Monday, May 31, 2010


I should have known - if you tell people that something is good (better) for them - they won't choose to eat it!!!

I made a completely fat free cake for the coffee morning as a friend who is due to go to hospital to have her gall bladder removed was coming, and I wanted to serve something she could eat.  (I also thought it would to appeal to anyone on a diet) As it turned out S. ended up spending the morning in A+E (she is fine) so unfortunately she didn't get to try her cake. 

When people came in first, I explained that the rhubarb cake was fat free, they all said what a good idea and then chose something else to eat!!  People who subsequently arrived were far more likely to choose it!!!
I thought that this cake was very nice, and would have no hesitation in making it again - I would lower the amount of sugar, but other than that I would leave as is.

The cake has a lovely moist texture, the pieces of rhubarb give a nice sharp contrast to the sweet soft sponge, and then the cinnamon topping brings a lovely crunchy change in texture.

I found the recipe on a site called Belly Bytes.  I did quite a bit of research, there are plenty of fat free recipes out there.  Many of the fat free recipes contained whole eggs - therefore are not fat free, be careful!

Fat Free Rhubarb Cake

1/2 Cup       apple sauce *
1/2 Cup       sugar
1/2 Cup       brown sugar
1                 egg white
2                 cups flour
1/2 tsp         salt
1   tsp          bread (bicarbonate of) soda
1 tsp            vanilla extract
1 Cup          buttermilk
1 1/2 Cups   rhubarb, chopped

1/2 Cup        sugar
1 tsp             cinnamon

Prepare 21cm cake tin
Preheat oven to 165 C

Cream the apple sauce, sugars and egg.
Add the flour, salt, vanilla, soda, buttermilk and rhubarb.
Sprinkle the topping on top.
Bake for about 50 minutes - until a cake tester comes out clean.

*I made applesauce by cooking 2 apples with 1 tbsp limoncello (but water would be fine)


Sunday, May 30, 2010


These are definite contenders for the top spot on the brownie hit parade- high praise indeed, but they are really, really good.  I had to stage an undercover rescue of these two at the coffee morning (didn't want to get into deep trouble with son #2 when he came home from school!!!), I'm really glad I did, as they were declared the best ever by said son. I did take a tiny taste and he could just be right!!

I found this recipe on the wonderful David Lebovitz's blog.  A friend from my book club mentioned seeing a dulche de leche brownie recipe on the internet, and I came home and looked them up immediately (as you do!), very glad I did - thanks Lisa.

I used a jar of Bonne Maman Confiture de Caramel for the caramel part of the recipe, although I usually make caramel by boiling the unopened tin of condensed milk in a pan full of water for about three hours.  Next time I make them I think I will do this, as David's brownies had more distinct pieces of caramel than mine, and I think that would help.

My one concern before I made the brownies was that they would be too sweet, but this wasn't the case, they had a perfect level of sweetness, and chocolatiness.  Texture wise, they were just right - the perfect combination of squdiginess and cakeiness (my old English teacher would be so proud!!).  They are at the top of my "try again" list.

Dulce de Leche (Caramel) Brownies

115g          butter
170g          plain chocolate (I used 120g 85% Lindt and 50g Milk Chocolate)
25g            cocoa powder
3                large eggs
200g          sugar
1 tsp          vanilla extract
140g          plain flour
250g          dulce de leche (caramel)

Preheat oven to 175 C
Prepare a 20cm square brownie tin with parchment paper

Melt the butter and chocolate in a saucepan at a low/medium heat.
Remove from the heat and whisk in the cocoa powder until smooth.
Add the eggs one at a time amalgamating well.
Stir in the sugar, vanilla extract and then the flour.
Pour half this mixture into the tin.
Spoon in one third of the caramel over the batter, then drag a knife through to make swirls.
Spread the remaining brownie batter over this.
Then dollop spoonfuls of the remaining caramel over the top.
Use a knife to swirl the caramel slightly.
Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, until the top has that perfect brownie glaze and  the center feels just  slightly firm.
Allow to cool in the tin on a cooling rack.
Divide into 12 brownies when completely cold.


AWARD :-}}

Lucie from the wonderful Cooking at Marystow ( a fantastic cook and encouraging  fellow blogger) and Kristy from My Little Space  (another wonderful blogger and talented cook) have both given me this lovely Sunshine Award - thank you very, very much.  I was really touched to think that others like what I write and cook, and am delighted to get the opportunity to recognise the great work and talent of some of the other blogs I follow.

The wonderful women at The Claytons Blog

Jutta at Happy Valley Cook,

The cousins at Cookie Confessions

Rhyleysgranny at Tea and Wheaten Bread

Choclette at Chocolate Log Blog

Emmalene at Cocina de Lina

Thank you all for the hours of enjoyment.

