Recipe: Chimichurri Steak with Avocado and Sweet Potato Fries

Instead of a long story about how my recipe is best served with a side of sassy backstory, I start with a quick difficulty list. This means you can easily decide if you’re up to it or if you’d rather toss a pizza in the oven.

For ingredients, 1 means you may already have all of them at home and 5 means you may need to special order an ingredient.
For equipment, 1 means the most very basic of tools are needed and 5 means needing to buy a special piece of equipment you may not use often.
For method, 1 means as easy as prepping and tossing in the oven and 5 means you’ll feel like you’re juggling flaming knives.

Ingredients: 2/5
Equipment: 1/5
Method: 2/5

This recipe makes 2 portions

Ingredients:

  • 2 portions of steak (flank steak works best, however, sirloin can also be used)
  • Coriander finely chopped (10 g)
  • 2 garlic cloves finely chopped
  • Flat-leaf parsley (10 g)
  • 1 shallot finely diced
  • Olive oil
  • 3 tbsp of rice wine vinegar
  • 1 green chilli finely chopped and seeds removed
  • 1 ripe avocado chopped into bite-size pieces
  • 2 medium-sized sweet potatoes, cut into thin fries
  • Paprika, salt, pepper
  • Butter or oil for frying

Equipment:

  • 1 large frying pan
  • Small mixing bowl
  • Baking tray

Method:

  1. The night before, or the morning of if able to, marinate the steaks in salt, pepper, olive oil, small amounts of garlic and a dash of rice wine vinegar. Cover and put in the fridge.
  2. 30 minutes before cooking the steak, remove from the fridge and allow to come to room temperature.
  3. Combine rice wine vinegar, 2 tbsp of olive oil, 1 garlic clove, coriander, parsley, green chilli, shallot and salt and pepper into mixing bowl and stir
  4. Preheat the oven to 200C
  5. Toss the sweet potato fries in olive oil, salt, pepper and paprika and arrange flat on the baking tray
  6. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes
  7. Once the sweet potatoes are in the oven, bring a frying pan with butter or olive oil up to high-medium heat.
  8. Add the steaks to the pan and cook as desired (2-3 minutes per side for a typical grocery store-bought steak to get to medium).
  9. Once the steaks are done, let them rest for 5-10 minutes.
  10. Serve steaks sliced with avocado and chimichurri sauce on top, with a side of sweet potatoes.

Favourite Fiction vol. 1

Books don’t always need to be learning, sometimes the best thing they do is let you escape for a little while into another world and into another person’s story. Here are some of my favourite fiction books that I haven’t been able to put down (sometimes a few times).

The Book Thief – Markus Zusak

This is now pretty common on lists of favourite fiction, and so it should be. Historical fiction, in particular, is something that is so incredible when it’s done well, making you believe the story taking place within the realms of something you already know to be true. This story is told from the perspective of death as the narrator during the holocaust and can only be described as hauntingly beautiful. It’s a personal favourite of mine, as we studied it in the 10th grade and our teacher had us write questions to the author. Little did we know, she sent the questions off and a few months later I got a personal response with a signed copy of the book which now sits proudly on my bookshelf as one of my favourite possessions.

“One was a book thief. The other stole the sky.”
― Markus Zusak, The Book Thief

All The Light We Cannot See – Anthony Doerr

In doing this list I started to notice an obvious pattern that I tend to really enjoy WWII historical fiction a lot. This particular book was one of the first I read in a single sitting since I was a teenager. The story about the German invasion of France and the aftermath from the perspective of a blind French girl and a very clever German boy delves into the stories we don’t necessarily hear when we study history. The way it’s written just constantly leaves you wanting more and makes it impossible to put down once you’ve started.

