Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Exciting Announcement: Sika Lodge Under New Ownership




I have really good news guys! Myself and my husband have taken a leap of faith and bought a house in Killarney, Co. Kerry and we will be renovating it and turning it into a Bed & Breakfast! Just got the keys today and we are moving in!!!YAY!! The excitement has reached fever pitch, with design plans and ideas for the upcoming summer season in Killarney.


With the economy being the way it is at the moment, some people think we are mad. They have argued that hotels are closing every week and have slashed their room  prices to stay afloat, so the average person  would stay in a serviced hotel rather that a B&B. Good point, valid point!! But we aim to offer something more unique than a faceless hotel, we are welcoming people into our home and going to give a warm Irish welcome for a unique holiday experience. Research has recently shown a sharp rise in people choosing to stay in B&B's over hotels.

Lakes of Killarney (source:www.killarneykerry.com)

Others say why Killarney? Isn’t every second house a B&B!?! Again good point!! Being a native of Killarney does help, so it’s great to be able to return to my home town. I’d be asking the question ‘why NOT Killarney’!!! Outside of Dublin City, Killarney is one of the biggest tourist towns in the country with breathtaking scenery and something for everyone! Killarney’s recent win of Tidy Towns has helped strengthen the towns’ ability to attract tourists. The town has a wonderful group of people working tirelessly to bring tourists to the town, with festivals both peak and off season.

Ross Castle, Killarney (source:www.killarneykerry.com)

My wonderful bosses have given me the time off to realise my dream, with 3 months leave for the summer. My husband has gotten a job in Killarney, it seems everything is working out, and now hopefully we can turn this house into a warm and welcoming home for ourselves and our future guests.

We are hoping to open in May 2012 (5 months, yikes)!! Not long away at all, so we will have a busy few months ahead of us. We hope to build a totally dreamy kitchen for moi, and perhaps a nice sun room for our guests, whilst renovating the rooms, bring them up to boutique style accommodation. Our focus is on supreme service and all going well, in the summer months our guests might have the chance to sample a Irish home cooked meal every Wednesday...... plenty of ideas guys, super excited, and I’m totally open to any ideas that any of you guys out there might have for me.

(source:www.killarneykerry.com)

Please feel free to tell me about the best breakfast you ever had, or should you have ideas for the breakfast menu your input will always be welcomed. Also please  tell me about the best Bed and Breakfast you stayed in and why it was so special for you. Its brainstorming time!!!

 (source: www.askfreud.org)
I’ll keep all my followers updated on the developments, ideas and renovations as they unfold. I’ll be blogging my breakfast menu planning and testing recipes. I aim to become a baker extraordinaire! Watch this space, it’s going to be a crazy few months.

 Gap of Dunloe, Killarney (Source www.kerry-ireland.com)

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Last Minute Chinese New Year Prawn Stir Fry


I visited China in 2006 as part of my world travels, with my now husband. We arrived to China on a train from Russia, and we had no idea of what to expect in China, from a cultural and food point of view. Having spent the previous 10 days expeiencing culture shock after culture shock, from Russia through to Mongolia, we figured we have adjusted to seeing new things on a daily basis!!

China was like no country we'd ever visited. As I said we arrived via train into Bejing from Ulanbataar in Mongolia. Crossing the border from Mongolia into China was really surreal. Our train came into the border crossing station in the middle of the night and the station was all lit up with Christmas Music playing on loud speakers!! (It was September). When all the paper work was completed, our train began its final journey towards Bejing, passing THE Great Wall!!! We thought 'what an introduction to China, this is going to be a great trip'!!


Out of all the countries we have visited, China is probably the strangest to us, but exciting to discover. The Temple of Heaven in Beijing was breathtaking, the wall was challenging to climb, the acrobatic show, mind boggling. The food was not what we expected. We were thinking about food from our local Chinese take aways at home. How wrong we were.

