Saturday, December 22, 2012


I am such a Christmas traditionalist, I make the same Christmas cake, and puddings year in, year out.  This keeps the family happy, but isn't great for blogging purposes!

This year I tried a new mince meat recipe (I know - how daring of me!!!), I think I got the original idea from a Lotte Duncan T.V. show, but have tweaked it quite a bit - and I think it's good.  It tastes great (pretty essential) but also, it is easy to put together and it is low fat (we won't mention the pastry that's going to be wrapped around it!!).

Mince Meat
(most popular eaten from the jar!!)

500g        sultanas (I used golden)
500g        raisins
100g        candied peel
250g        dark brown sugar
250g        light brown sugar
4 tbsp      orange marmalade
1 tsp        mixed spice
1 tsp        cinnamon
1/2 tsp     grated nutmeg
150 ml     dark rum
150 ml      brandy
Juice and zest of two oranges

Sterilise a large jar (or a few smaller ones)

Chop up the mixed peel, and add to a bowl with the other fruits.
Add the rum, brandy and orange juice, and allow to absorb for an hour or 10.
Add the rest of the ingredients and stir well.
Place in the sterilised jars and HIDE.*
Use in mince pies, cakes and ice-creams.

*My first batch mysteriously disappeared!!

Happy Christmas to you all - thanks a million for sticking with me, it's much appreciated.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


I first made this cake back in September, when I was full of the "new school year, time for fresh copy books and fresh starts" vibe.  By now the copies are tatty the diet has died but this cake is still delicious,  and I must admit it still feels good to grab a second (or third) slice, without any diet qualms.

We tried the cake with and without the icing, and there was a unanimous decision that without was better - not often you can say that!  The cake is moist and has a rich chocolate taste - no need to add to that.  The recipe comes from Ellie Krieger's "The Food You Crave".

Ellie's Mocha Cake

3/4 cup               wholewheat flour
1/2 cup               white flour
1/2 cup               cocoa
1/4 tsp                salt
1 tsp                   bicarbonate of (bread) soda
1 tsp                   baking powder
2 tbsp                 butter
2 tbsp                 flavourless oil (I used groundnut)
2                        large eggs
2                        large egg whites
1 1/2 cups          fat free yogurt
2 tsp                   vanilla extract
3/4 cup               sugar
1 tbsp                 instant espresso powder, dissolved in 1 tbsp hot water
60g/2oz              70% (or higher) chocolate - melted

Preheat oven to 180 C
Line a 9x13 in cake tin with baking parchment

Combine the flours, cocoa, salt, bread soda and baking powder together.
Whisk the melted butter and oil in a (separate) large bowl.
Add the eggs (whole and whites) to the butter and whisk.
Fold in the yogurt, sugar, coffee and melted chocolate.
Gradually add the flour mixture, and stir until just incorporated being careful not to over beat.
Pour the cake mixture into the prepared tin.
Bake until a skewer comes out clean - about 25 - 35 minutes.
Allow to cool on a baking rack.

Enjoy without a trace of guilt!!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012


These days I have so little time to potter in the kitchen, I want to get maximum bang for a minimum time buck (I have a feeling I'm sounding a bit like Jamie Oliver here!!!).  This french toast gives me bang (well great taste really) by the bucketload - it's a Nigella recipe, from Express, and I can't understand why it has taken me so long to try it - I suppose it looked just a bit too easy to bother with.

It is hard to imagine how the addition of just one ingredient can transform an old regular - but man oh man, one teaspoon of vanilla paste (or extract) makes all the difference, this is a "special treat breakfast", a "cheer me up supper", a "I don't have the energy to make a proper meal, but still want to serve something healthy meal", and this time of the year, it really is the perfect "I am so tired of heavy meals and chocolates option".

I love to serve the toast with berries, fresh or frozen depending on budget and time of year, but I always serve it with Glenisk Greek Yogurt (and I should admit much more than I used in the photo, I thought I shouldn't look like too much of a piggie!!).  I know I've mentioned this product before (and I'm not on their payroll) but it is so worth a try - it is thick, creamy and utterly delicious.

