I'm rather glad to say that we are now the other side of Christmas. Even if Dad had passed away earlier in the year I do think the first Christmas without a loved one is ever so difficult. I'm lucky to have my children around me, who kept me on my toes for the past week and actually got me through the festivities fairly well. Thank you to everyone who contacted me to sympathise. I really appreciate your words of kindness.

I haven't been taking any food photos over the Christmas, however, I often have a few recipes and photos in draft. This sausage roll recipe, or porky pies as my boys like to call them, was from my column in last month's Easy Parenting. 


Porky Pies

I love nothing more than lots of canapés served at a party or in place of a starter at a dinner party. They look so pleasing, all lined up on a platter, however, these delicate canapés can be rather time-consuming to make, especially when faced with a large crowd mostly consisting of children. Homemade sausage rolls or pies make for the perfect canapé for a family get together, as children and adults alike seem to love them. If you can’t get your hands on some sausage meat, buy a few packs of good quality sausages and squeeze the meat from their cases. If you would like to make these in advance of a party, the uncooked porky pies can be placed in the freezer, wrapped in cling film, then simply add an extra 10 minutes to the recommended cooking time. Always ensure that the meat is fully cooked through before serving.

1 onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp butter
300g Sausage meat
150g streaky bacon, finely diced
1tbsp Fresh Sage, finely chopped
1tsp Dijon mustard
Freshly Ground Pepper
1 sheet of ready rolled Puff Pastry
1 Egg, beaten (for glazing)
25g (1oz) sesame seeds

1.     Preheat the oven to 200c/430f/gas 7 and line a large baking tray with some greaseproof paper.
2.     Melt the butter in a frying pan and gently sauté the onions for 5 minutes until they are soft but not coloured. Remove to a large bowl and leave to cool completely.
3.     Add the sausage meat, streaky bacon, sage, mustard and a few grinds of freshly ground pepper to the bowl. Using your hands, mix together well.
4.     Place the sheet of puff pastry on a floured surface and carefully roll out the pastry until it is thin, using a rolling pin.
5.     Evenly divide the pastry into 4 pieces. Divide the sausage meat mixture in 4 and make them roll the mixture to make it long and sausage-like. Place into the centre of each pastry strip. Brush a little beaten egg along one edge of the pastry. Roll up the other side of the pastry to encase the sausage meat and pinch the edges firmly. Using a shape knife cut each pastry roll into even-sized pieces, making about 8 from each pastry roll.
6.      Brush each one with a little beaten egg and scatter over some sesame seeds.
7.     Arrange on the baking tray and bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown and cooked through.

I would like to wish all my readers a very happy new year. Thank you for following
the blog and for your words of support in 2012. I do hope that you will join me for
what promises to be a busy but very exciting year in 2013. 
Christmas dinner can sometimes seem like rather a stressful affair. In years gone by I often found myself
spending the best part of two days preparing and cooking for one meal. Eventually, I realised that after all what is it only a family dinner, just a little more extravagant than what I make every other day. I know many are beginning to steer away from the traditional turkey dinner, but for me turkey with all the trimmings is the meal I most look forward to over the Christmas season. I always serve gravy, using Jamie Oliver's Make-Ahead Gravy recipe, bread sauce and cranberry sauce, with the Christmas dinner. I posted my favourite bread sauce recipe last year, if you would like to try it out. I'm sure you'll love it as much as I do. Of course a very important part of any turkey and ham dinner is a good serving of stuffing. This year I will make the same as last, my Sage, Date & Pine Nut Stuffing; covered with that yummy homemade gravy I could eat this as a meal in itself!
I'm all for preparing some of the dishes well before a big event. Any sauce or gravy will freeze perfectly, only to be taken from the freezer Christmas Eve, popped in the fridge and then reheated just before serving Christmas dinner. Cranberry sauce can be made in advance and doesn't even need to be frozen, as it will keep perfectly in the fridge for 3-4 weeks. I love a good dollop of some sweet and tangy cranberry sauce served alongside any white meat but it also makes a fantastic dipping sauce for breaded brie, which happens to be my boys' starter of choice for Christmas day. This is a luxuriously delicious dish that would serves well as a starter but it also quite good as a canapé for a Christmas drinks party, minus the salad. The brie can be prepared early in the day and refrigerated until needed. Just two small pieces of brie would be completely sufficient as a starter. After all it is the appetiser to what is normally considered a day’s worth of calories on one plate.

