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Archive for the ‘Saturday Dish’ Category

The Essence of Summer

June is here and it’s time to make the annual batch of elderflower cordial. An aunt of mine always made this when we were children. I loved it, so a few years ago I started to make my own. The flavour is unique and refreshing, and heralds the arrival of summer for me.

Elderflowers are everywhere at the moment

Beautifully scented, frothy cream elderflowers are to be seen all over the fields and gardens of Ireland at the moment. They will be around for the next couple of weeks, so seize the moment!

I have given guideline quantities below, but the amount of sugar, water or lemons you use can be varied to taste. Most people use more sugar to water than I have here.

Ingredients:

20-30 elderflower heads

1.5 kg of sugar

2 litres of boiling water

2-4 lemons and/or limes

50g of citric acid – available from pharmacies

Method:

Gather your flowers (not from roadside trees, too polluted). Gently shake them to remove tiny insects.

Make up a syrup by pouring the boiling water over the sugar in a large pan. Keep stirring until all the sugar has dissolved. Thickly slice the lemons and limes and add these to the pan (you can zest these first and add that too if preferred). Stir in the citric acid. Now add the elderflowers. Cover the pan with a cloth and leave the mixture to steep for 24-48 hours.

Strain the mixture through a fine sieve or muslin (I have also used coffee filters) to remove flowers and fruit. Bottle in very clean bottles using a funnel. Glass bottles are best but I have used plastic ones too, enabling me to freeze some of the cordial.

Dilute for a taste of summer

Serving suggestions:

  • Dilute the cordial with sparking water. Add ice and a slice and a sprig of mint for a delicious summery drink
  • Add a splash to a gin and tonic, or to a white wine spritzer
  • Pour over vanilla ice cream
  • Use to sweeten rhubarb, gooseberries or strawberries
  • Add to salad dressings

Second photo by Claire Sutton (Flickr, Creative Commons)

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I’m not a big fan of dieting (who is?) but I do get a little thrill when I can find a way to make my favorite comfort foods a lot healthier. Whether it’s lasagna or burgers, comfort foods are generally great for the soul but terrible for the waistline.

After a few experiments, I figured out how to make a fantastic batch of baked onion rings that are as crispy and satisfying as the fried variety. I also created a lighter version of a pizza Margherita, one of my go-to dishes at any Italian joint. My pizza doesn’t have the heft of the original but the flavours are all there, and while it won’t fill you up quite like regular pizza it’ll squash that craving without the guilt.

Baked Onion Rings

2 onions, peeled and cut into thick slices (rings!)

4 tablespoons white flour

1 teaspoon paprika

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon sea salt

2 eggs, beaten

1.5 – 2 cups (just use a tea or coffee cup) of Japanese panko* breadcrumbs

Olive oil or plain oil spray

Preheat the oven to 200 C. Put the flour, paprika, garlic powder and sea salt into a large, Ziploc bag. In batches of a half-dozen or so, place the onion rings in the bag, close and shake so that the rings are lightly coated with the flour mixture.

Place the beaten eggs in a large shallow dish and toss the coated onion rings into the egg to give them a light coat. The flour coating has to go on first as otherwise the egg mixture will not stick to the onion.

Put the panko breadcrumbs into another large Ziploc bag. Again in batches, place the onion rings into the bag, close and shake until the rings are coated in the breadcrumb mixture.

Place the rings on a large baking tray and lightly spray with the oil spray. Bake in the oven for 12-15 minutes, or until golden brown on the outside. Serve with ketchup or your favorite sauce.

*Panko breadcrumbs are available at most Asian food markets and are essential for this recipe as they are super crispy!

Super Light Pizza Margherita

2 whole wheat flour tortillas

1 small jar of pizza sauce

A few slices of low-moisture, skim mozzarella

10 cherry tomatoes, sliced in half

Handful of fresh basil leaves

Preheat oven to 200 C. In the meantime, heat up a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Place one of the tortillas in the pan, watching it carefully so it does not burn. It’s good to try to crisp up the tortillas a bit before they go into the oven. Flip it every minute or so, until it starts to get a little crisp – about 4-5 minutes. Repeat with the other tortilla.

Put as much or as little pizza sauce on each tortilla as you like, divide up the slices of mozzarella between the two tortillas and add the tomato. Bake for 8 minutes on a large baking tray, remove from oven and add fresh basil. Slice and serve while hot.

