Today at 8.34am Tiarnán turned 5. Such excitement. He suddenly had a super strength that only a 5-year-old, and definitely not a 4-year-old, could have and as we sang Happy Birthday he displayed his new "strength" by doing cartwheels across the kitchen floor. Don't you just love the enthusiasm that children have for all things new and how every day is potentially a new adventure?

Tiarnán is a great man for food and he's constantly wondering about his next meal. Most of his memories are food related; if we went to visit someone 2 years ago he'll remember whatever he had to eat there. Food is a huge part of our daily life and myself and the boys regularly sit on the sofa and comb through cookery books in search of new recipes. However, Tiarnán is the keenest "taster" in our house. It is always a pleasure to cook for someone who appreciates the effort and Tiarnán certainly appreciates his food. Since we had his party with his school friends last week, today was made special for Tiarnán by what extra treats he could enjoy. After dinner, he ordered an ice cream filled pancake-a good choice, one I would pick myself! I used the recipe I have posted for Pancake Tuesday. It's quick and easy to make, and the effort is always worth lots of kisses from the birthday boy.

I first tasted this elderflower cordial in Ballymaloe two summers ago and I couldn't wait to try the recipe once the elderflower was back in season. The first time I made it, I was quite disappointed with how it turned out, as it somehow didn't taste the same as Darina's had. I'm not sure why, but perhaps I didn't cut off enough of the green stalks. I'm not exactly sure. However, I found this recipe below in Darina Allen's new book Forgotten Skills, which makes more of a syrup, due to the high proportion of sugar in the recipe, but it tastes perfect when diluted with water.
Elderflowers are now in full bloom and very plentiful around the countryside. Try to find some that aren't on the roadside, as they are less likely to be overly dusty from the traffic. Slicing the lemons for this recipe really adds to the flavour. I like to always make the most of my ingredients, so I save the lemon slices to add to homemade lemonade or a gin and tonic. They freeze best in a single layer on silicone or greaseproof paper and then pack into a freezer-proof plastic box.
For a sparkling summer drink, add a little to sparkling water, prosecco, gin or white wine. If refrigerated, elderflower cordial will keep for up to a year.

Elderflower Syrup

10 heads of elderflowers
900g (2lb) caster sugar
600ml (1 pint) cold water
zest of 2 unwaxed lemons then slice thinly


1. Put the sugar and water into a saucepan over a medium heat. Stir until the sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat. Leave to cool for 10 mins.
2. Add the elderflowers, stir and add the zest of the lemons then slice the lemon and add to the syrup.
3. Leave aside to cool. Cover and leave to infuse for 24 hours.
4. Next day pour the syrup through a sieve and again through a fine nylon sieve. Bottle. Dilute as desired.
Chicken goujons or chicken nuggets are something most children seem to love. However, most of the shop-bought varieties are less than desirable. This recipe for goujons isn't only delicious but quite nutritious. Served with homemade wedges and a green salad (or a portion of baked beans) this makes for a well balanced, nutritious meal. Children love to help with meal preparation. Once you have the three plates set up it is easy for little hands to prepare the goujons, just make sure to wash hands well before and after.

Healthy Chicken Goujons

3 Free-Range Chicken Breasts
50g (2oz) Plain Flour
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 eggs
100g (4oz) breadcrumbs
50g (2oz) Parmesan cheese (finely grated)
3 tablespoons sunflower oil

1. Preheat the oven to 200°C/ fan 180°C/ gas 5.
2. Cut the chicken into strips, about 5 per chicken breast.
3. Place the flour in the mixing bowl with a little salt and pepper.
4. Place the egg in another bowl and beat with a fork.
5. Mix the breadcrumbs and the finely grated cheese in another bowl.
6. Toss the goujons in the flour, then remove and shake off the excess flour.
7. Dip the goujons in the beaten egg. Remove from the egg letting any extra egg drip off.
8. Next, toss the goujons into the breadcrumb mix. Gently shake off crumbs that don’t stick.
9. Lay the goujons on a plate. They can be cooked at this stage but if you have time, cover with cling film and put in the fridge for an hour.
10. Place the baking trays in a preheated oven for 2 mins. Remove and drizzle the base of it with the oil.
11. Carefully place the goujons in a single layer. Bake in the oven for 15-20mins, turning them over halfway through. When they are golden brown and completely cooked remove from the oven and serve immediately.

