Thursday, 19 December 2013

Christmas Dinner questions answered for Clare FM listeners

Turkey and stuffing - to stuff or not to stuff the bird?
How to brown the turkey? / putting butter and herbs under the skin? / cooking time / how to check it's done

To stuff the bird, I would normally push stuffing up under the skin and then stuff the cavity with an orange that I have stabbed all over with a small knife, along with a few cloves of garlic and a fresh sprig of rosemary.

To make the stuffing:
6 strips of streaky bacon-roughly chopped
1 sprig of sage leaves
2 cloves of garlic-diced
2 sticks of celery-diced
1 red onion-diced
A large handful of breadcrumbs
1 lemon-zested
Half a nutmeg-grated
1 medium egg

Fry off the chopped bacon and sage leaves with some olive oil in a large frying pan over a medium high heat for a few mins until the bacon is browned and going crispy. Add in the garlic, celery and onion and continue frying until all is softened and golden brown.
Remove the pan from the heat and add in the bread crumbs, give this a good stir.
Once cooled add in the pork mince, lemon zest, nutmeg and crack in the egg, season really generously with sea salt and black pepper. Give it all a good stir until well combined.

Work your hand gently under the skin of the breast until it comes free then push the stuffing up evenly under the 2 skin of the 2 breasts. There will be some stuffing left, this can be rolled into balls and cooked along side the turkey or placed into the cavity.

Weigh the stuffed bird and then work out your cooking time to this... 20 mins per 500g/1lb 2oz
eg a turkey of 4.5kg/9lb 14oz will take 180 mins=3 hours (This is a guide)

Have your oven pre-heated up at max. Chop up some veg.. onions/celery/carrots and place them in your turkey roasting tray, stuff the cavity of the bird with the orange, garlic and rosemary. Drizzle the bird with olive oil and season all over with sea salt and black pepper. Stab stuff the legs a few times with a sliver of garlic and a snippet of rosemary. Place the bird into the tray and cover with tinfoil.

Place the tray into the oven and turn the heat down to 180c. Baste a few times during the cooking time with the juices and 45 mins before it is done, remove the tinfoil to brown off the skin. Take your turkey out of the oven and stick a small sharp knife into the fattest part of the thigh. If the juices run clear and the meat pulls apart easily, it's ready. If not, pop the turkey back in the oven to cook for a bit longer then check again. 

Making gravy from the juices

To make the gravy, remove the fully cooked turkey from its roasting tray and place it onto a suitable sized tray, cover with foil and allow to rest for at least 20 mins before carving to allow the rest of the juices to settle in the meat.

Skim off the fat from the roasting tray and set aside. Stir in 2 tablespoons of flour into the remaining juice in the tray (this may be minimal) and add in 1 litre of good chicken stock. place the tray over the hob and bring to the boil, scrape around the dish getting lots of flavours from the caramelized bits and the remaining veg. Once it has boiled for about 2/3 mins carefully and with help, strain it through a sieve into a saucepan and place onto a medium/high heat. At this point I usually add my holy trinity of sauces- a tablespoon of dark soy sauce, a tablespoon of oyster sauce and a tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce... and a generous pinch of freshly cracked black pepper. Allow to simmer and thicken. Before serving, once taken off the heat, add in a knob of butter and stir it in, this will add a bit of richness and gloss to your gravy.

Ham - best way to cook it / what's better - on the bone or rolled and boned? Honey / Glazes for ham?
Have a pot large enough for your ham so it can be covered with cold water. Add in some chopped veg- An onion, 2 sticks of celery and a carrot... also add in a bay leaf and 8/10 whole black peppercorns.
Bring to the boil and cover for about 3 hours for a 4kg ham that will feed 10 people with leftovers.

When the ham is cooked remove it carefully from the pot and allow to cool slightly. The skin should easily remove and can be discarded. Keep the cooking water, a cup of it can be used in the roasting tray to keep the ham moist when in the oven and the rest can be kept for stock, frozen in batches.

Carefully with a sharp knife score the fat in criss-cross fashion. Stick a clove in each 'diamond'.

To make a quick and easy glaze, mix together 3 tablespoons of honey, a teaspoon of mustard, a teaspoon of brown sugar and the grated zest of an orange... spread this over the fat and roast the ham for 30/35 mins until golden.

A rolled ham will be much easier to carve, however a ham on the bone will be more flavoursome.

 Brussels sprouts - any fancy recipes to spice them up?

I have 2 quick ideas to liven up the poor sprout...

1. Add 400g sprouts to some salted water and bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer for 2/3 mins until tender, DON'T LET THEM COOK TOO LONG.
Strain them in a colander and when cool enough to handle coarsely chop them. Heat a frying pan and fry off some bacon lardons and chopped garlic, add in the chopped sprouts and fry off for about 8-10 mins until the flavours combined.

