Thursday, April 2, 2015

Hot Cross Scones

As far back as I can remember my mother would have hot cross buns ready to serve straight after the Good Friday ceremonies. I was never too keen on them as there always seemed to be too many sultanas and too little of the actually ‘bun’, for my liking. I'm now a great fan of these traditional cakes, but my children would share the opinion of my childhood self.                                                       

Little hands make easy work of scone-making!
 So, in a bid to uphold a long-standing Good Friday tradition a few years ago I decided to create a scone recipe that would encapsulate the familiar flavours of the hot cross bun, with mixed spice and orange zest. Of course, they could hardly be offered as hot cross anything if not for the cross on the top, so a little paste made with flour, sugar and water, and piped onto the uncooked scones, gave the appropriate look to these Good Friday bakes. They worked out a treat and were declared a hit with both adults and children alike.

Hot Cross Scones


For the Cross:
50g plain flour
25g caster sugar
50mls water

For the Scones 
450g plain flour, plus extra for the work surface
1 tsp baking powder
50g caster sugar
½ tsp mixed spice
100g cold butter, cut into cubes
100g sultanas
Zest of 1 orange
250mls milk
1 egg, lightly beaten

For Glaze:
30mls milk
25g granulated sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 200°C/fan 180°C/Gas mark 6.
2. First make the mixture for the cross, by combining the flour and caster sugar together in a small bowl. Gradually add the water until it turns into a thick paste. Spoon into a piping bag with a small nuzzle. Leave to one side.
3. Sieve the flour, baking powder, sugar and mixed spice into a large mixing bowl and mix well with a wooden spoon.
4. Add the cubed butter to the flour mixture. Rub in the butter until it resembles breadcrumbs. Add the sultanas and orange zest. Combine well.
5. Make a well in the centre of the mixture and add the milk and the egg to the dry ingredients.
6. Mix together with a wooden spoon, and then use your hands to make a soft dough.
7. Turn dough out onto a floured board. Wash and dry hands. Knead lightly- not too much as the scones will become tough. Roll out the dough and cut out using a medium circular cutter, making about 12 scones.
8. For the cross mix the flour and sugar in a bowl.
9. Place the scones on a floured baking tray and pipe a cross onto each one. Brush the un-piped area of the tops with a little milk and then sprinkle each with a little granulated sugar.
10. Bake in the oven for 12-15 minutes, until golden brown. Remove and cool on a wire tray. Best served warm with a good smothering of butter.

Wishing you all a very happy and peaceful Easter!
Nessa x

Monday, March 2, 2015

Immune-Boosting Nutri Juice

A great way to include essential vitamins and minerals into one’s diet is through juicing fruit and vegetables. Juicers can be bought at a reasonable price these days and it will last you years. However, recently I was introduced to the ‘Nutri Ninja’ {variant of the Nutri Bullet} and I must say, in the matter of a few weeks, it has steadily become the most used utensil in my kitchen. As opposed to a juicer the Ninja blitzes every bit of the fruit and vegetable, allowing you to obtain their optimal nutritional benefit. There are so many great combinations to make, but the one I’m sharing with you today is our current favourite. I try to include lots of kale in our diets as it is filled with powerful antioxidants, it is especially rich in iron and vitamin K as well as being a great source of calcium, vitamin A and vitamin C. It can be a little bitter when juiced/blitzed so paring it with some sweet bananas and pineapple will certainly counteract this. I'm a huge fan of avocados and the creamy texture of one which is perfectly ripe adds a certain smoothness to this finished drink. As the children prefer their juices as lump-free as possible I've added milled chia seeds, but ordinary seeds also work perfectly in their place. If you don’t have a Nutri Ninja, a blender can be used, and if you would prefer it without any bits then strain the contents through a sieve. 

Immune-Boosting Nutri Juice

Ingredients - Serves 2

2 large leaves of Kale, washed and leaves roughly chopped
1 small orange, peeled and cut into segments
1 red eating apple, cored and chopped into chunks
2 rings of pineapple
½ ripe banana, roughly chopped
½ ripe avocado
1 tsp milled chia seeds
handful of ice

  1. Make sure to wash the vegetables and fruit before blitzing. Fill the large Nutri-Ninja container with all of the ingredients, making sure to finish with the ice. Top up with cold, filtered water and do not pass the ‘max fill’ mark.
  2. Blitz for one minute. Pour into two glasses and enjoy straight away.  
As per the rules of the giveaway, I had to pick another winner for the hand blender, as I had no contact details for the original winner and they never contacted me within the fortnight of them being announced. So, the new winner of the Breville Cordless Hand Blender is MKConlon. Thank you so much to everyone who entered the give-away.

