Tuesday, November 30, 2010


The super-talented Kim over at Stirring the Pot, issued a challenge - to create a Thanksgiving Dinner in a burger.  Well I must be the least qualified person to participate.  My only experience of Thanksgiving comes from watching cheesy movies and T.V. programmes set at this most fraught of times (at least it is always fraught on the screen) - from this extensive research I reckon that a Thanksgiving burger should contain ... 1. Turkey   2. Cranberries  3. Sweet Potatoes/Yams  4. Marshmallows  5. A side order of American Football on the T..V.

Well I put my foot down at adding marshmallows to a burger - a step too far I think!!!  I have taken the easy way out with this one - I bought some Ceddar with cranberries (actually should have bought the Wensleydale with cranberries - much nicer), moulded the minced turkey breast around it and fried them up (in a tiny amount of oil), I served this with a cranberry mayonnaise and some crispy roasted sweet potato wedges.  We ate the burgers while watching Rugby on the telly (well sameish shaped ball!!).

The burgers were really tasty, the cheese kept the turkey from drying up too much and added that kick of flavour that they needed.  The cranberry mayonnaise (just some cranberries and a tiny amount of redcurrant jelly added to shop bought mayo) was yummy, adding a pleasant astringent element to the meal (no need for vinegar).  The sweet potato wedges were much nicer than the usual potato wedges, the sweetness allowing them to get more crispy.

Thanks Kim, I enjoyed getting my thinking cap on - not that I came up with any great ideas - but I had fun!

Monday, November 29, 2010


I am lucky to have a fantastic fish shop locally, Connollys supply the freshest fish imaginable.  They also make up ready made prawn stir frys and fish pie/chowder mixes, which look really good.  When I was in last week the plaice looked great, and I couldn't resist the fresh prawns sitting in the next tray.

I know that raw fish probably isn't most peoples idea of beauty, but I just thought they looked fantastic.  I have to admit that I don't always make good use of the prawn shells (although I often make a stock from them and then lose it in the freezer!!).  This time when I shelled the prawns I popped them with some water and lemon juice into a pan and simmered them for about 15 minutes, then I strained the liquor and reduced it to about 3 tablespoons full, added a small knob of butter and then drizzled this over the cooked plaice, so easy and yet it tasted as though hours of work had gone into it.

I am (very unsuccessfully) trying to eat healthily on the run up to Christmas, and this fish dish ticks all the boxes - low fat, low calorie and just so good for you.

Plaice and Prawns

1            fillet of plaice per person
3            fresh prawns per person
Dash      white wine
Lemon juice.
1 tsp      olive oil per person
small knob butter per person

Shell and de-vein your prawns (or should that be vein your prawns?)
Put the shells on to simmer in water with a good splash of lemon juice (I use a half a lemon, but we are lemon fiends)

Place the plaice (!) on some tinfoil (large enough piece to make a nice loose parcel)
Drizzle with about 1 tbsp wine and 1 tsp olive oil.
Bake in the oven for about 15 minutes (depending on the thickness of your fish)

Meanwhile allow the shells to simmer for 10/15 minutes, then strain and reduce the liquor until deeply flavoured.
Saute the prawns in a little butter.
Deglaze the pan with the reduced liquor.

Serve the cooked plaice with the prawns and sauce.


Saturday, November 27, 2010


Oh man, I really am a ninny - I spent an unhealthy amount of time thinking of the ideal caramel and chocolate combination for this months We Should Cocoa Challenge - and then I forgot to actually post my creation!!!!

Anyway, I have to write about these chocolate/malteser/rolo morsels - everyone I have given them to has asked for the recipe.  My walking buddie's daughter wants it as her birthday cake this year and my nephew has requested it for Christmas Dinner!!

I have to say that it should be hidden from anyone with cholesterol or diabetes issues - not recommended!!  But for the rest of us - this has to be tried.  You can of course play around with the different sweets, whatever you fancy will be good.

I got the original idea from the dishy Eric Lanlard's book Home Bake, and altered it to suit my taste - just don't make this when you are going to be alone with nobody round to help you eat it - you have been warned!!!

