Monday 27 July 2009

Sweet potato and chickpea curry

A fiery, easy-to-cook treat for a naughty Monday hangover.

I have had a hankering for a good curry for a while now, so threw this together in a very haphazard fashion this evening and was delighted with the results. It takes about an hour to make as I cooked it pretty slowly but it's worth it. You can serve this with a traditional side of rice, but actually it's very filling as a single dish in itself as it's chock full of potato and beans.

Ingredients (serves about 2):

1 onion, finely chopped
Approx 3 heaped teaspoons garam masala
1 heaped teaspoon cumin
Approx 1 teaspoon fresh red chilli
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 sweet potato, cubed
1/2 courgette, sliced
1 tin chickpeas
1 carton passata or a tin of chopped tomatoes
1 teaspoon sugar
Handful of sunflower/ pumpkin seeds
Salt & pepper
Natural yogurt (optional)


Heat some olive oil in a saucepan over a medium heat. Add the mustard seeds when the oil is hot. When they start to pop a little, add the onion, garam masala, cumin, and garlic. Stir well and season lightly with some salt and pepper. Cook the onion and the spices for 2 - 3 mins, stirring to prevent burning.

Add the chopped sweet potato and courgette and turn the heat down to medium-low. Cover and cook for 5 mins.

Add in the sunflower seeds and the passata. I prefer to use passata to a tin of tomatoes for the thicker texture it yields and the deeper flavour it provides, but use whatever is knocking about in your kitchen. Add the sugar (it cancels out any bitterness in the tomatoes) and season again with salt and pepper. Add 1 or 2 chillis depending on your preference - keep the seeds in if you want it super hot and spicy.

Cook this uncovered on a low heat for approximately 1 hour. Give it a stir every once in a while to make sure it isn't sticking to the bottom; if it sticks, add a little water to loosen the mixture. Taste well and season again before serving if needs be.

Mine turned out sweat-inducingly spicy as I am somewhat of a novice at cooking with fresh chilli. To take the edge off, I served the curry with a big dollop of natural yogurt and it was delicious.

Thursday 23 July 2009

Vanilla bean cheesecake with a mixed berry coulis

Warning: This makes battered Mars Bars look like salad.

My older brother Derek lives in England and is home this week for a rare but delightful visit. To celebrate, we all milled down to my sister's house in Wicklow and got pissed as farts and played board games. I figured we would need something suitably impressive and indulgent to bring to the party. Derek used to be the pastry chef in a prestigious local restaurant and managed to vaguely recall their recipe for their famed cheesecake. We very successfully recreated it in our kitchen, complete with hangovers and tea. Bear in mind that the measurements are approximated, but it's hard to go wrong with this recipe. Keep tasting as you go and you'll be grand.

This is the Derek!


For the base:
1 packet Digestive biscuits
4 oz butter, melted

For the topping:
500g philadelphia cheese
250ml double cream
3 tablespoons caster sugar (approx)
1 vanilla pod
Juice of 1/2 a lemon

For the coulis:
Mixed berries
Granulated sugar


Make the base first by crushing the Digestive biscuits into crumbs. Combine this with the melted butter and mix well to ensure all of the biscuits are coated in the liquid. Chuck this mixture into the base of a cheesecake tin and press it down well with the back of a spoon to make sure it is properly compacted and will set. Pop this in the fridge whilst you get on with making the filling.

Using an electric mixer, whisk up the double cream until really thick (but before it becomes butter). Add the cream cheese and mix well.

Slice the vanilla pod open lengthways and use the flat part of your knife to remove all the delicious innards, which look like tiny black particles. You can substitute vanilla extract if you don't have pods, but I wouldn't use vanilla essence as it's really rubbish. (Side note: Vanilla pods are famously expensive, but needn't break the bank. I buy mine from a website called Vanilla Mart where you can get a good load of pods for about 5 British pounds. Vanilla extract is also available in Tescos for about 6 euros a bottle.) Throw this into the mix. Add in approx 3 tablespoons of caster sugar and the juice of 1/2 lemon and mix well. Taste the mixture at this point and add more sugar and/or lemon if needed. Try to avoid eating the entire bowl of goo at this stage, which is ridiculously hard to do.

Spoon the filling over the chilled biscuit base and smooth it with a spatula. It should be thick and creamy and flecked with lovely black spots of vanilla. Mine looked something like this in the tin:

This is a very heavy, thick cheesecake so you can leave it to set for anywhere between 1 hour and 1 day before serving. The taste is of a very rich, decadent dessert and it can be enlivened by serving with a simple coulis. To make this, get some mixed berries (I get lovely bags of mixed frozen fruit in Aldi for about 2 euro a go - if you can't get this, just get some fresh fruit from your local supplier). If using frozen berries like me, put them in a bowl and let them defrost slowly overnight. Put them in a saucepan with smattering of sugar and cook them on a low low heat for about 20 minutes. Beware not to leave a wooden spoon in the mix as they cook, as mine is now permanently stained purple from the juices.

When the berries have released all their juices and the liquid has thickened slightly, turn off the heat and allow to cool. Don't reduce the liquid too much as it will continue to thicken as it cools.

Serve slices of the cheesecake with a generous splash of coulis on the side, preferably with a nice Pinot Grigio or a can of the finest, cheapest beer you have to hand.