“But it is not bravery; I have no choice. I wake up and live my life. Don’t you do the same?”
― Anthony Doerr, All the Light We Cannot See

The Martian – Andy Weir

It’s an awfully old trope that the film is never as good as the movie. The film adaptation is very much worth a watch but, as so many adaptations do, it misses out the best of the detail. Perhaps it’s because I’m an engineer and by proxy, very nerdy, but the book describes the way the character solves problems so cleverly, with parts of actual laugh out loud humour (especially dark in some places) to create a character that of course could only be portrayed by Matt Damon who needs to be saved once again.

“Yes, of course, duct tape works in a near-vacuum. Duct tape works anywhere. Duct tape is magic and should be worshipped.”
― Andy Weir, The Martian

Middle England – Jonathan Coe

Although fiction, this story tells the tale of how Brexit came to be in the UK through the lens of many of the main types of protagonists that changed the outcome of the vote. It doesn’t sugarcoat and dives right into the microscopic consequences of one of the biggest referendums in history. Exploring how people’s day to day relationships with friends, families and other people we interact with can be so drastically affected by the divisive politics that engulfed the UK and the rest of the world while reminding us of the human element behind it all.

“You know she wanted you to vote the other way. It’s her future, you know. She’s the one who’s going to be around the longest.”
― Jonathan Coe, Middle England

Uncommon Type – Tom Hanks

Like his films often do, Tom Hanks writes a collection of short stories that looks at the normal world but with a not so normal view. A great book for when you don’t have time to read a whole novel as each story is pretty easily read in one sitting. Nothing earth-shattering or “woke” that makes you question existence really, but some great stories and well-developed characters that make a perfect book for a lazy Sunday afternoon.

“Kirk, as his defensive stance, pulled out book after book, reading like he was a chain-smoker with a carton of menthols.”
― Tom Hanks, Uncommon Type

What are some of your favourite fiction books?

Recipe: Pan-fried Duck Breast

Instead of a long story about how my recipe reminds me of my first car, I start with a quick difficulty list. This means you can easily decide if you’re up to it or if you’d rather toss a pizza in the oven.

For ingredients, 1 means you may already have all of them at home and 5 means you may need to special order an ingredient.
For equipment, 1 means the most very basic of tools are needed and 5 means needing to buy a special piece of equipment you may not use often.
For method, 1 means as easy as prepping and tossing in the oven and 5 means you’ll feel like you’re juggling flaming knives.

Ingredients: 3/5
Equipment: 1/5
Method: 3/5

This recipe makes a one portion per duck breast cooked

Ingredients:

  • 2 – 4 duck breasts
  • White wine (100 ml)
  • Chicken stock (100 ml)
  • Butter
  • 1 orange

Equipment:

  • 1 frying pan

Method:

  1. Prepare duck breast by carefully scoring the fat side with a sharp knife
  2. Place duck breasts in frying fan that is at room temperature. The fat side of the breast should be down
  3. Bring frying pan up to medium heat until the fat starts to render. Adjust the heat to keep the fat being rendered, but not sputtering in the pan. If fat starts to build up in the pan, remove and store elsewhere (glass works well).
  4. Cook the duck breast on the fat side down until the fat has rendered and is nice and crispy (usually about 15 minutes).
  5. Turn the breasts onto the meat side and cook for a further 4-6 minutes.
  6. Remove duck from the pan, cover loosely with foil and let rest for 10 minutes.
  7. Turn the heat down, and de-glaze the pan with white wine (make sure wine is at room temperature or it will sputter)
  8. Once the wine is completely reduced, add the chicken stock and squeeze half of the orange into the pan and let simmer. If you saved any duck fat, add back into the pan now.
  9. Once the stock has reduced into a thick sauce, add butter, salt and pepper to taste.
  10. Serve duck with mushroom risotto and green vegetables with the sauce.

Oot and aboot, havin’ a scoot

Being neither profound nor eloquent, “Holy sh*t” was all I could hear myself saying. Echoed back to me by my helmet visor over the sound of my bike’s engine being pushed near its limits. Rounding the bend on the coastal road, suddenly the view opened up as the sunny afternoon shone down on a breathtaking view of fishing boats and islands dotting the blue water of the bay.

