29 Mar

Tea Raisin Scones

I love my 3 year old (E) to bits. He is possibly the funniest person on the planet. His favourite phrases at the moment include “that sounds loike a gwreat idea mammy” (no clue who taught him that one, ahem) and “you’re a codfwish” (courtesy of Captain Hook). There are some days that I’m not his favourite person, like days when I have to clean or when the baby is niggling so much that I find it hard to dedicate some time just to him.
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27 Mar

Cheat’s Semi-Freddo

The hour went forward in Ireland this weekend and the change in daytime brought a run of incredibly sunny days with it. Everyday since Sunday we have been treated to temperatures of up to 20 degrees celcius (and sometimes more) and glorious sunshine. I live in County Dublin so while I’m close enough to the city centre to be able to get there within 1 hour’s journey, I’m also beside farmland, and the seaside. In fact if I open my windows on a quiet day I can hear the waves crashing on the shore and/or the cows in the next field over. Yes, that close.

With the sunny weather it has heralded the arrival of the ice cream vans. Not just the odd one hoping to get a bit of business on a chilly day (I spotted a van here over the Christmas holidays), but sometimes more than 4 vans in the one day. If we were to buy ice cream from these vans even once a day we’d be broke and at this point I hang my head in shame. This is because this very mean mammy has been known to inform the toddler with much confidence that ice cream vans only make music when they are empty. But there is something about the tinny sound of “O Sole Mio/Just One Cornetto” being piped through the tannoy along with the chug of the diesel engine that powers the vans that makes me feel like I want something cold and sweet straight away.
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25 Mar

Rhubarb Tagliatelle

Okay I admit it, I have a bit of an obsession with Rhubarb.  It is one of my favourite fruits and because it’s in season at the moment it’s very easy, and cheap to get a hold of. I will do some chutneys towards the end of the season but at the moment it’s so tender there is very little cooking to do with it.  The only ingredient in this recipe that isn’t Irish is the fruit sugar that I used to poach the rhubarb, however if you can get your hands on a decent Irish apple juice then that would be perfect instead of sugar.

Since January close friends and family of mine have been on a health kick.  Not in a New Year resolution sort of way, more in a life-changing way. Himself has lost nearly 2.5stone at this stage and his pals and my two gorgeous friends, A & S, aren’t too far behind. Their diet can be restrictive when it comes to sweet treats. Since they started this journey towards a healthier self when I cook or bake something particularly bold I get admonished, just a little bit, but all the same it’s very unfair of me to taunt them when they are doing so well.
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23 Mar

Wild Salad

This morning we were out early. I needed more milk for the fridge and strong flour for breadmaking. On the way to the Supermarket I noticed some wild garlic nestled in between some shrubby and flowering daffodils. There isn’t so much growing there this year as last year somebody ripped almost the full amount up. I took only what I needed from 1 plant, even though there was more than one there. I didn’t take more than 1/3 to allow it to flourish again. There were some buds and I know more will flower over the coming weeks so I can take a little more in a few days time.

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18 Mar

Rhubarb and Thyme Tartlet

Today is Mother’s Day in Ireland, or to give it the old title, “Mothering Sunday”. Traditionally celebrated in our home by me being given free license to cook what I want in the kitchen as I have a very able sous-chef (my husband) and visiting/commemorating the mothering figures in our lives. While yesterday was St Patrick’s Day we didn’t mark it in the traditional way of going to watch a local parade or cooking dishes on a green theme. Instead we went to a family reunion in memory of some close family members who are no longer with us. It was a refreshing way to spend St Patrick’s Day and probably just as well because I believe we would have been very wet if we had gone to the parade.

However I am signed up to participate in the Very Good Recipes St Patrick Challenge and so I did need to cook something a little green this week.

There is little in season in the outdoor kitchen garden by way of fruit but rhubarb is just coming into season. The rhubarb plant we cut from is very young and very pink right now. I’m almost afraid to cut from it as I really want to make some chutney and perhaps some wine later on in the Spring. I did get 5 small stalks on Friday and while I was cutting them I noticed a thyme bush nearby and caught the light fragrant scent on the air. The thought struck me then that perhaps the two ingredients would be a good combination providing the thyme wasn’t too overpowering and this is where this recipe started. The thyme flavour lingers in the background and breaks up the sweetness of the tartlet.

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09 Mar

Baked Doughnuts

Many of my food memories are woven around my paternal Grandmother, and they are normally sweet ones. I refer to her now as Granny Ma to our children as she passed away while I was still pregnant with my first child; but to me, all her other grandchildren and her own children she was simply “Ma”. For a while when we were younger we shared her home and then later she moved to live right beside us. You would pass her door every morning on the way to school and do so quietly, so as not to wake her. On the way home from school you’d often hear a tap-tap on the window and see her beckoning you in to share a cup of tea, watch Countdown and a sneaky treat before dinner.

I only remember her making doughnuts once but my Mam tells me that she always made them at Halloween. The time I do remember her making doughnuts it was a weekend and once the word went around to all of our Aunts, Uncles & Cousins that there was a batch on the go her kitchen filled with family members. The smell of warm sugar filled the air, many cups of tea were drunk and we scoffed the lot between about 20 of us. Ma didn’t do things by halves; something I think I’ve inherited.