French Toast To Be Proud Of

2          eggs
2 tbsp   whole milk
2           slices of bread, it's best to use thickly sliced bread which is slightly stale
2 tsp      vanilla paste (I love this stuff, but 4 tsp vanilla extract would be excellent too)
1 tbsp    caster sugar
              butter and oil for frying

Beat the eggs with the vanilla.
Soak the bread in the egg mixture, allow to absorb it all.
Heat a knob of butter with some flavourless oil.
Fry until golden.
Sprinkle with the sugar (Nigella dredges the toast in sugar at this stage, but that would be too sweet for me)

The perfect treat for two people.


Monday, August 13, 2012


Queen Delia comes up trumps again!  The wonderful Dom has challenged us to randomly choose a recipe from the gazillion recipes we all have, and just give it a go.  This dish is one of the reasons that Dom's Random Recipe Challenge is so wonderful.  This month Delia Smith's "Summer Collection" came to hand when I randomly chose my book, this is a book that I used alot when I first bought it, and I would still refer to it from time to time - well the book popped open at page 38/39, so my choices were the Tomato, Mozzarella and Basil Salad (which I have made time and time again) and to Marinated Mozzarella with Avocado (which I have skipped over time and time again!!).  The reason I skipped over the recipe?  I just couldn't get a marinated avocado salad to work in my head - I imagined horrible black pieces of slimy avocado ruining the beautiful cheese.  I should, of course, have trusted Delia, I think in all my time cooking, she has only let me down once (and maybe that was just my wonky taste!!!).

The salad was a beautiful smooth texture, which works well with a selection of salads, many of which will be crunchy.  The fruit and cheese melded in together, helped by the kick of the dressing.  I always remember Nigella's comments about avocados moisturising from within, whenever I eat them, and find myself glowing with health and smugness (for a few moments anyway!!).  Try this salad, it's a little bit different, totally delicious and will do wonders for your skin and hair - happy days!!

Marinated Mozzarella with Avocado

110g (4oz)       Mozzarella Cheese - the best you can get.
1                       Avocado - nicely ripe (I used two)
1/4                   Red Pepper - cut into fine slices
1                      Handful of basil leaves - Delia says to use 18!!
2                      scallions (spring onions) finely chopped


1                     small clove of garlic
1                     tsp sea salt
1                     rounded tsp of dry mustard powder
1                     dessert spoon white wine vinegar
5                     dessert spoons of extra virgin olive oil
1                     dessert spoon snipped chives
salt and pepper

Prepare the salad about 2 hours in advance. 
Slice the mozzarella into 5mm (1/4 inch) slices.
Peel, destone and slice the avocado into thin slices.
Arrange the cheese and avocado in alternate overlapping slices on a pretty plate.
Now scatter the finely sliced pepper and basil over the salad.
Make up the dressing by either grating the garlic or pureeing it with the salt.
Mix all the dressing ingredients together in a jar.
Pour over the mozzarella and avocado.
Cover and allow the flavours to combine for two hours.
Serve and enjoy!

Thank you very much for the links and suggestions for my son's culinary adventure - unfortunately the stove in his apartment broke, pretty much immediately after I posted the recipes - and they haven't been able to persuade the landlord to replace it yet!!  Sod's (or Murphy's) Law!!

Friday, July 27, 2012


I have just received a request for a blog post from my eldest baby who is off in Chicago on a J1 visa for the summer - learning to appreciate what a good time he has of things at home!!!!!!

He needs some familiar, easy, everyday type recipes - that use very little in the line of kitchen equipment (and dare I say skill - sorry son!!!).  I would appreciate any links for suitable recipes in the comment section - he'll be able to access them - thanks a million in advance.

Pasta dishes spring to mind - and I suppose the most basic of them all is a cheese sauce/mushroom sauce - here goes:

Cheese Sauce

You use equal amounts of butter and plain flour (say a tablespoon of each), melt the butter in a pan (medium heat) add the flour and stir until smooth (you need to do this for at least a minute to get rid of the raw flour taste).
Now (a whisk is good for this but a spoon will do) stirring all the time add milk - hard to give a quantity - just keep stirring it in until you have the right consistency - slightly thinner that you would think as the cheese will thicken it up again (don't worry you can always add more milk)
For anyone with a stocked kitchen, it is really nice to add some English mustard powder (1/2 tsp) and a few grates of nutmeg before adding the milk.
Add your cheese (plenty), grated or chopped up small, and there you have it.

