Thursday, April 15, 2010

Simnel Cake

Simnel cake is a British fruit cake that is served at Easter.

Traditionally it should have 11 marzipan balls placed around the rim to symbolise the apostles (Judas excluded)

As I'm not religious, but do love cake, I replaced the apostles with Pac-Man chasing ghosts. I then realised I could give it the pun-tacular title of a Pâques-Man cake (Pâques is French for Easter) and giggled for longer than was necessary at my own joke.

The cake is tasty and light, the marzipan layer in the middle really lifts it above mere fruitcake.


175g butter
175g soft brown sugar
3 eggs, beaten
175g plain flour
pinch salt
½ tsp ground mixed spice
400g mixed fruit (raisins, currants, sultanas and mixed peel)
2 tbsp apricot jam
1 packet of yellow marzipan
1 free-range egg, beaten for glazing

Preheat oven to 140C. Grease and line a 18cm cake tin.

In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy.

Gradually beat in the eggs until well incorporated and then sift in the flour, salt and mixed spice a little at a time.

Finally, add the mixed dried fruit and stir into the mixture.

Put half the mixture into the prepared cake tin.

Take a third of your marzipan and roll it out into a circle 18cm in diameter. Lay this circle on top of the cake batter in the cake tin.

Add the rest of the cake mixture and smooth the top.

Bake in the preheated oven for 1¾ hours or until a skewer inserted in the middle of the cake comes away cleanly.

Remove from the oven and set aside to cool on a wire rack.

Brush the top of the cooled cake with the apricot jam.

Divide the remainder of the marzipan in half; roll out another circle to cover the top of the cake with one half and use the remaining marzipan to decorate your cake, either with balls or Paque-man.

Place the circle of marzipan on the jam glaze and set the decorations round the edge. Brush the cake topping with a little beaten egg.

Preheat the grill to high. Place the cake onto a baking tray and grill until the top of the marzipan begins to toast.

You can also use a blow-torch to toast the marzipan if you are lucky enough to have one!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Chocolate Cake with Olive Oil and Sea Salt

This cake is amazing. Moist, chocolatey, with a hint of the olive oil and sea salt that just brings it to another level and makes it a very indulgent, adult cake.


200g dark chocolate (70% cocoa)
175g unsalted butter
4 eggs
150g caster sugar
60g plain flour
1½ tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp sea salt
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

For the ganache -

400ml double cream
200g dark chocolate (70% cocoa)

Preheat the oven to 200C.

Grease and line a 19 cm round springform cake tin with parchment paper.

Melt the chocolate and butter together in saucepan on a low heat, stirring constantly until completely melted.

In a large bowl, beat the sugar and eggs until pale and fluffy. Add in the flour, a tablespoonful at a time, along with the baking powder and sea salt.

Fold in the melted chocolate and butter mixture and the olive oil until no streaks of flour are visible.

Bake cake for 30-40 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes away cleanly. Cool on a wire rack before removing from the cake tin.

While the cake is cooking you can prepare the ganache.

Place the cream in a saucepan and heat it just to a simmer, don't let the cream boil. Then, remove from heat and add the chocolate but don't stir it until the chocolate has melted. It will help the chocolate melt if you break it up into pieces first.

Place in the fridge for an hour or so to cool and thicken.

When the cake and the ganache have cooled, cut the cake horizontally so you have two equal discs.

Put half of the ganache on the bottom half, spreading carefully with a palette knife to make it even, and place the other half cake on top.

Put the rest of the ganache on top of the cake and spread evenly down the cake’s top and sides.

Keep the cake in the fridge, taking it out about an hour before you want to serve it.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Lime Meringue Pie

This was my contribution to Pi Day this year.

It's a very tart lime base with just a little meringue around the edge to provide a little sweetness.

When browning the meringue, I realised that I really need a kitchen blowtorch to be able to do these things well as the heat from the grill made my lovely, smooth lime curd surface blister. So that has been added to the birthday wish-list!


115g salted butter, cut into pieces
180ml freshly-squeezed lime juice (from about 5-6 limes)
150g sugar
zest of two limes
pinch of salt
3 large egg yolks
3 large eggs

For the meringue -

2 large egg whites
75g sugar
pinch of salt
a few drops vanilla essence

You also need one pre-baked Sweet Tart Crust

Preheat the oven to 180C.

