Autumn Stir Fry with Pulled Pork and Red Cabbage. Seasonal eating.Autumn Stir Fry with Pulled Pork and Red Cabbage. Seasonal eating.

Autumn Stir Fry with Pulled Pork and Red Cabbage

There is something so grounding and comforting about eating seasonally. When I cook food that is in its prime, I feel that it is not only about making a tasty dish, but also about reconnecting with nature and the rhythm of its ever changing seasons.

Seasonal eating gives us an opportunity to create a strong food culture, with rituals and traditions, rooted in nature and belonging. It makes sense, really. Humans and land have forever been connected, it is in our genetic makeup. That’s why feeling the soil with our hands, or growing our own food is so powerful and healing. It makes us feel whole, like we belong.

There is so much to be said about feeling connected to something larger that us, whether it is our family, community, or purpose in life, and there are so many ways to create and nourish that connection. Cooking is one of them.

So with this in mind I am sharing the story of a humble stir fry made from our local seasonal vegetables and slow roasted pulled pork.

Organic autumn vegetables, autumn harvest, food photography

I didn’t have a recipe in mind when I made this stir fry. What I had was a box of organic vegetables from our local farm, and some leftovers from a shoulder of pork, slowly roasted in the oven until falling apart. Oh, and some homemade roasted peach barbeque sauce, a recipe from Brown Eggs and Jam Jars, one of my favourite cookbooks celebrating seasonal and homemade food.

So I started to cook, and let the process lead me to the final dish, which was very nourishing and satisfying indeed. Soft and crunchy, sweet and tangy, with its beautiful autumn jewel colours,  I think it is going to be an autumn classic in our family.

Autumn Stir Fry with Pulled Pork and Red Cabbage. Seasonal eating.Autumn Stir Fry with Pulled Pork and Red Cabbage. Seasonal eating.

Autumn Stir Fry with Pulled Pork and Red Cabbage. Seasonal eating.Autumn Stir Fry with Pulled Pork and Red Cabbage. Seasonal eating.

Ingredients:

  1. 200g of pulled pork, shredded
  2. 1 medium red onion
  3. 1 tsp fennel seeds
  4. 1 tsp brown sugar
  5. 1tbsp balsamic vinegar
  6. 1tbsp olive oil
  7. 1/2 head of red cabbage
  8. 2 carrots
  9. 1-2 cups of rainbow chard, shredded
  10. 1 heaped tbsp sesame seeds
  11. Salt, pepper

Method:

  1. I slowly sautéed some sliced red onion and fennel seeds in olive oil, with a  little bit of brown sugar, and balsamic vinegar, until soft and caramelised.
  2. Then I added the shredded pulled pork and combined until the pork was coated in balsamic glaze.
  3. I sliced some red cabbage, carrots, and chopped a generous bunch of rainbow chard, stalks included.
  4. I added the cabbage, carrots, and colourful rainbow chard stalks to the pork mixture, seasoned it with salt and pepper, and cooked until softened, but still had some crunch left.
  5. Finally, I added the rainbow chard and cooked for a minute or two, until the chard has just wilted.
  6. I served the stir fry on a bed of floury mashed potatoes, with a sprinkling of sesame seeds, and a splash of sweet and tangy barbeque sauce.  If you don’t have homemade sauce lying around, a dressing of tahini, lemon juice, soy sauce, and honey works well too.

Autumn Stir Fry with Pulled Pork and Red Cabbage. Seasonal eating.

Autumn Stir Fry with Pulled Pork and Red Cabbage. Seasonal eating.Autumn Stir Fry with Pulled Pork and Red Cabbage. Seasonal eating.

Have a great Autumn!

Merlixa

Advertisements

Banana Bread with Chocolate and Cardamom

A few weeks ago I found a jar of black cardamom pods at the back of my spice cabinet. I bought them at the Asia Market about seven years ago when I got Madhur Jeffrey’s cookbook on Indian Cuisine. Back then, my culinary ambitions quickly gave way to other interests, the cookbook landed on the back shelf and most of my prized spices wound up at the back of the cupboard, where they lay dormant until now. When I opened the lid and cautiously sniffed the black seeds, I was instantly intrigued. They had a chocolatey, clove-y scent, and their earthy warmth made me think of sweet things and baking.

I have been using this spice a lot since, pairing it with cranberries in my sourdough loaf, and with dark chocolate in a classic banana bread.

DSC_0785.jpgBlack cardamom gave the sourdough a deep, smoky flavour which was further enhanced by the sharp sweetness of cranberries. We enjoyed it toasted with butter, with a drizzle of honey and tahini, and made pulled pork, cheddar and sweet relish sandwiches.

