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     As soon as the Christmas decorations are down it's time to start thinking about Marmalade!  In January Seville oranges come to Ir...


Scotch Pancakes

Yesterday Scotland went to the polls and voted on independence from the United Kingdom. 85% of electorate voted and 54% of them voted "No". Scotland remains in the UK.

I don't know how I would have voted, but I thought I'd like some drop scones today. In some households these are called "Scotch Pancakes". They are delicious warm with butter and jam or lemon curd.
For a savoury twist serve with grilled smoked rashers and honey or maple syrup.
If I can't find fine oatmeal I put rolled porridge oats into the food processor and process until it's a fine meal.

175g plain flour
1tsp baking powder
1tsp salt
4tsp sugar
75g fine oatmeal
1 large egg

Sift the flour and baking into a bowl and stir in the salt, sugar and oatmeal.
Make a well in the centre and add the egg, start mixing in the egg with a whisk and as it gets thicker add splashes of milk and keep mixing, until you have a batter the consistency of double cream.

Heat a frying or a griddle and grease with butter.
When hot spoon large spoonfuls of the batter onto the pan and let them cook for a minute until brown underneath and then flip them over and let them cook for a moment.

Remove them from the pan and keep warm in a low oven until they are all cooked.




         Someone on Twitter requested this recipe after my husband Tom mentioned we had had some. It is a wonderful old fashioned dish easily made of  frozen fish and store cupboard ingredients. If you don't have the spices a couple of teaspoons of  'curry powder' will do.
     Tom so enjoyed it he finished the remains for lunch, leaving me with nothing to photograph!
The sea.

250g smoked white fish
100g small prawns or shrimp
250g rice
2 eggs
1 small onion
knob of fresh ginger
25g butter
½ tsp turmeric
½ tsp ground coriander
a pinch of chilli powder
2 tbs chopped fresh coriander to serve

Put a serving dish into the oven to warm up at 180˚C, GM 4.
Place the smoked fish into a pan and cover with cold water, put the pan on the heat and bring to the boil. Turn off the heat and let the fish cook in the heat of the water for 10 minutes.
Cook or defrost the prawns/ shrimp. Peel if necessary.
Cook the rice and drain well and keep hot.
Hard-boil the eggs for 10 minutes cool and peel.
Peel the onion and slice very thinly. Peel and very finely chop the ginger.
In a frying pan melt the butter over a medium heat and add the onion, ginger and spices. Cook gently until the onion is soft. Do not let it burn.
Drain the fish and gently break it up into flakes.
Peel the egg and cut it into 6 slices lengthways.
Stir the hot, drained rice into the onion and spices and mix well.
Add the flaked fish and prawns/ shrimp and mix gently through the rice.
Pile the rice mixture onto the warm serving dish and cover with foil and heat through in the oven for 15 minutes.
Decorate with the egg slices and chopped coriander.

Red Sweet, grown by Tom.


Eating Your Garden

      Ballymaloe is a special place and the festivals it holds draw a very lovely and special group of people. The Literary Festival of Food & Wine (litfest) in May is wonderfully broad in its scope with  discussions, talks, wine tastings and cookery demonstrations, involving the great and the good of the food and wine world.
      The Big Shed fills up with lots of stands for everything from seeds and crafts to craft cider & beer and food. There is even a children's corner.

      At the end of August Ballymaloe holds a smaller Garden Festival with talks, tastings and discussions. The Big Shed is also well stocked with stalls of food, seeds, crafts and drinks. There are plant stalls outside too.
     Having given a talk last year we were asked back again this year and our topic was "Eating Your Garden" with particular reference to flowers. Here are the recipes for the lavender biscuits, lavender vodka and the rose creams.
I'll write up the remainder of the talk in the next blog post.

Lavender Biscuits 

 These biscuits are crisp and buttery, don't be tempted to use anything other than butter. If the dough is very soft divide it in 3, wrap it and leave it in the fridge to firm up and then roll it out.

175g soft butter
115g caster sugar
1tsp lavender flowers picked from the stalk
1tsp chopped lavender leaves
125g plain flour
100g semolina

      Set the oven to GM 4, 180˚C and grease 2 large baking trays with butter.
      Cream the butter and sugar with the lavender flowers and chopped leaves until light and fluffy.
Sift in the flour and add the semolina and beat again until it comes together in a ball.

