expr:class='"loading" + data:blog.mobileClass'>
Showing posts with label Brunch. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Brunch. Show all posts

Monday, 11 February 2013

savory crispy pancakes...

Shrove Tuesday takes place 47 days before Easter Sunday. Because the date of Easter Sunday is dictated by the cycles of the moon, Pancake Day can occur anytime between February 3 and March 9. In 2013 it takes place on February 12 and I shall be making these crispy pancakes, an homage to the industrial foods that filled many an Irish childhood.

I was burdened for most of my young life by a mother who insisted on making every thing from scratch. As much as we kids wanted the shop-bought cakes, pizzas and convenience foods, we were forced to endure home made birthday cakes, bread and even yoghurt. Nowadays, my children are faced with the same problem, a cruel mother who denies them all the delicacies of the freezer section of the supermarket or the Disney-endorsed Petit Filous. As it turns out, the only thing that myself and the children missed out on was vast amounts of suspicious meats - horse, donkey, possum, bat or whatever they have been passing off as beef all this time.

So this Mardi Gras will be marked by a homemade version of the positively revolting Findus classic - the savory crispy pancake. These I remember used to come in a minced beef and onion or chicken and sweetcorn flavor. I think there is a cheese variety and there was a curry one also, now defunct. There was some talk a few years ago of a lobster thermidor flavor which, if it ever happened, would be a terrible waste of lobster. We made it with a chicken and sweetcorn filling and it was a big hit. I won't lie to you, although it's incredibly easy to make, it's not particularly time consuming and you will probably dirty every plate and pan in the kitchen. But as special treat, it's hard to beat. A spoon of leftover bolognaise sauce would also be delicious but I think I will try a ham and cheese version tomorrow. (Ham from a pig!)

For the pancakes
165g plain flour
Pinch of salt
1 small egg
About 300ml whole milk
Sunflower oil for frying

For the chicken and sweetcorn filling
25g butter
25g plain flour
250ml hot chicken stock
Kernels sliced from 1 cob of corn
2 chicken breasts, thinly sliced
6 rashers streaky bacon, diced
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 tsp chopped rosemary
1 tsp chopped thyme
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the final assembly
6 tbsp plain flour
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
200g fine white breadcrumbs
A little paprika (optional)
A little turmeric (optional)
Sunflower oil, for frying

For the pancakes, put the flour and salt in a bowl. Break the egg into the centre, then start whisking it into the flour, gradually incorporating the milk. Keep adding milk and whisking until you have a smooth batter the consistency of single cream. Rest the batter in the fridge for 30 minutes.

For the chicken and sweetcorn filling, first melt the butter in a small pan over a medium heat. Stir in the flour to make a roux, then cook this gently for two minutes. Remove from the heat, add a good splash of the hot stock and beat until you have a smooth paste. Repeat with a little more stock, then a little more. Add the remaining stock in two or three lots, beating well with each addition to get rid of any lumps. Return the pan to the heat. Bring slowly to a simmer, and cook gently for a couple of minutes, stirring often, until thickened. Add the chicken, bacon, corn kernels, garlic and herbs and simmer for another five minutes or so, until the chicken is completely cooked. Season with salt and pepper. Leave to cool.

To cook the pancakes, heat a little sunflower oil in a small frying pan (about 15cm in diameter) over a high heat. Pour in a small ladleful of the pancake batter, immediately swirling the batter around to form a pancake (don't make it too thin - these need to be a little more robust than your standard crepe). Cook for a minute or two, until the pancake is golden-brown underneath. Flip it and cook the other side for another 30 seconds or so. Transfer to a plate. Repeat with the remaining batter. (The first pancake will be a disaster - this is the law.)

To assemble, take one pancake and spoon some of your chosen filling on to one half of it. You only need a tablespoonful or so - don't overfill the pancakes. Brush some beaten egg around the edge of the pancake and sprinkle on a little flour to form a natural glue. Fold the pancake over to make a half-moon shape, and press the edges to seal.

