Granola

granola

What is granola?  Healthy breakfast or sugar laden, palm-oil infused cereal demon masquerading as wholesome and nutritious? The answer is both.  You can either make your own and moderate the sugar and fat content (keeping it healthy) or you can go buy a bag that pretends to be something it’s not and consume in a state of denial.    The choice is yours but your own stuff will taste nicer and be better for you; that I can promise you.

Granola is quick and easy to knock together; the only tricky part is where you must watch it like a hawk in the oven; blink and it will burn and turn your nuts acrid and unpalatable and no-one likes that!

Ingredients (for about 8-10 portions)

350g oats (I like the organic, jumbo ones for more bite but any porridge oats will do)

50g coconut oil

50g butter

1 tablespoon brown sugar

2 tablespoons honey

Pinch cinnamon

100g nuts; roughly chopped (I like a mixture of walnuts and almonds but whatever you fancy)

100g dried fruits such as raisins, sultanas or cranberries.

a good pinch of salt

  1. Preheat the oven to 140 degrees Celsius.
  2. In a small pan on the stove on a low heat, melt the butter and coconut oil.  Add the brown sugar, salt, honey and cinnamon and stir gently until dissolved (this won’t take long)
  3. Scatter your oats and nuts on a large baking tray.  Pour over your melted mixture and mix really well.  After a minute or two it will have cooled a bit and you can use your hands to work it through everything more thoroughly but try not to burn yourself!
  4. Stick it in the oven for a total of about 15 minutes.  Assume a vigil at the oven door as you’ll need to monitor it and toss it around when you see the top turning golden brown.  Do this two or three times; returning it to the oven for a few minutes each time to get an even goldenness throughout.
  5. When it’s done, let it cool and add your dried fruit.  Store in an airtight container and you should get at least a week out of it.
  6. Serve with ice cold milk or yoghurt and fruit.

 

 

 

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Mandarin orange and cardamom loaf cake

I love spices. I love all types of spices; the hot, the fragrant, the pungent and the aromatic; basically anything that makes your taste buds or olfactory receptors wake up and go “oooh what’s this now?” Baking is a great way of introducing spices into your sweet repertoire and to this end, you’ll go a long way before you find a more harmonious pairing than cardamom and orange. This cake is lovely with a cup of tea or coffee or you could also serve it warm with some sweetened mascarpone and have as a dessert.

3 eggs

300g caster sugar

100g coconut flour

250g plain flour

Half teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1.5 tsps baking powder

Seeds of 8 cardamom pods (removed from husks and crushed with pestle and mortar)

Zest and juice of 3 mandarin oranges (keep separate)

180mls sunflower oil

1 tsp vanilla extract

For the glaze:

Juice and zest of one more mandarin orange combined with 4-5 tablespoons icing sugar

1. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Grease and line a 2lb loaf tin with baking parchment.

2. In a large bowl, place the eggs and sugar and using a hand mixer, mix for at least 5 minutes on a high setting. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, orange zest, salt, cinnamon and cardamom seeds (they should be in powder form after being crushed).

3. Add the sunflower oil, orange juice and vanilla extract to the wet ingredients and mix for a minute.

4. Combine the wet and dry ingredients and gently combine until there are no lumps. Transfer into your loaf tin and pop in the oven for about 35 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. There may be a little mixture left over, you could use it up to make mini muffins but these will take only 15- 20 minutes or so.

5. To glaze: combine the icing sugar, zest and juice of a mandarin. Stab your loaf a few times with a skewer to help it seep through a little.

Carrot, lentil, ginger and coriander soup

Another soup recipe but in my defence, it’s been ages since I last put one up. This recipe is really simple and vegan friendly.

4 large carrots, peeled and roughly chopped

50g dried red lentils

1 small onion, chopped

I clove finely chopped garlic

1 disc of fresh ginger (approximately the size of a €2 coin!) finely chopped

1 litre water

A good handful of fresh coriander

1 big tablespoon of runny honey

1 tablespoon sunflower oil

1. Heat the oil in a saucepan. Add the onion and fry gently for 3-4 minutes

2. Add the onion and garlic and fry for another 3-4 minutes. Season with salt and black pepper.

3. Add the carrots, lentils and water and bring to the boil.

4. Simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the lentils are really soft. Add the honey.

5. Blitz with a stick blender. Add the fresh coriander and blitz again. Season to taste. Serve with crusty bread or naan bread would be great with this too.

