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So this happened:

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We had our wonderful wedding day on August 1st and it was incredible! Food was a big focus for our wedding and there will be lots more on that another day. Today is a recipe day.

We were lucky enough to receive some fabulous wedding gifts from our lovely friends and family. One of the gifts was a day’s bread baking course from two of our lovely friends, of which I will write a full post in the coming weeks- what a cool gift, especially for a baking nerd like me! In the mean time, I am spending most of this week trying to use up all the delicious breads we baked on the day.

This mornings breakfast evolved basically through my need to use up some sourdough and my craving for apples! Enjoy!

Sourdough Cinnamon French Toast with Caramelised Apples:

Serves 1

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  • 2 slices of stale sourdough bread
  • 1 whole medium egg
  • Approx 50ml milk
  • 1 apple, thinly sliced
  • 10g butter
  • 20g caster sugar
  • squeeze of lemon juice
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • Toppings: Yoghurt, Maple Syrup, Golden Syrup…The options are endless!
  1. Beat the egg slightly in a wide bowl or plate (wide enough to fit your bread). Whisk in the milk until you have a pale creamy mixture.
  2. Soak your slices of sourdough in the egg mixture on one side.
  3. Heat a frying pan on a medium heat. Melt the butter until it froths and add the lemon juice and 10g of the caster sugar. Turn over your bread in the egg mixture so that the other side can soak up the egg mix.
  4. Lay slices of apple in the frying pan and cook over a low to medium heat (dont turn up the heat too much or the caramel will burn.) Once the apples have browned and softened slightly, turn them over and continue to cook.
  5. Remove the apples from the pan but keep the residual butter. Lay the slices of egg soaked bread in the frying pan and cook over a medium heat.
  6. Once the bottom is nicely browned and the egg mixture has set, turn the slices of bread to toast the other side. While his is browning, mix the cinnamon with the remaining sugar.
  7. Remove the toast from the pan to a plate. Sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar and top with the caramelised apples. I also topped it with a little fresh apple.
  8. You can finish it off with yoghurt, maple syrup or anything else you fancy.

I have a confession….I am a massive fan of sauces. I love chutneys and jellies and any sort of accompaniment! However, plasticy, fake mayonnaise from a jar is just not my thing! Its grand in a coleslaw or a potato salad but I will never put it in a sandwich or have it on the side of a salad.

Probably my favourite Summer dinner

Probably my favourite Summer dinner

Summer for me means seafood and seafood in turn is made even more special with the right sauce. Last nights dinner was a massive bowl of proper prawns, new potatoes and green beans. A dinner that is all about letting the ingredients shine, fresh, local and delicious. What better to serve with it than a proper, handmade mayonnaise? Ok so it takes a little work, but its totally worth it! I mixed in some crushed garlic or you could add some smoked paprika for some spice but this is just as delicious on its own.

Homemade Mayonnaise:

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  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon english mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt – you may need more to taste
  • 225ml oil – I used pure olive oil but this is a bit rich so you could use half sunflower oil, rapeseed or even groundnut oil
  • Squeeze of lemon to taste
  1. In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients except for the oil and lemon juice.
  2. Ok this is the important part – Very slowly, drizzle oil into the mix while whisking constantly. This really can curdle easily so its better to start with too little than too much.
  3. As the mixture starts to thicken, you can add slightly more oil but try and keep it at a slow and steady pace.
  4. If the mixture does curdle, you can whisk in another egg yolk and it should bring it back to life.
  5. If you are using a flavouring such as garlic, add it at the beginning and as you are whisking it will impart more flavour. For something like paprika or pesto, I would stir it in at the end.

I am always entertained by how the Irish greet the faintest speck of sunshine. If a sunny day emerges in April and May, people appear on the streets donning flip-flops, shorts and you may even spot the occasional shirtless man wandering the roads. BBQs come out of storage, cider and rosé become de-rigour in the desperate hope that Summer has arrived. Unfortunately, Ireland’s Summers tend to be notoriously short and unpredictable. Sunshine on a Saturday afternoon can turn to heavy showers by evening and often means BBQ guests ducking for cover and beach-goers sheltering under flimsy umbrellas!

So how do you plan picnics and other food events with the uncertainty hanging over you?!

For me, its about combining comfort elements of winter foods with the fresh wonderful ingredients available at this time of year. Salads are amazing and they don’t have to consist of limp lettuce leaves and soggy tomatoes.

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Meal prepping for a few days worth of salads (and some turkey meatballs!)

Here are just a few of my favourite salads that can be eaten for lunch on their own or serve as wonderful side dishes for BBQs or (if the weather doesn’t co-operate) roasted meats.

Chorizo and Bean Salad:

Serves approx 8 but you can make it stretch!

