For many years I have wanted to be one of the diners at RTE's The Restaurant. Having applied many times this year was the first time I had the detailed phone interview with Lisa- a researcher with RTE. At first I was slightly nervous but I soon realised that I could answer any of Lisa's questions and by the end of the telephone conversation I felt like I was merely having a chat with someone who shared a passion for food. She has the difficult job of combing through thousands of applicants to find 32 diners for each show. Maitre'D John made us aware of how lucky we were to be 'the chosen ones'!!


Here I am with my fellow diners my sisters Fiona and Dervilla. Before we got near a dinner menu we were seated in the lounge area of The Wineport where wine was free flowing. Unfortunately we were one of the last tables to get seated so we had almost 2 1/2 hours here. We didn't mind as we were excited about the prospect of getting seated and the time pasted easily by chatting with other diners and watching the crew putting everything in its place for the show!


John Healy, the Maitre'D, giving the diners advise on what to say and more importantly not to say while on camera. His relaxed nature was quite calming for any that were beginning to feel a little 'camera shy'! His good humour and witty comments had everyone in stitches!


I must say that I wasn't terribly impressed with my meal but I wasn't disappointed either. We knew that the show was being filmed as a cook-off. On reading the menu we were sure that it must be a 3 star cook-off but after having the meal we were more convinced that it could be a 2 star cook-off. To our amazement(and the critics) it was a 5 star cook-off. However there were some good elements to the menu. Amanda Brunker (pictured below) was one of the chefs and even tough her menu didn't win our table actually preferred her choice of dishes. Her starter of scallops were fairly standard but delicious non the less! I enjoyed her Beef and Guinness Pie but again it wasn't extraordinary however I found her Mille Feuille dessert with Rhubarb and custard served with a ginger ice-cream overly sweet.
Fintan O' Toole was the other celebrity chef and even though he won the cook-off I would find it hard to compliment any aspects of his menu. He served his butternut squash soup (which was fairly nice) with game livers on toast. I'm neither a fan of game or livers and served this way would not encourage me to eat either in the future! His main was smoked mackerel and pork belly with beetroot and horseradish- all perfectly fine but it wasn't a combination that I particularly liked. Fintan's dessert was a baked toblerone cheesecake which sounds luscious but I found it to be fairly flavourless.
Even though we weren't blown away by the food the whole experience was fantastic. The staff and the team behind The Restaurant were all so friendly and each were eager to make sure all diners were enjoying their night out. It certainly would make one would feel like they were in a very well run restaurant and not on a television set!!







It was a real pleasure to meet Tom Doorley. He was warm and eager to engage in conversation with any interested diners. Earlier that week he had sent out a tweet looking for a recommendation for lunch. I suggested that he and Paulo should try The Fatted Calf in Glasson. This charming restaurant also impressed Tom and Paulo and both gave The Fatted Calf rave reviews in that weekends' papers.


Louise Lennox is as bubbly and friendly off camera as she appears on camera even after a long day in the kitchen. For a lady who self admittedly loves her desserts she is tiny!!!!


If you missed the show it will be on RTE Player until January 19th- The Restaurant- 5 star Cook Off

RTE accept applications all year round and contact the lucky diners a few weeks before filming. If you would like the chance to enjoy a meal at The Restaurant CLICK HERE and submit an entry. Good Luck!!!


Like many Irish, I have been wishing for a White Christmas for many years. Dashing through the snow and Walking in a winter wonderland all sound quite dreamy, and look extremely tempting on a music video, however after a day or two of being house bound, and the hardship that these extreme temperatures bring, the dream of snow soon turns into a nightmare for many!!



Admittedly the snow makes the otherwise bland winter countryside look simply amazing. Snow is an ideal canvas for the keen photographer. Therefore I had to try to capture a few foodie pictures out in this ready made photo shoot.
My eldest boy Jack recently saw Nigella Lawson make these Christmas Biscuits and decided that they would make the perfect treat for Santa. They were very easy to make and tasted really yummy. Jack now has his own blog with plenty of kid-friendly recipes. He has gone to the extra effort of putting a video clip of Nigella demonstrating these biscuits. I'm very proud of this young man- check out his blog iJack O D.

