Apple and Pecan Muesli with Warmed Maple Milk

I’m always messing around with muesli combinations and when I hit on this one a few days ago I was a very happy lady.  The blend of nutty pecans, fresh apple and maple syrup are an unquestionably harmonious trio.  Bring them together with some warm milk (a taste sensation reminiscent of  being a child on a cold school morning, thawing gradually whilst huddled up against a roaring solid fuel cooker) and then add some sweet maple syrup.  In my mind, all of this makes for a breakfast experience akin to a great big hug where you feel snug and loved and secure and happy.

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Ingredients (for one):

50g porridge oats

half an apple, grated

15g raisins

30g pecan nuts, roughly chopped

Step one: throw all of the above into a bowl!

Step two: In a small saucepan on a medium heat, place 150mls milk, 2 capfuls of maple syrup and a pinch of cinnamon.  Warm through.

Step three: Pour milk over muesli and enjoy!

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Lemon and Lime Madeira Cake

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Summer is in it’s final days and many of us on this fair island are seeing it out with a foreboding sense of disappointment.  Without being too glum, it’s fair to say that Summer didn’t really arrive at all this year.  According to Met Eireann, it has been one of the coldest since records began.  Lovely.  Here’s a little recipe that might inject some citrussy sunshine into your day.  The weather might be atrocious but there’s nothing quite as nice a as a big slice of cake while you look out the window at the wind and rain. Wash it down with a big, steaming mug of tea.  Enjoy!

Ingredients:

90g butter softened

90g margarine softened

175g caster sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 eggs, lightly beaten

zest and juice of 1 large lemon and 2 limes

225g plain flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

For the Icing:

75g icing sugar

Juice of one lemon and one lime

  1.  Grease and line a loaf tin with parchment or baking paper and preheat your oven to 170 degrees Celsius.
  2. In a large bowl with a food mixer, add the butter, margarine and sugar and beat until pale and fluffy.
  3. Add the vanilla extract and then add the eggs a little at a time, beating well in between each addition.
  4. Add the citrus juices and then sift in the flour and baking powder.  Fold it in, taking care not to over mix as this will make the cake too heavy.
  5. Put the mixture into the loaf tin and place on the middle shelf of the oven for about 50 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.  Once out of the oven, allow it to cool in the tin for a few minutes before removing and peeling off the parchment paper.  Leave to cool completely on a wire rack.
  6. To make the icing:  in a small bowl, combine the icing sugar and lemon and lime juices.  Stir well and spread over the cooled cake.

10 Sneaky Ways to get your Children to Eat more Fruit and Vegetables

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We’ve all been there; you lovingly prepare a beautiful, cooked from scratch meal and you’re thrilled with yourself.  The children are seated and starving and you present them with a wholesome, delicious dish (that has left the kitchen look like a bomb went off).  Then, the whining starts and they pout as they push the food around their plates.  Mere minutes later, your positivity has turned to dust and you’re frazzled; big time.  Your smile is so strained it’s hurting your face and you’re talking through gritted teeth “just try it please!!!!”  You want to run upstairs and scream into a pillow but you power through and by the end of it, you feel as deflated as a Christmas balloon on the 6th January as you scrape most of it into the bin you ask yourself why you bother at all.  Yet you do, and you try again and again. Sound familiar?

We all want what’s best for our children; for them to be nourished and healthy but mealtimes can be an unmerciful battleground.   Throw into the mix their individual palates so what one child will gobble up, another will shun.  My own kids have very different tastes with the smaller one being especially fussy.  I’ve come up with a few ideas that I’ve roadtested with varying degrees of success; some work a treat and others not so much but hey, what doesn’t work for one parent just might work for another.

