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Christmas Pudding

Preparation Time
1 hour
Total Time
1 day and 4 hours

Sunday just past was Stir Up Sunday, the last Sunday before Advent when traditionally Christmas puddings and cakes would be made. This was because Advent used to be a fasting period much like Lent and Sitr Up Sunday, much like Shrove Tuesday, would be when you used up all the rich food in the house. Only unlike on Shrove Tuesday when you eat loads of pancakes, on Stir Up Sunday you were making food for the Christmas feast in 4 weeks time.

But don't worry, even if you missed making your puddings on Sunday, you still have time to make them before Christmas. The beauty of puddings is that they can be made anytime. Some years myself and my mum have made them as early as the October bank holiday weekend and as late as the 2nd weekend in December.

This recipe for Christmas puddings comes from my Irish grandmother and in my totally biased opinion, it is the best Christmas pudding recipe you'll ever have. The best thing about this recipe is that it makes about 3 - 4 puddings (depending on the size of your basins) which means you only have to make them every second year!

Two notes on the ingredients for this recipe:

I have specified the amounts of raisins, sultanas cherries and peel but then it's up to you for the remaining 400g of fruit. In the original recipe my grandmother stipulated 225g of currants and 225g of muscatels (if you can get them). Interestingly she never used currants as she disliked them so substituted in extra raisins, sultanas and cherries. This year we used a mixed bag of sultanas, cranberries and raisins to make up the difference. The main thing is that you end up with 1100g of fruit (including the peel and cherries) whatever combination you want to make of that is up to you.

I have also specified pale ale, but anything in the ale family works great in this pudding.

Ingredients

Apple
1
Lemon (zest only)
1
Raisins
225g
Sultanas
225g
Mixed Dried Fruit
400g
Glacé Cherries (Mixed colours)
100g
Mixed Peel
55g
Bread Crumbs
225g
Ground Almonds
55g
Brown Sugar
225g
Chopped Nuts (Mixed or your favourite kind)
55g
Flour
225g
Nutmeg
½ tsp
Cinnamon
½ tsp
Mixed Spice
½ tsp
Ground Ginger
½ tsp
Eggs
3
Butter
225g
Pale Ale
230 ml
Whiskey (plus extra for feeding)
200ml

Other Requirements

Grater, sharp knife, large mixing bowl, wooden spoon, 4 pudding basins and a saucepan

This is one of the hardest recipes I've done for the blog, as so much of the recipe is by feel rather than measurements, so please let me know if you have any trouble with it.

Some people soak their fruit before making the pudding, we let our pudding recipe stand over night instead and let the fruit plump up that way instead. Then we add a little more whiskey, if necessary, before the steaming.

Anyway, to the task at hand - making Christmas Pudding!

First peel, core and grate the apple and leave to one side.

Zest the lemon and leave to one side too.

Beat the eggs in a bowl and put to one side also. Doing these little jobs at the start makes putting together the pudding a breeze.

Meaure the sultanas, raisins and other mixed fruit into your largest mixing bowl.

Add the peel, chop up the glacé cherries into quarters with a scissors and pop in the bowl. I like using a mix of red a yellow cherries for a mix in colours.

Mix the fruit around with a wooden spoon, add the breadcrumbs and mix again.

Add the flour and stir in.

Add the sugar and mix in.

Next add the chopped nuts and ground almonds. Stir in well.

Finally add the last of the dry ingredients: the lemon zest and the grated apple. Mix it all up once again. (Starting to become clear why it's called Stir Up Sunday.)

Now for the wet ingredients. First measure out the butter and melt it in a pot or the microwave. Pour into the rest of the mixture and stir in.

Meaure out the beer and mix in. Drink any left over, you wouldn't want to see it go to waste.

Measure in the nutmeg and cinnamon.

Followed by the ginger and mixed spice.

Add the beaten eggs and mix through.

Finally, add about 100 mls of whiskey (though more is totally allowed) and stir through.

Now for the most important step, get everyone in the household to stir the pudding and make a wish. This is being ably demonstrated here by one of the Beau's children.

It used to be that this would be point where you would add the charms to the pudding. Much like with a barm brack these items would indicate your fate for the coming year. The most common thing to add to the pudding would be a silver sixspence (to symbolise wealth), but you could also find a wishbone (good luck) a silver thimble (thrift) or a tiny anchor (safe harbour).

