Queen of Tarts

I’ve had a long break from my blog, more about that in a later post. So to whet my appetite for writing again I thought I’d share a quick little recipe that was (and still is) one of my favourite treats with a cuppa. Making these also gave me an opportunity to reunite with my cooker/oven, which has felt very neglected over the summer due to my touring with the boys around Ireland.

And what prompted this eventual return to my blog? Well, yesterday would have been my Mum and Dad’s 50th wedding anniversary, a sad day for my family and I as Mum is truly missed. However, the reason I originally started this blog was, to share with you the recipes and love of food my Mum had and encouraged in us, her kids.

With that in mind, my tribute to Mum had to be pastry based as she was the Queen of Tarts. And although apple tarts were readily available in our house, jam tarts (with hot custard) were my favourite and usually only made if Mum had leftover pastry. So having mastered the art of pastry, I’ve discovered that they are the boys favourite treat too.

Ingredients:

  • 225g/8 oz plain white flour
  • 150g/5 0z butter
  • 25g/1 oz sugar
  • 1 egg, beaten

Method:

Rub the flour and butter together till you get a breadcrumb consistency, then stir in the sugar.  Make a well in the centre and add the beaten egg, using your hand form a ball of dough. Knead slightly and wrap in cling film. Place in the fridge to rest for about 30 minutes.

I feel I need to say that I usually make my pastry in the food processor. The art of good pastry is cold hands! I find it impossible to have cold hands in a warm kitchen, so for me, combining the ingredients in this way means the pastry is handled less and therefore the result is a more manageable pastry. Follow the method above but instead of you doing the work your food processor does it for you. However, be careful not to over work the ingredients as the pastry will become tough.

Preheat the oven to 19oc/365f/gas 5. I use what we always called a bun tin (such as used for fairy cakes), with 12 moulds for these tarts. Some people recommend lightly greasing each mould with a little butter but I never do because there is so much butter in the pastry. But if you are more comfortable doing this, go ahead.

Roll out the pastry directly from the fridge, until approximately 4mm in thickness

I use a cookie cutter to form circles approx. 31/4 inch/8.2cm in diameter. Press each circle gently into the moulds of the bun tin. To do this, I use a little of the pastry rolled up into a ball and press the circle right down into the mould. This will prevent you from piercing the pastry, which would cause some of the jam to leak from the pastry and cause the tart to stick to the mould.  Put a scant teaspoon of jam into each mould.

Bake in the preheated oven for 15 mins or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and leave to cool completely, do not attempt to eat while hot, the jam will be like lava and will give your mouth a nasty burn (yes I’m speaking from greedy experience!!).

These are great as suggested earlier with a cuppa or slightly heated and served with custard, so yummy.

 

Posted in recipes | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Chocolate and Raspberry Birthday Brownies

 

It would appear that I very often start off a post by exclaiming that the following ingredients are my favourite combo etc etc, in the last post it was raspberries and almond! I think it is safe to say that I like a lot of different foods and combining different flavours. I think it is also safe to say that I find it very hard to choose a favourite food and stick to it! On top of the, lets face it, food that is in season is at it’s best, flavour wise and it’s for this reason that I love raspberries in the summer. And I can, with my hand on my heart categorically state that raspberries are my favourite berries, and that is not going to chance any time soon.

So moving on, combining raspberries with dark chocolate in brownie form, is an absolute indulgence that is permitted on special occasions, such as a birthday, in this case my own. Now I won’t divulge my age, just lets say it’s old age at this stage! Anyway, I had wanted to try this recipe for a long time and voila, I had an excuse.

These have to be the best brownies I’ve tasted. The raspberries add an extra gooeyness to the texture that is melt in the mouth. In addition to the taste explosion, they are SO simple and quick to make.

Ingredients

  • 200g/7oz dark chocolate , broken into pieces
  • 100g/3.50z milk chocolate , broken into pieces
  • 250g/9oz salted butter
  • 400g/14oz soft light brown sugar
  • 4 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 140g/5oz (approx.) plain flour
  • 50g/20z cocoa powder
  • 200g/7oz raspberries

Method:

Preheat oven to 180C/350F/gas 4. Line a 20 x 30cm tin with parchment paper. Put the chocolate, butter and sugar in a saucepan and gently melt, stirring occasionally . Remove from the heat and allow to cool a little.