The boys decorating the biscuits- a messy combination -boys and melted chocolate!


Ingredients
250g soft butter
150g caster sugar
40g cocoa powder
300g plain flour
½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 teaspoon baking powder

For The Festive Topping
2 x 15ml tablespoons cocoa powder
175g icing sugar
60ml boiling water, from a kettle
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Christmas Sprinkles
Smarties (optional)

Method
1. Preheat the oven to 170̊C/ gas mark 3 and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
2. Cream the butter and sugar in a bowl and, when you have a light, soft whipped mixture, beat in the 40g cocoa powder (sifting if it is lumpy) and, when that's mixed in, beat in the flour with the baking soda and baking powder. Or just put everything in the processor and blitz, if you prefer.
3. This mixture is very soft and sticky so roll about a tablespoon full into balls, then slightly flatten into fat discs as you place them, well spaced, on your cookies sheet. You should get about 12 on at a time.
4. Bake each batch for 15 minutes; even though the cookies won't feel as if they've had enough time, they will continue to cook as they cool. They will look slightly cracked.
5. Move the cookie sheet to a cold surface and let it sit for 15 minutes before transferring the cookies to a wire rack, with a sheet of newspaper under it (to catch drips while topping them).
6. To make the topping, put the cocoa powder, confectioners' sugar, water and vanilla extract into a small saucepan and whisk over a low heat until everything is smoothly combined. Take off the heat for 10 minutes.
7. When the cookies are cool, drizzle each one with a tablespoonful of chocolate glaze—it will help "glue" the sprinkles on in a minute. Use the back of the spoon to help spread the mixture, though an uneven dribbled look is part of their charm.
8. After you've iced 6 cookies, scatter with some of the Christmas sprinkles and continue until all the cookies are topped. If you ice them all before sprinkling, you will find the cocoa "glue" has dried and the sprinkles won't stick on.
For an alternative topping just melt some milk chocolate and drizzle over each biscuit then top with some smarties.


b

The Noric Diet is the latest cookbook from Trina Hahnemann. I have been reading though it and trying out some of the recipes over the past couple of weeks and I must say that it has proven to be a rather good read. As you may of gathered from my blog 'low fat' dishes don't often make an appearance here, however I am ever conscience of eating food that ultimately benefits our health. My one downfall with 'low fat' food is that I often find these dishes to be not only low in fat but also low in flavour. This was not the case with the recipes in this cookbook. I tried a number of Trina's recipes and I must admit I was pleasantly surprised.  I tried out the shower buns (pictured above and below) which were completely effortless. The ingredients are mixed together and left in the fridge over night and the following morning little moulds of dough turn into delicious, healthy, fresh,  homemade bread rolls. I also made the Spelt pancakes with blueberries and the Raspberry lime sorbet - both were very easy to prepare and tasted delicious!





I found this book extremely refreshing as this is much more than just a healthy living cookbook but more of a guide to a healthy way of life. Trina offers really practical lifestyle advice with many delicious recipe to back up her plan.  The photography is beautiful and very encorging to even a novice chef. My only criticism of this book would be that many of the recipes include fairly elaborate ingredients for the home chef. That said each ingredients is highlighted for it's health benefits and if you are starting a new healthy living regime it is more than likely necessary to swap some of your store cupboard ingredients with a healthier alternative.
If, like me, you begin each year with the resolution to a healthier year then this is one book which may just help you to achieve this. We all know that what we eat is crucial and Trina claims that through this book you can eat your way to health and happiness. I intend on putting this book to good use and will try to follow the Nordic Plan in the New Year ( once all the Christmas chocolate is gone out of the press!!!).