Mac and cheese

Cheese Sauce
Bacon (optional)
Mushrooms (optional)
Broccoli (optional, and because you need your greens!!)

Cook your pasta of choice - I usually use penne.
Drain the pasta and add the cheese sauce to it.
Fry up some rashers of bacon/bacon bits.
Saute mushrooms.
Steam some broccoli (getting the healthy theme here???)
Add all together and place into an ovenproof dish.
Scatter a bit more cheese on top and put in the oven at a medium heat.
Check after about 15/20 minutes - if it's bubbling on top, it's done.

Mind your hands taking it out of the oven - don't burn yourself!!!

Mushroom Sauce

Instead of adding cheese to your (slightly thicker) white sauce, add your slow cooked mushroom - this is good on freshly cooked pasta (no faffing about with ovens!!!)

Fried Fish

Buy some nice flat white fish.
Heat up a frying pan - should be nice and hot before the fish goes in.
Put some flour on a plate and mix in some salt (1/4 tsp to about 2 tbsp flour)
Place the fish on the flour - both sides. Brush off any excess.
Put some oil in the pan (olive is good but don't stress, whatever is there)
Fry the fish - skin side down first, you want this crispy.
Turn down the heat to cook the other side - won't take long, depending on the thickness of the fillet.
You can of course cook some prawns to go with it - or wait for your Mammy to do that when you get home!!!

Our Usual Salmon

Very easy, and very good for you.
Get a darn/fillet of salmon (you could use trout, any pink fish)
Sprinkle some Cajun spice on top and then bake in the oven for about 10/15 minutes.

Fish Pie

Buy an assortment of fish - some smoked, and whatever else is cheap (better not to use oily fish here)
Poach in milk - place the fish in a saucepan and cover with milk, heat up gently until the fish is just slightly underdone.
Now take out the fish and place in an oven proof dish.
You can add some frozen peas at this stage (those greens again!!)
Make some white sauce, using the leftover milk.
Pour the sauce over the fish.
You can put mashed potatoes, breadcrumbs even some mashed up crisps on top.
Bake until bubbling.

I hope this is enough to get you going - and not too boring for everyone else!!!

I want to apologise for not being around for the past few months - the enormity of losing my sister just struck me with a hammer blow, and I needed all my energy to just do the day to day stuff ..... but I'm back!!!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012


For this month's Random Recipes Dom has invited us to return to the first book we chose for his challenge and to once again randomly choose a recipe from it.  I have to admit that I had a bit of a job locating Bake by Rachel Allen (another resolution - sort out my cookery books!!), and I did feel some trepidation, as I have had both successes and a failure from this book - I needn't have worried, they went down a bomb!

My book opened at "St. Stephen's Day Muffins" (St. Stephen's day is on 26th December) and called for left over Christmas Pudding.  Regular readers will know that the Christmas pudding fiends in this house wouldn't leave as much as a crumb  (and if there were any left I wouldn't be allowed to "waste" it on muffins!!!), but this year I have been given a gift of a (bought) pudding, which had been tasted and rejected, so I was delighted to have a use for it.

These muffins were well liked, the extra brandy gave them a proper Christmassy flavour that goes down well all year round.

Christmas Pudding Muffins

1                      egg
75ml/3 fl oz       milk
25g/1oz            butter, melted
2 tbsp               brandy
125g/4.5oz       Christmas pudding (chopped up)
125g/4.5oz        plain flour
1 tsp                 baking powder
1/2 tsp              mixed spice
75g/3oz            caster sugar

Preheat oven to 180 C
Line a muffin tray with 9 paper cases

Whisk the egg in a bowl.
Add the milk, melted butter, brandy  and pudding.
Sift in the flour, baking powder and mixed spice into another bowl.
Make a well in the center and add the wet ingredients and mix together to a soft lumpy batter.
Spoon the mixture into the paper cases (I use an ice-cream scoop).
Bake for 20-25 minutes.
When a skewer comes out clean remove from the oven.
Allow to cool on a wire rack.