This flavour combination also went surprisingly well with blue cheese. While I was confident that the cranberries will contrast with the cheese beautifully, I was wary that the black cardamom might compete with the strong flavour of blue. But somehow, they worked really well together, each flavour rather distinct, but enhancing of the other, with the cranberry providing the sweet link.

DSC_0836DSC_0892But let me tell you about the banana bread. I used a classic recipe but with less sugar, replaced the butter with coconut oil, crushed some quality dark chocolate and walnuts into small chunks, grinded 3 cardamom pods, and mixed it all up. The result was a fancier version of the good old banana bread with a bittersweet, smoky flavour. I think this one is a keeper!

DSC_0855

DSC_0859.jpg

Ingredients:

  1. 230g plain flour
  2. 1tsp salt
  3. 1tsp baking powder
  4. 1tsp bicarbonate of soda
  5. 120 g coconut oil
  6. 100 g brown sugar
  7. 2 eggs
  8. 3 bananas, mashed
  9. 120 g walnuts, chopped
  10. 100 g dark chocolate, chopped
  11. 3 pods of black cardamom, grinded

Method :

  1. Preheat the oven to 120 C/Gas Mark 3.
  2. Mix together the flour, salt, baking powder, soda, and cardamom.
  3. Cream the sugar and coconut oil until soft and fluffy.
  4. Add the eggs, mashed bananas, chopped walnuts, and mix well.
  5. Add to the flour mixture and mix until just combined. Do not overmix.
  6. Spoon the mixture into an oiled tin. Bake for 1 hour. Insert a skewer or ice cream stick in the middle, if it comes out clean, it is ready.
  7. Leave to cool in the tin, then turn onto a rack and let it cool completely before cutting.

Enjoy!

Merlixa

 

 

Sourdough Zucchini ‘Blinchiki’

Growing up in Ukraine, ‘blinchiki’, or pancakes, were an every day staple in our house. They came in every shape, form, and flavour imaginable. I loved everything about them. The smell, the warm kitchen, the hustle and bustle associated with cooking them, the sweet anticipation of my turn. I was particularly fond of the thick ‘blinchiki’. Transported from the hot skillet straight to the plate of the lucky person, they were then promptly topped with a generous dollop of sour cream, the holy grail of Eastern European cuisine. Sour cream gave everything a creamy and tangy richness, and it contrasted beautifully with the hot pancakes. There were sweet cottage cheese pancakes, apple pancakes, savoury potato pancakes, plain pancakes. I often dreamt about them, so it is quite strange that I have never made them until recently.

One day when I was looking for ways to use up my surplus sourdough starter, I came across a recipe for apple pancakes on Simple Bites blog, and I just knew I was going to recreate my childhood favourite, the zucchini ‘blinchiki’. With lots of sour cream.

Sourdough Zucchini Pancakes with sour cream, Ukrainean recipe

I found a sad looking courgette at the bottom of my fridge drawer that really needed to be used up. Then I sautéed a small onion until sweet and caramelised, and added it to the mixture, together with the coarsely grated zucchini, some chopped sweet red pepper, and finely diced spinach. The result was a stack of hearty and flavourful pancakes which we also enjoyed reheated the next day, or just plain cold. Patrick even used them as sandwich bread the next day, layering some pulled pork and cheese between two pancakes.

So here is the recipe, I hope you will enjoy them as much as we did. If you don’t have sourdough, Simple Bites offers a recipe version with commercial yeast.

Ingredients:

  1. 250 g of unfed sourdough starter
  2. 100 g buckwheat flour (you can use whole wheat or plain too)
  3. 2 heaped tablespoons of butter, melted
  4. A good pinch of salt
  5. 2 eggs
  6. 1 medium courgette, coarsely grated
  7. 1 small onion, finely chopped
  8. A bunch of spinach, finely chopped (optional)
  9. A handful of finely chopped red pepper (optional)

Method:

  1. In a bowl, mix well the sourdough starter, flour, eggs, and melted butter.
  2. Coarsely grate the zucchini, brown the onions in a bit of olive oil, chop the peppers and spinach.
  3. Add all the vegetables to the pancake mix.
  4. Fry a medium sized pancake at a time in a few drops of oil. Cook until the edges are set, the top is bubbly, and the bottom is nice and golden.
  5. Serve at once, with a generous dollop of sour cream.

DSC_0766

Have a great Friday!

Merlixa

Scottish lamb broth with buckwheat and seasonal vegetables. Irish Food Blog.

