Turkey on the Big Green Egg

Turkey on the Big Green Egg
Turkey on the Big Green Egg

Safety gate on deck? Check. Breakables out of reach? Check. Floors scrubbed and vetted for hazards? Check. Box of matches in hands of toddler with cheeky grin? Oops I missed that one! How come toddlers have an unerring ability to find the one dangerous item you overlook?
Last weekend in Duncannon was a trial run in more ways than one. If our little yellow house could withstand the onslaught of 14 month identical twin boys it will surely cope with a 10 month old Dermot’s first Christmas. And if I could cook a 9 kg turkey on the Big Green Egg for our Italian friend Solange, her Argentinian husband Agustin, their twins Oli and Fredi and 11 of my family who are always willing to be guinea pigs for my culinary experiments, then I should be able to cope with the same number of guests from China and Australia on Christmas day. At least that’s the theory…
"Ooh, crab..."
“Ooh, crab…” Beijing, China

While I cooked up an early Christmas dinner in Duncannon, Shane and Shan prepared shellfish for friends in Beijing and Claire and Mike ate an anniversary meal at the fabulous Spice Temple Chinese restaurant in Sydney. So our multi-cultural family food odyssey continued on three continents, our very own version of fusion dining.
"Ooh Spice Temple" - Sydney, Australia
“Ooh Spice Temple” – Sydney, Australia

As for the turkey – well with the patient assistance of Liam from A Room Outside in Limerick who supplied our Egg, it was a great success. He even answered my texts on Sunday morning when I began to fret about the temperature level in the Egg (note to self: I really will have to stop running in and out to the deck to check every few minutes once the temperature drops from the balmy 17 degrees of the weekend to something approaching our normal Christmas lows. Or at least I will have to wrap up in a warm scarf.)
I’ve cooked turkey using my tried and tested Delia Smith recipe for more than 30 years. I needed to take a deep breath and make a leap of faith to cook it in a very different way on the Big Green Egg. I can honestly say that Liam’s technique resulted in a bird that was succulent, moist and tender with a beautiful even skin colour. It held its heat wrapped in foil for nearly two hours after it was cooked. My favourite stuffing recipe also cooked to perfection inside the cavity.
We served the turkey with the apple and rosemary stuffing, maple roasted parsnips, buttered leeks, carrots and peas. With lots of oven space in the kitchen, it was easy to time the roasting of the potatoes and parsnips.
A big thank you to Liam and also to Seamus in Wallace’s SuperValu Wellington Bridge who tracked down a fresh turkey and sold me the large 9 kg one, which was the only one he could find, at the price of the smaller one I had ordered. We are still on turkey leftovers in our house tonight.
Now that I know what to expect, I can look forward to Christmas Day. And my biggest wish is that the next time I serve this meal our little far flung family will be united in one place to enjoy it.
Big Green Egg Turkey
Christmas in October
“Ooh turkey” – Duncannon Ireland

Ingredients:

  • 1 large turkey at room temperature (the large BGE can easily handle up to a 10 kg turkey)
  • Salt and pepper to season
  • A few carrots, onions and cloves garlic
  • A few sprigs of thyme and bay leaves
  • 500 g of your favourite turkey stuffing*
  • 100 g softened butter

Method:

  1. Fill the Egg with sufficient lump wood for a 5 to 6 hour cook – BGE Lump Charcoal is best for this as it gives a lovely even heat – and set it up for indirect heat with the plate setter legs up at a temperature of 170ºC.
  2. Peel and roughly chop a few onions and carrots and bruise a few whole cloves of garlic. Place the vegetables and herbs in a deep roasting tin, fill it almost to the brim with water and place on the plate setter. Place the stainless steel cooking grid over the roasting tin.
  3. Wipe out the turkey cavity and stuff with your favourite stuffing. Butter the turkey legs and season the turkey well with salt and pepper. Cover the turkey legs with foil to slow down their cooking.
  4. Place the turkey directly on the grid, making sure the Egg’s own temperature gauge is not touching the meat as this would distort the temperature readings. Place a meat thermometer into the deepest part of the breast.
  5. Note: The temperature of the Egg may drop to about 150ºC at this stage and rise only gradually over the next few hours. Don’t worry about this. The turkey will still brown beautifully even at that temperature.
  6. Remove the foil from the legs after about 2 hours. Keep an eye on the level of water in the roasting tin and do not let it dry out. Top up as necessary with boiling water.
  7. Cook the turkey until it reaches an internal temperature of 75 to 78ºC – in the case of my 9 kg turkey this took about 4½ hours but it could take up to an hour longer.
  8. Let the turkey rest covered in foil for at least 30 minutes before carving. Any water left over in the tin can be strained to make gravy with the turkey resting juices.

