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Christmas Food!

Christmas Food! 

Mince pies.

Mince pies
These are my favourite Christmas food! When I was growing up we had the first mince pies after my sisters birthday in November.
They were also a big part of the after carol service tea party in our parish.
Every household had there own recipe and only homemade are the best!
The flaky pastry is worth making for mince pies, but if time is short bought pastry is as good.
For extra indulgence lift the lid on a warm mince pie and a splodge of brandy butter!

1 jar of best mincemeat
250g plain flour
185g butter very cold
150-160 ml cold water
1 egg beaten

Sift the flour in to a bowl, cut the butter into small cubes about 1 cm square and stir gently into the flour.
Pour in the cold water and mix to a stiff dough with a knife. Shape into a rough rectangle and wrap and leave to cool in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Remove from the fridge and put onto a floured surface and roll out into a 1 cm thick rectangle with a floured rolling pin. Fold the pastry in three and turn so that the 3 layers are towards you and roll out again, fold in 3 again, turn, roll and fold again. Wrap and leave in the fridge for an hour.

Set the oven to GM7, 220˚C, 425˚F .
Cut the pastry in a two thirds piece and a one third piece and roll out the two thirds piece until it is about 3 mm thick. Cut into rounds with an 8.5 cm scone cutter and use these to line 24 bun tins.
Gather up the scraps of pastry into layers and set aside. Roll out the other third of the pastry and cut out 24 stars or snowflakes.
Into each of the pastry cases put about 1 teaspoon of mincemeat depending on how deep the bun tins are. It does tend to bubble up and out if there is too much. Dampen the edges of the pastry and top each one with a star or snowflake.
Paint the tops with beaten egg and bake for about 15 minutes. Makes about 24.

Spinach & smoked Salmon Roulade
My Mum used to make a version of this, but I don’t have her recipe. I adapted a spinach roulade recipe I found in Rose Elliott’s Classic Vegetarian book. It is another great way to stretch a small amount of smoked salmon.

375-400g fresh spinach
30g butter                          
50g grated Parmesan
3 eggs separated                 
pinch of salt

150-200g cream cheese
1 gherkin finely chopped                 
1tbs chopped dill
2 scallions finely chopped                 
lemon juice
100g smoked salmon slices
Lemon wedges & salad to serve

Set the oven to 200˚C, GM 6.
Line a Swiss roll tin 23cm X 32cm with baking parchment.
Wash and spin the spinach to remove most of the water. Put the spinach in a pot over a very low heat until it wilts. Empty the spinach into a sieve to drain, press down on it with the back of a spoon to remove most of the moisture.
Let the spinach cool, while you put the butter, a few grinds of pepper, a pinch of salt, some grated nutmeg, the Parmesan and the egg yolks in to a food processor or blender. Add the spinach and blend to a puree.
Put the egg whites into a clean bowl and add a pinch of salt. Whisk the egg whites until they are stiff.
Fold the puree into the egg whites and pour the mixture into the prepared tin.
Bake in the hot oven for 15- 20 minutes until firm and beginning to colour.
When done turn the spinach ‘cake’ out onto a clean piece of parchment and carefully remove the backing paper.
Loosely lay the baking paper on top of the cake and roll up.
Leave to cool.
In a bowl whisk together the cream cheese, gherkin, dill and scallions. Taste the mixture and season with salt and lemon juice.
If it is very thick thin it with some cream or yogurt.
Unroll the cooled spinach cake and spread it with the cream cheese mixture, leaving a 1cm strip at one of the short ends.
Cover the cream cheese mixture with the smoked salmon slices. Carefully roll up again and wrap in cling-film and chill until needed. Slice and serve with some salad.         Serve with salad and wedges of lemon.

Talking Turkey!
This monster bird is a regular feature of most Christmas tables, but it is best on the day and for sandwiches the next day.
Then it should be dealt with firmly! Strip the meat off the bones and cut the meat into bite sized pieces. Freeze the in meal sized bags or ice cream tubs, for use in pies and curries.
The bones make great stock, which can also be frozen. I use one litre ice cream tubs or 500ml cream pots. It is great for soups and risotto.


