Friday, March 27, 2015

Chocolate and Orange Blossom Marble Cake



I recently watched the Comic Relief Great British Bake Off and I was left in stitches at the celebrities attempts at baking, some highly skilled for amateur bakers, others clearly need to stick to their day jobs, mentioning no names - Jonathon Ross. It provided great entertainment nonetheless. The baking of the marble cake, left me with a hankering for some marble cake myself. So I set about googling marble cake. I came across a very easy recipe for the marble cake on the BBC Food website; so I used that recipe with a tweak or two from myself.



I find the BBC Food website is a fantastic outlet for cooking/baking ideas; and is great bedtime reading on the mobile version in bed.

Here's how I made my marble cake. Just in time for a weekend treat!

Ingredients

  • 175g of soft butter
  • 175g of caster sugar
  • 3 free range eggs, beaten
  • 1 tsp of vanilla extract
  • 225g of self raising flour
  • 2 tbsp of milk
  • 1 tbsp of orange blossom
  • Zest of an orange
  • 2 tbsp of cocoa powder



Method
  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees and grease and line a loaf tin (or just use a silicone tin - they are all the rage now don't you know).
  2. Cream the butter and the sugar with an electric whisk, until pale and fluffy.
  3. Add the beaten eggs a little at a time whilst continuing to whisk. 
  4. Whisk in the vanilla extract.
  5. Sift in the flour and gently fold into the beaten egg, sugar, & butter mixture.
  6. Divide the batter into 2 equal parts.
  7. Sift the cocoa powder into one mixture and stir the orange blossom and orange zest into the second mixture.
  8. Add large spoons of each mixture into the loaf tin, alternating to give a marble effect. I used a skewer to swirl the mixture a little for a more marbled pattern.
  9. Bake in the centre of the oven for 50 to 60 minutes. Bake until a skewer comes out clean.
  10. Allow to cool completely in the tin before turning out.
  11. Enjoy with a big cup of tea or coffee.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Oat & Apricot Cookies - Wholesome Healthy & Homemade!



With the Easter holidays fast approaching, here's a quick recipe for wholesome homemade cookies that gets all the family involved. Perfect for kids bored in the afternoon if the weather is bad. And lets face it the weather usually bites in Ireland in April at some point.



I made these cookies with diced apricots but you can easily substitute the apricots with chocolate chips, or another dried fruit. I added a small trickle of melted chocolate to these for extra ommmphh; but when my nieces came to visit they decorated theirs with pink icing.



Ingredients

  • 225g rolled oats
  • 225g plain flour
  • 225g brown sugar
  • 225g of butter
  • 1 tsp of baking powder
  • 2 tbsp of golden syrup
  • 1 tbsp of vanilla extract
  • 120g of diced apricots
  • 1 tsp of orange juice




Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees and line two to three oven trays with baking paper.
  2. Melt the butter, sugar, and golden syrup in a saucepan. Once melted add the vanilla extract and orange juice.
  3. In a large bowl add the flour, oats, baking powder and apricots. Mix well to combine.
  4. Pour the melted ingredients into the dry  ingredients and stir extremely well to combine.
  5. Using an icecream scoop or a large serving spoon, scoop spoonfuls of cookie mixture on the trays, spacing 2cm apart as they spread quite significantly when baked.
  6. Baked in the oven for 15-20 minutes.
  7. Allow to cool on the trays for 10 minutes once fully cooked, before removing them and cooling them completely on a wire rack.
  8. Then either decorate with icing or melted chocolate if desired.
  9. These will keep very well in an airtight container for several days.






Friday, March 20, 2015

Banh Mi Style Burger



When anyone asks me where else in the world would I consider living, my answer is always immediately Vietnam. I ADORED Vietnam! Every inch of it, the people, the landscape, the culture, the food......!!!!!!!! I have pretty much seen a big chunk of the world in my backpacking days and Vietnam beats every country, no questions asked, especially when it comes to the food!! Spectacular is an understatement!!



We loved Vietnam so much that when we were reaching the maximum stay in the country of 30 days, we panicked and immediately when to a travel agents to pay a crazy amount of money for an extension to our visa to stay longer. Even one or two bad experiences during the 5-6 week stay in Vietnam wouldn't deter us (a brief mugging;  stranded in a train on side of a cliff during a typhoon for 3 days; extreme mosquito mauling - all of which was character building).



The food is sublime, the street food, the Pho, the Bia Hoi (fresh beer), and my ultimate favourite the spring rolls (both deep fried and fresh alike). One of the most popular street food in Vietnam is Banh Mi. This is basically a spicy marinated pork (think ginger, chilli, garlic, Lemongrass) lime, fresh herbs, vegetable pickle, and a punchy dipping sauce; all enveloped in crusty baguette the Vietnamese are now as famous as France for. These are for sale on most street corners in Vietnam from food hawkers. On our journeys on the road  with the Easy Riders (look them up) we saw a few stationed in long stretches of highways also. They always drew a crowd.



