What a difference a year makes…

 

Well – it’s been so long since I blogged that wordpress looks different so it will be a surprise what this looks like once published!

I have been lazy, and busy, but mostly lazy, though making a person and taking care of said small person is surprisingly time consuming!

Which is all the more reason why I must start doing this again, I need to be even more organised in the kitchen I realise as evenings are much busier than before… and this really has been a useful place for me to keep coming back to recipes which worked for me!

However, today I will start with dessert – providing nourishment for a small person has made me crave all kinds of sugar and I’ve started baking more than before, now I’m no Sylvia but since she is fecking off for a few months if I keep practicing maybe by the time she gets back I’ll almost be as skilled as her.

Probably not.

Mary B gave me Brenda Costigan’s cookbook a few years ago.  I have a few wonderful Avoca books, Nevin Maguire, Jamie Oliver and I’ve made stuff from them all, though I mostly like to browse them.  But I realise that I’ve made more from this book than anything else, it’s been really useful so I recommend it!

Blackberry Sponge

Fresh or frozen blackberries can be used, or fruit of the forest which seems to be a bit easier to find her in Brussels (thank you Colruyt).

Just make sure the filling is hot when putting the sponge on top as this will help to cook the sponge underneath more quickly!

Ingredients

  • Fruit Filling:
  • 1 heaped teaspoon cornflour
  • juice of 1 orange
  • 350g frozen blackberries or fruits of the forest
  • 25-50g caster sugar, or to taste

Sponge:

  • 110g butter, softened
  • 110g caster sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • few drops vanilla essence
  • 110g self raising flour

Serve with whipped cream or ice cream

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 190.  Lightly grease a wide ovenproof dish (1.2 ltr capacity) and place in the oven to heat.
  2. For the fruit – blend the cornflour into the orange juice and put into a saucepan with the fruit.  Stir over the heat until it comes to the boil and thickens slightly.  Sweeten to taste with the sugar but leave the flavour quite tart to make a nice contrast with the sponge.  Keep hot.
  3. For the sponge – using a hand-held electric beater, beat the butter in a bowl, add the sugar and beat well.  Beat in the eggs one at a time along with the vanilla essence and a little of the flour each time.  Then stir in the rest of the flour.
  4. Pour the hot fruit into the hot dish.  Drop small spoonfuls of the sponge mixture in an even layer close together all over the fruit filling.  It won’t be possible to spread the sponge over the fruit but don’t worry, it will spread out itself during the cooking.  Stand the dish on a baking tray in case any juice bubbles out at the edge.
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  6. Bake for 30 minutes, until baked right through.  The sponge should be golden and springy to the touch, but it’s very important to check that the centre is cooked -pierce the centre with a knife, and if no doughy particles cling to it, the sponge is cooked.
  7. Serve hot or cold with a lightly sweetened whipped cream or ice cream.

Sadly I have no photo of it ready-to-eat as I was too busy …. eating it.

I would like to thank the Academy, and Sylvia for inspiring me to get going with this again, but most of all this little guy for snoozing long enough to allow me to write this….

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Slow Cooker Chicken Curry & Lemon Cheesecake

I hope I still remember how to work WordPress – it has been too long since I posted anything – *hangs head in shame*

I’ve been busy preparing to move apartments – I will be very sad to leave the beautiful Chatelain which has been my home for so many years – but looking forward to a change and being closer to friends….and hopefully discovering lots of cool new places on the other side of the city…. watch this space!  (not too closely though, as it’ll probably be another age before I post again – #worstbloggerever)

I recently bought a Crock Pot/Slow Cooker – I love it, it’s like a magical machine that makes you dinner while you do other things – freakin genius!

I’ve made  a few things and will post in due course – but this is my most recent (and I remembered to take photos – don’t get too excited, as soon as the food was ready to eat I forgot about photos so there are no ‘finished product’ photos.