While stirring continuously, add the beaten eggs, a little at a time, into the melted chocolate mixture. Blending well on each addition. Then sieve the flour and cocoa into the chocolatey mixture and fold in until mixed thoroughly.

Add half of the raspberries and gently fold in, being careful not to break or bruise them. Then pour the mixture into the prepared tin,  scattering  the top with the remaining raspberries.

Bake on the middle shelf of the over for 30/35 mins. Cool completely in the tin before slicing into squares.

These can be stored in an airtight tin for up to 3 or 4 days. But I guarantee they won’t last that long. These are delicious served slightly heated with some whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

 

 

 

Posted in recipes | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Bella’s Birthday Cake

I don’t generally need a reason to bake something sweet and delicious however, it’s always good to have an excuse to really push the boat out. So when I came across this cake I knew I had the perfect occasion in mind to try it out. Recently a friend of ours celebrated her birthday, Belinda you know who you are!! So this weekend we got the gang together and had ourselves a party! This cake is really so simple to make but very decadent and was perfect for some birthday indulgence.

So you’ve guessed it I DID find this recipe in the old faithful BBC Good Food magazine. The April edition has been the best this year for baking both sweet and savoury. Probably because it came with a supplement booklet that has 30+ Brilliant Bakes. And yes, I am working my way through them all. Not fast enough it would appear if comments from the boys are anything to go by but I do get very distracted by all my other cook books, the recent addition being Heston at Home, I’ll get back to that.

Anyway this cake is a Raspberry and Amaretti Crunch Cake. Two of my favourite ingredients, raspberries and almonds and then the added bonus of amaretti biscuits. I just had to have a cup of coffee on the go while I was making this cake for dipping purposes for one or two little amaretti biscuits!!

Anyway here we go!

Ingredients:

  • 175g/6oz soft butter
  • 175g/6oz golden castor sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 140g/5oz self raising flour
  • 85g/3oz ground almonds
  • 140g/5oz amaretti biscuits, roughly  broken
  • 250g punnet raspberries
  • icing sugar for dusting
Method:

Pre heat oven to 160c/320f/gas 3. Line a 20cm/8in loose based round cake tin.

Put the butter, caster sugar, eggs, flour and ground almonds into a large bowl and beat using an electric hand whisk until all the ingredients are well blended. I find it best to use very soft butter so you don’t get lumpy bits throughout the cake mixture.

Spread half of the cake mixture into the prepared cake tin. Then scatter over half of the amaretti biscuits followed by a third of the raspberries. Very lightly press the raspberries into the cake mixture.

Dollop (great word!) spoonfuls of the remaining mixture over the amaretti and raspberries and spread out evenly and ensure that all the biscuits are covered. This bit is a little tricky because the amaretti tend to become dislodged as the mixture is being spread.

Scatter the remaining amaretti and half the remaining raspberries over the top. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. I found I needed to give the cake an extra 10 minutes than the recommended time. Cooking time will depend on your oven.

Cool in the tin for 15 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack. Then dust with icing sugar and serve with the remaining raspberries, a dollop of cream or ice cream, or both!!!

This cake keeps best in an airtight tin in the fridge for about two days. And to my amazement I found that it tasted even better the next day. It was extra moist, probably from the ground almonds and raspberries. Delicious!!

 

Posted in recipes | Tagged , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Detox – Post Barcelona!!

Having eaten my way through Barcelona, I was working off the mind set of ‘need to try everything’. And then there was also the many, many cups of coffee, lets face it, the Spanish really know how to make good coffee. Add to that the Nespresso machine in our hotel room, there was truly no escape from my caffeine addiction. Then the little glass of wine or two over lunch, to help fuel the ongoing sight seeing! I felt I really needed to cleanse body and soul.

It’s good occasionally to give our bodies a break from all that we throw at it. Not only food wise but also to try and reduce stress levels. Time to get off the roller coaster of life and take a breather. I have done a detox before (roughly ten years ago!) and if memory serves me right, I did feel great after it.

