Food photography Marta Miklinska, Food Styling by Jette Virdi (from cookbook Enjoy!)

White Christmas Biscuit Cake- Recipe 12 of 12 from Enjoy!

White Christmas Biscuit Cake

Food photography Marta Miklinska, Food Styling by Jette Virdi (from cookbook Enjoy!)

Food photography Marta Miklinska, Food Styling by Jette Virdi (from cookbook Enjoy!)

Ta Dah! Recipe 12 of 12.  So I set myself the task of sharing 12 recipes from ‘Enjoy!’ over 12 weeks until Christmas and here we are!!!! It really does just sneak up in the end.  I love it.  I love the lights.  I love the buzz.  I love the frenzy in town and even the panicky feeling that you’ve forgotten something.  I did tweet during the week about something that bugs me though, the idea of the ‘PERFECT’ Christmas, that’s absurd.  We’re being sold perfection as something achievable and desirable and if it does exist then it would imply that there is just one version, the ‘perfect’ version of Christmas.  But Christmas is a unique experience to us all, the things that make us buzz, the movies that we want to watch, the rituals of gift-opening etc.. they vary in every household.  I’m wishing you all a unique and real Christmas.
In light of uniqueness here’s a recipe for a Biscuit Cake instead of traditional fruit Christmas Cake.  There’s still plenty of time and if you’ve kids they’ll love getting involved in the decoration.
A ‘springform tin’ is one used for cheesecakes that has a spring release on the side so that you can remove it easily.
White Christmas Biscuit Cake
You will need:
For the biscuit cake:
110g unsalted butter, softened
110g dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa solids)
110g caster sugar
225g McVitie’s Rich Tea biscuits
Assortment of finger biscuits and sweets, to decorate
For the topping:
5 x 58g Mars bars
3 x 100g bars of white chocolate
Line a baking tray with non-stick baking paper . Place the ring of a springform tin on the paper – you aren’t using a cake tin, just the ring with the base removed to shape the cake.
Beat the butter until it’s smooth, then beat in the caster sugar.
In a separate bowl, break the biscuits into almond-sized pieces.
Melt the dark chocolate (I use the microwave) and gradually beat it into the butter mixture until smooth. Add the broken biscuits and stir well to cover with the cake mix.
Spoon the chocolate biscuit mix into the cake ring. Press it down and out to the sides with the back of the spoon until it’s even. Place the cake in the fridge to set overnight.
The next day, remove the cake ring from the set cake. Turn the biscuit cake upside down and place it on a wire rack – the bottom will be smoother, and it will now be the top. Put some parchment paper underneath the wire rack to catch the drips from the melted chocolate.
Cut the Mars bars into small pieces and melt them in a saucepan with a couple of tablespoons of water, mixing well to form a smooth topping. Pour the melted Mars bar topping onto the biscuit cake and chill it in the fridge for 1 hour. You can keep the piece of parchment paper to use it again for the next layer of melted chocolate.
Break the white chocolate bars into small pieces and melt them in a bowl in the microwave. Remove the cake from the fridge and set the rack back over the piece of parchment paper. Pour the melted white chocolate over the chilled biscuit cake, then carefully transfer the cake from the wire rack onto a cake stand or serving plate.
Have fun decorating with Christmas-themed sweets on top and white chocolate finger biscuits around the side.
& Have a wonderfully unique Christmas!! Sheila.

Food photography Marta Miklinska, Food Styling by Jette Virdi (from cookbook Enjoy!)

Golden Granola – Recipe 11 of 12 from Enjoy!

Golden Granola
Treat yourself over Christmas to a delicious crunchy start to your day with this scrumptious golden baked granola.  Thankfully most of my kids don’t eat it & I’ll have a jar of it to sprinkle over yoghurt etc. during the holidays.  Makes for a beautiful gift if you get hold of a nice jar.

Food photography Marta Miklinska, Food Styling by Jette Virdi (from cookbook Enjoy!)

Food photography Marta Miklinska, Food Styling by Jette Virdi (from cookbook Enjoy!)

You will need:
150g porridge oats
150g combination of mixed dried fruit, nuts and seeds (you choose)
50g desiccated coconut (leave it out if you’re not a fan)
4 tbsp golden syrup or runny honey
3 tbsp rapeseed oil
Preheat a fan oven to 160°C.
Mix the oats, mixed fruit, nuts and seeds and the desiccated coconut on a baking tray.
Drizzle the golden syrup or honey and the oil over them and mix thoroughly with a fork so that nothing is left completely dry.
Toast the granola mixture in the preheated oven for 25 minutes, tossing it with a fork at 5- or 10-minute intervals as it cooks to ensure even toasting.
Leave to cool on the baking tray, then store in an airtight container.
To serve for breakfast, layer up the granola with some natural yoghurt and fruit.
Enjoy! ’til next time, Sheila.

