Tuesday, April 24, 2012

S'mores Brownies!

When it comes to baking I am very impatient. I never leave anything to cool for as long as I should, never allow melted chocolate to sit and cool before adding cream, am always impatient to ice or decorate whatever I have baked but this recipe I urge you to allow to cool fully before attempting to slice up! Being my usual impatient self I couldn't wait and my kitchen looked like it had gone to war with Dr Oetker himself!! S'mores brownies are a big hit over on pinterest so I couldn't wait to try my own version of them. However I need to practice them to make them look as perfect as ones I have admired!!!

You will need;

200g digestive biscuits, in crumbs
100g butter, melted
175g sugar
175g soft butter
150g self raising flour
125g drinking chocolate
4 eggs
100g dark chocolate, in pieces
200g mini marshmallows

Preheat oven to 180 degrees and grease and line a brownie tin.
Add the melted butter to the crumbed biscuits and press into the bottom of the tin. Refrigerate.
Mix the flour, sugar, butter, hot chocolate and eggs together until a runny mixture is formed.
Add the chopped chocolate and combine.
Pour on top of chilled biscuit base and place in oven for approximately 45 mins or until brownies have just a slight wobble in the middle.
Remove from oven and place a layer of marshmallows on top. I cut each mini marshmallow in half to allow full coverage of the brownie.
Place under the grill and watch very carefully! Wait until very slightly browned then remove immediately!!
At this point you should allow to fully cool, then refrigerate before cutting up into 16 bars! I however attempted to slice them up there and then, this involved several knives, a spatula, a cake server, a breadboard, several plates, a restless 4 year old, a medicinal brandy, two tea towels, a dish cloth and twenty sticky fingers. Am slightly exaggerating here but you get the picture, DO NOT SLICE UP STRAIGHT FROM OVEN!!

I am going to attempt them again soon if only to try and get a perfect shot of a couple of them instead of just this lonely little one!!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Old Fashioned Lemon Loaf!

My children love having a little treat after their dinner and this is one of their favourites. Once they have made a good effort and eaten all their vegetables I don't mind them having something sweet. Everything in moderation and all that! This is such a handy cake as literally it is made and in the oven in minutes, no messing around. One bowl and one loaf tin equals delicious lemony delight!

You will need;

225g softened butter
225g caster sugar
225g self raising flour
4 eggs
1 lemon, zest and juice

Preheat oven to 180 degrees.
Grease and line a loaf tin.
Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
Add the eggs, one at a time. Mix well between each addition.
Sift in the flour, zest and juice and combine well.
Pour into the lined loaf tin and level off with back of spoon.
Bake in oven for approximately 45 mins or until a skewer comes out of centre clean.

To decorate;
You can decorate this cake anyway you like. Icing sugar mixed with some lemon juice or orange juice and poured on top to set is delicious. Cream cheese beaten with some lemon juice and icing sugar is another alternative. For this one I fried some thinly cut slices of lemon in 2 tablespoons of sugar and allowed to cool on some grease proof paper. I dredged the slightly cooled cake with icing sugar and placed the slices on top. Like most of my favourite recipes anything goes. Play around with it and try different combinations until you find the one you love! Hope you enjoy this cake as much as my family do! xx

Thursday, April 19, 2012


Time to run another little competition on my blog! I adore the two greedy Italians and for one lucky winner I have a copy of "Two Greedy Italians Eat Italy"! I have been blogging for 15 months now and am really enjoying it! I would love a few more followers on my blog page, so simply to enter all you need to do is to follow my blog. If you are already following you will automatically be entered! Competition closes the 27th of April and is open to all!

Pear, Caramel & Chocolate Brownies

When I was growing up I always wanted a house where people liked to call into, have a coffee and a slice of cake and above all feel welcome. When I was growing up my mother was a firm believer in "keep yourself to yourself". She had great neighbours but really we only ever entertained relations at home. There was no such thing as coffee mornings, lazy lingering lunches or fun dinner parties. I on the other hand like nothing better than spending time with my pals and their families, I love seeing all the children play together and learn how to share and interact with others. One of the brilliant advantages of my evening job is that I am always free during the day to enjoy these pleasures. I cherish this time with my children and friends, I realise how lucky I am to have those precious hours and I relish each one of them! Today I had four of my lovely friends here and six children. Noisy but fun. These brownies were a huge hit and were declared the nicest treat I have ever baked, eh problem is how do I improve on that???