2. Add 400g sprouts to some salted water and bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer for 2/3 mins until tender, DON'T LET THEM COOK TOO LONG.
Strain them in a colander and when cool enough to handle cut them into quarters. Grease a suitable sized oven dish and toss the sprouts into it, pour in 225ml of double cream and season well with salt and pepper and even some nutmeg. Top this mix with a layer of breadcrumbs and a few knobs of butter, bake in the oven for 25 mins at 200c until golden and bubbling.

Seasonal veg for Christmas?

Any root veg is well matched to Christmas dinner, A big dish of mixed roasted veg will go a long way... carrots, parsnips, beets mixed with onions peppers... anything goes.

kale is in season and can be cooked to the latter part of both sprout ideas above.

Here are a few ideas for Christmas dinner veg:

Mixed Roasted veg with Maple syrup

Tip: If you are feeling adventurous, then feel free to add flavouring to this dish, some herbs like rosemary, thyme, sage… spices like fennel, cumin or caraway seeds… wholegrain mustard, balsamic vinegar, soy sauce… basically whatever you like!

Serves 4:
3 carrots
3 parsnips
2 beets
2 red onions
1 red pepper
1 yellow pepper
1 green pepper
5 cloves of garlic
Olive oil
Sea salt & black pepper
2 tablespoons of maple syrup

Preheat the oven at 200°c. Peel the carrots and parsnips and cut into batons. Chop the beets into chunks, peel the onions and cut into wedges. De-seed and slice the peppers. Bash the cloves of garlic.
Pour all the prepared veg into a roasting tray. Drizzle with olive oil and give a generous amount of seasoning. Place in oven for 30 minutes.
Remove from oven and drizzle the maple syrup over the veg mix and give a good toss around. Then back into oven for 10 minutes.
Serve hot and remove the garlic cloves if desired.

Roasted red onions with port and bay

Serves 4-6:
750g small red onions
10-12 bay leaves
200ml port
Olive oil
Sea salt & black pepper

Preheat the oven at 180°c. Trim the tops of the onions and peel, keeping the root end intact. Slice the onions from root to tip into 8 wedges; the root end should hold the pieces together
Pour some oil into a roasting tray and throw the onions into it. Give the bay leaves a twist to tear them but not the whole way through. Scatter them over pushing them in through the onions. Season well and pour the port over it all.
Cover with foil and bung into the oven for 40 mins. Take out of oven after this time and give a stir around. Place back in oven without the foil for a further 30 mins.
When ready the liquid should have reduced to a thickened syrup. Serve hot, warm or cold.

Braised Red Cabbage and Bramley Apple in Cider Vinegar

 Serves 4:                                                                            
1 small red cabbage
1 Bramley apple
150g butter
150ml cider vinegar
150g light brown sugar
1 cinnamon stick
Pinch of ground white cloves
Sea salt & black pepper                                                      

Preheat oven to 180°c, cut cabbage into quarters, core and finely shred. Peel and core the Bramley apple and finely slice it. Set aside.
In an ovenproof saucepan add the butter, vinegar and sugar and dissolve the sugar over a medium heat. Add in the cinnamon and cloves and season with salt and pepper.
Toss in the cabbage and apple coating it all. Place lid on saucepan or wet crumpled greaseproof paper and bung into oven. Bake for about an hour stirring occasionally until tender and the apple has all but dissolved. Lift off the lid or paper and bake for a further 10-15 minutes so the remaining liquid has reduced to a nice glossy syrup.

Broccoli and Leek Bake

Serves 4:

1 head of broccoli
2 large leeks
2 shallots
50g of butter
50g of flour
175ml semi-skimmed milk
100g low-fat cheddar cheese
Half a nutmeg
A vegetable stockpot/cube
Large handful of breadcrumbs
100g parmesan cheese

Cut the broccoli into small pieces and steam or par-boil them.
Cut and wash the leek then thinly slice. Finely chop the shallots and add them and the butter to a pan on a medium-high heat, sauté for a few mins before stirring in the flour. Once it is all absorbed add the leeks and sauté for another few mins until softened.
Stir in the milk a little at a time over a low heat until you have a creamy consistency, add in the grated cheddar and stir until dissolved. Grate in the nutmeg and add the stockpot or ‘crumb’ in the stock cube. Again stir until dissolved.
Add the steamed broccoli, give all a good stir then transfer it to a suitable sized oven dish. Level out the contents and add a layer of breadcrumbs topped with the grated parmesan cheese. Place in a preheated oven at 200°c and bake for 25 mins until golden and crunchy on top and bubbling around the edges.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Christmas dessert ideas #1

Homemade Profiteroles

These bad boys are defiantly worth giving a go as a dessert for over Christmas time... not only are they fun to make but u will seriously overdose in chocolate and double cream!!! For those losing weight and watching their figures... my humble apologies- but it is but once a year!!! 

