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I know the international readers of this blog must roll their eyes every time I mention the weather, but here in Ireland we have good reason to talk about it a lot/constantly. Because it continues to smote us. The weather pretends to be our friend and then quite literally rains on our parade when we really  wanted the parade to be sun-soaked.

I have a lovely recipe waiting to share with you, a chipotle-spiced pork kebab wonder that I whipped up on our summer of 2012. Which happened for a few days around the 25th of May. I don’t usually let it get to me, but for some reason, that tease of a summer has hit me hard this year. We had a wonderful dinner outside in our garden, the smell of the grilled pork driving our puppy Daffodil (who has just started her own blog, natch) demented while we were enamoured by the smell of our Factor 50 protecting our pale and freckly skin, closing our eyes and relishing the heat. It even hit 20 degrees celsius at one point. 20 degrees!

Anyway, the weather has taken a (surprise!) turn for the worse over the last week. So I’m saving my grilled pork recipe for sunnier times and instead I’m going to share this great crossover recipe that I consoled myself with this weekend. I used lovely Moroccan spices to add a bit of kick to our roast chicken and it worked a treat in adding a little heat to our drizzly Irish day.

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Dukkah has been found at the beginning of quite a few food gatherings at my house so far this year. It’s an Egyptian-inspired spice mix which I first got a whiff of at the wonderful Ard Bia in Galway. It works brilliantly as a pre-dinner all-hands-on-deck nibbley treat because you can make it way in advance and it can sit happily on your table until your buddies arrive to tuck in.

It’s an aromatic combination of hazelnuts, fennel seeds, coriander seeds and quite a few more spice cupboard favourites. It’s served alongside fluffly bread and oil, so that you can dip your bread in your oil and then into the Dukkah mix, gathering up as many delicious spices you can before popping the lot in your gob. This works deliciously alongside a batch of homemade hummus, another great make-in-advance dish for a food gathering.

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That’s right. You heard me. Deep-fried mutha-fuppin’ cauliflower.

This is an outrageously bold use of our floreted friend, and uses the gram flour mix I’ve been using for onion bhajis to its tastiest effect yet. It takes only a few minutes to prepare and works really well as a shared starter for friends as it actually tastes better when they’ve cooled down slightly.

I had mine with some sweet chilli sauce but they’d be great with a yoghurt-based dip. Next time I’ll probably whip up a bit of yoghurt, chopped coriander and a squeeze of lime juice as an extra dipping sauce. Nom.

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Have you ever noticed that it is it virtually impossible to find Irish grown asparagus in the shops? Every once in a while you might see British asparagus in M&S and it’ll cost you a pretty penny. It’s more common to see Spanish, French or Thai asparagus (asparagi?) alongside the ubiquitous and much maligned Peruvian variety.

I had been eating these imported spears happily enough for years until a meal last year (one of the most memorable meals of the year it turned out) in The Tannery in Dungarvan, Waterford. We were served asparagus that had been plucked from their kitchen garden across the road, cooked delicately by Paul Flynn in the kitchen. The result was truly like nothing I had ever before tasted. It was a woody, sweet delight that lead to a lightbulb moment for my tastebuds. “Aha!” they rejoiced. “So that’s what asparagus is supposed to taste like.”

Well, as you can imagine, every spear of this spring vegetable that has passed my lips since has paled in comparison. I got a very lovely bunch of Spanish asparagus in my Home Organics bag a week ago and it got me thinking about Irish asparagus. Is it grown here? Can you buy it anywhere? Is it better than the imported varieties or did I just have a magic moment in The Tannery? Questions on a postcard or in the comment box at the bottom of the post, please and thanks.

*may be a slight dramatization of real life events

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Isn’t it brilliant when you find out that something that looks impossible to make is actually incredibly simple? My most recent nomrevelation has been gyoza.

With the help of some handy ready-to-roll gyoza pasty discs that I found in Asia Market on Drury Street – amazingly named Happy Belly Gyoza Skins – it turns out making your own dumplings is a piece of cake.

I shared a recipe in Weekend’s Naughty or Nice column over the weekend, to correspond with Aoife B’s much less naughty Udon Noodles with Purple Sprouting Broccoli. The recipe, which you’ll find after the jump, uses pork meat to flavour the dumpings. I’ve since made them with leftover roast chicken meat and got my Roller Derby buddies Claire and Sara over after practice to help me roll them.

There’s a slight knack to rolling them but basically if you get the pastry to stick together, you don’t really have to worry about making them amazing. However, I have included the most incredimaze instructional video of all time at the bottom of the post. It’s from a Japanese TV programme called Cooking With Dog and it’s not what you think. I promise.

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Yes! I know I’m in danger of seeming evangelical about roasted cauliflower at this stage but this little risotto recipe is not the work of a caulifundamentalist, I promise you.

