Friday, November 30, 2012

Nutty Chocolate Truffles

The boys are gone to school filled with such excitement. Tonight is the night they have eagerly awaited for a very long time. At 9.30 this evening we will huddle up on the sofa and surround ourselves with goodies, as The Late Late Toy Show hits our television screens. There are still some similarities between what are my favourite childhood memories and what will be my children's and this is near the top of the list. Jack and Tiarnán love to help with the preparation of the snacks, so everything we're making is pretty easy to prepare. Jack will make us hot chocolate using his own recipe. While Tiarnán, who loves a little savoury at any party,  has planned to make some hummus to accompany a big bowl of Keogh's Crisps.
I love the combination of creamy chocolate with peanuts, popcorn or indeed crisps, so with this in mind I decided to make some nutty chocolate truffles for tonight's feast. They are so easy to make but are totally scrumptious. They would be perfectly placed as an after dinner treat, with a coffee, at a diner party. In fact they would also certainly make a rather tasty gift, for a loved one at Christmas.




Ingredients
200g chocolate, I used 46% cocoa
100mls cream
25g butter
100g Peanuts
cocoa power, for dusting

Method
1. Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl, over a saucepan pan of just-boiled water. In a separate saucepan, melt the butter and cream together. Just before it comes to the boil, remove from heat. Very gradually stir into the melted chocolate. Whisk gently, for about 5 minutes, until smooth and thick; chill for about 2hrs.
2. Scoop up a teaspoonful of truffle mix and push a peanut into the centre. The chocolate mix will melt with the heat of your hands so you must work quickly. Shape into a ball, then roll in the chopped peanuts. For the non-peanut eaters simply dust with a little cocoa. Repeat with remaining mix, then chill. These Chocolate Truffles can then be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to two weeks.


If you are sitting in for the Toy Show later, I hope you have a really lovely evening.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Hamper Winner

Thank you to all who entered the competition for the Keogh's Farm goodies hamper. All names from those who commented on the post and re-tweeted, on Twitter, were put into the hat. I'm happy to announce that the winner is Peggy, who commented on Nov 15th at 1.15pm. Congratulations Peggy a lovely hamper will be making its way to you, in time for Christmas. Please contact me with your postal address. NessasFamilyKitchen at gmail.com

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Orange & Pecan Mincemeat - Mince Pies

Once the hullabaloo of Halloween has passed the children eagerly begin their Christmas countdown. Santa lists are written and rewritten many times, but never quite finalised until The Late Late Toy Show has aired. This is normally the first Friday in December but this year is the last Friday in November, which should leave Santa enough time to make all the necessary gifts, in time for the big day. My own Christmas countdown normally begins too after Halloween. November for me is a month for baking; puddings, the Christmas cake and mincemeat all benefit greatly from being made early and left to mature over a few weeks. Individually none of these are too great a task to undertake, but each can give a wonderful sense of accomplishment on Christmas week. If you have a little time on your hands and would like to get ahead with your Christmas gift list, I'm certain that a homemade pudding, cake or jar of mincemeat would be greatly appreciated by a loved one at Christmas. 

Only in recent years have I started to enjoy mince pies. A pastry case overfilled with boozy fruit never really cut it for me, that is until I started to sample a few homemade varieties. My mother in law is quite the expert at making pastry so a couple of Christmas ago we made a deal, that she would make the pastry and I would make a suitable mincemeat filling for mince pies, to serve at a family get together. These turned out splendidly and each Christmas since I've made these to accompany some festive mulled wine. The quality of the pastry must be good but most importantly the quality of the mincemeat is crucial. I love anything a little zesty, so with added orange zest and some Grand Marnier or Cointreau, these little treats are rather pungent with orange flavours. I greatly welcome nuts, of any variety, in a pie or tart so a few pecan nuts are in the mincemeat, but these can be replaced with walnuts if you prefer. The uncooked mince pies will freeze very well. Open-freeze the uncooked mince pies in their trays, then knock each one out and store in freezer bags. To cook, replace the desired amount of pies in a bun tin. When cooking from frozen, allow an extra 10 minutes cooking time.   
For all the non mince pie eaters I'd urge you to give these a try, as you may be surprised by how much you actually like them!

