Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Christmas: Last minute gifts - Cranberry and Apple Jam

Admittedly, this will take longer than the Turkish delight vodka, but the result is definitely worth it. This could be made even if you had only a few hours to spare before the next round of gift giving begins.

Bramley apples and cranberries are both in season now, so it's the time to make the most of this great Darina Allen recipe. This could be used as an accompaniment to either sweet or savory dishes and just who wouldn't like to receive a jar of this, wrapped up nicely?


1kg Bramley Apples
1kg cranberries
1.7kg sugar

Peel, core and chop the apples before adding them to a saucepan. A wide, low-sided pan will work best here. Add the cranberries and 300ml of water. Bring slowly to the boil and continue to cook over a medium heat until the apples and cranberries dissolve into pulp.

While the fruit is cooking, add the sugar to a pot or a stainless steel bowl and place in the oven at about 80 - 100C, for about 15 minutes. The sugar should feel hot to the touch, but don't leave in too long or it will start to caramelise. This is done to give a fresher tasting jam. The quicker it is made, the fresher it will taste. Cold sugar will take longer to bring back to the boil and won't taste as good.

Once the fruit has reached the pulp stage, add the warmed sugar and stir to dissolve. Increase the heat and cook until the jam reaches a set. Skim the top of the jam with a spoon, to remove the scum. If there is still residue left after this, drop a tiny piece of butter, the size of a fingernail into the pan, this should dissolve the remainder.

Bottle in sterilised jars and cover while still hot. Store in a cool dry place. 

How to know when the jam is ready and will set - Before you begin place a plate in the fridge to chill. When you think the jam looks like it may set, place a spoonful on the cold plate. With a clean finger, push the outer edge of the puddle into the centre. If the jam wrinkles, even a little, it will set.

Christmas: Last minute gifts - Turkish Delight Vodka

Hectic baking schedules and a pledge to give only edible gifts this year, has sent me in search of some some and easy last minute gifts. Ones you can make in about five minutes. This is one of those and is so quick you'll wonder if Santa's come quick flash while you were pondering the vodka.

Simply take a bottle of good quality vodka and some equally meritorious Turkish delight. Rinse the sweets to get rid of the powdered sugar, slice them up smaller if the bottle has a small neck like this one and pop them in the bottle. Add a jaunty bow for some festive cheer and off you

Monday, 12 December 2011

Christmas chocolate cookies

Ok, being pretty busy at the moment, I haven't had a lot of time to sit down and think about creating recipes or imagining what I would like to make. So I've had to go with the tried and tested and this is a fairly simple recipe from Nigella Lawson. Kids and visitors alike will love these biscuits, they have a deep chocolatey flavour.

One thing I found though, was that when I was making the dough, it ended up being quite dry, like breadcrumbs rather than the soft and sticky mixture that Nigella describes, so to rectify that, I added a little milk and it soon all came together. Like the Beatles! Eat these cookies with a warm glass of milk or hot chocolate, grab a good book, maybe stick on Abbey Road. Enjoy!

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Stollen moments...

Yes that title is cheesy as an old Camembert, but that's what Christmas is about! Cheesy Christmas music that gets played on repeat for the whole of December, festive woolly jumpers and reindeer with glowing noses. One of the nice things is making time for family and friends and the unexpected visitors popping by. That is unless you're intensely busy, like many around now. These little biscuits are perfect for just that because you can make them in advance and have them in the freezer on standby.

Instead of making a Stollen loaf, I used the German Christmas bread as inspiration for these quite substantial biscuits. With lots of Christmassy flavours, they'll have you reaching for one after another!

 For the biscuit base, I used a recipe from Cookies Galore by Jacqueline Bellefontaine, then tweaked and experimented to create then stollen biscuits.

Friday, 2 December 2011

Where's the juice?

I learned recently that Juice vegetarian restaurant on Georges Street has closed down. Having been there not long ago, I was surprised at how quickly the signs were whipped away and replaced with the new flash neon sign of "San Lorenzos". Like a middle aged man replacing his older, yoga loving, health food consuming wife with a young flashy Italian mistress.

