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Donal Skehan cooks from his book Good Mood Food

Monday, 22 February 2010

About Donal

Donal comes from Dublin. He grew up in family obsessed with food and drink which made it pretty hard not for him to have an interest. He love's trying out new recipe's, adapting old ones, and tasting new things. He also has a serious addiction to cookbooks!
He grew up in Howth, a fishing village just outside Dublin, and as a kid one of his favourite things to do was to bake.

Donal says:

I got such enjoyment out of producing something from a combination of ingredients which looked so completely different from their original state. My best friend and I used to hawk our creations to our poor neighbours who must have been driven mad with us knocking on their doors to sell them our produce for far more than it was worth!

The transition to cooking real meals came after I spent a summer in France with an old family friend. My mom had prepped me with five fool-proof recipes which I had been practicing and, on pain of death, I was to cook for the family! I was sent off with a hug, a kiss and a side of smoked salmon from the west pier in Howth, which was my mom's standard gift for foreign friends. However, after a long flight and a hot and sticky drive through the south of France, I ended up with a whole suitcase of clothing smelling of smoked salmon that lingered for the rest of the summer! As a willing guest, I sampled everything that was put in front of me, from classic French home-cooked dishes like Beef Bourguignonne and effortless yet elegant fresh green salads lightly dressed, to the simplicity of wafer-thin smoked ham and melon slices, a concept completely foreign to me as an Irish twelve-year-old. I was hooked!

Another turning point in my experiences with food came during my teens, when I was introduced to the Asian market in South Great Georges Street, Dublin. I discovered an array of incredible and fascinating foreign ingredients, with which completely unfamiliar dishes could be created. A pocket-sized Asian recipe book from my granny allowed me to work my way through recipes, from simple stir fries to Nasi Goreng, even making my own fortune cookies.

Nothing made me happier than watching other people eating the food I had created and more importantly enjoying it. One of my first cheffing experiences was with the well-established Reveljen restaurant in Gothenberg, Sweden. They ran a unique and traditional Christmas Smorgasbord on Elfsbog Fastning, the island which sits just at the entrance of Gothenburg Harbour. My task was to churn out traditional Swedish Christmas dishes by the truckload - the island catered for staff Christmas parties and saw guests being ferried across from the mainland. During their journey over, they were numbed to the rough seas by the popular Christmas drink, Glogg. As you can imagine they were ready to eat by the time they arrived! The owners ran the whole event like a military operation, and even though I may not have been cooking haute cuisine, the kitchen skills and discipline that were drilled into us was absolutely invaluable.

Donal started a food blog called The Good Mood Food Blog in 2007 after he moved in to his first apartment. He always had an interest in photography so when he bought his first camera, he thought it was finally time to start documenting some dishes he was cooking and with that the blog was born! Most of the recipes on the blog try to include as many healthy ingredients as possible. The blog has many loyal followers and has had nearly a million hits! Donal's a big believer in the power of food and it's affects on our lives.

Donal is also a member of the new Irish band Industry, who have recently scored 2 number one singles since June 2009 and supported the Pussy Cat Dolls last year in Killarney . Donal also was in the Irish Eurosong the same year as Dustin the Turkey

About the Book

Donal's first cook book which was released Oct 09' with Mercier Press. Mercier approached Donal after seeing his blog. The book is called "Good Mood Food" and is full of healthy home cooking.

Good Mood Food is a cookbook that aims to change your attitude to food, offering a delicious range of simple, healthy home-cooked recipes. Good Mood Food features mouth-watering recipes like Broad Bean, Pancetta and Pea Shoot Salad, Cookies and Cream Chocolate Chip Oreo Cupcakes, Blueberry and Banana Muffins, and a tasty Aromatic Duck Salad.