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This is a salad in the loosest sense of the word! I would not consider it particularly healthy in large quantities but a spoon or two wont hurt you. This appeased even the most established salad hater in our family and I have been told to make it again so I consider that a success! Its adapted from an Avoca Salads book recipe to make it slightly healthier (slightly!)

  • 200g Chorizo sausage, sliced into discs
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 shallot or small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 1 can cannellini beans, drained
  • 1 can chickpeas, drained
  • 200g greenbeans, trimmed and cut in half
  • 1 large bag of rocket
  • Couple of handfuls of spinach
  • Seasoning to taste
  1. Heat the oil in a deep bottomed sauté pan or frying pan.
  2. Place the chorizo evenly through the pan. Fry on one side until crispy and turn over to crips the opposite side.
  3. Meanwhile, boil some water in a pot and blanch the green beans in this for about 2 minutes. Drain and set aside.
  4. Remove the chorizo from the pan but leave the lovely flavoured oils.
  5. Add the chopped shallot and fry for a couple of minutes until translucent. Stir in the garlic and fry for another minute or so then turn off the heat under the pan.
  6. Stir in the chickpeas, cannelini beans and green beans until they are evenly coated in the flavoured olive oil. Add the chorizo back to the pan and try and distribute it evenly.
  7. Remove to a serving dish and stir in rocket and spinach leaves.

Grated Carrot Salad:

This one is so easy and can be multiplied to infinity when required, it reminds me so much of summer holidays in France. I had to include it as it really is one I make so often!

  • 4 large carrots, peeled or scrubbed and coarsely grated
  • 2 tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • Sprinkling salt and lots of freshly ground pepper
  1. This is basically as easy as it gets, pop all your grated carrot into a bowl.
  2. Mix olive oil, vinegar and seasoning in an empty jar with a lid and shake well.
  3. Toss with the salad. I am always sparing on the dressing but taste and decide if you would like more.

Roasted broccoli salad with chilli and garlic:

This is one of my favourite salads for a while now. You can make it spicier if you wish by leaving the seeds in the chilli. I usually decide how spicy to make it depending on who I am cooking for (I can be a bit of a chilli whimp!)

  • 2 large heads of broccoli, cut into bitesize florets
  • 1 red chilli, seeds removed or left in depending on your spice preference and finely sliced
  • 2 cloves of garlic finely sliced
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  1. Heat a pan of salted water and when its boiling, add the broccoli.
  2. Cook for 2 minutes and then drain under cold water to stop the cooking.
  3. Stand in a colander and allow to dry or dry using paper towels.
  4. Toss in 1 tbsp olive oil and spread out evenly on a baking tray.
  5. Put into oven at 180 degrees celsius for 20-25 minutes. You want the broccoli to begin to crisp on the tips of the florets.
  6. Meanwhile, heat the remaining oil and add the chilli and garlic slices. Allow to fry but do not allow the garlic to burn.
  7. When its roasted, toss the broccoli in a bowl and dress well with the garlic and chilli oil and some salt and pepper to taste.

So now you have seen some of my new favourite spots in the south, maybe today the Capital should get a mention! Enter Dublin. The capital city of our fair country and a spot I haven’t spent much time in until recently. I have to say, Im in love with how exciting and varied Dublin’s food industry is. There is something for everyone and always something new happening! Its like a mini, condensed version of London, but with a distinctly Irish focus that makes it special for me. New places are constantly popping up in Dublin and its hard to keep up sometimes. Here are some of the places I have tried recently:

My very willing accomplice just about pausing for a picture!

My very willing accomplice just about pausing for a picture!

The Butcher Grill in Ranelagh is easily my favourite steak restaurant in Ireland. The focus here is distinctly carnivorous! Various cuts of mostly beef from all over the world are the name of the game here and the meat really is the star. I cannot recommend the Cote du Bouef enough, a large steak designed to be shared between two that comes with delicious baked beans and crispy onion rings. The bearnaise sauce they serve alongside is so buttery and delicious I would eat it on its own! There are fish dishes and other delights but this is certainly one for the meatlovers!

Baklava French toast and those yummy eggs!

Baklava French toast

Sister Sadie, just off of Harcourt Street is the newer sibling to Brother Hubbard on Capel Street and is equally delightful. The food has a significant Middle Eastern feel but is comforting enough for the Irish weather! Previously, I had one of the best bowls of porridge ever at Brother Hubbard that was so creamy and came with a berry and rose jam that I still dream of. On my most recent visit, I tried Baklava French Toast. It consists of thick slices of egg-soaked sourdough served with apples, berry compote, creme fraiche and a spicy sweet honey crumble. It was really delicous, fresh yet comforting. My only criticism was that the bread was a bit dry as the eggy mixture hadnt really soaked through it but its not the end of the world!

