Whats the irish for antipasti?

Antipasti. Mezze. Tapas. All conjure up visions of food laden tables, eager hands and spoons filling plates, tearing bread, a bit of this, a bit of that... a feast for the mouth, and for the eyes!

Its funny because most people forget we have always had our own version of this, don't you remember when your mother handed out cold dinners of egg mayonnaise, coleslaw, salad, meat, served with copious amounts of tea?

Whats the Irish for antipasti? Its an institution in most households I know. Yet it has no official name. High tea maybe, as in The Famous Five? Anyway, in our house its been nicknamed an "Irish Antipasti" and its usually served up after we've done a large food shop and I can't be bothered doing more than boiling a few eggs.

Forget the chorizo, the dolmades, even the olives and fill your plates with natives! Ham, corned beef, cheddar cheese, bread, coleslaw, vegetables and pickles - help yourself!... its such a very nice way to eat!


Baby foodie...

Baby food in jars disgust my son. From day one he point blank refused to eat one spoon, no matter how menu-fied the name... Fishermans supper, Grandmas Sunday roast etc... He will just about tolerate a plain apple sauce but the rest he won't entertain for one minute. Which is fine by me. I bought one or two at the beginning, still finding my feet after a ten year gap between my children, but swiftly learned that it was money wasted. I also realised that it is infinitely easier to include Joe in the family pot, and since he started eating, he has eaten with us at the table, and served the same as the rest of us.

However, lunch has always caught me sideways where Joe is concerned and especially since his appetite has grown! I rarely have more than a sandwich or a bowl of soup nowadays so I always need to prepare him something else. Some days he'll have a kiwi and a yoghurt, maybe some liga but most days I will prepare a variation of the recipe below. Its simple, quick as you like, and he loves it! Below makes enough for 3 or 4 servings.

Grubbymans Favorite Lunch.

1 bag instant cous cous

1 tin wild red salmon (boneless and skinless)

handful parsley, chopped

half clove garlic, crushed

tablespoon mayonnaise.

Prepare the cous cous as per the instructions, stir through the salmon, parsley, garlic and mayonnaise.

Spoon into waiting mouth!

I always put a few extra spoons into his bowl, so I can sample some without depriving him - Its irresistable!


The cauliflower and I have had our ups and downs, I left it off my shopping list almost completely as an adult, until I met Bill who absolutley loves it. Funny because he is the ultimate foodie and where I had associated cauliflower with unhappily chewing it as a child, he raved about it as if it was a luxury! Bill loves to challenge his palate with new and unusual tastes and textures... from scrambled sea urchin to eel stew (both items he has recently chosen in restaurants) and more, he is the guy happily popping snails in his mouth like popcorn, nonchanantly chewing on a pigs ear in a rustic italian bar. Not that I wouldn't join him, but I have to confess my snail eating involves not looking at what I am about to put in my mouth for fear I should spy a little waving eye!

Recently at a friends house the subject of Casu marzu came up, when he heard about the practice of eating maggot infested (jumping maggots to add to your horror) cheese in sicily, Bill said "Weird, I'd love to taste it" and when horrified "whys" followed, he said "Well they eat it for a reason don't they, it obviously has something to offer". You can see how much of a foodie he is!

Anyway, he loves cauliflower and when I first met him he used to tell me about a dish an italian friend of his would prepare for him. He described it as a creamy cauliflower pasta. I thought it sounded horrible. Pasta and cauliflower? Stodgy old fashioned sour cauliflower? Surely not! Bills "weird food" fetish was going too far!

Then, while flicking through an old italian recipe book I'd inherited, I spied a recipe for pasta with cauliflower or Penne al Cavalfiore. I decided to give it a whirl, putting my own spin on it.

I'm so glad I gave it the benefit of the doubt, it is now a firm family favorite, so quick and easy, especially if you have a bag of frozen cauliflower in your freezer. Its really really good, always hits the spot - Do try it out! I've used large macaroni in the picture but penne is better...!

Penne al Cavalfiori (I love the italian word for cauliflower, much more appealling!)

Penne or tube pasta (about 100g per person)

Bechamel sauce (see recipe in comments)

Bag of frozen cauliflower florets

Cayenne pepper



Boil the pasta along with the cauliflower florets, when the pasta is done as per the instructions, the cauliflower will be done.

Mix through the bechamel sauce, grate parmesan over the top, sprinkle as much cayenne pepper and salt and pepper as you like.


Surprisingly good isn't it?


Shroom for more...