Our first meal in Beijing was a bit scary. Our guide brought us to off the beaten track traditional hot pot restaurant. This is were big pots of boiling stock on gas portable hobsare placed at in the centre of your table and the raw ingredients then selected by you, and cooked at the table by you, using only chopsticks. Thank goodness our guide selected an array of meats and vegetables for us. Looking at the English translation on the menu, we read all sorts of meats, dog and horse included, and literally every single part of the animal was on offer. Our guide assured us we were eating beef and pork!! But that saying that Chinese eat everything with legs on it, except a table, was beinging to ring truer and truer!

Peking Duck night was another highlight of our dining experience in China. Really authentic and really delicious and succulent. I will probably never taste another Peking Duck like it. In China there's no such thing as starters, everything is brought to the table as its cooked and rice is brought to the table towards the end of the meal, so it really is a different experience from ordering your prawn toast and wontons and then sweet and sour chicken with fried rice from your local take away.

I almost forgot about the Chinese New Year today. I had planned on doing a elaborate Chinese buffet meal for my family!!! But between this and that I totally forgot, so in a last minute dash, I whipped up a quick Chinese prawn with spring onion and chilli stir fry with rice noodles.

2012 Year of the Dragon (Source: friendfortheride.wordpress.com)
It's ready in less than 10 minutes, so for those of you who wanted to salute the Chinese New Year and don't really have the time, take a look at this last minute Chinese Prawns Stir Fry

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 16 king prawns, uncooked
  • 1/2 a red chilli, sliced
  • 4 spring onions, chopped finely
  • 1 thumb size piece of peeled chopped ginger
  • 1 garlic clove, finely diced
  • 3 tbp of light coconut milk
  • 100g of rice noodles


Method

  1. Put a saucepan of water on the boil and reduce to a simmer.
  2. Get a wok smoking hot.
  3. Add the noodles to the water and simmer for 2-3 minutes
  4. Add the chilli, ginger, and garlic to the wok and stir fry vigorously for 1 minute.
  5. Add the prawns and stir fry until pink, and add the spring onions.
  6. Drain the noddles and return to the pan and sitr in the coconut milk.
  7. To plate up, place the noddles in a shallow plate, and top with the stir fried prawns.



Saturday, January 21, 2012

Turkey Lemongrass Sticks


These are a fantastic and creative (low fat) way to use lemongrass as a kebab stick for party canapes. When the meat is  cooking the heat releases the natural oils and  fragrance of the lemongrass and penetrates the meat, making these sticks irresistible and flavorful. They are something different than using skewers and a great conversation starter when handing out at a drinks party.

If you are having a party, and want something more unique to serve to your guests then these easy to make sticks are the perfect solution.

Makes 8 sticks

Ingredients

  • 8 lemongrass sticks
  • 500g turkey mince
  • 2 minced cloves of garlic
  • 1 thumbsize piece of ginger, grated
  • 1 red chilli, deseeded and diced
  • 3 tbsp of chopped coriander
  • 1 tbsp of ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp of ground coriander
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 1 onion, peeled and diced

Quick Asian Dipping Sauce

  • 1/2 garlic clove minced
  • 5 tbsp of soy sauce
  • juice of half a lime
  • 1 spring onion, finely chopped.
  • 1 tsp of red chilli flakes
  • 1 tbsp of rice vinegar.
Method

  1. Add all the ingredients except the lemongrass into a mixing bowl and mix really well to combine all the flavors.
  2. Make 8 large balls out of the mixture and wrap each ball around each lemongrass stick.
  3. Put in the fridge for a min of 30 minutes to firm up.
  4. Cook under a preheated grill for 10 minutes turning the sticks occasionally so that they are cooked through.
  5. Serve with an quick Asian dipping sauce.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Squash, Lentil & Spinach Thai Red Curry: A Dieters Curry



Who doesn’t love a red curry, the aromatics are simply mesmerising. This red curry recipe is different though. It’s a very low fat vegetarian curry, and it’s extremely healthy and simply to make. The red lentils really bulk up the curry, so the need for rice is eliminated, helping to keep the carbs low.


Make a large batch of it and you have the following days lunch covered then as well. Store the leftover in a air tight container and microwave on full power for approximately 3 minutes.


