Once school breaks for the Christmas holidays the children have a long ‘to do list’ that must be completed before the big day. Near the top of this list, and one tradition that we always maintain is the baking of festive treats each year. Even when they were toddlers they would love to help with any baking related activity. When better to spend some time together in the kitchen than over the Christmas season. Something simple to make, such as a batch of these shortbread ginger biscuits, are perfect for little hands to make and decorate. The biscuits can either be threaded with a thin ribbon and hung on the Christmas tree, or pop them into a pretty box as a festive edible present for a loved one. However, I’ve had it on good authority that Santa is rather fond of a good shortbread biscuit, especially when served with a glass of cold milk.

Shortbread Ginger Biscuits

225g plain flour
75g soft brown sugar
2 tsp ground ginger
150g butter

To decorate
Writing icing
Icing sugar

1.  Preheat the oven to 200°C/fan 180°C/Gas 6.
2.  Sieve the flour, sugar, and ginger into a large bowl. Rub in the butter until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
3.  Gather the mixture together. Turn out onto a floured board and knead the dough lightly. Roll out the dough to the thickness of a euro coin. Cut into shapes using festive cutters. Keep re-rolling the cut-offs into shapes until all the dough is used up.
4.  Place on a lightly floured baking tray. Using a skewer make a hole at the top of each biscuit. Bake until golden or pale brown for 8–12 minutes, depending on their thickness.
5.  Remove from the oven. Check with a skewer that the hole at the top of each biscuit hasn’t covered over. Cool on a wire rack.
6.  When completely cooled decorate using some writing icing. Thread with a thin ribbon and dust with some icing sugar.

As it's Christmas Eve you probably have your Christmas menu sorted, however, if you're looking for a little festive recipe inspiration have a read through my Christmas Ebook.
The past year has been a busy one for me, especially since the release of Apron Strings. I would like to give a heartfelt thank you to you, the readers of Nessa's Family Kitchen, for your continued support. I would also like to wish you all a happy and healthy Christmas, and the best of wishes for 2014. See you in the new year. Kind Wishes. Nessa xx

I have a great affection for edible gifts, and home-made ones are simply a bonus. In the days preceding Christmas I barely have enough time for wrapping presents, never mind making them, so I’m always delighted when I've had the foresight to make a supply of preserves or puddings a few weeks previous. With this in mind when I was planning my columns, a few weeks back, I made sure to include some edible goodies that can be used as Christmas presents. As the saying goes.."two birds, one stone".
Chutneys are so easy to make, and as preserve-making has become more popular there are many jars and pretty labels available to buy in shops. However, I generally wash and sterilize any jars, attractive or plain, once they are empty. This is a favourite chutney of mine and it is particularly suited for festive dining. When the chutney is simmering away the smell of cloves and ginger fill the air. While in the pan the dried cranberries plump up to form red jewel-like speckles. This truly is a chutney that perfectly echoes Christmas. It is ideally served with some nice cheese and crackers, as an after dinner treat, but is also well placed as part of a tasty turkey sandwich.

Christmas Chutney
makes about 3kg/6lbs

1.5 kg Bramley apples, peel, cored and roughly diced
2 onions, finely diced
150g dried cranberries
125g dried apricots
900mls white wine vinegar
750g caster sugar
10 whole cloves
2 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp mustard powder
½ tsp cayenne chilli powder

1. Place all of the ingredients into a large, wide saucepan. Simmer gently over a low heat, stirring regularly. Cook uncovered for 1 ½ hours until the apples have completely broken down and the chutney has thickened and turned a dark brown colour.
2. Remove from the heat and leave to cool completely before transferring into sterilised jars. Store in a cool, dry cupboard. This chutney can be used immediately but it is nicer when it has had a few weeks to mature. Refrigerate once opened.

Other News

Hairy Baby Hamper Giveaway Winner
Using http://www.random.org/ the winner of the Hairy Baby hamper is Adrienne from Cross my Apple Tart. Adrienne would you mind dropping me a line with your address to NessasFamilyKitchen(at)gmail.com. Congratulations! 
Christmas eBook 
My Christmas eBook is available to view and download here for free.
If you are in Athlone this Saturday, 7th December, pop into Easons. I’ll be there signing copies of my book, ‘Apron Strings -Recipes from a Family Kitchen’. Even if you already have a copy of the book call in and say hello, as I’ll be available to answer any of your culinary questions from 11.30am - 1.30 pm. I may also have a few sweet treats to offer.

