Friday, 26 December 2014

Turkey and Leek Pie

I hope everyone had a great Christmas day yesterday!!!

This is my Traditional Boxing Day dinner and this year will be no exception to that.
The recipe I had here in the book is for a turkey fillet but obviously turkey leftovers from yesterday will work perfectly.

Turkey and Leek Pie
This pie came about from having leftover turkey from Christmas. I had big juicy fat leeks that had been in my garden all over the hard winter and an on the spot sauce… it worked, it worked very well indeed. Now it is a great way of using up left overs but I now buy turkey fillets in the supermarket. Turkey is such a lean meat (the leanest of all) and I have been using it a lot to make dinners healthier.

Serves 4:
1 turkey fillet roughly 750g (or leftovers)
2-3 rashers of smoked streaky bacon
Knob of butter
3 trimmed and washed leeks
2 cloves of garlic
Juice of half a lemon
200g of soft cheese
150ml milk
2 tablespoons of wholegrain mustard
Half a nutmeg
Sea salt & black pepper
Pastry (shop bought puff pastry or get my recipe here)
1 egg

Preheat oven at 190°c. Cut turkey into bite sized cubes and set aside. Cut up bacon and add to a saucepan with melted butter, fry off for a few minutes until coloured and crispy.
Slice the leeks and finely chop the garlic and add them to the bacon in the saucepan, sweat these for about ten minutes over a medium heat stirring occasionally to prevent them from catching.

Season the turkey pieces and add them into the saucepan, brown them off and squeeze the juice of half a lemon for some acidity. Season everything well. Stir in the soft cheese and milk, bring to the brink of a boil and add the mustard and grate a half of nutmeg over and give another good stir to infuse the flavours. Reduce the heat to a simmer.
Let this mixture simmer for 5-10 minutes to thicken the sauce (add more milk if you want a little more), check the taste and season if required. Take of the heat and pour into a suitable sized oven dish.
Roll out your pastry bigger than the size of the oven dish. Lay it over the top and tuck the sides in… if a side is too big just simply cut it off. Stab the pastry a few times with a knife to let the steam out. Whisk up an egg and brush it over the pastry.
Place it in the oven for 25-30 minutes until the pastry is golden

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Chocolate Biscuit Christmas Pudding

I made this Christmas pudding alternative live on Late Lunch Live on TV3 yesterday for Mr Martin King and Miss Louise Duffy along with their guests and crew.It proved very popular with everyone and the viewers so here is the recipe.
Please try this out over the Christmas period and have a safe and peaceful Christmas... Thank you for your wonderful support through what has been a tough year losing my mum. xx

Calso’s Chocolate biscuit cake recipe

This recipe has proved very successful in my cake making days, I took it from a recipe I had seen online but over time I have changed it to suit myself and the result has the ‘wow factor’. It has been my secret recipe but now it is time to share it on!!
In this case this amount will fill a 3 pint pudding bowl, or it will be perfect for an 8 inch round cake tin (if using a tin, make sure to line it with parchment paper).

330g unsalted buttered (room temp)
454g tin of golden syrup
300g good quality milk chocolate
200g good quality dark chocolate
1 packet Rich Tea biscuits
1 packet choc chip cookies
1 ‘share’ pouch Malteasers
3 Crunchie bars

Heat a large heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water (ensure the water is not touching the bottom of the bowl). Cube the butter and add it in along with the syrup and gently melt both down together. Break up the milk and dark chocolate and carefully add to the mix, allow it to melt in, stirring occasionally. Use the butter wrapper to grease the inside of the pudding bowl.

In the meantime, pour the Rich Tea biscuits into a good sized sandwich bag and lightly bash with a rolling pin, you want a mix of crumbs and bigger bite sized pieces. Pour these into a large mixing bowl. Repeat this step for the cookies also. Open the packet of Malteasers (and have one as a treat) also open the 3 Crunchies and coarsely chop into bite sized pieces. Add these and the Malteasers to the bowl and give it all a good mix.

The chocolate should be melted down by now, if so, remove from the heat (using oven gloves to prevent being scalded by steam) and give it all a good stir around until you reach a good even chocolaty consistency. Carefully pour this into the biscuit bowl and give it all a good mix around with a wooden spoon ensuring it is all well combined. Pour into the buttered pudding mould (or lined 8 inch tin), give it a few slams down on the counter top and firm down using a potato masher to get rid of any air pockets. Allow it to cool down slightly and smooth over with a pallet knife.

