Sunday, 22 December 2013

Chestnut and Mascarpone Yule Log

It’s time for some more Christmas baking fun and as the big day gets ever closer overindulgence now rules! The yule log or Bûche de Noël is a traditional Christmas desert but not something that has ever been a major part of our celebrations (we are much more of a Christmas pudding family!). And I had never attempted to make a yule log…until now that is, and after reading a few tips from The Guardian website I came up with a pretty delicious treat. And the great thing about the light and airy sponge that makes the base of the yule log is that it is often naturally gluten free and many recipes contain absolutely no flour but are just lots of whipped up eggs and cocoa powder, so a perfect gluten free addition to the Christmas dinner table, and not as tricky to make as you may think!!


6 large eggs, separated
150g caster sugar
60g cocoa powder

1 jar of chestnut jam (you can make your own by checking out this recipe)

100g frozen cherries (or other red berries as preferred)

150g mascarpone
50g icing sugar

200g dark choc
180ml double cream
Glug of rum

Pre-heat the oven to 180°C. Line a swiss roll tin (or shallow rectangular baking tin) with grease proof paper, being careful to fully tuck the paper into the corners of the tin so that they are neatly folded in as this will allow the cake to rise nicely.

Separate the eggs dividing the egg whites and egg yolks into separate bowls.

Add the sugar to the egg yolks and beat with an electric mixer until a thick and glossy mixture is formed. Add the cocoa powder to the mixture and continue to beat until fully combined.

Ensure that the electric mixer is fully cleaned and has no traces of the egg yolk mixture and then beat the egg whites until soft peaks are formed.

Gently fold the egg white mixture into the egg yolk mixture a little at a time until fully combined. But be careful not to knock all of the air out of the egg whites.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and place in the centre for about 25 minutes until firm to the touch.

Remove the cake from the oven, place another sheet of baking paper on top of the cake and invert onto the kitchen surface. Carefully remove the cake from the tin and peel off the baking paper that had lined the tin. Then, using the paper now underneath the cake carefully roll the cake up along the longest edge until a tight roll is formed. Leave the cake to cool rolled up (you can make the cake the day before you require it and leave it rolled up overnight before decorating the following day).

Once you are ready to construct the Bûch carefully unroll the cake (don’t worry if it cracks a little at this point, any little faults will be covered up with all the icing!)

I filled mine with chestnut jam which I had previously made (following this recipe, but if you don’t have a personal supply of chestnuts and enough time to make yourself some jam sweetened chestnut puree will work just fine) and sweetened mascarpone which I made by combining the mascarpone with the icing sugar. Spread the chestnut jam evenly over the cake. Then sprinkle with the cherries and top with the sweetened mascarpone. Carefully re-roll the cake using the baking paper for support as you roll.

Carefully transfer the roll to your serving plate and then liberally coat with chocolate ganache which is made be breaking the chocolate into a heat proof bowl, then bring the cream to the boil in a small pan, as soon as the cream begins to boil remove from the heat and pour over the chocolate. Stir the mixture until the chocolate has melted and a smooth glossy mixture has formed. Stir in a glug of rum and then pour the ganache over the cake and spread across with a spatula until it is fully covered.

I melted a little extra chocolate and piped out holly leaf shapes onto some non-stick baking parchment and once set used these to decorate my yule log but a liberal dusting of icing sugar would look just as festive.

Then get stuck in and enjoy this gorgeously indulgent chocolate desert…it is Christmas after all.

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Mince pie cookies

Christmas really is fast approaching now, and although I am a right scrooge when I hear Christmas songs in the shops in September my ‘Bah Humbug’ attitude quickly dissipates once December arrives. This week I have been getting rather festive in the kitchen and have been having a massive kitchen baking session with cheesy Christmas music playing in the background whilst I have been liberally dusting every surface with icing sugar.

Now Christmas isn’t Christmas without a copious amounts of mince pies but I like to experiment a little with my mincemeat! And after making mincemeat Danish pastries last year I thought I would get creative again and so the mincemeat cookie was born. If you aren’t a big fan of pastry these are a perfect yule time treat with a little dollop of the sticky mincemeat mix hidden inside a gorgeous almond and vanilla cookie.


