Saturday, August 29, 2009


You cant Beat that Root!

Soups I have loved....

I have quite a vivid memory of my maternal Grandmother making Borscht, which is odd because I was very young when she died. I think I must have remembered it so clearly because the soup was such an amazing colour... so bright pink it's like something you would get in a sweet shop! I have a similar memory of my mother's Italian friend Fiorella feeding me bright green pea soup and being a little distressed, so she told me to close my eyes and pretend it wasn't green. It was so delicious my little 5 year old self resolved to try every food from then on, even if it looked a bit scary. SO I guess technically I have Fio to thank for my culinary obsessions now...I really must ask her for that pea soup recipe!

Anyway, my grandmother Frankie was a second generation polish immigrant, so id like to think that her version of this soup was totally authentic. I know my Mum has it written down somewhere, but I've cobbled this version together through reading various recipes and adapting them. Real authentic borscht involves braising and finely chopping a knuckle of beef, and making your own stock. It takes a LONG time... longer than 20 mins, which is how long my version takes. Also, real borscht should involve chopped chunks, and not be liquidised, but I prefer it smooth. This version is super easy, but still has the amazing concentrated beef and beetroot flavours and that essential sourness that is provided by the vinegar. It is important to use a good beef stock, Knorr stock pots are the most useful invention since the bread knife!

Continuing on the soup theme, my mum also makes the best chicken soup (recipe courtesy of Nana Frankie) which I will blog as soon as the weather turns nasty. Its a fail safe if you are feeling cold-y, flu-ey, or just a bit of the winter blues. Actually , I'm kind of looking forward to winter now that I think if it!

Ok, enough rambling, now for the recipe!

1 red onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, sliced
5-6 beetroots (raw! Don't buy the vacuum packed cooked kind!)
1 Litre good beef stock
2 dessert spoons good red wine vinegar
dollop sour cream to serve

In a large saucepan, saute the onion and garlic in a little olive oil until they are soft and translucent. Peel and chop the beetroots into cubes that are about an inch in diameter (if you want you can use rubber gloves as they do satin your hands quite a bit). Add these to the pot and cover them with the stock. Simmer for about 20 mins or until the vegetables are tender.

Using a stick blender, whizz everything up until it is smooth. (Alternatively, if you don't have a blender, you could chop the beetroots into very small cubes, simmer until tender and serve that way. Or you could pass them through a sieve. All this is just hard work. Buy a stick blender. They cost less that €20 and you can use them for SO many things!)

Add the vinegar and stir. taste, and adjust the seasoning if you think it needs salt and pepper, or more vinegar. The vinegar is important as it totally changes the flavour. you could use lemon juice either, but vinegar is nicer, a bit more 'pickley' I think.

This soup is really really healthy by itself. If you want to make it less healthy, serve it with a big dollop of sour cream. I didn't have any so I just used normal cream for the photos.

Asparagus and Parma Ham

The last spear of summer

There has been a lot of talk recently about summer being over and there having been nothing but Rain for 3 months and nothing to look forward to now but winter... blah blah blah...
I wont tolerate this kind of talk, for me, summer is never officially over until After Electric Picnic, so that means there is still almost a whole week to go!!

Whatever about summer, I'm pretty sure that Asparagus season is over, so i felt a bit naughty buying these asparagus (aspsragi?) in Aldi last week... I know, Aldi, terrible terrible person, food miles, child labour, pesticides, etc etc... Anyway, they looked great so I got them out of season. Feck it.

These spears are trimmed, steamed for about 4 mins and then wrapped around with a couple of slices of good parma ham. Then I drizzles them with olive oil, sprinkled with Parmesan shavings, and Voila, a sophisticated, unbelievably delicious starter in 5 minutes. And it looks impressive too!