Yummy baked eggs

Yummy baked eggs

My dining companion had shakshuka baked eggs with a side of chorizo, eggs with a rich tomatoey sauce and feta on top. I have to say, this was a winner for me and I had a little breakfast envy. Guess Ill just have to go back! There is a great variety here and the sandwiches are renowned across Dublin town!

I love afternoon tea, its one of those real treats that you reserve for special occasions. I decided I would treat two of my bridesmaids to afternoon tea in a nice hotel and I spent ages searching for the best. I settled upon The Atrium Lounge at the Westin Hotel. It was exactly what I was hoping for from an afternoon tea experience: stylish, chic and fun!

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My lovely ladies!

Afternoon tea here is a choice. There is of course a traditional afternoon tea with finger sandwiches, scones and petit four served with a myriad teas. The other option is A Most Peculiar Afternoon Tea which doesn’t have a single sandwich but instead, delicious little savoury canapé bites and sweet delights.

Tiers of deliciousness!

Tiers of deliciousness!

My favourite pieces were a salted chocolate brownie, a salted caramel pot, little marshmallows with popping candy and the most moist banana bread with a cinnamon butter. All a little different and fun but in a refined way! Seriously worth checking out. They also do a takeaway afternoon tea which requires 24 hours notice but a fabulous idea for a picnic!

A Long Hiatus……

Hi Folks! I know there is no point in apologising for the horrendously long break in service but I am going to anyway! I’m so sorry! This past 6 months have been a total madhouse! I have started a new job, moved country back to Ireland and given up my lovely little house in Whitstable! We are living back home with the parents so cooking has been reduced service lately! On top of all this, our wedding day is now only 10 weeks away! Where has the time gone!!

As I haven’t been cooking a lot, I thought it might be a nice idea to give you an update of some of the lovely eateries I’ve been to lately in Cork (and a couple of other places too!)

My other half couldn't keep his hands off long enough for me to take a picture!

My other half couldn’t keep his hands off long enough for me to take a picture!

First up is a tiny little shop on Douglas street in Cork. Iberian Way sits alongside Fionbarras pub and looks pretty unassuming from the outside. The shop was opened by a Spanish couple to give expats living here in Cork a taste of home.

For me though, the magic is in the tapas they serve in the evenings. To book you call up a mobile phone number and the opening times can be changeable but it is totally worth the hassle. The food is authentic and delicious. We tried a great number of dishes when we visited and couldn’t fault a single one. Croquetas were oozing with cheese and ham, oxtail stew served with a creamy mash was delicious on a cold night and my favourite had to be the calamari! It’s so hard to get great calamari in Ireland but this had a light crisp batter and wasn’t at all chewy! Cant forget to mention the chocolate croquetas for dessert! Seriously worth a visit and all the wine is imported from Spain too.

Dinner platter: Brisket, corn on the cob and some proper baked beans.

Dinner platter: Brisket, corn on the cob and some proper baked beans.

Next up is a spot on McCurtain St called White Rabbit BBQ. This great little bar next to the Brú hostel serves a whole host of craft beers and is one of the best value dinners around at the moment with fantastic music and atmosphere to boot. The food, as you might guess, is bbq style slow roast meats with all the usual fixin’s as the say in the States. The delicious meat specials that change regularly can be served in either a massive sandwich with salads or on a platter with two sides. The platter was an unbelievable €10! Really delicious and to top it all, they make their own bbq sauce using Mi Daza Stout from Rising Sons Brewery.

Huge pieces of perfectly cooked fish

Huge pieces of perfectly cooked fish

Further out into the sticks, Bunnyconellan in Myrtleville is one of my favourite spots for dinner with a view. Long a favourite in Cork for a special meal, I really can’t fault this place. I ordered the special fish of the evening and it was thick fillets of pan-fried brill with creamed leeks in a white wine sauce. Devine was the only word and it was accompanied by a beautiful Chablis. I could sit staring out to sea from the wonderful bar all evening! I mean look at that sky, stunning even on a stormy day!

Angry looking sky!

Angry looking sky!

If you want to venture a little further afield, I think you could visit far worse places than Kenmare, Co Kerry. It’s a place very dear to my heart having spent many happy days there as children. Its foodie strongholds are too numerous to mention in this post (although I may dedicate a post all about Kenmare soon!). I wanted to drop in one wonderful spot though and that is The Boathouse Bistro at Dromquinna. This restaurant sits alongside the stunning Kenmare bay and serves the freshest fish the bay has to offer alongside stunning views and a myriad fine gins and wines. Where better to spend a sunny summer evening?

