Archive for the ‘All things food’ Category

As I’ve said many times before here, we love salads of all descriptions in this house.  This one certainly brings colour to the table, especially so in the winter.

Noodle Salad

Noodle Salad

The original recipe was in the Avoca Cafe Cookbook (Book 1) – Oriental Bean Sprout and Egg Noodles.  However, and yes, regular readers will have guessed it has changed tons since then, as I wouldn’t have the ingredients needed.  For some reason bean sprouts are never available in this neck of the woods.

The one thing that always remains the same is the ‘dressing’ for want of a better description.  After that your imagination (or what’s in the fridge) will do nicely thank you!

The Dressing:

  • 5 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 cm. fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped.
  • 6 tablespoons soy sauce.


In a frying pan, gently heat your sesame oil…. be careful it has a low burn point. Add in your garlic and ginger and cook gently for 2 or 3 minutes until golden brown.  Remove from heat and add in the soy sauce.  Leave to cool.

The Salad:

  • Medium egg noodles – 1 portion per person
  • 1 stick of celery – sliced
  • 3 to 4 water chestnuts – sliced
  • 4 oz peas
  • 1 red pepper – deseeded and finely chopped
  • bunch of chives finely chopped.


Cook your noodles according to packet instructions.  Prepare you vegetables – as I say this is only a guideline – take whatever you have and chop up small – no need to cook, the crunch is lovely in this salad.

When your noodles are cooked drain.  Pop them into a bowl with the vegetables, add the ‘dressing’ and toss well.

This salad is lovely served warm, and even nicer, if you have leftovers, for lunch the next day.

We would serve this with chicken or duck, or even with some barbecued fish.

Hope you enjoy :)



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Yesterday….. Monday morning  (I had been away from the house all day Sunday) and there was no bread for breakfast!  Doesn’t bother me so much but drives Alfie mad!  He is very very partial to his toast and honey in the morning!

This was not a good start to the week.

A bit of quick thinking was required.

Last week Alfie was given a gift of some over-ripe bananas…. and immediately said, oh yum, banana bread…. but Renee in the shop said no, you’ve got to make banana pancakes.

Right we have bananas…. and we have eggs.  Quick thinking on a Monday morning??  Here goes!!!!

Banana Pancake


  • 2 bananas
  • 4 eggs
  • A little coconut oil for cooking.


Mash the bananas really really well.  Whisk your eggs separately.

Add the eggs to the banana.

Melt a little coconut oil in a pan.  Ladle about 2 tablespoons of the mixture into the pan and cook for 2 or 3 minutes each side.

This amount made about 6 pancakes…. probably enough for 3 people, or 2 very hungry people.

The wonderful part of this breakfast is it is healthy, gluten and dairy free!

We had them with a drizzle of honey.

Next time want to have them with some maple syrup.  Or can you imagine them with some fresh berries from the garden and a dash of natural yoghurt.

And the day (possibly the week) was saved. :)


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We had a blast of sunshine last week.  We are back to wintery weather again sadly!

However, when we had that lovely sunshine I was inspired to prep something nice and tasty for lunch…. and thought of Lily of My Mexican Shop’s delicious Huevos Rancheros…. folks she makes the best Huevos Rancheros.

Not having tomatillos in the house – here’s what developed.

And we got to enjoy it sitting in the sunshine outside

Poached eggs with Mango Salsa

Poached eggs with Mango Salsa


  • 1 mango, peeled and cubed
  • 1/2 red onion, finely sliced
  • 6 cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 1/2 green chilli, finely sliced
  • Juice of 1/2 lime


Couldn’t be simpler….. mix them all together.

You could serve with fried or poached eggs – our preference is always going to be poached eggs.

Enjoy :)

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Who doesn’t love sponge cake?  And yet it is so seldom seen as an option in cafes or restaurants.  I guess it is just perceived as too ‘old-fashioned’ but hey, sometimes old-fashioned is good folks!

Classic Sponge Cake

Classic Sponge Cake

When we were growing up …. sponge cake was a regular treat, especially for birthdays.  My Mum bless her never quite mastered sponge cakes – but then she did make the best pastry ever – so you can’t be great at everything.

