Tuesday, November 29, 2011


This month Dom and Jac * have teamed up to challenge us to pick a random veggie soup recipe and prepare it for your enjoyment (and ours of course!).  Dom has allowed us to choose our own method of randomising (?) our recipe, so I decided I would choose the first book to hand and cook the first soup recipe for which I had all the ingredients in stock.

I have been using Catherine Fulvio's Family Kitchen alot recently and her Roasted Yellow Pepper Soup and Tomato Soup looked delicious but there are pepper allergies in this house so I made her Tomato soup all on it's own, and combined it with her Soda Focaccia, and all I can say is it was the easiest,  tastiest lunch I have had in ages.  The sundried tomatoes in the soup really intensify the flavour - skrummy stuff.

*Dom and Jac - don't present a children's TV show!! They write two excellent blogs - really worth visiting if you haven't already done so.

Tomato Soup
from Catherine Fulvio

extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, sliced
2 sundried tomatoes, chopped
1 potato, peeled and chopped
1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
300ml vegetable stock
2 tsp chopped fresh basil
salt and pepper

Fry the garlic and sundried tomatoes in some olive oil for a minute.
Stir in the potato, tomatoes and stock and bring to the boil.
Reduce the heat and simmer for  10-15 minutes, until the potato is cooked through.
Add the basil and remove from the heat.
Puree the soup and taste for seasoning.
Add more stock if needed.

Serve and enjoy.

Saturday, November 26, 2011


There's a new challenge on the blogging block, and I love a good challenge, so I was delighted when two exceptional bloggers came together to invite us to tea .... well to Tea Time Treats, and this month Karen has invited us to prepare something delicious using ginger, happy days - my all time favourite ingredient (along with all my other favourite ingredients!!!), not so happy days - I am really trying to cut down on the goodies so I can really pig out in December!!!!

So now my challenge was to make something delicious containing ginger BUT also something that I wouldn't devour (yes, that is the state of my will power these days) ........... it had to be dried fruit, loved by all the family but not by me!!!

I turned to Lilly Higgins' Make Bake Love (it's just so pretty) and decided to play around with her Tea Brack recipe, obviously adding some ginger in there, but I also simplified it by using a luxury fruit mix rather than the individual fruits she suggested - it went down a treat, and was just the stop gap needed before the Christmas Pudding Season started (the consumption of Christmas puddings in this house is a story for another day!).

Tea Brack
adapted from Lilly Higgins' Make Bake Love

300ml           hot strong tea
360g             luxury fruit mix
100g             chopped stoned dried dates
1                   egg
225g             self raising flour
150g             brown sugar
3 tbsp           Cointreau or your favourite alcohol
1 1/2 tsp       mixed spice
1 tsp             ginger
2                   knobs of crystallised ginger

Preferably the day before, but for as long as possible -  soak the fruit in the tea.

Preheat oven to 180 C
Line a loaf tin with parchment paper or butter it.

Add the ginger, beaten egg, flour and sugar to the fruit and mix well.
Add the Cointreau and spices and mix again.
Spoon into the prepared tin and bake for 1 - 1 1/2 hours - until a skewer (or stick of dry spaghetti) comes out clean.
When perfect remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tin for 5 minutes.
Remove from tin and cool on a wire rack.


Thanks to Kate and Karen for this fun idea.

For my Irish readers - I was invited to this years Taste of Christmas, a huge improvement on last year's event, plenty of stalls, delicious food from some excellent restaurants, including the wonderful Bon Appetite (where I did the masterclass!!).  I went to the first of the Masterchef shows and although it had a few glitches, and a bit of nervousness it was quite good.  It would have been very good had the audience been given copies of the recipes being cooked and if Nick had lightened up on plugging his book and restaurant!!
Well worth a visit, to get you in the Christmas mood.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


It looks burned, doesn't it?  Actually it didn't taste burned .... maybe it is the dark chocolate - very, very dark chocolate!!

