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I was clearing out a drawer recently and came across a bunch of scraps of paper with recipes on them.  Among the scraps was this handwritten one ….. I had no idea where it had come from, but thought I recognised the handwriting.!

Well what would you do but make the recipe anyway?  So I did and it was on tasting that I remembered where I’d had this before.  A former work colleague used to make it, and bring it into work for a treat to us on occasions…. thank you Geraldine!  And it was her Mum’s recipe.  So thank you so much to Geraldine’s Mum in Donegal.

This is such a quick recipe…. and the end result is so delicious you just must try it.

Honey Tea Bread

Honey Tea Bread

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz raisins
  • 3 oz honey
  • 1/2 pt Hot Strong Tea
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 10 oz wholemeal flour
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 teas mixed spices (I used cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves)

Method:

Place raisins in bowl, stir honey into your hot tea and pour this over raisins.  Leave for at least 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 170 deg. (fan)

Stir beaten eggs into raisin and tea bowl.

Mix flour with spices and baking powder in separate bowl, and then add to raisin mixture.

Transfer mixture to lined 2 lb loaf tin.

Bake for between 50 minutes to 1 hour…. timing depends on your oven.

Put the kettle on, and enjoy :)

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To be honest, I was kind of taken aback recently when someone said to me they wouldn’t know what to do with Pork Steak.  We do various things with pork steak, but these folks weren’t even familiar with that good old-fashioned stuffed pork steak!

I think it was the first thing I ever learned to cook!  When we were kids Stuffed Pork Steak was our absolute FAVOURITE dinner.

If our parents ever made that fatal mistake to ask what we’d like for dinner?  The resounding answer would most likely have been PORK STEAK!

And now it is time for a confession!

I recall, probably my first time to invite the family for Sunday dinner,  I went to my local butcher and I asked for 5 pork steaks.  The poor man nearly fell over!  Bless him, though.  Rather than fleece me – charge me full price and give me my 5 pork steaks.  I got a lecture on how expensive that was going to be, and I should cook a pork roast for that number of people.

I had to admit to him that I didn’t know how to cook a roast…. so he gave me full instructions.  If only there were butchers around like that now?  The whole situation was probably made even more memorable by the fact that the only other person in the butcher’s shop at the time was an ‘ex’ who I hadn’t seen in years…. he recognised me and got involved in the conversation! Total moritification!

So here’s how my Mum did stuffed pork steak, and I continue doing it along similar lines.

Irish Pork Steak

Ingredients:

  • Pork Steak
  • Bread Crumbs – amount depends on size of pork steak
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • Herbs of your choice – I used sage and thyme this time around
  • Pepper and Salt
  • Butter or Lard
  • Cocktail sticks

Method:

Firstly you will need to ‘open’ up the pork steak, so that it is flat and suitable for stuffing.  Watch the video here which shows you how.

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees.

To make the stuffing:  gently fry your onion so that they are slightly cooked.  Add your onion to the breadcrumbs together with your herbs and seasoning.  (The herbs and seasoning I vary… in summer I might chop some tomatoes and basil, or some apple – the choice is yours).  Add some chopped butter or lard (or even a squeeze of lemon juice) to the mix.

Spoon the breadcrumbs onto your prepared pork steak.  Use the cocktail sticks to ‘pin’ it altogether.  (My Mum, bless her, used to have a special needle and thread in the kitchen drawer to ‘sew’ the pork steak back together!)

Irish Pork Steak ready for oven

Place your pork on a greased baking dish, and bake in oven for 30/35 minutes per lb/500 gr.

Serve with some roast potatoes and your favourite vegetables.

Enjoy :)

 

 

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Yes, you read it right….. Birdseed Bread!  The original recipe is Cynthia’s over on The Solitary Cook.  Don’t you just love the colour of her bread…. it really is a golden colour.  Mine I’m afraid didn’t come out that beautiful colour – I can only blame the Spelt flour or perhaps the oil?

