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Sunday, 3 March 2013

Thai and To-Die-For

Chicken Satay with Thai-Style Sticky Rice

If you are looking for a quick, tasty meal that can be prepared and cooked with minimal effort, equipment and skill then look no further.  This creamy Chicken Satay with Thai-style sticky rice makes a welcome change when you come in from work cold, tired and hungry.  It also stores and reheats well if you'd like to make it ahead of time and simply pop it in the microwave when you are ready.  For those out there who are culinary virgins looking to impress, this is a low risk option for that all important date.  Impress her (or him) as you rustle up this delicious meal with minimal sweating, cursing or swearing... just check first that they don't have a nut allergy or that first kiss might not quite be what you expected!

Monday, 17 December 2012

Christmas Food Gifts

Christmas Food Gifts
So, you've decided not to go for the Penney's elf-jumper but you still don't quite know what to get those last few awkward people for Christmas.  Why not try a food gift?  Everyone eats so how far wrong can you go?  I am using gingerbread gifts instead of Christmas cards this year as they involve a bit more thought and are infinitely more useful than some tacky image of a Dickensian street-scape gathering dust on the mantelpiece.  This is not my own gingerbread recipe though, I used a great one from The Pink Whisk.  With half-price Christmas cookie-cutters from Homestore and More combined with some great Christmas tree shaped gift boxes from Ikea, I had some great looking gingerbread gifts in no time.


I am also going to use my Mini Jammie Dodgers for both food gifts and as Petit Fours on Christmas day... you know, those dinki wee pastries and bikkies you get in fancy restaurants after dinner.  I'll be teaming these up with mini versions of my Lemon & White Chocolate Cupcakes, some mini chocolate muffins, again from The Pink Whisk, and some Chocolate Shots served in little shots glasses using my Chocolate Cheesecake recipe minus the biscuit base.  There is nothing to stop you experimenting with these and adding some real shots into the mix with Bailey's or Butterscotch Mickey Finn's.  All of these miniature desserts also make great party food, just serve them on a cake stand with teaspoons beside the Chocolate Shots.


Monday, 10 December 2012

Budget Busters

Chicken and Chorizo Jambalaya


If, after the latest austerity budget, you are feeling the squeeze even more than Michael Noonan's top trouser button, here are a few ideas to produce low-cost nutritious meals for your family.  These recipes are designed to decrease cooking time (hopefully saving on those utility bills) whilst providing a balanced meal that won't break the bank... oh, that's right, they're already broken!

The first is my Pasta Amatriciana, a classic Italian sauce made with tomatoes, chillies and bacon that is traditionally served with spaghetti.  The second is my Chicken and Chorizo Jambalaya.  This is a mildly spicy cajun-style stew with rice, peppers, tomatoes and spices... a great way to warm up the family when you have to turn the heat down.  All the ingredients for these dishes can be found in Lidl at a low price.  The preparation uses as little kitchen equipment as possible so, if you are a student or just dodging on the washing up, this also saves you another few pence.  It all adds up!

Friday, 26 October 2012

The Best Breasts in Inishowen

Roast Chicken with Apricot Stuffing wrapped in Serrano Ham


Travel anywhere in Donegal on a sunny Sunday and you will marvel at the hordes of cars parked outside hotels advertising a carvery.  Taking pride of place at each is the ubiquitous turkey and ham.  For me this will always conjure up memories of my teenage years working at a local Inishowen hotel for the princely salary of £1.50 per hour: endless weddings serving up dried out turkey and soggy vegetables; 13 hour shifts interrupted only by the dubious promise of a 'staff tea.'  If you thought the wedding meal sounded bad, imagine it after it has been sitting in an oven for hours, left to cool then microwaved to the point where it has less moisture than a stone in the Sahara.
In this recipe for Roast Stuffed Chicken wrapped in Serrano Ham, I  revamp this tired old favourite by replacing turkey with a more moist chicken, and adding apricots to the stuffing for a fuller, more interesting flavour combination. The thin Serrano Ham is delicately flavoured yet deliciously crispy as it hugs those breasts in a tender embrace.  I always make an extra chicken fillet and slice it up cold to make the most sublime sandwiches when Hubby and I go hiking in Glenveagh.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Go Go Gadget Arms!

Wilted Spinach, Pinenut and Ricotta Ravioli in a Simple Tomato Sauce


 Hubby swept me off for a romantic weekend in Bruges earlier this year where I visited the most beautiful cookshop and set eyes on a little gadget for making ravioli.  Gazing longingly, I wondered how my life could ever have been complete without it: such an oversight seemed as ridiculous as a life without the wheel.  I dreamed of dinner parties impressing guests with my hand-crafted Italian cuisine.  Fillings such as crab, spiced squash and even chocolate unfurled in my imagination. 

Packing my ridiculously expensive self-gift in endless layers of tissue paper and tee-shirts, I finally introduced it to my kitchen back home and carefully stacked it in the cupboard.  Week by week, it slowly worked its way to the back where it sat, lonely and forlorn, gathering more dust than a nun's gusset.

Last week I made an attempt to get in touch with my inner skinny girl and took a trip to the gym.  After 10 minutes on the bike, followed by 10 on the cross trainer, I felt ready to take on the dreaded treadmill.  A 3 minute walking warm up and then I took off like Roger Bannister around the quad at Oxford.  I managed a good 30 second sprint before I heard something pop and felt a searing pain shoot up my calf muscle.  I eventually managed to hobble back home where I sat with my leg on a bag of frozen split pea and ham soup feeling very sorry for myself.

Hubby stepped up to the plate and offered to cook dinner, suddenly brightening when he remembered the ravioli maker and realised that he would have the opportunity to take part in the inaugral outing of a kitchen gadget.  After some internet research, a rummage in the fridge and a trip to the shop, he came up with this impressive wilted spinach, ricotta and pine-nut ravioli in a simple tomato sauce.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Synchronous Senescence and Spuds

Synchronous senescence.  These words have been stuck in my head since my final year at school-  I always thought they had no place in a Biology lesson. Instead, as a fine example of alliteration, they should have been found nestled in the middle of a Robert Frost poem.  They describe the turning of leaves in Autumn: the carpet of golden yellow and burnt orange that is now only a matter of weeks away. 

I always associate this time of year with being sent 'up the back field' to pick spuds.  These, combined with the carrots, turnips and cabbages straight from the field, would be crafted into the most delicious soups by my mother.  Sitting around the table in the kitchen, a fire roaring in the stove and the windows veiled in steam, you were never so glad of a hot bowl of soup. 

Minestrone with Cheese and Tomato Focaccia Bread
Taking a break from the traditional vegetable soup accompanied by Daniel Doherty's sliced white pan, I opted instead for a chunky Minestrone with a side of Cheese and Tomato Focaccia.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Lemon and White Chocolate Cupcakes



After a trip to Homestore and More where I spotted a pack of petal cutters that called to me seductively from across the shop, I finally decided on these instead of the cookies... and I never did actually manage to get that hot chocolate.  Anyway.  These cupcakes are intensely lemony with lemon zest, a lemon curd centre and lemon buttercream icing combined with a light cake wrapped around chunks of white chocolate to create the most sublime snack known to woman...

Lemon and White Chocolate Cupcakes
If you use this recipe, leave a comment and let me know what you think.  I'm always looking for feedback.  Enjoy. Lemon and White Chocolate Cupcake Recipe