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…

Stir-fried Honey Sesame Beef

Listen up friends you are going to LOVE this recipe.
When I first visited Australia in the mid-1990s, long before I knew I would have a daughter living there, I was blown away by what was being described then as “fusion cooking”. I felt as if  I had discovered a big secret – that Australian cuisine could be sublime – a combination of wonderful fresh ingredients, the best of fish, meat, fresh fruit and vegetables and subtle Asian influences in the flavourings. There was something really exciting going on and I thought the world should know more about it but, at that stage, my own knowledge of good food was limited and my experience of cooking it even slighter.
This Christmas Claire sent me a book from Sydney as a surprise. It is called Fire – A World of Flavour by Christine Manfield and features recipes from Japan, China, Vietnam, India, Malaysia, Singapore, Bali, Sri Lanka, Mexico, France, Italy, the Middle East… 20 locations in all.
Claire came across the book in a bookshop in Sydney some time ago but couldn’t remember the name of it. Then she stumbled on a copy in a “home stay” on the central coast where she and Mike were spending a weekend about 6 weeks ago and knew I would love it.


Christine Manfield is an Australian chef, author, food writer and traveller and has built her reputation through three restaurants – Paramount in Sydney from 1993 to 2000, East@West in Covent Garden, London from 2003 to 2005 and now back in Sydney where Universal Restaurant opened in August 2007. She appeared as a guest chef on Australian MasterChef 2012 and her signature icecream dessert “Gaytime” featured in the finale.
Beautifully bound and illustrated, Fire is a travel guide as well as a cook book. It includes suggestions on where to stay, visit and eat in all the places from which Christine has drawn inspiration for her recipes. I have already identified a few new restaurants to try in Beijing that Shane hasn’t eaten in yet and of course we hope to go to Universal Restaurant the next time we visit Claire in Sydney.

Her  philosophy is to prepare food “that crosses cultural boundaries with confidence without being labelled ‘fusion’ and parallels… a culinary freestyle that has enriched our food culture and given it maturity and world renown.” She says in her introduction to Fire: “the sharing of food knows no political boundaries; it is a reminder of remarkable places visited, with tastes that transport me immediately to any given place. It’s as if I can taste the character and essence of a place through its food.” That expresses perfectly my own love of food and travel.
I’ve adopted a rule of thumb that, when I find a new cook book, I will include a few recipes from it in the blog, sometimes with a few tweaks of my own, to give you a taste of what is on offer and in the hope that it will encourage you to get hold of the book yourselves. I’ve chosen two of Christine’s Chinese-inspired recipes to try – this stir-fried honey sesame beef and a one-pot chicken rice, the stock for which is simmering on the stove as I write.
The beef dish below just about sums up the way food can bridge the divide between 3 continents – a Chinese-inspired dish, created by an Australian woman, once a firm favourite in her London restaurant, re-created by me on the night of a full-moon in Duncannon in the south east corner of Ireland and, as soon as I tasted it, I was plunged back into a taste memory of a meal I shared with Shane and Shan in Beijing. Such is the power of food to transport you to another place and time.

Last full moon of 2012, Duncannon Ireland

Sometimes the discovery of a new recipe excites me. This dish is one that made me need to start writing at midnight. It has “umami” in abundance with its evocative flavours and is simple to prepare. Christine used beef tenderloin fillet and 3 bird’s eye chillies and added watercress sprigs to garnish. I used the cheaper bavette cut of beef which I find so flavourful and the slightly milder Chinese red chillies. I picked up my beef yesterday from Fintan at Dunnes of Donnybrook in Dublin, Craft Butcher of the Year 2012.
Stir-fried honey sesame beef
Stir-fried Honey Sesame Beef

Serves 3 – 4
Continue reading Stir-fried Honey Sesame Beef