Saturday, March 31, 2012

BBQ Whole Chicken

With the unexpected hot March weather, we jumped at the opportunity to whip out the BBQ for a lazy Sunday evening. BBQs for our family always is an insane meat fest with steaks, sausages, burgers and ribs. Nothing wrong with that at all, in fact some would say the 'meat sweats' are an obligatory part of the BBQ ritual. I wanted to do something a little different for this BBQ, something less intense than steaks and burgers. So I decided to cook chicken, not just chicken wings, or drumsticks, but a whole chicken!!! Its way more economically friendly to buy a whole chicken that to buy prepacked chicken pieces. It's also tastier to cook a chicken whole. 

The Prep
I never jointed a chicken before, I just rested on my laurels and it kinda paid off. What I did is I got a good pair of sharp kitchen scissors,and thats all I used. I prepared my marinades, Paprika & Honey and Garlicy Lemon, & Thyme (recipes below). These are my two favourite marinades for a roast chicken and they will work perfectly for BBQ Chicken.

Once the marinades were prepped, I set about flattening out my chicken so he can rest comfortably on the BBQ grill. What I did was I placed the chicken in front of me, breast side up and with the scissors I cut down the centre of the two breasts. Once I had cut the whole length of the chicken, I turned the chicken over and leaned down on it with my own weight (the poor chicken !!) and snapped some bones to get him nice and flat.
One little trick I did with the chicken before I cut him down the middle is I gently slide my fingers under the skin, to separate the skin from the meat. This, for some reason, really crisps up the skin.

I seasoned the chicken well with salt and pepper, skin side and under side. I then massaged the chicken with the marinades, coating every inch of the chicken. Be care with the paprika marinade, that stains EVERYTHING!!! Leave the chickens to marinade for 1-2 hours and they are good to go!

The Marinades

Paprika & Honey

  • 2 tbsp of smoked paprika
  • Leaves from 2 sprigs of thyme
  • 3 tbsp of runny honey
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 3 tbsp of olive oil
  • 1 grated garlic clove

Garlicy Lemon & Thyme
  • 2 grated garlic cloves
  • Zest of 2 lemons
  • Juice of 2 lemons
  • leaves from 5 sprigs of thyme
  • 1 tbsp of olive oil

The Method
  1. Mix the marinade ingredients together in two separate jugs
  2. Prepare the chicken (as above) and place plates.
  3. Rub the marinades into the chickens and allow to rest for 1-2 hours
  4. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees
  5. Place the chickens on foil trays, skin side up and roast in the oven for 35 minutes.
  6. Get the BBQ nice and hot.
  7. Remove the chicken from the oven and place on the BBQ grill skin side up.
  8. Cook on the BBQ for 10-15 minutes.
  9. Remove from the BBQ tray onto the serving tray, cover with tin foil and rest for min. 15 minutes.
  10. Serve to the table whole.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Chicken Bruschetta Turnovers for Easy Food Magazine

I was very excited when I received an email from Easy Food Magazine asking me to be a taster for them for the May edition of the Magazine. I’m an avid reader of cooking/food magazines and I especially like to buy the Easy Food Magazine as its Irish and also it’s got easy everyday recipes that are simple to make and usually requiring ingredients that are readily available in your local supermarket.

I thought testing the recipe would be a bit of craic and a little bit of weekend fun and I used my unassuming family as my guinea pigs. Caroline in Easy Food asked me to just write a couple of lines about myself and what I thought of the recipe. They provided the photos for the magazine themselves, so the photos of the recipe in this post are from my own kitchen/camera. If you are a reader of Easy Food magazine, like testing new recipes and get a kick outta seeing yourself in print then I suggest simply email to let them know your interested.