1. Soup.  My small guy loves it, he’s reared on the stuff.  He will not eat a vegetable on a plate but once they’re pulverised into a smooth, silky soup he unknowingly consumes the following; carrots, broccoli, peppers, courgettes, spinach, turnip, celery, onions, asparagus and so on.  Whatever veggies are on special offer, whatever veggies are looking lonesome at the bottom of the fridge go into soups so I have no single, definitive recipe for basic, vegetable soup.  It can be hard to make soup tasty however, and the ready made soups in the supermarkets can have a lot of salt in them.  To make your soup delicious be sure to sauté plenty of onions at the beginning in a little oil and a good knob of real butter.  Allow the onions to brown and caramelise; it really makes a difference to the end flavour.  Adding garlic helps too.  Also, use some fresh herbs and chicken stock (vegetable stock if you’re vegetarian); it takes the taste to another level entirely.

2.  Different shapes.  Vegetables and fruits that are in a variety of shapes are more appealing to kids.  Bonus points if you can turn them into funny faces or characters.

3.  Ice lollies.  Yes you read correctly.  You can buy those ice lolly mounds and make your own by boiling up some mixed fruits with a little sugar, allow to cool, fill and freeze. If you’re using berries just remember to strain out any seeds through a sieve before filling the moulds.

4. Juices and smoothies; perhaps not too many as they can be high in sugar but they can certainly help.  If you happen to own a juicer or food processor with a juicing attachment you can blend veggies too.  Kale and pineapple taste great together (honestly!) as do carrot and orange.

5.  Pastas.  You may need to go to a gourmet food store but you can get pasta with spinach or tomato already in it.

6.  Minced beef is your friend; it can disguise a multitude of covert vegetables.  If you’re making shepherd’s pie or spaghetti bolognaise then very finely chop some carrots and peppers and throw them in.  When the pieces are tiny enough they blend seamlessly with the bits of meat, their disguise enhanced further by the sauce you add.

7.  Sauces.  My basic, tomato sauce that I make for pastas and pizzas has secret carrots, courgettes and peppers tucked away in there.  Once the sauce is liquidised, CSI wouldn’t be able to find a trace of them.

8.  Meatloaf.  Similar to the minced beef theory, the very finely chopped veggies  fly under the radar of suspicious children.  It can be eaten cold or hot so can leftovers can be added to the lunchbox the next day.  Search online for  plenty of recipe options.

9.  Presentation.  We eat with our eyes, first and foremost.  While you don’t need to be a Michelin starred chef adding fancy foams and edible flowers, if a meal looks appetising then you’re off to a good start.  I have a few little ceramic dishes and jars that I put peas and messy veggies into and place these on the plates. I find they eat more veg this way rather than chasing random veggies around a plate.  I stack carrot batons, homemade wedges and chips  so they look a bit like a game of Jenna and they love that too.

10.  Involvement.  It’s been said so many times over but it’s true; getting your kids to help with cooking will make them more likely to try different foods.  It gives them a sense of ownership over the process and instills an understanding of the work involved in creating a healthy meal.  I read an article once about a top chef, Michael Voltaggio, who runs one of the hottest restaurants in Los Angeles; he was the pickiest eater as a child so never give up hope!!!

 

Coconut Citrus Flapjacks

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I have always been forthcoming about my oat obsession.  I can’t help it and I believe it’s because I was a horse in a former life.  I will eat anything with oats; muesli, porridge, cookies, cakes or flapjacks.  Flapjacks have enjoyed renewed popularity in recent years and there’s no denying their deliciousness.  I love them with a cup of tea and they are an easy to make, wholesome lunchbox filler for little people.  Flappjacks have been around for quite a while however, since at least the 17th Century.  The bould Willie Shakespeare himself was a divil for the flapjacks.  He even wrote about them in Act 2, Scene 1 of Pericles, Prince of Tyre.

” Come, thou shan’t go home, and we’ll have flesh for holidays, fish for fasting days, and moreo’er puddings and flapjacks and thou shalt be welcome”

Flapjacks typically require a lot of butter in their making and while I love butter (almost as much as I love oats!) too much of it can make your flapjacks oily and heavy.  I wanted to come up with a lighter alternative and wracked my brains until a big, shiny lightbulb went off over my head and I came up with coconut oil.  I recently started using it when cooking in a bid to be a little healthier and it’s versatility has been a revelation.  It works brilliantly for things like stir fries as it has a high smoke point but it’s fantastic for baking too.  This flapjack recipe also uses eggs, which I find helps make the flapjacks rise a bit and give them a lovely, chewy texture.