Serves 4:
For the choux pastry:
2oz of butter
200ml of cold water
100g plain flour
2 beaten eggs

For the cream filling:
300ml double cream
1 teaspoon of vanilla essence
3 tablespoons of caster sugar

For the chocolate sauce:
125g plain dark chocolate
1 oz butter 
A splash of water


  1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees
  2. Line a baking sheet with some grease proof paper
  3. For the pastry. Place the water in the bowl along with the butter and place on a hot hob and bring to the boil. In the meantime sift the flour into a mixing bowl. Once the water/butter has reached boiling point take it off the heat and beat into the flour until smooth. Set aside to cool for 10 mins. Now beat in enough of the eggs bit by bit until you reach a smooth soft mixture. At this point you can either spoon out the mixture or put it into a piping bag and pipe it into small balls on the baking sheet. Bake for 25 mins and when ready pierce with a skewer to release steam.
  4. For the cream filling simply whisk the ingredients together until it stiffens. When filling cut the pastry half way around and fill with the cream filling.
  5. To make the sauce place the ingredients into a heatproof bowl and put over a small saucepan of simmering water to melt, stir to combine well. 
  6. Serve however you like and pour the delicious sauce over.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

How to make a fondant Santa with cake crafter Paul Callaghan

This is the video demo I made along with Caroline Gray from Easy Food Magazine. It shows how to make a very simple fondant Santa for the top of a Christmas cake. It was made in Dublin a few weeks back.
My cakes blog is up for new views and new members so if you haven't already seen it pop over to Cakes By Calso Cooks it is all about the world and art of sugar craft and I hope to add more video tutorials in the new year.

In addition to all this going on, my book 'Calso Cooks: Real Food Made Easy' is only a 5 weeks away from hitting the shelves... nervous, excited... terrified!!! I can't believe how fast this has all come around, submitting the book to Mercier Press on Easter Monday (which just happened to be April Fools Day) seems like only a couple of months ago now... so much has changed since that both career and personal life. My God when I think of it, it is only a little over a year from I was down in Cork signing the contract with them and meeting the team!

But yes the book is out in the first week in January... I can't wait to give my Mother a copy, to say she is proud is a slight understatement, I really wish my Father was around to see this but her pride is easing that gap, a lot!
Amy text me bright and early one morning there a few weeks ago to say that she spotted my book for pre-sale on Amazon, I believe it is on all the book sites but I refuse to Google myself, so check it out for yourselves.
So bring on Christmas and the New Year and see what 2014 has in store for me...

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Courgette Risotto with pan fried Chicken

There are certain words I normally try and stay away from, especially when describing food... Awesome, sensational and spectacular to name a few as I find they can be overused and can lead to disappointment after trying a recipe. However this Risotto is awesome, the texture is sensational and by god the flavours are spectacular!!!
There is numerous green veg you can use here instead of courgettes if you wish like broccoli, asparagus, green beans etc. 
This is good homely comfort food at its best!

Serves 4:
3 shallots
A knob of butter
2 fat cloves of garlic
2 large courgettes
4 plum tomatoes 
200g risotto rice
100ml dry white wine
700ml of good chicken stock
2 tablespoons of chopped chives and basil
4 skinless chicken breast fillets
1-2 tablespoons of mascarpone (or soft cheese)
Olive oil
sea salt and black pepper


  • Chop the courgettes and tomatoes into small bite size pieces, finely chop the shallots and mince the garlic.
  • Heat the butter and a tablespoon of oil in a saucepan on a medium heat and saute the shallots and garlic for about 5 mins until softened.
  • Stir in the rice and toast gently for 2 mins then add in the wine and turn the heat up and boil until the liquid is all absorbed. Stirring all the time. 
  • Heat the stock to a gentle simmer and add about a quarter to the rice. Simmer uncovered and stirring frequently until the stock has been absorbed into the rice. Next add a ladle of stock and add in the courgettes, again allow the stock to be absorbed before adding more. Then add the remaining stock ladle by ladle (continue stirring frequently) each time waiting until it has all been absorbed before adding the next ladle. The rice grains should be plump but keeping a 'bite'.
  • In the meantime pan fry the chicken fillets about 5 mins each side, seasoning as you go, until cooked right through.
  • When the risotto is nearly ready,add in the tomatoes, herbs and mascarpone (or soft cheese), mix in well and season to taste.
  • Divide out into 4 portions and roughly cut up the chicken fillets and add to the top, garnish with some fresh basil.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

So what is "Depression?"

So what is depression?
Well I don't know what depression is to you, or her, or him... but I do know what it is for me!
Depression is negativity, its the little bastard on your shoulder that uses words like 'no, can't, don't, won't, never, what if, but, might not'... except he is not red, doesn't have horns or a pitch fork... no, he is the ugly side of you, the side of you that gets angry at nothing, that stresses over the wee things, the ugly prick that won't let things go, that keep's nit picking at you. The side of you that if you seen in another person you would stay to hell away from and think he is a tosser!