We then leave the mixture to stand overnight. This lets the fruit plump up with the liquid and become moist and rich. It is best to throw a teatowel over the bowl to prevent incursions from local wildlife.

The next day, add the second 100 mls of whiskey and stir in. The mixture will be much thicker than the previous day.

Divide the mixture between your pudding bowls and steam/boil each one for 3½ hours. It is important to place the bowl on a trivet in the saucepan if you are boiling it and be very careful not to let it boil dry. The water should come up half way up the pudding bowl and you can top it up with boiling water along the way.

Alternatively you can steam the pudding using a steaming pot, which is what we do. The pudding bowl sits in the steaming basket inside a larger pot with the boiling water underneath. Both methods need the same amount of time.

Once the pudding has cooked through, remove it from the pot and allow it to cool. It will now keep in the back of a cupboard for several years. You can keep it longer by adding a little whiskey or other alcohol at regular intervals through the year.

When you want to serve the pudding, boil or steam it again for 1 - 1½ hours. Remove it from the pudding bowl onto a plate. For a dramatic presentation, pour warmed whiskey (or brandy, or sherry) on to the pudding and set alight. Serve with cream, custurd or the incredibly indulgent brandy butter.

Guld Ærter med Flæsk (Yellow Pea Soup with Pork)

Preparation Time
30 minutes
Total Time
1 day, 2 hours and 40 minutes

I have returned from my hiatus after a year of settling into our new house. It is amazing the amount of time that houses take up. However I am now ready to resume my blogging life and share more recipes. I also have a new fancy camera, which I am still getting used to, so apologies for the different size of pictures in the post, I'm still working out what all the buttons do.

To start us off I am sharing the soup recipe that I made for people to try at my talk on Danish cooking at the Savour Kilkenny Food Camp. It seemed to go down pretty well with my audience.

This is famous dish in Denmark and is typical of their style of peasant food. My dad used to make this quite a bit when we were younger but I only made it myself for the first time recently. It is a delicious, cheap meal that is easily frozen and reheated for lunches.

The Danes traditionally serve the meat on the side of the dish on a communal platter, which I like to do when I cook it the first night. I then like to chop up any remaining meat and mix it into the leftover soup for another day. A quick note on the sausages; I used big barbeque sausages from my butcher that were about 6 inches long with an inch diametre. Try and use the biggest sausages you can find as they make for a better finished product to slice. It would also be worth experimenting with different types of sausage in the soup, I think a Bratwurst would work quite well.

This soup is thick, rich and nourishing - what more could you want for a winter's evening?

Ingredients

Yellow Split Peas
250g
Water (split)
3l
Carrots
2 - 3
Celery Sticks (including leaves)
2
Parsnip
1
Leeks
2
Pearl Onions
250g
Parsely
sprig
Thyme
sprig
Ham
500 - 750g
Sausages (large)
250g
Salt & Pepper
to season

Other Requirements

Sieve, 2 large saucepans, sharp knife, chopping board and a square of muslin

Unfortunately this soup has to be started the night before, so you need to be a little bit organised, but after that it is plain sailing.

Measure out the yellow split peas into a sieve and rinse them under water. Place them into a medium to large sized saucepan.

Add 1 litre of the water to the pot, cover and leave the peas to soak overnight.

The next day, prepare the vegetables. Roughly chop the carrots and parsnip.

Roughly chop the celery retaining the leaves to one side for later. Chop up the leeks the same way and again retain the green tops (washed clean) to use later.

Finally, peel the pearl onions.

Now take the leek greens, the celery, the parsley and thyme and put them into a muslin square or bag. This makes a suppevisk, the Danish equivalent of a bouquet garni. You can also just bind the herbs and greens together with food safe twine but I find the muslin easier for fishing out of the pot later in the cooking process.

Put the ham into a large saucepan and add the rest of the vegetables and the suppevisk.

Just cover the meat in water - this took 2 litres in my giant pot, but may take less in yours. Bring to the boil and simmer for approximately 2 hours.

Next bring the split peas to a simmer in the water they were soaking in. Skim any scum that appears off the top.

Continue to simmer the peas for an 1 - 1½ hours until all the water has been absorbed and the peas resemble a thick porridge.

Fifteen minutes before the end of the meat cooking, add the sausages to the main pot and cook for 10 - 15 minutes.

Once all the meat is finished cooking remove the suppevisk, sausages and ham from the pot. Dispose of the suppevisk. Keep the meat warm by wrapping in tinfoil or putting in a warm oven.

