Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Christmas Cookies & Festive Cheer!

Hello, hello, hello and sincerest apologies for my deafening silence in the blog-osphere! I am back again with Christmassy treats and a few seasonal photos to sweeten you up with! I love a nice, crisp, spiced cookie at Christmas time - they are such a good combo with hot tea, or even a hot port or mulled wine, if you feel so inclined. To me, citrus fruits, always have a deep connection to Christmas and the addition of orange zest and an orange flavoured icing really works well in these cookies. They are simple to bake and last very well in a tin or airtight container. The decorating part can be as effortless and insignificant as you choose, or even, wildly imaginative, if you feel like going all out! Let's just say, you'll be sure to win over your guests, when one too many USA biscuit tins have been thrust their way over the festive season!
This recipe makes about 40 star shaped Christmas cookies.

I couldn't resist adding some Christmassy swirling stars to the photo!

Friday, 1 November 2013

Red Velvet Cupcakes and the Heavenly Hummingbird Bakery

It’s taken me a while to blog about this but at the start of the summer, on a warm and sunny weekend visit to London, my husband and I took a jaunt out to the famed Notting Hill area in search of...
  1. That blue door – don’t pretend you don’t know it ;-) and ...
  2.  The Hummingbird Bakery

Alas, the former was not found, but we did get to visit and purchase a splendiferous cupcake each from the Hummingbird Bakery! Their cupcakes are perfectly formed, just the right size, with a delicious melt in your mouth texture and the most moreish icing toppings. I felt it my duty to go for the red velvet, which the polite and friendly shop assistant told me is their biggest seller. It was cupcake heaven! We sat on a pretty street bench, staring enviously across at one of those seriously appealing private gardens in beautiful Notting Hill, while happily and silently munching away. I have still kept the cute wine coloured box with the little hummingbird motif on it since then! And I have also tried out their recipe, which, though more complicated than a good old queen cake, is certainly delicious and well worth it for a treat. Oh and yes, of course, if you’re a cupcake aficionado, do pay a visit to one of their bakeries when in London!

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Pad Thai

So, it has certainly been a while since I posted. My apologies. We're well into October and that autumnal/fall feeling sure is setting in, truth be told, I quite like it! Autumn for me has brought two outings to cookery classes, both Thai classes. My last post was Thai red curry and so the Thai theme continues! At the end of September, I visited the inimitable Saba Thai in Dublin for a day long cookery class. What a day! It was interactive, informative, fun and very filling too! I would highly recommend it and intend to devote a full blog post to it in the near future.

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Red Thai Chicken Curry

During our visit last month to the amazing MacNean House and Restaurant in County Cavan, we were very fortunate to meet the main man, Neven Maguire, who kindly chatted to us and gave us a gift of a signed copy of his book, "Neven's Country Living Volume 2". You can read more about our fantastic experience here.
I sat down recently and went through his book, ear-marking various recipes I'd like to try, of which there were many. This is the first one I tried and I thought it was so delicious, simple to cook and so satisfying, I had to blog about it. Neven calls this his Curried Chicken in Coconut Milk. I have slightly adapted the recipe and it serves 4 people.

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Double Chocolate Party Cake

Hands up who's addicted to The Great British Bake Off these days?! Me, me, me! Honestly, it's the first season I've really watched and I am thoroughly enjoying it. This cake is adapted from one of the baking queen, Mary Berry's, recipes. She calls it Celebration Chocolate Cake. It is a very simple and quick cake to prepare, it's delicious and light, and on top of all that, it's a bit of a showstopper really! I have baked it twice for two special birthday's; My sister's 25th and my husband's 30th, and both times, it went down a treat. I will forever be indebted to you Mary!
I have boldly changed the icing from Mary's version and I would advise that it's best to use a food mixer or a hand held whisk if at all possible.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Green Veg & Chicken Pesto Pasta

We're well into September now, the evenings are getting shorter and time seems more fleeting as the "busy-ness" of our routines returns after the glorious summer of 2013! This kind of situation demands quick plate to table meals. This recipe combines some of my very favourite, and easily accessible ingredients - fresh green vegetables, chicken, pasta and pesto. It is a perfect evening dinner for two, but could very easily be prepared for one person, or equally a family, without having too much or too little.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Gluten-Free Chocolate Brownies (and back to school!)

