I really enjoyed the last season of River Cottage, which was completely dedicated to Veggie dishes, so I was thrilled to receive the accompanied book {River Cottage Veg everyday!} from one of my little men for Christmas. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's books are always packed with recipes that are fairly straight forward but so delicious and this book is no different. I'm sure producing a book completely dedicated to vegetable dishes wasn't an easy task, but Hugh has done this and excelled himself. With a lot of creativity and imagination he has created dishes that any dedicated meat eater would thoroughly enjoy.

 In the past couple of months I've tried quite a few of the recipes and this is one of my favourites. Often times I stumble upon a recipe that I enjoy so much, that once I've made it a couple of times, I start to include it as one of our regular dinners. This is one of those recipes, as it consists of ingredients that I will always have in my press. Grant it, the list of ingredients may be long but I'm sure you may already have most of them. Feel free to put whatever you please into the chilli, adding more or less spice, according to what you like. The pinto beans can be replaced with mixed beans or chickpeas while the courgettes and peppers can be swapped for mushrooms and squash. The chilli keeps perfectly in the fridge for 2-3 days and also freezes really nicely. The way I like to serve this is in a big bowl, in the middle of the table, with lots of smaller bowls consisting of  basmati rice, guacamole or just sliced avocado, sour cream. grated cheddar and some lettuce. I then let everybody help themselves which makes it a very handy dish for entertaining. Tortillas or flat-breads also work fabulously with a chilli. The flat-bread in the photo is one I made using Hugh's recipe (see page 176) which turned out quite nice.

Pinto Bean Chilli

2 tbsp olive oil
3 onions
2-3 green chillies, to taste, deseeded and finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp allspice
2 courgettes, cut in 1cm dice
1 red pepper, cored, deseeded and cut into 1cm dice
2 tbsp tomato puree
400g tin plum tomatoes, roughly chopped and any stalky
ends and skin removed
400g tin of pinto beans, drained and rinsed
100ml red wine
A good handful of parsley, finely chopped
A good handful of coriander, finely chopped
A handful of fresh oregano or tsp of dried
sea salt and freshly ground pepper


1.Heat the oil in a saucepan over a medium-low heat, add the onions and sweat, stirring from time to time until very soft and just starting to take some colour.
2.Add the chillies, garlic, cumin, cayenne and allspice and stir for a minute.
3.Add the courgettes and red pepper and stir to coat in the spices. 
4.Add the tomato puree, tinned tomatoes with their juices, pinto beans, red wine, parsley, coriander and oregano. Pour over 200ml of water and add some salt and pepper. Simmer gently for 25-30 minutes, stirring from time to time, until the veg are all tender and everything is thick and saucy. If the veg starts to stick, add a little more water. 
5.Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding a little more salt and/or pepper if you think it needs it.

It can sometimes seems unbelievable the amount of actions and events that can happen as a result of Twitter. Only last year a huge foodie festival was organised in Donegal, which simply started with a tweet between a few foodies that were planning on having a dinner at Harry's in Inishowen. This festival soon became known as Inishfood and it will be happening again this May. Another recent event organised as a result of a tweet by Dorcas Barry, is a workshop with the well known and hugely respected American food writer Diane Jacobs. This will be taking place in September and there are details on the IFBA website. 
My most recent account, of something wonderful to happen because of a tweet, was one sent by Kathryn Thomas on Thurs night. It read - "My friend is heading to Belarus in May. They urgently need babies nappies of any kind. Can anyone help? Pick up nationwide no problem". I responded to Kathryn and she forwarded me Jim Kavanagh's number, a gentleman from Co. Kilkenny. I rang Jim on Friday morning and he told me how Adi Roche had been in the Vesnova orphanage in Belarus last week and it turns out that their supplies of disposable nappies are very low. Jim will be driving out there, with a container, in early April and he's hoping to bring with him a good supply of nappies. These people do such amazing work that I really wanted to do something to help.
 I'm planning on getting together some packs of nappies to give to Jim, to bring to Belarus. Any size, any variety or any brand would be brilliant. If anyone would like to donate a packet of nappies, I will have different collection areas, around Moate, set up for the coming fortnight. I'm waiting on some drop off areas to be confirmed, but so far here are some places that I will be collecting from. Once more are confirmed tomorrow I will add them to this list.

