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 voilà!

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….?!

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Day 172: Quick fruit brûlée

A simple rookie mistake. I should have made Quick fruit brûlée in the summer when peaches and nectarines were actually in season as opposed to going to about seven different shops/supermarkets in search of them – and no to avail. Luckily though, the recipe said that I could use any fruit that I had; therefore, I settled on plums instead of nectarines and here’s how it all went…

In a large bowl, I added quartered strawberries, sliced bananas and wedges of plums. I then sprinkled some caster sugar over them followed by a tablespoon of lemon juice and then I gave it all a light stir. Next, I had to make the caramel which involved adding caster sugar into a saucepan on a medium heat. All I had to do was keep stirring the sugar on the heat. Eventually it went from fine sugar to resembling sand, then clumpy, wet sand then syrup. Honestly, I thought that there was no way that the caster sugar was going to end up as syrup without adding something else but, then again, what do I really know about food?! One thing I would say is that when the sugar does dissolve, take it off the heat immediately; otherwise, it will start to burn and, for the love of all that is good food, DO NOT be tempted to taste the syrup - YOU WILL BURN THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS OUT OF YOURSELF!!! How do I know that?! Erm, from experience of course. I’ll say no more about that.

Anyway, once the syrup was made, I then put a few spoonfuls of the fruit in a bowl, followed by whipped double-cream and then, using my food-mastery skills (!), I then drizzled caramel over the top of the cream and let it sit for 5 minutes before serving.

The verdict…

Dear Husband said the recipe was ‘very fruity’ – I did point out that it was called Quick fruit brûlée. As we all know by now, Dear Husband isn’t too fussed on fruit so he gave this recipe a meagre 5 marks out of 10. I gave it 7 marks and probably two of those marks were for the caramel because, once it sets, it’s actually like you would get on a dessert in a restaurant – very fancy schmancy.

Overall, this recipe was easy and quick. Just as the recipe said, you could use any fruit for this dessert. I thought it was a very good recipe but Dear Husband thought it was average but he is biased against the fruit element; therefore, I will definitely make this recipe again although not for Dear Husband so onto The List this recipe goes, well, my list anyway…

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Day 171: Pear, almond and chocolate crumble

There were at least four other occasions that I went to make Pear, almond and chocolate crumble and they didn’t work out because of one reason or another. Not that there was anything wrong with the recipe – it was just trying to fit in approximately an hour and 15 minutes as the recipe said it would take that long to prepare and cook. Finally, I got round to making it this week and here’s how it went…

I began with the pears. Now, you have to use a right few – 12, in fact so there was quite a lot of peeling. I then had to core and dice them. I didn’t have a shallow 2-litre oven-proof dish like the one shown in the cook book so I used my delf casserole dish instead. I put the diced pears into the dish and covered them with some caster sugar. I then put the dish into the oven for 10 minutes which left me time to get on with the crumble. In a large bowl, I sifted in plain four and cinnamon before adding ground almonds and rubbing in diced chilled butter. It was then time to add in chopped dark chocolate and soft light brown sugar. I then sprinkled the crumble mixture over the pears and put the dish back in the oven for just over 40 minutes. I served it with some double cream.

The verdict…

Dear Husband loved this recipe and awarded it 9 marks out of 10. He said it was “beautiful” and if only I could bottle the aroma. I told him ‘they’ already do – they’re called cinnamon-fragranced air fresheners (!). Anyway, the recipe was a real hit. Dear Sister No.1 loved the recipe too. Dear Son reckoned it was ‘ick’ but couldn’t stop going back over to eat more. Although I’m not too keen on pears but really liked this recipe and gave it a 7.