When I was there a couple of months ago, I wasn't too impressed with the menu selection (but am I ever in Dublin?) I can understand as a vegetarian restaurant, they are catering to a niche market. According to the European vegetarian union approximately 4-6% of the Irish population is vegetarian. That still leaves numbers in the thousands, but apparently this number is to be placated by Dublin chefs with the usual tedious fare.

In Juice, the menu consisted of pasta, falafel, a bit of tofu. Dining there last, I had the Asian noodles - fried noodles, a few veg, with about five rather mean cubes of tofu. My companion had the falafel accompanied by hummus and pita bread. While the service was friendly without being intrusive, the food was certainly nothing to get excited about. The staff kept the meal moving along at a nice pace, but what we were served just had us heading for the door with only the word "fine" burning in my brain.

In most Dublin restaurants, the typical vegetarian option always seems to be tacked onto the bottom of the menu with a "that'll do" kind of attitude; nearly always lacking variation or inspiration. A quick perusal over the bill of fare in many restaurants and you're sure to find pastas, stir-frys, risottos and the ubiquitous goats cheese. What is it with bloody goats cheese?! Sure its nice one in a while if you can find a soft creamy cheese with a hint of tang, but enough is enough. You would think these chefs had invested in goat farms up and down the country, that or a serious lack of imagination. I have a sneaking suspicion it's more likely the latter. Some establishments are so arrogantly enamoured with with their meaty mouthfuls, that reading over the menu is like wading through a veritable farmyard, with the vegetarians left only to nibble on the grass verges surrounding the yard with predictable salads. 

When I go out to dine I want to be excited, inspired, tempted by what's on offer. Instead I'm often left bored, going with the only option available that I've had a million times before. I am quite capable of cooking risottos, pastas and stirfrys at home. Please, where is the muse of plant based meals?

The only saviour we seem to have on this island is in the form of Dennis Cotter who runs Cafe Paradiso in Cork. Now, at last, my salivary glands have a chance to kick into action. We have dishes like "anise-braised salsify, poached quince, quail eggs & beetroot crisps with almond, pomegranate and zhoug", "feta, pistachio & couscous cake with sweet & hot pepper jam, wilted greens, spiced chickpeas and coriander yoghurt" or "panfried oyster mushrooms in cider butter with a timbale of roast celeriac, fennel, red onion & pecans, and parsnip chips". The descriptions may certainly be a mouthful but they have the taste to back them up. This is a place for Irish meat abstainers certainly to make a pilgrimage to from all over the island.

Surely there must be somewhere, someone, in Dublin interested enough to have an equally inspiring menu on the city's streets?

Monday, 28 November 2011

Simple snack: Sourdough slices

Sometimes the evening comes when we're all too tired to cook a full meal. After a long day in work or if you have kids, a job that doesn't have a clock-out time! I find myself going from fridge to cupboards and back again with no inspiration and no inclination. So this is a quick and easy snack for one of those days, that wont take more than 10 minutes.


Sourdough bread
A good handful of mozzerella
Wholegrain mustard
1 small red onion sliced thinly
3 tbsps olive oil

First cut the sourdough into 1 inch thick slices. Place the mozzerella on top and pop under the grill until golden. While you are waiting for the bread, get the pan on a medium heat and add the onion slices. Fry until translucent and the onions start to get a little colour. Spread the mustard thinly over the bread and top with a few onions.

Simple, easy and tastier than a takeaway!

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Persimmon Pudding

This pudding was the result of a trip to the shops a couple of days ago. Stacked high on the shelves, were these "kaki" fruit, which I realised are a type of persimmon. You can also use Sharon fruit which are an Israeli variety. In season now until December and used in America for this Thanksgiving dessert. Yes it is an American tradition, but I think in a world of negativity, sometimes it's nice to take the time to slow down and take stock of the good things that have happened in the past year, things we can be thankful for. This is not quite as heavy as a Christmas pudding, but it is rich and full of  the flavours we associate with this season - warm spices and tangy orange. Serve with cream, ice cream, brandy butter or as here, dust with icing sugar.