I was watching a re-run of Nigella's kitchen, and her Chocolate Chip Bread Pudding just called to me, then I thought that it would be a good idea to incorporate it with Chele's  ingredient  for this month's We Should Cocoa challenge.  Like many fellow bloggers, I had fretted as to how I could add apple to a chocolate recipe, but I thought that some apple through this pudding would be delicious.  Unfortunately Brownieville Boy #2 spotted me adding the apple, and wasn't too enthusiastic!  So I compromised and added apple to just half of the pudding - and I have to say that the non-apple half was just a fraction nicer.

The pudding was light and fluffy, and deliciously creamy (despite containing only 125ml of cream) I would recommend that you give it a try. 

Chocolate Chip Bread Pudding

250g    stale bread, cut into 3cm cubes
100g    chocolate chips, or chopped chocolate
3          eggs
40g      light brown sugar
30ml    dark rum
125ml  cream
500ml  full fat milk
4 tsp    demerara sugar
1          apple (optional)

butter a pie dish (about 1.5 lt)
preheat oven to 170 C

Place the bread cubes, chopped chocolate and chopped apple in the dish, toss but make sure there aren't too many chocolate pieces on the top (to prevent the burned look!!)
Whisk the eggs, light brown sugar, rum, cream and milk together.
Pour over the bread and press the cubes down to make sure they are well soaked.
Leave to soak for at least 20 minutes.
When ready to cook, sprinkle with the demerara sugar and place in the oven for 40-50 minutes.
Allow the pudding to cool slightly before serving.

Friday, November 11, 2011


A number of years ago, a good friend told me that she had been the victim of domestic violence - she had suffered for years in silence, I think that the worst part for her was the isolation, being unable to talk about her experience.  I am so proud of her that she had the courage to leave the awful situation she was in, and was and am delighted to help in any way I possibly can (although truth be told since my sister's death she has been the one doing all the helping!).

The Pixel Project were in contact with me recently, I am delighted to be able to participate in their "Paint It Purple" Cupcake Online Recipe Gallery which is a campaign to to raise awareness and funds for the cause to end violence against women (VAW) in communities worldwide.  They do this work using social media and new technologies. We can help by baking and photographing a cupcake for their website and writing a bit about their wonderful work. 

Coincidentally I had recently baked Lavender Cupcakes from the wonderful "Red Velvet, Chocolate Heartache" by Harry Eastwood - talk about predestined!!  They were absolutely delicious, the lavender flavour was present but subtle (I had feared a soapy taste, nothing could be further from the reality).  The courgette on the other hand was completely unrecognisable!  The nicest possible way to get one of your "five a day"!!!

Lavender Cupcakes
adapted from Red Velvet, Chocolate Heartache

For the cupcakes

2            eggs
160g      lavender sugar
220g      grated peeled courgette
1 tsp      vanilla extract
100g      rice flour
120g      ground almonds
2 tsp      baking powder
1/4 tsp   salt

For the icing

140g      icing sugar sifted
3 tbsp    blueberry juice

Preheat oven to 180 C
Line a 12 hole muffin tray with papers

Using an electric whisk, beat the eggs and sugar until pale and frothy (this will take about 5 minutes)
Add the grated courgette and the vanilla extract and whisk again.
Fold in the flour, ground almonds, baking powder and salt, and combine.
Using an ice cream scoop divide the mixture evenly between the muffin cases.
Bake for 20 minutes, until risen and a skewer comes out clean.
Remove to a wire rack to cool.
Prepare the icing by adding the juice to the icing sugar - stir well to combine.
When the cupcakes are cold spread the icing over the top.
You can decorate with some lavender flowers if you have some available.


Saturday, November 5, 2011


I have mentioned Lilly Higgins new book Make Bake Love on a recent post and promised to do a review - over at her blog Stuff I Make, Bake, Love Lilly was saying that her book is sold out on Amazon, I'm not at all surprised!  It is an excellent book, packed full of doable (is that a word??) delicious recipes - with a few aspirational ones in there for good measure. I was absolutely delighted to recieve a review copy.  The photography is wonderful, you just want to reach in and grab a bite, there is an excellent balance of  unusual flavours (Plum and Cardamom Cupcakes -delicious!)  and old favourites.  The recipes seem to be well tested (I'm pretty sure I read that Lilly worked as an instructor at Ballymaloe Cookery School) and thought out. 