Overall, I found this recipe very time consuming to make. The recipe said it would take 15 minutes to prepare but I’m not joking that it took me ages to peel, core and dice all the pears – probably nearer to 35 minutes. Although it took 10 minutes to cook and then a further 40 minutes to cook, the recipe didn’t require a lot of monitoring which meant I was free to clean up the incredible mess I’d just made. Will I make it again? Well, I have to say that with a score of 9, I have to! However, this would be a recipe I’d probably only make for winter Sunday lunches and, even at that, probably around Christmas time. Sorry people, I just had to mention the ‘C’ word :)  

Monday, 29 October 2012

Day 170: Thai mussels

In fairness, after work this evening, I did go in search of fresh mussels in two supermarkets north and south of the border but the best I could find were vacuum packed ones. All the fresh ones were sold out. I think the vacuum packed ones I did buy were already cooked too. Essentially, that meant that I didn’t have to do that whole repeated rinsing and scrubbing thing I did the last time I made mussels for this Challenge. I distinctly remembered how much of a task all the rinsing and scrubbing was but, alas, I was prepared for it much better this time round. Yes, all psyched up on a Monday evening for a bit of rinsing and scrubbing but all I had to do was snip the bag of the mussels with a pair of scissors. This time around, you see, I was making Thai mussels and here’s how I made them…

In a large saucepan, I added a can of coconut milk, chopped lemon grass, some nam pla, sliced scallions, soft light brown sugar and two packs of mussels. Once the mixture came up to the boil, I popped the lid on and let it simmer for 5 minutes. I then served with freshly chopped coriander.

The verdict…

Remember what I was saying in Day 169’s post that sometimes it’s good for Dear Husband to get a not-so-nice recipe so that he can appreciate the really good ones?! Well, that doesn’t always work in my favour because now that he knows how delicious the freshly rinsed and scrubbed mussels are, he wasn’t too impressed with the vacuum packed variety. Therefore, this recipe scored a very disappointing 5 marks out of 10; disappointing in that I seriously thought this recipe would get an 8 at least. Just re-read the post for Spanish mussels which was way, way, way long ago back on Day 19 of the Challenge.

Overall, this recipe was easy and quick. If you can’t get lemon grass then, according to Google, the grated zest of a lemon will do. Thankfully though, I actually do find it easy enough to get north of the border. Honestly though, I don’t know what I would do without Google as every day, without fail, I make a mental (sometimes Post-it list) of ten questions I want the answer to and Google obliges. The lemon grass question was no.10 for today. Good old Google.  Will I make this recipe again? No. I’m going to stick to the Spanish mussels thank you very much; you should too.

Day 169: White gazpacho

I’m emigrating!!! Seriously! Actually, no I’m not but I seriously cannot stick this cold weather. I know we’ve only just recently gone back to single digits temperature-wise but I’ve concluded that I need to live in a climate that never goes below 22°C. I’m one of those beings who is generally cold all of the time and, therefore, love my heat. Not too much of course. Over 30 degrees? No, that’s probably too warm. In fact, people generally complain that our house is like a sauna as most days of the year, I have the fire lit in the living room; hail, rain, sleet, snow, even summer when the sun has gone done, I’ll be sure to have the fire lit. The only exception is unless the very odd day that the outside temperature is actually over 22 degrees.

So, just out of curiosity, I Googled to see what country has an average temperature of 22 degrees and guess what I found?! The first search that came up was a group of islands called The Cook Islands on the South Pacific Ocean between Figi and French Polynesia. That, of course, meant absolutely nothing to me. Let’s just say that when I looked at the map, they are in a north-easterly direction from New Zealand. Apparently they have an average temperature of 22-28 degrees. The Cook Islands, eh?! Hmmm, almost sounds like fate (!). Anyway, I could have been doing with one of those warm 22-28 degree-days today as my next recipe White gazpacho was a cold soup and definitely not meant for a winter's day in Ireland. Here’s how I made it…

In a food processor, I whizzed up blanched almonds for 2 minutes, followed by finely grated garlic and two tablespoons of water which I whizzed for a further 2 minutes. Next, I added white bread with the crusts removed, olive oil and almost 250ml of ice-cold water. All of that whizzed for 3 minutes. To finish, I seasoned the mixture and served with a sprinkling of olive oil and some freshly ground black pepper.