1 roast turkey carcass
2 ½ litres water
1 carrot
2 onion
2 sticks of celery
3 cloves of garlic
a handful of parsley stalks
1 bay leaf
1 level tsp salt

Put the broken up turkey carcass into a large saucepan.
Put the water into the kettle and bring to the boil.
Peel and chop the carrot into 1 cm pieces and add to the pan.
Peel and chop the onion and add to the pan.
Chop the celery and add to the pan.
With the flat of the knife squash the garlic cloves and remove the skin and add the garlic to the pan.
Squeeze and twist the parsley stalks together and add to the pan.
Put the bay leaf, salt and pepper into the pan.
If you want a darker colour to your stock add the onion skin.
Put the saucepan onto the hob and pour the boiling water from the kettle over the contents of the pan.
Turn the heat up and bring the pan to the boil.
When the pan is boiling turn the heat down so that the contents boils slowly at a simmer. Put the lid on, but leave a small gap to let some of the steam out.
Boiling the stock fast will make it cloudy.
Simmer for at least one and a half to two hours.
When it has simmered for three quarters of its time taste the stock, if it tastes OK, take it off the heat. If it still tastes a bit weak give it another half an hour or up to an hour more. Leave the stock to cool for 30 minutes and then strain the liquid off the bones through a sieve.
You can use the stock straight away or leave it to cool completely and pour it into containers to freeze. Make sure you label the containers with the type of stock when you freeze it.

May I wish all the viewers of this blog a Merry Christmas and a Peaceful New Year!


Christmas Leftovers!

Just a short post about Christmas leftovers! 
We all love Christmas food on Christmas day! But after that it gets a bit boring? So here are three recipes I tried out at a cooking demonstration today. They seem to have gone down well with the group. Sorry there are no photos I always find it is too busy to take photographs at these events.

Smoked Salmon with Yogurt Pancakes
      This is a great way to stretch a small amount of smoked salmon around a large group. The yogurt in the little pancakes gives them a nice tang, as if they have been made with some sourdough starter.  

150g self raising flour
½ tsp salt
1 egg
150g yogurt
150ml milk
butter for frying

Sift the flour into a mixing bowl and add the salt.
Break the egg into the flour and start to whisk gently drawing more and more flour in until thick. Then add in the yogurt a spoonful at a time and whisk again.
When all of the yogurt is added in, whisk in most of the milk to make a thick batter.
Or put all the ingredients into a blender starting with half the milk, then the yogurt and the egg and blend till smooth. It will need to be thinned with the rest of the milk.
Make the pancakes by spooning 1dsp of batter onto the frying pan together to make a small pancake. Cook till dry on top and then flip over and cook until golden on the other side.
Add some more butter and continue to make the pancakes.
You can do 5-6 at a time on a large pan, keeping the earlier ones warm in a low oven until the rest are cooked.

1 shallot
½ tub sour cream
a bunch of dill
2dsp capers
smoked salmon

Very finely dice the shallot, chop the dill and capers and add them to the sour cream. Taste the sour cream mixture and season with pepper and lemon juice.
Top each pancake with a blob of sour steam and a twist of smoked salmon. Serve with lemon wedges and a grind of black pepper.

Cashew Nut & Brussels sprout Stir-fry
      This is great for unexpected vegetarians and is a different way to enjoy these seasonal mini cabbages.

1 large onion
2 cloves of garlic
2.5cm piece of ginger
1 chilli (optional)
1 red or yellow pepper
6-8 button mushrooms
10-12 Brussels sprouts
2tbs sunflower oil
2tbs soy sauce
1 tsp nam pla
50ml water
100g cashew nuts*
2 scallions
2tbs chopped coriander

