EL NINO IS TO BLAME!! #PICKLED RED HERRING LEFT-OVERS

As I made my way to my ‘nest’, one major thing was on my mind. You see, when stormy weather is at my back door, my palate and I switch to a different mood. The forecasters call the present weather pattern “the El Nino effect” which is formed in the Pacific near South America. This is when cold and warm air collide and produce copious rainfalls during this period.

So, as buckets of precipitation came fiercely from the darkened skies, I rapidly made my way to my kitchen. I reached for my left-overs (pickled red herring, boiled dumplings (whole-wheat/cornmeal), Irish potato, and steamed callaloo (Jamaican spinach) of the previous day. They were dutifully perched on the bottom shelf just waiting for me. I snatched them up with a huge grin on my face.

I made a quick dry with paper towel of my dumplings and potato and carefully cut them in halves. You see, I didn’t feel like consuming them in their present boiled form. I wanted a crusty exterior. Thus, I decided to pan fry them in hot canola oil. Can you imagine? I told you El Nino drove me to this.

This didn’t stop there; every Jamaican knows that when consuming pickled red herring, something sweet has to be added. As a result, I also fried a few pieces of plantain. Steamed callaloo (Jamaican spinach) and of course left-over pickled red herring were placed on a plate and reheated. With a couple of slices of avocado, my dish was ready for consumption.

Thanks to the El Nino effect; my palate and I were satisfied. All I needed was some piping hot green tea. Salud!

 

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ALL I NEEDED WAS A PIECE OF IRISH SODA BREAD#SHEPARD’S PIE

It wouldn’t be St. Patrick’s Day without an Irish dish. And what better way to get a snippet of good luck than with a generous wedge of Shepard’s pie. If you don’t have chopped lamb or beef, don’t sweat it. Shhhh, I used some Italian spicy sausage I had on hand. What was I going do? Have you seen the prices? There was no way I was going to purchase lamb or beef for those prices.

Rendered my sausage pieces in a hot skillet and set aside. Then, I added a mixed vegetables both fresh and frozen and made sure to season with salt, black pepper, dried basil and a few sprigs of thyme. Added back my sausage pieces then covered with smooth and buttery Irish mashed potatoes.

With a sprinkle of cheddar cheese, light bread crumbs and drizzle of olive oil, I baked my Shepard’s for at 350 degrees until all the cheese melted and pie was set. When I cut in it, oh, it was all so succulent and delicious. All those ingredients released delicious and superb gravy. I’m quite sure an Irish chap would just lap it up with a chunk of soda bread and do the River Dance. And guess what? I think he wouldn’t mind the Italian sausage.

Happy St. Paddy’s Day!

MY SPUDS WERE HEADING FOR A NOSEDIVE….#CHEESY/HERBY/ROASTED DISH CAME TO MIND

Had a few Irish potatoes. They were the lonely left-overs from the past holidays. I’m surprised they’ve lasted all this time. But, at some point, I noticed them sprouting as if to say “Hello, I see you’ve forgotten us over here!” I know; I know, I’ve been bad, ignoring them thinking they would add inches for the new year.

But, I realized at some point, I’ve to face reality. Enough of this nonsense! I somehow forgot about my motto, “a fine balance”.  So, I fetched my potatoes and peeled them and cut them in circles (about an inch thick). I stuck them in the microwave for approximately three minutes to give a jump-start with the cooking process.

On a sheet pan, I sprayed Pam. I then drizzle a little oil on my potatoes pieces, pinch of salt, pepper, dried oregano, and thyme. I rubbed potatoes down and spread all the goodness. In a 380 pre heated oven I placed the tray.

Sliced potatoes ready for oven
Sliced potatoes ready for oven

I roasted my potatoes for approximately 40 minutes (turning once). Then, I gave them an additional 2 minutes under the broiler with finely chopped parsley and some parmesan cheese.

I served my oven-roasted cheesy/herbal spuds with a fried egg along with little pieces of microwave steamed broccoli. I garnished with a little left-over parsley.  The whole dish was super divine. Thank God I didn’t allow my spuds to take an entire nosedive.

 

THIS SHEPHERD’S PIE IS NO MARLARKEY….IT COULD MAKE YOU DO THE RIVERDANCE

Shepherd’s pie is a popular Irish dish. Traditionally, the dish is cooked with lamb or mutton (goat’s meat). However, in many households across the globe, cooks have placed their personal touch and have substituted the lamb/mutton for chopped beef or some other meat.

Over the years, I do think I must have cooked this well-loved Irish dish at least half a dozen times. My first experience was a teenager in Home Economics class (high school) ‘many moons’ ago. Hmm, the taste was mouth-watering for me and my peers. By the way, I was taught to cook with chopped beef.

In the latter years as an adult, I cooked it on a few other occasions. My ‘guinea pigs’ were elated with the finishing dish on all occasions. Strangely enough, I’ve not cooked the dish for many years. So, a few days ago when I saw Carla Hall on The Chew putting her spin on the good old Irish dish, it brought back memories. As such, I decided to make my very own shepherd’s pie.

