Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Sun Dried Tomatoes


I'm always guaranteed plenty of willing helpers when there is a promise of some cooking in the kitchen. This is my beautiful niece Sarah, who recently helped me to clean the greenhouse and while we were there we picked lots of divine tomatoes.


After a long summer of waiting for my tomato plants to ripen, in the past fortnight a big glut if them have come along. I expect the lack of heat this August is to blame for their late development. It's really fantastic to head out to the greenhouse as the plants are all overflowing with tasty tomatoes. These home grown tomatoes seem to have a flavour different to any shop bought variety. They need very little added to them to create a really delicious dish and most of the time we eat them with just a sprinkle of sea salt and drizzle of a nice extra virgin olive oil.

The best way to maintain  the flavour of these Irish sun-kissed tomatoes, for when they are out of season, is to slow roast them turning them into sun-blushed tomatoes which can be refrigerated for weeks. I absolutely love sun-blushed tomatoes. They are one condiment which are so convenient to have in the fridge. I love them chopped in a sandwich or wrap, I often throw a few into my soda bread and they can be added to any pasta dish. And of course they are perfect in a salad.



Sun Dried/Sun Blushed Tomatoes

Ingredients
1kg fresh, ripe tomatoes
1 tsp sea salt
Few grinds black pepper
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 tbsp olive oil

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 140°C/ fan 120°C/ gas mark 1.
2. Slice the tomatoes and place tightly together on a baking tray.
3. Sprinkle over the salt, pepper and thyme leaves.
4. Drizzle over the olive oil.
5. Place in the pre-heated oven for approximately 2 hrs. Checking after 1 ½ hours to ensure that they are not charring too much.

6. Use straight away, or allow to cool and store in an airtight container in the fridge.



Sunday, September 25, 2011

Nessa's Family Kitchen Competition









Over the past 19mths many of you have followed the blog and in turn left beautiful comments, which are always received so gratefully. I love to know that people are not only reading the blog but also having success with the recipes that I post. I haven't had a competition in a little while, so while I was browsing through the new cookbook section and contemplating treating myself to a new book , I decided to also buy a lovely new title for one of the followers of  Nessa's Family Kitchen.


I chose Rachel Allen's new book Easy Meals, a gorgeous book packed with so many easy to follow recipes. Rachel would have to be one of my favourite t.v. chefs. I have been lucky enough to meet her on a number of occasions and she is such a lovely lady, she has a real positive energy, so friendly to everyone and is very family orientated. I have met many of the Irish chefs and when one is so perfectly nice I tend to enjoy their books and recipes even more.


It is very easy to enter this competition. If you are already following the blog I will automatically pop your name into the hat and if you would like to follow the blog, before Sunday 2nd October 2011, your name will also be included in the draw. All you have to do to be in with a chance to win this lovely new cookbook is be a follower of Nessa's Family Kitchen.*


The competition will end at 6pm on Sunday 2nd October 2011.The winner will be picked at random. I will post worldwide so all my followers are in with a chance of winning.**


Best of Luck!!


*See the sidebar on the right
**No cash alternative is possible. I will not share any of your details with a third party.


2nd Oct:
Thank You to all who entered the competition. The lucky winner was drawn at random and this new book will be making it's way to Simply Homemade. Congrats and enjoy cooking from it.


Saturday, September 24, 2011

Coffee & Treats for a Fantastic Cause



Last Thursday I had a coffee morning in aid of The South Westmeath Hospice at Mount Temple hall. I must say that I was thrilled with how many made the effort to call in. 






The Hospice is a fantastic cause and one that  many like to support. So many families in Ireland have been affected by Cancer and if anyone has had a loved one cared for at a local hospice you'll be well aware of the amazing work that they carry out. We are so lucky to have a hospice in Athlone which provides the people of the midlands with a great service.
Scones and Buns.




Thanks to everyone who called in to share a coffee and some treats with me, together we raised €640.


One of my favourite Chocolate Cakes filled with cream & berries.






