Equal opportunities carb savages – potato cakes & noodle soup

We love an aul’ spud.  For years I would deny them: my new found culinary freedom when I went to college meant I could alternate pasta and rice and never see a spud that wasn’t chipped & deep fried, or encased in a packet marked ‘Hunky Dory’. When I was little,  I would try to hide pieces of potato under my cutlery long after everyone had left the table, having been instructed to stay there til I’d finished everything (an 80’s phenomenon due to the starving babies in Africa, and the more recent memories of an fairly impoverished upbringing).  Luckily my darling father would take pity on me as he went about his daily washing up chore (we had a dishwasher, why on earth was there so much washing up done in our house?) and let me escape to watch Home & Away.  They were nearly always boiled, sometimes leftover & fried on a saturday morning.  There was the occasional baked potato, and the traditional roast, and quite regularly home made chips.   It was only boiled I rejected whole heartedly but the proliferation of them into every single dinner meant I couldn’t exclude them from my diet fast enough when given the opportunity.

mash you can hold
mash you can hold

Then I had a kid, and mash became part of our lives again.  It’s buttery/creamy/whatever you’re having yourself deliciousness is so tasty, that it’s a pretty good fall back meal when you haven’t a clue what else to make.  Last weekend, with no shopping done and a few roosters in the cupboard, little potato cakes were on the menu.   It’s mash you can hold!  Incidentally ‘a few roosters’ is actually an item on our shopping list – my mothers influence is strong there.  We had no eggs and each recipe near the top of my google search seemed to contain one, so I just went with a roundabout experiment that really worked!  Binding, schminding…  This makes about 12-15.

Oven baked potato cakes:

  • Chop a few roosters (okay, 3) quite small & cook.  I do ours in a microwave steamer, and the small pieces were done in 5 minutes plus a couple of minutes sitting.
  • Mash well with a decent dash of milk and more butter than you think you should use.
  • Grate in cheddar, add a couple of chopped spring onions and season well with black pepper
  • Spread out little cakes on a baking sheet.  Either make little patties with your hand, or use a scone cutter (they don’t keep their shape and spread a little though)
  • Bake in the oven at a high temp (I used 200c) for 7 or 8 mins each side.

The beauty of these is it’s not an exact recipe.  Throw in what you have – caramelised leeks would be gorgeous I’d say, or different cheeses.  If you’re cooking something else in the oven at the same time then just use whatever temperature you need it set to for that.

And the equal opportunities part?  Well, since we had spuds on saturday, we had risotto on sunday (and monday), and then our very favourite – noodley doodleys tonight.  In a noodle soup form for parents and Dominic (who used his pilfered Wagamama chopsticks – we took a bunch) and ‘deconstructed’ for Theo.  The constituent parts proved very popular with him too.  He has the art of the pincer grip down pat now.  I even left the plate in front of him while he ate and it lasted a good 8 minutes there I’d say!

We’re definitely enduring a throwback-to-the-eighties Ireland in some regards what with our rampant recession. But I thank the gods of air travel and globalisation for broadening the range of grains and carbs available in Ireland.  I know there was plenty of rice and pasta and maybe even noodles around then (just not really in our house) but cous cous and quinoa…far from it I was reared!

Jill

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Noodle slurp

Is it ramen or just noodle soup?

I write this in the midst of a horrible headcold.  So really I need to make this again as it’s a healthy, tasty feel good broth.  After our slightly disappointing trip to Wagamama (where I freely admit we made too conservative a choice for Dominic) I decided to make my own noodle soup.

(Can you sense a theme at the minute? – we’re really digging our noodles and currys on the blog right now)
As I’m on maternity leave right now, I’m always on the look out for quick lunch options that aren’t bagel-cheese-tomato-lettuce.  I’m so sick of that!  So I picked up some Clearspring Organic Instant Miso Soup Paste – figured a sachet of this and some noodles would be a lovely lunch in 5 minutes.   Instead I was distracted by the thoughts of a more substantial meal for all of us.  Having used 2 sachets in this soup (box of 4 was €3.99 in Dunnes) I’m going to go buy a full pouch or jar of the paste as the sachets don’t seem particularly economical at all.

I fried up some tofu in some sesame oil in one pan.  Then I sauteed some ginger, garlic and leek and added the miso dissolved with 400ml of water and another 750ml of Marigold stock in a large saucepan.

I simmered this with a head of broccoli and a chopped courgette and added some Udon noodles.   I have a rather large noodle selection in the cupboard – Chunsi brand Udon from the Asia supermarkets on Drury St and at the Jervis Luas stop, and the Clearspring Soba are two of my favourites.  I’ve run the gamut of gammy flavoured noodles but I find stick with the plain ones and add the flavour yourself is the best advice I can offer.

Chopfingersticks

This fed 2 adults and a toddler for dinner and lunch for the 2 adults the next day.  Maybe I’ll actually look up a recipe next time, so I can officially call it ramen and not just noodle soup!

Noodley doodley

noodley doodley

Mammy’s always saying she loves asian food.  I don’t know what that is but I love when she does noodles and rice and currys n all.  Sometimes we have it at home and sometimes we have it when we go out to playgrounds and shops. It was my auntie Rachel’s happy birthday and we all went to Musashi which is a place that has lots of noodle and rice. Uncle Phil’s family were there too, so there was a little girl at the table and me too and we were the bosses.

