Friday, July 27, 2012

Chocolate Chip Shortbread Biscuits

The sun seems to have finally started to shine on the Emerald Isle and you couldn't be in a more beautiful place when it does. Plants are benefiting from it, the animals are enjoying basking in it and the children are doing what their summer childhood memories should be filled with; spending hours on end adventuring in the garden. To our hens, dog and cats, this summer has welcomed some kittens and also some beautiful ducks into our garden. So rain or shine the children are outdoors and the garden has become a very exciting place for them to spend a few hours. I have wanted to keep ducks for some time, as we had a few when I was a child and I adored them. I had a pet drake that would follow me around as if he were a dog. I tell you there were many tears shed when late one evening Mr. Fox came for supper and all he left behind was a few feathers. I'm hoping my new family of ducks won't meet a similar fate and will be as lucky as our hens, living happily into their old age.

The sun is always most welcome by any parent, as keeping young ones amused indoors for days on end can become an ever difficult task. When time allows I pull out some ingredients, a few bowls, rolling pins and biscuit cutters and let the kids fire away with a little bit of baking. Biscuit making is always a good one, for little hands, as similar to play doh they will shape and re-shape the dough many times, keeping them happy and amused for a very long time indeed. Yes, there will be flour all over the counter-top and floor, but after a certain man in a red suit introduced us to marvellous moon sand last Christmas, I don't think I could ever complain about flour explosions again. A quick brush and a wet cloth sees everywhere clean and is certainly easier to manage than play doh or sand. 






Chocolate Chip Shortbread Biscuits
This is a basic shortbread biscuit recipe from Rachel Allen's Favourite Food and I've just added some chocolate chips. These are quite delicious and even though the less handled the better, these seem to hold up pretty well to lots of sculpting.  


Ingredients

170g (6oz) white flour
110g (4oz) butter
55g (2oz) caster sugar
25g chocolate chips

Method

1. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C(fan)/390°F/gas mark 6.
2. Put the flour and sugar into a bowl, rub in the butter. Add the chocolate chips
3. Gather the mixture together and knead lightly. Roll out to about 8mm thick. Cut into shapes using a biscuit cutter. 
4. Bake in the oven until golden or pale brown, 8– 12 minutes- depending on their thickness. 
5. Remove, cool on a rack and serve with a big glass of milk.

Enjoy!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Summery Rice Salad


I'm not sure if we've ever had so much rain in one summer before, but I'm still a little hopeful that we may be reacquainted with the sun, sometime before the summer's end. Al-fresco dining and summer barbecues wouldn't be complete without the accompanying big bowls of salad. Encouraging children to throw a scoop of salad on their plate, along side their barbecued sausage or chicken, can often be a mighty task to undertake, which quite often requires a lot of negotiating skills. As a rule I find that the salads that my children enjoy are ones based on ingredients that they already really like, with maybe a few ingredients, sliced very finely, hidden in the mix. My children love rice and noodles and will quite happily eat both cold, so a salad based on either of these is generally a winner. This salad is a great way to use up leftover rice and is much tastier than any pre-packed salad you could buy. The roasted peppers add a delicious sweetness to this dish. Don't completely drain off the liquid from the pepper, as the juice helps to dress the rice. 


Summery Rice Salad
450g cold cooked rice
1 roasted pepper {from a jar}
30g sunflower seeds
handful fresh basil
zest 1/2 lemon
drizzle of olive oil
salt & pepper

Method
1. Finely chop the roasted pepper and basil.
2. Add to a large serving bowl along with the cooled cooked rice and sunflower seeds.
3. Zest the lemon into the bowl. Drizzle over a little olive oil and mix well.
4. Taste and if required add a little salt and pepper.



Competition Winner
I'd like to thank everyone who entered last week's competition. The lucky winner will be sent, with a friend, to Carton House Hotel where they can relish a master class with Cathal Kavanagh and then enjoy dinner in the Linden Tree restaurant after. All names were put in the hat and the winner is..............


video

Well done Finola! Congratulations and please contact me with your details. Nessa

Friday, July 13, 2012

Carton House Hotel Competition

Have you ever stayed at a hotel and enjoyed the experience so much that you wished you could bring a little bit of this magic to your everyday life? At Carton House Hotel they have produced 36 online videos where they share with the viewer a wealth of knowledge on everything from Golf, Gardening and Beauty to Cookery, Wine & Cocktails. These videos give a wonderful behind the scenes look at how a successful hotel operates, while sharing some of the hotels top culinary and hospitality tips which you can utilise at home. 

