Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas Cookie Exchange; Gingerbread Biscotti

I love the festive season. The twinkling lights, shimmering baubles, excitement at the thoughts of Father Christmas shimmying down the chimney and yuletide songs on the radio all get me into the festive spirit but nothing more so than the enticing smells and flavours of Christmas! Cinnamon, cloves, candied peel, chutneys, mincemeat, cakes and puddings are all flavours and smells that I absolutely love so when the lovely @wisemona emailed me with her recipe for Gingerbread Biscotti I knew I would love it.  Its far from fancy coffees I was reared but oh my I do love a Starbucks Gingerbread Latte and lo and behold this very recipe comes from Starbucks so I knew it would be a winner!

Gingerbread Biscotti


  • 80 ml (1/3 cup) vegetable oil
  • 200 g (1 cup) white sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 40 oz (1/4 cup) treacle/ molasses
  • 270 g (2 1/4 cups) all-purpose (cream/plain) flour
  • 110 g (1 cup) whole wheat flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons ground ginger
  • 3/4 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tablespoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg


  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease a cookie sheet.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together oil, sugar, eggs, and treacle/molasses. In another bowl, combine flours, baking powder, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg; mix into egg mixture to form a stiff dough.
  3. Divide dough in half, and shape each half into a roll the length of the cookie. Place rolls on cookie sheet, and pat down to flatten the dough to 1/2 inch thickness.
  4. Bake in preheated oven for 25 minutes. Remove from oven, and set aside to cool.
  5. When cool enough to touch, cut into 1/2 inch thick diagonal slices. Place sliced biscotti on cookie sheet, and bake an additional 5 to 7 minutes on each side, or until toasted and crispy.

Once these gorgeous biscotti were cooled I melted 100g of 70% cocoa chocolate and drizzled it on top. We were having a festive night out in one of our friends houses at the weekend so I brought these along with a bottle of baileys biscotti flavour to accompany them. Perfect to dip into those after dinner baileys coffees!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

It's Christmas Time, Chocolate Cake & Wine!

It's hard to believe that we are back into the Christmas season once again, seems to have been the quickest year ever but I seem to remember making the very same comment last year! We love Christmas in our house but tend not to decorate until December is well underway just so the sheen isn't gone off all the lovely decorations by the time Christmas day rolls around. We always have Christmas at home and I enjoy having my mother and brother each year to help us celebrate the day. I adore the whole planning and preparation of the Christmas dinner and I especially love having a full table of family and food! My mother would not be in the least bit happy if there wasn't a trifle produced for dessert so I always make one exactly as she has done for all of her married life, I always eat it but its not my most favourite dessert in the world. My husband however being a very food fickle man wouldn't even contemplate a bowl of trifle so I always make a separate dessert for him and I think this year this cake will be it!

I bought a lovely book on Saturday called "The Mixing Bowl" which is a collection of recipes gathered from the residents of a care unit and hospice in Harolds Cross. It is such a lovely nostalgic read as each recipe comes with a little story about the resident. In a way it is nice to think that in keeping a blog all of our favourite recipes are catalogued for our children to dip into and see a snippet of what life was like when they were up to their eyes playing nintendos and squabbling! The cake I made today was a recipe from Margaret Linnane and I can see why it was a family favourite, it's very rich so bear in mind that a small slice goes a long way.


  • 175g self raising flour
  • 25g cocoa powder
  • 110g plain chocolate
  • 175g butter
  • 175g caster sugar
  • 4 eggs, separated
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 180 degrees and line/grease two sandwich tins
Cream the butter, sugar and vanilla extract until smooth
Melt the chocolate and beat into the butter mixture
Beat in the egg yolks and milk
Sieve the flour and cocoa powder into the mixture and fold in
Whisk the egg whites until stiff then fold in
Divide between the two tins and bake for approximately 20 minutes or until skewer comes out clean
Turn onto wire racks and allow to cool completely

Chocolate Icing
  • 175g icing sugar
  • 75g caster sugar
  • 25g cocoa powder
  • 40g butter
  • 2tbsp water
Melt the butter, caster sugar and water in a saucepan on a low heat until runny, stirring continuously
Pour this onto sieved icing sugar and cocoa powder and mix well
Spread onto the top of one of the cooled cake layers then place second layer on top and cover completely
Serve as it is, with some fresh cream or decorate as follows.

This is a very misleading way of decorating a cake as it looks so impressive but is actually hugely simple! All that is required is a little bit of patience and some personal restraint as it is so hard not to nibble on a kit kat finger or two or three or four while you are decorating! For the cake above you will need 8 bars of kit kat and a 300g bag of M&M's. While the icing is still sticky stick individual kit kat fingers all around the outside of your cake and secure with a nice ribbon. Pour the sweets on top. Not very technical but so pretty looking! I was delighted to spot a bag of festive red and green M&M's to use but really you could use anything your heart desires!

Remember though a little goes a long long way as it is rich and dense but oh so delicious. So now I am in the Christmas spirit I am off now to root out my favourite Christmas album, you can't beat The Rat Pack! Anyone for eggnog? (Not quite sure what eggnog is and doesn't sound even slightly appealing so please don't say 'yes'!)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A New Arrival!