Peel, halve and slice the onion thinly.
Peel and slice the garlic.
Peel the ginger and cut into small matchsticks.
Cut the chilli in half and remove the seeds and membrane slice very finely.
Cut the pepper open and remove the seeds and membrane, slice it into 1cm wide strips.
Slice the mushrooms.
Peel and finely slice the Brussels sprouts
Heat the oil in a large frying pan over a medium to high heat. When the oil shimmers add the onion, garlic, ginger and chilli. Stir-fry for 2-3 minutes until the onion softens.
Add the pepper, Brussels sprouts and mushrooms.
Stir-fry for a minute or two and add the soy sauce, nam pla and water. Cover the pan with a lid and turn the heat down to low. Leave to cook for about 3 minutes.
Meanwhile toast the cashews on a dry frying pan over a medium to high heat.
Finley slice the scallions at an angle and mix with the coriander.
Take the lid off the vegetables taste and season with pepper and  add the cashews and stir them through. Sprinkle on coriander and scallions and serve with rice or noodles.
*If you are using salted roasted cashews rinse them in a sieve under the tap to remove the salt, then dry them with kitchen paper before heating then through on the dry pan.

Christmas pudding Sundaes
      The diet starts in the New Year!

Left over Christmas pudding
3tbs mixed nuts
1tbs oil
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1tbs sugar
Good vanilla ice cream
Whipped cream

Crumble the Christmas pudding into dessert spoonful sized chunks.
Heat the butter in a frying pan and add the pudding in a single layer. Toss and fry until hot through and beginning to take on some colour.
In another pan gently fry the nuts in the oil. When they start to take on a colour add the sugar and cinnamon stir round until beginning to caramelise and turn out onto a sheet of baking parchment to cool.
Put a scoop of ice cream into the bottom of a glass dish and add a layer of hot pudding, a dessert spoonful of whiskey and then some more ice cream and a some cinnamon toasted nuts. Decorate with whipped cream and a date or two.

Happy Christmas to one and all, and a peaceful New Year!


Creating "Bubbles"! An adventure in cake decorating

Cake decorating!
I work part time in the cookware shop where I teach cookery classes.
I’m fine with the regular cookware for doing regular home cooking and baking. I’ve iced birthday cakes for my children and a Christmas cake or two, but I am by no manner or means an expert on this subject. So I have been on a very steep learning curve for the past while learning about all the different cake decorating techniques. I am very lucky to work with people who are very patient and knowledgeable in the subject of the art of cake decorating.
          The shop runs several classes for cake decorating, so I though I would give the basic one a try. It was a really lovely way to start. 
          The first week we just learned how to make butter icing and how to put the icing tips into the icing bags.
Some of the icing flowers.
         Our instructor showed us how to coat a cake in butter icing, by giving it a thin ‘crumb coating’ of icing and letting it harden in the fridge, before putting on a second layer to smooth over neatly. She then decorated the top showing us how to make dots, shells and stars. Then we had a go with some icing in a bag with a star nozzle on to biscuits.
         The next week we had to bring our own cake and icing. We split the cake filled it and covered it with icing. Mine looked really crumby, because I’d used a round chocolate cake!

"Crumb" coated!

         We then learned to make basic flowers and leaves. I was glad it was half term and had the girls about to eat up the cake.

I had fun at home finishing it.
         The last lesson we had to bring a cake fully iced with smooth butter cream, six cupcakes with flat tops and loads of icing.

Didn't quite manage the flat tops.
        I decided having done a round cake the first time I would try a square one this time. They are harder to ice and get sharp edges neat. Mine wasn’t level either! I didn’t have time to do another as I was away for the next day before the class. The cake and cupcakes even had to travel with me in the car! Thank goodness it is Autumn time and not blazing summer!

And now no one will ever know!
         We learned four more flowers and how to do the big swirl on top of the cupcakes. (Start at the edge and spiral in!)  We also practiced doing some writing.
Then we were let loose to decorate our cakes as we wished. I had seen the template for the fish in our instruction book and really liked it. I also liked the way the leaves are made with the leaf tip. I could see “Bubbles“ swimming through the leafy fronds of seaweed above the coral.

Bubbles Swims

So I urge anyone out there to give icing a go, it is fun and you can be as creative as you like. And better still you can eat the results! You can’t do that after a painting or pottery class!


Happy Halloween!