Since we’ve had our own hens and ducks I have learned that sponge cake is made even more delicious when made with duck eggs…. the sponge is so much airier and lighter.

So here’s my recipe for a deliciously light sponge cake…


  • 220 g/8 oz. spelt flour (or you could use self-raising flour)
  • 4 tsp. baking powder (if you are using self-raising flour just use half the quantity, i.e. 2 teasp.)
  • 220 g/8 oz. soft butter.
  • 220 g/8 oz. caster sugar
  • 4 duck eggs
  • a few drops of vanilla essence (optional)

Sandwich Filling:

  • Whatever your heart desires…. only limited by your imagination!  I generally use whipped cream and fruit, or jam.


Grease and line 2 x 9 inch sponge tins with parchment paper.

Preheat oven to 170 deg C/325 deg F/Gas Mark 3.

Sift your flour and baking powder into large bowl…. allowing plenty of air to get into the mixture.  Add the butter, sugar, vanilla essence and eggs whisking all the time until light and fluffy.

Divide the mixture between the two lined tins.  Level off the mixture and bake in the oven for 30 minutes.  Allow to cool slightly before turning out onto a wire rack and gently peeling off the parchment paper.

When cool enough place one half on plate and dollop on your sandwich filling. Place other half on top, decorate or sprinkle with icing sugar.

Now time to go put the kettle on.

Sponge cake with whipped cream and raspberries

Sponge cake with whipped cream and raspberries

Enjoy :)

(And should you need to…. you can freeze this cake even with the filling in it…. I’ve been known to do that too.  It is not quite as nice as just baked but it isn’t bad at all)

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I miss my salads in the winter.

I love the colour of summertime salads…. adding nasturtiums and borage just adds such brightness to any meal.

This winter seems to have been particularly bleak and grey so I’ve been experimenting with some ‘not green’ salads but using quinoa and noodles.  We most definitely need colour in winter!  This quinoa salad is delicious with a spicy piece of chicken.

Greek-style Quinoa Salad

Greek-style Quinoa Salad


  • 225 gr. quinoa
  • 3oo gr. cherry tomatoes halved (or quartered bigger tomatoes)
  • Handful of olives
  • Red onion – very finely chopped
  • 100 gr. St. Tola cheese, crumbled
  • A few chopped mint leaves (my mint is just coming on again!)
  • Zest and juice of half a lime
  • 1/2 teasp. olive oil
  • Salt & Pepper


Prepare your quinoa….. rinse it well under cold running water.  Place in saucepan, cover with water, bring to the boil for c. 10 minutes.  Drain.  Set aside to cool.

Mix your prepared tomatoes, olives, onion and cheese in bowl.

Stir in your now cooled quinoa.

Mix in the chopped mint, zest and juice of lime and olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper.

Serve with some spicy chicken.

Quinoa Salad with Spicy Chicken

Quinoa Salad with Spicy Chicken

This quantity is enough for 4 for dinner…. or do as there are only 2 of us, have some for dinner and enough left over for lunch the next day.

Enjoy :)


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Duck Confit…. not something I’d even thought of cooking up to a couple of weeks back.  For some insane reason (without even looking up a recipe), I just presumed it would be overly complicated and way too much bother.  How wrong can a girl be?

We ‘got rid of’ four ducks earlier in the year.  Two of them are still safely tucked away in the freezer, but the first two have been totally enjoyed.

When we were prepping the ducks for the freezer we decided to portion one out and leave the others ‘whole’.

That, of course, meant that I had two duck legs…. so what should I do with them? It was only then I decided to check for a Duck Confit recipe. Doh!  It is so easy! Seriously, a little bit of planning but otherwise plain sailing.

This recipe is adapted from the Duck Confit recipe in Avoca Cafe Cookbook II…. but yes you’ve guessed it I didn’t have all the ingredients so improvisation was called for!

Confit of Duck

Confit of Duck


  • 2 duck legs
  • coarse sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon of fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 gloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Black Pepper
  • Lard c. 4 tablespoons….. (the original recipe called for goose fat, so if you don’t have lard use goose or duck fat)


The night before douse your duck legs with the sea salt and half of the thyme. Cover in cling film and leave in fridge until the next day.

