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Archive for the ‘All things food’ Category

We do an awful lot of bartering here.

I swap eggs for a haircut…. it works … don’t knock it.  We recently swapped pork for some line caught tuna, and we used to swap bacon for lamb.  However, our neighbour decided not to keep sheep/lambs anymore.  We were devastated.

I love lamb almost as much as I like pork roast.

There was only one thing to do, we’d have to start keeping sheep ourselves.  So we jumped in head first.  Neither of us have had any dealings with sheep, but figured our neighbour would be on hand if we ran into difficulties.

The only consideration really was that the area that would be best to keep the sheep in gets very wet and soggy in winter so the decision was made to be summertime sheep farmers.  (Oh, how nice it would be to be a summertime pig farmer!  Just saying.)

Decision made, we spoke to our friend Suzanna over at Zwartbles Ireland, and ordered 4 sheep from her – 2 for us, and 2 for another neighbour.

Handsome sheep

Handsome sheep

The sheep-herd number was applied for.  That is a laugh in itself, the amount of questions you are asked, it is quite hilarious.

In mid-May we picked up our 4 lambs.

These guys are so very friendly – that, of course, was a worry – were we going to become too attached!!!

Bosco - the jumper

Bosco – the jumper

They settled in well.  Three of them were really friendly, and came running the minute any human appeared.  I spotted lots of people who stopped to buy eggs from our honesty box, wander over to chat to the sheep too!  They became a bit of a tourist attraction.  Well, they are handsome sheep.

Every morning they would be lined up at the fence waiting patiently for me to appear and give them some grain.  I know we all say that the sound a sheep makes is ‘baa’…. well these Zwartbles it is more of a maa.

We didn’t name them all… there was Timmy Tag (the nervous one), and then there was the one I named Bosco.

Bosco was a hoot.  He learned to jump the wall.  Yep, he was a jumper.  He regularly jumped the wall… trotted along to our front gate, and settled in on the lawn – just on the other side of the fence to his brothers!!!  He never went anywhere else.  It was very much a case of the grass on the other side of the fence was sweeter.

Now that they have gone to pastures in the sky (or the freezer), I have to say that I do miss their bleating.  However, the meat is so totally delicious.  We will be doing this again.

There is nothing quite like knowing where you meat comes from, or better still growing your own.

 

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Do you buy food magazines?  I don’t usually.  I have in my time subscribed to some, but after a year I find I get fed up of them, or find that I’m lucky if there is a recipe a month that I will try.

However, I like to ‘treat’ myself to an occasional magazine which is what I did when we were travelling to France.  I bought Olive magazine at the airport…. I hadn’t bought it in years.  Folks, I can honestly say that within half-an-hour of sitting down with it I wanted to try so many recipes.  I currently have a list of 15 from the September issue I want to try.

We’ve already tried the smashed cucumber twice…. verdict? It is delicious.

There are two courgette recipes to try.

Now courgettes…. people either love em or hate em!  Well that’s the way it is in the house.  I quite like them, but you know who is very very ambivalent about them.

This year, I was really good and only planted a single courgette plant, but, of course, it has been quite prolific…. giving us lots of courgettes!

This brings me to the second recipe that we’ve tried  – Courgette Scarpaccia.

Courgette Scarpaccia

Courgette Scarpaccia

We had very nice AirBnB guests who were willing to be tasters when I tried it first. Thank you Adrian and Lilli.  We all liked it, but felt it could do with something else, and the extra something we decided was thyme.

Never one to let the fact that I am entertaining strangers deter me from trying new recipes, I made it yesterday varying the recipe a little.  I hope the team at Olive magazine will forgive me!

Here’s my version.

Ingredients: (makes enough for 6 as a starter)

  • 450 g courgette
  • 3 scallions
  • Olive oil
  • 75 g plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 3 eggs
  • Splash of milk
  • Few sprigs of thyme
  • 4 tbsp. Mossfield Organic cheese – grated (or your favoured cheese)
  • Lots of Black Pepper
  • Parmesan cheese – shaved

Method:

Slice your courgette really finely using a mandolin.  Put in sieve, sprinkle with salt, and set aside to drain for about 30 minutes.

