Shananigans is one year old today so it's competition time!

Competition now closed and the winner, drawn by random number generator, was Majella O’Shea.

Congratulations Majella and thanks for the memories all of you who entered.

It’s a Monday afternoon. I’m sitting on the deck in Duncannon. Two Peking Ducks are roasting on the Big Green Egg. Diced Wexford new potatoes are slow-cooking below them in the duck fat. The Hoi Sin sauce that I adapted from a recipe on Kitchen 72′s website is ready and much nicer than any shop bought version. Pork Char Siu is resting in a home made Chinese marinade, based on Rozanne Steven’s recipe in her Relish BBQ book, to be barbecued at the last minute and served on a bed of wilted pak choi, a tip I borrowed from my reader and friend Marie McKenna. Another batch of chilli jam is cooling, to be shared with our next door neighbour Eamonn who oiled the table for the Big Green Egg a glorious golden colour one wet day last week.

Claire and Mike flew into Waterford Airport today to spend a few days with us down here in South Wexford before they return to Sydney. They have gone off for a walk with friends and down to sample the new cocktail menu at Roches Bar, but not before getting stuck in and julienning the carrot, cucumber and spring onion for the Peking Duck, accomplished Chinese cooks and commis chefs that they are.
In Beijing our grandson Dermot is about to reach another milestone. He will be 6 months old next Monday and showing every sign of wanting to take off on all fours. Shane and Shan are planning their Irish wedding celebration for December and trying to sort out the mix of Chinese and Celtic symbolism in the theme. Derry is at the computer trying to pull together a spreadsheet of all the posts I’ve written in the last year.
It’s peaceful here yet elemental as the wind gathers force and tries to push the threatened rain away from this corner of the Irish coast. Just at this moment, all is right with my world and I’m pausing to reflect on a year of blogging.
I still have the email I sent to Shane late last July. It read “I’ve decided to do what I’ve been meaning to do for age and set up a blog. I’m going to call it Shananigans and make it about food, travel and the China connection. I’m hoping to make it a bit interesting by attempting to recreate genuine Chinese dishes here at home in Ireland from recipes which I hope Shan will supply in a kind of long-distance tutorial.”
That’s how it all started, a random thought that became the germ of an idea, that became a passion. When I sub-titled the blog “Tastes and tales from a roller coaster world”, little did I know what a roller coaster year I was facing – some very sad times. some wonderful times and of course the great joy that Dermot has brought into our lives.
In that very first post, this day last year  I wrote “I hope you will join me on my journey, no doubt with many mishaps along the way and with a glorious sense that I’ve no idea where this journey will take me.” (yikes did I really use “journey” twice in one sentence!!)
Well mishaps I’ve had aplenty and I also cringe when I look at some of the early dreadful photos. I still have lots to learn, not just about cooking Chinese food but about photgraphing it and writing about it. And I need to figure out how to do simple things like making it easier to search for recipes on the blog and print them in a user friendly format (that’s a hint to you Shane, my darling  son and web designer!). Yet somehow or other I’ve managed to publish 110 posts, most of them recipes but with stories of family, travel and restaurants thrown in.
More importantly, writing the blog has opened up a whole new world to me. I’ve made friends among home cooks, chefs and food writers who have been generous with their advice and support and many of whom have become close friends in real life as well as cyberspace.
I’ve learnt techniques like brining and smoking and myriad Chinese cooking terms I hadn’t heard of a year ago. I’ve begun to experiment, trust my instincts and my taste buds and have gone from being someone who slavishly follows a recipe to being unable to resist meddling with any recipe I come across.
And the blog has led to other things too – taking part in a cookery demonstration or two, guest writing the Taste of China website for the Dublin Chinese New Year’s Festival, having one of my recipes tasted live on radio at the Savour Kilkenny Festival, featuring in the Irish Times and Sunday Business Post magazines, attending cookery classes in Beijing and Ireland. It has even led to me chairing the China Group for the Institute of International and European Affairs.
Looking back over the 110 posts, I’ve a fair idea of the recipes that are my readers’ favourites. But I’ve also noticed that sometimes it’s a story of family and life that catches the imagination and causes a real spike in views. So posts like the letter I wrote to Dermot before I met him or my tribute to my mother-in-law Alice who sadly passed away at the start of the year provoked a huge response.
Competition Time

A Lantern Cookery Classic

As a little thank you to those of you who kept me going through the year, I’ve a prize of a cookery book I picked up when I visited Christine Manfield‘s famous Universal Restaurant in Sydney with Claire and Mike earlier this year. It’s a Lantern Cookery Classic selection of her recipes inspired by her life-long passion for food and insatiable appetite for travel, a woman after my own heart. And it’s autographed by Christine who was the inspiration behind the stir-fried honey sesame beef recipe I posted over Christmas last year.
To be in with a chance of winning Christine’s book, just leave a comment with the title of your favourite post on this blog before midnight next Monday 5th August and we will draw a winner at random.
It can be a recipe or any other post that appealed to you. And to make life easier I’ve attached below a categorised list of all the posts so far.
Blog Posts
And as if to prove a point about mishaps, I was so busy writing that I forgot to watch the slow roasting potatoes which are now a little on the crispy side…. that’s what I get for multi-tasking…
A big thank you to all of you and let’s see where the next year of blogging takes us together.
Now to rescue my ducks…

13 thoughts on “Shananigans is one year old today so it's competition time!”

