Wednesday, 30 March 2011

New life!


Taking a stroll around my garden this morning i can see life all around (even if some of it is weeds)!!
The Garlic is really stretching for the sky...

There is new buds coming onto the pear trees however i still think it will be next year before we see any fruit as they were only planted last year but sure hey, you'd never know..

In the salad bed the Radishes are coming along as is the little gem lettuces, i planted out some spinach and rocket yesterday..

The greenhouse is buzzing with life also, everything that was planted a week or 2 ago are looking strong and healthy and the strawberry runners are producing flowers already!!

I planted some celeriac seeds yesterday in pots in the greenhouse and some rosemary in the herb garden... but remember that all these things can be started off on a sunny window sill inside your house of flat!!

All in all the garden is shaping up well at the end of March and the fallen blossom is only making it look more pretty!

Homemade Pasta

For Christmas '10 my sister Michele bought me a paste machine.... what a great buy!!
At the start i thought this would be a long process, but when you get into the swing of it there really isn't much to it at all. Plus the amount you can make for very little ingredients really does turn out a great money saver. A pasta machine can be bought for little over 20 Euro and trust me when i say it will pay for itself in no time! give it a go and get the kids involved... they'l love it!

Be prepared for a little tough work kneading it though as it is a very stiff dough but you only have to knead it for a few mins and the rewards will speak for themselves, plus think of toning those arms :)

Start off small like i did then when your used to it double the amount. but little really does go a very long way when put through the machine:
half this mix is about the size of a lime
this is how much it rolls out to

140g-5oz of strong flour or pasta flour
2 medium eggs- 1 whole and one yolk

Thats it people, that amount will make up a family sized lasagne etc!!


Mix the ingredients together int a mixing bowl or a food processor and mix until it resembles fine breadcrumbs (it shouldn't look wet nor too dusty)

Tip the mixture out onto a work surface and form into a ball, stick with it it will come together.

Knead the ball briskly for a minute or 2 (it will be quite stiff) and wrap in cling-film and place in fridge for 1 hour.

After the hour cut the dough in half and roll out to a 5mm thick square and put it through the paste machine at the widest setting... setting number 7. Fold it in half.

Put it through again at setting number 7 folding in half after another 5 times.

Now you can start reducing the settings however this time dont fold it over and put it through each setting only once. Repeat the process until you have reached the thinnest setting. Repeat for the second half of the dough.

If you wish to make into spaghetti you can leave it at a thicker setting (about setting number 2 or 3) and put it through the cutting end of the machine.

TIP: any dough sitting out temporarily should be covered in cling-film or a damp tea towel as it will dry out.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Chatting to Hector

Yesterday morning i was lucky enough to recieve a call from Hector from the Breakfast with Hector show on 2fm. He asked me about starting the blog and my move from Co Armagh to Co Clare.
He put up a piece about me on his blog on the shows web site

The interview is available to listen to through the podcast on Hector starts chatting to me around the 7minute mark.
I was very pleased with my 5 minutes of fame :) p.s keep 'er lit!!!

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Crumbly shortcakes

Lavender shortcakes with strawberries

These shortcakes are very easily made up and are lovely by themselves just with a cup of tea. You could try chopped rosemary instead of the lavender.

Makes 10-12:

150g plain flour
1 egg yolk
100g softened butter
50g caster sugar
Few sprigs of fresh or dried lavender
350g strawberries
1 tablespoon of orange juice


1.      Preheat the oven at 190Âșc and lightly grease 2 baking trays.

2.      Beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, add in the egg yolk and the lavender flower heads. Now add the flour and mix to a soft dough.

3.      Roll out the dough on a lightly floured work surface to about 3mm thick. (It does tend to break up easily but work patiently with it) Stamp out 10-12 with a 3inch cookie cutter.

4.      Transfer gently to the baking sheets and place in oven for 10 mins until golden. Allow to cool for a minute before transferring to cooling rack.

