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Christmas Chocolate Log

This a plain, simple old fashioned cake.
It is our cake for Christmas Eve and tree decorating. It doesn’t have to look perfect and it won’t have time too anyway. If drinking chocolate makes the icing too sweet swap some of it for cocoa powder.

Merry Christmas and a Happy 2011 to you all.

Swiss roll
3 eggs
75g caster sugar
75g sifted plain flour

Line a Swiss roll tin with baking parchment and set the oven to GM5 / 180˚C.
Whisk the eggs and sugar together until very pale, then gently fold in the flour.
Spread the mixture on to the prepared Swiss roll tin and bake for about 15 minutes.
While the cake is baking lay a clean tea towel on the counter.
When the cake is done it should be golden brown on top and spring back when poked with a finger.
Turn the cake out onto a clean tea towel and roll it up from one of the narrow ends. Leave to cool on a wire rack

Chocolate Icing
100g soft butter
100g icing sugar
100g drinking chocolate powder
2 tbs warm water
1 dsp extra icing sugar for dusting

Put the butter, sugar and drinking chocolate powder in to a bowl and slowly start to mix with an electric mixer. Add the first spoonful of water and whisk a bit faster and then the second spoonful. Keep whisking until the icing is pale and fluffy.
Unroll the cold Swiss roll and spread with a third of the icing and roll up again.
Cut a 5 cm slice off the roll at an angle and place it at the side of the roll to create a branch.
Put the roll on a serving plate and cover with the remaining icing.
Decorate using a fork to make rough bark like ridges on the roll and in circles on the ends like tree rings.
Use the extra dessertspoon of icing sugar and a sieve to dust the top of the log with some snowy icing sugar.


Crab Custards

This is just a quick recipe as promised. It could be used as a Christmas dinner starter. Make it the day before, and let the custards return to room temperature before serving with a wedge of lemon.

200g crab meat
1 egg
2 egg yolks
250mls cream
50g grated Parmesan
pinch of salt & black pepper

Set the oven to GM3/ 170˚C and boil a kettle of water. Butter some small ramekins, this amount should do about 4—6 depending on size.
Put the ingredients into a bowl and whisk them together.
Spoon the mixture into the ramekins and put them into a roasting tin. Pour boiling water into the roasting tin so that it comes two thirds of the way up the ramekins. Place the tin in the middle of the oven and bake for 40 minutes. They are cooked when a skewer comes out clean when pushed into the centre. Take them out of the oven and let cool. They are best served at room temperature.


Frost Yesterday!

I took this photo yesterday too, but wasn't sure how to get it on to the blog with some text. I have now worked it out.


Snowed In

Or The Comfort of Crab Cakes!

I’m snowed in! Well sort of. I tried driving yesterday, but when I went from the main road on to a secondary road my car went for a slide. It scared the life out of me so I carefully turned the car and went home. I’m a danger on the road in these conditions.

So what to do? All those jobs I’ve been putting off? Catching up on reading? Phoning all those people I should have phoned weeks ago? Write a blog post?
Yes I’m writing a blog post as displacement activity for doing all the important things I should be doing.

“Don’t feel guilty!” I keep telling myself. “You’re snowed in with no one to please but you.” “Enjoy!”

Well yes I did enjoy the crab cakes I made for supper last night and I’m looking forward to the quail for tonight’s supper. In between I’ll probably get some of the important things done too.

But for now here is the crab cake recipe.

Crab Cakes

100g white bread
0.5 cm piece of ginger peeled & chopped
2 tbs coriander leaves
100g white crabmeat
3 spring onions finely chopped
½ yellow pepper finely chopped
1 red chilli, seeds removed finely chopped
1 lime zest & juice
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 free-range egg
1 heaped tbs mayonnaise
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
vegetable oil for shallow frying

Put the white bread in the bowl of a food processor and process till it is all crumbs. Add the ginger and coriander and process till all well mixed.
Tip the breadcrumb mixture into a large bowl and add the rest of the ingredients. Mix well and with two spoons form into small rugby ball shapes. Put these on a plate and chill for at least half an hour.
Heat 1cm of vegetable oil in a frying pan until a breadcrumb sizzles and turns golden-brown when dropped into it.
Carefully put some of the crab cakes into the hot oil and shallow fry, until browned all over and cooked through.
Remove from the oil with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper. Keep warm.
Repeat with the remaining crab cakes.


Halloween's Here & Now!

Spooky food for Halloween!

I was asked to do a four-day cookery course for children over the Halloween half term. The request was also for ‘Scary & Spooky Food’ I wasn’t feeling very inspired, so I came up with some traditional recipes first Apple cake, Colcannon and the Barmbrack from my last post.
I’d used beetroot instead of carrot in carrot cake before and adapted the quantities to make muffins and we have access to loads of icing of all colours. Thus they became ‘Blood & Guts Muffins’.