Birdseed Bread

Birdseed Bread

When Cynthia posted the recipe I thought that looks really beautiful and then one of her followers asked if they could have the metric/imperial measurements rather than the US cup system.  I volunteered to do the conversion, as years and years ago on a trip to the US I had bought a plastic jug with cup measurements on it.

I’ve made the bread a few times.  Served it to a number of people all of whom loved it, and they have asked for the recipe so here it is, in “European” format.

Birdseed Bread 2

Ingredients:

  • 1 kg. Spelt Flour
  • 95 grams Millet
  • 95 grams Ground Flax seed
  • 2 tablespoons whole flax seed
  • 1 sachet active dry yeast
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 10 oz hot tap water
  • 10 oz milk
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 oz oil – I used sunflower oil

Method:

As always I have used spelt flour to make it.  I found the timings were a little different to Cynthia’s, so my advice is, if you are using regular strong flour follow Cynthia’s instructions.

Measure the dry ingredients into your mixer bowl, and use the dough hook to gently mix the yeast through the mix.

Put 10 oz of hot tap water into your jug, and add the 10 oz of milk.  According to Cynthia’s advice the temperatures will meet in the middle and be just right to activate the yeast.  Add to your bowl of dry ingredients, together with your egg, honey and oil.

Mix the dough on the lowest setting until it starts to come together.  It took about 10 minutes for the spelt flour and ingredients to come together and leave the sides and bottom of the bowl.

Turn off your mixer – put a lid on your bowl – or cover with a piece of cling film and leave to sit for 20 minutes.  (Cynthia gives an excellent explanation of the ‘autolyse‘ process, so do have a read of it.)

At the end of the 20 minutes, remove your plastic/lid (hold onto it you will need it again), turn the mixer back on.  You will now find that the dough will stick completely to the dough hook…. it is a completely different mixture.  Let it knead for about 7 or 8 minutes.  After that time, turn off your mixer, pull off a piece of your dough and stretch it.  If it breaks it needs more mixing.  If it stretches into a ‘windowpane’ your dough is ready for the next stage.

Briefly turn the dough out of the bowl.  Using a piece of kitchen paper rub the inside of the bowl with some oil.  Put your dough back in and cover with the cling film, or lid.

Now you have to wait for your dough to double in size.  I love Cynthia’s tip…. stick a piece of tape on the outside of the bowl so you can be sure it has doubled in size!  (I make this bread in the evening time when the kitchen is nice and warm, so this stage takes about an hour.)

When your dough has doubled in size, turn it out onto a floured surface and divide it in two.  I made it into two round cakes.  Place each cake on parchment on your baking tray and let sit to once again double in size (about 45 minutes).

Preheat your oven to 375 deg. F/190 deg C.

When your final rise has completed slash the loaves with a good sharp serrated knife to a depth of about 1/2 inch.  Pop the loaves into the oven for about 45 minutes.

Your next challenge is not to devour it all when it comes out of the oven.  It smells wonderful and tastes delicious and is so so light.

Let me know if you try it!

Enjoy :)

 

 

 

 

 

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Brawn

This is for the brave-hearted among you!!!!

I’ve put the finished product photograph first…. so be warned!  I had someone here for dinner the other night who wouldn’t eat prawns ‘cos they have eyes’!  Same person eats all other fish and meat – but I guess they mustn’t have eyes???

I am not particularly fond of brawn.  I have these memories of my parents making brawn when we were kids.  It did seem to take an age to make it, and the resultant texture, rather than taste, was not something I liked.

Alfie has made brawn here on occasion, and it has been quite nice.  However as I am not hugely fond of it, it seems a waste making it for just 2 of us.

Brawn

Brawn

Dee over at GreensideUp has kindly passed on her friend, Elaine’s recipe for me to share with you.

Firstly make your brine:

  •  1 x pigs head
  • 12 litres water
  • 3 kg salt
  • Bay leaves, coriander seeds, allspice, peppercorns etc
  • 1 cup sugar

Cut off ears, shave bristle.  Place into the prepared brine for 24 hours.

shaving

Next day : rinse, wash and scrub.

