Archive for the ‘All things food’ Category

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


  • 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


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.



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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?


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.


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!


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


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


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



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

Black Bean Chilli

Black Bean Chilli


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


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!


  • 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.


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.



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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.




  • 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


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.



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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