Orange and Almond Syrup Cake

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Recipe from Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi.

I had placed myself on a ban for some time when it came to new cookbooks – not only for economic reasons but also because I have so many with little post-it tabs still awaiting attention from me that I really wanted to get through before adding any more to the pile.  But as soon as I saw Jerusalem I knew that it had to be mine and I am very glad I relented.  This is a really beautiful book and there are so many things I have earmarked already to try but I instantly knew following my initial look through that this cake had to be first.  It’s one of those beautifully damp, sticky, fragrant cakes that are perfect served with some whipped cream or yoghurt for dessert or just as it is with a cuppa. We loved it.  The other thing that I love about this cake is that it gets better over a couple of days and lasts really well for at least 3 or 4 in an airtight container, which makes it perfect for baking at the weekend to have something nice on hand throughout the week.  I don’t know whether it is the lovely sunset colour of the cake or the fragrant orange zest scent that fills the kitchen but this cake always reminds me of a warm summer evening and that is the perfect antidote to a dreary wet day on the west coast of Ireland. [Read more…]

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Double Chocolate Brownies with Hot Chocolate Sauce

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I was never really The World’s Greatest Chocolate Lover.  I liked it but my snack of choice was usually something savoury, if out at a restaurant I would never pick a chocolate dessert over something fruity and I would never find myself making chocolate cake unless it was by request (always from my boy).  But over the last few years this has slowly been changing and now I find it hard to turn down a bar of Green & Blacks and I absolutely cannot resist temptation in the form of a warm chocolate brownie especially if bathed in hot chocolate sauce and served with a scoop of cold creamy vanilla ice cream on the side.

Luckily for me this is also my son’s absolute favourite dessert in the whole wide world so when it is his turn to pick what we make for dinner I can rest assured that I am in for a treat too.  My favourite recipe for brownies is this one from River Cottage Family Cookbook and I make just one teeny adjustment in that instead of using all dark chocolate, which is a little bit too bitter for my son’s taste, I swap half for good quality milk chocolate.  They are so simple and easy to make, perfectly fudgey and like any moist cake they last really well wrapped in foil for a few days.

As for the chocolate sauce, to me this is pretty much the perfect accompaniment and is handy to have in the fridge to warm through and pour over ice cream even when all of the brownies are gone.  It will solidify when chilled and should last a while – I never really get to test how long as it is usually used up pretty quickly but I would think a couple of weeks at least. [Read more…]

The Wedding Cake

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It’s been a while and I must admit I have missed this place.  I have checked in every once in a while and I know some of you out there have been doing the same and for that I thank you.  The time is right for me to get back in the blogging saddle.

This cake had to be my first post after my absence. Last November my brother and his then partner asked me to make their wedding cake.  I was both thrilled and terrified in equal measure and the first words from my mouth were “You do know I’ve never made one before don’t you?!”.  Luckily the happy couple were so chilled about their Big Day and their only instruction was “something simple to cut for the photographs” so I pretty much had carte blanche to do what I wanted.  Making a homemade wedding cake is quite daunting as it is such an important day for the couple and I definitely lost a few hours sleep close to the day itself but it is without doubt something I am very glad I did – there are lots of things I learned along the way and definitely a few mistakes that I would do differently if I could rewind. [Read more…]

Raspberry and White Chocolate Cheesecake

I absolutely love cheesecake – it’s one my favourite sweet treats.  I definitely favour the chilled variety over baked and I like my topping to be creamy and luscious with the distinct flavour from cream cheese still shining through whatever other flavourings are added.  For me the perfect base is one that’s crisp and firm rather than crumbly and dry. One of my favourite flavour combinations is juicy ripe raspberries with smooth sweet white chocolate and they make such a fabulous cheesecake together. This recipe is really simple and looks so pretty that it makes a perfect summery dessert if you are planning a get-together.  A little goes a long way with this and you could easily serve 8-10. Add to that the fact that you can make it the evening before and leave to chill overnight in the fridge and it is definitely a winner in my book.

[Read more…]

Poached Leek and Cheddar Tart

As anyone who reads this blog will surely know I am a huge fan of Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall and one of the first recipes that I earmarked in his River Cottage Everyday book is Gill’s poached leek and Dorset Blue Vinny tart which, despite it’s use of blue cheese, sounded right up my street.  Whilst it may look like and sound like a quiche it really isn’t – it is lighter, creamier and softer, which I guess is down to fewer eggs.  I substituted the blue cheese for my favourite cheese of all, the humble cheddar, and it was delicious. I recommend using a really strong vintage cheddar as this is quite a creamy tart so it really needs that strong sharp flavour. The tart can be eaten warm or at room temperature and is so light and full of flavour and I will definitely be making this again, and again, and again. It makes a perfect summer lunch or dinner served with a green salad tossed with bacon lardons. [Read more…]

Buttermilk Scones

There’s nothing like a fresh home baked scone – crumbly, soft and light, served with fresh cream and a good dollop of jam or still oven warm with a generous spread of butter.

I’ve tried a few scone recipes in my time but our favourite is from the lovely Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s Family Cookbook.  It’s really simple and produces lovely light scones.  This recipe can also be used for fruit scones by chucking in a couple of handfuls of sultanas or any other dried fruits that take your fancy.  A little tip that I read somewhere to ensure that your scones rise is not to twist the cutter when cutting out the dough and I really thinks this works.

