I've had a bag of dried carrageen moss, in the press, for the past year. A friend of my late aunts, from Donegal, gifted me with it, as I had mentioned that I had never used it before. Then last summer, while holidaying in Cork, Diarmuid and I had the most glorious dinner at Ballymaloe House and there, on the dessert trolley, was a large crystal bowl filled with carrageen moss pudding. I thought it was rather nice, for something that is so nutritious, and vowed to make it on returning home. Only today did I make it, for the first time. Carrageen Moss, also known as Irish Moss, is highly nutritious. It is very rich in iron, iodine, fibre and anti-oxidants. My Dad is currently struggling to maintain high levels of iron, so I'm trying to help him with some iron-rich foods. We had this carrageen moss pudding for today's dessert and tomorrow morning the boys and I are going foraging for another iron-rich ingredient - nettles. I'll be making Nettle Soup, as suggested to me by the very lovely Sally McKenna, who knows a thing or two about foraging!

The dried Carrageen moss can be found in most health food shops and online. It keeps almost indefinitely, when it's in its dried form.

This recipe is from the queen of foraging, Darina Allen. Darina claims that all the babies of Ballymaloe were weaned onto Carrageen moss pudding. All of my children tried it today and once sprinkled with a little soft brown sugar they seemed to enjoy it. It is best served chilled with a fruit compote. I paired today's pudding with some poached rhubarb, which worked wonderfully.

Carrageen Moss Pudding

1 semi-closed fistful (1/4 oz /7g) cleaned, well dried Carrageen Moss
900ml (1 1/2) pints  milk
1 tablespoon castor sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 

1.Soak the carrageen in tepid water for 10 minutes. 
2.Strain off the water and put the carrageen into a saucepan with milk and vanilla extract.
3.Bring to the boil and simmer very gently, on a low heat, with the lid on for 20 minutes.
4. At that point separate the egg, put the yolk into a large bowl, add the sugar and vanilla extract and whisk together for a few seconds.
5. Pour the milk and carrageen moss through a strainer onto the egg yolk mixture whisking all the time. The carrageen will now be swollen and exuding jelly. Rub all this jelly through the strainer and whisk this also into the milk with the sugar, egg yolk and vanilla extract if used. 
6.Whisk the egg white until stiff and fold it in gently. It will rise to make a fluffy top. 
7. Serve chilled with soft brown sugar and cream and/or with a fruit compote such as rhubarb or plum.
I may have mentioned it here before that I really love watching movies. I have also been lucky enough to be an extra in some Irish based movies and I was very proud to be one of the featured ladies in the well acclaimed feature documentary His & Hers. What a fantastic experience that was, and if you haven't seen it I'd positively recommend you rent out a copy. It's beautifully shot, quite funny and extremely touching. This Ken Wardrop film will certainly carry you on a very emotional journey, so be ready for it!

Having four children in the past ten years has meant that myself and Diarmuid rarely go out for a night and I can honestly say that this has never bothered me. We love our night's in with a good movie and of course the obligatory mini feast to compliment the night. Even before we had the children, cinema trips and movie nights were always a fond way to spend time together. Our cinema fixes are now satisfied by outings with the kids and with so many fabulous children orientated films on the market, these jaunts are always lots of fun.

Since I'm on the topic of movies, I thought I should share with you what I heard on Ryan Tubridy's radio show, this morning. Ryan was speaking with Keith Duffy about a new initiative that I think is really fantastic. Keith's own daughter, Mia, has autism and he has spoken publicly about her condition on many occasions, heightening the awareness of the condition to so many people. I always admire his honesty on telling about the day to day life as a parent of a child with autism. He explained how a family trip to the cinema can often end in disaster, as the lighting and level of sound can be very troublesome for an autistic child. This morning his focus was on a new cinema initiative for children with autism, which will give families the opportunity to attend and hopefully have a very positive experience.  Here are the participating cinemas and  if you are interested in bringing your child to one of these movies the next one is ‘Beauty and the Beast 2D’ – it will be screened on Sunday 13th May at 11.30am at the Odeon Cinema at the Point, and Storm Cinemas in Naas, Portlaoise, Cavan & Limerick & UCI Cinemas in Blanchardstown, Stillorgan, Coolock and Newbridge. Maybe just ring the participating cinema to check availability.  

Lemony Hummus
There are many goodies that I like to include in my 'movie smörgåsbord' and I always have to have a few bowls of hummus or pesto for dipping some bread sticks and tortillas in to. There are many different types of hummus that I enjoy, but a zesty one with a little spice is my favourite. If you are not a fan of cumin, this can be replaced with ground coriander or some smoked paprika. 