Once again – #worstbloggerever

Curry

Slow Cooker Chicken Curry

Ingredients

  • Small handful coriander leaves
  • 1-2 tbsp olive oil
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic
  • 1-3cm knuckle of fresh ginger, peeled
  • 1tbsp garam masala
  • 6 tomatoes, chopped
  • 3 chicken breasts, diced
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 pepper, sliced
  • 1-2 sweet potatoes, diced
  • 1-3 chillies, depending on personal taste
  • 1 stick of lemon grass, peeled (I omitted this as I don’t like lemongrass… though I might include it next time!)
  • 50g red lentils
  • 200ml coconut milk
  • 3tbsp Greek yoghurt
  • zest of lime (I also added juice of 1/2 the lime too)
  • Chopped coriander

Method

  1. In a food processor add ginger, garlic, chilli, olive oil, coriander, garam masala and tomatoes.  Whizz until you form a paste – though mine was quite watery due to the tomatoes so I wouldn’t have described it as paste – but it turned out fine! (Store in fridge or freeze until needed).
  2. Remember to cut the vegetables and chicken into equal size so you get a more even cook.
  3. Place all the ingredients into the slow cooker apart from the Greek yoghurt and lime.  If the curry is too thick, add a little water.
  4. Cook on low for 6-8 hours ( 6 was plenty for me), or on high for 3-4 hours.
  5. About 30 an hour before serving I felt it was a bit watery so I added some cornflour (about 2 tsp mixed to a paste first with some of the cooking liquid).
  6. 20-30 minutes before serving, stir in Greek yoghurt, chopped coriander and zest of lime.
  7. Stir and serve on a bed of rice (I used basmati).

It was felt by my dinner guests that there was something missing (I forgave them after) – so I’ll include the lemongrass next time, and I might add a teaspoon of ground coriander too – and see what happens!!!

And now for dessert……

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Lemon Cheesecake with Speculoos Base

This was kind of a combination of about 3 recipes…

For the Base…

  • 160g Speculoos biscuits
  • 75g butter
  1. Melt the butter and crush the biscuits, then add them to the butter and pour into a round tin, preferable with a removable base.
  2. Now – the recipe for that base said to cook this for 8  minutes at about 160degrees. Which I did, and it worked out ok, but I’m not sure if it was necessary – next time I’ll just chill the mixture once it’s been placed in the tin…. trial and error!

For the filling

  • 700g Marscapone Cheese
  • 2 lemons, juice and zest
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 4 tbsp icing sugar
  1. mix the mascarpone cheese, lemon juice and zest and caster sugar and icing sugar together in a bowl until well combined. Do not mix the mixture too much as this will cause it to split. Taste the mixture and add more sugar, to taste.
  2. Spoon the mixture into the tin on top of the chilled biscuit mixture and chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours.

For the Topping

  • Juice of 1 orange
  • 350g frozen fruits of the forest
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 1 heaped teaspoon cornflour
  1. Put the orange juice and frozen berries into a saucepan.  Cook gently to thaw, then add the sugar and stir to dissolve.
  2. Blend the cornflour with a dribble of water and some of the hot liquid from the saucepan.
  3. Mix well, then stir the cornflour mixture into the berries in the saucepan.
  4. Bring to the boil, stirring to thicken.  If a thicker consistency is required, more cornflour can be added (in the same way).

 

The Story of the Travelling Brownies…

Well – it’s been a while. Too long.
Too busy? Too lazy? You decide!

This is the story of a batch (love that word) of Brownies that made it’s way from Brussels to Paris and back to Parc du Cinquantinaire, where I then paid 2Euro to taste them. (DISCLAIMER: I may have tasted a crumb whilst in Paris – but celebrating winning the Six Nations Championship will work up an appetite).

Since circa 2007 Belgium GAA and FC Irlande  have been joining forces to help the people of Brussels, Irish and otherwise, celebrate our national day, and raise a few bob to help the running of our clubs in the process.

On whichever Sunday falls closest to the 17th March (AKA St Patrick’s Day) the kind, or foolish people in the Ecole Militaire allow us to use their terrain de foot in Parc du Cinquantinaire.

It started off with a few games of Gaelic Football, hurling, camogie and soccer with a bar and some food being sold along the sidelines.  Obviously Guinness was involved, and large green hats.

