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.