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!


  • 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

  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.


  • 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


  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!


  • 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.

  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

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