This is my variation  with inspiration from many sources


The pulp of 2 persimmons
3 organic eggs
120g plain flour
100g granulated sugar
100g butter
200ml organic milk
1 tsp baking powder
half tsp cinnamon
half tsp nutmeg
half tsp mixed spice
zest of 1 orange
pinch of salt

To get the pulp from the persimmons, put them in a bowl of boiling water to blanch the skins. Leave for about 5 minutes, then run under some cold water and the skin should peel away easily. Top the persimmon, cut into slices and mash with a fork to a pulp.

Add the eggs and milk to the persimmon and mix thoroughly. Make sure the butter is at room temperature and using a whisk, whip to soft peaks and add to the persimmon mixture.

In a separate bowl, sieve together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add the cinnamon, nutmeg, mixed spice and orange zest. Add this to the wet mixture and stir well.

Wet some baking paper under the tap and wring out. Use this to line a 9 inch square baking tin. The wet paper eliminates the need to grease the paper. Pour the mixture into the tin and pop in the oven at 200C for about 40 minutes. You can check to see if it is ready by sliding a knife in, if it comes out almost clean, it's ready. Plate up and serve warm. Although it will last for a few days and the flavours seem to develop a little more if left longer.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Hazelnut Brittle

We had a glut of hazelnuts left over after Halloween, so this is a great way to use them up. The great thing is this will carry over to this season because it would make part of a great foodie Christmas present. You just need some nice packaging and ribbons and here's a simple gift made with love!  

This is a Darina Allen recipe and is fairly simple except you need to watch the caramel carefully. It can be just a matter of seconds before it turns from perfect to burnt. I'd recommend keeping a bowl of ice water to hand to plunge the pot into once the caramel is ready, to stop it cooking any further.


110g hazelnuts - toasted, peeled and sliced
175g granulated sugar
3 tbsps water
sunflower oil

Brush a medium sized tin with sunflower oil. Put the sugar and water into a heavy bottomed saucepan. Stir over a low heat until the sugar is dissolved. Bring to the boil and cook, swirling the pan occasionally, until the sugar turns a rich chestnut coloured caramel. 

Darina doesn't mention how to toast the nuts but here we go: Meanwhile slice the hazelnuts and spread them out on a baking tray. Place them under the grill, on the middle shelf of the oven at 180C for about 10 mins. But keep an eye on them, they burn easily!

Add the nuts and stir to coat. Pour the mixture onto the tin. Spread into an even layer with the back of an oiled metal spoon. Allow to cool completely. Break into pieces, use as a garnish for ice cream, mousses, cakes or simply nibble. 

And it was all yellow: Yellow split pea soup

When I was a child, the mere mention of peas brought to mind those mushy, murky, green, gloopy peas served with some boiled chicken and a half-hearted attempt at mashed potatoes. The smell would pervade the house and last for about a week.

These peas are a whole other story. If you ever spend some time looking for dried peas, beans, lentils etc, yellow split peas always seem to jump out of the shelves. Little golden sunshiney seeds. The sheer good feeling induced me to make this split pea soup. They do need to be soaked overnight so a little advance preparation is needed, but you could make a big batch and it would last for a few days. The nursery rhyme pease pudding is about just that! 

Pease pudding hot,
Pease pudding cold,
Pease pudding in the pot,
Nine days old. 

I probably wouldn't recommend going nine days however unless you fancy experimenting with food hygiene 1700s style!

I based the soup on a Jamie Oliver recipe minus the hunk of ham he throws in! If you really want a meaty flavour, you could try adding some liquid smoke for an added kick. 