Line a swiss roll tin with baking parchment and oil well.

Heat oven to 200 deg. C/180 deg for Fan oven.

Put your flour and baking powder into a bowl, make a well in the centre and break in your eggs.  Using a balloon whisk mix flour and eggs together…. add milk should the mixture be too thick.  (You need your mixture to be like a yorkshire pudding mixture.)  Add the cheese and black pepper, mixing in well.  Add the fresh thyme, and most of your sliced courgettes.  Toss the remaining slices of courgettes in olive oil and set aside for a minute.

Slice your scallions and place on baking sheet with a good dollop of olive oil.  Bake in oven for 3 minutes.

Remove your tray and pour in your courgette mixture, spreading it out as evenly as possible.  Now arrange the saved courgette slices on top.

Bake in oven for 20 minutes…. until golden brown.

Remove from oven and add the shaved parmesan.

This is delicious served warm.  And is equally delicious cold as a ‘picnic’ next day.

Enjoy!

 

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We’ve had a pretty crazy time lately with lots of people coming and going.  What I love about all of this is that we get lots of lovely foodie gifts.  Our friends know us so well!!!!

In the midst of all the friends coming and going I received an email asking me would I like to sample and write a recipe using some of the products from HolyArt. We always consider carefully any request like this, so looked at their range of products….. loved that they were organic and made by the nuns and monks.  I’m a bit partial to such stories, there is a family connection with Glenstal Abbey which is a story for another day.

We agreed to try the products, and to share a recipe.  Less than 24 hours letter we received our box of goodies.  That was on Good Friday.  Each of the products have been enjoyed separately, but this recipe combines the two.

You can imagine how bad I feel that I am only now getting around to sharing this recipe with you.  I told you it has been a crazy busy time.

Our gift box from HolyArt included a bar of dairy milk chocolate and a jar of marmalade…. a grapefruit and citrus marmalade to be precise.

Chocolate and Marmalade gift

Chocolate and Marmalade gift

We also had friends coming to stay over Easter… so it was time to get inventive.  I decided a dessert was what was called for as both, Lily and Alan, are quite partial to sweet things!

Somewhere in my brain, there was a memory of a Bread and Butter pudding made with ‘marmalade sandwiches’.  I also remember an absolutely divine chocolate bread pudding made by a friend years ago.  I decided to try to combine the two memories.  BTW we’d also had a visit from an old colleague now working in a bakery so he’d brought us loaves of low GI bread… not something we’d normally buy… but this was going to come in handy.

Chocolate Bread & Butter Pudding with home-made ice-cream

Chocolate Bread & Butter Pudding with home-made ice-cream

Ingredients:

  • 8 slices of brown or white bread (as I say I used the Low GI we’d been gifted)
  • Butter
  • Marmalade – Cedri & Pompelmi
  • 2 teaspooons finely chopped candied peel (I had some that was another gift!)
  • 2 ozs.  Trappisti milk chocolate
  • 2 ozs. caster sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 12 oz. whole milk

Method:

Grease an appropriate sized dish.

Preheat your oven to 180 deg. C

Basically you make four ‘marmalade sandwiches’…. yes, butter the bread, before you put on the marmalade.  Cut your sandwiches into pretty triangles, and place them ‘pointy’ side up in your greased dish…. I decided to leave the crusts on.

Sprinkle over the sugar and candied peel.  Grate the chocolate over the mixture.

Beat your eggs and milk together and pour over your sandwiches.

Bake in your preheated oven for about 35 minutes.

I served the pudding with some of our home-made vanilla ice-cream.

There was enough in this for 4 desserts and some people even had seconds for breakfast the following morning!

 

 

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When Alfie’s daughter, Stephanie, was home from Australia in October herself and her partner introduced us to Laksa… a dish found in Singapore and Malaysia.  We loved it!  I’ve been dying to try to make it myself and finally got around to doing so a couple of weeks back.  It lived up to my memory.