Castledaly N.S. - Nappies can be dropped in there this week, up until this Friday 2nd Feb.
Mount Temple Hall - I'll be there on Wed morning 7th March between 9.30 & 11 am.
Tir ná nOg Playschool, Moate - Nappies can be dropped between Tues & Fri 2nd March. 9.15-12.15hrs
Mount Temple N.S. - Nappies can be dropped to the school on Fri 2nd & Mon 5th March.

Jim will collect nappies from anywhere in the country, so if you can organise a few packs contact Jim and he will collect them from you. Just pop me an e-mail at nessasfamilykitchen@gmail.com and I will pass on his number to you.

Update March 2012 - Thank you all who supported this appeal. Together we collected over 7,000 nappies.

 There really are so many amazing food & wine events happening around the country. This free event which will be hosted by the New Zealand wine brand, Brancott Estate, came to my attention and I just had to share it with you. It sounds like a really spectacular foodie adventure, which I'm sure there will be great interest in, so register with www.brancottestatestaycurious.com for your chance to win some free tickets.
Brancott Estate ‘A Curious Feast for the Senses’
Four Top Restaurants, Four Nights of Discovery, One Pioneering Wine Brand

This March, pioneering New Zealand wine brand, Brancott Estate will take wine and food enthusiasts on a voyage of discovery where all their senses will be stimulated as part of a four night food and wine event. From the dressing of the room, to the food on the plate to the matching visual and aural effects, the entire evening will challenge guests’ perceptions of food and ensure that their curiosity is piqued from the very beginning. The event called ‘A Curious Feast for the Senses’ runs from 5th– 8th March 2012 in the theatrical surroundings of the Sugar Club, Dublin 2.

Food duo Cully & Sully will guide guests on the culinary adventure over four nights as top Irish restaurants Pichet, Campagne, Tankardstown House and Locks Brasserie create a range of gastronomic delights that will tickle the palate and delight the senses in front of a live audience. Each night a different chef from one of the restaurants will take to the stage to create a three course sampling menu of discovery, which will explore food combinations that shouldn’t work together, but do! Food on the night will be matched to wines from the Brancott Estate range and guests will sample four wines; three from the classic range; Brancott Estate Sauvignon Blanc, Brancott Estate Pinot Grigio and Brancott Estate Pinot Noir and one of the newest varietals to the range, the sparkling Brancott Estate Sauvignon Blanc Brut NV. Cully & Sully will challenge guests’ curiosity throughout the night with food trivia quizzes, blindfold tasting games and more.
A night of intrigue and wonder awaits 100 curious diners each night who will have the opportunity to attend the pioneering food and wine event. Guests can register for a chance to win tickets by logging onto www.brancottestatestaycurious.com, scanning the promotional QR Codes on promotional Brancott Estate bottles and by logging onto Brancott Estate Ireland Facebook page www.facebook.com/brancottestateireland.
Winning guests will be notified of attendance by 28th February and two tickets will be allocated per-person.

‘The Brancott Estate, Curious Feast for the Senses’ takes place in the Sugar Club from 5th -8th March 2012.

Yesterday I was kindly invited to the new Avoca at Monkstown to have lunch at Salt Café. Joining me there were a few other food bloggers - Aoife {ICanHasCook} Kristin {Edible Ireland} Aoife {The Daily Spud} Dorcas {DorcasBarry} & Rosanne {LikeMamUsedToBake}. This is a new venture for the family run Avoca, as this cafe is run alongside a large and very impressive food-market. Since opening last November I've wanted to pay it a visit, as anything I've read about it has been wonderful. It's quite an original concept as this food-market stocks a phenomenal range of real quality artisan produce.
I stood outside Avoca for a few moments before heading into the food market, just to take note of the beautiful building. Through the large windows I could spy a vast array of tastefully displayed food and excitedly I opened the door and stepped into a food haven of my dreams. The very impressive cheese room, which homes many beautiful cheeses, is located just inside the main door. This room is actually both humidity and temperature controlled to keep the cheese in perfect condition. The layout of the food market is so visually appealing with both it and the cafe, Salt, being so splendidly styled. The whole place has a wonderful retro feel and yet looks beautiful and natural. Straight away you are greeted by a burst of colour from all the fresh fruit and vegetables. I really loved the wooden crates that the produce were displayed in and also the hand written labels. This gave such a personal feel to the display and reflected a market that would once of been seen in times gone by.
Just inside the door, on the right, is a French-style rotisserie offering free range chickens and duck straight from the spit. Behind the counter is Gavin McCarty who along with his wife owns Poulet Bonne Femme. They saw a gap in the Irish market for good quality rotisserie chickens and in 2009 they set up their business at a farmers market and now this is their first step into a premise. What they produce is an extremely succulent and tasty bird and I was delighted to bring one home for the rest of the family to try. 

