Friday, March 28, 2014

Mother’s Day Meringues & Memories


Mother’s Day is one of those occasions that I find most difficult to face since my mother passed away. Even though I am a mother myself, and my little people always spoil me something rotten on this day, I can’t but feel desperately lonely. Mother’s Day always makes me reflect on the past and in turn I yearn for my mother’s busy kitchen, packed to the brim with chat, delicious food and love. My mother was one my greatest inspirations in life, and in so many ways I still aspire to make her proud. For those who are lucky enough cherish the time you spend with your Mother this Mother’s Day. And for those immersed in grief, even if like me you are a few years on, let’s take this day as an opportunity to give thanks for the women who helped to mould us into the people we've become.






Meringues Sandwiched with Lemon Curd & Cream

My mother had a real soft spot for meringues. Whether celebrating or commiserating, meringues seemed to always be a suitable treat. They are so simple to make and I'd happily crunch on them without any topping, however when paired with softly whipped cream and tart lemon curd they really turn into something special. For me, these are the perfect treat to make for Mother’s Day.

Ingredients
3 large egg whites
150g caster sugar

To assemble
150mls cream, whipped
100g lemon curd

Method
1.    Preheat the oven to 140°C/ fan 120°C/ gas mark 1. Line two baking trays with parchment paper.
2.   Place the egg whites into a clean, stainless steel mixing bowl. Using an electric whisk, on a high speed, beat them until they become thick and fluffy.
3.   Continue to whisk the egg whites and very gradually add the sugar. Continue to beat for at least 5 minutes, or until the mixture can form stiff peaks.
4.      Using a dessert spoon scoop a spoonful of mixture and scrape it off with another spoon onto the lined baking trays. This amount of mixture should make 12 meringues.
5.      Place in the preheated oven for 1 hour. After which time turn off the oven and open its door and allow the meringues to cool.
6.      When completely cooled sandwich two meringues together with a spoonful of lemon curd and some freshly whipped cream.




Monday, March 3, 2014

Perfectly Plump Pancakes


In our house pancakes are never limited to Shrove Tuesday, but are enjoyed whenever there is a little extra time to spare in the mornings. Occasionally if it's a special occasion, say like a birthday, pancakes will always be on the food request list. Pancakes are so easy to prepare and they rarely create too much of a mess, so they're ideal to make with little ones. The boys are planning on having pancakes for their breakfast, dinner and tea tomorrow, so I may get cracking with the batter-making! 


These pancakes can be made plain, but for a fruity pancake mix, I like to add a handful of mashed blueberries or strawberries, or a grated apple, or some mashed ripe banana to the batter. It just really depends on what I have to hand. This recipe is for thick 'American style' pancakes. If you would prefer more of a 'crepe like' pancake just add a little extra milk to the batter and spread it out evenly on the pan at the start of cooking. 



Perfectly Plump Pancakes

Ingredients
150g self-raising flour
pinch of salt
225mls milk
1 egg
50g blueberries/strawberries, mashed, or 1 eating apple, grated
sunflower oil, for frying

To Serve
fresh berries
maple syrup or apple syrup

Method
1. Place the flour and salt in a bowl.
2. Make a well in the centre and add the egg. Slowly combine it with the flour, using a hand whisk
3. Very slowly add the milk, whisking well after each addition.
4. When the batter is nice and smooth add the mashed blueberries or grated apple. Combine well and then pour into a jug and cover with cling film. Refrigerate for at least an hour. The batter can be used straight away but it tends to have a better consistency when left to rest. Give the batter a little whisk before cooking.
5. Heat the frying pan and add a little sunflower oil.
6. Add 3 small ladlefuls of batter onto the pan. Cook for 2 minutes or until some bubbles appear on the surface. Using a spatula or fish slice to turn the pancake over and brown the other side.
7. To keep the cooked pancakes warm place in a low heated oven and continue cooking the rest of the pancakes. Add the toppings of your choice.

Enjoy straight away!
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Some more pancake inspiration -

Kristin at Edible Ireland shares her recipe for Salted Nutella & Banana Pancakes...these sound amazing.

Rosanne has some adorable looking Buttermilk pancakes over on her blog - Like Mam Used to Bake.

These nutrient-rich Pear Pancakes, from Dorcas Barry, are so tasty and they are a great, healthy alternative for Pancake Tuesday.
Donal Skehan shares a delicious savory Pancake recipe, filled with Ham Hock, Spinach and Cheese.
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There are many more interesting pancake recipes on the web. Feel free to share your favourite pancake recipe, or pancake toppings, in the comment box below. I'm always on the lookout to try something tried, tested and loved!