Malteser and Caramel Squares

Line a 8/9" (20/22cm) square tin with baking/parchment paper.

100g/3 1/2oz                butter
200g/7oz                      milk chocolate (broken into pieces) (or a mixture of dark and milk if you prefer)
3 tbsp                           golden syrup (I'm sure honey would be good too)
225g/8oz                      digestive caramel biscuits (or whatever biscuits you fancy)*
37g                               Maltesers
130g                             Rolos (chocolate covered caramel sweets)
48g                               Galaxy Caramel Bar - chopped.

For Topping (Optional)

74g (2 pkts)                 maltesers
50g/2oz                        melted white chocolate

Melt the butter, chocolate and golden syrup in a medium sized saucepan.
Add the crushed biscuits and coat well with the chocolate.
Add the sweets and stir together quickly so the chocolate  on the sweets doesn't melt.
Pour into the prepared tin, press into an even layer.
Leave in the fridge until cold.

If using the topping -
Chop the Maltesers and sprinkle over the cake - while still warm.
Drizzle with the melted white chocolate.

* The original recipe asks for plain digestives - the caramel chocolate ones are even better.


Wednesday, November 24, 2010


The last time we were in London, we went to The River Cafe (I would highly recommend it).  The boys were beyond excited that Ronnie (Rolling Stones) Wood was sitting a few tables away from us. (they met him outside afterwards and he was really nice and talkative) - their excitement was nothing to their mothers!!!  Allegra McEvedy was at the next table!!!! I was so tempted to spy on what she was eating - but didn't, I would hate to spoil anyone's meal by gawking over all the time!!

Being an Allegra fan I was delighted to be offered the chance to review the new Leon Book 2 Cookbook.
I have to say that I was disappointed to realize that Allegra was not involved in writing this book - but actually that is the only bad thing I have to say about it.

The layout is fun, scrapbook style in places, with loads of pictures of the different dishes.  Brownieville Boy #2 was very taken with it, and said that he would love to try it out.  It would be very good for advanced beginner cooks as it has plenty of easy recipes (omelets, the grill up), but plenty more for more adventurous and accomplished types.

The first recipe that jumped out at me was for these savoury muffins - George Pickard's Cheese and Ham Muffins (I know I said that I had only one negative thing to say about the book, but here's another - alot of the recipes have these types of titles - why??)

They went down a storm here, and were perfect served with a bowl of soup.  I brought some to a friend who was working awful hours, she was delighted and demolished them with more cheese.

We then had a Leon inspired Sunday Lunch.

The Butterflied Leg of Lamb (which I didn't bother to butterfly!!) with mint sauce, was delicious.  The mint sauce had just the right balance between sweetness and astringency.

Potatoes Leon-Aise, were very popular and I will definitely cook them again, although next time with less oil.

Probably my favourite recipe from the book these Carrots and Beetroots with toasted almonds were fantastic and well worth the little bit extra bother of roasting separately (carrots with honey and beetroot with balsamic vinegar), I have cooked them several times already.


Another winner these Hoppy's Leeks Vinaigrette were loved by all (well not the veg phobic one!!), great for preparing in advance too.

John's Broccoli with garlic, cashew (I used hazelnuts) and chili was lovely too.

These are Sally Dolton's Muesli Bars - moist and fat free (well other than the nuts and seeds), the dried fruit lovers enjoyed these.  Quick to throw together and really healthy.

Sea Bass with Thai spices - I loved this recipe, it raised the farmed fish (which I normally avoid because it is so tasteless) to yummyhood!!!

My mother rang me the other night to ask if I had a cake in the house!!!  A couple of her friends had invited themselves out for morning coffee (at least that's the story she told me!!!).  I threw this Glasgow Banana Bread together in no time (although it took way longer to cook than specified in the recipe).  When I dropped it over to her, she said that she would keep me some to taste it ..... I'm still wondering!!!!!

Turkey Bolognese, a nice healthy alternative to the usual.