Friday, February 13, 2015

The Ultimate Brunch Bap

With four children, of a school-going age, our weekday breakfast is rushed, to say the least. However, the only advantage to this is the learned appreciated that I now have for the weekend breakfast. Without the threat of the imminent school bell, our weekend breakfast is a whole lot more relaxed. Valentine's day falls on a Saturday this year, so if you're planning on starting the day off well, and earning a few brownie point, treat your loved one to an extra special breakfast, or brunch. This bap can be assembled in minutes, and the combination of flavours are simply scrumptious.
We’re very fortunate to have eggs straight from our garden from our lovely hens, but if you’ve to buy eggs seek out some true free-range, organic eggs. How delicious this bap really is, completely depends on the quality of the eggs. Brioche buns are for sale in M&S and Aldi, but if you can’t get your hands on them, any bread buns will work in their place. Enjoy!

Chorizo, Avocado & Poached Egg Brunch Bap

Serves 4
4 free range eggs
½ tsp white wine vinegar
2 ripe avocados, thinly sliced
1 tsp olive oil
100g chorizo, thinly sliced
4 brioche buns
Tomato relish of your choice
Smoked paprika, optional

  1. To poach the eggs, bring a saucepan of water to a bubbling boil, add the white wine vinegar. Using a spoon quickly stir the water to make like a whirlwind in the saucepan. Crack the egg into a cup, and with the water still swirling gently add the egg into the centre of the saucepan. Depending on the size of the egg it will take between 2 and 4 minutes to poach. Once cooked, remove to a plate lined with kitchen paper and cover with additional kitchen paper to keep warm while the rest of the eggs are cooking. You can cook two eggs together, but repeat this process for the rest of the eggs.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan. Add the chorizo slices and fry for about 1 minute on each side. Remove to a plate.
  3. To assemble the bap, cut the bun in half and over the bottom half spread a thin layer of relish, top with the slices of avocado, an even layer of fried chorizo and top with the poached egg. Season with a few grinds of black pepper and a sprinkling of smoked paprika, if you have it to hand. Add the top of the brioche bun and sandwich together. Enjoy straight away.

Happy Valentine's Day!
Nessa x

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Hand Blender Give-Away

This week's Irish Country Living sees the latest instalment of my Home Nurse column. The topic is 'fussy eaters'. Of course this is neither an ailment or a sickness, however it is an issue that many parents with little ones have to deal with. I have mentioned here before how I relied on my trustee hand blender to assist me in combating dinner time battles, so when House of Fraser offered me one of their cordless blenders for one lucky reader it seemed like the perfect giveaway for this week. To be in with a chance of winning this Breville Cordless Hand Blender all you have to do is leave a comment below. All names will be put in the hat and the winner will be picked at random. I will announce the lucky winner in my next blog post. 

TERMS AND CONDITIONS: the competition is open to residents of Ireland the U.K. only. You must be over 18. No cash alternative is possibleThe winner must email/contact me within 7 days of them being announced as the winner, or another name will have to be drawn from the hat. 

Best of luck! 

Monday, February 2, 2015

A Few Shots from Lens & Larder 2014

Last October I had the opportunity to partake in Imen McDonnell's Lens & Larder Retreat. The magnificent Ballynahinch Castle & it's surrounding area was the location for our retreat. An ideal spot, as at every turn there was the opportunity to capture a perfectly beautiful photo. I've been meaning to share a few of those pics, but with cookery classes, columns & Christmas, I'm only now getting the chance to pop them on here for you to see. 
A retreat based around food styling & photography was the brainchild of the wonderfully talented Imen McDonnell. By her side were Cliodhna Prendergast of Breaking Eggs and her husband, Patrick O'Flaherty, the manager of the castle, and together they created the perfect food lovers retreat. Our teachers were Beth Kirby, of Local Milk fame, and Susan Spungen, who happens to be one of Hollywood's top food stylists. I learnt much from these ladies and thoroughly enjoyed simply being a part of their company for the few days. From mushroom foraging to candlelit dinners in the castle, we were truly spoilt. 

Susan demonstrating how to cook and style a galette. These delicious galettes were packed with mushrooms we had just foraged from the near-by woods.   

The Old School House, Inishlacken - our shoot location for day two of the retreat. 

Susan and Cliodhna preparing the lobsters for their photoshoot. 

