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Black and yellow and red all over.
An all-in-one bowl of grainy goodness. Lots of flavour from the black pudding and the quinoa is nutty enough to take it. This is a crumbly nutty all-in-one bowl that was inspired by a menu at a local restaurant and was delighted to see that one of their starters involved Clonakilty black pudding. I happened to have some in the fridge, a very rare occurrence and thought I could perhaps put it to good use and at the same time attempt to take it out of it’s usual position as a heavy meaty creature and pair it with some quinoa. The nutty firm texture of quinoa seemed an ideal partner for the crumbly nature of an Irish black pudding with its oaty flesh spicy flavours. Despite it’s less then picturesque beginning as pig or cattle blood – descriptions in wikipedia include “before congealing into a sausage”…let this go and treat it as a delicacy to be eaten in small amounts…

Many Spanish tapas include smooth morcilla, the Spanish equivalent, sweeter and smoother then the coarser boudin. In France it is often served as a tatin with apple sauce and is very good. Most Irish or Scottish black puddings are made with a certain amount of oats. Spanish morcilla is alot smoother and perhaps not ideal in this kind of recipe. Irish boudin noir is more crumbly when cooked and becomes the topping for this fast and easy supper. I say supper but makes perfect leftovers for lunch the next day.
In this bowl some pan fried apple chunks would probably be a welcome addition so go for it. Fruit cuts through the inevitably slightly fatty element of the pudding and the combination of black pudding and red fruits in Ireland or black pudding and apple sauce in a Bretagne or Normandie crepe is still a staple on many menus. But let’s face it – the people who made it rather fashionable fare years ago probably would never have paired it with quinoa.

Indeed the majority of quinoa eaters would never ever dream of letting black pudding pass their vegetarian lips. However in this world there exists people who blur the lines. I’m an avid quinoa eater who likes nothing more then a bowl of lentils and may not touch meat for three weeks in a row. But I also savour the spiciness of a boudin noir or the tenderness of barely cooked lamb or a barbecued steak.

I really only draw the line at andouillete but that’s another story and it’s not one that will be told here….


1/2 an onion
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 clove garlic
1 cup fresh or frozen peas (barely cooked)
1 cup red quinoa
4 slices of a good quality black pudding (or boudin noir)
Vegetarians – please note – you could substitute smoked tofu, plain tofu or nothing at all)
1 cup yellow lentils


Cook the lentils in boiling water for about 15 minutes. You want them whole and crunchy not mushy. Often I cook the quinoa with the lentils, they need about the same time. Or you can do them separately. The peas need about 2 minutes so they retain their crunch and their goodness. There is no point in eating a vegetable that has been cooked to death.

Heat a pan and when very hot toast some cumin seeds on it alone until they start to crackle. Then turn down the heat and add a little oil. Fry garlic and onions until soft. Use a little nut oil if you have it. Having sliced the black pudding into slim round discs add this to the mix. They need just a minute or two really on each side. Take off the heat at this point. Set aside some of the pudding at this point to use as a crumbly topping when serving.

The pudding becomes crumbly in cooking so in your still hot pan mix in some of the lentils, peas and quinoa so they absorb some of the cumin and garlic flavours. Then serve with the rest of the pudding on top. A little basil adds a touch of sweetness.

This makes a great warm supper or eat it cold the next day.


Special at the supermarket on huge north African dates. Add two chicken breasts and a bulb of fennel. Take home and start chopping…

This is easy, sweet and savoury as well as being low in fat. Fennel is a wonderful creature. When roasted it becomes a docile flavour, almost caramel yet still strong enough to stand up to a strong companion such as a spicy chorizo. The dates dissolve in the oven to give a sticky sauce and are picked up by the fresh cumin making a simple dish a surprising contrast of flavours. The whole garlic cloves become soft and liquid in the oven losing their pungency but none of their sweetness. (Obviously a spoon of maple syrup drizzled over the lot just before baking would not be out of place but that could remain optional…..)