One husband, three children and one dog make for a very busy Ryan household. I thought there wasn't any more room in the house or love in my heart for a new arrival but I was actually wrong. Monday afternoon I was delighted to receive the newest addition to the clan, Mrs Kenwood Premier Chef! I have been thinking about one of these babies for months and am now thrilled that I have one on proud view in my kitchen.

My brother was on a flying visit from the Netherlands this week and I wanted to make a nice big pavlova to serve after a nice family dinner. @likemamuse2bake provided me with an excellent recipe which guaranteed a marshmallow interior and a crisp exterior, exactly what a pavlova should be! I whizzed it up in my kenwood in less than ten minutes which was a vast improvement on my usual method.

Ingredients for base
  • 5 egg whites
  • 7oz caster sugar
  • 1tsp vinegar
  • 2tsp cornflour

Preheat oven to 150 degrees
Line a baking tray with parchment
Whisk the egg whites till soft peaks form
Add sugar a spoonful at a time while whisking until stiff and glossy
Fold in cornflour and vinegar gently
Spoon onto tray into a rectangular shape or however you desire
Bake in oven for 30 minutes or until it lifts away from parchment
Cool in oven

Just before dinner was ready I whisked 250ml of cream to which I had added 2tbsp of hazelnut flavoured Baileys. I spread this over the cooled meringue base and then scattered over 100g of toasted mixed chopped nuts and 50g of dark grated chocolate. I loved the different textures and the crunch of the nuts against the smoothness of the cream was delicious. This will definitely be making an appearance on the Ryan Christmas table this year and was a fitting way to christen the newest arrival!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Glass Jars of Chocolate Caramel Yumminess!

Pat Whelan (@Pat_Whelan) posted a link yesterday to a site which had loads of brilliant ideas for using jamjars in unusual ways. I love using my spare pots as candle holders or to serve little desserts in but when I spotted cupcakes being baked in the oven in glass jars it opened my eyes! Loads of American bloggers seem to be experts at this form of baking so I decided to give it a shot using my foolproof chocolate muffin mixture. This is actually my mams recipe and it is so easy, quick and only uses four ingredients, five if you want the chocolate version which is compulsory with my sons and husband! This is exactly the recipe you need if you don't want to go shopping specifically for ingredients as they are all store cupboard favourites. I added a teaspoon of homemade caramel sauce to give it an extra little layer of taste and moistness.

Easy Chocolate Muffins (makes enough for 8 glenilen pots and 6 muffins)

8 oz margarine
8 oz caster sugar
4 eggs
10 oz self raising flour
1 oz cocoa powder
14 tsp of caramel sauce (optional)

Preheat oven to 180c
Lightly butter the glass jars
Cream the margarine and sugar together then add one egg at a time and mix well
Sieve flour and cocoa powder and mix lightly into wet mixture
Spoon into the glass jars until half full and put remainder into muffin cases
If using put the caramel sauce onto a layer of muffin mixture and then cover with another layer
Bake in oven for 15/20 minutes till skewer comes out clean
Allow to cool fully as the glass will remain very warm before indulging!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

It's Mojito Time!

Staying in seems to be the new going out in our house, there is nothing we like better than having a group of friends over for some nice food and drinks. We have an arrangement that I look after the food end of things and hubs provides the entertainment, he can't sing or dance very well but he still manages to do a good job of it! Last night we had some friends over for an Indian themed evening, elephants on the table, loads of candles in jamjars and punjabi music all added to the atmosphere and of course the gorgeous wafts of Indian spices coming from the kitchen helped tantalize the taste buds. Two of my favourite flavours are mint and lime so these featured in a lot of my dishes and to complement the flavours I served jugs of Mojitos, I know they are not Indian but they are very refreshing to have with spicy food and have great flavour when freshly made. We had poppadoms, onion bhajis and pakoras to start, for mains we had chana masala, creamy chicken korma, bombay potatoes and lime basmati rice and last but not least my favourite part of any meal is always dessert and for this I made delicious white chocolate mojito pots. I surpassed myself with these little beauties, they were luscious!

White Chocolate Mojito Pots

500g mascarpone cheese
275g white chocolate
Juice and zest of 1 lime
2 tbsp white rum

Melt the white chocolate in a bowl over a pot of water, take off the heat before completely melted and keep stirring until smooth.
Beat the mascarpone cheese into the chocolate until really well combined, add the finely grated zest and juice of the lime and the white rum and mix.
Spoon into pots (I used 6 of the glenilen yoghurt glass pots).
Refrigerate overnight or for at least 4 hours to allow to set completely.

