Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Masterchef Ireland


By the way, applications are open for Series 3 of Masterchef Ireland. Click here or on the logo above and it will take you to the RTE website which includes information on how to apply. Closing date is 22 July 2013. Good luck!

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Hello and welcome!

With the blog now over 30,000 page views – hello and welcome to all my new readers! Thanks for reading!

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Thank you to all my readers! :

I need to get to work on The List very soon whereby I will provide a full summary of the recipes in terms of have they/have they not made The List. Plus, I’m going to give a summary of the marks for each recipe. It will be handy for when you decide to make some of them yourselves. In the mean time though, I would like to sincerely thank you and you and you for reading my blog and for all the kind comments and tweets along the way. It’s been quite a journey over the past six months. Yes, I totally underestimated how much time and effort making all 180 recipes would take but, like most things that are hard work, they are also the most worthwhile and rewarding. And I will admit now, that being human like everyone else, there were nights in the last month when I really could have done without making a recipe but you, the readers, kept me going so THANK YOU!!!
With all the recipes I made, there were many, many highs and, of course, a few lows. What will be my most memorable recipes? Em, let me see. Here's a few...
- the meringues (still can't make them)
- the panacotta (the disaster x 4 plus the one time I made it right)
- the mussels ( a huge hit)
- the gazpacho (hilarious!)
- the salads that Dear Husband actually liked
- the grand finale dinner, of course
Then there were events that happened that I never thought for a second I would experience, such as...
- Rachel Allen tweeting me and the conversations since
- being on the Ray D'arcy Show (always loved that show and will forever more!)
- The Sun running the story
- my local papers (The Inish Times and The Inishowen Independent) running the story
- hey, I even got a mention on Highland Radio this morning!
So, I hope you enjoy my next blog as much which I’m going to start next weekend. I will continue to reply to any comments you post on this blog if you're thinking of attempting any of the recipes so go for it!
Chat to you all soon!   Kindest Regards,   Lynda xxx

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Day 175: Challenge completed!!! Woo-hoo!!!

Challenge completed – all 180+ recipes are now cooked!

So the final day finally arrived and I knew I had to plan a special grand finale dinner so that meant that for Sunday, 4 November 2012, my house turned into Christmas Day – minus the presents, tree, snow, of course. Although, we did have fairly frosty roads. Anyway, as usual on a Sunday morning, Baby Daughter woke up at 6:50am so the first meal of the day was the usual porridge followed by tea and toast and that was us until the boys got up. They had their usual cereal followed by sausages, toast and tea an hour later. Ten o’clock wasn’t far coming around and, at that point, that’s when the dinner preparations began. But before, I get down to the individual dishes, I better tell you the menu for the dinner…

Apple and pecan salad with prosciutto ham

Main Course
Slow-roast shoulder of pork
Chicken paillard with creamy cucumber and courgettes
Roast potatoes
Creamed potatoes
Roasted butternut squash
Root vegetable mash
Amaretto tiramisu
St. Clement’s syllabub
Melon with vodka, orange and mint
Banoffee pots
Right, so with the menu declared, here’s how I made the individual dishes…

For the Slow-roasted shoulder of pork, the day before, I had made my weekly visit to Harry’s local food market (which you can follow at @HarrysDonal for details), where I got the veg but, most importantly, the main ingredient which was a very large shoulder of pork from Hamilton’s Organic Farm. Hamilton’s are based in St. Johnston and they breed and sell their own meat. I’m telling you, So, 10am Sunday, it was time to take the pork out of the fridge. By sheer luck, when I was in M&S on Saturday, I spotted that they had the disposable roasting trays on sale so I got one as I knew it was the perfect large size for the pork because, believe me, the pork was huge!!! Despite taking 6 hours to cook, it took minimal time to prepare as Hamilton’s had already scored the rind of the pork for me into a criss-cross pattern – I didn’t even have to ask them so that’s one of the reasons why I’d highly recommend buying from them if you decide to make this recipe. The whole joint cost €44. From the many, many cookery programmes I’ve watched, I’ve learned the important of bringing meat up to room temperature before cooking so the pork didn’t go into the oven until 11am. All I had to do was place the pork in the roasting tin and rub sea salt into the rind. The pork cooked on a high heat for 30 minutes and then I reduced the heat and let it cook for a further 4½ hours. At the 5-hour mark, I took the pork out of the oven and poured all the fat into a bowl. I then added a bulb of garlic, a butternut squash cut up into chunks and 4 leeks sliced and a small handful of sage leaves. All that I needed to do then was pour 3 tablespoons of the fat from the bowl over the vegetables, season them and pop the tray back into the oven for another hour.
Amaretto tiramisu was actually the first recipe I made at 10am as it could be prepared in advance and then chilled. I poured cooled coffee and a small bit of brandy into a bowl and then added half of the amaretto biscuits to soak for a few minutes. In another bowl, I whisked mascarpone, caster sugar and 2 egg yolks for 3 minutes until it became light and fluffy. In yet another bowl, I whisked the white of two eggs until they formed soft peaks and then folded the meringue mix into the mascarpone mix. Next, I added some of the biscuit mix into bowls followed by some of the mascarpone mix followed by a scattering of cocoa and repeated for a second layer. I then wrapped each bowl up in clingfilm, set them on a tray and popped them into the fridge until it was time to serve the desserts.
Amaretto tiramisu