Ingredients (serves 2)

6-8 sweet dates (halved and pitted)
2 chicken breasts (chopped into strips)
1 teaspoon of cumin seeds (toasted in a dry pan)
1 inch of fresh ginger root (finely crushed)
2-3 cloves of garlic
3 tablespoons of nut oil (or olive oil)
1 large tomato
1 bulb of fennel


Preheat the oven to about 200 degrees

Toast the cumin seeds in a dry pan and set aside
Finely chop the ginger and mix with the nut oil in a small dish or glass. Add the toasted cumin to the mix at this point too.
Chop the chicken into strips. Then deal with the fennel. Remove the outer layers and the leafy stalks as well as the tougher ends and bottom from the bulb. Cut in half and place the cut side down. Then slice finely sideways into strips.
With a knife slice into each date and squeeze out the stone and then cut the dates in half
Cut the tomato into large chunks.

Layer the chicken, the fennel slices evenly along the bottom of an oiled oven proof dish and follow with another layer of the dates and tomato chunks plus the whole cloves of garlic.

Pour the ginger and oil mix over the layers along with a glass of water. Bake for about 45 minutes to an hour. You’ll know it’s ready when the fennel is soft and the chicken cooked through.

Grown-up chocolate tart with a serious lack of calories and you don’t even care

Chocolate tofu pie

I don’t know really at all if that’s true. Calorie counting was never my strong point but as chocolate tarts go this has to be relatively guilt free. Anyway, as the title says, you don’t even care. Perhaps the real star of this show is the base. The base made of crumbled speculoos. That biscuit I knew and loved but had no idea what it’s real name was. Speculoos. Yes I know it sounds like a less then pleasant gynecological instrument but rest assured, the names refers to a divine Belgian biscuit. Often found on the side of your your coffee cup in nice establishments, the humble speculoos biscuit is discreetly spicy and crunchy.

This recipe is a response to a recent post on 101cookbooks, always inspiring and always original.
These cookies replace what would be a graham cracker crust but I live in a world sadly devoid of such luxuries (perhaps Bon Marché?) but I don’t mind. I’ve never really had the opportunity to come to appreciate the graham cracker. Although it’s also a flour and this is intriguing. More perhaps to come later…These particular speculoos are made with spelt, I found them in the local health food shop.


50 gr. unsalted butter
2 cups very high quality chocolate chips, or 200gr chocolate for cooking
approx. 250gr speculoos or another good quality cookie (one packet should do it)
2 tablespoons maple syrup
200 gr silken or soft tofu
100 gr Greek yogurt
150 gr ricotta
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla essence


1 inch fresh lemon grass finely sliced
1 inch fresh ginger finely sliced
1 teaspoon sugar


For the base:
Start by making the base. Grease a 9 inch pan or tart case with a little butter or oil. Preheat the oven to about 180 degrees.
Crush the biscuits in a ziploc bag or give them a go in a food processor until completely crumbled. Then melt the butter. Once melted, mix the butter and the maple syrup in a bowl with the crumbled cookies. Mix well and then press the biscuit mixture into your tin. Set aside.
Using the still warm pan from melting the butter add the lemon grass, ginger and sugar and heat over a low heat until it begins to caramelize. Set aside.

For the filling:
Mix the tofu, Greek yogurt, ricotta, vanilla essence and the egg in a large bowl. if you choose to melt the chocolate do it gently in a bowl over hot water on the stove gently stirring all the time until velvety. No microwaves please! Otherwise, leave the chocolate in fine crumbled chips or flakes and add to the rest of the mixture. At this point add the caramelized ginger and lemon grass.
When the mixture is smooth and silky with no lumps except for possibly your chocolate chips, pour it evenly over the cookie base. Bake for about 20-25 minutes.
Leave to cool then chill for at least a few hours. Preferably overnight. Then eat it for breakfast.
If you didn’t melt the chocolate the pie will look swirly brown and white and you will end up with little lumps of chilled chocolate splodges where the chocolate melted into the mixture in the oven. This is heaven. Amazing.
If you melted the chocolate you pie will be dark smooth uniform which can also be classed as divine.
You choose. Personally I don’t melt it – I love to find surprise chocolate pieces to crunch on. Contrasts nicely with the texture of the smooth creamy pie…..

