Thursday, December 30, 2010


Plenty of cooking and baking over the past week, but very little photography I'm afraid to admit.  This dessert was a revelation from my newest cookery book (heavily hinted for!) A Year At Avoca.  If you are all mince pied out, this is the answer to your prayers!  This Mincemeat Roulade with Brandy Cream has all the fruity, boozy Christmas flavours but is light and seconds are no problem!!

The recipe calls for a jar of Avoca Home Made Mincemeat (of course!) but I had a jar of Nigella's (well my) Cranberry Mincemeat in the fridge and I used this - any good boozy mincemeat would do.

Mincemeat Roulade with Brandy Cream

5                    eggs, seperated
250g              caster sugar (golden gives a nicer flavour)
1 tsp              vanilla extract
225g              good mincemeat
100g              self-raising flour - twice sifted.

Brandy Cream

250ml            double cream
2 tbsp            brandy
2 tbsp             icing sugar

Preheat oven to 160 C
Line a swiss roll tin (35x25cm approx.) with parchment paper.

Whisk the egg whites (with a pinch of salt) until  they form stiff peaks - set aside.
Beat the egg yolks, sugar and vanilla with an electric mixer for about 8 minutes until it is thick and creamy and doubled in volume.
Fold the mincemeat and the flour through the egg yolk mixtrue using a large metal spoon.
Then carefully fold the whisked eggwhite through.
Pour into the prepared tin, and pop into the oven.
Bake for about 20 minutes, until golden brown and firm in the centre.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack.
When cool make the brandy cream.

Brandy Cream

Whisk the cream, brandy and icing sugar together until it is thick.

Place a large sheet of greaseproof paper on a work surface, dust liberally with icing sugar.
Tip the cooled roulade onto the paper and remove the baking parchment.
Spread the roulade with the brandy cream, evenly over the entire surface.
Roll up the roulade, using the greaseproof paper to help you.
Manoeuvre the roulade onto your serving plate on its final bend of the rolling process.


Wishing you a very Happy New Year, here's to 2011 being a great one!

Saturday, December 25, 2010



Wishing you all a happy, peaceful, and calorie laden (!) day.

Thursday, December 23, 2010


This month's We Should Cocoa Challenge, is to create something delicious with both cocoa and dates.  Chocolate yummmm, dates - not so much!!!!!  Actually when Choclette suggested this months challenge,  I thoughts it was incredibly coincidental as I had just bought some medjool dates the previous day.  Those dates had been intended for Brownieville Man to nibble on,  but they now had to be redirected towards the baking cupboard!

As a non dried fruit eater (except for dried cranberries for some strange reason!) I fretted about this one a little bit.  I have been enjoying Eric Lanlard's Home Bake, and had marked his Chocolate and Orange Christmas Cake as one to try.  I wondered if I could substitute some of the raisins and sultanas in this cake for some of my dates - worth a try!!

The cake turned out to be a beautifully moist, rich confection.  Judging by the length of time it spent in the cake tin, it went down very well with the taste testers here!  Actually the only comment was that it was delicious, but perhaps a little bit too chocolaty (I didn't think that was possible!!)

Chocolate and Orange Christmas Cake
adapted from Home Bake by Eric Lanlard

150g/5oz         raisins
150g/5oz         sultanas
100g /4oz        dates - stoned and chopped
100ml/3.5oz    orange liqueur (plus some for soaking)
200g/7oz         butter, softened
100g/3.5oz      soft dark brown sugar
50g/2oz           molasses sugar
3                      large eggs
150g/5oz          plain flour
175g/6oz          really good dark chocolate, broken into pieces.
1 tsp                 ground mixed spice
1/2 tsp              cinnamon
1/2 tsp              freshly grated nutmeg
1                      lemon (juice only)
100g/3.5oz       chopped candied peel
75g/3oz            roasted hazelnuts. (I didn't bother with these)

The day before baking soak the fruits in half the orange liqueur, leaving them to plump up overnight.

Preheat the oven to 150 C
Prepare a 20cm/8" tin spring form tin, by greasing and lining with a double layer of parchment paper.