5.      Wash and hull the strawberries. Separate and slice ⅔ of them and place in a mixing bowl. Puree the remaining strawberries with the orange juice and push through a sieve to remove the seeds. Stir the puree into the strawberry slices.

6.      To serve place one shortcake on a small plate and top with a few strawberry slices, top with another shortcake. Spoon a little puree on the side for decoration.

Balsamic Chicken and Chorizo

Balsamic Chicken and Chorizo

I made this dish again as a quick and no fuss meal. It’s quite healthy served with steamed broccoli or couscous. Alternatively you can have it with pan fried potatoes or sweet potato wedges.

Serves 4

4 medium chicken fillets
A finger length piece of chorizo sausage
1 red, 1 green and one yellow pepper
1 large onion
2 garlic cloves
5 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar
100ml chicken stock
1 teaspoon of dried mixed herbs
Sea salt & black pepper


Preheat oven at 180°c. Drizzle some olive oil in a roasting tray, cut the chicken fillets in half lengthways and season them and place in tray. Slice the chorizo and add to the tray also.

Peel and slice the onion, de-seed the peppers and cut into thin strips. Bang the garlic with the back of knife, this releases the flavour more.

In a pan put a splash of oil and add your sliced onion and stir fry for a few mins until softened. Add in the peppers and garlic, fry for another minute then tip the mixtures over the chicken in the roasting tray.

Pour over the stock and balsamic vinegar, sprinkle over the herbs and roast in oven for 30 mins. Halfway through the cooking time, give it all a good stir around and spoon the juices over the top.

Check that the chicken is cooked through before serving.

The Perfect Poached Egg

Poached egg

I normally have a poached egg with toast or homemade brown bread and beans, great protein boost if you have been to the gym or out running. Plus its damn tasty!

Calories 154 per portion
Serves 1:
1 or 2 eggs
A splash of vinegar
Freshly crushed black pepper
Served with wheaten bread


     1.      Half fill a small saucepan of water and add a splash of vinegar, place onto a hot hob and bring to the boil.
     2.    In the meantime chop a few chives and crack an egg onto a saucer.
     3.    When the saucepan has come to the boil reduce to a steady simmer, with a spoon stir the water around to make a small ‘whirlpool’ in the saucepan and gently slide the egg of the saucer into it (this should keep it quite compact and tidy)

     4.      2-3 mins should do it or a little longer if u don’t want the yolk runny.

     5.      Remove with a slotted spoon and sprinkle over the black pepper.

A healthy start to any day!!


Thursday, 24 March 2011

Easy Thin Pizza Base

Easy Thin Pizza Base

Ok, I’m sure like most people, I have bought many different pizzas from frozen to fresh, thin base to stuffed crust. But this to me is by far the nicest and has proved a hit over and over. It works out so economical. I can safely say I’ll never buy a pizza again!!

Makes up to 6 pizzas:
300ml skimmed milk
1 sachet of baker’s yeast
500g strong flour
Pinch of salt
Heat milk gently in a saucepan or heatproof bowl in the microwave, add the yeast and stir until dissolved.
Sift flour and salt into mixing bowl. Make a well in middle and add the milk with dissolved yeast.

Mix together using a spoon, it should be quite sticky. Empty out onto a lightly floured work surface, kneed it for 10 mins. Add a little oil into a large clean bowl and smear around, into bowl and cover with Clingfilm for 40-50 mins to proof (rise).

Punch out the air, it can be used right away or wrap in Clingfilm and keep in fridge.
When using pull off a ball smaller than a tennis ball and roll it out on a lightly floured surface, don’t worry about perfect circles.

Pop it onto an oiled pizza tray and lightly spoon on some pasta sauce, grate over some cheese of your choice (I just use low fat cheddar), and add the toppings of your choice.
10-15 mins in a HOT oven will make a lovely crispy pizza.

Leftover dough will keep in the fridge for a few days or can be frozen.

And so the growing season begins!!