Tofu chocolate pie

Rye and honey

I like to experiment with different kinds of flour. There are so many grains and tastes and textures out there that it seems a pity not to experiment. However, this is often with disastrous results. For example I think I have to swear off chickpea flour. We just don’t get each other. But with rye flour it’s different. It works. I think it’s love…..

So when I bought two bags of rye flour the other day I thought I’d play with a Swedish rye bread recipe I had found. This is a great breakfast bread alone or toasted with a little butter or cream cheese. Also a good sweet bread for making open sandwiches I suspect. This recipe calls for buttermilk but plain or Greek yogurt thinned with a little milk would also work perfectly well.

Note: for this recipe I use 125gram empty yogurt pots to measure the flour. It gives a great moist yet dense loaf that stays fresh for ages

Preheat the oven to about 200 degrees. Line or grease a regular loaf tin.

This recipe is going here to try and help me win a cookbook!healty


5 cups of rye flour
or 4 cups of rye four and one cup of wholewheat flour
(1 cup = 125 gr.)

2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teasp baking powder
1 teasp. salt

3 or 4 tablespoons of honey
a little hot water to mix with the honey and make it liquid
2 cups or 2 and a half of plain yogurt or buttermilk
I use buttermilk (lait fermenté) or kefir

*Sunflower seeds, flax seeds are good for the mix but totally optional
*A handful of rolled or instant oats and several tablespoons of maple syrup or honey for the topping
*A handful of raisins and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon


Mix all the dry ingredients together. In a separate bowl mix the buttermilk or yogurt with the honey. If the honey is very solid add a little hot water to liquefy it.

Add the liquid to the dry ingredients slowly forming a round sticky dough. Add less or more buttermilk if you feel it’s too dry or to wet….

Then pour, push or pull the sticky mess into a loaf tin. No knead to need:) Sorry, couldn’t resist….
Smooth out the top and spread into the corners of your loaf tin

For the topping
At this point – scatter a generous layer of oats and some maple syrup (honey would do too) over the top before putting it in the oven so it forms a crunchy topping in cooking. This is perhaps the best part so don’t skip it.

Put in a hot oven at about 180 degrees c. for about 40 – 50 minutes…depends on your oven really. Keep an eye on it. When a knife comes out clean it’s done.

apple and spinach salad
Comfort food can take surprising forms…..Feeling a little hungover requires comfort food but that does not have to lead down the usual carb laden path of pizza, fries or other generally toxifying yet strangely delicious foodstuffs.

This is a surprisingly good combination, the nutmeg brings the spinach to life and adds a little spice to the soft browned apples. The toasted seeds give a nutty crunch and walnut oil is key to the finish.

I kept it simple but bacon pieces or grilled chicken could make a meal out of this one so play with it.

Ingredients (enough for one person)

1 apple
1 bunch of fresh spinach leaves
2 pinches nutmeg, ground
2 teaspoons sesame seeds
2 teaspoons sunflower seeds
1 tablespoon walnut nut oil


Toast the seeds lightly until brown in a dry skillet, then set aside. It’s very important that the pan is super hot to start with.

Finely chop or slice the apple and throw the pieces into the still Apple and spinach saladvery hot pan, let them brown for a few minutes.
Rip apart handfuls of the spinach leaves and add these to the apple.
Sprinkle the nutmeg over the spinach leaves
Once apples are soft and brown and the spinach has just begun to wilt then take it off the heat and put on a plate. The whole process shouldn’t take more then about 8 minutes. You don’t want to over cook the spinach.

