Baking, Cakes, Cookbooks, Cookery Classes, Uncategorized

Farewell to Summer

What an amazing summer we’ve had – who knew outdoor living in Ireland could be so much fun! My barbeque was in constant use and I finally got to use all my garden furniture.

One of the bonuses of the sunshine is that my apple tree is laden down with fruit. Last time the harvest was this bountiful the Chief Taster and I carefully picked the fruit, wrapped them individually in paper and stored them in crates. This project did not have a successful outcome….. So I’m looking for ideas to use them up before the birds eat them. All suggestions welcome.

One thing I’m going to do is stew and freeze a batch of them so I can make one of my favourite cakes over the coming months. It’s a Sophie Grigson recipe that can be adapted for almost all fruit and it’s so simple you have to try it .
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Cookbooks, Cookery Classes, Cooking, Healthy Eating, Recipes, Shopping

Asian Flavours

There’s been a lot of focus on Asian flavours in my kitchen lately – now that Spring has arrived I’m craving lighter, zingier food so I’m stocking up on citrus fruits, chillis and lots of fresh vegetables.

My two favourite Asian shops are the Asia Market in Ballymount and the Eurasia store in Fonthill – as those of you who come to my classes are well aware! Both are like Aladdin’s Caves full of wonderful  and exotic ingredients – and I have to admit a number of which I have no idea what to do with – I would love someone to take me on a tour and explain how to use these ingredients. I regularly buy something which necessitates a google search before I can use it ! (hints on using dried Japanese plums  welcome!)

Asian Shopping supplies

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book review, Catering, Cookbooks, Cooking, Uncategorized

Cooking the books …. and some fish!

I have a confession to make – my name is Yvonne and I am a Cookbook Addict.

I was brought up in a houseful of books and book lovers so I’m not quite sure when my obsession with cookery books started . I know I used to leaf through my Mum’s Good Housekeeping book and wish we had exotic ingredients like glucose and peppermint essence!

Fast forward to college and I was given a present of ‘Monica’s Kitchen’ – an absolute gem of a book even for someone like me who could barely boil an egg at the time.

Monica and good housekeeping sepia
How it started

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Cookbooks, Cookery Classes, Cooking, family meals, Healthy Eating, Recipes, Vegetarian

A paté to suit all tastes

Many Christmases ago a friend gave me a Rose Elliot vegetarian cookbook. It was in constant use for a few years with a mixed score of successes and failures. Some recipes like her vegetarian style chilli are still firm favourites. Others such as Hot Stuffed Avocados have been long sentenced to the ‘never to be attempted again pile’ 😉

A few years ago I was watching ‘Come Dine with Me’ (don’t judge me!) and was very taken by a vegetarian paté cooked by one of the contestants. On further research I discovered it was a Rose Elliot recipe which has made it the favourites pile and has been devoured by vegetarians and carnivores alike ! The original name of ‘lentil paté’ tends make people think of dark brown, unappetising sludge so I simplified it!

Why not try it the next time you’re entertaining?
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Chef, Cookbooks, Cooking, family meals, Healthy Eating, Recipes, Vegetarian

Irish Potatoes with a Spanish Twist

Today is National Potato Day so it’s only right to celebrate our most famous vegetable !

There are so many ways to cook our national treasure but as I’m still trying to keep the summer memories alive I’m adding  a Spanish twist to tonight’s dish. This dish will be perfect both as an accompaniment to some thing like a roast chicken breast or served as part of tapas selection.

I’ve tried a few different recipes for Patatas Bravas – you know the tasty potatoes in tomato sauce you get in Tapas Bars – and I always come back to Simon Rimmer’s version. He slow roasts the potatoes with chilli rather than the traditional method of deep frying the potatoes and then adding the sauce so it’s a healthier option.  I’ve tweaked it to my taste and I hope you like it !
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book review, Cookbooks, Cooking, Food, Recipes, Vegetarian

Books For Cooks & Corn Soup

Thursday night is date night here. I cook, he brings the wine and we both relax. It started as an excuse for me to try out new dishes using the Chief Taster as the guinea pig but with all that’s being going on this summer we went a little off track, The night we resorted to shop bought pizza I knew it was time for a rethink.

Continue reading “Books For Cooks & Corn Soup”

Cookbooks, Cooking, family meals, Food, Healthy Eating, Recipes, Vegetarian

A fritter type of pancake…

Sometimes you just need time out and this weekend was one of those times. I love being busy – both workwise and socially but things have been pretty hectic for the last two months.

I had an early night on Friday and spent a very pleasant few hours Saturday morning reading Mary Berry’s autobiography before tackling some long overdue housekeeping. The pantry had taken on a life of its own and needed to be brought back under control. Now everything is neatly grouped and visible ……for a while anyway. The tupperware is organised and the kitchen presses are organised.