Try it out, only one week until the end of summer, then it could be TOO LATE!!!!!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Chicken, Roquefort & Brocolli Bake

The Pie of Dreams 'Leftovers, you're leftovers include Roquefort? You've lost your way Lola-lu's kitchen' I hear you say. These leftovers are remains from last weeks dinner party. We asked everyone to bring some cheese for after. We had 12 guests for dinner, and most of them brought two cheese, so by my calculation that's close to 24 cheeses. So after the pate, the pie, the meringues, the other cake, we sadly didn't manage to make our way through 24 different pieces of cheese. So joy of joy all the following week I had to eat cheese, I mean I HAD to, would be wasteful otherwise. We'll dedicate this recipe to Brian as he was the man who brought the Roquefort - fancy pants! Thanks

Ingredients (LO) stands for leftovers
1 block of Roquefort (LO)
4 chicken legs and 4 chicken thighs
I large yellow onion

A bunch of chives
Cream (LO)
Baby potatoes (LO)

Some milk

1 head of broccoli
1 dessert spoon of flour
1 dessert spoon of butter

I slice of bread crumbed (LO)

salt pepper the usual suspects
A glug of sherry (optional)

Bake your chicken in the oven gas mark 4 for 40 mins. Remove skin and bones and set aside.
Fry your onions until translucent in some butter. Then stir in the flour, slowly add some of milk till smooth repeat with more milk and then some cream, then some sherry, until you have a nice sauce. Season with salt & pepper. Steam your broccoli Cut your Roquefort into cubes. Put it and the cooked chicken into an oven proof dish. Scatter about some chopped chives and also pop in your little bits of broccoli too. Pour over your sherry cream sauce. In a bowl gently crush your new potatoes. Arrange these on top of your dish and sprinkle over the bread crumbs. Bake in the oven at gas mark 5 until golden and bubbly, about 40 mins.

All the cheese melts into the sauce, making it a little runnier then I expected, so next time. I'll make the sauce a little thicker to compensate. This pie was winner.PS This should really be called 'Pie of Nightmares' due to the crazy dreams I had that night, but if I called it that you wouldn't have read the recipe, now would you!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Rhubarb & Almond Cake

A la Daily Spud I've been reading The Daily Spud for over a year now. It's where I learned of the heavenly combination of spud and harissa, and it's where I got the recipe for this super lovely cake. It's a perfect combination of almondy sweet sponge and tart rhubarb. I made it for my parents and then made it again the following weekend for our dinner party. Set out in the middle of the table it looks like we're having a kids party - great.
Here's the spuds version I followed the recipe to the letter but I'll re-write the recipe anyways

180g butter

180 g ground almonds

180g self raising flour

180g of caster sugar (so far so easy to remember)

360g rhubarb cut in good fine chunks

1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon

1 egg

1 egg yolk
Icing sugar for looking fancy at the end

Grease a 20cm loose bottomed round tin, and line the sides with baking parchment and
pre-heat your oven to gas mark 5. In a pan melt the butter. In a large bowl, sift the flour and then mix in the almonds, ground cinnamon and sugar. Combine your egg and the egg yolk. Pour the melted butter over the flour and mix, then add in the egg. When you mix all of this together, you'll get a thick ball of cake batter- don't be alarmed this is the plan.

Spread half of this over the bottom of your tin. Then toss in the rhubarb.
Add the rest of the cake mixture on top. You may need to do some subtle squishing here and there to ensure you cover as much of the fruit as you can, but a few little bits sticking out here and there is fine. Bake for an hour until the top is a rich golden brown colour. We served this with cream, but would be divine with some nice vanilla ice-cream especially if it was still warm from the oven.... Writing this is making me a little sad that it's all gone nowThat is pretty much our entire crop of red-currants on top of that cake!! Stupid slugs

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Goats Cheese & Red Pepper Tartlet

Refined pie
When feeding 14, a big beef pie is all very well, but we were aware that there would be more sensitive ladies present. So for our two gorgeous blond vegetarians, I whipped together this little beauty. Hey presto - pies for all!
For the pastry:
4 oz flour
2 oz butter
tbsp cold water
For the filling;
1 red pepper
1 small packet soft goats cheese
3 eggs
2 fl oz cream

Make the pastry: sift the flour into a bowl and rub in the butter until the mixture resembles soft bread crumbs. Then add the water and bring it all together using your hands to form a dough. Roll this out on a floured surface and press into a greased pie dish (this will only make enough pastry for a small dish so if you want to make a big tart double the quantities).