I decorated my little pots with some fresh mint leaves that I had dipped in melted dark chocolate and allowed to set on baking paper and also some more lime zest. They looked so impressive and despite the lusciousness it was a lovely fresh taste to finish off a spicy meal. Have another get together planned for early December so need to get my thinking cap on to see what theme I will go with then!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Swirly Lemon Curd and Chocolate Buns

I have been meaning to make these buns since @donalskehan posted a version on his blog a number of months ago. Sweet dough flattened and spread with a filling of your choice before rolling, slicing, baking and eating. The original version uses a cinnamon butter as a filling but amazingly one of my friends doesn't like cinnamon so I had a look in my cupboard and came up with a lemon curd and chopped dark chocolate filling which was luscious and sinful. I love lemon curd and dark chocolate so this was a win win combination for me and my friend!


200ml milk
2oz butter
7g dried yeast
2oz sugar
375g cream flour
pinch of salt
4 tbsp brown sugar
1 egg beaten

For the filling;
100g lemon curd
100g dark chocolate, chopped


Melt the butter over a low heat before adding the milk
When this is lukewarm remove from the heat and add the yeast, the 2oz of sugar and salt
Slowly add the flour until the mixture forms a dough, turn onto floured surface and knead for 3 minutes
Leave to rise in a greased bowl, covered, for 45 minutes
When dough has risen roll out into a rectangular shape
Spread the lemon curd on top and sprinkle over the chocolate

From the long side roll the dough to form a swiss roll shape before slicing into 12 pieces.
Place in muffin cases, brush tops with beaten egg and sprinkle over the brown sugar
Bake in a preheated 220 degree oven for 10 minutes or until they are golden on top
Leave to cool on wire racks

These delightful buns are best eaten on the day they are made but if you do have any leftover just give them a quick reheat in the microwave for a couple of seconds to freshen up the dough before enjoying with a nice cup of coffee and sharing with friends.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

And the winner is.....

Thank you all so much for entering my competition and for all the lovely comments! 55 entries altogether which was fabulous! So after a row between the boys about who was picking the number and with an independent observer present the winner is @michaeltwomeybutcher ! Send me on your address so I can post your prize! :-)

Makes one feel posh dipping biscotti in espresso!

Its a well known fact among my friends that I love all things posh. Fancy candles that I never light, fresh coffee, a pineapple in my fruit bowl* and 80% cocoa chocolate in my press! Of course I am writing this in jest with my tongue firmly in my cheek but I do love a bit of posh! My hubs knowing me inside out recently bought me a lovely stove top coffee pot and I am enjoying brewing my daily coffee with it, always love to have something nice with it and what could be more authentic than a biscotti. There seems to be a huge amount of recipes on the world wide web for them but Nigella never lets me down so I used her lovely recipe from Feast.

  • 1 egg
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • few drops almond essence
  • 125g plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 50g blanched almonds
  • 75g dark chocolate chips (Obviously I used high % cocoa chocolate and chopped it up!)


Preheat oven to 180 degrees
Whisk egg and sugar till it falls in ribbons from whisk
Beat in vanilla and almond essence
Fold in flour, salt and baking powder slowly in batches
Fold in almonds and chocolate
Pat dough into a log like shape and place on baking parchment on baking tray

Bake for 25 minutes or until golden
Leave cool for 5 minutes then slice diagonally
Place back in oven on parchment for 10 minutes then turn and bake for further 5 minutes
Cool on wire rack
Make coffee and dunk!

I felt very sophisticated sitting at my breakfast bar drinking my coffee and nibbling my biscotti. Try the recipe and you can feel posh too!

*are pineapples posh?? :-)

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Little competition to say thank you!

I am a bit of a twitter addict. Actually replace bit with huge. I love the interaction, the fun and the humour of all my twitter pals. I was inspired by all the foodie tweeters to start my own blog and I love to see my stats and am amazed by how widespread my readers are! Trinidad & Tobago, South Africa, Australia, America and Russia all regularly dip in! I love finding new things to bake and write about and I love reading other blogs and getting inspiration from them. I have had almost 5000 hits and to celebrate am having a little giveaway. Most of us are Jamie Oliver fans and I have a copy of his new book "Jamies Great Britain" and a little surprise to give away. To enter just leave a comment below, tweet me or facebook me by Sunday 6th November and I will enter you into the hat. Will get one of the kids to pick out the winner so there will be no cheating! Thank you all for your fabulous company and for all the lovely comments I have received!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Spooky Halloween Chocolate Velvet Cupcakes!

I have confessed before about my love of cookery books, am always happy when I have a lovely new one to look through and a cup of coffee in my hand, throw in a slice of cake and I may as well be in heaven! The Great British Bake Off arrived during the week and what a gorgeous book it is, loads of stuff in it that I want to make and eat. Isaac (3) thinks that John our postman is brilliant as he is always bringing parcels to us, he has not quite grasped the whole middle man situation as of yet! Well I hope wherever you are that you have just as generous a postman as we do!

Chocolate muffins are always a big hit here with adults and kids alike so when I spotted the recipe for Chocolate Velvet Cupcakes I decided that I would try them. I have never used melted chocolate in a cupcake recipe before its usually cocoa powder however I don't think there is any going back after trying these!