Just to remind you, there is still time to enter the give-away for the Keogh's Farm. I will be announcing the winner on Friday. 
Any regular readers of the blog will know all about my love of crisps, so when the lovely people behind Keogh's Farm offered me a Christmas hamper of their delicious crisps, along with a stylish apron, for one of my readers, I very promptly accepted. Just in time for Christmas, Keogh's have relaunched their seasonal Roast Turkey & Secret Stuffing hand-cooked crisps. According to Tom Keogh, of Keogh's Farm, there was a huge demand for these crisps last year and as they received such positive feedback from customers they decided to relaunch the variety for Christmas 2013.

All you have to do to be in with a chance of winning this hamper from Keogh's Farm is to leave a comment belowtelling me what your favourite flavour of crisps are. You must also be a subscriber to my blog. If you don't already subscribe you can do so by submitting your email address into the tab on the top right of this blogpost. All names will be put in the hat and the winner will be picked on Thursday, 5th  December. 
Just to let you know, to avoid a lot of spam messages, I must first approve your comment before it is published. So don't worry if your comment doesn't appear immediately. 

TERMS AND CONDITIONS: you must be a resident of Ireland (north or south); you must be over 18; no cash alternative is possible, the competition will close at 6pm on Thursday, 5th  DecemberAll entered names will be put in the hat and the winner will be picked at random from the comments below. I will post the winner in the next blog after the closing date. The winner must email/contact me within 7 days of the competition closing or another name will have to be drawn from the hat. 

Best of luck! 

I know that this may not necessarily be the time of year for writing about burger recipes, but this one is so good I can't but share it. A few weeks ago I was gifted with a shoulder of organic pork from a local organic farm, Menton's in Banagher. To do this beautiful piece of meat some justice I treated it tenderly with a simple spice rub and glazed it with a barbecue-like sauce before slow roasted it for a few hours. The result was sensational; the meat was flavoursome, moist and tender, and it shredded easily into bite-sized pieces. It made for the perfect burger filler. The meat doesn't necessarily have to be eaten hot, as I allowed some of it to cool and after refrigerating over night the flavours really intensified.  I paired it with an easy to prepare salad, however, if you prefer you could use a regular coleslaw. This roast pork dish, minus the buns and salad, would also be delicious as part of a traditional meat and two veg dinner, and simply serve with a nice bowl of apple sauce. Organic pork is becoming easier to source and isn't it wonderful that local farmers are making it available for us to buy straight from their farms. The difference between the farm-reared organic pork and the regular pork is remarkable.

The pulled pork was a huge hit with the adults and children alike in the house. When I took it from the oven I couldn't shred it fast enough to keep up with the children 'tasting' it. Eventually, I had to hide the plate of meat in a bid to have some left to pack into the burger buns. I think that a trip to Menton's farm will be in order very soon.  

Organic Pulled Pork Burgers with a Crunchy Salad

1.5 kg pork shoulder

Spice rub
1 tbsp smoked paprika
1 tbsp dark brown sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp dry mustard

1 tbsp Worchester
1 tbsp tomato ketchup
1 tbsp maple syrup
50 mls cider vinegar
100mls water

Nutty Carrot & Red Onion Salad

2 tbsp cider vinegar
1 tbsp sugar
1 red onion, finely sliced
2 carrots, grated into strips using a potato peeler
50g salted peanuts, roughly chopped
large handful fresh coriander, roughly chopped
2 tbsp mayonnaise {optional}