Friday, February 14, 2014

A Treat for your Valentine - Spicy Prawns & Chorizo on Toast


 If I am making a meal just for my husband and I to enjoy, I general rustle up something that the children aren't so keen on. Even though my crew seem to eat me out of house and home on a daily basis, there are some food items that I can’t tempt them with. One of those is shellfish. I happen to love shellfish, or any variety of fish, and I particularly love nothing better than serving it straight from the barbeque. However, as we are currently undergoing torrential weather warnings I don’t think that I'll risk dragging out the barbecue, even in the name of love, on Valentine’ s Day. Instead I'll settle for this quick and tasty oven baked prawn and chorizo dish. In lieu of that smokiness which I've come to love with barbecuing prawns I’ve sprinkled these with a little smoked paprika. This dish is prepared in minutes and is ever so tasty. So, my menu is set for Valentine’s and all I need now is to convince the children that they are all wrecked by 8.30pm so that I can cook this dish at a reasonable hour.


Oven-Baked Spicy Prawns & Chorizo on Toast

Ingredients
50g butter, softened
1 small red chilli, finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, crushed
½ tsp smoked paprika
Zest of ½ a lemon
200g raw prawns, deveined and defrosted, if necessary*
75g chorizo, sliced
1tbsp parsley, finely chopped
Juice half a lemon

To Serve
1 tbsp olive oil
2 thick slices of bread

Method
1.       Preheat the oven to 200°C/ fan 180°C/ gas 5.
2.       In a bowl combine the softened butter with the chilli, garlic, smoked paprika and lemon zest.
3.       Place the prawns and chorizo in a single layer in a casserole dish. Evenly cover with the butter mixture.
4.       Place in the pre-heated oven for 12 minutes, at which time the prawns will be cooked through and white in colour.
5.       While the prawns and chorizo are cooking, heat a griddle pan and add the olive oil. Once hot fry the bread for about 2 minutes on each side. Cut each slice of bread in half and remove to two plates.
6.       Take the prawns from the oven, sprinkle over the parsley and squeeze over the lemon juice. Divide the mixture between the two plates and enjoy straight away.

*If you are using frozen prawns, either thaw them in the fridge overnight, or in a bowl filled with ice water. Ensure that the prawns stay cold, as when bacterial growth is encouraged when raw prawns are left at room temperature.




The children always present me with the most beautiful hand-made cards and inscribed within are the words which will never fail to melt my heart ‘I love you, Mammy’. I truly treasure these cards each year. 
Whatever way that you choose to celebrate, have a happy Valentine's Day. xx

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Apron Strings - Shortlisted for the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards


 I'm so thrilled to tell you that my book, 'Apron Strings - Recipes from a Family Kitchen', is short-listed for an award at the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards. It is nominated in the 'Best First Cookbook' category. 'Apron Strings' is listed as the winner in the category of the 'First Cookbook' award for Ireland, which means that it is now short-listed for the world awards. There are 32 books, in this category nominated from all around the world. It's an absolute honour that 'Apron Strings' will be nestled amongst them.
The Awards will take place in China during the Beijing Cookbook Fair, 19-21 May. As much as I'd love to take a trip to Beijing I think that I'll settle for watching the awards unfold through the power of social media. 
There are eleven other Irish books nominated. Have a look at Gourmand's website and scroll down to 'Ireland' to see the other Irish winners. - http://www.cookbookfair.com/index.php/gourmand-awards/winners-2014-gg 
The very best of luck to all who are nominated! 


If you would like to purchase a copy of Apron Strings, New Island Books are currently selling it, from their website, for half price. Make sure to use the 50TEN2013 code on the checkout.
http://www.newisland.ie/books/bestsellers/apron-strings-recipes-family-kitchen/978-1-84840-241-6

Friday, January 24, 2014

Ballymaloe LitFest 2014 & Claudia Roden’s Moroccan Orange & Almond Cake


Imagine the excitement of being placed in a situation where you are completely immersed in one of your true passions in life. Then add to this a few of your living idols. This was my weekend at Ballymaloe’s first literary festival last May. Throughout the course of the festival all attending were treated to talks, discussions and demos from world-renowned food and wine writers. Furthermore, day and night, there were the most scrumptious menus imaginable. The weekend was filled with the greatest of devotion and excitement about the future of our food. On the Sunday evening, as I drove home from Ballymaloe, my mind was a flurry with all I had experienced. I already was eagerly hoping that Litfest would become an annual event and to my delight, within a few weeks, a date was set for Litfest 2014. So with this to mind, you'll understand how exhilarating it was for me to receive an email from Ballymaloe LitFest, asking if I would like to be included in this year’s speaker line-up. I am honoured beyond belief and, like a child before Christmas, I'm counting down the days to May 16th. One of the big draws to this year’s festival is author and broadcaster Yotam Ottolenghi {his dinner event sold out in 4 minutes.Thankfully I secured my ticket!}. 
There are many food writers flying in from all over the world, for the event, but there is also plenty of home-grown Irish talent. The Irish food blogging world will also be represented by Donal Skehan, Lilly Higgins, Caroline Hennessy and Imen McDonnell. Together we are on a panel, along with Tom Doorley and Tom Parker Bowles, which will be chaired by David Prior. The topic is "Food & Wine Blogging - No Publisher, No Editor - Is it Good Enough?". I expect that this topic will make for a very interesting discussion
I'm also taking part in a panel discussion about food styling and photography in cookbooks. I'll be joining Tim Hayward, Donal Skehan, Lily Higgins and Simon Hopkinson and we'll be in conversation with the lovely Rachel Allen. 

