Mary’s Bolognese Sauce

It was my Mam’s birthday on 28th September so I took the trip back to Dublin for the occasion.

We had a lovely dinner out with the family, followed by a mini-pub crawl which included crashing my friend Michaela’s hen party, leading to an unfortunately unsuccessful search for a stripper and topped off by a birthday Jaegar-bomb bought by Eddie.

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Anyway, a good night was had by all, and after a walk on Sandymount strand to let Toby stretch his little dog legs and try to seduce some lady dogs (also unsuccessful) all traces of hangovers disappeared.  I made dinner on Sunday evening and in return, on Monday Mam kindly agreed to show me how to make lasagne.

Basically she makes a massive amount of Bolognese Sauce and uses half of it for the lasagne.  I mentioned before that there is alot of guess work in her cooking, including a certain amount of boiling over, forgetting about things etc etc, and yet somehow it all tastes delicious. It’s not fair.

That is why the below is a bit vague… but here it goes. I also include a photo from her old recipe books where the original recipe can be found, but this has of course been altered over the years…

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  • 2 Carrot
  • 1 Onion
  • 3 Celery
  • 2 Garlic
  • Bacon/salami
  • Oregano
  • 5 Tin Tomato
  • Dash of Red wine
  • Tomato Puree
  • 800kg Mince

This made about 4 servings of Bolognese and 1 large lasagna – it is currently frozen so I’ll let you know how it tastes when it’s been cooked!

  1. Chop the carrot, onion, celery and garlic and gently saute with the bacon for a few minutes.
  2. Add the tins of tomatoes, salt and pepper and simmer gently until the veg is tender.  Add 1/2 teaspoon of sugar per tin of tomatoes
  3. Blend the sauce (or if you prefer, blend 1/2 the sauce so that it is still a bit chunky) using a hand blender.  Keep some aside to use in other dishes instead of plain tinned tomatoes if you have enough, I guess you can freeze it too!


4. Meanwhile, fry the mince with some tomato puree and add to the sauce along with the red wine, salt and pepper.


5. Simmer very gently for about an hour, don’t stir! Taste the sauce as you go and if necessary add a veg stock cube for extra flavour  (this is what I’m talking about with the vagueness….)

My first attempt was ok.

It’s hard to get good quality mince in Belgium, it’s usually pure beef (so no fat = not much flavour) or a mixture of beef and pork, so I’m sure with a good quality mince it would make the difference.

Also I think I added too many tins of tomatoes – I had extra sauce (about 400ml which I froze for future), and when I tasted the sauce before adding the last tin there was a lovely flavour, especially from the chorizo, but that seemed to get last in the end dish.  I will play around with it the next time and let you know what happens!

My finished product (I have to get better at taking photos of food, this looks a bit sad).

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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…


  • 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)


  • 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.


Moroccan Lamb Tagine

My first Tagine!!!

Albeit made in a saucepan.  Another one that would work better in a Le Creuset pot (Santa…..) or indeed an actual tagine.

It was so tasty that I have already bought some more lamb and stuck it in the freezer for the next time.

This is from Brenda Costigan’s book – 100 Favourite Recipes

Lamb and dry marinade

  • 800-900g bite-sized chunks of lean lamb cut from the soulder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1-2 teasponns grated fresh ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1-2 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper


  • 3-4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic chopped
  • 300ml vegetable stock
  • 1 x 400g tinned tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon tomato puree
  • 1-2 thin strips of orange peel, no white pith
  • 50g ready to eat apricots
  • 50g ready to eat prunes (stoneless)

To serve

  • 75g whole blanched almonds
  • 1-2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint

Couscous Pilaf

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion chopped
  • 1 clove garlic chopped
  • 225g couscous
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 300ml chicken or veg stock
  1. Put the lamb pieces into a bowl.  In a separate bowl, combine all the dry marinade ingredients and mix well.  Stir the marinade into the lamb, coating well.  Cover and leave for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer (up to 3 hours).  If keeping overnight, put in the fridge.
  2. To make the sauce, heat the olive oil in a frying pan and fry the onion and garlic for 1-3 minutes, until soft.  Lift out and transfer to a saucepan or casserole
  3. Fry the lamb (including the dry marinade) in small batches until the meat is lightly browned, then transfer to the saucepan.  Add all the remaining sauce ingredients to the saucepan and bring to the boil.
  4. Cover with a lid and simmer gently for about 1 hour, or until the lamb is tender, reducing the heat if necessary.
  5. Before serving, discard the orange peel.  Fry the almonds until golden in a little olive oil , drain and stir into the stew along with the fresh mint.  Serve with cooked basmati rice or couscous pilaf.

To make the Couscous Pilaf

  1. Heat the oil in a saucepan.  Add the onion and garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes, until soft.  Add the couscous, stir through and then pour in the stock.  Season with salt and pepper.
  2. Cover with a lid and cook gently for another few minutes, stirring occasionally, until heated through, ten take off the heat and leave, covered, until the couscous swells.
  3. After about 5 minutes or so it should be ready to serve.  Fluff up with a fork to break up any clumps.