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Toffee Apple Mille feuille

This one had been on my mind for a while. Throughout Halloween and a lot of November, toffee apples are everywhere. Held in kids sticky hands as the they gather around the bonfire with cinders and soot rising into the cold night sky. They're usually made fairly quickly, wrapped in cellophane and plunged onto a stick. Perfectly portable while trick or treating. This however, is one for the grownups!

Traditionally mille feuille are French pastries translated as "thousand leaves", made with layers of pastry built upon each other. Sandwiched in between the pastry is usually creme patisserie. The thought struck me to replace the pastry with apples, which are at their best at this time of year. What goes better with apples than toffee.

For the apple mille feuille, I used Bramley apples, because when they're cooked they turn soft brownish and a little fluffy. They manage to retain a sharpness however that cuts through the richness of the caramel. Deliciously decadent!


1 large Bramley apple 
30g butter
1 and half tbsps caster sugar
juice of half a lemon
condensed milk or dulce du leche
5 tbsps granulated sugar

First the Bramley, need to be sliced really thinly. If you have a mandolin, great! If like me you aren't so lucky, most box graters have a large slicer section on one of the sides. Slice the apple into thin slices.

In a pot melt the butter over a low heat and then add the caster sugar and lemon juice. Stir to combine thoroughly.

Lay the apple slices on a baking tray covered with parchment paper and brush with the butter mix on both sides. Place in the oven at 100C for approximately 30 mins or until they start to turn a soft brown to golden colour.

Meanwhile, you can make the dulce du leche. This can actually be bought in ready made now. If you would prefer to make your own, take the condensed milk. David Lebovitz has a fairly simple method for making your own. If you use shop bought pour into a saucepan and over a low heat whisk until smooth. 

When the apples are ready, take them out of the oven and arrange them into three piles- small, medium sized and large. You will almost be building an apple tower so these are the three sections. On the largest one, pour over some of the dulce du leche. Place the medium size pile next and another layer of dulce du leche. Finally the smallest layer goes on top.

In a medium saucepan, add the granulated sugar and over a low heat, let it turn into toffee caramel. Don't stir the toffee as this can leave it grainy at the end. Swirl the sugar around the pan instead of stirring. When it reaches the right side of done, it will be a deep golden, almost rust colour. Any more it becomes burnt and bitter. Carefully, using a cocktail stick, dip one piece of apple into the toffee and swirl it round to coat it. Place it on top of the mille feuille.

Finally with a metal spoon, dip it in the toffee and sprinkle over the mille feuille.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Review : The Farm, Dawson Street, Dublin 2

While wandering down Dawson Street last week, myself and the other half were on the lookout for somewhere decent to eat. We happened to stop by The Farm restaurant, an "organic where possible" type of place. We had a quick look at the menu, which was a little limited but hunger drove us in.

Being encumbered with a twin pram, we had no option but to dine al fresco as the bloody thing wouldn't fit through the modest sized entryway. But after a quick look inside, I think we made the right choice. With a name like "The Farm" I was expecting perhaps homely, comfortable, natural. If not exactly a herd of cows in the back and old uncle Michael chewing on a blade of grass while granny knitted beside the fire, at least some personal touches. Instead it was another anonymous soulless cavern filled with cheap plastic chairs and hideous green lighting reminiscent of a Limerick nightclub circa 1986.

Meanwhile outside, the service was pleasant and quite speedy. I went for the goats cheese tart, made with organic goats cheese, described as "melted onion and cheese, served in a warm tart". How exactly do you melt an onion?! The cheese was sweet and creamy with a hint of tang and the shortcrust pastry was crumbly if a tad dry. It was accompanied by a salad where all of the vegetables were so fresh and had a really clean taste. Disappointingly, the "sweet balsamic sauce" was a rather heavy handed dose of plain old balsamic vinegar.

The other half went for the Spanish omelette, which at €13.45, was not an inconsiderable price to pay for a couple of cracked eggs with some potatoes on top. His verdict was it was just "OK".

