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!
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