I’ve been doing more baking and learning to ice cakes at a Wilton class in Brennan’s in Cork http://www.brenco.ie/cookschool.html . I’ve also tutored a couple of back to basics classes and a bread baking demonstration at Brennan’s too.
One thing I discovered was a new respect for fresh yeast, which I hadn’t used for some time. I also found a Canadian extra strong flour with which I made the thinnest pizza bases I’ve ever made. I was a bit slow with the camera and they got eaten before I had a chance to record them.
The poppy seed loaves were a big hit with the family particularly as I'd made some crab apple jelly.
Tea brack is an old family favourite for Halloween and a great thing to have in store for callers in at this time of year. The muesli flapjacks are also great to put into a school lunch box for days when extra energy is needed for sports or just to make it home. Sometimes I just use a mixture of porridge and seeds instead of muesli for people who don’t like dried fruit.
The back to basics class were treated to a pot of colcannon as the class was just before Halloween too.

White bread loaves topped with poppy seeds.

White Bread Dough

150 ml boiling water
250 ml cold water                                     
20g fresh yeast or 2 level tsp dried yeast
1 tsp sugar                                             
2 tsp salt                                            
700 g strong white flour
4tbs oil

Mix together the boiling and cold water to make hand hot water.
Mix the yeast and sugar in a cup and pour in some of the warm water, stir and leave in a warm place to froth, for about 10 minutes. Add the salt to the rest of the water and keep warm.
Weigh out the flour and sift it into a bowl.
The yeast is ready when it has a head like a pint of stout, pour the yeast into the flour and rinse out the cup with some of the warm water and pour into the flour. Add the rest of the water and 3 tablespoons of oil.
Flours vary in the amount of water they need, you may need more or less.
Mix the water in and knead the dough, either in a mixer with a dough hook or by hand. Keep kneading until the dough is smooth and springy. This could take up to 10 minutes by hand or about 5 in a mixer.
Pour in a tablespoon of oil to the bowl, put the dough back into the bowl and smear it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic and leave to rise. The time taken to rise depends on temperature, one and a half to two hours somewhere warm or all day somewhere cooler.
When the dough has doubled in size and has a domed top it is ready to use.

Turn the dough out of the bowl onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 2-3 minutes.
Let the dough rest for about 10 minutes.
Grease the inside of two 1kg loaf tins. (22cmx11cmx6.5cm)
Cut the dough into two pieces and put them into the greased loaf tins.
Cover with a tea towel and let rise for 30 minutes to 1 hour till coming to the top of the tins.
Put the oven on to heat up to 220˚C, GM 7
Brush with egg wash and sprinkle on poppy or sesame seeds. With a sharp knife cut a line down the centre of the loaf about 1cm into the dough.
Bake in the hot oven for 20 minutes and then turn the heat down to 180˚C, GM 4 for another 20 minutes.
Remove the loaves from the tin and put them onto the oven rack to crisp the out side of the loaves for 5-8 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack.
Licking lips!

Milk Loaves/Rolls
You can replace 2/3rds of the water with milk and the oil with 50g of butter, rubbed into the flour before you add the yeast and liquid. Instead of making two loaves after the first proofing divide the dough into 12-18 balls of dough and put them on a greased roasting tin. Let them rise for 20-30 minutes and bake for 20-30 minutes in the hot oven.

Tea Brack

375g mixed dried fruit
200g brown sugar
225ml hot strong tea
275g self raising flour
1 egg

Put the mixed dried fruit and sugar into a large bowl and cover with the tea. Stir well and leave over night.
Preheat the oven to 180˚C, GM4. Grease and line a 1kg loaf tin.
Sift the flour into the bowl with the soaked fruit and stir well add the egg and mix thoroughly. Pour into the prepared loaf tin and bake in the centre of the oven for 1 hour*.
When done, turn the brack out onto a wire rack to cool.
When cold serve sliced and buttered.

*To test for doneness push a skewer into the centre of the brack and if it comes out clean the brack is ready. If the skewer is sticky with batter leave in the oven for another 5-10 minutes and test again.