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I’ve been vegetarian for almost 9 years, but before that I was such a picky eater that I a) didn’t like cheese b) had never tasted tomato soup c) was scared of baked beans and d) couldn’t contemplate the thought of pizza (see: cheese issues).

Thankfully, my palate has been forced to evolve since then, and now I love cooking hearty, healthy meals from scratch. I’m no whizz in the kitchen, but this dish is so easy, quick and tasty, that I usually make it once a week.

Here's one I devoured earlier

CHICKPEA & POTATO STEW FOR TWO

Ingredients:

1 large red onion, roughly chopped
2-3 chopped cloves of garlic
1 red chilli, chopped (and de-seeded if you don’t want it too hot)
1 large potato, cut into bite-sized chunks
1 large sweet potato, cut into bite-sized chunks
1 can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 can of chopped tomatoes
1 veg stock cube
1 inch of grated ginger (optional)
1 tablespoon of turmeric
1 tablespoon of cumin
1 tablespoon of coriander
Salt & pepper to taste

 Method:

1) Fry the onion, potatoes and garlic on a medium heat for 2-3 minutes

2) Stir in the spices, chilli and ginger and continue to fry for 2 minutes

3) Stir in the can of tomatoes and the chickpeas. Dissolve the stock cube in a jug of 350ml of boiling water, and add to the pot, along with salt and pepper to your taste.

4) Bring to the boil, then lower the heat and allow to simmer until the potatoes are tender, and the sauce begins to thicken, constantly stirring as the mixture has a habit of sticking to the end of the pot (or maybe it’s just my crap pots?)

5) Once the liquid thickens, take off the boil, garnish with coriander and serve with brown rice or couscous. Eat. Pat belly and sigh contentedly.

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I discovered Hummingbird Cake while visiting friends in the Deep South during Easter a few years ago. They told me it got its name because each bite is so good that it makes a person hum with satisfaction! Once I tried a piece, I had to agree that it was aptly-named…

This cake became famous after it was submitted to the February 1978 issue of ‘Southern Living Magazine’ by one Mrs L.H. Wiggins of North Carolina. It has since been claimed as a Deep South recipe thanks to its quintessentially Southern ingredient, the pecan nut! The Southerners I know like to serve it over Easter but once I got home, armed with the recipe, I began to make use of it all year round.

Hummingbird Cake is like a cross between banana bread and carrot cake, except the cream cheese icing is richer due to the chopped pecans. Traditionally, it usually has three or more layers, but I stick to two because too many layers of icing can make it over sweet for my taste. It’s an easy cake to bake once you’ve all the ingredients in ‒ toasting the pecans is the only fiddly part of the recipe.

Ingredients:

110g pecans
390g plain flour, sifted
400g white sugar
3-4 medium-sized ripe bananas, mashed
227g can crushed pineapple ‒ don’t drain the juice
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 large eggs, beaten
180ml sunflower oil
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Icing:

60g unsalted butter at room temperature
227g cream cheese at room temperature
450g icing sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
55g finely chopped pecans

To garnish:

pecan halves

Method:

Preheat oven to 180 degrees. Grease two 9 x 2 inch round cake tins and then line the bottom of the tins with a circle of baking paper.

Line a baking tray with more paper and then place the pecans on a baking tray. Bake for about 10 minutes or until lightly toasted. Let them cool and then chop finely.

In a large bowl whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.

In another large bowl, mix together the eggs, oil, vanilla extract, pineapple, mashed bananas and finely chopped pecans.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir and mix thoroughly together.

Divide the batter evenly between the two tins and tap the side of each tin to level out each layer.

Bake for about 25 to 30 minutes or until a knife inserted in the centre of the cake comes out clean.

Remove the tins from oven. After about 10 minutes turn the tins onto a wire rack and let the layers cool completely before icing them. Remove the baking paper from each layer.

For the Icing, beat the butter and cream cheese with an electric whisk on low-speed until smooth.

Gradually add the sifted icing sugar and blend until smooth.

Mix in the vanilla extract.

Finally, stir in the finely chopped pecans.

To assemble, place one layer, top side down, onto your serving plate. Spread with about a third of the icing.

Place the other layer, top of cake facing up, onto the icing.

Spread the rest of the icing over the top and sides of the cake.

Garnish with pecan halves.

Refrigerate the cake for about an hour to give the icing time to set.