For final assembly and frying, put the flour in a deep dish and season well with salt and pepper. Put the beaten eggs in a second dish, then the breadcrumbs in a third. Season the breadcrumbs, if you like, with paprika and turmeric - not essential but it gives the pancakes their fake tan orange colour, which is large part of their charm.

Heat a 1mm layer of sunflower oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat. Fry the breadcrumbed pancakes a few at a time, for about 3 minutes on each side, or until golden brown and piping hot in the middle. Drain briefly on kitchen paper. Serve straight away.

Recipe from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall from River Cottage 2009

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

my favourite sandwich...

The sandwich is undoubtedly one of life’s simplest culinary pleasures. Open-faced, hot, cold, sweet or savory and with an endless combination of fillings, everyone has their favorite. Sandwiches don't usually require a recipe, but my favorite, the Croque Madame is one of the exceptions. This sandwich was first invented by Beyonce. After eating a croque-monsieur  for the first time, she was inspired to pen her most famous lyrics  "If you liked it then you shoulda put an egg on it" and so the croque-madame was born. I jest of course.

It is, at its most basic a ham and cheese sandwich with added "je ne sais quoi". It makes a perfect brunch or supper. This sandwich is not for packed lunches, it requires to be eaten immediately without a moments hesitation. Beloved in French cafés and bistros, there are many methods of making it. I prefer to bake them in the oven (you save a few calories and it's particularly useful if you are feeding a crowd for brunch), but a frying pan or grill is more common (That's skillet or broiler to you lovely Americans).

You will need some good bread, traditionally plain store-bought white is used, but I prefer something with a bit more character. My favorite at the moment is a nice spelt bread with honey and sesame seeds. This is also an excellent way of using left over ham, otherwise buy some thinly sliced baked ham from the deli counter, slimy packet ham is not ideal. The cheese should be Gruyère, Emmenthal will do or a sharp cheddar if you are desperate. The sauce on top is béchamel, never hollandaise or mornay. Don't skimp on the Dijon, it adds a really nice flavor. The egg is usually fried but poached is fine also.

2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp plain flour
175g cup milk
A pinch each of salt, freshly ground pepper, nutmeg, or more to taste
About 3 ounces Gruyère cheese, grated, more if you like
4 slices of your choice of bread
6 thin slices of ham
Dijon mustard
(makes two)

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Make the béchamel sauce. Melt butter in a small saucepan on medium/low heat until it just starts to bubble. Add the flour and cook, stirring with a whisk until smooth, about 2 minutes. Slowly add the milk, whisking continuously, cook until thick. Remove from heat. Add the salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Stir in a third of the the grated Gruyère. Cover and set aside.

Lightly brush 2 of the bread slices with mustard. Add the ham and divide the remaining Gruyère cheese between them evenly. Top with the other bread slices.

Spoon the béchamel sauce onto the tops of the sandwiches. Sprinkle with the remaining Gruyère cheese. Place on a baking tray. Bake in the oven for 5 minutes, or until the cheese topping is bubbly and lightly browned.

(You can also assemble the sandwiches and fry them each side in a frying pan in a spoon of oil or butter, finishing them under the grill with the béchamel sauce on top.)

Cook two eggs sunny side up, until the white is set and the yolk still runny, and put on top of each sandwich. Sprinkle with chopped fresh parsley and/or black pepper and serve immediately.

No sandwich is more delicious in my opinion.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Traditional Irish Soda Bread

As with all the best bread recipes, this traditional bread is simplicity itself. The ingredients in a traditional Irish soda bread are flour, baking soda, salt and buttermilk. The brown soda bread is an every day staple, served with soup and other meals or alone but nearly always with lashings of butter. The white soda is the more refined version and often contains a handful of raisins.

It's true that soda bread dries out quickly after slicing, but it makes fantastic toast the next day. An Irish soda bread base can make great flavoured breads, with cheese, herbs, olives, roast cherry tomatoes, red onion or garlic, although strictly speaking it ceases to become an Irish soda bread when any of these things are added. I always think it is best eaten freshly-baked and warm or toasted, slathered liberally with butter and smothered in good jam.