 A fresh salad bar runs in the centre of the shop and a little further into the building is the deli counter which offers many take away options such as quiche, baked potatoes and lasagne as well as many very tempting cakes. There is also a great selection of the Avoca Pantry and the Avoca's To Go range of foods.

A wonderful addition to this food market is the specialised craft butcher, James Whelan. They offer so many different cuts of meat as well as a huge variety of dishes ready for the pan or the oven. The fascinating part of the butcher's display are the large windows behind which are butcher blocks for the customer to have a birds eye view of the meat being prepared for sale.
Kristin, Sonia {SRN PR}, Rosanne, Aoife Mc & Aoife C.

We got to take home one of Poulet Bonne Femme's rotisserie chickens, which in turn was devoured by the boys in a matter of minutes. This is an Irish free range chicken that's cooked to perfection and deliciously moist. It really is a fantastic product.

At the lunch we were joined by Simon Pratt & Monique McQuaid, who are the managers of  the foodhall and Salt Cafe, the gifted butcher Pat Whelan as well as Sonia Reynolds and Frances Duff who manage the PR for Avoca. Along with the ladies I already know this made for a really lovely group to have lunch with. There was a good selection to choose from on the lunch menu and I certainly felt spoilt for choice. I suppose like many, when I eat out I tend to order what I wouldn't normally make at home, so I decided on the Crab & Apple Salad. As well as appealing to my taste buds, it was also visually stunning. I had the Blueberry Crème Brûlée for dessert which I would definitely recommend. The food was fantastic and the company at the table also added to a truly wonderful dining experience. The common ground of a love for good food made for lots of interesting banter throughout the meal.

We may all look a little 'sun blushed' but alas it was just the effects of the lights on the butcher's display.

I had a quick dash around the food hall before leaving and made sure to pack by basket with lots of delicious products. Once you step inside the door of Avoca you are entering into a real foodie experience. The food in the cafe and what's on offer to take home is of an extraordinary high standard. After speaking with Simon and Monique it's clear that they are so passionate about food and sourcing only the best for their business. They have a real belief in delivering something very wonderful to the costumer - Delicious, fresh, seasonal, Irish products. Thank you very kindly to Avoca for inviting me to such an enjoyable afternoon.
 Valentine's Day is approaching and will be celebrated worldwide by loving couples. It's a day that has been appreciated for over 1500 years but not until the late 1800's did the tradition of exchanging cards and gifts really come into play. It is now highly commercialised and unbelievably a quarter of all cards bought each year are Valentine's cards.  I'd have to admit that for the past few years it hasn't been one day that I've put too much thought into. I think the fact that I have four children may have something to do with this. However I do really like the sentiment of Valentine's.

For parents, especially with young children, it can actually be quite difficult to organise some alone time but it is so important for a couple, even if you do only end up chatting about the children! 'Date night' is all the rage in America whereby a couple has a set night each week to head out and spend time alone. It is a nice idea, but I can't see that it would always be practical. A night out may be difficult to organise, but a lunch in an old favourite haunt or even a walk in a charming location could be easier to coordinate. These outings can be a real treat but if leaving the house is near to impossible then rustling up a special meal at home can nicer than anything! The meal doesn't have to be elaborate, just a dish that you both enjoy, which isn't too bothersome to make. Of course when dining at home there is no guaranteeing that you won't have to seat an extra one or two, if the bedtime routine isn't going to plan!  

Peperonata Wellington

When eating late in the evening I like to serve a lighter meal and preferably something that won't take too long to cook. This Peperonata Wellington can be prepared earlier in the day and then just assembled prior to cooking. I normally make a large pot of the peperonota and then use it through the week with any sort of chicken or fish dish. It is also delicious served on its own with pasta. The Peperonata Wellington is a substantial dish, so a simple green salad makes an ideal accompaniment. 