My Favourite Apple and Rosemary Stuffing
Ingredients:

  • 500 g fine white breadcrumbs
  • 1 large cooking apple or 2 small cooking apples, finely diced
  • 1 heaped tbs finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 100 g butter melted
  • 1 large egg beaten
  • Onion salt (or Maldon sea salt)
  • Ground black pepper

Method:
Mix the breadcrumbs, apple and rosemary with melted butter and beaten egg and season well with salt and pepper.
 
 

Planked Salmon with Soy Honey Glaze and Stir-fried Broccoli


Autumn has arrived in Duncannon. It announced itself with a drop in temperature of 10 degrees, a cutting breeze that slices in from the sea and a cold drizzle forming puddles on the deck of our little yellow house.
The beach is quiet, just the occasional walker and his dog. Families have left their mobile homes and holiday houses and returned to their towns and cities. The Sandy Dock has served its last lemon meringue pie of the season, ending my summer ritual of coffee and cake after a long Sunday walk. The sand blows in drifts up the tiny main street, caught by the unexpected wind and hiding in corners and doorways as if trying to escape its fate. An occasional fishing boat docks at the harbour and unloads its catch, seagulls wheeling overhead. And suddenly, unexpectedly, the sun comes out again for a few minutes as if to say “Hello, fooled you there didn’t I!”
I love this time of year in Duncannon when the village is returned to its residents after the bustling trade of summer. The sand-scupltors and the kite-surfers have gone along with the knot of youngsters perched on the wall over-looking the beach eating ice creams from Peggy’s shop, the tables sprawled out onto the footpath outside Hal’s bar as friends drink pints and listen to the Sunday sounds of GAA matches echoing from within, the teenage girls, always in groups, wandering the beach road in shorts and sunburn, the cars parked bumper to bumper on the beach forming make shift wind-breakers as the sand gets into sandwiches and infants toddle the long trek to paddle at the water’s edge, the chatter, laughter and music from Roches’s Bar. All is now quiet.
Now is the time for us regular “blow-ins” to savour the silence, the ever-changing light and cloud formations over Hook Head, the walk interrupted only by a tractor bringing in the last of the harvest. Now is the time to layer up for the winter, cranking up the heating for a few hours when we arrive rather than rushing to open dormer windows to let the stuffy, warm air out and donning a rainproof jacket over an apron to cook outside on the Big Green Egg. Because I am determined that cooking on the Egg will be a year round thing, come hail, rain, shine or snow. It has to be. There won’t be room to cook the Christmas turkey inside this year with the entire family home including 10 visitors from China so I’d better get used to it.
So yesterday evening, when we arrived  in Duncannon in the dark and rain, I put a cedar cooking plank in water to soak for an hour along with the broken up charred bits of the first Cedar plank I had used, lit the Big Green Egg and tried out a new recipe with the last of the wild salmon of the season.
I adapted the recipe from one I found in a book called Slow Fire by Dr. BBQ, that I had downloaded on Kindle, and served it with potatoes baked on the BGE and stir-fried tender-stem broccoli. The salmon, slow cooked at low temperature was a deep pink in colour and had picked up just a hint of smokiness from the cedar. It was firm but flaking and tender. The sweet, sour, salty, sticky glaze enhanced the delicate flavour of the fish and had us scraping the plank it was served on to savour every last drop. You can serve the plank straight to the table, just have something heat proof ready to rest it on. It makes for a dramatic and attractive presentation.
Whenever I give a Big Green Egg recipe I will suggest an alternative way of cooking it that doesn’t require access to an Egg. You could cook this recipe, for instance, on any BBQ that has a cover at any time of the year – just keep the temperature low and the time slow for the best result – and of course you can use any good quality salmon fillets. Leftover glaze will keep in the fridge and would also work well with pork and chicken.
Planked Salmon with Soy Honey Glaze

Ingredients

  • 1 cedar cooking plank*
  • 4 salmon fillets – about 600g to 700g in total
  • Sea salt

For the glaze

  • 125 ml hoisin sauce
  • 2 tbs light soy sauce
  • 2 ½ tbs runny honey
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • Black pepper