Leon's Chicken Nuggets with roasted gnocchi (thanks Nigella!) - boy was I popular when Brownieville Boy #2 came home from school!!!

"Sun Dried" Tomatoes - taste as good as they look!!!

My walking buddies demanded (yes they are like that!!!!) that I post up the recipe for these Jossy's Casablanca Cakes (and yes we do go walking and then undo all the hard work by munching into whatever temptations come our way!!!!).  These little biscuits have a lovely chewy texture and a light lemony taste - just right.

Jossy's Casablanca Cakes

50g           almonds with skins - blitzed as finely as possible in the food processor. (I used ready ground almonds!)
1               lemon - zested
1               large egg
100g         icing sugar
1/2 tsp      baking powder
100g         semolina
extra icing sugar for dipping

Preheat oven to 170 C
Line 2 baking trays with baking paper/parchment.

Whisk the egg and icing sugar until pale (easy by hand).
Add the almonds, lemon rind, semolina and baking powder.
I added a little bit of lemon juice here - not in the recipe.
Sieve some icing sugar into a bowl.
With your hands (dampened helps) form small (walnut sized) balls of dough.
Dip each biscuit into the sugar on top side only
Place on the prepared baking sheets - leave some room for them to spread.
Bake for 10 - 12 minutes, until a very pale brown.
Using a palette knife remove them to a wire rack to cool.


Saturday, November 20, 2010


This is the second cake from "Cake Keeper Cakes" by Lauren Chattman which is The Cake Slice baking group's latest book.  As an signed up member of the cinnamon appreciation society, I was delighted when the Cinnamon Pudding Cake was chosen as November's recipe. 

I had read that some of the members were having dryness issues with the cake and took preventative action  - I decided to be very clever (huh!) and add sultanas (knowing that this would prevent me lashing in, I'd have to pick around them) which I soaked in cinnamon and water.  I added these plump, moist morsels to the mixture in the hope that they, along with using twice the specified amount of butter would help deliver a delicious moist cake. 

I hoped in vain - what I should have done was add an egg or two and then mix some of the topping through the cake mixture - you live and you learn.  I have to admit that I won't bother trying these alterations - as far as I can remember this is the first time I have thrown out a half a cake - ever, I won't revisit it.

On the positive side the topping, sank through the cake perfectly, leaving a lovely rich caramel which( because I used the cinnamon water I had soaked the sultanas in) had a lovely spicy flavour.

Not sure if you want it but here's the recipe - may be worth a try if you make all the alterations!

Cinnamon Pudding Cake


1 cup + 2tbsp       packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup                 water (if adding sultanas use the soaking water)
1 tbsp                   butter


2 cups                 flour
2 tsp                   baking powder
2 1/2 tsp             ground cinnamon
2 tbsp                 softened butter (I'd use 4 tbsp)
1 cup                  granulated sugar
1 cup                  whole milk
1 tsp                   vanilla extract
1 cup                  sultanas (my addition, soak in water with 1 tsp of cinnamon added)
1                         egg (not in original recipe)

Preheat oven to 175 C
Spray an 8" tin (not loose bottomed) with nonstick cooking spray (I used a 9" tin) 

Make the topping by boiling the water, brown sugar and butter in a saucepan, whisking occasionally.
Put to one side to cool.

Sieve flour, baking powder and cinnamon into a mixing bowl.
Cream the butter and granulated sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy.
Turn the mixer down to low and add some flour followed by some milk until both combined.
Add the sultanas if using.
Scrape the batter into the prepared tin.
Pour the topping over the batter.
Bake for 35 - 45 minutes -check with a skewer. (the recipe stated longer, another reason for the dryness)
Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tin for 15 minutes.
Invert onto a serving plate with a rim.

Best served warm.

Thursday, November 18, 2010


Guys I think I've done it - I've found the best brownies ever (well the best brownies so far!).  They are luscious, moist and intensely chocolaty.  They are easy to make.  They are (relatively) inexpensive to make.  Happy days!!