Add the peas to the vegetables and cooking liquid and bring to the boil for 10 minutes or until it starts to thicken. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

To serve, slice the sausage and ham and arrange on a platter or side plates, ladle the soup into bowls and enjoy with a good craft beer. Traditionally this dish is served with Danish snaps, a near lethal spirits made from potatoes but beer makes a much nicer accompaniment.

Chocolate Orange Cake

Preparation Time
30 minutes
Total Time
1 hour and 30 minutes

I had hoped to get this posted earlier today so that you could all make this delicious cake for your mothers, but the internet has been conspiring against me here in Denmark and I am only getting a chance to post it now.

But with the bank holiday tomorrow, maybe some of you will make this for your mums as an extra treat for Mothers' Day.

This cake recipe comes from Asda's monthly magazine. A work colleague happened to have a copy of the January issue, which contained this cake and a lot of other delicious orange recipes. Of course I quickly copied out the ones that most appealed to me, including this cake.

The really interesting thing about this cake, apart from being gluten free, is that the sugar is added to the egg whites before they are folded into the main mixture. I have made many no-flour cakes before, but I have never seen this method used. However, I can tell you that the result of this technique is a very light and fluffy cake. Though I would be very interested if someone can explain the science behind this.

Ingredients

Dark Chocolate (70% Cocoa solids)
150g
Butter
100g
Eggs
6
Ground Almonds
150g
Oranges (zest and juice)
2
Orange Juice (from oranges)
2 tbsp
Caster Sugar
100g
Cocoa Powder
to decorate
Icing Sugar
to decorate

Other Requirements

Deep 23cm cake tin (Spring-form is best), glass bowl, saucepan, 2 mixing bowls, fine grater or zester, spatula, and whisk

Preheat the oven to 170°C.

Grease your cake tin thoroughly. If you think it needs it, line the base of the tin with parchment paper, though I didn't bother, I just went heavy on the greasing! A word of advice, don't use a silicone tin for this cake. I did the first time I made it and the cake broke when I turned it out. Stick to metal tin!

Break the chocolate into a glass or otherwise heatproof bowl and add the butter.

Make a bain maire by placing the bowl over a pot of simmering water. Make sure that the water does not touch the base of the bowl. Keep the heat low so that the chocolate melts nice and slowly.

While the chocolate is melting, separate the eggs into the 2 mixing bowls. Add the ground almonds to the yolks. You can watch a video of me separating eggs here.

Zest the two oranges and add to the yolk and almond mixture.

Juice the oranges and add 2 tablespoons of the juice to the mixture. Stir everything up together into a paste.

By this stage the chocolate should be melted. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for a minute before adding it to the orange mixture.

Mix the chocolate in as thoroughly as possible. Leave the mixture to one side while you work on the egg whites.

Measure out the sugar into a bowl and whisk up the egg whites to soft peaks.

When the egg whites reach perfect peakiness, add the sugar a little at a time, whisking between each addition until it has all been added and you achieve a meringue-like consistency.

Fold the egg whites into the chocolate mixture a spoonful at a time. Use a gentle figure-of-eight movement to best combine the mixtures. While mixing, try not to tap the edge of the bowl with your spoon or spatula as it will cause some of the air to come out of the mix and you want to keep as much air as possible in it to help it rise.

Pour the combined mixture into the greased cake tin, smooth the top and put into the hot oven to bake for 35 - 40 mins, until a skewer comes out of the mixture clean.

When the cake is cooked, leave it to cool in the tin for 10 mins. Remove from the tin and cool on a wire rack.

Decorate the cake with either sieved cocoa powder or icing sugar or both.

Tricolour Marmalade

Preparation Time
2 hours
Total Time
5 hours

Happy St. Patrick's Day! This year I am hiding out from the Irish extravaganza in Denmark, visiting relatives, but I still have a (somewhat) patriotic recipe up my sleeve.

We've just come to the end of the Seville orange season and therefore the end of marmalade season. Last year for my first ever attempt to make marmalade and I found this article by Felicity Cloake to be incredibly useful. In fact, it was so useful that it forms the basis of my own Tricolour Marmalade recipe, a three fruit marmalade that contains all the colours of the Irish flag (see the tenuous Paddy's Day link yet?)

In this recipe I've just put in the total weight for the citrus fruit needed. I made up my kilo of fruit with 3 Seville oranges, 3 limes and 4 lemons but you can try a different combination. You also need to add an additional lemon, which I listed separately to the rest of the fruit.