Saturday, May 29, 2010


I usually like to think that I have the swan (or duck!) like method of entertaining down to a tee (flapping madly underneath but appearing calm to my guests) but this went totally out the window yesterday!!!

Good job all the flapping about was post-baking as everything came out as well as I could have hoped for.  But it did prevent me taking photos of some of the cakes before I served them - and this is the photo I have of the Lime Drizzle Cake!!  (There is one slice on the right hand bottom of this selection)

This cake went down very well (as you can see!!!)  I based the recipe on Nigella's Lemon Syrup Loaf Cake and then topped it with a lime glaze to up the zingy factor.  I also made it in a round tin, to suit my serving plate, I really do think that presentation is important on occasions like these - I promise it did look nice when I served it!!

This is what I did:

Lime Drizzled and Glazed Cake


125g               butter
175g               sugar
2                     large eggs (room temp.)
zest of three limes
175g               self-raising flour
4 tbsp             milk
1/4 tsp            lime essence (not essential)


Juice of 2 large limes (3 small)
100g   icing sugar


175g   icing sugar
Juice of I lime
2 tsp butter melted

Prepare a 20cm/8" cake tin (or a 900g loaf tin) by lining with parchment paper
Preheat oven to 180C

Cream the butter and sugar together.
Add the eggs and lime zest, and beat well.
Fold the flour in gently.
Add the milk and the lime essence (if using)
Spoon into the prepared tin and place in the oven.
Bake for 45 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean.

About 10 minutes before the cake is due out of the oven prepare the syrup.
Put the lime juice and sugar into a small saucepan and heat gently (until the sugar dissolves)

The minute the cake comes out of the oven puncture  it all over with a skewer (spaghetti stick not suitable here!)
Pour the syrup over the cake slowly and gently in order that as much as possible is absorbed - this should be done while the cake is still in the tin.
Allow to cool completely in the tin, and then prepare the glaze.

Sieve the icing sugar into a bowl.
Add the melted butter and lime juice and stir until smooth.
Place the cake on a serving plate and smother with the glaze.

Friday, May 28, 2010


I held a coffee morning today in aid of Habitat for Humanity (My friends Amo and J. are heading off to Zambia later in the summer) and it was a great success - that is unless you take into account the fact that we completely underestimated the amount of coffee we needed to have pre prepared, and some of my friends had to stand with empty mugs for an obscene amount of time!!!!!!

Hints for hosting a coffee morning:

1.    Have plenty of coffee ready and waiting BEFORE your guests arrive!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

2.   Make twice the number of brownies you think you'll need.

3.   Prepare something special for the kiddies.

4.   Learn from Brownieville Girl's mistakes.:-{{

I have to say that all my guests were more than gracious, and said that they didn't mind the (long) wait for coffee, and I really hope that they had a good time.

At least the cakes, buns and brownies were successful.

Here's what I served:

Chocolate Guinness Cake (with icing, recipe below)

Mint Chocolate Brownies

Caramel Brownies

Lime Drizzle Cake

Raspberry Muffins

Vanilla Cupcakes with Baileys Icing

Fat Free Rhubarb Cake

Whiskey Fruit Loaf


Did the blog influence my choice of menu - absolutely.  Although I did serve some of the old favourites (Guinness Cake and Fruit Loaf) I really enjoyed finding new recipes to try out on my guinea pigs  guests!

Cream Cheese Icing
(for Chocolate Guinness Cake)

300g   full fat cream cheese - like Philadelphia
150g   icing sugar (sieved)
125ml double cream

Whip the cream cheese lightly (do not go off and do fifty two million other things and over whip it like certain people!!)
Add the sieved icing sugar and combine.
Beat in the cream until it is spreadable (pourable can work too!!!!!)

Top your Chocolate Guinness Cake.


I will blog about the other cakes, brownies etc. over the next few days - have to rush off the my book club now!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


Eggs, goats cheese and mint - not a combination I would have thought of, but a very popular one in Corsica.  This omelette was a "cookalong" recipe on a few months ago, and has been a regular here ever since.  The tanginess of the cheese contrasts wonderfully with the smooth eggs, and then the mint brings along an unexpected fresh edge.

Somehow I always seem to have goats cheese in the fridge, even I have managed not to kill my mint plant (well not this current one anyway!) and there are usually eggs in the house (unless of course I have gone mad baking again!) making this a handy - but out of the ordinary - store cupboard standby.

In the background you can see the photo from Forever Summer and I have to say that Nigella (or her stylist) has done a far better job of shredding her mint!! 