Ingredients:

125g oats

85g desiccated coconut

100g caster sugar

70g coconut oil

juice and zest of half a lemon and half a lime

pinch salt

2 eggs, beaten lightly

1.  Preheat your oven to 180 degrees celcius and line a large baking tray with grease proof paper.  2.  Using a bowl in the microwave or in a small pan, gently melt the coconut oil at a medium heat.  3. In a large bowl, place all your dry ingredients and mix.  4. Add the eggs to the dry ingredients, along with the lemon and lime juice and zest and the melted coconut oil.  5.  Mix really well (the mixture will be quite wet).  6.  Place large spoonfuls in big blobs on the lined baking tray and bake on the middle shelf for about 15 minutes, until golden.  7.  Allow to cool for 5 minutes before placing on a wire rack to cool completely.

Enjoy xxx

Eat like an Italian!

I have a great fondness for Italian food.  I think it has an integrity to it, an honesty that celebrates the provenance of it’s origins and this is something that all food producers should take seriously.   My husband and I spent a few years travelling and working overseas on cruise liners before we got married, docking many times in different Italian ports.  We have great memories of indulging in spectacular food and wine, all served up with a passion for good cooking and good quality, local ingredients.  When Paul and I decided to get married abroad, Italy really was the only option for us.  We exchanged vows in the tiny 17th century chapel of San Pietro in Positano, perched on the edge of a rocky cliff overlooking the Bay of Naples on Italy’s stunning Amalfi coast.  The venue for our reception was the exquisite Ristorante Caruso in Sorrento, where Paolo Esposito and his amazing crew took great care of us.  Course after course of divine indulgence saw us and our 40 guests celebrate the occasion in true Italian style and the meal went on for well over four hours!  To this day (almost nine years later) our guests comment on the food that day.  A real testament to fantastic cooking and the wonderful memories it can bring.   Cooking Italian food at home is something I enjoy doing and our children are big fans of it too.  Some day we’ll bring them to visit where Mam and Dad got married but in the mean time, we will have to bring Italy to our own kitchen table in Ireland!    Authentic Italian food and ingredients can be tricky to come by in this part of the world so imagine my delight when I recently encountered http://www.ufuud.co.uk   They stock REAL Italian food, everything from oils to pastas, cheeses, meats, all manner of condiments and more.  They ship all over Europe and last week I was the excited recipient of some gorgeous pecorino cheese, aged Parma ham, pasta and an intriguing little jar of creamed white truffles with porcini.  Here are my ideas for bringing a little bit of Bella Italia to your kitchen!

Breakfast
Steamed Asparagus and aged Parma Ham with a Poached Egg

Ingredients (per person)
4 or 5 spears of asparagus
couple of slices of Parma ham
1 large poached egg
Seasoning

1. Put a small pot of water on to boil for poaching your egg and get your steamer on.
2. Trim the woody ends off your asparagus and steam it for 4 to 5 minutes. Try not to overcook it, soggy asparagus is horrific! It should still have a good bite to it.
3. While the asparagus is steaming, poach your egg. I do this by gently cracking andd dropping the egg into barely simmering, salted water. If the water is bubbling too much, the egg will break up
into pieces. Poach for about 4 to 5 minutes, ensuring it’s ready about the same time as the asparagus!
4. Using a slotted spoon, carefully remove your poached egg and pat dry with some kitchen paper. Take up your asparagus and arrange on a plate with the Parma ham and egg. Season with salt and freshly cracked black pepper and a drizzle of olive oil if you wish. Serve with a mug of decent coffee or tea and enjoy.

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Pasta
Spaghetti with Pan Roasted Cherry Tomatoes Basil and Pecorino

Ingredients (per person)
100g to 150g dried pasta/ spaghetti (how much depends on how hungry you are!)
10 to 15 of the juiciest, best cherry tomatoes you can get. Quality is important, especially as there are so few components in this dish.
1 small clove garlic, finely chopped or minced
Few gluts of olive oil
100g of the best pecorino cheese. I got some gorgeous stuff, encased in ashes with the most wonderfully deep flavours. It’s on the UFUUD website http://www.ufuud.co.uk
A few fresh basil leaves, torn
Salt and freshly ground black pepper.

