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.


  • 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


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


  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.


  • 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


  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.


  • 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


  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


  • 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


  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" 

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