1 can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
Juice of 1 lemon
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tbsp greek yoghurt
1 tsp sugar
75ml olive oil

1. Place all the ingredients into a mini chopper or a food processor. Blitz until smooth.
2. To serve, place in a bowl and drizzle with a little extra olive oil & a sprinkle of ground cumin.
Perfect as a dip or to accompany any spicy meal.

Deciding on what nibblys to eat is the easy part of 'movie night'. A lot of negotiating goes into choosing the film!

The Spring is here and along with the welcomed milder weather comes many wonderful produce into season. I always like to cook in season, as I can mostly buy Irish and also the flavour is incomparable to its out-of-season alternative. Many ingredients are currently at their best, including rhubarb, wild garlic, asparagus and of course spring lamb. While I was growing up, my father had a large flock of sheep. Springtime meant the addition of lots of adorable baby lambs. There were always a few ewes that didn't take to their babies, so these little mites inevitably became pet lambs and, like all babies, they needed feeds around the clock. One can get very attached to this creatures and I absolutely adored them, so much so that my father was never allowed to sell any that I had really taken a shine to. I think similar to any child that grows up on a farm I loved lots of the farm animals. I certainly never liked the thoughts of them being sold to anyone other than another farmer and consequently, I became a vegetarian for about 12 years. Into my adult life, I eventually decided to put a halt to my meat ban and I started to eat chicken, then beef but only in recent years have I started to enjoy lamb again. My local butcher sells lamb that is always less than a year in age and is sourced within miles of his abattoir. Even though I still love the sight of little lambs in the fields, I've really come to appreciate lamb for its high nutritional content and its delicate sweet flavour.

The lamb chops for this dish are French trimmed, which your butcher can do for you, but they are simply a rack of lamb which is cut into chops. Lamb marries quite well with mustard and rosemary, so I've included these in the marinade. These lamb chops are delicious served with some creamy mash, some roasted  root veg and a drizzle of mint sauce.

1 tablespoon very finely chopped fresh rosemary
2 teaspoons dijon mustard
2tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
juice of 1/2 lemon
9 lamb cutlets/chops, French trimmed

1. In a large shallow dish combine the rosemary, dijon mustard, olive oil, garlic and lemon juice.
2. Add the chops and cover them evenly with the marinade.
3. Cover the dish with some cling film and pop in the fridge for a couple of hours.
4. Heat a little oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat. When hot, sear the lamb chops on both sides to colour. Reduce the heat and cook for 3 to 4 minutes on each side, depending on the thickness of the cutlets, or until the meat is cooked to your liking. 
5. Remove from the pan and allow the chops to rest on a hot plate for a few minutes before serving.
I was recently going through old photos, picking some out to frame and add to my wall of family photos in the kitchen. Unlike nowadays, when I was growing up, the camera was generally only used for special occasions. I expect this came down to the fact that it was rather expensive to print 24 photos, especially when there was no preview of the photos taken, and the possibility of most of them being either out of focus or completely blank was always a fair possibility! Photographs give us an amazing insight into times gone by and on searching through boxes of pics I found this photo of myself and my Mam, with two of my pet lambs. I thought that I would share them with you, since I was publishing this post. I was a real tomboy and the reason for the dress, and probably the photo, was a Feis that I was making my way to, which was obligatory every year in rural Ireland.

The next photo was more my everyday attire of a tracksuit and wellies. Both of these photos were taken around 1986, when animals and farming were all that occupied my mind - with the odd bit of baking every now and again!

It's Easter Saturday and our house is filled with excitement. Very soon the chocolate eggs will be cracked, and the 40 day abstinence of sweets will cease! The boys did break their Lenten fast a few times, as a couple of important birthdays occurred in the past few weeks. A big incentive for them was their 'lent box'. This stored any goodies that were offered to them during this time, but somehow it seems that anything in the line of a treat, that's in the press, has made its way to these three boxes! All on all I must say that I was truly astonished by these little men and their will power.

We are lucky to have some very beautiful hens, that treat us to the most delicious eggs every day, and since I was gifted with half a dozen duck eggs, I just had to photograph them and don't they look amazing! I will be using the duck eggs for today's activity which is an idea that stemmed from my Dad.
My father loves to reminisces, and a fond memory for him is that of Easter Sunday morning. Each child in the house would rush out early morning to retrieve the most impressive egg from their hens' hatch. They would then proceed to paint these eggs, before it would be boiled and enjoyed for breakfast. He recalls eating eggs on a daily basis, as a child, but none tasted as good as the one from the annual Easter breakfast. So, in preparation for tomorrow, today will be spent painting eggs and decorating signs for our egg hunt. We will be enlisting 'Grandad's' expert help, which in turn will create wonderful memories for my children to cherish and tell their grandchildren, in years to come!