Nearly two days ago in Hoi An, our group had had a bit of a debate about whether Hannah and I would join Shawna and Jonny on their cross-Vietnam scooter-bike ride for the next few days. The alternative being we’d skip passed the next stop and meet them in Nha Trang, as this particular destination can’t really be reached by transit.

Originally the plan was that Hannah and I would travel between cities using the complicated network of buses and trains across Vietnam while the other two went by bike. The decision for this change of plan was ultimately made because there had been reports of bus drivers in this section crashing more often due to a high prevalence of cocaine taking. We felt that at least on a motorbike we controlled most of our own destiny and that we probably shouldn’t tell our parents or partners until we were done.

Beeper, my trusty steed. Just kidding, he broke down multiple times.

I believe the old adage is when presented with two choices, take the road less travelled. That adage was written for the exact moment we rounded the bend overlooking Vung Ro Bay. Although in this case, the adage could have gone “If presented with a choice involving cocaine taking bus drivers, take the other one”. Vietnam is a rare travel destination in today’s world. It’s not yet had the tourist avalanche of some of its counterparts in the area like Thailand and Cambodia. That being said, infrastructure improvements and a patch-work network of rail and buses make it accessible if you have the patience.

We followed the road a bit further down through the next town and onto the little beach resort we’d booked for the night. We checked in and, desperate for a swim to wash off the dirt from the road and a respite from the heat, we wandered down to the beach. For the second time in an hour, my jaw hit the ground. If this beach had been anywhere in Europe, you wouldn’t have been able to find a place to sit.

While popular with Vietnamese tourists in the summer, in winter months the small tourist industry of the Vung Ro Bay area is nearly non-existent. Our resort sat in the middle of an inlet. Kilometres of sandy beach stretching in either direction and book-ended with small coast cliffs that hide the mystery of what the next turn in the road might uncover. Despite it being February, it was nearly 30 degrees every day. Given that we hailed from Canada and the UK, where rain and sleet awaited us on our returns, we were quite content with the weather.

Beautiful and empty beach resort

We shared the resort with a handful of Vietnamese holidaymakers who largely kept to themselves. Except for some absolutely ear-wrenching renditions of Vietnamese-dubbed 80’s love ballads on the karaoke machine that got wheeled out in the evenings. As we only had one evening before heading out again, we took solace in our little piece of paradise that was earned by taking the leap and heading out on an adventure.

We carried on for another few days onwards to some other spectacular views along the coast and up into the mountains to Da Lat. Stopping there for a day, eventually onto Ho Chi Minh City and home. They were all beautiful, but I’d be lying if another moment quite took my breath away like that one.

Travel is constantly about balancing safety over adventure. This is why the feeling of missing out can often be strong as can the fear of taking a risk. That is unless the choice for adventure pays off. Nothing beats being oot and aboot, havin’ a scoot on a new route.

Oot and aboot, having a photoshoot in our fruit suits after a scoot

Traveling slowly in Tallinn

We live in a hectic world. Time is a precious and valuable commodity, and when it comes to travel it’s tempting to try and pack in as much as you can. I’ve been guilty of this, particularly when I lived in Canada where holidays are fewer and far between. Getting to places like Europe is not as quick as a weekend away.

I’ve done a few trips where we moved at an absolutely breakneck pace, spending 48 hours or less in as many places as we can cram in. While it’s great for seeing a lot in a short time, frankly, it’s exhausting. Don’t get me wrong, there are times and places for moving fast, but taking it slowly becomes a completely different kind of adventure.

The best example of this for me has been a 5-day trip my girlfriend and I took to Tallinn, Estonia. You might think you don’t need 5 days to see a small city like Tallinn, and you would be correct. However, can you spend 5 days there and enjoy it? Hell yes.

If push came to shove we probably could have done everything we wanted to in two days, based on what we’d researched beforehand. Having extra time meant we could not only explore a bit more but even give places a second try if we truly loved them.