400g plain flour
1 tsp caster sugar
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp salt
350ml buttermilk
2 handfuls of raisins

1. Preheat the oven to 230C/gas 8.

2. Sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl and make a well in the centre. Pour in most of the buttermilk (leaving about 60ml in the measuring jug), at this stage add in the raisins if using. Using one hand with your fingers splayed (or two knives), bring the flour and liquid together, adding more buttermilk if necessary. Do not knead the mixture or it will become heavy. The dough should be soft but not too wet and sticky, but with the minimum amount of handling.

3. When the dough comes together, turn onto a floured work surface and bring together a little more. Pat the dough into a round about 4cm deep and cut a deep cross in the top.

4. Place the dough onto a baking tray and bake in the oven for 15 minutes, then turn down the heat to 200C/gas 6 and bake for a further 30. When ready, the loaf will be browned and will sound slightly hollow when tapped on the base.

5. Cool on a wire rack, wrapped in a clean tea-towel for a slightly softer crust.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

chorizo scrambled eggs taco

It's so easy to go through the morning motions on auto-pilot, doing the routine until the second cup of tea or shot of coffee engages your brain. Have you ever had one of those mornings where you were not firing on all cylinders? Maybe you've sent your child to school with a lunchbox packed with meaty treats on an 'Ash Wednesday' when the rest of her 'God fearing' classmates were dutifully observing the religious teachings of the school? No? Nobody? Just me then I guess!

Here's a nice spicy start to the day to get all your senses firing - Chorizo and Scrambled Eggs Breakfast Tacos! This serves two (befuddled) adults very generously. 

I've made it without the cheese and you wouldn't really miss it. But here I've put the original recipe as I first made it from Bon Appétit Magazine. They mention a vegetarian substitute for the chorizo called Soyrizo, I don't know what that is or if you can get it here in the meat-loving isle of Ireland, but I'm sure there must be something similar on the market… but that's no reason to get it, it just sounds wrong!

4 corn tortillas
1 cup grated extra-sharp white cheddar cheese
4 large eggs
4 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander (cilantro for d'mericans)
7 ounces cooking chorizo, casing removed if necessary
4 green onions, sliced
Sour cream, salsa and lime to serve (optional)

Brush a large nonstick pan with olive or vegetable oil. Char the tortillas over gas flame or directly on electric burner until blackened in spots, turning with tongs. Arrange tortillas in single layer in a pan. Sprinkle each tortilla with 1/4 cup grated cheese and set aside.

Whisk eggs and 2 tablespoons coriander in a medium bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Sauté chorizo sausage in heavy medium nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until cooked through, breaking up with back of spoon, about 5 minutes. Add green onions and sauté 2 minutes. Add egg mixture and stir until very softly set, about 1 minute. Remove egg mixture from heat.

Cook tortillas in skillet over high heat until beginning to crisp on bottom, but still soft and pliable, about 1 minute. Divide egg mixture among tortillas and sprinkle with remaining 2 tablespoons cilantro. Fold each tortilla in half. Serve with sour cream and your favorite salsa, mild or spicy.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

scrummy sausage rolls...

This is a post about sausage rolls and how to make them extra tasty. Before I go any further I feel I must say in my defence, that it is quite difficult to photograph a sausage without it looking a bit rude. That is all.

Has anyone ever found a decent commercially-made sausage roll? Not me anyway. A recipe that calls for only a few ingredients must have the best, and that just never happens with the commercial type. Cheap puff pastry and low grade pork filling just don't cut the mustard (I also like to add mustard).

The sausage itself must be excellent. If you are lucky enough to have a butcher who makes pork sausages, those will do nicely. There are a lot of high quality sausages available now. I recently met the happy pork folk over at Oldfarm, Margaret and Alfie. Margaret told me the story of how 'Pigs happened to her'. How careless to let pigs take over one's home like that, I thought. But how clever of her to convert them to porky delights and sell them to the sausage eaters that haunt Twitter Land. I shall be having some of those for myself soon I hope. But until then I buy the best quality sausages with the highest pork content that I can find.