Ingredients (makes 12)

  • 175ml semi skimmed milk
  • 150g self raising flour, sieved
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 100g dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa)
  • 60g unsalted butter
  • 1 large egg, room temperature, beaten
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 180 degrees
Place cupcake cases in a 12 hole muffin tin
Heat milk, chopped chocolate and one third of the sugar in a saucepan over a low heat
Remove from heat as soon as it is melted and give it a good stir to combine
Beat the butter until creamy
Add sugar and vanilla and beat till light and fluffy
Gradually add the beaten egg
Next add a third of the flour and stir, followed by a third of the melted chocolate mixture and so on until everything is in the one bowl.
Fill the cases with a ice cream scoop
Bake for 15-18 minutes until well risen
Leave to cool for two minutes before cooling completely on a wire rack

Buttercream Icing

When i make buttercream icing I never really measure anything but just combine in a bowl until I achieve the taste and texture I am looking for so all measurements here are approximate and to my taste.

100g butter
100g icing sugar
1 tbsp cocoa powder, sieved

Beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy
Add the cocoa powder and beat to combine

At this stage you can smear the cupcake with the buttercream or else level of the top of them and pipe it on. I used a Wilton 1m nozzle to decorate mine. I started off on the outside of the cake and worked inwards to the middle then piped another swirl on top of this. I used little plastic Halloween figures to top some of them which the kids absolutely loved and I left the rest plain. Totally delicious and most definitely on the "make again" list!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Rainy Day Cookies

 After my adventures in macarons last week I had my fill of sieving almonds. Six batches of them in seven days is enough for even Pierre Herme I would think. I love making cookies as they are so easy to throw together and the kids absolutely love helping me with them. Miserable wet day in Clara so its always handy to do something like this with the boys when they cant get out to work of their energy on the trampoline. Its always nice to have a treat as a bribe to help make the job of eating their dinner a little more attractive, I know some people frown upon using treats in such a way but bribery is most definitely my favourite type of parenting!


  • 200g plain flour
  • 125g margarine
  • 125g brown sugar
  • 50g chocolate chips
  • 50g white chocolate
  • 2 tbsp peanut butter
  • 1 tbsp cocoa (sieved)
  • 1 egg


Grease a baking tray and preheat oven to 180 degrees
Beat the margarine, peanut butter, brown sugar and cocoa in a bowl until well blended
Add the egg and mix well
Gently stir in flour and chocolate chips until mixture forms a dough
Roll dough into walnut size balls and press down onto baking tray
Bake for 12-15 minutes depending on your oven
Cool on a wire rack before drizzling with melted white chocolate

So apart from the usual rows about who got to stir the mixture for longer than the other a lovely afternoon was had by all. Wont be long till there is another little pair of hands looking to help but for today she was happy to hang onto my leg!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Apprenticeship in Laduree here I come!!

After my first batch of macarons yesterday did not quite go to plan I decided to give them another go with a different recipe, a new spatula, a new piping bag and a new nozzle! Of course it wasn't just these new implements that helped it was the fabulous folding motion that I have perfected from watching online tutorials! I read and watched so many things online yesterday I actually dreamt about macarons last night. Yes I know I am quite sad! This recipe came from Delicious Magazine and I am thrilled with the results.


  • 175g icing sugar
  • 125g ground almonds
  • 3 large egg whites
  • 75g caster sugar
  • food colouring of your choice
For the filling
  • 150g butter, softened
  • 75g icing sugar


Preheat oven to 160 degrees
Whizz the almonds and icing sugar together in a processor till really finely ground then sieve into a bowl.
Whisk the egg whites with pinch of salt till soft peaks form, gradually add in caster sugar until thick and glossy. Add drop or two of food colouring at this stage.
Fold half the almond mixture into the meringue and mix well.
Add the remainder and cut/fold until it is shiny and falls like a ribbon from spatula.

Spoon into a piping bag with a plain nozzle.
Mark out parchment on baking sheets with 3cm circles to guide you as you pipe mixture.
Once piped bang the sheets quite sharply against counter tops to get rid of excess air.
Leave trays to sit for 15 minutes or so to allow a skin to form before baking.

Bake for 15 minutes.
Transfer parchment to a wire rack and allow to cool.
Meanwhile beat the butter until creamy then beat in the icing sugar. You can then add a drop or two of colouring to this as well if you wish. Sandwich the macarons together using this mixture.

Well I have to say I impressed myself with these little beauties! The 8 year old declared them the nicest things he has ever tasted and the dog is in danger of canine diabetes (if there is such a thing) from the amount of spilled icing sugar he licked up from the floor. If anyone can guide me in the direction of a macaron book I would be delighted as I think my adventures in macarons are only starting!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Macaroon or Macaron? Whatever you like to call them they are delicious!!

Am kind of sad that I have only just discovered the delights of macarons. The idea of ground almonds has always put me off, probably as a result of the cloying taste of almond fingers that my mother was always so fond of. It used to drive me mad that anything in the same box as these fingers would have an almond flavour to them, yuck! After watching Zumbos at the weekend I knew I had to give them a try and see what I had been missing out on. Zumbos is based in a bakery in Australia where macarons are their speciality, people queue up before the shop even opens to buy these little discs of yumminess. Form an orderly queue at the kitchen counter please.....