We have a plentiful supply of Butternut Squash in the house at the moment as it is currently Millie's favourite baby puree. It is such a deliciously sweet veg that it makes the perfect introduction to the veggie world for a little one!
At this time of the year there are so many 'colds' and 'flus' hanging around in the air. More than ever you should try to stock up on some extra nutrients to help guard you against these seasonal bugs!! There are certainly many good reasons to incorporate Butternut Squashes into your diet. This Super Veg is packed with wonderful health benefits. They have a significant amount of potassium, Vitamin B6 and Folate. They are also low in fat, high in fibre and one portion provides you with half of the recommended daily dose of Vit C.
One of the best ways to cook a Butternut Squash is to roast it, then mash it, puree it for soup, add it to pasta or risotto or I would often just serve the roasted squash as is!!
This is a simple recipe which makes a nice change from the veg you may normally serve with a meal.



Ingredients
1/2 Butternut squash
6 cloves garlic
2 tbsp rapeseed oil/ olive oil
1 teasp corriander seeds, crushed
1/4 teasp chilli powder
1 teasp smoked paprika
sea salt
freshly ground pepper

Method
1. Chop the butternut squash into even sized cubes.
2. Combine the coriander seeds, chilli powder and smoked paprika with a pestle and mortar.
3. Place the squash in an oven proof dish and sprinkle over the spice mix.
4. Drizzle over the rapeseed oil/olive oil to evenly coat the squash. Mix well and sprinkle with a little sea salt and some freshly ground pepper.
5. Bake in a pre- heated oven at 180 c/ 350 f for 30- 40 mins until the squash is soft but still has a bit of a bite.






Chocolate fondant has to be the ultimate chocolate lovers dessert! A hot pudding that has a molten middle makes it completely irresistible. This fondant is a basic recipe but if you would like to vary the taste, a splash of Baileys can be added to the melted chocolate. A chocolate orange version would also be delicious by adding the finely grated zest of an orange and a shot of orange liqueur. I normally make fondants with chocolate that has 70% cocoa solids however to make them a little less rich I recently used a combination of 70% with 46% - (that I bought in Lidl) and the result was a little lighter but still very luscious.

The beauty of this extravagant dessert is the fact that it can be made well in advance as they are better if allowed to rest for a few hours before cooking. Once in the ramekin the uncooked fondant will sit happily in the fridge overnight or can be frozen for up to 1 month. To bake from frozen add 5 mins to the cooking time. Once cooked the fondant should be soft in the centre but able to hold their shape. Always test one and if it collapses simply cook for a couple more minutes.

It has to be said that this dessert is a little bit tricky however I have a few tips for you to follow which will result in a flawless fondant.

1. To ensure the puddings don't stick it is essential to have the ramekins prepared properly. (See pics below)
2. Always make a few more than you need to allow for testing if the fondants are perfectly cooked.
3. This recipe makes 10-11 fondants. Someone has to do the 'taste test' so why not make the mixture the day before you need them and test 2 out in your own oven to see exactly how long they take to cook. Mine were 13 mins but this may vary according to your ramekin size and if there is something else in the oven.





Ingredients
50g melted butter, for brushing
Cocoa powder, for dusting
200g good-quality dark chocolate, chopped into small pieces
200g butter, in small pieces
200g golden caster sugar
4 eggs and 4 yolks
200g plain flour