So what is depression?
Depression is you screaming out loud but nobody can hear you... like your sitting under a big fuck off glass. Like you are screaming in your own head to try to hurt your mind so it stops thinking bad thoughts. it is wanting to hurt yourself... anything... drive your fist into a fucking wall if you think it would relieve some built up pressure, like the pressure under your thumb nail when you hit it with a hammer... that except in your mind and all over your body, the claustrophobia of your mind being inside you... imagine that, being claustrophobic of your own being... stepping outside for fresh air does not relieve that!!! You cant get away from that... strong painkillers can't even relieve that, trust me I've tried! But somehow you can walk out of the house, 5 minutes later be at an event, turn on the charm, the chat and to everyone else you are Paul... not a trouble in the world, loadsa good things going on.. yaaaay fucking hooray!!

So what is depression?
Depression is shutting up shop. Its not only closing the door, pulling the blinds... have you seen 'I am legend'?? its that, it is being in your own world and when it so tickles your fancy, it is you closing the steel shutters, bolting them and lying in the empty bath with tears rolling down your cheeks.. but all of this is in your head, this is then how you close out the ones you love... girlfriend, mother, sister that lives nearby, brothers, sisters, neighbours, friends etc etc. This is how you close into yourself, hate yourself despise your ugly self... how can you show your true feelings when you have built a safe house within your own head, a fortress.

So what is depression?
Depression is wanting someone to help but not... it is hating the pain and anxiety but somehow liking it. I sometimes expect everyone to realise what it is I'm dealing with even though I know that unless you have been there, how the fuck are you supposed to know? If anyone ever had said the word 'depressed' in front of my father, his exact words would have been 'ack, depressed my arse', so you can imagine the sense of pride I feel right now!!! Zero... zilch!!! Wanting someone to know how you feel and getting frustrated when they don't, is like a physicist getting annoyed and frustrated and wanting to scream 'why cant you just see what I'm talking about???' to a regular Joe Soap when trying to explain physics in a single broken sentence!

So what is depression?
Depression is the anxiety, the panic, the stress, the negativity, the pre-mentioned fucker on your shoulder, the so many good things going on but you can't see it, the worst mother fucking big assed party on a spinning merry-go-round that you can't escape from... the nightmare you can't waken up from, you know that moment when you are going to be caught and you waken up? But this time you don't wake, the horror catches you, grabs you, smothers all around you and doesn't let go. The going to see a doctor and feeling like a reject from Gods ass.

So what is depression?
Well I don't know what depression is to you, or her, or him... but I do know what it is for me!
Depression is 5 years now of constant daily battles... some days an easy push over and have a good day, other days of 'a game of 2 halves' and other days of emotion wrecking, head melting, mind fucking bullshit that you want to get rid off no matter what the consequences...
That is depression for me... no cry for help, no attention seeking, no poetry, no bullshit. Just the truth of the fight that some people go through

So what is depression?            It is a fight with yourself.     It is 'The Dark Side'.

Friday, 1 November 2013

Off the beaten track: A long story short

Oh it has been a busy time, so much so that I have let things slip... my fitness, my health both mental and physical, my blogging etc... Although all my while being busy and still moving forward in the right direction it has stalled, altered and spiraled off in different side paths.
Its easy to sometimes go with the flow, but thats not me, I dont want to move with the crowd, I want to move the crowd, there is a huge difference. Since the day and hour I picked up a shovel on my first day labouring to a squad of plasterers when I was 17 years old I knew that I wanted to always better my life... I dont know what it was, maybe it was because I knew what a days work was, maybe it was because I had just lost my father, maybe it was because fate had tossed me head first into the real world at rock bottom and said 'hey, there is a shovel, start building your future'. Who knows, all I know is that it was the defining moment/day in my life because it opened my eyes to life. But I dont want to follow the crowd, I wasnt made for that, manys a person is all for that and that is fine, I just know its not me.

From that first day on a building site in Cullaville on the border i strived to do better than anyone else, even better than I knew I was capable of, after labouring for 2 years on less than minimum wage without a cent of an increase I asked to be put 'on the tools' (I had asked all along but kept being brushed off) They put me on them now and again for a few months, so I'd work twice as hard and fast to keep 4 men in supply so I could get a chance to lift the tools and coat a wall or 2 myself before they ran low again... it was merciless work... stupid in hindsight but it got me using the tools and doing better work that another guy that worked for them who was in his 3rd years apprenticeship. After the few months of this I knew my worth and by god I was worth more than £21 a day, so I quit, moved to Belfast and called a guy that had advertised in the paper that he was looking fully qualified plasterers... I will have to admit I lied my ass off to him.. told him I was in my 4th year apprenticeship but was well advanced- not that I had done maybe 3 months off and on... but first day on the job, no questions where asked, I put the head down and worked my socks off, the Friday came and I got handed £450 into my hand as opposed to the £105 I had be used to.
Moral  of that story... know what you are worth and go out and get what your worth, if you can do something then do it to the best of your ability!!