Seemingly the Corsicans sometimes like to sprinkle their omelette with sugar which doesn't appeal to me at all - but reminds me of my first efforts in the culinary field,  Santy brought me "Look I Can Cook" (amongst other things!!) one Christmas, and I loved it!!  My favorite recipe was for an orange omelette - I made it all the time, my poor parents were given it at least once a week (parental love is a great thing!!) That is until a new rule was introduced - all mess had to be cleaned up by the cook - worked a treat!!!!!

Corsican Omelette

3       eggs    (I use 2) - beaten
15g   butter  (I use 1 tsp)
100g goats cheese (from a log)
fistful of mint leaves - shredded
salt and pepper

Melt the butter in a small frying pan, it needs to be hot and sizzling.
Add most of the mint and fry for a few moments.
Add the beaten egg and tip around the pan - add salt and pepper after about 30 seconds. (A tip I saw on T.V. stops the eggs going grey)
Crumble the cheese over the omelette and cook - lift the sides and swill the pan around to cook any runny egg.
When the top of the omelette looks nearly cooked - but still gooey.  Fold over as you like.
Sprinkle with the remaining mint and serve.


Sunday, May 23, 2010



I overbought (?) apples last week, every time I went to the shops I came out with another bag of apples - not sure why, I don't even think I ate any of them!!!  Anyway the glut had to be used, and I turned to Nigella (as I often do!!) and decided to alter her Pear and Ginger Muffins to make Apple and Cinnamon Muffins.  They weren't the nicest muffins that ever came out of my oven, but they were nice.  With a bit of tweaking the should be really good.  Next time I will use some wholemeal flour (somehow the apples call for a healthier option) and I think I will grate the apples, rather than chop them - which I think will improve the texture.

You may notice that I only used three apples in the muffins - I now have the awful job of uprooting the juicer from the back of the "everything I can't bare to throw away" cupboard!!!

          An ice-cream scoop is really handy for measuring muffins into their paper cases.

Apple and Cinnamon Muffins

250g               plain flour (or 100g wholemeal and 150 g plain flour)
2 tsp               baking powder
150g               caster sugar
75g                 light brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp         cinnamon
142 ml            sour cream (or 150ml if handier)
125ml             sunflower oil
15ml               honey or maple syrup
2                    large eggs
3                    apples - roughly grated

Preheat oven to 200 C
Line 12 muffin tin with muffin papers

Mix flour, baking powder, the sugars and cinnamon in a bowl.
Whisk the sour cream, oil, honey and eggs in another bowl (or measuring jug)
Fold wet ingredients into the day ones.
Mix in the apple, then divide the mixture evenly between the muffin cases.
Bake for 20 minutes, until a skewer comes out clean.
Remove to a wire rack.


Friday, May 21, 2010


Another Nigella number - this is her Quadruple Chocolate Loaf Cake.  With a recipe like that in my library, it's a wonder I have ever attempted anything else!!

This cake is incredibly easy to throw together, and if the syrup feels like a bit too much faffing about - don't bother, it will be fantastic anyway (you'll have to change the title though!!)  As you can see I used large chunks of dark chocolate instead of the chips recommended, I love the variation in size and therefore texture that the chunks give you.


I served this cake to some friends who popped in unexpectedly the other night - I was delighted to have something tasty to serve - felt very Suzie Homemakerish!!!!  By the way I found it much easier to slice the cake on the second day and as with most chocolate cakes it tasted that little bit better on day two (still good on day three and four!)

Quadruple Chocolate Loaf Cake


200g     plain flour
1/2 tsp  bread (bicarbonate of) soda
50g       cocoa (Green and Black is excellent)
275g      caster sugar
175g      soft butter
2            eggs
1 tbsp    vanilla extract (not essence K!!!)
80ml      sour cream (I have found that yogurt works just as well)
125ml    boiling water
175g      chocolate chips/cut up bar of chocolate - dark or milk to your taste


1   tsp cocoa
125ml water
100g   caster sugar
25g     dark chocolate flakes (I will use a potato peeler and a large block of chocolate next time)

Preheat oven to 170 C
Prepare 2lb/900g loaf tin with parchment paper (not greaseproof!!)

Blitz the flour, bread (bicarb of) soda, sugar, butter, eggs, vanilla and sour cream in the food processor.
Scrape down the sides then replace the lid and pour the water in while the motor is running.
Turn off the machine and add the chocolate chips/chunks and stir by hand.
Pour into the prepared tin.
Bake for about 1 hour, it will rise and a cake tester (dry stick of spaghetti) will come out fairly clean - it's a moist cake so don't worry too much if it's sticky.

Ten minutes before the cake is due out of the oven prepare the syrup.
Put the cocoa, water and sugar into a small saucepan and boil for 5 minutes or until the mixture reduces to a syrup.