See he was a happy choppy

See he was a happy choppy

Place in a large pot with 3 leeks, 2 carrots, 3 celery, 2 onions and a bulb of garlic, bunch thyme, parsley, zest 2 lemons, 4 tablespoons sherry vinegar, black pepper and a bouquet garni made up with 2 tsp coriander  seeds, 2 tsp black pepper, 1 tsp allspice whole, 1 tsp cloves whole, 3 blades mace.

Cook for 4-5 hours at simmer.

Pick meat from bones, strain stick, place meat in loaf tin, add stock to cover (Elaine added a sheet of gelatine just in case). Weight it down (baked bean tins will do nicely).

beans

Refrigerate for 12 hours, slice and serve.

Keeps for 2 weeks in fridge.

I reckon if someone just told me it was a pork terrine I’d be much more amenable to it.

Have you tried it?

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I cannot believe I’ve never shared this recipe on here.  I originally shared the recipe over on the Discover Ireland blog in November 2012, but here’s your chance to enjoy it too!  It is delicious.

No two ways about it, we love fish in this house!

I suppose that is not really that surprising especially when you think Alfie has spent most of his life at sea as a commercial diver… so fish is important to him.

When we moved to the Midlands, our list of priorities did not include sourcing fresh fish!

However, it wasn’t long before we realised it is virtually impossible to source fresh fish here.  Yes, you can buy a limited selection in supermarkets – but I don’t believe that fish is quite fresh.  

Our way to satisfy our longing for fresh fish was to purchase a little in-car travel fridge and everytime we go near the coast to stock up!  Our favourite destination for fresh fish is Ali’s in Barna.  Barna is so beautiful this is not really a hardship!

 

Barna Pier

Combine this view with the nicest Fish Shop ever!  If you are in Barna you must stop by and say hi to Connie who works there…. she really looks after her customers!

Ali's Fish Shop, Barna

 

We love any type of fish and a special treat of some tuna or swordfish for the bbq.

A mid-week favourite dish here is Fish Pie which I’ve adapted from the Essential Seafood Book 

The original recipe calls for white fish fillets, like ling or hake, but I use a seafood chowder mix which can contain pieces of smoked fish, prawns, salmon, white fish, or sometimes just opt for a mix of whatever fish is on ‘special’  it doesn’t matter, it is all lovely.

Be warned you use quite a few saucepans!  However, there is a silver-lining…. all the wash up is done before you sit down to dinner!! :)  And it truly is worth the effort involved.

As I said I’ve changed it a little bit from the original recipe!  We are so lucky here in North Tipperary – while we can’t get fresh fish handily – we do have access to the freshest raw milk  – we swap with our neighbours – we give them eggs they give us milk and we are lucky enough to have Mossfield Organic Cheese within driving distance, so rather than use cheddar I use Mossfield Gouda…. delicious!  

I now grow dill especially to have for this dish.

Fish Pie

Fish Pie (Serves 4)

Ingredients:

  • 500 g potatoes
  • 60 ml milk or cream
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 60 g butter
  • 60 g Mossfield Cheese
  • 800 g Chowder Mix
  • 375 ml Milk
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 2 tablesp plain flour
  • 2 tablesp lemon juice
  • 2 teasp lemon rind
  • 1 tablesp chopped fresh dill
  •  Salt and Pepper

Method:

Preheat oven to 180 deg C/350 deg F/Gas 4.  Cook potatoes and mash well with the milk or cream, egg, half the butter and half the cheese.

Put the fish in a shallow pan and cover with milk.  Bring to the boil, then simmer for 2 – 3 minutes.  Drain the fish, reserving the milk and set aside.

