Gone Fishing!

Weather this morning showed promise, so we're off for the weekend!

See you Monday!


Coconut gems

These are really tasty little biscuits which Mary made for our camping trip this weekend. 
You'll need
225gms soft butter
140gms caster sugar
1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
280 plain flour (add a pinch of salt)
100gms dessicated coconut
Strawberry jam

Preheat the oven to 190c.  Line two large baking trays with parchment or greaseproof.
Mix the sugar and butter together well, and add the egg yolk.  Sift the flour into the mix and stir, finally add the coconut and mix.

Shape into small balls. Place on the baking sheets and make an indent in each with the back of a teaspoon which you then place a blob of jam in.  
Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown and crispy on top.  
Leave to cool completely before eating them all, one after another and have to go to bed because you feel so ill.



Beef and Balsamic

The rain that poured down yesterday was gone today, and the sun was belting down from a clear blue sky.  It was a day where the sunroof is open, along with all the windows and you still wish you had a fan - as they say in the U.K. "Belter!"

It made us hungry for our 6 week holiday which is coming up in July... we can't wait much longer for Italian skies, and the mediterranean sea lapping at our feet.  We cannot wait much longer for the flavours and colours of the gelateria, the tiny little pastry shops and the local restaurants welcoming us in "come let us feed you all" they say!

Bills favorite meal ever was in a restaurant about five minutes from our families home in Italy, where they served him over eight courses of fresh local simple food, the penultimate dish being steak.  Nothing else but a steak, in typical Italian form, not even with a garnish, just on its own with a light cheesy balsamicy dressing. 

We really try to eat only organic meat, and it means we don't eat meat every day, but it also means the meat we do eat is always tasty as hell and without conscience.  Most beef is free range, but the chemicals and additives in the cattle food plus the high level of antibiotics... well it just makes me uneasy... 

So today, with a few shillings in my pocket, I went to buy some beef.  

Spurned on by pictures of Nicole of Art and Aioli's steak and salad, I filled my basket with fresh greens and blood reds.

I tried to recapture the italian dressing tonight, but I used 2 tbsp white balsamic vinegar to the same of olive oil and added a crushed clove of garlic, a good handful of fine ground parmesan cheese and a tsp of mayo.  It tasted great!

Eating beef with such a light dressing allows the meat to take centre stage, and served with a fresh salad its perfect for evenings in the sunshine.  After the last few days of miserable grey skies and dousing rain, it was a welcome sun that greeted us this morning, and a meal recommended all the way from California fit right on in..


Coddle, v. (1) to pamper, to treat indulgently, to baby. (2)to cook in water just below boiling point

The weather shifted today, although its been brewing for the last few days, we woke up to rain. It was cold, windy and raining, and everyone around had gloomy faces.

I appreciate the rain, God made me waterproof and fair enough no-one likes to be soaked through but is there much nicer than a hot shower and clean pyjamas after being out in the heavy rain? I especially love the rain at this time of year (but preferably not every day) as the glistening leafy green reflections in the road can be quite magical!

So it was along these stunning mirror pictures I drove today, to pick up my daughter and her pal from school. Only I couldn't find her, only two bedraggled kittens sat where they would normally be. So I took them home instead, to blankets and a roaring fire, some daytime tv, hot cups of tea.
Somedays everyone needs a bit of coddling... its funny how comfort is sometimes defined with food we know really well, things that are simple... jam sandwiches, chocolate cake, mashed potato... The things that comfort people are homely, warm, known... The foods that comfort aren't the delicate, intricate and unusual, they are the normal everyday foods, where the ingredients speak for themselves, cheap and easy to make, made with love and more welcome than anything else to those in need of some TLC! We've a saying here in Ireland "to warm the very bones of you" and its usually used when handing a nice bowl of stew or soup to someone just in from the cold.  I mean who would want to come in from the cold, wind and rain, after a hard day and be handed a salad?? 

