; true comfort food! ❤


Entrant 15

Zopa Azteca, The Road to Mexico, Rick Stein


There’s something going around at the moment… SPUD got, I got it – chances are you got it, too! And so it was, on a Saturday morning in November that I woke up with the common cold. Bastard. My throat was in agony (OK, it was very very sore) and I wanted my diet to consist of something more than Strepsils and Lemsip, so I decided to make some chicken soup. It’s been known as the cure to the common cold for centuries, and who am I to argue? But this wasn’t going to be any old soup. This was going to be a soup I first tried in Mexico in 2017: Sopa Azteca, a traditional and spicy tortilla soup with avocado!

I wrote the ingredients down and went to Tesco but forgot to pick up an essential item – my modus operandi at this stage. Yep, I’d overlooked the lime, so would have to go back out and get one… Oh well, you live and don’t learn, I guess.

First, I put Childish Gambino’s “Awaken, My Love!” on our new Audio-Technica and place six tomatoes and some unpeeled garlic cloves into a dry saucepan. The idea is to char them good and proper and then peel them, but the tomatoes were vibrating so much I was certain they were going to explode scalding pulp into my eyes! I keep my distance as I pinprick them and turn them a couple times with tongs, and once charred, remove and hastily hand-peel them in a bowl, coming away with only minor owies.

Next up, I dice an onion, and since I don’t have any lard (do you keep lard, Lard Ass?) I melt some butter instead. The onion is tipped in and sautéed, and the garlic is added and cooked for another few minutes. Once soft, I mix in two tablespoons of Chipotle paste, the peeled tomatoes, oregano and stock, and let it bubble away for 15 minutes.

At this point I go in search of the missing lime. I take a punt on Spar, but they’ve none. Desperate, I buy a lemon but as I pull away decide that a lemon is no substitute for a lime, and race back to Tesco to get one. When I get back SPUD is spinning thank you, next (slay Ari) as the soup is getting pulpy. I liquidise everything and keep it on a low heat while I prep the final additions…

I cube an avocado (#FunFact ‘avocado’ is an old Aztec word meaning testicle which technically makes this Testicle Soup) and shred a chicken I’d roasted in the oven. The recipe called for feta which I decline because a. that’s not how I had it in Mexico, and b. goat’s cheese is the Devil’s cheese. Just ask the Knights Templar. Lastly, I fry and shred tortilla strips, and mix it all together with lime juice, coriander and a dollop of sour cream.

It was delicious! So spicy it immediately made SPUD’s nose run, but that’s not a bad thing when you’re all blocked up! While it looked simple it was bursting with flavour and textures, from the creamy avocado to the stringy chicken, and I would absolutely make this again. Muchas gracias, señor Stein!


Entrant 14

Chicken Satay with Fake-Ass Spicy Peanut Sauce, Appetites: A Cookbook, Anthony Bourdain


It’s a bright and cloudy Friday in August and I’m making dinner for Cian, old buddy, old pal. It was Mr Turner’s 31st birthday last week and I’m Hell-bent on showing him a good time. I knew I wanted to cook something from my Anthony Bourdain book (which was yet to have its hymen broken) and I had my eye on Budae Jigae, Korean army stew. In the end, I wasn’t in the mood for a SPAM, anchovies and hot dog broth, and settled on Chicken Satay with Fake-Ass Spicy Peanut Sauce instead. But rather than serving it on skewers as a starter, I was serving it with rice and adding pineapple chunks. (The pineapple chunks addition was inspired by Dragon Boat in Kilcock, the undisputed best Chinese takeout in Ireland, NGL.)

Leaving work at the ungodly hour of 6:45pm (on a Friday, no less), I made a quick pitstop at Tesco to grab some lemongrass, brown sugar, chicken breasts and chunky peanut butter. As soon as I get home I give the dirty wok a scrub and begin prepping harder than a redneck in 2012.

Since the chicken would need to marinade, I started with that, measuring out a quarter cup of fish sauce. For those of you with noses that’ve ever been within a barge pole of fish sauce, you’ll know how bad this murky liquid smells – a non-consensual whiff of unwashed carp crotch that clings to the nostrils. Thankfully, any nastiness gets burned off once cooked, leaving a depth of flavour in its wake. I measure a cup of olive oil, squeeze two lemons and limes, chop some shallots, garlic and lemongrass, add some sugar and spices and blend. Phew. It might seem like a lot but it’s one of those dishes where all the work goes into the sauces, and everything else falls into place. Once I’d trimmed and diced the breasts (the most Ed Gein thing I’ve ever said) I cover them in the marinade and place in the fridge.

