Some might say that this soup is best suited to summer months when delicious ripe Irish tomatoes are in high season. It is true that the result will be fresher however using a good- quality tin of cherry tomatoes makes for a really delicious taste of summer, any time of the year. If using a tin of tomatoes always add a spoonful of sugar as they tend to be sharper in taste. I'm a fan of homemade soups for many reasons. They are quick to make, filling, nutritious and also when blender a great way to sneak some vegetables into your child's diet.
This recipe is from Clodagh McKenna's Homemade. I simply blended it and added a little dash of cream before serving to the children.

Roasted Tomato & Basil Soup

600g cherry tomatoes, halved
2 garlic cloves,crushed
1 red onion, chopped into large chunks
extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
10 basil leaves, torn
500mls chicken or vegetable stock
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


  1. Preheat the oven to 160C.
  2. Put the tomatoes, garlic and onion in an over proof dish, season with salt and pepper, and drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
  3. With clean hands, massage all the ingredients together for 5 minutes to enhance the flavour of the soup. Roast in the oven for 20 minutes
  4. Allow the tomatoes to cool slightly when they have come out of the oven, then tip into a large bowl with the fresh basil leaves. Allow to infuse for a minute.
  5. Pour the stock into the saucepan, stir in the tomatoes and basil and place over a low heat for 20 minutes.
  6. Serve the soup chunky or blend for a smoother finish.

Last Sunday in the Tullamore Court many amazing food and drink producers came together for Taste of Offaly. This was the first Taste of Offaly event and it was organised by Midlands Radio 103. It proved to be a wonderful success with a packed house and many stall holders selling out  of their goods by the end of the day. Living in the Midlands, I have been lucky enough to sample many of these fantastic products before but I was delighted that they all met under one roof allowing me to head home with bags packed with lots of yummy ingredients.
The one common ground between  all these entrepreneurs is their love and passion for what they are producing. As I spoke with many involved they all claimed that their business's are doing fairly well, even tough it is a lot of hard work  they are seeing a good return. I would love to see more of these such days organised as it highlights the wonderful producers and local products that are available in the Midlands. I think it is so important to do our part and support local businesses, whether it is heading to the local Farmer's Market on a Saturday morning or picking up a locally made apple tart in the supermarket, we can all help to keep Irish jobs and businesses strong!

Paddy O' Connell had his Granola for sale which is delicious. This guy set up his business while still at college!

This is some of the cheese that Mossfield Organic Farm had to offer. Mossfield Organic Farm is located six miles from Birr in County Offaly at the foot of the Sleive Bloom Mountains. In 2005 Ralph Haslam began producing an organic gouda type cheese which has since gone on to win many awards. There is always some Mossfield Cheese in my fridge-it is one of my favourite cheeses as it is so tasty and versitile.


Ballyshiel is a family run business based in Ferbane, Co. Offaly. They spesialise in a luxurious range of speciality confectionery and chocolates  which are all hand made to a truly authentic family recipe. Their latest product is a speciality Hot Chocolate made with pure chocolate(52%) and not a trace of hydronated fats which are associated with many other varieties. If you like a real choclate treat this is a real luxury product!

There were also some of Tullamore's finest restaurant giving out samples of their dishes. This is Sirocco's Italian Restaurant which have won many awards and have a fantastic take away menu.

Lough Boora Farm had a beautiful display of organic fruit and veg.

Yaadgar Indian Restaurant were giving out samples of some of their delicious dishes.

This is Orla Clancy from Clanwood Farm.Until 5 years ago herself and her husband had a dry stock farm then they decided to go Organic and started selling beef direct from their farm as well as eggs, soups, hummus  and pesto. All that and a young family - truly amazing!
I still have some of Derryvilla Blueberries in my freezer from last year but I picked up a bottle of their blueberry tonic which is a wonderful, natural vitamin supplement.
Coolfin Gardens Organic Bakery had an impressive selection of fresh breads.
Yvonne Carty from the boutique catering business, Hey Pesto! gave two cookery demos and produced a three course meal using all local ingredients. I had a taste after the demo and each dish was scrumptious.
Well done to all involved who made this such a sucessful event!

