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Archive for the ‘All things food’ Category

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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What’s your schedule like on Christmas morning?  Since moving from the city to the country, our Christmas morning routine has changed quite a bit.

We now like to get all the animals and fowl fed early (meaning we can have a shower and stay in clean clothes for the rest of the day!).  Sometimes we might make it to church – more for social than a religious reasons – and then, it is time to call into the neighbours for an hour or so.

This all means that we may not have breakfast until we get back from the neighbours… and by then it has turned into brunch.🙂

These days brunch would consist of our homegrown produce.  Even when we lived a less hectic city life, we would generally have gone for the brunch option on Christmas day.  Back in those days, before we were pig farmers, kedgeree would often have been on the menu.

Kedgeree seemingly was very popular in the days of the Raj with the British living in India.  I guess that makes it a kind of ‘posh’ brunch.  It was traditionally made with smoked haddock, but, hey, if we’re going ‘posh’ let’s go all the way and use smoked salmon!

I was asked by the folks at Quinlan’s Fish if I’d share a recipe using their Organic Irish Smoked Salmon.  I was delighted to… and had all sorts of plans involving sushi and homegrown horseradish, but then came back to this old favourite.  Time is very precious in this house in this week just before Christmas!  Last year, I remember saying I wanted a live-in chef for the week of ham shipments.

That didn’t happen…. but seriously this just took 20 minutes to prepare.

Give it a try…. you’re probably going to have smoked salmon in the house over Christmas, and this is so tasty and easy.  Serve it either as a brunch or supper, it works either way.

I made it for dinner this evening – just for two of us – but it’s easy to multiply the ingredients for more.

Kedgeree

Kedgeree

Ingredients:

  • 2 organic eggs – hard-boiled and quartered.
  • 6 oz. Organic Basmati (or long-grain) rice
  • large knob of butter
  • 1/2 organic onion finely chopped
  • 1/2 (large) clove of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/2 inch piece of ginger, grated
  • 100 ml cream
  • 125 g. Quinlan’s Organic Smoked Irish Salmon
  • Large pinch of cayenne pepper
  • Coriander leaves
  • A couple of slices of lemon

Method:

Hard boil your eggs…. 5 minutes is usually enough…. draining the hot water off the eggs, and running cold water over them to stop the cooking process.  Leave them in the cold water until you are ready to peel them.

Cook your rice for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in another saucepan.  Add the onion, garlic and ginger and fry gently until translucent.

Add the cream to the onion, garlic and ginger and heat slowly.

By now your rice should be cooked and drained.

When the cream has heated through, add the cooked rice to this saucepan and mix well to combine all ingredients.

Pull your Smoked Salmon apart into slivers and add most of it to the rice.  Mix gently… you will notice it changes colour as it ‘cooks’ when it hits the warm rice.

Put the rice mixture onto a serving plate and top with a few reserved slivers of the smoked salmon, together with some coriander leaves and a generous dash of cayenne pepper.

Serve with slices of lemon.

Enjoy!🙂

 

Disclaimer:  Quinlan’s Fish sent me the Irish Organic Smoked Salmon and asked me to post a recipe.  No money exchanged hands.  Their salmon is delicious and we enjoyed the resultant dish using their  organic salmon.

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And yes, there is ‘trouble’ with labels.

There are the ‘labels’ we attach to certain people, and there are the labels on our food. Here comes my rant about the food labels.

Do you read your food labels?

There are so many terms that are abused here in Ireland.  What’s it like where you are?

We use the word ‘artisan’ for so many things, and I’m sure most people have never even looked the word up in a dictionary.  Here’s the definition from the Oxford dictionary : Artisan (n) – skilled manual worker or craftsman.  So can a large factory-type set up, employing 100 people plus, running production lines, be producing an ‘artisan’ food product?  I guess you could say that the machines are being run by skilled workers, but is it not an abuse of the word?

Freerange hens, pigs and dog :)

Freerange hens, pigs and dog🙂

Then there is ‘organic’.   Now this is much clearer – or is it?

I’ve often asked people what their perception of ‘organic’ is, and often times they are just so wrong.  While there are strict guidelines with regard to feeding and caring of the animals…. organic does not necessarily mean ‘free-range’.  Depending on the breed of animal, they can be raised indoors, but must spend some part of their life outdoors.  However, not necessarily all of their lives.

Some will say, that in winter it is better for the animal to be indoors.  Let me tell you, in the case of pigs, they are damned clever, and will not go outside if it is freezing, wet and cold.  Would you?  Especially if you’ve got a silly human who will bring you food!

Anyone who has read my post about the process and procedures we had to go through to receive the QMark for our free-range pork will be aware of the hoops that were jumped.  You will also be aware that we are completely and utterly anti-gmo’s in this house.

And here’s a very scary fact ….. if you go to the co-op to buy your animal feed, it is labelled as containing gmo.  However, although that feed has been fed to an animal whose meat will end up in the food chain, there is no legislative requirement to label the human food as containing gmo.

