Carrot cake fans seem to fall into two categories: those who insist their carrot cake should be light, fluffy and cloud-like; and those who prefer a believe the perfect carrot cake is dense, moist and rich. I fall into the latter. The only thing the two camps seem to agree on is that the cake should definitely include a thick layer of cream cheese frosting with a citrusy hint. Historically carrots were a good source of sweetness when sugar and dried fruits were extremely expensive. Carrot cake seems to have its roots in a sweet meat dish. Much like mincemeat, it slowly lost its meat and gained sugar over the centuries. During the second world war, carrot cake took off, making the best use of a home grown source of sweetness. The oil in the mixture means this is a beautifully moist cake which will keep very well. Once the frosting has been added, the cake should be refrigerated. A butter-based cake will firm up in the fridge, but the oil in this cake means it will stay moist even...
Its not uncommon for you to be offered soda bread when staying in a B&B anywhere in Ireland.
Long ago, the Irish mostly made flat griddle bread because Irish flour didn’t have enough gluten to rise with yeast. Baking soda was developed in the US in 1846 and was quickly adopted by Irish cooks, as it enabled bread with Irish flour to rise. In the late 1800s, white Canadian flour with a higher gluten content came over on returning emigration ships, and bakeries started making white bread raised with yeast, known as “shop bread”, and distributing it by horse and cart.
Irish Soda Bread is delicious and like all recipes, you can make your own changes to please your taste. I discovered one tip from a recipe that I looked up years ago - use raw, unsalted sunflower seeds and mix them in thoroughly. The chemical interaction of the soda and the raw sunflower seeds causes the seeds to turn a beautiful, emerald green that looks fantastic...
Spaghetti alla puttanesca is the ultimate fast food dish! An iconic dish from the city of Naples, Italy. The pasta is dressed in a rich and flavourful sauce which can be made in less time than it takes to boil a pot of linguine, spaghetti or any pasta you choose. The basic ingredients are pantry staples including tinned tomatoes, garlic, anchovies, olives and capers. I like to add thinly sliced carrots and since this dish should be salty, piquant and hot. and you can add extra heat with the addition of crushed chillies (another of my store cupboard favourites).
My top tip when cooking pasta, is to always use plenty of water, plenty of salt and keep the pasta on a rolling boil (not splashing!), lid off.
Because anchovies are quite salty it is unlikely that salt will be required but black pepper and perhaps a pinch of sugar to balance the acidity of tinned tomatoes will suffice as seasoning.
It is such a simple, cheap and delicious recipe. You'll...
The festive spirit is building in our house and everyone is looking forward to a well deserved break. I'm just back from visiting my childrens' School Christmas fair. It is lovely to see so many handmade gifts on sale. The festive season provides so many opportunities to spend time together as a family. One tradition my kids adore at this time of year is creating a winter wonderland table centrepiece. Together they cover a cereal box, with tinfoil and collect little twigs for trees, cones for bushes and some holly. A dusting of spray snow transforms everything into a magical lakeside scene. What better way to get your house looking and feeling festive than creating a gorgeous chalet style Ginger Bread House scene. The simple A-frame structure is foolproof so you will be able to construct it with minimal fuss and spend more time on those extra details that make it look so pretty.
GINGERBREAD HOUSE WITH ROYAL ICING
I always make...
By now the house will be strewn with tinsel and glittering baubles. It is the perfect time to indulge in a bit of festive baking alongside a playlist of holiday tunes. These red velvet cupcakes are show stoppers! The cocoa powder in the sponge gives them a mild chocolate flavour and rich colour. For the fabulous red icing I use cream cheese which lends a contrasting tangy taste to these sweet cupcakes.
Red velvet bakes have an intriguing trompe l’oeil effect signalling to the brain ‘red fruit’, whilst the flavour of the cake is actually chocolate, due to the addition of cocoa powder. Commercial bakers achieve a vibrant deep red sponge purely by adding artificial red food colouring as it maintains a stable colour after baking which doesn’t fade. However the manufacturer’s labelling indicates it should be used sparingly (so it’s wise to ask mum to supervise the amount used). In this recipe, I have kept the red colouring to a...