Cream the butter and sugars together using an electric whisk (I use the kitchen aid) until light and fluffy.
Add the eggs one at a time, whisking all the time. (if the mixture splits add a small amount of the flour)
Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of simmering water.  Allow to cool slightly.
Add the cooled melted chocolate to the egg and sugar mixture.
Sift in the flour and spices, and fold in until everything is combined.
Now add in the lemon juice and the remaining orange liqueur.
Finally add the soaked fruits, nuts and candied peel, mixing well.
Spoon the mix into the prepared tin, level the surface and cover with a piece of baking paper.
Bake for 2-2.5 hours, test that a skewer comes out clean to see when done.
Cool the cake in its tin on a wire rack.
Remove from its tin and feed with some more liqueur.
Wrap up in clingfilm (feeding from time to time) until ready to indulge!


Monday, December 20, 2010


This is the latest selection from The Cake Slice Bakers, this year we are baking from Cake Keeper Cakes by Lauren Chatman, and I have to say that it is a misnomer - there is no way you will be able to keep this cake - it will be gobbled up in no time!!!

This is a fantastic recipe - the tart ruby cranberry nuggets spread through  the sweet soft cake add up to sweet perfection!!  I loved the streusel on top, the crunch contrasting nicely with lightness of the cake.  All is forgiven Lauren!

I made the Cranberry Cake on the first day of the recent snow, and couldn't resist trying to take a photo of the cake+snow+cake keeper  - but I wasn't willing to get my toes cold, so just took the photo from the back door!!!!!

Cranberry Cake


1 cup            sliced almonds
2 tbsp           melted butter
2 tbsp           packed light brown sugar


2 cups          plain flour
1 tsp            baking powder
1/4 tsp         salt
3                  large eggs
2 cups          granulated sugar
3/4 cup/
6oz              butter, melted and cooled
1 tsp            vanilla extract
12 oz           cranberries (I used frozen)

Preheat oven to 150 C
Line or butter a 10" round springform tin.


Combine the butter, almonds and sugar,  Use your fingers to form large crumbs.
Set aside.


Beat the eggs and sugar together in a large bowl, until light and at least doubled in volume - this will take about 5 minutes.
Turn the mixer to low and add the melted butter slowly, turn up the mixer to medium and beat for another 2 minutes.
Add the vanilla.
Combine the flour, baking powder and salt.
Gently fold the flour mixture into the batter, 2 tbsp at a time.
Fold in the cranberries.
Place the batter into the prepared tin, and sprinkle with the streusel.
Bake the cake until a skewer (I use uncooked spaghetti) comes out clean.
The recipe specifies 60 - 70 minutes, mine took about 90 minutes.
When cooked remove tin to a wire rack and allow to cool for 10 minutes.
Then take the cake out of the tin and cool completely on the wire rack.

If you are very lucky this cake will keep for up to 5 days (not in my house though!!)    

    Pretty from any angle

Saturday, December 18, 2010


Jain over at Food For Thought has a wonderful blog with three elements that I love - Food (of course), Books (nearly as good) and Great Photography (and I mean great).  She reviews a book, picking out any foodie vignettes, then she cooks/bakes these dishes and photographs them (often in her magnificent Californian garden).  She has asked her readers to review their favourite Christmas books, and throw a bit of cooking in there too - no better woman!

There are two reasons I am delighted to write this post, firstly just love Alice Taylor's "The Night Before Christmas" and secondly I wanted to introduce any non-Nigella disciples (?!) to her Ham in Cola, which is the nicest way to cook ham ... ever.  I would even be so bold as to recommend it as a way to cook your Christmas Ham.

The Night Before Christmas is a quaint book about a child's Christmas in a backwater* in the south of Ireland in the 1940s.  Alice Taylor remembers with incredible clarity all the details of her childhood Christmases; heading off with her siblings to cut holly to decorate the house, helping her mother pluck the geese for Christmas dinner, hilariously helping a neighbour clean her chimney, waiting for Santy to arrive and the excitement of finding a school bag and a doll on Christmas morning.

Food (obviously) plays a huge part in Alice's Christmas memories - buying muscatel raisins for the Christmas cakes, the excitement of receiving a box of fancy chocolates from a cousin who had returned from abroad for the holidays, goose cooked on the bastable over the fire and of course the ham (which they started eating at breakfast time on Christmas morning)

"When we had the kitchen to ourselves, our first priority was to settle down to attack the big ham in the centre of the table.  This was the ham that had matured up the chimney and hung off the meat hook from the ceiling;  my mother had boiled and baked it in a shroud of breadcrumbs and honey, and now all her loving care paid dividends because it was beautifully moist and tender" 

Moist and tender but not huge!

