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Archive for the ‘All things food’ Category

Crumpets/Pikelets

Is it just my lockdown brain that is causing me to crave foods I haven’t had in years and years? Are others going through the same thing? I am frantically trying to avoid baking ….. well if I bake, we will have to eat the results!!

My current craving is for rice pudding. I haven’t succumbed to that YET!

The craving I did give in to was crumpets. I cannot remember when I last had crumpets. It was probably when we still lived in Dublin. However, recently the word got in to my brain and I just had to have some. I am not exaggerating when I say I spent weeks looking up various recipes and dithering about making them. I decided they would be too difficult. The recipes called for ‘muffin rings’. I have never in my life come across a ‘muffin ring’.

Did the ‘google’ thing and yes you can buy rings especially to have perfectly round muffins.

And, then, wonder of wonders I discovered there is such a thing as a pikelet, in other words an irregular shaped muffin.

I was good to go. And, let me tell you despite all my dithering and hopping from one recipe to another, they so easy to make.

In fact, the only problem with them is that…. they are so easy to make you will be making them TOO much.

Ingredients:

  • 225g Strong flour
  • 10 fl. oz Milk
  • 2 fl. oz Water
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 1 pack Yeast (7 g)
  • Pinch of Caster Sugar
  • A little butter

Method:

Combine milk and water and heat gently until just warm. Just warm enough that you can touch.

Mix your dry ingredients together. Make a well in the centre and gradually add in the milk. Cover your bowl with clingfilm. You now need to set this aside and let the mixture double in size. Obviously, the time involved depends on how warm your kitchen is.

Here is my TOP TIP to speed up the process .. place bowl in the oven with the oven light on. This brings temperature in oven up to about 22 deg. C and your mixture will have doubled in about an hour.

To cook your muffins (pikelets), grease a heavy pan with a little butter and place on high heat. Put spoonfuls of the mixture (which will be quite elasticy .. I know not a word, but you’ll know what I mean) on the pan and cook for a few minutes each side.

As with making pancakes I have found that the first one is not the best! However, they more you make the better they get. Don’t rush the process, and the longer you can leave on pan (without burning) the more they will rise.

The quantity above makes 7 or 8.

Hope you make them and enjoy!

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When my nieces and nephews were younger and came to stay, we would always carve a pumpkin. I hated the waste of just throwing the flesh to the hens or pigs (although they enjoyed them). I tried pumpkin pie a couple of times but hey, it just didn’t do it for me. And then I found this recipe, I cannot remember where though.

Now I don’t do any carving of pumpkins…. I just go buy pumpkins when they are in season so I can make this marmalade. Guests and visitors who have tasted it here love it too.

So go try it. Rather than waste all that lovely orange flesh make marmalade.

Pumpkin Marmalade

A little word of warning…. it is a 2 day process.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pumpkin about 4 lbs weight
  • 2 lbs sugar
  • 3 lemons
  • 1 orange

Day 1.

Cut pumpkin in half and scoop/scrape out the seeds and fibre. Cut the pumpkin into smaller more manageable pieces and peel off the rind. Chop the peeled pumpkin into 1/4 inch cubes and put in a large pot with half the sugar.

Let this stand overnight.

Day 2.

Next day cut the citrus fruits in half, remove seeds and chop into smaller pieces. Process these pieces in a food processor. Add citrus to pot with pumpkin. Add the remaining sugar.

Put pot over low heat, stirring until sugar melts and it comes to the boil.

Reduce heat and keep at a fast simmer for 3 or 4 hours, stirring often. Cook until fruit is clear and syrup is thick. This marmalade does not set like a regular marmalade or jam, but this does not diminish from the overall taste.

 

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You all know that I make liqueurs at Christmas time… mainly as gifts for friends, but it would be wrong not to keep some for ourselves, wouldn’t it?

I’m not that into desserts myself … hand me a cheeseboard any time.

However, we always offer guests a dessert option.  And, last month I was struggling hard to come up with a gluten-free option, especially with the poor selection of fresh fruit available at this time of year.

Then, I had a ‘light bulb’ moment.

Why not make a cheesecake using some of my homemade liqueurs!!!

Even if I say so myself the result was wonderful.  And I guess the request for ‘seconds’ from guests means that they enjoyed it too!

Cointreau

Ingredients:

  • 250 g gluten-free digestive biscuits, crushed.
  • 110 g butter, melted.
  • 450 g cream cheese at room temperature
  • 2 tbsp Cointreau
  • 100 g icing sugar
  • 200 ml cream
  • 2 small Cadbury flake bars

Method:

Mix the crushed biscuits and melted butter together.  Press mixture into a lined 9 inch flat tin.  Place in fridge for at least 1 hour.

Whip the cream until it forms soft peaks.

Separately beat the cream cheese to soften it, add in the sugar and coffee liqueur.  Fold in the whipped cream and finally crumble in 3 of the flake bars.