From the kitchens of Carton House Hotel, resident executive chef Cathal Kavanagh gives viewers some fantastic recipes and lots of interesting tips. Cathal gives advise on how a great peppered steak includes three different types of ground pepper, why Guinness makes the perfect batter for fish goujons and basic tips like why vinegar is not necessarily needed for the perfect poached eggs!

These videos are accessible via their website and Carton House's YouTube page. Here are just a few of the included videos.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SHGhzeYqHKc&feature=relmfu
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KWKOgdnp5mQ&feature=relmfu
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GvM6u535hPg&feature=relmfu
http://www.youtube.com/user/cartonhousehotel#g/u

As well as their master series on cookery, wine and cocktail  videos, Carton House Hotel also shares expert tips and advice on gardening, fitness & beauty and golf through these short videos.
Gardening:                  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=asLceaUjxBA
Fitness & Beauty:          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t4gQCudfZqA
Golf:                               http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0u4c8Cel91U
Wine and Cocktails:         http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YNq7adcky_M


Top Tips from the experts at Carton House is available free of charge on Carton House Hotel's website the series will also be available through the Carton House App and Pinterest and will be shared with facebook followers on a weekly basis.

Competition Time
The Prize: The lovely people at Carton House Hotel have given me a very nice prize for one of my readers. The lucky winner will be sent, with a friend, to Carton House Hotel where they can relish a master class with Cathal Kavanagh and then enjoy dinner in the Linden Tree restaurant after. 

How To Enter: It is very easy to enter this competition. All you have to do, to be in with a chance to win this lovely prize is A.Be a follower of Nessa's Family Kitchen, see the sidebar on the right and B. Answer the question, using the comment box below.
The Question: In what county is Carton House Hotel located?

OPTIONAL:
Like Nessa's Family Kitchen on Facebook.
* Follow Nessa's Family Kitchen on Twitter.


TERMS AND CONDITIONS: you must be a resident of Ireland (north or south); you must be over 18; no cash alternative is possible, the competition will close at 6pm on Friday 20th July. The winner will be picked at random from the correct entries.

Best of Luck!!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

A Review of The Chef & I by Móna Wise

I'm one of those people that always likes to know a little bit more about someone's life. I'm interested in finding out about their background and what has brought them to where they are today. I'm a talker but also I really like to listen. I think it's partly just in my nature, as I come from a very chatty brood and as the youngest member of the clan my childhood was spent more with ageing relatives drinking tea than amongst my peers in a playground. I also worked as a nurse for many years and good conversational skills are essential, when dealing with people at their most vulnerable. I enjoyed my job and I appreciated the people I met along the way. So my chatty and inquisitive ways could stem from a combination of raring and career choice or maybe I'm just plain nosey, but people from all different walks in life really interest me. I feel the same way about the authors of books I choose to read. When picking a book I always flick to the back page to have a read about who has actually written this book. The two or three lines are never enough for me so I will normally google the writer, to find out a little more. As peculiar as it may sound, I almost need to like something about the author to like the book and am completely disappointed if I see an interview, or indeed meet them, only to find they are not as admiring as I had anticipated. In the case of my latest read, The Chef & I - A Nourishing Narrative, I had previously had a couple of encounters with the author, Móna Wise, so the question as to whether or not I would like who was behind this book was already covered. As a friendly and amicable lady, Móna is certainly someone that I could get along with easily, but also we have some similarities; she is a busy mother to four with a huge passion for feeding her family well, she is also a keen gardener and has plenty of poultry in the back garden. Upon chatting with this lady it's clear that she really has excellent conversational skills. Móna writes a hugely successful blog {Wise Words} and only recently herself and her husband Ron became the new food writers with The Sunday Times. Amongst all these commitments this lady manages to attend college, where she is studying for her degree in creative writing. A project as part of this course was to write this book which she then, quite rightly, decided to self publish to share with a greater audience. Mona's a very knowledgeable lady and with an ability to tell a tale with lots of gusto, this book is a great celebration of  Mona's story telling skills.  


This is a book with a difference as it's divided into two parts; first part is autobiographical and the second part is dedicated to Ron's recipes. The first seventy five pages certainly satisfied my need to know a little more about the author. This along with a large selection of recipes really make it my sort of read. The first part of the book gives a wonderful  introduction to Móna and Ron's life together. How they met and all that goes with it. Móna opens her heart to the reader and doesn't shy away from sharing the bad days as well as the good. Marriage and parenthood can sometimes be a little rocky and it's refreshing to read an accurate and honest account of normal family life. It's a touching tale that mostly made me laugh but there were parts of the book that were also terribly sad. I certainly don't feel it is necessary to already know Móna or Ron as their story unfolds beautifully and within a few pages of the book one would feel like they are already very familiar with the Wise family. This is an admirable love story about a girl who very much loved a man from the first moment she set eyes on him and sixteen years on this love is still as strong. I enjoyed every page of this story as Móna delivered her tale with not only heart and emotion but also with a lot of wit.  