Preparation

  1. Soak a cedar cooking plank for at least one hour (Butler’s Pantry recommend soaking theirs overnight).
  2. If you have a cedar plank that is charred from previous use, break it up into pieces and soak some of those pieces in water for at least an hour – this will enhance the hint of wood flavour in the salmon.
  3. Prepare the BGE for direct heat with the stainless steel grid and pre-heat to 120C. I used plain lumpwood rather than oak on this occasion so as not to overpower the delicate flavour of the wild salmon. When at temperature add a handful of the soaked cedar pieces allowing a little extra time for it to come back to temperature.
  4. Drain your plank and place your salmon pieces on the plank, skin side down and evenly spaced. Salt them lightly. Place the plank on the grid, close the BGE and cook for 30 minutes. You can pop scrubbed potatoes on the grid around the plank at the same time.
  5. Meanwhile make your glaze by combining all the ingredients and mixing well.
  6. After the fish has cooked for about 30 minutes, brush with a thick layer of the glaze, coating evenly. Cook for another 20 minutes.
  7. Spread more glaze over evenly and cook for another 15 to 20 minutes until the fish is firm.
  8. Serve immediately on the plank (although any leftovers also taste delicious cold).

*Available from A Room Outside or The Butler’s Pantry
Stir-fried Tender-stem Broccoli
Ingredients

  • 350g tender-stem broccoli, ends trimmed
  • 1 tbs finely chopped garlic
  • 1 tbs finely chopped ginger
  • About 100 ml chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 tbs light soy sauce
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbs toasted sesame seeds for garnish (optional)
  • Groundnut oil for cooking

Preparation

  1. Mix the stock and soy sauce in a small bowl and set aside.
  2. Heat about a tablespoon of oil in a wok over a medium-high heat and stir-fry the broccoli for about one minute to coat with oil.
  3. Clear a space in the middle of the broccoli and add a dash more oil. Add the ginger and garlic and stir-fry for about 30 seconds to release their fragrance before mixing in with the broccoli.
  4. Add the stock and soy mixture to the pan, bring to a simmer, reduce the heat and cover. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes until the broccoli stems are tender but still firm.
  5. Remove the broccoli to a bowl with a slotted spoon and reduce the remaining liquid over a high heat to about 2 tablespoons. Add back the broccoli to heat through briefly. Turn off the heat, add a teaspoon of sesame oil and the sesame seeds (if using) and toss before serving in a warm dish.

 

Last of the Summer Barbecues – Xinjiang Street Food


We are getting along better my Big Green Egg and me. I’m beginning to get to know his moods and temperament. He’s hot stuff, he can turn out a large number of perfectly seared steaks in jig time. But last weekend in Duncannon, on a glorious late summer Sunday, I wanted to get a sense of just how versatile he is and how many different cooking techniques I could use, in the course of an afternoon, and still serve the results at one meal.
The lovely people at A Room Outside in Limerick had received a new consignment of Eggs and accessories so I took delivery of a ceramic pizza stone, a half moon cast iron griddle and some cedar planks to experiment with plank cooking. With these new tools, I had a go at re-creating the kind of street food I had in China last summer, particularly the street food of Xinjiang province. I also added Pork Char Siu to the menu which would not, of course, be served with lamb by the Muslim Uighur people of Xinjiang.
On the menu

Xinjiang Chilli Lamb with Spicy Tzatziki Sauce

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Planked Pork Char Siu

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Spiced Griddled  Courgettes and Potatoes

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Naan Bread

The recipes I used are below. I cooked the Naan bread first and kept it warm in a low oven, then the Pork Char Siu and finally I ramped up the heat to cook the lamb chops and vegetables quickly while the pork was resting.

Xinjiang Chilli Lamb

I found the recipe for this addictive, mouth-numbing marinade on line here and it could be substituted for the marinade used to make kebabs in my lamb chuan’r recipe. The marinade was developed by Christina Soong-Kroeger who writes a blog called The Hungry Australian. She lived in Shanghai for three years and this was one of her favourite takeaway meals from her local Xinjiang restaurant. You wont always find Sichuan pepper used in Xinjiang lamb but Shan’s Mum, who comes from that province, adds it to her lamb dishes all the time.

Ingredients

  • 6 – 8 lamb cutlets

 Marinade

  • 2 tbs groundnut oil (or sufficient to loosen the marinade)
  • 2 tbs ground cumin
  • 4 cloves garlic finely chopped
  • A thumb of fresh ginger finely chopped or 2 tsps ground ginger
  • 1 tbs chilli flakes or a large chilli finely chopped
  • 1 tsp Sichuan peppercorns
  • 1 ½ to 2 tsps salt
  • Ground black pepper

Method

  1. Smash all the dry marinade ingredients in a pestle and mortar or grind in a food processor and add enough oil to create a loose paste.
  2. Mix thoroughly with the lamb and marinade over night in the fridge. Bring to room temperature before cooking.
  3. Prepare the BGE for direct heat using the cast iron griddle and heat to about 220C.
  4. Grill the lamb chops, covered,  for 3 to 5 minutes each side depending on their thickness and whether you like them pink or well done (about 4 minutes each side for skewers).

