Friday, March 30, 2012

Apple Crumble Muffins

These came about entirely by chance - I had some lovely Bramley cooking apples at home and had planned to make an apple crumble for Sunday dessert.  But I had no custard, and you can't have crumble without custard...  So, Plan B came into effect and I turned them into individual apple muffins with a crunchy oaty crumble topping.  The did vanish at the speed of light, so you can assume that they taste pretty good!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Review : Hotel Chocolat Your Eggsellency Easter Egg

Poor me.  I spent the whole bank holiday weekend and most of the following week in my sickbed, not out carousing and having St. Patrick's Day fun like the rest of you.  I had to spend my Cheltenham winnings on a visit to Caredoc so I was a right old misery guts going back to work last Friday.  Until I spotted a box on my desk with a label that never fails to bring a smile to my face... Hotel Chocolat.  I love their stuff - it's fabulous quality, really quirky and always impresses.  Last Easter, The Hubs got a lovely selection of goodies which I bought at their Belfast store (sadly the closest one to us) and I sampled their Advent Calendar in December.

My Birthday Dinner at Alexis

This is probably the longest I've taken to write a post and to be honest it's because I filed the photos away so comprehensively, that I couldn't find them!  For my big birthday last year, I dragged the celebrations out over about 8 weeks, starting with a joint birthday party in Wilde, and ending with our joint birthday present to ourselves, the Big Fat US Holiday (more of which still to come).  Myself and The Hubs decided to go to Alexis in Dun Laoghaire for the actual birthday meal - I had been there with a group of work colleagues and we all had a fabulous time so I knew we were in for a treat.  The day before, Patrick asked me if we fancied doing a "no-menu" dinner where the kitchen would surprise us.  The answer was a resounding yes (subject to no peppers, blue cheese or coriander, of course).

The best way to start a birthday celebration...

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Retro Raspberry Buns

My first real cooking experience was in First Year of secondary school where we were taught the basics by Mrs. Dodd (god love her patience).  On the book list was a tome called "All About Home Economics" by Deirdre Madden and this was to be my grounding in food for the next three years. It was a pretty unremarkable looking book with it's oatmeal textured cover and simple line drawings, but it's what started me on the long and winding road to where I am today.  When I left school, I would refer to it every so often for certain recipes, not realising that my Mum was doing the exact same thing with my book.  I went looking for it when we bought our home a decade ago and Mummy Dearest refused to hand it over, claiming the old "possession is nine tenths of the law" rule.

Just before Christmas, I read that Deirdre's daughters were re-releasing the book to raise funds for a cause very dear to my heart, the Irish Cancer Society and I ordered a copy immediately.  I was never so happy to see a book land on the door mat and I spent a very happy afternoon reminiscing about making the world's worst mushroom soup (there was an over-emphasis on margarine in the book, so no wonder my effort was disgusting), how to set a breakfast table correctly and then I spotted my first ever edible effort - Raspberry Buns.  These are a sweet scone mix with a thumbful of raspberry jam dropped into the middle, glazed with egg and baked.  Nowadays I have a fancy schmancy food mixer to do all the rubbing in of butter to flour, but learning to do it by hand is a valuable skill, kids... Oh, and I've replaced the marge with butter. Oh, oh and these spread like wildfire on the baking sheet so use two baking sheets.  I speak from experience.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Wine and Dine with Jacobs Creek

Over the next few weeks, award winning Australian wine brand Jacob’s Creek is inviting guests to let their senses run wild to explore the true character of wine and food at a special free "Wine & Dine Experience" in Dublin, Cork, Galway and Waterford.  Yes, that's right, free.  Zero euro.  No cost.  Read on...

For one night only, 50 guests in each location will be given the opportunity to take part in a free wine tasting masterclass and delicious dining experience, which will encourage them to ‘See Beyond The Label’ and discover the true character of the wine and food on offer.

You could be sitting here...