I prefer to use a whole sausage as the texture is usually better than sausage meat, add some favourite herbs if you like, sage or thyme are always good with pork. The puff pastry you can make yourself if you have nothing for doing, but I usually buy it. A nice tomato based chutney is ideal for the filling, I use one from Rua in Castlebar which is the chutney you would make if you were making some yourself. Mustard, sharp and smooth. Cheese, piquant and melty. All rolled together and baked until puffed up and golden, great for a quick lunch with a little salad and some extra chutney on the side.

The cutting down the middle and filling comes from my mother who had picked up some very strange habits in boarding school, but that is a story for another day.

A packet of ready-made puff pastry (all-butter)
8 - 12 herbed sausages sliced length-way down the centre
Smooth mustard
1oz cheddar cheese
A couple of tablespoons of good quality chutney
1 free-range egg, beaten
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Small handful of fresh thyme/sage leaves (optional)

Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6.

Roll the pastry out (if not the pre-rolled sort) on a floured surface to a rectangle and cut in half lengthways. Paint one side of the pastry with the mustard.

Lay the sausages along both pieces of pastry and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and sprinkle with herbs. Cut your pastry to best fit your sausages. Spread the chutney and cheese generously into the cut down the centers. Roll the sausage up in the pastry to enclose.

Brush with the beaten egg and bake in the oven for about 30 minutes, leave to cool slightly before snarfing.

Friday, 10 February 2012

we heart cinnamon rolls...

...with a maple syrup glaze

It's that special time of year when chocolate and greetings card companies encourage you to demonstrate the extent of your love in exchange for cash on February 14th. Yes, I admit it, I hate this 'holiday'. I'm not very mushy and I don't care for hot pink. I don't like roses much either, being more of a wild-flower kind of gal. While some couples like to gaze into each other's eyes over their romantic meal, we are as likely to fall asleep into our fancy dinner.

So this year I am making a stand, I will not give into the pink and red sprinkles or take the heart-shaped cookie cutters out of the baking drawer. I will resist the urge to colour anything pink or carve cupid bows into root vegetables. Angel food and red velvet cupcakes are strictly off the menu. Instead I am making good old reliable, everyday, unromantic cinnamon rolls. So there!

I make these the night before and leave them for their second rise in the fridge overnight. Nothing compares to the lovely smell of these gorgeous yeast buns baking in the oven… big, rich, and full to bursting with cinnamon. These are heart shaped and each one will serve two people, perfect for Valentine's day... whoops!

...with an icing sugar glaze

600 - 650g plain flour
1 package sachet (7 grams) dry yeast
240ml milk
75g butter
65g granulated white sugar
3 large eggs

160g light brown sugar
35g plain flour
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
110g butter, cold and cubed

Glaze: (Optional, but great)
60g icing sugar
1 tbsp lemon juice

In the bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment (you can use an electric hand mixer), combine half of the flour with the yeast.

In a small saucepan, heat the milk, butter, sugar, and salt till just warm and the butter is almost melted. Gradually pour the milk mixture into the flour mixture, with the mixer on a low setting.

Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Then beat this mixture on high speed for a couple of minutes. Replace the paddle with the dough hook (or knead by hand), and knead in as much of the remaining flour to make a soft dough that is smooth and elastic (up to 5 minutes), but not sticky. Shape the dough into a ball and place in a greased bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until almost doubled (about 1 1/2 - 2 hours). Then gently punch the dough to release the air and let rest for a few minutes.

Make the filling. In a food processor whizz together the brown sugar, flour, cinnamon and the cold butter into crumbs.