On both occasions I used the Carol Vorderman’s Detox For Life. The premiss of this diet is not to necessarily loose weight, although some excess pounds are shed, but rather to get rid of toxins, cellulite(there I said the dreaded word for most women!) and more importantly increase energy levels and improve sleep patterns.

It’s also recommended not to go cold turkey all at once as this can have a negative affect psychologically, if you feel you can’t have any of your tasty treats. I weaned myself off coffee over a period of about a week. Surprisingly I still felt withdrawals when I came off it totally. And apparently it had an initial affect on my mood as Emmet my husband was threatening to pop caffeine tablets into my mouth while I slept in order not to suffer the wrath of my caffeine dependency! By the way, I don’t sleep with my mouth open!!

What became apparent to me was that although I don’t normally eat/drink a lot of either, the two things I missed most were coffee and butter!! Not as a combination mind you.

Anyway, the reason for this post is not to encourage anyone to do this detox or indeed to come across as ‘Holier than Thou’ from my detox soap box, as I’ve fallen off the detox wagon, but to share with you two of the recipes which were really delicious!

The first being Red Lentil Dahl and the second being Quinoa Pilaf with Chickpeas and Almonds. These recipes are very quick to put together.

Red Lentil Dahl with Sunflower Seeds

Ingredients 

Makes about 4 servings

  • 2 onions chopped
  • 2 tbsp/30ml water or vegetable stock
  • 3 to 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 350g/12oz red lentils
  • 1.2 litres/2 pints water
  • 110g/4oz sunflower seeds
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • salt to season
  • Handful of fresh coriander or parsley roughly chopped

Method:

Saute the chopped onions in the water/stock for a few minutes. Add the crushed garlic and spices and cook for a further minute.

Add the lentils and water and bring to the boil. Cover and simmer for about 20 minutes or until the lentils are cooked. Taste and season with some salt. I also added about a teaspoon of chili and a finely chopped red chili pepper as I like spicy food.

Finally, before serving, add the sunflower seeds and fresh coriander or parsley. I went with coriander as I just love the flavour.The sunflower seeds give this Dahl a lovely nutty texture.

I served this with some brown basmati rice. This Dahl also froze very well.

Quinoa Pilaf with Chickpeas and Almonds

The pilaf I made differs slightly from the original recipe as there were some ingredients that I’m not too keen on. I will indicate what ones I substituted. I had never cooked with quinoa grains before and was surprised how tasty this dish was.

Ingredients:

Serves 4

  • 2 tbsp/30ml water or vegetable stock
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 stick of cinnamon (I used a tsp of cumin here instead)
  • 4 cardamon pods (I used a tbsp of coriander seeds here instead)
  • 2 gloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 red pepper
  • 2 courgettes, sliced
  • 225g/8oz quinoa
  • 600ml/1 pint vegetable stock
  • 250g/9oz cooked chickpeas (I used a 400g can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed)
  • 60g/20z toasted flaked almonds
  • 60g/20z toasted pumpkin seeds
  • Handful of fresh coriander or parsley roughly chopped

Method:

Heat the 2 tbsp water in a large saucepan and saute the onions with the chosen spices, in my case cumin and coriander seeds, for 2 minutes

Add the garlic, peppers and courgettes and cookd fo a further 2 minutes

Add the quinoa, vegetable stock  and cooked chickpeas. Stir and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes or until all the liquid had been absorbed and the quinoa is cooked.

Pile the pilaf on to serving plates. Scatter with the almonds, pumpkinseeds and roughly chopped coriander or parsley.

Enjoy!

Posted in recipes | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

Barcelona

So we went to Barcelona. Myself and Emmet. No kids!! Once I got over the initial separation anxiety from the kids and then, what Emmet referred to as moderate turbulence (I was preparing for my oxygen mask to appear in front of my face!) coming into Barcelona, I  was smitten. Neither of us had been before and I was so excited as I had heard how beautiful Barcelona is. Before going the two things that I was aware of about Barcelona were the impressive architecture by Antoni Gaudi, the figurehead of Catalan Modernisation and the copious tapas bars and restaurants that had to be tried! Yes food is always the incentive with me.