From that I had an accident, messed up my back... out of hospital and on the same day I walked down the Royal Avenue in Belfast, into Topman and asked for a job... I started the next week selling suits and personal shopping, from that 8 months later I got offered a managers position in another Clothes shop D2 and took it. worked there for a year and realised I could go no further so I quit and moved home. Helped my brother lay wooden floors for a while but the work was scarce. Took up the plastering tools again and within 2 years I was running my own very successful plastering business, had my brother Carl as my right hand man and we where the most sought after plasterers in the Monaghan/Cavan areas.
Moral of that story... whatever it is you do, you are not stuck in it, you always have a choice and can start a fresh somewhere else.

When the recession hit, it hit hard. I had to close up my business and face lazy built up debts (so much was taken for granted in the boom time). So I moved to Clare, started a handyman business doing everything and anything to keep a roof over my head... fell deep into depression from the business closure, debts and issues in my head. Starting a kitchen garden turned my life around, growing my own and teaching myself to cook from it ignited a passion that I never knew existed. from this I got into the baking and celebration cake making, have my first cookbook coming out in 2 months time and am striving to become the best at what I do.
Moral of that story... J.K. Rowling summed it up by saying "Rock bottom became a solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life".

But as I say its easy to let things slip from time to time, let quarrels, issues, anxiety, panic attacks, stress, work, fear and depression get in the way... all of which are tests, fuck it life is a test, how do we respond to it? Let it rule us, get sucked in to the dramas and bullshit that inevitably will raise its ugly head? Or do we take charge, get into the right mindset and and go out and get what we are worth...
Lots of people want to be average, lots of people want to be better but end up average... I want to be better, I will be better and I will always push myself to be better. And its not about ego or pride or anything like that, it is about wanting to make a great life for you and the people you love.

I had one of my brothers lecture me recently, saying that I was chasing rainbows, would never be happy, always do my best and get as far as I can go but am still not content... damn fucking right thats not good enough for me.. whats wrong with bettering yourself and working hard to be the best at whatever it is that you do... you might not get there but at least you are trying...
Moral of that story is too obscene to print, but draw your own conclusion!

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Hangover cure

A hangover cure or just a Sunday morning treat, either way this is the business for satisfying your needs.
I use a bacon joint on a regular basis, cook it up during the week then it provides great sandwich fillers, pizza toppings or editions to regular dishes for a salty kick. So it slots in here nicely although you can use regular bacon rashers grilled nice and crispy instead.


Serves 2:
2 eggs
2 small Panini’s
4 rashers of bacon
1 little gem lettuce
Light mayonnaise
1 large tomato

Poach the eggs but keeping them soft. In the meantime on a medium/high grill, grill the rashers of bacon until crispy on both sides, remove and allow to drain off on kitchen paper.
Assemble the B.E.L.T by slicing the Panini’s in half lengthways, place on a few leaves of the little gem lettuce, and add a tablespoon of mayo. Thinly slice the tomato and add a few slices topped with the crispy bacon and the poached egg.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Guess who's back?!

Apologies... I have been missing in action since April... huge life changes, incidents and accidents. But I'm back now and back with a vengeance. My first cook book is in the middle stages of the editorial work, so I have been proof reading and received a sneak peak last week of how it will look and am delighted to say they took fully on board my vision for the layout. So exciting times lay ahead and the book will be released in early January.

In other news, I recently fell from a ladder... a disagreement between myself and a bat. I'm bad enough with rodents, but give the buggers wings and have it fly at your face and I'd gladly let go of the ladder to get away from it again!! The result... a cracked rib, concussion and a bleed in my kidney. A few sore weeks followed but I'm back to my best again with the odd sore moments from the ribs.

I managed to get myself a part time job also, working in a kitchenware/bake ware shop in Ennis here, so a few days a week and I'm outta the house and getting into a nice routine. The job suits me down to the ground at the moment, I'm loving it! My manager has given me permission to work on the blog here while things are quiet so it will give me the perfect opportunity to blog more and keep on top of everything for once.

I have exciting things coming up with Easy Food Magazine and The Irish Sun, and a new positive influence in my life is making things pretty damn great at the moment... it has been a very tough time I've come through, and I have been through a lot but things are on the way up. Determination and desire has never been higher and I plan to make the most of these opportunities I have worked my ass for. Time to kick ass!

So here is a recipe from my up coming book, hope you give it a try, it's really worthwhile.