Cover the pastry with a piece of greaseproof paper and fill this with baking beans. bake at 180c for about 20 mins, or until the pastry has gone opaque and a bit crusty, but not brown. Then take away the paper and beans and bake for a further 5-10 mins. Don't let the edges brown too much. Remove from the oven.

While the crust is baking, half the red pepper and remove the seeds and the core. Place, skin side up, under a hot grill until the skin has charred all over. Allow to cool and peel the charred skin from the flesh. It should come away easily, but if you are having difficulty, put the hot peppers in a plastic bag and leave them to cool for 10 mins. This should help the skin to come away easier.

Slice the peppers into strips and arrange on the baked pastry shell. Fleck the shell with dollops of the cheese (be generous), and sprinkle over the chopped chives. Beat the eggs and cream, add a little salt and pepper to this and pour it in to the pastry shell. Bake this in your preheated oven at 200c for about 20 mins, or until it is puffy and golden.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Beef and Guinness Pie

Ohm nom nom As Alan has been in Singapore for the last year eating only foreign muck (joking, he has told me many a tale about the wonderfulness of food in Singapore) we decided that he needed a good auld Irish dish as a welcome home.

I was going to cheat and buy the puff pastry, but they didn't have any in tesco's (bloody tesco parnell street is sooooo bad) so i had to make it from scratch. This was my first attempt at puff pastry, and while it was not actually that puffy, it did taste very good and was nice and light and crunchy.

We made the filling the night before the party for two reasons: 1- less stress on party day (considerable factor when you are cooking for 14)
2- leaving it overnight makes it more delicious. You could do it all in one day if you wanted to though Again, bear in mind that this recipe serves 14 so you can reduce all the amounts accordingly Ingredients: 11/2kg good quality stewing beef, cut into cubes by your butcher.
20 shallots

8-10 parsnips

8-10 carrots

1 large onion

3 cloves garlic

1 can Guinness extra stout
ltr good beef stock
salt & Pepper

Heat some oil in the biggest pot you own. Chop the onion and garlic finely and sweat them in the pot, covering them with the lid so they don't burn or colour.
Toss the meat in a generous amount of flour into which you have added salt and ground black pepper until all the cubes are well covered. Toss these in the pan with the onions and brown all over. Stir constantly to stop the flour from burning on the bottom of the pan.

When all the meat has browned, add the peeled and chopped veggies (leave the carrots and parsnips in big-ish chunks) and stir until everything is combined. Then pour in the hot beef stock and stir to dissolve all the flour that has stuck to the bottom of the pan. Pour in the can of Guinness, cover and simmer for 15 mins.

Preheat your oven to about 175c and shove the whole pot in there. Leave it for about 3 hours. When you take it out the stew will be melty and gorgeous. Adjust the seasoning at this point, adding more slat and pepper if necessary. If you have time, leave it overnight and let all those gorgeous flavours intensify.

For the puff pastry: (this recipe is from Delia, her complete cookery course is my bible for basics like this)

1 lb strong white flour

8 oz lard
8oz margarine

10fl oz ice cold water

Sift the flour into a bowl with a pinch of salt. Chop up all the fat into inch sized squares and add to the flour. Now add the water and, using a palette knife make a series of straight cuts (like you are cutting a big cake) to incorporate everything. The aim is to leave the fat as intact as possible and still bring everything together into a dough-like ball.

When you have a reasonable ball of dough-like substance, take it out of the bowl (don't worry if it doesn't use up all of the flour) and place on a floured board. Shape it into a rough brick shape, and using a long, floured rolling pin, make 3 depressions across the brick. Make sure the dough and the pin are well dusted with flour at all times.

Then roll the whole thing out into an oblong that is roughly the length of your forearm (not including your hand!) and about 1/2 as wide. Now fold the top third down and the bottom third up so its a bit like an envelope. Seal the edges with a sharp press from the rolling pin. this locks in air, apparently. The dough will now be roughly the same size and shape as your original brick, so make the 3 depressions again and repeat the process again 4 or 5 times. What this does is spread out the large chunks of fat into layers with flour that you have used to dust the board, dough and pin. Clever, eh!

