Monday, February 27, 2012

To biga or not to biga that is the question....:-)

I have a lovely Italian friend who cooked a delicious meal for us on Saturday night. Bruschetta, cheesy garlic bread, breaded mozzarella and spinach & ricotta cannelloni all featured. Mouthwatering and all amongst my favourite things to eat. Bruschetta though is something which I adore, especially when abroad and you can taste the sun off the tomatoes. I thought that I would try a home made version of the ciabatta bread instead of buying a shop bought one and I was thrilled with the result! Crisp exterior and gorgeous airy chewy interior. Perfecto! You need to make a starter the night before making this one or a "biga" as they call it in Italy. Apparently this gives the bread depth of flavour so well worth taking this extra step.


125g strong flour
1/2 tsp yeast
1/2 tsp caster sugar
150ml lukewarm water

Mix all of the above into a batter and leave in a bowl covered, overnight. In the morning add

2tbsp olive oil
375g strong flour
1tsp salt
1tsp caster sugar
1tsp yeast
250ml lukewarm water

Few handfuls of semolina to sprinkle on tray & over bread

Hint: I used 1/2tsp of a 7g sachet of dried yeast for the biga and the remainder for the next morning.

Mix all the ingredients into a thick batter, cover once again and leave for two hours.
Flour your hands and use to pull gently from sides of bowl. Place the sticky dough on a baking sheet which you have oiled and sprinkled generously with semolina.
Stretch gently into a rectangular shape, sprinkle with semolina and allow to rise uncovered for 45 minutes.
Put into a preheated 220 degree oven for 20 minutes or until it sounds hollow when bottom is tapped.
Cool on a wire rack if you can manage to resist a slice or two or three.....

I served mine with my version of bruschetta comprising of a few chopped cherry tomatoes, minced garlic, oregano, salt and pepper. Drizzle a little oil on the sliced bread before topping with the tomato mixture. So tasty and vibrant! Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Spelt Bread with Fig and Walnut

I have been reading a lot about spelt recently. Used in place of whole meal flours it is apparently better for you and full of natural goodness. I am a sucker for such statements and in my never ending quest for the perfect body I decided I had to have some. Am joking about the perfect body, I have had three children so there is no hope. Ok maybe just a small bit of hope. No actually, no hope. :-)


500g spelt flour
300ml lukewarm water
100g dried figs
50g walnuts, chopped
7g dried yeast
1tsp salt
1tsp sugar
1tbsp oil
4tbsp orange juice
3tbsp lukewarm water

Mix the yeast with 3tbsp of lukewarm water and leave for 15 minutes
Mix together the flour, salt and sugar
Stir in the yeast mixture and the 300ml of lukewarm water
Add the oil and knead until you have a smooth dough
Leave aside, covered, to double in size
Chop the figs and walnuts and leave to soak in the orange juice
Turn out the dough onto a floured surface, add the figs and walnuts and knead firmly until fully combined
Shape the dough, I split it into three bits, rolled them into a long sausage shape and then plaited
Place on an oiled baking sheet, cover and leave for 40 minutes to rise
Bake in a preheated oven for 40 minutes or until golden and crusty
Cool on a wire rack

This makes a really nice textured bread and the walnut and figs mix gives it a nice sweetness and crunch. Well worth getting some spelt to give it a try.

This recipe was courtesy of the back of the Doves Farm spelt flour pack. Interesting recipe for honey and cinnamon cookies there as well which will have to be tested at a later date. Off now for a jog.....over to the kitchen for another slice of bread!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Crunchy Asparagus

I love browsing through pinterest. A few quiet moments in the house and I will be found sitting at the table with my phone in my hand smiling. Beautiful pictures of heavenly flowers, fabulous dresses, dream kitchens, exotic gardens and plate upon plate of the most exquisite looking food. I happened upon a picture of the most delicious looking asparagus I have ever seen and I knew I had to try and replicate it. I made it as one of the sides for my last dinner party and it was a huge hit so I knew it was a dish that would be made again and again!