Tuesday, February 14, 2012


It's that time of year again - and I was trying to remember my most romantic meal.  Hands down it has to be breakfast in bed, the fact that your loved one is willing to leave the warm nest extra early to make you feel cherished - what can be better??

What foods do I associate with romance? Chocolate, berries, cream and for some strange reason lavender (go figure!!) all come to mind.  I decided to stick with the first three on my list (and actually replaced the cream (not so good first thing) with some luscious greek yogurt.  So how do I get my chocolate fix at breakfast time?  Well I'm perfectly capable of diving into a chocolate cake at any time of the day or night, but I imagine that there are more normal people than me out there (?),  so I decided to experiment with my favourite pancakes; I added some cocoa powder to the batter (yuk!), then some chocolate chips went in (see the hardships I go through?!) but the texture wasn't wonderful, then the trusty Nutella came out - and yummmmmm, perhaps not the prettiest thing to come out of the kitchen, but man oh man were they delicious!  And how romantic to delicately nibble (yeah right) some chocolate pancakes, oozing with creamy yogurt and tangy raspberries - just a pity you have to get up and bring the kids to school!

I am of course linking this with the lovely Kate and Karen's Tea Time Treats Challenge because pancakes aren't just for breakfast!!

Loved Up Pancakes

Make up one batch of this pancake batter
Add one large tbsp of Nutella (I had to heat mine, the kitchen was very chilly that early in the morning!)
Fry in butter.
Cut into heart shapes, if you are so inclined.
Serve with a dollop of greek yogurt and your favourite berries.
If it's not a driving day throw a bottle of fizz in there too :-)))

Happy St. Valentine's Day.

Saturday, February 11, 2012


Don't you just love a gift that you can benefit from for ages after your birthday/Christmas/any special occasion?  Well, I've already told you about the fantastic gift my boys gave me for my birthday last year - masterclasses with Michelin chef Oliver Dunne, and January brought the next class I'd chosen - "New Year, New You?" - just up my alley at the moment! 

It should be said at this stage that Olivers main concession to healthy eating was managing without his usual use of pounds of butter and replacing them with a whole bottle of olive oil!!!  That said the food was utterly delicious, if I could eat like this all the time I'd happily swear off sugar for life.

Pumpkin and Ginger Soup
This soup tasted so good, that I went out and bought the ingredients the next day and made up a batch (my attempt and the recipe are at the end of this post)

Stir-Fried Duck with Carrots, Sugar Snaps and Orange
This dish also works well with pork and would be perfect to throw together after work - although I can't imagine being able to chop the carrots as well as this!

Salmon with Sweet & Sour Peppers, Olive & Basil Crushed Potatoes
This was probably my favourite dish of the evening - those peppers are to die for, and the potatoes are beyond delicious, there are olives, shallots, basil and lemon juice in there - my mouth is watering at the memory!!

Fillet of Pork, Crushed Carrot and Swede, Chilli Wedge

I learned something new when Oliver was making this dish - what are generally called turnips in Ireland are swedes to the rest of the world! - you live and you learn!!  I felt this dish needed a sauce (maybe I'm not totally getting into the New Year New You vibe!!!!).  See how pink the pork is?  Delicious!

Beef Fillet with Potato Fondant, Tomato & Tarragon Dressing
These fondant potatoes were a total revelation - instead of frying them up to their oxters (technical term!!) in butter, these were cooked in a frying pan of water with a knob of butter and a splash of olive oil, and they actually taste just as good (well very nearly) as the real thing.

Now for my offering - I substituted the pumpkin with butternut squash and the soup went down a treat!

Butternut Squash and Ginger Soup

1kg               butternut squash, peeled and diced into small pieces
1 tbsp           olive oil
1 knob          ginger - about the size of your thumb
4 tbsp           white wine
750ml            chicken stock (from a cube is fine)
100ml            milk
pinch             sugar
                     salt to taste
1 tsp              Greek yogurt (per bowl)

Put the oil in a heavy based saucepan and add the squash, ginger and season.
Cook on a low heat with the lid on until the squash is soft
When it is soft, remove the lid and reduce until the liquid has evaporated.
Add the white wine and simmer, then add the stock and milk.
Bring back to the boil and then simmer for five minutes.
Blend until smooth - this takes longer than you expect to get a really silkey texture.
Serve with a spoon of Greek yogurt.