Scottish Lamb Broth with Buckwheat and Seasonal Veg

As it often happens, we had some leftovers from our Sunday roast leg of lamb. I love Sunday roast leftovers almost as much as I love the actual dinner. The possibilities! With lamb they were, for a long time, mostly wasted as there was never enough left for a second dinner, so the bone was usually gnawed on by a hungry family member the next day, or forgotten about and discarded a few days later. I know, the waste.

That is, until I discovered the mighty Scottish lamb broth from Jamie Oliver’s book, Save with Jamie. So here we were, on Monday afternoon, and as I was eyeing up the bone, ready to transform it into a simmering pot of satisfying, soul warming goodness,  I realised I don’t have any of the ingredients to make my beloved recipe. No barley, no cabbage, no peas, no squash.

‘Ok’, I thought, ‘think. This is an opportunity to come up with your own version of the Scottish Broth. What’s there to lose? We can always have scrambled eggs for dinner if it turns out a horrible mess.’ So I scanned my pantry (tiny cupboard in the corner of the kitchen), checked the vegetable box, and this is what happened.

I used buckwheat instead of barley and I loved it. I used kale instead of cabbage, why not, it is all the same, as my husband says. I replaced the sweetness of peas with corn, and used mushrooms to give the broth its chunkiness in the place of squash.

I am not saying it turned out better than the original, but I honestly, I think it is up there. It certainly warmed our bellies and our hearts. This time, I am including a recipe too.

Scottish lamb broth with buckwheat and seasonal vegetables.Scottish lamb broth with buckwheat and seasonal vegetables. Irish Food Blog.

Scottish lamb broth with buckwheat and seasonal vegetables. Irish Food Blog.Scottish lamb broth with buckwheat and seasonal vegetables. Irish Food Blog.

Served 2 adults and 2 hungry toddlers. Twice.

Ingredients:

  1. Leftover leg of lamb, bone and meat (about 150g)
  2. 1 chicken stock cube or use the drippings from the roast instead
  3. 200g buckwheat, cooked according to packet instructions
  4. 200g of chestnut mushrooms
  5. 3 carrots
  6. 200g potatoes
  7. A good bunch of kale
  8. 100g of cooked corn, crumbled
  9. Fresh mint, to garnish.

Method: 

  1. Simmer the lamb bone, shredded meat, and stock in 3 litres of water for 1 hour. Make sure to skim the surface regularly.
  2. Meanwhile, quarter and sauté the mushrooms in olive oil until slightly browned.
  3. Peel and chop the carrots and potatoes into cubes, add to the broth together with sautéed mushrooms. Simmer for another 20 minutes.
  4. When the carrots and potatoes are almost done, add the cooked corn, cooked buckwheat, and the chopped kale. Simmer for another 5 minutes.
  5. Garnish with fresh mint, and serve.

Tip: It is a good idea to cook a whole packet of soup grains such as buckwheat, barley, or soup mix, and freeze in small portions, ready to go.

Have a good (almost) midweek!

Merlixa

Scottish lamb broth with buckwheat and seasonal vegetables. Irish Food Blog.

Bruschetta with mozzarella. Food photography.

Bruschetta for Dinner and Other Things

Patrick and me like going for aimless drives in the countryside on weekends. We drive slowly, taking in the scenery, pointing out the houses we like, slowing down to almost a halt to let oncoming traffic pass on narrow Irish country roads. Coffee in hand, we chat about everything and nothing. The kids fall asleep in their back seats and we let them.  It is a welcome break to our buzzing weekend. This is how we ended last week, a flurry of errands, cooking, eating, playing, laughing, and sometimes crying.

I captured a few moments, and there is a little story to each of them. Nothing extraordinary, just everyday life and our attempts to create some magic to brighten up the mundane.

DSC_0139DSC_0142On Saturday, we made our (almost) weekly trip to the Farmers’ Market. The plan was to get some organic vegetables and a few sausage rolls for the kids, and just hang out, but we ended up leaving with a bag of various cheese. One of them was the irresistible fresh mozzarella, firm on the outside and soft and creamy on the inside. I had some semi stale sourdough bread, so that evening I toasted a few slices on the griddle pan, rubbed them with garlic, and topped each slice with mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, a drizzle of olive oil, and basil. Hmmm, crunchy and creamy, fresh and pungent, I forgot what a juxtaposition of textures and flavours a good bruschetta is, and what an excellent supper it makes, especially with  a glass of good red.

I really enjoyed taking photos of random flowers I found scattered around our unfinished and chaotic garden. It gave me a few moments to myself, just wondering outside, and made me appreciate our little piece of land even more. It also gave me a great opportunity to try to understand light in photography. I was taking most of my food photos inside, so it was refreshing to learn new things in a different context.

