Chocolate Hot Cross Buns

When we were children everywhere was closed on Good Friday, the Fast day was adhered to and you weren’t even  supposed to speak between 12 and 3pm. There wasn’t  anything to watch on TV except the Long Good Friday.  The only good thing was the bag of hot cross buns that my Mum used to buy from McGinn’s bakery. These sticky buns were delicious with lashings of butter – we protested that they counted as a collation and so formed part of the Fast Day diet.

Good Friday is now almost  like any other day except for Hot Cross Buns that is. McGinn’s no longer exists – it’s now the CopperPot Still Pub. I’m not even sure how many people observe the Fast Day anymore.

In the last few years I have started making my own hot cross buns to see if I can recreate that childhood taste. I’ve had various degrees of success but I never seem to remember to write down how I made them or which recipe I followed.

This year I am going with a twist as I want to include Hot Cross Buns in my Easter Chocolate Class with Butlers Chocolate.  And because people like to know how to reproduce what I demonstrate I’ve even remembered to write down how I made them :-)

I took my inspiration from a number of recipes but I’ve broken a few rules by adding everything in together. I came across the idea of using the muffin trays on the Taste Australia website and it’s such a good idea I can’t believe I hadn’t come across it before.

There’s a bit of time involved in making these but trust me they’re worth it :-)

Chocolate Hot Cross Buns

Makes 12 

What you need:

  • 450g strong flour
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 25g cocoa
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • 2 *7g sachet dried yeast
  • 150ml milk, made up to 200ml with warm water
  • 50g butter, melted
  • 1 egg
  • 75g mixed peel
  • 75g Butlers milk chocolate, chopped
  • Zest & Juice of 1 orange
  • To decorate:
    • 4tbsp plain flour
    • 2 tbsp granulated sugar
    • Water

What you do:

  • Make your dough by mixing together the flour, sugar, cocoa, mixed spice and yeast in bowl of your Kenwood.
  • In a jug mix the warm milk mix, melted butter and beaten egg. You want this mix to be lukewarm so it will activate the yeast.
  • Pour this mix into the dry ingredients and knead using the dough hook ( or you could do by hand if you’re feeling energetic!)
  • Once the mix comes together add in the mixed peel, chocolate, orange zest and juice and continue to knead for another 5 mins.
  • When the dough mix is smooth and springy transfer it to an oiled bowl. Cover lightly with clingfilm and leave to rise in a warm place for an hour.
  • Once the dough has doubled in size, knock it back and knead for a minute or two (by hand this time!)
  • Line a 12 hole muffin tin with paper liners. I knew I’d eventually find a use for the lovely ones that have been languishing in my baking cases box for the last two years.
  • Divide the mix into 12 equal pieces and roll each piece into a ball and place one in each hole of the muffin tray.
  • Cut a cross in the top of each bun using a scissors . Cover the tray and leave to rise for another 20 mins.
  • Heat your oven to 200C/180Fan/Gas6
  • To top the buns mix the 4 tbsp. of flour with enough water to form a paste.  Put the paste into a plastic bag, snip of the corner of the bag and pipe into the cross on each bun.
  • Bake in a hot oven for 12-15 minutes. To check  they’re cooked tap one of the buns on the bottom and you should hear a hollow sound
  • To get that lovely sticky glaze on top melt the 2 tbsp. sugar with a tablespoon of water and then brush over the top of each bun.

Hot cross buns

These hot cross buns are best enjoyed warm with lots of butter. The Chief Taster is in the UK on business so I’ll have to make another batch when he gets back to see what he thinks of the chocolate twist. Any excuse I know….

Buttered bun

 

 

Happy Cooking !

If you’re interested in attending any of my classes in Butlers please check out their website  for times and dates

 

A fritter type of pancake…

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

The Ontario Table

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 Fritter

Corn Fritters (or are they pancakes?)

What you need:

  • 200g plain flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp Irish Atlantic Chilli & Paprika salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 180ml milk
  • 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 :-)

To fry or not to fry?

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.

taste of Asia 002

Here’s all you need to do to make  a healthier version of take away spring rolls:

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
  • Dipping Sauce:
    • 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.

spring rolls

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’

Friends, Lovers, Chocolate……….

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…

Crab Tartlets

Crab Tartlets

Curry Pots

Curry Pots

Fish & Chips

Fish & Chips

Thai Beef Salad Cups

Thai Beef Salad Cups

And then there was the poser…..

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And I love this one  - very Downtonesque

Dining Room

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 & Orange Cake

Oven:    180°C/fan 160°C/Gas 4

What you need: 

  • 5 clementines
  • 6 eggs
  • 225g /8oz caster sugar
  • 250g/9 oz ground almonds
  • 1 tsp (heaped) baking powder
  • 2 bars Butlers Orange and Almond Chocolate

What you do:

  • Simmer the clementines in saucepan of water for 2 hours. Check occasionally to make sure you don’t run out of water! Drain and allow to cool
  • Cut each clementine in half, remove any  pips and then whizz oranges in a food processor.
  • Line the base of 20 cm springform tin with baking parchment and  butter the sides
  • Beat the eggs
  • Mix the dry ingredients – sugar, almonds and baking powder together.
  • Add in to the beaten eggs and mix well.
  • Finally stir in the puréed oranges.
  • Pour mix into the lined tin and bake in preheated oven for 50 mins to an hour or until skewer comes out clean.
  • Allow cake to cool in tin for about 10 mins before transferring to a wire rack
  • To finish, melt the chocolate bars and spread quickly over the top and sides of the cake.

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Happy Cooking !

Thanks again to Derick, Fiona and Paula for all their hard work – you were brilliant guys x.

Oh and the lover bit – well to quote Meatloaf two out of three ain’t bad – the CT was on business in the UK and missed all the fun.

Love (and Chocolate) is in the Air….

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 ;-)

Hey Pesto Valentine's Day

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.

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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

Cupid’s Salted Caramel Delight

Serves 2

What you need:

  • 3-4 tbsp dulce de leche – I use Ballyshiel 
  • ½ tsp sea salt plus extra to serve
  • 50g dark chocolate
  • 50g milk chocolate
  • 75 ml cream
  • Good ‘glug’ Kahlua

Salted Caramel Pots

What you  do:

  • Stir in the sea salt into the dulce de leche and divide mix between two glasses
  • Melt the two chocolates together then stir in the cream until smooth.
  • Add in the liqueur and carefully pour over the caramel
  • Allow to chill for at least 2 hours then serve sprinkled with sea salt crystals.

Happy Cooking !

PS  a message for the Chief Taster – it’s your turn to cook for me this year ;-)

Beating the January Blues

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.

Menu

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 :-)

dunbrody Jan 2104 064

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
  • Seasoning
  • Fresh coriander

 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….

Happy Cooking !

New Ventures in Cooking

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

spring schedule 002-001

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.

Happy Cooking !