Next on the list was St. Clement’s syllabub which was another great dessert because I could also prepare it in advance. It was an extremely easy recipe to make. All I had to do was whisk double cream and then add the following – juice and zest of a lemon, juice and zest of an orange, caster sugar and a small bit of Cointreau. I just gave all of it a mix and divided it into bowls. They too went into the fridge to set along with the tiramisu.
St. Clement's Syllabub

The third dessert was Melon with vodka, orange and mint which simply involved adding melon chunks, chopped mint, vodka, caster sugar and the juice of an orange to a bowl. I wrapped it up too and put it in the fridge.
Melon with vodka, orange and mint

All of the above took me up as far as lunch time which gave me time to actually make a lunch because there was no way any of us would even dream of going more than 4 hours without food! Once I got lunch out of the way, it was time to load the dishwasher for the third time!!! No joking. I then got on with preparing the vegetables.

For the Roast potatoes, Dear Father had sent me down a bag of potatoes because, God forbid, I would end up feeding him anything less than a Donegal potato!!! I wouldn’t mind but these potatoes were medium-sized and there were about 50 of them so I was well and truly fed-up peeling potatoes. Seriously, such a boring thing to have to do. I then steeped them in two saucepans of water – one for boiling and the other for roasting until it was time to put them on to cook. Once boiled, I mashed the potatoes and added double cream and butter.

I was looking forward to making the Root vegetable mash because I was able to get freshly dug celeriac from Harry’s market which is unusual. I think this was also the first time I cooked celeriac. For the mash, I boiled chunks of celeriac, carrot, parsnip and celeriac. I then drained and mashed before stirring in double cream, salt and pepper, chopped parsley and chopped thyme. 
Root vegetable mash

For the starter, I adapted the Pear and blue cheese salad (from Day 163) to make Apple and pecan salad with prosciutto to include mixed salad leaves, wedges of Pink Lady apples, toasted pecan nuts, cubed cheddar cheese, prosciutto ham and the dressing was made up of olive oil, salt and pepper, runny honey and Dijon mustard.

For anyone who didn’t like pork, I decided to make the recipe from Day 149 again which was Chicken paillard with creamy cucumber and courgettes.

The dinner table

Right so, the starter went down a treat – even amongst the meat-lovers and then it was time to serve up the main course and I just put everything on separate dishes and let everyone help themselves.

The verdict…

A resounding 10 out of 10 from everyone! Yipee! I was hoping to get the 10 because I really had been cooking all day. Oh, I forgot to say who was round for dinner and, because it was the last day of cooking, I’ll have to give you their proper names – Dear Father aka Michael, Dear Mother aka Maureen, Dear Sister No.1 (aka Claire), Dear Brother-in-Law (aka Conor), Dear Sister No.2 (aka Lisa), Dear Brother-in-Law No.2 (aka Seamus), Dear Sister No.3 (Eileen), Dear Sister’s boyfriend (aka Garbhan) and, last but not least, Dear Husband (aka Rodney), Dear Son and Baby Daughter.

Being vegetarian, I had the salad for starter (minus the prosciutto) followed by the roast potatoes, root vegetable mash, roasted butternut squash and creamed potatoes. I loved every single bite. Since this Challenge began, I have a newfound love of butternut squash and I'm now a big fan of celeriac.

I am going to say this, not because I cooked this dinner, but it was spectacular. Absolutely everything was a hit – the meat, the veg, the desserts. Everything worked so well and there was something for everyone. It was great to have a big family dinner other than Christmas Day with everyone enjoying the food so much. The menu was a real hit and the desserts – well, let’s just say that quite a number of the dinner guests didn’t settle at eating one and possibly ate three of them! Surprisingly though, the star dessert were the Little Banoffee Pots (see Day 136) followed by the Amaretto tiramisu.  

So now that I have the post written up for the grand finale dinner, I am going to publish one more post in honour of it being the last one for this Challenge. Until then…

P.S. Hamiltons sell their meat at Harry's local food market in Bridgend every Saturday and they also sell in Dunfanaghy every saturday. Their number is 086 171 4009 if you're hoping to order the 4kg pork shoulder from them which you need to do the week before.  