Friday, September 23, 2011

Culture Day Cookalong

I will be posting a video on my Culture Day Page  at 6pm today. Next time I will definitely wear a microphone! It's quite difficult to give a little cookery demo with young men who just want to cook! If you watch the video you'll understand what I mean. :)

Monday, September 19, 2011

Coffee Morning in Aid of The Hospice

This Thursday I will have my annual coffee morning in aid of The South Westmeath Hospice. For anyone who has had a loved one cared for in a hospice there is no need for me to explain the amazing work that takes place here. I have had some dealings with the hospice in the past and the care that is given, at such a devastating time in a families life, is exceptional. Recently a new hospice has opened in Athlone which provides a wonderful service for the people of the Midlands.



I expect that most of you may have been affected by Cancer in some way throughout your life. It's unbelievable that one word can have the ability to instil such immense fear, when it is suggested as a possible diagnosis for you or a loved one. As I've mentioned here before my Mam passed away 4 years ago from Multiple Myeloma. She was such an amazing lady, that meant the world to me. At the time there wasn't a hospice locally and even though Mam spent her final weeks in a hospital my sister Fiona and I fully cared for her day and night. We are both nurses and this was a great honour to get the opportunity to use our nursing skills for someone who is so important to both of us.



 I had my coffee morning at my home last September and little did I realise that within 6 months my Aunt Judy, who called up to the coffee morning, would be diagnosed with Cancer and since has sadly passed away. She was lovingly cared for by her daughter Emer and son Eugene at home but there was a constant support from the palliative team which worked so closely with the family, always with Judy's best interests in mind.
Little did I think this time last year that Cancer would come even closer to home, within the 6 months my sister Dervilla would be diagnosed with Breast Cancer. Her diagnosis was a severe shock to us all but thankfully Dervie is doing brilliantly well as Breast Cancer is the type of Cancer that more commonly has a very positive outcome. She only finished her chemotherapy a few weeks ago and is due to start her radiotherapy treatment in the next week and at the moment she is enjoying a week in Italy with her husband and children. She's a fabulous sister and we're so close. She got married a year after me, we built our family homes across the road from each other and our kids are all in or around the same age. The last 6 months have naturally been very difficult for her but she has shown strength and courage beyond belief. Her positivity is inspiring and she makes me ever grateful for my illness-free life.



So if you are around Mount Temple this Thursday between 9.30 and 11.30 I would love if you would call into the hall and have a cuppa and some delicious goodies with me. It's for a great cause and I'd really appreciate the support.
Nessa X

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Healthy Wholemeal Lunchtime Scones


As a mother, one of the great advantages to school holidays is that early mornings are free of the chore of packing lunches. Every parent knows how disheartening it is to spend time making  lunch only for it to return untouched in the evening. So I generally try to include a few bits in the lunch box that are guaranteed to be eaten. For our bodies to function at it's best so much is dependent on how and what we eat. With this in mind, for little ones to make the most of their day at school, it's important that they eat a healthy filling lunch.


Even tough recently there has been a lot of discussions in the media about what we put into our children's sandwiches it can often be more important what we use to make these sandwiches with. The over consumption of processed white bread can be detrimental to good health. It is made from refined flour and has very little nutrients or fibre. New research has shown that it's not necessarily carbohydrates that lead to weight gain but more the type of carbs that are eaten. More refined and processed foods such as white bread are one of the worst culprits! So it's no harm to limit our white bread intake and where possible substitute it with a healthier alternative.
 Most children like to bring a sandwich as part of their lunch but as a nice change a homemade scone would certainly be well received. The wonderful thing about these scones is that you can make a large batch of them at the beginning of the week, freeze and then simply defrost in the microwave each morning. This will only  take a minute and the scone will taste perfectly fresh. The scones could be served with just butter and jam or your child's favourite sandwich filler would also be perfect.



Healthy Wholemeal Lunchtime Scones

Ingredients:
600g/1½lb Plain Flour
300g/10oz wholemeal flour 
2 teasp baking powder
Pinch of salt
75g/3oz caster sugar
170g/6oz Butter
2 eggs
450mls milk
For Glaze:
Egg wash - some beaten egg with a little milk
Granulated sugar-on a small plate { don't put on scones if filling with a savoury filler}


Method:
1. Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas mark 6
2. Sieve all the dry ingredients together into a large mixing bowl and mix well with a wooden spoon.
3. Cut the butter into small cubes, toss in the flour and rub in the butter until it resembles breadcrumbs.
4. Whisk the eggs with the milk.
5. Make a well in the center of the mixture and add the whisked egg and milk to the dry ingredients.
6. Mix together with a wooden spoon, 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 would become tough. Roll out the dough and cut out using a circular cutter.
8. Brush the tops with the egg wash and dip into the granulated sugar.
9. Bake in the oven for 10-12mins until golden brown. Remove and cool on a wire tray.