To Serve
Burger buns
Nutty Red Onion & Carrot Salad


1. First make the spice mixture by combining the paprika, sugar, salt and mustard in a bowl.
2. Score the fat on the pork. Then rub the spice mixture all over the pork, making sure to get into the cracks of the fat. Cover and rest in the fridge for an hour.
3. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C/fan 160°C/Gas 4.
4. Take the pork from the fridge and place in a snug fitting casserole dish. Mix together the ingredients for the glaze and pour over the pork. Cover tightly with a double layer of tin foil.
5. Roast in the oven for 3 ½ hours, taking from the oven a few times to baste the pork with the juices. If the pan dries up completely add a few tablespoons of water. After 3 ½ hours remove the tinfoil and return to the oven for another 30 minutes.
6. To 'pull' the pork stick a fork into the shoulder and shred the meat using another fork.
7. To make the salad, in a bowl mix together the vinegar and the sugar. Add the finely sliced onion and leave to pickle for a few minutes. Add the carrot strips, peanuts and coriander. Combine well. If you would prefer a creamy-type salad, add some mayonnaise. Otherwise, serve the mayo alongside the burger. 
8. To serve, pile the pulled pork into a lightly toasted bun and top with some lettuce and a generous helping of the salad. 

Article published in The Westmeath Independent - 13/11/13

For the month of November The Irish Times are celebrating the best of the Irish food scene. They are sharing recipes, including lots of food-related interviews and features, while they are also running events and give-aways throughout the entire month. One such competition is the chance to join Catherine Cleary, The Irish Times' food critic, as she reviews a restaurant. How amazing would that be! 
Each Friday The Irish Times host an on-line food Q&A, appropriately called The Friday Food Forum. Questions on food, wine, cooking, baking and all sorts of kitchen conundrums can be submitted. Then on Friday the forum will be live between 1pm and 2pm, when the questions will be answered by the panel. This panel consists of The Irish Times Food & Drink team; Eunice Power, Marie Claire Digby, Catherine Cleary, John Wilson and Alanna Gallagher. Each week there are two or three guests who join the panel. I'm delighted to tell you that this week, along with Clodagh McKenna and Oliver Dunne, I too will be on hand to answer any culinary queries that you may have.
So whether it's a question about dinners for fussy eaters or how to make the most of leftover turkey, submit your questions here - http://www.irishtimes.com/life-and-style/food-and-drink/friday-food-forum-ask-us-your-questions-1.1585612 - and they will be answered this Friday. 
This is a very proud day for me as the first of a four part series I've written especially for Irish Country Living has been published. I was thrilled when I was interviewed and featured in Irish Country Living during the summer, so to be given the opportunity to guest write this feature for the magazine was a real honour.

Irish Country Living - 14/11/13

As many of you will know, I was working as a nurse up until 2007. When the time came for me to decide on the content for my book, Apron Strings, I knew for sure that I wanted to include a chapter based around the concept of a 'Home Nurse'. It's a chapter of the book which is very personal to me. Even with my nursing background I was mostly basing this chapter on the care I have given to loved ones from the home; for example my late Mother and Father and also my darling foster brother Nick, who has cerebral palsy. I also included recipes and advice for dealing with common ailments such as the cold virus. I always felt as though I could of written much more on this 'home nurse' topic, so when Mairead Lavery { editor of  Irish Country Living } contacted me and asked if I'd be interested in writing a four part series, based on this chapter, I was ecstatic.
This week's topic is 'Food for Convalescing' and in the coming weeks there will be 'Warding off Colds & Flus', 'Pregnancy-Related Anaemia' and 'Caring for Someone with Cancer'. I hope that you enjoy reading them, as I loved developing the recipes for this series and thoroughly enjoyed writing each piece.
In other news:
*In this week's Westmeath Independent I've a very delicious recipe for a pulled pork burger, using organic pork from Menton's Organic Farm in Banagher. The recipe is so good that I will also share it with you on the blog next week.
* It may only be the middle of November but for the past few weeks my kitchen has had rather a festive feel to it, as I've been busy developing some new Christmas recipes. I'm looking forward to sharing them with you all very soon.

Once the children are tucked up in bed and I’ve cleaned away the evening mess from the kitchen, my time for snacking begins. I can go a whole day avoiding the biscuit tin, ignoring half packets of crisps peeping out for the press. I can even bypass cakes with my afternoon cuppa, yet once night-time is neigh I can’t resist snacks. I prefer savoury or salty snacks to sweet ones, yet believe me I don’t discriminate, especially if there’s only the option of chocolate biscuits in the press. In a bid to eat less processed goodies and more homemade ones I find myself regularly seeking out snack recipes which would satisfy this need. Hummus is one of my favourites, especially when paired with nice crispy breadsticks. Also I'm rather partial to nuts, of any variety. This hazelnut recipe happens to make a fairly healthy snack. Yes, there is a little butter in this recipe but it really adds to the nuts deliciousness and works wonderfully with the sweet and salty seasoning. A handful of these will always ease my snack craving as they are rather filling. Enjoy!