My colleague had come across an idea for using flaked almonds on the ends of strips of pastry as finger nails. I used a cheesy pastry and asked the children to cut out around their hands. We transferred these to baking trays decorated with flaked almonds and brushed them over with egg-wash got ‘Cheesy Hands’!
With some of the leftover pastry we wrapped strips of it around frankfurters and applied more almond fingernails and egg-wash and ‘Frank’s Fingers!’ were born.

BBQ chicken wings with blue cheese dip became ‘Gory Wings with Mouldy Dip’.
Pasta in a tomato, mushroom & sausage sauce became ‘Worms in Petrifying Sauce’. Wholewheat pasta is slightly more worm like.
The interesting thing was that none of the children had had ‘Toad in the Hole’ before. It worked really, which was nice.

We made a big pot of pumpkin soup too. Ginger biscuits were just an excuse to use witch and pumpkin shaped cookie cutters. Toffee apples & ‘Yellowman’ were more traditional treats.

And finally ‘Spicy nuts’ were to use up all those leftover nuts from Halloween.
If you feel in need of some Spooky & Scary Food here are some of the recipes.

Cheesy Hands

175 g plain flour
4 tbs sunflower oil
2 tbs water
80 g cheddar
flaked almonds
1 egg
Parmesan cheese

Set the oven to GM 6, 200˚C.
Grease 2 baking sheets.
Sieve the plain flour into a bowl.
Grate the cheese into the bowl.
Pour in the oil and water.
Mix together into a ball.
Dust the work surface with flour and roll out the dough with a rolling pin until it is ½ cm thick.
Put your hand on top and cut around the shape. Gently lift the hand shape onto a baking sheet and put flaked almonds at the end of each finger as nails.
Make as many hands as you can with the dough.
Beat the egg and with a pastry brush paint each hand with beaten egg.
Finely grate some Parmesan over each hand.
Bake for about 15 minutes until golden.
Remove the trays from the oven and take the hands off the sheets and cool on wire racks.

Frank’s Fingers

Cut the pastry into 1.5cm strips and wrap them round the frankfurters in a spiral.
Put the frankfurters on the greased Swiss roll tin.
Brush the pastry with egg wash and stick a flaked almond on as a fingernail at one end of each pastry strip.
Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes, till golden.

Spicy nuts

200g nuts
1 tsp hot curry powder
½ tsp salt
1 tsp honey
2 tsp oil

Heat the oven to 200˚C/ GM 6
Put the nuts on a baking tray and toast them in the oven for 5-10 minutes.
Stir them after 5 minutes and see if they are toasting. When the are starting to brown take them out of the oven.
Put the hot nuts into a bowl and mix in the curry powder, honey and oil. Mix it all well round so that the nuts are well coated.
Spread them out on the baking tray and leave to cool.


Barmbrack for Halloween

Halloween is almost here and it wouldn't be the same without Barmbrack. Traditionally a ring is hidden in the brack and whoever gets it will be married soon. A stick and a rag were also put in. The stick meant your husband would beat you and the rag for poverty. Unlucky the woman who got all three!


400 g strong white flour
50 g sugar
250 g mixed dried fruit
1 sachet fast action yeast
50 g soft butter

160 ml milk
80 ml boiling water
1 tsp salt

1 tbs sugar
1 tbs water

Grease a 20cm round cake tin or 2 small (1lb) loaf tins.
Sift the flour into a bowl and sprinkle in the sugar, dried fruit, the sachet of fast action yeast and the butter cut up into small pieces.
Mix the contents of the bowl round gently and make a well in the centre.
Mix the water and milk together and stir in the salt.
Pour the milk and water mix into the bowl with flour mix in it.
With a wooden spoon stir it all well together to make a soft dough.
Take the dough out of the bowl and knead it by hand on a floured surface until it is smooth and springy.
Put 1 spoonful of oil into the bowl and then put the dough back in and smear with oil.
Cover the bowl and leave in a warm place for 30 minutes.
Turn the dough out of the bowl and gently shape it into a ball and put into a greased cake tin.
Or divide in 2 and put into 2 small greased loaf tins.
Cover with a clean tea towel and leave somewhere warm to rise for 45 minutes.
When the dough has been rising for about 35 minutes set the oven to GM 6/400˚F/200˚C
When the oven has reached its temperature and the dough has doubled in size.
Bake in the middle of hot oven.
Bake the big round brack for 40 minutes until golden.
The 2 small loaf tins will take 20-30 minutes.
Check if the top is darkening to quickly turn down the oven to GM4/350˚F/180C after 20 minutes
The brack should sound hollow when removed from the tin and tapped underneath with a knuckle.
While the brack is baking warm together the water and sugar on a small pan to make a syrup.
Take out of the tin and put on a wire rack.
Brush the top of the brack with the sugar syrup and leave to cool.
When cool slice and spread with butter.
Perfect with smokey Lapsang tea.