When ready take the cake out of the oven, and pierce all over with a skewer or thin knife (keeping it in the tin) - it is not a good idea to use spaghetti for this step (I have learned to my cost!)
Pour the syrup over the hot cake as evenly as possible.
Allow to cool completely in the tin.
Sprinkle with the dark chocolate flakes before serving.



Thursday, May 20, 2010


How sad is it when a grown woman gets excited about a bowl of carrots?  Very, very sad!  I am a very, very sad case, because these carrots made me very excited.

A number of years ago we had a fantastic meal at the Farmgate Cafe in Midleton, Co. Cork, everything we ate was wonderful but the highlight for me was a fabulous dish of sweet, savoury, buttery but not oily carrots.  I have tried many times to replicate the taste, I used cumin, orange juice, honey but couldn't get them just right.

Roll on to another acquisition for my groaning cook book shelves - Heston Blumenthal's "Family Food" and his recipe for Carrots Glazed with Cumin and Orange, and a "eureka" moment, perfect delicious carrots.

Firstly Heston says that orange juice shouldn't be used when cooking carrots as the acid interferes with the cooking process (I love learning new stuff!!), and that orange zest gives the flavour while retaining the correct texture.  He also uses cardamom in this recipe - I hadn't thought of cardamom, what a great idea, it works beautifully.

I have (of course!!) simplified the recipe, and this is what I did.  Please give them a go, they are so much better than a bowl of steamed carrots with a knob of butter on top.  Another plus point for them is the fact that there is relatively little fat used in the recipe but they taste really buttery and indulgent.

Carrots Glazed with Cumin and Orange

750g         peeled carrots (I think organic are worth the extra money)
1               clove garlic
2 tsp         cumin
2 or 3       cardamom pods
8               sprigs fresh thyme
2 tbsp        olive oil
1 tbsp        butter
2 tsp          caster sugar
zest from 1 orange, in large pieces (remove carefully with a potato peeler, with as little of the white pith as possible)
salt and black pepper

Slice the carrots into 1cm (1/2 inch) rounds - they look better sliced diagonally.
Heat your pot without any oil and when hot add the cumin and cardamom seeds (which you have removed from the pods), toast them for a minute or two until they release a beautiful smell.
Add the oil, butter, garlic (I grate it in, you could crush it), thyme and  the carrots.
Turn the heat down to medium and sweat the carrots for 5 minutes.
Add the sugar and about 1 tbsp of water and the orange zest.
Cover with a lid and cook until tender - keep an eye on them and add a little more water if necessary.
When cooked remove the lid and reduce any liquid if necessary.
Season and serve.

These carrots reheat beautifully.


P.S. Once again please excuse the photo, a few servings were grabbed before I could manage to capture it!!!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


I wondered why there were no photos of this dish in Tamasin Day-Lewis's "Simply the Best" - and now I know!!!  Although not the prettiest meal you will ever serve up - it could well be the tastiest (certainly if you take work/taste ratio into account!!!)

TDL calls this Estouffade d'Agneau, but it is called the "nice lamb" here!!!  It is so simple that you will find it hard to imagine how good it tastes - no wine, no garlic, no herbs - just a really good quality olive tapenade (TDL specifies Carluccio's crema do olive nere - this is what I usually use, but I have used my local delicatessen's home made tapenade and it was really good too).

She also specifies lamb shoulder - but I have such fat averse people in this house that I always use a leg of lamb, and it works perfectly. 

Lamb with olive

1kg/2 1/2 lb         cubed shoulder (or leg) of lamb
200g/7oz              Carluccio's crema di olive nere
                             Excellent quality black olive tapenade with 1 tsp capers and pinch oregano.

Preheat oven to 150 C

Put the cubed lamb in the bottom of a heavy casserole
Empty the jar of tapenade over the meat.
Cover with a greaseproof paper lid and then the casserole lid.
Leave in the oven for 2 hours.
That's it !!!!!!!

I served it with mashed potato (to get maximum soakage!) and these veggies:

I fried a punnet of mushrooms in olive oil and a small amount of butter, then added asparagus, spinach and some left over cabbage - delicious (and worked really well with the lamb).

P.S. The photo of the lamb was taken after a couple of servings - you get more than that from 1kg meat!!!

Sunday, May 16, 2010


The two missing muffins were robbed on the long journey from the oven to the cooling rack!!!!!  And yes, they are that good.

I have a mixed relationship with muffins, leaving the batter lumpy is really difficult (I know if I don't... I'll have rubbery muffins) but when I get over my lump aversion (or if the recipe is kind) they are light, tasty  pieces of deliciousness!!

These muffins work really, really well ..... every time.  I used milk chocolate chips to make them more kiddie acceptable.  They are Nigella Lawson's from Feast.