Sunday, September 11, 2011

Irish Food Bloggers Get Tips from the Best in the Business


Last Friday I spent the day among some of Ireland's top Food Bloggers. It was a day organised by Board Bia and we got the opportunity to take in tips on writing recipes, setting up our shots and photographing our food. With lots of great ideas on how to attract more traffic to our blogs. The chefs at Board Bia provided us with a delicious lunch and each blogger brought some home baked treats to enjoy at the tea break.
Since commencing food blogging, early last year, I have been lucky enough to attend a few events and  each time I meet some more lovely foodies for the first time. It is so wonderful to meet up with others that have a shared passion for all things food and this was another chance to have a  good old chin wag!




Kristin from Edible Ireland and Dinner du Jour sharing tips on recipe writing.





Sharon Hearne-Smith fills us in on lots of tricks of the trade.

Damien Mulley 
More fabulous bloggers - Lilly Higgins, Margaret O' Farrel and Sheila Kiely



Donal entertaining the crowd.





Donal and Aoife!

I have been chatting with Paula for ages on Twitter and it was lovely to finally got to meet in person. 

More lovely ladies - Aoife, Clare and Rosanne.

Front Row! Paula and Tracy!



Saturday, September 3, 2011

Potato & Fresh Herb Soup


For lunch on a cold winter's day there is nothing as nice as a bowl of steaming hot soup but I find that generally I will make a pot of soup whatever the weather. I'm an avid lover of many types of soups as there is no easier way of including a few of my  children's 5 a day fruit/vegetable portions in one  meal. One of their favourites is Leek and Potato but while visiting Cork we had a delicious dinner at Ballymaloe House and the soup we were served was Potato and Fresh Herb Soup. I knew the children would love it and since we have plenty of spuds in the garden and lots of fresh herbs this is one dish that could  be rustled up very easily. 
During the Summer Holidays I had lots of helpers in the kitchen and garden so for this soup Jack was my assistant. He liked it so much that he actually posted the recipe on his own blog iJack O D before I had the chance to put it on here!!




Since starting this blog I have become so interested in photography, with food being at the center of my interest. I am constantly in search of food props and bowls, plates etc that might make my food look more enticing. These serches often lead me to local auctions with my Dad. However sometimes there are pieces sitting in my press for years that have awaiting their photographic début and this is the case with what I have photographed here today. 
This soup tureen, bowl and plate are part of a dinner service that belonged to my father's mother. I love having pieces on display or on my dresser that can tell a story. I never met either of my Dad's parents, as both of them died when he was a child, but yet I know so much about them. Even-tough my father is almost 81 he has a wonderful memory and can recall stories of events that happened many years ago as if it were yesterday. He is actually the last of his generation of the Robins family to be alive which I find so sad. So it is ever important that he shares his reminiscing with us. Over the past few years he has put pen to paper and scribbled down some of these stories and memories, which I feel is a fabulous idea and something that every family should take the time to do. How amazing to read a story when you already know and love the main characters.


Potato & Fresh Herb Soup



This recipe is adapted from Darina Allen's Ballymaloe Cookery Course cookbook

Ingredients
50g (2oz) butter
425g (15oz) potatoes, peeled and cut into 1cm (⅓in) cubes
110g (4oz) onions, cut into 1cm (⅓in) cubes
2 tbsp of a combination of Parsley, Thyme, Sage and Chives, finely chopped
900ml (1½ pints) Chicken or Vegetable stock
125ml (4fl oz) Cream or Milk
1 tsp salt
Freshly Ground Pepper

Method
  1. Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan. When it foams add the onions and potatoes, and toss in the butter until well coated.
  2. Sprinkle with salt and a few grinds of pepper. Cover with butter wrapper or paper lid and the lid of the saucepan. Sweat over a gentle heat for about 10 minutes
  3. Meanwhile, bring the stock to the boil. When the vegetables are soft but not coloured, and the freshly chopped herbs and stock, and continue to cook until the vegetables are soft.
  4. Purée the soup in a blender or food processor. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Add the cream or milk. Garnish with a few finely chopped herbs, a little cream and serve.


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