Allow the dough to rest in the fridge for at least half an hour before you roll it out. When you cut the dough in half you will be able to see all the layers of flour and fat, like the strata of a cliff.
Because we had so much stew we had to use 2 pie dishes (big rectangular lasagne ones) but if you are making a smaller amount you could use a pretty round dish. Fill your dish up to almost full with the stew filling. Then cover with the rolled out pastry and make nice decorations on top (not a big penis, like Alan did) and a few cuts to allow steam to escape. I was going to put an egg wash over the pastry to make it nice and shiny (just a beaten egg brushed all over the pastry) but I forgot. We served this with boiled new potatoes and steamed broccoli. YUUUUMMMM

Monday, August 24, 2009

Chicken Liver Pate

Loads and loads of Lovely Little Livers for the Liver Lovers
(and by Liver Lovers we mean our friend Alan) My mum used to make this recipe for posh dinner parties in the early 90s. I LOVED it, but it always ran out too fast. Its not something that most people would allow themselves to eat much of, so for our dinner party I decided to make loads so that everyone could get a big generous slice. I made this a few days before the party (it keeps for up to a week in the fridge as long as you seal it with the melted butter) Ok, I wasn't sure how many people we would actually have to feed, but I knew it would be between 10 and 15, so I decided to err on the side of caution and make a huge batch. You could probably half or even quarter these measurements but actually, its so delicious that you will want to have loads. We even had some left overs and last night we benefited from a post pub midnight snack of pate on toast... It must have soaked up the booze good because this morning I am miraculously hang-over-less! I don't have a blender, just a humble stick blender but it worked perfectly for this and the pate was lovely and smooth. Ingredients:
2kg chicken livers

2 onions
(or 6
3 cloves garlic
2 springs rosemary (other herbs like thyme or juniper berries would also work)
1/2 a wine class of
hennessy (or similar cognac)
1 big block of butter

Start by chopping the onions (shallots are better but they didn't have them in Tesco) really really finely. As fine as you can get them. Same thing for the garlic. Mely a big knob of butter in a frying pan and sweat the onions and garlic and herbs until they are translucent and soft. Don't brown them.

Transfer them to the bowl of a food processor ( or, if like me, you only have a stick blender, to a normal bowl)
Rinse the chicken livers and trim off any fat or gristle (if you can possibly bear it... yek!) dry them on kitchen towels. Melt about an ounce knob of butter in the same pan, and gently fry the livers (i did them in two batches) turn them over, they should be browned on the outside and slightly pink in the middle (but not too pink! if you are not sure leave them in longer).

Transfer the cooked livers and the melted butter and cooking juices into the bowl with the onions. Then return the pan to the heat, pour in the cognac and
allow it to bubble for a few seconds. Tip this into the bowl and whizz everything together until as smooth as you can get it. Then add about 1/2 of the butter you have left and whizz it all up again. The colour will go lighter and the consistency will be looser.

Line a bread tin with cling film and pour the mixture in. If you prefer, you could serve this in individual ramekins, in which case there is no need for the cling film.Using a palette knife,
smooth down the top of the pate so its as flat and level as you can get it. Melt the rest of the butter in a clean pan or in the microwave. Pour the melted butter into the mold and make sure that it completely covers every bit of the pate. This will seal the pate so it will keep in the fridge for up to a week.

We served the pate with a little salad, a nasturtium each from the front garden (cause we're being wanky!) , and melba toast, which is great because it stops your guests from filling up too much on bread. To make melba toast, get a sliced pan of 'killer' white bread. Toast the slices as usual, then cut off the crusts and using a thin serrated knife, cut through the middle of the toast so you now have two thinner slices the same size. Toast the untoasted sides of these under the grill. Be careful, they burn quick!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Asparagus Risotto

Green shoots!

Mum and I made this recipe about a month ago for my brother Jesse on his birthday. We served it with salad from the garden and some roasted veggies. Jesse and his wife Jessica are both vegetarians so Mum always has a little panic about feeding them, it usually turns out a bit eclectic but great in the end.

Don't be intimidated by risotto, its really easy to make, you just have to use common sense and keep tasting so you know to when its cooked or needs more stock. And keep stirring!