In a medium-sized saucepan, warm the butter, lime juice, sugar, zest, and salt.

In a jug, whisk together the eggs and the yolks.

When the butter has just melted and the mixture is warm, gradually pour some of the lime juice mixture into the eggs, whisking constantly. Scrape the warmed eggs back into the saucepan and cook the mixture over low heat.

Stir the mixture constantly over low heat, using a whisk, until the filling thickens and coats the back of a spoon. Do not let it boil. It will take at least 30 mins at a low temperature to thicken sufficiently.

Remove from heat and scrape the filling into the pre-baked tart shell.

Bake for 10 minutes until set and then remove and cool slightly.

Now make the meringue. Whip the whites on high speed in a mixer to soft peaks. Next, gradually add the sugar and the salt, while whipping on high speed, until the meringue is shiny and stiff. Beat in the vanilla last.

Scrape the meringue into a pastry bag fitted with a star tip and pipe a ring around the edge of the tart.

Pop the tart under the grill (or, as I would recommend, use a blowtorch on the meringue), watching carefully, as it will brown quickly.

When the meringue begins to darken, remove the tart from the oven and cool completely before slicing.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Sweet Tart Crust

This tart crust is wonderful and foolproof! The end result is a crisp, buttery crust that takes no time to pull together with no fuss.

It's adapted from a David Lebovitz recipe.


90g salted butter, cut into pieces
1 tbsp vegetable oil
3 tbsp water
1 tbsp caster sugar
150g plain flour

Preheat oven to 210C.

In a medium-sized ovenproof bowl, combine the butter, oil, water, sugar, and salt.

Place the bowl in the oven for 15 minutes, until the butter is bubbling is starting to brown around the edges.

When done, remove the bowl from oven and add in the flour and stir quickly, until it comes together and forms a ball which pulls away from the sides of the bowl.

Transfer the dough to a 9-inch (23 cm) tart mold with a removable bottom and spread it a bit with a metal spoon.

Once the dough is cool enough to handle, pat it into the shell with the heel of your hand, and use your fingers to press it up the sides of the tart mold. Reserve a small piece of dough, about the size of a raspberry, for patching any cracks that will appear once baked.

Prick the dough all over with the tines of a fork, then bake the tart shell in the oven for 15 minutes, or until the dough is golden brown.

Remove from the oven and if there are any sizable cracks, use the bits of reserved dough to fill in and patch them.

Let the shell cool before filling.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

These are what I think of as grown-up chocolate chip cookies. They have a lovely, rich flavour from the browned butter and the sea salt stops them from being too sweet.


250g plain flour
1/2 tsp bicarb of soda
1 tsp sea salt
200g butter
220g soft dark brown sugar
50g granulated sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
1 egg yolk
200g dark chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 160C.

In a saucepan, melt the butter and continue to cook until it has gone a nutty brown colour and has a toasted caramel smell. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.

Beat together the sugars and the melted butter in a large mixing bowl. Add in the vanilla and the egg and egg yolk and beat until well mixed.

To this mixture, add the flour and bicarbonate of soda and mix until just combined. Sprinkle the sea salt and chocolate chips into the cookie dough and mix again.

Place the cookie dough mixture into the fridge for 5 minutes to cool.

When you're ready to bake the cookies, take about 3 tbsp worth and form into a ball in your hands. Place on a cool, ungreased baking sheet. Keep the cookies 3 inches apart as they will spread.

Bake for 13-15 minutes in the oven until the edges are crisp but the middle is still slightly soft.

Carefully transfer them while hot to a wire rack to cool.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Lemon Drizzle Cake

I love lemon in cakes, I think it's just the right combination of fresh and sweet. This is my favourite lemon cake recipe as it contains lemon curd, making it really moist and tender.

You can add in poppy seeds to add a bit of variety if you like.


140g self raising flour
112g butter, softened
112g granulated sugar
3 tbsp lemon curd
2 eggs
1 small lemon, juice and zest


2 tbsp icing sugar
1 tbsp lemon juice

Preheat oven to 175C.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter and sugar together until light.