Caramel sauce

250g caster sugar
142ml pot double cream
50g butter

Method

  1. First get your moulds ready. Using upward strokes, heavily brush the melted butter all over the inside of the pudding mould. Place the mould in the fridge or freezer. Brush more melted butter over the chilled butter, then add a good spoonful of cocoa powder into the mould. Tip the mould so the powder completely coats the butter. Tap any excess cocoa back into the jar, then repeat with 1 the next mould.
  2. Place a bowl over a pan of barely simmering water, then slowly melt the chocolate and butter together. Remove bowl from the heat and stir until smooth. Leave to cool for about 10 mins.
  3. In a separate bowl whisk the eggs and yolks together with the sugar until thick and pale and the whisk leaves a trail; use an electric whisk if you want. Sift the flour into the eggs, then beat together.
  4. Pour the melted chocolate into the egg mixture in thirds, beating well between each addition, until all the chocolate is added and the mixture is completely combined to a loose cake batter.
  5. Tip the fondant batter into a jug, then evenly divide between the moulds. The fondants can now be frozen for up to a month and cooked from frozen. Chill for at least 20 mins or up to the night before. To bake from frozen, simply carry on as stated, adding 5 mins more to the cooking time.
  6. Heat oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6. Place the fondants on a baking tray, then cook for 10-12 mins until the tops have formed a crust and they are starting to come away from the sides of their moulds. Remove from the oven, then leave to sit for 1 min before turning out.
  7. Loosen the fondants by moving the tops very gently so they come away from the sides, easing them out of the moulds. Tip each fondant slightly onto your hand so you know it has come away, then tip back into the mould ready to plate up.
  8. Starting from the middle of each plate, squeeze a spiral of caramel sauce - do all the plates you need before you go on to the next stage.
  9. Sit a fondant in the middle of each plate. Using a large spoon dipped in hot water, scoop a 'quenelle' of ice cream. Carefully place the ice cream on top of the fondant, then serve immediately. Repeat with the rest of the fondants.
For Carmel Sauce
  1. Tip the sugar into a heavy-based frying pan, stir in 4 tbsp water, then place over a medium heat until the sugar has dissolved.
  2. Turn up the heat and bubble for 4-5 mins until you have caramel - a light golden brown colour. Watch this very carefully as the sugary mix can turn from a light golden colour to burnt caramel very quickly. Take off the heat, then carefully stir in the cream and butter. Leave the sauce to cool, then pour into a squeezy bottle.
  3. This sauce will keep for at least a week in the fridge.


On the first Friday of each month enthusiastic cooks from around the country are united around a virtual dining table where they all prepare and cook a meal centered around a particular theme. This is known as the Irish Foodies Cookalong. November's theme was quite appropriately 'winter warmers' and with so many recipes to choose from the possibilities for me were endless. Eventually I decided to cook a good old Chilli- perfectly suitable for cold weather and has the ability to heat you up in more ways than one!
I had seeen Nigella adding some dark chocolate to her Chilli Con Carne and it looked delicious. I based this recipe on Nigella's version substituting kidney beans for chick peas. This was a good tip given to me by my friend Erika who found the latter was better received by kids!! I found the addition of Guinness really complements the spicy flavours quite well. As with most hearty stews this tastes even better the day after cooking and freezes well.
If like me you are currently housebound due to snow why not make a big pot of chilli, freeze it and enjoy a cook free day over the Christmas holidays!!


Spiced Chocolate Chip Chilli

Ingredients
150g chorizo
900g/ 2lbs shin of beef cut into three quarter inch cubes
2 large onions
3 cloves garlic
1 long red chilli, seeded
rapeseed oil/ olive oil
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tbsp tomato puree
2 tbsp tomato ketchup
1x400g (14oz) tin chick peas
2x 400g (14oz) tin chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp sugar
25g dark chocolate chips
250mls Guinness
100mls water (swilled out in the chopped tomato cans)

Method
Preheat the oven to 150c/325F/gas 2.
1.Finely chop, or process the onion, garlic and chilli. Heat the oil in a large pan and fry this mixture until soft, add the cumin, coriander and cinnamon.
2. Stir the oniony-spiced mixture together and then add the sausages sliced into eighth-inch coins.
3. Drop in the cubes of beef turning them in the pan with the sausages to brown the meat.
4. Stir in the tomato puree, tomatoes, ketchup and drained chick peas.
5. Add the guinness and water and bring the chili to a boil, sprinkle over the chocolate and stir it all together. 6. Season with salt, pepper and sugar. Once simmering cover the pan with a lid.
6. Put the chilli in the oven and cook for 3 hours. Once cooked it is best left overnight as the flavour improves.

To serve
Creamy mashed potatoes or Basmati Rice
Grated Chedder cheese- sprinkle over before serving
Sour cream (to cool things down!) - a dollop on the side


What a wonderful sight upon opening the curtains this morning. Snow as far as the eye could see and more continuing to fall on the already thick blanket. I do love the idea of snow but from a practical point of view it really is most disruptive to daily life. Of course if there was a viable option of curling up on the sofa with a hot chocolate and an early viewing of 'What a Wonderful Life', I have to admit it would be a tempting way to spend a few hours. However with four young children housebound and many hungry animals outside, the snow generally means a busier work day for me!