Meatballs

Ah the humble meatball; albondigas, polpette, millín feola; call them what you like but they’ve been a family favourite the world over for many’s a year.  My small people love them and they’re dead handy to make.  They freeze really well too.

meatballs

Ingredients:

1 small onion finely chopped

400g beef mince; I usually go with at least 8% fat content for better flavour

1 teaspoon dried oregano

half a teaspoon of garlic granules

30g breadcrumbs

1 level teaspoon salt and a few twists of black pepper

These measurements will make about 8-9 medium sized balls

Method:

  1. Place all the ingredients in a bowl and with clean hands mix thoroughly.
  2. Take a small handful and squeeze together to compact the mixture then roll into a ball.  If the mixture is sticky dust your hands in a little flour.  You’re aiming for golf ball sized- no bigger.
  3. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees celsius.
  4. Heat a few glugs of oil on a heavy based frying pan and in batches of 3 to 4, brown the meatballs and then place in an oven proof dish.  Don’t be tempted to crowd the pan with all of the meatballs at once; you’ll end up stewing them instead of frying them and they won’t be as tasty.
  5. Place them into the oven in the dish covered in your favourite pasta sauce; try this one  https://ruthlovesfood.wordpress.com/?s=pasta+sauce&submit=Search
  6. Take them out after about 25 minutes.  Allow to cool for a few minutes before serving to avoid scalding the mouths off the family.  They’re great with pasta, salad or just garlic bread.

Plum Pudding

Ah the trusty Christmas Plum Pudding; love it or loathe it it’s been around since Medieval times and is unlikely to go out of favour anytime soon.  I remember my first foray into Pudding making, it was the year after our first son was born and I was full of homely, maternal ambition.  I was terrified at the same time though, I was thinking how I should have been paying more attention as a child when my mother (and her mother before) would be in the kitchen surrounded by a gazillion ingredients.  That’s the thing with Pudding; there’s no simple version of it really, it will always contain a gazillion ingredients.  There are many variations as well; some use brandy instead of whiskey, some are flourless, some have cherries and some have candied peel.  Confused yet?  Don’t worry, there’s no right or wrong combination; you can adjust the ingredients according to your own personal taste.  The other terrifying thing about Pudding making is the lengthy cooking process and in fairness, any dessert that requires 5 to 8 hours of boiling/steaming is a scary prospect.  I hope I don’t sound overly negative here; once you’re organised with your ingredients and you have the right set up for steaming then the rest is a doddle- honestly.  The result is so worth the toil; the taste is beyond compare and there’s no artificial additives or nasties that you will find in the supermarket bought variety.  An added bonus is the glorious Christmassy smell that will fill your home and have you feeling fabulously festive in no time.  Enjoy xxx

Below are the ingredients for two 2 litre puddings, which would easily serve about eight people each.  Half the measurements if you’re making one 2 litre pud.

400g raisins

350g sultanas

350g currants

100g glacé cherries, roughly chopped

350g light brown sugar

175g plain flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

350g dried beef suet

150g ground almonds

3 medium Granny Smith apples, peeled and coarsely grated

juice of 2 lemons

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon nutmeg

1 teaspoon mixed spice

pinch of ground ginger

1 teaspoon salt

325mls stout (I use Guinness)

100mls whiskey

200mls fresh orange juice

8 medium eggs

a knob of butter, for greasing the bowls

 

Equipment required:

2X2 litre Pudding bowls with lids.  I use the plastic kind.

a very large mixing bowl and jug.

2 large stock pots and 2 trivets or unturned saucers (if you’re making the 2 puddings, one if you’re halving the recipe)

greaseproof paper, tin foil and cotton string

 

1. The night before you steam your Pudding, place all of the dry ingredients into a very large bowl and mix well.

2. In a very large jug or another bowl, combine the stout, whiskey, orange juice and eggs and whisk to combine. Add to the dry ingredients and mix well.  Leave overnight to soak in a cool place.