80g butter
150g golden caster sugar
1 egg
100g almond butter (you could use peanut butter here if you can’t find almond butter, but it is available in many supermarkets and all good health food shops)
2 tablespoons golden syrup
Seeds from half a vanilla pod
25g ground almonds
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
150g plain flour
50 g rye flour
1 jar of mincemeat (or if you feel a bit more adventurous you can make your own!)

Makes approx. 20

Pre-heat the oven to 180°C/350°F.

Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.

Add the almond butter, egg, golden syrup and vanilla to the mixture and continue to beat until smooth and well combined.

Finally mix in the ground almonds, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and both flours and fold in until a firm dough if formed. Wrap the dough in cling film and place in the fridge for 30 minutes to chill.

To construct the biscuits begin by taking a small ball and making a dent/well in the centre. Place a teaspoon full of mincemeat into the indent.

Take another piece of the dough and form into a small round disc and place over the top of the mincemeat.

Then work the two bits of dough together forming a fat disc of cookie dough with the mincemeat hidden inside.

Place the cookies on a lined baking tray, leaving a little bit of space between them so they have room to spread a little.

Bake for 10-12 minutes until golden brown. Allow to cool a little before transferring to a cooling rack to cool completely. Will keep in an air tight container for a few days….but I doubt these delicious cookies will last that long!!!

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Chestnut Pesto

Before the year runs away with me and we all get engulfed by Christmas I wanted to post this autumnal recipe. I have previously blogged about my love of chestnuts and how I am fortunate enough that my parents garden contains a couple of chestnut trees, so I have grown up picking these little mahogany balls of yumminess straight from among the leaves on the ground each year, rather than having to fork out a considerable amount of cash for a small little net in a supermarket. And in the last couple of years I have experimented with the many different uses of the chestnut from chocolate pots, and truffle cake to gnocchi.

When my mum started bragging about how plump and delicious this year’s crop of chestnuts are I immediately put in my order and started researching possible recipes to use the chestnuts in. This was when I came across quite a few pesto recipes that replace the pine nuts often found in pesto with chestnuts instead. Pine nuts can be quite an expensive ingredient so I loved the idea of replacing them with something foraged for free. I’m also not a big fan of pine nuts so this seemed like a perfect substitution for me. I made a very chestnut heavy version of pesto but you could easily increase the proportion of the other ingredients to suit your own tastes, but I didn’t want the chestnut to be over powered by the basil in this recipe. The resultant pesto is great stirred into freshly cooked spaghetti with a few wild mushrooms thrown in for good measure or a little fried up smokey bacon to create autumn on a plate.


80g raw, shelled chestnuts
A large handful of fresh basil
80ml of good quality olive oil
25g grated parmesan
1 large clove of garlic, crushed
A good pinch of sea salt.

After peeling the chestnuts (this can be a little time consuming and I find if I slit the top of the chestnuts with a sharp knife and then plunge into boiling water for a few seconds it is a lot easier to remove the chestnuts from their shells) place in a saucepan of boiling water and cook for about 5 minutes until they are just starting to cook but are still firm and crunchy.

Drain the chestnuts and place with the remaining ingredients in a food processor. Blitz until a slightly grainy paste is formed (adding a little extra olive oil if needed to reach the desired consistency).

Use as you would with any other pesto.

Store in the fridge.

Disclaimer: I feel that I should say that unless you are 100% certain what you are eating it is best to buy your chestnuts rather than go foraging for them, conkers for example are not edible and should not be confused with chestnuts!!

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Taro Coconut Bubble Tea

I had vaguely heard of bubble tea before but it was not something I had ever got around to trying…I’m not sure if this Taiwanese trend has really hit the streets of Northern Ireland yet. And for the rest you who may not be in the know bubble tea is a Taiwanese beverage that contains little chewy tapioca pearls. For someone who has a real fear of rice pudding and isn’t all that keen on its milky pudding cousins of semolina and tapioca I must admit that the thought of enjoying tapioca in a drink wasn’t all that appealing! But ages and ages ago thanks to a foodie pen pal I received all the kit I needed to make myself some bubble tea at home. And so I thought it was about time that I bit the bullet and embarked on a tapioca tea journey. Natalie who sent me the pen pal parcel directed me over to her friend Lyndsay’s blog for directions on making bubble tea so I adapted these to use the tarococonut milk tea powder that I had been sent to make my drink.

