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Love (and Chocolate) is in the Air….

Chocolate has always been associated with sensual and romantic properties and when we indulge in it’s silky lusciousness, endorphins are released in our brains which make us feel happy and loved.

In the last year I’ve been very lucky to work with Butler’s Chocolates, giving  chocolate cookery classes in their demo kitchen in Clonshaugh. I try to theme each class around an event so naturally the February class was all about Cupid, Valentines and Love! I do 7-8 recipes per class and I’m always amazed at how quickly the tasters disappear!

I’m also doing a ‘Cupid’s Dining’ class in my own kitchen on Tuesday 4th February – a three course romantic meal guaranteed to impress that special someone in your life 😉

Hey Pesto Valentine's Day

There will be scallops , venison and lots of chocolate among other things on the menu …and of course some pink bubbles . If you’d like more details on this or any of my classes please let me know.

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One of the big hits from yesterday’s class was the salted caramel dessert and here’s the recipe of you want to surprise your loved one on Valentine’s Day

Cupid’s Salted Caramel Delight

Serves 2

What you need:

  • 3-4 tbsp dulce de leche – I use Ballyshiel 
  • ½ tsp sea salt plus extra to serve
  • 50g dark chocolate
  • 50g milk chocolate
  • 75 ml cream
  • Good ‘glug’ Kahlua

Salted Caramel Pots

What you  do:

  • Stir in the sea salt into the dulce de leche and divide mix between two glasses
  • Melt the two chocolates together then stir in the cream until smooth.
  • Add in the liqueur and carefully pour over the caramel
  • Allow to chill for at least 2 hours then serve sprinkled with sea salt crystals.

Happy Cooking !

PS  a message for the Chief Taster – it’s your turn to cook for me this year 😉

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Beating the January Blues

2 weeks into January and my resolutions are still going strong – well most of them ! I started my get fit regime (albeit gently) , had a great turn out for my first cookery class and enjoyed my first meal out of the year.

The Chief Taster surprised me with a night away in Dunbrody House Hotel – just the thing to chase away the January blues. If you haven’t been, Dunbrody is a beautiful Georgian House in Arthurstown , Co. Wexford run by TV Chef Kevin and Catherine Dundon.

We stayed in a lovely room overlooking the garden and the beautifully laid out herb garden. I will admit to being slightly jealous 😉 The CT had to go do some work so I relaxed with coffee and my book.

Then it was time to preen ourselves for dinner and pre-prandial drinks by the fire. I’m still searching for a ‘grown up’ pre-dinner drink – thanks to a recommendation from the cocktail guru Geoff Boyle I decided to try a Hendricks gin and tonic but was a little disappointed to be told that they had run out of Hendricks over Christmas. I picked a Campari from the drinks menu after that – it will not be my drink of choice 😉 . He stuck to his usual whiskey and was happy.

We were served a very tasty salmon dip while we decided on our dinner choices and then shown into the beautiful dining room.

Menu

Dinner did not disappoint. We both loved the black pudding and chorizo bread  (I shall be attempting a version..). Then I had the Smoked Salmon and the Venison , while the Chief Taster had the Pigeon and the Halibut. I  loved the flavour combination of the smoked celery root purée with the venison but I will admit to passing on the sunchoke!

We don’t normally do desserts but our lovely waitress Sarah persuaded us – so he opted for the doughnuts and coffee and I went for the cheese board which would have comfortably fed four if not six people! And then there were handmade chocolates…… All these delights were washed down by a very pleasant Lawton Hill’s Pinot Noir.
We were so full we couldn’t even manage a postprandial drink – even the stairs were a challenge 🙂

dunbrody Jan 2104 064

Would you believe the lovely Sarah turned out to be the equally lovely Paula Ryan’s niece. Talk about a small world!

Breakfast was another feast – did I mention I’m joining a gym! There were two ladies in the dining room who were heading to the Cookery School for the day and I would have loved to have gone with them but unfortunately it was time to head back to reality.

If you’re looking for a relaxing mini break with excellent food I’d definitely recommend Dunbrody House. Next time I’m definitely doing a cookery class 🙂

Speaking of cookery here is one of the dishes from my first ‘Healthier Cooking’ class – warm, comforting and healthy!