4 tbsp olive oil
1 red pepper, cut into strips
1 yellow pepper, cut into strips
1 orange pepper, cut into strips
2 red onions,sliced
2 garlic cloves,crushed
2 tins of plum tomatoes
salt &  freshly ground pepper
Pastry case-
2 tbsp basil pesto
60g mozzarella, sliced
1 sheet of puff pastry, defrosted
1 egg, slightly beaten
20g sesame seeds

1. To make the peperonata put the olive oil, pepper strips, onion slices, garlic and tomatoes into a saucepan. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Allow to cool before using in the wellington.
2. Pre heat the oven to 180°C(fan)/390°F/gas mark 6.
3. Place the sheet of puff pastry onto a floured work surface. Cut into four and brush the edges of each rectangle with some beaten egg.
4. Divide the pesto between two of the rectangles and spread evenly. Top each with 2 tbsps of peperonata then 3 slices of mozzarella.
5. Carefully place a rectangle of pastry over each peperonata & cheese mix and seal tightly to the bottom piece of pastry with a fork.
6. Place the wellingtons onto a baking tray and brush the tops with some beaten egg. Sprinkle with the sesame seeds. Chill in the fridge for 10 minutes.
7. Bake  for 25 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown.
8. Serve straight away.

I spend most of my time in the kitchen, cooking and baking, so naturally my children enjoy getting creative in the kitchen every now and again. If you normally don't cook with your children I'd urge you to give it a try. If you're able to handle a little extra flour on your worktop then cooking with children is a lot less stressful than you might think. It's an activity that can be enjoyed together without leaving your house and children are so proud to show what they have made with their own little hands. I have suggested some recipe on my Cooking with Kids page that my children enjoy to make. The rolling and cutting out of dough is ever popular with children, so whether it's a biscuit mixture or a dough for scones the children could spend a good hour working hard, constructing their own little masterpiece. So a pizza base made out of a scone mixture is a good introduction for children to baking.

 Most children adore pizzas but often the shop bought variety can be less than desirable. When rustling up your own pizza at home there are many options for a base. French bread, pitta breads and tortillas can all be used and my boys absolute favourite quick pizza is made using a naan bread as the base. If you have a little bit of time for preparing your pizza, and would like the children to help, this Easy Peasy Pizza is a perfect choice. It's a lot healthier than many alternatives and the dough can be easily managed by little hands. It can be topped by this quick to make tomato sauce but alternatively a shop bought jar of pasta sauce would also be ideal. Any toppings such as ham, pepperoni, cooked chicken, peppers, onion or mushrooms could be used or just cheese would make a very tasty pizza.

Easy Peasy Pizza


Pizza Dough
225g self raising flour
½ teaspoon salt
55g butter
100mls milk

1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely diced
1 garlic clove, crushed
400mls passata
½ tsp dried mixed herbs

Toppings of choice- e.g. chorizo/ham/pineapple/tomato/onions
Mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced
Mature cheddar cheese, grated


1. First, make the sauce; Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a medium sized saucepan, add the finely diced onion and garlic. Sauté on a low heat for 5 minutes and then add the passata and mixed herbs. Simmer on a low heat for 15 minutes. The sauce can be used like this, or blitz for a smoother sauce.
2. Preheat the oven to 200°C/fan 180°C/Gas 6.
3. Put the flour and salt into a mixing bowl, and then rub in the butter.
4. When the mixture is like breadcrumbs, pour in the milk. Stir together until you have a smooth ball of dough.
5. Lightly flour your work surface. Divide your dough into four balls and roll out each one using a lightly floured rolling pin.
6. Place the dough onto a baking tray that. Pinch up the edges to make a crust to stop the cheese from spilling out when melted. Always place the dough onto the baking tray before putting on your sauce and toppings.
7. Spread the tomato sauce over the base and then top with the toppings of your choice, and finally top with some cheddar and mozzarella cheese. Try not to overload the pizza with toppings, as it won’t cook evenly.
8.  Bake in the oven for 12-15 minutes, until the pizza is crispy and golden.
9.  To serve, top with a few basil leaves.

The boys were especially giddy on this particular day and found my directions for  preparing the pizzas hilarious!!

In other news I've been invited to host a cookery demo at Ballyegan hall in Birr this Wednesday the 9th February at 8pm. If you are in the area do call in. 
This is not food related but I thought that I'd share it with you. There was an article in last Wednesday's Irish Independent where journalist Heidi Scrimgeour gave the pros and cons of married couples having a regular date night. Heidi contacted me a few weeks back for my opinion and she included some of our chat in her article. It's a light hearted but thought-provoking piece and here is the on-line edition if you'd like to have a read of it. http://j.mp/yB1ZSH