The verdict…

A major no-no from Dear Husband. His words were, and I quote, “Eugh, rotten, eughh. Eughhh!!!”. Zero marks. Yes, zero. Personally, I thought it was hilarious. Ha ha. It does him no harm to get a bad recipe every now and then so that he can appreciate all the really good ones. My verdict? Erm, I really wasn’t fussed on this so I’m going to give it a 3. Maybe on a hot summer’s day, it would taste nicer but I can’t really imagine myself going out of my way to make this one again. I’d probably pick five other recipes before making this one again; therefore, it hasn’t made The List.

Overall, it was an extremely easy and quick recipe to make. The only plus on today’s weather was that the cold water coming out of the tap was actually freezing cold so I didn’t need to use ice to make the water ice-cold which is what the recipe said to use. And to think it’s only October and it’s going to get colder. Brrrrrrrr! Right, I’m off to put some more logs on the fire. I think the temperature is dipping here again. I hope you are all enjoying the remainder of the bank holiday… :)

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Wow! My blog has gone over the 25,000 mark!

Wow! My blog has gone over the 25,000 mark - thank you so much to all of you for reading! Lynda :)

Day 168: Smoked salmon and avocado on rye toast

I always thought that when I made this recipe, I’d be making it as a supper. Instead though, I made it as a breakfast (part 2). The recipe was Smoked salmon and avocado on rye toast and it was a delight. Here’s how I made it…

In a bowl, I mixed chopped basil, chopped mint, diced red onion, crème fraiche and diced avocado with salt and pepper. I then toasted slices of rye bread and buttered them. The recipe said to cut up smoked salmon but I actually used wafer thin slices instead. I set two slices each on the rye toast followed by a large spoonful of the creamy avocado mixture and, that was it, breakfast was served.

The verdict…

Dear Husband said it was ‘outstanding’ and awarded the recipe 8 marks out of 10. Yes, well, you know he’s a hard marker. I ate the avocado mixture on buttered toast minus the salmon and, I must say, this was a truly exceptional recipe so I’m going to give it a 9.

One of the many, many great things is that this recipe would be an excellent recipe for breakfast, brunch or supper. For me, this has been one of the highlights of this Challenge for me personally. I probably don’t need to say this but, I will; this recipe is going on The List! Oh, and I’ve just thought that this would be a good breakfast to take to work as long as you have access to a toaster, just keep a box of Tic-Tacs handy – well, there is red onion in the recipe. The avocado mixture could just go into a small Tupperware container until you are ready to eat it.

Overall, this recipe was easy to make, quick, healthy and tasty. It probably gets bonus marks from me as the salmon is a healthy source of protein and contains omega-3 oils whilst the avocado contains both omega-3 and omega-6 fats which, again, are the ones we all need to be eating more of.

If only I’d known before now that this recipe was going to be so good, I wouldn’t have waited until the last 10 days of this Challenge to make it. Further proof that it’s always good to try recipes which you may think will be average but actually turn out to be extremely good.

Day 167: Hot buttered plum pudding

A truly spectacular recipe! I was utterly amazed at how simple yet delicious the Hot buttered plum pudding was. How can such simple ingredients taste so yummy?!! I mean, it was the simplest recipe ever and here’s how I made it…

I took four slices of white bread, removed the crusts and buttered each one generously on one side. I then set them into a rectangular oven-proof dish and spread the remaining butter over the top. Next, I neatly (!) laid out sliced plums on top before scattering them with sugar. Into the oven the dish then went for 30 minutes. I then served with a wee bit of double cream.

The verdict…

Would it be such a surprise to say that both Dear Husband and I scored this recipe a 9?! Yes, it really was that good! I don’t actually eat plums as a fruit which is strange considering that my granny always grew them in her orchard. Apples though, well, they were game for climbing the trees which my sisters, cousins and I all loved doing and thankfully continued to do so for years without breaking any bones, no matter how many times we fell off them! Aw, those were the days…and an orchard is something I never see any more though. Anyway, following this recipe, plums have moved up in my estimation. I'm not trying to make myself out like a food critic here as I know very little really (and it's not my style) but I loved how the sweetness of the plums contrasted with the saltiness of the butter and crispy edges of the bread. Absolutely delicious.

