Sometimes you just need time out and this weekend was one of those times. I love being busy – both workwise and socially but things have been pretty hectic for the last two months.
I had an early night on Friday and spent a very pleasant few hours Saturday morning reading Mary Berry’s autobiography before tackling some long overdue housekeeping. The pantry had taken on a life of its own and needed to be brought back under control. Now everything is neatly grouped and visible ……for a while anyway. The tupperware is organised and the kitchen presses are organised.
Now if only I could persuade someone to do the ironing
After all that hard work I had to recover on the couch with some TV and cookbooks. My book of choicewas a lovely one I brought back from Canada, ’The Ontario Table’ and one of the recipes that I wanted to try was for Corn Fritters
By coincidence when I was flicking through the channels I came across The Two Fat Ladies cooking corn fritters. A sign definitely …
So combining the two recipes I made the following for Sunday Brunch:
Corn Fritters (or are they pancakes?)
What you need:
200g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp Irish Atlantic Chilli & Paprika salt
fresh corn kernels from 2 cobs of corn
Bunch spring onions chopped
What you do:
Mix flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl.
Whisk eggs and milk together in a jug.
Make a hollow in the middle of the dry ingredients and pour in egg mix
Fold in to make a creamy batter then add in the corn and the spring onions.
Drop 2-3 tbsp. onto griddle pan, allow to ‘bubble’, then turn over to cook other side.
I served the fritters with crispy Pigs on the Green bacon and my latest food addiction – Golden Beetroot Relish from In Season Farm which I found in the lovely Hereford & More shop
Technically fritters should be fried in oil but I opted for the griddle method of cooking which makes them more of a savoury pancake and therefore an option for Shrove Tuesday don’t you think?
Happy Cooking !
And even though I may have gotten a little bored last night (as predicted by the CT!), my batteries are now fully recharged and ready for the week ahead
I bought a deep fat fryer a few years ago because I wanted to cook Deep Fried Brie – it’s a favourite of the Chief Taster After about two uses it took up residence somewhere deep in my shed. Anything that needs to be deep fried is now baked. Well except for the brie – experiments have proven that it ‘explodes’ in the oven and it is now a dish to be enjoyed only when we’re out :-)
Last night we had a ‘Taste of Asia’ class with dishes from China, India and Thailand. All the dishes were very well received including the baked spring rolls with hoisin sauce.
Here’s all you need to do to make a healthier version of take away spring rolls:
What you need:
Selection of vegetables such as:
1 carrot, finely julienned
1 red pepper, thinly sliced
Tin of Chinese mushrooms
1/2 packet Beansprouts
1 tbsp. soy sauce
2 tbsp. oyster sauce
10 Spring Roll Wrappers
1 egg, beaten
3 tbsp. hoisin sauce
1 tbsp. Nam Pla (fish sauce)
1 tbsp. cold water
1 chilli, finely chopped
What you do:
Heat a tbsp of sunflower oil in a wok.
Add the vegetables and stir fry for 2-3 mins
Add the soy and oyster sauces, cook for another minute then set aside to cool.
Place spring roll wrapper on chopping board. Place a small pile of vegetables, in lower corner of wrapper – Fold bottom over, then bring in the two sides and roll over to enclose the filling – like an envelope (It gets easier!)
Seal the end of the pastry by brushing with the beaten egg.
Then brush each roll with egg and bake in hot oven (200 C Fan) for 10 mins until crispy
To make dipping sauce – mix hoisin sauce, fish sauce, water and chillies in a bowl.
You could also add shredded duck or pork if you’d like. I was pleasantly surprised that the Chief Taster polished off the veggie ones
Happy Cooking !
If you’d like to attend one of my cookery classes in Tullamore please let me know. Next week is a ‘Taste of the Americas’
My father used to talk about Meitheals in the West of Ireland where he grew up – everyone coming together to help their neighbour to complete a task which would have taken forever otherwise.
I saw the Meitheal concept in operation last week when very good friends gathered round to help me photograph my food offerings. The wonderful Derick, one half of Kenmare Foodies, ventured up from the Kingdom and spent the day cooking up a storm. The lovely Fiona from Hunters Lodge arrived supposedly to potwash but was quickly put to work as a food stylist (and ironer). The fabulous Paula Ryan was photographer for the day and the results are stunning. Paul from the Shoebox arrived in the afternoon and we even got him to do some work in the kitchen! Then Jacqui & Geoff appeared that evening to make us cocktails and sample the food.