Pop into the fridge for a minimum of 8 hours, but preferably overnight.  To remove from the mould, allow it to come to room temperature and it should slide from the bowl… with a little coaxing. *you can always line the bowl with cling film to make this easier.

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Christmas Day Starter Ideas

Here are some quick and simple Christmas Day starter ideas that will 'wow' the family this December 25th

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… oh 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.

Caramelised Red Onion and Cherry Tomato Tartlets
I love these tartlets, the sweetness from the red onions, smacked by the sharpness of the balsamic vinegar and brought harmoniously together with a Mediterranean combo… elegant and pretty but pack a severe flavour punch.

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

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.

 Goat’s Cheese and Spiced Pear Salad
I tasted this in a restaurant one night and thought ‘I have to make this’. It was first time I tasted goat’s cheese… yum!! The dressing is as close as I could remember and after a few attempts this one worked best. I have put in recipe to use spices of your choice, I use whatever jumps out at me when I open the cupboard. You can simply use All Spice!

Serves 4:
2 tins of quartered pears
Sprinkle of spices of your choice or All spice
Pine nuts
300g goats cheese
Fresh rocket
Sun dried tomatoes

See below

Open and drain the pears, cut the quarters into half again and sprinkle well with spices. Place on an oiled baking tray and bung into a preheated oven of 180ºc. They will take 30 mins or so to soften up and colour slightly.
Toast the pine nuts.
Cut the goat’s cheese into thick slices, place on a sheet of foil on a baking tray and grill on a medium high heat until bubbling and coloured slightly.
To plate up, place a handful of dressed rocket leaves on centre of plate with the goat’s cheese on top. Place the spiced pears around with the sun dried tomatoes. Sprinkle over with toasted pine nuts and spoon over some dressing.

Sticky Red Wine Reduction Dressing
Glass of red wine
50ml balsamic vinegar
Splash of soy sauce
Splash of oyster sauce
Tablespoon of honey
Sea salt & black pepper
Glug of olive oil


Pour the red wine into a small pan and bring to the boil, let it reduce by half then add the balsamic, soy, oyster sauce, honey and black pepper. Give it all a good mix and cook for a further 2 mins then allow to cool slightly. Pour it into a clean jar with the oil and with the lid on tight, give it a good shake.

Smoked Mackerel Paté
This is so simple but hits the spot well spread along bread or crackers of your choice!

Serves: 8 

  • 225g (8 oz) smoked mackerel
  • 100g (4 oz) mascarpone cheese
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon prepared horseradish
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 pinch ground cayenne pepper
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped red onion
  • salt to taste

  • Method

  • Crumble the smoked mackerel. Place mackerel and mascarpone cheese into a food processor. Blend well using the pulse setting.
  • Transfer mackerel mixture to a medium bowl. Mix in the lemon juice, horseradish, mustard, cayenne pepper, red onion and salt.
  • Chill in the fridge until using

    Pollock and Tomato Chowder
    Without boring you with the details, Pollock is a more sustainable fish compared to Cod or Haddock. It basically means it hasn’t been as widely fished as the previously mentioned, it is very similar to Cod and to be perfectly honest you would be fine pushed to taste the difference, so much so that it has emerged in recent years that Pollock has been sold in various places throughout Ireland and the UK as ‘Cod’.

    Serves 4
    Rapeseed oil
    2 medium onions
    2-3 sticks of celery
    2 medium carrots
    2 large potatoes
    1 green pepper
    A sprig of thyme and a bay leaf tied
    400g tin of chopped tomatoes
    900ml fish or veg stock
    Sea salt and black pepper
    A few dashes of tabasco sauce
    600g of Pollock fillets
    A bunch of parsley

    Peel and chop the onions, carrots and potato, chop the celery and deseed and slice the green pepper.
    Heat the oil in a large saucepan, when hot add the onion and celery and cook until softened, add the carrots, potatoes, pepper and tied herbs. Cook for a further 6-7 mins then add in the chopped tomatoes and stock. Bring to the boil then reduce to a steady simmer for 8 mins. Add some black pepper and a few dashes of tabasco sauce.
    Season the Pollock fillets with sea salt and black pepper and lay them on top of the veg in the saucepan, cover with a lid and continue to simmer for 3-4 mins until the fish is cooked through. Using a wooden spoon, gently break up the fish into chunks into the broth.
    Divide the chowder into separate bowls and garnish with some freshly chopped parsley.