The recipe I was asked to test was Chicken Bruschetta Turnovers. These are like little pastry pies using leftover chicken. I love any recipe that involves leftovers as I hate throwing food out and food wastage so these turnovers are right up my street. They aren’t on my Monday – Friday dietery plan, but are on the Weekend Treat list. I am a big anti-pasti fan, so I thought I might make a few substitutions of my own to give the turnovers a stronger Italian flavour, i.e. substituting tomatoes for sundried tomatoes and including some pesto also. The original recipe called for 500g of leftover chicken; however I struggled to fit all that chicken into the turnovers, so I was delighted when Easy Food took on board my suggestion to half the quantity for the published version of the recipe. I used Just-Rol ready-made Puff pastry. In hindsight I think I would have rolled the pastry out to stretch it as far as it could get, and with a ruler cut out a perfect square to make the turnovers easier to seal, my bad!!......... Oh well, definitely next time…
In my suggestion to Easy Food I also noted that you could make mini versions of these turnovers for canapés for a drinks party, and they used this in the ‘Tip’ part of the recipe.

The recipe below is how I made them myself, so it varies a little from the Easy Food recipe. (It’s easy to see why now I’ll never make a precise Baker, if I can’t stick to simple recipes!!! I’m always throwing in a bit of this and a dash of that. This for me is half the fun!!!!!)However the principal is the same, just a few little personalised twists in my version, fuelled by the control freak in me and my passion for pesto!!!

Chicken Bruschetta Turnovers
Serves 8


·         250g leftover chicken, pulled or cut into bite-sized pieces
·         3 sundried tomatoes, chopped and blotched with kitchen paper to soak up excess oil
·         ½ onion, chopped
·         2 tbsp of basil pesto
·         A small handful of fresh basil, chopped
·         1 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
·         Salt and black pepper
·         2 sheets frozen puff pastry, thawed
·         1 egg, beaten with 1 tbsp of water
·         50g Parmesan, grated
·         50g Mozzarella, shredded


1        Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/gas mark 6 and line two baking trays with parchment paper.
2        Combine the sundried tomatoes, onion, basil and oil in a bowl and season with salt and pepper.
3        Unfold the puff pastry, roll out to expand the pastry by a further 10-20% and using a ruler make a perfect square out of each sheet. This will involve cutting off a strip of pastry on the side.
4        Cut each sheet into four even squares.
5        Brush the outer edge of each square with the egg mixture.

6        Add a tsp of pesto to the centre of each square.
7        Divide the chicken evenly and place a portion in the center of each pastry square, sitting on the pesto.
8        Top with one tablespoon each of the tomato mixture, Parmesan and mozzarella.
9        Fold the pastry over diagonally, making a triangle, and press the edges well to seal. Brush the top of each pastry with the egg mixture and cook for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown and bubbling at the edges.

Everyone loved this recipe, even my cheese-hating husband. It has winner written all over it. For a simple bistro-style lunch with a green salad, or mini versions for a drinks party, or even a cold picnic companion. There is just no excuse not to try this!!!!

To make this vegetarian, may I suggest replacing the chicken with chopped marinated grilled Mediterranean veggies, e.g. Aubergines, courgettes and peppers, and use vegetarian friendly pesto and cheese.

If you like this recipe and have any interest in seeing more of these type of recipes, along with foodie cooking tips and news, log onto and check out the monthly magazine, May edition, on the shelves now!!!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Tomato & Mushoom Mhung Dhal

This low fat, high protein meal is Indian inspired. The Mhung Dhal is a type of lentil used for curries in India. I do not know how to use it authentically, but here’s a low fat tasty method of cooking it, Serena-Style, high on spicy flavour and low on calories. It truly is a life saver when caught in the ‘same food cycle’ when trying to diet mid-week. You just simply get sick of the same ole dinners day-in, day-out.

This Dhal will literally put the spice back into the mid-week diet. I’ve made double to have for lunch the following day. In India they normally have their dhal with rice, but I’m going to try to keep those proteins high by having this Dhal with some grilled spicy chicken breast.  I know that some goes against a lot of the Indian vegetarian cooking rules, but I do not claim to be cooking an authentic indian meal, simply using inspiration from the healthier parts of the Indian cuisine to make low fat dieting more interesting for me. I’ve sourced the mhung dhal from the health food store, but this recipe can easily be used using yellow spilt peas or red lentils.