Ingredients: (Serves 4)
2 or 3 bunches of asparagus cut into inch-long chunks
400g Arborio rice
3 tbsp olive oil OR 2 oz butter
1 large wine glass full of dry white wine
1 L/1 3/4 pints good hot vegetable sock (or chicken stock if your not a veggie)
1 medium onion
2 cloves garlic
3 or 4 sticks of celery, very finely chopped
100g Sundried tomatoes, finely chopped
Grated parmesan cheese to top

Finely chop the onion and the garlic. Melt the butter/heat the oil in a heavy bottomed frying pan. Saute the onion, celery and garlic until translucent. Don't allow it to brown. This is easier if you have a lid for your pan. Add the finely chopped sundried tomatoes, followed by the rice and stir to mix everything well.

Keep your stock warm in a pot on the stove next to your pan. Add the wine to the rice and stir until almost all the liquid is absorbed. make sure the heat is not too high, it should just be gently bubbling. After this, add a ladle of the stock at a time and stir between each addition until the liquid is almost absorbed. After about 20 mins the rice will be almost cooked. It might not be necessary to use all the stock so keep tasting the rice. When it feels almost done to you, stop adding stock. It should be nicely moist, and a touch under cooked (even if you like it al dente). Then add your asparagus and one last ladle full of stock. Stir everything together until the asparagus is bright green and the stock has almost absorbed again (don't let it get too dry). remove from the heat so that no more of the liquid evaporates. You can finish it at this point by mixing in a few knobs of butter and/or some cheese (parmesan is good but you can use a few different ones, whatever you have left over in the fridge) Alternatively, like we did you can be more healthy and just finish by stirring in a good dollop of olive oil. Check the seasoning now and and add some salt and pepper if necessary. Then sprinkle with a grated parmesan.

Happy Bruv

You can make the basic risotto (risotto bianco) by forgoing the tomatoes and just using the butter, garlic and onion.

Other great combinations for risotto include:
quatro formaggio (4 cheeses, whichever ones you like!)
Blue cheese and herbs such as sage or rosemary
dried/ wild mushrooms (nicer if you use a beef stock)
home made pesto

Squidgy chocolate birthday cake

Chocolate mousse in a cake

It was my fellas birthday and I had a whole day off work! I decided to spend the morning making him a cake, and not just any cake...

I adapted this recipe from Delias squidgy chocolate log. It is light (there is no flour in it at all) and very decadent, perfect for a birthday cake and it looks really impressive.

The chocolate mousse nearly turned into a complete disaster as when I added the egg yolks to the hot chocolate the whole thing went rock hard and I had to throw it all away. The second batch I let the chocolate cool a bit longer and only put in half the amount of egg yolks. It still went a bit strange but I persevered with the mixing and it was delicious in the end.

6 large eggs, seperated
5oz caster sugar
2 oz cocoa powder

8 oz plain chocolate
2 large egg seperated (Delia uses both yolks but I couldnt make this work, I only used 2 yolk and 2 whites)
8 fl oz double cream, whipped until very thick (but not butter!)

other filling:
8 fl oz double cream, whipped until very thick, see above
icing sugar
red berries

Start with the filling. Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of hot water. Meanwhile, beat the two egg yolks in a very clean bowl with a clean beater until they are stiff. You should be able to hold the bowl upside down without anything falling away. When the chocolate is melted, take off the heat and let the bowl cool down until you can hold it comfortably. The chocolate should also be a bit cooler. Whip the egg yolk and add it to the warm chocolate. The yolk will cook in the chocolate and turn the whole thing quite stiff, don't panic! Keep mixing it. Fold the beaten egg whites in to the chocolate mixture. Don't beat it, fold it! Then fold in the whipped cream and continue folding until everything is nicely mixed. refrigerate this mixture for an hour or so until ready to use.

For the cake grease a large baking tray, line it with baking parchment and then grease that too. Whisk the egg yolks and sugar together in a large bowl until they start to thicken. Add the cocoa powder an whisk this in too. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until they are stiff (see above). Add the egg whites to the chocolate mixture and carefully fold everything together. Don't whisk or beat as this will destroy the air bubbles and the cake will be totally flat and gross. Pur the mixture into the tin, and bake for 20-25 mins in a pre heated oven at 180c. When you take out the cake it should be springy and puffy and not too dark.