Chocolate Chocolate-Chip Muffins  

250g             plain flour
2 tsp             baking powder
1/2tsp           bread (bicarbonate of) soda
2 tbsp           cocoa (Green and Black is good)
175g             caster sugar
150g             chocolate chips
250ml            milk
90ml              oil
1                   egg (large)
1 tsp             vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 200 C
Line muffin tray with paper cases.

Measure dry ingredients into a bowl.
Pour the wet ingredients into a measuring jug.
Mix together as little as you are able (!!!!) actually until very slightly lumpy.
Spoon into the waiting muffin cases - an ice-cream scoop works wonderfully.
Cook for approx 20 minutes - until risen and springy and until a stick of spaghetti comes out clean.


Saturday, May 15, 2010


My mother is a bit of a jet-setter (in the travels alot sense of the word - not the partying all night one (I hope!!))  Sometimes I benefit wonderfully from her trips - never more so than last years venture to the Caribbean, when she brought me back a fantastic stock of vanilla extract and fat, juicy beans (nothing like the emaciated sticks we get here).  My vanilla extract has made it's last cake, so I have decided to have a go at making my own.

Seemingly all you do is divide your vanilla beans in two keeping them intact at the top - and then immerse them in vodka, leave to do its magic for about 8 weeks - hay presto.... beautiful (half the price of bought) vanilla extract!!

Vanilla Extract

4             very plump vanilla beans (use more if they are skinny)
350 ml     vodka (I imagine cheap stuff would be fine - I used what I had in the house)

Split the beans add to the vodka and store in a dark place (for some reason I imagine it should be stored in a dark place, probably would be fine anyplace!!) for about 8 weeks.  How easy is that. 

Will keep you posted!!

Thursday, May 13, 2010


Every time we have people over there are always half empty (full!) bottles of beer left over - I have a few recipes in my arsenal to use them up.  Now before you report me to the germ police, these are bottles of beer that have been poured into glasses - and I don't use any of the half full (empty!) beer glasses - I promise!!

One of these recipes is for beer bread - and it is a conglomeration of about four different recipes, and it works well for us.  There is a nice savoury taste which works well with cheese, ham, tomatoes etc.  I didn't use any seeds in this loaf, but they work well in it - if you have some handy.  The bread has quite a light texture (for a wholemeal yeast free bread) I wonder if it's the bubbles in the beer!


      Note the baby's bottle in the background - I find them great for measuring, and they take  up much less space in the dishwasher then my measuring  jugs!!      

                                                   Beer Bread

Makes one loaf

2            cups wholemeal flour*
1            cup granary flour*
1/2 tsp    salt
1 tsp       sugar (heaped)
400ml     beer
2 tsp       baking powder (rounded)
water to bring to the correct texture

Preheat oven to 180 C
Prepare 1 loaf tin (1lb/900g) with parchment paper or butter.

Mix your dry ingredients. 
Add most of the beer and mix, it should have a texture like thick porridge.
Add more beer and/or water to get to the correct consistency.
Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 1 hour.
Tap the bottom to ensure the bread is baked - if it sounds hollow it's ready.
Leave on a wire rack to cool.

*Feel free to play around with the types of flour (I'm having a bit of a granary thing at the moment!!) All wholemeal might be a bit too much though.


Wednesday, May 12, 2010


There is something I really like about Tamasin Day-Lewis, (apart from being Daniel Day-Lewis's sister) I particularly like her programmes from her old house, where she produces really fantastic food from a tiny kitchen, a wonkey cooker and a serious lack of gadgets - there is something incredibly accessible about her and her food.

I am also a fan of her cookery books, she has some really fantastic (and different) recipes, although I do think she labours the "organic" point a bit too much.  My most recent TDL book is Tamasin's Kitchen Bible which I bought about six months ago, I have read it extensively but haven't cooked much from it.

No prizes in guessing what my first port of call is in any new book!!  And these are her Chocolate Brownies, and very nice they are too.  They had a perfect chocolate hit, and that melt in the mouth texture that is so necessary in a good brownie - my only criticism (and it's small) is that I prefer my brownies a bit higher (taller?) and next time I make them I will use a smaller tin. (This will also help with the drying out at the edges issue!)

For Saffy - there come in at 2nd/3rd place!!

TDL's Brownies

200g             dark chocolate (as ever good quality is really important)
110g             softened butter
225g             caster sugar (unrefined vanilla is best)
2 eggs and 1 egg yolk  (I used 3 whole eggs as mine were only medium sized)
3 tbsp           freshly made strong coffee
140g             plain flour
1 tsp             baking powder
a handful of whole hazelnuts (I used toasted)

Preheat oven to 180 C
Prepare a 30x22cm/12x9in tin (although I will use a smaller tin next time) with parchment paper.