Sprinkle liberally with the toasted seeds and drizzle with nut oil to serve

Irish brown bread

Brown bread is not the same as soda bread. It’s brown bread and in Ireland has been made by Mamas and Grandmas daily since the beginning of time or at least since the fifties and despite the availability of magic quick bread mixes and shop bought brown bread concoctions, nothing beats freshly baked bread of any kind. Especially this one because this is a super easy fast bread that will bestow you with the same kind of prowess in the kitchen reserved usually for people who make ‘real bread’ (as in leavened) with none of the work.

The following recipe is for one loaf of coarse whole wheat bread and has been faithfully passed down to me from my own Irish Mama. The twist of teff comes from the toasted teff I almost always throw into the mix. If you can get your hands on some of these golden, iron rich grains or flour native to Ethiopia then go for it. Lightly toast a handful of the grains in a dry pan until they pop and crackle. Then just add to the mix. Gives the bread a delicate nutty overture. It has a cake like consistency, good for smoked salmon and onions. Best be eaten the same day because it doesn’t keep well but if you do it’s great toasted spread with a little butter and banana or honey.

Wholemeal flour – 160 grams
Multigrain flour – 140 grams
white flour – 100 grams

1 tsp of bread soda
a pinch of salt

1 tablespoon of brown sugar (optional) or maple syrup is good

1-2 tablespoons each of:
sunflower seeds
wheat germ
teff grains

150-200ml of buttermilk(amount depends on your dough, if you feel you need more add more, the bread will just be a litle more soft and moist)

Optional – for kneading- about an eggcup of olive oil

Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl until well blended. Then slowly start adding the buttermilk and start forming a dough. Your aim is to have a ball of dough that you can tip out onto a floured surface and start kneading.

Buttermilk – 150ml – add slowly and add more or less depending on consistency – should be not too wet and not too dry

Knead until a soft ball not too sticky or dry. Prepare a loaf tin by greasing the inside. Then place the dough in your tin and press out until it fills it. Make a deep cross ( this is to let the fairies out, if that’s what you want to believe, otherwise it helps the loaf to rise)

Bake for 10 minutes at 200 then for 20 – 25 at 180. Keep an eye on it. Depending on your oven it may need more or less time.

Note to cheats – you can skip the kneading part. You can tip your dough from bowl to tin and flatten it out there…It really makes little difference to the final result and really saves on the cleaning up part……Also using more instead of less buttermilk gives a moister sweeter bread.

When done, the loaf should slide out easily of its tin onto a cool surface. Let it cool for a while before slicing. It will continue to cook for a bit after coming out of the oven. Then enjoy with butter and smoked salmon or bananas or jam or whatever and of course the ubiquitous cup of Irish tea…..

Summer starter

Figs with frozen melon puree

If you are lucky enough to happen upon ripe, unblemished happy healthy figs in the market, grab them and do something with them, anything. Keep it simple. They deserve much love, little handling and a lot of savouring.

Gather the necessary – 6 fresh ripe figs, leave the skins on. As a general rule in life – don’t peel! Unless you’re in a place where your life may be in danger if you don’t.

1 melon -any kind as long as it’s ripe – tap the centre of the bottom and smell it. If you smell a little sweet melon go for it.

Several slices of jambon de Bayonne or Parma ham or jambon serrano, one or two per person depending on appetite.

First slice your melon in half. Scoop out the seeds, discard and then scoop out the flesh. Keep aside half of the flesh in cubes. Puree the other half with a hand mixer and a spoonful of brown sugar (optional). If you don’t have a hand mixer, mush and mash with a fork….just needs to be pureed. Place the resulting mush in a cup or bowl in the freezer.

Then, turn to your divine little fresh figs. Don’t peel them, just rinse them well and slice off the little tops and make a cross in them with a knife. Roll pieces of ham and slot into the crosses of the figs.

Arrange slices of ham on a plate around your figs. Slice the rest of the melon and arrange in and around the figs. Cover and let sit in the fridge for a while before removing and bringing to room temp. All depends on when you’re serving…..

Just before serving, remove the melon from the freezer and gently mix with a fork.