There's no better time to settle into some creative cooking than in the run up to the party season. It's no secret that I adore this time of year and one of my favourite culinary hobbies is dreaming up little morsels of heaven to delight guests with. By now I have a few signature recipes which many of my family and friends look forward to when they come for drinks. Canapés don’t have to be difficult but they do give you an opportunity to showcase your culinary talents and impress your friends. Best of all, tasty bites are a great way to set any occasion off on a fabulous note!
Try these 3 signature canapés that are true crowd pleasers. Remember, preparation is the key, but there is still lots of scope for creativity. You can store canape bases and fillings in an airtight container until ready to use. Always buy plenty of extra fresh herbs for freshness. Contrast and colourful garnishes make finger food look so appetising. Once you...
When the weather gets a bit chillier, I pull out my folder of comforting midweek meals and this Fish curry is always popular with the family. Fish can be very expensive, but if you keep an eye on the blackboard at any good fish counter, you can pick up some fantastic deals on white fish. For instance, you may notice Cod might be priced very high, while the Hake or Haddock offers a more economical alternative, with no compromise on the tastiness of a meal. This fish curry can be made with any white fish, and even prawns.
The creaminess of this curry comes from Cashew nuts rather than cream or coconut milk!
Cooking Time: 30 mins
1.2kg haddock, skinless, pinboned, cut into large chunks
1 tbsp turmeric
2 tbsp sunflower oil
1 tbsp fennel seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
10 cardamom pods, crushed, seeds only
Old recipes are always the best recipes. This whiskey cake recipe was given to me by a lady from Lurgan, Northern Ireland. Intensely dark and moist, it is very easy to make. This is a traditional boiled fruit cake, so called because part of the fruit mixture is boiled before adding it into the cake batter.
The old housewife trick of liberally lacing a little extra whiskey over the top of the cake once it is freshly baked increases the shelf life and in creating this intensely flavoured cake, which remains wonderfully moist even for up to a week, if stored tightly wrapped in an airtight container. The boiling method also means there is no creaming of butter and sugar involved, so the stove actually does the work for you. The mixed dried fruits are soaked in whiskey and spices before being boiled with butter and sugar. Though you’ll be tempted to eat the plump, liquor-soaked fruit straight from the pot, the sacrifice of leaving it be, will be worth it.
The world would be...
Guinness Stew may well be the mother of all stews since anything simmered for hours is going to be wonderfully tasty. Arguably the most deeply flavourful sauce of all stews, with a rich dark brown flavour, this is an Irish classic. The not-so-secret ingredient that goes into Stew that gives the sauce the deep flavour and colour is Guinness Stout (or 'The Black Stuff' as we often say in Ireland), which is known to be much richer than most beers (the thick foam that gathers on the top of a pint). Irish Stout is widely exported nowadays and other equally good Irish Stouts such as Murphys Irish Stout or Beamish) can be substituted in this recipe . All Irish Stout is so dark it is almost black and it’s why the gravy of the stew is such a beautiful deep brown colour. Don't get confused between a Beef and Guinness Stew and Irish Stew (which is more famous and authentic, made with lamb and more like a soup when served, with NO guinness). In an Irish Stew, the potatoes are...
It was “Sally O’Brien and the way she might look at you” that used to attract the tourists. Nowadays tourists are flocking to experience wild coasts, ancient ruins and Irish food. Though subtle culinary differences do exist between us and our close neighbours in Britain. Rather than high tea, Irish scones conjure images of a farmhouse kitchen, a wooden table and a ginormous pot of tea.
When I worked the morning shift in a kitchen, the scones were in the oven within 10 minutes of my arrival. All I had to do was crack some eggs, then pour them, along with milk, into the dry scone mixture (which I had prepared the day before). Every B&B in the country might make a fresh batch each morning if they knew how easy scones are to make.
Truly Irish scones are made in the fashion of white soda bread; combining plain flour, bread soda, salt and buttermilk. While delicious and fluffy when...