I think that you can often judge a baking book by it's bread section and having made most of the breads from this book (I left out a couple of the yeast ones!!) I have to say that it really stands up - the Health Loaf being a particular favourite here.  If I have any criticism of the book, and it is very slight, it is that there are a couple of recipes in there that are just variations of a previous recipe - the Blueberry muffins are very like the Red Berry and White Chocolate Muffins, but that really is nitpicking.  All in all, I loved this book (I really enjoy when fellow bloggers make the step over to writing cookery books successfully) and I can't wait for her next one!

I've been having a great time over the past couple of weeks baking up a storm trying out loads of the recipes, one has already become a firm family favourite and I've made it several times!

These are the Rum and Raisin Cupcakes - totally addictive!  I have a confession to make here - the deliciousness of these cupcakes might be helped by the fact that I used raisins that have been soaking in rum for 2 years - yes, you did read that correctly!!!  I bought a bottle of dark rum especially to make Rum Raisin ice cream, left the raisins to soak in the rum in a big jar, and promptly forgot all about them - for two years!  I recommend you do the same!

Even as a non-lover of dried fruit, I'm a huge fan of these cupcakes - I very generously give my raisins away (!) but the sponge retains the sweet, mellow flavour from the fruit.

Health Loaf - it's great to feel virtuous eating bread this delicious!

The Spiced Sultana Bread was a doddle to throw together, and scored really high on the taste to effort ratio!

I played around with Lilly's Honey Oat Bread, and used bicarbonate of soda as a raising agent instead of yeast (how lazy am I??).  Tasted great though!

I'm going to have to try the Seed Loaf again, as I don't think I did the recipe justice - the yeast thing is still my problem area!!!

I have blogged about the Blueberry (Blackberry) Muffins here. 

Rocky Road Brownies - oh my!!!  Scrumptious stuff!!

Plum and Cardamom Cupcakes had to be at the top of the "to try" list - I just love anything containing cardamom!  I tried making these as Lilly did with the plums just halved, but found them to have a better texture when I chopped up the fruit.

I added some chocolate chips to Lilly's Hazelnut Shortbread and they were devoured in no time!

From all the recipes I have tried I most want to share the Rocky Road Brownie one - I have been neglecting my brownie section of late, and these belong well up on the list!  Lilly says that you have to have both pink and white marshmallows in a Rocky Road - I beg to disagree!!!!!

Rocky Road Brownies
adapted from Lilly Higgins, Make Bake Love

For the Brownies

200g           dark chocolate (I used 50%)
250g           icing sugar, sieved*
200g           softened butter
3                 eggs
110g           plain flour

For the Topping

200g            chocolate, chopped - just use your favourite
100g            toasted nuts - I used hazelnuts and almonds
70g              digestive biscuits**, broken up
80g              marshmallows

Preheat oven to 170 C
Line a 23cm x 33cm baking pan with parchment paper.

For the Brownies

Melt the chocolate in a microwave or in a bowl over simmering water.
Beat the icing sugar and butter together until light and fluffy. (* I think that the icing sugar is too messy to work with - flies all over the place if you are not very careful, so I would use caster sugar in future)
Add the eggs one by one, mixing well between each addition.
Beat in the flour until just combined.
Slowly pour the melted chocolate into this mixture and combine well, without over mixing.
Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 30 minutes, but start checking at 20 - over cooked brownies are so disappointing!

For the Topping

Mix the nuts, biscuit rubble(**I used less than Lilly recommended) and marshmallows together, next time I'll add some broken up Maltesers or Chrunchie Bars to the mix.  Keep the chopped chocolate to one side.