Spoon mixture onto now set base and smooth out.

Place in fridge for at least 2 hours to allow to ‘set’.

Decorate with mandarin segments prior to serving.

As a side note… this cake freezes really well too!

I hope you try it and enjoy!

 

 

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Late last year I was asked to recommend some organic places to stay and eat in Ireland. I was caught off guard to be honest.  So I set about developing a list.

There is only one certified organic restaurant in Ireland that I know of – The Strawberry Tree at Macreddin Village.

My list, therefore, is based on the premise that the cafe/restaurant is growing, or sourcing, produce that has been grown organically without the use of chemicals.  Some have told me that it is not possible to source completely organic, but that they do their utmost to, and if it is not organic, it is local.

Some interesting observations – when I asked people for recommendations, folks immediately gave me names of vegan and/or vegetarian places.  Damn it, even Google, throws up vegan/vegetarian as their search results!!

Here’s the thing… being vegan or vegetarian does not make a place organic.

On building the map, the other thing that struck me is the concentration of places across the middle of the country.  Interesting isn’t it?

I am sure there are places I’ve missed.  I’m also hopeful that the list will evolve.

I will also preface this by saying that I have not visited all, just some of these places.

Let me know if there are places you think should be included.

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We spend a lot of time trying new recipes, especially in the winter months.  Some, but not all, are with a view to providing guests with new experiences, sometimes though you just need to spice up the regular ‘go to’ dinners that we have ourselves.

This beef dish has been made many times in recent weeks, partially, because we really like but also because I’ve had a damned hard time getting a decent photograph to share with you.  See the suffering we do on your behalf!  i’ve finally got a couple that are good enough to share.

It is cooked in two stages, which I find handy… I can prep it ahead and then do the final stage when outdoor jobs are done.

I promised our friend, Lily, over at Picado Mexico, that I would not refer to it as Mexican food… it isn’t.  It is more akin to what I remember as Tex Mex from a couple of visits to California.

Ingredients:

  • 450 gr minced beef
  • Vegetable or Olive Oil
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp chilli flakes (or chilli powder)
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 400 g tin of tomatoes
  • Cheddar
  • Pickled Jalapeños

Method:

In a saucepan heat oil and cook onions gently for a few minutes, add in garlic, then beef.  Continue to cook until beef is nicely browned.

Add the various spices and seasoning.  Mix well.

Add tin of tomatoes, and continue to cook for about 20/25 minutes.

When you re ready to move onto next stage grease a casserole dish and add in your beef mixture.  Grate cheddar on top, and sprinkle over the Pickled Jalapeños (our local Aldi has jars of these at the moment or you can get them from Picado Mexico on line).

Bake in oven for c. 25 minutes, until cheese is golden.

Serve with sour cream and guacamole.

Enjoy!

 

 

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Hoisin sauce

January is generally our ‘quiet’ month, so it is the month we try to do some catch up on maintenance jobs and also take time to try out new recipes.  For whatever reason we’ve kind of got an “Asian” theme going on with lots of the recent recipes… I promise I will share them with you over time.

This hoisin sauce came about because we’d had one of our own ducks for Christmas dinner and leftovers were in the fridge.  I mentioned to Alfie that it would be fun to try to recreate the Peking Duck that you see in most Chinese restaurants here.  So, fair play, off he went on the search for recipes.  He found a recipe for Chinese pancakes so we made our own, and he also found this recipe for hoisin sauce.

We found the sauce a bit sweet for our tastes on the first making, so second time around we adjusted the sweetness.

With Chinese New Year just around the corner (5th February), you have plenty of time to give it a go.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp. Crunchy Peanut Butter (we are using the one from Aldi that doesn’t contain palm oil)
  • 1/4 cup light soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp. black strap molasses (if you prefer sweeter, use honey)
  • 2 tsp. Rice Vinegar
  • 2 tsp. Sesame Oil
  • 1 clove garlic, grated
  • Pinch black pepper
  • 1 tsp. Chilli paste
  • 1/2 tsp cornflour
  • 1 tbsp water

Method:

Blend all ingredients (except cornflour and water) together to make a smooth(ish) paste.

Place in saucepan and heat gently.  Add in the cornflour and water stirring constantly to mix through, if the sauce starts to get too thick add a little boiling water.

Let us know if you try it, and how you like it.

 

 

 

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As we head into the madness that is the shopping before Christmas, I thought I’d share some observations.  Even if you have all your grocery shopping done for now, it might be worth considering for a ‘resolution’ for 2019.

How many of you check the ‘per kg’ weight on items?  And it is not just the ‘kilo’ weight, often I have seen where the 6 pack is more costly than buying individual bottles!

I’ve had discussions with various friends recently, and it seems some do check and others don’t.

Well let me tell you you should.  I recently was on my way to the check-out with my ‘special offer’ on dog food… when I realised I was paying close to 50% more than buying the regular stuff!

Here are two recent examples.