For these delicious squares you will need;

175g sugar
175g soft butter
150g self raising flour
125g drinking chocolate
4 eggs
100g dark chocolate, in pieces
4 pears, peeled, cored and chopped
150g dulce du leche

Preheat oven to 180 degrees and line/grease a brownie tin.
Mix together the sugar, butter, flour, drinking chocolate and the eggs until you have a runny mixture.
Fold in the chocolate pieces and the pears.
Pour into the brownie tin and swirl the dulce du leche through the mixture.
Bake for 45 mins or until there is a slight wobble in the middle.
Cool in the tin for 30 minutes before turning upside down onto a wire rack and peeling off the parchment paper.
Turn onto a bread board once cooled and cut into 16 squares.
Try and resist having more than one!!!!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Happy Birthday Sid!

Everyday for the last 14 years there has been something not quite right in my world. On 12th October 1998 my families world changed forever when my dear Dad passed away. Always the "soft" parent who we could wrap around our little fingers he left an enormous hole that would or could never be filled. He was only a small man but to us he was always ten feet tall. Ever loving and ever giving, we simply were his world. There isn't a day goes by when thoughts of him don't enter my head. Above all things I wish that he could have met my children, it's not a very nice experience bringing your children to a graveside to meet their Grandad whom you know would have been a fantastic role model in their lives. Unfortunately such is life, bittersweet memories of what was and what could have been. Memories in the head and no more to be made but always love. So happy birthday to my dear Dad, hope you are being as well looked after now as you looked after us then. xxx

Comfort food was a must today so soup was in order. I had this in a cafe recently and enjoyed it so this is my recreation of that.

Chestnut, Parsnip, Apple & Curry Soup.

You will need;
50g butter
2 medium parsnips, grated
2 apples, cored and chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
435g tin of chestnut purée
1 tsp of curry powder
1 tsp dried sage
500ml hot vegetable stock
Salt & pepper

Melt the butter in a large saucepan and add the parsnip which you have grated. Cook for 4 minutes.
Add in the chopped celery and apple and cook for two further minutes or until slightly soft.
Add the curry powder and stir well.
Add in the chestnut purée, sage and the hot stock. Season well.
Cover and simmer for five minutes.
Remove from hit and blend until smooth. I sieved mine after blending to get a really smooth soup.
Serve with a drizzle of creme fraiche and maybe some homemade brown bread with lashings of real butter.

P.S. Ring your mother or father and tell them how wonderful they are and how lucky you are to have them. Life is too short to be all coy and shy about our feelings, let them know how you feel. xxxx

Monday, April 16, 2012

Eggs, Parmesan & Portobello Mushrooms

I had some huge fresh free range eggs that I picked up at a market at the weekend and I wanted to make sure I did them justice! This is a great brunch, light lunch or even an easy peasy dinner party starter. At this stage ye know I love eggs and simple wholesome food and this ticks all the boxes!

To serve two you will need;

2 portobello mushrooms
2 free range eggs
1tsp hot pepper sauce
40g Parmesan cheese shavings
Grind of black pepper

Preheat oven to 180 degrees and put some baking parchment on an oven tray.
Clean the mushrooms and remove the gills, dry well. Place on tray.
Spread a little hot pepper sauce on the inside of mushroom before cracking an egg in carefully.
Place in hot oven for approximately 15 mins or until the egg is cooked to your liking.
Place some of the shaved parmesan on top before returning to the oven for a few moments.
Serve with a grinding of black pepper and if you fancy more heat a sprinkle of chilli flakes!

I love little dishes like this that can be rustled up in moments. Great to have a few like this in your repertoire for when you have unexpected guests and hungry mouths to feed. Loads of alternative variations to try, add spinach, bacon, tomatoes, peppers, the skies the limit! Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Quick Tomato Soup

If you always have onions, garlic and tins of chopped tomatoes in your cupboard you will never go hungry. Such a great base for so many dishes, from baked eggs to curry. This is such a simple soup but completely delicious and full of flavour. I must admit when I threw a few things in the pan today at lunchtime I hadn't fully decided what I was making, warm salsa, pasta sauce or soup! I had some leftover cold roast chicken so I knew I wanted something to go with that and this is what it became, soup and a sandwich!