We started our trip with a tour bus guide of the city, this was a really good way of getting our bearings and establishing where we wanted to go on foot. The Sagrada Familia being one site that was a must see. The photos here don’t do it justice, it was magnificent and hard for me to decide what was the best angle to shoot it from.
Gaudi Park ( official name Park Guell) was the next stop. The climb up to the park was spectacular and the view of Barcelona was incredible.
I felt like a kid in a sweet shop, there was too much to see, it was hard to decide which direction to go in and what to photograph. So I’m sharing with you a sample of what we saw!
Our time there flew by and indeed we both had a sense of there being a lot to do and see but not having enough time to experience everything. Well we did only have five days there!
Before we went a lot of people were saying to us, oh you have to see this and you have to go there. When we did get to Barcelona all the recommendations disappeared from my head and I seemed to spend the trip wandering around awe struck and looking up all the time at the incredible buildings.
So it was by complete chance that we stumbled upon the Boqueria Market  just off La Rambla. This market dates from as early as 1217 and has undergone many changes since then as you can imagine. You cannot visit Barcelona without seeing this market, the colours and smells are stunning and the jubilant ambiance was tangible. I didn’t want to leave. I wanted to buy everything I saw however, Ryanair luggage weight restrictions were bearing down heavily on my mind!
So I mentioned earlier the copious tapas bars and restaurants that had to be tried and believe me we tried many in the five days we were there. It’s such a civilised way to eat! We went from the tourist attraction ‘recommended by the guide books’ to the ‘where the locals go’. All different but all amazing. However, I did have a favourite but unfortunately I don’t have the name of this particular establishment. However, I do have photos of my food though. And yes I was getting lots of odd looks from people as I snapped each dish as it was brought out.
So the one thing that struck me about Barcelona is that I most definitely have to return. On our last day we tried to get as much sight seeing in before we had to catch our flight home. I remarked that I had sense off ‘leaving the party too early’ in order to let the babysitter go home!! There is so much to see and do and I’m just giving you a glimpse of our experience there.
Hope you enjoy the pics. I will be posting recipes next but felt I had to share this first.
Rhoda  & Emmet :O)
Click on an image to scroll through gallery of photos
 Some Spanish humour!
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 5 Comments

Angry Birds Birthday Cake

I mentioned in my past post that I did a cake decorating course. I received a voucher for Cooks Academy at Christmas and decided to do the Celebration Cakes course. Butter icing and all things fondant don’t really do it for me but I thought it would be a great skill to have. I’m thrilled now that I did the course because I’ve started to put it to use. My son recently turned 10 and wanted an Angry Birds cake for his birthday. No problem!! Thankfully he wanted the pig from Angry Birds, which wasn’t too difficult to do, at least it was round and I didn’t have to contrive a bird shape out of a round cake.

The cake itself was the Nigella Lawson Old Fashioned Chocolate Cake, she describes it as the ‘essence of chocolate cake and mood enhancingly good!!” and it was. :O) I must point out that I did remove the fondant from my piece to get the full impact of the chocolate cake.

So, I set about planning my cake strategy. Studied up on Angry Birds, both figures and previously made cakes and gathered all my ingredients. My husband Emmet wanted to be  part of this activity and I must add that in the past we have made novelty birthday cakes for the kids. Our first being Bear in the Big Blue house, for our son’s first birthday which was a huge challenge and took us about a day to make. But boy was it worth it for the expression on his face when he saw his favourite character in cake form.

So I made the chocolate cake, I divided the mixture using a 20cm/8in cake tin and then a mini tart tin 9cm/3.5in. The smaller cake being for the nose. Once the cakes were cooked and cooled, I made the icing. Cutting the main cake in half I filled the center with the icing. The quantity of icing for this recipe is enough to fill the center and cover the entire cake, a version which I’m keen to try however, for my cake I used a generous portion of the icing for the centre and then a thin layer of the icing on the top and sides in order to hold the fondant in place. I placed the iced cake in the fridge to set and got working on dying the fondant green. This did take a while as I was erring on the cautious side, the end result being a pea green.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I will point out that it is best to wear latex gloves when dying fondant to protect your hands. I didn’t!! And I ended up looking like ‘She Hulk”. I will also point out that it was recommended on the course I did that we wear gloves when engaging in this procedure but I chose to ignore that little nugget of advice. I did however, buy the black fondant ready dyed, that I needed, and I’m glad I did.