One of the problems with The Farm, is it's policy of "organic where possible". There are inconsistencies and vagaries that I believe the management play on to charge the prices they do. For example they specify the cheese in a goats cheese tart is organic, or the eggs in an omelette. But what about the salad leaves they're serving you for a hefty price ? Since they're not listed as organic, I presume they're splashed in pesticides, while "greenwashed" in some garish kermit the frog lighting.

According to their website, The Farm is listed as the "second most popular restaurant in Dublin". If this is true, I can only imagine what the rest of the list must look like.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Pumpkin gnocchi in a tomato and mascarpone sauce

Yes another pumpkin recipe! It is the time of year though.

I was pottering around the kitchen a few days ago wondering what to make for dinner when the idea struck me to use a pumpkin I had sitting in the cupboard to make into gnocchi. If potatoes work, why not pumpkin? They both have the density to work them into a pasta. Turns out there are many recipes out there for pumpkin gnocchi, but they all seem to be with the same sage butter accompaniment. For mine I wanted a little richness in the sauce to contrast with the sweetness of the pumpkin. This would be a great vegetarian dish for a dinner party.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Simple breakfast: Des tartines et du chocolat chaud

Last year, when I went to pick grapes in France, this simple breakfast really hit the spot and got us ready for the day out in the fields. With muscles aching, we'd trudge down to the breakfast table in the dark and grab some of this.

So easy, just slice some baguette into strips, and the idea is to dunk them into the hot chocolate. When you run out of bread, you can slurp the hot chocolate from the bowl, what could be better and kind of brings you back to being a kid, when you'd get told off for drinking from the bowl, but here it's mandatory!

To make a really good hot chocolate, you have to start with a really good cocoa. I use Green and Blacks organic cocoa powder. Take 1 tbsp of cocoa powder, add it to a heavy bottom pot. Add  1 tbsp milk and stir to get a thick paste. Next add 1 cup of milk and stir over a medium heat. Use a whisk, to get a bubbly froth on top. If you want to be really indulgent, drop in a square or two of chocolate and add sugar to taste. Et voila, start the most important meal of the day with a little treat.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Karjalanpiirakka - Finnish Karelian Pies

A couple of days ago, the other half fancied a taste of the homeland, so together we whipped up these karjalanpiirakka. These are traditional pies from Karelia, in the east of Finland, on the border with Russia. People eat them as snacks or for breakfast, usually topped with munavoi - egg butter. The pies themselves have a rye based crust and filled with creamy rice, but you can get potato or other fillings too. I found the rice to be the nicest though, the potato ones are a little stodgy.

Karelian pies (makes approximately 14)

120g rye flour 
30g plain flour
1 tsp salt 
120ml water
190g white rice - I used sushi rice!
500ml milk
half tsp freshly grated nutmeg (optional)
2 eggs hard boiled
4 tbsps butter
1 tsp dill (optional)

Sift together the rye flour, plain flour and salt in a bowl. Make a well in the centre and slowly add the water, a little at a time while bringing in the flour into the centre.

When all is combined, tip the dough out onto a floured surface. Work the dough into a sausage shape and cut into portion roughly 2 inches wide. Take each cut portion and with floured hands, shape into an oval and roll out to quarter cm thickness. Place on a baking tray lined with parchment paper. 

Meanwhile, add the rice to the pot. I used sushi rice for the filling which was great because it kept it moistness, and was a little sticky. First, you need to wash the rice. Add water to the pot and swirl the rice around until the water becomes cloudy. Pour out the water, add fresh water and repeat. You may need to do this 3 or 4 times until the water is almost clear.

The next step is to polish the grains, just rub the rice grains gently between your (clean!) hands. It's a great stress reducer! Add 1 litre of fresh water to the pot, cover and bring to a boil, before reducing to a simmer. Leave for 10-15 minutes.  

Drain the rice and allow to sit for 15 minutes to allow the excess moisture to drain away. Return to the pot and add the milk, cover, leave to simmer over a low heat. Add the nutmeg now if you like and a pinch of salt. After 20 minutes, you should have lovely creamy sticky rice. 