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Luckily for us, the people of Brussels seemed to like this and every year, as the rain kindly stayed off for most of the day, their numbers increased.  We added things like bouncy castles, kids games, cake and sandwich stands, more green things – this year was amazing – there was even a stage with excerpts from ‘Annie’, Irish dancers, and musicians.

Unfortunately I spent the Saturday in Paris and was only able to join the festivities around lunchtime where I got snap happy with my camera:

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Paris was a total drag, like totally. It was sunny, people were smiling, Ireland won the Six Nations Championship, we celebrated with a street party thanks to the French Police kindly closing it on our behalf.  WORST WEEKEND EVER.  As you can see below, I was not a happy camper.

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Anyway, I still wanted to contribute to the Cake stand in Parc du Cinquantinaire – so I chose something that would last (as I was assured by Sylvia that brownies were the way to go.  It was to be my first attempt, and twas a success (IMHO).

So I made the Brownies Friday  night, packed them into my overnight bag and brought them with me on the Thalys to Paris.  They survived, one disappeared circa 3am – a certain Colin Byrne was suspected, but I turned a blind, green-tinted eye as I fell into bed with dreams of Brian O’Driscoll, Rob Kearney (drool) and Gordon D’arcy’s mighty fine beard.

Sunday morning, bright and early, they were packed into the bag (note: they did spend their time in Paris in a fridge!) and duly delivered to Sylvia’s cake stand.  Then I gave her 2Euro and bought one right back 🙂

Malheuresement I didn’t take any photos of the actual brownies – rookie mistake.  But here is the rest of the delights on display and the dedicated volunteers selling their wares!

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So after all that, I only got a little taste BUT I was very impressed – if I do say so myself.

So here is the recipe – if only so that I remember to make them again!

Avoca Brownies

Ingredients

  • 225g unsalted butter
  • 225g dark chocolate (55 per cent cocoa minimum)
  • 4 eggs
  • 225g rich dark brown sugar
  • 110g plain flour
  • 80g nuts (hazelnuts/pecans/walnuts  – I only had hazelnuts and slivered almonds so I improvised with these)
  • icing sugar

Method

  1. Melt the butter and the chocolate in an ovenproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water.
  2. Whisk the eggs and sugar until thick and pale – this will take about 10 minutes and can be done in a mixer with the whisk attachment. I did it by hand – be prepared to work  hard!
  3. Stir in the chocolate/butter mix.
  4. Fold in the flour and nuts.
  5. Pour into a greased and lined cake tin (30cmx20cmx5cm) and bake for 30-35 minutes at 170C/Gas mark 3.
  6. Remove from oven, cover with a damp tea towel and leave to cool.
  7. Cut into squares and dust with icing sugar

 

A coop of hens, and an attempt to be Sylvia…

My 3rd Hen Party

I mean the 3rd one I’ve attended, not held in my honour, thus far I have had none….

This was the Hen of Miss Sarah Knox Esquire, soon to be Mrs Sarah Hendrick, or some form of that, or perhaps she won’t change her name at all, anyway she’s marrying Danny, and he’s lovely.

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It was in Kilkenny, so I flew home for it and a great weekend was had by all. You understand of course that details cannot be divulged here.

All I can tell you is that there was alcohol, twerking, junk food, a dancing Grandad, and advice from a bouncer that the nightclub would be ‘too messy for us’…

It was a pleasure to spend time with old friends, and make some lovely new ones!

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For the occasion I took on the challenge to make Sylvia’s Guinness and Chocolate Muffins.

My flight landed at 11am, I got the aircoach home, slipped into Spar to pick up the ingredients, discovered a Tim Horton’s stand and got momentarily distracted.

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Headed home and whipped them up before making the trip to Kilkenny.  I got 24 out of the batch, plus a bit left over which I used to make a mini-cake for the family.

It will be a while before I’ll get them as perfect as Sylvia does, but I’ll definitely try again – practice makes perfect!!!

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Tiffin Biscuits

I forgot to post this alongside the Iced Lemon Traybake so here it goes…

I couldn’t find digestive biscuits so I used different ones, the biscuits turned out quite sweet (not surprising as they have alot of sugar in them!) but I definitely think using digestive biscuits would have helped this as they aren’t very sweet, so will make an extra effort to find them next time.