    Pear and parsnip soup
    This soup may look pale but it is brimming with flavour. There are natural fats and sugar content in both pears and parsnips but the key word there is ‘natural’.

    Serves 4-6:
    1 large onion
    3 cloves of garlic
    2-3 sticks of celery
    2 medium-large potatoes
    3 large parsnips
    Sea salt and black pepper
    700ml chicken or vegetable stock
    3-4 medium pears
    Half a teaspoon of nutmeg
    A level teaspoon of cinnamon
    Rapeseed oil
    Parsley to garnish

    Prepare all the ingredients first. Peel and roughly chop the onion and garlic, trim and chop the celery, peel and chop the potatoes and parsnips and core(no need to peel) and chop the pears.
    Place a large saucepan over a medium heat and add a decent splash of rapeseed oil and let it heat, to this add the onion and garlic and sweat off for a few mins, stirring frequently, to soften but not colour. Now add the celery and cook for a further 2 mins then add the potatoes and parsnips with a good pinch of salt and pepper and stir for a further 2 mins. Add in the stock, whack the heat up full and bring to the boil, when it reaches boiling point, turn the heat down to a steady simmer for ten mins. Add the pears, nutmeg and cinnamon and stir well and allow to simmer for a further 10 mins.
    Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly before blitzing with either a hand blender or in a jug blender in batches, returning to a clean saucepan. Check the seasoning and adjust if needed.
    Serve with some fresh parsley and fresh brown bread.

    Tuesday, 16 December 2014

    Christmas Dessert Ideas

    Christmas dinners can be pretty standard for most people, as in turkey, ham, sprouts, roasties, veg and gravy... and at the end of the day that is brilliant... it is tradition!

    But starters and desserts can still leave some people stuck for ideas. In this post I am going to cover 5 different but very easy and wonderfully tasty ideas. Desserts that can be made up a day or even 2 days in advance so it takes the pressure of on Christmas day. Ps... you're welcome! ;)

    After Eight Cheesecake
    This cheesecake is very light and the mint helps a full belly after a hearty main course. It is very quick and easy to make and can be made a day in advance to take a bit of pressure off if you have guests coming. Just cover with clingfilm and it will quite happily sit in your fridge overnight.

    Serves 6-8:
    15 digestive biscuits
    50g butter
    1 box of After Eight dinner mints (2 boxes if decorating like mine)
    300g low fat soft cheese
    90g sugar
    1 pint of double cream

    Put the digestive biscuits into a large strong sandwich bag and bash with a rolling pin or put through a blender to crush up. Melt down the butter over a medium heat and pour over the crushed biscuits in a bowl and mix thoroughly.
    Put the mix into a cake tin and firm down to form a compact even layer. I use a potato masher for this. Place in a fridge for a half hour.
    On a chopping board roughly chop up the contents of one box of After Eight dinner mints, set aside.
    Place the soft cheese and sugar into a bowl, stir to loosen the cheese and pour in the double cream. Whisk this mix until it starts to firm. Add in the chopped dinner mints and whisk the whole mixture again.

    Pour over the top of biscuit base and smooth out with a spatula or to decorate I placed the 2nd box of dinner mints standing around the inside of the cake tin BEFORE POURING THE FILLING IN, so that when you lift off the section of the tin you are left with a 'wall' of dinner mints that are held in place by the cream. 

    Easy Banoffee Pie
    This is so easy and quick to make, it’s definitely one to get the kids involved with especially since the caramel is coming straight from a tin. I add in some food colouring into my whipped double cream just to add a bit of colour and flare to it. Tradition is to have a biscuit base with a Banoffee but I go for a sweet short-crust pastry base… why? Why not!
    If you can make up the pastry case in advance then you will have this made in minutes.