Clearly, there are different variations to the dish. Carla did hers with a crust at the bottom. I’ve never seen it done that way; however, it looked very delicious.  In the past, I prepared mine with chopped beef without the crust; and so I made my way to the grocer. Guys, I’m not a big meat person. I guess that’s why I was not cognizant of the price of beef. The cost for a small package of chopped beef was through the roof.

I’m telling you guys, I was certainly taken aback with the astronomical cost of beef. After I recovered I decided to forego the chopped beef. I immediately went rogue. I decided on an amalgamation of two worlds. Yes guys, I made a decision to use Italian (mild) sausages. It’s like Antoinnetta meeting Patrick.

Ingredients:

  • Italian (mild) sausages (2or3)
  • Chicken broth
  • Medley of veggies (carrot,celery,bell peppers,onions,scallion,thyme,garlic)
  • Corn starch (for thickening)
  • Salt/black pepper
  • Basil (dried)
  • Irish potatoes (4)
  • Butter
  • Sour cream
  • Milk (whole milk)
  • Olive oil

Method:

And so, there it was, I arrived home and fetched my three firm Italian sausages from the freezer. After a quick defrost, I gently snip the casing from each beautiful specimen. I then squeezed the slightly salty goodness in a hot and waiting skillet. I browned them and set aside. The excess oil was removed from the skillet and a drizzle of olive oil was added. To that I placed a diced medley of veggies like carrot, celery, onion, bell peppers and garlic to the pan.

Next, I added a dusting of cornstarch so as to thicken and create a sauce. After the flour was browned, I added a little chick broth and stirred.  Fresh thyme and dried seasoning were then added. Oh, the aroma in my dwelling was out of this world. Under low heat, I returned the browned sausage pieces to the skillet and placed a lid on.

After a mouth-watering and reduced consistency was created I placed my creation in a glass baking dish. Already, my mouth was salivating in a huge way. It was time guys; it was time to collide the two worlds. At that point, I used my spatula to slather on the smooth, creamy and delicious mashed potatoes. I then sprinkled a little parmesan cheese on top with a very light drizzle of olive oil. The dish was placed in a 375 degree heated oven for about 10 minutes in order to set. Then, it was placed under a hot broiler for approximately six minutes for a brown and slightly crispy top.

Conclusion:

Guys, the finished dish was unbelievable. The potato topping came out crusty, but, when I dug beneath with my spoon (yes, I had to use a spoon) I was greeted with a gush of succulent mix of sausage and veggies all mingled into one. Oh, what beautiful union! My palate was thankful.  I did a happy River dance in my head. I was super happy.

A CAULIFLOWER/SPUD SOUP TO GREET A PERFECT FALL AFTERNOON

I love the season that nature has bestowed on us. Guys, it’s Fall and I know for some of you in certain parts of the world, the temperatures feel like summer and winter for others. However, where I’m in South Florida, U.S.A., we’re experiencing the best time ever! Okay, sorry to be bragging. You see, for a great portion of the calender year we have sizzling temperatures and humidity, but, I’m not complaining.

We might not be beholding the transformation of the autumn leaves in their beautiful hues, but on this day, this gorgeous day that God has made, the humidity has taken a nose-dive and the temperatures are super mild. Oh, I’m happy.

Guys, I’m wearing a sweater, an orange at that. Of course, you know that orange screams fall. The skies are brilliant blue and the puffy white clouds are quite evident. Did I mention the sun? Oh, I didn’t; it’s shining in all its glory. And the palm and mango trees are swaying to a light breeze.

On a day as perfect as this, I’ve flung open my sliding doors and windows. And guess what? Comfort food is on my mind. To be specific, I’m thinking of soup. A couple of days ago, I purchased a five-pound sack of potatoes for $2.99 (a sale price they said). I still have a half of a ‘tight-ass’ cauliflower from when I made mashed ‘cheesy’ cauliflower. Oh boy, that was a treat.

So guess what guys, I’ve decided to ‘rock’ a hearty pot of cauliflower and potato soup. You see, when the temperatures are this divine, my palate leans towards good old soup. There are so many to choose from but I’ve the goods for a cauliflower/spud soup.

Ingredients:

  • Cauliflower (1/2lb)
  • Irish potatoes (2)
  • Onion (1small)
  • Thyme (sprig)
  • Scallion (1 stalk)
  • Celery (1 stalk)
  • Black pepper/salt to taste
  • Cheese (optional)
  • Bacon (optional)
  • Chicken stock (1 &1/2cup)
  • Milk (1/2 cup whole)

Method:

1. In a sturdy stock pot, add milk, chicken stock and water.

2. Chop potatoes and cauliflower in small portions and place in liquid and bring to a boil. Add salt, black pepper, chopped celery, onions, thyme, scallion and any other seasoning of preference.

3. Cook for approximately 12 minutes or until fork tender.

4. Cool and then place in blender. Puree to the consistency you desire.

5. Sprinkle with cheese while soup is hot and top with crispy bacon and herb of choice.

Guys, I paired  my soup with poached eggs, tomato slices and crispy bacon on opened-face toasted rye with a spread of strawberry jam. They worked phenomenal. My taste buds were satisfied on this perfect day as this.

To say that I was happy is an understatement. Guys, was over the moon! Hmm, all I needed was a siesta. As always, be kind to your loved ones as well as your beautiful palates.