(Me and Jung, my Easy Rider, in Dalat, Vietnam, Oct 2007)







Here is a quick Friday Night Burger Night homage to the humble Banh Mi! The burst of freshness cannot be replicated in any other nations' burgers! You need to try it to see what I mean!



Ingredients

Burgers
  • 500g of Irish Quality Assured Pork Mince
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed
  • 1 tbsp of freshly grated ginger
  • 1 tbsp of chopped and deseeded red chili
  • 1 tbsp of chopped lemongrass
  • 1 egg
  • Zest of a lime
  • Juice of 1/4 of lime
  • 3 tbsp of chopped fresh coriander
  • 1 tsp of fish sauce
  • 1 tbsp of brown sugar
  • 1 grated onion
Carrot Pickle
  • 1 grated carrot
  • 1 tbsp of white vinegar
  • 1 tbsp of caster sugar

Chili Mayo

  • 2 tbsp of chili sauce
  • 5 tbsp of mayo



Homemade French Fries
  • 2 rooster potatoes, cut into thin chips
  • 1 tbsp of oil
  • 1 tbsp of Chinese 5 spice powder

To Serve

  • Burger Buns (I'm using Slimbos to keep the Carbs low)
  • Extra lime wedges
  • Extra fresh coriander and some fresh mint leaves.


Method
  1. Combine all the burger ingredients in a non metallic bowl and stir very well to ensure mixed through.
  2. Line a baking tray with parchment.
  3. Wet your hands and shape 5-6 burger patties into your hands and lay them on the tray.
  4. Put in the fridge to firm up for at least 30 minutes.
  5. To make the carrot pickle, simply combine the 3 ingredients in a bowl and set aside. 
  6. Likewise with the chili mayo, stir both ingredients together and set aside.
  7. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Add the potato chips, the oil,and 5-spice to a bowl. Stir thoroughly.
  8. Lay the chips out on a single layer in a baking sheet and bake in the oven for 25 - 30 minutes.
  9. Preheat a griddle pan and gently fry the burgers for 7 minutes a side. I usually finish them off in the oven for 3-4 minutes at the end. I also add the burger buns to toast in the oven at this stage too.
  10. So the burgers won't be too wet, I drain the carrot pickle of liquid by putting it in the middle of 2 sheets of kitchen paper and squeezing out the excess liquid over a sink.
  11. To plate up, spread some of the mayo on the burger bun, top with the burger, followed by the fresh herbs and carrot pickle. Finally top with the other burger bun spread generously with chili mayo. The only problem is trying to eat with dignity. NAPKINS OBLIGATORY!
  12. Serve with chips and extra lime wedges.
This is my ultimate burger and if you try it you will see why. It's the most flavorsome burger out there whilst staying relatively healthy in comparison to it's burger counterparts.



Tip: Wrap the leftover uncooked burgers in parchment paper and then place in a freezer bag. Will keep well in the freezer for 2 months


Sunday, February 22, 2015

Tomato, Anchovy & Garlic Spelt Spaghetti



I recently was looking through old holiday snaps, and found myself looking at our holiday to Sicily a few years ago. I was 4 months pregnant in Sicily, I spent 10 days there and I came home looking about 8 months pregnant (not joking). After Argentina and South East Asia, Sicily is definitely one of the best places I've ever visited from a foodie point of view. Everything, and I mean everything I ate was absolutely delicious. One of my favourite Sicilian dishes was Pasta Con Le Sarde. It's a pasta dish like nothing you would get in Italy, with some very strong distinctive flavours; sardines, fennel, saffron, and sultanas. I found myself ordering it for lunch nearly every second day. I forgot about pasta con le sarde until recently. I noticed a lonely looking tin of John West Anchovies in my cupboard. While I didn't have any fennel, or sardines in the house; I decided to make a gutsy pasta dish with my humble tin of anchovies.



Whilst doing the weekly shop last week I spotted a packet of spelt spaghetti in the pasta aisle, I have long heard of the health benefits of spelt vs wheat; but I have never really tried any spelt products. I have tried gluten free pasta, and found it revolting. I must say I was pleasantly surprised, the texture was as normal pasta and the taste was almost the same as wholegrain pasta, just perhaps a bit nuttier. I'm a true convert, I am now excited to go buy spelt flour and see how I can integrate it into my diet instead of plain and wholemeal flour.

Anyways, on with the recipe. This is a real store cupboard meal, something you can conjure up at the end of the week when the fridge is almost empty. Just a few vine tomatoes and a clove of garlic are required for freshness, and a lemon that will help make the sauce sing. All in all this is a tangy pasta dish with a distinctive bite to it. Now I need to bulk buy anchovy tins, so this meal is always just a mere 12 minutes away




Ingredients


  • 75g of spelt spaghetti (per person)
  • 3-4 vine ripe tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 6-7 black olives, pipped
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 1 tin of anchovies in olive oil
  • 1 tbsp of chopped flat leaf parsley
  • 1 tbsp of olive oil
  • Salt & pepper
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese


Method


  1. Put the water on hob and bring to the boil. Cook the pasta according to the packet instructions. 
  2. In a frying pan, heat the olive oil and fry the garlic for a couple of minutes.
  3. Finely chop the anchovies and add to the oil. Add the tomatoes also.
  4. Cook everything for a few minutes.
  5. Add a few spoons of pasta water and the lemon juice.
  6. Finally, half the olives and add to the sauce. 
  7. Season the sauce and add the herbs.
  8. Add the cooked pasta to the sauce and mix well to coat every strand of spaghetti.
  9. Finally, plate up and grate the Parmesan over the pasta with the preferred quantity.



