Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Italian Lamb Hot Pot - My Lambsagna



I have been fortunate to be married to not only a wonderful, handsome strapping man from Roscommon. I have the added fortune that this strapping man comes from a farming background; sheep farming no less. This means that from time to time my very generous father-in-law bestows on us a slaughtered lamb; cut into various cuts; shoulders, leg, cutlets, rack, chops etc; fresh off the farm, grass fed only. Now you can't get much better than that!!!



I adore lamb, and my diners do love my lamb tagines, my slow roasts, and slow stews. However recently I decided to give the humble lamb chop a make over. I decided to cook my chops in layers in my trusty Le Crusset and give this some punchy Italian flavours, using beautiful juicy cherry tomatoes, high quality olive oil, fantastic Parmesan cheese and thinly cut potatoes. The layers are similar to how one would layer up a lasanga and the slices of potatoes are similar to those used in a tradition hot pot. Hence my Lambsanga.



 Rosemary is a classic herb combo with lamb; but so is mint. Mint is usually used as an accompaniment with roast lamb in the form of a sauce. But here I decided to add fresh mint to the layers of meat.



It's a rather simple rustic dish but the flavours are outstanding. It did of course help that the lamb was of a superior quality; so buy your lamb cutlets in the butchers not  from your supermarket pre packaged.



Ingredients

  • 9 good quality lamb cutlets (bone intact)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, diced finely
  • 1 punnet of cherry tomatoes, halved.
  • 1 wedge of parmesan cheese (for grating) -do not attempt to buy pre-grated plastic parmesan
  • 3-4 tbsp of the best olive oil you can buy (I'm using oil bought in a vineyard in Frascati this summer)
  • 5-6 leaves of fresh mint, finely sliced
  • 8-9 potatoes, peeled and sliced very finely.
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper




Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees
  2. In a large oven proof casserole dish, pour in some oil.
  3. Cover the base of the dish with a layer of potatoes, season with salt and pepper, scatter a 1/3 of the tomatoes over the potatoes, followed by a 1/3 of the mint and finally 1/3 of the garlic.
  4. Lay 2 -3 lamb cutlets on top of the potatoes and grate over a layer of parmesan cheese.
  5. Repeat step 3 again with the potato layer.
  6. Repeat step 4 again. 
  7. Continue the layering until all your ingredients are used up, seasoning as you go. This usually gives 3 layers but it depends on the width of you dish.
  8. Make sure the final layer is potatoes, season well and grate some parmesan over them
  9. Cover the dish with its lid and baked in the oven for 45 minutes. Remove the lid for the final 5-10 minutes to get the poatoes brown and crisp.
  10. To serve simply with a shallow ladle divide the potatoes and the lamb cutlets between bowls and perhaps scatter with a few remaining mint slivers if you have some leftover.



Such a comfort dish, doesn't style well and it isn't easy to make it photograph pretty. But that's not the aim here. The aim here is to display an immensely comforting dish in all its glory.

  Be sure to try this the next wintery cold night outside.





Thursday, September 11, 2014

Quick Apple & Cranberry Cake



If there is one recipe I am doing to death and constantly chopping and changing the ingredients is my Apple Blueberry and Almond Cake Apple Blueberry & Almond Cake. This recipe is so versatile, you can add any berries you wish, or dried fruits or even chocolate chips. The basic cake mix is my 'go-to' recipe for a very quick and light fluffy cake.



Last week all my garden berries were ripe for picking. I had a tonne of cranberries. In fact more cranberries than than any other types of berries put together. I made a cranberry relish Quick n'Lazy Cranberry Raisin & Walnut Relish, a strawberry and cranberry balsamic sauce for the pancakes and french toast for the B&B; and today I made orange, cranberry and walnut muffins similar to Festive Cranberry, Pecan and Orange Muffins.



Over the weekend I used my basic sponge recipe to make a cranberry and apple cake. Simple to make! The cranberries are extremely tart and sharp and worked quiet well in this sweet recipe.


