Friday, December 12, 2014

Chocolate & Pear Crumble Pies - Not Just Another Mince Pie



I love a mince pie as much as the next person. But wouldn't it be nice to have a mince pie with a twist for a change. I was trying to think of alternative mince pie recipes without compromising too much on the concept, and I got to thinking of good flavour combinations.




I knew I wanted chocolate chips to make the final cut, so what goes well with chocolate? Pears!!! Chocolate and Pear go together like Simon and Garfunkel!And what also goes well with chocolate from the mincemeat family? Well dried cranberries are a good call, and there is a heavy chocolate-type flavour from dates also. Very moorish. So there you have it: chocolate chips, dried cranberries, pears, and dates make up the 'dry' mince meat ingredients. Now for the quick fix 'wet' ingredients, Some marmalade and some cream liqueur will do nicely . Oh don't forget the mixed spice.....It is Christmas after all!



I like to make my mince pies look really rustic and homemade! So instead of putting a lid on the pies, I have made a super fast crumble to top the pies with. If a crumble doesn't tickle your fancy, grab a star cookie cutter with the same diameter as the circle ring you use to cut out the pastry discs and you have really pretty star studded pies instead. Either way, they are anything but another boring mince pie.



Ingredients


  • 80g of chocolate chips
  • 2 pears, diced
  • 35g of dried cranberries
  • 3 tbsp of orange marmalade
  • 1 tbsp of bailey liqueur 
  • 125g chopped dates
  • 1 tsp of mixed spice
  • 1 ready rolled sheet of all butter shortcrust pastry


Crumble


  • 25g of cold butter
  • 25g of brown sugar
  • 25g of ground almonds
  • 25g of flaked almonds



Method


  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees
  2. First make the 'mincemeat' filling. Add the following to a large bowl and stir well to combine : chocolate chips, diced pears, dried cranberries, chopped dates, mixed spice, baileys, and the marmalade.
  3. Then make the crumble by rubbing the butter into the sugar and then add the ground and flaked almonds.
  4. Roll out the sheet of pastry and cut out circles with a round cookie cutter. (Measure the circle cutter to make sure its a small bit bigger that the muffin tin holes.
  5. Oil the muffin holes, and place one disc of pastry in each muffin hole.
  6. Spoon in the mincemeat mixture and top with the crumble mixture. You can tray freeze them at this stage and just cook them from frozen for an extra five minutes.
  7. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes.
  8. Remove from the oven and place muffin tin on a wire rack. The liquid will be bubbling so be careful, they are very hot. Run a knife or spatula around the rim of the mince to release from the tin while the liquid is still hot. If it cools too much it will stick to the walls and be more difficult to remove without them breaking.
  9. After 2-3 minutes, remove from the tin and cool on a wire rack. 
  10. When ready to serve, sprinkle with icing sugar and serve with cream, custard, or icecream. 




Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Date, Seed & Quinoa Flapjacks - The Healthiest Flapjack Ever






When running the B&B I had a constant supply of homemade flapjacks in my fridge. I used to make them for my guests, I'd eat them on the go myself, they would be gifts for busy/pregnant friends; and basically they were given to anyone who came through the door. I was always making at least twice weekly.




I am constantly getting requests for the recipe, Apricot Flapjack Squares, as everyone loves them and they seem so healthy. However being ever conscious of the indulgent wet ingredients I set about researching how I can make them healthier. Usually people would be disappointed to learn that the wet ingredients used to bind the delicious flapjacks was a considerable amount of sugar, butter, peanut butter and maple syrup. The recipe makes a big batch so you're not eating a whole amount of the wet ingredients in one square, but they are slightly addictive and one can never stop at just the one square. Trust me; I have both tried and failed.

So, with Christmas party season upon us almost, I will be on the go constantly and I wanted to make a super healthy version of my flapjacks to give me the energy I need this time of year, without piling on the pounds and bulging out of my party frocks.



