Voting lines are now open for Taste Factor. To vote for me text TASTE4 to 53131. 
I would be really thrilled if you would take the time to vote for me. Every single vote will count. Voting ends at midday Friday 3rd June. Thanks a million! Nessa x
Friday was a really special day in our house as this was when I got to cook live on television for the very first time. It was just an amazing experience! 
My slot was allocated for 7.45am and I was asked to be at the TV3 studios an hour prior to this. Myself and Jack were up at 5am. I sorted my hair and make-up and we hit the road at 5.40am. Even tough neither of us were use to such an early start surprisingly we weren't tired. I expect the excitement of heading to a tv studio can have that effect! 
On arriving at  the TV3 studios Laura, from the PR company that's dealing with Taste Of Dublin, met us and showed us to the kitchen. Edward Hayden was already in place and ready to welcome me with a big smile and  lots of reassuring words before we went live. Within a couple of minutes I had my apron on and the presenter Anna Daly was introducing me with Edward. After this I was brought into the main studio to have my make-up touched up where I met Laura Birmingham and Sinead Desmond.  Everyone was so friendly and relaxed I immediately felt comfortable and any fears of appearing on telly seemed to disappear!
The segment of me cooking was actually so short (only 4 mins 50 secs!) and seemed to pass even quicker. When I was plating the dish one of the crew was signalling that we only had one minute left. I then started to panic thinking that I'm on national television and I haven't mentioned my blog yet. I really didn't want to let the opportunity for such an amazing plug to pass. Thankfully Anna went on to mention it leaving me to frantically respond with as much as I could say in the remaining 30 secs!
It was so much fun and I really enjoyed the whole experience. It is now up to the public to vote for their favourite dish and voting lines will open on Monday. I will post the number to vote here on the blog and I would be thrilled if you would  take the time to give me a vote. Fingers crossed and many thanks to all for so many lovely words of support!! 

Here I am with the lovely Edward Hayden whose new book Food To Love is on sale here and also in many good book stores nationwide.

I'm so excited about cooking live on television this Friday! The dish that I am cooking is very straight forward so at least that is one less worry. My nine-year-old Jack is going to travel with me to the TV3 studios. It will be such a wonderful experience for him and he's bringing his video camera to capture plenty of 'behind the scenes' footage.  As ever family life is busy so I haven't had the time to yet get nervous about my upcoming television appearance. If you would like to see me demonstrating my dish tune in to TV3 this Friday 27th May at 9.10am.

I wanted to share with you a recipe for bread that I found in Lorraine Pascale's fabulous cookbook, Baking Made Easy. I'm really enjoying Lorraine's book and I'm slowly working my way through it.
I divided the dough to make bread rolls but it works best as a full loaf of bread. As Lorraine notes it is heavier than a regular yeast bread due to the 'no knead' approach however it is a lot quicker to make. The smell of fresh bread wafting from the kitchen is one of the best ways to greet anyone into your home. This bread is very effortless to make and delivers well on the flavour.

225g (8oz) strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
225g (8oz) strong wholemeal flour
1 tsp salt
1 x 7g sachet fast-action dried yeast
1 tbsp clear honey
300ml (11fl oz) warm water
Vegetable oil or oil spray, for oiling
a little milk, for brushing


  1. Dust a medium baking tray with flour.
  2. Sift the flours into a large bowl and reserve the grain – the brown bits that are too big to fit through the sieve. Add the salt and yeast, then make a big hole in the centre and pour in the honey and water. Mix well to form a smooth dough, working it gently with your hands if necessary. If the dough feels a bit stiff, add an extra two tablespoons of water. Shape the mixture into a ball and place on the prepared baking tray. Make sure the top is smooth and wrinkle-free. Cover the dough loosely with oiled clingfilm, making sure it is airtight, and leave to rise in a warm place for a good hour, or until it has almost doubled in size.
  3. Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas mark 6. Remove the clingfilm from the dough and make a few slashes in the top with a sharp knife – I use a sharp, serrated knife and saw gently. Brush the loaf with milk, sprinkle with the reserved grain and then place in the oven.
  4. Put about 10 ice cubes into the bottom of the oven – they will produce steam, which keeps the crust from hardening too quickly. (A quickly hardened crust prevents the bread from rising well.) Bake the bread for 30–40 minutes, or until it has risen, sounds hollow when tapped underneath and comes easily off the baking tray. Remove from the oven and leave to cool on the tray.
  5. Serve fresh from the oven with loads of butter. These loaves do not keep well. However, if the whole lot does not disappear in one sitting, slice up the remainder and put it in the freezer to eat as toast.