Bill rang me at four, he'd be late, he was starving - hadn't managed to grab lunch in the end of month mayhem. He'd be home at 6 and by the sound of him, he too needed some coddling...

Dublin Coddle
for four

You'll need

8 large potatoes, peeled and cubed
3 medium sized leeks, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
6 thick cut rashers
12 Irish sausages
Handful parsley
750mls Chicken stock
1 can of Campbells Golden Vegetable Soup
Some butter.


Place the potatoes, leeks, onion and parsley into a pan with the knob of butter. Fry gently until the leeks and onions become translucent and then transfer to a large pot. In the pan fry the rashers and sausages until lightly browned. Transfer to the pot. Cover with the stock and stir in the soup (I pour mine through a sieve to leave behind the little veg pieces) and allow to sit, just under the boil for about thirty minutes, or until the vegetables are cooked. Just under the boil is where there is a fizz, not bubbles in the water. However some cooker heat is harder to control so if it does boil, don't worry about it a jot! It'll turn out fine.

Serve how you like, we plop big spoons of it onto cooked spinach leaves and eat with brown soda bread covered in butter...

Some people add various vegatables and pulses to coddle, I'm a purist so I don't! There is also a brown coddle which uses oxtail soup instead of golden vegetable, although some people would say you shouldn't add soup, and just use stock but I picked up the tip from a friend of mine who is a real Dub, born and reared in the inner city, so I think its authentic enough!

Give it some mussel!!

Pasta with Mussels

20 small or 10 large mussels (Any that do not close tight when tapped should be discarded)
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbsp olive oil
5 Plum tomatoes, chopped
A handful of fresh parsley, chopped
A glass of white wine
s + p500gms fresh spaghetti

Soften the onions and garlic in the oil and add the parsley.  When everything starts to look translucent pop in the mussels and the wine, tomatoes and season.  Cover and leave simmering for about 5/10 minutes or until the mussels have opened.  Discard any that have remained closed. 
Spoon the pasta into a dish, season it and then pour a spoon of the broth over it.  Add mussels around the side.


Cocktail and Cake... the story continues!

I was not happy with the way the birthday cake below turned out so last night I just had to try again.  I made Pina Colada cupcakes and with a bit of tweaking, I now have the perfect recipe to share with you!

Its pretty much the same as below but with a bit more tweaking! 

Pina Colada Cupcakes
makes approx 18

125g unsalted butter
150gms dark chocolate
300g pineapple jam 
150gms caster sugar
2 large eggs, beaten
150gms Self raising flour (add a pinch of salt)
50mls Malibu
About 20 glace pineapple chunks

Melt the butter and chocolate together and off the heat add the jam, sugar, and eggs.  Mix well. 
Add the flour bit by bit and stir.  Add the malibu.  The mixture should be thick but not resisting a stir! If it is resisting add more malibu!

Drop spoonfuls of the mix into cupcake molds (I use silicone) and top each with a glace chunk.
Bake for approximately 20-30 minutes until a cake skewer comes out clean as a whistle.
Leave to cool.  For the icing mix about 300gms icing sugar with a few spoonfuls of coconut milk until stiff peaks.  Ice the cooled cupcakes and leave for a while before tucking in!

Phew... I'm glad I got that sorted!


A brush with bruschetta...

Bruschetta is such a simple dish, yet waved under the nose of even the most cultivated pallette and it will be grabbed eagerly and barely swallowed before the eager eater begs for another...
I love it, I've never had it as good as when Italian friends threw it together after an impromptu visit from us and I have wondered since is there a special olive oil reserved to be bought by those with Italian passports alone?

  Anyway I often eat it for breakfast, nice bread topped with tomatoes - does it get better? No but sometimes it gets a bit different...

Here is something we enjoy sometimes for breakfast, Special Brunch Bruschetta!
Simply mix chopped plum tomatoes, chopped avocado and a tin of tuna in a mixture of olive oil, a tsp mayo, tsp balsamic, salt and pepper! Serve as a brunch dish, or as a starter... Replace the tuna with Boquerones or even cooked mushrooms for a more sophisticated twist!