Using a mixture of icing sugar and corn flour for dusting my work surface,  I rolled out the fondant, the same rules apply to fondant as to pastry. Starting off with a round ball shape, place the rolling pin in the center, roll gently forward and again, from the same mid point roll back. Turn the fondant and do again. Continue with this method until you have achieved the shape and size needed. Next remove the cake from the fridge and using your rolling pin, roll the fondant onto it and then gently roll the fondant onto the cake, as you would if you were making an apple pie.

Gently work the fondant around the sides, securing at the base of the cake. Using a shape knife, trim off the access fondant, leaving a little lip that can be worked into the base.

Next take a small piece of fondant and use this to polish the cake, giving you a smooth surface and eliminating any finger print etc.

 

You’ll notice in this picture how green my finger nails are! It took a few days to get rid of it! In the meantime, Emmet my husband was making the features for the face which included the snout of course. He trimmed the top and bottom edges off the small cake and stuck them to the side of the cake using some of the chocolate icing as glue!

He covered the lot with the green fondant and having made two disk shapes with the black fondant, he placed these on the snout, creating perfect nostrils!

The snout was placed on the cake, we used water to secure it however you can buy an edible glue used for the purpose of adhering decorations to cake.

So it’s starting to take shape. All that is left are the eyes, eyebrows, ears and a little mouth.

For the eyes roll out a small amount of white fondant, using a round cutter, in our case we used a shot glass (don’t ask, it was gleaned from some pub in the wild days!).

Make two small black ball shapes for the centre of the eyes and place in random positions on  the eyes whites, like this:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gently place the eyes either side of the snout, followed by two snake like tubes for the eyebrows. Then two small disk shapes for the ears with black inserts, securing into position using a little bit of water.

And voila! An Angry Birds pig which was devoured by ten hungry boys (one Mum & Dad) all of whom are Angry Birds fans. :O)

 

Posted in recipes | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

From a Montage to a Marble Cake

 

So it’s been a while. And I had gotten myself into the blogging pickle of “it’s been a long time since I posted anything”, panic!  Where do I begin? I knew I had been busy but didn’t have a sense of actually doing anything. The kids had been on holiday for Easter (that’s two weeks in Ireland!!!), routine was out of whack, there were visitors to the house, we visited relatives, and all the while there was copious amounts of entertainig the children,

When the kids went back to school  I took a look at my photos that I had been snapping along the way. And here is a montage what we got up to.

In the last week of March we had some unseasonably hot weather, normally the winter woolies are still being layered on at this time of year however, we were getting temperatures of 22 degrees celsius. We count ourselves lucky if we get temperatures like that in July, and the pattern for the past few years in this country has been that our weather has peaked too early in the year leaving us with a soggy Irish summer. So I’ve been hoping and praying that our summer has not been and gone. Still, being a firm believer in carpe diem we packed a picnic and headed to Castletown beach in Wexford where my husband spent many a childhood summer. It’s truly beautiful and still very unpopulated. Our eldest son decided it was time for a swim! And although the weather was beautiful, the sea was Siberian. I knew it would be, so I packed a hot water bottle and a flask of hot chocolate, both of which were hugely appreciated when he emerged (blue) from the sea. But I think you’ll agree, the water does look very inviting.

After that weekend, the weather went back to seasonal chills and we could stop pretending it was summer.

After a few days of visitors we went visiting my aunt Claire in Raheny, North Dublin, for her birthday. Another beautiful sunny day, this time however it was about 10 degrees cooler than our day on the beach. So well wrapped up, we headed to St Anne’s Park, a beautiful municipal park, especially in the summer when the rose garden is in full bloom. This day however, I came across an amazing sculpture, which was a new addition since my last visit.