600g potatoes
1 bunch or bag of curly kale
1 bunch of scallions
100 ml milk
70g butter
salt and pepper

Peel and wash the potatoes. Put them in a pot and cover with water and a good pinch of salt. Bring to the boil and cook until a knife goes into the centre of a potato easily.
Meanwhile wash the kale and remove the central stalks, cut the leaves into narrow ribbons. Put these into the top of a steamer and put 2 cm of water into the bottom and bring to the boil and steam for 4-5 minutes. Or steam them over the potatoes.
Cut the roots off the scallions and cut them into half centimetre lengths. Put these into a small saucepan with the milk a pinch of salt and some pepper.
Bring to the boil.
When the potatoes are cooked drain off the water and mash them in the pot with half the butter and some pepper. Beat in the milk and scallions and then add the kale, stir it in well.
Pile the colcannon on to a plate and shape into a mountain, make a hollow in the top and put in the rest of the butter.
For good luck coins are added to colcannon, but do wrap them in foil first.

Muesli Flapjacks.

 Muesli Flapjacks

6dsp sunflower oil
3dsp golden syrup
110g soft brown sugar
225g muesli
2dsp sunflower seeds

Set the oven to GM 4/350˚F/180˚C.
Line a Swiss roll tin with baking parchment.
Put the oil, syrup and the sugar into a saucepan and warm on a low heat.
Mix with a wooden spoon and when the sugar has melted add the muesli and sunflower seeds. Mix them in well and pour the contents of the saucepan on to the Swiss roll tin. Spread the mixture out well and smooth down with a spatula or the back of a spoon.
Bake in the oven for about 15-20 minutes. When they are done the edges will have darkened a bit, take the tin out of the oven and mark the flapjacks into squares and leave to cool in the tin. When they are cold take them out of the tin and break into pieces along the marked lines.


Afternoon Tea!

We did an afternoon tea party for our daughter’s birthday last week and it got me thinking about the in between meals of morning coffee and afternoon tea. They seem to have all but disappeared from peoples socialising.
    My Mother regularly met up with friends for coffee or tea and something to eat.
Coffee mornings quite often happened as fund raising ‘Bring & Buy Sales’, every one was required to bring some items of baking, brick-a-brack, flowers, plants or garden produce, pay a small entrance fee to cover coffee and a piece of cake or scone. And then buy some items to bring home. They were on in the mornings when children were in school and the mothers could get together for a good chat and a catch up on the latest gossip.

    The funds raised went to support everything from the local school or parish to the latest humanitarian disaster on another continent. Few men seemed to attend these gatherings and those that did were retired husbands of women involved or elderly fathers of others.
They quite often happened in people’s houses and if the weather was good the tables and chairs were put out side and the garden became the children’s playground. There was a feeling of being let in on something grownup when they happened in the holidays and we children got to go along.

    It was at a sale like this that I first came across globe artichokes. I bought two and my Mum gallantly cooked them and we ate them hot with butter. I think she thought them too much hard work to ever want to grow them, but we do now.
The food at coffee mornings always seemed to be sweet fruit scones with jam and cream, biscuits, jam tarts, tray bakes and sponge cakes. Chocolate sponge with chocolate icing and topped with half walnuts and half glacé cherries around the edge. Coffee cake with coffee butter icing and walnuts on top too. Sponge flans with whipped cream and fresh fruit. Fruit cakes were there too some with split almonds in a pattern over the top of the cake.
As for the coffee let’s not go there, this was in the days when no one had a coffee machine at home and cafétieres were still on the continent. The coffee was mostly percolated or sometimes it was made from Irel coffee concentrate. It was only when I was living away from home that I discovered how good real coffee could be.

    Afternoon tea parties were different there was always a savoury element that had to partaken of before we moved on to the sweet stuff. Sometimes
It was plain bread and butter, but more often it was sandwiches without their crusts cut into dainty triangles or squares. Sometimes brown scones were split and topped with tinned salmon and hardboiled egg or if money was no object some smoked salmon and black pepper and a squeeze of lemon.
The cakes were pretty much the same as at the coffee mornings though meringues and chocolate éclairs sometimes appeared.
The tea was always served in cups with saucers quite often china ones.

    For out tea party we had three sorts of sandwiches ham, cheese and cucumber. Crusts removed and cut small.
Plain scones were served with plum cheese made by the birthday girl and whipped cream.
As the first blackberries were ripe an apple and blackberry pie was a must. The left over pastry was used to make a few jam tarts, which are delicious with a blob of whipped cream on top.
No birthday is complete without a cake and the birthday girl’s sister did her proud with a simple chocolate cake covered in chocolate butter icing and chocolate shavings.


