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…

Getting to know Chinese Ingredients and their uses

Well its about time that I revealed the answers to the last competition on the blog and some of the things I learned along the way – like the fact that two of the ingredients were not what I thought they were and it took readers of my blog to put me straight! Here are the answers to those fiendish questions.
Who am I and what am I used for?
Continue reading Getting to know Chinese Ingredients and their uses