You can also try making a plain Seville marmalade or a three fruit marmalade made with grapefruit or even a ginger and orange marmalade. The choice is endless!

Ingredients

Citrus Fruit (Seville oranges, limes, lemons)
1 kg
Lemon
1
Water
2.5 l
Sugar
1 kg
Muscavado Sugar (Light)
1kg

Other Requirements

A large pot, sieve, a large square of muslin or muslin bag knife, elastic band, saucers or small plates, lots of jam jars and lids.

First assemble all your fruit (including the additional lemon) and cut it in half. Squeeze the fruit into your large pot, making sure that you have a sieve in place to catch the pith and pips.

Pull off the rest of the pith using your fingers and a knife, so that you're left with peel that has very little flesh left on it.

Put all the pith and the pips collected in the sieve into your muslin bag or into the centre of your square of muslin and seal up with an elastic band.

Add the water to the large pot and put in the bag of pith and pips. Leave to one side while you prepare the peel.

Using a sharp knife shred the peel of the fruit into the size of pieces that you prefer. Personally, I like a mixture of fine and thick peel.

Add the peel to the pot and bring to the boil. Allow to simmer for 2 hours until the peel gets soft.

After the 2 hours, remove the muslin bag from the pot and allow to cool in a bowl. It will take a minimum of 30 mins for the bag to cool enough for you to handle, unless you have heatproof gloves or asbestos hands. At this point you can leave the marmalade to stand overnight.

While you're waiting for the bag to cool, prepare the jam jars as in my Apple Butter recipe.

Once the bag is cool enough to handle, squeeze it so that lots of goop comes out. You want to squeeze out as much of this as possible into your marmalade mixture. Do be careful during the squeezing that none of the rough contents of the bag escape.

Once you squeezed lots of goop into the pot, bring the marmalade mixture back to the boil and add the sugar.

Stir the mixture until the sugar has dissolved and bring to the boil. Do be careful during this part, as boiling sugar is dangerous. If you have a sugar thermometer, now is the time to use it.

While the marmalade is coming to the boil but a set of saucers into the fridge, so they get nice and cold. This is to help tell when the marmalade is ready.

When the marmalade reaches 104°C, or, if you don't have a thermometer, after the mixture has vigorously boiled for 15 mins, take a spoonful of the mixture and put it on to one of the cold plates and put it back in the fridge for 5 mins. If the marmalade is ready, the marmalade will wrinkle when you push your finger through it. After the initial boil, try the marmalade every 5 mins until you get the wrinkle.

Once the marmalade is ready, let it stand for 15 mins before ladling it into the warm jam jars you have in the oven.

Clean the jars and seal them. Leave the jars to cool and you can label them. Check out Jamlabelizer for cool labels.

You can eat the marmalade the next day, but it tastes much better if you leave it for a couple of weeks.

A Return and a Romantic Recipe

Preparation Time
10 minutes
Total Time
30 minutes

I have finally returned from my hiatus due to our house move. I never knew that moving into a new house took up so much time! We are now finally all settled in, though there is still a little sorting to be done in certain corners of the house. Once the kitchen is tidy, I will take some pictures to show it and my muddy garden off.

In the meantime, since today is Valentine's Day, I have a simple steak recipe with a twist for anyone planning to cook for their lover this evening. It is taken from Allegra McEvedy's book Bought, Borrowed & Stolen, which I got as a Christmas present from my friend Shelly, and is one of my new favourite cook books. I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as the Beau and I did.

Ingredients

Rib Eye Steaks
2
Miso Paste
2 tbsp
Water (just off the boil)
60 ml
Sake
75 ml
Onion (white)
1
Sunflower Oil
2 tbsp
Salt
to season

Other Requirements

Sharp knife, mandolin or food processor with slicing attachment, measuring jugs, measuring spoons, frying pan, large lid to cover frying pan, spatula and timer

The best thing to do with this recipe is to have your entire prep ready before hand so that you can grab things as you need them. You will also need to have a timer nearby for cooking the steak. Just a note that I used striploin steaks in the pictures below as that is all I could get the other day, however, this recipe is much nicer with really good rib eye steaks.

First take out your steaks to let them get to room temperature and sprinkle with a little salt on each side.

Now prepare your liquids. Put the miso paste into a jug and cover with hot water (you can use cold, but it dissolves better with the hot). Stir until all the paste has been incorporated.

