Help – I’m going vegan!

My happy days at Berties Butcher

Yes you read correctly. I’m going vegan – for January. This will be very unexpected to anyone who knows me. I am a dedicated animal product lover. I spent 2012 stocking the wonderful Berties Butcher with the best meats and trying to convince Melbourne to eat more of it. I put butter generously on & in everything. I am generally unbearable without my daily flat white and my morning eggs. I’m also not always the most supportive of vegetarians or vegans friends trying to convince them to come back to the animal goods, to simply make better choices –  Go on, have a little… Not all meat is bad! What about cheese? Who can resist cheese? You get the idea…

So what’s the deal – am I just jumping on the Veganuary band wagon? Well no, that’s just a happy hashtag coincidence. Have I had an epiphany? Well of sorts. And it’s not about the industry being bad, which I know lots of it is. (I always try and make very conscious decisions). What made the difference was being tasked with putting together a vegan eating guide and helping a dedicated meat eater go vegan for a month. I realised how little I knew. Yes I can tell you all the cuts of steak, make all the mother sauces and identify most cheeses by taste. I can write a healthy eating guide, a low budget guide, a seasonal menu. But ask me to write an interesting, achievable, tasty vegan guide for a month. Now that was hard. It’s like I’ve completely ignored veganism. I looked on my heaving shelves of cookbooks for inspiration and couldn’t find a single book that didn’t have meat or dairy. I trawled all my bookmarked recipe sites, pretty much the same. I realised that being a vegan is not easy. And being a food lover and a vegan is even more difficult. Not to mention a wine loving vegan!

So I thought I’d just put it out there and look for a little help & guidance. Share some of my discoveries. And say sorry to any vegans or veggies I’ve offended!

Apprehensively looking forward to a month of experimentation and challenges…



Barry Fitzgerald’s Bastible Opens

Photo from
Photo from

One of the most hotly anticipated restaurants in Dublin (by me anyway) finally opens it’s doors today. Bastible is on Leonard’s Corner, the edge of picturesque Portobello which is fast becoming the food spot in the city. Why so excited by it? Well the chef proprietor is Barry Fitzgerald who Dubliner’s will know as the opening chef at the brilliant Etto on Merrion Row. In addition to adoring his food at Etto, I’m enthralled by his impressive London CV which includes three of my favourites – Arbutus, St. John and The Harwood Arms. All Michelin starred but also all restaurants that concentrate on serving real food – always using seasonal and sometimes inexpensive ingredients but above all creating interesting dishes that you want to eat.

From a sneak peek at their soft launch last week Barry looks set to continue this ethos. A short, simple menu let the ingredients and cooking shine. Here are a few of the dishes…

Bastible opening
Food pictures from soft opening from Barry Rowan

The restaurant itself has a neighbourhood, laid back feel, thoughtfully designed with lots of space for the open kitchen – as it should be! As well as the short al a carte menu, there will be a bar menu with sharing options. Coffee comes from Cloud Picker (so happy to see restaurants start to serve local coffee!) and Sunday’s will see a proper lunch served every week – no brunch bandwagon here I’m glad to say.

Bastible, 111 South Circular Road. Dublin 8

Contact. +353 (01) 473 7409

The scoop on ice cream

Incredible Irish ice cream, Photo: Murphy’s Ice Cream Facebook

What is it about ice cream? We are head over heels about it in a way that is rarely paralleled with other foods. But it upsets me that it is merely seen a summer romance. It should be so much more! In a country like Ireland, famed for our excellent quality dairy produce worldwide, we should be fully committed to this creamy, cold wonder year round. OK so the weather may play havoc with our relationship but I’ve been looking for some new ideas could add that extra je ne sais quoi to our temperamental ice cream affair. Here’s my scoop on what’s next for ice cream…

Coolhaus pre-packaged sammie, Photo VITO NGUYEN FOR THE HUNDREDS
Coolhaus pre-packaged sammie, Photo: Vito Nguyen for the Hundreds
Natasha Case & Coolhaus truck Photo: Vito Nguyen for The Hundreds
Natasha Case & Coolhaus truck, Photo: Vito Nguyen for The Hundreds

Really cool ice cream trucks….
Forget the aul ice cream van with it’s hypnotic, tinny tune that makes kids go crazy just upon hearing that first chime. We need someone to create our very own Irish version of US ice cream truck Coolhaus. The brainchild of Los Angeles-based Natasha Case, it started out as a thesis project in architecture at UCLA when she started baking cookies, making ice cream, and combining them into “cool houses”. Six years later Coolhaus operates a national fleet of 11 mobile ice cream trucks and carts (5 in Southern California, 3 in NYC, 2 in Austin, and 1 in Dallas). Tahitian vanilla dipped in salt caramel milk chocolate rolled in pretzels anyone? Or what about their famous Mintalimism ice cream sandwich – double chocolate chip cookies with dirty mint ice cream? (I’ve got the recipe here) There’s no plain vanilla on Coolhaus’ list of ice creams. They prefer the weirdly delicious like fried chicken and waffles ice cream and potato chip cookies. Sweet & savoury, cold but oh so hot – It’s mint to be.
Coolhaus on twitter & facebook
Buy their ice cream book here 