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Veggie Thali

The dilemma of the vegetarian dinner guest(s)

Not so long ago I decided to cook dinner for some friends, mainly Caoimhe because she had cooked for me so many times.  Caoimhe is in love with a Spanish man. So of course he was also invited, he is a nice Spanish man who in fact has also made dinner for me (he cooks very well).

He is also a vegetarian Spanish man, but it’s ok he eats fish.

Sylvia also came along because I owe her about 10,000 Guinness and Chocolate muffins. To be fair she contributed with her excellent Sea Salt and Caramel Chocolate Cake

As I was already cooking for a vegetarian I thought well I might as well cook for 2, and I invited Babs along. Then I realised that Babs is a real veggie and doesn’t eat fish.

And so my challenge – after alot of googling I finally settled on this. I did involve me visiting an authentic Indian food shop for some of the ingredients but that is all part of the experience!

It turned out quite nicely actually, although I added some chicken dish after I saw the disappointment on Colin and Sylvia’s faces that there would be no meat. Everyone was happy.

It looks a bit challenging at first and there are moments when it feels like you are juggling a bit, but in fact it’s actually very simple:

Lemon Rice

  • 1 Lemon, zest pared and juiced
  • 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 3 cardomom pods, bashed
  • 1 mugful basmati rice
  1. Cook the lemon zest and spices in a little oil until fragrant
  2. Add the rice and stir well
  3. Tip in 2 mugs of water and 1 tsp salt, bring to simmer, put  on a lid and cook until water is absorbed and rice cooked
  4. Add a splash of lemon to serve


  • 250g red lentils
  • 1 tsp tumeric
  • oil
  • onion grated
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 red chilli, shredded
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  1. Put the lentils and tumeric in a pan and add water to cover by 2cm.
  2. Season and simmer for about 20 minutesuntil tender, adding more water if needed.
  3. Heat some oil in a pan then cook the onion, garlic and chilli for a few minutes.
  4. Add the garam masala, cook for a minute then stir into the cooked lentils.

Saag paneer

  • 1 x 250g block paneer, cut into cubes
  • groundnut oil
  • 1 onion, grated
  • a small chunk root ginger, finely grated
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 300g spinach, washed and chopped
  1. Fry the paneer in a little oil until golden.
  2. Add onion, ginger, garlic and spices, and cook until softened.
  3. Add the spinach and a splash of water and cook until wilted.

Onion raita

  • 1/2 small red onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • a handful mint leaves, chopped
  • a handful coriander leaves chopped
  • 200ml natural yogurt
  1. Mix everything together just before serving and season

Aubergine and tomato curry

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • oil
  • 1 large aubergine, cut into chunks
  • 1 tsp tumeric
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1tsp black onion seeds
  • 1 punnet cherry tomatoes
  • a handful coriander leaves
  1. Fry the aubergine and tomato curry by frying the onion in oil until soft.
  2. Tip onto a plate,
  3. Add a little more oil to the pan and fry the aubergine in batches until browned all over and tender.
  4. Add another slug of oil to the pan and fry the spices for 30 seconds, add back th eaubergine and onion, plus the cherry tomatoes, and cook everything until the tomatoes have burst.
  5. Season with salt and scatter with coriander leaves.


Chilli Con Carne

Another great one pot dish…

And another one that tastes better the day after.  I made this 2 years in a row for our annual Ardennes January trip and so far, nobody has come down with food poisoning = result.

It’s the only chilli I’ve ever made, our kitchen cupboard consists of a few tins of chilli flavoured beans that Colin continues to buy and never use (ok he used them once, I’ll be in trouble if I don’t admit that), but to be honest I don’t even know how to use them.

And this recipe is ridiculously easy to make – I have discovered that once you make the effort to buy all the fancy herbs and spices then it’s so easy to make tons of different dishes.

2 tbsp olive oil
2 onions, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1kg/2¼lb lean beef mince – (I’ve just seen the Hairy Bikers use 1/2 mince 1/2 chopped beef to give it a ‘luxurious’ texture, might try that next time!!!)
250ml/9fl oz red wine
2 x 400g cans chopped tomatoes
3 tbsp tomato purée
2 red chillies, thinly sliced, or 3-4 tsp dried chilli flakes
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 stick cinnamon
good shake of Worcestershire sauce
1 beef stock cube
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 x 400g can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 large bunch coriander leaves, roughly chopped
wedges of lime, to serve

  1. Heat the oil in a large, heavy-based saucepan with a lid and fry the onion and garlic until softened. Increase the heat and add the mince, cooking quickly until browned and breaking down any chunks of meat with a wooden spoon.
  2. Pour in the red wine and boil for 2-3 minutes.
  3. Stir in the tinned tomatoes, tomato purée, fresh chilli or chilli flakes, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, and Worcestershire sauce and crumble in the stock cube.
  4. Season well with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Bring to a simmer, cover with a lid and cook over a gentle heat for about 50 minutes to 1 hour, stirring occasionally until the mixture is rich and thickened.
  5. Add the kidney beans and fresh coriander. Cook for a further ten minutes, uncovered, before removing from the heat, adding any extra seasoning if necessary.
  6. I usually serve with baked potatoes – easiest thing to do for a large group but you could also include with rice, guacamole, sour cream and a big green salad.
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Barbara’s Cheesy Cob Dip

Ok I just invented the title…

The first time I had this was in 1997. I know that because Saving Private Ryan was released in 1998.

