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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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It’s really beginning to feel like spring around my neck of the woods in Dublin. But, as those of you who live here or have visited, our completely bananas weather means that it may feel like spring in the morning before hopping back to winter in the afternoon and ending the day with an autumn evening.

As I’ve said before, it’s great to have a few recipes under your kitchen belt that can bridge the gap weather-wise. I’m starting to crave bright and fresh salads but, as we’re still not out of winter’s gate just yet, there’s a tendency to reach for wintery vegetables which are so good at filling the belly with comfort.

Last week I was looking for the culinary hug a bowl of root vegetable salad might offer. I had some carrots and red cabbage in the fridge, as well as some lovely blood oranges in my fruit bowl. There was a bit of St Tola’s goat cheese that needed using and some lovely Pumpkin Seed Oil that the Gunter’s gave me for my birthday that I really wanted to get drizzling with. Almost by accident, I put together a really lovely little salad that I’m pretty sure will be appearing on my table through the transition of the seasons.

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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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Halloumi is definitely one of my favourite things to eat. It’s the most wonderfully meaty cheese that brings a guilty edge to any vitamin-packed salad.

On Wednesday afternoon, I took Niall for lunch in BiBi’s, one of our favourite spots in our new neighbourhood. I was a little nervous and my tummy was being a bit belly-floppy. For, you see, after lunch I was planning to somehow get Niall to the Iveagh Gardens where, in the tradition of Leap Year, I was going to propose to him.

Boy, was I grateful to see an energy-boosting couscous with pan-fried halloumi cheese on the menu in BiBi’s that day. The beautifully seasoned bowl of tasty goodness was brought to life by the addition of harissa to the couscous and a sumac-flavoured yoghurt keeping the heat of the spicy couscous under control. Niall enjoyed his smoked salmon tart too, blissfully unaware of what was about to happen.

I nonchalantly suggested a trip to the park, as it was an unseasonally sunny day. He fell for it. We grabbed one of BiBi’s ah-mazing (and I mean ah-mazing) peanut butter brownies and some take-away coffees and headed for the park. And that’s when I started acting weird. I found a quiet tree, got down on one knee and asked Niall to marry me. And…

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Poor old Jerusalem artichokes are often avoided due to their *ahem* flatulent properties. These interestingly tubular vegetables, which are a cousin of the sunflower, are native to North America and are quite like a mushroomy potato. They’re often found in soups, but I prefer to roast them and use as a base for a banging pasta bake. And I’ve since learned from fellow blogger Stef that roasting them does alleviate their propensity to cause parpiness.

Upon seeing a bundle of the ‘chokes in last week’s Home Organics bag, I thought I’d quite like to try them as a topping for a puff-pastry tart. On Saturday afternoon, I rolled out my shop-bought pastry, gave the ‘chokes a bit of a roasting and created a savoury tart that went down very well at lunch time.

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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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Pasta, pasta, pasta.  I could eat it forever.  I really could.  It’s so comforting and easy to work with, and the sauce possibilities are just endless.  Total amazeness.

For most of us, a home-made pasta lunch is usually only possible on the weekends.  But in truth, that’s the best time for it as you’re then able to indulge yourself in a post-pasta snoozefest.  Lovely.

This is a super quick and startlingly simple pasta sauce that puts the always delicious leek and bacon/pancetta flavour combination to good use.  Perfect for a lazy weekend lunch or a quick and snappy mid-week dinner.

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Tuesdays blow!  They do.  Most of the people around you are invariably in a foul mood, which multiplies into skirmishes over communal staffroom milk once it meets your own personal Tuesday Funk.  Argh.  I despise Tuesdays.

Once again, my culinary chum chorizo has come to my Tuesday Night Dinner Rescue.  I love chorizo because it does the work of three ingredients – it adds a depth and intense flavour with, like, NO effort at all.  It’s amaze.

I whipped up a super quick tortilla with hardly any fuss after work this evening, and though perhaps high in cholesterol with the eggs for some of your diets, a Spanish omlette/tortilla/frittata/whatevayawannacallit is a great mid-week dinner for Busy Bees and Tuesday Victims.

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Ok.  So it’s not really called Trapattoni sauce.  It’s called Trapani-style rigatoni and it’s a super quick fix beautiful pasta sauce to make your mid-week dinner taste amaze.

It’s from Jamie Oliver’s 30 Minute Meals, which doesn’t seem to be ageing all that well as a whole cooking concept.  I’m still getting a lot of use out of the book, even if it’s just for picking out easy and quick tricks like this pasta sauce.

Rigatoni is a wonderfully ginourmous pasta, and takes about 14 minutes to cook.  In that time, you can whizz this sauce together in your food processor or hand-held blender, and all of a sudden your Tuesday/Wednesday night meal has gone from meh to WAHEY!

I was reminded of this sauce last week when my friend Aoife Barry made me a very similar sauce for an entirely vegan pasta lunch.  This recipe isn’t vegan because of the addition of anchovies, but remove them and this is a good one for meat-lovers, veggies and vegans alike.

You do need a food processor or a little whizzer for this, however.  I got my food processor in Argos last year for €39, and although it won’t last me forever, it’s a very handy machine, and will certainly keep me going til I can get a better model.  Even one of those info-mercial handheld gizmos are brilliant for these kinds of sauces.

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