Dáithí Ó Sé was the chef on RTÉ's The Restaurant last week, and for dessert, he made this chocolate biscuit cake. It is his mother's recipe and it is quite luscious. Dáithí Ó Sé has become increasingly popular in the Irish media, and it turns out that he isn't half bad in the kitchen either.Chocolate biscuit cake is something I always made with my mother as a child. I have my mother's recipe which I use on a regular basis, but I wanted to try out Dáithí's version. I must say it is a very easy recipe to make, it turned out perfect and tasted delicious. Since I was making this for the children I left out the almonds and the Baileys. I also found the mixture to be fairly wet so I added an additional 200g of biscuits; chocolate chip cookies & a few bourbons.

Chocolate Biscuit Cake

300g digestive biscuits.
100g flaked almonds, toasted
100g unsalted butter, melted
300g dark chocolate (60% cocoa solids)
1 tin condensed milk
30ml Baileys 

1. Roughly crush the digestive biscuits in a bowl. Stir in the flaked almonds and the melted butter.
2. Melt the chocolate in a large bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, then stir in the condensed milk. Pour this chocolate mixture over the biscuits along with the Baileys and stir well to combine all the ingredients.
3. Line a 2lb loaf tin with Clingfilm (or baking parchment) and spoon the mixture into it. Place the tin in the fridge to set for at least 2 hours.
4. To make it extra special drizzle with some melted chocolate of choice.

Tickets are currently on sale for this year's Taste of Dublin festival which takes place in Iveagh Gardens from the 10th to the 13th June. To avail of an 'early bird' special offer enter the code "Taste30" when booking online (www.tastefestivals.ie) to get 2 standard tickets for €30 (normally €50) - offer expires May 2nd 2010. This is most certainly a fantastic event, not only for foodies but for families also. There are plenty of free tasters to be sampled and live music to enjoy.

Ballymaloe Cookery School demonstration area. This is where you can have the opportunity to cook a meal with Darina or Rachel Allen and then sit down with them to enjoy it.
Jack and I with Neven Maguire.

This is a really interesting way of cooking chicken. This is an adapted Jamie Oliver recipe but I'm unsure as to whether it is his own recipe or one developed by some guys looking for a different way to cook chicken on the barbeque. This also cooks perfectly in the oven. The end result is a deliciously moist chicken. The beer not only adds moisture but also the yeast and malt reacts with the chicken, particularly the skin, making it crispy but still moist. I used a combination of spices that I like but you can use whatever you have available or a ready-made spice, such as a cajun mix. I served the chicken with homemade potato wedges, coleslaw and a green salad. Yummy.
The chicken ready for the oven.

Beer Can Chicken

1 chicken
1 can of beer
1 tsp mild chilli powder
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp brown sugar
3 tbsp olive oil

1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC / 350ºF / gas mark 4.
2. Add all the spices into a pestle and mortar. Grind them all together. Add in the oil and mix into a paste.
3. Open the can of beer and pour half into a glass. Now take a tin opener and remove the top. Be careful. Or else just remove the ring pull.
4. Take your chicken and rub the spice mix all over it both inside and out.
5. Place the beer can in a baking tray and sit your chicken on top.
6. Place it in a preheated oven and cook until golden. I cooked it for 90 mins.
7. Carefully take the chicken out of the oven, place on a plate, cover with tin foil and let it sit for at least an oven to allow all those lovely flavours infuse.

If you are in need of some fast food this is a real treat without the guilt. I generally use whatever is in the fridge as a topping and then sprinkle with my cheese of choice. If using any meat ensure it is cooked, as the naan is only in the oven for 10 minutes, which may not be enough time to thoroughly cook the meat. I love to let the kids help with meals and this dish is excellent for getting children involved as it is just a matter of assembling the ingredients. Jack was on tea duty today and this pizza naan is what he made for us and it was delicious.