      Flour your work surface and take out a third of the mixture and roll it out with a floured rolling pin until it is about 5 to 8mm thick.
Cut out small rounds or shapes and put them onto the trays.
Repeat with the rest of the dough and then the scraps.
Bake them in the oven for about 15 minutes until just golden.
       Leave the biscuits on the trays for 5 minutes to firm up and then transfer to racks to finish cooling.
Sprinkle extra lavender flowers onto the warm biscuits while they are cooling. Store in an airtight container, when cold, if they last that long.

Lavender Vodka        
Tom has a passion for trying out different flavours in Martinis and made this to bring along. He only discovered that he should have added some vinegar to preserve the colour of the lavender after he'd made the 'vodka' and the flowers had faded.

375ml good quality vodka
2tsp cider vinegar
8 lavender flower heads with long stalks
48 hours

      Pour the Vodka and cider vinegar into a 700ml bottle. Put the lavender flower heads into the bottle with the stalks sticking out and tie the stalks together.
Leave for 48 hours and strain off the vodka and bottle.

Rose Creams

If you find the Lavender biscuits fragile then these are even more so.

75g plain flour
60g corn flour
40g icing sugar
125g soft butter
2tbs caster sugar

      Set the oven to GM 4, 180˚C and grease 2 Swiss roll tins with butter.
      Sift the flours and icing sugar into a bowl and add the butter.
Beat together until a smooth paste has formed.
Put the caster sugar into a shallow bowl.
      Take a teaspoonful of dough on to the tip of a spatula and dip it in the sugar, then place it onto the Swiss roll tin sugar side up.

Repeat with the rest of the dough. It should make about 24 blobs.
      Bake in the hot oven for about 15 minutes until just starting to colour. Remove the tray from the oven and leave the biscuits to cool on the trays.

Rose Cream

 Petals from 3 fragrant roses
2tbs caster sugar
1tbs lemon juice
175ml cream

       Make sure there is no wildlife lurking in the rose petals and put them into a mini processor with the sugar and lemon juice, process to a purée.
Whip the cream until thick and fold in the rose purée

      Take two biscuits of the same size and sandwich them together with a spoonful of the rose cream.


Elderflower Cordial or Stored Sunshine

The blossom has been particularly splendid this Spring and now the elder flowers are adorning the hedgerows.
The cream coloured blossom has a beguiling scent which can be captured in a cordial or added to gooseberries and sugar. Stew these gently together until the the berries pop and serve with custard or when cold, fold into whipped cream and chill in champagne flutes for a delicate dessert to be served with shortbread biscuits.

My daughter very kindly picked me the flowers for this batch of cordial.

There are about 20 flower heads here.

We snipped the flowers from the main stalks into a bowl and added 750g of sugar, 30g citric acid and 2 lemons thinly sliced.

Cover them with sugar, citric acid and sliced lemons.

 Then we poured over 650ml of boiling water and stirred until the sugar had dissolved.

Pour on the boiling water and stir.

We covered the bowl and stirred it each day for 3 days and then strained off the syrup into sterlised bottles. This quantity will give you about 1250ml.

Elder flowers and elder flower cordial.

Dilute the cordial to taste with still or sparkling water. It can be used to marinate strawberries in or as a flavouring for butter cream icing for cakes. This is stored sunshine!


Friends Day At lismore Castle

Each year Lismore castle in Waterford holds an open day for the members of the friends scheme.
 We get a tour of the Gallery and Gardens and lunch.
It was a bit on the dull and drizzly side the Saturday before last, but it was lovely to see the gardens and to hear of the new plans for them from the head gardener Darren Topps.
The Magnolias were just wonderful!
Here are some photos of the day.

A wild primrose growing from the wall on the way into the castle.

This is to be part of the 'cutting garden' for flower arrangements for the castle.

I wonder how old this apple tree is? The gardens have been cultivated since the 17th century.

Pink Magnolia!


I love the colour of this Rhododendron.

More Magnolias.
The gardens and gallery open again on the 18th of April until the 12th October  and are well worth a visit if you are in the area.


Who taught our mothers to cook?

And is still teaching us? Mary Berry! I've been looking at her new cookbook this week "Mary Berry Cooks" Published by  BBC Books. 

          While looking through it I was reminded that Mary Berry was one of the authors of The Hamlyn All Colour Cookbook (HACC), published in 1970 it appeared in our house sometime later that decade. There was a picture of every dish, in colour! As the name implies! I suspect a lot of people had this book, but haven't realised that Mary Berry of Great British Bake Off fame was one of the authors.

                Mary reminds me of a kind, motherly, but strict teacher of Home Economics. You don't mess in class and she will bring the best out in you as if you were her own child. Her recipes are straight forward and she isn't afraid to take short cuts, in particular her use of bought puff pastry.