Summer Eating

Globe Artichoke

         There is nothing nicer than a globe artichoke as a start to a summer meal. Boiled till tender and served with melted butter and freshly ground black pepper. So simple, but what to follow it with? Well pasta is quick and easy and we have spinach and basil growing in the poly tunnel and garden.
         The courgettes are also getting into their stride and are so fresh from the garden that they need very lithe done to them. As we have out own plants we also get the flowers, which add colour to the salad too.
         So, what better than a pesto with pasta and a salad. To follow a tiramisu made with super strength coffee, the remains of which make an excellent breakfast.  

Pasta with Walnut Pesto

30 g walnuts
2 cloves of garlic
½ tsp salt
50 g fresh spinach washed & dried
large sprig of basil
5tbs olive oil
80g Parmesan cheese
1tbs lemon juice

150-200 g pasta

Put a large pot of water on to boil and add 2 teaspoons of salt to the water.
Heat a frying pan on a medium heat.
Break the walnuts into pieces and toast them on the frying pan for 3-4 minutes until they start to colour. Watch them carefully so that they don’t burn.
When the nuts are browned take them out of the pan and let them cool.
Peel and chop the garlic.
Finely grate the cheese.
Put the cooled nuts, garlic, ½ teaspoon of salt, spinach, basil leaves and 2 tablespoons of olive oil in to a mini chopper or small bowl of a food processor and blend.
Stop and push anything down that isn’t getting blended. Blend again until you have a smooth paste.
Stir in the grated cheese, lemon juice and 2 more spoonfuls of olive oil. Taste and add some pepper and more salt if necessary.

When the pot of water comes to the boil add the pasta and cook until ‘al dente’. Use the cooking time on the packet as a guide.
Scoop out a cup of the pasta’s cooking water.
Drain the pasta and return it to the warm cooking pot. Add 3-4 tablespoons of the pesto and stir well to mix it through. Add some of the reserved cooking water a tablespoon at a time and mixing again until you have the pasta coated with pesto. Serve with extra grated Parmesan.

Courgette Salad

1 clove of garlic
2tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 large or 2 small courgettes
6 black olives
2tsp capers
1 small red onion
100g ripe cherry tomatoes
Courgette flowers (if you have any)
Lemon juice
Salt & pepper

Crush the garlic and mix it with the olive oil. Slice the courgettes into 0.5cm thick slices length ways and brush them with the garlic oil.
Finely chop the capers and olives. Peel and thinly slice the onion and quarter the tomatoes. Strip the leaves from the parsley.
Put a ridged grill pan on to heat.
In a large salad bowl mix together the capers, olives, onion slices, the tomatoes, any courgette flowers torn into strips and the leaves from the parsley and mix well.
Grill the courgette strips on the hot grill pan in batches till nicely marked and just starting to soften. As they are done add them to the salad bowl.
When all the courgettes are cooked add any remaining oil and garlic from the courgettes to the salad and toss everything together. Taste and add a squeeze or two of lemon juice to taste and season with salt and pepper.
Serve at room temperature.


Serves 4-6
3 eggs
250g mascarpone
3tbs sugar  
1 cup very strong black coffee
250g sponge fingers

Separate the eggs.
Whisk the egg yolks with the sugar until pale and creamy.
Add the mascarpone and whisk again.
Put the egg whites into a clean bowl and with a clean whisk beat them until stiff.
Fold the egg whites into the cream.
Make a cup of very strong coffee and put it into a shallow dish. This is for the sponge fingers. Dip half of the sponge fingers into the coffee quickly and then put them into a shallow serving dish, in a single layer.
Spread half of the cream mix on top of the sponge fingers.
Cover this with another layer of coffee soaked sponge fingers and the rest of the cream mix.
Then sprinkle the top with cocoa powder or grated black chocolate.
Put into the fridge overnight. Remove from the fridge 15 minutes before it is needed, to warm up.
Coffee for Breakfast


Spanish Sunshine!