Now if only I could persuade someone to do the ironing 😉

After all that hard work I had to recover on the couch with some TV and cookbooks. My book of choicewas a lovely one I brought back from Canada,  ‘The Ontario Table’ and one of the recipes that I wanted to try was for Corn Fritters

The Ontario Table

By coincidence when I was flicking through the channels I came across The Two Fat Ladies cooking corn fritters. A sign definitely …

So combining the two recipes I made the following for Sunday Brunch:

Corn Fritter

Corn Fritters (or are they pancakes?)

What you need:

  • 200g plain flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp Irish Atlantic Chilli & Paprika salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 180ml milk
  • fresh corn kernels from 2 cobs of corn
  • Bunch spring onions chopped

What you do:

  • Mix flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl.
  • Whisk eggs and milk together in a jug.
  • Make a hollow in the middle of the dry ingredients and pour in egg mix
  • Fold in to make a creamy batter then add in the corn and the spring onions.
  • Drop 2-3 tbsp. onto griddle pan, allow to ‘bubble’, then turn over to cook other side.

I served the fritters with crispy Pigs on the Green bacon and my latest food addiction – Golden Beetroot Relish from In Season Farm which I found in the lovely Hereford & More shop

Technically fritters should be fried in oil but I opted for the griddle method of cooking which makes them more of a savoury pancake and therefore an option for Shrove Tuesday don’t you think?

Happy Cooking !

And even though I may have gotten a little bored last night (as predicted by the CT!), my batteries are now fully recharged and ready for the week ahead 🙂

Catering, Cookbooks, Cooking, Food, Healthy Eating, Recipes, Vegetarian

Comforting Vegetarian Cuisine

As I may have mentioned not only do I collect cookbooks I also collect recipes…. Also did I mention that I was a vegetarian for about 14 years?

I was talking to the guys in my local vegetable shop, The Farmer’s Gate, about recipes we could give their customers that use  produce from the shop.  So I went back through my recipe notebook for inspiration and came across this one for Savoury Vegetable Crumble. I think the original came from a  vegetarian magazine way back when I was dedicated to the cause. It’s been adapted a bit over the years and here’s the latest version.

You can use any mix of vegetables for this dish but winter root vegetables work really well. Tonight I used leeks, celery and carrot as they were in my vegetable rack. I also added a red pepper for colour.

What you need:

  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 red chilli, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp chilli powder
  • 1 cm ginger, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp tomato purée
  • Mix of vegetables  – such as 2-3 carrots, few sticks celery, 2 parsnips…..
  • 500 ml vegetable stock
  • 1 400g tin cannelloni beans
  • 75g/3 oz spelt flour
  • 50g/2 oz butter
  • 75g/3oz Kilbeggan Porridge Oats

What you do:

  • Sauté the onions and the chilli until soft but not coloured.
  • Dry fry the cumin and coriander seeds for a minute then grind in pestle and mortar with the other spices. Then add to the onions and chilli and cook for a few mins.
  • Add in the purée, cook for another minute, add vegetables and toss to coat in the spice mix.
  • Finally add in the stock and the beans. Bring mix to the boil and then simmer over a low heat for 15-20 mins.

  • Make the crumble by rubbing the butter into the flour and then add in the oats.

  • Transfer the vegetable mix to a casserole dish and scatter the crumble over the top.

  • Bake the dish at 190 C/Gas 5 for 25 mins until crumble is cooked

I served the dish with some minted yoghurt – a perfect warming dish  for a dark winter’s evening!

Happy Cooking !

And yes, before you ask – it was the rasher sandwich that ‘brought me back’!

book review, Chef, Cookbooks, Food, Recipes

Rosemary Shrager’s ‘Absolutely Foolproof Food for Family and Friends’

A few years ago my friend Siobhan and I headed to Swinton Park in Yorkshire for a residential cookery course with Rosemary Shrager.  the location is beautiful and Rosemary herself gives the course and while she can be a tad scary she was great fun. We had an absolute ball and learned lots.

I use the recipes from the course regularly and also have a few of her booksthat are well-thumbed so I was delighted to receive a copy of her new book ‘ Absolutely Foolproof Food for Family & Friends’ from Octopus Books.

When I saw the title I assumed the book would be full of quick and easy recipes for everyday meals which is not like the Rosemary I love. My assumption was wrong – this is a book for dinner party dishes that you can impress with such as  Venison Carpaccio of Sea Bass with a Pickled Carrot Salad and Roast Crown of Pheasant , dishes for larger celebrations such as Salmon en Croute and even detailed instructions on curing pork and salmon.

There  is a lovely introductory section detailing all the kitchen equipment you may need (the only thing I’m missing is a potato ricer!), what knives to use and how to use them.  The recipe sections are divided by main ingredient such as vegetables, poultry, game and pasta. Each section begins with a very detailed technique complete with step by step pictures and complete with tips and ideas and possible variations on the main recipe.

My pet peeve as you know is cookbooks without finished photos of each dish – this book unfortunately falls into this category. This surprises me as I learned so much about presentation when I was at the Cookery School but the detailed technique pictures are good. The other thing that I found strange is that there is no dessert section in the book.

So what did I cook? Well for a change I gave my main taster  the book and asked him what would he like for dinner. The choice : Scallops en Papilotte with Curried Coconut Milk and Pak Choi and Roast Venison with Chocolate Sauce and Braised Chicory. 