This recipe comes from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and featured in The Guardian.


  • 125g icing sugar
  • 3 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 165g ground almonds
  • 3 egg whites
  • 55g caster sugar
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract

For the ganache

  • 100g plain chocolate
  • 100ml double cream
Preheat oven to 150 degrees.
Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and mark out 24 circles of approximately 4.5cm.
Sieve icing sugar and cocoa powder into a bowl and whisk in the ground almonds.
Whisk the egg whites and gradually add caster sugar until stiff glossy peaks are formed.
Stir in half the almond mixture then add the rest along with the vanilla. Fold until just combined.
Transfer into a freezer bag and snip of one of the corners before piping onto baking sheets.
Tap the sheets against worktop to get rid of air bubbles.
Bake for 15 minutes or until slightly firm.
Transfer the parchment to a wire rack to cool completely.

Make the ganache by heating the cream until simmering then pour onto the broken up chocolate.
Leave for 2 minutes before stirring until cool.
Sandwich the macarons together with the ganache.
Refrigerate until required.

To make life a little easier I put the freezer bag into a pitcher jug before scraping in the mixture. I must invest in some proper bags and nozzles as I would love to perfect these little discs. These have a gorgeous chewy texture and surprisingly I could not get an almond taste from them just luscious chocolate. Would love to attempt some pink and green ones so watch this space!!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Humble Scone!

To me a scone is like a bowl of cornflakes, I forget how nice they are until I taste them. When I started baking a few years ago I made these so often I can almost make them in my sleep! I sometimes like to add dried fruit to them which has been presoaked in orange juice to plump them up but the eight year old requested plain ones so how could I not fulfil his wishes! After a week of dull grey days a bit of comfort was required along with a nice pot of fresh coffee so I made these little beauties! So little effort but such a lovely reward of buttery, sugary goodness.


  • 250g self raising flour
  • 120g butter
  • 5 tbsp milk
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 eggs
  • Pinch of salt


Rub the butter into the flour and baking powder until it resembles breadcrumbs.
Make a well in middle and add in salt, milk and beaten eggs.
Mix to form a dry dough. Add more milk if required.
Turn onto floured surface and roll out. Use a small glass to cut out approximately 15 scones.
Brush scones with milk and dip into some cinnamon sugar. I make this by combining 2 tbsp of caster sugar with a sprinkling of ground cinnamon and combine in a pestle and mortar.
Bake in a preheated oven at 200 degrees for 10 - 15 minutes until golden.
Cool on a wire rack.
Eat with lashings of butter, jam, honey, cream or whatever takes your fancy!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

My name is Paula and I am a lemon curd addict!

I can eat lemon curd by the jar, spoonful after luscious spoonful!! I should enter a lemon curd eating competition as I could probably eat a full jar in five minutes or less! The last batch I made I used vanilla sugar which gave it a slightly different taste layer and it looks so pretty with all the little black flecks through it. I came across this gorgeous muffin recipe a few weeks ago when @Channel4Food had it as their recipe of the day and I have been looking forward to trying it so today was the day! I have always loved River Cottage recipes as its all about good wholesome food and they always turn out well. I think its worth using homemade curd as it just tastes so much better than anything shop bought you will find.

  • 225g plain flour
  • 150g lemon curd
  • 125g natural yoghurt
  • 125ml whole milk
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 75g unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
  • 1 medium egg
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • pinch of salt
Preheat oven to 180 degrees and line a 12 hole muffin tin
Put the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt into a bowl and whisk to combine
Mix the melted butter, yoghurt, milk and egg together.
Pour the wet ingredients onto the dry and mix really lightly till combined, no more.
Spoon some of the mixture into each case then add a teaspoon of curd and top with remaining batter
Place in oven for 25-30 mins depending on your oven.
Place on wire rack to cool, if you can wait that long!!

These are so quick and easy to make and they taste, smell and look divine!! Only a few left already as I tripped over the dog and dropped some on the floor and he gobbled them up.*

*Outright lie, my name is Paula and I am a lemon curd muffin addict.......

My Version of Mammys Irish Stew!

In our house it was always easy to tell what we would be having for dinner as the weekly menu rarely changed. Roast chicken, beef, bacon, cabbage, stew, pork chops and whiting fish were all featured each week. I used to dread Wednesdays as this meant stew day and it was my least favourite dinner. During the summer months it would be replaced with a salad dinner which comprised of cooked ham, turkey, tomatoes, eggs, lettuce and a big plate of steaming new potatoes with loads of butter, oh how I loved to see the seasons change and avoid battles over the dinner table for at least a few months! So now I have kids of my own I realise  my mother was doing a great job trying to get meat and vegetables into us on a daily basis to keep us healthy and strong and here I am continuing the saga here in my own house. Luckily I have three great eaters here and meal time battles are few and far between. They ironically love stew and I have actually come to love it myself, though sorry Mammy I think mine is nicer! The great thing about stew is that anything goes, these measurements are to my families tastes so add more/less if you wish.