·         100g of mhung dhal lentils or yellow/red lentils
·         1 tbsp of grapeseed oil
·         1 clove of garlic, chopped
·         1 inch piece of ginger, peeled and chopped
·         1 onion, sliced
·         1 red chilli, deseeded and chopped
·         1 tsp of ground cumin
·         1 tsp of ground coriander
·         1 tsp of turmeric
·         Salt and pepper
·         300ml chicken/vegetable stock
·         8 mushrooms, sliced
·         1 red pepper, sliced
·         4 tomatoes, quartered
·         3 tbsp of chopped coriander


1.       Get a saucepan of stock on the boil and add the lentils and cook according to packet instructions (average 15 minutes)
2.       In a frying pan, add the oil, garlic, ginger, chilli and onion.
3.       Add the spices and fry for a few minutes.
4.       Add the mushrooms, pepper and tomatoes and fry well, then put to the side until the lentils are cooked.
5.       Drain the lentils well, add them to the frying pan and put back on the heat.
6.       Mix in well and add salt and pepper.
7.       Use a potato masher to crush a bit of the lentils, and then stir in the chopped herbs.
8.       Serve with basmati rice, or (a grilled chicken breast like me!).

(Saag Aloo [Potato & spinach] is another Indian meal in need of a low fat makeover, that would be an ideal accompaniement to the above Dhal!)

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Low Fat Thai Squash & Sweet Potato Soup

Making this soup, is one of the nicest things to cook to awaken the senses. The smell of the Thai flavours mingling together in the pot, brings me straight back to the streets of Bangkok. I only wish that I could share smells with you as well as visual and written parts of this blog as the recipe is a truly fantastic example of how smells of food evoke such wonderful feeling of wellness.The sweetness of the squash and sweet potato contrast so well with the smell of shallots, ginger, lemongrass and lime leaves. It all just works!!!
I went for a Thai massage yesterday with my sister in law in Killarney (me???, spoilt??, yea!) and for 1-2 hours was transported to Thailand. The incense and the ginger tea, the welcoming gentleness of the Thai therapists, just made me want to cook something to bring us back to those five weeks we backpacked around Thailand years ago.

This soup, although has some coconut milk, it is reduced fat milk and I only use 200mls. Simply just to give the hint of coconut. The rest of the ingredients for the soup are very healthy, in fact the natural medicinal healing properties of all the ingredients on their own, make this an incredible wellness soup, especially if you have been suffering from a recent flu or cold. According to your own liking, you may wish for a heat that's more intense, if so add a full red chilli. Be warned though, the heat intensifies over night, so if you are planning to have this soup over a few days, it very well might blow your head off on day three. Another addition to this soup, perhaps for a dinner party, might be to add some raw prawns and gently heat in the soup until cooked.

Serves 6-8 bowls of soup. Can be kept for up to 3 days refrigerated.


  • 1/2 a butternut squash, peeled and cubed
  • 1 regular sweet potato, peeled and cubed
  • 1 garlic clove, diced
  • 1/2 red chilli, deseeded and diced
  • 1 inch piece of ginger, peeled and diced
  • 4 kaffir lime leaves
  • 1 lemongrass stick
  • 2 shallots
  • 700ml of chicken stock
  • 200ml of reduced fat coconut milk
  • 2 tsp of fish sauce
  • Juice from one lime
  • 4 tbsp of fresh coriander
  • 1 tbsp of vegetable oil.


  1. Fry the shallot, ginger, chilli, garlic in the pan with the oil.
  2. Add the squash, potato, lime leaves, lemon grass and stir for a few minutes.
  3. Add the chicken stock and fish sauce and bring to the boil.
  4. Simmer for 15 minutes.
  5. Blitz the soup smooth with a hand held blender
  6. Add the coconut milk.
  7. Stir through with the fresh coriander and lime juice.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Irish Lamb Stew

My Traditional Irish Stew certainly wouldn’t win any beauty competitions, but it’s a delicious flavourful one pot wonder, so I make it time and time again.

When we were young, you were guaranteed Irish Stew for dinner at least once a week (along with bacon & cabbage), though with the introduction of foreign cuisines into our diets we have these traditional Irish meals less frequently now.