My poor hens took some encouragement to leave their warm house for their breakfast this morning!!

This little Willy Wag Tail always arrives on the back doorstep on cold winters days in search of a 'take away'!!


Since we weren't venturing too far I decided to bake a few breads with the boys. We made some white soda(a firm favourite), multiseed brown bread(my favourite) and some white yeast breads, which never fails to wow as the dough quickly doubles in size before your eyes!!


The boys couldn't wait to make a snowman and go exploring around the house, following all the tiny footprints of animals and birds that had walked through the snow earlier.



Fionn did brave the snow but after a few minutes he decided the cold weather wasn't for him!! He may be only 3 but he certainly enjoys his home comforts.



The recipe below is a basic recipe and once you master this method there are so many different variations you can try. It takes time and patience but once you taste a buttery slice of fresh homemade bread you will agree that it is worth the wait.
.

Ingredients

2 tsp caster sugar
425 ml warm water
7g/ 1 sachet dried yeast, or 20g fresh yeast
750 g strong bread flour, plus extra for dusting
2 tsp salt
40 g butter, or 4 tbsp olive oil
vegetable oil, for greasing
1 egg, beaten
poppy or sesame seeds, for the top of the loaf (optional)

Method

1. In a measuring jug, mix the sugar with 150ml of the warm water and yeast and let stand in a warm place for five minutes, or until frothy. If using fast-acting yeast, there is no need to let the mixture stand. 
2. Sift the flour and salt into a large bowl. Rub in the butter and make a well in the centre. (If using olive oil instead of butter, pour the olive oil into the remaining water.) Pour in the yeast mixture and most of the remaining water (and the olive oil, if using). Mix to a loose dough, adding the remaining water if needed, plus extra if necessary. 
3. Knead for about ten minutes or until the dough is smooth and springy to the touch. (If kneading in an electric food mixer with a dough hook, five minutes is usually long enough.) Put the dough in a large oiled bowl. Cover the top tightly with cling film and place somewhere warm to rise until doubled in size. This may take up to two or even three hours. 
4. Preheat the oven to 220C/gas 7. 
5. When the dough has more than doubled in size, knock back and knead again for 2–3 minutes. Leave to relax for ten minutes before you begin to shape the bread. 
6. Shape the bread into loaves or rolls (I made 2 small loaves with recipe) transfer to a baking tray and cover with a clean tea towel. Allow to rise again in a warm place for 20–30 minutes, until the shaped dough has again doubled in size. When fully risen, it should leave a dent when you gently press the dough with your finger. 
7. Gently (as the bread is full of air at this point and therefore very fragile) brush with egg wash and sprinkle with poppy or sesame seeds (if using), or dust lightly with flour for a rustic-looking loaf. 
8. Bake in the oven for 10–15 minutes for rolls or 30–45 minutes for a loaf, depending on its size. Turn the heat down to 200C/gas 6 after 15 minutes for the remaining cooking time. When cooked, the bread should sound hollow when tapped on the base. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. 



This recipe is taken from Rachel Allen's Bake.


My husband recently bought me the movie Julie and Julia and I found it intriguing. It is a film based not only on one of the most influential ladies in cooking, Julia Child, but also on a young lady who 'blogs' about her culinary experiences while trying out Julia's recipes. Julia Child was completely passionate about everything food related and her enthusiasm for sharing this great love was certainly inspirational. My synopsis doesn't do the film any justice but for any 'foodies' this film is a joy to watch. One of Julia's most famous recipes would have to be her Beef Bourguignon. This dish is also the centerpiece of an impressive food scene in the film. Julia Child has a very distinctive accent and her pronunciation alone of ' Beef Bourguignon' would encourage one to try it out.