Saturday, 3 November 2012

Day 174: Ceviche

This next recipe involved fish but no cooking. I thought “Well, one mouthful and that’ll be the end of it”. I was wrong. I attempted to make Ceviche which I heard Nigella Lawson pronounce Zay-vichy on her programme one night and here’s how it went…

I began with cutting the cod fillets into thin strips before sliding it into a bowl which contained the juice of 6 limes. I wrapped up the bowl in cling film and set it in the fridge for an hour, as per the instructions. After an hour, I took the bowl out of the fridge and added the following to the fish – diced cucumber, diced avocado, chopped chilli and sliced scallion. To serve, all I had to do was put a few spoonfuls of the mixture on a plate et voilĂ !

The verdict…

As Dear Husband tucked into the ceviche, I waited for a few seconds in eager anticipation of the verdict which I would surely hear bellowing from the kitchen. I thought that, if nothing else, I'd get another laugh. He really is too funny when he doesn't like a recipe. Well, I waited. And waited. And I waited some more. "Hey, hang on a second", I said to myself, "surely he isn’t actually eating the dish and enjoying it?!" But, he was! An amazing 7 marks, thank you very much! I had read in the recipe that although no cooking was involved, as such, that the lime juice would actually cook the fish and so it did because when I took the bowl out of the fridge, the cod looked cooked! Once again, I am amazed by science.

Will I make this again? Prior to making this recipe, I thought that this one was a foregone conclusion but I was wrong. I’m thinking that I will make this again but in summer time – definitely not suited for a cold winter’s night…or day for that matter. A great summer lunch recipe without a doubt.

Overall, this recipe was easy and quick if you ignore the marinating time. It was a real surprise for me as to how well this recipe scored but there you go – another one that didn’t fail to surprise me J   

Day 173: Chicken livers with onions

Remember the time I made the duck and had to psyche myself up for that?! Well, that recipe was a walk-in-the-park compared to this one. I don’t know why but I’d been aware of this recipe for a while but it never really came under my radar. Maybe I was subconsciously avoiding it as if it wasn’t actually in the cook book?! Oh, by the way, it was Chicken livers with onions that I was making and here’s how it went. Actually, before I tell you how it went, I should address the issue of actually getting my hands (latexed ones, that is) on the chicken livers. Here’s how that escapade went…

I assumed that for a cut of meat such as chicken livers, the only place to go to would be the butchers. And so, off I went to my local, well established, reliable, excellent quality butchers. Unfortunately, I didn’t realise that I had to order a speciality cut such as chicken livers in advance which meant that I wasn’t going to get them there and then and would have to wait for five days. Right, so no luck there. Next, I travelled north of the border to the other well established, reliable, excellent quality butchers NI-style which I knew of. Surely I’d get them there?! Erm, nope. Same story. I’d have to order them and wait until next week. Rather than go into a big spiel about my Challenge because, in all honesty, who really cares and, in the bigger scheme of things, it’s not that important, I decided I’d have one last try and go to Sainsburys. Low and behold, yes, they did have chicken livers…and pork livers…and beef livers – the bottom line is that if you’re looking for livers in a hurry and can’t wait a few days then go to a big supermarket. However, just to see the difference, I did order livers from my local butcher for next week too - just to see if there is much of a difference.

Right, so once I got the livers, I had the major ingredient that I needed and began by frying sliced onions in butter for about 12 minutes. The recipe said 15-20 minutes but I think my pan was at a slightly higher temperature than it should have been; hence, the quicker cooking time. Once the onions had cooked, I slid them onto a plate and set aside. I then added more butter to the pan and fried the chicken livers for about 5 minutes before adding a dash of dry sherry, chicken stock and the cooked onions back in. Once everything came up to the boil, I reduced the heat and let it simmer for a further two minutes. I served up with fresh crusty bread.

The verdict…

Dear Husband said the meat in the recipe tasted a bit ‘strange’ – strange as in it was a cut of meat that he was totally unfamiliar with, which he is. Stranger still, he said that it almost didn’t feel right eating the livers and mentioned something about Hannibal Lecter (!). In fact, I would go so far as to say he felt some sort of guilt from eating them which definitely is strange because if it’s a burger, steak, mince, slice of bacon, he has no problem whatsoever but, apparently, when it comes to livers, he’s not too keen. Therefore, it was no great surprise that he only scored the recipe a 5.

Overall, it was a quick and easy recipe to make. However, I really, really didn’t like cooking this recipe - not for one second. I even had to leave the kitchen when Dear Husband tucked into it as I couldn’t bear to watch him eating the livers. It’s safe to say that my threshold as a vegetarian was reached this evening. Only for the fact that I’ve ordered more livers from the local butcher, I most certainly would not make this recipe again but I’ve the order in now so I’ll have to. Why oh why oh why….?!