Monday, February 16, 2015

Balsamic Blueberry Compote - The Perfect Breakfast Accompaniment




Our most popular request for breakfast in the Bed & Breakfast is our Pancakes! We traditionally serve the pancakes with a small bottle of maple syrup and either strawberries or blueberries. I thought as a new twist to keep thing fresh I would devise a new interesting topping for the pancakes! Thus I came up with this balsamic blueberry sauce. Its simple to make and any leftovers can be stored in the fridge to top on toast, as an accompaniment to a venison dish or even on vanilla ice cream. One of my other favorite uses is as a topping to my homemade granola.



You don't normally associate balsamic vinegar with sweet dishes, but it works so well with blueberries and indeed strawberries, they are a secret love match! The vinegar really brings out the 'blueberriness' of the the blueberries, if that makes sense. The sauce is perfectly balances with a hint of lemon juice and a drop of maple syrup for a healthy natural sweetness. Once you try this sauce, you will be trying to come up with excuses to make it again and again!

Ingredients

  • 250g of blueberries
  • 2 tbsp of balsamic syrup
  • 1 tbsp of maple syrup
  • Juice of 1 lemon


Method

  1. Put the blueberries into a saucepan, and add the syrups and the lemon juice. Bring to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes. 
  2. It's that simple!!

Apple Pancake Rings - The low Fat Pancake Alternative



I was making pancakes over the weekend on Valentine's morning for Alan and Aoife when I thought wouldn't it be fun to dip some fruit into the pancake batter and see how they would come out. Apple rings won hands down. They are actually a great low fat alternative to regular pancakes for tomorrow's pancake day.

I just made the batter as per normal and dipped the apples into the batter coating them well, and then frying them using low calorie cooking spray oil. I did notice that the 'softer' apple is better than the crunchier variety!! Here's the recipe:




Ingredients

  • 100g of plain flour
  • 300mls of milk
  • 1 free range egg
  • 1 tsp of sugar
  • 1 tsp of oil
  • Soft apples cut into thin rings and core removed (number of apples depends on how many rings you want, I generally get 4 rings from an apple, you may want to make regular pancakes for others in the house)


Method

  1. Make your batter the night before.
  2. On the day, heat a pan on medium and spray the pan with low calorie spray.
  3. Dip the rings into the batter and fry in the pan, cooking each side for 2 minutes.
  4. Serve warm immediately. 

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Healthy Homemade Granola - A Happy Accident



My flapjacks are famous amongst my family and friends Serena's Flapjacks; however as I always mention the wet ingredients binding all the healthy oats and seeds together is extremely fattening, butter, peanut butter, golden syrup, and brown sugar. Yesterday I tried to create a low fat version of these flapjacks using natural Canadian Maple Syrup and coconut oil. Unfortunately there wasn't enough of a binding factor to these two ingredients when mixed with the dry ingredients, leaving the end product too crumbly. A disaster when trying to cut into bars. But never one to waste food I bashed the whole tray up and put my newly baked granola into an air tight jar for future breakfasts.



I had my first helping of this granola this morning with some thick 0% Greek yogurt and my homemade blueberry balsamic compote. I must say it was the best breakfast I had all week, I didn't snack once until lunch time, and I am actually quite delighted that the flapjacks didn't end up working out. Back to the drawing table for those, however this low fat healthy homemade granola is definitely here to stay.



Ingredients

  • 300g of oats
  • 100g of desiccated coconut
  • 100g of sunflower seeds
  • 100g of pumpkin seeds
  • 20g of chia seeds
  • 150g of sultanas
  • 50g of plain flour
  • 100g of sesame seeds


Binding Ingredients

  • 1 cup of maple syrup
  • 1 cup of coconut oil




Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 160 degrees.
  2. Combine all the ingredients (except for the wet ingredients) in a large mixing bowl and mix well.
  3. Heat the maple syrup and the oil until combined.
  4. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir thoroughly ensuring everything is coated well with the syrup and oil mixture.
  5. Lay the granola mix on a baking sheet lined with baking paper, in a thin layer (use 2 trays if required)
  6. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, stirring frequently until the granola is nicely toasted. 
  7. Place the toasted granola in an airtight container. This will keep well for 2 weeks.
My serving suggestion is 0% greek yogurt and homemade blueberry balsamic syrup. Delicious!!!


The recipe for the granola I make in my Bed and Breakfast is Sika Lodge's Granola


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