Brownies...the ideal form of chocolate courage as summer draws to a close and the school year approaches! This recipe comes from my tried and tested food guru, Nigella Lawson. It is taken from her cookbook, "Nigella Express", and the recipe is entitled flourless chocolate brownies. For me, brownies are not fool proof and quite a few recipes I've tried, just didn't deliver, whether it be on appearance, texture or flavour. This recipe works - producing rich, dark, chocolaty brownies with just the right amount of gooeyness! They are also gluten free and so they are suitable for coeliacs or anyone suffering with an intolerance to gluten or wheat. Ground almonds are the secret ingredient and they really help to create that lovely dense and luscious consistency. Give them a go, I'm quite sure you won't be disappointed!
On the left from top: pre-oven, cooked, cut into squares. Main photo: the taste test!

Monday, 26 August 2013

Curried Couscous Salad

This is a quick Monday blog post for a handy, tasty and slightly different take on a salad. It goes well with many main courses; such as chilli con carne, BBQ ribs, Asian style marinated fish or meat, even with the lasagne on the blog. And yes, I know that it may seem odd (or even wrong!) to mix these two distinct flavours, but then cooking and eating is very personal, so why not is what I say!

Friday, 23 August 2013

Baked Vanilla and Berry Cheesecake

Since I discovered the wonder that is the baked cheesecake a few years back, thanks to one of my sisters, I have been meaning to try bake one for myself. I went with a typical New York vanilla style but decided to add a little a little touch of summer by incorporating some fresh summer berries. My favourite berries are raspberries, but you could certainly go with blueberries or blackberries instead, even halved strawberries would work nicely. This recipe is incredibly easy. The texture is great, more dense than a fridge-chilled cheesecake, but nonetheless, delicious and it also looks pretty, so it's a bit of a knock out dessert for a dinner party! Plus, cheesecake is best prepared the day before, giving you plenty of time to focus on more pressing issues while hosting a dinner party - such as popping open and enjoying a glass of sparkling wine - just as an example!

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Neven Maguire’s MacNean House and Restaurant

Some images from the stunning MacNean House and on top, with Neven!

If you are a true lover of quality Irish food, excellently prepared and executed, served in an elegant setting by the friendliest, most welcoming staff, you will want to be putting MacNean House and Restaurant in Blacklion, County Cavan, on your foodie bucket list.

The man behind the Cavan phenomenon is Neven Maguire – an inspired chef, a friendly and engaging person, a true gentleman.

Friday, 16 August 2013

Quick and Easy Condiments

This Friday blog post will, hopefully, impart some quick and easy condiment ideas to you, which may well come in handy over the weekend, to add that little extra “Je ne sais quoi!” to your cooking and mealtimes!
Firstly, I LOVE steak dinner! Mmm-mmm-mmmmm! In the recent years, my husband and I (that is to say my husband) have discovered how to cook steaks just to our liking. What a revelation! When it comes to a sauce, sometimes laziness sets in and I just use a pre-made  sauce, often adding in some sautéed onions, mushrooms and garlic. So a little while back I decided to make my own herb and garlic butter to top the steak. It is so simple and so tasty!

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Baked Mushroom Risotto

Perhaps to go against one or other "culinary rule", I generally don't like my risotto too liquid. Now, stodgy, I don't go for either, but I mean if I was looking for soup, I'd ask for soup! Anyone with me?!

Monday, 12 August 2013

Mammy's Healthy Lasagne

We all love our own mother’s comfort meals and by far and away my favourite was her lasagne. When I was thirteen, the eldest of three busy little ladies, our mammy died after battling cancer for almost two years. It was a very sad and difficult time for all of us. Any of you who have lost someone close and special will appreciate and understand that. One of the ways of helping with life and moving forward is by chatting about the person and reminiscing on those endless good memories and happy times you shared. One way I can relive a very happy and comforting feeling is in some of the foods she showed me to make and shared with me. Food really is love in so many ways, just like Nigella’s quote in my “About” post! This is a meal I believe you should take your time over and put a lot of love into. Don't be turned off by the method that may seem a little long or complicated,  just take it at your own pace, and I am quite positive you'll want to make it again and again!

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Fishy Fishy, Kinsale

I find it a bit bizarre but I think it’s true to say that, for many Irish people, fish is still something to be wary of, or something almost foreign. I am a midlands girl and have always liked fish. When I’m by the sea, I’m actually at my happiest, and always eager to see and taste the fishy pleasures that are available. Whether you adore fish and seafood or are inquisitive and eager to try some, Fishy Fishy in Kinsale, County Cork, is a very safe bet.

The restaurant/café is bright, buzzing, airy and chilled. You can wear a dress, jeans, a shirt, a t-shirt, even “golfing chic”! To me, it seems that anything goes and this is certainly part of its appeal. It puts you right at ease, from first entering the restaurant. The menu focuses a lot on daily specials, implying to me that what is freshly caught is what they work around on a daily basis.

Thursday, 1 August 2013

August - Gourmet Month!

