Saturday, September 25, 2010


Apologies guys ... I really have been neglecting my brownie project recently, actually I have been neglecting writing about my brownie project, mainly because I have baked from a run of very uninspiring recipes, nothing worse than "Blahh" Brownies!!!!! .... but good news, some really good ones to share with you over the next while.

Darina Allen is known as the grandmother of Irish cooking, and her most recent book "Forgotten Skills of Cooking" certainly gives credence to this title.  Fancy a bit of foraging - this is the book to turn to.  Feel the need to cook some offal - Darina's your woman.  Food preservation is you thing -  she will hold your hand through the process (although she'll probably chastise you at some stage!!!!!)

Darina says that this recipe makes 9 generous brownies - I'm not a great one for small helpings, but I would say that this makes about 16 generous portions!!  I would recommend this recipe when you are baking for a crowd, it is easy to follow and makes loads!  My only negative comment would be that the brownies were far too sweet (and for me to say that is something - I may not be able to tolerate pain, but I can certainly tolerate sweet!!!!!)

Bumper Brownies

275g/10oz            Dark Chocolate
275g/10oz            Butter
5                          Eggs
350g/12oz            Granulated Sugar (I'd use less next time)
175g/6oz              Self-raising flour
110g/4oz              Chopped hazelnuts (I didn't bother with the nuts)

Line a deep tin 30x20x5cm (12x8x2in) with parchment paper
Preheat oven to 180C/350F

Melt the chocolate and butter in a bowl over simmering water (or by your favourite method)
Whisk the eggs and sugar together until light and mousse like. (the lighter the better)
Add the chocolate mixture to the egg mixture, stir through.
Fold the flour in gently.
Add the nuts (if using)
Pour into the prepared tin and bake for approx. 35 - 40 minutes (the centre should be slightly wobbly)
Allow to cool in the tin.
When cooled cut into squares.


Wednesday, September 22, 2010


I love to have something special hidden away in the freezer in case of unexpected guests - or even expected guests and no time!!  I wholeheartedly recommend this semifreddo for such an eventuality (or for any eventuality, or even "because we're worth it"!!).  It is really scrumptious!

This recipe originated in Catherine Fulvio's delightful new book Catherines Italian Kitchen, the photo looked so appealing  that I had to give it a go.  Then a little light pinged in my head, and I thought of the wonderful  Choclette and her pal Chele's new competition We Should Cocoa - where they asked us to come up with dishes containing chocolate (of course) and this months special ingredient Raspberries.  Bing, bang, bosh with some changes to the original (which is titled Limoncello, White Chocolate and Cherry Semifreddo) I have come up with this recipe - somewhat lower in calories than the original, but really, really good despite this!!

Raspberry, Cherry and White Chocolate Semifreddo

100g          raspberries  (fresh or frozen)
50g            cherries       (fresh/frozen or tinned)
85g            caster sugar (divided in two)
290 ml       double cream
400ml        yoghurt (I used Greek)
4 tbsp        Lemoncello (or Framboise would be good too)
100g          white chocolate chips or a bar chopped up

Line a 1kg/2pint loaf tin with cling film.

Chop up the cherries and place in a bowl with the raspberries and half the sugar.
Whisk the cream and the other half of the sugar until soft peaks form, stir in the liqueur and the yoghurt.
Fold in the fruit and the chocolate.
Pour into the tin  and smooth the top, cover with more cling film and freeze.
The semifreddo should be frozen for at least 6 hours and for up to 3 weeks.

When ready to serve make the coulis:

100g cherries (I used  frozen)
150g raspberries (I used frozen)
3 tbsp caster sugar
1 tbsp Lemoncello or Framboise

Place the fruit, liqueur and sugar in a saucepan and heat gently until the sugar dissolves.
Allow to cool.
Blitz with a stick blender (if you wish)
Press through a nylon sieve to remove the pips.

Remove the semifreddo from the freezer an hour before serving - keep it in the fridge.
Remove the cling film and drizzle with the coulis.
Serve and enjoy!