I was absolutely over the moon to receive an e-mail today informing me that I am a finalist in Taste Factor.
Next Friday morning I will travel to the TV3 studios and cook my dish - Mushroom Brioche with Creamy Philadelphia, live on television with celebrity chef Edward Hayden. I will be live at 9.10am and the show is then repeated on 3e, so I will be on at 12.10pm on that channel. I'm so excited and this itself is as good as any prize but I am then in with a one in four chance of winning a trip to Philadelphia with 1,000 euro spending money. If that wasn't enough the winner also gets 4 VIP tickets to Taste of Dublin and gets to demonstrate their dish on stage with Edward!!!  Pretty amazing-I think so!!
After Friday the public will get to vote on their favourite dish and this is when I will need your help. I will post the details on how to vote and I would really appreciate if you would take the time to vote for me.
Until then I will be busy trying to perfect my dish. Happy Days :)

I think most will agree that a roast dinner is fairly high on their list of favourite dinners. Is it that one meal can guarantee such a great fusion of flavours or is it the feeling of nostalgia that this meal can conjure up? When I was growing up a roast dinner was obligatory on a Sunday, be it chicken, beef or lamb it was always served up with all the trimmings. I am still quite partial to a roast dinner but what hinders me from making this every other day is all the washing up it produces. There seem to be so many bowls, pots and pans needed for the roast and all the necessary accompanying dishes. 
This recipe that I am sharing with you is one that I have relied on in times when I have needed to feed a crowd but was really pushed for time. With this recipe, you can have a delicious roast dinner any day of the week with very little effort. To make the most of a whole chicken I get my butcher to chop it into 10 pieces, of course, if you are handy with butchery you could attempt to do this yourself but most butchers are most happy to oblige, which means less work for you in the kitchen. This not only cooks the chicken quicker but it results in a lot less waste with every possible piece of meat available for the eating. Feel free to experiment with what you add to the uncooked chicken. I am serving the potatoes and vegetables cooked separately but a few new potatoes, scrubbed well, would also cook perfectly in this dish. Likewise, root vegetables roughly chopped would cook to perfection in this dish.  I am always in search of "easy entertaining" recipes and this couldn't be simpler- just pop the tray in the oven a couple of hours before your guests arrive and it is ready for the table, served straight from the oven. The lemons and roasted garlic almost caramelise while cooking and the smokey flavour from the chorizo and paprika add a gratifying flavour to the cooked chicken, which leaves the chicken tasting equally as good served cold with salads. Do try out this way of cooking a roast chicken and believe me you will find it so convenient and tasty that this will be your new Roast Dinner. All you will need now is a plan of what to do with all the extra time you will have on a Sunday!

1 x 2-2.25kg Chicken cut into 10 pieces

100g chorizo cut into large chunks
1 head Garlic separated into unpeeled cloves
1 unwaxed Lemon cut into chunks

Sprig of rosemary
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
3 tablespoons Olive Oil
150 ml white wine
Black pepper

1. Pre-heat the oven to 180ºC / gas mark 4.
2. Put the chicken pieces into a roasting tin and add the chorizo, garlic cloves, lemon chunks and the rosemary; just pull the leaves off the stalks.
3. Sprinkle over the smoked paprika. Add the oil and using your hands mix everything together, then spread the mixture out, making sure all the chicken pieces are skin side up and the chorizo is nestled under the chicken pieces.
4. Pour over the white wine and grind on some pepper, then cover tightly with foil and put in the oven to cook for 1 1/2 hours.
5. Remove the foil from the roasting tin, and turn up the oven to 200ºC/gas mark 6.
Cook the uncovered chicken for another 30 minutes, by which time the skin on the meat will have turned golden brown.

6. Serve straight from the oven in the roasting tray.

This article was published in The Westmeath Independent on 11th May 2011.
Photos & styling by Nessa Robins.

I have been busy in the kitchen over the past few weeks with family occasions and get-togethers. I also took the time to enter a few recipe competitions. There seem to be so many recipe competitions at the moment, such as Taste Factor, and all have amazing prizes up for grabs, so I just had to rustle up a few recipes and enter - if you're not in, and all that! 

This recipe is one that comes in handy at times when  I am really busy and need something quick for supper or tea.
This is a dish that is thrown together very quickly with whatever ingredients you have at hand. Quesadillas are a popular dish in my house and they are a great way to use up any leftovers including roast chicken. Ham could also be used in place of the chicken however after watching What's Ireland Eating, last week on RTE 1, I'm not sure if many of us will be adding any regular ham to our shopping baskets for a while!