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Breakfast at Salt, Monkstown

It's very rare that myself and The Hubs are both off on a Sunday and in the enviable position of being able to go out for breakfast.  If we're off, we're at home and our local town isn't a hotbed of exciting Sunday brunch opportunities, so the aftermath of a friend's birthday party meant that I could insist on going somewhere lovely for a late breakfast and Salt was just a quick spin in the car away. Salt is part of the new Avoca development in Monkstown, which also houses the esteemed James Whelan butchers (which I've written about extensively, being a tremendous fan of their meat), Gavin & Sara's Poulet Bonne Femme, home to the best rotisserie chicken bar none, and the alluring Avoca food hall, providers of monster spring onions for this bread.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Chocolate Peanut Butter Sesame Cookies

Peanut Butter is one of my guilty pleasures.  I love it spread on hot white toast (not as decadent on wholemeal), or slathered all over a stick of celery where the salty sweetness combines with the crunchy nothingness of celery to make a great snack.  When I was on holiday in New York last year, I wandered into the Hershey store on Times Square and bought a bottle of Reeces Chocolate Peanut Butter topping.  Now I know it's probably going to be far too sweet for my tastebuds, but I knew of a tried and tested recipe I could adapt to bring some chocolately goodness to peanut butter... a variation of the Peanut Butter & Sesame Cookies originally from Make Bake Love by Lilly Higgins.  When I brought the originals into work, there was practically a fight over who would get the last one and I've been asked to make them again on a few occasions.  As I believe in making people wait, I decided to hold off for a few months and turn them into a chocolate version.  And here they are...

Thanks to the lovely Jay Fox for the amazing cup & saucer

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Chocolate Raspberry Brownies

There's been quite a few recipes for brownies on the blog including Italian Hazelnut, Chocolate Coconut and  Gianduja and the response so far has been really positive.  However I had to think of something new because they were being given to some very discerning people, the Flynns of The Tannery and my friends the Lovely Ladies at our weekend in Dungarvan.  I figured that chocolate was the perfect way to eat one of your five a day and although they're out of season, that my brownies would be perfect with raspberries.  So I used a punnet of frozen berries and they were beautiful.  Actually they were exquisite, if I'm being honest. I'd really recommend that you puree the thawed raspberries through a sieve to remove the pips because raspberry pips are a wee bit offputting and yes it's five minutes extra work, but it's a great upper arm workout!

These brownies keep well for 4-5 days in an airtight container although if your friends are anything like mine, they'll vanish in the blink of an eye, so make extra!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Spring Onion Tray Bread from Seasons by Donna Hay

Last week, a huge envelope arrived in the post with my name on it.  Sadly it wasn't stuffed full of cash, but it did contain the next best thing... a copy of Seasons by Australia's finest Donna Hay.  I already have a copy of her Fast Fresh Simple book which practically falls open by itself to my favourite recipes, so I was very excited to read this.  Seasons is the very best of the (almost impossible to find here) Donna Hay Magazine and it's a true coffee table book due to it's oversized pages and beautiful photographs to illustrate both the food and the seasons.  You'll need a large bookshelf to accommodate this epic tome, but it's worth it.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Ethan's Blue Birthday Cake

Today, the other man in my life is celebrating his birthday.  No, not The Hubs, or even Jamie Redknapp My Second Husband.  It's my handsome, gorgeous, aeroplane-obsessed nephew Ethan who is 9 today.  The day he was born was when my little brother stopped being the baby of the family and became a dad, a rather brilliant Dad too, I have to mention.  Ethan has always had me wrapped around his little finger - he was the littlest member of our wedding party, aged just 20 months in a grown up suit but with a soother firmly jammed in his mouth. He's on our wedding video making a break for freedom as Fr. Gerry was trying to marry us - cue me racing across the church to grab him because I knew he'd kick off if a stranger tried to stop him in his tracks.  We did eventually get married, once I had handed him back to his Dad...  He also went on the rampage at his little sister's christening, running around the altar while Fr. Gerry (that poor man) was in full flow and it took two of us to corral him and to try to stop him from blowing out all the candles in the church.