Chef, Cookery Classes, Cooking, entertaining, family meals, Food, Recipes, slow cooking, Wine

Every goal deserves a (crispy) reward, right?

I love figures. I know you might think it strange , but I see a spreadsheet as a thing of beauty. Neat , organized columns of figures, with built in checks to make sure there are no errors.
So why then does the thought of doing my accounts fill me with fear and dread? Every October it’s the same routine – panic and chaos to get the previous years receipts and invoices in order to give to my accountant.

You’d imagine with all the enforced spare time this year that I would have done it months ago, but no, it took a reminder letter to galvanize me into action. Even the Chief Taster knows better than to ask how the codeword A is progressing !
But in the spirit of Organized October, and building on Grainne’s foundation folder – yes even friends try to help me over this fear – I delivered the files (well the bulk of) to my accountant’s office on Thursday.

Cause for celebration right? Cue Crispy Roast Duck for dinner…

Crispy duck is big favourite in this house but last few times I cooked it I only did the legs and served the meat with pancakes and plum sauce. Last week I spotted full ducks in the freezer section in Lidl so I thought I’d experiment with cooking it in my slow cooker .

So once the duck was defrosted (overnight in the fridge) and the giblets removed, I stuffed the cavity with lemon, garlic, dried limes and star anise

Duck Cavity stuffed with lemon and garlic

I didn’t want the duck to be sitting in it’s own fat as it cooked so I put some vegetables in the base of the slow cooker to act as a trivet

vegetable trivet in slow cooker

To add more flavour, I rubbed a mix of cumin, coriander and seasalt into the skin.

spice rub on duck skin

Then I put the lid on the pot and left the cooker on high for 4 hours and then turned it down low for another 3 hours.

The Chief Taster arrived in to the most tantalizing, delicious cooking smells and suggested we walk down to find a suitable wine. I delivered my files to the accountant on the way and then a Beaujolais Villages was chosen (Yes I know, I should really have insisted on bubbles to mark my achievement!!) 😉

duck cooking in slow cooker

Post walk I transferred the duck to a very hot oven (220 C) for about 30 minutes to crisp up the skin. Plus remember the vegetable trivet – the vegetables had cooked beautifully in the duck fat – so I put them in the oven too!

Duck coming out of oven

In the meantime I made a quick plum sauce, by simmering the following together over a low heat, for 30 minutes :

  • 1 punnet of plums, quartered and stones removed.
  • 1 star anise
  • Good glug of Chinese cooking wine
plum sauce simmering

Dinner was almost ready – all it needed was a big bowl of delicious vegetable egg fried rice flavoured with some oyster sauce and finished with sesame oil.

dinner is served - rice, sauce and duck

Result? It’s made it to the favourite recipe folder and I’m in the running for girlfriend of the year!!!

Just in case you think we’re total gluttons there was lots of meat left on the duck and it’s gone into the freezer to be used at a later date.

Just a thought, in these strange times when we don’t know what will happen over the next few months – this dish would be perfect for a Christmas dinner for 2-3 people 🤶

STAY SAFE AND HAPPY COOKING!

PS I don’t like to brag but I also put all my summer clothes away in the attic this week – neatly sorted of course! Now onto my next organizing project…..

PS 2 Grainne, if you’re reading this, can you please come back and sort my accounts for 2020?

Cookery Classes, Cooking, Food, Kitchen Organization, Recipes

More Organizing and a Veggie Pie

One week into my ‘Organized Plan’ and already I need to up my game! I’m still armed with my label maker but the pantry is only half organized.

I have to stop getting distracted …oh look what’s that shiny thing over there 🤣

Another of my winter projects is to file and write up recipes that I have tried and open another file with recipes I want to try – and cookbooks I need to read – so when I do get back to work I’ll have lots of new ideas (and yes I am still working on online classes…)
I’ve been revisiting some old recipes for my Friday Facebook Cookalong and last night I cooked one of my favourite vegetarian dishes – Sweet Potato & Spinach Pie. It’s a delicious warming dish flavoured with Moroccan spices (from my beautifully organised spicce cupboard!). Give it a try and let me know what you think.