And let me tell you, we fell in love with a cider. It was a short travel fling, the type that only ends in heartbreak but boy did we take advantage of the time we had together. The cider in question is locally made at the Hell Hunt brewery and pub in Tallinn and it’s simply delicious. We first discovered it at a restaurant and bar called Humalakoda in one of the newer areas of the city and continued to enjoy it wherever we went. Ever since we got back we’ve been trying to find it. Alas, it’s a love that was meant to be fleeting.

The main reason we set out for Tallinn in the first place was for the Christmas market. Set in the Old Town square, it was about as beautiful as the wintertime in a city can get.

Tallinn Christmas Market

Oh and the food, like I wasn’t going to get to that. Estonian cuisine isn’t exactly a worldwide phenomenon but when you’ve been wandering around in the cold for a few hours, boy does it hit the spot. The best meal of the trip had to be at a place called Vanaema Juures, which translates to “at grandma’s”.

The restaurant is located in a little basement in the old town. It’s decorated exactly like you’d picture a Nordic grandmother’s house to be decorated. We had dishes like elk stew and smoked fish that were incredibly like a home-cooked meal. If in Tallinn, this place is certainly a do-not-miss experience.

In the immortal words of Mr. Ferris Bueller; “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

Having a chance to take it all in and experience Tallinn properly has made it a favourite of mine. Perhaps if I’d spent longer in other places and taken the time to appreciate them properly, it would have made those places all the better. Oh well, guess I’ll have to go back and try again!

Are you a fast or a slow traveller?

P.S. if you go to Tallinn, please bring back some of that cider. We miss her.

Recipe: Prosciutto Wrapped Asparagus

Instead of a long story about how my recipe reminds me of my grandfather’s wristwatch, I start with a quick difficulty list. This means you can easily decide if you’re up to it or if you’d rather toss a pizza in the oven.

For ingredients, 1 means you may already have all of them at home and 5 means you may need to special order an ingredient.
For equipment, 1 means the most very basic of tools are needed and 5 means needing to buy a special piece of equipment you may not use often.
For method, 1 means as easy as prepping and tossing in the oven and 5 means you’ll feel like you’re juggling flaming knives.

Ingredients: 1/5
Equipment: 1/5
Method: 2/5

This recipe makes an appetizer portion for 4-6 people

Ingredients:

  • 250g of Asparagus tips
  • 12 slices of prosciutto, cut into quarters
  • Lemon juice
  • Butter
  • Sea or rock salt for blanching
  • Salt and pepper
  • Ice

Equipment:

  • Medium stockpot
  • Large frying pan
  • Tongs
  • Large bowl

Method:

  1. Bring the medium stockpot to a boil and salt it thoroughly. The water should taste like seawater.
  2. Fill the large bowl with ice and cold water. This will be your ice bath for blanching the asparagus.
  3. Boil the asparagus for 2 minutes. Immediately remove and put into the ice bath for 5 minutes.
  4. Once the asparagus has chilled, remove from the bowl and dry.
  5. Wrap each piece of asparagus in prosciutto and set aside.
  6. Bring the frying pan to medium heat and melt butter into the pan so it coats the bottom of the pan.
  7. Carefully add the wrapped asparagus to the pan.
  8. Season with salt, pepper and lemon juice.
  9. Cook for 3-5 minutes.
  10. Serve immediately

The complicated relationship between music and mental health

All it takes is a quick look around a concert venue to see that music connects deeply with people emotionally. People joyfully singing along. People smiling ear to ear with tears running down their face. Even just swaying side to side with their eyes closed and lost in the moment. When something connects with people so deeply at an emotional level, it shouldn’t be surprising that it’s intertwined with mental health.

I’ve never been quite able to explain the link between my emotional state and music. That is, beyond the fact that the relationship is clearly strong. Certain songs remain forever associated with memory and others mean more at a point in time. If you did a snapshot of my Spotify at certain points in time, the overall mood of those top songs would almost certainly give you a good indication of what I was going through. Or at least how I felt at that time in my life.

