Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Beauty of Books


When I was a child it was my father who would read to me each night, even though generally he would only be in the door from a hard days work, this was never made an issue of and he would  deliver each story, mostly from memory, with such dramatic expression I felt as though each night I was at the theatre. I so loved his story telling but only now as a busy parent do I truly appreciate what he gave to me. My children love books and I equally love to read to them. I adore that little magical look that comes into their eyes, when the images of the stories are being made clearer to them. Jack has always been an avid reader and for years it has not been unusual to find him under the duvet, with his flash light, frantically trying to get a few more pages read before sleep. We generally have one rather large and ambitious book to read as a family, of which I or Diarmuid will read whenever we can steal a few spare minutes. We are currently half way through reading Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. Even though Tiarnan, Fionn and even Millie will snuggle up for the story, it is really Tiarnan who eagerly awaits the next instalment from Hogwarts. Fionn's favourite books are ones that require a little interaction from the reader, ones that ask questions at the end of each page, such as the Richard Scary books. Big favourites for Millie and actually all the children, especially when read with varied voices and lots of gusto, are Julia Donaldson's books. No matter how many times the Gruffalo is read laughter will always ensue.
A couple of months ago I was very kindly sent some books by Westmeath author Dolores Keaveney. I was already familiar with Dolores's books as we had taken them on loan, on a couple of occasions, from the library. It initially was Fionn who was attracted to the look of the books, as they are so vibrant in colour but also contain the beautiful illustrated paintings which are familiar scenes of hens, bees and gardens. Dolores is one talented lady as she not only writes the stories but also illustrates each book. She currently has written one spiritual book and four children's picture books including her latest book Beelicious -Recipes with Honey, which is a cookbook for children. The beautiful part to this cookbook is the involvement of Dolores's family, especially her young granddaughter Ellie, who helped devise the recipes. Again this book, no different from the others, is beautifully illustrated and as an added bonus, throughout the book there are interesting facts about bees and honey. A few evenings ago Tiarnan and I made Ellie's Flapjacks from Beelicious and they really worked out a treat. This little cookbook has some real gems of recipes and ones that are especially tailored for the younger cooks in the house.



Ellie's Flapjacks

250g / 10oz butter
100g/ 4 oz soft brown sugar
30 mls honey
20mls golden syrup
350g/ 14 oz porridge oats

Method
1. Preheat the oven to 180°C(fan)/390°F/gas mark 6. Grease a baking tray.
2. In a medium sized saucepan add all the ingredients, apart from the porridge oats, and slowly melt stirring regularly.
3. Take from the heat and stir in the oats.  Turn into the prepared tin and with a wooden spoon press down well.
4. Bake in the preheated oven for 20 -25 minutes. Cool, in the tin, on a wire rack.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Pan-Fried Lamb's Liver with Cream & Mustard


With four children it really doesn't matter what the season, as day to day life is always guaranteed to be busy. This summer was no different and even-tough I was kept on my toes I felt that it was much more relaxed than previous ones. It was the first summer in many years that I either didn't have a baby on my hip or was pregnant, so heading out to the garden, even with a flock of helpers was very refreshing. I have also been kept busy with food related projects, lots of writing and photography, so we were all suitable busy for the summer months. On the last week of the summer holidays we got to take in a holiday to Tuscany. Some of you may remember that I won a holiday last year with Ireland AM so we finally got to take this trip. We stayed at a very beautiful campsite -Norcenni Girasole Club - in the heart of Tuscany, which was a real treat as we had never before been on a sun holiday with the children. The boys loved the pools and all the fabulous campsite facilities, but poor Millie  found the high temperatures very over whelming. Tucking into ice-creams while dipping their toes in the pool are now just distant memories as the boys are back to school, with my little Fionn just at the very start of his academic adventures.
I hope you have all had an enjoyable summer, even if it was recorded as Ireland's wettest summer in twenty six years!


The restaurant food at the campsite was actually very tasty. 