Sweet Potato & Spinach Pie

Oven: 200 C

What you need:

  • Rapeseed oil
  • 3 medium sweet potatoes, washed
  • 1 large red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp ras el hanout
  • Bag of baby spinach leaves, rinsed
  • Good pinch of nutmeg
  • 1 packet feta cheese
  • 1 tin chickpeas, drained
  • Black pepper and nutmeg
  • 1 packet filo pastry
  • Butter, melted  
  • Nigella seeds

What you do:

  • Bake the sweet potato for approx. 45 mins until cooked. Set aside to cool.  Then scoop out the flesh.
  • Heat a glug of oil in a pan and sauté the onion until soft. Add in the ras el hanout and cook for another minute until the onion is coated with the spices.
  • Add the cooked onion to the sweet potato in a large bowl.
  • Using the same pan, wilt the spinach leaves and season with nutmeg
  • Stir in the wilted spinach leaves into the bowl with sweet potato. Then crumble in the feta. Season with pepper (the feta will add salt to the mix). Stir in chickpeas. Check for seasoning
  • Line the base of your 20cm springform tin with baking parchment and rub the sides with butter.
  • Unfold your filo pastry and place under a damp tea towel to prevent it from drying out. Line your tin with 3 or 4 sheets, making sure to brush each sheet with melted butter. Allow the extra filo to hang over the sides.
  • Spoon your potato filling into the centre of the tin and then fold in the side pieces of pastry to form the top of your pie. Brush with butter and sprinkle with nigella seeds.
  • Bake your pie in a hot oven for 20-25 mins until golden and crispy.
sweet potato pie on serving dish

Cutting into the crispy pastry you’ll see the layers of goodness inside 🤗

cut potato pie

And I even made a baby pie – these are very handy to have in your freezer for the days when you don’t feel like cooking.

Mini sweet potato pie

Stay Safe and Happy Cooking!

PS if anyone has any hints or tips on how to stay focused and get organized please let me know 😉


Cookery Classes, Cooking, Food, Kitchen Organization

Organized October

Not that you need me to mention it but 2020 has been one strange year.

Back in March when Lockdown began I was full of great intentions – everything was going to be organized in my house, I was going to learn how to crochet, paint furniture, read all the books in the pile by my bed…

I managed to plant a wild flower garden (of which I’m very proud), paint a garden bench and reorganize my shed. And then my plans went a bit pear-shaped. My Sister and her family moved into my Mum’s house for 3 months and my Mum moved in with me. It was a great summer – lots of family meals and outings. I loved spending time with my niece and nephews. Morning walks and coffee with my sister were another bonus.

They’ve gone back to their renovated house and I’m finding things rather quiet without them ( though the cat is enjoying reclaiming her territory ). So rather than feeling sorry for myself I decided it’s time to make some new lists and make October ‘Organization Month’ . I’m hoping that writing the items down will ensure that I complete all of them…🤞

On the list so far :

As you may know I’ve been doing live cook-alongs over on Facebook – now I need to start blogging the recipes.

As physical classes aren’t an option at the moment I’m embracing the online world and working on a Zoom class schedule

I’m planning an Afternoon Tea class to raise funds for ‘Cups for Cancer’ so I’m hoping you’ll all join me for this worthy cause

Reorganizing my pantry – I’ve bought a label maker and I’m not afraid to use it🤣

As there’s not much call for Corporate Catering at the moment I need to work on ideas for restarting Hey Pesto!

On a personal note dare I mention I need to exercise more – thankfully Pilates has restarted 🧘‍♀️

There will no doubt be lots more items added so watch this space…..

I’ve started by getting my spices in order – now I have no excuse not to use them all ( all 49 of them!)

Happy Cooking!

Baking, Christmas, Cooking, Food, Recipes

Christmas Treats

There’s nothing nicer than receiving a foodie gift made with love – like these tasty vanilla shortbread.

Take some time out to make a few batches of this delicious shortbread and package them up in pretty boxes or in gift bags tied with festive ribbon and you’ll be welcome at any Christmas gathering!