  • 500g stewing beef, diced
  • 500g small potatoes, peeled
  • 500ml Guinness
  • 400g tin of plum tomatoes
  • 5 carrots, sliced
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 tbsp of flour
  • 1 tbsp of barbecue sauce/brown sauce
  • salt and pepper
  • olive oil
Heat the oil in a large saucepan over a fairly high heat
Toss the beef in the flour and add to saucepan, brown the meat
Add the onions, carrots and potatoes and stir
Thrown in the tin of tomatoes and the can of Guinness and bring to the boil.
At this stage I add in the barbecue sauce as the boys love a little spice
Season to taste with salt and pepper
Turn down hob to a simmer and put lid on.
Leave to simmer for at least 2 hours to allow the meat to become melting tender

This is such a great one pot meal and foolproof once you buy good quality beef from your butcher. Though looking at the fabulous weather today I might be putting away the stew pot for another few weeks! HELLO SUMMER!!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Waste Not Want Not Cookies!!

Like most women I know when it comes to food I am either very good or very bold. On a good week my weekly grocery shop consists of more fruit, vegetables and protein than I can shake a fist at and enough jersey creams to stop my husband from complaining. He loves them and I hate them so always makes for a good purchase!! This week I was having a bad week, a culmination of Halles first birthday party, my aunts funeral and a weekend of leisure all combined to make my grocery shopping a little naughty, throw in three kids on the shopping trip so basically we are talking about an episode of supermarket sweep! My eldest son Blake is like me and loves to try new things so when he spotted maple frosted cashew nuts, peanuts and dark chocolate all together in a packet he decided that his life would not be complete without this purchase!Of course when he actually tasted them he was not a bit impressed and they were thrown to one side. I absolutely hate food waste and I can never understand when I read reports of the amount of tonnes of food waste that each family creates each year. In my house I buy what fresh food we need for the week and no more, I like to feed my family well and would much rather spend my money on what is required than have an overflowing fridge. When I spotted these nuts in the press I knew that unless I baked something with them that they would end up in the compost bin so the first thing that came to mind was my foolhardy cookie dough mixture courtesy of Rachel Allen. This is such a versatile recipe as you can literally throw anything into the dough mixture to make it unique, three ingredients plus one make it easy peasy too so always handy to have some ready made in your fridge! 


  • 225g butter, softened
  • 110g caster sugar
  • 275g plain flour
  • 150g nut mixture
Preheat oven to 170 degrees
Cream butter until soft then add sugar and beat till light and fluffy
Sift in flour and combine to form dough
Add in nut mixture and combine
Roll the dough into walnut size balls and flatten on baking tray with fork
Bake for 15 mins approx until lightly golden
Place on wire rack to cool
Try not to burn tongue while sampling

Thankfully we were going to our friends house for dinner today so I was able to offload a full batch of the cookies minus one!! The one I tried was delicious, salty yet sweet with just the right amount of crunch! Thank heavens for friends and grateful recipients of baked goodies!!!

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Little Lady

Gender: Girl Meaning: Home rule Origin: English Pronunciation: Hal lee

So those of you who follow me on twitter know how much I love posting pictures of my happy brood and especially ones of the lady in our lives, Halle! In six days she turns one and what a fabulous year we have had.  With my husband coming from a family of five boys and after having two sons ourselves we never dreamt that our last baby would be a pink bundle of joy. It was one of the most emotional moments of my life when my husband said 'I think it might be a girl!'.  Cue huge sobs from me and an unhappy surgeon scolding me for moving!! Anyone who has had a baby knows the torrent of emotions that are felt in the first few weeks after the birth of a baby, your mind is in overdrive with worries and happiness and your body feels like its gone through ten rounds with Mike Tyson. It is such a wonderful time though and they are newborn babies for such a short length of time I hate to leave them down at all.  My mother has a phrase about 'spoiling' babies but how could you resist picking them up at every opportunity for a sniff and a cuddle! For a couple of weeks after her birth I felt guilty for feeling so pleased that she was a little girl until I realised I would have been just as happy with another little chap and I would have felt no different. A baby is such a blessing and Mother Nature is amazing, my mind boggles when I look at the difference from day one to now.  So happy birthday Halle, you have brought great joy into our home and we are all enjoying being wrapped around your little finger!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Delicious soda bread with the tastiest topping!

Last day of August has finally rolled around and with it the end of the summer holidays. Big changes in our house tomorrow with Blake starting third class and Isaac having his first day in playschool. There will be guaranteed tears from me and more than likely a few from him.  He has been my little shadow for the last 3.5 years and my mornings without him are going to be very silent without his constant chattering. One of the disadvantages of staying home with kids is the pang of letting someone else play your role even if it is only for three hours a day and I have to admit I am a little jealous of his new teacher being at the receiving end of his chatter and sticky hugs. My feelings may be different by Friday when I realise the advantage of grocery shopping with one little kid instead of three so watch this space! New school term means new haircuts for the boys. I have a fabulous friend, Nitai, who in exchange for a nice lunch will tend to her two little favourite blonde boys and give them cute haircuts! Nitai is a vegetarian and since trying a delicious lunch in Ballymaloe recently I couldn't wait to test it out on her. I have loved Darina Allen since I was a young girl and I remember loving watching her first television series and my mother tutting at the amount of butter and cream she used in her recipes! In fact Isaac is actually named after one of Darinas sons as I loved the name when I came across it in one of her cookery books! Who needs baby name books when you have baking ones!