Ingredients

·         Butternut squash, peeled and cubed
·         1 onion, diced
·         1 garlic clove, grated
·         1 ginger piece, grated
·         1 ½ tsp of Thai red curry paste
·         1 tin of chopped tomatoes
·         1 tbsp of fish sauce
·         1 tsp of sugar
·         70g red lentils
·         3 tbsp chopped coriander
·         1 tbsp of extra light cream cheese
·         ½ bag of washed spinach leaves
·         Low cal spray
·         Lime wedges, to serve

Method

1.       Heat the hob to medium and add the garlic, onions, ginger and low cal spray.
2.       Fry for a few minutes and add the squash cubes and lentils and Thai paste, frying for a few minutes.
3.       Add the tomatoes and sugar, bring to the boil and simmer for 15-20 minutes. If the mixture starts to look dry at any point add some water from a kettle.
4.       When the squash is soft and the lentils cooked turn off the heat, fold in the cream cheese and  add the fish sauce and spinach and mix well.
5.       Sprinkle with the chopped coriander and the wedges of limes for that citrus kick to help balance the flavours.


Serving Suggestion: Low Fat Curry Chips


Monday, January 16, 2012

Grilled Mackerel, with Potato & Chorizo Mash and Chickpea Salsa




This is a really tasty and elegant dinner meal that’s easy on the purse strings, perfect for the midweek dinner guest. The only expensive item is the chorizo sausage. Mackerel is a plentiful fish that’s really cheap and really healthy. Its an oily fish, with omega 3 essential fatty acids,  It’s quiet strong in flavour, so bold flavours such as the chorizo can really stand up to it.

Serves 2

Ingredients

·         2 Mackerel fillets
·         2 small rooster potatoes
·         3cm piece of chorizo sausage, cubed
·         20 mls of skimmed milk
·         Salt and white pepper
·         Low cal oil spray

Chickpea Salsa

·         2 tbsp of chickpeas
·         1 tbsp of flat leaf parsley, chopped
·         1 cm of chorizo sausage, cubed
·         ¼ clove of garlic, chopped finely
·         2 tsp red wine vinegar

Method

1.       For easy, fuss free and low fat mash potato, preheat the oven to 200 degrees and then bake 2 rooster potatoes for 50-60 minutes.
2.       Fry off the cubes of chorizo.
3.       When the potatoes are cooked, cut them in half and scoop out the fluffy interior with a spoon and transfer to a heat proof bowl. Pour in the skimmed milk and the fried chorizo and mash well. Once mashed you can create a smoother texture by mixing it together, introducing some air with a spatula. Add more milk if needed.
4.       Put the bowl over a saucepan of gently simmering water on lowest heat on the hob. Cover the bowl with tin foil. The mash will keep warm and well in the bowl for up to an hour, until ready for use.
5.       To make the salsa, in the same chorizo pan, fry the remaining pieces of chorizo, add the garlic. Pour in the vinegar and bring to a rapid boil, then reduce to a simmer.
6.       Add the chickpeas to warm through and scatter with half the parsley.
7.       Preheat grill to medium and grill the mackerel skin side up for 5 minutes are turn over for 2 more minutes.
8.       To plate up, plate the chorizo mash in the centre of the plate, place the grilled fillets over the top and scatter with the remaining parskley.
9.       Pour the chickpea salsa around the outer edges of the dish and on top of the fillets if you like.



Friday, January 13, 2012

Simple Sweet Chilli Turkey Stir Fry




Turkey breast meat, whilst extremely low in fat and a great source of lean protein, has the tendency to be extremely bland. Ever in the quest for different low fat recipes, this sweet chilli stir fry is very tasty with the sweet chilli, garlic, and ginger aiding the turkey breast meat in the taste department. This stir fry is a doddle to make and is ready is ten minutes flat, making it a winner in the mid week supper category on all counts. Low Fat? Check! Quick? Check! Tasty? Darn right!!!

Tip: Cut the veggies to same size to ensure quick and even cooking of everything and start with the veggies that take the longest to cook. Have everything prepared before hand, and the stir fry will be ready to plate up in less than 10 minutes.


