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!
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)!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
A couple of weeks ago I left a wish on Gluttony for Beginner's blog post and as a result was visited by the magical, mystical Fairy Hobmother aka David from Appliances Online. The Fairy Hobmother has been floating around the blogosphere lately granting wishes left, right and centre.
I was kindly sent an Amazon voucher which I excitedly splurged on new cookbooks to keep me going while my own are packed away. I bought Michel Roux's three books on Pastry, Eggs and Sauces and Nigella Lawson's How To Eat.
The Roux books are beautiful and contain recipes from the simplest of egg dishes to the most complicated pastry creations. The Nigella book I've only skimmed so far but I've already got my on a couple of recipes to try out on the Beau and the rest of my family in the not too distant future.
The best part about the Fairy Hobmother visiting me though is that now you have the chance to be visited too! Leave a comment at the end of the post with a wish for the Fairy Hobmother and you too could have a sprinkling of fairy dust in your life.
To celebrate this I thought I would put up the recipe for that most fairy like of desserts, Pavlova, named for the Russian ballet dancer Anna Pavlova. This is Michel Roux's recipe taken from his Eggs book.
Just a quick note that I have almost halved the amount of cream that M. Roux asks for, as I thought that 400ml of cream would be a little on the heavy side. I have also allowed you to pick your own berries. Personally, I used a mixture of raspberries, strawberries, blackberries and red currants, but you can use whatever you have on hand.
Preheat the oven to 150°C. Whisk the egg whites into soft peaks. I used an electric hand whisk but you can do it by hand with a balloon whisk or in a stand mixer with the whisk attachment.
Measure out the caster sugar and gradually add to the egg whites, whisking all the time, until the egg whites are smooth, shiny and form stiff peaks.
Michel recommends that you whisk it for 10 mins after adding the caster sugar, but my mixer was in danger of overheating and dying so I only did it for 5 without any ill effects to the final product that I could detect.
Sieve in the icing sugar to the egg white mix and whisk together until it's thoroughly incorporated. Start slowly or you'll end up with a cloud of icing sugar in the kitchen.
Take a baking tray and line with parchment or greaseproof paper.
Pour out the meringue mixture onto the baking tray into a rough circle approximately 20 cm in diameter and 5 cm high. Place into the oven for 30 mins.
After the 30 mins turn down the oven to 120°C and bake for another 45 mins.
After the 45 mins, turn off the oven and leave the meringue in the oven for at least 6 - 8 hours or overnight. According to Michel Roux the perfect pavlova should be:
...half-cooked in the middle, crisp on the outside, and the edges should be slightly cracked.
After a minimum of 6 hours or, in my case the next day, take the meringue out of the oven, carefully remove the paper from the bottom of it and put on the serving plate you want to use.
Whip up the cream until it forms soft peaks.
Spread the cream over the top of the pavlova and start decorating with the berries.
If you are using strawberries; remove the green top and chop into smaller pieces before adding to the top of the pavlova.
Once you have added all your fruit to the top of the pavlova, serve in generous slices this is not something you can just eat a small bit of.
Don't forget to leave a comment for the Fairy Hobmother, who may come and visit you next!
I've been eating this chocolate ice cream for as long as I can remember, as it was regularly made by my Danish grandmother when we visited. There was always great excitement after dinner to see if there would be chocolate ice cream and 'kissses' (small meringues) and stomachs would be examined with a probing finger by Granny to see if there was a hole that would accommodate just a little bit of dessert.
The ice cream would be served on its own or with the above mentioned 'kisses', it would also make an appearance to accompany stewed pears and my grandmother's famous layer cake.
I now make this ice cream as a special treat for visitors, generally served with something like a chocolate brownie. There is generally very little left to put back in the freezer by the end of the meal but it does refreeze quite well, especially if you have stirred it enough during the inital freezing process.
Now before all the pedants jump on me, I will point out that technically this is not strictly an ice cream, however, I'm of the opinion that if it looks like ice cream and it tastes like ice cream, it is bloody ice cream!
You will notice that the chocolate flavour in this is added from hot chocolate powder rather than cocoa powder. The reason we use this is three fold; firstly the hot chocolate powder (and we use Cadbury's or Green & Black's for preference) tends to not form lumps, so it doesn't need to be sieved and won't form lumps when you fold it into the mixture, and secondly you can very easily go from not chocolatey enough to too chocolatey very quickly with cocoa powder, and finally the cocoa powder can have a very bitter taste while the hot chocolate powder tends to be sweet.
The ice cream takes a minimum of 5 hours to freeze so I tend to make it the evening before I intend to serve it. This saves a lot of panic. But do remember to take it out of the freezer about 15 mins before-hand, letting it melt a little so it's easier to serve.
I hope you enjoy this ice cream as much as I do and that it brings you as many happy memories.
Weigh out the icing sugar and seperate the eggs. I've embeded a video below showing you how to do it, if you've never tried before. You pass the egg yolk carefully back and forth between the two pieces of shell, letting the white drip into the empty bowl below. Once the majority of the whites has dropped into the bowl you place the yolks into the bowl with the icing sugar.
Using the spatula mix the egg yolks and icing sugar together until they form a smooth paste. Leave to one side.
Pour the cream into a third bowl and whisk it until it has soft peaks.
Fold the whipped cream into the egg yolk and icing sugar mix. It should be a very pale yellow in colour once you have mixed it all through.