Pizza Naan

1 naan bread
2 tbsp of any Tomato and Basil pasta sauce, or passata
Grated cheese
Slice of ham
Tomato, sliced
Onion, finely chopped
Mushroom, sliced

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4.
2. Spread the sauce over one side of the naan.
3. Cover with toppings of your choice.
4. Bake in the oven for 10 mins until the cheese is golden and bubbling.
5. Serve with potato wedges and salad.

The boys and I love smoothies. We have tried out many different combinations of fruit and yoghurts and this is our favourite one.

Tropical Super Smoothie

1 Banana
1 Small Mango
1 Frozen Yoplait Melon and Orange Yogurt (125g)
1 Teaspoon Honey
500ml Orange Juice (freshly squeezed if possible)

1. Peel and chop the banana and mango. Put into the blender and add the yoghurt honey and the Orange Juice.
2. Whiz in the blender until the mixture is smooth, thick and smooth. Taste a little, add some more honey if it isn’t sweet enough or a squeeze of lemon if too sweet.
3. Enjoy Straight Away

Another easy-to-make recipe from Rachel Allen. My boys really love to help make these cookies and they're so delicious I even find them really hard to resist. 

This recipe makes a large batch of cookies so if prefered you could save some of the dough in the fridge for up to one week. The best way to do this is to place the leftover dough onto a sheet of cling film and roll into a log. The dough can then be easily sliced and popped onto a baking tray.

Polka Dot Cookies
225g (8oz) Butter
375g (15oz) Soft Brown Sugar (or light muscovado sugar)
2 tsp Vanilla Extract
2 Eggs, beaten
350g (14oz) Plain flour
1 Level tsp Baking Powder
1 Level tsp Bicarbonate of Soda
150g (5oz) Smarties

1. Preheat oven to 180° C/350°F/gas mark 4
2. Cream butter and sugar together.
3. Add in the vanilla and gradually add the eggs.
4. Put the flour in another bowl. Sift in the bicarb and baking powders and mix well.
5. Add the dry ingredients into the wet. Add the smarties last.
6. Roll into little balls (walnut size if you want small ones or golf ball size if you want larger ones.
7. Bake for 12 – 16 mins. If you want chewy cookies, bake until the edges are turning brown but the middle is still pale. If you want crunchy all the way through then bake until golden all over.
8. Cool on a wire rack.

This is another recipe I tried out while on a course in Ballymaloe. I'm not terribly good at making pastry and always find it difficult to make a tart without a lot of patchwork. However, this pastry is fantastic for anyone who wouldn't normally bother with pastry-making, as it is made using the creaming method as opposed to rubbing in the butter. Again I would recommend using butter as its taste is far superior in the pastry.

My kitchen assistants!!
Cullohill Apple Pie / Rhubarb Pie

8 ozs (225g/2 sticks) butter
2 ozs (55g/1/3 cup) castor sugar
2 eggs, preferably free-range
12 ozs (340g/2½ cups) white flour, preferably unbleached
1½ lbs (675g) Bramley Seedling cooking apples
5 ozs (140g/2/3 cup) sugar
2-3 cloves
egg wash-made with one beaten egg and a dash of milk
Caster sugar for sprinkling

Tin, 7 inches (18cm) x 12 inches (30.5cm) x 1 inch (2.5cm) deep

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4.
2. First, make the pastry. Cream the butter and sugar together by hand or in a food mixer (no need to over cream). Add the eggs and beat for several minutes. Reduce speed and mix in the flour. Turn out onto a piece of floured greaseproof paper, flatten into a round wrap and chill. This pastry needs to be chilled for at least 2 hours otherwise it is difficult to handle.
3. To make the tart, roll out the pastry 1/8 inch (3mm) thick approx., and use about 2/3 of it to line a suitable tin. Peel, quarter and dice the apples into the tart, sprinkle with sugar and add the cloves. Cover with a lid of pastry, seal edges, decorate with pastry leaves, egg wash and bake in the preheated oven until the apples are tender, approx. 45 minutes to 1 hour. When cooked cut into squares, sprinkle lightly with castor sugar and serve with softly whipped cream and barbados sugar.