Roll the dough into a 12 inch square. Sprinkle the filling evenly over the rolled out dough and top. Roll the dough evenly from each side to meet in the centre pinching the end into a heart shape. Slice the roll into six equal-sized pieces. Arrange rolls in a large, greased, round glass pie dish. Any sugar mix that escaped during cutting can be sprinked over the top, it makes a lovely crunchy crust. Cover rolls loosely with plastic wrap, leaving room for rolls to rise, at room temperature, until almost doubled (about one hour). They are now ready to bake, or, at this point you can refrigerate the Cinnamon Rolls overnight or up to 24 hours. Next morning, remove the rolls from the refrigerator, take off the plastic wrap, and let stand at room temperature for about 30 minutes.

Bake in a 180C oven for 30 minutes or till light brown, and a toothpick inserted into one of the buns, comes out clean. Remove rolls from oven. Cool for 5 minutes and then invert onto a baking rack and re-invert onto a serving plate or platter. You can drizzle with maple syrup and a bit of powdered sugar shaken over the top looks nice. An icing glaze is more traditional on these and most people seem to prefer it.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

Makes 6 large rolls and 12 servings.

Baked in a round tin they will keep a heart shape.

This recipe has been adapted from the joy of baking

This recipe has been submitted to English Mums Baked with Love Bake-off http://englishmum.com/english-mums-baked-with-love-bakeoff.html

Friday, 20 January 2012

marvellous marmalade

You can't flick through a cookery magazine or trawl your favorite food websites at this time of year without hitting upon a few recipes for the seasonal treat that is Seville Orange Marmalade. The Seville orange is incredibly bitter and not at all something that you want to eat in its natural state. But Seville Orange Marmalade is one of the best things that can be spread on toast and an incredibly useful ingredient for stirring into both sweet and savory dishes. This is the time of year for making it as the Seville oranges are only available for a few weeks in and around January. 

If you have no time for making it now, do not panic, Seville oranges freeze very well. So buy them when you see them and pop them in the freezer for making marmalade whenever it suits you during the year. I use Mary Berry’s recipe from 'The Aga Book' where the marmalade is made from frozen oranges brought to the boil and then left over night in the simmering oven*. I love this method as there is less mess and the fruit is far easier to cut up after the peel has softened.

This recipe makes 10lb/5kg, about  10 jars. They make a lovely gift to give to friends, but If you are not as marmalade mad as I am you can, of course, halve the recipe. Use the largest pan you have as the hot liquid bubbles up far higher than you might think and a hot marmalade eruption takes a LOT of cleaning up.

1½kg (3lb) Seville oranges
Juice of 2 lemons
3 kg (6lb) sugar
2 litres (4 pints) water

Put the whole oranges in a large preserving pan and add the lemon juice. Cover with the water and bring to the boil.  Once boiling, place the pan carefully in the simmering oven and leave to simmer until the oranges are tender (2 hours or so for fresh fruit, overnight for frozen). Remove the oranges and leave to cool. Once cool enough to handle, cut them in half and scoop out all the pulp and pips and place these back into the water.  Bring to the boil and boil for 6 minutes.  Strain this liquid into a large bowl through a sieve and, using a spoon, force the pulp, which contains the pectin that will set the marmalade, through the sieve. Pour the liquid back into the preserving pan.

Cut the peel of the oranges as thinly or as thickly as you like your shreds (I like mine thin and seldom) and add these to the liquid, along with the sugar.  Bring the whole lot up to a rolling boil and boil until setting point is reached.  You can test for this with a sugar thermometer (105°c) or have a cold saucer from the freezer ready, allowed a little drop of the jam to cool on this saucer, the surface will wrinkle when pushed with your finger when it is ready.

Allow the marmalade to cool a little and then pour into sterilised jars. To sterilise your jars, wash in warm soapy water and rinse with hot water, then place on a baking tray in the simmering oven for twenty minutes. Alternatively run them through a cycle in the dishwasher and use directly from there.
There are loads of flavors to add to marmalade if you fancy experimenting. Here is a Whisky and Ginger version my fellow blogger Kristin, at Edible Ireland, made using a different method you might be interest be to read also...