Sweet & Spicy Hazelnuts

150g raw hazelnuts, out of their shells
25g butter
½ teaspoon salt
¼ tsp smoked paprika
2 teasp soft brown sugar


1.       Preheat the oven to 200c /fan 180c /gas mark 6.
2.       Place the hazelnuts in a single layer on a baking tray. Toast in the hot oven for about 10mins until the nuts have begun to brown and the skin starts to split from the nut. Remove from the oven. Allow to cool a little, and then tip into a clean tea-towel.
3.       Using the tea-towel, rub the hazelnuts to loosen and remove most of the skins.
4.       Roughly chop the nuts, leaving most of them whole.
5.       In a small saucepan melt the butter until it froths a little. Remove from heat and add the salt and paprika. Pour the nuts into the saucepan. Combine all the ingredients well and tip back onto the baking tray and bake in the oven for 7 mins.
6.       Remove from the oven, pour into a bowl and immediately sprinkle over the sugar. Stir to combine.
7.       Allow to cool and serve. 

It has been quite a good year for wild fruit and nuts. The children and I collected a nice amount of hazelnuts, from our near-by trees, but we did leave plenty for the squirrel's winter stash.

If using unshelled nuts for the this recipe, roast them first. Place the hazelnuts onto a baking tray and place in a preheated hot oven {200c /fan 180c /gas mark 6}, for about 20 minutes. Remove from the tray and leave to cool before cracking open. 

It is almost time for Halloween and tomorrow {Tuesday} morning I'll be chatting about all things Halloween on Midlands Radio 3. Also if you are planning a little party, have a look at my Halloween Page, where I have a few party ideas. 

The month of September has slipped away without me barely noticing. I'm a lover of lists and each evening I jot down the intended work, be it columns or photographs, for the next day. The pleasure that comes from ticking off completed jobs seems to never lack satisfaction; please tell me that you are all like this, or is it a case that I need to get out more?  However, for the past few weeks I've been unable to happily tick all the boxes each evening, as I have been unbelievably busy. Columns, recipes, photographs, radio interviews and cookery demos have proved September to be my busiest month since the release of the book. Naturally for someone like myself, who relies on freelance work, this most certainly is a good thing. 

I try to have the bulk of my day's work completed once the children arrive in from school, apart from an odd photo or email. With each new school year it appears that the homework has doubled, so most evening's are consumed with grammar, maths, spellings and the odd disagreement or two. I was never much of a homework-fan and as the years have passed this hasn't changed. Over the past few weeks, on any evenings which were dry, as soon as homework was complete,the children and I would each grab a basket and take to the fields to forage for berries, nuts and anything pretty we could get our hands on. It turns out that that evening walk really clears the head and works wonders as a stress buster for all of us.

Blackberry & Apple Cobbler 

I love foraging for autumn treasures. From what we've already collected we've been making jam and pies aplenty, but I'm also filling my freezer with small batches of berries for the making of autumn pies right through the winter. Blackberry season is almost coming to an end, so take the opportunity, this weekend, to enjoy a country walk and hopefully you'll pick enough berries, and maybe a few apples, to make this rather tasty cobbler.

1 large cooking apple, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
200g blackberries
75g caster sugar

Cake Batter
110g butter
110g caster sugar
175g self-raising flour
1 egg
2 tbsp milk
1 teasp vanilla extract

1tbsp oats

1. Pre-heat the oven to 200°C/fan 180°C/Gas 6. Grease a medium sized casserole dish, with a little butter.
2. Line the bottom of the casserole dish with the apple slices and blackberries. Sprinkle over the 75g of sugar.
4. In a food processor or mixer add all of the batter ingredients, apart from the oats, and mix for a few minutes, until well combined.
5. Spoon the cake batter evenly over the apple and blackberries. Smooth over with a knife and sprinkle over the oats.
6. Bake in the pre-heated oven for 35-40 minutes, until the pudding has risen, is golden in colour and cooked through. Serve hot or cold with custard, cream or vanilla ice-cream.