It really sets you off on the right foot for the day! 

Cocktail and Cake!

Friends of mine were celebrating a double birthday yesterday and so of course I volunteered to bring the cake, and of course I wanted to make it as personal and thoughtful as I could so no ordinary cake would do!

The last time I saw these girls socially they were making pina colada cocktails, and telling me the joys of this sunny fresh cocktail, so I decided to try to make some sort of "pina colada cake"!

Oh the trials! It wasn't easy, two prototypes later and I had a rough idea of what I needed to do!
Nigella Lawsons chocolate orange cake (see my earlier post here) would form the base for the recipe, I'd substitute the marmalade for pineapple jam and get coconut and rum in, someway or other!

After a dramatic baking session (which involved forgetting the baking powder and having to get online pronto to find out my options!) the cake was made, iced, (Have a look here for how it should be done!)and ready to go!

It turned out very nice, although there wasn't a strong enough pineapple presence as I was hoping for, but the icing was devine and saved the day!  I will need to tweak this recipe some more, but overall it works! I'm going to bake some cupcake versions today and see how they turn out before I write it into my favorite cakes notebook!!

Here is the recipe,

Pina Colada Chocolate Cake!

You'll need
for the cake
200gms Dark Chocolate
250 gms Unsalted butter
250gms Caster sugar
4 eggs
500 gms Self raising flour (or Cream flour with 3 tsp Baking powder 1 tsp salt added)
400 gms Pineapple Jam
150gms Glace Pineapple Chunks (Tesco do these!)

for the icing
Approx 75mls of coconut milk
1 tbsp of white rum
500gms Icing sugar, sifted.

Make the cake as per the original recipe, see here! Add the glace chunks at the end and stir through.  Bake in a medium oven until a skewer comes out clean-ish (ie no liquid but a bit of gunk is fine!) - Cool the cake completely then make the icing by adding the coconut milk mixed with the rum to the icing sugar until you have the stiff peaks.  Smooth over the cooled cake and decorate if you wish! Apply candles, offer to Birthday girls and BLOW!!!

If I were to do it again, I would brush the cake a few times with pineapple juice, or even pour some over and let it soak through, to give it a bit more of a proper pineapple tang.  The icing is really nice, and not sugary sweet so the cake could afford to be a little bit sweeter!


Texan rice

I love the smokiness of Texan style food, and since I first started cooking for myself it has been a regular occurance on the family menu.  Its spicy but not the "nose-running, tear inducing, I cant feel my tongue" of Asian food, or the searing belly hotness of true mexican cuisine.  There is a spice mix I use for fajitas, enchiladas, and rubs for meat.  It has 1 teaspoon each of Cayenne pepper, crushed garlic, crushed onion, smoked paprika, cajun style mustard and tomato paste.  A good glug of olive oil and stir it all together.  

Rub this on meat before grilling or frying, add to a tin of chopped tomatoes for enchiladas or stir on to the fajits mix while cooking.

Another thing I do with it is stir it through rice,  chicken and veg for what we refer to as "Texan Rice"...

Y'all try it now, y'hear!


I heart...

...the modern world!

When my daughter was about 4 she asked Santa for an ice cream maker, God knows where she got the idea, but of course he came, he delivered and there it was.  

"Can we make ice cream now?" She asked, running into me with a tub of Ben and Jerrys from our freezer.
"No, no, Lovey" I hushed, " You don't put ice cream into an ice cream maker, you need to make the ice cream from scratch"

A couple of weeks later my mother rang me in a flap, Mary had gone down for a visit, and was given some money and when asked what she wanted to buy she kept saying to my mother that she wanted to buy 'scratch'.  My mother couldn't for the life of her figure out what the child was after.  I told her to tell Mary we would get some later.