    Serves 8-10
    1 pre-made sweet pastry case
    1 tin of pre-made caramel
    4 ripe bananas
    1 Crunchie bar
    300ml double cream
    1 teaspoon of vanilla essence
    1 teaspoon food colouring (optional)
    1 bar of dark chocolate to serve

    On the pastry case, spread the caramel into an even layer using a palate knife, peel and slice the bananas at an angle and lay them on the caramel in an even layer, Break up the Crunchie bar and sprinkle over…set aside.
    Whip up the double cream with the vanilla essence until fairly thick. If using the food colour just gently fold it into the cream to create a ripple effect. The cream can be pushed out on top of the pie at this stage using a spatula or put into a piping bag and piped on top.
    To finish, turn the bar of chocolate upside down so the smooth side is pointing up, let it rest on the worktop and against the front of your hip-and with a knife, carefully shave off thin layers pulling the knife towards you firmly on the chocolate. Sprinkle this over the top of the pie and serve.

    Awa’s Key Lime Pie
    Key lime pie is a lot like cheesecake to make, no real time or effort goes into it but by god is it worth making. It is very refreshing and has a beautiful sharpness to it. My sister Andrea made this for me on a visit back up home and I fell in love with it straight away… Thanks Awa ;)
    It can be made in a spring-form tin or in individual portions using pastry rings.

    Serves 8
    15 digestive biscuits
    150g butter
    Juice and zest of 3-4 limes
    A can of condensed milk
    1 pint of double cream

    Place the biscuits into a sandwich bag, seal it and bash the hell out of it with a rolling pin to break up the biscuits. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan and pour in the mashed biscuits, stir well and empty the contents into a 9 inch spring-form tin. Firm down evenly (I find a potato masher works well here) place in the fridge for 20 mins.
    Roll out the limes on the countertop firmly with the palm of your hand to loosen them up. Then zest them with a zester or a small grater (only the green skin though) then halve them and juice them.
    In a large mixing bowl pour in the lime juice, double cream and condensed milk, whisk together until it starts to thicken then add in the lime zest. Whisk again until quite thick. Scoop this mix out on top of the biscuit base, smooth over and return to the fridge for 2 hours to chill.

    Lime Mousse
    These little mousses are simple to make up and can be made well in advance so it takes the pressure off when it comes to cooking dinner. They are really light, sweet and have a nice refreshing sharpness from the lime.

    Makes 4 small mousses:
    1 sheet leaf gelatine
    Juice of 2 limes (about 75ml)
    85g caster sugar
    1 large egg white
    100ml of crème fraiche
    1 lime for zesting

    Soak the gelatine leaf in cold water for a few mins to soften. Put the lime juice in a measuring jug and top up to 100ml with cold water, pour into a small saucepan and add half the sugar, stir over a low heat to dissolve the sugar the bring to a simmer and remove from the heat. Squeeze out the gelatine leaf and add to the lime syrup, stir until it dissolves and allow the mixture to cool completely.
    In a small mixing bowl beat the egg white until it forms stiff peaks, then, a spoonful at a time beat in the rest of the sugar. In a separate bowl lightly beat the crème fraiche then stir the lime syrup into it, it will be very loose but then fold through the meringue mix, spoon this into small serving glasses.
    Chill the mousses in the fridge for a few hours to firm up, serve with some fresh lime zest.

    Red Wine Poached Pears
    These are a little time consuming but very much worth the effort. Not only do they look elegant but they taste superb served with vanilla ice-cream and chopped hazelnuts sprinkled over.

    Serves 4
    400ml red wine
    150g granulated sugar
    2 tablespoon lemon juice
    2 teaspoon vanilla extract
    1 cinnamon stick
    1 star anise
    4 pears

    Combine all the ingredients except for the pears into a suitable sized saucepan that 4 pears will fit into and place on a hot hob. Stir over the heat until the sugar dissolves then bring to the boil and reduce to a steady simmer.
    In the meantime core the pears from the bottom and scoop out the core and seeds without disturbing the top and stem, now carefully peel the pears with a speedy peeler.
    Add the pears to the simmering wine syrup and allow them to simmer untouched for 12-14 mins, then turn them over and simmer for a further 8-10 mins until tender when pierced with a fork. Carefully remove them from the saucepan and allow to cool.
    Turn up the heat and reduce the wine syrup by half and use this to pour over the pears when serving.