In Other News

I'm absolutely delighted to announce that Nessa's Family Kitchen has made it into the final of The Irish Blog Awards. I'd like to whole-heartily thank those who voted for my blog. The other blogs in my category are ones which I read and respect, so to be included in such a line-up is an honour.

Autumn most certainly has made its presence known, as there is a little bite in the air and the evenings are drawing darker. I love this time of year, as once the rain is at bay, there are endless opportunities to forage in our surrounding hedgerows. I'm not sure if I have ever collected more blackberries than I did in the past fortnight, but my freezer is now well packed for winter crumbles, pies and jams. It has also been a wonderful year for apples. Upon collecting a few baskets full of juicy apples I declared that I was going to try my hand at cider-making. As my brother-in-law, John, has made some wine in the past he has agreed to help with this process. So with any luck I will be featuring recipes with lovely home-made cider in the near future.

Last week we welcomed a new member into our 'backyard family'. A beautiful little chick, whom we've yet to name. Even as a day old chick he was mimicking his mother's actions. Isn't nature just incredible?

It seems like since the children have returned to school I've been trying to catch up on my writing and photography work, but I will post a new recipe here very soon. It will most probably feature either blackberries or apples.

In Other News

The lovely Rosanne Hewitt - Cromwell, otherwise known as Like Mam Used To Bake, is launching her beautiful new book...'Like Mam Used To Bake' next Tuesday in Dubray Books on Grafton St. I'm truly honoured that Rosanne has asked me to say a few words on the evening. I can't wait to have a read of the book and I'm really looking forward to celebrating this special evening with Rosanne and her family and friends. 

Blog Give-Away Winner.

Thank you to all who entered my latest give-away. All names were popped in the hat and the winner is ..
 myfoododyssey.com said...
Hey Nessa. Sounds delish! I'm signed up to your blog and I'm sure I've gotten emails before, but I didn't get one for this post. Not sure if there's a ghost in the machine somewhere! June.
September 12, 2013 at 8:52 PM

June, could you please drop me an email with your postal address.Thank you!

Do you know how sometimes you'll have a meal that's so delicious and so satisfying that once you take the last bite you desperately wish you could rewind time and begin again? Well, I had such a meal a couple of weeks ago. The location; a restaurant on a cobbled street within Temple Bar, but just off the River Liffey. The setting; a room dressed with vibrant and inviting colours, with the most comfortable cushioned seating, which is fondly known as the Opium Room. My company for the evening; a small group of journalists and bloggers with the love of food being the common denominator.

Cumi Cumi Goreng {Crispy Marinated Squid}
Our evening began with a lychee cocktail, while we were treated to an engaging demonstration by Kevin O' Toole. He's an interesting guy, who's extremely knowledgeable on Indonesian cuisine and passionate about what he does. He runs a busy kitchen and I was more than impressed to hear that every paste and marinade is made from scratch in the restaurant. We then made ourselves comfortable in the Opium Room for our wine-pairing dinner. The wonderful Aoife Carrigy was our host for the evening, who guided us through each wine, while Kevin introduced each course of food. What a fantastic and enlightening way to dine. The Chameleon will shortly be offering wine-paring dinners to the public and I'd urge you to book yourself a spot and take the opportunity to enjoy this magical dining experience. 

Asinan Salad

I really enjoy a good story, and I'm always interested to find out where a business idea originates from. I was intrigued to hear that the Chameleon has been in business for twenty-five years, going from a vegetarian cafe to an underground nightclub, before finding the perfect niche as an Indonesian Cuisine Restaurant in 1994. The lady behind this thriving business was Carol Walsh and in 2002 she convinced her partner, Kevin O' Toole, to join her as the restaurant manager and within a year Kevin was attending culinary college. Kevin and Carol are hard workers and are passionate about food. This is ever evident in the food which is served in The Chameleon; where carefully selected ingredients are cooked to perfection with great know-how and skill. With this in mind, it's no surprise that they picked up the Best World Cuisine 2013 at this year's Irish Restaurant Awards. 
Pork Wontons
In my experience of visiting restaurants, quite often the service that is provided can be just as important as the food that is being served. I'm hardly alone when I say that good manners are a must for any establishment that relies on a return of business. Without a doubt I will eat at The Chameleon again, the food was sensational and the warm service was sublime. I felt very comfortable there and only for a pending train home I could have sat for the night soaking in the atmosphere while sipping on one of their carefully selected wines or an Irish craft beer. 