Easter weekend saw us welcoming a new member to the family, not a baby, but a new dog  called Sam that my Dad had adopted, and you have to agree, he is a handsome chap. He was recused by the Cork Dog Welfare Action Group (DAWG) which is an organisation founded and run mostly by a network of volunteers concerned with the welfare of abandoned, abused and ill-treated dogs. This little guy is amazing and is already best buddies with my Dad.

Back home to Wicklow and we managed to get a couple of day trips under our belt! Killruddery House and Gardens being the first port of call which has been home to the Brabazon Family (the Earls of Meath) since 1618. Conveniently located three minutes drive from our house and ashamedly in the seven years we have lived in Wicklow, we’ve never been to visit!! As it was early in the season, the house was not open for tours however, the gardens were and are spectacular. There was a lot to explore for both us parents and kids. In addition Killruddery also provide an extensive annual program of events which has everything from Falconry to Bees, the Dawn Chorus to outdoor concerts, picnic and kids events plus the launch of the Walled Garden.  We were hoping to meet the famous Killruddery pigs while meandering through the gardens, unfortunately we didn’t but we did manage to meet these very cheeky chickens.

This chicken on the right was not impressed with me taking photos and tried several times to peck me!!

There was also a spectacular crop of wild garlic, the smell was amazing and as soon as I got home I looked up some recipes for wild garlic pesto, so watch this space as I try my hand at this.

As the weather became inclement, we moved activities indoors and visited Sea Life our national aquarium. And as with all Sea Life aquariums, there main strategy is to teach people how to protect our seas and all who dwell in them. They are currently running a Stingray breeding program and have 12 babies in the nursery tanks at our local facility. This little fella caught my eye. Isn’t he/she amazing? We saw so many fascinating sea creatures, here are just a few. Flash photography was not permitted at the Octopus tank as the bright light hurts their eyes, however, it didn’t stop  him posing for the camera.

So lots of activity was had over the Easter break and surprisingly enough not a lot of baking! :O(  That said I did mention a marble cake and I am getting to that recipe but felt I needed to share with you the reason for my long absence. Before I jump to the recipe I just want to mention that I also did a cake decorating course in Cooks Academy but that’s a post for another day however, here’s a wee pic of my finished cake. It was a lot tougher than I expected and I was totally out of my comfort zone. Fondant is not the easiest to work with and I spent an inordinate amount of time  smoothing out the cracks! Story of my life it would seem!

Anyway to the recipe:

 

Chocolate Marble Cake

This is a recipe from the old faithful BBC Good Food magazine. In the April edition there was a free supplement of 30+ Brilliant Bakes. My kids came across this Marble Cake and so I thought “wouldn’t it be nice to bake something with my children?” So take one control freak mother, two head strong boys, a generous sprinkling of sibling rivalry and what do you get, utter chaos!! That said we did manage to produce a mighty fine cake and all arguments were forgotten once we started eating ;O)

Ingredients:

  • 225g/8oz butter, softened
  • 225g/8oz caster sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 225g/8oz self raising flour
  • 3 tbsp milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder

Method

Pre-heat the oven to 180c/350f/gas 4. Butter and line a 20cm cake tin with parchment paper.

For an easy life put all the ingredients except the cocoa powder into a food processor and whizz together for about 1 – 2 minutes until smooth. I chose this option as the row over who would crack the eggs pushed me over the edge!

Divide the mixture between two bowls, stir the cocoa powder into one. Take 2 spoons and use them to dollop the chocolate and vanilla mixtures into the tin alternately. When all the mixture has been used up, tap the tin gently on the work surface to ensure that there aren’t any air bubbles.

Take a skewer and and swirl it around a few times in the mixture to create a marble effect.

Bake in a preheated oven for 45 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.

Turn out onto a cooling rack and leave to cool. This keeps well in an airtight tin for 3 days. I cut mine in two and froze half, this worked really well.

The recipe does not require you to decorate the finished cake but the boys insisted using their peanut MMs and I have to say it was a nice addition as was the dollop of ice cream!

 

Posted in recipes | 9 Comments