Today I was feeling the drag of these "is it winter, is it spring" days, I longed to throw open my windows and feel sun on my face, but I knew the view from my window was misleading, the bright grecian sky was teasing, the daffodil sun a mere illusion...

I dislike this time of year, its not one thing or the other, when inticed by cloudless blue skies and the summery brightness I venture out only to wish I'd brought another jumper... and worn socks...

This afternoon, I began feeling the rumbling of hunger and wandered into the kitchen to have a snuffle around and see what I could put together for dinner... The mirage of summer outside made me feel like eating something fresh and light but the cold glass of the windows, and the draft coming under the door to taunt my feet made me long for something hearty, full of flavour.

Mushrooms have the perfect balance between summer lightness and winter stodge and as I love mushrooms and always have plenty in stock, I decided to make one of our favorites - Mushroom tagliatelle as inspired by a lovely picture in Gordon Ramsays Fast Food. I usually fry the mushrooms with onion and garlic, lace with olive oil and stir through pasta adding plenty of salt and pepper and grated parmesan... For some reason today, however, I took down the book and took a long proper look at the recipe as it should be. Shallots, not onions. Shaved parmesan, and lots of fresh herbs, parsley, rocket and chives!!

Intrigued, I weighed out the mushrooms, chopped shallots finely with crushed garlic into the pan to sizzle, added mushrooms then the herbs... stir stir.... into the pasta and onto the table. Simple, not too different in preparation than my own.

However the difference was in the eating. The oily pasta, tang of chives, slippery mushroom and salty cheese... and then the crunch of the rocket... fantastic! I knew instantly that no other mushroom pasta would be prepared in my kitchen but this one!

Its true that inspiration is key to any creative process, all artists need to be inspired, but for something to be great, for a masterpiece, you will first need to accept the instruction of a maestro!

Tagliatelli of wild mushrooms - Gordon Ramsay

500g wild mushrooms

2 large shallots, finely chopped

1 large cloves of garlic, crushed

Handful of parsley, chives and rocket, roughly chopped

Fresh tagliatelli

Shavings of parmesan

Olive oil


Fry the shallots and garlic in olive oil till transparent and golden, add mushrooms.

When the mushrooms are cooked stir in the herbs and season.

Add to just cooked pasta, top with parmesan and serve.


Just for starters...

I'm going to start off this blog with my favorite recipe of all....

Pink Champagne Cake

This cake was the result of searching for a cake recipe which involved champagne, and finding nothing suitable. A friend of mines 30th was coming up, and she had just graduated from the prestigous Champagne Academy, so I wanted to personalise the cake for her... but everywhere I looked I came up with nothing. So I played around using Nigella basic recipes and after a disaster, where I added champagne to the cake pre-baking, I came up with this! It is made at the drop of a hat, and I may as well start wearing t=shirts with "will i bring a cake?" I say it that many times.

The icing is what makes this cake, it tastes divine, if the rose wine color is too twee for you - use white sparkling wine instead - its as nice!

You'll need

Two sponge sandwiches (see recipe in comments)

250ml fresh whipped cream

500g Icing Sugar

Fresh strawberries (a handful chopped small for the middle is enough and two large ones for the top)

Approx one large glass of Rose sparkling wine (or pink champagne if you are feeling extravagant)

When your cake is cooling on a wire rack, skewer it with a knife a few times on both sandwiches and using a spoon trickle the wine all across the sponge. You want it damp-ish. It doesn't really matter if you end up soaking it, its nicer if you don't but it won't be ruined if you add too much.

Now for the icing...

Pour some of the glass of sparkling wine into a bowl and sieve some icing sugar into it until you have a thick icing that will plop easily off a spoon, if it pours its too thin - add more sugar, if it forms peaks its too thick - add more wine!

To assemble the cake

Line your chosen plate with a sheet of greaseproof and place one of the sponges on it, then stir the chopped strawberries through the whipped cream and spread across the cake, nice and thick. Add the other sponge on top.

Now plop some of the icing onto the top of the cake, it should start to spread out. If its the perfect consistency it will just hit the edge and creep over (as in the picture). Add more icing if it stops short, you can help it along with a wet spoon. If it looks like its going to pour over you can stop it in its tracks by sieving icing sugar straight onto the top, it sets the icing.

Pop it into the fridge until you need it and then slide the greaseproof out from under it, or just fold it under - or leave it, unless you're sure you can slide it, I have two really large wurstof spatulas that i use to lift the cake.

Just before serving, slice the two large strawberries in half and arrange on top.