Saturday, January 28, 2012


Remember back in school, there was always a "cool" gang?  They always had the coolest shoes, their socks were always casually half mast and they had boys signatures on their school bags (I went to an all girl school with a strict uniform code - it was hard to be individual!!!!) - well recently all the "cool" bloggers have been baking up a storm from Dan Lepard's new book Short and Sweet, and I have to admit that I was feeling a bit left out (tragic I know!!!!). Well, all is right with the world and I can still aspire to the "cool" club, my son bought me his book for Christmas :-)).

Dom over at Belleau Kitchen challenged us to randomly choose a recipe from one of our new Christmas books and blog about it - nice one!  Then I thought my luck was really in when the book opened at The alchemist's chocolate cake which has half the fat and quarter of the carbs of a normal uniced chocolate cake, relying on blended tinned pears to provide the moisture and texture, and therefore being perfect for Chele's We Should Cocoa Challenge which this month involved chocolate bakes and healthy in the same sentence! I think I'm a bit late on Chele's challenge but am going to chance my arm!!!

The link to Dan's recipe is here, but I have to say that unless I were under doctor's orders I'd just have a small slice of a normal cake instead.

Saturday, January 14, 2012


As you know I am one of the millions who start every new year with the intention of ending it weighing alot less - some years it happens, more years not!  This year is no exception, and I felt it was a sign that this might be "the year" when the people at Low Low challenged me to give a Come Dine With Me meal to some friends and ask them to score the experience. (Although there is a flaw in their plan - who's friends wouldn't score them 10!!).

I invited some of my reducing friends (they'll be delighted with that title!) to lunch and set out to plan my menu. I wanted to try out the Low Low products, as I have been a fan of their packets of grated cheddar cheese for ages and have been known to devour a tub of the Cracked Black Pepper Cheddar Spread with a packet of crisps (but those days are gone - I promise!!!).  They had sent me some recipe ideas and I opted to try out their Carrot, Courgette, Pecan and Cheese muffins to go with a starter of  Carrot, Cardamon and Cumin Soup (I made these carrots (using less butter) and then added stock and blitzed).  The muffins were great with the soup, although next time I make them I'll omit the nuts and add some grilled (or fried depending on the will power) bacon or ham.

For the main course I served monkfish baked with some home made sunblushed tomatoes and preserved lemons and served that with Stuffed Tomatoes with Rice, I got this recipe from a Slimming World leaflet, toyed with it a bit and it is excellent - the highlight of the meal in my opinion.  The fact that you soak the rice in the tomato juices for such a long time gives you a lovely soft textured result. This will be a regular visitor to our dinner table from now on - maybe with some olive oil drizzled over (when I'm skinny and can do such things!!).

The other vegetable I served was a Low Low recipe for Cheesy Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms - now if this had been the real deal and I were serving them to strangers who would rate my meal, I might have left these out, they weren't a huge success, they tasted fine but laked severely in the looks department.

For dessert I served these cupcakes which were popular, and I think it was O.K. that after such a virtuous meal we indulged in some Baileys in our coffee.

Stuffed Tomatoes With Rice
adapted from a Slimming World Recipe

4            large firm tomatoes (I used beef tomatoes)
2            garlic cloves - grated
50g/2oz  risotto rice (uncooked)
6 tbsp     finely chopped basil (keep some to decorate)
3 tbsp     grated cheddar cheese (I used Low Low)
salt and black pepper

Cut the top off the tomatoes and set aside to use as lids.
Scoop out the pulp from the tomatoes and chop finely, put in a bowl.
Stir the rice, garlic, basil into the tomato pulp and leave aside at room temperature for one hour.
Preheat the oven to 180 C.
Add the basil and cheese to the rice mixture and stuff the tomatoes.
Transfer to a baking dish and top with the lids.
Bake for 35 - 40 minutes, or until the tomatoes are soft and the rice is cooked through.

P.S.  They scored me 10 (surprise, surprise) but refused a chance of international stardom citing bad hair days when I wanted to take their picture for the blog!