So we did, later that day we bought 'scratch'... eggs, cream, honey, vanilla essence and sugar, and we made ice cream.  It was good but not long after that machine took up residence in our attic where it has resided ever since, our kitchen being too small to store everything - sacrifices must be made! 

Most days I buy scratch... the chances of me using preprepared sauces have halved since finding what can only be descibed as catgut in a jar of pesto, not that the chances were high in the first place.  I always bought pesto, I don't know why because home made is always nicer.  There are very few things that are not as good homemade as the shop bought version.  Well, funnily enough, except for ice cream... have you tasted 'Ben and Jerrys' Oat Cookie Chunk??

I have the time of course, I'm not working, I don't think I could do most of it if I was.  However I find it just as easy to melt a bit of butter and add flour, milk and cheese as I do to stir a powder into milk.  

The question is "Would I love cooking as much as I do, if there wasn't the safety net of "oh i don't feel like cooking lets get a chinese/run over to the shop there and grab a roasted chicken/take that lasagne out of the freezer"??

Would I love cooking if there wasn't such an amazing variety of produce for sale?

Would I love cooking if food was lasting only a day because there was no fridge to put it in?

I doubt it.  That is why I love the modern world, because on days like yesterday when I had a bad cold, and Joe wasn't too well either, I could relax on the couch while Bill ran across to the shop and brought home a big Steak and Kidney pie, peas and chips. 
Eating my convienient dinner I remarked how this pie wasn't a patch on the one we make here, and everyone agreed.  I must get that recipe out one of these days, I said.  


Pizza Tips!

Making your own pizza can be daunting, but the results are really worth it.  You'll be surprised at how easy it actually is, and can feel good eating it because home made pizza is GOOD FOR YOU!!
I wanted to pass on a few tips that I have found have really worked for me.  Make the dough as I do here for white bread, or if you'd like a rustic wholemeal pizza use half brown flour and half strong white. 
My first tip is for when the dough is rising, I sit it into a bowl that has been rubbed liberally in olive oil and then I pour oil into my hands and rub the dough all over too.  You should also do your best to leave pizza dough rise somewhere warm for a good three hours at least, then deflate it and leave it for at least another 30 minutes.
My second tip is that when you have stretched the pizza, or rolled it into the shape of the tray lift it up by the corners a few times, and turn it mid air before putting it down again.  This
 frisbee action gives it a last stretch and is worth doing for nice crusts.
Thirdly leave your base to sit with no toppings for at least an hour.  This hardens the dough on the outside, meaning its even crispier when baked.  
Finally use a really really hot oven, and if you like lots of sauce par bake the base for a bit first. I sometimes put half the sauce on, bake it for ten minutes, then put the rest of the toppings on.
Really try making your own pizza from scratch, the satisfaction as you bite into your first slice is reward in itself!


Lemony Snickett...

I'm sharing this with you because I love you, I must do in order to divulge simply the easiest but most scumptious of all sauces... It goes on pasta of course (what doesn't?) but is amazing poured over skewered prawns, or as a dip for raw vegetables... You can smother cauliflower in it, broccoli, anything and its immediately transformed into a dinner party dish...

I know I'm terribly boring, yet another pasta sauce, yet another lemon dish... but if something is this good you just gotta eat! We always eat this in Italy, during our summers there, and this is the first time we'd made it at home... It was delicious but is even more so eaten outside on a terrazza, with a small breeze playing with your toes, the strong sunshine on your neck and an afternoon by the river to look forward to...

We call it Lemony Snickett, thought up by our darling Mary who loves anything lemony.