Serves 2

Ingredients

·         2 Turkey breasts, sliced into thin strips
·         1 carrot, peeled into strips with veggie peeler
·         ½ courgette, peeling into strips with veggie peeler
·         ½ red pepper, cut into strips
·         ½ yellow pepper, cut into strips
·         5-6 mangtouts, cut into strips
·         4-5 mushrooms, sliced
·         1 garlic clove, peeled and diced
·         1 2cm piece of ginger, peeled and diced
·         ¼ red chilli, deseeded and diced
·         100g egg noodles
·         2 tbsp of sweet chilli sauce
·         1 tbsp of soy sauce
·         Low cal oil spray

Method

1.       Bring pan of salted water to the boil.
2.       Add the chilli, garlic and ginger to a wok and then turn the heat on and spray the low cal oil spray
3.       Add the turkey meat strips and stir fry for approx 6 minutes. If it starts to stick to wok, just add a tbsp of water.
4.       Put the noodles in the pan of salted water, reduce to a simmer and cook for 4 minutes before draining.
5.       Add the vegetables, first the mushrooms, and stir fry for 30 seconds or so, then the peppers, mangtout and finally the strips of carrot and courgette.
6.       Take off the heat and add the soy sauce and sweet chilli sauce and stir.
7.       To plate up, divide the noodles between two bowls and add the sweet chilli turkey and vegetable mixture on top.


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Low Fat Mushroom & Thyme Soup



Mushroom & thyme soup was our soup of choice on our wedding menu as it truly is one of my favourite soups. However I normally reserve it for a treat, as when you think of mushroom soup you can’t help but think of all the cream used in the cooking of it that makes it so delicious and creamy. So for that reason I rarely order it as its sure to be laden with cream and butter.

Sure enough when I researched classic mushroom soup recipes, they nearly all started with sautéing mushrooms in butter and flour, followed by lashings of cream, and some even double cream!!!!


I thought to myself, I like this soup way too much to give it up, so I set about creating my own low fat version of it. And so here it is. Bye bye butter!! Bye bye cream!!!.

 I’ve found that the trick to a good and tasty mushroom soup, is the quality of the mushrooms and the variety used. Chestnut mushrooms and portabello work really well, and give a great nutty flavour. The only thing you really have to worry about in this recipe is the potato and thats not even all that bad.

What’s great about this recipe is that you are in control. You decide or whether to add milk, or cream, or neither!!

Serves 4

Ingredients

·         200g of white mushrooms, sliced
·         160g of chopped all sorted mushrooms
·         1 garlic clove, grated
·         2 tbsp of thyme
·         2 shallots, roughly sliced
·         1 rooster potato, peeled and cubed
·         1 leek, finely sliced
·         700ml vegetable stock
·         100ml skimmed milk
·         Salt and pepper
·         Low cal oil spray

Method

1.       In saucepan, spray some low cal oil and sauté the shallots, leek and garlic for 5 minutes.
2.       Add the mushrooms and potatoes and thyme and continue to sauté.
3.       Add the stock and bring to boil, then simmer for 10 minutes, or until potato is soft.
4.       Pour in the milk and whizz with a hand blender.
5.       Add salt and pepper and give it a good final stir.


Sunday, January 8, 2012

Low Fat Homemade Chicken Tikka Balti


Curries get a bad rep, especially Indian curries which have long be viewed as meals full of  fattening ingredients such as cream, yogurt, oil and ghee (buckets of butter). But take all those ingredients out of the equation and you have meals that are loaded with immune boosting, healing spices which have umpteen health benefits.

If like myself you have come down with a post holiday flu, there is nothing better than a chicken curry loaded with garlic, ginger, chilli and spices to clear the head and help recovery along the way.

Ever the health conscious, I daren't dream of ordering out for a curry from our local Indian Takeaway. I should keep my New Years Resolution for a week at least!! I'm also for the most part not a fan of sauces from a jar, as they tend to be very high in salt and fat content. When you are making the curry yourself, you are in control of the fat, salt and heat of the dish.

I'd never made an Indian style curry before from scratch, siding with Thai and Indonesian previously. But after making this curry and realising how low fat it is and how tasty it can be, I've certainly changed my mind.

