Unwise Fire Soup

So if you have a cold or sinus problems this is going to be really good for you. But it’s also really really spicy. So spicy my wife looked like she was going to cry when I got her to taste it to see if she wanted some with the rest of our dinner.


Exhibit a: a sad wife.

To be fair I thought I’d managed to tone it down enough for people with normal taste buds but I guess not.

This soup was inspired by the fact that I really wanted Caribbean chicken stew but lacked many of the ingredients, the capacity to make it properly or the time. Not only is it inauthentic, it’s not even identifiable as related to Caribbean food beyond the flavour of the scotch bonnet pepper. It’s one of my favourite peppers around and if you can stand the heat I suggest putting it everywhere you can.


Olive Oil

Black Vinegar

Soy Sauce

1 Teaspoon Garam Masala

1 Teaspoon Paprika

1 Teaspoon Yellow Mustard Seed

1 Pinch Thyme

3 Turns of Black Pepper

1 Tin Tomato Paste

1 Head of Garlic

1 Onion

1 Thumb of Ginger

1 Scotch Bonnet (or sub for other chilis/dried flakes)

Stock Cube

Coconut Cream (optional)

Chicken (optional)


Exhibit b: the soup I ate almost all of before thinking to take a picture

If using chicken marinade it for up to a day in everything but the fresh ginger (though toss in some ginger powder with it and still add the fresh later), onion, mustard seed, coconut cream, chilli, stock and tomato.

Fry the onion, garlic, ginger and chilli in the olive oil until the onion is browned. If adding chicken give it a sear now. Then just add the tomato paste, water, remains of the marinade and stock and cook until flavours have suitably melded. If using coconut cream then add a heaping desert spoon of it with the rest.

I managed to briefly forget I had a hideous cold thanks to the numbing and endorphin effects tonight, plus it tastes amazing.

Wild Garlic Chicken Soup

Sometimes it’s hard to be a functional adult. Sometimes you stayed out all night, celebrating Beltane while rascally drunk, and didn’t notice how fucking cold you were because the you forgot to put jeans on under your thin ceremonial dress! Sometimes you wake up looking like you’ve been walloped in the eyes, with a pair of golf balls where your tonsils used to live.

I was supposed to go to my art class today but instead made myself wild garlic chicken soup. It actually has made me feel a lot better (and yes I know I was probably incubating plague for days already because getting cold doesn’t actually make you sick, shh).

You will need!

  • Wild Garlic
  • Carrot
  • Onion
  • Smoked Chicken
  • Stock
  • Fresh Parsley
  • Thyme
  • Chili

You can sub out the wild garlic and smoked chicken for the more regular kinds depending on what you have, I guess, but that’s just a basic chicken soup and you didn’t need my help to make it. Don’t swap the fresh parsley for dried though as dried is basically bits of paper. If no parsley then no parsley.

Just dump everything in the pot once it’s chopped. I mean fry the onions if you feel you can stand up that long, but can you? Really? Be honest. You probably can’t. Use as much of each herb as you feel like and chilli to taste. The chilli is important. It might kill germs but also the endorphin burst will make you feel good and also possibly the increased blood flow to your mouth might clear your sinus’. Eat it when everything is appropriately soft with blended flavours or the next time you work out standing up. Enjoy.


Tomato and Mackerel Pasta


Another post-Brexit recipe that uses frozen, dried and canned food. Its cheap and actually surprisingly good. This fed two of us because we were very hungry but probably its a good amount for three.


Olive Oil
Two tins of mackerel in tomato sauce
One tin tomato puree
Black olives
One onion or equivalent frozen pre-diced
Garlic to taste
Red chili flakes
Black pepper
Handful of fresh basil (or dried equivalent)
Handful fresh parsley (skip if no access to fresh)
Dried spaghetti (portion size is between you and your god(s), we all know how we over serve pasta)

Use an equivalent amount of olive oil and butter to fry the onions and garlic with the dried chili. If, in the post Brexit scarcity nightmare we end up living in, butter becomes scarce you can always cook without it. It just produces a nicer flavour over all if you use both. For the garlic I used a mixture of the pre-diced garlic in olive oil my fiancee does for me (I have joint issues so have to rely on pre-chopped things a lot) and the left over tubed puree she’d brought for something else a while ago. It doesn’t really matter what form of garlic you use however, even dried will work fine.

Once the onions are translucent add the tin of tomato puree and fry it in the oil/butter mix. Its important to fry it first because that will help develop that delicious umami flavour rather than the acidic or raw one undercooked tomato sauce can have. After about 30 seconds to a minute of stirring it add water and the fresh herbs to let it simmer until it tastes right. Meanwhile boil the pasta and set aside if it’s ready too soon. Once the sauce has the right flavour add the mackeral and stir it through, let it cook for about five minutes and then taste it. The tinned fish is quite salty so you might not need to add any extra but if you do add it now and let it cook a little longer. Finally add the olives, stir through the pasta and crack black pepper over it.

Chickpea and Mackerel Soup



Olive Oil
Two Onions
Four Cloves Garlic
One Large Carrot
One Tin Tomato Puree
One Tin Chickpeas
Two Tins of Mackerel
White Wine or White Wine Vinegar
Bay Leaf
Black Pepper
Chili Powder or Red Chili pepper
Orzo Pasta

This is an incredibly easy recipe to make and can also be made entirely from canned and frozen food, making it ideal for the post Brexit nightmare world waiting for us just on the horizon.

