veggie tart_edited-1 It only took 15 months but I think my body has finally adjusted to the climate here in Ireland. It recently occurred to me that I haven’t had a cold or flu or major aches and pains for a while now; considering I was sick about once every month for the first year of living here, I’m overjoyed!

Irish people say the damp air here is what makes you sick. Whatever it is, my body went into rejection mode the moment I landed. My lungs were used to the comforting warm and dry air of Los Angeles, which was only very occasionally punctuated by a rain shower or cooler temperatures. So when my organs were introduced to the cold, wet breezes of the north east seaboard of this island, they were determined to show their misery by inflicting pain in the form of one bizarre illness or another.

First there was the monthly cold with the coughing and slightly-above-normal body temperature. Then came the crazy, head-rattling sneezing and runny nose/eyes from hay fever (thanks, rapeseed plants!). By roasted carrotsDecember of last year, I had contracted some viral infection that left me with painful, swollen glands in my neck and a low-grade fever and headache that lasted over 30 days. So exhausted and weepy was I during our New Year’s holiday in Athlone that Mountaineering Man had to ring a local doctor for an emergency appointment. The doctor told me the same thing my own doc told me, which was that my body was fighting some viral infection and I would just have to wait until it passed. He happily pocked 50 quid for his 5 minutes and I left knowing I’d chosen the wrong career field.

beetroot salad 2 By the time I got back to Drogheda I had also lost my sense of taste; according to my med student friend this is a common result of a bad sinus infection. He told me it could resolve itself in days…or months…or years. I tried to remain optimistic and every day I’d wake up and make my eggs and toast, hoping to be able to sense that lovely yolky flavour on my tongue – with no avail. I was two weeks into hell (I’m a foodie so not being able to taste is as close as it gets!) when I bit into a piece of dark chocolate and realized my taste receptors were alive again. I can taste this! I shouted, alone in my kitchen, before breaking down in a heap of tears.

baked veg roll

There’s something about being sick and far away from home that can drive one a little batty. Dealing with a new doctor, a whole new healthcare system and medications with unfamiliar names is enough to do anyone’s head in. By the beginning of this year I was completely beaten down and – to use a cliché – so sick and tired of being sick and tired! I’m fairly certain MM was pretty sick of it as well; every weekend there was a new ailment – some real, some imagined. Sometimes I’d practically want to throw myself on the floor and scream, Health why, WHY do you forsake me? Did I mention being sick tends to increase my already well-tuned flair for drama?

It’s been wonderful to finally turn the corner and feel relatively healthy for the last few months now. Naturally as I type this I’m wondering if I’ve just willed the mother of all jinxes on me but I’ll try not to focus on that. I’m truly relishing feeling well these days and I’m embracing it by getting to the gym four times a week and eating healthy. Though I’m not a vegetarian, I’m starting to cook more veggie during the week (thanks in part to our Home Organics delivery). Both MM and I have noticed a difference in our skin and, er, digestive systems.

It’s great to feel so good.

veggie tart closeup

Roasted Vegetable Tart on Wholemeal Pastry

I won’t lie – this tart is a lot of work but it’s SO worth it. I made it for the first time the other night and MM declared it was one of his favourites. Yes there’s butter in the pastry but it’s balanced with all the lovely veg. You can even skip the Parmesan cheese if you like!

For the wholemeal pastry:

250g  wholemeal flour
1 teaspoon sea salt 
125g cold butter cut into small cubes
60ml cold water

For the tart:

2 tablespoons olive oil plus a little extra for brushing on the veg

3 large white or yellow onions, sliced thinly

2 medium tomatoes, sliced thin

2 medium red-skinned potatoes, sliced thin

1 corgette, sliced thin

Kernels from 1 ear of corn

4 tablespoons of freshly-grated Parmesan cheese (I use a microplane to grate my own)

Salt & pepper to taste

To prepare the pastry: In a large bowl, combine the flour and sea salt. Add in the butter and working very quickly, use your fingers or a fork to mix the butter into the flour – you want to end up with a rough, crumbly texture and the crumbles should be about the size of peas. Slowly pour in the cold water and work with your hands or a spatula to bring the mix together to form a dough – do not over work it. When the dough comes together, form it into a ball, wrap in cling film and put in the refrigerator.

To prepare the veg: Preheat oven to 180 C. Heat up the 2 tbs of olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add in the sliced onions and let cook until caramelized. This process will take anywhere between 15-20 minutes; you do not want the onions to burn but want them to get browned and soft. Add a bit of salt and pepper to season.

While the onions are cooking, spray or brush two large baking trays with oil. Lay the tomato, potato and corgettes on the trays in a single layer and brush with just a touch of olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and place in the oven and let bake for 10 minutes or until the veg is tender. The slices should be thin so even the potato will cook quickly. You may need to do two batches to cook all the veg.

To parbake the pastry: Roll out the wholemeal pastry dough so it’s about 1/2 centimeter thick. You do not want this crust too thin as there is a lot of veg on the tart! Roll it so it’s a rectangle about the same size as your baking tray. Place on a greased tray (or use a silicon baking sheet) and then fold the edges in to create a border. Using a fork, pierce some holes into the pastry. Place in the oven and bake for 15 minutes at 180 C.

Remove the pastry from the oven – you are now ready to assemble the tart. The first layer is the caramelized onion, so evenly distribute that on the pastry crust. Next is the potato slices, then corgettes, then tomato. Top with the corn and sprinkle the top with the Parmesan cheese. Place it back in the oven for an additional 10 minutes. Remove and serve!

Potato, Mushroom & Pea Spring Rolls (Vegan)

3 medium potatoes, peeled

1 tablespoon extra plus 1 teaspoon virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon sea salt

2 Portobello mushrooms, sliced

4 ounces of frozen peas, thawed

Zest from 1/2 a small lemon

Salt and pepper to taste

Package of Spring Roll Pastry (you can buy this in the frozen section of most Asian markets)

Extra olive oil for brushing

Cook the potato either by boiling until soft or microwaving. In a large bowl, mash the potatoes together with the 1 tablespoon of olive oil and add sea salt and mix. Set aside.

In a medium sauté pan, heat the 1 teaspoon of olive oil over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and cook until tender, about 7 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

Now mix the mushrooms in with the potatoes and also add the thawed peas. Be careful not to mash the peas – you want them to retain their shape. Add in the lemon zest and season with salt and pepper.

Preheat oven to 180 C.

Carefully take out one sheet of the Spring Roll Pastry – they should be square and about the size of a tea cozy. Place about 3 tablespoons of filling in the middle (see an easy how-to photo guide here) and roll up, using a bit of water to seal the edge. Continue until all the potato filling is gone.

Place a cooling rack on the baking sheet and place the spring rolls on the rack – you do not want the spring rolls directly touching the baking rack; this method ensures crisping. Carefully brush or spray olive oil on the rolls but don’t over do it – they only need a bit! Put in oven and bake for 10 minutes, turn the spring rolls over, then cook for another 10 minutes. They should start to get brown around the edges.

Serve with your favourite Asian-style dipping sauce: sweet chili, curry, soy sauce, etc. This is a vegan dish – the pastry is made from flour, coconut oil and water.