Saturday, September 18, 2010


It's coming to the end of the Organic Vegetable Box Scheme season, and I've decided to celebrate the return of my computer (and thus photos on the blog!!) with a review of some of the fantastic boxes Niamh has delivered from Maybloom Farm this summer.

Every week there is something new and exciting, along with the old reliables - we couldn't survive without a good big bag of potatoes!!!

I used that cabbage in a yummy coleslaw - cabbage, carrots, a tiny bit of onion all shredded,  I then moistened the vegetables with a french dressing and then added some home made mayonnaise and greek yogurt.  This combination makes a nice tasty light salad (I hate claggy coleslaw!)


Some fantastic pea pods in the corner - earlier in the summer I just hid in a corner and ate them all by myself!!!!!!

Later in the summer I shelled them and steamed with some tender stem broccoli, and served with some lemon zest and butter.

I have to say that these were the nicest strawberries I have ever had - they tasted intensely strawberryish (!) real reliving your childhood taste memories stuff!

Another delicious week - those french beans were fantastic sauteed with a little panchetta and garlic.

I cannot tell you how delicious Niamh's fresh garlic is -  and the fact that it is so incredibly good for you makes me feel less guilty about the amount of Caesar salad dressing I ate!!!!

I had read that really, really fresh corn was miles better than the stuff you buy - we were sitting down munching this corn with salt and butter 90 minutes after it was picked!!!!!!  Superb!

This little large beauty was the first white aubergine (eggplant) I had ever tasted, really delicious smooth and full of flavour.  I made a deconstructed ratatouille with it (primarily because different members of the family don't different components of the ratatouille, and therefore deconstructed we could all choose the bits we liked!)  I roasted the aubergine with thyme and olive oil.  The onions  with a tiny amount of rosemary.  The tomatoes with basil  and the mushrooms with some pesto, and finally the peppers with plenty of pepper - a real success.  Talk about your 5 a day on a plate!! 

The picture doesn't do the dish justice - but I had to make sure that the different components didn't touch!!!
The onion didn't even make it onto the plate for fear that the juices might contaminate the mushrooms!!!!!!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


Sorry about the lack of photos, but we're working on it (well actually someone who knows what they are doing is working on it!!!) and will soon (?!?) be rid of the laptop and back to normal services!!!

I made a really special soup for lunch today - and decided that soup is a good thing to blog about when you are photoless, as soup isn't that inspiring to look at (well that's my theory and I'm sticking to it!).

This weeks vegetable box was really inspiring and autumnal, a cute little sweet dumpling squash which I just halved, seeded  then baked with some salt, pepper and a tiny knob of butter - fantastic.

There was also a lovely (and large) butternut squash in the basket, and I thought it would be nice to add some other autumn flavours to make a warming and hopefully cheering (in this awful weather) soup.  I have a huge bag of cooking apples which M. my lovely sister in law gave me,  I figured that the squash and apples would be a good combination - this is what I came up with:

Butternut Squash and Apple Soup

1             medium squash (or half a large one)
2             medium onions
3             medium cooking apples (or granny smiths if not available)
1 tsp       ground cumin
1 tsp       ground coriander
1 tsp       turmeric
               olive oil
               chicken/vegetable stock

Peel the squash with a potato peeler.
Remove the seeds and cut into chunks.
Peel the onions and cut into chunks,
Peel and core the apples and (see a pattern!) cut into chunks.
Place the vegetables on a baking tray, sprinkle with the spices, salt and pepper.
Add enough olive oil to allow them to roast and pop into the oven at 180 C for about 30 minutes.
When they have begun to caramelise remove the vegetables from the oven and place in a pot.
Pour some boiling water/stock into the baking tray (to get the last of the caramelised juices)
Pour this stock and whatever extra is needed to just cover the squash, onion and apple in the pot.
Simmer for 15 minutes and then blitz with a hand held blitzer or whatever implement you use to make your soup smooth and delicious.
Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed, sometimes a teaspoon of honey added at this stage can balance the flavours perfectly.