And if you want to have a go here’s how…

35g tapioca pearls
70ml water
1 teaspoon honey

100ml hot water
40ml almond milk

Put the tapioca and water into a small saucepan, set over a medium heat and bring the water to the boil. The tapioca should double in size, this should take about 5 minutes. Once cooked remove from the heat, drain the pearls and rinse under cold water. At this point you can stir in a little honey to sweeten your tea. Then set the tapioca to one side.
Bubble tea can be made with any tea or fruit juices that you enjoy but I was given taro coconut tea to use so followed the instructions on the packet on how to prepare this (which basically involved dissolving the tea powder in 100ml of hot water). I then mixed this with the almond milk and transferred the mixture to the fridge to cool.
Once my milky mixture was cooled I mixed in with the tapioca pearls and sip away. This is best enjoyed with a big chunky straw so that you can slurp up and then chew on the gooey tapioca balls at the bottom of the glass.

So go on and give it a try….even for a rice pudding-phobe I rather enjoyed this tea!!

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Paprika and Gruyere Cornbread Muffins

Bonfire night isn’t such a big celebration in Northern Ireland as it is back in England, which is a real shame as I think it is one of my favourite events of the year. As a child we always had family and friends gather in the back garden wrapped up in our winter hats and adorned with mittens and bobble hats ready to oooo and ahhh at the roman candles and screeching rockets that would be let off from the end of the garden before we wrote our names in the air with sparklers and congregated around the bonfire that was topped with a guy (which was normally hastily made by stuffing newspaper into some of my Dad’s old clothes that were waiting for a charity shop drop). Food played a really important part in these evening with cauldrons full of pumpkin soup being served alongside barbequed sausages and roasted chestnuts. And although I may not have a bonfire to huddle around on this cold autumnal evening I’ve been busy in the kitchen instead cooking up this batch of gluten free cornbread muffins that would be perfect dunked in some of the pumpkin soup my mum always makes at this time of year.


400g coarse yellow cornmeal / polenta
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons paprika
100g grated gruyere cheese
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 egg
50g melted butter
345 ml buttermilk  

Preheat your oven to 200ºC / 400°F.

Grease a 12 pan muffin tin with a little vegetable oil.

Place the cornmeal, salt, paprika, baking soda and baking powder in a large bowl and mix until fully combined. Then fold in the grated cheese.

In separate bowl beat together the egg, butter and butter milk.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and fold together until combined. Dollop the mixture into each of the muffin tins. Sprinkle with a little extra cheese and bake for 20 to 30 minutes until golden brown.

Remove from the oven, use a palette knife to remove the muffins from the tin and serve warm.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Chocolate 'Tomato Soup' Fudge Cake

This is a celebratory blog post with two momentous occasions that deserve a little recognition! Firstly 2 years ago my blog was born with a rather special vegan and glutenfree chocolate cake recipe. Since that time I have embarked upon a world of baking in which many things have been missing and I have learnt that tofu whizzed up in a food processor can act as a butter milk substitute and a frozen banana is a vital ingredient to many vegan desserts!

It just so happens that my second birthday post is also the 100th recipe I have published. It appears I have spent quite a lot of time in the kitchen over the past couple of years!! So for this centenary/2 year post there was only one suitable thing to make….a cake, and not just any cake but a gooey indulgent chocolate fudge cake. After 99 posts where ‘something’ has always been missing I am going to deviate a little here as this recipe if fully loaded with butter, eggs and gluten-full flour. The only thing that was missing when I first made this recipe for friends a few years ago was my sanity!! As the special secret ingredient in addition to the usual flour, eggs and sugar is a tin of condensed tomato soup. Yup you read that right. And whilst we are used to the addition of courgette or beetroot in a chocolate cake recipe I doubt many of us have thought to reach for that tin of soup lurking at the back of the cupboard. But this works, and doesn’t taste of tomato (honest), the soup just helps to keep the cake incredibly moist. So give it a go if you dare….and see if your friends and colleagues can guess what the secret addition to this recipe is!!  


130g butter
300g caster sugar
2 eggs
275g cups plain flour
60g cup cocoa
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon bicarbonate soda
60ml buttermilk
400g tin condensed tomato soup

100g butter
150g icing sugar
40g cocoa
1 tbspn water

Pre-heat oven to 350 °F or 180 °C and grease and line two 20cm round sandwich tins with greased proof paper.