For more information, including menus and opening hours, see www.chameleonrestaurant.com or contact Kevin or Carol on book@chameleonrestaurant.com.

Give-Away Time
If you would like to have the opportunity to dine at The Chameleon, Kevin and Carol have very kindly given me a 50 voucher for their very fine restaurant, which I would like to offer to one of my lovely readers. I must note that I had written this blog post even before receiving this voucher, as such a gem of a restaurant experience had to be shared.

All you have to do to be in with a chance of winning this voucher is leave a comment below, however, you must also be a subscriber to my blog. If you don't already subscribe you can do so by submitting your email address into the tab on the top right of this blog post.

TERMS AND CONDITIONS: You must be a resident of Ireland (north or south); you must be over 18; no cash alternative is possible, the competition will close at 6pm on Friday 13th September. The winner will be picked at random from the comments below.
Best of luck!

Books are bought, bags are packed, uniforms are washed and for the first year ever we are actually organised and ready for the new school year. I think this mainly comes down to the fact that the children are older and now all are well able to label their own books and allocate their own uniforms. I feel like I'm approaching a new chapter in our lives, as we are completely finished with the baby stage. My little lady has her very first day of playschool tomorrow. I find this new phase a little bitter-sweet. I'll appreciate the few hours to myself, to properly concentrate on upcoming projects, however I will so miss my Millie's company when the house is otherwise quite. This is also Jack's final year in primary school. I find it sometimes difficult to face the realisation that my babies are getting so big, however I'm ever grateful that each of them have their health and as they grow older there are new and different things that we can enjoy together. 

Last weekend I was invited to give a 'back to school lunchbox tips' demo in Glenisk's pop-up store on Dawson Street. I included dishes that my children really do enjoy to find in their lunchbox. This hummus is a real favourite of theirs. If you weren't able to attend the demo, but would like a copy of the recipes I demonstrated, just pop me an email to NessasFamilyKitchen@gmail.com and I will forward you on a copy.

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus & Crudités
The main ingredients in hummus are chickpeas, which are a protein-rich food. Therefore this hummus makes for a very nutritious and filling lunchbox treat. The roasted red pepper, along with the sprinkling of a little sugar, adds a sweetness, which perfectly balances the bitter lemon. Some crudités made from carrots, cucumber, celery or radishes, sent in a little zip-lock bag, would work very nicely as an accompaniment. My boys also especially like a few breadsticks alongside their hummus. 

I roasted red pepper, from a jar
1 can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
Juice of ½ lemon
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tbsp Glenisk greek yoghurt
1 tsp sugar
50mls olive oil
Carrot, cucumber and radishes, washed, peeled and cut into ready-to-eat slices

1. Place all the ingredients for the hummus into a mini chopper or a food processor. Blitz until smooth.
2. To serve, place in a bowl or a transportable container and drizzle with a little extra olive oil & sprinkle over a dusting of smoked paprika. Serve alongside some crudités and breadsticks.

My Red Pepper Hummus; one of the recipes included in this Saturday's demo.

This Saturday I'm delighted to be teaming up with Glenisk for a 'back to school lunch-box ideas' demo at their Dawson St store from 12.30-2pm.  I've a few tasty sandwich alternatives as well as lots of healthy nibbles, that will have your little ones rather excited about their lunch-time. At the demo you'll have the opportunity to taste all the dishes that are being prepared.
This demo is free of charge and anyone who attends also gets a goodie bag, packed with Glenisk products. How brilliant is that! 

If you're about Dublin that day, call in, however places are limited so to book your place on this free demo, please email upfront@glenisk.com and put 'Nessa's Lunch Box Tips' in the subject line. I'm looking forward to seeing you there.