  I was introduced to this book through my book-club a few years ago, and I now read it every Christmas - it is the most wonderful "get in the Christmas mood" aid ever (along with a carol service or a kiddies Nativity play, tearing up at the thought!!).  When you have spent the day queueing for parking spaces, queueing at shopping tills, queueing, queueing queueing, it is wonderful to come home and escape to a Christmas filled with simple pleasures and NO shopping!!!

*My only issue with the book is that it is set in the 1940s when there was electricity here in Ireland (I have asked someone I know who was a child then about their childhood Christmases, their memories would be of a far more modern type experience, none the less magical for that though!) Alice's memories seem to be of of an older time (there were some far flung pockets around the country that took an age to get "the electric") and are (for the reader anyway) more magical and nostalgic for that.

Now onto the ham, this is a wonderful way to cook it, it has been my method of choice since I bought How To Eat 100 years ago!  I have toyed with other methods over the years but like a faithful Labrador I always return!!!

Ham in Cola

2kg              mild-cure gammon*
2 litre           Coke (minus 2 tbsp for glaze)**
1                  onion
1 or 2           bayleaves (my addition)

100g            fresh breadcrumbs
100g            dark muscovado sugar
1 tbsp          mustard powder
2 tbsp          Dijon mustard
2 tbsp          Coke

* You can alter the recipe for smaller joints, less Coke and cooking time.
**The Coke must be full sugar, but can be any cheap brand.

Place the gammon (raw ham), chopped onion, and bay leaves in an appropriately sized pot, cover with the Coke.
Bring to the boil and then reduce to a simmer.  A 2kg joint needs to be simmered like this for 2 1/2 hours, smaller joints will need less time, but I would err on the side of over rather than undercooking a ham.
Before the ham is finished boiling preheat the oven to 210 C.
Prepare a roasting tin for the ham by lining it with tinfoil (very important if you don't want to spend 3 hours cleaning it afterwards!!)
When ready remove the ham from the pot to the prepared tin and allow to cool slightly (or completely if you want to preprepare the dish to this stage*)
Remove the skin, leaving a layer of fat.
Mix the breadcrumbs, sugar (I used honey this time), and the mustards to a paste, add the Coke a little at a time to bring the paste to a spreadable consistency (you don't want it runny).
Cover the fat side of the ham with the paste (and of course cook it fat side up).
Cook in the hot oven for 10-15 minutes. (I often roast mine at a slightly lower temperature for longer as we like our ham quite dry)
*If you are cooking the ham from cold it will need 30/40 minutes at 180 C.


Thursday, December 16, 2010


Jacqueline over at Tinned Tomatoes has given us a break from cooking this month and has asked for seasonal photos to be submitted for the  No Croutons Required challenge.

Boy oh boy did I have an embarrassment of riches (quantity not quality I'm afraid) when deciding which photo from the recent snowy weather to submit.

It snowed so often that each morning everything was virginal white again (wish there were an equivalent to make the house look spotless - no work required!)

I took this photo when I was walking slipping and sliding down to the bus (suffering from cabin fever!!)

Sunday, December 12, 2010


What better way to spend a day confined to the house than by baking a cake!!  I was (happily for the most part - once I got some eggs!) snowed in this week, and so of course hit the baking supplies.

This is the promised Flourless Chocolate Cake from Itsa Cookbook - it was just perfect with a mug of hot chocolate or coffee.  The top was crusty and cratered, the middle rich, squidgy and delicious.

This is my submission for the Snow Day Bake Off over at A Slice Of Cherry Pie.

Flourless Chocolate Cake

240g              butter
270g              dark chocolate
6                    eggs, separated
250g              sugar
120g              ground almonds
100g              milk or dark chocolate, chopped (optional but good!)