Cream butter and sugar together in a large bowl until light and fluffy.
Add the eggs to the mixture one at a time and beat together.

Sieve in the dry ingredients into the bowl and mix together until fully combined.

Finally add the soup and butter milk and beat to a smooth batter.

Divide the batter between the 2 tins and transfer to the oven. Bake for 30 minutes until the cakes are firm and a sharp knife inserted into the middle of the cakes comes out clean. Leave the cakes to cool slightly before removing from the tins and cooling completely on a wire rack.

Meanwhile melt the butter for the icing in a small saucepan.

Once melted remove from the heat, add the icing sugar and cocoa and beat until a smooth glossy icing is formed.

Allow the icing to cool slightly before using a little to sandwich the two cakes together. Then pour the remaining icing over the top of the cake and smooth out with a palette knife. Decorate as desired (I used sugar sprinkles) and then tuck in and celebrate with a big fat slice!!

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Blackberry, Apple and Carob Cheesecake Bites

I’ve been sitting on this recipe for a little while and we are now well past the end of blackberrying season (although the fat little purple fruits do seem to nestle amongst the hedges a bit longer here over in Northern Ireland compared to England). But after making apple and blackberry granola muffins a few weeks back I had enough blackberries left to make something a little less healthy. Although I did replace any chocolate in the recipe with carob to ensure there was a little something missing from this tray bake recipe.

If you haven’t got a stash of locally picked blackberries or don’t want to wait until next year before trying out this recipe any variety of frozen berries could be used instead.


100g fresh blackberries
100g bramley apple (peeled and chopped)
15g caster sugar
1 tablespoon water

140g butter
150g caster sugar
75g carob powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 eggs
120g plain flour

200g cream cheese
1 egg
100g caster sugar
30g corn flour

Place the blackberries, apple, 15g of caster sugar and water into a saucepan and place over a medium heat until the apple begins to soften and the juices are released from the blackberries (this will probably take about 10 to 15 minutes). Then remove from the heat and place to one side.

Pre-heat the oven to 180°C / 350°F.

Grease a 20cm x 30cm baking tin and line with non-stick baking parchment.

Place the butter into a saucepan and place over a medium heat until melted. Then add the 150g caster sugar and stir until dissolved. Remove from the heat and sift in the carob powder, cinnamon, baking powder and flour. Once fully combined add the eggs one by one and stir again until a smooth batter is formed.

In a separate bowl beat the cream cheese until smooth before adding the egg, remaining caster sugar and corn flour. Then mix in the blackberry and apple mixture to the cheese until distributed throughout.

Spread 2/3 of the carob mix into the lined tin and then spoon the cream cheese mix on top. Spoon the remaining carob mixture in blobs over the cheesecake mix and using the tip of a sharp knife swirl the 2 mixtures together.

Bake for 40 minutes until the cake is firm and the carob mixture is set.

Allow to cool in the tin before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Then slice into squares and serve.

This recipe was inspired by this recipe from Beantown Baker.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Gluten Free Mascarpone Gnocchi

I was perusing the content of the blog recently and realised that I hadn’t posted a savory recipe for ages (well I haven’t posted anything for ages but we will gloss over that one quickly)! So I thought I had better get up to date and add to my gnocchi recipe collection (see my previous Chestnut and Sweet Potato varieties). This is another gluten free recipe, which is packed full of cheese rather than potato, as is often featured in Gnocchi. I used mascarpone, parmesan and blue cheese in this recipe but you could play with the combinations and quantities of these used to come up with your own cheesy concoction. I then served my gnocchi with a fresh tomato and spinach sauce so this is veggie friendly, but a little crispy bacon would go perfectly with this dish too.


100g mascarpone
15g parmesan, grated
30g blue cheese, crumbled
1 egg
190g gluten free flour
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
Salt and pepper to season

In a large bowl mix together all three cheeses and the egg until well combined and season to taste.

Fold in the flour and xanthan gum and bring the mixture together until a smooth dough is formed, but try not to overwork the mixture. Don’t panic if the mixture seems a little wet at this point!

Transfer the mixture to the fridge for at least an hour before cooking.