The tickets for Litfest went on sale last week. If you have any sort of an interest in food I’d urge you to book your spot on what promises to be another sensational weekend. All details of speakers and events can be found on litfest.ie.

Ballymaloe House

Claudia Roden’s Moroccan Orange & Almond Cake

As I’m on the topic of Litfest I would like to share with you the recipe of a cake I tasted at last year’s festival. It’s a recipe by the wonderful Claudia Roden. Ms. Roden is regarded as the most influential middle-eastern and Mediterranean food writer of her times. I happened to be sat next to her at dinner in Ballymaloe. We had a marvellous chat and with those who are truly great in their chosen fields she shared her incredible knowledge with such ease and modesty. This is one of her most famous cake recipes, as it truly is delicious, perfectly moist and it is also very easy to make.  It serves well as a dessert after a spicy meal, but as it is a little virtuous this cake makes for a marvelous elevenses. 

Ingredients
2 large organic oranges, washed
6 free range eggs
250g ground almonds
250g caster sugar
1 tsp baking powder


To Serve- {optional}
A grating of orange zest
whipped cream
26 cm springform round tin, with a removable base, buttered and floured

Method

1. Place the oranges, unpeeled, into a saucepan with 500 mls of water. Cover with a lid and allow to boil for 1 ½-2 hours, until the oranges have completely softened.
2. Preheat the oven to 190°C/fan 170°C /Gas Mark 5.

3. Let the oranges cool, then cut them open and remove the pips.  Make the oranges into a pulp by putting them in a food processor or an electric blender.
4. Whisk the eggs in a large bowl, and then add these along with the ground almonds, caster sugar and baking powder to the orange pulp in the processor. Mix thoroughly. Pour the mixture into the prepared cake tin.
5. Bake in the preheated oven for about 1 hour. If the cake is still very wet, leave it in the oven for a little longer. Cool in the tin before turning out onto a wire rack. Dust with icing sugar.

Friday, January 10, 2014

New Year's Juicing

I have never been a great believer in making New Year’s resolutions. I must admit that this is mainly founded on the fact that I find them too difficult to sustain. I have found year on year that my resolution to be two dress sizes smaller by the following Christmas never actually materialises, which I suppose in turn leads to my disbelief in the making of new year resolutions. This year I am choosing smaller, and dare I say much more realistic, goals which I should find more favourable and therefore with any luck they’ll be easier to achieve. One from this year’s list is to use my electric juicer more; I did say that I’m not aiming for anything over-ambitious! The juicing of fruit and vegetables is a wonderful way to include essential vitamins and minerals in one’s diet. The best time to drink freshly juiced fruit or vegetables is when your tummy is empty and therefore the optimal ammount of nutrients will be absorbed. 
This time of year is also a good time to pick one up at a reasonable price, and it will last you years. However if you don’t have a juicer, a blender can be used and then strain the contents through a sieve. This is one of my favourite juice combinations and mild tasting enough that the children also really enjoy it. 



Ingredients - Serves 1

4 carrots, washed and roughly chopped
2 red eating apple, chopped into chunks
1 large handful of spinach, washed and leaves roughly chopped
1 inch of fresh ginger
Juice of ¼ of a lemon

Method

Using an electric juice extractor, press each ingredient through, individually, collecting the juice. Pour into a glass and squeeze in the juice of ¼ of a lemon. Stir well and enjoy straight away. 

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Happy Moments from 2013

I'm just popping by to wish you all good health and happiness for 2014. Thank you for the support you gave to me in 2013. I'm looking forward to sharing more of my culinary adventures with you in the coming year. 

video

 'Flipagram' seems to be rather popular on all the social networking sites, over the past few days. Here's my little video that I made using some of my Instagram and Facebook photos. xx {This video may not be compatible with mobile devices.}
♫ Music: Bob Dylan - Forever Young
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