If you are lucky enough to get your hands on some unsprayed strawberries then turning them into strawberry jam is a must. One of my favourite smells in the world would have to be the smell of strawberry jam bubbling on the stove. As a child, my parents had half an acre of strawberries growing, which they supplied to the local shops. Summer had truly arrived when strawberries started to accompany every meal, even though I use to tire of them it never turned me off strawberries and that smell of hot jam always brings me back to my childhood summers.

We now have 70 strawberry plants in our garden and as this is their second year we have a really large harvest. Since they are are not sprayed the strawberries are only at their best for a couple of days, so these nights I am making a lot of jam!! When you see how long bought strawberries can last in the fridge it would make you wonder about what it is actually sprayed with. I recently enquired from someone in the know and found out that the spray commonly used for strawberries is identical to a spray used to lengthen the life of roses. Of course, these strawberries still contain Vitamin C but again here's another product that is less nutritious than one would like.

Strawberry jam is so delicious and far superior to any shop bought variety. I generally use a combination of granulated sugar and jam sugar for a better set jam. I would really encourage anyone to make their own jam (any variety) to have in their press for a taste of summer during the winter months.

The boys helping with the preparation of the fruit
Strawberry Jam

375g (15oz) fresh Strawberries
325g (13oz) sugar
30mls (1oz) water
3 tablespoon lemon juice.

1. To sterilize the jars put them through a dishwasher cycle, boil in a pan of water for 5 mins or place in a preheated oven (150°C / 300°F / gas mark 2) for 10 mins.
2. Place the sugar in an ovenproof container and heat in an oven (150°C / 300°F / gas mark 2) for 10 mins.
3. Place the fruit and water in a saucepan on a medium heat. Bring to the boil, simmer for 5 mins. Mash the fruit with a potato masher. Add the sugar and lemon juice and stir over a high heat for 10-15 mins.
4. Heat the jars for a couple of mins in the hot oven, to prevent the jar from cracking. Carefully remove them using oven gloves. Pour the jam into the jars immediately and cover with a lid or jam pot cover.
Jack and I with the director of His and Hers, Ken Wardrop.

Last night we went to the preview screening of His and Hers at Athlone Cinema.
What a wonderful experience; from beginning to end it is like being on an emotional roller coaster, one moment laughing the next in tears. The honesty and strength of many of the ladies were really inspiring as a viewer. This film will touch your heart and you will leave the cinema with the need to hug those you are most close to, as it is a true reminder that there is nothing greater in this life than the ones you love.

This film is certainly refreshing, so take the time to see it while it is at the cinema.
Check out for full cinema listing and plenty of info regarding the film and the ladies (including myself) involved.
Yesterday we had a lovely afternoon at Taste of Dublin. There was such a vast amount of food stalls that Jack and I didn't know where to start. It was wonderful to get the opportunity to meet different national food producers. Also, we were lucky enough to chat with some of the chefs that were demonstrating on the day.

One thing I picked up on the day was a really good quality black pudding by Inch House. They are based in Thurles but the pudding is stocked in many stores nationwide. Clonakilty is also a good pudding but many butchers now make their own good quality pudding and for this dish to work you need to source the best quality you can find.
Here is Jack with Donal Skehan, food blogger (Good Mood Food) who gave a demo of a couple of delicious dishes from his new book.

If you are not a fan of black pudding, this salad can also be made with strips of chicken that are pan-fried in a little oil and butter.