Student cooking

I've been thinking about what students cook over the past while. Talking to my 21 year old and her friends some things need to be addressed and I hope to address them over the next while in blog.
If you have any specific questions please comment and I'll do my best to reply to them as soon as I can.
Remember You only get one shot at life so make the best of it!


It’s Raining Currants

I know it has been awhile since I posted, but I’ve been busy more of which in a later post. The garden is bursting with life, here are some of the things that I’ve been collecting, cooking and watching.

I went to weed the onions a few days ago and got distracted when I noticed the two redcurrant bushes I put in the year before last had fruit on them. I got a good tub of fruit. To celebrate I made a large tart. It must have been good, it was gone the next day.

The gooseberries are ripening and the elderflowers are out, and they go very well together, so I mixed some flowers with halved gooseberries and sugar and put them in a buttered Pyrex dish and as the oven was on I put the dish in, covered with a buttered paper. This gave them time them soften while I made the sponge. It’s the same as the bun recipe I wrote about here before. I topped the softened gooseberries with the sponge mix and baked it for about 20 minutes at GM4/180˚C. When the sponge is browned and bounces back when pushed with a finger it is ready. I’d forgotten to buy cream so we had it with Birds custard. The evening had turned blustery and it made a really comforting old-fashioned pudding.

The blackcurrants are ready too and I have promised to make jam with most of them, but some will end up in a summer pudding some time soon. We have two self-seeded blackcurrant bushes that are both producing fruit this year. This means we have six bushes in total.

While I was out I saw quite a lot of butterfly activity including Meadow Browns and what seem to be Ringlet butterflies. Yesterday as I was having coffee outside I saw a Cinnabar moth flutter by and the grasshoppers were in full “song” too. Summer is delightful!


Good Luck Corina!

I have added my friend Corina to the blog list http://corinaduyn.blogspot.com/ . She has a wonderful imagination. She creates pictures and multi media sculptures. She also writes wonderful stories about Cloud Fairies. Take a look and reconnect with the 'child inside'. Good luck Corina.


All Day Breakfast Salad

All Day Breakfast Salad
Per person
60g bacon pieces
half a slice of bread cut into cubes
2 slices of black pudding
2 handfuls of washed salad leaves
3 cherry tomatoes quartered
1 egg
French dressing

Fry the bacon pieces in a spoonful of oil till browned, remove the bacon from the pan and gently fry the bread cubes in the remaining fat till golden. Grill the black pudding.
Put the salad and tomatoes into a large bowl.
Fill a small saucepan two thirds full with water and bring to the boil turn down to a simmer.
When the bacon, bread and pudding are cooked set aside to cool a little.
To poach the egg you will need a fresh free range or organic egg, a ramekin and a slotted spoon.
Crack the egg into the ramekin and slide it into the simmering water. After 30 to 40 seconds lift the egg out of the water with the slotted spoon and poke it gently with your finger. It will be runny at this stage, gently replace the egg in the simmering water and check it again after another 30 seconds. When you feel the egg is poached to your liking take it out of the water and rest it on some kitchen-paper to absorb any extra water.
Crumble the black pudding over the salad and add the bacon and fried bread, dress this with French dressing and toss.
Top with the poached egg and serve.

This salad is a completely over the top and indulgent meal in its self. Once in a while it makes the most wonderful brunch or supper dish. Sometimes we replace the fried bread with fried cooked potatoes. Home grown salad is a must for this, you can vary the mix depending on the time of year. I love rocket and nasturtiums mixed with lettuce at this time of year.
The most important thing is to get a really good fresh free range / organic egg. If you are lucky enough to know someone who keeps hens and they can let you have an egg or two you will really taste the difference.


Buns not cup cakes.

Someone on the radio was wondering where all the buns had gone. Or rather when did they get replaced by cup cakes.
I got a longing for old fashioned buns or queen cakes then. My Mother use to make buns. They were either plain or had caraway seed in them, it was easy enough to tell them apart if they were iced as she tended to only ice the plain ones. Sometimes if there wasn’t time to ice them we would have to turn the buns upside down to see if we could see the seeds through the bun paper. This was not always a foolproof way of telling, and an unlucky bun eater would end up with a mouthful of caraway seed. Caraway is a grownup taste and some people never like it.

The other buns that I love are coffee walnut ones well really coffee walnut cake, but buns are mini cakes.