Remove the dough from the fridge and after lightly flouring your hands form the dough into small gnocchi sized balls.

Bring a large plan of salted water to the boil and transfer the gnocchi parcels to the water. Once the gnocchi begin to float they are done, so drain before mixing with the accompanying sauce of your choice and tuck in.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Gluten Free Granola, Blackberry and Apple Muffins

This blog post is a first for me….a product review. I was fortunate enough to be sent a couple of packets of ‘Nice and Nobbly’ Gluten Free Granola from Nature’s Path. As a newbie to this opinion-casting web entry I should probably start with the little official bit and say despite being sent this product for free the comments I make are all my own and not influenced by anyone else.

Anyway moving on from the Ts and Cs I was sent 2 varieties of the Granola. A Strawberry, Rasberry and Blueberry versions and a Pumpkin Seed, Raisin and Almond version. The berry granola had a real fruity punch and as the description may suggest there really are some generously sized nobbly chunks of granola within the mix. The pumpkin granola is a little less sweet than the berry version with subtle cinnamon flavours in addition to the hidden gem of large coconut flakes that I found lurking within the mix and which I loved. Both of these granolas are a great gluten free product that use organic ingredients and provide a good addition to the breakfast table.

But if you fancied doing something a little more exciting than just adding the granola to a bowl with an addition of milk or yoghurt ‘Nice and Nobbly’ can also be used in this recipe for gluten free blackberry and apple breakfast muffins.


2 bananas
Juice from 1 lemon
80g butter
80g sugar
1 egg
100ml milk
320g gluten free flour (I use Dove’s)
2tsp gluten free baking powder
115g blackberries
1 medium apple (80g), cored and chopped
50g gluten free granola (plus a little extra for sprinkling on top of muffins)

Pre-heat the oven to 170°C / 340°F.

Line a muffin tin with 12 muffin cases.

Peel and mash the bananas in a small bowl with the lemon juice and set to once side.

Beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy and then add the egg and milk and stir until combined.

Sift the flour and baking powder into the mixture and fold together.

Fold in the mashed banana along with the chopped apple, blackberries and granola into the mixture until distributed well throughout the mixture.

Spoon evenly between the 12 cake cases and sprinkle each muffin with a little extra granola before transferring to the oven.
Bake for 25 minutes until lightly golden in colour and springy to the touch.

Allow to cool before tucking in….these are great served with a big blob of homemade blackberry jam on top!

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Dairy Free Russian Apple Cake

It was recently my housemate’s birthday and in my book any birthday has to be accompanied by a cake. The problem is my housemate isn’t the biggest cake fan. Last year for her birthday rather than a cake I made her a loaf of bread as a celebratory substitute. But this year I didn’t think I could repeat the bread trick so wanted to make a cake that my housemate would enjoy, which basically involved a cake that isn’t too cakey!! A bit of trawling of the internet and I came across a Russian Apple cake or ‘Sharlotka’ recipe over at Smitten Kitten. This is a recipe where layers of apples are covered in a batter and then baked to make a cake that is more apple than anything else…so a perfect non-cakey cake. And as a bonus there is no added fat so this is a great dairy free addition to the blog.

I adapted the original recipe I found over at Smitten Kitten to include some blackberries from our garden along with some ground almonds to add a more English autumnal twist to this Russian recipe.


500g tart eating apples e.g. Granny Smith (8 small)
½ cup blackberries
4 eggs
250g caster sugar
Seeds from ½ vanilla pod
150g flour
20g ground almonds

Pre-heat the oven to 180°C or 360°F and line a 25cm diameter, loose bottomed tin with non-stick baking parchment.

Peel and core the apples and slice into 2cm thick chunks.

Fill the lined tin with layers of the apple interspersed with blackberries.

In a large mixing bowl beat together the eggs and sugar until thick and creamy.

Fold in the vanilla, flour and almonds until fully combined, being careful not to overwork the mixture.

Gradually pour the batter over the apples and blackberries ensuring the mixture fills all of the gaps between the fruit.

Transfer to the oven and bake for 1 hour until firm and golden brown on top.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tin before removing and transferring to a cooling rack.