3. The next day, clear your schedule and prepare to be on “pudwatch”.  Divide the mixture between the two greased Pudding bowls.

4. Cover each bowl with a large square of greaseproof paper, then cover that with a large square of tin foil.  Smooth the paper and tin foil over the top and down the sides of the Pudding bowls. Tie the two sheets tightly into place by tightly winding cotton twine around the bowls under the rim, leaving a long piece of excess string to make a handle.  Loop one of the excess string lengths across over the diameter of the bowl and tie tie a knot on the far side to make a handle.  This will allow you to lift the Pudding in and out of the pot of steaming water.

5. To cook, use your two very large pots, large enough to accommodate the Pudding bowls on top of either an upturned saucer or a trivet with the lid secured on top. Carefully place your puddings on the saucers/ trivets and fill the pot with boiling water until it comes halfway up the sides of the Pudding bowls.  Be careful add the water to the side of the bowl.  On a medium heat, bring to the boil and then gently simmer for seven hours with the lid of the pot in place.  Check regularly to ensure the water has not boiled dry, if it’s getting low then boil the kettle and top up.

6. Carefully lift the puddings out by their handles and allow to cool.  Remove the greaseproof paper, string and tin foil and replace with either fresh paper and foil or a lid to seal.

7. Store in a cool place until the big day and to reheat; repeat the steaming process as above but for 2 hours.  Serve with whipped cream, custard, brandy butter or ice cream, whichever takes your fancy.

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*allow me to apologise for the poor picture, the puds were still warm and I wasn’t going to chance turning them out into a plate and risk them falling apart on me for the purposes of a picture.

Beannachtai na Nollaig daoibh xxx⛄️🌲🎄🎅🏽🎄🌲

 

Pumpkin Pie

 

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So Halloween is upon us; fright night, the festival of the dead or Oiche Shamhna if you like. It’s a Celtic festival that marks the end of the harvest season and the beginning of Winter.  Shops have been selling pumpkins by the shed load for the last few weeks and while many say this is an indictment of how Americanised Halloween has become, many would argue that this tradition originated in Ireland.  For centuries, we would have carved out turnips and placed candles inside to ward way evil spirits but when the Irish landed in the U.S. the availability of pumpkin meant they could supersize their lanterns.  Pumpkins are technically a fruit with an inherent sweetness so it’s not so much of a stretch for it to be used in a dessert.  This pie is lucious and comforting and your perfect Wintertime sweet treat.  This serves 6 to 8 people.

Ingredients:

For the shortcrust pastry:

300g plain flour, pinch of salt, 170g cold butter or margarine, cubed (plus a little extra for greasing the pie dish) and about half a glass of water.

To make the pastry, place the flour and salt in a large bowl and rub in the butter/margarine until it resembles fine breadcrumbs.  Slowly add some water and bring the pastry together using a cold knife.  Wrap in cling film and place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

For the filling:

750g pumpkin flesh.  The easiest way to prepare it is to cut a circle around the stalk on the top and remove it’s “cap”. Cut the pumpkin lengthways into wedges and then cut off the stringy, seedy parts and the tough skin, then cut the flesh into chunks.

100g caster sugar

40mls maple syrup

1 teaspoon cinnamon

half teaspoon mixed spice

half teaspoon salt

25g melted butter

2 large eggs, beaten

150mls milk

1. Place the pumpkin flesh in a large pan covered in cold water and bring to the boil. Simmer for 15 to 20 minutes or until tender.  Drain off the water and using a blender, pulverise into a smoothie purée.

2.  Preheat your oven to 180 degrees.  Grease a pie dish with a little butter.  On a floured surface, roll out your pastry and then carefully place in the pie dish, tucking in the edges and grooves.  Trim off the excess pastry hanging over the sides.  Line with grease proof paper and place baking beads on the paper to blind bake.  Stick it in the oven for about 10 minutes then remove the paper and baking beads. Bake for another 7 or 8 minutes or until the pastry in the centre is dry looking.  Don’t be tempted to leave it in for longer, it still has to go in again with it’s filling and you don’t want it to burn as you’re waiting for the filling to cook through!