Regina de Búrca hails from the West of Ireland. She has been a Liverpool FC fan since the age of four. She writes books for teenagers and has a MA in writing for Young People from Bath Spa University. She currently lives in Dublin. Twitter: @Regina_dB

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Now first things first. These are called SC-OH-NES. Not “scons” as my father says, bless his cotton socks (that are clearly not helping his pronunciation). Right then.

So I have had the opportunity go home sweet home for the first time in – gosh – almost three months (thank you obstetrics), and whilst there, I clearly had to raid my beloved and abandoned ingredients cupboard. I also did a biteen of shopping and picked up yumloads of fruit, strawberries included. I’ve been hankering for some old-fashioned sweets and treats of late and I figured let’s go with scones. And then I saw the strawberries being devoured by the family and thought strawberry scones! Well I beat off the offending gobbling family members with a rolling-pin and rescued the remaining fruits  from their evil clutches.

There’s something really nice about spending a morning out on the farm and coming back in to tea and strawberry scones before heading out again (or in my case up to my room to study) to tend to horses or planting veggies or fencing. It’s normally fencing actually. Not the swordy type, the wire and fence posts and those little U-shaped nail type thingys that I keep finding all over the shed. So much cooler really…

Anyhoo, these are really nice, a lovely light mixture and the strawberries work nicely.

Ingredients: (Makes 16-20 wedge-shaped scones)

375 g self-raising flour

200g unsalted butter

100g sugar

2 teaspoons of baking powder

1/2 tsp of baking soda

150ml milk

100ml buttermilk

About 2 handfuls of strawberries – I used about 10 medium-sized ones – sliced.

Method:

Preheat your oven to 160 degrees Celsius. Line and grease a baking sheet or flat tin.

Rub the flour (with the baking and bread soda added in) and the butter together until they resemble coarse breadcrumbs. You can give them a blitz in a food processor either, just don’t overdo it.

Mix in the sugar and give it a stir so that its evenly throughout the mixture. Add the sliced strawberries and stir.

Make a well in the middle and add your liquid, leaving about a tablespoon of it left. Mix it until it’s all combined.

Turn out onto a well floured surface and knead lightly.

Divide into halves, shape each half into a disc about an inch thick and cut into 8-10 wedges each.

Place on your prepared tray, brush each one with a little of the leftover milk (which you can mix with an egg if you want really shiny scones) and bake in the preheated oven for about 15 minutes or until golden on top!

Serve with clotted cream and an optional spoon of jam.

Sarah Nicholson is a medical student who, when not staring at medical books that weigh more than a small child, tends to wander around the kitchen spilling flour and devouring chocolate at a rate that could challenge Usain Bolt. Has a penchant for polka dots and puppies. Also runs the monthly Irish Foodies Cookalongs. Find her at Cake in the Country or at @cakeinthcountry on Twitter.

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There is really nothing like catching up with friends and family over a long summer’s evening dinner. A friend of mine cooked me a version of this recipe and we caught up over a couple of bottles of wine after not seeing each other for many years. Since that night she has regularly cooked me this gorgeous tart and we reminisce over our ill-spent days in NUIG, Vokda and Orange in Bransky’s and five quid into Liquid on a Thursday night.  I have had so many times where I’ve sat talking well into the night with some of my favourite people munching this gorgeous tart. I made this for my Mum and Aunt and they both gushed over how it was the nicest meal they’d had EVER. My Mum did ensure she told me as I was about to plate up that she didn’t like things “too eggy”. I don’t either – and it’s not.  It’s a real fail safe go-to for having friends over and is a springtime/summer staple. I love eating this outdoors with a large glass of white wine on a summer’s evening. If having a dinner party you can easily double the amounts.

Spinach and Gruyère Tart with Summer Salad

Ingredients:

Pre-rolled short crust pastry (or make your own if you’re a sucker for punishment) – BLIND BAKE  at 180 before hand)
½ bag of fresh spinach – remove stalkey bits if not using baby spinach
100g Sorrel (optional)
3 eggs
200ml cream
Grated fresh nutmeg
350g grated Swiss Gruyère cheese – Fallong & Byrne and Sheridans both have a lovely aged Gruyère
Salt and pepper
100g pine nuts, lightly toasted

Method:

Lightly grease a large tart tin (approx 20”)

After blind baking the pastry at 180 degrees, set oven to 200 degrees/gas mark 6.