Ingredients
300g (12oz) raisins
300g (12oz) sultanas
juice 1 orange
6 tablespoons Grand Marnier or Cointreau
175g (6oz) pecans or walnuts, toasted, roughly chopped
200g (8oz) butter, melted
175g (6oz) candied peel, {mixed or orange} finely chopped
finely grated zest 2 oranges
175g (6oz) light muscovado sugar
1 large Bramley apple, freshly grated 

Method
  1. Soak the raisins and sultanas in the orange juice and Grand Marnier or Cointreau for a couple of hours or so until the liquid is all soaked up. I normally leave overnight for maximum soakage.
  2. Add in all the remaining ingredients and combine well. Spoon into sterilised jars, seal tightly, then store in the fridge until ready to use. The mincemeat will  keep in the fridge for up to 2 months.


Mince Pies - Sweet Pastry

Ingredients
180g/7oz plain flour
75g/3oz ground almonds
25g/1oz caster sugar
Finely grated rind of 1 orange
pinch of salt
140g/5oz butter, chilled and cut into small cubes
1 large egg, beaten

Method
  1. Sift the flour into a bowl and mix in ground almonds, orange rind, caster sugar and a pinch of salt.
  2. Rub in the butter until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
  3. Add the egg and mix into the flour with a knife, then gather into a ball using your hands.
  4. Preheat the oven to 200c/400f/gas6.
  5. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough and line a bun-case. Spoon in the mincemeat. Top each with a pastry disc.
  6. Brush with a little beaten egg or milk and bake for 15-20 mins.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Christmas Crisps Hamper Giveaway

I have mentioned here, on many an occasion, that I'm a huge fan of Keogh's range of crisps. The new variety has hit the shelves, just in time for the festive season. Very similar to Violet tasting the 3-meal chewing gum in Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory, these Roast Turkey and Secret Stuffing Crisps were for me the nearest thing you could get to Christmas dinner in a bag. 
With the help of Dustin the Turkey, Keogh's launched the new variety last week. Innovative and entrepreneurial Keogh's Farm are bringing the taste of the much loved Christmas dinner to all occasions with their mouth-watering festive Roast Turkey and Secret Stuffing hand-cooked potato crisp. The Secret Stuffing in the crisps is a closely guarded secret family recipe that has been handed down from generation to generation and uses only the finest ingredients grown in their farmhouse herb garden in North County Dublin.
Keogh's Farm are the only on-farm producers of hand cooked Irish potato crisps in Ireland and the only potato growers in the world who offer fresh potatoes and potato crisps from the same farm side by side in stores both around the country and around the world, having recently secured space in American gourmet chain Dean & DeLuca.

Keogh's Roast Turkey and Secret Stuffing crisps will also feature the ever-popular ‘Spud Nav’ through which the consumer can trace their bag of crisps back to the field it came from, by entering the field name - which is printed on each bag into the ‘Spud Nav’ page on the Keogh's web site, www.keoghs.ie
This competition is now over. Winner will be announced tomorrow - 19th November.
I'm teaming up with Keogh's Farm to give a lovely festive Christmas Crisps hamper, packed with lots of goodies, to one of my readers. To be in with a chance of winning either leave a comment below or retweet my tweet about this giveaway on twitter -  my twitter handle is https://twitter.com/Nessa_Robins
All names will be put in the hat and the winner will be picked on the 18th  November. 

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 Sunday 18th  NovemberAll entered names will be put in the hat and the winner will be picked at random and will be contacted on Monday 19th November.

Best of luck! 