*In a conventional oven heat to 120C and simmer unfrozen fruit for two hours, frozen for about an hour longer.

Monday, 16 January 2012

baked brunch baguette

This is a fabulous breakfast or brunch recipe, easily increased for larger numbers or appetites. Featuring the ever useful egg - it's a kind of Jumbo Breakfast Roll if breakfast rolls were glamorous. Remember to whip up your egg mixture in a jug, as it makes it really easy to fill your hollowed out bread rolls. Be careful not to overcook these, you want crusty on the outside with a soft eggy, cheesy yumminess oozing from the inside, overcooking will give you a dry and too firmly set inside, sad times.

For those of you not familiar with this classic Irish meal solution, the breakfast roll is typically white bread slathered in 'spread' and filled with a traditional fry, designed to be eaten on the way to school or building site, single-handed. Rashers, sausages and eggs usually feature heavily, maybe some white and black pudding, often mushrooms and hash browns, sometimes even beans and all smothered in ketchup or brown sauce.

Since the breakfast roll is now in a catastrophic decline, in line with the fall of the construction industry, it's time for a radical make-over. Ladies and gentlemen, may I present to you… The Baked Brunch Baguette

Makes 2 filled baguettes

2 demi baguettes, wholemeal or seeded
2 whole eggs + 1 egg yolk
25ml cream or creme fraiche
2 thin slices parma ham
1 ounce hard cheese, grated (I used gouda)
2 spring onions, finely sliced
Salt and pepper


1. You will need a hot oven - about 200C.

2. Cut out a long oval section from the tops of the baguettes and scoop out the soft bread from the inside being careful not to pierce the crust.

3. Crack the eggs into a jug and beat together with the cream, onion and seasoning. Mix in most of the grated cheese.

4. Pour half the mixture into each baguette and place each onto a slice of ham on a baking sheet. Fold the ham up over the middle of the bread roll and scatter the rest of the cheese on top.

5. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown, the egg mixture is puffed up but sill runny in the centre and the parma ham is crispy.

6. Allow to cool for about 5 minutes and serve.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

a very good granola

Granola saved with homemade pouring yogurt and dried tropical fruits.

Homemade granola is delicious, fast, filling and much cheaper than shop-bought! It’s easy to make, too - it just needs a long, slow toasting and once you have mastered your own recipe it is well nigh impossible to go back to any commercial variety. The result is a wonderfully crisp textured cereal with just the right amount of sweetness. You can eat this as you would any other cereal, with cold milk or some natural yoghurt. The key is to cook the granola until it is a lovely crunchy golden brown. You can take your own nut preference into account, but remember that all nuts are not created equal and some are a lot more expensive than others.

300g Jumbo oats
50g Pinhead oats
1 Tbsp Wheatgerm
120g Sunflower seeds
120g Pumpkin seeds
150g Mixed nuts of your choice
Pinch of salt

125ml Apple juice
4 Tbsp Maple syrup
2 Tbsp Sunflower oil

Preheat the oven to 300F (150C) or use the bottom oven of a range.

The basic granola is also a great ingredient for cookies and crumbles.

1. In a very large bowl, mix together the dry ingredients

2. In a small pyrex jug, whisk together the wet ingredients and mix into the dry ingredients until thoroughly dispersed, then divide and spread the mixture evenly on two baking sheets.

3. Bake the granola for about an hour, stirring every 15 minutes, until the granola is a nice golden brown.

4. Remove from oven, then cool completely.

Store the granola in a large, airtight container. It will keep for up to one month. These quantities make about 11 very generous servings.

Add your own favorite toppings to the basic mix.

Now for the fun part… Mr. Snug is in training for a triathlon and eats this granola the same way with the same topping and milk every single morning. It keeps him full 'til lunch time and if he can't have any he will not be a happy bunny. If I had to eat the same thing every morning I honestly think I would lose my will to live. I do eat this granola about once a week but I have hardly ever eaten it the same way twice… natural yogurt, fresh and dried fruit - the possibilities are endless.