Bunch of asparagus tips
1 large egg, beaten
100g panko crumbs
50g flour
25g ground almonds
25g freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 200 degree
Combine the panko crumbs and ground almonds together
Coat the asparagus in a dusting of flour
Dip floured asparagus spears in the beaten egg and drain
Dip each spear in the panko and almond crumb
Place on a baking sheet
Bake in oven for 15 minutes until golden
Sprinkle the grated Parmesan over and put back in oven until melted
Try and spare enough to bring to the kitchen table.....

I had some for lunch with a softly boiled egg. Absolutely perfect combination of the runny yolk and the crunchy crumb. Delicious! Plain asparagus just won't cut the mustard in this house any longer!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Eggs, eggs and more eggs....

When I renamed my blog I really should have included the word "eggs" somewhere in the title as I am obsessed with them. After spotting a picture on instagram this morning I knew instantly what I was having for lunch. I spent a few hours at toddler group with my gorgeous daughter but all the time these eggs were on my mind, lunchtime couldn't come fast enough! There are hundreds of different recipes that you can use but nearly easier to play it by ear and use whatever you have in your fridge/pantry. I have always wanted to use that word in a blog, I don't have a pantry, it's merely a cupboard.


2 eggs
1 red pepper
Tin of chopped tomatoes
8 cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 red chilli
1 tsp dried basil
1 fat clove of garlic
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Put a glug of oil into a small frying pan
Add minced garlic, sliced chilli and chopped pepper to soften
Add in tin of tomatoes and bring to a strong simmer, season well and add in cherry tomatoes and basil, simmer gently for 5 minutes
Make two indentations with the back of a spoon and crack the eggs in
Cover with a lid and steam gently until eggs are cooked

I had mine with some toasted brown soda bread and lettuce. Full of nutrients and a great filling lunch. Almost a little too healthy, where's me cake....:-)

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Traditional Irish Brown Soda Bread

"When I walk into my kitchen today, I am not alone. Whether we know it or not, none of us is. We bring fathers and mothers and kitchen tables, and every meal we have ever eaten. Food is never just food. It's also a way of getting at something else: who we are, who we have been, and who we want to be"
Molly Wizenberg

When I happened upon the above quote in a cookbook recently it really made me think. I have a huge amount of childhood memories which are based around our kitchen table, from the Saturday evening fry complete with delicious fried bread, the Sunday roast with all the trimmings to the love it or hate it Dublin coddle. Food is such a central part of our lives and I love making the same memories for my children.

As soon as my hands started mixing the milk into the wheatmeal for this bread I was transported back 25 years to my mothers kitchen and the fold out table where she did all her baking. The smell of the flour and the buttermilk hasn't changed in all that time and neither has the taste. Nothing like it!


450g wheatmeal
1/2 pint of buttermilk
2tsp baking soda
2tsp cream of tartar
1tsp salt

Preheat oven to 200 degrees
Put all dry ingredients into a bowl
Add milk and using a clawing motion combine well
Turn onto a floured surface and knead till smooth
Place on a baking tray and bake for 40 mins or until base sounds hollow when knocked

You may need to add a little extra liquid to combine fully, if too dry add liquid and if too wet add more flour. I love eating a thick slice of this with proper butter and some lovely sweet strawberry jam. It's also great with soup, sausages, ham....enjoy!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Baked Eggs with Spinach and Parmesan

I adore eggs. However there is a danger that I may turn into one soon. They are just so easy and quick to have for lunch and with all the baking I do there is always a multitude of them in the house. Up to this my favourite has been the poached egg, tricky to get right but when you have mastered it, completely delicious! However after trying these little pots of delight for lunch they are a whiskers breadth away from being in the lead!