Just then, the buzzer rang – Cian has arrived! And he comes bearing gifts in the form of a banoffee and caramel ring! While Cian plays with Leonard (#FunFact Cian was Len’s first-ever catsitter) I grab a mixing bowl to make the Fake-Ass Sauce. To do so, you add a cup of peanut butter, some hot water and coconut milk, and whisk. The recipe also calls for more fish sauce here, but I’ll be damned if I was going to add any more! What I did add was brown sugar, soy sauce and Sriracha (I’d squirt that shizz on anything) and whisked some more. Even without tasting it, it looked and smelled divine.

The pieces of marinated chicken were placed on a baking tray in the oven and turned after nine minutes or so. Basmati was boiled with a stalk of lemongrass to give it some fragrance and once it was all ready, I plated up with some pineapple chunks and debated with Cian whether we should heat up the chilled satay. We didn’t, and it was absolutely delicious! The marinade was zesty and the peanut sauce rich and creamy. Each individual flavour was getting its time to shine, and I could instantly see myself impressing people at future parties with it. Cian – no schlub in the kitchen himself – agreed it was delish and was one happy Birthday Boy.


Entrant 13

Butternut Squash Risotto with Sage Butter, Gino’s Italian Escape, Gino D’Acampo


It’s Wednesday, and SPUD is on Dame Street learning how to play The White Haired Man on the fiddle. Muggins here is in the kitchen listening to boygenius on the phonograph and about to give our Gino book a second chance – loyal readers will recall the nasty bean stew I made from this last year. This time, I’m making Butternut Squash Risotto with Sage Butter, because what meals taste better on #HumpDay than artery-busting buttery ones? While not as ubiquitous as its dull cousin Mushroom Risotto, vegetarians will know this recipe from restaurant menus between Dublin and Dar es Salaam. (They eat risotto in Tanzania, right?)

To prep, I line up my ingredients and immediately notice we’ve no vegetable stock, and need not one but two cubes. Typical! For a microsecond I consider replacing it with chicken stock and essentially spiking my GF who hasn’t been seen with animal fat dribbling down her chin since 2003. I can’t do it, so have to settle for heavily salt-and-peppered boiling water.

I peel a butternut squash – a dangerous and daunting task due to the thick-ass skin – cut it into cubes, drizzle with oil, and place it in the oven for 40 minutes. Once done, I set half the tender squash aside and turn the other half into puree using our Nutribullet. When it comes to this trendy gadget, the number of sauces I’ve made with it easily outnumbers the smoothies ten to one. Next up, two small onions are peeled, chopped and fried for five minutes while I make the sage butter.

Sage translates as ‘salvia’ in Italian, which reminds me of a time my old pal was tripping on the drug of the same name, watching in bemused horror as everyone around him turned into Donald Duck. But I digress. Making the sage butter is easy, all you do is melt unsalted butter in a small pan and add 12 velvety sage leaves when it starts to foam, leaving it for two minutes.

Now for the part that requires the patience of a saint to execute well – the risotto. With the onion nice and soft (don’t say it, inner Michael Scott voice), I tip in the Arborio rice and keep stirring for two minutes, then mix in the puree. I stick on some Post Malone, get topless and spend the next 20 minutes slowly sweating and adding the boiling water, absorbed ladle by absorbed ladle, until it’s all gone. The pan’s taken off the heat and a big ol’ slab of butter is stirred in, followed by the reserved squash cubes, grated Parmesan (OK, I admit it, Grana Padano) and chopped sage.

By now SPUD is back and the risotto is plated up and drizzled with the golden sage butter – the final fatty nail in this saturated coffin. We eat it watching new Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and man is it good! For something with so few ingredients there’s a real depth of flavour, both subtle and strong at once. It’s a dish you could impress guests with and SPUD said it was as good as any restaurant. Meaning Gino is back in our good books. For now!


Entrant 12

Sweet Potato Macaroni and Cheese, Simply Nigella, Nigella Lawson

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October has crept up and saturated everything in its warm orangey glow. I think we can all agree that if October was a colour it would, of course, be ORANGE! And orange equals cosy- obviously.

Which means it’s only fair that make sure I eat like a chubby squirrel going into hibernation for three months. It’s important for survival you see.

So, during the scrolling hour, while I was busy being zombified by the chilling blue glow of my phone screen, something deliciously orange burst out of the screen. An offering from the Deity of comfort food herself, Nigella’s Sweet Potato Macaroni and Cheese!!!