Having researched balti sauce recipes a little, I came to realise that every single recipe is different. Just as well as I just used what I had in my store cupboard and I must say it worked a treat. I baked the chicken marinated in a tikka spice blend and yogurt and lemon, and then added to the balti sauce. The flavour was unbelievable and the chicken was extremely succulent. You could even just have chickn tikka without the balti for a lower fat version.


So I urge you to put that phone down, step away from the take-away menu and take the time to try this low fat curry, you won't be disappointed.  Serve this without all the normal accompaniments, such as naan bread and riata and your waist line will thank me too.

Serves 4

Ingredients

Baked Chicken Tikka

  • 4 Chicken breasts, cubed
  • 2 tbsp of tikka spice blend
  • 1 125g carton of fat free natural yogurt
  • Juice of a lemon


Balti Paste

  • 1 tsp of cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp of coriander seeds
  • 2 peeled garlic cloves
  • 1 peeled thumb size piece of ginger
  • 1/2 green chilli, deseeded and diced
  • 1 tomato, chopped
  • 1 tsp of tomato paste
  • 1/2 onion
  • 1 tsp of cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp of sea salt
  • 1 tsp of garam masala
  • 2 tbsp of chopped fresh coriander


Balti Sauce

  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 6-7 mushrooms
  • 1 carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp of caster sugar
  • 1 cup of frozen peas
  • 3 tomatoes, quartered
  • 1/2 can of reduced fat coconut milk
  • 40g of ground almonds
  • 1/2 can chopped tomatoes
  • chopped fresh coriander, to garnish
To serve - basmalti rice

Method

  1. Combine the tikka spice blend and the yogurt and the lemon juice and marinate the chicken (preferably overnight, but minimum an hour)
  2. Preheat oven to 190 degrees 
  3. Put the chicken on foil lined tray and bake in the oven for 25 minutes, turning once half way through.
  4. To make the curry paste, first toast the cumin and coriander seeds until fragrant in a dry pan, then grind them together with a pestle and mortar.
  5. In a food processor, add the remaining paste ingredients along with the ground cumin and coriander and blitz until smooth.
  6. Get a wok on a moderate heat and fry off the curry paste. Add the mushrooms, carrot and onion and saute for a couple of minutes.
  7. Pour in half a can of light coconut milk and half a can of chopped tomatoes laong with the quarters of fresh tomatoes.
  8. Sprinkle in the caster sugar and ground almonds and stir.
  9. Reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
  10. Add the frozen peas and the chicken tikka and stir through the sauce. Add all the ingredients to mingle in the heat for 3-4 minutes.
  11. Scatter the curry with fresh coriander and serve with rice.

This curry is by no means a classic recipe, its simply a low fat tasty curry I made with what I had available to me. As I said above there are endless recipes for Tikka Balti, and this just happens to be one I love myself, thats low fat, fresh and, if I say so myself....well tasty!!!!


Saturday, January 7, 2012

Cumin Roasted Butternut Squash with Spicy Green Chickpea Salad


I love the fact that butternut squash is sooo tasty, yet extremely low in fat and a very healthy food. It can be boiled, roasted, baked, chipped, mashed and so on.... but my favourite way of eating it is when its roasted in the oven sprinkled with herbs or spices. It can easily be the main star on the plate.

This roast butternut squash salad is made by roasting the squash in large wedges in oven scattered with cumin seeds and just light sprayed with low cal oil spray. The heat in the oven sweetens and intensifies the flavours of the squash and the cumin seeds permeates the squash beautifully.

The accompaniment for these fragrant wedges is a spicy green chickpea salad. You really can't get much healthier than that, not to mentioned...tastier!! For the crunch element I've roasted a few pumkin seeds in the oven for the last 2 minutes. Pumpkin seeds are unbelievably good for you, which is an added bonus because they are just so darn tasty.

This salad is the perfect girlie lunch time salad with friends, or reduce the portion and it stands as an elegant dinner party starter. Also you could increase the chilli chickpea salad as a main course for a vegetarian friend.