I can still remember the song playing in my headphones vividly even now, nearly 8 years later. It was probably the lowest point, about a month after my grandfather passed away. I had gone into a downward spiral, breaking up with my girlfriend, pushing friends away and neglecting my school work. I had made half-assed attempts to “cheer myself up”, but clearly something was wrong, beyond grief. This particular evening I’d tried to go to a party with my friends and resume normality but a panic attack thwarted that pretty quickly.

I walked home by myself with my headphones on. After the Storm by Mumford and Sons came on and I broke down completely. The song had no connection to my grandfather but at that moment it caused the involuntary acknowledgement of the deteriorating state of my depression, one way or another. I broke down completely into tears, unable to stop. I got home and sat in my living room, with one of my housemates unable to even discern what the problem was. I cried the hardest I ever have. I’d clearly been bottling up emotions in an unhealthy way for a long time. One sad song at the right moment was apparently what it took to let it all out.

Recognizing music’s effects

Music has been a catalyst for coming to terms with my own mental health. It has also been a tool for recognizing when it’s good and bad. Despite not really knowing I was depressed, I had a playlist on my first iPod called “depression”. It was full of songs that essentially kept me in that state. Can’t really say it wasn’t what was on the tin. Reflecting on it now, it was a clear sign of how unhealthy my relationship with my mental health was. I could recognize being depressed and then would proceed to fuel the fire with music that made it worse.

While I now see the pattern, back then I considered it normal to simply be listening to sad music when I was sad. It was an important cycle to break and to acknowledge my mental health. I could then actively work to improve it with music rather than fuelling the fire is a microcosm of the progress I’ve made over the years. Not letting things build-up to the point of breaking, and pretending to be okay when I’m not is so important.

It’s not all bad, of course. There are songs to this day that I associate so strongly with a happy moment or memory that they bring a smile to my face no matter what. Memories of music festivals with friends, a family memory or just a happy moment also become associated with songs. These associations are just as powerful and even more important. It can also be a means of de-stressing or relaxing. I find playing the guitar to be as effective as meditation for calming the mind. It requires a dedicated focus on one thing that stops frantic wandering thoughts.

Using it to your benefit

Not everyone is connected to music so deeply, and others are even more so than I am. It’s important however to recognize the power it can have, and how you use it. I use it as a toolbox to better acknowledge how I’m feeling and even manage that state of mind. Acknowledging your mental health state is the first step to managing it. If I find myself constantly reaching for songs that evoke a sad memory or feel more strongly connected to the emotions of music then that’s usually a good sign that I need to do something about it.

From my own experience, I would recommend that anyone struggling with mental health issues takes a bit of a look of their relationship with music. When you’re depressed, what do you reach for and does it help or make it worse? If you’re anxious, does certain music calm you down or help you sleep? What songs bring back happy memories? If you can identify the way it influences you, you can use it as a tool to help break the cycle. Make playlists for when you need to relax, to focus or to try and stay positive. If you play an instrument, see if it helps your mindfulness.

Mental health is a complex thing and not everything is going to work always or for everyone. However, as much as you can’t just decide to be happy when your depressed, or calm when you’re anxious, you can identify the things that influence those states of mind and use them to your advantage instead of fueling the fire.

What’s your experience with music and your mental health?

Recipe: Mushroom and Bacon Risotto

Instead of a long story about how my recipe reminds me of a long lost love, I start with a quick difficulty list. This means you can easily decide if you’re up to it or if you’d rather toss a pizza in the oven.

For ingredients, 1 means you may already have all of them at home and 5 means you may need to special order an ingredient.
For equipment, 1 means the most very basic of tools need and 5 means needing to buy a special piece of equipment you may not use often.
For method, 1 means as easy as prepping and tossing in the oven and 5 means you’ll feel like you’re juggling flaming knives.