MIT student project proves that 3D printing ice cream is a tasty possibility. Photograph: Kristine Bunker
MIT student project proves that 3D printing ice cream is a tasty possibility, Photo: Kristine Bunker

Print your own ice cream…
Here’s one to delight your inner child! Fancy creating and printing your very own ice cream design in 15 minutes? A pie in the sky idea? Not anymore – the geniuses at Massachusetts Institute of Technology have taken the  oh-so trendy 3D printed food  phenomenon to another level and come up with 3D printed ice cream. The savvy students hooked a 3D printer up to a Cuisinart ice cream maker and to create machine that can make on-demand soft serve, according to a report from
They say it’s just a proof version, made to get kids excited about technology, but they hope to develop the concept into a working machine. For now though there’s a brief glimpse at the action in the video below. Now who ordered the ice cream with some printer jam?

Photo: Gelato Messine Facebook
Photo: Gelato Messine Facebook

Kick ass ice cream parlours
While I’m already in a fairly serious relationship with our very own excellent ice cream peddler Murphy’s there is a long distance ice cream love that I long for. Gelato Messina. This Australian Italian inspired ice cream mecca produces the most whimsical, fairytale like ice cream creations I’ve ever seen. OK so gelato is a little different to the ice cream we are used to but with a whole team dedicated to their creative department there are so many notable creations. One of my favourites is the eye catching Dr Evil’s Magic Mushroom below. Filled with Dr Evil gelato (dark chocolate gelato, peanut cookies and dulce de leche) the stalk is filled with dulce de leche caramel surrounded by dark chocolate gelato. The whole mushroom sits upon ‘grass’ made from popping candy and crushed biscuit. Seriously. Past incredible creations that will also blow you away are The Royale with cheese – chocolate crackle gelato, financier bun, white chocolate gelato & apricot gelee, compressed cucumber, white chocolate slice and  The Samurai – gravity defying ice pop of yuzu sorbet, salted caramel and black and red orange scented chocolate. These were both limited edition but with new creations every week there are queues out the door every day. Their top ten flavour combo’s include Salted Caramel with white choc chip & Peanut Butter anything, Pear and Rhubarb & Chocolate Fondant and Poached Figs in Marsala & Gianduia. Oh and and you can also order it via Uber…This is some seriously smooth ice cream.
Gelato Messina on Twitter & Facebook 

Dr Evils Magic Mushroom Photo: Gelato Messina
Dr Evils Magic Mushroom Photo: Gelato Messina

But these are only the tip of the iceberg of the world of ice cream! There are many more mouth watering parlours around the world BuzzFeed Food rounded up 27 of the best here. I also adore the super cool Chin Chin Labs in London a Liquid Nitrogen Ice-Cream Parlour where they make your ice cream right before your eyes. And although it’s not strictly ice cream I have been doing a cheeky sideline with Dublin’s FroYo emporium Yogism recently. It always puts a smile on my face.


Baby’s first taste of ice cream. It’s a thing on You Tube. Oh-so adorable.

LOVE 99’s?The Irish Times is looking for Ireland’s Best 99. Know where it is? Nominate here

There are scientific reasons why we love ice cream

Is ice cream recession proof?

Don’t want to share? Get a lock for you tub now! Ben & Jerry’s have launched security for your ice cream.


I might not have found my perfect zen yet but I can make a pretty good sauce…

I’ve been doing lots of yoga type things since I got to Sydney and while I find them nice and relaxing most of the time, the whole ‘clear your mind’ thing doesn’t really work for me and I invariably find that I end up deep in meditation on how I can better a recipe…I’ve dedicated many a bikram session to baking and I think a recent near perfect pavalova was a result of this.

I'm gonna try this move next week. Photograph: Lisa Larsen/Getty Images/Time Life Pictures

So last week when I ended up in a 2-hour meditation class (Thanks Susie!) hollandaise was on my mind as I had promised someone at work I would show them how easy it is. Turns out it’s a lot easier than meditating.

All we had to do was repeat a chant – something like ‘Waa Hey Guru’ but firstly I had to concentrate so hard not to bleat out ‘Baa Ram Ewe’ like the Sheep in Babe and then the girls beside me got fits of giggles whenever anyone chanted funny. It was very contagious laughter. Then we had to lie down and listen to some ‘relaxing’ music (I thought it was the sound track from a Hitchcock movie. I could almost feel the birds swooping!) so I turned my mind to perfecting easy hollandaise and here’s what I came up with…

Easy to remember what you need 3,2,1…as in 3 egg yolks, 200g melted salted butter and 1 big squeeze of lemon.

Easy peasy lemon squeezy

Buy good quality eggs as fresh as you can – you will taste the difference…

Make your sauce in a very clean bowl over some boiling water in a pan, making sure the water doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl. This is a much gentler heat and will help avoid the egg scrambling.

Steamy = Saucy

So it’s your 3 yolks into bowl, whisking…Put it over the heat. Add the melted butter a bit at a time whisking throughout. If it’s looking like it will scramble take it off the heat.