This cake can be served warm with cream or custard or cold as an afternoon teatime treat.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Vegan Summer Fruit Shake

I thought I had better write this recipe up quickly before the sun disappears from the sky and an autumn chill creeps across the land. There was a little mini heat wave at the weekend though, and after an afternoon of gardening in the sunshine I was in need of some cooling refreshment. And so I raided the freezer and the fridge and whizzed just three ingredients together to make a summer fruit shake. And rather than the usual milk and ice cream added to a shake I used up some of my frozen banana stock and almond milk to make a vegan friendly beverage!


85g frozen banana
50g red berries of your choice (I used frozen summer fruit mix)
200ml almond milk

Place all of the ingredients into a food processor and whizz until blended.

Transfer to a glass and enjoy.


Sunday, 18 August 2013

Vegan Chocolate Courgette (Zucchini) Cookies

My patio plant are currently laden with bulging crops of mange tout, potatoes and carrots. My tomato plants are only just beginning to flower however and my cucumber and courgette seedlings didn’t survive beyond the slug and snail massacre of the spring. Some of my colleagues with larger gardens (and better slug deterrent methods) are currently drowning in the produce and have been sharing courgettes with the rest of the lab. I love courgettes and have already added these grateful gardening gifts to risottos, ratatouille and curries.

Courgettes also make great additions to baked goods providing moisture in cake and bread recipes. I decided to try something a little more alternative with the remaining courgettes hanging around my kitchen and opted for a biscuit recipe instead. I took inspiration from this recipe over at Two Peas and Their Pod making a few adaptations so that the recipe was vegan friendly. On leaving the oven these chocolaty treats properly resembled a fudgy cookie but after a day in the biscuit tin they took on a much more cakey texture (although still as delicious), and either way a great way to get some of your 5 a day into a sweet treat.


225g flour
¼ teaspoon baking powder
100g vegan friendly spread
60g cocoa powder
150g caster sugar
50g soft brown sugar
75ml coconut milk
120g grated courgette/zucchini

Pre-heat the oven to 175°C / 350°F.

Line a large baking sheet with greaseproof paper or non-stick baking parchment.

Melt the vegan spread in a small saucepan over a medium heat. Once melted remove from the heat and add both sugars and the cocoa powder and stir until a thick paste-like consistency is reached. Then add the coconut milk to the mixture and stir until well combined.

Sieve the flour and baking powder into the saucepan and stir until combine, then fold in the grated courgette until evenly distributed among the mixture.

Take a large desert spoons full of the dollop onto the baking tray, leaving a little room between each cookie for the mixture to spread a little.

Bake for 10-15 minutes until firm.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Sesame, sunflower and ginger snaps

I love sesame seeds and I am partial to the odd sugary treat so adore a sesame snap. And what is even better is that they only contain sugar and sesame seeds so are vegan and gluten free and as I recently found out really even easy to make. I decided to spice my snaps up a little with the addition of a little ginger as well as some sunflower seeds and sent some of these off to my recent foodie pen pal. The remaining snaps were used to fuel myself and my friends through a recent bog snorkelling competition…..and on that note here is the recipe!


100g sesame seeds (toasted)
40g sunflower seeds
2 teaspoons ground ginger
225g caster sugar

Line a baking tray with non-stick baking parchment and grease the paper with a little vegetable oil to prevent the snaps from sticking.

Place the caster sugar in a saucepan and place over a medium heat. Leave the sugar until it start to turn golden around the edges and then stir until all of the sugar has melted and a golden caramel has formed.

Remove the pan from the heat and add the sesame and sunflower seeds and the ground ginger.

Stir together using a wooden spoon or spatula that has also been lightly greased with vegetable oil.

Spoon the mixture out into the prepared baking tray and smooth out using the spoon/spatula. Score the top of the mixture with a sharp knife marking out rectangles and leave to set. Once set snap along the scored lines into separate portions.

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Foodie Pen Pals and Fruit Bread

It’s the end of the month so it is Foodie Pen Pal Parcel reveal day. This month I sent a parcel to Charley of Charley’s Kitchen, and received a lovely parcel from Alice who is from Denmark so the parcel was packed full of lots of lovely continental treats.

And the parcel contained;

Mashed potatoes with mushrooms – a camping favourite of Alice and her family, I haven’t had a chance to try this yet and may have to save it until the next time I am off camping too to keep with tradition!

Muesli bars – I have already munched through these (one just before I took part in a recent bog snorkelling challenge) and both were really yum.