Add in the eggs, lemon zest and juice and lemon curd. Beat to incorporate.

Lastly, add in the flour and mix until there are no visable lumps in the batter.

Pour cake mix into a buttered loaf tin (400g/1 lb size).

Bake for 30 mins, or until a skewer inserted in the centre of the cake comes away cleanly.

Allow to cool, then make up the icing and drizzle artistically on top.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Toasted Coconut Cake

This cake is a dream. It actually came about as a bit of a mistake as I wanted to make a plain sponge, but realised I had no normal milk so added a small can of coconut milk instead.

It's light, fragrant and not too overpoweringly coconutty. If you wanted a stronger flavour, you could swap the vanilla essence for coconut essence but personally I prefer a more natural coconut taste.


2 eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup cake flour
1 cup dessicated coconut, toasted
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup coconut milk
3 tbsp butter, melted and cooled

Preheat oven to 175C.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs and sugar together. Add in the flour, toasted coconut, baking powder, salt and vanilla and mix well.

Finally, add the coconut milk and butter to the mix and stir until you have a thick batter.

Pour the cake batter into a buttered 8 x 8 square cake pan and bake for 20 minutes or until light brown.

Cool in the pan and cut into squares.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Potato Gnocchi

In an attempt to use up some leftover boiled potatoes, I decided to make gnocchi. I was expecting it to be really difficult, but it actually turned out to be really easy!

There are a lot of steps involved but as you can freeze the gnocchi before the blanching stage, it's worth making more than one meal's worth.

I used Maris Piper potatoes for this, you can use whatever kind of potato you have to hand but it's advisable to avoid the waxy varieties.


600g potatoes, unpeeled
200g plain flour
1 tsp salt
1 egg

Place the uncut, unpeeled potatoes in a pan of cold water with a little salt and bring to the boil. The reason for not peeling or cutting the potatoes is that you want the cooked potato to be as dry and starchy as possible. Boil until tender, about 20 mins depending on the size of your potatoes.

Drain the potatoes and peel while still hot. The best way to do this is to cut each cooked potato in half, placing the cut side down on a chopping board and peel the skin off with a knife.

In a large mixing bowl, mash the potatoes until are no lumps left but avoid over-mashing. Stir in the flour and salt and mix to combine.

Add in the egg and beat until you have a dough-like consistency. Turn the dough out onto a well-floured work surface and knead until smooth. If your dough is too dry, you can add some water at this point, or if it is very sticky then you can add additional flour.

Divide the dough into 4 pieces and refrigerate the other 3 while you work on the first piece.

Roll the dough into a long log, about 2 cm in diameter and using a sharp knife, cut the dough into individual pillows about 2 cm wide.

With well-floured hands, shape each section into an oval pillow shape and indent with a fork. Place each pillow of dough onto a floured board and repeat the process with the other 3 pieces of dough.

I found it easier for the next stage to place all the gnocchi into the fridge for an hour so they cooled down before cooking. You can also freeze them at this point, place in the freezer in a single layer until frozen, then you can transfer them to whatever container you wish to store them in.

Cooking the gnocchi is easy, just drop them in a pan of simmering salted water, working in batches so they're not too crowded. When the gnocchi rise to the surface, about 3 minutes when fresh, 6 when frozen, they're cooked. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and reserve in a colander while you poach the remaining batches.

Reheat and sauté the gnocchi in a frying pan in a little olive oil before serving with the sauce of your choice.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Swedish Saffron Bread (Lussekatter)

I recently have been in the enviable position of having obtained about 30g of saffron for free and needing to find a way to use it up. I had heard of saffron bread before but had vaguely thought it was a savoury bread until I found this recipe which is a traditional Swedish Christmas bread.

The texture of the bread is wonderfully light and moist - I'll be using an adapted version of it to make Stollen and cinnamon buns soon.

You need to begin the recipe the day before you want to make the bread. It's so nice fresh that I would recommend you bake the bread on a Saturday morning so you can enjoy it at it's nicest.


1/2 tsp saffron strands
2 tbsp boiling water
125g salted butter, melted and cooled
250g plain flour
250g strong bread flour
50g caster sugar
200ml full-fat milk, bloodhot
15g fresh yeast (1 sachet fast-acting)
1 egg


1 egg for egg wash

The first stage the evening before you plan to bake the bread is to soak the saffron strands in the boiling water for at least 12 hours. I crushed the saffron strands slightly as they would be going into the final dough along with the coloured water and I didn't want the strands to be too noticeable.