I visit a really interesting and fun forum called Violet's Pantry (contact RhyleysGranny if you are interested in joining) Hevz one of the members brought this recipe to our attention - it originally came from a children's recipe book, so it was no small feat to have rooted it out.  It is incredibly popular amongst the members, who have over time suggested a few small improvements, I have taken them all on board and this is the result.  Please try them, they are really worth a go.

Hevz's Brownies
Adapted from  Jennie Maizels

200g/8oz           butter
100g/4oz           cocoa powder
4                       eggs
400g/16oz         caster sugar
1 tsp                  vanilla
pinch                  coffee powder
100g/4oz           self raising flour
100g/4oz           chocolate chunks (I don't bother, brownieville boy#2 prefers it without)

Preheat oven to 175 C/350 F
Line a 9"/23cm brownie tin with parchment paper

Beat the eggs and sugar until light and fluffy (takes a while).
Melt the butter and add the cocoa, whisk to remove any lumps.
Fold the cocoa mixture into the egg mixture, and when combined add the vanilla, coffee and chocolate chunks (if using).
Add the flour, being sure not to over mix.
Pour into the prepared tin and bake for approx. 40 minutes (check from 30)
Check with a skewer to make sure it has the right brownie consistency.
Cool slightly before cutting into squares.

Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy.

When we are on the subject of chocolate, I was invited to an eye opening press launch   (I know!!!) earlier this week.  Claudio Carallo Chocolate has been introduced to the Irish market by Sheridans Cheesemongers.  The most important thing to mention about this chocolate is that it tastes fantastic - not a trace of bitterness (even in the 100% cocoa variety), without doubt the nicest chocolate I have ever tasted.  I intend to head to Sheridans before Christmas for Mr Brownieville's stocking fillers - he'll be in heaven!

Claudio grows the cocoa beans (an ancient low yield variety, that is unique to him) and produces the chocolate in Africa.  Buying this chocolate not only gives the taste good factor (it has won all sorts of awards) but also the feel good factor - way better than putting money into a charity box!

The tasting was very interesting, very similar to a wine tasting - you had to allow the chocolate to melt in your mouth  and cover all the surfaces to get the full impact. (Actually Claudio compared growing cocoa to growing grapes, and making chocolate to making wine).  The 100% blew me away - I could still taste it when I arrived home (after a 3/4 hour journey!).  It is expensive so definitely not for cooking, but real treat stuff. 

I'd love to hear how you get on if you try the brownies or the chocolate.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


As I have said before - I spend my life either on a diet or breaking a diet (and the latter seems to be winning at the moment!!!).  But I think that if you start off with something healthy, filling and tasty, you are giving yourself the option of being good for the rest of the day!!!!

Kim, who writes a wonderful blog called Stirring the Pot, wrote about a Banana & Vanilla Milkshake some time ago, and there is a reason why she was so enthusiastic about it - it is delicious!  This is my version:

Banana and Vanilla Milk Shake

1            Frozen Banana*
3            Ice Cubes
1/2 tsp   Vanilla
1 cup      Fat Free Milk
1 tsp       Honey*


I have tried a few variations on the theme (the biggest disaster was adding a spoon of coffee powder - yuk!), but I think that this is the best (and easiest) version.

*If the banana is very ripe, you might not need the honey.

Continuing on the theme, in the new Leon Cookbook there is a recipe for a Carrot, Orange and Ginger Juice - not rocket science perhaps, but a fantastic combination of flavours (that I wouldn't have come up with) that for some strange reason, really, really fills you up! (and they say is a great cold-buster too - Happy Days!)

Carrot, Orange and Ginger Juice.

3      Carrots
1      Orange
1      Piece Ginger (thumb nail size)

Juice the carrots - if you don't have a juicer  (and I wouldn't blame you, they are a killer to clean) just use juice from a carton
Juice the ginger (or grate)
Juice the orange and add to the carrot and ginger juice, stir and enjoy.

Thursday, November 11, 2010


Apologies for the awful photos, they were taken when I was dashing around like a mad thing (and a glass of wine might have been involved)!!!!