Intrigued? Ok well we used to have a mobile home in Curracloe, Co Wexford. Used to. It was sold. But that’s another story.  My aunt Barbara lives in Sydney but she and her family came home for a visit one summer and came down to Curracloe for a few days.  It was the same summer that Stephen Speilberg decided to use Curracloe Beach to film the D-Day landings for Saving Private Ryan.

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We had a BBQ outside my other Aunt Angela’s mobile and it was a lovely evening.  I remember 2 things clearly: the smoke and noise from the bombings of the fake D-Day landings and this delicious starter, nibble, dip type affair that Babs whipped up.  Anyway she emailed me the recipe not long after:

1 large bread cob
1 pkt of French Onion soup
2x500g blocks of Philadelphia cream cheese (this depends on the size of the Cob – it’s alot of cheese so you might want to reduce it slightly!)
1 large tub of sour cream
2 tablespoons of Mozzerella Cheese
a couple of rashers (diced)
1 onion (chopped finely).
  1. Cut the top of the cob and take out the bread in the middle, tear in into bite size pieces (you will use this bread to scoop the dip out of the middle before you start breaking off the cob.
  2. Fry the onion and bacon until cooked , leave to cool.
  3. Mix the cream cheese, sour cream, and soup together.
  4. Add the onion and bacon and mozzerella, mix well and pour into the cob.
  5. Put the cob on an oven tray and surround it with the bread and the top (keep the top in one piece so that you can put it back on before you serve it).
  6. Cook in a moderate oven, you want to cook it enough so that the cheese melts, (as it’s cooling it gets thicker). The bread will
  7. crisp up, just keep an eye on it. It can be hard to get this right, it’s good to really mix up the cheese mixture first so it’s almost starting to melt, you could even warm it in the microwave or a pot slightly before adding it to the bread for the oven.
So fatty.So tasty.
Babs on a more recent visit, with me, Mom, Clare, and Avril and Nanny in the front.

Beef Bourguignon with redcurrant and rosemary

So this is a little more in keeping with the theme of the blog…

It was sent to me by Mary B – I will copy and paste her words below – they have some extra advice! However I know that she made it for her own version of Come Dine with Me.  I don’t think it won but I know it definitely got high marks.

I’ve made it a couple of times, once in Gill’s Le Creuset pot and once in a regular pot (after Gill moved back to Ireland).  It definitely benefits from the heavier pot – and like most of these dishes it’s even nicer the second day.

Serves 4
pre heat oven to 150 C
Gas Mark 3

1 Kg diced beef
2 tablesp plain flour seasoned gererously with salt and pepper
250 ml of red wine (Burgundy) or whatever plonk…. u have ….
1 large onion fincely diced
1 Tablsp of Olive oil
150 grams of lardons of bacon –  Streaky rashers
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 bay leaf
2 sprigs of rosemary
3 sprigs thyme
1 ttsp tomatoe puree
1 420 grm of tomatoes
1 tablespoon redcurrant jelly  (this is the added extra which makes it nicer)
300 ml beef stock (NICE STOCK CUBE)
baby button mushrooms  150 grm
pearl onions
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper.

The great thing about this recipe is that it gets better after a day or two so make it in advance for stress-free entertaining.  It will also freeze well. Better to add the mushrooms and pearl onions after you have defrosted it and when you are reheating It should be ready to eat in 30 mins…


Toss the meat in lightly seasoned flour.  Fry in small batches until brown, transferring to a large place.  De-glaze the pan by adding the red wine and allowing it to come to the boil, stirring the bottom of the pan to release any crusty bits on the bottom: we want these as they are full of flavour.

In a large saucepan or ovenproof casserole dish, cook the onion in olive oil until soft and translucent, then add the bacon lardons and garlic.  Continue to cook until the bacon picks up a little colour.  Add the browned meat, along with the de-glazed pan juices, half the herbs, (these dont need to be chopped just throw them in), the tomatoe puree, tinned tomatoes, the redcurrant jelly and enough beef stock to cover the meat by 4 cm.  Bring to simmering point, season well and either bake in the oven or continue to simmer on a very low heat for on hour.  Remove from the oven, discard the herbs, add the mushrooms and perl onions along with the remaining chopped herbs and cook for a further 30 minutes.  Taste to ensure the meat is tender and seasoning is correct.

I cook in advance up to cook in oven and leave to cool and put in fridge.  On the evening of serving add the mushrooms and cook for 1/2 hour.

Enjoy and serve with creamed spuds ….. saute the chopped scallions or spring onions in butter and add to potatoes and heat milk and add it too.  Do this just before serving, I let the spuds dry out too much ….. too much wine.

Talk soon,

Love Mom


I have no photos of the dish, or her Come Dine with me Experience – so here she is making a snow angel: