A letter from a lunatic

This poster from Copyblogger really resonated with this lunatic. After a week where life kept interrupting my writing most of these ten points are purely aspirational for me. However, as a big fan of checklists, I think if I could tick some of those boxes most of the time my writing environment could improve.

10 Rules for Writing First Drafts

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Back to school and breathe menu

It’s been a hectic week with kids going back to school, stacks of work and a huge family do to wrap up the week. This blog has never been my life but about my life so it always comes second.
Saturday
Baguette with choice of fillings. Saturday is nearly always an easy sandwich option, sometimes soup, sometimes pasta or gnocchi. Once music lessons kick off for the boys again we’ll likely picnic,  eat out  or scrounge from my parents on Saturday lunchtime.

Jamie Oliver’s Satay chicken with noodles – this gets an outing every once in a while and I know I’m not the first to say it takes way more than thirty minutes to prepare. Even if by some miracle you manage to make the meal in 30 minutes it’s going to take you twice as long as normal to do the washing up. I should write a real 30 minute meal book… Anyway this is a delicious and tasty meal with meat on a stick which scores highly with the nippers and noodles – double points from them!

Sunday
Six hour spiced lamb with 40 cloves of garlic

Six hour spiced lamb with 40 cloves of garlic

Six hour spiced lamb with couscous. Yep six hours. Himself saw the recipe in the Guardian the previous week and with lamb at a good price in Superquinn we would have been mad not to try it. Mad. While the lamb was pull apart tender the flavour was not as awesome as you would expect. But once it was on we were able to go out to the cinema and come back and still have time to chill out before dinner.

I also made Spinach & Thyme pasties today thinking they would make perfect lunchbox fodder. I was wrong as I would discover during the week.
Monday
Spinach & thyme pasties in lunchboxes were not appreciated. I got very cross and refused to make the children super noodles which they will demand for lunch everyday and which I never make. I complained bitterly about the fact that there was no way that super noodles tasted nicer and only mad people could think these delicious little triangles filled with yummy spinach, feta and flavourings were anything except mouthwateringly gorgeous. They didn’t agree and nibbled the corners from them.
Chili with rice. Unearthed from the freezer, loved by all.
Tuesday
Beetroot soup for me and Himself. Also unearthed from the freezer. I regularly make soup, maybe once a week and freeze it for midweek lunches.
Pasta with Sage and Rosemary Sauce. This sounds far more exotic than it is but it is absolutely delicious and a firm family favourite. Here’s a Vine of me making it:

Wednesday
Meatloaf with tomato and basil sauce. Another recipe from Rachel Allen’s Home Cooking, a book I came across by chance but have found invaluable, not least because most of the recipes are designed for six diners. This was my very first time making meatloaf. We decided to make it because my brother  told me it was a favourite in his family. A deciding factor for the nippers as well is that this is Johnny Test’s dad’s go to dish. Anyway, Rachel’s version was eaten and appreciated by all but I felt it was a bit bland. Coincidentally we weren’t the only family eating Meatloaf on Wednesday as I divined from Bibliocook’s Instagram and she pointed me at this recipe which sounds much more lipsmacking. I love her tip about pitta bread for breadcrumbs because I never have whitebread but will always have pitta. I know, I know, far from pitta you were raised etc.
Needless to say we sang this throughout dinner because I remember how much I enjoyed my parents’ singing as a child myself… Hah!

Thursday
I had intended to give the nippers Meatloaf in their luncboxes but they weren’t going for it. However they did demand it for their afterschool snack.
Dinner was supposed to be Sole á la meunière but my local friendly fishmonger had known so I opted for whiting. I subjected it to this Steamed Minted Whiting with Soured Cream which was yet again another unsuccessful fish dish. My big problem with fish is that I don’t like the taste or texture of it generally so when I’m planning a fish meal I can’t visualise how the meal will fare. I had plenty of mint and creme fraiche so this recipe seemed like a good option for dinner. It wasn’t. So I have passed the task for next week’s fish dinner to Himself and removed my bad taste in fish dishes from the aquation. Heh!
Friday
Packed lunches
Pizza for nippers as we are away out to a family do!