Some time ago I was very lucky to receive a generous box of jams and relishes from the very nice people at Folláin Traditional Fine Foods based in West Cork – they have been making wholesome natural jams, marmalades and relishes for nearly 30 years and I can certainly vouch for their deliciousness.  The Fire Roasted Red Pepper Relish was superb smeared in a toasted pitta with sausages and I have a real soft spot for the Extra Fruit Raspberry, perfect for slathering on scones. Check out their great range over at http://www.follain.ie.

The recipe says this quantity of dough will make about 16 scones but I like to make larger scones so I usually get 8 to 10 out of this dough. [Read more…]

Almond Danish Pastries

There is something about autumn and winter that makes me want to cook and bake.  I don’t know if it is some instinctive desire to squirrel away food for the cold months ahead or whether it is just the lovely comforting feeling of standing in a warm cosy kitchen whilst the rain hammers against the fogged up window but I find myself wanting to cook not just for today but for the days and weeks ahead.  I had been meaning to try out this recipe from Nigella’s Domestic Goddess for as long as I have owned the book…which is quite a while now…and last weekend was just the right time for it.  The recipe suggests halving the dough mixture and freezing one half and using the remainder to make 6 pastries and that’s exactly what I did. 

On reflection it is quite a simple recipe but the process is long and requires a bit of time and resting, especially first time around, but I can tell you that it was really worth the effort.  It is hard at one point to imagine that the gooey sticky dough will ever amount to anything more than a disaster but miraculously it does.  I was tempted, just before the finish line, to skip the second last step of brushing them with a sugar glaze but I’m glad I did as this really gives them that beautiful shiny sticky finish.  I did however skip the final step of drizzling with a runny icing sugar glaze as we wanted to eat them just a little bit warm…in truth we couldn’t wait any longer!  They smell wonderful and are surprisingly light and soft and much better than many shop bought ones I have sampled which can sometimes feel a little heavy and stale. I am quite happy now with the knowledge that I have the remaining dough tucked away ready to be defrosted and made in lovely pastries in no time. [Read more…]

Ginger Snaps

My husband and son both love ginger flavoured treats – gingernuts, ginger snaps, Jamaican ginger cake, gingerbread – they eat the lot with gusto.  Usually when my mum comes to visit us here she brings my husband a supply of his favourite M&S Ginger Snaps but on her last visit he was out of luck as there were no ginger snaps in stock.  The only biscuits I have been making here of late are these amazing chocolate chip cookies from Kristin over at Dinner du Jour but I eventually took pity on my poor husband and thought I’d have a go at making something that might resemble his beloved Ginger Snaps.  I, and indeed he, was really pleased with the results – lovely crunchy outer rim with a just slightly chewy middle.  Delicious and perfect for dunking in a cup of tea.  One thing that used to put me off cooking biscuits or cookies is that they would often go stale before we could eat the whole lot – one brilliant trick I have learned from that recipe for chocolate chip cookies is that if you weigh and roll raw cookie dough in to individual portions and wrap in cling film you can pop them in a freezer bag and keep them in the freezer until you want them – just take out one or two to cook at a time which  means you can have perfectly fresh cookies each day for weeks!  How genius is that?  For these biscuits I used an approximate weight of 30/35g per biscuit and this quantity of dough produced around 26 large biscuits. [Read more…]

Apricot Muffins

 

Recipe From River Cottage Everyday

I know I have been a naughty blogger lately and have neglected my poor old blog terribly but I’m back in the saddle as they say and to make up for my absence I thought I should post something really nice and sweet by way of apology.  We are trying to cut down on processed ‘treats’ and snacks in this house and with the return to school just around the corner I wanted to try a new muffin recipe that would be handy for a lunchbox treat and this one from River Cottage Everyday fits the bill perfectly.  I have to say that I am a huge fan of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and I find his recipes really do work for me and yet are so simple.   The recipe in the book is for Lemon Curd Marble Muffins but the ‘Variations’ section at the bottom of the page suggested using 75g of dried fruit in place of the Lemon Curd and seeing as we had picked up a packet of Crazy Jack Organic Soft Apricots from the health shop this was perfect.  I loved that this recipe used only 75g of butter and 100g of sugar which is a bit less than some muffin recipes.  I did worry that the lower sugar quantity was because of the lemon curd and that using dried fruit wouldn’t be sweet enough but these were perfect.  The soft apricots are sulphur dioxide free and are much darker and squidgier than the bright orange dried apricots you often see – this makes them much lighter in the muffin as they remain so juicy and soft and they don’t require rehydrating so I definitely recommend using this type if possible.  The addition of yoghurt makes for a really light fluffy muffin – which I much prefer over those dense heavy oily ones and the method is so quick you will have these mixed and in the oven in no time. [Read more…]

♥ Apple and Salted Caramel Tart Fine ♥

Last Friday was the February Irish Foodies cookalong and of course the theme this  month had to be Food for Romance/Loved Ones.   This was a perfect excuse to make what is fast becoming one of our favourite desserts in this house – a very tasty little tart that I first saw on Gordon Ramsay’s F Word.  I tweaked it just slightly by adding a smear of  salted caramel between the pastry and apples which produces a tart that is crispy and flaky and deliciously chewy all at once.  Like a lot of things I like to cook it is amazingly quick and very simple but yet looks like you have made a real effort, so it is perfect whether you are planning a cosy little dinner à deux or a get-together with loved ones.  If you are cooking for more than two then you can of  course make smaller tarts and get three from each roll of pastry and once they are brushed with melted butter they will keep for an hour or so until ready for cooking [Read more…]

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