  • 170g unsalted butter
  • 55g cocoa
  • 55g sultanas, washed
  • 110g caster sugar
  • 200g digestive biscuits
  • 170g dark chocolate (minimum 55% cocoa)
  • 25g white chocolate
  1. Place the butter, cocoa, sultanas and sugar in a saucepan and melt.
  2. Break up the digestive biscuits but don’t crush completely.
  3. Add to the cocoa mixture and stir thoroughly
  4. Press into a 9” square baking tin lined with baking paper
  5. Melt the dark chocolatein a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and pour over the cocoa mixture.
  6. Melt the white chocolate in the same way and scatter over the biscuits using a fork
  7. Leave in the fridge for an hour or so and cut into squares.  The recipe says 9 but I got 16 – they are heavy so they don’t need to be huge but it’s up to you!

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Iced Lemon Traybake

It’s been a busy few months, after a wonderful 2 week holiday at the beginning of August I came back to work with a bang.  We had our General Assembly followed by the EuroHockey Championships = 11 days in a row, of approximately 12-14 hours work per day, this included such exciting incidents as a flat tire and a 4am Airport drop-off to Charleroi (because I am a great sister).

Unlike my colleagues who took their holidays after the event, I was straight back to the office leading into a September of 2 additional weekends of work, and the other weekends taken up with Electric Picnic, a football tournament in Paris and a weekend at home for my Mammy’s birthday.  Ok I know that those last 3 events are actually enjoyable so I’m not looking for sympathy really, but still I was kind of looking forward to a semi-chilled out weekend.

This weekend was the Belgium GAA ‘All Stars’ Weekend. Also the 10 Year Anniversary of Belgium GAA.  Also the Race Night Fundraiser for Belgium GAA.  I was very much looking forward to it, it all happened from 14.00 on Saturday till… the wee small hours of Sunday! Ok not very chilled out I admit.

However, in addition to that my good friend Dave was running a GAA Coaching Course Level 1 on Friday evening and Saturday morning.  Now, I did foundation level last year, it was great, and I was initially very interested in doing Level 2 (even though I haven’t actually used many of my coaching skills yet).

When I saw that it was this weekend though I weakened. I took my name off the list, I just wanted to relax.  But I wasn’t the only one, so the numbers dwindled, Dave sent an email around basically saying what a great opportunity it is and how they really needed people to attend, the guilt got to me and I put my name back on the list.  And I really enjoyed it, so delighted I did it, it was a lovely group of people and the Saturday morning session was almost all outside, I think I even got a little bit of sun!

However, I decided that I would need something to help me stay concentrated after a long week in work, and everyone knows that sugar is good for that.

So on Wed evening I made some Tiffin Biscuits (post to follow with recipe) and Thursday night I made these bad boys.

  • 225g (8oz) softened butter
  • 225g (8oz) caster sugar
  • 275g (10oz) self raising flour
  • 2 level teaspoons baking powder
  • 4 large eggs
  • 4 tbsps milk
  • grated rind 2 unwaxed lemons

For the icing

  • 3 tbsps lemon juice
  • 225g (8oz) sifted icing sugar

Instructions

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 C/Fan 160 C/Gas Mark 4
  2. Grease and line a 30 x 23 cm (12 x 9 in) traybake tin.
  3. Measure all the cake ingredients into a large bowl and beat until well blended. Turn the mixture into the prepared tin and level the top.
  4. Bake in the preheated oven for about 35-40 minutes or until the cake has shrunk away from the sides of the tin and springs bake when pressed. Leave to cool in the tin.
  5. Mix together the lemon juice and icing sugar to give a runny consistency. Spread out evenly over the cake and leave to set before cutting into  pieces.

They don’t look very pretty as I forgot to take the photo before stuffing them into a tupperware…. but they tasted good!

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Friday night: Shane coaches Caoimhe the ‘throwing a ball of paper over your shoulder into the waste paper basket’ skill.

She got it first try – legend.

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Saturday morning: this session took place in the International School of Brussels, we were in Jenny’s classroom for it.  

She teaches ‘Math’ as they call it in Canada.  According to the sign on her door Math Club is fun.  And sure why wouldn’t it be with Jenny as your teacher?

