Monday, 5 January 2015

Welcome to 2015 and a recipe for Harissa Cod with Cannellini Beans & Shredded Brussels Sprouts

2015.

It’s January; it’s a new year and time to plan for the things that I want to do in the coming months. Before I do that I think it’s worth looking back on some of last year’s highlights - in terms of my blog but also on a personal level.

2014 was the first full calendar year spent writing on my blog; it’s where I post my thoughts about and inspirations for the food I cook. There are also loads of recipes! When I was younger… and I mean quite young (aged about 8 or 9 years old) I wanted to be a food writer. Most children want to be doctors, nurses, teachers, firemen… but I wanted to write about food and have the opportunity to eat it and get paid for doing so!

   Me, Diana Dodog & Edel Byrne
From a young age I had adventurous taste buds and a palate eager to try new things. Life and responsibilities got in the way of my writing ambitions and I ended up taking a completely different career path, but my love of food, cookbooks, cooking and dining out has remained ever constant and has, in reality, developed and intensified over the years.

A couple of years ago, I decided that rather than talk about writing about food, I would just start doing it! These days, with the internet and the availability of various free blogging platforms, you can literally just start writing about whatever it is you want to write about!  In 2013, I also decided to apply for MasterChef Ireland and after a truly thrilling and exciting time, I reached the final of the 2014 series, which was won by Diana Dodog - a worthy champion! You can check out what Diana is doing now here.
  
Getting to the final of MasterChef Ireland really gave me the confidence boost that I needed and spurred me on to write about food and share my recipes on this blog. I write about foods that interest me; foods that I want to cook and eat. In as far as possible, I try to highlight ingredients when they are in season and to show different ways in which they can be used. I also like to include recipes for typical Irish dishes or foods that I remember from my childhood. In culinary terms, we have so much to be proud of in this country and we should celebrate these achievements. There are quite a lot of baking and dessert recipes on this blog but that’s because I like eating them, but in 2015 I plan on doing loads more recipes for savoury dishes.
 
The following were my most popular posts with visitors to my blog in 2014:
Interestingly, my personal favourite posts of the year were both savoury dishes and were for
These are genuinely dishes that I enjoyed cooking, were relatively simple to make and most importantly, tasted absolutely delicious.  Food has to look inviting, so I try to present and photograph my food so that it shows it off at its best… but at the end of the day it HAS to taste wonderful; that is the most important thing as far as I am concerned.
 
All the recipes that I present on my blog have been cooked by me, sometimes a number of times so that they are tweaked, refined and hopefully perfected. I want people to feel confident when using my recipes, so I think it’s important that I put the effort in. For me the greatest compliment that anyone can give me is to say that they cooked and enjoyed eating my recipes.
 
During 2014, I was thrilled to be a finalist in the Food & Drink category of the Blog Awards Ireland. For, me it really was an honour and unexpected highlight of the year.
 
As 2015 starts, I want to continue writing and posting my recipes and other food-related. If 2014 was about sharing foods and inspirations from my past, I want to be more experimental and daring in the food I cook and the recipes I post during 2015. Inspiration can come from reading cookbooks and food magazines, by watching food programmes but the best way of getting inspiration is by dining out and trying new and different things – I hope to be doing a lot more of that this year!!!
 
As usual, I will continue to include a recipe with each post and as ever, I love to receive feedback so do feel free to comment. Thank you to all those who have given me encouragement and constructive criticism; it matters more than you know!
 
To finish, I am going to give a really quick and simple recipe that I made for dinner yesterday. After all the rich and heavy food of the festive season, I wanted something a little different, but still comforting to eat. I think this dish is just perfect. It’s spicy, with a faint background sweetness and is warm and satisfying to eat without being heavy. I used cod, but you could use any firm white-fleshed fish instead. I didn’t bother soaking and cooking the beans myself but rather used a can of cooked beans. Season well and add a good squeeze of fresh lemon juice just before serving as this will really bring the flavours alive.

Ingredients:

25ml olive oil2 or 3 shallots, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1tsp ground cumin
2tblsp harissa paste
2tsp honey
A large sprig of fresh thyme
400g tin of chopped tomatoes
400g tin of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
400ml vegetable stock
8-10 Brussels sprouts, finely shredded
Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
4 x 100g portions of fresh cod, skinned and pin-boned
Juice of half a lemon
To serve:
Lemon wedges, griddled
 

Method:

1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over a moderate heat and gently fry the shallot and crushed garlic for approximately 5 minutes until soft and translucent but not coloured. Stir occasionally.
2. Add the cumin and harissa paste and stir through. Allow to cook out for 1 minute and then add the honey and thyme. Let this also cook out for a couple of minutes, stirring continuously. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
3. Add the chopped tomatoes, the beans and vegetable stock. Allow to simmer uncovered for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally until reduced by a third (it should still be quite soupy).
4. Place the cod portions on in the saucepan. Cover with a lid and simmer for about 8 minutes. Add the shredded Brussels sprouts and cover again. Cook for a further 5 minutes or so until the cod is cooked through.
5. Add a generous squeeze of fresh lemon juice, taste and adjust seasoning as necessary. Serve with griddled lemon wedges if liked.

Serves 4.