Overall, this recipe was super easy, quick, used little ingredients and tasted absolutely delicious. I was slightly alarmed by the amount of sugar which had to be used (3oz/100g) and I’ve managed to get this far in my life with no cavities and want to stay that way; therefore, I think I could have gotten away with slightly less sugar. As you’ll see from the main photo of the pudding that not all the sugar had sufficiently melted in the centre but I didn’t want to leave the pudding in the oven much longer as some of the fruit had started to burn slightly around the edges.

Will I make this recipe again? Without a doubt and I highly recommend this recipe especially considering the time of year. It really is the perfect dessert recipe for the bank holiday weekend Sunday lunch. Enjoy!

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Day 166: Fennel and mango salad

You know it’s winter when you start making stew again. Hmmm, lovely stew. It’s hard to beat coming home on a dark evening to be welcomed by a big, steaming hot bowl on the table. Not forgetting, of course, the Yorkshire Relish on top. Yum. Well, that’s Dear Husband’s life. Mine is that I come home to raw vegetables that have to be peeled, washed, chopped and cooked. Oh but my husband does have the life. So, with Dear Husband’s dinner taken care of with the stew this evening, it meant that I could get on with mine which was Fennel and mango salad and I had nice crusty bread to go with it!

To make the salad, I cubed a fresh mango and added it into a bowl with sliced fennel, chopped mint, olive oil, lemon juice, cubed cheese and seasoning. The recipe said to use feta but I went for mild cheddar instead and then finished off the salad with a sprinkling of chopped hazelnuts.

The verdict…

Again, another salad which is surprisingly tasty. I didn’t think I’d be too fussed on this one but I really, really enjoyed it and awarded the recipe 8 marks out of 10. Definitely, another recipe that has made The List! The only way to eat this recipe is to eat a tiny bit of each ingredient with each forkful – so tasty! Despite Dear Husband having eaten a large bowl of stew (with seconds), I couldn’t resist asking him to taste the salad. As if I needed further proof about there-must-be-meat-in-a-salad-for-a-man-to-like-it theory, it was a no from him. I didn’t even ask him for the marks. I really didn’t want to know so as not to spoil how much I was enjoying mine! Yep, definitely. A salad minus meat = a no-no for Dear Husband but a salad minus meat = yes-yes for me!

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Day 165: Pear and cinnamon tart

If you’re ever in any doubt as to the power of food styling, then just take a look at the difference between my two photos – one of the total tart and the other of one slice on a nice plate. Not that I am in any way good at food styling, of course. In fact, I think the second photo reinforces how much I’m not good at food styling. I seriously don’t have the talent nor the patience. The recipe was Pear and cinnamon tart and it should have read 10 minutes preparation, 25-30 minutes cooking and lots of patience! Here’s how I made it…

Oh, I forgot to say that I actually went to make it yesterday evening and so I set the puff pastry out to defrost on the kitchen worktop. Except, Dear Husband thought I’d left it there for the three Dear Doggies and proceeded to scrump it up and throw it out to them. I was not a happy camper. To say the least. So this evening’s effort was Task 2.

I trimmed the ready-rolled puff pastry and set it on to a baking tray. I then cored and sliced four pears. In a saucepan, I melted some butter and added in sugar and ground cinnamon before pouring it over the sliced pears. The recipe said to arrange the pears in a single layer on top of the pastry; however, what I actually did was simply tumble the pears on top of the pastry and spread them out with the wooden spoon. I seriously don’t have time to stand arranging about five hundred sliced pears. Ok, maybe I’m exaggerating about the five hundred. More like sixty. The tart then cooked in the oven for 25 minutes and I served it with double cream.