On my post about the book club night I mentioned that I had baked another birthday cake,  thankfully it tasted an awful lot better than it looks here!  This is another recipe from Nigella's Kitchen, the Flourless Chocolate Lime Cake.  It was very well received by my fellow bookclubbers, everyone said that they really liked it (of course they were hardly likely to say it was terrible!!), my family on the other hand were not so enthusiastic, and found the lime an odd partnership with the chocolate.  I have to say that I enjoyed it, and particularly enjoyed the fact that it was just that little bit different. I promised Lisa that I would blog about the cake (she really liked it), and I am happy to oblige.

As you can see my version of the cake cracked badly when I took it out of the tin (and there was I feeling all proud about my non sunken loaf cake - pride, fall etc!!), I'm sure that anyone with any dexterity would manage no problem!

I had to play around with the accompanying Margarita Cream as I had no Tequilla, so it became a lemon and lime cream, I added lemoncello and some lime extract to 250ml cream and 50g icing sugar - it was delicious!  And the leftovers (which I forgot about and had gone slightly sour when I spotted the tub at the back of the fridge!!) made my best scones ever.

Flourless Chocolate Lime Cake

150g              Dark chocolate - chopped
150g              Butter
6                    Large Eggs
250g              Caster Sugar
100g              Ground Almonds
4 tsp               Cocoa Powder - sifted (I used Green and Black)
1                     Lime - Zested and Juiced
Icing Sugar to decorate.

Line or Grease a 23cm springform round baking tin
Preheat oven to 180 C

Melt the chocolate and butter in a bowl over a pan of simmering water.
When melted allow to cool slightly.
Beat the eggs and sugar until pale and moussy - about 5 minutes in a freestanding mixer
Fold the almonds  and sifted cocoa carefully into the egg mixture.
Then fold in the chocolate mixture, and finally the lime zest and juice.
Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 40 -50 minutes, until firm on top and still slightly wobbly underneath.
Remove the tin to a wire rack to cool.  After 5 minutes cover with a clean tea towel (this prevents the cake being too crusty).
When cold, remove the cake from the tin - carefully!
Dust with icing sugar and serve with a tasty cream.


Sunday, November 7, 2010


I bought Nigella Lawson's most recent book Kitchen when it came out, but haven't dived into it with as much enthusiasm as some of the great bloggers I follow, I'm hoping it's (or I'm)  a slow burner.  That said I can't wait to try the sweet and salty crunch nut bars she cooked on her programme last week, but have to wait until I have enough people in the house to eat them all in one go - otherwise I know where any leftovers would go (straight onto my hips!!!!)

I am amazed that all the loaf cakes in this book, well all the photos of the loaf cakes in the book show cakes that  have sunk quite a lot - I thought it might be interesting to see if the recipe caused this or was it perhaps an editorial decision (to make the cakes more approachable) or some other reason.  Does anyone have any suggestions?

I baked the Coconut and Cherry Banana Bread from Kitchen, and am happy to say that there was no "sinkage"!!  Of course, I fiddled a bit with the recipe, I replaced the cherries with some cranberries and chocolate chips.  The texture was excellent, the coconut added an extra dimension.  The banana, cranberries coconut and chocolate were an excellent flavour combination.  It was a lovely "everyday" type cake, nice to have in the cake tin but without the risk of it being demolished in one sitting! 

Cranberry, Coconut and Chocolate Banana Bread

125g                     butter
4                           medium bananas
150g                     caster sugar
2                           eggs
175g                     plain flour
2 tsp                     baking powder
1/2 tsp                  bread (bicarbonate of ) soda - sieved
100g                     desiccated coconut
75g                       cranberries
50g                       chocolate chips

Line a 900g  (2lb)  loaf tin with parchment paper.
Preheat oven to 170 C

Melt butter in a large saucepan., then remove from the heat.
Beat the sugar into the cooled butter.
Mash the bananas and beat into the butter and sugar mixture.
Beat in the eggs.
Fold in the flour, baking powder and bread (bicarb of) soda.
Add the cranberries, coconut and chocolate and fold until everything is well incorporated.
Pour into the prepared tin.
Bake for 45 - 50 minutes, until bouncy on top.
Allow to cool for ten minutes, and then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

As you can see this mixture made one loaf and 4 muffins.