The Boathouse bistro from the pier at Dromquinna

The Boathouse bistro from the pier at Dromquinna

The food is fantastic and the boathouse has a distinctly nautical feel, which always appeals to me! We decided to try a wide variety of the food and ordered too much as usual! Fishcakes, crab claws and more delicious calamari alongside a charcuterie platter all made with wonderful fresh ingredients.

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Yummy, fresh and colourful

Accompanied by stunning views, beautiful sunshine and some wonderful company, this is really one of my favourite spots. I could eat at the boathouse every day and not get bored with the menu, highly recommended!

Stunning sunsets at Dromquinna

Stunning sunsets at Dromquinna

Healthy Banana Muffins

For some reason, there always seems to be a sad looking banana or two in our fruit bowl. I hate wasting food and while I often freeze bananas to use in smoothies, sometimes its nice to have an alternative.These muffins are a great, healthy snack for when you are on the go. If you dont have any unsweetened apple sauce or stewed apple, you can replace it with a tablespoon of vegetable oil, but this will increase the calories.

Healthy Banana Muffins:

Serves 12, 3pp each, 100kcal

Banana Muffins

Banana Muffins

  • 2 medium bananas, mashedd
  • 1 tablespoon of apple sauce, stewed apple or oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 50g light brown sugar
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp bicarb of soda
  • 1 egg
  • 30ml buttermilk or milk
  • 80g plain flour
  • 100g wholemeal flour
  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius. You will need a muffin pan lined with greaseproof paper or grease proof muffin cases (They stick to normal cases.) I have silicone ones. If you are stuck, just spray the muffin pan with a little spray oil and they should come out.
  2. In a jug or bowl, mix mashed banana, apple sauce, egg, vanilla and buttermilk.
  3. In another bowl, mix sugars, flours, bicarb and baking powder.
  4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and fold together. It doesnt need to be too smooth, just mixed together. Dont beat or muffins will be too dense.
  5. Pop into muffin cases. I got 12 muffins out of the mix but it depends how much you fill the case!
  6. Bake for 20 mins until a skewer comes out clean.
  7. These freeze really well too, handy for when you need to grab something quick for breakfast.

Profiteroles

Choux pastry is one of those things that strikes fear into most people! It can be tricky, I’ll admit but once you get the hang of it, its straightforward enough. This choux recipe works as well for eclairs but today you are getting profiteroles with a yummy chocolate and coffee sauce. These are slightly lightened up by reducing the amount of butter you use. Still not exactly healthy eating but you can’t be good all the time.

Profiteroles Serves 4-6

The vultures got to them before I could!

The vultures got to them before I could!

Ingredients: For the pastry

  • 125ml water
  • 1 tsp caster sugar
  • 1/4 tspn salt
  • 30g butter
  • 70g plain flour, sieved
  • 2 eggs

For the chocolate and coffee sauce:

  • 100g dark chocolate
  • 6 tbsn strong coffee
  • 1 tbsn honey

For the filling I simply whipped some fresh cream and piped it into the centre, you could make a Creme Patissiere if you want.

  1.  Preheat the oven to 200 degrees celsius. It is really important for pastry to have the right oven temp. Line two oven trays with parchment paper.
  2. In a small saucepan, place the water, sugar, salt and butter. Put on the hob and bring to the boil. Once boiling, turn the heat really low and add all the flour in one go.
  3. Beat the mixture well with a wooden spoon for one minute, until the mix comes away from the sides of the pan and starts to form a ball.
  4. Take the pan off the heat, allow to cool for a minute and then add the first egg. Whisk the mixture really well to incorporate the egg. It will look like a big mess for a while but it will come together, just keep beating.
  5. Once the first egg is incorporated, add the second and beat again really well until you have a smooth, uniform paste. It can take a lot of beating but dont give up!
  6. Once your mixture is the right consistency, pop it into a piping bag with a medium straight nozzle. Pipe little balls of mixture onto the lined baking trays. You want to pipe little blobs about half the size of a golf ball and well spaced apart. You should have at lease 16 balls.
  7. Pop in the oven for 20-25 minutes, keeping an eye that they don’t get too brown. Meanwhile, make the chocolate sauce.
  8. Put the dark chocolate into a bowl and sit the bowl above a pan of boiling water, making sure the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water. When the chocolate has melted, add the coffee and honey and stir until you have a nice smooth consistency. Put this into a jug that it can be warmed again when its needed.
  9. When the pastry is golden brown, remove the profiteroles from the baking tray and put onto a wire rack to cool.
  10. Once they are completely cool, you can fill with whipped cream or if you want, to use a creme patissiere. (I got lazy and used whipped cream!)
  11. They can be stored for a few hours until needed but wont last long once filled as they go a bit soggy!
  12. When you are ready to serve them, pile them high and cover with chocolate sauce. This can be warmed by popping the jug into a pan of hot water for a few minutes.
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