As with so many classic dishes there are many varied recipes for the ever popular Beef Bourguignon. It is a hearty stew that greatly benefits from slow cooking over a long period. The quality of the wine is important and even tough I wouldn't use an expensive bottle of red I would recommend you use a bottle that is drinkable. When cooking with wine, be it red or white, the rule is not to cook with any wine that you wouldn't drink!

The perfect accompaniment for beef bourguignon would be creamy mashed potatoes. This substantial dish with it's wholesome flavours makes it the perfect winter meal. Another addition to cooking Bourguignon is the wonderful aroma in the kitchen while this dish is cooking. It is simply incredible!!




Ingredients:

2tbsp olive oil/ rapeseed oil
1.5 kg stewing beef, chopped
180g streaky bacon, chopped
1 onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, crushed
2tbsp plain flour
salt and freshly ground pepper
2tbsp tomato puree
500mls red wine
300mls beef stock or 1 Knorr Beef Stock Pot in 300mls boilng water
500g carrots chopped
2 sprigs thyme
2 bay leaves
25g butter
250g mushrooms

To Serve:
Creamy Mashed Potatoes

Method:
1. Preheat the oven to 180c/gas 4.
2. Toss the beef in some seasoned flour.
3. Heat the oil in the dish and cook the beef in batches.
4. Heat a little more oil in the dish and add the bacon, onion and garlic. Cook for five mins until golden then add the carrots and tomato puree. Gradually add the wine and the beef stock.
5. Add the cooked beef, thyme and bay to the dish. Cover and cook in the oven for 2 hours.
6. Meanwhile melt the butter and cook the mushrooms for 5 mins. Add to the dish and return to the oven for an additional 15mins.
7. Season and serve with creamy mashed potatoes.




In Julia style all there is to say is 'Bon Appetit'!!!

The lovely people at Quadrillle Press sent me Bill Granger's latest book review and what an interesting read it proved to be. Bill's calm, relaxed nature is completely reflected in his latest book-'Bill's Basics'. The book is packed with a large variety of classic recipes catering for every meal from lazy Sunday breakfast to an elegant supper. There are many recipes that will be familiar to restaurant goers which are adapted for the 'home chef' to include French Onion Soup,Thai Beef Salad, Lamb Shank Tagine with Apricots and Spaghetti Carbonara. Bill admits to having a 'sweet tooth' and he has included 9 dessert recipes which are certainly worthy of their place in the book. They are all traditional desserts with Bill's own special twist!! I made the Baked Lemon Cheesecake which was easy to prepare but the result was delicious. I barely had a slice left to take the photos above and below!! Bill also has a full chapter dedicated to baking where he reassures the inexperience baker that practice is paramount for successful baking.

As a self-taught chef Bill's no- nonsense approach to cooking is enlightening and this shines through in every dish. His recipes are a breeze to follow using easy to source ingredients.

The photography is simple yet beautiful and would encourage even a novice cook to make their way into the kitchen!! This would make a wonderful addition to any keen chefs cookbook collection




Baked Lemon Cheesecake

Ingredients
125g plain sweet biscuits (digestives are best)
50g ground almonds
70g unsalted butter, melted
500g cream cheese, softened
220g caster sugar
4 eggs
1 egg yolk
Grated zest and juice of 1 large lemon
400g soured cream/ 250mls double cream, whipped
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
To serve:
Icing sugar, to dust

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 140°C/gas mark 1 and grease and line the base of a 26cm round springform tin.
  2. Mix the biscuits to crumbs in a food processor. Mix together the biscuit crumbs, ground almonds and melted butter and press into the bottom of the tin. Put in the fridge while you make the topping.
  3. Mix the cream cheese and sugar in a food processor until smooth. Add the eggs, egg yolk, lemon zest and juice and mix again.
  4. Add the soured cream and vanilla extract and mix again until completely smooth.
  5.  Pour the filling over the base and bake for 1 hour (the cheesecake will still have a definite wobble in the centre). Turn the oven off and cool inside for 1 hour. Transfer to a wire rack to leave the cheesecake to cool completely before covering and refrigerating overnight. 
  6. Run a knife around the inside edge of the tin to loosen the cheesecake, then lift off the side. 
  7. Dust with icing sugar to serve.