I'm sure that I can't even recall one Sunday growing up that we did not have the big roast dinner each week. The meat would mostly vary between lamb, chicken, pork and beef. However for me what made the Sunday Roast so special were all the accompanying side dishes. My favourites would include fresh herb stuffing, Yorkshire puddings and roast vegetables, which would all be quite suitably smothered in lashings of gravy. My own children also love the Sunday Roast dinner, however I don't make it nearly as often as my mother did. Even without going over-board on the side dishes it's inevitable that many pots and pans will be left for the washing, well after the delights of dinner have been enjoyed. It sometimes seems that I can spend as long at the kitchen sink as I did preparing the meal. Of course this will all change in a few years when my little men and woman are older. They'll be only delighted to take over the reigns to give their mother a break on a Sunday afternoon. Well at least that's what I'm telling myself {all those with teenagers can mock now!}. I will always opt for a free-range chicken and when the budget allows an organic bird would be my choice. The taste of the better quality bird is certainly noticeable. Along with the additional nutrients it's worth spending the few extra euros.

Roast Chicken

Little is needed to enhance the flavour of a roast chicken, but I find butter is a good addition. It lends not only a buttery deliciousness to the flavour but also promotes a beautiful golden glaze to the cooked bird. Lemon and rosemary partner wonderfully with chicken. In this recipe I've added them to the butter and then gently pushed the zesty, herby butter underneath the skin, of the uncooked chicken. This adds such flavour to the chicken as well as leaving the meat wonderfully succulent. 

1 large free range chicken
150g soft butter
2 lemons, zest then quartered
1 sprig of rosemary, leaves removed and finely chopped
2 sprigs of rosemary
150mls white wine
sea salt & freshly ground pepper
2 red onions, quartered
1 bulb of garlic, cut in half 

1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC fan /390ºF/gas mark 6.
2. In a bowl combine the softened butter with the zest of lemon and the finely chopped rosemary.
3. Carefully loosen the breast skin, of the chicken. Gently push the zesty, herby butter under the skin, taking care not to tear it.
4. Place two or three quarters of the lemon into the chicken's cavity, along with two sprigs of rosemary.
5. Drizzle over the white wine, then season well with sea salt and freshly ground pepper.
6. Add the remaining lemon pieces to the roasting tray, along with the red onion and garlic. 
7. Place in the preheated oven for 20 mins per 1lb/454g of meat plus 20 minutes over. Remove the foil, for the last 20 mins of cooking, to allow the bird to brown. To be sure that the chicken is cooked insert a skewer into the leg and the juices of the chicken should run clear.
Once cooked, let the chicken rest on a plate, for 15 mins, to allow the juices to settle.
Carve the chicken and serve it alongside some roasted lemon, onion and garlic. The juices remaining in the roasting tray are perfect for drizzling over the meat as a flavoursome gravy. 

Unfortunately the weather in Ireland has taken a turn for the worse. After a July of record-breaking temperatures, the rain has finally returned. However hopefully the sun will reappear before the summer's end. We are busy as ever here and for the past past week we've been enjoying a very lovely 'staycation'. Trips to the swimming pool, cinema, bowling, Glendeer Pet Farm, Tayto Park, Birr Castle and lots of ice-cream have all featured. The children loved heading off each morning and I think appreciated returning back to their own bed each evening. We're also planning a fun weekend here, as my good husband and I will be married thirteen years this Monday. I can hardly believe it's been thirteen years..time flies! 
Here's to a great bank holiday weekend.  Nessa x
Update...The winner of Food for Friends by Edward Hayden is...Evelyn Corry.
Congratulations Evelyn, your new cookbook will be making its way to you soon.
I have quite an extensive collection of cookbooks, scattered on different shelves throughout my house. Admittedly some are much more utilised than others. I like recipes that have a straight-forward method which include ingredients that are easily sourced. One book which I have enjoyed cooking from, in the past couple of years, is Edward Hayden’s Food to Love, hence I was very much looking forward to the release of Edward’s latest book, Food for Friends. I certainly wasn't disappointed. The book is centred on entertaining at home, catering for such events as dinner parties, summer barbecues, movie nights in, and so much more. It’s a fantastic book which would make a wonderful addition to any family’s cookbook collection. You will be familiar with Edward from his weekly cookery slot on Ireland Am and his recipes are also regularly featured in national publications. I'd the pleasure of cooking with Edward live on Ireland Am and at Taste of Dublin in 2011. Edward is an absolute gentleman and his personality shines through the recipe introductions and the ‘handy hints’ in Food for Friends. A few weeks ago I got the opportunity to interview Edward and find out a little more about the man behind all of these marvellous recipes. 