Fortuitously I discovered that Her Highness Nigella was actually in Dublin that very day, so it seemed the decent thing to do to make this in her honour.  I’m not generally a huge fan of Macaroni and Cheese but on the contrary, absolutely ADORE Queen Nigella and trust her with my life so knew I had to give this recipe a go.

This recipe also has sage which I’m also obsessed with, so second good omen there. Plus, it’s spooky season so can’t do any harm to eat more of a herb renowned for keeping ghosts and ghouls at bay!

And just to prove beyond any reasonable doubt that this was a good call, Macaroni and Cheese is a dish which my Mom would routinely make for us on weekends so automatic association with cosiness there. (Yes, I’m Irish and say ‘Mom’ FIGHT ME!)

Eight hours of thinking of Macaroni and Cheese later and I’m finally home from work with a lorry load of cheese (feta and cheddar) and a can-do attitude! Hee Hee.

This recipe calls for 500 grams of sweet potato and 300 grams of pasta and remembering that our weighing scales is broken I do some sweet kitchen improv.

I very scientifically measure the sweet potatoes by holding a 500-gram bag of pasta in one hand and two whopper sweet spuds in the other. Not only do I not detect a difference in weight but I strangely don’t even feel like I am holding anything so just power ahead. Unsuccessful kitchen improv.

Despite this early hiccup, the rest of the recipe’s a dreeeeam and it’s mostly so easy that I sort of zone out until making a roux snaps me out of it.

But it goes like this, mash spuds, shag some pasta on, grate cheese, MAKE ROUX!!!, combine, lob into the oven, RELAXXXXX.

Egg and I even go for a civilized walk while this is bubbling in the oven. The height of Austenian sophistication for me and Egg’s living, breathing, fire-hazard wreaking nightmare.

When we get back the top is slightly burnt, nothing to write home about. I dish up two, gooey, cheesy, glowy, portions and we tuck in.

The first bite brings relief; there’s no overpowering taste of feta cheese which neither of us is huge fans of.

The second bite is kind of underwhelming…

From then on, it’s a real grower and actually improves with every bite with some pockets being decidedly more delicious than others.

Overall, it was pleasant and I would definitely make it again for Macaroni diehards, but personally, I’ll always choose a tomatoey pasta over a creamy or cheesy one.

As always with Her Majesty Nigella, this makes far more than the four portions the recipe states so you’ll be up to your eyeballs in Mac and Cheese for days.

Next time I’ll be adding more sage and paprika but for now, I’m calling this a success!



Entrant 11

Tahdig, In Search of Yummy-ness


My Tahdig (pronounced Tah-deeg) was, let’s be honest, a disaster. So unphotogenic I couldn’t post it on my Insta Story, so troublesome to make I exploded a saucepan lid and set two towels on fire in the process. On top of that, the recipe was so deceptively confusing, I’m still not sure if what I concocted was as it’s meant to be!

Tahdig is a Persian rice and potato cake eaten every day in Iran. I first heard of it on Queer Eye when Antoni makes it for some Iranian dude, and I wanted to give it a go. I Googled the recipe and clicked into the first one that didn’t resemble an actual sponge cake and was ready. Or so I thought.

As soon as I got home from work I realised I was missing a vital ingredient – rice! And less vital, barberries! Which I’d never even heard of until now, and I’m 90 percent sure Antoni didn’t use … Oh well. Flash forward one Tesco stop and I’m in the kitchen with Enema of the State on, getting my delicious (figurative) ducks in a row.

First, the rice is rinsed within an inch of its white, then par-boiled for five minutes. Some butter and rapeseed oil is melted in a pan and a layer of potatoes (peeled, sliced, rinsed, dried) go face down. Next, the rice is packed on top with a plate. Balls! I was supposed to add saffron stock to the spuds! “Too late now,” I think and start lading the golden liquid over the rice instead. Six small holes are poked and filled with butter. Not exactly the kind of thing you’d eat if you were trying to get #swole.

Here’s where things started to go even wronger. The recipe calls for you to wrap a towel around the covered saucepan in the oven. Now, I’m no fireman, but the idea of putting a towel in the oven sounded pretty stoopid to me. Never one to stray from a recipe’s methodology, I wrapped the thing in swaddling and watched it singe and then smoke in the oven. None too bright, either, I repeated the experiment with a smaller towel. The result was, predictably, the same…

At this point I abandoned the whacky towel idea, trapped moisture be damned, and leave it in the oven. The doorbell goes and Conor and Cian arrive – my culinary guinea pigs for the evening. When I check the oven again I see the glass saucepan lid has shattered into a million pieces! Miraculously, me and Cian manage to manoeuvre the smashed lid off without getting any glass in the rice. Which, isn’t really something you usually worry about with rice.