Ingredients

  • 225g self raising flour
  • 165g caster sugar
  • 125ml milk
  • 125g soft butter
  • 1 tsp of vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 100g of cranberries (fresh or frozen)
  • 1 apple, sliced thinly
  • Demerara sugar for sprinkling
Method
  1. Preheat oven to 160 degrees and line a spring form tin or use a silicone cake tin
  2. In a food mixer, add all the cake mix ingredients and mix on low until combined
  3. Scrape it into the cake tin and level it out evenly
  4. Top with the apple slices evenly and scatter over the cranberries
  5. Finally sprinkle with the demerara sugar and bake in the oven for 45 mins.
  6. Check that the cake is fully baked with a skewer before removing from the oven (Insert skewer to centre of cake if it comes out clean it's done, if not bake for a further 5 mins and try again)
  7. Leave to cool on a wire rack before gobbling the whole thing up.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Plum & Almond Crumble Cake



Needless to say when I arrived home from town one morning last week and found a bag of freshly picked plums hanging from my door I was more than chuffed. My good friend Lisa, kindly donated a whole bunch of plums that grows in her sister Gillian's neighbour's back yard. So Thank you Lisa. Thank you Gillian and of course thank you Gillian's neighbour!!!



I have never cooked with plums before, not even a tart tatin. I did want to cook/bake something with them for my guests in the Bed & Breakfast so I set about googling breakfast ideas with plums. 



I stumbled across the BBC Good Food website and found this gem of a recipe http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/2952/plum-and-almond-crumble-slice 



It turned out so well, I will do it regularly now, especially with raspberries or whatever else I have to hand. Its quiet a versatile recipe. I was so proud of the result I gave most of it away for guests, friends and family to try, which was a regret in the end as I only had one piece myself. 



It is a three stage baking method so not a quickie cake; which I am used to. But the effort is definately worth it. I'll be making it again tomorrow that's for sure!

Ingredients
  • 250g pack butter (this must be very cold)
  • 225g caster sugar
  • 300g ground almonds
  • 140g plain flour, plus 25g
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • approx 6 plums, stoned and cut into sixths
  • 50g flaked almonds


Method

  1. Heat oven to 180 degrees. 
  2. Butter and line a 20 x 30cm baking tin with baking paper. 
  3. Put the butter, sugar and ground almonds into a food processor, then pulse until the mixture resembles very rough breadcrumbs. 
  4. Spoon out half the mix into a bowl and set aside.
  5. Add 140g flour into the mix in the processor and whizz until it just forms a dough. Tip into the tin and press down with the back of a spoon. 
  6. Bake for 15-20 mins until golden. Leave to cool for 10 mins.
  7. To make the filling, put the remaining butter and the sugar and almond mix back into the processor, saving a few tbsp for the topping. 
  8. Add the eggs, the 25g flour, cinnamon and baking powder and whizz to a soft batter. Spread over the base.
  9. Top with the plum pieces and a little extra caster sugar and cinnamon. 
  10. Bake for 20 mins, then sprinkle with the remaining crumble mix and flaked almonds. 
  11. Cook for another 20 mins or until golden. Leave to cool in the tin before slicing.




Saturday, September 6, 2014

Veggie Butternut Squash & Lentil Curry



I need to get myself back on diet track! It's fair to say I've kind of let myself go and relaxed the strict diet of earlier this summer. With weddings and all over, the diet was relaxed a little, and then a lot. I found each week was a slippier slope.

To try and combat this, I tried a new take on a light curry this week in an effort to kick start my healthy eating plan again. I found with this dish I didnt need rice or noodles or potatoes; the addition of the lentils was great as it really bulked up the meal.


This is a meat free curry. We should all try to eat more veggies. I say that to my husband and he'll look the other way, averting his ears. Even if he doesn't like vegetables, it never stops me cooking meat free dishes for myself. In fact usually I make it for two and keep the second portion for the following day's lunch. Well that's what I tell myself; however going for seconds in my house is a given and leftovers for the following day are slim pickings. In fact its the only thing that's slim these days!!

Here is my guilt free healthy curry!!