There are umpteen recipes out there for Irish stew, but this is a simple stew, leaving the meat on the bone for extra flavour.  Irish stew traditionally is made from lamb or mutton, boiled with potatoes, carrots, celery, and onions. Though these days you can make any stew with these ingredients or similar and call it Irish Stew. A particular popular Irish Stew is Beef & Guinness, though I think this is more of a casserole. 

Everyone’s interpretation is different and usually it stems from ‘how mammy used to make it’, and I sure as hell amn’t going to knock any! I actually like tasting different variations of Irish Stews, I think the difference might stem from region to region, though that’s just an idle theory, that I have no basis for funnily enough, just a ‘thinking out loud’ ramble!!!! Anyways…..moving on to ‘how my mammy made it’…

In honour of St Patrick’s Day this year, I thought I’d revisit my mom’s recipe for a lamb stew and share it round. (The secret ingredient here is the Worchestshire sauce).

Serves 2

·         4 Lamb chops on the bone
·         4 peeled rooster potatoes, quartered
·         3 carrots, peeled and chopped into thirds
·         2 onions, quartered
·         2 bay leaves
·         4 sprigs of thyme
·         500ml of chicken stock
·         7-8 mushrooms, halved
·         3 tbsp of Worcestershire sauce
·         Salt and pepper

1.       Preheat oven to 180 degrees.
2.       Get an oven proof casserole dish on a medium heat.
3.       Brown the chops on either side.
4.       Removed from the pan and add the onions, carrots, potatoes, bay leaves, thyme, and mushrooms. Sauté for 3-4 minutes.
5.       Return the chops to the pan and cover with the chicken stock and add salt and pepper. Add the Worcestershire sauce.
6.       Bring to the boil, cover with a lid and place in the oven for 1 ½ - 2 hours. (alternatively, turn the heat on the hob down to the lowest setting and simmer for 1 hour).
7.       Once completely cooled, the stew will keep for up to 2 days when stored correctly, i.e in fridge

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Best Irish Coffee

With Paddy’s Day rolling closer this weekend, what better way to raise your glasses and say ‘Sláinte!!’ than with an indulgent Irish Coffee!!!

This is a tried and tested plain and simple recipe for the best way to prepare an Irish Coffee!

Wherever you are in the world and whatever nationality you are, I wish you a Lá Fhéile Pádraig Sona Daoibh.
I hope you will enjoy the day with family and friends and perhaps raise a glass of the black stuff!!!

Serves 2

·         Irish Whiskey, 2 Irish size shots
·         Cream, 100mls softly whipped
·         Brown Sugar, 2 tbsp
·         Freshly brewed strong coffee (I used Nespresso)

1.       Pour the whiskey into a heat proof glass (preheated) and stir in the sugar.
2.       Top with the coffee and stir well.
3.       With the back of a spoon, pour in the cream, and sprinkle with chocolate powder.
4.       Drink with a smile on your face and heat in your belly!!!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Nicola's St Patrick's Day Muffins

My good friend and baker extraordinaire, Nicola, is back by popular demand here with another occasional baking recipe. Here is a great little recipe for muffins, which can be baked any time, it doesn't have to be St. Patrick's Day......its just a good excuse!!!! 

For the occasion, Nicola has made bright green buttercream frosting which adds a real fun element to the muffins, not to mention delicious, its nearly a shame to tuck in they look so good! Arra- be-garra!!!

Saint Patrick’s Day - Lá Fhéile Pádraig is a cultural and religious holiday celebrated on the 17th of March in Ireland. When the 17th March comes round every year we all get very proud of our Irish heritage, especially those of us who are living abroad and away from family. Family dinners and get-togethers will be very special for me this year as I will visit family at home. I have decided to make a few muffins for the occasion with a built in ‘green’ theme.

