When I cook pasta for dinner in the evening I normally cook a double-batch – far more than I actually need. This is because it can be used in meals the following day. The teenager likes to add boiled eggs, sweetcorn, and mayonnaise for her school lunchbox to a portion of pasta. I like to make salads with mine. If you do have leftover cooked pasta, cool it down immediately after cooking by rinsing in cold water, then once cold put it into a freezer bag or box and the cooked frozen pasta will keep in the freezer for up to a month.
This is a prawn pasta salad that is so easy to make. My father-in-law had it the other day and loved the fresh flavours in the salad. I use the cooked prawns from the chiller cabinet to make the salad but you can also use defrosted cooked prawns if you like (follow the instructions on the packet).
Once again I’ve a video recipe to accompany this blogpost, just click the box below to play: Read More →
Hooray for Irish tomatoes being in season! My tomatoes in the polytunnel are nearly ready but you should be seeing Irish tomatoes in the supermarket at this stage. There is nothing like the flavour of a warm sun-ripened tomato picked straight from the vine. This easy tomato tart recipe is uncomplicated, in fact it’s nearly too easy to call it a recipe! Don’t let the small number of ingredients listed here limit your options. I make this tart with chorizo, fresh basil (thyme, oregano, and sage also work well), peppers, courgette, onions, the list goes on.
As a bonus, to go along with the recipe I’ve another simple video for you to follow! Read More →
When 6th year started last September it seemed like June was a lifetime away. We’ve had many a battle of wills about the 17-year-old’s eating habits. She leaves early in the morning which means I get to see exactly what she’s taken (or not) for lunch before I head out to work. There’s been a couple quite a few early morning phone calls to make sure she has enough food to get her through the day in school. She isn’t a fan of breakfast, and truthfully would skip it only for her Dad makes sure she eats every morning before going to school.
I can’t make her study, harder or otherwise. I can’t sit beside her helping her with her spellings or reading anymore. I can’t lead her by the hand to school, although somedays I wish I could.
In the evening, when she gets home from school, I’m here with dinner and a cup of tea. There’s a hug and a chat; a debrief of the day in school, discussions about all girls’ schools being full of wagons (it’s a Dublin term), answering technical questions about pie charts and languages, etc. Left to her own devices she would happily drink a vat of sugary coffee or minerals, with a side of doughnuts. That’s pretty much her ultimate study food. I’m at a point where I pick my battles, I am not going to tell her what to eat or not. We’ve had the chat about managing sugar spikes and subsequent crashes. The easiest way to combat the rollercoaster that is parenting a Leaving Cert teenager is to make sure there is plenty of food available when she needs it, and that there’s a more convenient healthier option than convenience food.
That’s where energy balls come in. I’m not going to go on and on about the health benefits because I’m not a dietician. These include oats for slow release energy, peanut butter and seeds for fats and protein, dried fruit for fibre, and cocoa powder for flavour. I use honey as a sweetener here but you can use maple syrup or agave, or another sweetener of your choice. The key thing is to smush it all together in a bowl (technical term I know) and roll them into balls which will keep in the fridge for up to 5 days.
2 handfuls seeds (I use sesame seeds but use pumpkin, flaxseeds, or sunflower seeds if you like)
2 handfuls dried fruit (I use raisins)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons peanut butter (smooth or crunchy whichever you prefer, why not try almond butter either?)
50ml hot water
2 tablespoons runny honey
Put all the ingredients into a bowl. Stir well until the ingredients are combined. Take a ping-pong ball sized amount into your hands and roll until you have a compact ball. You can store these energy balls in the fridge for up to 5 days because there is no dairy in the mixture. For extra texture, roll the balls in dessicated coconut or even cover them in dark chocolate.
The verdict from the teenager? “They’d be lovely if you hadn’t ruined them with raisins.” Mind you, despite the fact that she detests raisins she still eats them. Just saying…
The month of April has been a sprint from start to finish for me, and I want to explain. It’s not that I haven’t had the time to update the blog. I’ve actually sat down and started typing most days. It’s just that there is something major going on in the background that I can’t talk about quite yet. This time next month it will all be in the open and you will probably understand why I’ve been sitting on my hands. Normally I hate when people put up vague updates about ‘exciting things’ but I promise that it will be public within the next month so feel comfortable explaining that I’ve been preoccupied (understatement).
As part of this new ‘thing’ I’ve been working on I was privileged to have Cathy Dunne take some work photos of me last week. As full disclosure, Cathy is my cousin. When I heard I needed professional photos I knew I wanted to worth with her as she has incredible talent, eye, and understands what I love and do perfectly. The photos she took were taken using natural light (no flash photography at all), and with minimal editing. The eagle-eyed amongst you will spot that this is not my kitchen; it’s the kitchen in my parents’ house which was perfect for us on the day.
So the allotment! I started saying I had an allotment update!
As you probably know, there were bad frosts last week and yes we did lose some of the grapes but not all. We are still hoping for a decent harvest. We had elected not to fleece because of our proximity to the coast (it’s literally 200 m away from the polytunnel). Foolhardy I know. This is variety ‘Flame’ which we got from Ken Muir in the UK 3 years ago. We are hoping for a good crop of blush seedless grapes this year.
Some of the tomatoes aren’t doing so well with the cold and I’m not sure that all the tubs are draining well either. However the tumblers in the basket are flying along despite the frost last week. There are oodles of yellow flowers which are a good sign of the crop to come.
The strawberries, which are outdoors, don’t seem to have been affected by the frost at all and there are quite a few blossoms, each of which will become individual strawberries (fingers crossed).