I absolutely love to cook and there is always a great sense of achievement and pride when that cooking is complemented by others. They are some that I always want to impress with my culinary skills, more than others, and that's my children. I find it so fulfilling when what I cook is actually eaten and enjoyed by my them. As many parents understand there is nothing more frustrating than spending the morning preparing and cooking a meal with it only to be left untouched on a plate. Children are naturally fussy eaters as their palates are only developing, for different flavours, therefore the sooner you can introduce a varied, balanced diet to your child the more likely they are to try out new dishes as they are growing older. 
I always find that our house runs a little smoother when everyone has eaten well for the day, therefore I generally cook foods for my children that I know they will eat. Each of them would gladly choose a pasta or rice dish over a more traditional Irish dinner. I must admit that I dread a battle at the dinner table, so if the boys are requesting a tomato sauce with their pasta I would give into their order, but I always sneak in a few extra vegetables to get the most possible nutrients without affecting the flavour they are use to. Once the sauce is blended, or liquidised, these added ingredients won't even be noticed by the suspicious child.
This recipe for a creamy pasta sauce works perfectly as a vegetarian option. However, if  you or your children are meat eaters you can then decide which meat to add to this versatile sauce. Sometimes I add some strips of pan fried chicken, prawns or chorizo. The children also love to add some cooked sausages.  Before serving I generally grate a little Parmesan or cheddar over the sauce and give it a stir. The cheese won't necessarily be noticed by the children but the added protein is always a bonus to the already nutritious dish.

All Purpose Pasta Sauce

25g Butter

drizzle of rapeseed or olive oil
4 cloves Garlic, crushed
1 onion, finely diced
1 leak(white part only), thinly sliced
1 red pepper, thinly sliced
1 pinch sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp caster sugar

2 x 400g tinned tomatoes
1 pinch dried red chilli flakes

2 tsp fresh basil, roughly torn
150ml cream
500g pasta
50g Parmesan, grated

1. Melt the butter with the drizzle of oil in a large saucepan, and add the  garlic, onion, leek and red pepper. Season to taste with salt, freshly ground black pepper and the sugar.
2. Cook on a medium heat,for about five minutes until the vegetables have just begun to soften. Add the tomatoes and cook for a further five minutes.
3. Add the chilli flakes, cream and basil to the pan. Simmer for about 15 minutes until the mixture has reduced a little, stirring frequently. Remove from the heat and adjust the seasoning, as necessary. Blend the sauce together using a hand blender.
4. Cook the pasta according to the pack's instructions. Drain and toss with the sauce. At this stage you can add some cooked chicken, chorizo or sausages.
5. Transfer the pasta to a large heated serving bowl and scatter with the grated Parmesan cheese.

This article was published in The Westmeath Independent on 16th Feb 2011.

I was absolutely thrilled to find out that Nessa's Family Kitchen has been nominated for an Irish Blog Award in the food and drink category. I have only been blogging for over a year so it is a great honour to be nominated. There are so many fantastic Irish blogs in this category, some that I hadn't even seen before! Click on the link above and have a good look through the other nominees. The very best of luck to all!!

For anyone who doesn't already know Skye Gyngell is the head chef at Petersham Nurseries Cafe in Richmond, Surrey and she is also a well established food writer. Her previous two books are 'A Year in my
Kitchen' which was published to great acclaim four years ago, and named 'Cookery Book of the Year' by the Guild of Food Writers, and 'My Favourite Ingredients' published in 2008.
On receiving Skye's latest book, 'How I Cook', I was immediately impressed with the look, quality and size of the book. Complements to Quadrille who published such a beautifully binded book and I love the generous inclusion of three ribbon markers which are stitched to the spine. The book is saturated with truly magnificent photographs by the award- winning food and travel photograph Jason Lowe. Many of the photographs are drenched with natural sunlight and would certainly encourage any novice chef to get busy in the kitchen!

This book is based on recipes that Skye likes to cook at home for her family and friends. I must say that coming from a Michelin star chef these recipes are surprisingly down to earth and practical - certainly achievable by the home chef. The book is divided into different occasions and suggested menu plans are given, from Sunday Lunch to Late Night Supper, there is a chapter to suit any occasion. There is also a chapter which is titled 'Time to spare' which includes many preserve recipes. I made the Seville orange marmalade and it turned out perfectly. There are many traditional recipes which are offered with plenty of advice, for example on how best to cook the dish or store the ingredients. I really enjoyed reading these tips and found myself flicking forward in the book to read these before studying the recipes! Skye's love of using fresh, in season ingredients is evident throughout her recipes and this book.

I have to admit that I love this book and am looking forward to trying out many of the recipes. With such an impressive cookbook I have a real urge to hop on a plane and head to Skye's cafe and restaurant in Surrey to sample first handed her marvelous creations! However I think for the moment I will have to settle for recreating the dishes myself.

I have had a pasta machine in the press for over a year now and as much as I love fresh pasta somehow I always find a reason not to make my own. Well after last Saturday I am determined to make good use of this gadget as I  had a master class, on pasta making, with the lovely Clodagh Mckenna at her stunning cookery school at The Village at Lyons - which is located just outside Cellbridge.