Serve each of the figs with a dollop of the frozen melon purée.

When the goats cheese met the peaches

Inspired by a summery French brasserie salad, this is a divine combination that makes a great savory tart. All of the ingredients can be also tossed together to make a great salad. Add toasted pine nuts or almonds for crunch if you feel like it.

I’m also convinced that roasted apples could be a potential gem too. Instead of duck and chèvre you could try roasted Camembert and pears….but more on that later!


100 gr smoked duck breast, in fine slices
3 ripe yellow peaches
200 gr goats cheese (keep some crumbled cheese aside for the top)
100 gr feta cheese
1 egg
1 savoury tart base
salt, pepper to taste
3 tablespoons maple syrup

Make the tart case ahead of time. Bake blind for about ten minutes.

For the pastry, use a good basic shortcrust pastry recipe using good quality unsalted butter and a good wheat flour with a pinch of salt and a little water. Usually the fat should be half the quantity of the flour. I usually find 2 cups of flour to 1 cup butter gives enough pastry for 2 small tarts but it’s a bit of a trial and error process to make good pastry so enjoy getting flour under your nails and the sheer satisfaction that comes from not buying ready made concoctions from the supermarket…..

Pre heat your oven to about 200°C.

For the filling, or in this case the first layer:

Fold the diced feta and most of the (also diced) goats cheese into the beaten egg. Using a fork mix well until the mixture is almost smooth (lumps are fine). Add some black pepper. Smooth the mixture over the surface of the tart base getting well into all the edges.

Layer 2: slice the peaches (keep the skins) and arrange on top of the layer of cheese mix.

Crumble some of the left over goat cheese (and/or feta) over the tops of the peaches and drizzle a little maple syrup over the entire tart.

Bake for about 20 – 25 minutes at about 200°C.

Layer 3: Remove from oven and let sit for a minute. Then add layers of the duck breast in and around the peach slices. Then let sit for about 10 minutes. The duck breast will “cook” slightly with the heat of the peaches.

Serve with fresh rocket leaves.


Being lucky enough to be able to land an enormous veggie box from yonder French countryside on a weekend leaves one with a looming question once the heady rush of green leaves and the smell of fresh air wears off. What to do with the veggie box on a Sunday afternoon when you know you may not be in to eat again for a week? The only possible answer is to make soup. Spicy soup. With parsnips. And all of the other vegetables. Yes, even the water cress. I know. Watercress. Surprisingly peppery and tough for what I had always seen as a wimpy little sandwich filler for rich people. Who knew that cresson from the veggie box would be so good?

Spicy Parsnip and watercress soup.


2 cloves garlic
2 or 3 shallots or onions
half a fresh green chilli, chopped, no seeds
1 inch fresh root ginger chopped
1 teaspoon coriander seeds crushed but not powdered
half teaspoon white pepper
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 tablespoons butter for cooking

3 or 4 parsnips chopped
3 potatoes chopped
2 handfuls fresh watercress
2 handfuls fresh spinach leaves
handful mushrooms (optional)

3 litres water
2 small natural yogurts

salt and pepper to taste

Toast the cumin and coriander seeds in a dry pan until fragrant. Season a little with the white pepper.

Add butter and a little oil then add and slowly cook the onions in butter at a low heat until soft.

Add half of the chopped garlic, chilli and ginger, still at a low heat…slowly soften and stir well.

Add the mushrooms and toss until soft. add the parsnips and potatoes. toss and cook for about ten minutes until well coated in the garlic and spices and soft.

Add the water and bring to the boil.

Toss in the ripped up leaves of both spinach and watercress, add the yogurt and bring back to the boil.

Simmer for about 30-40 minutes at a low heat covered.

Keep aside a little of the veg before pureeing in a blender. Puree most of the soup then add to the reserve of still solid veg back in your pot.

Stir well, add salt and pepper and some fresh pouring cream to taste.

Serve hot. Obviously.

The coriander seeds leave a flowery spicy aftertaste to the soup which is yum…