The shallots, onions, and garlic have ‘jumped’ over the past fortnight or so and are thriving. We don’t harvest them until the Autumn and they have a long way left to grow yet anyway.
I’m at the guilt-fest that comes with having buckets of work and not enough time to spend at the plot. Look sure it’ll all balance out in the end. I hope. I still need to plant carrots, fix raised beds, weed EVERYWHERE, and support the peas and beans. It’s been on my to-do list for at least a fortnight at this stage.
Finally the new herd of bainbh (Gaelic for bonham or piglet) have arrived and are happily wandering around the paddock looking for bits to eat. The cycle begins again.
Big fat dirty tears of despair are running down my face. It’s the kind of ugly cry that I never want to be seen in public, yet here I am. Standing in the Community Welfare Office with my husband, trying to figure out how we will manage while he’s temporarily laid off over the Summer months. The Welfare Officer shifts in her seat, embarrassed. I turn and push the buggy away from the window that separates (protects) the staff from the public. Eyes sympathetically follow me as I wrestle a tissue out of my pocket, push the buggy with our 2 year old with one hand and blow. My pregnant bump on show, my hair askew, and tears streaming down my face.
Himself has turned a deep shade of cerise, bordering on purple. We had no choice but to look for help and this feels like a betrayal of everything he believes in. He wants to provide for us, but can’t. Read More →
We’re not long back from the allotment after another gloriously sunny Sunday spent in my happy place. I took the big camera down today and had great craic documenting all the new life that’s popping up all over the place. If you follow me on Facebook you’ll know that I’ve been sharing regular updates from the plot using Facebook Live video and I hope you’re enjoying the news.
Have you spotted this week’s Lidl brochure yet? I’m delighted to say that my homegrowing tips and advice are free for you to pick up this week to go along with the seedlings and produce that will go on special tomorrow morning (Monday 3rd April). Some of the items that will go on sale I got 10 days ago so I wanted to give you an allotment update and show you how the products have come along since I planted them at the allotment. This post is picture-heavy, you have been warned! 🙂 Read More →
Every evening when I get back from the allotment I look at my hands. They’re not as soft as they used to be, yet the children still say my touch is just as light as when they themselves were pumpkin-sized. They’re not the prettiest hands you’ll see and after a long day working at the plot there will always be a little lingering dirt even after the third soak. These are the hands that nourish my family, I grow food, and then cook it, and I wouldn’t have it any other way
This is my seventh year of growing my own food on an allotment but I grew some food at home for the year before that. Making the move to an allotment wasn’t a difficult choice to make; growing your own food is made so much easier when you have a wealth of advisors, space, and comaradery to draw upon. Read More →
In October 2016, my grandfather, Jim, turned 100. Jim Shortall was born in Dublin’s North Inner City in 1916, a time of great turmoil for the Irish state. Last year, as we commemorated the 100 year anniversary of the 1916 rising, my family was celebrating a joyous milestone for an incredible gentleman who once cycled internationally for Ireland.
Food that would have been common at the turn of the century in working class Dublin might be viewed as unhealthy or unappealing in modern Ireland. Many of the dishes include offal, which is much loved by the newer Irish immigrants from across Eastern Europe, Asia, and beyond.
I live in an area which has a multitude of different ethnic backgrounds. There are region-specific food stores nearby, indeed my estate alone boasts more than 40 nationalities.
When I think about the food that my grandfather grew up with, and still loves to this day, I can see how it should still appeal to us all now. We have a rich culinary heritage that sometimes gets lost in the ‘corned beef and cabbage’ or ‘green food’ associated with St Patrick’s Day.
There’s no reason why we can’t continue to cook our traditional recipes, but tweak them to include newer ingredients and flavours to reflect how diverse our country is today. Read More →
By special request, I’ve collated some of my best apple recipes, along with a new recipe for an open apple pie, in the one spot. This will make it easy for that somebody who has a glut and there are a couple of savoury options as well as sweet. My big secret with apples is that I use them instead of a sweetener such as sugar or even honey in recipes. They boost the flavour in a sauce or a soup and I even use the peel to make my jams and marmalades set. It’s no wonder they are one of my favourite seasonal and Irish fruits!
*Cough* It is World Pi Day after all… ;)If you’re wondering what to do with your apples, here are some ideas for you to consider:
Traditional hummus is a great way of getting more fibre into your diet, and my children love it. I use the flavours from hummus to introduce other vegetables to the kids and this pink hummus is always a big success. Firstly it’s pink! Secondly it’s got beetroot in it with no olive oil, which I’d use for regular hummus, so it’s healthier.
Cooked beetroot does not mean pickled beetroot in a jar. Regular cooked beetroot has a wonderful sweet, earthy flavour. Read More →
It’s Pancake Tuesday tomorrow, or as the boys call it; Lá Féile Pancóga. When I was growing up there was a rule that we had to eat our dinner before we got pancakes which was clearly a clever ruse to stop us from having our parents at the stovetop for hours on end churning out the pancakes. There were 6 of us in the house (4 girls, my poor Dad), plus if we were lucky, Ma (my Grandmother) and my Aunt. Pancakes were always dredged with sugar and fresh lemon juice and sometimes with a drizzle of runny golden syrup from the Lyle’s tin. They were cooked in a little bit of oil with a knob of butter and our bellies would ache for hours afterward. Oh wow, the memories! Read More →
I get asked questions quite a bit about the slow cooker so I figured I’d pop my tips/answers below, with a slow cooker lamb tagine recipe at the end. As an added bonus, this recipe actually has a video to match. If this is the kind of thing you like to see please do let me know and I’ll do my best to film some more.
Maybe I should have called this post “why I flipping love my slow cooker”! Read More →