This is me at her desk:

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Mide’s Buttermilk Pancakes

Mide’s delights….

How she is missed, though to be fair, Mide is the one person who left this land of beer and chocolate but returns as promised on a very regular basis.  And she is always welcomed back with open arms.  I miss how she would arrive at your house with a wicker basket full of ingredients and then bake something tasty.

She made pancakes for me last year on one of her many visits, they went excellently with Caoimhe’s authentic Canadian maple syrup.

She very kindly emailed the recipe to me and it is written below in true Mide style.  I made them for Colin recently but he is not such a fan of the thicker pancake – so more for me!

‘So ideally the mixture should be mixed at least a few hours beforehand (night before for morning or morning for afternoon/evening consumption) as this allows time for the raising agent to be activated and gives the bubbly fluffy texture. However, petite astuce, if you can’t do this just separate eggs, beat whites until fairly stiff and then at end, when all other ingredients mixed, fold the egg whites in gently with metal spoon.

These are American measures but exact quantities not that important, so whatever cup and spoon measures would be fine. You can add extra flour or milk as you see fit.
  1. Sift: 1 and half cups of cream flour 1 teaspoon salt 1 and 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  2. Add: 3 tablespoon sugar
  3. To dry ingredients add: 1 cup milk (or bit more if mixture very stiff) 3 tablespoon melted butter
  4. Beat eggs 2 lightly and add. (or add lightly beaten yolks and then fold in whites)
  5.  Mixture will be lumpy. Don’t worry about this and don’t try to get all the lumps out. They will go in cooking. Mix (before addition of egg white) a bit but don’t over mix and don’t try to get mixture totally smooth.
  6.  I find that when I do the over-the-night thing that I need to add a bit of milk before cooking. However, mixture should not be runny like crepe as these pancakes are thick and fluffy’
I have no photos of the pancakes but will add one the next time I make them.
However I do have a food-related Mide photo, here she is preparing a picnic outside the Beaumont-Hamel Newfoundland Memorial in the Somme Valley this June for Sylvia’s birthday.
I realise that might sound a bit random but it was a lovely day.
That’s Colin flaked out on the grass behind her recovering from the end of the Irish Presidency of the EU.
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Chocolate Orange Cake

By my Australian cousin…

Early 2010 my cousin Fiona visited from Down Under.  This is the daughter of the Aunt who gave me the wonderful cheesy bread cob… mmmm…cheese…

Anyway, Fiona enjoys cooking, she also taught me how to make sushi!  But mainly she bakes, very fatty delicious things.  She had a little handwritten notebook of recipes and from it she made this.  It was amazing, I want it now.

Not long after she left however I discovered that it was actually an Avoca recipe, how it got to Australia and into her notebook I don’t know but here it is…

Ingredients

  • 17g dark chocolate (70 per cent cocoa)
  • 175g unsalted butter
  • 225g caster sugar
  • 6 eggs, separated
  • grated zest of 3 oranges (the most annoying part)
  • 150g self-raising flour, sifted
  • Orange slices, to decorate (if you feel like it)

Icing

  • 125ml double cream
  • 225g dark chocolate (55 per cent cocoa)
  • 1-2 tablespoons of Cointreau – Fiona left this out as we didn’t have any so I have yet to try it!
  1. Break up the chocolate and put it in a bowl set over a pan of simmering water, making sure the water is not touching the base of the bowl.
  2. Leave to melt and then remove from the heat and set aside.
  3. Beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, then gradually beat in the egg yolks.
  4. Stir in the melted chocolate and the orange zest and then fold in the flour.
  5. Whisk the egg whites with a pinch of salt until stiff and fold them into the cake mixture.
  6. Spoon into a lined round 23cm cake tin and bake in an oven pre-heated to 170 degrees/gas mark 3 for 35-40 minutes, until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.  Turnout and leave to cool on a wire rack.
  7. To make the icing put all the ingredients into a bowl set over a pan of simmering water and leave until the chocolate has melted.
  8. Stir until smooth, then remove from the heat and set aside for 10-20 minutes.  Pour the icing over the cake and decorate with the slices of orange.

Fi