Melt the remaining butter in a pan and cook onion and garlic over medium heat for 2 minutes.  Stir in the flour and cook for 1 minute.  Remove from heat and gradually add in the reserved milk.  Return to heat and stir constantly until the sauce boils and thickens.  Reduce the heat and simmer for 2 minutes.  Add the lemon juice, lemon rind, dill and salt and pepper to taste.

Put fish in 1.5 litre ovenproof dish, and gently mix in the sauce.  Spoon the mashed potato on top and sprinkle with remaining cheese.  Bake for 35 minutes until golden.  

Serve with some fresh peas or beans from the garden.

Enjoy!

 

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This time last year here in Ireland we were in the midst of the ‘horse meat’ scandal.  The question everyone was asking was how could there be horse meat in beef burgers, lasagne, etc. etc.?

I just wonder do people ever stop to think how is it possible to produce a pack of 10 burgers for €2.00.  Or what is the producer getting for that €2.99 chicken you’ve just bought?  If you think about it at all, it just doesn’t make sense.

Here’s a simple example from our own perspective….. and no, I am not going to talk pigs!

Let’s talk about ducks.  We buy a few every year here for the table, and some for eggs.

We buy our Aylesbury ducklings at about 10/12 weeks old.  Aylsebury ducks are not natural mothers… they seem to drop their eggs anywhere at all, and we’ve never ever had one go broody, so it is easier to buy in.  We now have a pair of Muscovy ducks who are better parents, so maybe we will not have to buy Aylsebury ducks anymore.

Aylesbury & Khaki Campbell ducklings

Aylesbury & Khaki Campbell ducklings

While the ducks are here in Redwood they live a happy life roaming freely about the place, enjoying the slugs and the flooded lawn, being taken care of and locked up at night away from any marauding foxes.

Aylesburys, Khakis and Muscovies

So today we will be having duck for dinner…. and this is what it cost us.

  • Purchase of duckling       €8.00
  • Feed for 9 months             13.50
  • Killing & preparation         4.00

Total Cost                        €25.50

Okay, we could reduce the cost by doing the killing, gutting and plucking ourselves…. but then a neighbour, who is well set up for it and does it on a professional basis will do it for €4.00 – and it does make our life that little bit easier :)

Ducks ready for the freezer

Ducks ready for the freezer

If we had ducklings born here, and did the killing ourselves we could eliminate those costs, that would leave just the feed which is €13.50.  If I was to supply a supermarket at that price, and get a return on my feed costs only, (forgetting about the work I have put into minding and caring for the birds) they would then add their 50% mark-up (that I believe is standard in supermarkets)…. the duck would cost you, the customer, €27.00.

So back to those burgers….. the supermarket bought that pack of 10 for a euro!  What the hell could possibly be in them at that price???????

 

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2014 has started off with such a bang!

Look what has happened!  Quite out of the blue, not an inkling that it was going to happen….. just bang, the email arrived yesterday morning.

Best Blog Award Ever!

Best Blog Award Ever!

To have my blog named as best blog by a fellow blogger is one thing, and by a fellow blogger who has achieved so much, is just magic!  Regula’s work has been featured by The Cheese Mag, Jamie Magazine, Saveur, Pretty Nostalgic Magazine, Huffingtonpost Taste, Harrods, Great British Chefs and The Foodie Bugle magazine…. just major, major wow!

Regula and I have chatted on line – about food (naturally), about raising pigs, about photography.  She has kindly even allowed me to use one of her photographs in our course handouts to demonstrate how to weigh a pig with a piece of string from when she did a pig-rearing course herself.

I absolutely adore her blog and her photography….. it is something for me to aspire to… oh how I would love to take photographs like Regula’s.

So can you imagine my excitement, the feeling of such honour to have someone you admire, choose your blog as their favourite and to see all this in print in such a wonderful food magazine?  I am still reeling!  My blog is mentioned in the Fine Food Digest (page 53)….. can anything else in 2014 bring about such excitement?

Thank you so so much Regula.

Thank you, thank you so much, Regula….. you have made me very happy :)

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It has been an absolutely hectic few weeks here at Oldfarm …. not that we are complaining!  As you will have noticed the blog has been completely neglected – I just did not have the time!

