• Blog

Welcome to Home Kitchen!

October 20
Welcome to Home Kitchen! | DonalSkehan.com, I do hope these recipes find a place in your home kitchen and become part of the fabric of your family life, as they have done mine.

People often say that the kitchen is the heart of the home and, while I believe that to be true, my personal journey to finding where home is (never mind the kitchen) has not been straightforward over the last seven years. That being said, our path to finding our forever home has been one I wouldn’t change, and ultimately it has given me a better understanding of just what it means to make a home: a place to feel grounded, to provide security for loved ones and, of course, to make memories through the food we cook and share.

Coming home to Ireland in 2020 after five years of living in Los Angeles was not an easy decision. The seed was planted in the summer of 2018 when we took our eldest, Noah, home for one of his first visits to see family. Being back in the house where I’d grown up with my wife and our six-month-old was a strange feeling. He was sleeping in my childhood bedroom, in the cot I’d slept in as a baby. It had been passed down through our family and a few of my cousins had taken their turns to pull at the bars, gnaw at the wooden slats that held it together, and basically tear it apart. My parents had kept it, perhaps for this precise moment. The result was a true sense of nostalgia, mixed with hilarity over the state of the cot in which our little guy was meant to sleep soundly. But sleep soundly he did – much to our joy, after months of bleary-eyed, new-parent struggles. My parents offered to keep an ear out for him while Sofie and I took a walk down to the pier in Howth. We strolled through the village and caught the most beautiful sunset together, sitting by the lighthouse at the end of the East Pier. For the first time, we both felt a sense of security we hadn’t been aware we’d been missing while living so far away. I had often described living away from home as being like treading water in the middle of a deep swimming pool; on that trip home, there was suddenly the feeling of having one hand safely on the side, anchoring me. We had loved the adventure of everything that Los Angeles had brought us, but in that moment, we knew what we had ultimately been searching for was home.

I’d love to tell you that all my cooking is well thought through and planned out, but of course it’s not. Even with the best intentions I still regularly find myself staring deep into the kitchen  cupboard wondering what the hell I’m going to cook. Sometimes, I get my most rewarding results in the kitchen from the little victories, the small but mighty flavour-makers that sit awaiting deployment to transform your dish. In the Food Wins and Flavour-Makers chapter, kitchen-cupboard heroes like peanut butter, gochujang, soy sauce, chilli oil and jars of spices are celebrated,
and you’ll find plenty of inspiration and recipes. Think Instant Ramen Upgrade ideas, Fennel & Orange Rubbed Pork Chops and Bang Bang Chicken Salad with its lip-numbing Sichuan
peppercorn dressing.

I do hope these recipes find a place in your home kitchen and become part of the fabric of your family life, as they have done mine.
Donal x

Crispy Spice Bag Chicken Buns

Fried chicken was most definitely having a moment while we were living in Los Angeles. (Although, when is it not having a moment?) Howlin’ Ray’s was THE place while we lived there and – no joke – people would line up around the block in Chinatown to get their hands on a paper-wrapped Nashville-style chicken bun doused in fiery red spice. Now for the Irish mash-up. Outside Ireland, most people won’t have a clue what a spice bag is, but those in the know will be well aware that this Chinese-Irish takeaway staple is fast becoming a favourite. Crisp, fried chicken tossed in a sweet spice mixture with chips and fried onions and peppers, all served in a paper bag and devoured – typically after a night out. I want all of that, but I want it in an LA-style bun – hook it to my veins!

Get the recipe here.

Prawn Pil Pil Pasta

Recipes like this one make me accept I am a glutton. Fat prawns cooked in copious amounts of oil and spices are an indulgence as they are, with wedges of sourdough bread to soak up the delicious sauce – but add pasta to that mix, and you have an insight into all I love. Embrace the instant gratification this supper provides, particularly if you can get your hands on some beautiful prawns.

Get the recipe here.

Slow-roasted Pork Shoulder with Honey & Apple Vinegar Sauce

One of the first family dinners we were able to host once we moved back to Ireland was served up in the dining room of the old Victorian house we were renting. After years of cooking with Californian ingredients, it was exciting and quite grounding to come home to Ireland and rediscover all the
great produce this little island has to offer. Fresh seafood, farmhouse cheese, organic vegetables and bloody good meat. The Aga, with which I had a love/hate relationship, was good for one thing, and that was slow-roasting. A stroll to Higgins, our local butcher, resulted in this pork shoulder, which I excitedly served with charred garlic scapes from Drummond House. (Our friends Jeni Glasgow and Reuven Diaz served them as part of the main course at our wedding, and we’ve been obsessed with them ever since.)

Get the recipe here.

Fancy Meringue Swish

My wife Sofie introduced me to this classic Swedish kiddie-style dessert, which I’m guessing is the Scandi version of Eton Mess. It’s basically lightly crushed meringues with whipped cream, banana slices and chocolate sauce. My version is slightly more sophisticated, though I don’t that say directly to my darling wife. It’s a tower of chewy, crisp meringues, piled high with ice cream, whipped cream and warm chocolate sauce. It’s wonderfully messy and always garners the best reaction from guests. You can add fresh fruit, flaked almonds or caramelised bananas and passion fruit pulp. Be sure to choose a platter with a generous lip, as this is a messy one to serve – embrace it!

Get the recipe here.