Measure out the sake into another jug. If you can't get sake, I've found that both dry sherry or Chinese rice wine make acceptable substitutes. I had to use the rice wine when I made it last as I could not find sake anywhere local.

The final piece of preparation is to slice your onion. You could do this earlier, but as I'm quite sensitive to onions (even taking the skin off sets my eyes to watering) I leave it till last.

First peel the onion. You then need to slice the onions very finely, so it is best to use a mandolin or the slicing option on a food processor as I did.

Now for the actual cooking. Heat the frying pan over a high heat and add the oil. Once the oil is hot, add the onions and cover with a lid for a couple of minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove the lid and let the onions cook uncover for another minute. Put the cooked onions into a bowl and leave to one side.

Wipe the pan clean with a sheet of kitchen roll and heat up again. Once the pan is blisteringly hot, add the steaks and cook on each side for 1 minute.

Add the sake, followed by the miso and let the steaks cook for another 1 minute on each side.

Remove the steaks from the pan and leave on a board to rest while you finish the sauce. The sauce should be quite thick, but if it has gotten a little too thick or has almost evaporated entirely, add a little water, a tablespoon at a time until you reach a consistency that you're happy with. Turn off the heat under the sauce.

Once the sauce is finished, cut up the steaks and move to warm serving plates. Scrape the juices from the steak into the sauce and stir in.

Drizzle the sauce over the top of the steaks and place the onions on top.

Serve immediately with a green salad on the side. Or my home made chips would also make a great side dish.

Harvest Loaf

Preparation Time
1 hour and 30 minutes
Total Time
3 hours and 30 minutes

Before we get started into this recipe that I've been promising to write up for about a year, you might also enjoy reading a much easier bread recipe that I did as a guest post for the ever-glamorous French for Cupcake blog. The lovely Claire asked me to do a recipe for her website while she went off on her adventures, so I put together my very simple soda bread recipe for her. Let me know if you enjoy it.

This loaf is one that you might see some version of in churches across the country at this time year. A harvest loaf makes a striking centrepiece for a autumn display at an harvest festival or a harvest dinner in your home.

The recipe for this bread is very straightforward; the difficult bit is putting the whole loaf together. However it is worth the effort, if only for all the compliments you will get on your amazing loaf!

Ingredients

Strong Flour
1350g
Dried Yeast (two packets worth)
15g
Salt
1 tbsp
Sugar
1 tsp
Sunflower Oil
2 tbsp
Water (lukewarm)
900ml
Egg (beaten)
1

Other Requirements

Large mixing bowl (you'll probably need the biggest you own), pastry brush, kitchen scissors, large baking tray or sheet, and wire rack

I'm going to work through the making of the bread first and then actual shaping, just as it was taught to me by Sylvia, a member of our local church. I advise that you read all the way through the recipe and method before you get going so that you can spot any potential pitfalls before you start. If you have any queries or find anything unclear please let me know, by commenting or sending me an email.

Measure out the flour and yeast into your roomiest bowl.

Add salt and sugar and mix together.

Put 600ml of cold water into a measuring jug. Add the oil and top up 900ml with boiling water.

Stir the water and oil together briefly and pour into bowl with the dry ingredients.

Time to get your hands dirty. Stick your hands in the bowl and carefully mix the liquid and dry ingredients together until you have a rough dough. Make sure you've removed any rings and that your hands are clean before getting stuck in.

Sprinkle a lot of flour on your worktop and tip out the rough dough on to it. Knead for 10 mins (about 3 songs on the radio), until the dough becomes smooth and elastic. You can be really rough with your dough, take out all your anger and stress on it. The more you pound it, the better the finished dough will be. You can watch how to knead the dough in the video below.

Clean the bowl that you made the dough in, unless you have a second giant bowl, and pour in a drop of sunflower or vegetable oil. Rub this around the bowl until it's thoroughly oiled.

Put the kneaded dough into the oiled bowl and cover with cling film. Put in a warm spot, like my mum's hot press (airing cupboard), and leave the dough to rise until it has doubled in size and springs back when prodded. This should take about an hour.

That's the dough made, now we're onto shaping the loaf itself, this is easier than you would think, though there is a little bit of counting involved.

While the dough is rising, prepare the baking tray that you're going to use for the loaf. You will probably need to use one of your shelves from the oven and the size of the finished loaf is very big. Cover the tray with tin foil, tucking it in around the sides. Add a drop of oil and rub it over the top of tin foil to grease it.