Melt the chocolate in a bowl, placed over (not touching) simmering water.
Cream the softened butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
Pour in the chocolate and coffee and stir.
Sift in the flour and baking powder and fold in carefully.
Pour the mixture into the prepared tin.
Push in hazelnuts (so that you have one in each brownie when cooked and cut up)

Cook for about 25 minutes (you should check before this, mine were overcooked at the edges)
Leave to cool in the tin for 15/20 minutes then remove to a wire rack.


P.S. (For Irish readers)  This book is being sold at a bargain price in Easons at the moment - worth a look!

Monday, May 10, 2010


The idea of ceviche has been creeping up on me ... Nigella has one in her Express book, there is a lovely recipe in Tessa Kiros's Venezia (my two favourites in one book - cooking and Venice!)... I decided to dip my toe in the ceviche sea (in a manner of speaking), when I came home from the fishmonger with more than enough lemon sole for dinner.

I just wanted to make a small amount (not sure how fish cooked by lime juice would go down with the family) so I  cut up a small sole fillet, and added some monkfish (which I had bought for the following day's dinner) and placed them in the marinade. 

I marinated the fish for 24 hours, testing and tasting after 6 hours and then 12 hours and again after 18 (it still had a raw texture) but 24 hours was probably about 4 too many as although it tasted fantastic, the texture was a bit tough.  The ceviche would make a lovely starter, but I would cut the fish up much smaller and marinade for a shorter time.

The monkfish probably took better to this cooking method (texture wise) but both fish tasted fresh, zingy and pleasantly different.

For one portion I used:

Preserved lemon ceviche

1 small lemon sole
small piece of monkfish
1/4 preserved lemon
1 tbsp juice from preserved lemons
zest and juice of 1 lime
1/4 mild chili grated.
green part from 2 scallions (spring onions)

Mix the marinade ingredients and pour over the fish, store in a sealed container in the fridge until ready.

Serve with your salad of choice, I used rockett, spinich, red peppers and apples, dressed simply with lemon and oil.


This is my jar of recently resurrected preserved lemons.  The photo alone makes my mouth water!!!

I turned to Diana Henry's "Crazy Water Pickled Lemons"  (where else?!) when looking for a recipe to make my lemons, and this one is excellent, the cinnamon and coriander giving a nice undertone to the flavour.

Preserved Lemons
(every home should have them!!)

Organic lemons
Coarse sea salt
2 cinnamon sticks
2 tsp coriander seeds
1/2 tsp black peppercorns
2 bay leaves
Olive oil (extra virgin)

Wash and dry the lemons. 
Not cutting the whole way through, cut the lemons length ways in quarters.  It is important to keep the base of the lemon intact, so that the lemon opens out like a flower.
Hold each lemon open and fill with about 2 tsp salt, squeeze it closed and put into a sterilized jar.
Repeat until your jar is jam packed full.
Put a weight on top (I used a stone wrapped in clingfilm)
Put away for 3 days while the juices run out.
Remove the weight and add the cinnamon, pepper, coriander and bay leaves.
Add enough extra lemon juice to cover the lemons.
Then pour a layer of olive oil on top - this prevents the whole jar going mouldy - very important!

Ready to use in about 6 weeks.


Friday, May 7, 2010


Stay with me here ..... this is my version of AngelOTN's (from version of Sheila Dillon's version of Doris Grant's Loaf!!!!!!    Do you know something - it was worth all the twists and turns, you should try it and add another twist to the title :-}

This is the easy way with yeast - you get (nearly) all the raising power, but you put in none of the effort and very little of the waiting - what could be wrong with that?

This loaf has a lovely flavour, and is dense without being claggy or heavy.  Yesterday a friend came round for lunch, I served it with leftover ham and salads (lunch went on for quite some time, and we kept going back for one more tiny piece!!)

Easy Yeast Bread

2              tbsp oil
600g        wholemeal flour*
100g        strong white flour*
100g        rye flour*
100g        granary flour
1 1/2        tsp salt
7g sachet or 2 tsp fast acting yeast
850ml      warm water
15ml        treacle/honey/sugar

Prepare two 900g (1lb) loaf tins

Preheat oven to 200 C

Add the treacle/honey to some boiling water in a measuring jug and dissolve - make up to the 800ml mark with warm water (should be warm not hot when made up)

Mix all the dry ingredients, add the treacle mixture and stir.  It should have a texture like slightly wet porridge.
Add more warm water if necessary.

Pour into prepared tins and leave in a warm place to raise for about 30 - 40 minutes.

Bake for 40 minutes, then remove from the tin and bake for another 20 - 25 minutes more.

*Change the flours as you wish


Thursday, May 6, 2010


I spotted some beautiful fresh squid at the shops the other day, and Nigella's Quick Calamari with Garlic Mayonnaise sprang to mind.  I had seen her cook this on the Nigella Express programme and it looked wonderfully easy - so I didn't allow the deep frying bit scare me off, and I bought them.