After the saffron has soaked you can begin making the bread.

Place the flours and sugar in a large mixing bowl and rub the crumbled yeast into the flour. In a separate jug, beat the egg into the bloodhot milk.

Pour the milk mixture, saffron liquid (including pieces of saffron) and melted butter into the flour and mix well. It should form a smooth dough fairly quickly.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured worksurface and knead for 7 minutes. I usually use my Kenwood mixer for this kind of dough as it means that I don't have to worry about adding additonal flour and spoiling the consistency. It's very important that you only use one light dusting of flour (no more than 2 tbsp) for the kneading process or your bread will be tough and dry.

Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover and let rise for an hour.

After the hour, the dough should have doubled in size.

Turn the oven on now, to 200C.

Carefully turn it out onto an unfloured worktop. When working with rich, buttery dough like this, there is no need for flour and it ruins the texture of the dough. I promise the dough won't stick to your hands or the worktop at all.

There are different ways to shape this dough. You can make a challah shape by separating it into 4 sausage like strands and plaiting or go with the traditional crown shape which is what I did.

To make the crown, divide the dough into 7 equal pieces and allow them to rest for 15 minutes. Then make long sausage-shaped cylinders with each strand and roll each one up like a snail.

Place one snail-shaped roll on a well-buttered baking sheet in the middle and arrange the other 6 around it. Cover the bread again and let rise for 30 minutes.

If you are using an egg wash then brush it onto the top of the dough after the second rise.

Bake for 25 minutes. The bread will sound hollow when tapped on the bottom and will still feel quite springy.

Let cool, but be aware that these are wonderful when they are still slightly warm.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Banana Bread

This has always been one of my favourite cakes which is ironic as I am not a fan of fresh bananas!

It's a great way to use up over-ripe bananas and it is a very adaptable recipe, you can add choc chips, nuts, a little espresso or even lime juice to jazz it up.

I'm not sure why this is called banana bread rather than banana cake - I think it might be that it is commonly baked in a loaf tin rather than a cake pan and also that the use of bicarb of soda as a raising agent would place it into the quick-bread category along with soda bread.


4 over-ripe bananas
375g plain flour
75g butter, melted
150g brown sugar
1 egg
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp bicarb of soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 175C.

Mash up the bananas in a large mixing bowl with a fork.

Add the butter, sugar, egg and vanilla and mix well with a spatula or wooden spoon.

Add the bicarb, salt and cinnamon and mix again.

Lastly, sift in the flour and stir until just combined.

Pour mixture into a buttered 400g loaf tin and bake for 50-60 minutes, until a skewer inserted in the middle comes away cleanly.

Leave to cool slightly in the tin before turning out and cooling on a wire rack.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Milk Loaf

I found this delicious bread recipe cut out from a 1976 cookbook of unknown origin.

It's flavoursome and has a great soft crumb that makes it perfect for sandwiches.

Make cheddar and Branston pickle sandwiches with it and relive your childhood!


450g strong white bread flour
50g butter, melted and cooled
325ml full-fat milk, bloodhot
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tbsp sugar
1 (7g) sachet fast acting yeast (15g fresh yeast)

In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, yeast, sugar and salt.

Add in the milk and butter and stir until it forms a dough.

Turn the dough out onto a clean worksurface and knead for 8 - 10 minutes until it is smooth and elastic.

Lightly flour the work top and shape the dough into a round and place in a covered bowl. Leave to rise in a warm place for 1 hr.

After the hour, the dough should have risen to twice the original size. Carefully remove it from the bowl and knock some of the air out of the dough.

Preheat the oven to 190C.

Shape into a loaf shape and place in a buttered 800g silicon loaf tin. Cover and let rise again for 30 mins. You can also shape the dough into a free form shape and score it like I have above.

Bake for 40 minutes. The loaf should be a deep gold colour and will sound hollow when you tap the base.