   Rhubarb Pie

Make in exactly the same way but use approx. 900g (2lbs) sliced red rhubarb (about 1/2 inch thick) and approx. 370g (13oz) sugar. Also combine the rhubarb with 1 tbsp cornflour, to soak up some of the juices. If you have some strawberries add a few as they are delicious in this tart with the rhubarb.

My mother, Bernie, always had a batch of buns at the ready for any callers and rarely did anyone leave her kitchen without a cup of tea to accompany one. In my own kitchen, I almost always have a few buns in the press. I made these buns with each group of students I taught in the cookery school and they always turned out perfectly, as buns are just so easy to make. I also find children love to decorate the buns with different toppings.

This basic bun recipe is credited to Mother, and in a time when margarine was the choice of bakers, she would often choose Flora Light. My mother, like many in my family, suffered from high cholesterol. Similar to me, she preferred real butter on her bread and potatoes. Hence the Flora Light, that was bought out of the best of intentions, was inevitably left sitting unused in the fridge. However, she did put it to good use and began to bake with it. These buns always turned out so delicious and light that this became a recipe that was used over and over. My sister Fiona and I now always use Mam's recipe for buns. Also one of these plain buns contains less than 100 calories which makes them a good choice as an alternative to biscuits.

Ingredients (makes 24)
225g (8oz) Flora light
225g (8oz) caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 free-range eggs
280g (10oz) self-raising flour, sieved
30ml milk

1. Preheat the oven to 200°C / fan 180°C / 390°F / gas mark 6.
2. Place the flora, sugar, and vanilla extract into a bowl and cream together for about 5 minutes, until it is a pale yellow colour.
3. Add the eggs, one at a time with a little flour- to prevent the mixture from curdling. Mix well.
4. Add the flour little by little and gently combine. Stir in the milk. If it drops off easily in a dollop then it is ready.
5. Take a spoonful of mixture, with a dessert spoon, and scrape into the bun case using a teaspoon. Don’t fill the case to the top.
6. Bake in the oven for 20 mins or until golden brown in colour. Cool on a wire tray.

In 2007 I won a recipe competition with Super Valu as part of their real food programme. It was this beef stew that I entered and I still make this dish. It is similar to a bourguignon with some added sweetness from the cranberry sauce. The addition of the fresh cranberries is optional and if making this around Christmas it is very apt to add the cranberries.

I would recommend Knorr Stock Pot for the beef stock. I often make chicken stock with leftover carcasses, however, I have to say that I wouldn't really make beef stock. I find any of the Knorr Stock Pots produce a full flavoured stock but, like all stock cubes, they are very high in salt and should be used sparingly.
I love the smell of this stew as it simmers for a couple of hours. Like all stews, the flavour develops better when left refrigerated overnight.

Beef Stew with Red Wine and Cranberry

50g flour
sea salt and black pepper
2 tbsp olive oil
900g (2lbs) sirloin steak, cubed
3 onions, sliced into rings
270ml (1/2 pint) red wine
270ml (1/2 pint) beef stock
3 tbsp cranberry sauce
A handful of fresh cranberries (optional)

1. Combine the flour with the salt and pepper.
2. Toss the steak in the seasoned flour.
3. Heat the oil in a pan and add the beef. Fry until brown and remove to a plate.
4. Add a little more oil and fry the onions.
5. Return the beef to the pan and then add the wine and stock.
6. Bring to the boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 1.5 hours.
7. Stir in the cranberry sauce and cranberries. Simmer for another 10 mins.
8. Serve piping hot with creamy mash and green beans.

I'm delighted to introduce Baby Millie. She arrived safely on Thursday the 25th of March. She is adorable and fits in perfectly with the boys. They are all smitten with her.