Candied rose petals – a great baking ingredient that I hope to use in something pretty soon.

Sahefest – This is a special little ingredient to add to cream before whipping to help it hold its shape, another useful store cupboard ingredient.

Kinder Bueno – This didn’t last long!!!

Lemon Muffins – Made from a German recipe and absolutely delicious.

Bread Spice – A little pot of bread spice and three bread recipes (one of which includes the spice) to make.

So thank you Alice for a lovely parcel full of some great things that I haven’t come across before. I haven’t had a chance to make the spiced bread that Alice included a recipe for yet but I have made the fruit bread which is delicious, and I have included the recipe below with a few minor changes (the recipe called for ALL BRAN but I didn’t have any so swapped this for oats instead. The original recipe from Alice also only included dried apricots but I threw in some dates as well and the result was really good.


240g flour
260g brown sugar
130g oats
50g dates
50g dried apricots
300ml butter milk

Pre-heat the oven to 225 ° C

Mix all of the dry ingredients together in a bowl.

Add the buttermilk and stir until well combined before pouring the dough into a greased loaf tin.

Bake in the oven for 40 minutes until golden brown.

Friday, 26 July 2013

Lemon Curd Ripple Ice Cream with Lemon and Basil Syrup

This blogpost marks a rare occasion, an occasion when I am posting an ice cream recipe (which isn’t particularly rare) when the sun is actually shining (which is!!!). It seems to have become a common practise to nip out of work at the end of the lunch hour to feed my ice cream addiction. And with this zesty recipe I have been further feeding my habit out of my own freezer at home.

Some left over lemon curd in the fridge inspired the lemon curd ripple ice cream (which is adapted from the lemon and poppy seed ice cream cake recipe from the Guardian). Another condensed ice cream recipe, I love these because they are so easy to make, require no churning and don’t contain any eggs!!

The accompanying basil and lemon syrup was inspired by my bumper basil crop. I have always attempted to grow my own basil from seed, and have always failed miserably. But this year, thanks to the wondrous appearance of a golden ball of warmth that seems to be permanently visible in the sky, my basil is blooming! And so I thought I would experiment a little, so that I could enter my ice cream recipe into this months Bloggers Scream For Ice Cream challenge over at Kavey Eats…..the theme for which this month is herbs.

The basil syrup is rather subtle but makes a really fresh syrup to accompany this zingy ice cream. And as suggested by Kavey I have also entered this recipe into the cooking with herbs challenge as run by Lavender and Lovage.


2 lemons
1 tin condensed milk (397g)
150ml plain yoghurt
250ml double cream
100g lemon curd

Zest and then juice both lemons.

Put the condensed milk into a large mixing bowl and stir in the lemon juice and zest until combined. 
Then stir in the yoghurt.

In a separate bowl whip the cream until soft peaks are formed. Fold the cream into the condensed milk mixture.

Transfer the mix to a freezer-proof container. Finally Dollop the lemon curd on top of the ice cream mix and ripple into the mixture using a ford until distributed throughout the mixture.

Transfer to the freezer until frozen (I left mine over night before tucking in!).


A large sprig of basil
Peel and juice from 1 lemon
75g caster sugar
100ml water.

Peel the lemon using a vegetable peeler before juicing the lemon. Add the juice and peel into a small saucepan with the basil, sugar and water. Place over a low heat and allow the sugar the dissolve.

Increase the heat a little and allow the mixture to gently bubble until reduced to a syrup.

Pass the syrup through a sieve to remove the basil stalks and lemon peel, allow to cool and spoon over the ice cream to serve.

Friday, 12 July 2013

Pear and Frangipane Tart and MasterChef Ireland

I love a good foodie programme on TV and am a self-obsessed MC (a.k.a MasterChef addict)!!! I love MC in all its varieties whether the contestants are professionals, celebrities or general members of the public. I also enjoy watching the numerous versions of this TV show that are filmed elsewhere in the world. Australian MacterChef takes the show to a whole new level with teams and egg breaking challenges accompanied by a judging panel who have a complete inability to eat food off of the same plate so all dishes cooked up by the contestants have to be meticulously divided between plates for them before tasting can begin (there’s no Gregg just digging straight in and indulgently liking the chocolate fondant off the back of his spoon).