Our weather in Dublin has been (surprise!) rather changeable of late and I always think a good risotto is a great dish for transitional seasons. It can be ultra comforting yet it’s easily brightened up with the use of spring and summer vegetables.

I happen to find stirring risotto quite therapeutic, as there really isn’t much to do but stand over it and stir for 20 minutes or so. Some people find this tedious while others have The Fear about risotto. As with everything, it’s a practice makes perfect kind of thing. But there’s definitely no need to mystify it either. My own risotto might not impress an Italian Mamma but it always goes a long way to cheering me up when I’ve had an bleurghsome day.

And, let’s be honest, with all of the cheese and butter that’s added at the last minute, you can’t really go wrong.

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Yeah…sorry about that Thumper. A Sunday ago (before all of that engagement excitement) I had some blogger buddies (namely LucySharon and Bill, Catherine and Oran) over after the Dublin Flea Market for a spot of Sunday lunch. On the menu was Rabbit Pie. But how, I can hear you ask, did I come to find myself with a rabbit that needed to be turned into a pie?

Well, I’ll tell you. The previous Tuesday I’d taken part in an educational and enjoyable butchery course with the totally awesome Pat Whelan (@Pat_Whelan) and his master butcher Liam Bourke (@ButcherIrish) of James Whelan Butchers in Clonmel. It’s a course Pat is hoping to make a more regular event, in his Clonmel shop as well as his shop in Avoca Monkstown. We learned about the different cuts of pork and lamb, we talked about free-range and organic and local produce, about abattoirs and the skill of butchery. We were each given a chicken and shown how to joint it, then got a bit of hands on practice by jointing the chicken ourselves, very fun work and a great skill to have.

Then, a skinned rabbit appeared on the butcher’s block and was jointed by Liam. Pat highlighted its origins were Italy, where most of the rabbits you’ll see in Irish butchers are from. It seems there isn’t much of a rabbit farming industry here and although it is possible to buy wild Irish rabbits, they’re hard to come by. Pat asked if anyone wanted to take the rabbit home to cook and I hopped (again, sorry Thumper and, indeed, anyone with a sense of humour) at the chance.

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James Whelan’s Butchers striploin steak, as purchased in Avoca Monkstown

Aren’t dinners that are fuss-free to prepare yet taste positively luxurious the best?

A Sunday or two ago, I whipped up this extremely quick dinner made up of few bits and pieces that were lurking in the fridge. I’m not sure where the inspiration for the feta potatoes came from (somewhere divine and delicious anyway) but they worked so unexpectedly well with the rest of the steak dinner.

I was so very pleased. I mean, I practically didn’t even have to do anything to make this dinner! Really, I can’t even express how delighted I am when I make a simple supper that boasts luscious flavour combinations. And, truly, it almost always happens like this meal – an accident!

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I’ve remarked on this blog how cauliflower and broccoli were vegetables I struggled with, due to their mistreatment by the cooks at the boarding school I ate in for four years. It was often a case of “Please sir, don’t give us any more” when it came to the sodden mush formerly known as vegetables served up every night.

(It should be noted that we had lots of lovely food in the school, too. Some mornings we had warm croissants and honey, and about four times a year we got strawberries and cream for dessert. There was a pretty much constant supply of Coco Pops and lots of relatively fresh salads on Wednesdays. So, we did quite well, really. It was just the vegetables that seemed to suffer the most.)

If I’ve made one food discovery this year that I will take forward with me throughout the rest of my cooking days, it is that roasting is more often than not the best way to cook vegetables. The roasted broccoli pasta dish is now a firm favourite in this house.

More recently, I discovered a stunning recipe for roasted cauliflower on one of my fave food blogs, Smitten Kitchen. I’ve made it a number of time since, but, in an unintentional bout of selfishness, have neglected to share it with you until now. This is such a simple yet outstandingly satisfying dinner, that you I must simply insist you to try it for yourself!

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This year in Ireland, we seem to have gotten our autumn in November. Usually October here is full of blue skies and chilly days spent wrapped up in scarves while the leaves change colours in the trees. It’s lovely, and has always been my favourite time of year here.

2011, however, has had ideas of its own. October was a rather wet month while this November (with some exceptions) has generally been beautifully mild with a few of those chilly, sunny days scattered about.

(Can’t believe I’m talking about the weather. I think I have a point. Bear with me.)

I’ve decided this is actually a brilliant thing. Long has November been maligned as the worst bloody month of the year. After January, obvs. It’s that crappy month between the fun of October and the jolliness of Chrimbo, where you’re on a detox and aren’t spending any money. So having the weather on its side this year really has a lot to be said for it.

Today was a great day for crab meat. It was beautifully sunny outside but with a nip in the air. Enough of a nip to dust off my favourite bobbly hat and let it stretch its threads upon my crown, having spent a few months at the back of a drawer. After an afternoon walk in the autumn sun, I came home and whipped up a light supper of sweet crab on toast. Which turned out to be super fast and satisfyingly filling.

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