Caramelised Red Onion and Cherry Tomato Tartlets

Makes 8 tartlets:

1 pack of puff pastry
2 medium red onions
A knob of butter and a splash of oil
150g cherry tomatoes
2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar
8-10 basil leaves
1 small clove of garlic
1 teaspoon of white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon of olive oil
Sea salt and black pepper
Caramelised red onion and cherry tomato tartlets


Roll out the pastry 5mm thick, cut squares roughly 3x3 inches using a knife or pizza cutter. Don’t be too fussy. Using the tip of a sharp knife cut a border ¼ cm from the edge, without cutting the whole way through. Place the squares on greaseproof paper on a baking sheet and pop in the fridge until needed.
Peel and finely slice the onions. Place a small saucepan on a medium high heat on the hob and add the butter and oil, to this add in the onions, cover with a lid and cook for 8-10 mins stirring occasionally. Turn the heat up full and once the pan is hot add the balsamic vinegar. Stir until the vinegar has evaporated and the onions are nicely caramelised.
Preheat the oven to 200°c.
Halve the cherry tomatoes and add to a mixing bowl, mince in the garlic, roughly chop the basil leaves and add to the bowl, also add in the white wine vinegar and olive oil. Season with sea salt and black pepper and allow to marinate for 5 mins.
Remove the pastry squares from the fridge and spoon some of the red onion on each, ensuring you stay within the scored border. Place about 4-5 cherry tomato halves on top and place in the preheated oven and bake for 15-20 mins until the pastry is golden.

Caramelised red onion and cherry tomato tartlets

Thursday, 18 April 2013

1 Year On

There are plenty of quick fixes out there for weight loss and getting in shape, but the one thing that will stick is a bit of hard work and determination. A natural healthy balance diet while still enjoying treats, along with a decent fitness plan and the determination to succeed was the basis of my last year.

I had put on a lot of weight since my plastering days came to an end and depression kicked in... comfort eating and excess drinking led to me making myself unhappier with myself... a vicious circle.

This is the last post I make on the whole weight loss journey, it had been challenging but fun, and very very worth it. This week last year I decided to change my ways, I was in a dark place, felt and looked like a different person and I knew that the only person that could change that was me.. and the help and encouragement of those around me.

I took the wild notion of running around and through Ireland, you know like any sane person would do. my training was strict and challenging but I done what needed to be done. The run itself was not as successful as I had hoped, I tensed up and a tensed up body + pounding the road for 419 miles = ruptured tendons and broken bones. But I finished as I could between crutches and a lot of hobbling. After the run was finished I didn't train until 2-3 months later and put some of the weight back on... but am happy to say that I am at my target 12.5 stone weight having come down from just over 14 stone.

So that's it, I'm not going to drone on... there was no quick fix for me, it was done naturally and took 12 months, but for those who want to do something similar... start now and think how you will feel in 12 months time!!

As for me I will continue training... I've come this far to stop now. I feel strong, fit and healthy both physically and mentally.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Beetroot, Black Pudding and Pomegranate Salad

Beetroot, Black Pudding and Pomegranate Salad

This is epic, the earthy flavours from the beetroot and the black pudding up against the sharpness from the pomegranate along with the tang from the feta cheese… well it works, it works so well.

Serves 2:
4-6 pre-cooked baby beetroots
1 small black pudding
1 pomegranate
1 lemon
Olive oil
1-2 little gem lettuce
Feta cheese
Sea salt and black pepper


Cut the pre-cooked beetroots into quarters and slice the black pudding into 1cm slices. Place a medium frying pan on a medium high heat and add a splash of oil, fry the black pudding slices for 2 minutes, turn them over and add in the beetroot, a squeeze of pomegranate juice and a squeeze of lemon juice, cook for a further 3 mins until the pudding slices are cooked and the beets warmed through. Set aside.

In a bowl dress a large handful of rocket with good olive oil. Carefully pull the leaves from the little gem lettuces keeping them intact.

To serve the salad, place 4 little gem lettuce leaves on each plate so they look like little bowls, divide the rocket between all the ‘bowls’ and divide out the pudding and beets on top of the rocket. Tap out the pomegranate seeds over the dish and crumble off little wedges of the feta cheese. Season the salad with a squeeze of lemon juice and a pinch of salt and pepper.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Avocado, Crispy Bacon and Lime on Toast

Avocado, Crispy Bacon and Lime on Toast

Hey… you… yes you reading this… do yourself a favour and make this recipe.
I use this for a breakfast where I can take my time to savour and enjoy! It is also great for a light lunch, I try and use nice fresh rye bread or a spelt and honey loaf. The addition of butter or margarine is not needed on the toast as the avocado it nice and soft and eliminates the need… in my humble opinion. Try and get the bacon nice and crispy and the fatty bits slightly charred for maximum flavour.

Calories 1532
383 per portion
Serves 4:
2 ripe avocados
Juice of a lime
8 slices of streaky bacon
8 thick slices of rye bread (or similar)
Parsley to garnish

Halve, de-stone and slice the avocado into 1cm slices, remove the skin. Place in a large bowl and drizzle the lime juice over, season will with salt and pepper and give it all a good toss and set aside for 10 mins.