I have never had a ‘guest’ blogger before so I thought as I didn’t have the time, I’d have a guest blogger.  Great idea you’d think?  In reality I didn’t even have time to publish the post!!!

I’d ask Margaret Griffin from at FoodBornandBred, to explain the whole ‘freezing’ thing.  As we don’t use ANY preservatives in our pork or bacon the only way we have of ‘preserving’ our meat is by freezing it once it is butchered.

I felt as Margaret has a professional qualification in Food Science she could explain the technicalities way, way better than I can.  

And I was so right!  Did you know you could freeze eggs?  I freeze egg whites, but never thought of freezing the whole egg.

I was asked by Margaret from Oldfarm to write an information piece on freezing.  I have put together a few pointers which I hope may be of help. Everything to do with food I find, is trial and error. What is acceptable to me may not be to you.  The primary aim is to preserve and thaw food so that it does not have any impact on food safety and a minimal impact on quality.

Pork Belly for streaky rashers

Pork Belly for streaky rashers

 

The first thing to remember about freezing is there is almost nothing you cannot freeze.  The quality on thawing may not be great but for the most part will still be useable in some shape or form.  Primary examples of this are cream and coconut milk. Both tend to separate on thawing but are still perfectly fine cooked in a sauce.

Freezing preserves fresh food. Food which is old has a higher bacterial count. Freezing does not kill bacteria or toxins produced by bacteria. Freezing just inhibits bacterial growth. However, once the water in the food becomes available (to the bacteria) on defrosting, they quickly resume their growth curve. This is known as “available water”. Bacteria like all life need water.

For this reason it is important to freeze food in prime condition. If you purchase food that is very close to its use by date it is advisable to freeze it but consume it within a few weeks.

Fruit and vegetables with a very high water content do not freeze well. This is because the ice crystals that form are large and upon thawing disrupt the cell wall structure of the fruit causing leakage.  So strawberries will become soft and flaccid on thawing. Lettuce limp and brown.

Freezing eggs in their shell is about as advisable as freezing a glass bottle of anything liquid. Liquids expand on freezing so unless the glass bottle is half full it is probably best avoided.  To freeze whole eggs break and whisk them together noting on the label how many eggs you have used. Then remove from freezer and place overnight in the fridge to thaw. When I managed a bakery we used to buy 20 litre boxes of fresh whole eggs and freeze them all the time. The key is to defrost slowly.

Egg whites freeze beautifully, egg yolks less so although are still fine for baking

Pork and bacon both freeze really well. Years ago I always heard that it was not advisable to freeze bacon. This was due in part to a lot of it being cured by injection. The meat is injected with brine using lots of injector needles rather than immersing it. This method was used as it was quicker and got the brine distributed throughout the joint more evenly. However, the needles disrupted the meat cells and when defrosting there was considerably more leakage.

Oldfarm pork and bacon is frozen immediately after butchering and curing. This means that both the bacteria count is very low and as the bacon is immersion cured it will freeze and thaw without any noticeable loss of quality.

Thawing frozen food is best done slowly so as not to impinge on the quality.  Rapid thawing causes more cell wall damage leading to more water loss.  A large joint of meat for example is best defrosted in the fridge for between 24-48 hours, depending on the size. In winter I often defrost meat overnight in a room that is not heated and find this works equally well.  Never defrost meat by immersing in warm water. The defrosting bacteria can initiate a huge growth spurt as the water not only becomes available but warm. The bacterial equivalent of a rave ensues. Cue the human equivalent of the Black Death.

Defrosting in a microwave is useful if you are in a hurry or have forgotten to take something out of the freezer on time. The most important thing to remember is that defrosting in this manner is patchy and uneven. A roast joint can almost cook on the outside and still be rock solid in the centre. I find the best way is to set the microwave on defrost for a minute at a time and continually turn the item. Then cook immediately.  It is really advisable to probe a joint cooked after rapid defrosting to ensure the core has reached temperature. A guideline I go by is that most food poisoning bacteria are killed at 63 degrees centigrade. However, food safety guidelines tend to advise 72 degrees to allow for a margin of error.  If your core temperature is 72 degrees you can be fairly certain you will be fine.