Ingredients: 1/5
Equipment: 1/5
Method: 3/5

This recipe makes 4-6 portions

Ingredients:

  • 500g risotto rice
  • 1L of vegetable or chicken stock
  • 1 clove chopped garlic
  • 2 concentrated chicken or vegetable stock cubes
  • 2 large shallots, diced
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 300g chopped chestnut mushrooms
  • 300g chopped closed cup white mushrooms
  • 250g streaky bacon, chopped into small pieces
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • Salted butter
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil
  • Grated parmesan cheese

Equipment:

  • Cutting board
  • Sharp knife
  • Small frying pan
  • Medium saucepan
  • Wooden spoon
  • Ladle
  • Large cooking pot or deep frying pan

Method:

  1. Add the liquid stock to the saucepan and bring to a low heat.
  2. Cook bacon in the small frying pan and set aside.
  3. Bring the cooking pot up to medium heat with olive oil and garlic.
  4. Add diced shallots and let cook until softened.
  5. Add white wine and cook until the wine has evaporated.
  6. Add mushrooms and cook until reduced down.
  7. Add the risotto rice.
  8. Slowly ladle in the stock one ladle-full at a time, letting it fully be absorbed by the risotto before adding the next. Stir regularly. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  9. Once all of the stock has been absorbed, add the two stock cubes and mix thoroughly.
  10. Once mixed, turn off the heat and add the butter, cooked bacon and shredded cheddar cheese and stir through.
  11. Serve with grated parmesan on top.

In whiskey heaven

There’s an open bottle on the table
And an empty bottle on the floor
Last night I thought I’d died
And I went to Whiskey Heaven
” – Whiskey Heaven by Fats Domino

Ex-pats who are friends tend to have excellent if not random stories as to how they know each other. In this particular case, I met Mike through another friend because they had met at a music festival where he used an inflatable giraffe to keep his group of friends together. We recently found out we both have a love of whisky and with my girlfriend and another friend of his, Sam, we decided to make a night of it.

The tavern

Black Rock Tavern is a small innocuous bar. Nearly perfectly in the middle of the Moorgate-Old Street-Shoreditch-Liverpool Street square in east London. If you didn’t know what was inside you may just walk past, but once you know, you know.

On a Friday night, you’ll certainly need a booking for the downstairs bar. It is a small but glowing tribute to all things whisky. You’ll find a mix of banker wankers from the square mile and bearded hipsters but don’t let that put you off, it’s worth it.

Firstly, you’re greeted by one of the two or three aproned whisky experts that work the small bar. I thought I loved whisky but these gentlemen certainly worship it. The bar is simple, there is a table running down the middle that holds two blended whiskeys made in house. Along the wall is three cabinets filled with dram upon dram. The system is that the number of dots on the bottle indicates the price range. Either ask the experts what you’re after or go up and have a gander.

For starters

We thought it best to start with the in-house blends. The two options were a bourbon, flavoured with mint and bitters, or a more traditional blend. I opted for the more traditional blend, while childishly chuckling at the name “American Wood”. You can dress me up and take me to classy places but that is unlikely to ever make me an adult. The blend was a smooth and sugary taste with a peaty after taste that had us guessing at the type of blend. By our estimation, it was a light American rye blended with an Islay single malt. However, we were too excited and forgot to ask. Try it either way and let me know if you find out!

Following that, it was time to explore the library. I love a good book library but I reckon even they could be improved with the addition of one of these.

Three of these beautiful sights line the back wall. Each having a selection that you would need a month just to get through. A selection spread across the major whiskey producers, both well known and lesser-known. I even spotted a bottle of Newfoundland’s own Signal Hill which certainly warmed my Canadian heart.

Another!

For the first round, we covered a few bases right off the hop. We immediately decided that simply trying only the one we ordered wouldn’t fly and after all, sharing is caring. Based on the expert’s description, we dove right into two spectacular peated whiskies; the Lagavulin Distillers Edition, Talisker 8-year-old Limited Release, the Irish Roe&Co, and a boutique American distillery aptly named That Boutique-y Whiskey Company.