Menu week commencing 22 August

I’m very late posting this week’s menu. I should be working on next week’s at this stage! However it’s been a crazy week getting ready for La Rentrée and fitting in all those last minute activities we didn’t manage to make time for earlier this summer.
Saturday
Quick and easy meals today as we headed up north for the afternoon to visit our newest grandniece. Yes I am officially ancient.
Bagels
From the freezer: Jamaican me crazy chili with tortillas etc.
Sunday
Picnic pot luck: tabbouleh,potato salad, and red currant muffins. We were invited to the gorgeous Avondale by family for a picnic and we all brought a few bits and bobs to picnic on. I made muffins with the last of the red currants from the garden.
Poached eggs on brown bread – an easy but delicious tea. Still didn’t manage to mop the floor afterwards. I blame the aftereffects of the wasp sting. My first ever (and hopefully last ever) wasp sting.
Monday
Beans on toast – turned into wholewheat pasta and pesto due to little visitors’ dietary requirements and the fact that I had no bread. Still blaming that wasp sting.
Macaroni cheese with all the trimmings by request from Nipper 3.0 who started in the Naíonra today. All the trimmings means with a tin of chopped tomatoes in the cheese sauce and bacon lardons on the top. Oh me heart! This was requested because I’ve been experimenting with healthier options that haven’t gone down too well at all.
Tuesday
Beetroot soup for me and Nipper 2.0 and I can’t remember what the other two had. Toasted sandwiches from the George Foreman grill.
Linguine with mint and almond pesto and tomatoes from River Cottage Veg Every Day! by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall which was a massive hit. Nipper 1.0 who isn’t madly keen on cooked tomatoes and usually ferrets them out. However as they are raw in this dish he gobbled them all down. I am definitely going to cultivate some mint in the garden for future use in this dinner. Yum!
Wednesday
Lunch in Joburger with family after swimming as it is the last day of the holidays.
Chicken pie a la Jamie Oliver which Himself made as I ironed 35 labels onto school uniforms. Why on earth do two boys need 35 items of clothes just for school. Snooze.

Thursday
Packed lunches because they were back to school. Disgracefully uninspired on their first day but we’ll get better! I had garlicky mushrooms with granny smith apple and philadelphia on toasted vienna roll.
Salmon with potatoes and corn on the cob by request from the schoolgoers. As usual I made a mess of the salmon by getting all fancy with the salmon. The fishmonger was very happy to see us back after the holidays. I avoid shopping with the children so hadn’t visited while I had three in tow.
Friday
Packed lunches: Turkey slices and cranberry sauce – a marginal improvement. They also get cherry tomatoes, pistachio nuts and raisins.
Pizza (of course)
The list
Mint * 2 (could have done with at least one more)
Parsley (ditto)
Carrots
Leeks * 2
Celery
Spring onions
Low fat mature cheddar (Dubliner or Kilmeaden)
Tomatoes
Cherry tomatoes
Mushrooms
Bananas
Oranges
Avocado
Apples
Peaches
Chicken breasts
Cereal
Nat yog
Milk
Creme fraiche
Linguine
Raisins
Almond slivers
Blanched almonds
Strong white
Plain flour
Self raising flour
Porridge
Juice tropicana
Tinned tomatoes
Cat food
Kids’ toothpaste
Buy Thursday
Salmon
Corn on cob

Park. Life.

I have been following the developments in Granby Park with interest thanks to an invitation I received from Springwools to donate to their yarnbomb in their park.

In their own words:

Granby Park, is an urban, ‘pop-up’ park in a currently vacant site in Dublin’s inner city. It is made from up-cycled, recycled, donated and found material and features some of the city’s most talented artists, architects, performers, planners etc. It will have an outdoor cinema, a theatre made by kids from palettes, an education zone, exhibitions, a play area, a café, art installations, and lots, lots more!

Situated just off busy, commercial Parnell St. it is in a prime city centre location surrounded by some of some of Dublin’s iconic Georgian houses, social housing from the 50sish and swish new apartments which should make it a very attractive place to live, full of diversity. But with this enormous hole right in the middle of the community I imagine it’s a little difficult. So somehow or other the local community has commandeered this wasteland and turned it into a wonderland.

#thingsifoundtoday Two bags of #crochet motifs. My next project!

