Sunday, April 10, 2016

It's Spanish Wine Week!

The very first Spanish Wine Week starts tomorrow with a feast of fabulous wine events all across Ireland.  Organised by Wines from Spain, this week long event is designed to give food and wine lovers the chance to feel the passion and learn more about Spanish wines in a series of tastings, talks, restaurant offers and competitions.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Chocolate Pear Sponge Pudding

I'll be frank, I bought a punnet of pears with absolutely no idea what to do with them, until Ru wandered into the kitchen on Saturday evening wondering what we had for dessert.  I'd like to point out that I hadn't even started on cooking dinner yet so yes, he is also a greedy sod like me,  I had plenty of ideas running around my brain - poached pears, Poire Belle Helene, pear gingerbread... but I fancied something warm and gooey and full of chocolate.  The pears I bought were actually Conference, perfect for baking as they soften brilliantly with heat so I had a solution.

I made an all in one chocolate sponge batter, peeled and cored the pears and threw it all together into the oven.  15 minutes to prepare and 30 minutes to bake means that it's not an enormous effort and there's only one bowl to wash up afterwards, so it's one of the best no fuss desserts you can pull together at minimum notice.  If you don't have fresh pears, tinned ones are perfect (it's my usual failsafe) and this would be delicious with tinned apricots.  And if the chocolate sponge isn't enough, you could tuck a square or two of chocolate into the hollow of the pear.  Adding a shot of espresso to the sponge batter would also really ramp up the chocolate flavour.  And add some Poire William liqueur to some softly whipped cream for a grown up dessert.  We drowned ours in creme anglaise which we brought back from France and it was so delicious that I forgot to take a photo.  Whoops...

Chocolate Pear Sponge Pudding

8 ripe Pears, peeled, cored, trimmed and halved
190g Plain Flour
190g Caster Sugar
240g Butter, very very soft
40g Cocoa
1.5 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Bicarbonate of Soda
1 tbsp Vanilla Extract
1 tbsp Milk
3 Eggs

Prepare the pears and leave to one side

Generously grease a large baking dish with butter and preheat your oven to 170c / Gas Mark 4

Beat all the other ingredients together in a food mixer until really well combined.  If it looks a little dry, add another drop of milk.  It should be a floppy consistency rather than either stiff or pourable.

Arrange the pears roughly in the base of the dish and pour over the chocolate sponge batter.  Level out and bake for 30 minutes until a skewer comes out clean.

Allow to cool for at least 20 minutes before serving.  You can make this ahead and reheat it for 10 minutes at 150c/Gas Mark 3

Friday, March 25, 2016

Easy Moroccan Lamb Tagine

I'm having a lot of fun at the moment restocking my freezer by cooking one pot meals like my Beef and Ale Stew - they're so easy to do and as they're cooked in one pot, cleaning up is a doddle.  Best of all, stews and casseroles use the most inexpensive cots of meat so are ridiculously thrifty.  Actually, Simply beef and lamb have a whole heap of slow-cook, frugal recipes on their LivePeasant pages and I've adapted one of theirs to create my version of a Moroccan Lamb Tagine Traditionally, this is served in a tagine dish - you know the one with the cone shaped lid - but you can do it in a casserole dish and nobody will know.

My Easy Moroccan Lamb Tagine

Friday, March 18, 2016

One Pot Beef and Ale Stew

There's nothing quite like the smell of a stew simmering gently in a pot on the hob to bring everybody to the table, especially when the weather is so changeable and can't decide if sun or snow is on the way.  Sunday afternoons are the perfect time to make a stew as you've time on your hands and chopping a pile of vegetables is remarkably therapeutic.  Stews are perfect lazy food as they're always easy one pot meals, saving on a mountain of washing up.  Just team them with a pile of creamy mashed potatoes and dinner is sorted.  I love that they're great value for money as you're using inexpensive cuts of meat, which, when slowly cooked, turn into a deliciously tender meal.  We're basically going back to peasant food, but in a modern style.

You can also turn a stew into a pie filling - make sure you reduce the sauce if it's a little thin* and just top with your favourite pastry.  Traditionally, Guinness is the beer of choice in a stew like this, but I decided to keep it local and use a red ale from Wicklow company O Brother Brewing.  It's the perfect match to beef and mushrooms.  Why not make this stew with a local beer or ale from your area?

Friday, March 11, 2016

Gooseberry Cloud Cakes

When I was a little girl, I used to go to work sometimes with my Dad where I'd be put to work filing invoices.  Slave labour, eh!  I was always distracted by the giant gooseberry bushes outside and used any excuse to disappear outside and pick as many as I could carry.  I learned pretty quickly that they weren't like regular berries and needed to be cooked first.  Holy moly, the sourness of a raw gooseberry is pretty unforgettable!  Something you rarely see now is Gooseberry Jam and I came across a jar in Danish home store Søstrene Grene last week which I simply couldn't resist.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Review : Flanagan's Restaurant, Dublin 1

O'Connell Street rarely trips off the tongue when recommending restaurants, unless you like your food fast and cheap.  Thankfully there's now a real option for well cooked, great quality food on this once fine street with the arrival of Flanagan's Restaurant.  Just steps from Henry Street and the GPO, it opens for breakfast, lunch and dinner, with a very tourist-friendly menu featuring Irish ingredients such as Jameson infused salmon and Irish Stew.

Friday, February 26, 2016

French Apple and Almond Galette

Sometimes you just want something sweet and easy to make.  Well, I certainly do. In the freezer was a sheet of all butter shortcrust pastry left over from Christmas and there were some cooking apples lurking around in need of a home.  I couldn't be bothered to go hunting for a tin in the cupboard so I made a freeform tart, also known as a galette (ooh la la).  It's remarkably simple to put together but looks very impressive when it emerges from the oven, full of tender apple and bronzed almonds.  If you're really gilding the lily, a drizzle of salted caramel adds an extra touch of sticky sweet decadence.  Go on, you know you want to...

Sunday, February 21, 2016

I Wish I Was As Thin As That Sauce...

I've been watching The Restaurant for years, sniggering at the pretentious commentators and sometimes in awe of the food that the celebrity chefs created in the kitchen.  Usually however, I was very grateful to be at home watching from a distance  Last summer, I was invited to participate in the latest series as a featured diner which involved an audition interview - I was almost expecting to outline where I see myself in five years time*

Our Celebrity Chef, Rory Cowan from Mrs. Brown's Boys
with The Restaurant maître d' John Healy

Friday, February 5, 2016

Romantic Chocolate Raspberry Sponges

I'm a total sucker for anything heart shaped and when I came across some heart shaped foil tins in Tiger, I was sold.  And as Valentines Day is just s few days away, why not create a romantic little cake for the one you love?  The dark chocolately sponge with ruby juicy raspberries are always a match made in heaven.  You could adorn it with a chocolate ganache icing or perhaps some whipped cream spiked with Creme de Framboise liqueur for a very decadent treat.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Crispy Cheesy Baked Omelette

Do you know what the best thing is about potatoes?  Leftovers.  Whether it's mash to make colcannon or potato cakes, roast for dousing in gravy or my favourite, steamed for practically everything else.  I always cook more than I need because next day's lunch or dinner is just as delicious.  Take my Crispy Cheesy Baked Omelette.  With leftover potatoes, it's ready in 20 minutes.  Starting from scratch, add an extra 15 minutes - I promise you that it's worth it.  Baked omelettes are great for using up anything that's sitting in the fridge but my firm favourite is ham, spring onion and parmesan.  I'm lucky to have an enormous chunk of Italian heaven in my fridge, so any excuse to grab a grater and add it to anything I can.