This is actually my first attempt at making pumpkin soup. Each year on scooping out the flesh for making Jack O Lanterns I vow to either make pumpkin soup or pumpkin pie but generally my good intentions are in vain as I get preoccupied with  baking goodies for Halloween night. This soup is actually fairly easy to put together and once the flesh is ready for the pot there is little else to do.  I have added some spice to the ingredients but a couple of teaspoons of curry powder would also work well. I was pleasantly surprised that my boys also tried the soup and enjoyed it.
Take the top off the pumpkin and place a warmed bowl into the hollowed pumpkin as an interesting way to present this soup to guests. As pumpkins are now so readily available and cheap this is the perfect dish for a crew before they go Trick or Treating!!
Happy Halloween!!!

25g butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
Ground pepper
1 tin of tomatoes
900g pumpkin
1.5 litres chicken stock
200ml Fresh cream
1. Heat the oil and butter in a large saucepan and add the pumpkin, onion and garlic. Cover and sweat over a low heat until softened.
2. Add the spices, pepper and tomatoes to the pan .
3. Stir in the chicken stock, bring to the boil then reduce the heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes.
3. Purée with a hand-held blender. Adjust the seasoning. Add the cream, warm briefly then serve, sprinkled with chopped parsley.

I'm fairly happy to announce that Nessa's family Kitchen has now exceeded 10,000 hits. I'm delighted that so many read my posts and try out the recipes!! As ever I love feedback on recipes included on the blog and with this in mind I had an idea for a competition. I would love you to either e-mail me on nessasfamilykitchen(at)gmail(dot)com or leave a comment below and let me know what your favourite family dish is!!
The winner, which will be picked at random, will receive a copy of Neven Maguire's latest book Home Chef. The competition will end at midnight Wed 10th November 2010. Entrants must be resident in Rep of Ireland. No cash alternative is possible. I will not share any of your details with a third party.

Award-winning chef and restaurateur Neven Maguire shows everyday cooks how to achieve kitchen success with his indispensable new culinary guide and cookbook. It is packed with recipes to suit the novice and the experienced cook alike. Step-by-step instructions and Neven’s insightful hints and tips show you how to create perfect dishes for flawless entertaining.
This is a wonderful addition to any keen chefs cookbook collection.
Best of Luck!!!

At this time of year, when there is a change in the weather, so many seem to complain of some sort of a cold or flu. One of my young men spent a lot of last night coughing so naturally, he was too tired to spend the day at school. However, once the others were dropped off at the gate and we were a safe distance from the school he felt miraculously better. Delighted to have a sibling free morning he pondered upon what way he could best spend his time. As Tiarnán is a man after my own heart he gathered a few cookbooks and flicked through them till he found the recipe he wanted to try out - Chocolate Dominos. I read through the recipe with him and like I do so many times myself he altered the recipe to suit his taste by substituting the buttercream icing with melted milk chocolate!!
These little cakes would make a lovely addition to a birthday party table. A wonderfully easy recipe as all the ingredients, for the cake, are simply combined together with a mixer. We will be making these again- well done to Tiarnán for spotting this one.

175g (6oz) soft butter
175g (6oz) caster sugar
150g (5oz) self-raising flour
25g (1oz) cocoa powder, sifted
3 free range eggs

For the topping:
100g milk chocolate or cooking chocolate
liquorice strips or tube of writing icing

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C(fan)/390f/gas mark 6. Lightly rub some butter on a baking tin approx 7x11 in
2. Put all the cake ingredients in a mixer and beat until smooth.
3. Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and level with a palette knife.
4. Bake for 30 minutes, until the cake springs back when pressed in the centre with the fingertips.
5. Cool in the tin for 5 mins then loosen the edges with a knife and transfer to a wire rack.
Cut into approx 16 bars.
6. For the topping spread some melted chocolate over each bar and decorate as seen in the photo.

I love puddings that can be made in minutes and especially ones that are as tasty as this one. I am currently scouring through all my cookbooks in search of inspiration for recipes for my adult Christmas courses. It's quite a pleasurable way to spend a morning, but it is all work of course as there are just so many recipes to try out. I stumbled upon this apple cake recipe and couldn't resist whipping it together while dinner was in the oven. It comes from Rachel Allen's first book - Rachel's Favourite Food. It happens to be one of my favourite cookbooks and even though it's a fairly small book it's packed with lots of interesting recipes. The apples are sprinkled with brown sugar and you also could add a little cinnamon, if desired. It is now peak season for Bramley apples. I prefer an apple cake to be sweet but slightly tart so, for me, this is a great way to use up some of our apples. I love a large dollop of cream with any cake, but as this cake is deliciously moist it can hold its own with a cuppa. 


2 large cooking apples, such as Bramleys
50g dark brown sugar
175g soft butter
175g light brown sugar
175g self-raising flour
4 eggs
Fudge Sauce
110g soft butter
110g light brown sugar
1tbsp lemon Juice

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C(fan)/390°F/gas mark 5.
  2. Butter the sides of the tin and line the base with a disc of greaseproof paper.
  3. Peel and cut the apples into eighths and arrange in a single layer in the tin (this will be to the top of the cake when it's cooked.)
  4. Sprinkle over the dark brown sugar.
  5. Put all the remaining ingredients into a food processor or mixer and whizz to combine.
  6. Pour the cake batter over the apples and sugar.
  7. Cook in the preheated oven for 40-45 minutes, or until the cake is spongy to touch in the centre.
  8. Wait for it to cool for 2 minutes before turning out.
Fudge Sauce 
  1. In a saucepan combine and melt the butter, sugar and lemon juice over a low heat for a few mins.
  2. Stir and pour over the cake when it's cooled.

I find it fantastic that traditional methods that our ancestors used to preserve and store many foods are still recommended today. My father is 80 this year and he would put my memory skills to shame. He loves reminiscing over his childhood and telling tales about a somewhat simpler and slower paced life. This lifestyle seemed to be enjoyed by many country people years ago, when life revolved around producing, cooking and preserving their food. One memory he has from autumn, as a child, is that of his mother checking apples and wrapping the unblemished ones in paper. As our grandmothers would have to rely on seasonal produce such methods of preservation were essential for the creative cook. These apples would then come in very useful when one wanted to bake an apple tart in January. 

If you have the space a couple of Bramley apple trees are very useful in the back-garden. My own trees are
only producing a small crop as they are just 2 years old but year on year this will improve.

  • Check each apple for blemishes and bruises.
  • Don't wrap these as they will rot the rest of the good apples.
  • Wrap each one individually in a square of newspaper. 
  • Store in a single layer in cool, dark and humid conditions. 
  • They must not touch each other.
  • Check the apples regularly and remove any that are beginning to rot. 

Using this method you could have apples until springtime.

Apples ready to be shelved upstairs