After months of negotiations for the Q Mark, here’s what was agreed as the free-range definition:

Free range farmed:  a type of animal husbandry where pigs have free access to fields/woodland with defined boundaries for all or most of their natural life.  They receive their nutritional needs from prepared natural feed or from pasture or forage depending on the season.

And, again, while there are producers out there that are termed ‘free-range’ and then spoil it all by feeding gmo contaminated feed.  You need to check what they are feeding their animals.  Well, if you care you will.

Another thing, some producers say their animals are free-range.  They perhaps allow some of their animals access to the outdoors – just to portray the right picture.  However, the majority are locked up in sheds.

And the biggest offender of all????

The word ‘natural‘.  You’ve got to watch this video…. it may be a little exaggerated, but then again maybe it is not.

So my warning to you all folks?   If you really care what you feed yourself and your family, check what the animals are being fed.

Do you know how your Christmas turkey has been raised?

Do you know what the pig that died to provide you with that Christmas ham was fed?

Do you care about how these animals lived their lives?

Ask the questions, folks.  Ask can you come see where they live, what they are fed?

Go shake the hand of the farmer and find the answers to the questions.

 

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We’ve just had another rather busy week here in Redwood with more family visitors.  On Wednesday night last we had an extra seven guests for dinner!

It was time for some quick thinking….  main course was fine… I trotted out a couple of my quick and easy sausage recipes…. both went down a treat by the way.

I had no time to go baking, or conjure up a dessert, so I opted for a starter.  This particular starter has had a couple of different permutations in the past few weeks, as we’ve had tons of pears, but we’ve decided this is our favourite combination.

It is so so so very nice we might even have it again this evening.

Pear and Blue Cheese

Pear and Blue Cheese

Recipe (for 2)

  • 2 pears – peeled and sliced
  • 1 or 2 oz. of Gorgonzola cheese
  • A couple of walnuts chopped/broken into pieces
  • A drizzle of Balsamic vinegar.

Arrange first three ingredients on plate, and at last minute, just before serving, drizzle on your Balsamic vinegar.

Variations:

  1. Omit the walnuts and sprinkle with fresh thyme leaves instead.
  2. Subsitute goat’s cheese for the Gorgonzola – with this combination I lightly grilled the cheese (partially, as it was too cold, straight from the fridge).

Let us know if you try any of the combinations…. or even invent your own!

PS:  sorry the photograph isn’t great…. we’re back to winter indoor lighting😦

Enjoy🙂

 

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If you follow our Twitter or Facebook pages, you’ll have seen some obscure references to a ‘secret’ earlier in the summer.  Well here is the big reveal!

Earlier this year Lidl (a German supermarket) and RTE (our national TV station) launched Taste of Success.  They sent out the call across the country for budding entrepreneurs to come up with a product that would fit into the mix of products already available in Lidl stores.

There was a magnificent prize available – €100,000, which includes marketing support, product royalties, a cash prize and the chance to see your product featured and sold on the shelves of 141 Lidl stores across Ireland.

Without any hesitation Alfie decided to enter his free-range pork burger into the competition.  There were hundreds of entries, and Alfie’s pork burger was chosen to go through to the Munster finals.

Alfie travelled to Cork in June to be interviewed by the Munster Regional Mentor, Martin Shanahan of Fishy Fishy.  He was only given 24 hours notice of the interview, so there was no time to prep some burgers and bring them as requested to ‘taste’.  Despite not being able to bring a sample of his product to the interview Alfie got through to the next stage.

Two days later on a scorching hot day at the Cork Summer Fair, the 8 finalists from Munster cooked and presented their products to the professional judges – Paul Flynn, Lidl Ambassador and of The Tannery, Dungarvan

; and Martin Shanahan, Fishy Fishy, Kinsale.  Then it was time for a select group of the public to vote, and make their judgements as to which four products they thought were good enough to go through to the next round.

The tension while waiting for the announcement for the four finalists was palpable.  The products were diverse and interesting, and all finalists had put their heart and soul into the competition.

RTE Interview

RTE Interview

As this was all being filmed for a TV series there were many, many takes…. and lots and lots of hanging around.  A couple of minutes of TV takes a horrendous amount of time to film!

The good news for North Tipperary is that Alfie’s free-range pork burger was one of the four finalists to go through to the next round.

We had the TV crew here for a morning during the summer too…. filming Alfie in his ‘natural’ environment.  I was perfectly happy to be the behind the camera person/catering manager that day.

The show is aired on RTE1 at 8.30 pm on Tuesday evenings, so far we’ve had the Leinster and Connacht finals.  We’ve been amazed at how many people we’ve actually known who entered.  Tonight it is the turn of the Dublin’s finalists.   Alfie’s first show will be on Tuesday 11th November.  If you’re quick-eyed you might spot Alfie on the promotional advert.

Did he get through the next round?  Sure, that would spoil the surprise… you’ll just have to watch and see.

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