Serves 2

2 handfuls of spinach
2 free range eggs
Grating of parmesan
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 180 degrees
Wilt spinach in a saucepan with a knob of butter
Butter the ramekins and place wilted spinach on bottom
Crack the eggs into the centre of the ramekins
Top with a grating of parmesan, salt, pepper and another little knob of butter.
Place in oven for 12-15 mins until there is only a slight wobble in the centre.

So many different variations of baked eggs to try out. Lunch has just got more eggciting! Sorry, couldn't resist!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Broad Bean and Penne Gratin

Love was definitely in the air on Saturday night in our house when we had a fabulous valentines themed night. Nothing gives me greater pleasure than planning, preparing and eating the fruits of my labour but I especially love sharing it with great friends. I was cooking for carnivores and herbivores so I had a beautiful shoulder of pork from Olde Farm and a broad bean gratin for the mains. I came across the recipe in Neven Maguires latest book "Home Chef" which if you haven't already got you should most definitely buy! Both mains were equally delicious and all of us went back for seconds. I had never had broad beans before and they brought a lovely fresh flavour to the dish. I prepared it early in the day and just put it into the oven for thirty minutes when my guests arrived. Perfect dinner party food!


750g fresh/frozen broad beans
350g penne pasta
300ml white wine
300ml double cream
250g mascarpone cheese
2 egg yolks
2tbsp snipped chives
2tbsp basil leaves
25g Parmesan cheese
75g pecorino cheese
Salt and pepper

Cook the broad beans in boiling water until tender. Drain and refresh under cold water before slipping them out of their skins. I was amazed at the gorgeous vibrant colour under there!
Cook the pasta until al dente and drain.
Heat the white wine until reduced to 2 tablespoons.
Add the cream and bring to the boil.
Season well and turn down heat until reduced and thickened. Cool slightly.
Fold the broad beans and cream through the pasta and tip into a ovenproof dish.
Beat together the mascarpone, egg yolks, chives and basil in a bowl with the two cheeses. Spoon this mixture on top of pasta and smooth over to edges using the back of the spoon.
Cook in a preheated oven at about 180 degrees until golden and bubbling.

This is a great vegetarian main and one that I will definitely make again. It would make a lovely summer lunch just served with a light salad and some crusty bread. It reheated very nicely and I had some with roasties and soda bread for dinner yesterday. Carbohydrate overload but worth the calories!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Competition Time!

Well I am nearing another milestone on my blog of almost 10,000 hits which I am beyond thrilled about! When I initially started blogging I honestly never imagined that people from all over the world would be bothered reading it. I have met some really lovely people through it and I really enjoy writing the chronicles of my baking exploits! My blog is going to start taking a slightly new direction, up to this I have focused on sweet treats but now I want to expand on the savoury side as well. I love trying out new dishes and would like to think I am a great cook so I want to share these recipes with you as well! :-) I need some help though in deciding on a new name for my blog. In exchange for your ideas I will enter your name into my competition for a copy of one of my favourite cookbooks of 2011, Two Greedy Italians. So please leave a comment with your suggestion and I will enter you into the hat!

Competition closes at 5pm on Sunday February 12th. Open to all!

Hungarian Goulash

On cold February days there is nothing nicer than sitting down to a big dish of this gorgeous warming goulash. The recipe was given to me by a friend and it's too nice not to share. Incredibly easy to make and fit for a king! Great weight watcher friendly meal as well which for me is always good news.


4 peppers (2 red, 2 yellow)
Medium onion
Tin of tomatoes
2lb of steak cut into strips
Glass of red wine
1 tbsp of paprika
1 tbsp of tomatoe purée
Sprinkle of chilli flakes
Salt and pepper

Chop the onion and peppers into small chunks and sweat in a drizzle of oil for ten minutes
Add in meat and the tin of tomatoes, simmer for 45 minutes
Add in red wine, paprika, tomato purée, chilli flakes and plenty of salt and pepper to taste.
Continue to simmer over a low heat until meat is tender approximately 90 mins.

Serve with small roast potatoes, carrots and a dollop of creme fraiche, delicious!