Note
These lamb chops can also be cooked on any grill or conventional barbecue.
Planked Pork Char Siu
Pork Char Siu is something you come across as street food in Beijing and other parts of China. It is not normally cooked at home as Chinese households don’t usually have access to barbecues. This special way of rapidly roasting or barbecuing meat that has been marinated is typical of the southern Cantonese and can be applied to all good cuts of meat. Every Chinese cook has their own variation of a Char Siu marinade so feel free to use your personal favourite.  This time I used Rozanne Steven’s Barbecue Sauce from her Relish BBQ book. You could also use a jar of Pat Whelan’s great new BBQ sauce available from James Whelan Butchers in Avoca, Monkstown and Clonmel.
Cedar planks are available from A Room Outside. They can also be picked up from The Butlers Pantry for €3.95 each. These planks create a subtle smoky flavour when used with fish and meats that reminds me of the aromas and flavours of a Beijing street market. For me the big discovery was that cooking on a plank also has the effect of making the meat melt in the mouth tender. The outer skin of the pork doesn’t get crispy when cooked in this way but the meat is moist and delicious. When sliced across the grain, the rapidly cooked pork has a darker rim of well cooked pork with a dark crust of marinade surrounding a more lightly cooked and tender centre.
Ingredients:

  • 2 large pork steaks
  • 1 cedar plank

For Rozanne’s Chinese Sticky Marinade and Basting Sauce



  • 8 cloves of garlic, crushed or finely chopped
  • 2 thumb sized pieces of ginger, grated or finely chopped
  • 250 g dark brown sugar
  • 200 g honey
  • 250 ml hoisin sauce (a good shop bought version such as Lee Kum Kee)
  • 250 ml Shaoxing rice wine
  • 200 ml light soy sauce
  • 200 ml sweet chilli sauce
  • 50 ml groundnut oil (or sunflower oil)
  • 2 tbs Chinese five spice powder

 Preparation

  1. Soak the cedar plank for at least an hour or preferably over night.
  2. Mix all the marinade ingredients together in a pot and simmer, covered, on gentle heat for 10 minutes.
  3. Once cool use sufficient to cover the pork steaks and marinade in a ziplock bag or dish at room temperature for at least an hour or preferably overnight in the fridge. [You can use the remainder as a marinade for pork or chicken or to baste chicken wings, sausages and vegetables on the barbecue. It keeps well in an airtight jar in the fridge.]

Cooking

  1. Preheat the BGE for direct heat and heat to about 180C.
  2. Place the soaked plank on hot grill and heat for 3 minutes.
  3. Remove pork from the marinade and discard remaining marinade.
  4. Flip the plank and place the pork on the heated side of the plank.
  5. Grill with the lid closed for about 20 minutes or until the pork reaches an internal temperature of 65C. You do not need to turn the pork during cooking.
  6. Allow to rest on a shallow dish for 5 minutes, tented in foil. Serve, sliced across the grain, with its own juices. It should be pink near the edges and gloriously moist and tender within.

Note – to cook in a conventional oven:

  1. Heat the oven to 220º.
  2. Place the pork steak on a wire rack over a roasting tin filled with 4 cm of water to catch the drips and roast for 20 minutes.
  3. Reduce the heat to 180°C to avoid burning and roast for another 12 to 13 minutes.

Naan Bread
Naan bread is Asian in origin and resembles pitta bread but is much softer in texture. I loved watching it being made by the Uighur women in Xinjiang Province where they slapped rounds of dough against the walls of  big clay ovens and took it out minutes later golden and steaming. The Big Green Egg’s ability to reach high temperature makes it the prefect environment in which to make this bread and it is great served with lamb and dipped in the spicy Tzatziki sauce.
Ingredients

  • 375g strong white flour
  • 1 tsp active dry yeast
  • 1 tsp table salt
  • 2 tbs sunflower oil
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 190 ml warm water (about 40 to 45C )
  • 4 tbs plain Greek yoghurt