The lovely (and hugely talented) Megan over at  Foodalution  paid me the great honour of passing on the Versatile Blogger Award to me some time ago - my son has recently given me a "how to move a tag" lesson and therefore I am delighted to accept and to be able to pass it on to some  of the wonderful blogs that I enjoy reading.

I believe that I am supposed to tell you 7 things about myself and then pass the award onto 7 blogs I admire.  So here goes:

1.  Other than food and cookbooks, I would spend all my money on books (novels) and C.D's (can't be doing with i-tunes!!!)

2.  I have recently returned to Yoga, and am loving it.

3. I badly need a new oven - but only like shopping for food, books and music so have been putting the purchase on the long finger!!

4.  I am a member of two book clubs and am contemplating joining an on-line one - just not sure when I will be able to find the time to read all those books!!

5.  I love reading about people who become self sufficient (or even partly self sufficient) and would love to be able to follow suit - just not enough to do all that weeding!!!!!!!!

6.  My perfect holiday is spent in a beautiful place with wonderful restaurants (surprise, surprise!!) with not a sun lounger in sight!

7.  My house is filled with musical instruments (and I mean filled!!) and I can't play one of them :-(

I am delighted to pass this lovely award on to the following blogs, I look forward to each new post from them and am pleased to recommend them to you.


In an embarrassment of riches I have another award to be grateful for (thank you so very, very much) The Art of Being Perfect  and  Cath at  Dunn to Perfection, both wonderful bakers (pop over to their blogs you will be impressed, very impressed!) have paid me the complement of granting me this award - thanks so much.

This time all I have to do is nominate 15 great blogs I have discovered and enjoy and inform them of this - easy peasy!!!  (If I have left anyone out I am truly sorry and please leave me a nasty comment!!!)

All of these blogs are worth a visit - you'll thank me!!!

Monday, November 1, 2010


Hanaa very kindly suggested a new Brownie recipe for me to try recently, she said that she had baked them a couple of times in a couple of weeks, with a recommendation like that, how could I resist!

Unfortunately I used normal  55%  chocolate to make the brownies, and think that by not using at least 70% I didn't do the recipe justice, they really needed a bigger cocoa punch.  I also used half milk chocolate for the chunks which was another nail in the coffin of their chocolatiness (chocolate taster #1 usually prefers milk chocolate chunks, but would have preferred all dark this time too).

That said, these brownies had a wonderful texture, beautifully moist without  any cakeness or sogginess, just perfect actually, and I imagine with a more powerful chocolate punch they would be truly wonderful.

Adapted from Cooks Illustrated

1/3  cup                cocoa
1 tsp                     instant espresso powder
1/2 cup + 2 tbsp   boiling water
2 oz (55g)            dark chocolate (at least 70%) finely chopped
2oz (55g)             butter - melted
1/2 cup + 2 tbsp  vegetable oil
2                          large eggs
2                          egg yolks
2 tsp                    vanilla extract
2 cups                 sugar
1/2 cup                brown sugar
1 3/4 cups           flour
1/2 tsp                 salt
6oz (165g)          dark chocolate (again at least 70%!) chopped into pieces

Preheat oven to 180 C/350 F
Line a 9" brownie tin with parchment paper, or just butter it.

Whisk cocoa, coffee and boiling water in a large bowl.
Add 2 oz chocolate  and whisk until melted.
Whisk in the melted butter and oil.
Add eggs and egg yolks, vanilla extract and whisk until totally blended.
Whisk in the sugars until well incorporated.
Add the flour and salt and combine carefully with a large spoon.
Scatter the chocolate pieces over the brownie mixture.
Bake 30 - 35 minutes - you know how to check it's right!
Allow to cool for 1 1/2 hours and then cut into nice big chunks.