Continue reading “Christmas Treats”

Baking, Bread, Chef, Cookery Classes, Cooking, entertaining, Food

Tear & Share Bread

You know the feeling when friends drop in unexpectedly and you hear yourself saying ‘you must stay for lunch/dinner’ all the while doing a frantic mental search of your fridge and thinking ‘what on earth can I serve’ ?

Well worry no more – with a few staples in your fridge and pantry you can rustle up this quick savoury bread in about 20 minutes. Throw a salad together while it’s cooking and Voilá! your friends will think you are a true Domestic God/Goddess
Continue reading “Tear & Share Bread”

Baking, Cakes, Cookery Classes, Cooking, Easter, Food, Recipes

Easter Chicks Chocolate Cake

bunnies and chocolate

Mention Easter and what comes to mind? Chocolate of course – in all shapes and forms – the more the better !

 

chicks on eggs

We have a traditional Easter Egg hunt here on Easter Sunday with competition to see who can find, and in some cases, eat the most eggs !

 

Thankfully the last few years have been dry so the Easter Bunny had plenty of choice when it came to hiding places in the garden.

Easter Egg Hunt CollageI even found a few ‘escapees’ a few days after !

After the hunt is over there there has to be coffee and cake – to help the adults recover. And what else could it be except chocolate cake?
Continue reading “Easter Chicks Chocolate Cake”

Baking, Catering, Christmas, Cookery Classes, Cooking, Food, Recipes

Christmas at Hey Pesto!

I love Christmas – especially the build up and the anticipation, and of course the food!

It’s a busy time in the Hey Pesto! kitchen so my blog has been a little neglected so I thought I should do a quick update.

We’ve had great fun with our Christmas demos complete with chocolate cottage construction challenges which were great fun !

Chocolate cottage
Chocolate Challenges

By the way we have one more evening class on Tuesday 8th if you’re looking for inspiration for Festive Party Food!
Continue reading “Christmas at Hey Pesto!”

Catering, Chef, Cookery Classes, Cooking, family meals, Food, Healthy Eating, Recipes

Who’s on wash-up?

Any caterer will tell you that one of the biggest tasks we face after any job is the wash up.  I have some (not so good!) memories of trying to wash plates out the back of a wedding marquee using hot water drained off the potatoes – I kid you not. I hasten to add this was not in Hey Pesto! – we prefer indoor sinks and dishwashers!

As regular readers will know I love to cook –  both in my catering kitchen and my house kitchen – and I have a tendency to use a lot of dishes and pots.  Unfortunately I don’t always have an assistant to wash up after me so my dishwasher is a very essential piece of kit.
Continue reading “Who’s on wash-up?”

Cooking, family meals, Farmers' Market, Food, Recipes, Shopping

Keeping It Local – Apple & Black Pudding Bread

I love shopping in Farmers’ Markets – I love talking to the stall holders and wondering how I’m going to use their products.  When I lived in Dublin I loved wandering around Temple Bar Market on a Saturday morning, deciding what to cook that evening. On a trip to San Francisco a few years ago I was in heaven in the Farmers’ Markets in Berkeley and in the Ferry Building.  And then there was the fun exploring the St Lawrence Market in Toronto with some of my fellow Fáilte Ireland Food Champions.

So why not have a Farmers’ Market in Tullamore? Continue reading “Keeping It Local – Apple & Black Pudding Bread”

Baking, Cakes, Cookery Classes, desserts, family meals, Food, Healthy Eating, Recipes

Junior Cooks & Soda Bread

My nieces, nephews and friends’ children seem to love cooking here and I enjoy working with them and encouraging them to try different things. Though I suspect the freedom to make a mess could be one of the main attractions ………

I’ve been asked more than once if I would do cookery classes for children so with two of my nieces visiting and my friend Kay about to head back to Brunei with her two children, I decided it was time to experiment.

We started with traditional Soda bread ….Thanks to Isabella and Savannah for setting up the table

Soda BreadThe table didn’t stay clean for long once the mixing started.  I think there was a competition to see who could shake out the most flour and some of the mixes were a bit wet! They loved the stories about the cross in the cake to to represent the four provinces and there were lots of holes made to let the fairies escape.

Continue reading “Junior Cooks & Soda Bread”