Blanch the sorrel (if using) and spinach together in boiling water for a few seconds and then drain and squeeze the living daylights out of it, you can use a clean tea towel. I use cheesecloth which you can buy cheaply in the baby section of Tesco beside the nappies. Its invaluable and I use it for making almond milk when I’m feeling brave/silly. Once the spinach is squeezed to death, chop it roughly and set aside in a bowl.

Beat the eggs, add the cream & grate in a good couple of pinches of nutmeg .  Mix well, add the cheese and season really well. Lightly toast the pine nuts… then  add the nuts and the spinach to the mixture.

Patch any gaps in the pastry after blind baking with leftover scraps.

Spoon filling into the tart and bake for 12-15 minutes.  The topping should be golden brown.  Allow to cool for about 30 minutes. THIS IS A REALLY IMPORTANT STEP. You wont want to leave it to cool because it smells awesome. Dont be seduced by your stomach! It’s so much nicer when its cool and the egg sets. My mother complained of the starvation the entire time. Don’t listen to the whingers. Carefully remove from the tin and serve with a crisp green salad  with veg of your choosing – I use spinach that’s leftover, a few pine nuts, a fresh green salad bag or fresh salad leaves from your veg box, avocado, red onion, spring onion, finely sliced red pepper and cherry tomatoes.

The dressing is olive oil, honey and grainy mustard.  Plus loads of black pepper.  Pop the dressing into a jar or bowl and either whisk or shake the hell out of it until the oil emulsifies (goes cloudy). The salad goes PERFECTLY with the tart so do give it a go. Its delicious.

Serve with a very large glass of wine to someone who you need to catch up with.

Ciara O’Connor is an avid amateur cook and veggie. She works for Women’s Aid as a project leader and have been working in women’s health for many years (previously working in reproductive rights with IFPA). In my spare time she likes to read, cook, drink wine, and am a student homeopath, sometimes cabaret performer and occasional yogi. Follow her on Twitter: @ciara_oc

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Yes. These are seriously good. I’m a firm believer in dessert before/instead of dinner, not to mention the use of food to butter somebody up. Now if you make these you shall be in the good books for at least weeks if not months…

In the mood I was in on one glorious Friday, I was craving something between some kind of brownie, some kind of fudgy chocolate cake. I was discussing this (a common topic) with some of the girls in the tutorial room when everyone seemed to simultaneously come up with ‘lava cakes’, or ‘melty yummy chocolate things’ if one were to go by my original thought. And would you know it, Nigella had a recipe for them and I had the recipe in my grasp! I may have added a wee biteen more sugar, which I think stood to it. I’ve had these in some restaurants and it’s just not actually sweet enough, so I didn’t take that chance.

The chocolate: I used a mixture of a 60% and also a 73.5% gorgeous Claudio Corallo chocolate that I’ve been meaning to use for ages. It has cocoa nibs in it and is just delicious.

Ingredients: (this makes six – maybe double the recipe)

12 oz chocolate – see above!

70g butter

180g castor sugar

4 eggs, beaten

Wee pinch of salt

1 tsp vanilla extract

50g flour

6 custard/pudding tins – the wee ones. I also used some ramekins but the custard tins worked better!

Baking non stick paper

Method:

Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees, and put in a plain tray.

Trace and cut out little circles for the bottom of the tins. Butter them, pop in the parchment, and butter a wee bit more! You don’t want these little gems to stick.

Melt the chocolate in a heat-proof bowl over simmering water and set aside.

Cream the butter and sugar.

Gradually beat in the eggs bit by bit along with the salt and vanilla. Add the flour and combine until it’s all mixed in.

Add in the cooled (ish) chocolate and beat it until it’s a nice smooth batter and divide evenly between the six tins.

Take your heated tray out of the oven and pop the tins onto it. Return to the oven for 10-12 minutes.

When done, gently remove, turn upside down onto your plate and gently tap the top. It should slide out pretty easily.

Give it a dusting of icing sugar and watch this happen…

Sarah Nicholson is a medical student who, when not staring at medical books that weigh more than a small child, tends to wander around the kitchen spilling flour and devouring chocolate at a rate that could challenge Usain Bolt. Has a penchant for polka dots and puppies. Also runs the monthly Irish Foodies Cookalongs. Find her at Cake in the Country or at @cakeinthcountry on Twitter.

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