In the meantime grill the streaky bacon until well coloured both sides and set on kitchen paper to crisp up.
Toast the thick bread slices then arrange the avocado slices on top, add the crispy bacon over these and lightly spoon over any remaining juice from the bowl. 

Garnish with parsley and serve immediately.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Light Lemon Meringue

Lemon Meringue

I've been so busy lately writing, cooking and photographing for my book, along with starting back into gardening, cake making, everyday household tasks and still some handyman work... that it's easy to set the blog to one side... but I cant do that!! 
My whole blog needs a major makeover, I have really stepped up a gear lately with my food that the blog is looking a bit dated, but that makeover definitely wont happen until at least April. So for now I'll keep plugging away and do what I can do... here is a recipe for all to try.

A homemade lemon meringue can seem daunting to some people, all I can say is this… follow this set of instructions and it won’t go wrong. you can buy pastry cases already made or make a simple shortcrust pastry case yourself.

1 9inch bought pastry case (or make your own, see below)
280g sugar
30g cornflour
A pinch of salt
250ml boiling water
125ml lemon juice
Zest of 3 lemons grated
2 eggs (1 whole and one yolk)
A teaspoon of butter

3 large egg whites
A pinch of salt
A dash of vanilla extract
115g caster sugar

Lemon Meringue Pie


In a large saucepan, whisk together the sugar, cornflour and salt. Slowly pour in the boiling water while whisking to make a smooth sauce. Place the saucepan on a medium heat and continue whisking while bringing to the boil, reduce the heat slightly and cook for a further 2 mins without whisking. Remove from the heat.

In a small mixing bowl whisk the lemon juice, zest and 1 egg and 1 egg yolk together. Carefully whisk a little of the cooked hot sauce into the lemon/egg mix then whisk this all back into the cooked hot sauce in the saucepan. Return the saucepan back onto a medium heat and while stirring bring to a simmer, add the butter and continue stirring until it thickens (this can take a while but stick with it). Once thickened remove from the heat and pour into the pastry case and allow to cool so it starts to set.

In the meantime, get to making the meringue. In a clean large mixing bowl add the egg whites. Whisk them until light and frothy then add the salt and vanilla extract, whisk this well in until it forms soft peaks. Add the caster sugar a tablespoon at a time while continually whisking until all the sugar is used and the meringue forms stiff peaks. Using a spatula scrape out the meringue on top of the pie and using a pallet knife gently spread it evenly. Pat the meringue with the pallet knife all over to form peaks.

Place the pie into the oven at 170c and bake for about 15 mins until the peaks have coloured. Remove from the oven and allow to cool fully before serving. Normally about 2 hours. 

Homemade shortcrust pastry:

125g plain flour
A pinch of salt
55g cubed butter
2-3 tablespoons of cold water

Place the flour, salt and butter into the food processor and pulse until the butter is fully mixed through and it looks like fine breadcrumbs. With the motor still running pour the water in bit by bit until it just forms a dough.
Remove it from the mixer and wrap in cling film. Chill for at least 20 mins before rolling out with a rolling pin.
Roll out to suit your dish then blind bake for 20 mins at 180c.
(to blind bake, roll out bigger than your dish so it over hangs all around the dish then line the pastry with parchment paper and pour in ceramic beans to weigh down the pastry, alternatively you can use uncooked rice.)
When cooked trim off the edges.
Shortcrust Pastry

Monday, 11 February 2013

Pancake Tuesday

Best of both Pancakes

Pancake Tuesday is upon us again.. here is my way of making pancakes, simple but effective!

Makes around 6 pancakes:

5 heaped tablespoons of plain flour
5 heaped tablespoons of wholemeal flour
Pinch of salt
2 eggs
Skimmed milk


Spoon both flours into a mixing bowl, add pinch of salt.

Pour in a cup of milk and crack 2 eggs in.

Give it all a good whisk and add more milk if required, your looking for the consistency of double cream.

Pop a pan on a hot hob and put a light drizzle of oil, wait until pan starts to smoke a little and pour some mixture in the center. Lift the pan and rotate your wrist around spreading the mixture.

After a minute flip it over using a fish slice. Another minute or 2 should see it through. You only need to flip it the once!

Serve however you see fit… its butter and sugar for me!

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Chinese Chicken and Sweetcorn Soup

Chinese Chicken and Sweetcorn Soup

I love this soup, authentic Chinese food is what I aim to cook, and you can be guaranteed that the Chinese people do not eat the kinda food we get in Ireland in their takeaways. There is a little bit more work in this soup than in most others but it is worth it.

Serves 6:

1 large chicken fillet
1 litre of chicken stock
A dash of sesame oil
An inch sized piece of ginger
1 tin of sweetcorn
2 tablespoons of corn flour
2 egg whites
Spring onion to garnish


Poach the chicken fillet by covering it with water in a medium saucepan, place it on a high heat until it starts to bubble then reduce to an easy simmer for 20 mins until cooked and tender. Remove it from the water and allow cooling on a plate, reserving the cooking water for later. When the fillet is cool shred it by pulling it into long thin strips.