The verdict…

Well, despite the fact that my patience making this dessert left a lot to be desired, Dear Husband still scored this recipe full marks. Yes, FULL MARKS!!! A full 10 out of 10. I was amazed! Amazed at him awarding a 10; amazed at how this recipe scored a 10; amazed at how simple yet absolutely delicious this recipe was.

Without doubt, I will make this recipe again. And the further we get into winter, the more inclined I’ll be to make it. The recipe was easy, quick and fantastic and, for those three reasons, I highly recommend you try this one!  

Day 164: Pear and blue cheese salad

Salads, schmalads. Right?! Some people automatically think that just because I’m vegetarian that the only food I eat and love are salads. Wrong. I’m telling you, as someone who loves carbs and need them to fuel a busy lifestyle, a salad just doesn’t cut it for me. If I do have a salad, well, it’s usually only as a starter or a side to another dish like lasagne or with another side of creamed potatoes. Yum. Therefore, when I come across a salad with a difference and one as yummy as Pear and blue cheese salad, then I’m forced to reassess my opinion of them. Here’s how I made it…

I began by making the dressing which consisted of olive oil, cider vinegar, runny honey, Dijon mustard and salt and pepper. I mixed it all and then tossed in salad leaves, sliced pears and cubed blue cheese. I finished off the salad by sprinkling roughly chopped pecan nuts and served.

The verdict…

An amazing 8 marks out of 10 from Dear Husband. Whoa! Ok, I must admit to something. Bear with me as I make a generalised statement and it is only my opinion but, one of the many things I’ve learned in doing this Challenge is that, if you’re going to give a man a salad and expect him to actually like it, then there has to be meat in it! Therefore, for Dear Husband’s salad, I topped it with slices of prosciutto ham. Yes, that good old food item which has become a staple in my fridge. He said it was ‘beautiful’ and ‘different’. I whole-heartedly agreed and also awarded it 8 marks out of 10. If you don't like blue cheese though, you could use cheddar I guess.

When will I make this again? Definitely as a starter if I’m having people over for dinner; definitely on a summer’s day; definitely for a lunch. I’d say that this recipe is one of my favourite recipes so far on this Challenge and I can’t wait to make this again!

Monday, 22 October 2012

Day 163: Smoked sausage, bean and root vegetable soup

The countdown is officially on. T minus 14. This time two weeks, I will be sat here trying to adjust to life post-Challenge. It’s been such a big part of my life for the past 6 months but, yesterday, I sat down and took the time to plan out the remainder of the recipes. So, for the next two weeks, each day has been assigned a recipe with the Grand Finale happening on Sunday, 4 November. The Dear Parents have been invited, the Dear Sisters have been invited, the Dear Brothers-in-Law have been invited and the other half of Dear Sister No.3 so that will be dinner for 12 thank you very much – 6 male and 6 female; a healthy divide. My cook book (actually, what’s left of my cook book) has been decorated with my usual pink and green Post-Its and the date written on each one. So, here’s the recipe that had Mon, 21 Oct stuck to it…

To make the Smoked sausage, bean and root vegetable soup, I began by adding olive oil to a large saucepan followed by sliced frankfurter sausages. The recipe said to use cabanossi sausage or any smoked sausage but frankfurter sausages were the only type I could get my hands on. After a minute, I added in diced onion and chopped garlic which I seasoned and let sauté for 5 minutes with the lid on. At that point, I added in vegetable stock along with a bay leaf and two sprigs on thyme. Once it came up to the boil, I then reduced the heat to a simmer and added diced carrot which cooked for 15 minutes. I then added in diced parsnip and potatoes along with cannellini beans which cooked for another 15 minutes. Then, all I had to do was serve up.

The verdict…

Dear Husband reckoned that the soup smelled nicer than it tasted and awarded my efforts 6 marks out of 10. He was really looking forward to the frankfurter sausages (as I'd never cooked them before) but he said they weren’t as nice as he thought they’d be. And I know for a fact that the inclusion of cannellini beans didn’t exactly help things either. Well, we all know what Dear Husband is like about beans and pulses!