For two servings you will need;

1 large tomato, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
1/2 onion, sliced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
400g tin of plum tomatoes
1 vegetable stock cube
1/2 tsp of dried oregano
Salt & pepper
Splash of olive oil

Fry off the onion and garlic in the olive oil.
Add the tomato and red pepper, fry until soft.
Pour in the tin of tomatoes, the stock cube and fill the empty tin with water and add that in.
Season with oregano, salt & pepper and simmer for ten minutes.
Blitz with a hand blender before serving.

I served this with a blob of natural yoghurt to which I had added a sprinkle of smoked paprika, this gave extra warmth and depth to the soup. It's also a great dressing for an accompanying sandwich, chop chicken and toss in the paprika yoghurt before spreading on some granary bread. Healthy and filling!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Cannellini Beans & Pasta

My children are constantly hungry. They had only just eaten breakfast this morning and they were asking was lunch ready! Some days I feel like I never leave the kitchen but in truth I love it. I love cooking good nourishing meals for them and there is no greater compliment than a few minutes silence at the table as they tuck in. I felt like making a pasta dish for lunch today so I had a quick look in the cupboard, threw a few things together and this is what I came up with. Filling and delicious, perfect to keep them going till dinner......

You will need

2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 onion, sliced finely
1 orange pepper, chopped
Handful of cherry tomatoes
2 rashers, chopped up
400g tin of plum tomatoes
400g tin of cannellini beans, drained
Salt & pepper
Drizzle of olive oil

Put drizzle of oil in a large frying pan
Add garlic and onion and lightly fry for three minutes
Add rasher, cherry tomatoes and pepper, fry until rashers are crispy
Add in tin of tomatoes and simmer until thickened slightly, season
Add in cannellini beans and simmer for at least five minutes

I love eating a meal that is full of different textures. I served this on a bed of fusilli pasta and topped it with some panko crumbs which I had fried off with some minced garlic, dried parsley and some olive oil. Clean plates all round and hopefully no stomach rumbles until dinner time!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Mint Chocolate Biscuit Cake

I find it hard to believe that my eldest son was 9 last Sunday! He was born on my 24th birthday which was the ultimate gift to receive and bar a Lamborghini or such like being gifted to me it won't be bet! Discussions started a few weeks ago about what type of cake Blake wanted for his party and the consensus was that he would like a "mammy special"! For all ye purists please stop reading now as I made this recipe up and the only thing I weighed was the sugar! Busy mums though will love this recipe as its quick, easy and the kids will devour it!

You will need

227g unsalted butter, softened (this is the size of the Avonmore pack, I am not that precise with my ingredients!)
220g caster sugar
300g mint chocolate (I used Tesco finest which is delicious)
500g digestive biscuits
1 packet of Dr Oetker mini marshmallows (leave 1/3 for decoration)

To decorate

3 packs of Cadburys chocolate fingers
200g dark chocolate
2 large bags of Aero bubbles
Remainder of mini marshmallows

Place the ring of a 22cm springform tin onto a baking tray which has been lined with parchment.
Cream the butter and sugar together until creamy and smooth.
Melt the mint chocolate, I melted it in a microwave making sure to stir at 30 second intervals.
Add the melted chocolate to the creamed butter and combine well.
Break up the biscuits and add to the chocolate along with the marshmallows, stir well.
Spoon into the ring and press down with the back of a spoon, chill in fridge.
Once chilled completely, transfer cake to a serving plate or cake stand.
Melt the dark chocolate and pour over the top and allow to drip down the sides.
Quickly arrange the chocolate fingers around the outside, if necessary dip the ends of them into the bowl in which you melted the chocolate to provide more staying power!
Decorate the top with the aero bubbles and the remaining marshmallows and once again place in the fridge to set.

This makes a very luscious cake and a sliver goes a long way. This fed 15 children and quite a few adults as well with one slice left over for me to enjoy with a coffee the next day.

The great thing about making a biscuit cake is that you can use any combination you like. Add raisins, nuts, maltesers or anything else you like to the mix. Use plain, milk, dark or mint chocolate, use a square ring, a loaf tin or whatever takes your fancy. The most important thing is to enjoy it, both the making and the eating of it! Your kids will think you are wonderful and that, at the end of the day is all that matters!

The birthday boy loved it and I think "Mammy's Special" will be on the menu for years to come.

Thanks for reading!