St Patrick’s Day Muffins

SERVES 12Muffin Ingredients
310g (lloz) plain flour
4 level teaspoons baking powder
55g (2oz) caster sugar
28g (1 oz) dessicated coconut (optional)
2 eggs
375ml (13 fl oz) milk (full fat)
160g (5 and 3/4oz) melted butter
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

Buttercream Icing
140g/5oz unsalted butter. (at room tempeture)
280g/10oz icing sugar
1-2 tbsp Milk
Few drops Green food colouring
Muffins - Method
1. Preheat oven to 200 C / Gas 6. Lightly grease a 12-hole muffin tin.
2. Put paper cups into a muffin tray.
3. Get two bowls, one large one medium.
4. Put the flour baking powder, Caster Sugar and dessicoted coconut (if using) into the large bowl.
5. In another bowl, mix the eggs, milk, melted butter and vanilla extract.
6. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and pour the wet ingredients into it. Mix with a wooden spoon everything together the mixture
should be lumpy, don't be tempted to over-mix it’s meant to be that way.
7. Spoon the mixture into paper cups in the muffin tray or straight into the
muffin holes Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.

Ovens vary so keep an eye on it near the end. They should have risen beautifully and golden. Leave to cool in the tin for a few minutes, then lift out and place on a rack.

Buttercream Icing – Method

1. Beat the butter in a large bowl until soft. Add half of the icing sugar and beat until smooth.
  1. Add the remaining icing sugar and one tablespoon of the milk and beat the mixture until creamy and smooth. Beat in the milk, if necessary, to loosen the mixture.
  2. Stir in the food colouring until well combined.
  3. Decorate with coloured sugar, smarties and other edible decorations.
Use and store the icing at room temperature because icing will set if chilled. Icing can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Retro Smoked Salmon Paté

For a different dinner party starter, that was quick to prepare and in advance I decided to make some smoked salmon paté. The beauty of this recipe is that it needs to be prepared in advance, so this takes the pressure off cooking a starter when you have guests to entertain.
I used half fat creme fraiche and Philadelphia Light cream cheese so the pat isn't as naughty as it could be, easing the guilt a little, and allowing you to indulge at bit.

Serves 4


  • 200g of smoked salmon, chopped
  • 150g of smoked salmon (for moulds)
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • Pepper
  • 2 tbsp of dill
  • 150g of light cream cheese
  • 2 tbsp of light creme fraiche
  • 2 spring onions, chopped.


  1. In a food processor, add the chopped smoked salmon, the lemon juice, pepper, cream cheese and creme fraiche, onions and half the dill. Blitz for a creamy consistency.
  2. Get 4 ramekins, and cover the inside with cling film, allow the film to spill well over the edges.
  3. Place the smoked salmon in the moulds, covering the inside and allowing it to cover up over the sides.
  4. Spoon in the paté, and fold over the overhanging salmon and film.
  5. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
  6. When ready to serve, pull out the cling film and carefully place the contents upside down on a plate
  7. Serve with a sprinkle of the remaining dill, some toasts and lemon wedges.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Homemade Pizza’s – Simply Childsplay.