Turn out and cool on a wire rack.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

French Onion Soup á la Julia Child

French onion soup is so wonderfully comforting and warming; there is nothing better to eat when you're wrapped up on the sofa watching the Winter Olympics.

It takes a few hours to make properly so I usually make it the evening before and allow it to sit for a day in the fridge which only seems to make it better.

I use my food processor (with a slicing blade) to slice the onions as you need a lot of them for this recipe. You can slice them by hand, but I wouldn't recommend it unless you have eyes of steel!

This recipe makes enough for 4 big servings, but I wouldn't scale down for 2 as it freezes very well.

Also shown in the picture is Gruyere and Cumin Bread, which fabulous with this soup.


4 tbsp butter
800g white onion, finely sliced
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar
3 tbsp plain flour
15oo ml beef broth
250ml red wine
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp sage
salt & pepper to taste

Melt the butter in a large, heavy bottomed pot. Add the sliced onions and cook, covered for 10 minutes on medium until the onions are translucent. Stir frequently to ensure the onions don't stick or burn.

Take the lid off the pot and add in the salt and sugar, turning the heat up to medium-high. Cook the onions uncovered, for at least 25 minutes, stiring constantly. The onions should become deep brown and caramelised.

Turn the heat back down to medium and add in the flour. Stir well to ensure there are no lumps of flour remaining and cook for 2 minutes.

Whisk in 200ml of the beef broth to begin with, making sure that the flour is well incorporated.

Add in the remaining stock, along with the red wine and herbs. Bring the soup to a simmer and cook for 45 minutes.

Taste to check seasoning, you will certainly need pepper and might need salt depending on the salt content of the stock used.

For the true French experience, ladle the soup into oven-proof bowls and place a toasted piece of baguette on top. Cover the bread and soup liberally with Gruyére and pop under the grill until the cheese is melted and bubbling.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Harissa Bread

Harissa is a condiment that I fell in love with when I had a 2 week holiday in Tunisia. There, they serve it with bread and oil at the start of every meal. It's hot and spicy but also really tasty as it's got lots of garlic.

The Real Olive Co do an amazing harissa that they sell at the Temple Bar market in Dublin every Saturday. I think we must have worked our way through a dozen of jars in the last year!

As we always eat our harissa with bread, I thought it would work well as an ingredient in bread and I was right. The resulting bread has a faint hint of the heat and all the flavour and is amazing with cheese.


400g strong white bread flour
125g wholemeal flour
2 tbsp harissa
25ml olive oil
15g fresh yeast
10g salt
325ml water

Place the flours in a large mixing bowl and rub the yeast into the flour.

Add the salt, harissa, oil and water and mix with a spatula until it forms a dough.

Turn out onto a work surface and knead for 8 -10 minutes until it is smooth and elastic. Place in a bowl and leave, covered, in a warm place to rise for 1 1/2 hours.

The dough should have doubled in size in this time. Turn out onto a lightly-floured work surface and shape into a loaf.

Turn the oven to 220C at this point.

Place the loaf on a baking sheet, score with a razor blade and allow to rise again for 45 minutes.

Spray the inside of the oven with 15 squirts of water immediately before placing the loaf on the baking sheet inside.

Bake for 25 minutes, until the loaf sounds hollow when tapped on the base.

Cool on a wire rack.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Millionaire's Shortbread

This is a typically Scottish treat in that it has far more sugar than is at all necessary! It's delicious but very rich so make sure to cut it into small squares.

The key to Millionaire's Shortbread is in the thickness of the layers. You want a decent sized layer of quite dry shortbread on the bottom to give structure, followed by a layer of caramel twice the height of the base. Then a thin layer of chocolate on top - not too thick or the caramel will squidge out the sides when you bite into it.


225g plain flour
75g caster sugar
375g salted butter
1 (379g) can sweetened condensed milk
4 tablespoons golden syrup
250g chocolate ( I usually use 1/2 milk and 1/2 dark so the chocolate isn't too sweet)

Preheat oven to 170C.

Put the flour and sugar into a mixing bowl and rub in 175g of butter, until the mixture looks like damp sand.

Press the shortbread mixture down firmly into the base of a buttered 8 x 8 square cake tin and make sure it's even. Prick the surface with a fork and cook for five minutes, then lower the temperature to 150C, and cook for a further 30 minutes until pale golden and no longer doughy.