Serves 2-3 ( or just Serena)

Ingredients

  • 1/2 a butternut squash, peeled and cubed
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1 garlic clove, grated
  • 1 lemongrass bulb, bruised and sliced finely
  • 1 peeled thumb size piece of ginger
  • 1 red pepper, sliced
  • 5-6 mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 courgette, sliced into half moons
  • 6 tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 tsp of curry powder
  • 1 red chilli, deseeded
  • 1 tbsp of low fat natural yogurt
  • Juice of a lime
  • 100g of red lentils
  • 1 tsp of rapeseed oil
  • Chopped coriander to garnish



Method

  1. Put a wok/saute pan on a medium heat and heat up the oil.
  2. Fry the onion, ginger, garlic, lemongrass, and chilli in the oil and the curry powder.
  3. Stir fry the squash, red pepper, mushrooms, courgette for a couple of minutes.
  4. Add the tomatoes and a tbsp of water. Stir and allow the tomatoes to cook down.
  5. Cook the lentils according the instructions; usually you rinse them in water and then bring to the boil in a saucepan and simmer for 20 minutes, before draining them.
  6. Let the tomatoes cook for 10-15 minutes and add the yogurt, lentils, lime juice.
  7. Sprinkle with the chopped coriander and serve.



Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Shepards Pie Gratin - My Back to School Special



I can hardly believe that yet another summer is over and the kids are back to school already. I feel cheated out of a sun shining heatwave this year, but we usually get a final blast of sun when the kids go back; so basically I was looking forward to the schools reopening.

Growing up Shepard pie was a weekly staple in our house, indeed probably in every house in Ireland. I don't think that has changed since I was going to school. In fact I make Shepard pie regularly now that my little girl has started to eat the same dinners as ourselves
.
I blogged my favourite recipe for Shepard pie a couple of years back and this is still my 'Go-to' recipe for Shepard's pie and the same recipe I used to make the gratin.
 Here's the link to that blog post, but the recipe is almost identical below, except for the potatoes part.  My Childhood Shepards Pie.




As I make this recipe regularly, I just wanted to give an old classic a new little twist. I decided to slice the pototoes thinly and use the meat sauce filling in the form of a gratin for a change. It might be just something different to give the kids when they come home some evening from one of their first days back at school next week.





Serves 4

Ingredients


  • ·         1 lb lamb mince
  • ·         1 onion, diced
  • ·         10 mushrooms, sliced
  • ·         3 carrots, parboiled
  • ·         6 large potatoes, sliced very thinly
  • ·         200ml of beef stock cube
  • ·         5 splashes of Worchester sauce
  • ·         1 tbsp of tomato puree
  • ·         1 tbsp of tomato ketchup
  • ·         20g of real Irish butter
  • ·         Salt and white pepper




Method

  1. Put a pan of potatoes in cold salted water and boil for 4 - 5 minutes, then drain and cool.
  2. Put the peeled, diced carrots in another pan and boil for 5 minutes, then drain and set aside.
  3.  In a frying pan, fry off the mince then add the diced onion and fry for 3 minutes
  4. Add the tomato puree, ketchup and most of the stock into the pan and simmer.
  5. Add the mushrooms and carrots and allow to simmer for 10 minutes, adding more stock if necessary
  6. Add frozen peas to the mince mixture and let them thaw for a minute or so.
  7. Preheat oven to 200 degrees.
  8. Grease a baking dish, and line with a layer of sliced potatoes.
  9. Then cover with some of the meat sauce and add another layer of sliced potatoes. Season the potato layers as you go. Layer up with the rest of the meat sauce and cover with a final layer of potatoes.
  10.  Season and grate some butter over the potatoes. 
  11. At this point I would top with grated cheese, but both my husband and daughter have a huge dislike for cheese so I left it out of this recipe.
  12. Finally, bake in the oven for 25 minutes; until the top is golden and crisp.




The only way in my opinion is to serve this with baked beans and brown sauce. It's one of the most comforting meals I know. 

Tip: Use steak mince or turkey mince in place of lamb mince if preferred. Also I love potato skins so I left my skins on (the most nutritious part of the potato don't you know!!!)




Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Courgette & Walnut Bread


I love baking bread, but with little time on my hands I usually go for quick prepping bread, nothing usually that requires, yeast, proving and rising. Hence the bread I mostly make is soda bread, carrot bread, banana bread, and now more often Courgette Bread; zucchini, for our friends across the pond. 