We were also exceedingly lucky that Stephanie had brought us some Laksa Mix from Herbie’s Spices in Australia.  Has anyone ever seen such a mix here in Ireland?  I’m sure you could experiment as here’s the list of ingredients that go into the mix (it is an awful lot!) – coriander seed, cumin, chilli, salt, fennel, galangal, coriander leaf, turmeric, sugar, garlic, cinnamon, cloves, lamellae, lemon myrtle, pepper and cardamom.

Chicken Laksa

Chicken Laksa

Here’s Stephanie’s recipe:

Ingredients: (for 2 people)

  • 1/2 tbsp Olive oil
  • 1 tbsp. Laksa Mix
  • Small red onion, chopped
  • 200 ml can of coconut milk
  • 1/2 tsp fish sauce
  • 1/2 pt. chicken stock
  • 2 chicken breasts (we buy whole free-range and Alfie dissects) chopped.
  • 1/2 small yellow pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 small red pepper, chopped
  • Broccoli, chopped into florets
  • 1 Pak Choi, chopped
  • Rice noodles to serve

Heat oil.  Add Laksa spice to make a paste.  Cook for a minute or two to allow flavours to become aromatic and intensify.

Add the onion to the spice and fry gently.

Mix the coconut milk, stock and fish sauce together, add these to the onion and spice mix.

Bring the soup to a low simmer, add the chicken – cook for about 10 minutes.

Add the vegetables as you need to cook – depending on the thickness of the vegetable, i.e. broccoli first, peppers, pak choi, etc.

Cook your noodles separately.

To serve make sure everyone has some noodles and some vegetables.

Optional toppings include bean sprouts, finely sliced red chilli, squeeze of lime, freshly chopped coriander or basil.  We love the addition of finely sliced chilli and a squeeze of lime juice.

Enjoy!

 

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Anyone who follows this blog will know we love to bake our own bread.  There was a time when I used to make bread, but my role has been reduced to being occasionally allowed to do the kneading!  Alfie has completely taken over the bread-making role in this house.

We were both hugely excited when I received an email last week asking if we’d be interested in trying out some flour from Allinsons who have just launched their Dough Tree campaign.  Basically the challenge was to try one of their recipes.

We were given a choice of three recipes, and asked to choose one to try.

We were thrilled to accept the challenge.

Allinsons Hamper

Allinsons Hamper

The lovely hamper arrived on Monday – containing bags of flour, yeast, a loaf tin and a scraper (Alfie’s favourite piece – he’s been wanting one for ages). Immediately Alfie was eager to get stuck in.

Wholemeal Wreath

Wholemeal Wreath

In fact he made two of the above….. the Herb Focaccia and the Wholemeal wreath.

Herb Focaccia

Herb Focaccia

The only think that stopped him from making the Tiger Bread was the fact that we had no rice flour.  Rice flour is on the shopping list for the weekend so that Tiger Bread can be made.

And the resulting taste?

Delicious.

We had the focaccia with dinner that evening, and the wholemeal wreath for breakfast…. and shared some with neighbours who loved both as well!

Thank you to the folks at Performics and Allinsons for the opportunity to partake. We enjoyed the fun!

There are further plans to try making sourdough and other recipes from the site!

Disclaimer:  No money exchanged hands, we treated the hamper as a gift and were delighted to accept the baking challenge.

 

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I’ve been fascinated watching the challenge set by Sinead over at Bumbles of Rice, asking folks to put up photos of their dinners during the week.  The real life ones…. not the photoshopped, styled photos…. the dinners that people are actually sitting down to eat each day.

I know Sinead is talking about family dinners, i.e. families with kids.  ladies, how you cook separate meals for kids and adults amazes me… tis bad enough cooking dinner for 2 people!!!

However cooking for two can be just as stressful, you know, we can be pulling our hair out trying to decide what to have for dinner!!!