Method

  1. Sieve the flour into a large bowl, add the yeast and salt and mix well.
  2. Make a well in the centre, add the sunflower oil, honey, water and yoghurt and stir well until a dough forms.
  3. Turn on to a lightly floured surface and knead lightly until smooth. Place in a lightly oiled bowl and turn to coat. Cover with a damp cloth or clingfilm and leave to rise for around 2 hours until doubled in size.
  4. Meanwhile set the BGE for indirect cooking with the Plate Setter, legs down and the Baking Stone on top and preheat to 220C. This takes at least 30 minutes.
  5. When risen, turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface, cut into 8 equal pieces. Using your hands, roll each piece of dough into a ball and, with a lightly floured rolling pin, roll each ball into a disc about 1.5 cms thick.
  6. Place the discs on the preheated Baking Stone and close the lid. Bake for 4 to 5 minutes on each side until golden brown.
  7. Serve immediately or keep warm in a conventional oven until the rest of the meal is ready to be served.

Xinjiang Vegetables
I cooked the vegetables on a half moon griddle pan while the lamb chops were cooked on the cast iron grid beside them.
Cut courgettes into 1 cm slices at an angle, dip in egg white and  then a little cornflour or potato flour. Dust with a mix of ground cumin, salt and dry roasted Sichuan pepper to taste and grill them on a high heat on an oiled griddle tray on the BGE for few minutes, turning once.
Par-boil potatoes slice them thickly and grill them on an oiled griddle,  plain or scattered with the cumin mix.
Spicy Tzatziki Sauce
This recipe came from the lamb pops recipe on the BigGreenEgg.com website. I didn’t have any saffron last weekend so I stirred in a little smoked paprika for colour and flavour.
Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons hot water
  • 1 teaspoon saffron threads
  • 125 ml plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh mint
  • 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon sea salt
 Method
  1. Pour the water into a small cup, add the saffron, and let sit for 10 minutes, then strain, reserving the water.
  2. Put the yogurt in a small bowl, add the saffron water, mint, lemon juice and salt and stir well.
  3. Transfer to a small serving bowl, cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Big Green Egg Peking Style Roast Duck

I had flirted with the idea of getting a Big Green Egg for some time before finally taking the plunge. It was the prospect of preparing a traditional Irish Christmas dinner for up to 20 people that spurred me into making the commitment so don’t give out to me for introducing the topic of Christmas in August. It’s just for a moment!
We hope Christmas 2013 will be a very special gathering of our “clanns” and a good way to mark the end of the year of The Gathering. It will be Dermot’s first Christmas, we will have Claire and Mike home from Australia and all of us together for Christmas for the very first time. We will also have Shan’s MaMa and family from Beijing and Urumqi on their first trip outside China. Christmas dinner will be in our little house in Duncannon just three days before Shane and Shan’s Irish wedding and Dermot’s christening. So while the sun split the stones on Duncannon beach, my thoughts were already turning to how to organise the logistics of the day in a small kitchen dining room that will be too crammed with people to allow me get at the oven.
Then a chance July conversation over coffee in Duncannon with one of my Twitter friends Mary Mc @MsJuly31 about a party being given that night by another Twitter friend @AidanClince where he was doing all the cooking on his BGE led to one of those “Eureka!” moments. I had a sudden picture perfect vision of serving up a 20 lb turkey cooked on the deck in the BGE no matter what the outside temperature, succulent and with a mild smoky flavour… with one bound our heroine was free…
The following weekend my Mum and I took ourselves off to A Room Outside in Limerick, the only Irish suppliers of the BGE and it was delivered to my door the following Monday by PJ, just in time for Claire and Mike’s short holiday in Duncannon before returning to Australia. While PJ assembled it for me he passed on some of his own cooking ideas and expertise including how he uses it to cook fish on wooden boards.

Ta Dah! BGE arrives in its natural state

Now we are at the early stage of our relationship my BGE and I. I haven’t quite got his measure yet. Cue fourteen of my ravenous family sitting at the dinner table in Duncannon last Tuesday night chanting “why are we waiting” (led in the chorus, I might add, by my dear mother) while I hovered anxiously over the beast, wringing my hands and waiting for a slow cooked roast to come to the correct internal temperature and Claire, Mike and Derry rushed around like dervishes trying to keep everyone fed with something, anything…
By this stage Claire’s mental picture of Christmas dinner was getting somewhat less idyllic than mine and she was visualising me, in similar pose, but wrapped in heavy duty  rain gear while she tries to entertain the Chinese guests… Much practice needed. Continue reading Big Green Egg Peking Style Roast Duck

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…
Julie
Email: julieoneill@me.com