Some of my additions have been extra pecans and brazil nuts, sesame seeds, dried coconut, dark and golden raisins, currants, prunes, dates, sugared mango and papaya, dried cherries and apricots. A bit of ground cinnamon, ground ginger, almond or vanilla extract, finely grated orange zest and chocolate chips.

If you are adding any spices or extra seeds and nuts they should be added before the baking stage. Add any dried fruits or chocolate chips when the granola is completely cooled.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

chocolate chip muffins

Muffins have long been muscled out by their bigger, attention-seeking American cousin, the cupcake (or more recently, the whoopie pie). Having been mostly consigned to garage forecourts, the poor old muffin deserves better than that and still has a lot to offer.

With chocolate chunks studded throughout, these muffins are moist and great with coffee or as a snack. These are lovely just as they are or can be frosted with some extra chocolate. Half of these muffins were decorated with a spoon of brown sugar and a spoon of cocoa powder sprinkled on top before baking. Those ones were for Mama, I don't like my baked goods too sweet! The other half were decorated with a jar of Nutella and a Cadbury's Flake. The more chocolate the better for the junior cook. So easy to do that even a child could decorate them, and in fact - a child did!

If your helper is very young, pop the muffins back into their cooled tin for ease of handling before letting them lose with the chocolate.

Makes 10 

250g plain flour
100g white sugar
100g dark chocolate, chopped into chunks
15g baking powder
Pinch of salt
150ml milk
50ml sour cream
80ml vegetable oil
1 egg
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

Pre-heat oven to 200ºC. Grease and line your muffin tin with muffin cases.
In a medium bowl combine your dry ingredients: flour, sugar, baking powder, chocolate chips, and salt, then mix it well. In a large bowl combine your wet ingredients: milk, sour cream, oil, egg and vanilla, then blend well. Add dry ingredients all at once to the wet mix. Stir until dry ingredients are just moistened (this batter will look lumpy.) Fill the cases to 2/3 full. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool for a minute or two before removing from pan.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

an irish hedgerow harvest...

Blackberry Drop Scones

Very easy to make and even easier to eat... Made all the better with free hedgerow blackberries. These beautiful berries are available for a limited time only - so get out there and get picking.

Makes 30 - 40 scones

25g butter, melted
250g plain flour
Pinch of salt
1 tsp Baking powder
25g caster sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
Up to 250ml milk

A little sunflower oil for frying

Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Stir in the sugar. Make a well in the centre, pour in the eggs and a little milk, and beat, gradually incorporating the flour. Beat in the melted butter. Slowly add more milk and incorporate the rest of the flour until you have a smooth but thick batter that drops off the spoon.

Heat a heavy-based frying pan over a medium heat until hot. Grease with a smear of oil or butter (or a little of both for a crispy edge). Drop tablespoonfuls of the mixture into the pan, leaving room for them to spread (you'll have to cook them in batches). After a couple of minutes, when they are set and have bubbles on the surface, flip them over and cook for a minute or so more, until the second side has browned. Repeat with the remaining batter, adding a little more butter to the pan as required.

Blackberry Syrup

Put two large handfuls of blackberries (picked over carefully and rinsed gently under a tap) into a small saucepan with two teaspoons of sugar. Bring up to the boil and simmer for a minute or two until all the juice has been released from the berries. Press through a fine sieve to remove the pips and serve poured over your warm drop scones with a couple of whole fruits for garnish and absolutely nothing else.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

bacon jam, the eight wonder of the world...

This intriguing concoction first came to my attention earlier this year. I couldn't wait to find out what it was... a paté, a chutney, potted meat or jelly? But try as I might I could not get my little paws on a jar. I stalked @edhick  (the maker) on Twitter, I badgered stockists, all to no avail. There was nothing left to do but make some. I donned my recipe sleuth hat and trawled the web and historical recipes for information. After extensive research I am pleased to announce that I am now the world's leading authority on 'bacon jam' and I shall be choosing it as my specialist subject on Mastermind. Here's what I did...