Friday, November 9, 2012

Lemon & Poppy Seed Loaf with a Creamy Lemon Topping


One of my little men had a day off school today. He wasn't exactly sick but more completely exhausted from being up most of the night with a rather bad flare up of his eczema. Thankfully this doesn't too often happen, but being unsure whether an accompanied tummy ache was due to the tiredness, or was a sign of an upcoming bug, I decided to err on the side of caution and keep him tucked up and cosy at home.
I always bake on a Friday, to have something in the press for weekend visitors. Today I decided to make one of my favourite cakes this Lemon & Poppy Seed Loaf Cake and top it with a creamy lemon topping. I based the recipe on my basic bun mixture and added some lemon zest and poppy seeds to the cake batter. I also put the fire on early, made a big pot of soup and some homemade soda bread. As the morning progressed Tiarnán started to feel a little more energised and while he tore into his soup and soda bread, by the fire, I thought to myself what a beautiful memory this will be for him of being 'sick' as a child, while also I hoped that it wouldn't encourage a pattern of 'sick days'. However he's a good boy, who adores school, so I can't imagine this ever being the case, for the next few years anyway!

As I was baking my patient was busy colouring.



Ingredients
225g (8oz) butter, softened
225g (8oz) caster sugar
zest of 1 lemon
3 free range eggs
280g (10oz) self-raising flour, sieved
25g poppy seeds

For Icing

30g softened butter
70g plain cream cheese (Philadelphia)
200g icing sugar, sieved
1/2 tsp lemon extract
Icing sugar-to dust

Method
1. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C(fan)/390°F/gas mark 6.
2. Prepare a 2lb baking loaf by greasing well with some butter.
3. Place the butter, caster sugar and lemon zest into a bowl, saving a little of the zest for decorating, and cream together until it is a pale yellow colour, which takes about 5-7 minutes.
4. Add the eggs, one at a time with a little flour- to prevent the mixture from curdling. Mix well.
5. Add the remaining flour then combine well. Fold in the poppyseeds.
6. Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin.
7. Bake in the oven for 35 mins or until golden brown in colour. Cool on a wire tray.
8. Put the cream cheese, butter and icing sugar into a bowl and beat together until smooth and creamy. Stir in the lemon extract. Put the icing in the fridge for 15 minutes to harden slightly. When the cake has completely cooled spread the icing over the cake and smooth using a palette knife.
9. Decorate the top of the cake with some lemon zest and dust with a little sieved icing sugar.



Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Chicken & Stuffing Pasta Bake

The last few weeks have been extraordinarily busy, as my deadline for handing over Apron Strings was looming. Each and every time I read through the manuscript I found something that I wanted to change, so I must say that I am delighted that it is now out of my hands and safely with New Island. I'm rather glad and relieved to have an experienced eye read through it. I styled and photographed all the photos for the book, which was a fantastic experience but certainly left me faced with a very messy kitchen, for a number of weeks. Last Thursday morning I was genuinely delighted to face into a day of cleaning. 
It hasn't only been a busy few months for me but also relatively hectic for my husband, Diarmuid. Once he was in the house I would either be typing or photographing, so it wasn't unusual for him to bath three of the children while on his tea break from work. We are actually quite different in nature as I'm never happier than when I am constantly busy, however he relishes in taking life easy. Unfortunately for him, this is rarely an option in our house, but when I'm under pressure I know that I can completely rely on him to keep daily life ticking over. My father also became quite involved in the whole book process, planting herbs especially for me to photograph and spending hours on end searching through old documents for family photos and recipes. 
So after spending a few months of working every waking moment, we had a rather welcomed weekend of relaxation. We had plenty of callers, while also taking in a few family visits and even though I have been cooking quite a bit over the past couple of months, this weekend was jam packed with one of the things I most love to do with the children - baking. 

The whole family had a part in bringing the book together. 