Place the rice in the middle of the prepared dough ovals, and fold upwards to create a little basket almost for the rice. The dough naturally creases into the wave shapes that karjalanpiirakka have. Make sure the rice is snugly packed in. 

Brush each pie with a little melted butter and milk mixed together to give the rice a nice crust. Place in the oven at 210C for 20 minutes or until the rice starts to look golden. 

For the egg butter, mix together 4 tbs butter with 2 hard boiled eggs. Mash together to get a nice even consistency. Top with some dill. 

Although this seems like a lot of work, these are great on a winters morning. You could prepare ahead and keep them in the fridge, just heat them in the oven or microwave before serving. Sometimes I sneak a bit of jam onto mine, which the other half says is blasphemy, but it works a treat!

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Dia de los Muertos Marigold Fritters

The first of November is Dia de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead, in Mexico. Families visit the graves of relatives and leave candles, marigold flowers and food offerings. Sugar skulls and pan de muerto, are what are commonly eaten. Far from being a mournful day, however it is celebrated with fun. 

These marigold fritters are not exactly authentic, but more dia de los muertos inspired. They're a good way to use up any marigolds left in the garden at this time of year, but they must be pesticide free before you decide to use them.

I tweaked a Darina Allen recipe for elderflower fritters and they turned out pretty well.

Marigold Fritters:

110g plain flour
pinch of salt
1 egg
150ml tepid water
marigold flowers
caster sugar
sunflower oil for frying

Rinse the flowers well under the tap and place in the tepid water. Leave for 2-3 mins. Remove from the water and take off the petals.Sieve the flour and salt into a bowl. Make a well in the centre and drop in the egg, using a whisk bring in the flour gradually from the edges, slowly add the water from the flowers at the same time. When the batter is mixed thoroughly, add the marigold petals. I estimated 2-3 flowers per fritter.

Add the sunflower oil to the pan and place on a medium heat. I used a poaching ring to get a nice even circle, but that's not a necessity. Fry until golden brown on both side and transfer to kitchen paper to absorb the excess oil. Cover with caster sugar and serve with a lemon cream - simply add the juice of quarter of a lemon to a dollop of fresh cream. Enjoy - trips to cemeteries are an optional extra!

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Moroccan Spiced Pumpkin and Orange Soup

This is one of the best soups I've had in a while. Make your day, make your week even and try this soup! It'll add sunshine and warmth, lustrous beard growth for all. Ok perhaps not the last one, but who knows?!
Simply take one pumpkin...

Friday, 28 October 2011

Halloween: Skulls and Brains

 Another one for the kids - reverse skulls, I suppose you could call them. With the gooey jelly part on the outside and a nest of bony skull tucked inside. These were so easy to make, but came out of frustration at trying to make white chocolate skulls, that just would not come out of the mould. Although I did improvise with the mould, using a Halloween skull decoration that I hacksawed in half! So it was on to the jelly which was a lot easier to prise from the depths of old skully's head. 

For the jelly, I use vegetarian jelly crystals, made by Just Wholefoods. You can find them in health food shops if you would like to avoid actual bones in your food, normally pigs or cows. Although this jelly doesn't have quite a depth of flavour as regular jelly so you could add some fruit squash, to enhance it. 

Just add boiling water to your jelly crystals, stir and pour into the moulds.

For the meringue, I use Delia's  method for perfect meringues, although with no caster sugar to hand, I substituted demerara sugar instead, which gave it a more caramel colour which was more authentically bone like I would say! 

When the skulls are set, scoop out a little of the brains part and fill with pieces of broken meringue. Really easy to do and looks great. 

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Halloween: Witch's Fingers


So it's that time of year again, when witches ghosts and zombies are on the loose. Luckily I managed to capture a witch before she could cast a spell on the mama deer household, and off with her fingers! They just so happened to be quite tasty, what a lucky coincidence. 