In one supermarket recently they had a 90 g packet of prosciutto at €2.49. Similarly they had the ‘Christmas’ party pack with 150 g….. and the cost of that was €4.99!  So in other words you could buy 180g (in 2 packs) for €4.98!!!

This is the best one though from Aldi, and it features regularly in our local store.

You can buy a 1.5 lt bottle of Malbec for €16.99…. or, wait for it ….. you can buy a 75 cl bottle for €7.99…. exactly the same vintage, producer, etc.

Argentinian Malbec 1.5 lt

 

Argentinian Malbec 75 cl

Obviously they don’t think we read the labels…. and obviously some of us don’t!

My advice …. look twice at what is on offer, and have a wonderful Christmas.

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You’d have to be living in a bubble to not know tis pumpkin season!  Our pumpkin season started quite early as I had planted a couple of Hokkaido pumpkin plants in the polytunnel this year, and they gave us lots and lots of fruit.

Just as well we like this pumpkin… and by the way, it stores really well in a cool, dark press… if it gets a chance to.

As we had a busy time through September, and even into early October, with B&B guests this recipe featured quite a bit.  It is definitely a keeper!

The original recipe from Olive Magazine features butternut squash, but let me tell you it works just as well with pumpkin.

If you are carving a pumpkin this weekend, try this out with your dinner.  It is totally yum.

Creamy Pumpkin Gratin

Ingredients:

  • Hokkaido pumpkin – peeled and thinly sliced (I use a mandolin)
  • 300 ml cream
  • 150 ml milk
  • 1 tsp mustard
  • 1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes
  • 1 clove garlic – crushed
  • A bunch of sage leaves – chopped

Method:

Heat oven to 180 deg. C

Prepare your pumpkin.  Grease an ovenproof dish, and arrange your pumpkin slices.

In a small saucepan heat the cream, milk, mustard, chilli, garlic and sage for a few minutes.  Stir well to incorporate the mustard.  Pour this liquid over the pumpkin.

Bake for 20 minutes or so, take your dish out of oven and press the pumpkin down into liquid (I use an egg flip for this).  Return to the oven for another 15 to 20 minutes until golden brown.

You can leave the gratin to sit for a few minutes before serving.

 

 

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Marinated Courgettes

Who plants courgettes/zucchini, and then ends up wondering what to do with all the produce?  Is there a person in the world who has got the balance right on how many plants to grow for their family?

If you grow them, I can put money on it that someone in the house is saying ‘not courgettes again!’

When I shared the Courgette Scarpaccia a couple of years ago, lots of you tried it, and I know it has become a favourite in this house and in many others.

Well folks, I’ve another courgette recipe to share with you.

It too has become a welcome favourite in this house, and it works on so many levels.

The original recipe came from Olive Magazine, but as always it has evolved and changed here in Redwood.

Marinated Courgette/Zucchini Salad

Ingredients:

  • A medium courgette
  • Olive oil – plenty of it
  • Zest and juice of one lemon
  • Clove of garlic – bruised

Method:

Cut the courgette into slices of 7 to 8 cm long, and half a centimetre in thickness.  Heat a griddle pan to high.  Brush one side of each courgette slice with olive oil and place oil side down on pan.  Griddle for 4 to 5 minutes.  Brush upper side with oil, and turn over for a further griddle.

Arrange your slices in a nice shallow serving dish.

Mix the rest of your ingredients together and pour over your sliced courgette.

This is all best made ahead, and left to sit for an hour before serving.

(Note:  I do tend to warn people about the lump of raw garlic in the dish… it is not something I’d like to bite into!)

Give it a try and let us know if you enjoy!

 

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We offer guests the option of joining us for dinner when they come stay.  If they decide to take up this offer I ask about food likes and dislikes.

The most usual answer to that question would be that they don’t eat ‘offal’.  Now we do, but I don’t think I would ever randomly serve it up to guests.

Then there are the people who don’t eat fish. Those who only eat ‘white’ meat …. pork seemingly comes under that classification!!! (What kind of pork are they used to???)

We’ve had some interesting challenges in the food department.  There’s been the nut, dairy and egg free challenge.  The latest was dairy, sugar, salt and red meat free diet… that was somewhat of a challenge but we managed it.

More and more people are saying that they’d like something ‘traditional’.  Now here’s a question for you…

  • If you are Irish what do you classify as a ‘traditional’ Irish dinner?
  • If you are not Irish, but travelling to Ireland, what would your expectation of a traditional Irish dinner be?

I think it is fair to say that Alfie and I really don’t do much that is ‘traditional’ Irish food. We have on occasion done ham (usually finished on the bbq!) with the potatoes and vegetables.  I’ve also done stuffed pork steak with vegetables as a ‘traditional’ option.

As Irish as it gets here

Summertime traditional?  I don’t know.  My childhood memories would be of salad plates with lettuce, ham, tomato and probably a hard-boiled egg.

Give us your answers….

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