Here’s a flavour of the day…
Fish & Chips
Thai Beef Salad Cups
And then there was the poser…..
And I love this one - very Downtonesque
Food photography is hungry work so I had to provide everyone with a treat to keep them sweet – with chocolate cake of course
This gorgeous cake is from a Nigella recipe and then topped with lovely orange and almond chocolate which turns it into a rather large jaffa cake…..
Chocolate has always been associated with sensual and romantic properties and when we indulge in it’s silky lusciousness, endorphins are released in our brains which make us feel happy and loved.
In the last year I’ve been very lucky to work with Butler’s Chocolates, giving chocolate cookery classes in their demo kitchen in Clonshaugh. I try to theme each class around an event so naturally the February class was all about Cupid, Valentines and Love! I do 7-8 recipes per class and I’m always amazed at how quickly the tasters disappear!
I’m also doing a ’Cupid’s Dining’ class in my own kitchen on Tuesday 4th February – a three course romantic meal guaranteed to impress that special someone in your life
There will be scallops , venison and lots of chocolate among other things on the menu …and of course some pink bubbles . If you’d like more details on this or any of my classes please let me know.
One of the big hits from yesterday’s class was the salted caramel dessert and here’s the recipe of you want to surprise your loved one on Valentine’s Day
2 weeks into January and my resolutions are still going strong – well most of them ! I started my get fit regime (albeit gently) , had a great turn out for my first cookery class and enjoyed my first meal out of the year.
The Chief Taster surprised me with a night away in Dunbrody House Hotel – just the thing to chase away the January blues. If you haven’t been, Dunbrody is a beautiful Georgian House in Arthurstown , Co. Wexford run by TV Chef Kevin and Catherine Dundon.
We stayed in a lovely room overlooking the garden and the beautifully laid out herb garden. I will admit to being slightly jealous The CT had to go do some work so I relaxed with coffee and my book.
Then it was time to preen ourselves for dinner and pre-prandial drinks by the fire. I’m still searching for a ‘grown up’ pre-dinner drink – thanks to a recommendation from the cocktail guru Geoff Boyle I decided to try a Hendricks gin and tonic but was a little disappointed to be told that they had run out of Hendricks over Christmas. I picked a Campari from the drinks menu after that – it will not be my drink of choice . He stuck to his usual whiskey and was happy.
We were served a very tasty salmon dip while we decided on our dinner choices and then shown into the beautiful dining room.
Dinner did not disappoint. We both loved the black pudding and chorizo bread (I shall be attempting a version..). Then I had the Smoked Salmon and the Venison , while the Chief Taster had the Pigeon and the Halibut. I loved the flavour combination of the smoked celery root purée with the venison but I will admit to passing on the sunchoke!
We don’t normally do desserts but our lovely waitress Sarah persuaded us – so he opted for the doughnuts and coffee and I went for the cheese board which would have comfortably fed four if not six people! And then there were handmade chocolates…… All these delights were washed down by a very pleasant Lawton Hill’s Pinot Noir.
We were so full we couldn’t even manage a postprandial drink – even the stairs were a challenge
Would you believe the lovely Sarah turned out to be the equally lovely Paula Ryan’s niece. Talk about a small world!
Breakfast was another feast – did I mention I’m joining a gym! There were two ladies in the dining room who were heading to the Cookery School for the day and I would have loved to have gone with them but unfortunately it was time to head back to reality.
If you’re looking for a relaxing mini break with excellent food I’d definitely recommend Dunbrody House. Next time I’m definitely doing a cookery class
Speaking of cookery here is one of the dishes from my first ‘Healthier Cooking’ class – warm, comforting and healthy!
Chickpea & Red Pepper Stew
What you need:
1 tbsp. rapeseed oil
1 onion, chopped
1 red peppers, diced
1 clove of garlic, crushed
2 tsp smoked paprika
1 jar passata
1 tin chickpeas
Pinch of sugar
What you do:
Heat oil over a gentle heat in a heavy bottomed saucepan, add onion and pepper and cook for about 10 mins until softened
Add the garlic and the paprika and cook for another minute.
Add in the passata plus a pinch of sugar and the chickpeas. Leave to simmer over low heat for 10 minutes.
Season and serve with rice, sprinkled with fresh coriander
PS Crisped chorizo sprinkled over the top may add a few more calories but it is rather delicious….
My Father was a teacher. My Grandmother was a teacher. In fact I’m sure my Great Grandmother was one too. It was assumed that I would be one too – a maths teacher to be precise.