Preheat your oven to 170 deg. C.

Brush the salt off the duck legs and place in a casserole with a tight-fitting lid.  Add the remaining 1/2 tablespoon of thyme leaves, bay leaf and crushed garlic, black pepper and whatever fat you are using.  I used about 4 to 5 tablespoons of lard.

(I add a layer of tinfoil to make sure my casserole is well sealed.)

Place in the oven for about half an hour.  Remove and check the level of fat…. you may need to add more.  It needs to come at least half way up the duck legs.

Duck in Casserole

Return to the oven for another hour to an hour and a quarter.

Now if you are virtuous and full of restraint, you can remove the duck legs allow them to cool, then put them in a clean pot and cover with the fat so you can enjoy them another day.


We devoured them there and then, served with mashed potatoes and kale (and second time around with mashed potato and carrot and parsnip mash).  You must save the fat though…. totally delicious for roast potatoes or any roast veg.

So can someone explain to me why I didn’t try this years ago????

Enjoy :)



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Have you ever considered how fresh eggs are in the supermarket?  We are told that eggs have a shelf life of 5 to 6 weeks – mine never last that long, so I can’t confirm or deny this fact.  So, how old are eggs when they land in the supermarket?

I’ve tried to do some research on your behalf but have in fact run into a blank wall for details on Irish eggs.

From what I can gather in the UK, US and Canada eggs can be defined as ‘fresh’ when arriving in supermarkets 10 days after being laid.  I am told that if you count back 28 days from the Best Before date it will give you an indication of when the egg was laid.

I remember watching a documentary on TV many years ago about egg producers in Ireland.  Did you know they don’t necessarily ‘grow’ all the eggs themselves? They have a number of smaller producers who grow the eggs.  The big companies send out their trucks a couple of times a week to collect eggs from growers.  The eggs are brought back to base, graded and probably stamped and then shipped out to the supermarket.  This, of course, all takes time.

Freshly Poached Egg

Freshly Poached Egg

And the whole reason for this research is that I recently had  some comments from customers.

Why are eggs ‘cloudy’?

Well, folks, the reason eggs are ‘cloudy’ is because they are so fresh.

The white, or albumen, of a very fresh egg contains dissolved carbon dioxide, which makes it look ‘cloudy’.  As the egg ages, the carbon dioxide escapes, so that the white becomes more transparent.  This does not mean that there is a problem with transparent white, it is just not as fresh as ‘cloudy’ white.

I am guessing here, but I imagine that carbon dioxide in the white is why truly fresh eggs are so easy to poach and keep their shape without any fussing about with swirls and vinegar etc.

What causes ‘blood’ spots in eggs?

Again this is a sign of the freshness of the egg.  Regular readers will know that I have been known to follow hens about to keep a supply of eggs at the Honesty Table!

Blood spots occur when blood or a bit of tissue is released along with a yolk.  As an egg ages, the blood spot becomes paler, so a bright blood spot is a sign that the egg is fresh.

Eggs are bad for those with cholesterol?

This has now been proven to be a fallacy!  Eggs are one of the super foods – just generally really good for you.  Check out Joanna Blythman in yesterday’s Guardian – Why almost everything you’ve been told about unhealthy foods is wrong

It wasn’t so long ago that we were spoon-fed the unimpeachable “fact” that we should eat no more than two eggs a week because they contained heart-stopping cholesterol, but that gem of nutritional wisdom had to be quietly erased from history when research showing that cholesterol in eggs had almost no effect on blood cholesterol became too glaringly obvious to ignore.

Or this article from 3 years ago by Alex Renton – Just how Fresh is Fresh – I find this totally scary!

Those who have visited us here at Oldfarm will know that I have a kind of ‘filing’ system for my eggs, and that I pencil the date they were laid on the shell.  It leaves my customers in no doubt as to how fresh our eggs are.

I wonder why major egg producers don’t just stamp eggs this way too?  It would surely make life much easier for the consumer.

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