When about 5 minutes away from being cooked, remove the brownies from the oven. 
Scatter the biscuit mixture over the brownies, and then scatter the chocolate over this.
Return the brownies to the oven for 3 - 5 minutes, until the chocolate has melted sligthly and melded into the topping ingredients.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tin on a wire rack for 20 minutes.
Best enjoyed while still slightly warm.....mmmmmmm!

Pop over to The Sporadic Cook, Julie's wonderful blog - you might find it interesting!

Thursday, November 3, 2011


This year I recieved one of the best and most thoughtful birthday gifts ever from my boys - I have to admit that I might not be the easiest person in the world to buy for!  But this year they excelled themselves - they bought me four masterclasses in Bon Appetit Restaurant with the talented Michelin starred chef Oliver Dunne.   The first of these was titled "Dinner Party Dazzlers", and it was a fantastic evening - full of doable tips and ideas, Oliver's main aim was to teach us that entertaining at home need not be stressful - just about everything can be prepared in advance, he didn't want us slaving away in the kitchen while our guests were enjoying drinks without us!!!

Probably the best part of the evening were the tips and the foodie gossip - I don't think he could be described as his ex-boss Gordon Ramsey's biggest fan!!!!! 

A few of the pointers:

For really excellent balsamic vinegar without the huge price - buy a cheap bottle, reduce it by 3/4 in a large saucepan, and you have deep, sweet, delicious stuff, which makes a perfect dressing combined with olive oil, dijon mustard and salt.  The reduced balsamic vinegar is great for presentation, a few dots on a plate really dresses it up.

Always cut chicken to check if it is done - pressing it will never give a difinitive answer and you are far better off having a little nick in the bird than having poisoned guests!!

Always have your pan good and hot before you add butter/oil.

When melting butter, chop it into small cubes - otherwise the outside will have burned before the center is melted.

Speaking of butter - use about four times more than you usually do to have proper restaurant tasting food!

Use icing sugar when making chantilli cream - much better texture.

Oliver seasons with salt at every step - he said that he rarely uses pepper.

Roasted Quail with Chorizo, Red Onion and Balsamic Dressing

Warm Goats Cheese and Caramelised Shallot Tart

Breast of Chicken, Tart Fine of Onions and Creamed Wild Mushrooms

Smoked Haddock, New Potato, Soft Poached Egg & Mustard Beurre Blanc

Apple Tart Fine with Chantilly Cream & Butterscotch

Hot Chocolate Fondant with Vanilla Cream

The kitchen prepared samples of most of the dishes Oliver showed us and they tasted just as good as they look!!  I'm really looking forward to the next lesson.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


Hope you all had a fantastic Halloween, and that there aren't too many sugar hangovers out there!!!   I have to admit to an addiction to sugary, fizzy children's sweeties - so you can imagine that I just love this time of year :-)

You can imagine with this addiction of mine (!) that I was delighted when Swizzels Matlow contacted me about a new range of sweets they are introducing to the market - the highlight being (for me anyway) some Scooby Doo (like Love Heart sherbet ) sweets - yahoo!!  The kids (Brownieville Boy #4 and the Princess) were beside themselves when a box filled with these fizzy sweets, Scooby Doo jellys and some fizzy chewy bars as well as a really cute Scooby Doo toy arrived in the post.  They were so anxious to dive in that they took the photos for the blog themselves!!

I managed to save the packet of jellys and used them to decorate this year's Halloween Treat - we live in the country so unfortunately don't have any trick or treaters - but this lime traybake went down well with all the family, some of whom nabbed the jellys from other people's slices when they weren't looking!!!  The sponge was lovely and light but with that gorgeous lime tang combined with the buttery softness - and then the sweet/sour topping made the perfect combination.

The recipe is from Mary Berry and you can find  it over at Baking Mad a site full of cake recipes that I'm really enjoying at the moment.  The only change I made was to add 1/2 tsp of lime essence to the batter.  I used a 8"x8" brownie tin but actually think a bigger tin would be better, for a flatter sponge and therefore a higher sponge to glaze ratio - I just love a lime glaze, almost reminds me of sherbets (yummm!).