Friday, September 26, 2014

Mocha Shortbread

Oh I love shortbread.  It's buttery, crumbly and very hard to refuse another piece. The Hubs and his Mammy are both big lovers so I decided I'd make a variation on the traditional recipe by adding coffee and chocolate.  When I was in France last year, I bought a box of espresso sticks - powdered instant espresso which you can drink or use as an ingredient.  Two little sticks gave enough oomph to turbo charge the shortbread from something nice into a special treat loaded with coffee and chocolate.  Sure, what else could you possibly want?

By refrigerating the dough before you bake it, the butter sets and the finished shortbread is crumbly and short.  It does really melt in your mouth.

Mocha Shortbread

225g Butter, very soft
200g Caster Sugar
225g Plain Flour
45g Cocoa Powder
1/2 tsp Salt
4g Espresso Powder
2 tsp Vanilla Extract

Line a square tin (10 x 10 inches) with baking parchment

Beat the butter and sugar together in a food mixer for 4-5 minutes until very light and fluffy.

Sift the flour, cocoa, salt & espresso powder into the butter and sugar.  Add the vanilla extract and mix gently until well combined.

Press the dough into the lined tin, cover with a layer of cling film and smooth out the top with the base of a jug or a plastic container.

Put the tin into the fridge for at least an hour - longer is better, even up to a day. When you're ready to bake, preheat your oven to 180c/Gas Mark 4.

Remove the tin from the fridge, discard the film and using a sharp knife, cut the dough into 24 bars about 2 x 1 inch - that's 6 bars across by 4 bars down .  Prick each bar with a fork and bake for 40 minutes.

You may have to re-mark the cooked shortbread when it comes out of the oven. Let the tin cool for 10 minutes before transferring the shortbread to a wire rack. Just lift the parchment out and leave the shortbread on the parchment -it's the easiest way.

This will keep in a sealed container for 10 days.  I wish you luck with that...

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Review : Bake Like an Italian

Although she's a Wicklow girl like me, Catherine Fulvio loves all things Italian and marrying a Sicilian, the very dapper Claudio, was the start of her amore Italiano. She's written four books already, all with a very distinctive Italian influence and this fifth offering, Bake Like an Italian, explores baking.  Anathema to carb haters, it's subtitled "more recipes for the good life" and is definitely written with la vita รจ bella in mind.

There's a very vintage feel to the book cover with three very home made cakes and beautiful panelling in the background.  Inside, more delights await with Graham Thew in charge of design, Harry Weir on photography and new author Kristen Jensen as editor.  Together, they've helped to create a beautifully illustrated and cleanly edited book which is a pleasure to peruse.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Hit The Floor Cake

This is a story of great triumph over adversity.  In work, we get a delivery of fruit every week to keep us all healthy and at the end of the week, there's usually a few apples or nectarines lying in the box.  I hate waste, so I brought home some nectarines and plums to turn them into a cake for work.  I made a stupendous cake and there were some very excited colleagues looking forward to Monday morning so they could have cake for breakfast (yes, I'm looking at you Cora & Karen...).  I was walking up the stairs from the carpark to the office laden with a handbag, laptop bag and a cake carrier.  Yes, you guessed it, the cake carrier went tumbling to the ground after being hit with a door.  The cake hit the floor with a tremendous bang and scattered all over the stairwell,  CAKETASTROPHE!

The cake was unsalvageable - it had hit the four corners of the lobby and was inedible.  With a very heavy heart, I scraped the remains back onto the plate, into the cake carrier and into the boot of the car.  I was heartbroken. Not as much as my colleagues, who told me that they would have eaten the cake off the floor- and they were serious.  Dirty beasts.  So that's how my gorgeous cake came to be known as the Hit The Floor cake.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Review : The Nation's Favourite Food FAST! by Neven Maguire