Roast Chicken Quesadilla

2 whole wheat tortilla wraps
1 tablespoon sun-dried tomato pesto
A small handful of grated cheddar cheese
2/3 sprigs of chive/red onion, sliced finely 
Handful of roast chicken

1. Heat a large frying pan over a high heat. Spread the sun-dried tomato pesto on one of the tortilla wraps, top with some grated cheese, a generous amount of spring onions, and lots of lovely roast chicken.
2. Place another tortilla wrap on top. Fry on both sides over a high heat, until the quesadilla is golden brown and the cheese inside has melted.  

Serve the quesadillas sliced in quarters with a green salad.

Taste of Dublin has teamed up with Philadelphia to launch ‘Taste Factor – The Search for Ireland’s Best Amateur Chef’ on TV3’s Ireland AM. The winner will cook live alongside a celebrity chef at the Philadelphia Chef Theatre at Taste of Dublin, will get four VIP tickets to Taste of Dublin and a trip for two to Philadelphia in the US with $1,000 spending money. But hurry - the deadline is Friday, 13 May!

Here is my entry for Taste Factor 2011!!

Mushroom Brioche with Creamy Philadelphia

25g butter
Drizzle of olive oil
225g mushrooms, sliced
1 shallot, finely chopped
pinch sea salt and freshly ground pepper
100mls white wine
50mls philadelphia / cream
a squeeze of lemon juice
freshly chopped parsley or chives
4 slices of Brioche, toasted

1. Melt the butter with a drizzle of olive oil in a large heavy pan, over a medium heat. Add the sliced mushrooms and chopped shallot. Season with a pinch of sea salt and some freshly ground pepper. Cook for about 5 minutes. 
2. Add the wine and allow to bubble for a few minutes.
3. Turn down the heat under the pan and pour in the philadelphia/cream, stirring well to combine all the ingredients together. Add a little squeeze of lemon.
4. Taste and correct the seasoning, and add the parsley/chives. 
5. Serve over some sliced toasted brioche.

With all the beautiful weather we have had over the past few weeks, the barbecue season seems to have starter early in Ireland. It is certainly a great way to entertain a crowd, with some good meats marinaded and a few bowls of tasty salads, so many mouths can be fed. This is one salad dish that I make to accompany grilled or barbecue meats. So many times recipes that I use regularly are ones that originally came recommended from someone. This recipe comes from my sister's sister in law, Yvonne, who seems to come up with fantastic salad combinations. The broccoli and carrots are kept raw and just roughly chopped into small pieces. This is such a nutritional dish and it is delicious even without any accompaniments.

Nutty Carrot and Broccoli Salad

1 large Carrot, diced into small pieces
100g Broccoli florets, chopped into small pieces
40g Salted Peanuts, roughly chopped
2 tbsp Mayonnaise

1. Combine all the ingredients together in a bowl and mix well.
2. Cover and refrigerate until needed.

If you are planning on entertaining a few guests and would like to make it an occasion to remember then Rachel Allen's new book Entertaining at Home would certainly be the book to get you on the right track!
The book does not only focus on entertaining for formal occasions but also on how to make the most of entertaining a few friends informally with some irresistible nibbles and drinks.
There are so many amazing recipes and in true Rachel style all the recipes are easy to follow. Unlike many of her previous books there are many dishes that require more extravagant ingredients, that being said this book is focusing on special occasions which deserve dishes that wouldn't be on your average daily menu.
Chapters are Brunches and Lunches, Casual Meals, Eating Outdoors, Canapes and Small Bites, Small Celebrations, Dinner Parties, Larger Gatherings and The Buffet Party. Each chapter closes with menu selection ideas which proves very useful when organising an event. The book is complete with a pink ribbon marker which is one feature that I love in a cookbook!
'Entertaining at Home'  isn't over saturated with photographs; I sometimes find that in cookbooks, recipes can be lost if not photographed as a photo always tempts the reader that little bit more to cook the dish. However there are 351 pages in this cookbook and to photograph each or even every second recipe would lead to a very large book indeed! The book is delightfully illustrated and the photography is beautiful with very elegant ideas on table decorations and settings.
There is a fantastic variety of recipes and decoration suggestions which are tailored for very different forms of entertaining. There are meal plans to suit any entertaining scenario, whether you are planning on entertaining a crowd or maybe looking for ideas on creating the perfect romantic meal for two you will find all the inspiration you need in 'Entertaining at Home'.

This cookbook is available to buy here on Amazon.