Allow the crust to cool in the tin.

Melt the remaining butter in a heavy bottomed pan, then add the condensed milk and golden syrup. Whisk the mixture well until the butter is thoroughly incorporated.

Heat on medium 6-7 minutes until boiling, stirring constantly. The mixture may bubble up when it's boiling, just lift the pan off the heat until it goes down. The caramel is ready when it's thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon and turned a light golden brown.

Pour the caramel over the shortbread and leave to cool at room temperature and then place in the fridge for 1 hr.

Melt chocolate and pour over the set and chilled caramel mixture and leave to cool again.

Once set, cut the caramel shortbread into squares. You should get at least 24 from this.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Pesto Chicken

This is Joe's invention. It goes brilliantly with risotto and is impressive and easy to make. It doesn't sound like much, but the way the cheese in the pesto cooks when it's grilled makes it so much more than the sum of its parts.

Serves 2.


2 chicken breasts, skinless and boned
6 tbsp pesto (you can make your own but Sacla is pretty good for this)
15ml olive oil
15ml balsamic vinegar
15 ml soy sauce
Pinch of salt

In a bowl, combine the pesto with the olive oil, soy sauce, balsamic, and salt.

Marinade chicken breasts in the mixture for as long as possible - overnight is ideal. Even an hour helps.

Make a little tray from tin foil.

Place the chicken on the tray, and grill on a low temperature, basting regularly with the rest of the marinade and the oil that runs off. The pecorino cheese in the pesto will darken, sizzle and blacken, which is excellent. If you baste regularly, the chicken will have a nice dark color overall.

It takes about 20 minutes to cook.

Monday, February 8, 2010


I have mixed feelings about brownies. When they're good, they can be an easy crowd-pleasing snack. When they're bad they can be either rock hard or so gooey that they feel uncooked.

This recipe satisfies everything that I want in a brownie; rich and chewy.

If you don't like coffee you can replace it with extra flour as it does give the brownies quite the caffeine kick! Use as fine a grind of coffee as you can.


200g 70% cocoa chocolate
115g butter
40g cocoa powder
3 large eggs
285g granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt
200g plain flour
28g ground coffee

Preheat oven to 170C.

Melt both chocolate and butter together in pan on the hob, stirring frequently and removing from heat as soon as it's melted. Stir in cocoa powder.

Whisk eggs, sugar, vanilla and salt together in a mixing bowl.

Add the melted chocolate mixture and beat well.

Add the flour and stir until just blended.

Pour into an 8 inch square buttered pan.

Bake for 35-40 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes away with a couple of just-moist crumbs attached. You want the centre to be cooked, but not over-cooked.

Cool on a wire rack and cut. You can easily get 16 brownies from this.

Thursday, January 28, 2010


This is my go-to comfort food. If I could eat nothing else for the rest of my life I would be very happy. I even enjoy the hands-on cooking process that is necessary with this, as the constant stirring can be very theraputic after a long day at work staring at a computer screen.

I like the simplicity of having very little by way of other flavours in this, but you can add mushrooms and so on if you desire.

The recipe is adapted from Nigel Slater's Appetite which I credit for getting me interested in cooking and serves two.


200g arborio rice
75g butter
2 garlic cloves
1 white onion, finely chopped
100ml white wine
700-850ml chicken stock
75g grated parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Start by melting 50g of the butter in a large pan. When melted, add the chopped onion and the crushed garlic and cook until the onions are translucent.

Add the arborio rice to the pan and stir at a medium heat for about a minute or so.

Add in the white wine and allow to bubble, stiring constantly, for two minutes.

Now you need to add in the stock a little at a time, allowing the rice to absorb the stock in between each addition. You need to stir constantly as you don't want the rice to burn and stick to the bottom of the pan. The whole process will take about 45 minutes. The grains of rice will plump up and will be tender when you taste them. You don't want the mixture to be too soupy or too dry, it should be just verging on being spoon-food when it's done so be careful for the last couple of additions.

When the rice is cooked, remove from the heat and stir in the remaining 25g butter and the parmesan.