Time to add the hot chocolate powder. Fold it through a couple of tablespoons at a time. Make sure you taste it occasionally so that you get the level of chocolateyness you prefer. The 8 tablespoon measurement I've used in the recipe is based on Cadbury's hot chocolate powder and gives the level of chocolate flavour I enjoy the most. But feel free to experiment to find what you like the best
Whisk up the egg whites until they have stiff peaks when you pull the whisk away.
Fold the egg whites into chocolate mixture.
Pour the finished mixture into your tupperware container. Smooth out the top, put on the lid and place in the freezer for 45 mins.
Now comes the slightly tedious bit, especially as while I do own an ice cream maker, I've not tried it with this recipe yet so don't know what time to give. If you want to try it out and let me know that would be great.
After 45 mins take the ice cream out of the freezer and stir thouroghly, especially into the corners. The purpose of this is to break up the ice crystals so that they don't get too large and ruin the texture. Once stirred pop the container back into the freezer for another 45 mins.
As before, after the 45 mins, stir again and return to the freezer for a final 45 mins.
This is the last time you have to stir the ice cream. You'll notice that the corners in particular on this stir will be quite set. After you've finished stirring, return the container to the freezer and leave until the ice cream has completely set (at least 5 hours).
Once the ice cream has set, remove from the freezer about 15 mins ahead of when you want to serve it.
Serve with fruit, cake, or pretty much anything you like. Raspberries are especially delicious with it. Enjoy!
This is quite possibly the tastiest way to eat red cabbage, which my mum discovered when dealing with a glut of red cabbage from her weekly veg bag. The sweetness of the apple works really well with the flavour of the red cabbage whilst the garlic somehow brings it all together.
Even if you don't normally like red cabbage I would encourage you to give this a go, it is very, very tasty.
Take a half a head of cabbage and using your sharp knife, finely shred it by cutting it in thin slices and then chopping the slices.
Put the cabbage into your serving bowl. Now peel, core and quarter your apples and grate them into the serving bowl on top of the red cabbage.
Now to make the dressing. In your blender put the two cloves of garlic roughly chopped, the juice of ½ an orange and 1 lemon.
Add in the olive oil and honey. Season with a little salt and pepper and blend together.
The final element of this salad is the toasted sesame seeds. Put the two tablespoons of seeds into a dry frying pan and heat until they start to turn golden brown. As soon as they start to change colour take them off the heat and add them to the salad bowl. You have to keep an eye on the sesame seed whicle they're toasting as they can burn very easily.
Pour over the dressing and mix into the rest of the salad, until everything is coated.
Serve immediately or you can make it ahead of time and leave it in the fridge until it's needed.
This is the only salad that the Beau will eat, this is probably because it has bacon in it. To be fair though, the bacon is what makes this salad extra delicious. I try and make this salad with new or baby potatoes, preferably of the waxy variety. The ones I used time were Maris Pipers, which were a little flourly, though just as tasty.
This is another dish that you can make ahead of time and, in fact, I think it is even tastier the next day when the flavours of the dressing have had time to mature.
Scrub the potatoes clean using a hard brush or using a handy gadget, such as I have, that washes and scrubs the potatoes with the turn of a handle, like a salad spinner for potatoes. Scrub the potatoes until they are very clean and have some of the skin missing.
Cut the larger potatoes into two and put into saucepan. Just cover with cold water and bring to the boil. Cook for 15 - 20 mins until a knife slides through without resistence.
On to the green beans. Top and tail the beans by removing the stringy bits at either end. Put in a saucepan, again, just covering them in water and bring to the boil. The beans need to cook for about 10 - 15 mins until they are cooked but still retain a slight bite.
While the potatoes and beans are cooking, make the dressing for the salad.
Measure out the honey and mustard into a bowl (or jam jar)
Add a crushed clove of garlic to the dressing and mix together into a paste.
Add the vinegar and the olive or rapeseed oil to the mixture.
Season the dressing with salt and pepper and whisk together until it emulsifys. If you're making it in a jam jar you can just shake it up until it's all mixed together.
The potatoes and green beans should now be ready. Drain off the water and leave in the pots to cool for 5 mins.
Once cool, cut the potatoes into approximate quarters and place in your serving bowl.
Chop the green beans into lengths of about 2 - cms and add to the serving bowl. Mix the potatoes and beans together.
Time for the bacon. Place the lardons in a small pan and cook until golden brown. While they're still hot, add to the serving bowl.
Pour on the dressing and, using a spoon, carefully mix through the salad until everything is coated.
My first summer party cookalong recipe is for my perfect burgers. I've spent a long time perfecting these and endlessly feeding experimental versions to the Beau, he has such a tough life sometimes.
Thanks to the sausage meat these burgers have a really smooth consistency and a nice solid structure, which makes them easy to eat with your hands. When the rest of my family ate them for the first time, they all commented on how much they enjoyed the texture of the burgers.
Just a quick note that I cooked these in a frying pan, as it was raining outside, but they cook just as well on a grill.
Into your large bowl place the minced beef, the sausage meet and the eggs.
Mix the meats and eggs together with your (freshly washed) hands until they are well combined. Add the breadcrumbs and mix again.
Chop up the onion as fine as you can and put into a frying pan with a little oil or butter. Cook on a low heat until the onion is nice and soft, with a light brown colour.
Add salt and pepper, mixed herbs and the cooked onions to the meat mixture.
Mix together until everything is thoroughly encorporated. This is the point where you can leave the mixture, covered in the fridge, until you need it.
Once you are ready to cook the burgers, take a small handful of the mixture, form into a ball and flatten. Place in a hot frying pan or on a hot grill until cooked through. I found this took about 5 - 7 mins per side. This mixture makes 15 - 20 burgers depending on size.