While Mary has grown older and wiser her smile remains the same

      A recipe for chicken caught my eye in the new book, Peppered Tarragon Chicken.

 Was there one for it in the HACC book? Yes, there sort of is a similar recipe for Chicken with Orange & Tarragon.

         The older recipe contains frozen orange juice and sour cream and is made with chicken quarters. The new one uses black pepper cream cheese, chicken fillets and crème fraiche.
To compare the recipes is not fair, but there are really no new recipes. Just a reworking of ingredients.
There are new or now easier to get ingredients in Mary Berry Cooks, which she takes full advantage of.
           Every kitchen should have a Mary Berry book and this one is going to be well used in many households. A great gift for someone getting their first kitchen, it also has sections on menu planning and how much to cook and a section on how to use your freezer properly. Something lacking in many super cool, extra beautiful, I couldn't make that in a million years, chef's cookbooks!
           Eating real home cooked food is a joy and we should take our time to enjoy real food, so this Mother's Day lets do that. No matter how simple a meal, make it with love!



Gluten-free Pizza Base

I think I've finally cracked a half decent pizza base that is wheat and gluten-free!
I love pizza and I was missing it when I reduced my wheat consumption, but recently I've been thinking about it and have a few goes at making this version. 

                                                          Gluten-free Pizza Dough

This is not like a bread dough it is more like a paste.

6tbs warm water
150g mashed potato
1 tsp sugar
1tsp Doves Farm 'Quick Yeast'

Mix together in the bowl of an electric mixer, cover and leave in a warm place until it smells boozy and is frothy.
Boozy smelling bubbles

375g gluten-free bread flour
1 ½ tsp salt
190ml milk
1tsp vinegar
2tbs olive oil

Sift the flour into the bowl with the frothy potatoes and add the rest of the ingredients. Mix with the paddle/"K" beater for 4 minutes at a medium slow speed. Cover and leave in the warm place again for 30 minutes.

The 'Dough'
Oil 4 large baking trays and put a quarter of the dough on to the centre of one. Then using a pallet knife dipped in water spread the dough out into a circle or oval as evenly as you can. Cover and leave to rise while you do the other 3 bases.

Almost round!

Leave them all to rise for 10-15 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 180˚C, GM 4.
Bake the bases until dry on top, firm and beginning to brown, about 15 minutes.
The cooked 'B' side

Remove them from the oven and take the bases off the trays and leave on wire racks. 

Ready to go

Turn the oven up to the highest setting and put a heavy baking tray into the oven at the top.
Brush the top of the bases with oil and turn over. Cover the bases with your favourite toppings and bake directly on the pre heated baking tray for 10-15 minutes, until bubbling and golden.
(If using a pizza stone put it into the oven before you turn it on to bake the bases.) Makes 4 bases about 27cm in diameter.

 It could have done with a minute or two under a hot grill. Next time I'll use the oven with the grill in it and turn it on to finish the top.
There is some 'dough' left... almost supper time..... 


A Spot of Brunch?

Last Tuesday was Shrove Tuesday or more secularly Pancake Day!
I love pancakes almost as much as pizza. Spread with butter, sprinkled with sugar and spritzed with lemon, folded or rolled and eaten warm with a napkin to catch the dribbles that run down the chin. Oh, sweet delight if you can eat wheat.
Sometimes I like a more savoury approach that is wheat free. The cornmeal recipe below is one such experiment. Try to find a medium ground cornmeal as the coarse polenta style ones just make very gritty pancakes.

Primroses, Spring is here!

Cornmeal Pancakes 
1 cup of medium or fine cornmeal
1 cup boiling water
½ tsp salt
1 egg
1tbs melted butter or oil
butter or oil for frying

Pour the boiling water over the cornmeal and salt and mix well, then leave to stand for 5-10 minutes.
The soaked corn meal and the egg.
Crack the egg into a half-cup measure and break it up with a fork, add enough milk to fill the measure and add it to the cornmeal mixture.
Add the oil or melted butter and mix well to a thick batter.
The batter ready to use.
Heat a frying pan or griddle and grease with oil or butter. When it is hot add blobs of the batter to the pan. (I use about 1-1 ½ tablespoonfuls per blob)
When they are dry on top flip them over and cook the other side. Serve straight off the pan or keep warm on a plate in a low oven.
Cooking the second side.

With grilled streaky rashers and maple syrup.

 For a more substantial lunch dish I added some grated cheese, a chopped scallion or two and a little chilli. I cooked larger pancakes and topped them with a salsa of tomatoes and shallot. Some avocado and coriander would make good additions too.