3.  Crank up your oven to 220 degrees after you’ve taken out the pastry as you prepare the filling.  Place the sugar, salt, cinnamon and mixed spice in a large bowl.  In another bowl, whisk the eggs lightly, then add the melted butter, maple syrup and milk and mix until well combined.  Add this to the sugar, salt and spices and then pour into the pastry.  Place in the oven and after 10 minutes, turn the heat down to 180 degrees.  Bake for another 20 minutes or until the centre of the pie is just set.

4.  Allow the pie to cool and adorn with a little saved icing sugar.  Serve with whipped cream, laced with a little maple syrup if you’re feeling indulgent.  Add a sprinkling of crushed pecan nuts if you’re feeling even more indulgent.

Happy Halloween!!!

Cherry Chocolate Bread and Butter Pudding

 

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A few weeks ago we celebrated Father’s Day and in honour of the super Dads in my life, I cooked up a three course lunch of gargantuan proportions.  To me, memories  are made of Sunday family feasts and I love feeding the three wonderful fathers in my life; my own dear dad, my father in law and of course the Husband; superdad to our gorgeous, roguish boys.  We had a black pudding, goats cheese and apple salad to start, steak and duck for mains and for dessert, something experimental that turned out to be the piece-de-resistance.  With an abundance of leftover white loaf bread, I made the old, thrifty housewive’s favourite with a couple of fancy additions. This recipe is silly easy, idiot proof in fact and the result; absolutely divine.  I used thickly sliced, large white loaf but you could use sliced pan- you might just need more of it as the slices tend to be thinner than if you cut the bread yourself.

Ingredients:

8-10 slices of white loaf, crusts removed

50g butter

25- 30 fresh cherries, stones and stems removed (you could also use tinned or jarred cherries, but not glacé)

40g grated dark chocolate

750mls milk

5 medium free range eggs

125g sugar

125mls cream

 

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Using a little of the butter, grease a deep, ovenproof dish to prevent the pudding from sticking to the sides.

2. Use the rest of the butter to butter the bread and then break it into pieces. Place half of the bread in the dish and the scatter over pieces of cherries and the grated chocolate, then place the remaining bread pieces on top.

3. In a large jug or bowl, whisk the eggs with the sugar, milk and cream until well combined.  Pour over the bread and cover with tin foil.

4. Sit the dish into a larger dish of shallow, boiling water (ie. a “Bain-Marie”) and place in the oven for about 1 hour and 20 minutes.  I know it’s a little cumbersome to get into the oven but don’t be tempted to skip on the Bain-Marie, the pudding needs to steam and it will just be dry mess if you don’t!

Serve with lashings of custard and/or whipped cream.

Bloomsday

Today is the 16th of June, otherwise known as Bloomsday.  It is the day on which James Joyce’s profoundly influential book, Ulysses is based.  Ulysses is the story of Leopold Bloom and Stephen Dedalus and their movements through Dublin city over the course of one day and it is widely regarded as the greatest novel of the twentieth century.  I think we could all learn something from Mr. Joyce, who eschewed conventional English grammar and chose to focus on the rhythm and musicality of the written word instead.  The result was a truly unique, literary masterpiece.  Why am I mentioning this in a food blog you ask? Perhaps it’s because cooking is a creative process that can often involve using your instincts rather than conventional wisdom.  Perhaps it’s because the descriptions of food in Ulysses are so vivid, so memorable and because it features some more unusual dishes by modern day standards.

“Mr Leopold Bloom ate with relish the inner organs of beasts and fowls.  He liked thick giblet soup, nutty gizzards, a stuffed roast heart, liver slices fried with crust crumbs fried hencods roes.  Most of all he liked grilled mutton kidneys which gave to his palate a fine tang of faintly scented urine”.

Now the thoughts of tucking into a platter of offal might not appeal to all of us but we must consider the fact that historically it was far more commonplace to eat all of an animal.  When you think about it, it has sacrificed it’s life for our dining pleasure so this surely can’t be a bad thing. My own experience with cooking offal is limited, I must confess.  I did buy tripe once out of morbid curiosity.  I slow cooked it for a couple of hours before coating it in breadcrumbs and frying it.  I wasn’t crazy about it, I’ll be completely honest but my nephew (who was 7 years old at the time and the most picky of eaters), ate every bit of it.  The point is, how do we know we don’t like something if we won’t even try it?