Here is probably the healthiest ever!!!! There is no sugar, butter, peanut butter or maple syrup. Instead the flapjacks are bound together using melted coconut oil and warm honey. Both of which have extremely beneficial nutritional properties. The flapjacks have the usual oats, nuts, seeds and dried fruit; but I've also added super foods Quinoa and Chia Seeds. Fantastic ingredients high in protein and iron. They make these 'protein bars' a fantastic way to refuel after a high energy work out, as protein is required immediately after a strenuous workout to help repair muscles.



The method is almost the same as the method for my regular naughty but nice Apricot Flapjack Squares, with a few tweaks.



Ingredients


  • 1 cup of quinoa (cook this with 2 cups of water for 15 minutes and drain excess liquid)
  • 2 cups of rolled oats
  • 3 tsp of Chia seeds
  • 1 cup of raw almonds
  • 1 cup of dates
  • 1/3 cup dessicated coconut
  • 1/3 cup pumpkin seeds
  • 1/3 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/3 cup sesame seeds
  • 1 cup of melted coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup of warm honey





Method

  1. In a food processor blend up the almonds and dates.
  2. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees and line a baking tray with parchment paper.
  3. Into a big bowl, add the porridge, all the seeds, the blended dates and almonds, and the coconut.
  4. Mix together the oil and honey until perfectly combined.
  5. Pour the the oil/honey mixture into the bowl of dry ingredients and mix quickly to ensure every grain is coated.
  6. Turn out the wet mixture into the baking dish and level out flat and evenly.
  7. Bake in the oven for 25 minutes then allow to cool on a wire rack.
  8. When fully cooled, place in the fridge to firm up for 3 hours at least. They are more crumbly than normal flapjack, but this is normal for non butter ones.
  9. Cut into small squares when firm and keep in an airtight container in the fridge to keep them both fresh and intact.



Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Traditional Whiskey Glazed Ham



It's beginning to look alot like Christmas!!!! This year I couldn't be more excited about Christmas. I think it's because we have a little girl now so the magic of Christmas has returned to our lives and it makes this time of year extra special.

In addition to Santa visiting us this year, I am cooking Christmas dinner for the first time ever!!!!!!!!! Yes, I usually don't lift a finger on Christmas day other than to help with the dishes after.  This year we are having our first ever Christmas Day in our home in Sika Lodge and my husbands parents are going to join us all the way from Roscommon. So with them putting the effort in driving all the way down I want everything to be absolutely perfect. Hence, I am trialing all my Christmas day recipes before the big day to make sure I get everything right and to help me make any tweaks that need tweaking.


I have been devouring Christmas recipe books the last week or so, trying to come up with the ultimate dinner. I am hoping to get ahead and reduce the stress by using some handy make ahead tips. More of that to follow in later posts.




Here we are talking ham! The Christmas ham is my absolute favorite, preferring it to the turkey. The cooking of my Christmas ham begins two days prior to Christmas day. It doesn't take a mountain of actual physical work; but trust me, this extra attention to detail will be worth it when you come to taste it Christmas day and it will be awesome in sandwiches and salads and pasta dishes for days to come.



Ingredients


  • 4 kg of Gammon, bone intact
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 sticks of celery
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 6 peppercorns
  • 2 onions, halved
  • 1 bunch of parsley
  • 1 bunch of thyme
  • 4-5 cloves
  • 1 clementine
  • 2 cans of cider (I use Bulmers - known as Magners outside of Ireland)




The Glaze

  • 200ml of Irish Whiskey
  • 200ml of maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp of thick cut marmalade
  • 1 tbsp of allspice
  • 2 tbsp of redcurrant jelly
  • Cloves to stud the ham