DSC_0658altDSC_0664altNow, this was a completely spontaneous experiment. I was feeling particularly silly on Sunday morning, and we had a box full of organic vegetables, so before I chopped them all up in delicious meals, I wanted to do a little collage, and this is what came out of it. Not quite sure how I feel about the outcome, maybe I will give it another go one day when I have enough kale and beetroot  lying around!

Have a great week!

Merlixa

Quinoa salad with charred vegetables. Dark Food Photography.

Quinoa Salad with Charred Vegetables

I am not great with lunches. In fact, I am not that great with breakfasts either. I tend to reserve all my efforts (and belly space) for dinner. During the day, I would make sure my kids are fed, and then load up on caffeine. I know,  it doesn’t sound very healthy, I should really change that.

Good for me so, that I have been using my new hobby as an excuse to throw together healthy, satisfying, and pretty lunches that I could photograph, and eat afterwards. And yes, having a decent lunch does make you feel more like a human being. Having said that, dinner has suffered a bit, since most of my efforts are now channelled elsewhere but it will all balance out, eventually.

Without further ado, I am sharing some pictures and a few words on how our Quinoa and Charred Vegetables salad was made.

Quinoa salad with charred vegetables. Dark Food Photography.

I am a big fan of batch cooking, and while my meal planning skills are still somewhat lacking, I find when my fridge and freezer are well stocked with trusted staple foods, it is quite easy to quickly throw something together. I usually keep a jar of cooked quinoa, brown rice, or other grain in the fridge, ready to be turned into salads, breakfast bowls, sides. I don’t use any flavourings when cooking them, so they can be easily turned into a sweet or a savoury meal, depending on our mood. Here is how this salad came together.

  1. I used some fluffy, nutty quinoa as a base.
  2. I checked the fridge for any leftover veggies, then charred them on a hot griddle pan to bring out their sweetness and adding some smoky flavour while keeping the crunch. (Thank you Jamie Oliver!)
  3. I added some homemade pesto and some roasted pepper and tomato sauce. The two sauces complimented each other beautifully and added some extra depth to the dish. Guacamole or simply smashed avocado would work really well here, too.
  4. I added some protein. We had a fried egg but you can use chickpeas, feta, nuts, chicken, or whatever you like!
  5. I would have enjoyed some extra spice in the salad but I had to respect the kids’ sensitive palate.
  6. Enjoy! We certainly did!

Quinoa salad with charred vegetables. Dark Food Photography.Quinoa salad with charred vegetables. Dark Food Photography.DSC_0667

Happy Friday Everyone!

Merlixa

A Visual Recipe for Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Sauce

Today I would like to talk about staple foods. Like Sunday morning routines or favourite TV shows, each family have their own. It can be a hearty pot of stew, prepared during the weekly batch cooking, and reserved for quick weekday suppers, or something as simple as a favourite breakfast cereal.  Staple food is one of the few stable things in chaotic family lives. Or, at least, it is in ours.

In my previous post, I was talking about homemade pesto, and how we use it in absolutely everything. Another one of those magic condiments you will always find in our fridge is slow roasted red pepper and tomato sauce. This sweet and smoky sauce has been a life saver on more occasions than I can count! I made it into refreshing soups, and let me tell you, when garnished with some crumbled feta, fresh herbs (or pesto!), with a slice of homemade sourdough on the side, it makes an impressive impromptu lunch for friends dropping by. I also poured it over countless bowls of pasta, with some grated cheddar on top, to fill many hungry little bellies. It also works well as a salad dressing, lasagne filling, or any kind of bake for that matter. You get the idea, it is versatile. So I usually make a big batch which I keep in a jar, ready to be used at a moment’s notice.

DSC_0623

On a different note, I have been really busy for the last few weeks practicing my photography skills. It is my new obsession and I just can’t believe that I have been an owner of a DSLR camera for the past seven years (it was gifted to me by my wonderful husband) and only discovered manual mode now.

I have been taking shots of anything edible ever since, driving my family crazy! I have always been attracted to pops of colour against black background, hence most of my clothes are shot on black chalkboard. This love of contrast naturally translated into my food photography style.

Another factor that contributed to the overall ‘dark’ effect was our famous Irish weather. It has been raining for the last week, which I originally thought would hinder my ability to take good photographs. But I discovered that bright light doesn’t suit my aesthetic at all, so it worked out well.

Now I just need to practice, practice, practice. And read a lot of manuals. And cook and eat. Yum.

So, if you are still with me, here is how I make our roasted pepper and tomato sauce. It is honestly so simple that I think my images say it all, no need for further words.

Blackboard food photography. Dark food photography. Roasted tomato and pepper sauce.DSC_0617DSC_0623DSC_0634DSC_0635DSC_0639

Happy Midweek Everyone!

Merlixa