Beth setting up one of our scenes for photographing. 
There were so many opportunities to photograph something pretty, but I loved the simplicity of the old stone walls of the school house, they made for a wonderful backdrop. 
Imen has indicated that there may be another retreat planned for the near future, so keep an eye on her blog for updates. Even three months on, I'm still mulling over all that I learnt on the retreat, naturally from Susan and Beth, who were ever generous with their teachings, but also through the conversations I had with my fellow Lens & Larder participants who each, in their own right, are inspiring creatives.  

Saturday, January 10, 2015

New Year, Same Resolution

Another new year brings another batch of resolutions. However, if you're anything like me, the main resolution may be similar to the one decided upon last year, and possibly even the year before that. The most common one, which I'm sure many of us vow to on January 1st, is to eat less and move more. Never is this sentiment more concreted in my mind than after an indulgent fortnight of festive feasting. After many years of striving for smaller dress sizes it’s clear to me what I need to do. A little bit of regular exercise is essential and staying clear of cakes and snacks is paramount. It sounds so simple, doesn't it? However, experience reminds me, that keeping the hand out of the cookie jar can sometimes prove a little harder than it sounds, and sticking on the trainers, when all I want to do is collapse on the sofa, isn't an easy task either. If I’ve to have any hope of success with my New Year’s pledge I have to choose my lunch and dinner dishes carefully. My mealtimes are normally filled with nutritious dishes, and I know that this is essential to a healthier life. Certainly for me when I’ve enjoyed a nutritionally filling meal, I’m a little less likely to scoff a pile of biscuits after. This soup recipe I’m sharing with you today is one of my children’s favourites, and it happens to make a delicious lunch. Serve it with a few slices of brown bread and a little green salad for a satisfying, calorie-conscious meal. To anyone who’s en route to their health kick 2015, the very best of luck!

Potato, Leek & Sage Soup

Serves 4
30g butter
2 leeks, whites only, sliced
450g potatoes, peeled and diced
1 onion, diced
Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper
Handful of sage, about 15 leaves, plus a few for serving
1 lt chicken stock
150ml milk


  1. Melt the butter in a large saucepan. When it begins to foam add the leek, potato and onion stir to combine with the butter.
  2. Sprinkle with a little salt, a few grinds of pepper and the sage leaves. Place a butter wrapper or a piece of greaseproof paper over the vegetables, to help them sweat. Cover with the lid of the saucepan. Sweat over a low heat for about 10 minutes, making sure the vegetables don’t stick to the bottom of the saucepan.
  3. When the vegetables are soft but not coloured, and the stock, and continue to cook for another 15 minutes until the vegetables are soft.
  4. Using a hand blender or a food processor purée the soup until it is smooth. Taste and season, if necessary. Pour in the milk and stir well to combine.
  5. Pour the soup into serving bowls and garnish each with two sage leaves and, for those who aren't watching calories, add a little drizzle of cream. 

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Grow, Cook, Eat

My Dad was a wonderful gardener. After we moved into our home seven years ago, he developed the most beautiful vegetable and fruit patch for us. From spuds to loganberries, a little of everything was planted that first year. Even though I would never describe myself as an avid gardener, I found over the years as my passion for food heightened the love of growing my own food was ever so satisfying. Many of the recipes I develop are driven by what’s in season, and quite often what’s on offer to me from my garden. So, when the opportunity came about to contribute a couple of my recipes to a new Irish Grow It Yourself cookbook I accepted the invitation immediately. The book is called Grow, Cook, Eat, and its author is Michael Kelly, who is the founder of Grow It Yourself Ireland. The book was released last month, and already it has received an array of wonderful reviews in the media. I must say that I can see why; it’s a beautifully put together book and it is extremely informative. The book is essentially a month-by-month GIY guide to growing and cooking your own food, and it includes an abundance of tips and practical advice on how to be a successful kitchen gardener. Each month’s guide is supported by seasonal recipes, which have been contributed by some of the top chefs and cooks in the media, including Darina Allen, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Donal Skehan. It really is a wonderful piece of work, and I feel truly honoured to be included in such a prestigious book. If you have a loved who has any sort of interest in growing their own food, this would make an ideal gift for them this Christmas. Grow, Cook, Eat, by Michael Kelly, is edited by Cristíona Kiely, and published by GIY Ireland. All proceeds from sales will be invested back into the GIY movement and will go towards funding Grow HQ, the organisation’s national food education centre, which will open in Waterford in 2015 on a three-acre site at Ardkeen. You can pick up a copy of the book online or in any good bookstore.