But I decided engineering would be a better option – 200 males to 40 females as opposed to a practically all female teacher training college…..and the job prospects were more lucrative too. No contest.
So that was the end of the teacher hopes…until a few years ago my friend Kay asked me would I be interested in teaching her and a few others how to cook. I baulked. I have never been comfortable speaking in front of a group. However after a lot of persuasion I agreed to give it a shot. I cannot honestly remember what I talked about or even cooked that first night but the feedback was great and I was hooked
My Father was passionate about his teaching and I could never understand how he went to the same job for 40 years. His answer was that he had a fresh intake of pupils every year with whom to share his love of English.
I wish I could tell him that I now have a much better understanding of what he was talking about. Mind you I’m not sure what he’d say about my move from engineering to food
Since that first series of classes in Kay’s lovely kitchen I did more classes in various locations including I also did a series in Lynch’s pub – ironically my Father’s favoured watering hole. I did some in my old kitchen as well - great fun but to say it was cramped would be kind! And all the while I was planning my perfect dream kitchen.
Then the opportunity arose to move house , home to be precise . I took over our family home in Tullamore and after a lot of building (and a few tears) I now have not one but two kitchens!
I converted the garage to a small catering kitchen and then I got MY kitchen – a bright red one complete with my Rangemaster and with large glass doors opening out onto my Mum’s lovely garden.
In fact I love my dream kitchen so much that I’m prepared to share it with anyone who wants to learn about cooking!
I did a few classes towards the end of last year just to see how it worked – what a difference space makes!
We even had two great days doing Christmas cooking where everyone sat down to a family style turkey dinner .
So now it’s onwards and upwards . I have devised a list of classes for Spring kicking off on January 14th with a short course on Healthier Cooking. There won’t be calorie counting but it will be good food cooked from quality ingredients and I promise to cut down on my use of butter and cream. We’ll be doing dishes like healthy soups, tasty stir fries, hearty casseroles and may even be fish and chips .
Other upcoming courses include Cupid’s Cooking; a Taste of the World and Easy Entertaining
The classes are demo based (so far…) and then at the end you all get to taste and share the dishes prepared and then go home armed with your recipe booklet. Sometimes there’s even a glass of wine though obviously not with the Healthy Eating Course!
I’m thinking of more Saturday course for Easter and a vegetarian class has been requested. The plans are endless!
I also do dinner party classes in your home – I cook you learn and eat; as well as group and individual classes. Please contact me if you would like more details on any of these.
Way back when I didn’t cook – well career women didn’t – my idea of a cooked dinner was either a Marks & Spencer ready meal or, if I was feeling very adventurous, a pasta bake. And yes to my shame I used packet sauce – well I did add in the tuna and the sweetcorn and make the salad ;-) Actually thinking about it I feel sorry for my partner at the time – thankfully his Mother always invited us for Sunday lunch so he was guaranteed one decent meal a week!
Now thanks to Darina Allen, my time in Ballymaloe and in particular my friend Nicola, I can now make my own pasta bake . I promise no packet sauces have crossed my threshold for years
This is a variation on my standby recipe and as such I have to apologise as all quantities are approximate. I know – this used to drive me mad when I was learning to cook and it’s taken me a long time to be confident with ‘a bit of this and a handful of that’. I blame it on my scientific background.
I also wanted to blog this today to help you use up any Christmas leftovers still lurking in your fridge before Twelfth Night. Last night’s supper was to use up mine before the new year’s resolutions kick in on Monday ………
Cook and drain some pasta – I estimated enough for 2. The general guideline is 75g dried pasta per person. I’d have preferred to use penne but hey, the choice was between fusilli or animal shapes. The fusilli won
Sauté a shallot and some chopped peppers in a butter/oil mix. Add some chopped smoked salmon (I used 2 long slices) , a handful of frozen peas and somecapers.
Cook for 2-3 mins then add a good glug of vermouth(or white wine if you’ve a bottle open). Allow to reduce for few minutes.
Pour in cream (I had about half a large carton left , approx 250ml) and a teaspoon of my ‘secret’ ingredient - Ikea‘s dill mustard. Trust me you need a jar of this in your fridge!
Then add in the cooked pasta and transfer the mix to a casserole dish.
Top with panko breadcumbs and chunks ofcamembert.
Bake for 15-20 mins at 170 C Fan until golden and bubbling.
Serve with a nice big glass of wine……….and a green salad
Happy Cooking !
The health kick starts Monday I promise………… I’ll be researching recipes for my lighter cooking course which starts 14th January