Dice the onions, garlic and carrots and fry them in olive oil until the onions are translucent. Fresh is best but if you can’t get that or if its easier for you to use frozen/canned feel free. Add the stock, (I used vegetable because its what we had in the house but fish would be best), tomatoes, seasonings and chickpeas and then simmer until the vegetables reach the desired texture and the flavours have infused into the broth. I put in a heaped teaspoon of each herb and a generous crack of black pepper but you should adjust this to your own tastes. I also added a glug of the brine from some black olives which I think helped compensate for the veg stock being used in place of fish. Add the mackerel around fifteen minutes before serving and then the orzo, leaving long enough for it to cook according to the package instructions.

Scottish Lentil Soup

Cheap, nutritious and easily vegan. My camera isn’t working at the moment so no pictures this time. This should make about three portions but mess with the proportions all you like as I measured by eye.

  • One onion
  • Two carrots
  • One rib of celery or celery leaves
  • Red lentils
  • Veg stock or ham hock
  • Frozen peas (optional but added because more veg is good)
  • Mixed herbs or thyme and parsley to taste

If you want to make it more delicious then fry the aromatics after you’ve chopped them before boiling it all up. If you’re looking for healthier just dump them all in the pot, it’ll still taste good. Make sure you boil the lentils for ten minutes to denature the enzymes. It also freezes well and if you don’t have celery to hand it’s still good without it.


More Plant Necromancy

Its been about two months since I came back to a dead looking avocado tree whose leaves had all dried up and fallen off. Because the stem was still green I didn’t get rid of it, continuing to water it and hope. Today its put out little buds.20161015_145959

Apologies for the blurry photograph, I’ve drunk slightly too much coffee today so there was some camera shake involved.

Moral of the story, if its still green there’s hope.

Plant Necromancy

Before I went to Ireland in the Summer I managed to give most of my plants to friends to take care of. Unfortunately the person who was meant to take custody of my spring onions and avocado tree didn’t turn up so I had to leave them to die in the sun.

I noticed when I got back that one of them still had a green bulb under all the straw so I lazily decided to put off uprooting the rest for a while only to discover they were nowhere near as dead as I thought.


So I continued to leave them, with regular watering, and more of them resurrected themselves than not.


The moral of the story is that often your plants are not as dead as you think. The avocado tree still has no leaves but the stem is also still green so I’m waiting and seeing.


Winter Prep

Before it gets really cold I like to stock pile a series of ginger based cold and flu cures.


This is literally just chopped ginger put in honey. I let it soak in like this in the fridge and use a teaspoon full in hot water to make a really throat soothing, sinus clearing tea. The juice flows out of the ginger, thinning the honey and making a sort of syrup.


This is my Ginger Soup, loosely based on Hot and Sour soup and something I’ve been inflicting on sick friends since undergrad. Of course as its my secret remedy there’s no one to make it for me when I’m the one whose sick so I like to keep two tubs of it in my freezer (that’s all I have room for).

You will need;

  • One large thumb of ginger
  • Four spring onions or one white onion
  • Six cloves of garlic
  • Two chilis (less if you like spice less)
  • Oil of your choice
  • Rice vinegar (I’m using Chianking)
  • Soy Sauce
  • Stock of your choice

This is really easy to make and I like to use it as the base for a lot of soups. All you have to do is dice the vegetables and brown then in the oil, then add everything else and cook until the flavours are dispersed.






Castle Leslie

I’ve just come back from cousin’s wedding in Ireland so I’m going to take a brief detour from my usual themes and talk about the wedding venue: Castle Leslie.


Castle Leslie is deeply intertwined with my own family’s history. We’re descended from one of the original architects, Thomas Kerr, who was brought over from Scotland for the project and then chose to settle locally and marry a Monaghan woman. I mentioned I was going to write this blog post to one of the staff and he actually took me to see some of the original plans so I could photograph them.



Thomas’ descendants have continued to work for the family, most often as jewellers, although my great grandmother also upholstered most of the furniture at one time. According to my grandfather, who used to play on the grounds while she worked, some of that furniture is still there. (I completely failed to get a picture of it of course). I do have a picture featuring the original wallpaper however. Its crooked because I took it in a hurry but isn’t it and the fireplace beautiful?


The portico outside has four arches with relief profiles of the first owner’s four children,. He had three daughters and a son and I think its nice he wanted to celebrate all of them like that.

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The grounds themselves and much of the interior are inspired by the Italian palazzo’s, and the weather was so unnaturally good for Ireland that it actually felt a little like being in Florence.

I would love to have that conservatory to write in.

The best and weirdest part of the place are the bedrooms, because each one has been redesigned uniquely. One of the cousins had the haunted disco bathroom (by the time she showed me my phone was out of power so no pictures sadly). Its a basement bedroom where the previous lord’s disco equipment (he was a big fan) is all set up in the bathroom, so you can turn out the main lights, turn on the flashing red and green ones and have a bath under the disco ball. We’re not sure who the ghost is though.

Another bathroom had LED constellations set over a jacuzzi while one of the rooms, which once belonged to an actress had murals of her painted on the wardrobe and a mirror covered in lights, Hollywood style. The room mum and I were in is the old Nursery and it was creepy as anything. We actually thought it was a prank the cousins were playing on her at first because she hates clowns and things like that but apparently we were given the room at random. It looked like this:


With the bathroom built into a life size playhouse (that had a scary parachuting clown in the toilet).


My favourite part was the delightfully classist alphabet border.