Monday, March 26, 2012

Run Paula Run!

So this blogpost is completely different from my normal blathering on about food! A couple of weeks ago I got an idea into my head to stop being a slave to the weighing scales and instead to concentrate on living a healthier lifestyle. I have always loved my grub and enjoyed exercise but am the first to admit I liked one a bit too much and the other one not enough!! My husband loves to run and he is like a sleek greyhound whereas I would compare myself to a cuddly Labrador pup but all that is set to change with my new found love of treading the roads of Offaly.

I heard Eamonn Coughlan on Today FM recently and he recommended that when starting to jog to "run as slow as you could for as long as you could" and with this in mind I set off into a new territory for me. The first morning I went out I must admit that I have never been so pleased to see my own front door, I was exhausted and within hours my legs were aching. However after a day of rest I set out again and since then I have never looked back. My alarm goes off at 6:00am and I am out running by 6:15am at least three times per week. It's a great time to think, listen to the birdsong and make plans for the coming day. I have been getting faster each morning and in the space of 4 weeks have knocked an incredible 11 minutes of my initial time. Life is so short and I want to live life to the full for as many years as I can and if this helps I am going to give it my all. For the first time in years I have no idea what I weigh and I don't care. I feel absolutely fantastic and despite being a busy working mum I am rarely tired. I had a few hours to myself on Saturday afternoon and I decided to go for a cycle on my bicycle, the old Paula would most certainly have been sitting in front of the telly chillaxing but I seem to have found a new zest for life! Long may it continue!

If you are considering taking up a new sport or activity I would urge you to just go for it, if you don't enjoy it there is always a different option. I am a scaredy cat when it comes to water but I am determined that 2012 is going to be the year I change that! Maybe I should sign up for a triathlon and then I will have to feel the fear and do it anyway!

Normal business resumes now! Thanks for reading! :-)

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Chocolate & Hazelnut Tart

As you might have guessed at this
stage I absolutely adore having friends
over to my house. I love feeding
people and thankfully all of my friends love to be fed! I am always on the lookout for new dishes to try and when I come across a dish in a paper or magazine that looks enticing invariably I will tear it out. This tart is a Domini Kemp recipe that was published in The Irish Times last April. It's Domini's favourite chocolate tart to make and I can see why. Deliciously decadent and naughty, exactly what a dessert should be.

You will need

100g toasted hazelnuts
150g dark muscavado sugar
120g flour
50g soft butter
300g dark chocolate
500ml cream
6 egg yolks
200g caster sugar

You will need a deep tart tin with a removable base for this.
Whizz the hazelnuts, muscavado sugar, flour and butter in a processor until they resemble breadcrumbs. Press into the base of the tart tin and chill in the fridge.
Melt the chocolate over a pan of hot water.
Heat the cream gently in a saucepan.
Whisk the yolks and caster sugar together until pale, thick and have increased in volume.
Pour the cream onto the melted chocolate and stir really well.
Fold into the whisked eggs mixture until its thick and glossy.
Put tart tin onto a flat baking tray and pour the filling in.
Place in a 160 degree preheated oven for approximately 45 mins or until there is only a slight wobble in the centre.
Allow to cool before serving with some lightly whipped cream, preferably to good friends!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Double Crust Strawberry and White Chocolate Cheesecake

Strawberries and white chocolate are one of my favourite combinations. I have great memories of going picking strawberries in Malahide with neighbours of mine, eating more as went along than we actually put in our baskets. I know it's such a cliche but my goodness the summers really did seem warmer back then and we always seemed to have endless blue skies....oh well back to reality and the rain hopping off my patio furniture outside but then again it is only March! I didn't pick these strawberries or grow them but bought them in a supermarket, must check out some strawberry farms over the summer as I would love to bring the children, no strawberry ever tastes as good as the ones you pick yourself.

To make this delicious cake you will need;

460g double chocolate cookies
230g melted unsalted butter
500g mascarpone cheese
250ml cream, lightly whipped
100g white chocolate, melted
2 punnets of strawberries

Break up the biscuits to resemble crumbs and add in the melted butter, mix well
Use half to line the bottom of a 22cm springform tin, chill for 15 minutes
Cut in half one of the punnets of strawberries and place the halves around the edge of the tin
Mash the other punnet of strawberries and mix well with the mascarpone and the melted white chocolate
Fold in the lightly whipped cream
Pour into the springform tin ensuring strawberries stay upright
Place other half of cookie crumbs on top
Chill for at least 4 hours or overnight

Very luscious and perfect for a treat for Mother's day!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Irish Spring Lamb

Is there a greater family meal to sit down to other than the traditional roast, I think not! My family and I love having a roast with all the trimmings and not just at the weekend. Once there is some gravy with it the kids absolutely devour it, including the dreaded carrots! It's usually a roast chicken but once in a while we will have beef or lamb. Spring is in the air so a juicy leg of lamb was on the cards. I recently bought Nigel Slater's Real Cooking and a lovely recipe caught my eye so I decided to test it out.