Preheat oven to 180 C
Line a springform tin with baking paper or butter and flour it.
I used a 22cm tin

Melt the butter and 270g chocolate in a bowl over a pot of simmering water.
Whisk the egg yolks and sugar together until thick and light in colour.
Add the melted chocolate mixture and combine.
Fold in the ground almonds.
Beat the egg whites until light and frothy (soft peak stage)
Stir one spoon of egg white into the chocolate vigorously.
Carefully fold the rest of the egg white in, keeping as much air in the mixture as you can.
Add the extra chocolate if you fancy.
Pour the batter into the prepared tin and bake for about 40 minutes (mine took longer).  The edges should be set but the middle should still be soft.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tin.


Saturday, December 11, 2010


At this time of year I love to pull out my (growing) pile of Christmas Cook Books and Cooking Magazines - I'm not really sure why because Christmas is the one time of the year when I cook primarily the old tried and tested recipes - but I can always be inspired.  During this years "Mega Cookbook Fest" I realized that I have never made Panforte (I've never actually tasted it for that matter), so I have decided to rectify this.

I wasn't completely grabbed by any of the recipes I have, they all have good elements, so I decided to pick the best bits, add one or two ideas of my own, and hay presto ..... I present to you Brownieville Panforte!! (with sincere apologies to all Italian readers!)

I decided that some cranberries were needed in there, for colour as well as for their welcome tartness.  A small glug of alcohol is nicely seasonal, I thought the chocolate covered candied orange was a great idea (borrowed) and of course you have to have a bit of cocoa in there. 

The end result is like a Christmas flavoured, nutty, fruity toffee - can't be bad!
I am submitting this recipe to The Most Wanted Yule Blog Bake Off, and they have asked for step by step photos ( made me way more organised than usual!)

I started off by toasting the hazelnuts, although I only used 125g in the Panforte, I always toast a whole bag full and store any left over in the freezer - handy for next time!

Combine the blanched almonds, chocolate covered candied peel, figs, hazelnuts and cranberries.

Put butter, honey and sugar together into a small pan on a medium heat.  Allow to bubble away nicely for 3 -4 minutes.

All the ingredients in waiting!

Add the flour, cocoa and spices to the fruit and nut mixture.

Pour the butter, honey and sugar bubbling mixture into the nut and fruit and stir well.

Press firmly into am 8"/20cm baking tin which you have lined with baking paper and buttered well (this is really important as it is such a sticky mixture)

I tried making a snowflake template to decorate the cake, showing you why my only creative outlet is cooking!!!

                                                                 Much better!


125g                          blanched almonds
125g                          hazelnuts (roasted and skinned)
125g                          cranberries
150g                          chocolate covered candied orange*
50g                            chopped figs
1 tsp                          cinnamon
1/4 tsp                       ground cloves
1/2 tsp                       mixed spice
Pinch                         nutmeg
Pinch                         white pepper
2 tbsp                        sherry (or orange liqueur)
70g                            plain flour
2 tbsp                        cocoa
30g                            butter
150g                          honey
150g                          sugar (I used golden caster sugar)

Prepare an 8"/20 cm tin with parchment paper and plenty of butter
Preheat the oven to 170 C

Combine the nuts and fruits in a bowl.
Add the flour, cocoa and spices and mix well.
Bring the butter, honey and sugar to a bubble in a small saucepan on a medium heat.
Allow to bubble away for a few minutes.
Add this hot mixture to the fruit and nuts and stir well.
Now add the alcohol and stir again you will need your hands towards the end of mixing.
Press firmly into the prepared tin.
Bake for about 30 minutes - it is ready when the top of the cake starts to bubble.
Allow the cake to cook completely in the tin.
Decorate with icing sugar.
It will keep for a good while if kept in an airtight tin.

*Any candied fruit/peed would be fine

This is my entry for the Most Wanted Yule Blog Bake Off Challenge  which is being held by


Wednesday, December 8, 2010


My favourite newspaper of the week is The Irish Times on a Saturday.  I immediately turn to Roisin Ingle's article which is usually amusing and always thought provoking.  Second comes Domini Kemp's "Taste" - excellent recipes with an always interesting introduction, then the book reviews and finally the actual news section!

I read about The Cookbook Club in the Irish Times and filed it away for a time when I was available to go to Dublin on a first Monday of the month - the idea is that you go to a restaurant where the meal has been cooked from a particular cookbook (choices of 3 starters, 3 mains and 3 desserts) and the author will circulate for a chat - fantastic idea (and as it turned out a fantastic evening).