This past few days' raise in tempatures has started turning seeds into seedlings. In the greenhouse our Tomato, Cucumber and Cauliflower trays have started shooting up which really brings a smile to my face.

The Cucumbers didnt come to much last year as the seedlings kept getting burnt in the sun so i'll have to be more wise to it this year.
Outside the greenhouse we have planted the Onion sets, Garlic cloves, Peas and in the salad bed 2 short drills of Little Gem lettuce and the same of Radishes. Radishes are very fast growing salad veg, you  could be harvesting them in about 3 weeks after sowing them so 'little and often' is usually the route to take.

planted garlic cloves

planted onion sets

The strawberry bed is thriving again after the hardy winter, we removed 15 runners (new plants) which are now being given to 'good homes'.

We kept a few of the runners in, its a wee bit cramped but hopefully they all try to out grow each other :)

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Planting my 'spuds'

Today i took the opportunity to plant out my spuds. There is still a bit of frost knocking about but not enough to do any harm. Ive chosen 3 different varieties this year, Maris Peers which is an early variety, Records which are a second early breed and Kerr's Pinks which are main crop. this should keep us in from mid-June on. Ive had my seed potatoes 'chitting' on a few sunny window sills in the house this past few weeks. 'Chitting' is where you allow the potatoes to start sprouting, this gives them a little head start before being buried in the earth....

The pictures shows the 'chitting' process where the foliage starts to form on the seed potato.

So with all that previously done it was the simple task of digging drills to plant the seed potatoes. In a pre-dug and rotovated bed myself and my girlfriend Ciara got to work early this morning. In one bed we have 1 drill of the Earlie's Maris peers and 2 drills of second Earlie's Records (which will be beautiful 'balls of flour' when steamed). I have 27 seed potatoes in each drill planted a foot apart...

Then I raked the dug soil back over the seed potatoes and mounded it up into raised drills.

Well that's the spuds in now and that is the last of the tougher work done and like last year the rewards will be wonderful!!!

Friday, 18 March 2011

calso cooks from the sustainable larder: My garden now

calso cooks from the sustainable larder: My garden now: "What is in season in my garden in real time: Ive spent this past few weeks extending and preparing the plot for the season ahead. As it is ..."

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Why and how it all started

In the four years prior to my move to County Clare, I lived with my mother and sister in Armagh city. As much as I enjoyed living there it was a town house and didn’t have a garden. At the time I ran my own plastering business, it was hard physical work but when I was home during the weekends and evenings and wish I could have been outside pottering around a garden even if it was just to cut the grass.
Growing up I had always watched my father in the garden, he was constantly on the go. So I guess that instinct he had was instilled in me too. I vowed when I had decided to move that if where I was moving to had a garden of any size that I would make the most of it.
When I made my first big move it was to a first floor apartment. The fact it was on the first floor and located in the middle of a village ruled out having any sort of gardening. The apartment was just a quick place to move until I got settled. In the time I was there I fell in love with cooking, having no other choice but to cook for myself, but mainly because after tasting the food which my sister Louise cooked I realised that fantastic flavours don’t only exist in fancy restaurants. She showed me that home cooking could be great.
Luckily I was only in the apartment for a short while when a house with large garden came across my path and I grabbed with both hands. Here I now have more space then I could have imagined. I moved into the house at the end of January and by the end of March I had dug my first plot. Relying on the advice of those around me as well as books form the local library I was on my way to fresh veg in the garden.
My first plot that year was only six feet by four feet but it had 2 drills of potatoes, onions, peas. Adjacent to the plot I had 2 patio containers with four courgette plants (given to me by a local lady, Mrs. Nagle, who had an inspiring garden). I also planted a few herbs in a window box outside the dining room window. The following year which was last year; I had trebled my plot and had added a herb garden, green house and a hen house filled with 6 chickens. This year I am adding an extra potato bed and 2 more raised beds. I dread to think what I will come up with for next year!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...