Liquid Salad

The E-coli outbreak in Germany last week had even rational people like me looking warily at the organic Spanish cucumber in my kitchen. I did eat it, though I washed and peeled it. Very tasty it was too.
I was surprised to find someone at a school fete refusing any sandwiches that contained salad. This was on last Friday when most salad had been given the all clear. Some times we can be too cautious, or maybe she doesn’t like salad. I do not know, but I do hope this will make us all more aware of hygiene and food preparation.

In celebration of those gallant Spanish farmers I think we all should all go out of our way to help them along by eating Gazpacho at least once a week for the summer. So here is my take on this Spanish Classic. It may not be authentic but it is an original ‘vegetable’ smoothie and a great way to get some of your five a day.
Interestingly only the garlic and scallions are vegetables in this mix, all the other ‘vegetables’ are the fruits of their plants.


3 cloves of garlic
600g vine ripened tomatoes
1 a green pepper
½ a red pepper
1 a cucumber
4 scallions
1 thick slice of white bread no crusts
1tbs of sherry vinegar
4tbs olive oil
salt & pepper
½ -1 chilli
Some extra virgin olive oil for serving.
1 hard boiled egg

Peel the garlic and put into a blender with a good pinch of salt.
Halve the tomatoes, remove the green cores.
Remove the seeds and membrane from the peppers and cut into 3cm pieces.
Wash and peel the cucumber, cut it in half lengthways and remove the seeds from the centre.
Chop the scallions and finely chop the chilli if you are using it.

Add half the chopped vegetables to the blender with half the bread.
Put the lid on and blend to a smooth puree.
Pour the contents of the blender into a large jug.

Put the rest of the vegetables and breadcrumbs into the blender and blend to a smooth puree.
Pour into the jug with the first batch and mix well.

Stir in the vinegar and olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
If the tomatoes are not ripe enough add a little sugar.

Leave for a couple of hours in the fridge to allow the flavours to develop before serving.
Just before serving stir the contents of the jug really well and thin with some iced water if it is very thick.
Very finely dice some red and green pepper.
Peel the hard boiled egg and grate it

Pour the Gazpacho into soup bowls, sprinkle on some of the red and green pepper dice, grated egg and trickle over a little of the best extra virgin olive oil you can get.
Serves about 6

Sweet Treat

I made these spicy flapjacks to bring to the same school fete and promised the recipe to some friends. I had a great time using up some half finished packets of muesli and topping them up with rolled oats. 

One of the muesli's was a spicy granola from http://www.greensaffron.com/ , but it needed a little help.

These are more of a chewy muesli bar than a tooth shattering crisp flapjack. They provide great energy on a long walk or bike ride and are fine with a cuppa and a friend to chat to.

Spicy Flapjacks

4 cardamom pods
1tsp coriander seed
½ tsp grated nutmeg
6tbs sunflower oil
3tbs honey
160 g soft brown sugar
330 g Muesli or a combination of rolled oats, nuts seeds and dried fruit

Set the oven to GM 3/330˚F/170˚C.
Line a Swiss roll tin with baking parchment.
Put the cardamom pods into a mortar and pestle and lightly crush to release the seeds, remove the green husks and add the coriander seed. Crush all the seeds with the pestle.

Put the crushed spices and grated nutmeg into a saucepan and add the oil, honey and the sugar.
Warm the saucepan on a low heat. Mix with a wooden spoon and when the sugar has melted and is beginning to bubble add the muesli.

Mix in the muesli well and pour the contents of the saucepan on to the Swiss roll tin. Spread the mixture out well and smooth down with a spatula or the back of a spoon.

Bake in the oven for about 12-15 minutes. When they are done the edges will have darkened a bit, take the tin out of the oven and put on a wire rack to cool. 

While they are still hot mark into bars and leave to cool in the tin. When they are cold take them out of the tin.


Just a quick supper

       The first two of our courgettes were ready on Sunday and we needed a light supper. Here is what I came up with.

I diced a two inch piece of spicy chorizo in to small dice and cooked them in a spoonful of olive oil on the omelette pan, then I sliced an onion and a clove of garlic and softened them in the oil from the chorizo. I emptied all of this into a bowl and added a good handful of mint chopped.

        I sliced the two courgettes in to thin slices and cooked them in the pan with a little more oil till just starting to colour.