Add salt and ground black pepper to taste and serve (ideally with Pesto Chicken)

Friday, January 22, 2010

Brown Soda Bread

Now, I couldn't have lived in Ireland for as long as I have without developing and refining a brown soda bread recipe.

I am still on an ongoing quest to make the perfectly moist and green-tinged brown bread of Joe's dreams. But this recipe has garnered many compliments and is easy to whip together at 10pm when you realise there is nothing in the house for breakfast in the morning.

If you don't have buttermilk in the house (which is often the case for me) you can make a good substitute by adding 2 tsp of lemon juice to 400ml of milk.


225g plain flour
225g wholemeal flour
1tsp bicarb of soda
1 1/2 tsp salt
25g butter, softened
1 egg
350 - 400ml buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 220C.

Mix the flours, bicarb and salt together in a large mixing bowl. Add the butter and rub into the flour with your fingertips until you get a breadcrumb like texture.

In a jug, mix the egg and the buttermilk together and pour about 350ml into a well made in the centre of the flour mixture. Stir together with a wooden spoon until it comes together and forms a dough. The mixture should be soft but not sticky so add more milk or flour as necessary.

Turn the dough onto a floured work surface and gently shape into a round about 4cm deep.

Place on a baking tray and cut a deep cross in the top of the bread.

Bake in the oven for 10 minutes, then turn the temperature down to 200C and continue to bake for a further 30 mins.

The bread is done when it is a deep golden brown colour and sounds hollow when tapped on the base.

Cool on a wire rack.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Quatre Quarts cake

This cake is beautiful in its simplicity. It has only 4 ingredients (hence the name), and it can be whipped up in no time. Proportion is the key with this cake so no substituting or chucking in whatever is in the cupboard.

It's my favourite "Oh no, I have guests coming and they will expect cake" cake. That happens more often than you would think, due to my obsessive need to have something tasty waiting for anyone who makes the effort to visit me!

For this recipe I will assume that your eggs weigh 60g in-shell. Weigh them before you begin and use whatever weight they are for the other 3 ingredients.


3 large eggs
180g plain flour
180g sugar
180g salted butter (if using unsalted, add 1/2 tsp salt to the flour)

Preheat oven to 180C

Melt the butter and leave to cool slightly.

Add sugar to a large mixing bowl, add the butter and beat well until creamy.

Separate the egg whites and yolks and put the egg whites to one side. Add the egg yolks to the sugar-butter mixture and beat well. This improves the fluffiness of your cake as there is no other raising agent used so it's worth the time.

Sift the flour into the batter, stirring as you go.

In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites with a pinch of salt until they are stiff.

Incorporate the egg whites with the batter, adding one spoonful of egg white at a time to the batter and folding with a gentle motion. Again, it's important to keep as much air in the batter as you can.

Pour the batter into a buttered 1lb loaf tin. Bake for around 45 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the centre of the cake comes away clean.

Leave to cool on a wire rack, or if you're anything like us you'll eat it while it's still warm and keep going back until you've accidentally eaten the whole thing!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Earl Grey Tea Bread

This cake (an adaption of a Delia recipe) has a firm but light texture and the flavour of the tea really comes through without being overpowering.

It's also really easy to make and adapt to what you have in the cupboard to use. I've made it with walnuts, pecans, all mixed fruit, sultanas only, and it's been perfect every time.

It also keeps for about a week as well as it's got such a good amount of fruit in it. All in all, it's one of my favourite cakes to have in the house!


340g currants, sultanas and raisins
55g mixed peel

120g demerara sugar
137ml Earl Grey tea
55g pecan nuts
1 egg
1 tbsp milk
225g self-raising flour

Preheat oven to 170C

Dissolve the sugar in the hot tea and add to a bowl containing the dried fruit and mixed peel. Leave for as long as you can, overnight if possible, but I've made it after 1 hr and it was fine!

Place the pecans on a baking sheet and bake in the oven for 5 minutes. Keep a close eye on them so they don't burn. After 5 mins, remove and chop roughly.

Beat the egg and milk together and add to the bowl containing the fruit and tea mixture and stir together. Add the flour and pecans and mix until well combined.

Pour cake mix into a buttered, silicon loaf tin, place onto a baking sheet and bake in the oven for 70 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes away clean.

Turn out and onto a wire rack immediately.