    Tuesday, 9 December 2014

    Christmas Dinner Questions Answered

    I am often asked these questions about the main course of Christmas dinner, so here are the regular questions answered...
    I hope you find them useful and informative. Feel free to add any other questions in the comments below and I will get back to you ASAP...

    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
    500g pork mince
    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.

    Sunday, 7 December 2014

    B.E.L.T (Bacon, Egg,Lettuce and Tomato)

    Make your Sunday brunch come alive!!


    This is my version on the classic B.L.T but with the added bonus of a runny poached egg, hence the addition of the ‘E’. Crispy bacon rashers work well here but every now and again I buy a bacon joint, cook it up and then add it to recipes like this just for a slight change and value for money.

    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 keep 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.(Or use a bacon joint like in the pic)

    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.

    Thursday, 4 December 2014

    Butternut Squash, Sage and Crispy Bacon Risotto

    Butternut Squash, Sage and Crispy Bacon Risotto

    I use the term 'comfort food' a lot, it's probably one of the only foodie terms I do use a lot... and if you don't like it you can bugger off! ;)

    But this is comfort food, when I think butternut squash I just think of autumn turning into winter, cold, wet, don't want to stick your head out the door weather... or as we in Ireland call it 'everyday'! Lets face it, it is sometimes hard to notice one season roll into the next here so comfort food is always on the menu. Butternut squash is a great versatile vegetable, one I neglected to grow this year but will definitely be back on the plot next year. It is a very 'meaty' vegetable and can be used like the star of the show or as a backing dancer... something to fill up the stage with. (now you do know I'm not condoning setting up a stage production with vegetables... that's just wrong... what the hell is the matter with you??!!)

     Anyway... I'm drifting here... the other great advantage with butternut squash is that it will last for ages without going spoiled. I have bought one many's a time and overlooked it or just not gotten around to using it for 4, 5, 6 weeks and still it is as fresh as a daisy when I eventually do use it, the tough outer skin protects it from going spoiled.

    Butternut squash and sage work great together, sage and pork are like best buds, combine the 3 along with the creaminess of a risotto and its a match worth trying. I have always said that risotto's are not as hard as most people make them out to be and again, like always, do the simple things right... and you won't go wrong.

    Serves 4:
    200g Arborio rice
    1 medium butternut squash
    2 shallots diced
    2 cloves of garlic diced
    A handful of bacon lardons
    12 leaves of sage chopped-8 more whole
    700ml chicken stock
    1 tablespoon of low-fat soft cheese
    Low fat spray
    Crushed black pepper

    • Peel, de-seed and cube the butternut squash carefully into small bite sized pieces.
    • Spray some low fat oil into a large saucepan and gently fry off the shallots and garlic for 2 mins. Add in the chopped sage and fry off for a further 2 mins.
    • Pour in the rice and stir around for a minute to gently toast then add the cubed squash, to this add a ladle and a half of the stock. Stir around frequently.
    • When this has absorbed pour in another ladle of stock, continue adding the stock ladle by ladle, each time its fully absorbed, until all the stock is used up.
    • In the meantime on a hot pan spray some low fat spray and add the 8 whole sage leaves, fry them off on both sides and set aside. On the same pan spray again and add the bacon lardons, fry on a high heat until they crisp right up. remove them onto kitchen paper to dry off.
    • When the stock is all absorbed in the risotto, remove it off the heat and stir in the low fat cream cheese, season with freshly crushed black pepper and divide out into bowls and top with the crispy bacon lardons and a few crispy sage leaves.

    Tuesday, 2 December 2014

    Melon and Yogurt Crunch Pots

    Breakfasts don't have to be boring, nor take up half your morning to make them... Here is a very quick and easy breakfast idea which is full of goodness!

    Melon and Yogurt Crunch Pots

    These are a super healthy, fast and delicious start to the day… and not a cooker in sight.

    Serves 4:

    1 melon or a melon medley pack
    Natural low fat yogurt
    A handful of bran cereal
    A handful of seeds


    Slice the melon into eighths and remove the seeded middle and the skin, chop roughly into bite sized pieces. Divide them among 4 tumblers, pours some yogurt over the tops, top this with the cereal and seeds and finish off with a squirt of honey.

    Serve immediately. 

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