For the biscuits, I used a Linda McCartney recipe for chocolate crescents as she called them. As follows:

140g plain flour
50g unrefined caster sugar
pinch of sea salt
85g butter
50g milk chocolate, grated
1-2 tbsp milk

In a large bowl, sift the flour, sugar and salt together. Rub in the butter and work it with your fingers until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Add the chocolate and continue to work the mixture until it forms a  smooth dough, adding a little milk if necessary. 

Roll out the dough thinly on a floured surface and cut it into the desired shapes. Bake on a greased baking tray at 160C for 18-20 mins. Allow to cool on a wire rack. 

This is quite a simple and easy recipe to work with, perfect to do with kids. However, I found the "dough" did not come together with 1-2 tbsps of milk, I reckon I needed maybe 5 or 6 to get it into a dough I could work with.When it does come together, its quite sticky, wet and messy. 

When the biscuits were ready, I let them cool, while melting some Green and Blacks white chocolate in a double boiler. I found working with white chocolate a little more difficult than regular milk. To melt, I brought the water to a boil, before turning to a low heat. The chocolate needs to be stirred constantly to bring it to a melting state. Make sure no moisture gets into it, or it will seize up into a claggy mess. If this does happen, it can be rescued by adding a tsp of sunflower oil at a time while constantly stirring. When I finally got to a molten chocolate lake in a bowl, dipped in my biscuits and then transferred to the fridge to chill. 

Finally for the blood and knobbly knuckles look, I mashed up some blackberries in a bowl and drizzled over, along with some of the juice. The white chocolate and the blackberries, go really well together, the tartness of the berries cuts through the sweetness of the white chocolate.

These are a little messy to make, so kids will love them! They also have the gross out factor, another bonus as kids grind away on the crunchy biscuits like old bones and blood. Happy Halloween!

Monday, 17 October 2011

That's how it's...spelt

The perfect accompaniment to some tea, or now the weather is turning a little colder, a hearty bowl of soup, is an equally robust bread. So a couple of days ago, I turned my hand to making some spelt bread.This reminds me of the type of thing we would eat in my grandmothers on a winters day with everyone chatting around the fire. This is proper comfort food. Also spelt grains have more nutritional value than regular old wheat so it's good to get those nutrients any way you can! You could vary the recipe and add nuts, seeds or honey, as you prefer.

Here's my recipe for spelt bread

500g spelt flour
10g dried yeast
1 tsp salt
400ml warm water
40g sesame seeds
40g linseeds
1 tbsp olive oil

Add the flour to the mixing bowl, then the yeast on one side and the salt on the other as the salt can kill the yeast and stop it doing its job. Next pour in the seeds.

Add the water a little at a time, incorporating it into the dough and folding it as you go. Mix until you almost have incorporated everything, but just before, add the olive oil. Continue to mix. I found this quite a wet dough, but knead for 5-10 mins, on a floured surface.

Transfer to a bowl, cover and allow to rise for approx 30 mins. You may want to bake in a loaf tin, but since I didn't have one handy, I simply transferred to a baking tray covered with floured baking paper. I then shaped them into circular loaf shapes. 

Bake in the oven at 200C for 50-60 mins. You can check if it's ready by tapping the underside of the loaf with a clean knife, to see if it sounds hollow. If it does, its good eatin'! Serve with some good quality butter, preferably organic or some fruity strawberry or blackberry jam for breakfast.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Potato S.O.S

On another watery, grey October evening here in Dublin, I was hankering after some Spanish flavours to brighten things up. The plan was to try to make my own version of patatas bravas. But somehow the weather had seeped into the potatoes and they just weren't cooperating. I had them on the stove to par boil them before frying, but after just 10 minutes the kerrs pinks were taking on water fast! Any hope of frying them was long gone as they descended  into mash quicker than channel 4 can make new food programmes.

But not all hope was lost, I thought maybe we could save these tubers with a hint of Spain still intact. So instead we got Spanish smash!