Darina Allens Soda Bread


450g plain flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
400 ml buttermilk

Preheat oven to 230 degrees.
Sift all dry ingredients into bowl and make a well in the centre.
Add buttermilk.
Bring in flour from sides to form a soft dough.
If too wet add in a little more flour.
Turn onto floured work surface and flatten out into a circle.
Turn over gently.
Transfer to a floured baking tray.
Cut a deep cross in it.
Bake for 15 minutes, reduce heat to 200 degrees and bake for a further 20 mins or until sounds hollow when end is tapped.
Cool on a wire rack.

So for lunch I sliced up the soda bread into nice thick slices and topped with some slivers of blue cheese, half a conference pear, a handful of walnuts and some mixed leaves.  I drizzled over a dressing made up of 100ml of balsamic vinegar, 50ml of extra virgin olive oil and 50ml of runny honey. What a fabulous combination and so easy to make. This would make a lovely starter to a dinnerparty and apart from the soda bread needs no time at all to throw together.

I love a dish like this with really simple and clean flavours with the added sweetness of the honey! Simply delicious as Darina used to say!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

I say olive oil cake. You say torta di capezzana!

This olive oil cake was part of the Tuscan feast that we had for dinner on Sunday.  A couple of people have asked about it so I thought I would blog the actual recipe.  As a child there was always a bottle of olive oil at home stored in a little glass bottle, I always thought it was medicine instead of  a culinary delight as all it was used for in our house was ear ache! First sign of a pain in our ear, a teaspoon of it would be warmed and dropped into the painful ear and plugged with cotton wool. I am not sure if it was an old wives tale or if it actually worked but it was mandatory in our house!  Nowadays I much prefer to cook with it and dip bread in it, far more civilised!


  • 300g plain flour
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 3 large eggs
  • 300g caster sugar
  • 300ml finest extra-virgin olive oil
  • 300ml milk
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange zest
  • juice of 1 orange
Preheat oven to 180 degrees and grease a springform tin.
Beat the eggs and sugar together till pale yellow.
Gently stir in olive oil, milk, orange zest and juice.
Add in sifted flour and baking powder and stir to combine.
Pour into tin and and bake for 45 minutes or until skewer comes out clean.
Cool on a wire rack.
Slice and enjoy!!

Despite making the mistake of adding in the zest of an entire orange it did not lessen my enjoyment of the cake.  Very similar to a orange madeira cake with a slightly different texture. Gorgeous to have with a cup of fresh coffee, all that was missing was the dappled Tuscan sunshine!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Real Flavour of Tuscany by Lori De Mori and Jason Lowe

So after spending our summer holidays this year staycationing, the only place there has been sunshine has been in my kitchen.  Lemon curd, homemade lemonade and crumbly feta salad have all contributed to diminishing the effects of the rain on my mood.  When the Real Flavour of Tuscany landed on my doormat I knew there would be sunny days ahead!  It's a beautifully photographed book which combines a travel log, life stories of Tuscans, snippets of village life and gorgeous rustic recipes all sourced from culinary artisans. 

Cooks, winemakers, bee keepers and knife makers feature among others, allowing a glimpse into what they eat and how they spend their days. I never make up my mind about a cookbook before trying a few of the recipes and testing them out on my friends and family. After poring over the book and taking my families taste buds into consideration I decided on a meal consisting of peperonata, (braised red peppers), pollo schiacciato al limone peperoncino, (flattened spicy lemon chicken), patate arrosto alle erbe, (herbed roasted potatoes), all followed by torta di capezzana (olive oil cake) washed down with fresh, aromatic coffee. 
I am feeding a family of five, two adults and three children and compliments to the chef, ahem, all there was left was empty plates! Gorgeous flavours and lovely aromas made for a delicious meal.  I made a mistake by adding in the zest of a whole orange into the olive oil cake instead of a tablespoon full of it but none the less it was still delicious, it sliced beautifully and had a wonderful texture.

There are more recipes which i am looking forward to trying.  Sformato di spinaci, (spinach flan), and penne alla fiesolana, (penne with prosciutto, cream and parmesan) are next on the to do list.  The recipe for panna cotta con frutti di basco, (panna cotta with berry sauce) looks delicious and surprising easy to make so is sure to feature at my next dinner party!

The Real Flavour of Tuscany is not a book for your bookshelf but one to keep on your kitchen counter to provide inspiration, you wont have to look too far.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Roasted Hazelnut Nutella Baked Cheesecake!