Doughnuts are something that even now I don’t eat without the memories of that day. The thing is that I’m not a fan of hot pans of oil, even if it is a deep fat fryer, when I have such small children in the house and a small kitchen. So I’ve taken a basic doughnut recipe and tweaked it so that they can be baked in the oven which is far safer and probably a little more heart healthy too. I prefer these jam filled doughnuts without the sugar on top but the kids had to have the real deal. Oh and apologies to my neighbours, as I dropped over a batch of sugar coated doughnuts at their childrens’ bedtime on a Sunday evening. I will try in future to give you advance warning! My name is mud now I think.

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01 Mar


You’re probably thinking this is an Irish family food blog so what the heck has hummus, a Middle Eastern dish have to do with Irish food?

I believe that our food experiences define our tastes and flavours as a family. My father served with UNIFIL (United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon) more than once as I was growing up. On one of his tours of duty my family was lucky enough to spend a number of months living across the border in Israel while he commuted to Lebanon for work everyday.

I am still in awe of my mother who packed up the house, put it up for rent while we were away, and took 4 children on her own to Israel to meet him. I celebrated my 12th Birthday while we were there and I have very vivid memories of the time we spent in the Middle East.   We did get to visit Naquora in South Lebanon many times and the food and meze that we experienced there lives strong in my food memories. The bright orange of carrots cut into batons served with pink peanuts, a sprinkle of sea salt and a squeeze of lemon, crunchy white cabbage served in the same way, soft chewy lebanese flatbread still warm from the oven and of course every table included hummus and tabouleh.  You would tear off a smaller piece of this gigantic flatbread which was bigger than my youngest sister (2 at the time) and use it to scoop up dollops of fragrant hummus while the breeze came in off the sea and the scent of meat grilling in the kitchen got your taste buds screaming for more.

I could talk and write of our stay for hours on end and I will revisit it and my food memories again.  In the meantime here is a simple recipe for hummus that is best prepared 4/5 hours before eating to let the flavours develop. Items like lemon, garlic, pepper & salt you add or remove from the recipe to taste.  Personally I like my hummus bursting with fresh lemon juice flavour.  If you haven’t come across tahini before it is ground sesame seed paste and easily found in jars most ethnic food stores.

I serve hummus with toasted pita breads, crunchy carrot sticks, and if I’m very bold, crisps.  It’s also delicious in a sandwich or wrap as dressing for grilled meat with a leafy salad. In the picture here it has a small bit of paprika sprinkled on top  to give your taste buds a zing if you’re lucky enough to scoop up some.
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17 Feb

Special Sauce

The 12 year old has always been, as her grandmother would describe her, “a great grubber”.  She is brilliant and will try most foods at least once, loves exotic flavours, tastes and my cooking.  In my naivety I assumed that the 3 year old would be the same.  How wrong was I!  We’ve been gifted with a child who up until recently would only eat finger food and as anybody who has a picky eater will tell you it’s exceedingly hard to introduce a varied diet.

It clicked with me early on that he loved to dip  his food into ketchup and would tolerate the tomato sauce on a pizza.  The thing about shop bought ketchup is that it can be full of sugars and not great for teeth.  So I messed around with different combinations of vegetables in this sauce until I hit on one that he would eat.  Nowadays he will devour any food that this sauce is smothered with and it’s become a gateway to getting him to try other foods.

I use a blender or “magimix” machine to chop up the vegetables because it saves time and it means I don’t have to blend the sauce at the end to hide the vegetables. But it’s perfectly fine to roughly chop the veg at the start and then blend the sauce when it is cooked.  This recipe makes enough for 3 large family meals so I make 1 pot a week, remove a 1/3 to eat straight away over homemade meatballs and freeze 2 trays of the rest for use during the week.  It’s the perfect carrier sauce for chilli con carne, pasta arrabiata, spaghetti bolognese or pizza once you add herbs and spices and you could even eat it as a soup.

The sauce will keep in the freezer for up to 3 months or in a sealed jar in the fridge for up to 3 days.
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15 Feb

Garlic Mash

Creamy, garlic, spuds, what’s not to love?

I live in an area that is well known for its spud growers.  We get a fresh bag every week from a local farmer. This is a heavenly combination of local potatoes, garlic & parsley from our garden, full fat Irish milk and golden Irish butter. This is not a calorie counting type of dish but it’s filling and easily prepared in advance. We have this at least once a week as part of our main meal.
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13 Feb

Simple Icing / Frosting

This simple icing / frosting recipe is the easiest I have in my home recipe book. It’s my “go-to” when I want a reliable, consistent flavour and result.  I use it for sponge sandwiches, covering cupcakes and on this occasion sandwiching 2 of my everyday cookies together.

My basic rule is twice as much icing sugar as butter. Use a small amount of milk if you find the mixture is too stiff.  Apart from that flavour it as you like.  This time around I’ve used vanilla but you could equally flavour it with mint, the fresh rind of a lemon or an orange with a small amount of juice, cocoa powder or whatever you want to. This icing mix keeps in the fridge for up to 3 days in a covered bowl or equally if you put it into a freezer bag it will keep for up to 1 month in advance of icing.
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13 Feb

Anytime Cookies

This is a great recipe for light, crisp cookies that I baked this week for St Valentine’s. The cookies without any decoration will keep for up to 7 days, if you don’t eat them all, in a dry sealed box in your cupboard.
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