Joyce ‘s protagonist also has a fondness for Gorgonzola, which I adore.  He refers to”the feety savour of green cheese”, emphasising it’s inhererent pungency.  Leopold enjoys it in a sandwich with a crunchy salad washed down nicely with a glass of burgundy.  So today, I shall dine on a gloriously smelly Gorgonzola toasty, made with brown soda bread and a salad of rocket, pears and walnuts and I will toast to the literary genius of the great James Joyce.

Happy Bloomsday one and all xxx

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Rhubarb Muffins

imageWhat is there to say about Rhubarb? It’s by definition a vegetable, it has poisonous leaves and it’s roots are used in Chinese medicine as a laxative.  (Less about bowel issues please, this is a food blog not an advice column on digestive maladies).  Rhubarb is lovely.  That is all.  Here is a recipe for some lovely muffins that you can have for your breakfast or whenever you fancy something rhubarby.

4-5 stalks rhubarb, leaves removed, chopped into chunks

75g butter

350g flour

325g caster sugar

250g natural yoghurt

100mls milk

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 heaped teaspoon bread soda (bicarbonate of soda)

 

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.  Line a 12 hole muffin tray with muffin cases (or  2 smaller holed, bun trays). Melt the butter in a small bowl in the microwave on a medium heat, or melt it in a pan on the hob.
  2. In a small pan, gently stew the rhubarb along with 25g of the caster sugar and a splash of water on a medium heat for about 10 minutes.
  3. In a large bowl, add the flour, sugar, bread soda and mix well.
  4. In another bowl add the egg, yoghurt, milk and vanilla extract and mix with an electric hand mixer until well combined and frothy.  Add the wet mixture to the dry and mix until fully combined.
  5. Stir through the cooled, melted butter, followed by the rhubarb.
  6. Spoon the mixture into the cases and bake for approximately 20 minutes or until a skewer inserted comes out clean. (Note: the mixture is very wet, this is normal 😉).
  7. Allow to cool for a couple of minutes in the tins before removing to a wire tray to cool completely.  Enjoy xxx

 

 

Chocolate Chunk Cookies

If your house is anything like my house this morning then it’s like a post-apocalyptic, chocolate wasteland.  There are half eaten Easter Eggs EVERYWHERE! The smallest child came into our bedroom this morning at sparrowfart (translation: far too early) to rummage in a sock drawer where he had stashed some of his haul.  Arrival downstairs and I’m thinking I need to do something with all this chocolate; it’s time to roll out my trusty cookie recipe.  These cookies are delicious and it’s a brilliant way of using up some of the chocolate.  The added bonus is that the dough freezes brilliantly for cookies at a later date. The quantities here are for a very big batch (about 5 to 6 “logs” or rolls of dough) but you could easily half it.

 

Ingredients:

200g soft butter

150g soft margarine

1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)

450g plain flour

300g chocolate chunks (or broken up chocolate eggs!)

 

Method:

  1. In a large bowl mix the butter, margarine and vanilla until well combined and soft. (Use an electric mixer if you have one).
  2. Stir through the flour.  It will seem as though it’s too much flour at first but don’t panic, it will eventually all come together!
  3. Stir through the chocolate chunks.  If the mixture is coming apart, it may just be that the butter and margarine are very soft.  Use your hands to press it together into logs and wrap each one tightly in cling film.  You should get 5 or 6 rolls of dough.
  4. Put the dough in the fridge for a couple of hours to firm up before slicing into discs.  If the dough falls apart as you’re slicing it just press it back together with your fingers.
  5. Place on a lightly greased baking tray and pop them into a preheated oven for about 15 to 20 minutes at 180 degrees Celsius or until light golden brown. Leave to cool for just a minute before transferring to a wire rack.
  6. Once the cookies have cooled, put your feet up, grab a good book and make yourself a very large mug of tea to dunk the cookies in and enjoy! (It is a Bank Holiday after all😀).