After a couple of months when I would have loved to have attended but couldn't I was able to go this month - Yahoo!!  All the planets were in configuration for this visit (!) as a couple of days after I had booked for the club a review copy of the featured cookbook arrived from the publishers - Yahoo x 100!!

Domini Kemp's (yeah!) Itsa Cookbook, is a well written (very relaxed) book, with fantastic photos by Joanne Murphy (I wish I had 1/80th of her talent!!), the recipes are easy to follow (although tin sizes are left out of some of the baked recipes, which could make timings a bit difficult) and tasty, plenty of everyday ideas with some special occasion ones too.

Now if I were a totally together blogger (person even) I would have taken beautiful photos of the dishes served at the cookbook club - and actually in my imagination I did so, but in reality I forgot to turn the flash on (in a basement restaurant!!!) so the photos leave alot to be desired, and it was such a good idea!  But I can tell you that the food was excellent, the company was fantastic too.  I met an old (obviously not in age Ruth!) school pal, whom I haven't seen in about ten years!, and some new friends too (fellow bloggers from Texas, now living in Dublin), along with the wonderful Amo who came with me, which all added up to one of the best evenings of the year.

I have (of course) also cooked a number of dishes from the book, and they all turned out well, the flourless chocolate cake being a particular favourite.

The crab cakes were delicious and light, they are made with Carr's Water Biscuits (crackers) and tasted light and intensely crabby (if that's a word!).

The Granola Goodness Bars went down well, Brownieville Boy #1, has been taking them to college with him (excellent breakfast on the run!)

Grandmother McGrath's Soda Bread - I was afraid that this bread would be too sweet (there is both honey and brown sugar in the recipe) but it turned out very well - another for the repertoire!

The Rich Flourless Chocolate Cake - need I say more!!

Actually this one deserves a post on it's own, will put it up very soon.

Pea, Mint and Roast Garlic Soup - sent my poor son outside to get this photo!!  But it really was what was needed on that cold, snowy day.  (I left out the cream from this soup, and I think it was excellent without - the roast garlic adds alot to the flavour)

Purple Sprouting Broccoli with Lemon and Hazelnuts - I used tenderstem broccoli for this recipe and it is already a firm favourite.

Irish Rarebit -I haven't had Welsh Rarebit but I think the difference (other than using Irish cheddar) is the brown soda toast!!

Tastes good though.

Coriander Chicken - I marinaded four chicken breasts, then cooked two and put the other two (still in their marinade) in the freezer.  The frozen ones were even better than the fresh when I used them!!


The Crabcakes with lemon and caper salsa were delicious.

The kind gentleman sitting opposite took a photo of his  soup for me, and what's more gave me a taste - excellent.

Even with my low standards the photo of Amo's Buffalo mozzarella, black olive and grape salad isn't worth showing - but it tasted wonderful.

  Sharon who writes Gunternation kindly took a photo of her Blackened  Salmon - she said it was excellent.

My Duck Dal Supper served with moong dal, was probably the dish of the evening - looking forward to trying this soon.

The Pasta Salad with Sage, Sweet Potato and Hulloumi was much appreciated by my veggie friend.

At long last I realized my mistake!!  This is the Ginger and Blackberry Pudding - what an excellent combination.  When I make this (looking forward to blackberry season already!) I will use less sugar and more blackberries

Sharon was again called upon to photograph her meal!!!!

She enjoyed the Fig Tart with Apricot Jam.

These Mini Molten Chocolate Cakes (served with a caramel ice-cream) were very popular.

This Broad Bean Hummus is an excellent standby to have in the fridge at this (or any) time of year - it is good and healthy, with a good flavour kick and a hint of summer!!

I made a half quantity, as follows:

Broad Bean Hummus

250g    Broad Beans (I used frozen)
5          garlic cloves
100ml  water
good dash olive oil
1 tbsp  lemon juice
1 tbsp  chopped mint
salt and pepper

Simmer the garlic in the water for a few minutes, add the frozen beans and simmer until warmed through.
Discard half of the water.
Add the lemon juice, mint and olive oil.
Blend with a stick blender, adding a small amount of water if necessary.
Season and chill.
Delicious served with sourdough toast.

This will last for a few days in the fridge.


Domini's book is available here at a reduced price!