1. Put a pan of salted water on and bring to the boil. Add the pasta. Cook for about 8-10 minutes, making sure it’s “Al dente”, meaning there should be a little bite to it.
2. Heat some olive oil on a pan and add the garlic and cherry tomatoes. Toss to avoid the garlic sticking and burning. Cook for about 4 to 5 minutes and set aside. Grate the pecorino cheese.
3. When the pasta is cooked, drain but keep in some of the pasta water. Add most of the grated pecorino and mix through the pasta and water. This will create a sauce. Add the tomatoes and plate up. Tear the basil leaves and scatter over the pasta with the remaining pecorino and a few good twists of freshly ground black pepper.

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Pork Fillet with mushrooms and a White Truffle Cream Sauce

This dish was road tested on my beloved older sister who was a truffle Virgin and doesn’t really like pork.  A bit of a challenge I’d say! She was very quiet all the time eating away and when I looked over at her at the end of the meal, she was licking her plate.    To say she liked it is an understatement so I’m thrilled to be sharing this recipe.  It’s also very, very easy thanks to one spectacular little ingredient in the form of this.

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This stuff is amazing.  It has that intense, distinctive aroma unique to white truffles that swirls up out of the jar to greet you the second you open it.  I pan fried some pork fillet which I cut into 2 cm thick medallions, seasoned just with salt and freshly ground black pepper and did them for about 2 minutes each side in hot olive oil and a knob of butter.  I finished them off by placing them in a roasting dish, covered in tin foil in a preheated oven (170 degrees Celsius) for 8 to 10 minutes.  The pan frying has the effect of sealing the meat and getting some delicious, golden colour on the meat and the oven gently finishes the meat off by steaming it in a way.  The result is juicy, moist pork.  While the pork is finishing off in the oven, make your truffle cream sauce.  All you need is:

about 1 level teaspoon of La Tartufata per person

a few sliced button mushrooms (about 4 to 5 per person)

single cream/ cooking cream (about 100 to 150mls per person)

some finely chopped fresh parsley to serve.

Using the pan you cooked your pork in (you want to incorporate the lovely meat juices into the sauce), heat a little more butter over a medium heat.  Add the mushrooms and cook for about 5-6 minutes.  Add the cream and La Tartufata and mix through.  Add a little of the fresh parsley (about half a handful).  Season to taste.  Serve over the pork medallions with the remaining parsley scattered over alongside potatoes and vegetables of your choice.

Asparagus and Pecorino Tart

For the shortcrust pastry base:

200g plain flour

120g butter or margarine and a little extra for greasing

pinch salt

100-150mls cold water

The base can be made ahead of time, which is really handy.

Filling ingredients:

8 asparagus spears, woody stems removed and washed.

3 large eggs

100mls milk

125g pecorino, grated

half a red pepper, chopped into chunks and roasted (optional)

1. To make the pastry, add the salt and flour to a large bowl.

2. Next, rub in the butter or margarine into the flour using the tips of your fingers.

3. When it resembles fine breadcrumbs, add a little water.  Use a knife to mix through to make the dough.  Add a little water at a time until the pastry dough comes together without being wet.  Wrap in cling film and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

4. Preheat the oven to 170 degrees Celsius.  Grease a flan dish or quiche tine with butter.  The dish should roughly be the diameter of a fairly large dinner plate.

5.  Steam the asparagus for about 3- 4 minutes (you only want it partially cooked so it doesn’t over cook later when it’s continuing to cook in the tart).

6.   In a large jug, combine the milk and eggs and season well with salt and black pepper.  Whisk well to combine.

7.  Once your pastry has chilled, remove from the fridge and cling film and on a floured surface, roll out until it will fit the size of the dish.  Carefully peel it back from the worktop.  I find it helps to do this draping it over the back of the rolling pin.  Fit it into the dish, tucking the sides in.  Remove the excess pastry draping over the sides using a knife.

