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


  • ·         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


  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.

  • 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

  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.


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
  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.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Poached Eggs With Peperonata

In continuing my breakfast recipes, which are predominately Paleo friendly; here's a really quick, easy, and delicious way to start the day; Poached Eggs With Peperonata. I must admit though, I didn't make the peperonata fresh this morning. It's leftovers from my roast pork dinner last night. Who'd have thought I'd have found a breakfast use from some leftover roast dinner.

Peperonata is a really tasty side dish, not to mention extremely healthy and low fat. Pairing it with my daily two poached eggs, really lifts my breakfast plate.


  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp of white wine vinegar
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 yellow pepper
  • 1 white onion
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 4-5 basil leaves
  • 3 tomatoes
  • 1 tsp of olive oil
  • 1 tsp of tomato paste
  • Black pepper


  1. Slice the peppers into strips length ways
  2. Slice the onions in thin half moon shapes
  3. Crush the garlic clove and dice the tomatoes
  4. Put the olive oil in a frying pan and saute the onion and garlic and tomato paste
  5. Then add the peppers and the tomatoes
  6. Allow to stew for 8-10 minutes
  7. Season with black pepper and scatter the basil leaves,shredded, over the dish
  8. Put a saucepan of boiling water on the boil and add the vinegar and turn on a medium heat.
  9. When the water is at a rolling boil, crack an egg on a saucer and slide the egg into the water. Repeat with second egg
  10. Allow to simmer for four and a half minutes before removing.
  11. Place the peperonata on a serving plate and top with the two poached eggs.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Breakfast Crostini - Roasted Balsamic Strawberries on Honeyed Ricotta

Stuck in a breakfast rut?! Fancy something sublimely different for a weekend brunch? Then tried out these simple to assemble breakfast crostinis. The balsamic strawberry combination is like a match made in heaven. The balsamic vinegar lends a hand to bring out the beautiful sweetness of the strawberries. That then coupled with the tangy creamy ricotta cheese......well its simply dreamy! You could actually make these crostinis for a drinks party also and they would go down a treat. 

This recipe is not paleo friendly by any means, but cheating a couple of times a week is allowed. But here's an idea, if you don't want to eat the bread, why not use thick cucumber slices cut on the diagonal as the base instead. I only made this yesterday for the first time and already I know I  will be making very often for my B&B guests.

  • 1 day old french baguette cut into slices, on the diagonal
  • 250g of hulled strawberries, sliced
  • 2 tbsp of balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp of white sugar
  • 6-7 basil leaves, shredded
  • 1 carton of ricotta cheese
  • 2tbsp of honey, and extra to drizzle

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees and place the baguette slices on a baking sheet in a single layer.
  2. Toast for 5-6 minutes, keeping eye they don't burn.
  3. Mix the strawberries with the sugar and vinegar and place in a oven dish and bake for 10 minutes in the oven. Then remove and allow to cool completely. You can prepare both the bread and strawberries a day in advance if you cool completely and store separately in air tight containers.
  4. Add the honey to the cheese and whip up with a fork.
  5. Spread a generous amount of ricotta over the crostinis. Add the shredded basil to the strawberry mixture and top the ricotta with the balsamic strawberries. Drizzle with a little more honey if desired.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Indian Sweet Potato Cubes with Garlic Curry Mayo - An Indian Take on a Spanish Classic

These potato cubes are gorgeous and can be eaten as a main meal or would be a fabulous side dish. They are a variation of my Quick Patatas Bravas recipe from Spain. By using sweet potato we are making this dish super healthy, and by boiling and baking the potatoes, we are continuing with our health trend. It's only when I add mayonnaise into the mix that the calorie content increases, so for the health concious, you can omit the curry mayo, however it's every bit as important in this dish I think. Use low fat mayonnaise if you want to be good.


  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled and cubed
  • 1 tbsp of ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp of oil, a flavorless oil
  • Ground black pepper

Garlic Curry Mayonnaise

  • 1 tsp of mild curry powder
  • 5-7 tbsp of mayonnaise
  • Juice of 1/4 of a lemon
  • Ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp of garlic paste
  • 1/4 tsp of coriander paste

  1. Add the cubed potatoes to a saucepan of cold water and put on a medium heat. Bring the water to the boil and cook for 4 minutes.
  2. Drain the potatoes and allow the steam to escape for a few minutes. This helps the potatoes dry out a bit.
  3. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees.
  4. Add the potatoes to a bowl and pour in the olive oil and sprinkle over the cumin. Stir to ensure all the cubes are coated. 
  5. Lay the cubes in a single layer on a baking tray lined with baking paper.
  6. Grind over the black pepper and bake in the oven for 20 minutes until the cubes are crispy on the outside and fluffy in the middle.
  7. Meanwhile to make my garlic curry mayonnaise, simply combine the mayonnaise, garlic puree, curry powder and pepper. Mix well. Add the juice of the lemon and stir to combine completely.
  8. To Serve, scattered the potatoes in a platter and place the mayonnaise in a little bowl, alternatively you could pour the mayo over the sweet potato, bravas style.

Quick & Simple Healthier Patatas Bravas

There's this restaurant here in Killarney called La Rambla. It's my favorite place in town and everytime we go there, we always order tonnes of their patatas bravas. They are little bites of heaven, every mouthful is sublime. I'm not sure how they make them and what the ingredients to their bravas sauce is, but I have tried to recreate their patatas bravas at home, using a very low fat method of cooking them and a cheats bravas sauce, so simple, even the most kitchen-shy should be able to whip it up.


  • 2 potatoes,  peeled and cubed
  • 1 tbsp of olive oil
  • 1 tbsp of smoked paprika
  • Ground black pepper

Quick Bravas Sauce

  • 1 lemon cut into wedges
  • Ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp of smoked paprika
  • 5-7 tbsp of organic low fat mayonnaise
  • 1 garlic clove, minced

  1. Add the cubed pototoes to a saucepan of cold water and put on a medium heat. Bring the water to the boil and cook for 4 minutes.
  2. Drain the potatoes and allow the steam to escape for a few minutes. This helps the potatoes dry out a bit.
  3. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees.
  4. Add the potatoes to a bowl and pour in the olive oil and sprinkle over the paprika. Stir to ensure all the cubes are coated. 
  5. Lay the cubes in a single layer on a baking tray lined with baking paper.
  6. Grind over the black pepper and bake in the oven for 20 minutes until the cubes are crispy on the outside and fluffy in the middle.
  7. Meanwhile to make my cheats bravas sauce, simply combine the mayonnaise, minced garlic, paprika and pepper. Mix well. Add the juice of a 1-2 lemon wedges and stir to combine completely.
  8. To serve, place the potatoes in a platter and pour over the bravas sauce and throw a couple of cocktail stick into the potatoes.
This is my favorite potato dish and I have experimented with it recently to come up with Thai Potato cubes and sweet chili mayo and most recently Indian Sweet Potato cubes and curry mayo . I'm a sucker for the ole potato, and shure, why wouldn't I be, I'm Irish afterall!

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