There was a big happy birthday cake and I helped Rachel blow all the candles out and everyone played with my dinosaur that danced around the table and he lives in mammy’s handbag. But before all that I had a bitta dinner.  Mammy thought I wouldn’t eat it because I love my snacks and had lots of them and then the food arrived and it was a big big plate.  The lady with the food gave me a fork when daddy asked her to but I shouted No! Chopsticks! because that’s what you use for eating noodles and for drumming. You use fingers and other people to help eat noodles too.

bitta help

I ate my noodles and chicken and veggies all up and it was noodley doodley which is what you say in our house when you love your noodles.

Think I might let mammy and dada bring me there again because it was so yum and they said it was less than €5 which I think is a lie because I didn’t give them any of my moneys that I play with at all.  They’re all my millions for me.

Dom

Eating out

Kids menus. They’re a mixed bag. Goujons, sausages, all that malarkey… But we ate out twice recently – and more importantly successfully from the point of view of decent food & behaviour! – with Dominic. (And Theo, but I’m all that’s on the menu for him right now)

20120906-230844.jpg
First up, we went to Enoteca Torino in Inchicore. It’s right by a nice playground, so has a captive audience in parents who feel they’ve done a hard weeks work and deserve a wee treat. Or was that just us!? They do a great dinner offer all week, €15.95 for 2 courses & a glass of (delicious) house wine. Say what you like about Mick Wallace, he knows his Italian grub. The kids menu consisted of a few simple pastas (but far more appealing than a cursory pasta with tomato sauce/butter that you usually see on a kids menu) and freshly made pizzas. Any of these would have done but knowing how much Dominic loves risotto, we ordered a small portion of that off the main menu. He gobbled it up for the princely sum of about €5.50, then we let him watch Pingu on an iPhone while we polished off the wine. Hey! We’d done our weeks work remember…

Then another day we needed a quick lunch in town. Wagamama to the rescue! Honestly when Dom was smaller we came here and he ate lots of my Saien Soba ramen which was more interesting than what we ordered for him off the kids menu this time. We ordered a Mini Noodler Meal including grilled chicken noodles. This was a little unadventurous so we may just have chosen poorly but it was all things he liked and it was fun to watch him use his kids chopsticks. Also massive kudos to the waitress who sent us home with several more pairs of them in our pockets. The meal also included a delicious freshly squeezed juice and proper speckled vanilla icecream (which, honestly, me and Mark ate!)

Don’t be scared of eating out with kids, and don’t be afraid to order not from the kids menu if you’d prefer to avoid the usual offerings. I found this link about good children’s menus in Dublin.

The Irish Hotels Federation also publish some guide menus and a template for their members but jaysus, they’re just so samey!

I would love to hear your recommendations on kid-friendly restaurants that do something a little bit different!

Eating out

 

high chair not so high

Today we went to Wagamama.  We’ve been lots of times over the years but not since baby boy came along.  Today, we also acknowledged that we (currently!) have what is commonly known as ‘a good eater’.  This will change I’m sure, I’m not so smug as to believe that there won’t be days and perhaps months, and maybe years where he might only want to eat food in the beige-orange spectrum, but for now, he’s a bit of a joy when it comes to food, and many other things.

He’s too little to need a full kids menu meal.  But when he is, we’ll definitely come back.  We saw several happy families tucking in all around, with no one looking for a more chip-shaped alternative to their meals.  Dominic happily shared bits and pieces of Mark’s Seafood Ramen and my Saien Soba – salmon, asparagus, mange tout, beansprouts and tofu mostly.  They have great kids chopsticks, we just may have popped a couple of pairs in my bag – relax! they’re disposable bamboo, it’s not like I was taking the good china…  I’ve also found a way he’s happy to eat noodles, but its not the baby led weaning way:

 

more of this

When he tries to eat them by hand himself he finds it frustrating as they slip & slide right out out of his grasp/mouth.  So I pick some up, eat the excess dangly bit (steady!) and he noms the rest off my chopsticks.

My only quibble relating to the child-friendliness is the highchairs.  They’re a nice standard wooden number, but they’re just too low for the tables in the restaurant, given they’ve no trays and the baby does need to be pulled up to the table.  It’ll probably be fine by the time he’s about 2, but my guess is whoever ordered the highchairs doesn’t have a baby.

This was also the weekend that Dominic finally properly admitted to himself that he’s a bi-ped.  Each little lap of the room/rug today also ended in a big hug for mama.  I couldn’t have had a lovelier mothers day.  Am more in love with my almost 15 month old than I ever thought possible.  Happy Mother’s Day all the mama’s!

Jill

tofu nyom nyom

Mama and dada used to cook the same things as each other for years but now mama says that dada’s never cooked so much meat before.  That’s when me and dada eat one dinner and mama eats a different dinner.  I offer her bits of mine I always am nice like that but she says no.  Now we have special mama dinners all of us together a lot too so she cooks us tofu sometimes then which is a funny word.

She said this was the marinade she used. It was super yum, we all liked it. I like veggies too and then there was another thing in my dinner which must have been a toy because it was so much fun to play with.

 

noodley fun

Dom