Pork loin

The main thing to remember is that you get out of the freezer what you put in. If you freeze good quality, well hung and butchered meat (like that from a reputable meat supplier such as Oldfarm) you take out the same.

 

 

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Ooops!  I make this cake a lot at this time of year, I’ve made two already this past week, and I cannot believe I’ve not shared the recipe with you!

I’ve been asked so many times for the recipe, and I nonchalantly said ‘oh it’s on the blog’.  Just now I decided to check and it isn’t!!!  Sorry!

So here it is….

Oldfarm Apple Cake

Oldfarm Apple Cake

The original recipe came from The Big Apple – a little apple recipe book I picked up in a delightful little tea shop in Ledbury, but I’ve adjusted it a bit as usual.

Ingredients:

  • 200 g (8 oz) cooked Apple
  • 200 g (8 oz) Butter
  • 200 g (8 oz) Castor Sugar
  • 4 duck eggs
  • 200 g (8 oz) Spelt Flour (or you could use 8 oz of Self-Raising Flour)
  • 1.5 teasp. Baking Powder (omit this if you are using self-raising flour)
  • 100 g (4 oz) Sultanas

Method:

Preheat your oven to 150/160 deg. C

Peel and chop 4 – 6 apples depending on their size.  Put the chopped apple into saucepan and add a splash of water.  (I would often do way more apple, stew the lot and then freeze some, or have some for breakfast with some yoghurt the next day.)  Simmer the apple for about 15 – 20 minutes until softened and stewed.

Cream your butter and castor sugar together until light and fluffy.  Add your eggs one at a time, beating them well into the butter/sugar mixture.  When adding the final egg add a tablespoon of the flour with it.  Mix your baking powder with your flour and fold the rest into your butter/sugar/egg mixture.

Add your cooked apples and your sultanas to the mix.

Line a 9 in/21 cm cake tin.  Pour your mixture into it.

Bake in the oven for about 55 minutes to 1 hour until golden brown.

We keep saying that this would be lovely with custard poured over, but it never lasts long enough for that to happen!

Enjoy :)

 

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We love root vegetables in this house – carrots, parsnips, turnips are all popular but by far the top scoring is Celeriac.

I’ve tried to grow it without success.  One year I got beautiful foliage but no root…. this year it did not take at all.  The only consolation I have is that I was talking to Kieran, the head gardener at An Gairdin and he has given up trying to grow it!

So it should be cherished really – congratulations to those who can grow it.

This is a recipe from my first ever cookery course.  It was a weekend course given by Otto Kuntz in Dunworley Cottage right on the coast in West Cork.  I loved that course, and still treasure the memories of that weekend.

This celeriac and cheese dish makes an absolutely delicious starter, but I guess you could also serve it as a side dish with some turkey or ham!

Celeriac with Cheese Sauce

Celeriac with Cheese Sauce

Ingredients:

  • One head of celeriac
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • Breadcrumbs
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 60 ml Cream
  • 100 g Blue cheese is best, but any cream cheese could be used.

Method:

Peel and cut your celeriac in to about 1/2 inch chunks.  Cook in boiling water for about 10 minutes, until just soft.  You can do this part ahead of time.

When you are almost ready to serve…. Heat your olive oil in a frying pan, dip each piece of celeriac firstly in the beaten egg, then in the breadcrumbs and gently fry turning over until each piece is nice and golden.  Keep the pieces warm in the bottom of the oven, or on a warming plate.

To make the sauce, gently heat your cream and crumble in your cheese of choice. Just gently heat the sauce until all the cheese has melted.

Arrange your cubes of celeriac on the plate and pour over the sauce.

Enjoy!

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