Overall, it was an extremely easy recipe to make. Nothing at all was complicated. However, it was a longer recipe to make as it took me the best part of an hour to make. Will I make it again? I think I’ll have to pass because there are numerous other recipes in the cook book which would take precedence over this one.  Therefore, unfortunately, this recipe has failed to make The List. Well, not all 180 recipes could possibly make The List. Until tomorrow folks…

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Day 162: Chocolate and banana tart

Okay, just ignore the ‘well done’ (ok, burnt) parts of the tart in the photo. Despite what it looks like, this recipe was actually very good. When making desserts, there aren’t many wrongs that can’t be righted with Nutella. Yes, something which continues to be a favourite of mine; that perfect combination of hazelnuts and chocolate. Totally yum. One of my earliest food memories is of Dear Father bringing me and Dear Sister No.1 home a jar of Panda chocolate spread. We had such great fun cutting shapes out of the bread and spreading the chocolate over them. Dear Mother wasn’t too impressed I’m sure but that’s daddies all over. Right so, the recipe was Chocolate and banana tart and here’s how I made it…

I trimmed a sheet of ready-rolled puff pastry and then set it onto a baking tray. I then spread Nutella on top of it and tried to keep it away from the edges as per the recipe instructions. In a bowl, I mixed four sliced bananas and lemon juice before laying them on top of the Nutella. Before putting the tart into the oven, I sprinkled soft brown sugar over the top and then baked for 22 minutes.

The verdict…

Yes, this tart was extremely nice. Dear Husband’s verdict was 8 marks out of 10 and mine was 7 marks. Dear Son liked it generally but picked off the slice of banana. Dear Daughter was the same. What a mess the two of them were afterwards though. I should have taken a photo!

Overall, it was an extremely easy and quick recipe to make. The only thing I’m wondering is if you’ll manage to get through the recipe without sneaking a big spoonful of the Nutella to yourself. I certainly couldn’t. Some things never change…  

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Day 161: Mixed root remoulade with ham

Remember Saucepan Man from Day 77’s post? Well, Saucepan Man made a comeback today only, this time, he was selling knives. I knew nothing of it until I got home so thankfully Dear Husband managed to get through the transaction without having to offload the encounter to me via the phone. I then arrived home with the two children and food shopping only to see this strange looking metal briefcase on the kitchen table. Honestly, it wouldn’t go amiss on a programme like CSI. There’s nothing more that Dear Husband likes than haggling so of course he had to get a discount. Honestly, I pity some poor unfortunate people that come to our door because they really don’t know what’s ahead of them at times for Dear Husband makes a convincing case no matter what the subject is. He's certainly not a walkover. For example, a few years ago, I landed home on a Saturday from doing the food shopping and Dear Husband was sitting having a cup of tea with this man at the table. Well, it’s nothing strange in Donegal that different people call to someone’s house about this, that or the other and they’re welcomed in for tea but Dear Husband was yapping away and I made them another cup of tea. Sure I didn't know who he was but it doesn't matter - everyone gets invited in for tea in Donegal. It turned out that the man (who Dear Husband had never met until that day) was a Jehovah’s Witness and, as they do, he was obviously trying to get Dear Husband to think about converting. However, the poor man picked the wrong house as Dear Husband spent a good hour trying to convert our guest back to being a Catholic. Honestly. I’m not making this up. There Dear Husband was dealing out the scientific concept of evolution and was in full swing about Adam and Eve being a metaphor and all the rest. It’s no surprise that our guest (who was a lovely man) didn’t come back. Yes, that happened. Anyway so, back to the Challenge and today’s effort which was Mixed root remoulade with ham.

The recipe said to coarsely grate the vegetables but I whipped out the food processor because I just wanted an easy run at this recipe even if it did mean more cleaning up afterwards. So, I grated carrots, parsnips and celeriac before adding them into a bowl which contained mayonnaise, Dijon mustard and lemon juice. I mixed it all together before seasoning it and giving it another mix. I must also admit that I used an extra tablespoon of mayonnaise as I like coleslaw to be that bit creamier. I then took slices of fresh sourdough bread and sun-dried bread (courtesy of Harry’s local food market), toasted them and then spread them with butter. I topped each slice with the coleslaw and then a slice of prosciutto ham. I ate the bread and remoulade but minus the ham, of course.