The second part of the book is home to Ron's unique, interesting and very enticing recipes. Ron is a trained chef and currently works as a gourmet baker in Morton’s of Salthil, however his recipes couldn't be described as over complicated and are surely delivered very much with the home chef in mind.The recipes are divided into Sauces, Snacks, Soups & Sides, Bigger Eats and Sweet Treats. When trying to choose which recipe to cook first, the one that caught my eye was the Buttermilk Fried Chicken and by gosh did I choose a good one. This chicken was so deliciously moist and tasty that all at the table were chanting for more. The next dish I want to make is 'Grandma's Chocolate Nutty Pie', as with many of the included recipes it's the sentiment of the introduction that had me hooked. The photography on Móna's blog is always stunning and the book is no different; the photographs are very beautiful and recognisably homely. This is a fabulous book and I'm very much looking forward to the next two editions. 

Competition Time
Móna has very kindly offered me a copy of The Chef & I to give to one of my readers. Móna will personalise it and post it anywhere in the world, so everyone is in with a chance. To be in the draw for winning this beautiful book simply leave a comment below. I will then pop all the names in a hat and the winner will be chosen next Wednesday 11th July. Best of luck!

If you would like to purchase a copy of The Chef and I: A Nourishing Narrative by Móna Wise it is available to purchase from www.kennys.ie and is €25.00. It is also available for the kindle here.


This competition is now over. Thank you to all who entered. All names were put in a hat and the winner is....Carolanne. Congratulations! 

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Crispy Cheese Burger


In my house a dinner that is always appreciated, any time of the year, is a home-made burger with home-made potato wedges. So simple to make and yet this dish can be something quite delicious. I've been using the same burger mix for years so when I wanted to vary my recipe a little I decided to see what ingredients I could substitute with others. I had an idea for my burger mix but was unsure, until I tried it, whether or not it would work. Breadcrumbs can be useful for helping to bind a burger mix together but I decided to try out some crushed crisps, in place of the breadcrumbs, and they seemed to do the trick. My crisp of choice was Keogh's, using their Dubliner Cheese & Onion variety. The crushed crisps not only helped to bind the burger but also the flavour from the crisp enhanced the seasoning of the mix. I have mentioned here before about my love of crisps and as an avid crisp eater I'm always keen to sample new brands, especially when they are Irish. One of the latest crisps on the block are from the Co. Dublin based potato farmers Keoghs, and they certainly have brought to market a superb product. Keogh's crisps are available to buy on-line and are an example of another wonderful quality product, flying the flag for Ireland worldwide. To add another dimension to this burger, I've added a piece of creamy Irish Cooleeney cheese, to the centre of each of the raw burger patties. The cheese then melts, while the burger is being cooked, adding a succulent moistness to the finished burger. 



Burger Mix
450g/1 lb good-quality minced beef
35g Keogh's Dubliner Cheese & Onion Crisps
few sprigs of fresh flat leaf parsley & chives
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teasp smoked paprika
1 large egg, preferably free-range or organic
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil

Filling
100g Cooleeney Cheese, Brie or Camerbert

To Serve
4 burger baps
lettuce
2 tomatoes
fried onions
ketchup

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C(fan)/390°F/gas mark 6.
2. Wrap the crisps in a plastic bag and smash up until fine, breaking up any big bits with your hands, and put them into a large bowl.   
3. Finely chop the parsley and chives. Add the herbs, mustard, smoked paprika and minced beef to the bowl. Crack in the egg and add a good pinch of salt and pepper. With clean hands, scrunch and mix everything up well. 
4. Divide into four portions, then, using wet hands, shape into patties that are 2.5cm (1in) thick. Cut the Cooleeney cheese into four even-sized pieces. Make a deep indentation in the middle of each patty and push in a piece of the cheese, pushing the beef back around the mixture so that it is well sealed. Chill for at least 1 hour or up to 24 hours until ready to cook
5. Add to an oven-proof pan and cook for 5 minutes on each side then place in the oven for 15mins or until the burger is completely cooked through. When cooking burgers it's important to keep in mind that any meat that has been minced must be completely cooked through, as it can contain bacteria throughout.

To serve, toast the cut sides of the baps on the grill rack and place on warmed plates. Cover one side with a large dollop of ketchup, some lettuce, sliced tomatoes then the burger and top with some fried onions. Then sandwich it all together. Enjoy!

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