Preheat the oven to 220°C.

Retrieve the, by now gigantic, bowl of dough from your warm place and knead it again for 2 mins until it becomes smooth and firm. Keep the dough you're not working with at any one time, in the bowl and covered with the cling film.

Cut off 450g of the dough and roll it out into a 20cm round. Place it on the baking tray at one end. Do use a weighing scales for this, as there is a lot of dough to measure off as we go along and you don't want to guess wrong and run out of dough.

Cut off another 450g of the dough and roll out into an oblong that is 18 x 10cm. Put this onto the tray, slightly overlapping the first bit of rolled out dough.

Now we are into the slightly complicated bit, cut off a third of the remaining dough and divide it into quarters. Put one quarter to the side and divide the other three quarters into 8, so that you have 24 pieces.

These 24 pieces are going to become the stalks of the sheaf. Take each piece and roll it out until you have a stalk approximately 20cm long.

Brush the oblong part of the base with water to stick down each stalk. These should cover the whole of the oblong part of the base and run over the bottom edge. Lay out all the stalks until the whole base is covered. It doesn't matter if some overlap as this adds to the illusion of a real sheaf of wheat.

Split the remaining quarter of dough from above into three equal pieces, and again, roll into strips 20cm long.

Connect the three strips at the top and weave them into a plait. This should be wrapped in cling film and left to one side for the moment.

Take the remaining dough, divide it into quarters, then divide the quarters in three, and finally divide the thirds into four. This should leave you with 48 pieces of dough.

Roll each piece of dough into a ball and flatten, so that it forms an oval about 4cm long. Then, with the scissors, snip two diagonal cuts on each side so that the dough looks like an ear of wheat.

Brush a little water on the top of the base and starting from the top stick down each ear of wheat. As you work down the loaf the new layer of ears should overlap the bottom of the layer above. Repeat until the whole top part of the loaf is covered.

If you are feeling particularly traditional you can retain one of the 48 pieces of dough and use it to make a mouse to sit on the stalks at the end. If you do make a mouse, whole cloves make great eyes and flaked almonds make good ears. I've not made one in this version as my mouse always ends up looking a bit deformed.

Once you have placed all the stalks and ears on the loaf it's time to unwrap the plait, brush some water across the divide between the two and place the plait on, tucking the ends around the sides.

Beat the egg in a bowl and brush over the whole loaf, making sure to get into all the crevices.

Put in the oven and bake for 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to 160°C and bake for 40 - 45 mins until golden brown. If it starts to get too brown, cover it with tin foil.

When the loaf comes out of the oven, turn it over and knock the bottom, if it sounds hollow then the bread is done. Leave the loaf to cool.

Once cool your loaf is ready to eat or be part of a fantastic harvest display, while you sit back enjoy the compliments (or bread)!

Review: Niamh Shield's Comfort & Spice

Niamh Shield's Irish roots are definitely apparent as you flick through her first cook book Comfort & Spice, recipes for Spiced Beef, Irish Hot Port and Blaas (Niamh is a Waterford native) sit side by side with more exotic fare. Living now in London, Niamh writes the incredibly popular Eat Like a Girl, where her love for food and cooking have made her one of the most influential UK food blogs.

I was so excited when a copy of Comfort and Spice plopped through my letter box. I love Niamh's blog and I followed her comments about putting the book together on Twitter back in the spring. So I couldn't wait to get browsing through it the minute it came through the door. I was not disappointed, this is probably the best cook book that I have read this year. There are so many recipes that I want to try and so many others that make me want to experiment more with my own dishes.

She starts the book with some excellent advice on becoming a better cook, including using fresh, seasonal produce, the importance on knowing the basic cooking techniques and how to experiment with flavours. The book is then divided into five different sections: Brunch, Speedy Suppers, Long Weekend, Sugar and Spice and Drinks, the first three of which are then split into simple subdivisions, for example Brunch has the subdivisions of Light and Comforting, both of which sound great to me.

The very first dish that I made from the book was delicious Herbed Lamb Cutlets with Anchovy. These were a great success with the Beau and while the meat needed to marinate for a minimum of four hours, the actual work involved in making them was minimal, what more do you want from a dish?

Another success was the Overnight Shoulder of Pork. This dish needs to cook in a low oven for 12 hours. Myself and Dad realised that this was the perfect dinner to set up during the Ireland vs USA rugby match. Once again minimal work was needed for a very tasty dinner. We had Danish guests for dinner that evening and they were particularly complementary not only about the pork (and its amazing crackling) but the accompanying side dish; a spiced apple relish. (Apologies for the slightly blurry photo but I was in a rush to eat!)