I have been testing this recipe for some time now, trying to find the best way of baking the bread. I have tried a super fast food processor version and also a version by hand. I must say the version by hand is probably nicer than the food processor method, as the walnuts and and the shreds of courgette still give a bite. 



I was very fortunate last night that my brother Keith dropped by an amazing whopper of a yellow courgette; big enough for two loaves of bread. Keith was the one in the family blessed with green fingers. He grows potatoes out of old boots, chili plants, anything he touches in the garden grows. I on the other hand have a great knack of killing even store bought basil plants. So I was very grateful to receive this home grown treat. 

So here is my tried and tested recipe for Courgette & Walnut Bread.



Ingredients
  • 500g of grated courgette (zucchini)
  • 1 lb of plain flour
  • 1 1/2 tbsp baking powder
  • 350g of caster sugar
  • 2/3 cup of vegetable oil
  • 130g chopped walnuts
  • 1 tbsp of cinnamon
  • 4 eggs



Method
  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees and line 2 1lb loaf tins
  2. Get 2 mixing bowls. In the first bowl add the grated courgette, eggs and oil.
  3. Add all the remaining dry ingredients to the second bowl, and mix well.
  4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix well.
  5. Divide the bread mixture between the two loaf tins.
  6. Bake in the oven for 65 minutes. Turn out of a wire rack and cool.
  7. This bread taste even better the following day and keeps very well for up to 4 days as the grated courgette keeps the bread superbly moist.



Saturday, July 26, 2014

Smoked Salmon Paté & Melba Toasts



I've been totally absent of late with the blog, for a number of reasons to be honest. For one, this is busy season and every year my posts dwindle from June to September; not intentionally, but with running the Bed and Breakfast  and looking after the cutest one year old ever :) , time runs away from me every day.

With my sister getting married also there was the bridesmaid diet to consider and my brief fling with the Paleo Diet. Hard core paleo is just not for me. I love my food way too much!!! I'm more reading from the paleo diet a la carte style. I  do try to follow it Monday to Friday, so dinners have been boring; hence the lack of imaginative dinners on the blog.

I did a dinner party for some French guest recently and as a starter I made this Smoked Salmon Pate. Its super simple and can be made in advance and lasts for a week or so in the fridge. I paired it with homemade melba toasts and a super quick cucumber pickle. I have to say this is one of the easiest starters I have ever made, yet also the tastiest. It's super humid at the moment and one of my guests commented that the starter was very refreshing after being stuck in a bus touring all day. I had some leftover so it served as lunch for us for a day or so after, which is a nice change from soup, salads, sandwiches.



Ingredients

Salmon Paté

  • 200g of smoked salmon (Organic Irish if possible)
  • 50g of full fat cream cheese
  • 50g of creme fraiche
  • 2 tbsp of chopped dill
  • Pepper
  • Zest and juice of a lemon


Quick Cucumber Pickle

  • 1 cucumber, sliced as thinly as possible
  • 1 tbsp of caster sugar
  • 1 tsp of salt
  • 1 tbsp of white wine vinegar


Melba Toast

  • 2 slices of thick toast bread
Method
  1. Pulse the smoked salmon in a food processor, add the creme fraiche and the cream cheese and pulse. Add the pepper, dill, zest and juice of a lemon and pulse again. It's done, its that simple. Store in a Kilner Jar, until ready to use. For a fancy finish for a starter, I served my paté in shot glasses, garnished with a little dill. 
  2. To make the pickle, simply mix all the ingredients together and allow to mingle for 30 minutes. Again this keeps really well in a clip top jar and goes well in sandwiches or an accompaniment to salmon darnes for dinner.
  3. Use thick sliced bread to make the melba toasts. Toast the bread in a toaster and then with a serrated bread knife cut off the crusts. Then carefully cut the bread through the middle to give you 2 slices. Now cut each slice in half diagonally to give you two triangles per half. Grill soft side up and the bread with toast on this side and curl up. The toasts can be stored in an airtight container for a few hours until required. These are great also for hummus and salsa.



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