5 potatoes, peeled and chopped
lug of olive oil
half tin of chopped tomatoes
half tsp of smoked paprika, add more to taste
pinch of salt

Put the potatoes into salted water and bring to the boil before reducing to a simmer for approximately 10 minutes. Drain the potatoes and rinse.

Add a lug of olive oil to a pot and tip in the potatoes, and start to mash. While they are still lumpy add the tomatoes, paprika and salt. Mash again to remove any lumps and thoroughly combine all the ingredients. Then start to whisk the potatoes until they have smooth, silky texture.

I served them here with a spinach salad with a simple lemon vinaigrette and some Parmesan crisps for added crunch.

To make the Parmesan crisps, simply spread some grated Parmesan on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Arrange the cheese into a circular shape and place in the oven at 190C for 10-15 minutes.

The flavours all worked really well together.The sweet tartness of the tomatoes with the smoky paprika coming through really bounced off the zing from the lemon and the depth of the Parmesan. A job well done saving them from a watery doom!

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Sticky Figgy Mess

I'm on the hunt for the ultimate breakfast. I've grown tired of cereals and pastries.While tasty and I'll admit that sometimes they are the only thing that will hit the spot. Oh the buttery flakiness of a fresh, hot croissant on a wintery morning. But for now I'm after something different. Breakfasts are often the poor, neglected meal of the day. A limp slice of white toast while running out the door or maybe just some coffee, they could often do with being livened up. So while rummaging through the cupboards this morning searching for the thing that would satisfy the morning monster, my eyes alighted on the figs I'd bought last week. They have an almost jewel like quality that drew me in!

It didn't take long to have a deliciously gooey mess of figs with slight hints of crack in the caramel that had turned a sumptuous crimson colour. It was so easy to make, even while stumbling around a dark kitchen in the depths of Winter, it would be a great alternative to porridge with flavours to make you happy for the day!

3 figs, sliced
8 tbsp demerara sugar
juice of half of a lemon
1 tbsp cinnamon

Slice off the nibs at the top of the figs and cut into sections. Arrange them evenly in an ovenproof dish.
Sprinkle over the sugar so that the figs are all well covered. Add in the lemon juice and finally the cinnamon.
Mix thoroughly to coat the figs completely. Pop in the oven for approximately 20 mins at 200C, taking them  out halfway through to swirl the caramel around in the dish. Don't stir the caramel or it will become claggy. Et voila, beautifully jammy, sticky, messy figs.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Tangelo, Pomelo, Hello or Oh no?

When I sent the boyfriend off to the shop the other day to pick up some fruit and veg, I asked for some oranges to make carrot and orange fritters. What he came back with were clementines with what  I would describe as nipples! I was intrigued. A quick google lead me to find that they were actually tangelos, I've never seen them in shops before, but on peeling them I learnt that the boyfriend had found some little gems! Apparently they're a hybrid of a tangerine and a pomelo or a grapefruit. Well let me say those two parents hit it off and produced a beautiful baby! Tangelos are much easier to peel than an orange and they're quite sweet, with lots of juice and a soft, pulpy flesh. They went great in the fritters and didn't have an overpowering taste. Definitely hello, hello!

Then about a week later, I was doing food shopping and they had pomelos on sale. Being in an adventurous mood, I thought what the heck and threw it into the basket. A few days later I ventured to try this fruit that looked like a pear on steroids. I had to hack through the tough rind to get to the fruit inside. It had a pleasant, citrus smell and a pale yellow flesh, not bright like a lemon, more like a cloudy lemon. On taking a bite, first I got apple flavours, then pear, then grapefruit. Like one of Willy Wonka's inventions, except he needs to work on the last one that really lingers in the mouth. I'm not a fan of grapefruit, so I'm probably biased. Here's the pomelo with pear for an idea of size.

I tried to use up the pomelo, thinking if I put it under the grill with some sugar, but somehow the heat and sugar only seemed to intensify the grapefruit-y flavour. So sadly it had to be disposed of quietly and quickly! So for me it's pomelo - oh no! But it was nice to try some new fruits and I'll be on the hunt for more.
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