A smaller, steelier lid is put on and it’s left to cook for 30 more minutes alongside three bacon-wrapped pork fillets. That I did not make. As soon as it comes out, Cian scolds his hand on the handle. I then man-handle the semi-formed rice cake onto a plate and give it some shape. Despite its underwhelming appearance, it tastes good (Conor and Cian said so, too, so there!), and we start watching Ghost Town (not the Ricky Gervais one), stuffing our faces with buttered rice. Win!


Entrant 10

Italian Bean Stew with Bread Dumplings, Gino’s Italian Escape, Gino D’acampo

Italian Bean Stew with Bread Dumplings, Gino’s Italian Escape, Gino D’acampo

I’ve started to notice a very worrying trend. I’m choosing way too many recipes centred on pulses, grains and legumes. Well, no more! Next time around, I’m making a pie, or so help me God… In the meantime, let me tell you all about the bean stew I made! I wanted to give our Gino book a go, and this recipe looked delicious and what my Dad would lovingly describe as Peasant Food. Sadly, it was about as tasty as an unconsecrated church cracker dipped in soda water.

It’s Wednesday and a day for the ducks (that means it’s raining, hombres). Subaru Stevens’ Greatest Gift is playing on the Steepletone as I start to assemble my stew ingredients, which includes rosemary from our balcony (finely chopped since it can be quite woody), an onion, and not one, but two kinds of bean (Cannellini and Borlotti). So yeah, there’s a pretty good chance we’ll be blowing like the bellows later!

I chop and fry the onion in some oil for two minutes, then add some chilli flakes and the rosemary dust. Three minutes later and a tin of tomatoes is added – we’ve been using Mutti ever since SPUD came upon them in 2017, and Roma tastes like dregs to us now. Some simmering later and the beans are tipped in, and left for 10 minutes.

For the dumplings, I need the zest of a lemon – a grating chore in every sense and only alleviated by the, uh, zesty smell. I also need ciabatta bread, which is cut into tiny cubes and placed in a bowl of warm milk to soak for 10 minutes. It’s seasoned, and some chopped parsley, egg and zest are added. (I hold back on the parsley because SPUD thinks it tastes like Sure deodorant.) Lastly, one tablespoon of flour goes in, which is what caused a minor catastrophe…

The mixture is supposed to be thick enough to shape by hand into balls, but mine was as wet as an eagle (Peep Show, anyone?). Worse, I had no more flour to thicken it up and was in way too deep to turn back. I started desperately ladling dollops of the runny ciabatta mix onto a hot pan and making what would more accurately be described as pancakes, not polpette. Once crispy on all sides, I served them over the stew with some parsley sprinkled on top.

They say you eat with your eyes, so I already had a bad taste in my mouth as soon as I plated up. While not exactly wretched looking, it was certainly a Plain Jane, and the misshapen dumplings on top of a steaming mound of tomato mush and pale beans didn’t do much to get our appetites going. We sat down at our table and ate the serviceable stew, both fully aware that while quite nice, we would never be making it again. Sorry, Gino, but this one’s non bello.


Entrant 9

Mexican Bowl, Deliciously Ella


April 20th marked the first day of the year that the sun finally got off its arse and properly shone its glorious light down on Stillorgan. That’s just 110 longggg days under the grey, suffocating insulation of Dublin clouds folks!

I was sooo excited and to celebrate I decided I’d need a very light and very summery dinner. With that in mind, I scanned my cookbooks for the most suitably fresh and summer-incarnate recipe I could find.

Something very strange has been happening me lately, I find myself becoming more and more dispassionate towards cheese… I just don’t give an E-DAM about most coagulated milk these days! So, it made perfect sense that the second requirement was that this must be a cheese-free feast.

Feeling smug, I decided to give my ‘Deliciously Ella’ cookbook a sphin and I am so glad I did. I didn’t have to flick long before settling on a colourful and fresh looking Mexican bowl recipe.

It also looked relativity easy-peasy which meant I could spend more time soaking up the rays like the sun-deprived mole/night crawler/spectre I am.

But alas, I should have known – vegan recipes are never as straightforward as they appear… This recipe has five separate elements: guacamole, salsa, quinoa, garlicky Mexican beans and cashew crème.

Unlike a lot of vegan recipes, this one didn’t actually call for a whole litany of unpronounceable and unaffordable ingredients. Granted there were a few but they were mostly easily substituted and none were too undecipherable. So, this time, I’ll forgive Her Wholesomeness Ella Woodward.