  1. I just discovered this site a few days ago. After looking thru the archives, I have to say my favorite post is the one called Chinese kitchen essentials. I really learned a lot! I’m trying to set up an authentic Chinese kitchen at home as my son is studying Chinese in college. Enjoying your site

  2. For me it has to be 100 Days of Dermot – a bringing together of Eastern and Western cultures, followed by all your Dermot related posts.
    Congrats on reaching the 1 year mile stone, we are so very lucky that you started your blog and you’ve no idea now much we’ve all learned over the past year

  3. July 29, 2012
    Connecting Ireland, China and Oz through food – is one of my favourite posts as I had eagerly awaited the recipes and the all the wonderful stories linking two different worlds. They became even more precious with the arrival of that beautiful little boy called Dermot. Love your blog, Julie but you already knew that.

  4. for me it is the Eighteen days of Dermot – Relished the lovely pics and all 🙂

  5. I’m pretty sure I’m not eligible to win prizes on the blog, but without a doubt my favourite post is “I just haven’t met you yet – a letter to Dermot”. I still read it from time to time when my homeland and the rest of my family seem very far away from my new little family in China, and I look forward to sharing it with Dermot when he’s old enough to appreciate it.
    Incidentally, HINT TAKEN, readers can now print, email and save PDF versions of every blog post using the icon at the bottom of the post. You can edit before you print, so for example if you only want to print the recipe just delete the other bits.
    That’s my little gift for the day that’s in it. Enjoy!

  6. That made both me and Claire cry Shane. We miss you all the time. I’m thrilled with my fancy new icon for recipes though as it means I can print my own recipes!!! Love to all xx

  7. Spent some time looking back as I have really enjoyed the first year of your blog adore the posts with Dermot he is such a treasure but the post I connected to most was it made me cry & I could not get you out of my head that day. I love the recipes & this evening cooked your green beans but substituted sesame seeds for the pork it was still sensational. I tried the fish scented aubergine dish along with some beef for the children & a few other veggie sides. The kitchen was a bomb site as I also made ice cream but it was a happy mess . Thanks for Sharing & congrats on a great first year. Rosemarie

  8. Congratulations on your first year of blogging, Julie. And thanks for all the great posts and recipes! I have had fun looking back over them in an effort to pick my favorite! I haven’t cooked enough of the recipes, but I’m going to start doing that now.
    I love all if the posts about China and especially Beijing. There was a time when China didn’t really interest me as a destination to visit. However, your posts changed all that and when I got the opportunity to travel to Beijing in April, I was delighted. Thanks to you and Shane for all the great tips about what to see and do in Beijing. That first hand knowledge made our brief visit very special.
    Anyway, one of my favorite posts is When the heart is open the wonderful happens, posted in August last year. I like this one because it is one of those that gives a lovely insight into the Chinese culture.
    I don’t know if you remember, but I came up with the title Shananigans in response to your tweet for a hash tag prior to your trip to China last year!
    Looking forward to the next year of posts on the blog, Julie.

  9. Ah Majella it WAS you who came up with the title! I knew it was one of my Twitter friends but I started using it as a hash tag on the trip to Beijing last year and by the time I started the blog I had forgotten who suggested it and couldn’t find the original tweet. Well thank you so much for the inspiration and look what you started! 🙂

  10. Congratulations Majella, your name came out of my husband’s trusty random number generator! if you email me your home address to I will post the signed copy of Christine Manfield’s cookbook to you as soon as I get back to Dublin.

  11. Hello Julie,
    I happened upon your blog when I was looking for Uihgur restaurants (as you do!) and I really enjoyed reading about your cooking school experience in China. I was then pleasantly surprised to see the link to Sydney, Australia as I also live in Australia (Canberra), and then more amazing the link to Ireland . I am originally a Dun Laoghaire girl, but that was way back when Caviston’s was the shop that we got our fish from on Fridays (rather than the “Food Emporium it is now).
    I am continuing to enjoy reading your blog and continuing to be amazed by more “happenstance”.

  12. Hi Pat, lovely to make the connection. I love happenstance and Cavistons is still a great fish shop! As you will have gathered my daughter Claire is in Sydney. If you are on Twitter you will find her at @ClaireB_Oz. Hope you continue to enjoy the blog. Keep in touch. Julie

Comments are closed.