Chickpea & Red Pepper Stew

What you need:

  • 1 tbsp. rapeseed oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 red peppers, diced
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1  jar passata
  • 1 tin chickpeas
  • Pinch of sugar
  • Seasoning
  • Fresh coriander

 What you do:

  • Heat oil over a gentle heat in a heavy bottomed saucepan, add onion and pepper and cook for about 10 mins until softened
  • Add the garlic and the paprika and cook for another minute.
  • Add in the passata plus a pinch of sugar and the chickpeas. Leave to simmer over low heat for 10 minutes.
  • Season and serve with rice, sprinkled with fresh coriander

PS Crisped chorizo sprinkled over the top may add a few more calories but it is rather delicious….

Happy Cooking !

Summer (yes Summer!) Cocktails……..

My poor blog has been much neglected of late. Despite all my resolutions there always seems to be something else that to done or somewhere else I need to be………

There’s lots I want to share – like the weekend at Inishfood and all the amazing food; the surprise no-menu that I had in Springfort Hall….and of course recipes that I’ve tried from my cookbook collection……..

So let’s start with the most recent – Summer Cocktails in Fallon & Byrne .

I love this shop – they have the most amazing selection of fresh fruit and vegetables; great variety of oils, vinegars, seasonings, savouries, cheese and chocolates to name but a few; one of the best deli counters for lunch or coffee and of course a very tempting wine cellar…….

So when I received a tweet from them asking for my email address I was intrigued…..and not disappointed when I received  an invitation to an evening of summer cocktails, nibbles and natter!  Through the magic that is twitter I soon discovered others that had received a similiar invitation and it looked like shaping up to a lively evening………

It didn’t disappoint – I met up with the lovely Aoife otherwise known as Babaduck and the  debonair Paul from The ShoeBox  in Kilkenny for a catch up and  wander up Grafton Street (there are times I regret leaving Dublin). The sun even made an appearance for the occasion!

Then at the appointed hour we presented ourselves at Fallon & Byrne where the wonderful Jennifer treated us like royalty (despite my falling up the stairs!)

We meet Paul Lambert the man behind the Cocktail Menu who explained that they were using the fresh produce from the food hall to add that difference to their cocktails – and on tasting we agreed! There was so much fresh fruit and herbs in the cocktails they were almost healthy.

I opted for the Poppy Honeysuckle to start – a blend of Jameson whiskey, elder flower liqueur, Sauvignon Blanc, honey, pressed apple juice, lemon juice & passion fruit syrup – all served in a ‘grown up’ Martini glass. I am not a whiskey fan but this was divinely palatable! My companions chose the French 75 and the Mojito.

The staff were most attentive and as soon as our glasses were empty they ‘insisted’ on serving us more….

I went for the Passion Fruit & Jalapeño Margarita (jalapeño-infused tequila, passion fruit, mint and lemon juice) on the recommendation of Lily from A Mexican Cook in Ireland. I’m a bit of a chilli addict and my taste buds loved this. This time my companions went for an Old Fashioned & a Rspberry Caipirinha.

We were also treated to some beautifully crafted canapés – naturally I was very interested (call it industrial espionage!!).  I need to work on getting mine to look this good!

My favourite was the goat’s cheese tartlets followed by the gazpacho – I loved the cups!

It was great to catch with friends and  put faces to more twitter friends –   Rozanne , Caitriona, Aoife (Daily Spud), Aoife (Icanhascook), Dorcas, Catherine….

Before leaving I had to try one more cocktail – a mojito on Paul’s recommendation! Then Cinders headed back to the country  whilst the rest of them partied on to the Tapas Trail launch……..

Thanks to Fallon & Byrne for a lovely evening and to Jennifer for her hard work in organising the event

Take my word for it you should go and try their cocktails for yourself – they will definitely brighten up your summer and if you want my recommendation go for the jalapeño margarita  …

Pssst they have “buy one get one on the house’ cocktails on Mondays & Tuesdays…………….

PS Special thanks is also due  to my ‘chauffeur’ who put up with my post cocktail  giggling all the way home!