Each of these five elements are easy to make on their own but peddled together one after the other it gets laborious, and I quickly found myself effing and blinding at the uncooperative lemon juicer.

FYI: I was going to a gig that night and left making this to the 11th Hour because of the GLORIOUS SUNS IRRESTIBLE ALLURE so I do think this played a part in my impatience.

As usual, I made a few adaptations and adjustments:

  1. I couldn’t find black beans so used a can of the mixed kind.
  2. Surprise, surprise Tesco didn’t stock tamari (for the cashew crème) so I used soy sauce instead.
  3. I went a bit rogue and added tahini to the cashew crème. (It wasn’t creamy enough without it and this did the trick nicely.)
  4. I’m a coriander-fiend so added loadsss of it to both the salsa and the guacamole.

Okayyyy so this little bowl of goodness was MAGNIFICENT! I adored it and I could not stop heaping praise on my own weary shoulders… This is one recipe that’s worth the toil and I’ll definitely be making it again. Its citrusy, garlicky, spicy flavours work so well together and it really does taste like summer in a bowl.

Unfortunately, Mark seemed thoroughly underwhelmed with the whole affair and seemed horrified that I had even made him a portion in the first place. Mark had eaten and enjoyed a ‘builders deli roll’* just a couple of hours previously, so this time I’m taking his opinion with a pinch of coarsely flaked sea salt. Sorry ‘bout it.

Annnndddd I have even more proof that this is worth your time.

Despite me halving the recipe to be suitable for two people, it still actually makes an absolute lorry load of food so there was lots leftover. As we were going to a gig that night, my brother and friends were over for prinks and I tempted them with a bite.

I cobbled together some real statistics from their reactions and can now confirm that 75% of people think this is crazy delicious.

One of them was so enthused that as well as dipping into the leftovers in the pots, he actually ate them clean off our discarded plates too! My brother also devoured a huge portion of this after the gig. He loved it, but ironically his one complaint was that it would be nicer with cheese…

The ultimate victory – Beans so delicious they’re worthy of drunk food!


*Gross bread roll usually stuffed with deep-fried breaded chicken, luminous cheese and doused in ketchup, mayonnaise or the vilest of all the deli condiments taco sauce.

Entrant 8

Coconut Chana Masala with Spinach, The World of The Happy Pear

Coconut Chana Masala with Spinach

It’s a bitterly cold February evening and the Siberian Bear is raging outside our window. With the country being hit by the worst snow in 35 years, a red weather warning out and the entire nation battening down the hatches, it seemed like a good idea to cook something hearty.

Enter chana masala, an Indian and Pakistani chickpea staple that’s also one of SPUD’s favorites. In fact, she’s such a chana purist that when she saw I was using a recipe that embellishes this traditional meal with coconut milk and spinach, she was not best pleased… The pressure was on!

The opening bars of Khalid’s Love Lies come over the speaker as SPUD, Ireland’s next Sharon Corr, enters with her fiddle. For the next hour, I’m treated to her practicing Britches Full of Stitches and The Star of County Down. Over. And. Over. I get down to business by chopping garlic, onion, tomatoes, ginger and chilli into bite-size pieces. There’s not much prep involved so I take my time with each ingredient – tomatoes are cut into eighths, a thumb of ginger root diced with purpose so it goes in no strings attached, and the garlic is sliced so razor thin that Paulie Cicero would approve.

I put on the kettle for the rice and arrange the SEVEN spices on the counter. Garam masala, ground coriander, cumin seeds, turmeric – there’s so much colour it looks like Diwali, only for mice. The smell alone has me praising Annapurna – that’s the Hindu God of Food I Googled 20 minutes ago, philistines. Into a large saucepan goes the oil, onion, garlic and chilli, where it simmers for five minutes. The spice mix is next, sending aromatic tendrils around the apartment. Tomatoes are stirred in (another two minutes) along with the coconut milk and chickpeas, which bubble away for 15 minutes. The heat comes off as spinach is added, a lime squeezed over (how did I get so much juice out of that shriveled old lime?) and it’s all served with boiled rice.

As soon as we tuck in I can tell SPUD isn’t too impressed. It’s “grand,” she says, the Irish equivalent of “bog standard.” She would later describe it as “unremarkable” while my brother called it “bland.” Good thing I have thick skin and a sophisticated palate as I found it quite nice! The chickpeas were creamy but had some bite, the onion melt-in-mouth sweet, and all the spices came through. You can’t please all of the people all of the time, but if you can make your own tastebuds happy, you’re not doing too fuckin’ bad. Abraham Lincoln said that.