The verdict…

Dear Husband really liked this recipe so the verdict was 7 marks out of 10. He thought the coleslaw was slightly different to my ‘normal one’ so he picked up on the fact that I’d used different ingredients. It was another first for me as today was the first time I’d ever used celeriac. I must admit that I particularly liked this coleslaw even though I love my original one which simply consists of white cabbage, carrots and mayonnaise.

To conclude, I think this recipe is a great recipe for a Sunday brunch but also a supper any night at all. It was another extremely easy and quick recipe and definitely one to have on your repertoire if you’re fortunate enough to come across beautiful artisan baked bread. Oh but freshly baked bread really is hard to beat and this recipe is already on The List. Somehow, I have a feeling that it’s going to become a regular feature in my kitchen for years to come...

Day 160: Japanese-style salmon tartare

Here’s a question for you…do you have certain bits of cutlery or dishware which you favour more than others? I’m talking, for example, favourite cups, favourite spoons, favourite plates, favourite chopping knives etc.? Well, I do. Dear Husband doesn’t understand it at all but, then again, he doesn’t have to. What I do know is that I can’t be alone on this front and I know for a fact that Dear Mother is the same as me. Indeed, she has a particular long, white-handled knife (which is older than me) which is her favourite. I know she doesn’t feel right if she goes to make the dinner and doesn’t have this particular knife to make it with. I can remember umpteen times of us having to search the place for it for her. Like, how many places could it possibly have been?! It’s a strange knife too because it’s like a cross between a bread knife and a sharp, cutting knife except it's not a super sharp knife. She uses it to cut her scone bread but uses it mainly to peel potatoes and cut other vegetables when cooking. I have even seen her buttering her scone bread with it on occasion. It’s some knife I tell you. They probably don’t make knives like them any more. We now live in an age where most things are designed to be disposed of rather than repaired but it means a lot to many cooking enthusiasts to have good equipment. It really does make a difference. As for cups and plates. Well, they are just cups and plates but, for some reason, there’s something about certain cups and plates which simply add to the enjoyment of the food. Today’s recipe though didn’t require much equipment but it did need a nice plate so here’s how I made Japanese-style salmon tartare.

I began by putting Wasabi, freshly grated ginger and lime juice in a bowl and gave it a mix. I then added diced cucumber and salmon to the bowl and mixed it up. Using a cooking ring, I set it on a side plate and then filled it with the salmon mix. I topped it off with chives and toasted sesame seeds and voila.

The verdict…

Dear Husband scored the recipe a very impressive 8 marks out of 10 and said he'd definitely eat it again as it was very, very nice and something different. That’s as good an indication as any as to its performance.

This was my first time cooking (or rather simply making) sushi in years as I remember that I did attempt something like this before only today’s effort was surprisingly better. Personally, I love sushi – the vegetarian kind, of course; however, it’s really hard to get. For a long time, Marks and Spencers used to sell a lunch-box portion of vegetarian sushi which I absolutely loved. The only problem is that the three M&S stores I go to either side of the border no longer stock it. What I can look forward to though is ordering a massive platter of it through their Christmas online food shopping service in the incoming months. Yum. If you’re having a Christmas get-together and there are vegetarians coming, order this. Highly recommended. Of course, M&S still do the normal sushi and I think it’s really good value for money so I occasionally buy some as an addition to Dear Husband’s lunch box.

Overall, it was an extremely easy and quick recipe to make. Without a doubt, I will make this recipe again so it is safely going on to The List. In my books, this recipe should be awarded bonus points as it uses salmon which is an excellent source of omega oils which are good for the brain and it’s hard to beat a bit of brain food. With life as busy as it is, I think we all need something like this recipe on a regular basis. Have a good weekend folks…