Chocolate Biscuit Nests
If you have children and find yourself with some time to spare, over the holidays, any child would love to get stuck into making these chocolate treats. Children love to be creative in the kitchen, and these mini chocolate biscuit nests are very easy for little hands to make. As a way to use up some leftover Easter eggs, some can be melted to drizzle over each nest, but also they could be made using some of the bars or mini eggs, that may be included in an Easter egg pack.

2 Mars bars, chopped
60g butter, cubed
1 tbsp golden syrup
150g digestive biscuits, broken into pieces
50g chocolate, any type, melted
mini eggs or jelly beans

1. Line a muffin/bun tin with some cases.
2. To a medium sized saucepan, add the chopped Mars bars, butter and golden syrup.
3. Gently melt the mix over a low heat stirring continuously to combine all the ingredients and to avoid it sticking to the bottom of the saucepan.
4. Once melted, take off the heat and add the broken biscuits. Stir well to coat all the biscuits.
5. Add a spoonful to each bun case, pressing down the centre to form a nest shape. Allow to chill for an hour.
6. Remove the bun case covers and drizzle some melted chocolate over the top of each nest. Then add 3 mini eggs or jelly beans.

I'd like to take this opportunity to wish you all a very Happy Easter!
Nessa x
So, with Easter fast approaching a lot of chocolate goodies will be making their way into homes around the country. Unusual as it may sound, I have actually never been a great fan of chocolate. I tend to suffer from migraines and so, as a rule, I try to avoid any 'triggers' that may encourage an attack. Chocolate, or the over-consumption of it, can often lead to few days of suffering so steering clear of it has always been advisable for me. I would certainly appreciate a slice of a luscious chocolate cake every so often, but as treats go, if given the choice between a packet of crisps or a bar of chocolate, the crisps will win every time.

Over the Easter holidays many of us will welcome some visits from family or friends. A notion that I love, but rarely do, is to have something made in advance, tucked away in the freezer which is ready to take out at a moments notice. Any type of fruit tart or pie freezes beautifully and with a few minutes added to its cooking time, the frozen tart will cook perfectly. The best woman, that I know, to make pastry is my mother in law, Liz. Her tarts and pies are always flawless and this is her recipe for pastry. I wouldn't be the best pastry maker, but I find simply whizzing the ingredients in a food processor can result in a very easy and quick pastry. As with most of my dishes I use butter for the pastry but feel free to use margarine, if you prefer. Most fruits work well in tarts or pies but rhubarb is now in full season and some fresh young rhubarb is delicious as part of this recipe. The rhubarb will produce quite a bit of juice so a tablespoon of cornflour will help to thicken the syrup as the tart is cooking. I still place a tray on the bottom rack, under the tart as it cooks, just in case any of the sugary syrup oozes out. The quantities in this recipe are for two tarts, so one for now and one as an 'emergency' tart for the freezer.

Rhubarb Tart

Makes 2 tarts

450g (1lb) white flour
25g (1oz) icing sugar
225g (8 ozs)butter, cold and diced
2 tbsp cold water

900g (2 lbs) rhubarb
300g (10oz) caster sugar
1 tbsp cornflour

egg wash-made with one beaten egg and a dash of milk
soft brown sugar for sprinkling
whipped cream, for serving

1. Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C(fan)/gas mark 6.
2. First, make the pastry. Sieve the flour and the icing sugar into a bowl. Rub in the butter then gradually add the water and bring the pastry together in a ball. If it's a little stiff, add a few more splashes of cold water if necessary. Turn out onto a piece of floured greaseproof paper, flatten into a round wrap and chill. This pastry needs to be chilled for at least an hour.
3. Divide the pastry in two. To make the tarts, roll out the pastry 1/8 inch (3mm) thick approx., and use about 2/3 of each ball to line a suitable tart tin. Divide the rhubarb between the two tarts, sprinkle with sugar and sprinkle over the cornflour.
4. Cover with a lid of pastry, seal edges and brush with the egg wash. Bake in the preheated oven, for approx. 45 minutes. Serve sprinkled lightly with soft brown sugar and softly whipped cream.

In other news - I would like to give a huge thank you to everyone who dropped in nappies to me for the Nappies for Belarus Appeal. I was delighted last week to hand over 7,000 nappies to Jim Kavanagh, the gentleman driving to Belarus. In total he has collected over 32,000 nappies nationwide. There is certainly a lot of good will out there!!  

Also, I'm heading up to the Craig Doyle Live Show tomorrow evening {Tuesday}. On the show, he will be interviewing Phil Vickery, winner of Celebrity Masterchef UK, and they had asked for some food bloggers to join the audience. Earlier today I was contacted by a very lovely lady, from their production team, and it turns out that myself and two other bloggers will be having a few words {from the audience} with Craig!