500g good quality smoked bacon, diced
A large onion (200g approx.) cut into a rough dice

2 garlic cloves minced

220g brewed coffee (the good stuff, strong)

30g apple cider vinegar 
1 tbsp. worcestershire sauce

30g brown sugar
2 tbsp maple syrup
1 tbsp. cocoa powder 

Cook the bacon over a high heat in a large heavy bottomed pan, stirring occasionally until the fat is rendered and the bacon is lightly browned (approximately 20 minutes). With a slotted spoon, remove the bacon onto a paper towel lined plate and let it drain.

Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of the bacon fat from the pan. Add the onions, and cook until they are translucent. Add the minced garlic, fry until fragrant. Add the vinegar, sugar, maple syrup, worcestershire sauce, cocoa powder and coffee, bring to the boil, stirring and scraping up the bacon bits from the bottom of the pan. After 2 minutes, add the bacon, and stir to combine. Simmer until dark and syrupy (about two hours), adding a couple of tablespoons of water at a time if your mixture starts to look dry.
Let the 'jam' cool, then pulse it in a food processor for 2-3 seconds. It's better to leave some texture to it, preferably a bit rustic with chunks. Then refrigerate in an airtight container. 

It will keep in the refrigerator for up to 4 weeks, but believe me there is no way it will last that long! In fact I wish I had doubled the recipe...

Like chutney, with equal notes of sweet and salty, it's perfect with cheese... 

... and with eggs and all manner of cooked breakfast dishes. You can use it as a condiment on a burger or baked potato, stirred into stews and other slow cooked dishes to give a deeper flavour. It is truly multi-talented and no one can ever have too much 'bacon jam'.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

berry, berry nice...

We have pancakes nearly every weekend without fail. They are something of a ritual in our house, ever since the girls were big enough to hold a whisk. I don't make them, they are in fact The Editor's speciality and he takes his responsibilities very seriously indeed. Once a year there is the crepe-style pancake on Shrove Tuesday - served with sugar and a generous squeeze of lemon juice. Most weekends the silver dollar American style pancake make an appearance, served with lashings of maple syrup and whatever fruit looks nice in the market or some very crispy bacon. But today was the day that the ricotta pancake was taste driven, and it was good!

This recipe was from one of my favourite cookbooks, the lovely Rose Bakery's 'Breakfast, Lunch, Tea.' We had breakfast at the Rose Bakery in Paris once before, I had the Oeuf a la coque avec 'toast marmite'(boiled eggs and marmite soilders, yum!). It's a lovely book for bakes and scones but be warned, the serving quantities can be misleading. This recipe was to serve eight - it fed two adults and two toddlers just about, maybe the French are not as hungry as us!


200g ricotta cheese
190ml milk
4 eggs, separated
150g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
50g melted butter
A little butter for cooking
Syrup and/or fruit


1. Beat together the ricotta, milk & egg yolks until smooth. Then add the melted butter.

2. In another bowl, sift the dry ingredients together. Add the ricotta mixture to the dry ingredients and stir very lightly. 

3. Beat the egg whites until they are stiff and fold them into the batter. (Careful now - don't over mix and knock out all the fluffiness)

4. Melt a little butter in a large frying pan, pour in 3-4 tablespoons of the batter and cook over a medium heat until the pancakes are golden underneath. Flip to the other side and cook for about another minute until the pancakes are cooked through. Continue until all the batter is used up, adding more butter to the pan as needed.

Serve hot with fresh seasonal fruit and maple syrup or a dollop of creme fraiche. The Rose Bakery recommends a red-fruit compote, but we had some lovely blueberries, raspberries and strawberries so we used those. 

We also used ricotta cheese from a tub instead of fresh Italian ricotta, as they use at the Rose Bakery. The pancakes did not seem to suffer from this slight change as these were still so very light, mallowy in the centre without being undercooked, and crispy on the outside.