We cook every single night.  The odd night, it might be something reheated out of the freezer, but other than that it is freshly cooked.  When you live 6 miles away from a (not so great) take-away that’s what you have to do.

I’m trying to be a bit organised at the moment, with my 7 dinners listed at the start of the week…. just to take the pressure off, but then sometimes the old s*** hits the fan and plans have to be abandoned.

So here goes folks in the spirit of sharing is caring….. here’s how our dinners worked out last week.

Sunday:

We’d had a busy weekend, so Sunday night became our ‘kind of’ take-away night…. in that Alfie made pizza.  He makes a pile of pizza bases in one go and freezes them individually for the night when no-one really feels like cooking. I make a stack of tomato sauces with different flavours when we have our own tomatoes and freeze those too!  Pizzas in this house tend to be vegetarian…. Alfie makes a damn fine potato and leek pizza… and as for his aubergine and red cabbage one – to die for!

Monday:

It was my turn to cook.  Alfie’s daughter had made Chicken Laksa for us when she visited in October and I was dying to try it for myself🙂  Gosh, is this tasty!

Chicken Laksa

Chicken Laksa

Tuesday:

We had B&B guests who were eating with us so it was a traditional Irish dinner….. Bacon and Cabbage.

Bacon and Cabbage

Bacon and Cabbage

Wednesday:

Having had an incredibly early check-out : 3 am…. we were both exhausted so it was something from the freezer…. Alfie’s pork burgers with home-made chips and salad.

Pork Burger

Alfie’s pork burger

 

Thursday:

Was another meatless day…. again a new recipe that I tried.  Black Bean Chilli…. very nice.

Black Bean Chilli

Black Bean Chilli

Friday:

Beef Malay.  I love this dish and in fact, would be happy to have it every week… but that would be silly wouldn’t it??

Beef Malah

Beef Malah

Saturday:

I was in Dublin all day, so Alfie was in charge of dinner…… if you know Alfie at all, you’ll have guessed, yes…. it was steak with patatas bravas🙂  As you can see from photo, I was almost done before I remembered to take photo!!!

Steak with patatas braves

Steak with patatas braves

As you can see there was a bit of lack of variety and/or balance….. chips and patatas bravas and rice on 2 nights…. but what the heck… this week will be better (not)!!!

How do you do on your dinners?

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Rock Buns

Who else is of an age that the very mention of ‘rock buns’ sends shivers through you?

I think rock buns were the very first thing I made in Domestic Science class at school….. way, way, way, way back when.  Oh the memories, of struggling through wind and rain on the bicycle, with the bag of ingredients on the handle bars!!!

And rock buns, they left an indelible ‘yuck’ mark in my brain.

So, why you might ask are we talking about them today? Well the Lord only knows! I got a notion a couple of weeks back that I’d like to try making rock buns. Senility? Madness?  Who knows?

I made them folks, and they were delicious.  Nothing at all like my memory (or my neighbour’s either…. she called in for a cup of tea!).

Rock Buns reinvented

Rock Buns reinvented

Our conclusion…. we used crappy ingredients…. margarine, cheap horrible candied peel – remember how sticky and horrible it was?  This reincarnated version of rock buns is the business.  Try them and see!

Ingredients:

  • 225 gr. Biodynamic Organic White Flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 125 gr. Butter
  • 75 gr. Caster Sugar
  • 125 gr. dried fruit, including candied peel (I got a gift of some home-made candied peel – amazing!)
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons Milk
  • Granulated sugar for topping.

Method:

Preheat oven to 200 deg. C/400 deg.F/Gas 6.  Line a baking sheet with parchment.

Sieve flour and baking powder.  Rub in the butter until it looks like breadcrumbs.  Add the sugar and dried fruit.  Finally add beaten egg and milk.

Put small portions of mixture on tray about 1.5 inches apart.  Sprinkle some granulated sugar over each one.

Bake in oven for 10 – 15 minutes.  Leave to cool on tin for 5 minutes before transferring to wire tray.

Enjoy!

 

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