Method


  1. Get a large  lidded casserole on the hob, add all the vegetables, herbs and cider. Put the ham into the dish making sure its big enough to cover when cooked.
  2. Add water to the dish to ensure the liquid comes up to almost cover the ham.
  3. Bring to the boil and bring back to a simmer. Cook the ham for 20 minutes per 500g and then an extra 25 minutes.
  4. When the time is up, simply cover and leave it in the liquid overnight.
  5. The following day when you are ready to glaze the ham, preheat the oven to 180 degrees. (Allow 2 hours for this part of the cooking process)
  6. Take the ham out of the liquid and discard the liquid. Place the ham in a roasting tray. I use disposable foil trays for this as the burnt-in glaze is impossible clean off an oven dish after. Actually I will be using foil trays for most of my Christmas dinner, eliminating the worse part of the clean up.
  7. With a sharp knife, cut the majority of the fat off the ham, leaving a small white layer. Score the fat, being careful not to cut right through to the meat. Make diagonal cuts the opposite way of the intial scoring to create a criss cross diamond effect. Place 1 clove into each diamond corner.
  8. To make the glaze, simply add all the glaze ingredients to a saucepan and cook until reduced a little. This should take ten minutes.
  9. Pour one third of the glaze over the ham and place in the oven. Then 15 minutes later, pour over one third more. And finally 15 minutes later, pour the final glaze over the ham. The ham should start to have taken on a lovely bronze colour. Continue to cook for a further 15 minutes and do a final glazing when removing from oven.When its a lovely golden colour and sticky the meat is cooked.
  10. Place on a serving platter and allow to rest for at least 30 minutes.


Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Boozy Lemoncello Jelly Shots




With party season fast approaching, here's a recipe I came across in Lorraine Pascale's Fast Fresh Simple cookbook. These are amazing (and addictive <hic>) jelly shots. They bring me back to my college days of vodka jello shots; however these have a sophicated playfulness about them. I brought them as a gift to a dinner party I was recently attending and they went down a storm. So much so that I decided to share the recipe with everyone. 




Lorraine Pascale is my new girl cook crush. She makes everything seem effortless and simple; while putting an wonderful twist on classics. Such great twists that time and again I'm saying to myself "Class!! Why didn't I think of that!!! " .If you are in look of a new muse and haven't read her books yet, then start dropping some hints for Christmas.

Now on with the recipe

Ingredients


  • 7-8  6.5 x 11.5cm leaves of gelatin
  • 7 medium lemons or 5 big lemons
  • 135 pack of lemon jelly
  • 350 ml of water
  • 150ml of lemoncello
  • 1 tbsp of caster sugar




Method


  1. Put the kettle on to boil. 
  2. Then put the gelatin leaves into a small, wide bowl, cover them with cold water and set aside to soften.
  3. Cut the lemons in half lengthways and, using a spoon, scoop out the juicy flesh. It takes a bit of wiggling and getting squirted by the juice, but you will get there!
  4. Set each lemon shell half, cut side up, on a large tray or put each one in the hole of a 12-hole muffin tin. If you have 14 shells, then nestle the remaining two on top in between the others and they should sit still.
  5. Next, break up the lemon jelly a bit and put it into a heatproof measuring jug, then pour over enough hot water and limoncello to reach 500ml in the jug.
  6. Pick up the gelatin leaves – they will feel all soft. 
  7. Gently squeeze out as much liquid as you can from them, discard the bowl of water and then put the soft gelatin leaves into the jelly and hot water. 
  8. Stir constantly until it dissolves.
  9.  Then stir in the sugar until dissolved.
  10. Use the jelly to fill each lemon shell right up to the very top so it is almost overflowing. 
  11. Let them cool down for about 5 minutes then whack them in the freezer for 30 minutes to firm up. They will set I the fridge also, but allow double the time.
  12. Once they are firm, remove them from the fridge or freezer. 
  13. Then, using a sharp, non-serrated knife, cut them in half, straight down, lengthways, and there you have it!
These are a wonderful way to finish a dinner party or a completely awesome addition to a party table, but make sure to tell your guests they are alcoholic.

You can leave out the lemoncello and just use water for child friendly versions for birthday parties.

Recipe taken from Lorraine Pascale "Fast, Fresh & Simple" 




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.




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