Here is her top five lemon favorites, this sauce is at number three so let that be your guide...
1)Lemon fondants
2) Fanta Lemon
3) Lemony Snickett sauce
4)Iced tea with Lemon
5) Bandi Brooks Lemon Sorbet

Lemony Snickett
Creamy Lemon Sauce
You'll need
Half an Onion
3 cloves garlic
125mls double cream
3 tbs parmesan cheese
2 tbs goats/cream cheese
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 1 lemon
Olive oil

Put a good handsome glug of oil into a saucepan and add the onions and garlic, stir until soft and translucent.  Add the parmesan and the goats cheese, then the lemon zest and juice.  Stir in the hot oil until the zest breaks easily with the back of a fork.  Take off the heat.  Stir in the cream and add salt and pepper. Perfect... 


...And the living is easy...

Ah summertime, living here in Ireland can oft be a confusing existence.  One glorious sunny daydoes not a summer make.  We see it all here - it can be bright and sunny and then suddenly snow as late as April, it can rain at the drop of a hat and nothing is certain.  In fairness it only serves to endear this little island deeper into our hearts, and God love the visitor who is overheard by Irish ears complaining about the weather in Ireland!
So usually when a day starts with clear blue skies and a heat in the pavements, the supermarkets quickly stock their shelves with skewered meat and charcoal.  Its queues are long with happy cavemen discussing fire, and women looking at each others legs comparing shades of white with the hope that a gold sheen might be there by the end of the day.

...and we are there like everyone else, grabbing the small smidge of summer by the collar while we can...

We grabbed a disposable Barbie, a couple of breasts of corn fed chicken, and some bits and pieces and headed to my moms to take over her garden and enjoy a day outside.  
My moms garden is really lovely, she always has a great wine to offer, due to her impeccable taste and vast knowledge of the vine, and the food was great, so that when the cool air filtered through the warmth it was a reluctant family that headed home.

Creamy Cajun Marinade

100mls Olive oil
125mls Sour cream
2 tsps Harissa Paste
1 Mild chili pepper
2 cloves garlic
1 small onion
2 tbsp vinegar

Blitz in a food processor until smooth, Pour over skewered meat and vegetables and leave for at least ten minutes.  
Cook on BBQ grill.
Mmm Mmm...


There is no other way to round off a barbequed meal than with Hot Chocolate and Marshmallow Bananas...
Slit a banana on its back side all the way through but leaving the skin intact, stuff with marshmallow and chocolate buttons... Wrap in foil and pop onto the Barbie as you eat your main meal. 
 Then you can check and see if the banana skin is blackened and the chocolate melted - unwrap and pop into a bowl, top with ice cream and eat!
Can it get any better?

Bill is allergic to Bananas so we used a pineapple round, cut in half and sandwiched with the chocolate and marshmallow.

I had no idea when I wrote this post that a "bananaque" is actually an asian treat, see here! I was trying to be clever, playing with the word barbeque and banana, but the amount of hits this post has had is unbelievable with people looking for information on actual bananaques! I couldn't figure it out for ages! So if you came here looking for something else, I apologise for the mix up, but please stay to have a look around, you're very welcome!

Turkish Delight!

Once in a while I awake to a curious grumbling in my tummy that lasts all day, breakfast has no effect, nor lunch... I need something... Usually by mid day I know what it is that I want.  
Today was one of those days...In which I must ring Bill.  One word and its settled.  


We drive into town, get two of their Doner Kebabs and eat them in the car.  Its a thirty minute max operation. 

This small eaterie at the top of Georges street has been serving kebabs to Dubliners for many years, but it was by chance myself and Bill discovered it while looking for another take away shop we thought was in that area.  Since then, there have been other fleeting affairs to other "kebab" shops but none have come close to the sheer satisfaction of a rendevous with Zaytoon.  
Even the mere mention of the word in my presence reduces me to close to a salivating mess... 
Its like a drug.  Once its in my head I cannot function without.




What a nice surprise! For a few months now I have been peeping in to a lovely blog called Foolin around in the Kitchen - its a wonderful honest account of food, and centres on Kims love of decorating cakes and cookies - which I have to say are professional quality see here.