Pressure.  We're all under it and the one thing we consistently lack is time.  That means that we need to clever about how we eat well without resorting to ready meals or fast food.  This is where Neven Maguire comes in.  Subtitled "100 best-loved recipes for busy lives", this is his tenth (I think, I'm rubbish at maths though...) cookery book.  Neven is familiar to many of us from his TV show Home Cook on RTE and is also the chef/owner of MacNean House in Blacklion, Co. Cavan.  With a family of his own to feed, he's had to revise his way of eating and The Nation's Favourite Food FAST! is a great solution.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Asian Minced Pork

Last weekend, Lulu and the fluffy dog were down on their holidays.  After much moaning from Lady Muck (Lulu) in the back to her chauffeur (me) about how long we were taking to get there, the small talk turned to thoughts of food.  I had already planned Friday night's dinner which was burgers and Italian Potato Nuggets (fried gnocchi to you and I, but if I mention the "G" word to Lady Muck, her perfect little nose would be turned up).  Saturday evening's dinner was still to be finalised so when I mentioned Chinese, she was very excited.  When I told her it was the nice stuff that her mum gets in the restaurant with all the lettuce to make a wrap, she smiled.  But then insisted that she would only eat noodles and not rice.  No way.  Oh, and a box of milk lolly icepops would be just the thing for a pre-dinner snack.  Pester power ruled the roost, let me tell you.


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

CLOSED : Win Knorr Flavour Pot Hamper

I often write about the short cuts I take when creating recipes and cooking meals because I believe that anything you do to make your life easier and stops you reaching for a takeaway menu is great.  I've been using Knorr Stock Pots and their Touch of Taste liquid stock for years and I absolutely love them.  Now Knorr have expanded my options with their new range of Flavour Pots.  These are such a handy way to liven up everyday meals and I've been playing with a set of them over the past few weeks.  Now it's your turn because I'm giving away FIVE Knorr Flavour Pot hampers.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Book Review : Aegean Flavours

Next month, myself and The Hubs are off on a holiday to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary.  A whole decade - I know, I can't quite believe it myself. We're actually going on a cruise and made sure that it went to places that neither of us had ever been before.  So we're off to Italy, Greece, Turkey and Croatia. Actually, The Hubs has been to Turkey before : with the lads some 16 years ago but that was spent on Bar Street eating dodgy food and drinking even dodgier food, so this is going to be a whole new world for him!.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Whipped Feta

Whipped wha?  Feta. I had it as part of a salad in Kilkenny a few weeks ago and it's been on my mind every since.  You know how sometimes you taste something unexpected and it's like an earworm running through your head and it won't go away?  Usually it's Ed Sheerin's Sing or the last song I've heard in the car before I go into work (Steps was the one that lasted longest) but this time it was real cheese.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Home on the Range

Decluttering.  A word that strikes fear into the hearts of most of us because despite our best intentions, we invariably build up a collection of stuff that we didn't even realise that we had.  Take the Mammy in law, for instance.  She's lived in her home since she got married 50 years ago and has steadily accumulated a collection of crockery and collectibles.  We always knew the living room was crammed full of pretty things but it all came to a head last week.  You see, older houses need rewiring and the electrician was coming to move sockets.  Work means moving stuff so she had to clear out the beautiful display cabinets and cupboards so that they could be moved.  Let me tell you now that Buckingham Palace probably have less in their collection than what made an appearance.  Sets and sets of dinner services which were passed down from her mother, a collection of glassware, some of which has been generously passed onto me, and some old pots from when she had a range cooker in the kitchen.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Goat Biscuits

Goat, I hear you say.  Has she finally lost the run of herself?  Actually no, I'm still quite as sane as I was last week but I've been playing around with a few biscuit recipes lately.  One I've always loved is my Oat and Vanilla Shortbread biscuits : they're exceedingly easy to make and every time I make them, they vanish in the blink of an eye.  We have quite a few new people in the day job and I forget that they've never tried a lot of my baking so now I have to go and do it all again, just for them.  Demanding beasts, the pair of them.  Anyway, back to the Goat.  It's now a Ginger and Oat biscuit - geddit? I've played with my original recipe to add some spicy ginger to the mix.  I used some ginger extract which I bought a while back but you can use ground ginger instead if you can't find any.  Some melted chocolate drizzle over the top completely transforms the original into a moreish, can't just eat one, treat.