Pizza making is a great way to get small kids to get involved in cooking, its also a great idea for a casual dinner party. Once the dough is made then the rest is easy peasy. The dough can be made the night before, and even better it can be frozen in ziplock bags, meaning an authentic slice of Italy is never too far away.
Ever the calorie conscious diva that I am, I usually go in for pizzas with ‘zero point’ toppings and a ‘zero point’ homemade tomato base sauce. By adding flavour in the form of chilli and herbs then the pizza can remain low fat and still taste delicious.
I tried to be a true pizza making hero and ditched the rolling pin, in favour of the traditional way of making them with my hands stretching, and tossing and flipping in the air. My advice for this method is, unless you are a true Pro, then don’t do it, more dough will end up on the floor than in your belly. Furthermore, I didn’t get anything that resembled a round pizza. In saying that, a rustic ‘circle’ gave the pizza more homemade’loving’ feel. I do recommend rolling out the pizza until the dough is paper, nearly see-through, thin. It gives a fabulous crispy base and less dough is needed, thus fewer calories, but more pizzas.
As far as toppings go, anything goes really. I don’t like to put too much on the pizza as I find if you overcrowd it, then the base gets soggy and nobody wants a soggy bottom!!
The list is endless for pizza toppings, you can add any type of meat, eggs, fish, veggies, fresh salad post cooking, and the variety of cheeses is endless. I like a traditional Italian pizza with just buffalo mozzeralla (low fat of course), olives and sundried tomatoes. Whereas my husband will go all out with a total meat feast of salamis, pepperonis, parma ham, bacon and pinapple (the pineapple makes him feel healthy).
I decided to make pizza over the weekend when I had a toddler to entertain. My beautiful niece Naoise is used to cooking and baking with her mom, so I thought it would be a great way to keep her occupied for  an hour or so.  The little munchkin came equipped with her own apron and rolling pin, meaning big business.  The making of the pizza I think, was more enjoyable for her than the eating. The smooth running of this was all in the prep. I had her own dough ready made for her, so she could play with it and roll it. I had her grated cheese and ham and pinapple pre-cut and ready to go also. She got a great kick out of it and stayed quietly eating her pizza for an hour at the table, allowing us a chilled out time for grown-up pizza and white wine! If you are having  kids over, or planning a kids birthday, then judging by the response the pizza making got from Naoise, a pizza making party should go down well. A word of warning though, be prepared, very prepared for a messy flour covered kitchen.

Serves 6 pizzas


Tomato sauce base

(You can use passata from a carton/jar if time is of the essence)
·         Tinned of peeled tomatoes
·         1 onion finely diced
·         1 garlic clove, minced
·         ½ red chilli, deseeded and chopped (no chilli for children)
·         1 tbsp of tomato puree


·         650g 00 flour
·         7g of fast action yeast
·         25mls of olive oil
·        50mls  Milk
  ·        325ml  warm water
·         2 tsp of salt


·         Dried Oregano
·         Chilli Oil
·         Low fat Mozzerella
·         This is a personal choice. Feel free to use which ever you like best to create your own individual pizza. I like olives, sundried tomatoes and rocket.


Ham & Pineapple – what it says on the tin!
Meat Feast  -  salami, pepperoni, parma ham, bacon bits, jalapeno peppers
Veggie Heaven – courgette, peppers, mushrooms, tomatoes, sweetcorn


The tomato sauce and the dough can be both premade 24 hours in advance, even frozen.

The Tomato Sauce

1.       Get a pan on the heat and sweat the onions and garlic for 5 minutes
2.       Add the remaining ingredients and simmer for 15 minutes until the sauce has reduced down considerably.

The Dough

I got the dough recipe from the BBC Good Food website, there are lots of different versions out there, this is Silvano Francos take on it, and it was simple and gave a really great crisp dough, that didn’t feel stodgy.

1.       Add the flour, salt and yeast to a bowl and mix well.
2.       Add the milk and oil and mix well, and then gradually add the water and mix to form a soft dough
3.       Dust the work surface with flour and turn the dough out onto the flour.
4.       Kneed continuously for 5-10 minutes. Once the dough isn’t sticky and is elastic, place in a clean bowl that has been rubbed with olive oil.
5.       Cover with cling film and leave for 2 hours to rise.
6.       At this stage if leaving overnight just refrigerate, and take out of fridge 2 hours before you wish to use.
7.       When ready to use the dough, flour the work surface again, and turn out the dough to the flour. Kneed again for 5 minutes to knock out the air.
8.       Shape the dough into a sausage shape and cut into equal balls.
9.       Roll the dough into rounds and place on baking paper on a tray.

The Pizza

1.       Have the oven preheated to 200 degrees.
2.       Smear the tomato sauce over the base, leaving ½ inch clear on the edges. Use only 2 tbsp of sauce per pizza (the base will have a very soggy bottom otherwise)
3.       Then top with your preferred toppings and sprinkle with oregano.
4.       Bake in the oven until the dough is cooked and cheese melted, approx. 15 minutes. Careful it doesn’t burn.
5.       You may wish to add herbs/rocket/chilli oil just before serving.
6.       Give a generous helping of black pepper, and a glass of crisp white wine is a must!

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