Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Delicious soda bread with the tastiest topping!

Last day of August has finally rolled around and with it the end of the summer holidays. Big changes in our house tomorrow with Blake starting third class and Isaac having his first day in playschool. There will be guaranteed tears from me and more than likely a few from him.  He has been my little shadow for the last 3.5 years and my mornings without him are going to be very silent without his constant chattering. One of the disadvantages of staying home with kids is the pang of letting someone else play your role even if it is only for three hours a day and I have to admit I am a little jealous of his new teacher being at the receiving end of his chatter and sticky hugs. My feelings may be different by Friday when I realise the advantage of grocery shopping with one little kid instead of three so watch this space! New school term means new haircuts for the boys. I have a fabulous friend, Nitai, who in exchange for a nice lunch will tend to her two little favourite blonde boys and give them cute haircuts! Nitai is a vegetarian and since trying a delicious lunch in Ballymaloe recently I couldn't wait to test it out on her. I have loved Darina Allen since I was a young girl and I remember loving watching her first television series and my mother tutting at the amount of butter and cream she used in her recipes! In fact Isaac is actually named after one of Darinas sons as I loved the name when I came across it in one of her cookery books! Who needs baby name books when you have baking ones!

Darina Allens Soda Bread


450g plain flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
400 ml buttermilk

Preheat oven to 230 degrees.
Sift all dry ingredients into bowl and make a well in the centre.
Add buttermilk.
Bring in flour from sides to form a soft dough.
If too wet add in a little more flour.
Turn onto floured work surface and flatten out into a circle.
Turn over gently.
Transfer to a floured baking tray.
Cut a deep cross in it.
Bake for 15 minutes, reduce heat to 200 degrees and bake for a further 20 mins or until sounds hollow when end is tapped.
Cool on a wire rack.

So for lunch I sliced up the soda bread into nice thick slices and topped with some slivers of blue cheese, half a conference pear, a handful of walnuts and some mixed leaves.  I drizzled over a dressing made up of 100ml of balsamic vinegar, 50ml of extra virgin olive oil and 50ml of runny honey. What a fabulous combination and so easy to make. This would make a lovely starter to a dinnerparty and apart from the soda bread needs no time at all to throw together.

I love a dish like this with really simple and clean flavours with the added sweetness of the honey! Simply delicious as Darina used to say!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

I say olive oil cake. You say torta di capezzana!

This olive oil cake was part of the Tuscan feast that we had for dinner on Sunday.  A couple of people have asked about it so I thought I would blog the actual recipe.  As a child there was always a bottle of olive oil at home stored in a little glass bottle, I always thought it was medicine instead of  a culinary delight as all it was used for in our house was ear ache! First sign of a pain in our ear, a teaspoon of it would be warmed and dropped into the painful ear and plugged with cotton wool. I am not sure if it was an old wives tale or if it actually worked but it was mandatory in our house!  Nowadays I much prefer to cook with it and dip bread in it, far more civilised!


  • 300g plain flour
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 3 large eggs
  • 300g caster sugar
  • 300ml finest extra-virgin olive oil
  • 300ml milk
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange zest
  • juice of 1 orange
Preheat oven to 180 degrees and grease a springform tin.
Beat the eggs and sugar together till pale yellow.
Gently stir in olive oil, milk, orange zest and juice.
Add in sifted flour and baking powder and stir to combine.
Pour into tin and and bake for 45 minutes or until skewer comes out clean.
Cool on a wire rack.
Slice and enjoy!!

Despite making the mistake of adding in the zest of an entire orange it did not lessen my enjoyment of the cake.  Very similar to a orange madeira cake with a slightly different texture. Gorgeous to have with a cup of fresh coffee, all that was missing was the dappled Tuscan sunshine!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Real Flavour of Tuscany by Lori De Mori and Jason Lowe

So after spending our summer holidays this year staycationing, the only place there has been sunshine has been in my kitchen.  Lemon curd, homemade lemonade and crumbly feta salad have all contributed to diminishing the effects of the rain on my mood.  When the Real Flavour of Tuscany landed on my doormat I knew there would be sunny days ahead!  It's a beautifully photographed book which combines a travel log, life stories of Tuscans, snippets of village life and gorgeous rustic recipes all sourced from culinary artisans. 

Cooks, winemakers, bee keepers and knife makers feature among others, allowing a glimpse into what they eat and how they spend their days. I never make up my mind about a cookbook before trying a few of the recipes and testing them out on my friends and family. After poring over the book and taking my families taste buds into consideration I decided on a meal consisting of peperonata, (braised red peppers), pollo schiacciato al limone peperoncino, (flattened spicy lemon chicken), patate arrosto alle erbe, (herbed roasted potatoes), all followed by torta di capezzana (olive oil cake) washed down with fresh, aromatic coffee. 
I am feeding a family of five, two adults and three children and compliments to the chef, ahem, all there was left was empty plates! Gorgeous flavours and lovely aromas made for a delicious meal.  I made a mistake by adding in the zest of a whole orange into the olive oil cake instead of a tablespoon full of it but none the less it was still delicious, it sliced beautifully and had a wonderful texture.

There are more recipes which i am looking forward to trying.  Sformato di spinaci, (spinach flan), and penne alla fiesolana, (penne with prosciutto, cream and parmesan) are next on the to do list.  The recipe for panna cotta con frutti di basco, (panna cotta with berry sauce) looks delicious and surprising easy to make so is sure to feature at my next dinner party!

The Real Flavour of Tuscany is not a book for your bookshelf but one to keep on your kitchen counter to provide inspiration, you wont have to look too far.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Roasted Hazelnut Nutella Baked Cheesecake!

Oh my days I cannot even describe how gorgeous this cake is! @likemamusedtobake and @patwhelan had me driven mad all week with talk of Nutella and things to make with it so when I happened upon a recipe for Nutella cheesecake in Neven Maguires Home Chef I decided to try it out with a few alterations.  I cant remember the first time I tried Nutella but I do remember the weekly shopping trips to Superquinn with my mam for the groceries and as a treat I always got one of those little kp mini dips, there were never enough little sticks to gobble up the chocolate with so invariably my fingers would end up in the pot! I wonder can you still buy them, have not seen them in years.....


75g butter
250g ginger nut biscuits crushed
2 x 250g mascarpone cheese
100g caster sugar
2 tbsp cornflour
3 eggs
200g jar of Nutella
100g toasted hazelnuts chopped

Preheat oven to 160 degrees and grease a springform tin.
Melt butter and add to crushed biscuits before pressing into base of tin, refrigerate.
Place all other ingredients except hazelnuts into bowl and beat until smooth.
Pour onto base and sprinkle nuts on top.
Place a roasting dish with hot water in it on bottom of oven to keep cake from cracking.
Place cake on baking tray and bake for 55 mins until set on edges.
Run a knife around the edge of cake tin before allowing to set completely in the cooling oven, approximately 90 minutes!

I have never tasted or baked a baked cheesecake before so I didn't know what to expect but after trying this there is no going back, baked cheesecakes all the way! The mousse like consistency is fabulous and the intense hit of the Nutella and hazelnuts is divine.  My sister in law is home from the Netherlands with my nephews at the moment and is coming to visit tomorrow, I had made this for after dinner so I hope a couple of slices can be saved until then. I live in hope......