Keep going, add your lemon, then warm/cook it gently until it is saucy. EASY PEASY. If you want poached eggs to go with it you can leave it over the water but off the heat to keep it warm.

When it coats the back of a spoon you know it's ready to go. Egg-cellent.

POACHED EGGS – now I know everyone has a tip for poached eggs, but I think only two (or maybe 3) things matter.

Gooey goodness every time

Use the FRESHEST eggs you can get. All the tricks and tips in the world won’t help an old egg.

Use a big deep saucepan and make sure the water is really bubbling boiling.

Crack your eggs into a small dish first and then drop them into the water, getting as close to the water as you can.

Have a slotted spoon and some paper towel ready for draining.

When the water sort of expands in that eggy ghosty sort of way turn off the heat and leave the eggs in the water for 2-3 minutes depending on how you want them cooked, just fish them out and take a look. You know they are done when the bit where the white meets the yolk is opaque.

Don’t worry if they are all wispy, you can trim them to make them look pretty – This is what the restaurants do!

So any suggestions on a recipe to get me through my next yoga session?

Eveleigh (SUPER) Market & easy suppers

It's fun to shop!

Remember when the supermarket was fun??? When there were free tastings on every aisle and pushing the trolley provided an inordinate thrill?  Alas those days seem long gone, 20 years later and paying for my own groceries, the supermarket is where I head for boring basics, BOGOFs and cheap booze.  So where to look these days for foodie shopping thrills? Why the ubiquitous farmers market of course!

Now I know this idea is nothing new – I’ve been swinging my eco bag full of sourdough, Comte and venison sausages as long as the next person.  But, the goodthing about the ridiculous price of groceries in Sydney is that it means shopping at the local farmers market is much of a muchness price wise so you may as well grab your hand woven Moroccan basket (Oh and maybe a dog and a pair of Wayfarers), bypass Coles and Woollies and head down to your local market. You will not be disappointed, and I can guarantee the coffee be better.

To market, to market - photo from Eveleigh Markets

Last Saturday I left behind the supermarket shiny floors and noisy plastic bags and headed what I’m told is one of Sydney’s best – Eveleigh Farmers Market, where you can pick up local fruit, vegetables and meat galore straight from the farmer, a cheese tray of delicious Australian fromage for $10 and my favourite bargain a tray of  organic eggs for $5.

Here’s a few quick notes/ recipes from the bounty – a lovely roast organic chook, amazing roast beetroot and a quick 30 minute recipe for lamb leg that is fast becoming a mid week staple…

Poultry emotion....


You will need –

A lovely bird – mine was from Thirlmere Poultry at Eveleigh

Butter or oil

Salt & pepper

And if you have them – Lemon, garlic, thyme and a handful of veg (carrots/ celery/ onion)

And now for the easy part…

Turn your oven on to 220c. Chop up some veg and pop it in a baking tray to make a trellis to sit your chicken on. (Then the juices with gather here if you want to make a gravy and the veg with taste amazing)

Remove the giblets from the chicken if they are in there and run your chicken under cold water to wash and then pat dry with a towel.

Smother your bird in butter or olive oil and season generously with salt and pepper.Fill the cavity with a lemon chopped in half, a head of garlic chopped and a bunch of thyme or any hard herbs you may have.

Cross the legs and tie them closed if you have string, I’d run out the day I did this so my bird was a little loose…still delicious though!

Birds eye view

Put the chook in the oven at 220c for 10 mins then turn it down to 180 and cook for about an hour and 20 mins depending on the size. I usually do 10 minutes on high and then reduce to 180c and cook for another 20 minutes for every 500g of bird. You can check it’s cooked by sticking a knife into the crease by the leg, if the juices run clear it’s cooked.

Remove from the oven, cover with foil and leave to rest for at least 20-30 minutes. It will stay hot. Then carve up and enjoy…


Let the beet rock

So easy – cover the beetroot with cold water and boil until soft enough for a knife to go through (usually about 25 – 30 minutes). Drain and leave for a few minutes then peel them easily by donning a thick pair of Marigolds and rubbing them – the skin will slide off. Cut up into quarters, sprinkle over some oil, salt and pepper and put in the oven at 180 – 200c and roast for about 30 – 40 mins.

Also if the leaves on your bunch are nice don’t throw them – you can eat them like you would chard. I blanch mine and put them in beetroot risotto before serving.

Just beet-iful


(thank ewe to Matt Vines for this easy number)

Un-baah-lievabley easy and tasty

Even easier – Turn your oven onto 180c. Just rub the lamb with whatever you have in your cupboard – mustard, garlic, oil and salt and pepper are ideal. A few sprigs of rosemary will be exceptional. Leave it for as many minutes as you can and then pan fry it in a big pan to seal and pop it in the oven for 20 minutes if you like it very pink and anything up to 40 minutes should be good for a more medium audience.

Anyone else got great market recommendations or recipes?

Eveleigh Market is held every Saturday ‘rain, hail or shine’ as it is located under the heritage listed Blacksmiths Workshop.