Tuesday, February 28, 2012


For this month's Random Recipes Dom has invited us to return to the first book we chose for his challenge and to once again randomly choose a recipe from it.  I have to admit that I had a bit of a job locating Bake by Rachel Allen (another resolution - sort out my cookery books!!), and I did feel some trepidation, as I have had both successes and a failure from this book - I needn't have worried, they went down a bomb!

My book opened at "St. Stephen's Day Muffins" (St. Stephen's day is on 26th December) and called for left over Christmas Pudding.  Regular readers will know that the Christmas pudding fiends in this house wouldn't leave as much as a crumb  (and if there were any left I wouldn't be allowed to "waste" it on muffins!!!), but this year I have been given a gift of a (bought) pudding, which had been tasted and rejected, so I was delighted to have a use for it.

These muffins were well liked, the extra brandy gave them a proper Christmassy flavour that goes down well all year round.

Christmas Pudding Muffins

1                      egg
75ml/3 fl oz       milk
25g/1oz            butter, melted
2 tbsp               brandy
125g/4.5oz       Christmas pudding (chopped up)
125g/4.5oz        plain flour
1 tsp                 baking powder
1/2 tsp              mixed spice
75g/3oz            caster sugar

Preheat oven to 180 C
Line a muffin tray with 9 paper cases

Whisk the egg in a bowl.
Add the milk, melted butter, brandy  and pudding.
Sift in the flour, baking powder and mixed spice into another bowl.
Make a well in the center and add the wet ingredients and mix together to a soft lumpy batter.
Spoon the mixture into the paper cases (I use an ice-cream scoop).
Bake for 20-25 minutes.
When a skewer comes out clean remove from the oven.
Allow to cool on a wire rack.


Tuesday, February 14, 2012


It's that time of year again - and I was trying to remember my most romantic meal.  Hands down it has to be breakfast in bed, the fact that your loved one is willing to leave the warm nest extra early to make you feel cherished - what can be better??

What foods do I associate with romance? Chocolate, berries, cream and for some strange reason lavender (go figure!!) all come to mind.  I decided to stick with the first three on my list (and actually replaced the cream (not so good first thing) with some luscious greek yogurt.  So how do I get my chocolate fix at breakfast time?  Well I'm perfectly capable of diving into a chocolate cake at any time of the day or night, but I imagine that there are more normal people than me out there (?),  so I decided to experiment with my favourite pancakes; I added some cocoa powder to the batter (yuk!), then some chocolate chips went in (see the hardships I go through?!) but the texture wasn't wonderful, then the trusty Nutella came out - and yummmmmm, perhaps not the prettiest thing to come out of the kitchen, but man oh man were they delicious!  And how romantic to delicately nibble (yeah right) some chocolate pancakes, oozing with creamy yogurt and tangy raspberries - just a pity you have to get up and bring the kids to school!

I am of course linking this with the lovely Kate and Karen's Tea Time Treats Challenge because pancakes aren't just for breakfast!!

Loved Up Pancakes

Make up one batch of this pancake batter
Add one large tbsp of Nutella (I had to heat mine, the kitchen was very chilly that early in the morning!)
Fry in butter.
Cut into heart shapes, if you are so inclined.
Serve with a dollop of greek yogurt and your favourite berries.
If it's not a driving day throw a bottle of fizz in there too :-)))

Happy St. Valentine's Day.

Saturday, February 11, 2012


Don't you just love a gift that you can benefit from for ages after your birthday/Christmas/any special occasion?  Well, I've already told you about the fantastic gift my boys gave me for my birthday last year - masterclasses with Michelin chef Oliver Dunne, and January brought the next class I'd chosen - "New Year, New You?" - just up my alley at the moment! 

It should be said at this stage that Olivers main concession to healthy eating was managing without his usual use of pounds of butter and replacing them with a whole bottle of olive oil!!!  That said the food was utterly delicious, if I could eat like this all the time I'd happily swear off sugar for life.

Pumpkin and Ginger Soup
This soup tasted so good, that I went out and bought the ingredients the next day and made up a batch (my attempt and the recipe are at the end of this post)

Stir-Fried Duck with Carrots, Sugar Snaps and Orange
This dish also works well with pork and would be perfect to throw together after work - although I can't imagine being able to chop the carrots as well as this!

Salmon with Sweet & Sour Peppers, Olive & Basil Crushed Potatoes
This was probably my favourite dish of the evening - those peppers are to die for, and the potatoes are beyond delicious, there are olives, shallots, basil and lemon juice in there - my mouth is watering at the memory!!

Fillet of Pork, Crushed Carrot and Swede, Chilli Wedge

I learned something new when Oliver was making this dish - what are generally called turnips in Ireland are swedes to the rest of the world! - you live and you learn!!  I felt this dish needed a sauce (maybe I'm not totally getting into the New Year New You vibe!!!!).  See how pink the pork is?  Delicious!

Beef Fillet with Potato Fondant, Tomato & Tarragon Dressing
These fondant potatoes were a total revelation - instead of frying them up to their oxters (technical term!!) in butter, these were cooked in a frying pan of water with a knob of butter and a splash of olive oil, and they actually taste just as good (well very nearly) as the real thing.

Now for my offering - I substituted the pumpkin with butternut squash and the soup went down a treat!

Butternut Squash and Ginger Soup

1kg               butternut squash, peeled and diced into small pieces
1 tbsp           olive oil
1 knob          ginger - about the size of your thumb
4 tbsp           white wine
750ml            chicken stock (from a cube is fine)
100ml            milk
pinch             sugar
                     salt to taste
1 tsp              Greek yogurt (per bowl)

Put the oil in a heavy based saucepan and add the squash, ginger and season.
Cook on a low heat with the lid on until the squash is soft
When it is soft, remove the lid and reduce until the liquid has evaporated.
Add the white wine and simmer, then add the stock and milk.
Bring back to the boil and then simmer for five minutes.
Blend until smooth - this takes longer than you expect to get a really silkey texture.
Serve with a spoon of Greek yogurt.