At this point, Delia turns the cake into a roulade, but I think a chocolate mousse cake is a bit more impressive.

I let the cake cool and then I cut it into three rectangles the same size (I used a ruler to measure exact thirds!). Then I spread half the mouse onto the first piece, followed by half the whipped cream. I topped this with the second piece of cake, and then spread that with the rest of the mousse, followed by the rest of the cream. I sprinkled some icing sugar over this and topped with some sharp red currents. This really added some dimension to teh flavours. If Iwas making it again I would probably add some red currents or strawberrys in a layer within the actual cake.

It was amazing! Light, rich, not too rich, contrasting with the sharp berries. Yum! Colm was very happy

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Fruit Scones

The original and best

I haven't made scones in years and I got a serous nostalgia kick putting these beauties together. Have them with butter and strawberry jam (and cream if you want to be extra decadent!)
Fruit Scones

500g self raising flour
100g butter
60g caster sugar
250ml milk
pinch of salt
75g raisins or sultanas

Sift the flour and salt together into a bowl. Rub in the butter using your fingers until all incorporated. Add sugar and raisins and mix. Using your hands, add in the milk until you have a soft dough that is not too wet. You should be able to pick it up without your hands getting too gooey.
Roll out the dough to about an inch thickness on a floured surface. using a biscuit cutter (or a glass) dipped in flour, cut out as many scones as you can. Then gather together the offcuts, roll them out again and cut out more scones until you have no dough left. This recipe should make about 8 medium sized ones. Place the scones on a well greased baking tray, brush the tops with some extra milk and sprinkle them with some extra sugar if you like. Bake in a preheated oven (gas 7/220 degrees centigrade) for 15 mins. They will be golden brown and well risen. Best served warm with a lovely cup of tea.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Chocolate Brownies

A chocolate hit!

I had a chocolate craving, and felt like bringing a nice treat in to work the next day.

I left these in the oven a little too long, they were still good, but not as gooey as they should have been.

It turned out to be only me and Claire in work the next day... oh well, all the more for us!!

300g Flour
2 Tbsp Cocoa powder
1 tsp salt
200g butter
200g dark chocolate
1 tsp instant coffee
250g brown sugar
4 large eggs

melt the chocolate, butter and espresso together in a bowl over a pan of boiling water. Add the sugar and remove from the heat. The sugar will not melt but don't worry! Allow this mixture to cool for 10 mins. Meanwhile, measure out the flour and sift it together with the cocoa powder and salt

Mix the eggs, one at a time, in to the chocolate and butter mixture. Then carefully fold the flour mixture into the chocolate mixture. Don't over mix this or it will become too cakey.

Bake in a greased baking tray lined with greaseproof paper (also greased!) at 270c for 20 mins (or a little less if you oven is hot!) don't over cook, the brownies should be gooey in the middle.

Take out of the oven and allow to cool for as long as you can bear before cutting into squares and scoffing!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


Last of the holiday posts I've prob written enough about my holiday now, and lord knows I've been back a month now and only just catching up on the posts now..... Ratouille seems like a very simple thing to post, but this tasted so good and satisfying. It's the most wonderfully satisfying veg stew there is and topped with some grated emmental and drowned in red wine it's no wonder. Makes a perfect side dish - or can be served on pasta as a main meal in itself. 1 onion
1 red pepper

1 courgette
2 cups red wine

6 tomatoes - diced


Fresh parsley

3cloves of garlic - sliced super thin
Olive Oil

Heat up your oil, fry your garlic for one minute before adding in the onion, Cook till translucent, then add in your peppers and courgette, fry these for about 3-4 mins, then tip in your tomatoes, and allow to cook for two mins before adding in the wine.
Simmer for about 10-15 mins - it might seem like a while, but I find it takes that long to cook up together. Sprinkle with parsley before serving, oh yes and some cheese. Check out the action shot of the sausage cooking Delo got - very clever