Now that I live on the other side of the Irish Sea I’m also aware of MasterChef Ireland, for which applications are now open for the new series. So if you think you have what it takes to be the best chef in Ireland and be in with a chance of winning €25,000 go apply.

As much as I like to think I am a little Master Chef in my own kitchen I don’t think I am quite ready to take on the challenge of MC….but in recognition that applications for MC Ireland are now open I thought I would attempt to make a recipe from the last series. I went for what was originally a peach and frangipane tart made by Fidelma Boyce.  Frangipane is a great tart filling for anyone who is lactose in tolerant as it is naturally dairy free unlike things like creme patissiere. By substituting the butter in the pastry of the original recipe with a dairy free spread I made this recipe suitable for anyone who is dairy free. (I also didn’t have any peaches so swapped them for pears, but it turned out great!!)



180g plain flour
120g dairy free spread
1 egg
Zest  1 lemon
70g icing sugar


150g icing sugar
180g ground almonds
3 eggs
60 g plain flour
4 pears

Mix the flour and icing sugar for the pastry together in a bowl and stir in the lemon zest. Rub in the spread until fully combined with the mixture resembling breadcrumbs. Then add the egg and bring all of the ingredients together using your hands until a ball of dough is formed.

Wrap the pastry in cling film and transfer to the fridge for an hour to allow to cool.

Meanwhile pre-heat the oven to 180°C and grease a loose bottomed 30cm diameter flan tin with dairy free spread.

After an hour roll the pastry out on a floured surface and carefully line the tart tin with the pastry gently pushing it down into all of the edges.

Line the pastry case with greaseproof paper and fill with baking beans (or uncooked rice) and blind bake for 12 minutes. Then remove the baking beans and paper and return to the oven for another 5 to 10 minutes until the pastry is golden brown.

Next place the icing sugar, almonds, eggs and flour into a bowl and beat until well combined. Spread this mixture evenly into the pre-baked pastry case.

Core and slice the pears into 2cm thick slices and arrange on top of the frangipane until the case is full with pear slices. Put the tart back into the oven for another 20 to 25 minutes until the frangipane is firm.

Once the tart is removed from the oven you can use a little fruit jam to add a glaze to the tart if desired.

Then allow to cool slightly and tuck in!!

Are you an amazing amateur cook with a passion for food?
Do you dream of pursuing that passion and possibly changing your life?
Have you got what it takes to impress in the MasterChef kitchen?
If so, we want to hear from you!
Don’t miss out, APPLY NOW for the chance to become the next MasterChef Ireland Champion and win a cash prize of €25,000!

Application deadline is 22nd July 2013
For more information and to apply go to:

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Ninja Bread Men

I’m (once again) a little bit late with my foodie pen pal post for this month. I’m actually still waiting for my parcel, although it is on it’s way, so a post regarding it’s content should be following shortly. But in the meantime I thought I would post the recipe for the goodies that I made for Ioanna in Greece. I sent Ioanna a package full of trears from Ireland and England and thought I should make something suitably traditional. Having just received a set of ‘Ninja’ Bread Men cookie cutters for my birthday gingerbread men seemed the obvious choice. I then stumbled across this recipe for Vegan Guinness Gingerbread over at No Meat Athlete. Having no egg replacer handy I actually turned these into a non-vegan treat by adding a couple of eggs but the original vegan recipe can be found here. And below can be found the recipe with my slight alterations, so not vegan, but still dairy free!


235 ml Guinness
80 ml vegetable oil
100g icing sugar
60 ml molasses
250 g flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger

Put the Guinness into a small saucepan and simmer gently until reduced by half.

Sift all of the dry ingredients together into a large bowl.

In a separate bowl mix together the molasses, oil, eggs and 60ml of the reduced Guinness mixture until well combined.

Stir the wet ingredients into the dry until a firm dough is produced (you will probably need to get your hands dirty to bring the dough together).

Wrap the dough in cling film and place in the fridge for an hour.

In the meantime pre-heat the oven to 180°C and line a baking with non-stick baking parchment.

Roll the dough out on a well floured surface until about 2 cm thick and cut out in your desired shape (it doesn’t have to be a ninja!!). Transfer to the baking tray and bake for approximately 10 minutes until golden brown.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly before removing from the tray.