I like a good peat from time to time but the Lagavulin and the Talisker blew any I’ve had before out of the water. The Talisker maintained the strength you expect from the Isle of Skye distillery but with a fruit and coffee note that pre-empts the smokey finish. The Lagavulin presented with the smoothest flavoured peat I’ve ever had. Double matured in oak and sherry casks it has a caramel and sugary flavour reminiscent of a Speyside like Aberlour, followed by a punchy smokey finish.

The American boutique and Roe&Co by contrast (perhaps made starker by the peats first), were the most fragrant and fruity tastes. Especially the Roe&Co. The notes were nearly as aromatic as a gin and incredibly flavourful.

Last round

The last round we opted for had even more variety. I had recommended Dalmore to Sam previously as it’s one of my favourites. Mike decided to dive back into the peat world. I had personally had never tried a Campbeltown whisky, felt that I needed to complete the tasting tour of Scotland. We rounded it out with Lot 40 Canadian rye.

I can now say I’ve visited Campbeltown in flavour. The Hazelburn is a nice, relatively budget-friendly choice. The high ABV gives it a stronger after taste but has a slight caramel taste and is unpeated unlike some of its counterparts making it a good intro to the region. The Dalmore turned out to be a rather pleasant surprise being the 12-year-old, bottled in the ’70s though. It lacked the sweetness of the current iteration without the use of sherry casks but still had a smooth taste. The Lagavulin perhaps would have been outstanding if it had come before the Distillers Edition. In comparing the two it didn’t quite stack up. Lot 40 is a staple of mine and makes for a really nice easy drinking Canadian Rye even for the non-whisky drinker.

We rounded out the evening at the upstairs bar with a smoked Laphroaig Old Fashioned, and in terms of whisky cocktails, a well made Old Fashioned cannot be beaten. We didn’t quite get to an empty bottle on the floor, but Black Rock Tavern is the closest I’ve gotten to whisky heaven outside of Scotland for sure.

Recipe: Mashed Potatoes

Instead of a long story about how my recipe reminds me of a cosy winter evening in the mountains, I start with a quick difficulty list. This means you can easily decide if you’re up to it or if you’d rather toss a pizza in the oven.

For ingredients, 1 means you may already have all of them at home and 5 means you may need to special order an ingredient.
For equipment, 1 means the most very basic of tools need and 5 means needing to buy a special piece of equipment you may not use often.
For method, 1 means as easy as prepping and tossing in the oven and 5 means you’ll feel like you’re juggling flaming knives.

Ingredients: 1/5
Equipment: 1/5
Method: 1/5

This recipe makes 4-6 portions

Ingredients:

  • 1 kg red potatoes (peeled or not peeled as desired)
  • 1 cup milk
  • 150 ml soured cream
  • 100g salted butter
  • salt, pepper and paprika
  • lemon juice

Equipment:

  • 1 large cooking pot
  • 1 colander
  • Sharp knife
  • Cutting board
  • Potato masher
  • Medium baking dish

Method:

  1. Fill a cooking pot with water and add a generous amount of salt and stir
  2. Chop potatoes into approx 1-inch cubes and add to the pot
  3. Bring the pot to a boil. If peels are still on, boil until peels just start to come off. If peeled, boil until a potato can be easily squashed by a spoon.
  4. Drain water using the colander and put potatoes back into the pot.
  5. Add milk, soured cream and most of the butter leaving about a 5th of it for later
  6. Mash potatoes until lumps are largely gone. If potatoes are still too thick, add a little more milk
  7. Season with salt, pepper and a dash of paprika and continue mashing. Season with salt and pepper to taste continuously
  8. Once complete, scoop the potatoes into the baking tray. Preheat the oven to 200C
  9. Coat the top of the potatoes with the remaining butter
  10. Once the oven is hot, bake the dish uncovered in the oven until crispy on top. Usually about 20 minutes, and can turn on the broil setting for the last 5 minutes to get extra crisp.