This is what you will need:

1 leg of lamb
6 large potatoes
6 cloves of garlic
50g butter
Sprigs of rosemary
Olive oil

Preheat oven to 230 degrees
Cut unpeeled and washed potatoes into slices and place in bottom of roasting tin that has a rack
Drizzle with olive oil, salt and dab butter on top and scatter some salt
Pierce the fat of the lamb with the tip of a sharp knife and insert into each hole a sprig of rosemary and a sliver of garlic
Rub some olive oil all over the lamb leg
Place on roasting tin rack directly over the potatoes so that all the flavour will be absorbed into them
Place in oven for 20 minutes before turning oven down to 200 degrees
Cook for 15 minutes per 500g so approximately 1 hour, this will give delicious rosy pink meat
Remove lamb from the oven and allow it to rest
Turn up the oven again to crispen up the potatoes

I served this with some lovely minty couscous which is such an easy side. Simply add a stock jelly to 200ml of boiling water and stir into 200g of couscous. Leave for five minutes. Add some crispy fried onions and some chopped up fresh mint leaves and fluff up with a fork. Serve at room temperature.

Use the juices from the resting lamb as a base for your gravy. We are not huge fans of mint sauce in our house but a tablespoon of it added to gravy is a must for serving with lamb. Simply warm lamb juices, add vegetable stock jelly, some water, a tablespoon of flour, a tablespoon of mint sauce and stir well until thickened.

Oven bake some sliced carrots with a couple of tablespoons of orange juice for the ultimate roast dinner! Very little tidying up to do and only one dirty pot and maybe some gravy streaked faces to clean......

This is my entrant into the Very Good Recipes St Patricks Challenge, find out more here:
One of the judges is our very own so hopefully Colette will bring it home for the Irish!

Happy St Patricks Day!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Lemon Meringue Pie

In one of my first ever blog posts I featured a citrus curd tart which was essentially a posh name for lemon meringue pie. However in true 'newbie blogger' style I blabbered on a bit about how delicious it was and how much I loved it and I never even included the recipe for it. However a year down the line I have improved slightly, I still blabber on but I always include the recipe.....

This is one of my favourite desserts to bring to someones house as they look so impressive when really they are so simple. Easy to throw together especially if you have your pastry already made and chilling and if you have a pot of homemade lemon curd in the fridge.

I always use a Jamie Oliver recipe for sweet shortcrust pastry and here is an earlier blogpost of mine that features it;

This is the lemon curd that I love to make and more importantly love to eat!;

To make the minature tarts simply line a 12 cup fairy bun tray with little circles of pastry and bake blind in a preheated oven at 180 degrees for approximately 15 minutes or until lightly golden. Place on a wire rack to cool completely.

Once cool spoon on two teaspoons of lemon curd and either pipe or spoon on the meringue topping. I have had a few unsuccessful tart incidences, normally involving weeping meringues (google it, not pleasant!) but this one seems to be fail safe.

Meringue topping

4 large egg whites
250g caster sugar
2tsp cornflour
1tsp white wine vinegar
1/4tsp vanilla extract

Whisk the egg whites till stiff then add in a tablespoon of sugar at a time whilst whisking
Whisk until very stiff then fold in remaining ingredients with a spatula

I used a Wilton 22 nozzle to pipe the meringue onto the tarts and I was very pleased with the effect it gave. Place into a 180 degree oven and keep a close eye on them as within a few short minutes you will have beautiful professional looking tarts ready to be devoured. If you try these out would love to hear back from you, I get such a thrill when someone tells me they have baked/cooked something from the blog. Thanks for reading folks, up next delicious Irish spring lamb!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Pesto and Cherry Tomato Baked Eggs

Since stumbling upon the blogging world in Ireland and becoming part of it I have had so much fun. Photography workshops, friendships, laughter, nights away and fantastic meals have all come my way. En route home yesterday from a wonderful tweet up and tasting menu in the Springfort House Hotel myself and some of the twitterati called into La Cucina in Castletroy, Limerick for our lunch. I was lucky enough to have eaten there before but oh how I wish I lived nearer. Lorraine and Bruno are both so welcoming and treat everyone like old friends. If you haven't had the opportunity to eat there yet you are missing out, put it on top of your list. They have a wonderful range of pasta sauces for sale there and they are hopefully coming to a fridge near you soon so make sure to watch out for them. Lorraine was kind enough to give me a selection to try at home so there will be Italian meals aplenty here this week!

You might have missed me bragging about my jog this morning on twitter but after jogging 6km up and down the hills of Clara at 6:30 I needed something quick, healthy and fresh to get my energy levels back up. Baked eggs is always a great dish, full of protein and goodness. Add some tomatoes and pesto and you will be glowing with health.


4tsps fresh green pesto
2 free range eggs
6 cherry tomatoes

Preheat oven to 180 degrees
Put a teaspoon of pesto in the bottom of each ramekin
Crack in the eggs on top
Place three cherry tomatoes in each ramekin
Drizzle another teaspoon of pesto over the top
Place in a roasting dish that is half filled with water so that the eggs will cook very gently
As soon as egg turns white but yolk is still wobbly they are ready

You might think my quantities of pesto is a bit mean but after having a little taste of it straight from the tub I was loathe to use up too much of it. Have three meals planned that I want to include some in and intend on savouring every single drop!