8.  On the pastry in the dish, place a sheet of baking paper/ grease proof paper, smooth side down.  Place baking beads (if you don’t have these then dried peas or beans of even rice will do!).

9.  Place in the middle of the preheated oven for 7-8 minutes.  Remove the paper and beads and bake for another 5 minutes.

10.  Remove the dish with the pastry case from the oven and scatter the pecorino cheese over the base.  On top of this, arrange the asparagus spears in the shape of a wheel.  Pour over the milk and egg mixture and bake in the oven for about 20 minutes or until the middle of the tart is set and no longer wobbling.

Serve with salad, hot or cold.  The tart is lovely for supper or lunch and if you’re picnicking or dining Al fresco, all the better!

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Roast Moroccan Lamb with Yoghurt and Mint Dressing

Spring has sprung, the clocks have leapt forward, daffodils are in abundance and Easter is here.  Time for an excuse to cook up a seasonal feast of monumental proportions.  Lambs frolicking in the fields mean they are at their tastiest at this time of year (sorry vegetarians) and I always associate Easter dinners with lamb.  Last Sunday saw me test drive a new recipe incorporating some exotic Moroccan flavours into the meat and it proved very popular.  My mother in law (who ordinarily shuns lamb) couldn’t stop eating it so that’s endorsement enough for me!  I used a lamb leg fillet, which happily fed 4 adults and 2 small boys but you could double the marinade quantities if you’re cooking a full lamb leg for a larger audience.

Ingredients:

lamb leg fillet (approx 1.2 kilos)

2 cloves garlic

3 heaped teaspoons of Ras Al Hanout spice blend (I got mine in an ethnic food shop but in the absence of this just use 1 teaspoon each of ground cumin, coriander and cinnamon).

1 teaspoon honey

juice of half a lemon

half teaspoon salt

2-3 tablespoons olive oil

For the dressing combine the following and season with salt and black pepper:

200g natural yoghurt

1 tablespoon mint sauce (from a jar is fine)

1.  To make the marinade, finely chop the garlic and combine with the rest of the ingredients.  Rub all over the meat a few hours before cooking if possible.

2.  To cook the meat, place in a preheated oven (200 degrees) uncovered for the first 20 minutes.  Then, turn the heat down to.180 degrees and cover with tin foil for the remaining cooking time.  Allow 45 minutes per kilo plus an additional 20 minutes.  This will give you slighty pink meat.  Add another 15-20 minutes if you want brown meat!

3.  While the meat is cooking, prepare whatever accompanying vegetables and some roast potatoes.  I went with some steamed green beans, creamed carrot and parsnip, boiled baby potatoes and roast potatoes (which I like to do in beef dripping).

4.  Once your meat is cooked, allow it to stand for at least half an hour before serving with your dressing and sides of choice.

Happy Easter!

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Wholemeal And Oat Blueberry Scones

It’s no secret that I love oats and oat flour has been a bit of a revelation for me. I have used it to make bread, cookies and cakes and reveled in the fact that it’s a little bit better for you than the white flour alternative. It’s simple to make, just whizz up some porridge oats in a blender or food processor and that’s it.   Store it in an airtight container until you’re ready to use it. When you use oat flour in baking it adds a satisfying, nutty dimension which I adore. I recently used it to whip up some  scones which I had for breakfast a few mornings smothered in butter and my mother’s blackberry jam.   They were gorgeous if I do say so myself.  They made for a tasty change from my usual morning meal but they would be fab with afternoon tea as well.  They’re a great way of using up those blueberries lurking about that are a little bit withered and not terribly enticing (but you don’t want to throw out!).

This recipe will give you 5-6 medium sized scones.

175g wholemeal flour

175g oat flour

1 level teaspoon bread soda

pinch salt

1 tablespoon brown sugar

50g butter, cold and cut into cubes

125 g blueberries

200mls buttermilk

1 egg, lightly beaten for glazing

1. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees celsius.  Combine all the dry ingredients in a bowl.