Sunblush Tomato, Basil and Goat's Cheese Pasta

A wonderful dish which can be made in a matter of minutes. This punchy combination
of flavours makes for a perfect quick dinner. Sunblush tomatoes are quite easy to pick
up and can be found stored in jars or you can ask for them at deli counters in most good

Serves 4

. 250g/9oz wholewheat penne pasta
. 150g/5oz sunblush tomatoes (plus a little of the oil they are stored in)
. 75g/3oz goat's cheese
. A handful of fresh basil leaves
. A good pinch of sea salt
. A few slices of good crunchy toasted bread to serve

1. Bring a large pot of water to the boil and cook the pasta according to
2. instructions on the packet.
3. While the pasta is cooking, remove the tomatoes from the oil they are
4. stored in and set the oil aside to add to the pasta later.
5. Roughly chop the basil leaves and sunblush tomatoes and set aside.
6. When the pasta is cooked, drain in a colander and put back in the pot.
7. Drizzle with the tomato oil and add the basil and sunblush tomatoes, stir to combine.
8. Crumble in the goat's cheese, season with a little sea salt and, using a large
9. Serving spoon, stir the cheese through the pasta.
10. Serve straightaway or this also works really well as a tasty lunch box filler.

Broccoli, Feta and Cherry Tomato Salad

I love chunky salads like this; I often make a big batch and then pick at it from the fridge.

Serves 4 people

. 1 large head of broccoli, chopped into bite-size pieces
. 1 punnet of cherry tomatoes
. 1 x 125g packet of ready chopped pancetta or bacon
. 100g crumbled feta cheese
. 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
. 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar
. A good pinch of sea salt and of ground black pepper

1. Bring a large pot of water to the boil. While the water is boiling, combine
2. the olive oil and balsamic vinegar in a serving bowl.
3. Add the broccoli to the pot of water and blanch for 60 seconds - you
4. should see the broccoli turn a vibrant green.
5. Drain the broccoli pieces and run under cold water. Add the broccoli to the
6. serving bowl and set aside.
7. Place a small frying pan over a high heat and fry the bacon/pancetta pieces
8. until crispy. Remove the bacon from the pan, place on some kitchen paper
9. and allow to cool before adding to the rest of salad.
10. Slice the cherry tomatoes in half and tumble in to the bowl on top of the broccoli.
11. Add the bacon pieces and feta cheese to the serving bowl.
12. Gently toss with the olive oil and balsamic vinegar and season with sea salt
13. and black pepper. Serve as a tasty side dish or a really tasty lunch.
14. You can also add walnuts or pine nuts for extra crunch!

Chicken Thigh Supper

This is a super dish for a big group of people, served with a tasty salad; it's perfect for
weekday entertaining. If you can't get a hold of chicken thighs, you can use any other cuts as long as they're on the bone. This gives the meat a really great flavour.

Serves 4

. 6-8 chicken thighs
. 200g pancetta, diced, or bacon bits
. 1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
. 75ml/3fl oz red wine
. 2 garlic cloves, sliced thinly
. 1 red onion, chopped in half moons
. 2 sprigs of rosemary
. 2 sprigs of thyme
. 2 teaspoons of English mustard powder
. 2 tablespoons of olive oil

1. In a large deep frying pan, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil, and brown the
2. chicken and pancetta, until you get a nice colour on the thighs. Set aside on
3. plate covered with kitchen paper.
4. In the same pan, add the rest of the oil and fry the garlic, onion, rosemary
5. and thyme for 2 minutes. Sprinkle over the mustard powder and stir through.
6. Add the tinned tomatoes and red wine, and bring to the boil. Add the
7. chicken and pancetta pieces back to the pan, turning the chicken pieces to
8. coat.
9. Cover the pan and cook for 20 minutes over a low heat or until the
10. chicken is cooked through. You may need to extend the cooking time
11. depending on the size of the chicken thighs. I don't add salt to this recipe
12. as the pancetta can be quite salty, but make sure to taste it and add
13. seasoning if needed.
14. Serve with a tasty salad and some hearty wholemeal bread.