The best thing about Niamh's book, and there are a lot of things to like about it, is that after each of the "Big Dinner" recipes, such as the pork above, there is a leftover section which provides you with a couple of recipes for using up any food that might otherwise go to waste. After the roast shoulder on the Sunday, we made her Pork Croquettes for dinner on the Monday, using up all the left over pork, the leftover potatoes and most of the leftover apple relish. Our only mistake was in putting the leftover gravy in the freezer before dinner as the croquettes were a little dry, but the apple relish remedied that to some extent.

Another thing that I like about this book is that each recipe comes with its own introduction, a particularly personal touch that really brings across Niamh's personality.

I would highly recommend this book for all home cooks, whether beginner or advanced, as it really does contain something for everyone.

Comfort and Spice is published by Quadrille as part of their New Voices in Food series and is available to buy on Amazon.

Chicken Tarragon Soup

Preparation Time
45 minutes
Total Time
1 hour

With the changing of the seasons, my thoughts have started to turn to soups. I think this soup perfectly suits this time of year, it is warming but still light, and contains one of my favourite flavour pairings - chicken and tarragon.

The best thing about this recipe is that it takes no time at all to put together, and as with many soups, it is even more delicious the next day.

Ingredients

Onion (medium sized)
1
Carrot
1
Oil or Butter
for frying
Chicken Stock
2.5l
Chicken (skinned and boned)
6 thighs
Tarragon
20g
Milk (optional)
splash
Salt & Pepper
to taste

Other Requirements

Chopping board, sharp knife, large pot, frying pan, spatula and blender.

First prepare your vegetables for the base of the soup. Finely chop the onions and cube the carrots.

Pour a little oil into your large pot, add the vegetables and cook over a low heat until the onion turns translucent.

Add the chicken stock and bring to the boil. Reduce to a simmer and leave to cook while you prepare the chicken.

Chop the chicken thighs into bite sized pieces. I use skinned and boned thighs from my local butcher, if you ask yours I'm sure they'll have them. If not, you can always have a go at skinning and boning them yourself, which, while tricky is not impossible.

Heat a little oil to the frying pan, add the chicken and cook until just cooked through. Leave to one side.

Add the tarragon to the soup base, stalks and all. Let the tarragon soften in the hot liquid for a couple of minutes and then blend together. I use my trusty stick blender but you can ladle in into a standing blender too.

Once everything has been smoothly blended together add the splash of milk. This adds a slight creaminess to the soup that I like, but feel free to leave it out.

Add the chicken to the pot and season. Simmer the soup for 15 mins to allow all the flavours to mingle.

Serve hot with bread. Great for lunch or dinner.

Blooming Marvellous!

Once again I find myself playing catch up on the blog, this time to write a little about Bloom which ran from 2nd - 6th June in the Phoenix Park.

Myself and my mum headed down on the Thursday, and after encountering a bit of a tailback getting into the car park, we were soon walking through the show gardens and enjoying our surroundings.

As my mum is a keen gardener we spent quite a long time in the show gardens. But to get the show gardens we had to pass through the equally beautiful and amusingly arranged walled garden.

The centrepiece garden of Bloom was the Ire-Su garden from China. It was so beautiful and serene, I could've admired it all day.

The Alice in Wonderland garden was full of beautiful details. I particularly liked the close planting of red and white roses together that made it look like they were on the same plant, just like the painted roses in the book.

My very favourite garden of the whole show was called A Place of Belonging, which was designed by service users of Focus Ireland.

Both my mum and I were taken with the Asthma Society's Asthma Garden, which was filled with plants that wouldn't irritate asthma sufferers. We particularly liked the beautiful benches.

We also loved the colour palette in the Think Blue garden. So many beautiful pinks, blues, purples and reds.

The most interesting concept was the Outside Gallery garden, that used the garden setting to display art works.

I may have also taken a little journey into the Adventures with Thumbelina garden.

Once we had thoroughly explored the show gardens, we headed straight for the Food Village. Compared to what there was at Bloom last year in terms of food, this was huge! All the spaces between the different areas were filled with edible produce, lettuces, fruit trees and other vegetables.

Once in the Food Village, we made a bee line for the hot food stands as we were both starving. A quick discussion, and we decided to have one of the delicious looking pork sandwiches from Crowe's Farm.