The location of the cookery school is simply beautiful and really magnificent! There is a long, well maintained driveway which brings you straight up to the main building.  A small foot bridge is crossed before entering a truly magnificent drawing room. It is like stepping back in time and more comparable to a stately home than a hotel reception. At the back of the hotel in the courtyard is where Clodagh's cookery school, store and cafe are situated. I have met Clodagh on previous occasions so upon arrival I was greeted with a friendly smile and welcoming hug. While awaiting on other class participants a pot of tea was served up to me in an impressive silver tea pot with a pretty china teacup. The day was certainly off to a good start!

As there were some late cancellations there were only two others in the class. Of course this was unfortunate for Clodagh but fabulous for me- a one on one tutorial with one of Ireland's top celebrity chefs! Seemingly there are many other courses which are more popular.

It was a busy day in the kitchen making Ravioli, Pepperonata, Puttanesca, Pesto, Lasagne and naturally  most of the day was spent making delicious fresh pasta of many varieties! I found the 'hands-on' class so beneficial and I think extremely important when learning a new skill such as pasta making.

For lunch Clodagh treated us to a platter of toasted sour dough bread and her award winning pate which was so tasty! When the class was over we got to take home absolutely everything that we had made. I could hardly believe that I was leaving with enough food for my crew for at least four dinners! It was really fantastic value and if, like me, you enjoy a day out with a difference I can completely recommend a day at Clodagh's cookery school.

Clodagh's cafe is also really beautiful and the food is fantastic. If you are ever near Cellbridge this would certainly be the perfect location for lunch! The classes are very well priced but there are constantly special offers cropping up on the Internet for Clodagh's classes- so go on, treat yourself!!

It has been said that the best way to man's heart is through his stomach. Living in a predominantly male household with a husband, three sons and most times a father, I must admit that I have found this saying to be quite true. Whether it's a difficult day at school or some little worry a favourite dish or a homemade treat always seems to improve any situation, if only for a while! Valentine's Day is traditionally a day to celebrate love and affection between companions. However this celebration shouldn't be just limited to 'courting couples' as love is universal and should be celebrated among friends and family alike. Food tends to be the focal point for most occasions and somehow a meal shared is always more enjoyable, so when better to enjoy a meal with a loved one than on Valentine's Day!
This is a recipe for an easy to make dessert that would make the perfect end to a special meal. This Raspberry Fool is utterly delicious and so luscious that it is hard to believe it has merely three ingredients. If you would like to opt for a lighter version, creme fraiche or greek yogurt can replace some of the cream.
Shortbread biscuits make an ample accompaniment to the fool.  These can be shop bought or to keep with the Valentine theme my love heart shortbread biscuits would be most suitable.This recipe is based on one of Rachel Allen's recipes. Any leftover fool can be poured into a cling film lined tin and frozen to use as a 'raspberry ice' on another occasion.

Raspberry Fool

250g raspberries, frozen
110g Caster sugar
250ml cream-whipped

1. Lay the raspberries out flat on a dish. Sprinkle on the caster sugar and allow this to sit for 1 hour for the sugar to be absorbed.
2. Purée the fruit in a liquidiser or blender. Pass the purée through a sieve to remove the seeds.
3. Gently fold in the whipped cream to the raspberry purée. The Raspberry Fool is now ready to be served or it can be chilled, but it is best used on the day it is made.

Shortbread Hearts
170g (6oz) white flour
110g (4oz) butter
55g (2oz) caster sugar
1/2 teasp vanilla extract
zest of 1/2 an orange-optional

1.Put the flour and sugar (and orange zest, if using) into a bowl, rub in the butter. Add the vanilla extract.
2. Gather the mixture together and knead lightly. Roll out to 7mm (¼ inch) thick. Cut into rounds with a cutter or into heart shapes.
3. Bake in a moderate oven 180C/350F/gas mark 4 to golden or pale brown, 8– 12 minutes- depending on their thickness.
4. Remove and cool on a rack.

This article was published in The Westmeath Independent on 9th Feb 2011.

It's official - spring has arrived.  Although I wouldn't be packing away the woollies just yet, every day is drawing us nearer to sunshine and further away from the harsh winter we had to endure. I always feel that spring is well and truly here when I see the first daffodils peeping out through the soil. There is something genuinely amazing that these little bulbs, that appear fragile when planted, can hibernate in the ground only to reappear as a perfectly formed flower in the spring. Considering the amount of us that had to abide burst pipes, over the winter, it would make you think that nature is surely extraordinary.
The 3rd of February also sees the arrival of spring in the Chinese calender and more importantly it is the day they celebrate New Years Day. Chinese food has become an integral part of the way we cook in Ireland so to celebrate why not that the opportunity to try a delicious homemade Chinese dish. Chinese cuisine includes so many aromatic spices, varied textures and tempting sauces. Once upon a time one the only chance of an authentic Chinese dish was from the local takeaway however this has changed as specialised ingredients are now so easily accessible  in most supermarkets. 
This week's recipe ties in with the Chinese celebration-Chicken Skewers with a Spicy Satay Sauce-it is completely delicious as a main dish, a starter or even served as a canape, if you are entertaining guests. The chicken greatly benefits from marinating overnight however if you are caught short of time an hour or so would also be enough time for the chicken to avail of the wonderful flavours in the marinade. The Spicy Satay Sauce is far superior to any you could buy. Don't be deterred by the long list of ingredients as each one plays its part in making this a truly sensational sauce. I'm serving it as a dip for the skewers but it can also be used as a marinade for chicken-just add a little extra oil. This will easily keep in the fridge for a week.
Happy New Year and enjoy the celebrations.

Chicken Skewers with a Spicy Satay Sauce


4 chicken breast, cubed or in strips
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 small onion,finely chopped
2tbsp light soy sauce
1tbsp toasted sesame oil
1tbsp sugar
1tbsp coriander powder or whole coriander seeds crushed
1teasp smoked paprika
1tbsp red wine vinegar

To Cook
wooden skewers, soaked for 30 mins in cold water


1. Marinade the chicken with all the ingredients for at least an hour. 
 It is important to soak the wooden skewers in cold water for at least 30mins before using as this will stop the stick from burning when cooking the chicken.
2. Preheat the oven to 190°C/fan 170°C/Gas mark 5. Thread the chicken cubes onto the skewers.
3. Place on a baking tray and place in the oven for approx 12-15 mins or until the meat is cooked through.
4. Serve hot with the spicy satay sauce, noodles and a green salad.

Spicy Satay Sauce

This is an adaptation of Eric Treuille's recipe, which I picked up while on a barbecue course in Ballymaloe. 

250g peanut butter
2 garlic clove, crushed
1tbsp grated fresh ginger
1 tsp tabasco
4 tbsp soy sauce
3 tbsp runny honey

1 tbsp olive oil
juice of 1 lime
150mls coconut milk

1. Place all the ingredients in a food processor or blender and pulse until smooth.
2. Cover and let stand for 30 mins at room temp to allow flavours to blend.
3. Serve chilled or at room temperature.
This will easily keep for 1 week in the fridge.

This article was published in The Westmeath Independent on 2nd Feb 2011.

Paddington Bear was one of my favourite cartoon characters as a child. I was very proud that I had a little leather suitcase, just like  Paddington, that I brought everywhere. There is something very caring and lovable about this little bear that has an amazing appeal to children and adults alike. The Paddington books have sold more than thirty-five million copies worldwide and have been translated into over forty languages. Even though I haven't seen Paddington on television in a long time he is still  in the business- so to say. As he was an avid fan of marmalade and his image is used by many companies to promote this preserve. The World’s Original Marmalade Awards & Festival will take place at the historic Dalemain Mansion, in the Lake District, UK on February 12th and 13th 2011 and Paddington will be there to partake in the marmalade tasting. Click Here if you would like some more information on this event.
Marmalade is best made with Seville oranges which are only in season for about 4 weeks, at this time of each year. I am constantly in search of new jam and marmalade recipes and welcome tips on how best to set these without the use of 'jam sugar'. A fellow blogger Joanna from Smorgasblog  was making marmalade in the past few weeks and gave plenty of tips through Twitter and shared this article from the Guardian which proved quite useful. This recipe for Seville orange marmalade is from Skye Gyngell's new book- How I Cook. I followed the method exactly and to my delight it set perfectly. I thought the idea of measuring the liquid and fruit before adding the sugar was a good one as naturally the amount of liquid left in the pan may differ between cooks so therefore this makes for a more accurate recipe. If you would like to make this marmalade you will have to be quick as their season for this year is almost over.

Seville Orange Marmalade

1kg Seville oranges
3 litres water
2 pinches of salt
about 2kg caster sugar

  1. Scrub the oranges, thinly slice the oranges into pinwheels – leave the skin on but discard the pips. Put the fruit, water and salt into a large pot. Bring to the boil, lower the heat and simmer gently until the peel is soft; this will take about 2 hrs. Remove from the heat and allow to steep for 24 hours.
  2. The following day bring to a boil and to every cup of fruit/water mixture add a cup of sugar. Return to the boil and cook for 30 minutes.
  3. To test whether the marmalade is set, place a flat plate into the fridge to chill. Spoon a teaspoon of marmalade on to the chilled plate and, if it is ready, it will immediately set like sticky jelly. Remove from the heat and spoon into hot sterilised jars.