The cheesecake benefits from overnight refrigeration as this improves the texture.



If you would like to purchase this book it's available on Amazon UK.





Thank you to everyone who entered the competition and the winner of Neven Maguire's Home Chef Cookbook is........ Ken McGuire.



Donal setting up a shot for his Grasshopper Pies.

On Saturday I had great day at The Irish Food Bloggers Association Food Styling/Photography workshop. On hand to deliver plenty of advice were Sharon Hearn-Smith and Donal Skehan. Both really nice people with a shared passion for food and how to make each dish simply beautiful when shot on camera. Sharon is responsible for so many of the impressively styled dishes in magazines, cookbook, T.V. ads, films and many more. She also showcases some of her photos and recipes on her website Blueberry Pie and her blogs Friendly Cottage and Sharon Hearne-Smith. Donal writes the most amazing food blog - The Good Mood Food Blog and he seems to be appearing everywhere these days!!! I picked up really useful tips on setting up my photos for the blog and plenty of inside secrets on how the professionals get their food photographs to look so tempting. I'm looking forward to putting all their advice into practice.

Sharon brought these adorable Blueberry Pies for us to enjoy with coffee.

Sharon giving us an insight into the ad she styled for Cully & Sully.
 Sometimes my boys really make me laugh with their comments and requests. I am completely obsessed with food - reading about it, writing about it, talking about it, cooking it and of course eating it. So, it is no surprise the young men in my life all enjoy their food too.
Since I've become somewhat engrossed in the whole 'blogging' thing the boys have accepted that Mammy is constantly photographing them either preparing or eating their food. Generally, I get a few groans and complaints that I'm delaying them tucking into their dish. However last weekend I made Pancakes with the boys and to my amazement Fionn (age3) didn't dive straight into his. First, he re-rolled the pancake, sprinkled some more sugar on top, placed his fork on the side and said 'now will you take a photo for the blog'. I laughed and in fairness to him he did quite a good job. Maybe I have a food stylist in the making? Continuing with the theme of 'foodie' children, before hopping out of the car this morning Tiarnan turned to me and said 'Mammy can you make me some Brie with Strawberry Coulis for me after school?'. My first response was that I was unsure if I had all the needed ingredients then amazement hit me that my 5 year old would put in such an order. With one little look and a 'please I' d love it Mammy' I was smitten, both by the elaborate request and the delivery of same. Well, I am a sucker for food requests especially when it is a dish I enjoy myself. So as promised Tiarnan's Breaded Brie with Strawberry Coulis awaited him on his return from a busy day at school. These boys certainly keep me busy with their varied palate but I do so love that they enjoy their food and it's never a chore to cook for those who appreciate it most.



This is actually my first attempt at making pumpkin soup. Each year on scooping out the flesh for making Jack O Lanterns I vow to either make pumpkin soup or pumpkin pie but generally my good intentions are in vain as I get preoccupied with  baking goodies for Halloween night. This soup is actually fairly easy to put together and once the flesh is ready for the pot there is little else to do.  I have added some spice to the ingredients but a couple of teaspoons of curry powder would also work well. I was pleasantly surprised that my boys also tried the soup and enjoyed it.
Take the top off the pumpkin and place a warmed bowl into the hollowed pumpkin as an interesting way to present this soup to guests. As pumpkins are now so readily available and cheap this is the perfect dish for a crew before they go Trick or Treating!!
Happy Halloween!!!


Ingredients:
25g butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
Ground pepper
1 tin of tomatoes
900g pumpkin
1.5 litres chicken stock
200ml Fresh cream
Method:
1. Heat the oil and butter in a large saucepan and add the pumpkin, onion and garlic. Cover and sweat over a low heat until softened.
2. Add the spices, pepper and tomatoes to the pan .
3. Stir in the chicken stock, bring to the boil then reduce the heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes.
3. Purée with a hand-held blender. Adjust the seasoning. Add the cream, warm briefly then serve, sprinkled with chopped parsley.