Here is the recipe for the ones I made today make sure the butter is soft leave it to reach room temperature for an hour if you can, but don’t let it turn to oil. All you need is a bowl, a wooden spoon, a dessert spoon, a sieve and a scales.

6 oz/170 g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
6 oz/170 g soft butter
6 oz/170 g sugar
3 eggs
1 oz/30 g chopped walnuts
1 tsp caraway seed

Icing for the walnut buns
3 tbs icing sugar
1 tbs very strong black coffee or Irel coffee
walnut pieces to decorate

Set the oven to GM 4/350˚F/180˚C and line 2 bun trays with bun papers.
Makes about 24 buns.

Sift the flour and baking powder into a bowl and add the sugar, eggs, and butter. Beat these together until well blended and divide the mix in two parts add caraway to one half and the walnuts to the other half. Spoon a good dessert spoonful into each bun case you should get about 11 or 12 of each. Bake for about 15-20 minutes in the centre of the oven, the top will spring back when poked gently with a finger. Take out of the oven and put the buns onto a wire rack, leave to cool.

To make the icing, sift the icing sugar into a bowl and add the coffee beat together to make a smooth thick paste. Spoon over the cooled walnut buns and decorate with walnut pieces.



There are lots of white blackthorn blossoms out at the moment in the hedges. I must make a note of the easily reached ones so I can collect some sloes for sloe gin this autumn.

Our greengage and damsons have a few blossoms too. Neither of these three trees have ever had much blossom and therefore no fruit.

The pears and apples are beginning to blossom too. One apple has the most wonderful scent, quite delicate, but rose like. I hope the apples are better this year than last.

I have been reclaming the red currant bushes since the hedge cutter gave them an impromptu “pruning” while doing the laurel hedge. As they were quite over grown it has been great to get in at the brambles some of which have the most massive gnarly roots. Very satisfying to get these out. I don’t think we’ll get any fruit from them this year. Not that we get much from them anyway, as the birds tend to get there first.

The black currants are in flower and as they got a proper pruning we should do well from them this year.

The strawberries are in flower in the poly tunnel and outside I wonder which will give us the first ripe fruit?


Green Leaves

As our purple sprouting broccoli PSB was nonexistent this year, I tried steaming the flower buds that appeared on the Brussels sprouts in the leaf axels at the top of the plants. Steamed for a few minutes and tossed in butter they are almost as tasty as PSB. They also are a reasonable replacement for Chinese greens in a stir-fry. The leaves at the top of the sprout plants make a good substitute for cabbage or kale in this hungry gap.

For other greens at this time of year I like Swiss chard, but ours is in the poly tunnel and is beginning to bolt, still it has lots of leaves still to be eaten and the leaf stalks take well to the stir-fry treatment too.

Wild garlic or ramsons are delicious too, the local roadside is about to become a mass of white flowers. I don’t pick them from the roadside as we have some growing in the woods. A handful sliced and added to an omelette and a salad makes a perfect lunch.


Watching Things

Today I watched two “crows” chase away a “hawk” from the trees. Quite noisy and determined of them. Not sure if they were jackdaws or hooded crows or if it was a hawk or kestrel they were seeing off. It all happened way above my head and in less than 30 seconds.

The bluebells and pear blossom are just coming out it is a very hopeful time of year.

I also watched a bat flittering around in daylight at about 6:30 pm for 10 or so minutes. It was between the poly tunnel and the trees on the eastern boundary quite a sight. The swallows have been passing through for about a week now too summer is on its way!

I also watched Jamie Oliver in Andalucia/Andalusia I’m not so sure that the Moors had much to do with the origins of chorizo as they were mostly Muslim and on their way out of Spain when chillies were on their way across the Atlantic from the just found Americas. Tomatoes were still in the Americas when the Romans brought their bread and vegetable soup to Spain too come to think of it. Still I really liked the sight and imagined smells of his “Killer Pork Chops” and if those hunters ever run short of rabbits we’ve quite a few here on the east Cork / west Waterford boarder.

Nettle Soup

Another lovely day and I've finished planting onions. Decided to get my own back on the nettles by turning some of them into soup.
Picked a steamer full of the top 4 to 6 leaves of each nettle. Gave them a good soak in salty water to evict insects for about 10 minutes. Softened a sliced onion and 2 chopped cloves of garlic in some oil. Added the washed and drained nettles. Turned them in the heat till wilted and added about a pint and a quarter/750ml stock brought to the boil and simmered for 10 minutes. Took off the heat and let cool for 5 minutes and then blended with a hand held blender. Reheat and serve with croutons and whipped cream.
Back out to the garden to do some more digging while the weather's fine.