Bacon and Black Pudding Salad with Croutons

100g (4oz) white bread, crusts removed cut into squares
6 tbsp olive oil
225g (8oz) black pudding
1 crisp eating apple
25g (1oz) butter, at room temp
icing sugar, to dust
50g (2oz) rashers, diced
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp wholegrain mustard
1 tbsp golden syrup
150g (5oz) mixed baby salad leaves
small handful chive flowers
salt and black pepper

1. To make the croutons, heat 3 tbsp oil on the pan, when hot add the diced bread and fry each side until golden. Remove and leave to cool.
2. Grill the black pudding. Heat the pan and add the butter and apple slices, dust with little icing sugar and cook until the apples are caramelised.
3. Meanwhile, heat a little oil on a pan and fry the diced bacon until crisp.
4. To make the dressing whisk 3 tbsp olive oil with the vinegar, mustard and golden syrup in a small bowl. Season to taste.

To Serve
Divide the salad leaves and chive flowers between 4 serving plates. Scatter over the croutons, black pudding slices, caramelised apple wedges and bacon, then drizzle over the dressing.
Serve with some crusty bread or my multiseed brown bread to mop up all the delicious juices.
This is a recipe that Jack got from his Nintendo game "What's Cooking Jamie Oliver?". There are some great, easy-to-manage recipes on this game. These brownies are just perfect for making with kids.

The boys all love to help and I find it easier to allocate each with their own job - to cut down on rows!!

Jack folding in the melted chocolate and butter into the mixture.

The boys and I had planned to go on a picnic today however once we had the brownies and sandwiches made it had started to rain. We didn't let a little rain ruin our plans so we went as far as the nearest sheltered picnic area. Luckily for us, that's just Mount Temple.

Chocolate Brownies

100g dark chocolate, broken
125g butter
4 large eggs
300g caster sugar
100g self-raising flour
1 pinch salt
125g shelled walnuts or pecans

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C(fan) / 390°F / gas mark 6.
2. Grease a 20x20 baking tin fit butter and cut a piece of baking parchment to fit the bottom.
3. Melt chocolate and butter in a double boiler or bowl over a pan.
4. While melting mix eggs, sugar, flour and salt in a bowl. Add the butter/chocolate mix and the walnuts.
5. Fold together, be careful not to overmix.
6. Pour into the cake tin and cook for 15 - 18 minutes They should have a crust on but still be a bit wobbly.
7. Cool and cut into squares, dust with some icing sugar.
This is a basic white soda recipe with the addition of semi sun-dried tomatoes and herbs. It makes a really delicious bread perfect for serving with a good cheese or simply on its own with a nice spread of butter. This can also be baked in a 2lb loaf tin if you prefer.

I love to use semi sun-dried tomatoes in this bread but they are also good in sandwiches as they are so much moister than sun-dried tomatoes. They are available in any good deli. I picked up some pre-packed in SuperValu that tasted pretty good.

 I used sage and thyme but any herb of your choice can be used.

Sun-Dried Tomato and Fresh Herb Soda Bread

450g (1lb) plain white flour, preferably unbleached
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
60g semi sun-dried tomatoes
1 tbsp freshly chopped sage and thyme
400ml (14 fl oz) buttermilk

1. Preheat the oven to 230ºC / 400ºF / gas mark 9.
2. Sift all the dry ingredients into a large, wide bowl, add the tomatoes and herbs and make a well in the centre. Pour in the milk. Using the fingers of one hand, stiff and outstretched like a claw, or using a fork stir from the centre to the edge of the bowl in concentric circles. The dough should be softish, but not too wet and sticky. When it all comes together, turn out on to a well-floured work surface.
3. Wash and dry your hands. Pat the dough into a tidy shape and flip over gently, then pat it into a round about 4cm (1 and 1/2 inches) thick. Gently transfer to a floured baking tray. Cut a deep cross into the loaf and prick the centre of each quarter to 'let the fairies out'.
4. Bake for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 200ºC/370ºF/Gas Mark 6 and bake for a further 30 minutes or until cooked. If you are in doubt tap the bottom of the bread: it should sound hollow. Cool on a wire rack.