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 1/2 a butternut squash, halved down the middle
  • 1 tbsp of cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp of sea salt
  • 3 sprays of low cal spray
  • 1 tin of chickpeas, rinsed
  • 1 spring onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp of chopped green chilli
  • 2 tbsp of diced cucumber
  • 1 tbsp of rocket leaves
  • 1 tbsp of roasted pumpkin seeds
  • 1 tsp of olive oil, white wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar and lemon juice whisked together.
  • Balsamic syrup to decorate


Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees
  2. Cut the halved squash into wedges, either 4-5 pieces
  3. Lay the wedges on baking paper lined tray
  4. Sprinkle with cumin seeds and sea salt and spray with low cal spray
  5. Roast for 20-25 minutes
  6. Meanwhile, combine the chickpeas,spring onion, cucumber, chilli, rocket leaves in a bowl.
  7. Pour over the whisked dressing and let to infuse.
  8. Put the pumpkin seeds in the oven for last 2 minutes of cooking.
  9. Remove the tray and allow 2-3 wedges on a plate per person.
  10. Add the spicy salad to the plate, scatter with the toasted seeds and decorate with some balsamic syrup.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Fat Free Carrot & Orange Soup




Carrot & Orange soup not only has a bursting refreshing flavour, but it’s also packed with Vitamin C, vital for those of us who suffer from colds and flus this time of the year..... L .....Cue the violins !!!!!


When we get ill, of course Chicken soup is a fantastic wellness & recovery soup. However to change things up a bit and to give the body a serious Vitamin C kick up the bum, why not try this delicious carrot & orange soup. The soup is seriously healthy, nutritious and full of anti-oxidants and you don’t have to be ill to reap the benefits of this immune system building soup.

Serves 4-5

Ingredients

·         3 -4 carrots, peeled
·         1 parsnip, peeled
·         1 leek, chopped
·         Zest of orange
·         Juice of orange
·         2 celery stalks, chopped
·         1 onion, chopped
·         1 garlic clove
·         1 ½  pint of vegetable stock
·         Chopped coriander/parsley to taste
·         Salt & pepper



Method

·         Add the carrot, leek, celery, parsnip, onion and peeled garlic clove to a food processor and blend until finely chopped. (alternatively chop by hand as finely as possible)
·         Heat a pan to high, spray with low cal spray and add the vegetables.
·         Sauté for a few minutes, then add the orange zest and juice
·         Sauté for a further few minutes, season and add the stock.
·         Bring to boil and simmer for ten minutes.
·         Blend with a hand held blender.





Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Colcannon Cakes with Warm Smoked Salmon




With leftover potatoes and sprouts, why not try something different.......like these colcannon cakes with smoked salmon. This is a deliciously healthy way to use up winter leftovers.
I made colcannon myself yesterday as I needed a comfort food fix after my first day back at work from the holidays, I made too much so I stored the remaining colcannon in the fridge for this evenings supper.

 Just to try something new,  I thought why not try to make some little potato style cakes with them. Remember, the colcannon I made has only potato, sprouts, 2 tbsp of skimmed milk and leeks. Virtually no fat in that!!!

So, to stick with the low fat theme ( this is January after all) use a low cal  oil spray, and a non stick pan, to fry up these babies! I’m serving these on a bed rocket and some beautiful smoked salmon (also a survivor of the Holiday period).

By grilling the smoked salmon you are getting a completely different texture, but it gives it a delicate touch. Add a drop or two of lemon juice and viola, you have a low fat ,nutritious supper.......or perhaps it’s an idea for an elegant dinner party starter.








Serves 2

Ingredients

·         Low cal oil spray
·         Rocket leaves, dressed with lemon juice, and seasoning
·         1-2 spring onions
·         2 portions of smoked salmon
·         Lemon juice from half a lemon
·         Salt & pepper







Method

1.       Heat a non stick pan to medium
2.       Mould the colcannon into small circular balls and flatten them a little into patties
3.       Preheat grill to medium
4.       Spray low cal spray on pan and heat the patties, for 6 minutes a side.
5.       Meanwhile, place the smoked salmon on foil and squeeze with lemon juice, and grill for 4 minutes.
6.       Toss rocket, lemon juice, salt, pepper and chopped spring onion together in a bowl.
7.       To serve, lay the salad on the plate, top with 2 patties per person, top with the salmon and finish with a wedge of lemon.



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