The boning (cartilaging!) bit was easy, actually quite satisfying, but I managed to make an awful mess cutting the head/eye bit off! I broke the ink sack and it squirted all over the place!!!  I can see why Nigella uses frozen squid.

Anyway the boning, skinning chopping was all accomplished without any more mishaps!  It was then simplicity itself to throw the coating together (through necessity I had to play around with the recipe!)
The frying was easy and not too smelly!!  I used this photo to show that there was very little excess oil.

The calamari was hoovered up by the boys, they loved it.  I tried one (or four!) and can concur, they were nicely crispy on the outside and the squid was beautifully tender (no rubber bands in my kitchen!!!!!)

Nigella calls for "best quality mayonnaise" - I used Hellmann's and it was just fine - I grated a whole (medium sized) clove of garlic into approximately 100g of mayo, and it was perfect.

This is what I did:
To serve two plus a greedy "picker"

Quick Calamari

3             small squid - cleaned, and cut into 1cm rings.
2 tbsp      cornflour
4 tbsp      semolina
1 tsp        smoked paprika
1/2 tsp     ground cumin
pinch        chili powder
1/2 tsp      salt

Half fill a small saucepan with a flavorless oil, and heat up.  It is ready when a piece of bread dropped in sizzles fiercely.
Put all the coating ingredients into a plastic bag and mix.
Add the squid rings and tentacles and toss to coat - I did this in batches.
Again in batches, fry the squid in the sizzling oil, until they are golden and crunchy - this takes very little time.
Remove to a paper towel to drain.
Serve with the garlic mayonnaise and some lemon.


Wednesday, May 5, 2010


Probably not the most beautiful plate of food I've ever served up, but man oh man it tasted good.  This dish was quick, easy, healthy and delicious.  Next time I think I'll serve my chicken with brown rice (and no I'm not wearing socks and sandals!!) I think that the nutty texture would suit the soft poached chicken very well.

This dish came about because of my preserved lemons ( I love preserved lemons)  which I had made before Christmas and then they totally slipped my mind, what a lovely surprise to find them at the back of the cupboard, like a late Christmas present from me to me!!

I know that preserved lemons are fantastic with fish (I make a dish with them and monkfish and semi sun-dried tomatoes, which is good) but wanted to try them with chicken for a change.

I poached the chicken in a little chicken stock to which I added 1/4 chili chopped  small and a small sprig of rosemary.  When it was cooked I chopped up 1/4 mild chili, 1/4 preserved lemon, 1 scallion (spring onion), small handful of coriander and zested a 1/2 a lime.  I mixed these and tossed most of the mixture through the pasta (or rice) placed the chicken on top and sprinkled over the rest to the lemon mixture. A bit of seasoning and Bob's your uncle (or not!).

The left over stock was used by my son to make noodles (not that I should be encouraging him - think there might be a bit of a noodle addiction issue, wonder where he inherited  that???)

Tuesday, May 4, 2010


I am honoured to be sent this award by Nickki at The Claytons Blog - my  introduction to the world of blogging - no wonder I am addicted!!!

The rules are as follows:

1. Copy and paste the award onto your blog

2. List who gave the award to you and add a link to their blog.

3. List 10 things that make you happy.

4. Pass the award onto other blogs and let them know you have done so.

Here goes:

a.  Getting this award has made me very happy -  it's wonderful to get feedback. (I also love getting comments on my posts)

b.  My family, every day and in many, many ways.

c.  I am fortunate to have been blessed with wonderful friends.

d.  Mad Men - I'm lovin' it (!)

e.  Good restaurants

f.  Reading a good book, then discussing it at my bookclub.

g.  A new cookbook, reading it, marking the recipes to try and then actually trying them.

h. Finishing my walk!!!

i.  Being snuggled up inside when the weather is bad.

j.  A massage (for those who know me - I havn't been taken over by aliens!!!! - I mean it!)

My nominees are:

Manu at cooking manu.

Angela at soapmoms kitchen

Edie at munchies and musings

 Bridgett at la bella cook

Saffy at motherhood with a side of sugar

Melanie at heavenly bites

Pam at pams midwest kitchen korner

Lily at lily collison blog

These are all fantastic blogs and well worth looking up, I enjoy them immensely.

Jutta has just nominated me for this award (such a compliment - beaming here!) otherwise she would be on the list Happy Valley Cook - we started this blogging business around the same time, and I hope that I have managed to support Jutta as much as she has supported me.

Lucie at cooking at marystow was also nominated recently so don't want to repeat too soon!!