Oh my days I cannot even describe how gorgeous this cake is! @likemamusedtobake and @patwhelan had me driven mad all week with talk of Nutella and things to make with it so when I happened upon a recipe for Nutella cheesecake in Neven Maguires Home Chef I decided to try it out with a few alterations.  I cant remember the first time I tried Nutella but I do remember the weekly shopping trips to Superquinn with my mam for the groceries and as a treat I always got one of those little kp mini dips, there were never enough little sticks to gobble up the chocolate with so invariably my fingers would end up in the pot! I wonder can you still buy them, have not seen them in years.....


75g butter
250g ginger nut biscuits crushed
2 x 250g mascarpone cheese
100g caster sugar
2 tbsp cornflour
3 eggs
200g jar of Nutella
100g toasted hazelnuts chopped

Preheat oven to 160 degrees and grease a springform tin.
Melt butter and add to crushed biscuits before pressing into base of tin, refrigerate.
Place all other ingredients except hazelnuts into bowl and beat until smooth.
Pour onto base and sprinkle nuts on top.
Place a roasting dish with hot water in it on bottom of oven to keep cake from cracking.
Place cake on baking tray and bake for 55 mins until set on edges.
Run a knife around the edge of cake tin before allowing to set completely in the cooling oven, approximately 90 minutes!

I have never tasted or baked a baked cheesecake before so I didn't know what to expect but after trying this there is no going back, baked cheesecakes all the way! The mousse like consistency is fabulous and the intense hit of the Nutella and hazelnuts is divine.  My sister in law is home from the Netherlands with my nephews at the moment and is coming to visit tomorrow, I had made this for after dinner so I hope a couple of slices can be saved until then. I live in hope......

Monday, July 18, 2011

Death by Rocky Road Cheesecake!

This recipe should actually come with a disclaimer! I don't think I could have fitted in anymore calorie laden ingredients than I did, the things I do for the sake of this blog!!  A cheesecake is probably one of the easiest things in the world to make, bash a few biscuits, beat some other lovely ingredients together, chill and eat. I made a toblerone cheesecake recently and it went down a treat with my friends so I got my thinking cap on and decided to construct my version of a rocky road.  Not for the diet conscious but delicious for a once in a while treat......


  • 250gr double chocolate maryland biscuits
  • 125gr melted butter
  • 200gr finest swiss milk chocolate
  • 500gr mascarpone cheese
  • 250ml whipped cream
  • box of Dr Oetker mini mini marshmallows
  • bag of crunchie rocks
  • handful of mini marshmallows to decorate
Whizz up the cookies to resemble crumbs and add to melted butter. Pat down in base of springform tin. Chill.
Melt chocolate and add to beaten mascarpone. Combine well.
Add whipped cream to chocolate mixture and combine. Add half of the bag of crunchie rocks and the box of mini mini marshmallows.
Pour over base and chill in fridge for at least two hours.
Decorate top with remaining crunchie rocks and a handful of mini marshmallows. 
I drizzled the top of my cake then with a melted bar of dairy milk chocolate!

So even my husband who apparently "hates" cheesecake managed to scoff two slices of this luscious concoction! Big hit with kids, not going to be a regular on the Ryan household pudding list because of the calorific ingredients but maybe for very special occasions I will make and indulge!!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Zingy Lemon Crunch Ginger Cake!

A couple of weeks ago I posted a blog about childhood memories and I mentioned the ginger cake that my Mother made out of the recipe book that came with her shiny new cooker.  This is it albeit slightly quirked with the addition of lemon crystals and copious amounts of icing sugar!  I used to love to come home from school to the smell of this in the kitchen and maybe having a sneaky slice instead of my usual cup of bovril or oxo!! Yes I know oxo is a stock cube of sorts but I used to drink it by the gallon! Iron levels were never low and neither were the salt levels!

  • 4oz butter
  • 6oz black treacle
  • 2oz golden syrup
  • 125ml milk
  • 2 eggs lightly beaten
  • 8oz plain flour
  • 2oz caster sugar
  • 1tsp mixed spice
  • 2tsp ground ginger
  • 1tsp bicarb of soda
Place butter, treacle and syrup into saucepan and heat gently. Remove from heat and add milk.
Allow mixture to cool for 5 minutes then add the beaten eggs.
Sieve dry ingredients into a bowl, add the treacle mixture and beat well together.
Pour into prepared 8 inch square tin and bake at 160 degrees for around 45 minutes until skewer come out clean.
Allow to cool for ten minutes in tin before placing on a wire rack to cool completely.

The easiest way to measure the treacle and syrup is to place saucepan on your weighing scales and set it to zero.  Measure butter, treacle and syrup straight into saucepan.  Still mystifies me how not to get drips on the side of the can though!

Now at this point my Mother would have just sliced it up and served it with steaming cups of tea made the proper way with leaves in a teapot which was hurriedly covered with a tea cosy as soon as last cup was poured at the table.  I however like to pretty things up a little bit so I decided to decorate it with some icing sugar mixed into a pouring paste with a few teaspoons of hot water and some little lemon crunch crystals courtesy of the kids ice cream decorating tin sprinkled on top.  Allow icing sugar to set completely before slicing up. Delicious! Lovely memories of childhood in a slice, or two, or three.........