The soup was all I had hoped for warming and welcoming - the perfect lunch to eat inside while watching the weather do it's worst!!!

*Photo added later

Monday, September 13, 2010


I'm in the midst of a computer crisis at the moment, and am writing this on a temperamental laptop, so apologies for the tardy post and the lack of photos ...... but if you make this bread you'll forgive me!!!

This beaut of a recipe comes from Kate, my wonderful (and sickeningly talented!) friend in Cork,  full of goodness and tastes fantastic (actually a bit too fantastic, very hard to control portion size and quantity!)  I tasted it with smoked salmon in Kate's house - perfection, and have since had it with the more pedestrian ham or cheese in my house (!) and it works beautifully with both.

I was given the recipe in pounds and ounces, and that's how I've made it but I have included the conversions, because I'm good like that!!!!!

Hazelnut Brown Bread

8oz/225g          extra course brown flour
6oz/175g          porridge oats
1 tsp                 bread (bicarbonate of) soda - sieved as always
1 1/2 tsp           baking powder
1 tbsp               pumpkin seeds*
1 tbsp               poppy seeds* 
1 tbsp               linseeds*
1 tbsp              sesame seeds*
pinch                salt

1 carton            hazelnut yogurt
2                       eggs

* Use whatever seeds you like best - this is what I've used.

Preheat oven to 190 C
Line a loaf tin with parchment paper (or butter well)

Pour yogurt and eggs into a measuring jug  add milk to bring the mixture to the pint (550 ml) level.
Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl.
Add the wet ingredients to the dry and combine well.
Bake for 3/4 to 1 hour, until it sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.
Allow to cook on a wire rack.


Saturday, September 4, 2010


This is the most fantastic bread ever,  it has the most crunchy, crusty crust I have ever tasted from a home oven.  The center is just what bread should be, brim full of flavour, with a texture like ciabatta, but slightly softer.  It is a very forgiving bread, it allows you to experiment to your hearts desire with different flours,  my favourite is to use one third wholemeal to two thirds strong white, but rye is really good in there too, and I plan to use some granary next time I make it.

I was first introduced to this bread by the very talented Coby, from the wonderful "The Claytons Blog", she in turn followed Jim Lahey's recipe - please try this if like me you lack in confidence on the yeast front (!!), actually if you haven't tried it before make it your weekend baking project (is my bossy nature showing????).

Just a word of warning ..... the directions sound much more complicated than they actually are, this one is easy peasy lemon squeezy!!!!

Coby's Bread

3   Cups     Flour (if white use strong or Italian 00 flour) but experiment to find what works best for you.
1/4 tsp       Yeast (not a typo that is all you use)
1 tsp          Salt
1 1/2 Cup+ 2 tbsp   water from the tap (ie. not warmed)

In a large bowl combine the flour, yeast and salt.
Add the water - the dough should be shaggy and sticky.
Cover the bowl with cling film and leave for 12 - 18 hours at warm room temperature.

The dough is ready when the surface is dotted with bubbles.
Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle with a little more flour and fold over on itself a couple of times.
Cover loosely with cling film and allow to rest for 15 minutes.

Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to the work surface gently and quickly shape the dough into a ball.
Generously coat a cotton tea towel (not terry) with flour /bran/cornmeal (I think the cornmeal tastes best).
Put the ball of dough seam side down on the tea towel and sprinkle with more cornmeal/flour/bran.
Cover with another towel and leave for 2 hours. 
After 1 1/2 hours turn the oven on at 220 C, and put a heavy covered casserole type pot (dutch oven) in it to heat up.

The dough will have doubled in size when it is ready.
Remove the hot pot from the oven BE VERY CAREFUL.
Slide your hand under the towel and turn the dough over into the pot.
Shake the pan once or twice to distribute evenly.
Cover with the lid  and bake for 30 minutes.
Remove the lid and bake for 15 - 30 minutes uncovered. (It should be a lovely golden brown colour)
Cool on a wire rack.

Eat with lashings of good butter/olive oil.