2. Rub in the butter until it resembles fine breadcrumbs.

3.  Add the blueberries and give a little stir through.

4.  Make a well in the centre and add the buttermilk.  Stir.

5.  Do not over mix the dough.  It will be quite wet and sticky so coat your hands in some flour before patting it into a 2 inch thick slab on a surface dusted with flour.

6.  Lightly dust a baking tray with some oat flour and place in the oven for a couple of minutes.

7.  Cut the dough into round shapes using a cutter dusted with flour or into triangles with a very sharp knife.

8.  Place on the warm baking tray and brush with the beaten egg.  Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes or until well risen and golden.  Allow to cool a little before placing on a wire rack.  Serve with butter and jam and if you’re having a decadent afternoon tea, top with some whipped cream.

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New Year Food Resolutions

At this time of the year the media is awash with “New Year New You” type campaigns, telling us all we must lose weight and get healthy.  This can be helpful and unhelpful in equal measures.  While eating more fresh fruit and veg and cutting down on processed food are certainly positive steps, we shouldn’t feel bad about the excesses of the Christmas season.  Guilt is such a destructive emotion and being hard on yourself for indulging over Christmas is not helpful. In my view, it’s perhaps more constructive to look at what we are eating and focus on improving that rather than obsessing about all the weight we would like to lose. Think about nourishing your body and caring for yourself rather than depriving it. Forget calorie counting and think nutrient counting. The New Year brings new possibilities so why not why not try something new like an exotic fruit you were too scared to pick up in the supermarket. Stop counting how many maltesers you stuff into your gob from that leftover selection box and think how exquisitely gorgeous and refreshing a fruit salad can be. I’ve put together a couple of recipes to kick off the New Year in tasty, wholesome style. A joyous 2015 to you all xxx.

Pineapple Carpaccio Salad (serves 4)

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1 medium sized pineapple
150g mango flesh (fresh or tinned if you can’t get a perfestly ripe, fresh one)
1 teaspoon caster sugar
juice and zest of half a lime
1 large clementine or mandarin orange.

1. Top and tail your pineapple with a large, sharp knife. Cut down the sides to remove the thick outer skin. Next, cut the softer flesh away from the hard core running down the centre.
2. Slice the lengths of pineapple flesh as thinly as possible and arrange on four small plates or one large one.
3. In a blender or food processor, blitz the mango flesh along with the lime juice and sugar. Add a little water if necessary to get a thick but slightly runny puree. Drizzle over the pineapple.
4. Peel the orange and remove the flesh from the skin.  Scatter chunks of orange flesh over the pineapple.   Finish by grating a little lime zest over the pineapple, mango and orange.

Bacon, Squash and Goats Cheese Salad (serves 3 to 4)

2-3 rashers of streaky bacon, chopped into lardons
1 small butternut squash
2-3 tablespoons honey
70g soft goats cheese
10- 15 cherry tomatoes washed
150g mixed salad leaves, washed
Half a cucumber
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, very finely chopped
Approximately 6-8 tablespoons of sunflower or rapeseed oil.

For the dressing:
8 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
5 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons runny honey
1.5 tablespoons wholegrain mustard

1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees celsius. On a chopping board, with a large sharp knife top and tail the butternut squash.
2. Carefully half the squash lengthways then scoop out and dispose of the seeds.
3. Cut each of the halves into large chunks and then cut the thick skin of each of these. (You could peel the butternut squash whole but I just find this way easier and safer!)
4. Cut the squash into smaller chunks and put aside for a minute.
5. Put the rapeseed or sunflower oil in a roasting dish and place in the preheated oven for about 5 minutes. Toss in the squash and sprinkle over the rosemary. Make sure the rosemary and squash get fully tossed in the oil as dry herbs will burn and become bitter. You could drizzle it over it and then place it in the oven but I find heating the oil first makes the squash crispier and tastier. Drizzle over the honey and place in the oven.
6. Roast for about 20 minutes, tossing halfway through. While the butternut squash is roasting, fry off the bacon lardons and then pat with kitchen paper to remove excess grease.
7. To prepare the cucumber, slice it down lengthways and using a teaspoon, scoop out the watery seeds and bin them. Cut the cucumber into small chunks.
8. To prepare the dressing place all of the dressing ingredients in a container with a secure lid and shake vigorously.
9. Remove the butternut squash from the oven (once it has roasted for 20 minutes) and pat with kitchen paper to remove excess oil. Allow to cool a little.
10. To assemble the salad, place the leaves in a large bowl or 4 individual bowls. Scatter over the tomatoes, cucumber chunks, roast squash and bacon. Crumble over the goats cheese and drizzle over the dressing. Serve with fresh crusty bread.