In a large saucepan pour in a litre of stock and a dash of sesame oil, grate in the ginger and add the sweetcorn from the tin. Place on a high heat and bring to the boil. In the meantime using some of the poaching water in a cup; make a thin paste with the corn flour. Also beat the 2 egg white lightly with another dash of the poaching water in a separate cup.

When the large saucepan has reached boiling point, add the shredded chicken, return to the boil and stir in the corn flour paste. Now from a height of about 15cm gently drizzle in the egg white mix while stirring (this will ensure it doesn't clump together and that it will cook fully).

Check for seasoning and add a pinch of salt if needed. Serve with a garnish of spring onion cut on the diagonal.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Sweet and Sour Pork

Sweet and Sour Pork

Here is a great recipe for January, it's quite low in fat and its a hot enough sweet and sour to warm you up in the dark cold evenings. Pork fillet is lean and to make it even more so, trim away any excess fat on the outside of it although there shouldn't be much at all.

I love cooking these kinda meals in the dark evenings, Ciara normally only gets home from work about 8.10 so I start head into the kitchen (if I'm not in it already) about 7.30 to get dinner on. I normally don't like eating dinner that late unless we are out for a meal but that's life for you, it's an excuse not to load up on portion sizes and that way Ciara get's to take the left overs for her lunch to work the next day.

I serve this with fried brown rice, but you can serve it with boiled rice, egg noodles etc. also, feel free to load more veg into it to fill up on the good stuff, mushrooms, broccoli, cauliflower, courgette, squash etc.

Calories 686
343 per portion
(Add 218 pp for brown rice)
Serves 2:

200g pork fillet
Sea salt and black pepper
1 onion
 1 red pepper
1 yellow pepper
1 fat clove of garlic
Half a small red chilli
A thumb sized piece of ginger
Rapeseed oil
1 teaspoon of Chinese five-spice
1 tablespoon of corn flour
3 tablespoons of dark soy sauce
A small tin of pineapple chunks
2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar
Coriander leaves to garnish


Cut the pork fillet length-ways down the middle then cut each side into cubes and season with the salt and pepper. Peel, halve and chop the onion into chunks. De-seed the peppers and chop into bite size pieces. Finely slice the garlic, chilli and ginger.

Heat a large frying pan or wok on a high heat, when hot add the rapeseed oil along with the pork pieces, immediately sprinkle over the Chinese five-spice and brown off the pork for a few minutes. Remove into a clean bowl using a slotted spoon.

Give the pan/wok a wipe down then return to the heat, add more oil then add all the chopped vegetables. Cook this all for about 2 mins stirring frequently. Stir in the corn flour and add the soy sauce, cook for a further minute then add back in the pork along with the pineapple chunks, their juice and the balsamic vinegar.

Check the seasoning and cook for a further few mins ensuring the pork is cooked through (break a piece open to check). Simmer for a few mins until sauce thickens if needed.
Serve with fried rice and a garnish of coriander leaves.

Monday, 7 January 2013

I'm a bad blogger, but I'm writing a fupping cookbook!

Its the start of a brand spanking new year, 2013 and its not looking in anyway unlucky to me.
After my bizarre exploits of last year, this year is looking just as action packed but thankfully jogging will be taking a back seat. Last year I ran, walked and hobbled around Ireland for charity, something I would do again... but taking a years break from that will suit me down to the ground!

After my run finished and I was in recovery I got some great news, the publishers Mercier Press wanted me to write a cookbook, something I had aimed to achieve. So this is my excuse for not blogging of late, I have been flat to the mat experimenting, perfecting, writing, typing and photographing old and new recipes to put in the book... it's all go I can tell you but I'm loving every minute of it!!!

This year I plan a big year for my cakes, I've fallen in love with making them again after a month or so off from taking orders.. my aim as always is to make each one I do (no matter how big or small) the best one I have ever made... in my opinion if you cant bring that attitude into what you do then you may stop doing it and find something that you can work that attitude into. I know I am blessed to be doing something that I love but I did go through a lot of shit jobs to get here and to be honest still do jobs as a handyman that many's a man wouldn't take on with, they are that bad and pointless, but I take them on the chin as the bigger picture is more appealing and lets face it, you gotta paddle through a mountain of crap before you hit the big blue sea!

Well that's me for now as I'm up to my neck in glorious work!!

I will blog better in future and more recipes and gardening to come real soon but for now I'll take my punishment like a man... 100 lines...

I must be a better blogger
I must be a better blogger
I must be a better blogger
I must be a better blogger
I must be a better blogger
I must be a better blogger
I must be a better blogger
I must be a better blogger
I must be a better blogger
I must be a better blogger
I must be a better blogger
I must be a better blogger

Ah to hell with that... sue me ;)

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