        I added the courgette slices to the bowl and grated on some Parmesan and seasoned it with some salt and pepper.

        I cracked in four eggs and mixed it all well together and poured the whole lot back onto the omelette pan and cooked till golden underneath. To finish the top I put the pan into the top oven of the Aga for about three minutes to set the middle.

         I served it with a salad and it was perfect. Just real food fast.


Summer time

    Summer is coming fast and I’ll be back teaching eight year olds plus to cook every afternoon for the summer. I enjoy the challenge and I hope the young people have a good time too. We’ll do lots of different recipes over the five days and if each person takes away one recipe that they try again I’ll be very happy.
   Working every afternoon leaves little time for preparing an evening meal so quick one pot or frying pan meals, served with a salad are great.
I did a stir-fry demonstration for a wok promotion recently and two people asked to take me home with them! I was very flattered.
    I did some very simple stir-fries. Vegetables and Noodles, Egg Fried Rice and a version of Sweet & Sour Chicken. I also used the wok to pop popcorn and seasoned it with soy sauce, an old family favourite.
    Here are two recipes I’ll be feeding the family with over the summer. I may even teach my children to make them. Bring on the Summer! And I’ve added the popcorn recipe too.

Open Spinach and Tomato Omelette

250g fresh spinach
1 clove of garlic
1 small onion
30g butter
200g feta cheese
6 eggs or 4 duck eggs
salt and pepper
2tbs oil
2-3 tomatoes
2tbs grated parmesan

Wash the spinach and dry it well.
Peel and chop the garlic and onion. Melt the butter in a large frying pan and cook the garlic and onion until soft, but not coloured. Add the spinach and stir well. Cover the pan and turn the heat to low.

   Cook for about 4 minutes and stir again. When the spinach has wilted increase the heat to boil off the excess moisture.
Turn the cooked spinach into a bowl and let cool for a few minutes.

   Crumble the feta cheese into the spinach and crack the eggs into the mixture. Season with salt and pepper and stir gently to break up the eggs and mix the spinach and feta through them.

   Heat the frying pan and add the two spoons of oil to it, pour in the spinach, cheese and egg mix and leave to brown on a medium heat.
   Pre-heat the grill to medium high and slice the tomatoes thinly. When the omelette is golden underneath and is almost set on top, cover the top with tomatoes, season and sprinkle over the grated Parmesan.
Place under the grill and grill until golden and the tomatoes soften.
Serves 4

Vegetable and Noodle Stir-fry        

125g egg noodles
1 large onion sliced
2 cloves of garlic sliced
1 small piece of ginger peeled & cut in thin strips
1 chilli sliced
200g cashew nuts
1 red pepper cut in narrow strips
1 pac choy sliced long ways
8 button mushrooms sliced
125g baby sweet corn sliced
2tbs sunflower oil
2tbs soy sauce
50ml water
3 scallions sliced
2tbs chopped coriander

Cook the noodles according to the instructions on the packet and drain well.
Heat the oil in a wok over a medium to high heat. When the oil shimmers add the onion, garlic, ginger and chilli. Stir-fry for 2-3 minutes until the onion softens. Push them to one side.
Add the cashew nuts to the empty side of the wok and let them toast for a minute or two.

     Then add the sliced pepper, pac choy, mushrooms and baby sweet corn. Mix everything well together and stir-fry for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the soy sauce and water.

    Cover the wok with a lid and turn the heat down to low. Leave to cook for about 3 more minutes. The broccoli and baby sweet corn should be just tender.

    Add the drained noodles to the wok and mix everything well together and cover again.
Finely slice the scallions and coriander.
Take the lid off the wok taste and season with pepper and more soy sauce if necessary and pepper. Sprinkle on coriander and scallions and serve.
Serves 4 as a side dish.


      Popcorn is also excellent made in a wok just put 1 tablespoon of oil into the heated wok and add 1-2 tablespoons of popping corn and put the lid on, shake occasionally over the heat until the popping stops. Season the popcorn with light soy sauce for a different flavour.
     Toss half teaspoon of chilli flakes or some smoked paprika through the popcorn to add a grownup flavour.