300g Brie, cut into 8 wedges, with most of the thick skin trimmed off
2 eggs, beaten
Plain flour seasoned with a little salt and black pepper
80g Paxo golden breadcrumbs
Olive or sunflower oil for deep-frying

1. Dip the Brie wedges first in the flour then in the beaten egg, then in the breadcrumbs, and again in the egg and again in the breadcrumbs. 
2. Fill a wok one-quarter-full of the oil, or alternatively just use a deep fat fryer. 
3. The oil is ready when you drop a breadcrumb in and it sizzles. (CAUTION: hot oil is ever so dangerous; never leave unattended). 
4.When the oil is ready, add the breaded Brie and deep fry until golden brown on each side and the cheese has melted in the centre -about 2-3 mins. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper.

For Salad:
100g mixed salad leaves
1 ripe pear, cut into slices
25g walnuts or pecans, roughly chopped
½ red onion, finely sliced
1 tbsp salad dressing of choice

To Serve:
Place the salad leaves, sliced pear, chopped walnuts and finely sliced onion into a small bowl.
Drizzle with a little salad dressing. Divide between four plates. 
Serve with the Deep Fried Brie and a large spoonful of the cranberry sauce{homemade or shop bought} on the side.

Cranberry Sauce
The cranberry sauce can of course be shop bought however as it is so easy to make, I'd recommend to make a little jar of the homemade variety. The sauce can be kept plain if preferred but I like to have a citrus kick from mine. If you are planning to serve this alongside the brie and the turkey, then make double the quantity.

      350g fresh/frozen cranberries
      200g caster sugar 
      75ml water
      Zest of ½ an orange
      50ml Cointreau 

Put the cranberries, sugar, water and orange zest into a saucepan and let it bubble away until the berries start to pop, stirring regularly with a wooden spoon, which will take about 10 minutes. Give the sauce a good stir and crush down any remaining full berries. Stir in the Cointreau. Carefully taste a little of the sauce, to check whether it needs more sugar. Transfer to a bowl and allow to cool. If cooked a few days in advance, reheat a little and give the sauce a good mashing with a fork before serving.

This post and recipe were published in The Westmeath Independent on the Dec 5th. 

Just a week ago my dear old dad, whom I've written about on many an occasion, took his last breath and departed from this world, as we know it. Even though Dad has not been critically unwell, it has been apparent for some time that his body was weakening and everyday tasks were becoming a burden for him. Since my Mam passed away six years ago he has been struggling with maintaining optimum health however his strength of spirit and will to live really kept him going. He was full of plans for the future and only the day before he passed away he was planning on buying more cattle for the land and his tunnels are packed with pots of herbs, to see me through the winter. 
Dad left his home on Saturday night with every intention of returning. This gives me great comfort as he had a great fear of being bed-bound for weeks or months and being fully aware that his death was neigh. His passing came as a great shock to myself and the family, but I am grateful, especially for Dad's sake, that he didn't suffer.

I'm devastated, heartbroken  and oh so lonely, not just for Dad but I also feel like once again I'm grieving for my mother. I know it will take me some time to come to terms with the fact that both of my parents have passed, however I'm ever so grateful that they were a part of my life and were always such a positive influence on me. For the past number of years Dad has been a wonderful part of mine and my children's lives. I'm going to miss him so much; our chats together, his humour and his love. I appreciate that Dad had a good life and left this world peacefully. May he rest in peace.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all those who sent us words of condolences, who spent time with us at Dad's wake and joined us for his funeral. I'm very grateful for your support.

What Makes A Dad
{Author unknown}

God took the strength of a mountain,
The majesty of a tree,
The warmth of a summer sun,
The calm of a quiet sea,
The generous soul of nature,
The comforting arm of night,
The wisdom of the ages,
The power of the eagle's flight,
The joy of a morning in spring,
The faith of a mustard seed,
The patience of eternity,
The depth of a family need,
Then God combined these qualities,
When there was nothing more to add,
He knew His masterpiece was complete,

And so, He called it ... DAD.