The mini golf  on-site was a great hit with the children.

Here is a recent article I wrote for the Westmeath Independent, which I wanted to share with you.
For the past year one of my young men has wanted to start every afterschool activity that has come his way. From speech & drama to badminton, there is never a note brought home without profuse pleading and stories of how he has always wanted to do whichever particular activity is being advertised. I generally have a rule that unless the children genuinely love their afterschool activities and are in some way benefiting from doing it I don't send them. After all, it costs both money and time for these activities and evenings can be much better spent when not taxiing for hours on end. Last summer this little man got the notion that he would very much like to commence horse riding. We had been to Moate Show and stood for an hour watching horses being groomed and then partake in the show. They looked so magnificent and on seeing a child, similar to his age, jumping very confidently, he decided that this could be his next afterschool endeavour. He is an avid animal lover so I wasn't surprised by this suggestion. We decided to stay local to Moate and try a few lessons at Hall Farm. Never before had we been out there and it really is a beautiful, idyllic spot. A gathering of ducks and hens met us on hopping out of the car, as we parked in front of an orchard full of heavily ladened apple trees. We were instantly impressed, even before seeing the horses. The first few visit brought some early day nerves, but confidence was soon gained and almost a year down the line my little man is still heading out to his lessons, rain or shine and after the last few weeks he is now dreaming of a gold for Ireland. That’s possibly a little ambitious, but never the less he's enjoying himself while getting plenty of exercise.
Myles, who runs Hall Farm, is a true entrepreneur, when not taking care of the horses and giving lessons he's in the kitchen, using local ingredients, to create some amazing dishes for his restaurant at the farm. During one of the lessons recently he shared with me a liver dish recipe, which he makes as a starter at the restaurant. My Dad has had some difficulties with low iron levels recently, so I generally try to include iron rich foods in his diet. He is a great fan of liver, which happens to be very rich in Iron and as I'm ever keen to find new ways of serving it, I decided to try out Myles’s recipe for Liver with Cream & Mustard and it was delicious. It's certainly no great task to bring TiarnĂ¡n to his horse riding lessons as myself and the children can wander through the orchard, admire the ducks and I even get the opportunity to do a little chatting about food!



Ingredients

4 lambs’ livers
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Knob of butter
1 tbsp olive oil
250mls cream
1 tbsp wholegrain mustard
8 baby potatoes, cooked and cut in half
1 tbsp parsley, roughly chopped

Method
1.  Heat a frying pan, add the butter and drizzle in the olive oil. Season the livers with a little salt and pepper, on both sides.
2. Add to the hot pan and fry for 3 minutes on each side.
3. Pour in the cream and let it bubble for a couple of minutes. Turn down the heat and stir in the mustard. Add the cooked, chopped potatoes and heat through for 2 minutes.
Serve with a sprinkling of chopped parsley and vegetable of your choice. 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Keogh's Farm Hamper Winner


Thank you to all who entered the give-away, for the lovely hamper from Keogh's Farm. All the names were put into a hat and the name Millie pulled out was... Emma.
Congratulations Emma and please contact me with your postal address.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Giveaway: Keogh's Hamper

I have mentioned here before that I am a great fan of the Co.Dublin based farm Keogh's, who produce the tastiest crisps. So following on from their success with last week's National Potato Day, Keogh's Farm would like to celebrate by offering me a very delicious hamper to give as a prize to one of my lovely readers. The hamper includes Easy Cook Baby & Rooster Family Meal packs, Easy Cook Pod, I Love Spuds T-shirt & Tote bag and a packet of each flavour crisp 4 x 50g. 



How To Enter: All you have to do, to be in with a chance to win this lovely prize is 
ABe a follower of Nessa's Family Kitchen, see the sidebar on the right
B. Answer the question, using the comment box below.
The Question: In what county is Keogh's Farm 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 12m/d on Wednesday 5th September. The winner will be picked at random from the correct entries.

Best of Luck!!
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