They not only looked delicious but tasted delicious too!

We enjoyed our lunch while watching the cooking demonstration from Neven Maguire. This was introduced by Ella McSweeney and also featured interviews with 2 of the producers of the products being used in the demonstration. In our case Donegal Rapeseed Oil and Wexford Strawberries.

After Neven's demo we took in some of the other exhibits that Bord Bia had in the Food Village. I particularly likes the depictions of the various products grown in Ireland.

My very favourite part of the day was something that I stumbled across completely by accident, a cow being milked. Now I know that may not seem particularly interesting to those of you from the country, who grew up around dairy farms, but as a lifelong city dweller, it was not something I had ever seen outside of television. It was fascinating to watch.

In an attempt to wrap up what is an already epic length blog post, I can tell you that I have but skimmed the surface of what was going on at Bloom. I haven't even touched on the Craft Village, or the marquees full of food producers, or the various DIY shows and about a million other things. What I can tell you is that it was even better than last year's festival. I only hope it continues to build on this.

Avocado and Chorizo Salad

Preparation Time
45 minutes
Total Time
45 minutes

First, a little apology for the lack of blog posts this month, but myself and the Beau recently bought a house and we have been having it renovated. Therefore, I have been spending quite a bit of time picking my dream kitchen, colours for the walls and a million other things. The work is almost finished now and the blog will hopefully return to a somewhat normal posting schedule.

My new house

Back to business, this recipe was my contribution to the ever so long ago August cookalong of summer salads. It's a recipe that my dad had cut out from a magazine about 6 years ago. We think it might have been the Sunday Times, but nobody can actually remember.

This is a great salad to have for a brunch or as a light dinner as it has enough substence to it that you don't feel hungry after eating it. Perfect for any remaining summer days.

Ingredients

Red Peppers
2
Potatoes (baby potatoes)
10
Avocados
2
Lemon (juice only)
1
Chorizo
300g
Romaine Lettuce
1 head
Baby Gem Lettuce
1 head
Sherry Vinegar
1 tsp
Olive Oil
6 tsp
Dry Sherry
2 tsp
Garlic
1 Clove
Salt & Pepper
to season

Other Requirements

Saucepan, oven proof dish, frying pan, chopping board, sharp knife, and a couple of small bowls.

Preheat the oven to 190°C. While you're waiting for the oven to warm up, prepare the potatoes by chopping in half and putting in a saucepan of cold water. Bring the potatoes to the boil. Boil for 10 mins, drain and leave to one side.

While the potatoes are boiling, prepare the red peppers. Cut the peppers in half and deseed them. place the red peppers in to an oven proof dish and drizzle with a little oil.

Season the peppers and put in the hot oven. Set the timer for 10 minutes.

When the timer goes off, mix the parboiled potatoes into the same dish as the peppers and put back in the oven for 20 mins.

While the potatoes and peppers are cooking, halve the avocados, remove the stones and cut the flesh into slices in the skins. Put the slices into a bowl. They must be ripe avocados, otherwise they're too hard to enjoy properly.

Squeeze the lemon over the avocado slices and season with a little salt and pepper. Stir gently so that the lemon juice coats all the slices and leave to one side. The lemon juice helps to prevent the avocados from going brown while you make up the rest of the salad.

Remove the outer skin from the chorizo and cut into slices. Cook in a frying pan over a gentle heat, until golden brown, being careful not to slightly overcook it like I did!

By now the potatoes and peppers should be ready, the potatoes will be golden and the peppers will just be starting to singe at the edges. Remove from the oven and allow to cool a little.

While the potatoes and peppers are cooling, make up the dressing. Measure out the sherry vinegar, sherry and olive oil into a bowl.

Whisk the ingredients together and season. I use my handy little milk frother to whizz them up.

Time to start putting the salad together. Cut the garlic in half, and rub around the inside of the salad bowl. This gives a little hit of garlic, without having to add it to the salad itself.

Cut up the romaine and little gem lettuce into strips. Put into the salad bowl and add the potatoes.

Now that the peppers are cooler, remove the skins and slice into rough pieces. Add to the bowl.

Add the cooked chorizo pieces to the bowl and drizzle on most of the dressing, retaining a little for after the avocade is added. Gently toss the salad.

Finally add the avocado pieces and the rest of the dressing and very gently toss in with the rest of the ingredients.

Serve immediately.

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