Sorting out the #crochet motifs #thingsifoundtoday

I was really happy to be able to donate some of the motif’s I found in my godmother’s house when we were clearing it out last year and I think she would be pleased they found an amusing end. I’m only sorry I didn’t donate more. Maybe I’ll pop over and bomb some more onto the railings! I would highly recommend a visit: it’s open from 8am til 7pm Monday to Friday and 10am to 7pm weekends until September 22nd 2013. Word to the wise: the coffee shop hadn’t opened by the time I left at 10am last Monday. Below are some shots I grabbed of the Nippers enjoying the various installations and areas in the park. There is also a library – maybe bring a book to donate!

Our pizza recipe

Pizza

Pizza

We have pizza every Friday. Every single Friday and we all look forward to it every week. Who doesn’t love a good pizza? It’s got bread, it’s got cheese, it’s got flavoursome tomato sauce and everyone decides how they are going to flavour their own. We make every part of our pizza from scratch (okay yes pedant I don’t make my own chorizo, cheese or ham or grow the pineapples) because really those shop or delivery pizzas don’t compare on taste or price. Also delivery certainly can’t beat us on time. We serve the pizza up on chopping boards so washing up is minimised and everyone is happy. Lastly as we control the ingredients we can keep the damage to a minimum.

We use the bread making machine to make the dough. Some might think this is “cheating” but honestly if you have tasted my attempts at kneading, proving and baking breads you would happily concede me this laziness. I know practice makes perfect but I have perfected this method in the, ahem, meantime…

We’ve had our machine, a Panasonic SD251 (an older version of this baby) for about three and a half years but it is definitely way older than that. My mum gave it to me from her kitchen around the time Nipper 3.0 was born and we have used it pretty much every day since. If you are considering buying a machine I would highly recommend a model with a timer. We load it up at night and set it to cook in time for breakfast. As I am often up an hour or so before the rest of the house, the bread has usually cooled enough to be cut for breakfast.

Back to our pizza. This recipe is adapted from the basic white yeast bread recipe in Darina Allen’s Ballymaloe Cookery Course. It is adapted to suit our machine: if yours loads liquid first just reverse order of ingredients.

  • 1.5 tsp dried yeast (I use Doves Farm)
  • 675g strong white flour
  • 50g rye flour (if you don’t have rye just use 725g of strong white)
  • 10g sugar
  • 2 tsps sugar
  • 4 tbsps olive oil
  • 425ml water

Preheat the oven to the highest setting on your oven or that you dare. (I ususally go up to 220C/ 420F/ GM7.)

If you are using a machine throw all the above ingredients into your machine as per the standard procedure and get cracking on your sauce while it’s being kneaded and proved. If you are not using a machine, good luck and sorry I can’t offer any kneading tips. I reckon I’m rubbish because I’m small and can’t lean down on the table like others. But that’s a bit of a cop out really.

Once the dough is ready divide into three. It can now be left in the fridge or frozen until required.  If using straightaway roll out as thin as you can on a floured surface and stick it on a pizza tray like this one - I have three which I got variously in Dunnes and Superquinn and they are the business to get that nice crispy pizza base. Prick all over to prevent from puffing up like a balloon. If you forget this step – I do every time – you can squish the base back down but be extremely careful as there is a lot of hot air in those bubbles. Bake for 3 – 5 minutes until it is just beginning to brown.

Turn the oven down 10 degrees.

Remove from oven. Spread sauce below sparingly on the base and go wild with those toppings. Bake for another 8 – 10 minutes et voila or rather the Italian equivalent – a beautiful and delicious and crispy home made pizza.

Pizza Sauce

I love this sauce recipe which I found many years ago in the Sunday Tribune. 14th March 2004 according to my recipe notebook! I love it because there is no oil in it, no chopping required and by now I can even throw it together without measuring anything. It’s not ideal for use with pasta because it’s quite rich but lacks that essential graspy oiliness for pasta dishes but could be used in a pinch. (I used it today with stuffed pasta. The sauce was fine; stuffed pasta: meh.)

  • 1 tin of tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp tomato puree
  • Large clove of garlic
  • 1 dessertspoon dried oregano
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

Chuck everything into a pan and once it begins to bubble simmer on a medium low heat. Keep an eye on it to make sure it doesn’t burn or catch and once it has reduced to a thickish sauce turn off. Blitz with a hand held blender if you have one. (If you don’t, do buy one – they’re gift for soup, sauces and smoothies. And baby food of course!) This should make enough to cover a 12 inch and 2 9 inch pizzas I think. We always have plenty with some leftover.

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