Do you come from a foodie family?

To a certain extent I suppose I do. Perhaps not in the modern way we understand the 'foodie' but definitely good quality home cooking of well-chosen and sourced ingredients was of paramount importance to my mother as we were all growing up. She was a very typical Irish 'mammy' at the time and baked every day-bread, scones, buns (no one made cupcakes in those days!!) and cakes as well as big pots of stew, meat pie, home-made soup and roasted chickens.

What's your earliest food memory?

My uncles lived in the UK when we were small and my grandmother used to go and visit them every year and on one such occasion as she returned I thought it would be a great idea to bake her a cake. At the time we had a snow white solid fuel Rayburn cooker. We also had a big blue tupperware bowl, into which I put some flour, sugar and egg and mixed well. I then place the blue bowl on top of the aforementioned cooker to allow it to cook as I went off to play. The 'cake' never baked and the cooker was never the same again! Good intentions though!

When did you first realised that you wanted to cook professionally?

I worked in the Duiske Inn, Graignamanagh when I was in school and did all catering jobs there. I washed everything from the glasses to the plates and from the toilets to the potatoes and grew a great respect and understanding for the hospitality industry and could see that it was the industry for me.

Who's the most famous person you've ever cooked for?

Brian O Driscoll. I’ve also cooked for my favourite singer Sandy Kelly.

Have you any favourite cookbooks?
I have an addiction to cookery books, like so many other food enthusiasts so I have quite an extensive collection of books by various authors. Mary Berry, Delia Smith and Darina Allen all have books that I seem to call upon again and again.

What other food personalities do you admire?

I think that Darina Allen has a great level of culinary integrity and i always enjoy her as she extols the virtues of traceability, seasonality and 'fuss free cooking'. I think she is one of those people in the industry who says what she would like to do, then she does it...and believes in it!

This is your third cookbook. I love that it based around home entertaining. Was it difficult to decide on a theme/angle for the book? 

There are so many books out there that it is always difficult to come up with a slant. For me it came sort of naturally as the brand that I have been building is that of 'Edward Entertains' so we just picked a whole series of different occasions which would require catering and chosen some complementary recipes for each chapter.

Asian Crusted Salmon{pg 157}..Scrumptious!
Have you a favourite recipe from Food for Friends? 

Hot & Spicy Beef Curry. I don't make it that often but when I do I really enjoy it with a long cool beer!

When and where do you do most of your book writing?

I do all of my writing in my office at home and mostly late into the night. I am a bit of a night owl and find that I get quite a lot done in the hours of darkness. Daytime is nigh time in our house!

What advice would you give to anyone who is considering a career in food?

Ohhh…So much advice.
Work hard and work your way up through the different sections.
Be nice to EVERYBODY-You catch more flies with a spoon of honey than with a jar of vinegar.
Believe in yourself and never ever compromise on your own values and what you believe to be true.
At all times be yourself-that’s unique and special enough-no need to play make believe.

Many television chefs have their own restaurants. Is this something that would appeal to you in the future? 

Not at the minute. I am currently working on developing my own 'Edward Entertains Cookery School' which hopefully will open in late spring 2013.

What will be keeping you busy in the coming months?

Getting the cookery school sorted, continuing my weekly slots of TV3 Ireland AM, my fortnightly cookery column with Woman’s Way Magazine and ...Getting a tan!!
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Here I am with Edward at Taste of Dublin 2011.

Food for Friends by Edward Hayden is out now in hardback priced €24.99. It's available from all good bookshops and on www.obrien.ie. The lovely photo of Edward and the Asian Salmon photo were kindly provided to me by The O' Brien Press. 

I have one copy of Food for Friends to give away to one lucky reader. The good people at The O' Brien Press will post worldwide, so everyone is in with a chance. All you have to do to enter the give-away is leave a comment below. All names will be popped into the hat and the winner will be picked at random. Please ensure that I have some way to contact you. Thanks and best of luck!