If I have forgotten anyone I'm really sorry (this feels like when you are having a party and are afraid of missing out on inviting someone special!!!)

Monday, May 3, 2010


Enough of this healthy eating!!  Feel some brownies coming on - this recipe has been sitting in my "to try" file for quite some time.  As I hadn't entered the "mayo as an ingredient in goodies" world yet - I was apprehensive, but I shouldn't have been.  Of course when you think about it, why wouldn't it work?  Mayo is really just eggs and oil both normal baking ingredients.

They were really good, intense chocolate taste, moist, dense texture - excellent brownies. (The perfect way to blow the new healthy eating regime!!)   Actually when I think about it (and I don't often!!) they are probably  not as bad as they could be on the  "bad for your" scale - just 100g of mayonnaise and 85g chocolate, could be worse.

Still haven't toppled Nigella off the top though!

Mayonnaise Brownies

85g/3oz      Dark Chocolate - chopped small
85g/3oz      Plain Flour
25g/1oz      Cocoa Powder
1/4 tsp        Bread (bicarbonate of) Soda
100g/4oz    Caster Sugar
50g/2oz      Light Brown Sugar
1/2 tsp        instant coffee powder
1 tsp           vanilla extract
2 tbsp         buttermilk (you could use yogurt)
1                 large egg
100g/4oz    mayonnaise

Preheat oven to 180 C
Prepare a 19x19cm brownie tin

Sieve flour, cocoa and bread (bicarb.) soda and mix.
Melt the chocolate in a bowl suspended over a pan of simmering water.
Add the sugars, vanilla, coffee and buttermilk to the melted chocolate.
Add 1 tbsp. warm water.
Beat in the egg and then the mayonnaise.
Add the flour mixture and fold in.
Bake approx. minutes.
Cool in the tin for 20 minutes then move to a wire rack.


Sunday, May 2, 2010


The work and school going contingent in this house have a very early start, and breakfast has to be fast and nutritious (and sometimes portable, for car consumption) over the years pancakes have become the breakfast of choice.

One of the great advantages of pancakes is that the batter can be made in advance - I find that it keeps well for up to three days, this means that I only make the batter twice a week, I love short cuts in the mornings!!


5oz         plain flour (I use Italian 00 flour as it doesn't have to be sieved)
2             large eggs
250ml     milk (approximately) whole/simi/skimmed - whatever is handy

Add the eggs and 100ml milk to the flour and whisk vigorously, add more milk - enough to make the batter smooth and the consistency of double cream.
You can add two tablespoons of melted butter at this stage - and I would if you don't make pancakes often, this step makes the frying the pancakes easier.
Heat your frying pan (a small one is best), melt a small knob of butter in it - coat the pan with the butter.
When sizzling pour some batter into the pan (2 dessert spoons is the right amount for my pan) and swirl to spread out to the size of the pan - you don't want a thick pancake, so spread well.
The pancakes take very little time to cook.
Serve with lemon/sugar/orange juice/smoothie/nutella whatever takes you fancy.

For the member of the household who (size wise) cannot afford  to eat butter, eggs and flour first thing (actually anytime, but we'll ignore that) porridge is a good breakfast option.  I don't mind the taste of porridge but I find the texture a bit off putting.  This porridge is extra good for you and has a much better texture than oats alone.  I eat mine with some frozen raspberries at the bottom of the bowl and the porridge on top.

This recipe makes a container of porridge which lasts me for weeks.

Improved Porridge

500g          Porridge Oats (rolled oats)
100g          Barley Flakes
100g          Rye Flakes
50g            Sesame Seeds
50g            Linseeds
50g            Sunflower Seeds

I usually blitz the seeds in the processor, add the the oats and flakes, stir and store.

To make the porridge,  I measure a 1/2 cup of this mixture to 1 cup water and 1/2 cup of milk.
Bring to boil stirring then turn the heat down and simmer for 5/10 minutes.


Saturday, May 1, 2010


The easiest breakfast in the whole world is a smoothie - I love the feeling of having two of my "five a day" done and dusted first thing.  A friend shared the idea of using frozen fruit in smoothies with me about a year ago and it works wonderfully.  Firstly the smoothie isn't watered down by using ice, therefore giving you maximum vitamin and mineral content per sip (every second less eating breakfast is one second more in bed!!).  And secondly frozen fruit is much cheaper and most of the year (here in Ireland at least) much tastier.

A recipe really isn't necessary - I just pour a half a bag of frozen fruit (usually summer fruits or just strawberries)  into the liquidiser (blender) cover with fruit juice (grape or cranberry are favoured chez moi) and whizz, adding more juice if necessary.  If I'm feeling really adventurous I'll add some yogurt.

Remember to rinse the liquidiser out immediately, makes wash up much easier.

Couldn't be easier.