I had so many recipes that I wanted to include in the book but had to decide on my favourite and most appropriately placed one hundred. This was something difficult as it meant that there were some which I wanted to include but didn't. However I will always need recipes for the blog and my columns in the Westmeath Independent and Easy Parenting, which means that these recipes that didn't make the cut can still be used. This chicken & stuffing pasta bake is one of those recipes and was one dish that I came up with  purely by chance. One evening I was planning on making a pasta bake for dinner. I would normally top the bake with some cheese, mixed through a few tablespoons of breadcrumbs, but as I was in a hurry I used some leftover stuffing from the previous day’s dinner. The characteristic stuffing flavour of sage was in every bite. When cooked it gave the pasta bake a deliciously crisp and tasty top. I was delighted with the result and have made it a few times since. This pasta bake is very filling so a little on the plate really goes a long way and is perfectly served with a nice green salad.


Ingredients
Stuffing
25g/3oz butter
1/2 onion, finely diced
100g/31/2oz white breadcrumbs
1 tbsp freshly chopped sage
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Filling
50g (2oz) butter
1 onion, finely diced
1tbsp olive oil
4 chicken fillets, diced
salt and pepper
500mls(1 pint) chicken stock
200mls (7floz)  cream
2tbsp freshly chopped sage leaves,
2 teasp wholegrain mustard
100g(4oz) frozen peas
200g cooked pasta

Method:
1. For the stuffing, melt the butter in a pan, add the onions and cook for a few minutes until softened but not coloured.
2. Place the breadcrumbs in a bowl with the onion and butter mixture, and the sage. Mix well to combine, season to taste and leave to one side.
3. Preheat the oven to 200°C/430°f/gas 6.
4. Add half the butter to a large oven proof dish or saucepan and over a medium heat fry the onions for a few minutes until soft. Remove to a plate.
4. Add the rest of the butter and the olive oil to the saucepan then add the diced chicken. Season with salt and pepper. Brown the chicken on each side and cook through, which takes about 10 minutes.
5. Add the stock, cream, sage and wholegrain mustard. Return the cooked onions to the saucepan and add the frozen peas.
6. Bring to a boil, then simmer for a few minutes.
8. Stir in the cooked pasta until it is evenly coated then top with the stuffing.
9.  Place the dish/saucepan on a baking tray in the preheated oven for 20-25mins, until the top is golden brown and the mixture bubbling hot.
Serve with a green salad.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Christmas Cake Recipe Competition

The Irish Examiner is hosting a very exciting Christmas Cake Recipe competition, with some very lovely prizes.  They are offering readers and baking fans an opportunity to share their Christmas cake recipe and be in with a chance to win a luxury weekend away for two to the Aghadoe Heights Hotel.

There are four categories in the Christmas cake competition:

  1. Traditional – Share your Christmas family favourite, may it be moist, rich or slightly spiced.
  2. Quick – throw in a mixer, bake and eat! Reveal your recipe cheats for the busy baker when it comes to Christmas
  3. Special Diet –educate and enlighten others with your clever baking innovations for Christmas cheer!
  4. Creative – Wild and Inspired, bring out your internal Heston! Anything goes for your interpretation of ‘festive’ flavour.

Irish Examiner food writers Darina Allen, Joe McNamee, Roz Crowley and Michelle Darmody are the judges.  The competition is open to amateur bakers only and recipes must be original to the entrant. The closing date for entries is Thursday 22 November. Finalists will be contacted on Monday 3 December to allow time to perfect their baking.


One finalist from each category will present their winning cake at a coffee morning at the Irish Examiner offices in December.  The event will be open to the public with the proceeds going to charity.  The recipes of each of the four finalists will also be made available to download on the Irish Examiner's website

The lucky winner will receive a luxury weekend away at the Aghadoe Heights Hotel where they can relax and unwind over two nights in a spacious suite with a bottle of wine on arrival, enjoy afternoon tea at The Heights Lounge and access to the rejuvenating thermal suite.  The runners-up will receive an Irish Examiner bakers goodie bag with delightful treats.


To enter the competition entrants should visit: www.irishexaminer.com/competitions/ and click on the Christmas Cake Competition link or send your recipe by post to Irish Examiner Christmas Cake Competition, Irish Examiner, City Quarter, Lapps Quay, Cork.
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