So I peeped in this morning, to have another look at her Strawberry Pillows 
recipe and low and behold there was my own name staring back at me under the "I love you this much" emblem that I have coveted on other blogs! Kim has awarded my blog as a blog she loves!! I'm so touched....

Cough cough... snif... I'd like to thank my family, and of course my agent.... 

Getting awards in this curious little land of blog is really special, because they are from other bloggers, and what really strikes me is the comradery, the support, the "we're all in this together"ness, the absense of competitiveness that can often make life difficult when pursuing something we love.

I never imagined when starting this little blog, all thanks to Ciara who introduced me to Blogger, that I would be eagerly clicking in to womens lives on the other side of the world, and never imagined they would become so involved in mine.  It really has become a strong force in my life, these little blogs of mine! So have all the women (and men) that have become part of my blog and my days! 

Thanks Kim, I'm so glad you drop by!

I would like to give my award to.... (drumroll)...

Emily at HONEYBEE!!! (Thunderous applause)
Emilys first post said "I have no idea what possessed me to set up a blog but here I am writing my first entry.  I am not really sure what to say or how any of this works but I am determined to figure it out.  Be patient with me"
We agreed "Patience? no problem" but we didn't need it, her blog quickly became an adorable account of her baking haps and her love for food, design and writing! 

Snippets of her life and lovely poetry allow you in a bit more to the life she is living, and you realise how young she is, still in school, yet her intentions in the kitchen rival even the most experienced.  

She loves a gastronomic challenge and some of the food she attempts (and succeeds with) would intimidate me on a good day! She is a talented chef! Look here at her Tea Cream, amazing stuff!


Picnic in the park...

What a beautiful day we had today...
We had to have a picnic in the park! It was wonderful! 
The menu was, Cheese and Onion Sandwiches (literally - grated cheese, chopped onion,
lots of mayo) and Salmon and Cress Sandwiches, an Oxford Lunch cake and then strawberries and cream 

Lazing around on the grass for hours, with a clear sky above and an evening sun warming the bones is food for the we went home mind and body fed... tired from all the fresh air and fingers crossed for another day in the sun tomorrow!

Oxford Lunch Cake
This is a recipe I took from the side of a flour packet years ago and its the nicest Oxford Lunch I've tried! 

350g Cream Flour
225g Margarine
25g Ground Almonds
1/2 teaspoon Baking Powder
675g Sultanas
225g Caster Sugar
5 Eggs, beaten
Juice and zest of 1 Orange
125g Glace cherries, M&S do natural coloured ones!
Sliced Almonds if you have some!

Cream margarine and sugar together. Then add the eggs bit by bit, beating well after each addition. Fold in the ground almonds, zest and juice.
Sieve in the flour and baking powder. Fold into the mixture.
Stir in the cherries and pour the mixture into a lined loaf tin. Scatter sliced almonds on top if you have any! 
Bake in a preheated oven at about 150°C, Gas 2 for 3 hours approx. Check at intervals after 2 hours until a knife comes out clean.  It takes ages baking but I just set my timer and forget about it. Its worth it! What you can also do is put it in the oven and head out for about two hours, if you take this out of the oven some time between 2 and 3 hours it'll be fine, so there is never that "AGH MY CAKE" moment that I'm famous for and usually involves breaking amber lights and falling out of the car!
Allow to cool completely before slicing!

Mint anyone?

One of my favorite pasta sauces has to be eaten on a day where I've nowhere to be, or nobody to see... because it is the equivalent of eating the stinkiest crisps they sell!
Here it is - you must try it and be sure to let me know what you think!

Raw Onion Sauce for Pasta

Chop 1 onion, a half a mild chili and a clove of garlic together.
Pop into the food processor with a good slug of virgin olive oil and blitz until its smooth.  
Add a couple of tablespoons of parmesan cheese, a tub of creme fraiche and some salt and pepper.
Stir through hot pasta and eat! I often put french beans into boil with my pasta, no matter what sauce I'm making, its a great way of making a little go a long way!