I was unable to find either pak choi or chicory so I decided that as a starter the pak choi could be omitted and I picked up some curly kale to use with the venison. Rosemary uses loin of venison in her recipe but as I had two venison steaks (farmed I will admit)  in the freezer I used those.  I spent a very pleasant afternoon prepping the dishes – the recipes are well laid out and easy to follow.  The sauce for both dishes can be made ahead of time making them ideal for entertaining.

I julienned the vegetables for the scallop dish so when it came to dinner I just had to cook the scallops, assemble the parcels and put them in the oven for 10 minutes.

There was a lot going on this dish flavour wise but it all worked and the pak choi wasn’t even missed!

I decided to try the recipe for Fondant Potatoes and this was the only one I had any problem with – and I think it was my own fault for not adding enough stock. However I finished them in the oven and they were so tasty – they may even replace roast potatoes as my favourite!

The chocolate sauce took  time – and a lot of ingredients – but it was so worth the effort and it complimented the venison perfectly.

I would have preferred to serve the dish with chicory but he loved the kale (I stir-fried it with orange zest and juice).

Was it good? Well the Chief Taster certainly thought so …

This book has already earned a place on the ‘favourites’ shelf and if anyone can tell me where I can get partridge then Roast Partridge with Cabbage, Bacon and Apple is the next recipe I want to try  and Stuffed Yellow and Red Pepper Rolls has also been requested……

My verdict – if you want to impress your family and friends with your cooking then you need this book.

Pssst – if you want to try the Chocolate Sauce here’s the recipe:

What you need: 

  • 100g butter ( I don’t think I used quite this much!)
  • 150g leeks, finely chopped ( I used 2 leeks)
  • 1 rasher smoked streaky bacon, chopped
  • 250ml red wine
  • 2 tsp redcurrant jelly
  • 300ml game or venison stock  (I had to resort to beef stock)
  • 120 ml port
  • 15g 70% chocolate, finely chopped

What you do:

  • Melt 30g butter in pan, add the leeks and bacon and cook gently for 15 minutes.
  • Add the wine and the redcurrant jelly and simmer until reduced to a syrupy consistency.
  • Add the stock and simmer until reduced by half.
  • Finally add the port and simmer to coating consistency.
  • Season then strain through a sieve into a clean pan (I prepared ahead to this point)
  • Reheat gently and stir in the chocolate until it melts
  • Cut remaining butter into cubes and whisk into the sauce a few at a time.
  • Check for seasoning and serve.

Happy Cooking !

Baking, Cakes, Chef, Cookbooks, Cooking, Recipes

Chocolate Biscuit Cake

This post is especially for those of you looking for my Chocolate Biscuit Cake recipe….

I bought Tamasin Day- Lewis’  book ‘Tamsin’s Kitchen‘ a few years ago for two reasons:

1) I had watched some of her programs on TV and liked her cookery style

and

2) it was reduced in from something like €25 to €9 – who says I can’t economise?

It is a a mighty tome with the recipes arranged in sections designed to take you from ‘Easy Things’ to ‘Serious Skills’. At the start of each section there is an introduction on what to expect. She also includes little hints and tips at the top of each recipe. The downside – the recipes are written in paragraph form  rather than points making them (well for me anyway) less easy to follow and very few of the recipes have photos showing what the end result should look like.

So what have I cooked from this book in the last two years? One thing and one thing only – Tamasin’s Chocolate Biscuit Cake – and yes I know strictly speaking it’s not cooking!

I have added a few bits and pieces to the original recipe and left out the cream that she puts in the icing. These additions  may change depending on what’s in the store cupboard so my version is a cross between Chocolate Biscuit Cake and Rocky Road – but I’ve had no complaints yet!

Chocolate Biscuit Cake

What you need:

  • 4oz /110g Butter
  • 4oz/110g Dark Chocolate (I use 70%)
  • 2 tbsp golden syrup
  • 80z/225g digestive biscuits
  • 3oz/80g mini Marshmallows
  • 2oz/50g dried cranberries
  • Dark & white Chocolate to decorate

What you do:

  • Put the biscuits in a plastic bag and bash them to crumbs using your rolling pin (who you think of while doing this is your own business!)
  • Put the butter, chocolate and golden syrup in a saucepan and allow to melt gently over a low heat. Don’t allow mix to boil!
  • Add the mini marshmallows and dried fruit to the melted mix. Then stir in the crushed biscuits, making sure that they are well coated.
  • Turn the mix out into a lined shallow baking tin (approx 30 *20 cm).  Allow to cool then Leave to set for a few hours (or overnight) in the fridge.
  • Once the cake is set cover the top with melted chocolate, leave it for a few mins then cut into slices (it’s easier at this stage)
  • Then drizzle over some melted white chocolate (After a lot of trials I have discovered that white chocolate buttons are the easiest to melt – Thanks Nicola!)

Now that I’ve pulled this book from the shelves I really must try a few more recipes…….

Happy Cooking !