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Enjoy xxx

Drinks at Christmas

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Over the Christmas season, wintery beverages are a comforting way of getting that warm, fuzzy, festive feeling.  Mulled wine, hot chocolate, warm port, hot toddies and Irish coffees are all seasonal in their own way (and that’s before we even look at the cocktail menu!).

The addition of spices such as cinnamon, cardamom, cloves and nutmeg will imbue the most pedestrian of beverages with Christmas cheer.  Here are a few idea to indulge you taste buds over the season.

  • A little pinch of mixed spice to some really good, ground coffee with whipped cream will have you singing Jingle Bells in no time.
  • In a small pan over a low to medium heat, warm a mug of whole milk with a tablespoon of unwhipped cream.  Add a drop of vanilla extract, a small pinch of cinnamon and 3 or 4 squares of good quality white chocolate.  Stir until the chocolate is melted.  Serve with a dollop of whipped cream (as pictured above).
  • Add a dash of baileys to your regular hot chocolate along with whipped cream and marshmallows.
  • Cranberry and freshly squeezed orange juice with champagne or prosecco will add some fizz to a lazy brunch.
  • Nut flavoured liquers such as Amaretto are fabulously festive and are great as a digestif or added to baileys for a decadent cocktail.

Happy Sipping!

 

Moroccan Tomato Relish

It’s now December and time to decide what to include in my Christmas hampers. I love giving baskets of home made goods as presents and they have always been met with great excitement and appreciation. I usually include sweet treats like cookies and mince pies as well as some more savoury things like a nice chutney. It’s always a good idea to have something to pair with cheeses as well as the ubiquitous turkey and ham sandwiches. My red onion marmalade has become something of a Christmas tradition but I wanted to come up with another savoury condiment for this year. I tried to think of something that would incorporate Christmassy spices like cinnamon and clove and that led me to Ras Al Hanout. Ras who? Well a few months back while browsing in my local Asian food store, this spice blend was recommended by a very helpful shop assistant. I brought it home and used it in a few dishes such tagines, falafels and a lentil and carrot soup. I’m now in love with the stuff. Ras Al Hanout comes from North Africa and means “top of the shop” in reference to the select blend of spices involved. Don’t be alarmed, it’s not any more expensive than a spice blend you might purchase in a supermarket. Also it’s not hot-spicy, more warming than anything so don’t that that fear put you off. This recipe should yield about 3 medium sized jars.

800g chopped fresh tomatoes
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon Ras Al Hanout
30g sultanas
50mls rice vinegar
50mls balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon runny honey

1. In a large heavy based pan, heat a couple of good gluts of sunflower oil. Add your chopped onion and season with salt and black pepper.
2. When the onion has softened, add the Ras Al Hanout. Mix well through the onions and oil, making sure the spices don’t stick to the pan and burn. If it looks a little dry add a little more oil.
3. Add the chopped tomatoes, vinegars and honey. Stir and cover with a lid. Allow to simmer for about 40 minutes.
4. While your relish is simmering, sterilise your jars by running through them through a dishwasher or by placing in the oven on a low heat (75 degrees Celsius should do it).
5. When your relish has simmered for 40 minutes, taste and season accordingly. Allow it to cool down for a while before placing in your sterilised jars. Be careful never to add hot relish to a cold jar (or vice versa) as the jar will shatter!
6. Cover and seal with jam pot covers. Enjoy!!!

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