It’s the first of August people and supposedly the first day of Autumn in our neck of the woods! For those who call it Fall, I’m not so sure if it’s Fall yet, but regardless, I wish you all a joyous welcome to Autumn!

Anyway, I should probably be clear from the outset that this post is going to be a tad self-indulgent and boastful. If you’re still there and want to continue reading, that’s super!

So this month holds two amazing gastronomic delights for me and I have been looking forward to it for quite some time.

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Spicy Chicken & Chorizo

Don’t you just love the sweet, spicy, punchy flavour of chorizo! For me it is a fridge necessity, as it lasts quite a while and works with a myriad of other ingredients. It is also relatively inexpensive and is readily available nowadays. I always serve this with pasta – preferably tagliatelle or linguine, so it is a bit of a Latin fusion dish, crossing the Med from Spain to Italy. Two much respected cuisines to fuse I think personally! And it works a treat!

This is one of my favourite Friday night meals. It is quick to prepare but has a bit of weekend lusciousness about it. I suggest serving it with a nice glass of a fruity red wine and some garlic bread for a treat. For those non-treat nights, a light mixed salad on the side works very well too.

The recipe is inspired by Rachel Allen’s Chorizo Pasta and it serves two to three people, depending on hunger levels.

Monday, 29 July 2013

Ariel House and Afternoon Tea

Afternoon tea is one of those luxurious treats which, once you’ve been introduced to, will probably become somewhat of an obsession! It all started a few years back when a good friend of mine from Austria who spent many a year in Dublin, brought me to the swish Westin Hotel in Dublin city centre for some “afternoon tea”. I was intrigued indeed, but didn’t know quite what to expect!
The relaxation, the calm, the absence of any hurry, the tea served in pretty china cups and saucers, the savouries and the sweet treats; wow! Suffice is to say, I was well and truly hooked.

Since then I have been lucky enough to experience a few Afternoon Teas. In July 2012, my sister and I visited the K Club in Kildare and were treated to a beautiful array of goodies, outside, admiring the preened and beautiful gardens, in the sun, yes the sun, summer 2012 – I kid you not!
Afternoon Tea looking out to the gardens at the K Club

Saturday, 27 July 2013

Tiramisu Meringue Roulade

If you are looking for a chilled dessert, without fruit, as my other half sternly avoided (and which boggles the mind - apple tart and rhubarb crumble are fine but fresh fruit's a no-no!), then this may well be the right choice for you. It is also rather delicious, fruit issue aside. The meringue can be prepared in advance and left until you are ready to add the final touches, which takes virtually minutes; making it perfect for a dinner party.

The idea came about one evening when my sister (another food fanatic –, my OH and I, decided we wanted to try some kind of different dessert. We had a hankering for something quite light and so the idea of meringue came up. However, it had to be a meringue without any fruit! An aunt of mine makes a berry meringue roulade and I quite like the soft gooey-ness of its texture. Another aunt makes a pavlova, which she tops with Bailey’s flavoured cream and Cadbury’s Flake chocolate bar, instead of fresh fruit. So, basically we arrived at a coffee/chocolate style meringue roulade,  and Tiramisu Meringue Roulade seemed a very fitting title! I hope you enjoy preparing and baking it and, most importantly, gobbling up a few generous slices!
This recipe serves six good sized portions of roulade.

Friday, 26 July 2013

American Buttermilk Pancakes

“Sexy breakie” was a phrase coined by a friend in Galway, one of my favourite places, and it refers to a special type of weekend brunch. It always brings back great memories, even though sometimes it could also be linked to a sore head and a weakened disposition! However, bestowing a “sexy breakie” upon anyone is certainly a big treat and symbol of true friendship. These pancakes are a definite representation of this very kind of breakfast! I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

The recipe is adapted from a recipe from for “Best Buttermilk Pancakes” and so, in-keeping with the all American theme, I will also include the ingredients in American cup values. In fact, if you do have a set of these measuring cups – I have two cute and colourful sets, which I love – they may prove very handy indeed. This recipe makes 6 – 7 pancakes, about 10 centimetres in diameter and a centimetre or two in thickness.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Seedy Brown Bread

I have always been a fan of browner than brown homemade bread. Or, as I recently discovered, "wheaten bread", as it is referred to in some parts of our lovely, green island. This is honest to goodness wholemeal through and through. Another element I love in brown bread is a good hint of sweetness, which this provides. This recipe has been honed (well messed around with really…!) and I have arrived at something that I find tasty, satisfying and most importantly, filling! Although I call it seedy, I don’t mean that this bread is in anyway beat up or tacky, it simply contains plenty of seeds glorious seeds!