GF Olive and Sundried Tomato Loaf2

Gluten Free Olive & Sundried Tomato Bread

A bag of Gluten Free flour got purchased by accident lately! Not one to waste anything I knew that gluten-free bread needs a bit of a helping hand to push it towards flavoursome and bready.  This recipe is based on one for ‘Olive Loaf’ in The hummingbird bakery ‘Home Sweet Home’ cookbook.  The Gluten Free flour that I used is called ‘Odlums Gluten Free Tritamyl White Bread Mix’.  It’s got too many ingredients for me to mention here but the main one I was looking for was a raising agent and it has that so I pressed on.
GF Olive and Sundried Tomato Loaf2
GF Olive and Sundried Tomato Loaf
GF Olive and Sundried Tomato Bread SlicedNice eaten with some Irish cheeses and relish, even more delicious toasted with some garlic butter on top.
You can view an Instagram video of the bread preparation here

Gluten Free Olive & Sundried Tomato Bread
You will need:
600g Odlums Gluten Free Tritamyl White Bread Mix
Half teaspoon garlic granules
Good grinding of salt and black pepper
80g green olives
50g sundried tomatoes
125ml sunflower oil
250ml milk
1 tbsp honey
2 eggs
Pre-heat a fan oven to 180C.
Prepare a 2lb loaf tin by greasing it with some oil and lining the base with a length of baking paper.
Chop the olives and sundried tomatoes.
Place the flour, garlic granules, salt and pepper in a large mixing bowl.
Use an electric mix to beat together the sunflower oil, milk, honey and eggs  in a separate bowl or jug (or you can whisk by hand).
Gradually add the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients bowl beating them together and then stir in the olives and sundried tomatoes.
Pour the bread mixture into the prepared tin.
Bake for 45 minutes until golden brown,  remove from oven and allow to cool in the tin for ten minutes or so, remove from tin and allow to cool completely before slicing.
‘Til next time, Sheila

cheese souffle

Irish Farmer Cheese Souffle – A recipe from The Farmette Cookbook

Irish Farmer Cheese Souffle.cheese souffle

What is ‘farmer cheese’ you may well ask, as did I. Imen McDonnell the author of ‘The Farmette Cookbook’ explains it as a simple cheese made with just raw milk and white vinegar.

Have no fear, I did not dip my toe in the whey of cheese-making and asked instead for a suitable substitute and was told either a cottage cheese or a soft goat’s cheese and I opted for the latter.
Cheeses for souffle and cup measuresArdsallagh is one of my favourite Irish cheeses and in advance of making this recipe I was lavishing it on toasted sesame bagels embellished with red onion relish. Divine.  The other cheeses pictured grated above are gruyere and parmesan.  Also pictured is a set of measuring cups.  I picked these up eons ago because I liked how they look but most of my baking etc. is done in grams or ounces so I usually use a scales.  Today I pulled out the cups and used both and found measuring flour by the scoopful is much faster than having to weigh it out.  Imen McDonnell is an American living in Ireland and has just launched her cookbook ‘The Farmette Cookbook’ on both sides of the Atlantic hence my use of cups though they are not a necessity as Imen gives metric measurements  too.
9 cheese soufles on tray
I hope you are as impressed as I am by my beautifully risen and golden souffles (just ignore the tad overdone one bottom-right please, still tasted delicious).  Sublime.  Knowing that oven heat is all important in souffle making I made sure my oven was pre-heating in advance of starting to cook.  Milk and cream was infused with carrot, onion, herbs and peppercorns and allowed to cool.  A roux was made and coaxed into a silken sauce with the infused creamy milk, then joined by the grated and crumbled cheeses, egg yolks and finally whisked egg whites.  My mixture filled 9 standard kitchen ramekins plus 2 slightly larger ones.

cheese souffle

I made these on a leisurely Sunday morning when the eight of us were all around to enjoy them served with crispy bacon and golden buttery mushrooms.
Imen’s book is breathtakingly beautiful.  When you peruse it first you might think it’s one for the coffee table, starting off with a chapter on Traditional Dairy Skills not only informing you on dairy products such as buttermilk, various cheeses, butter, yoghurt and ice-cream etc. but also teaching you how to make them if you will. But as you move onwards the chapter ‘In the Bread Box’ presents you with a variety of breads, scones and baked goods with images that have you declaring ‘I’m going to try that.’  Onwards through the potato patch into the ‘Orchard’, a chapter then ‘From the Sea’ followed by a foray into foraging if you’re up for gathering wild garlic, nettles perhaps, lavender maybe, wild hazlenuts and crab apples etc.  For now I will mostly be an armchair forager as that much wilderness is not outside my door but I usually do get to raid the hedgerows in West Cork towards the end of the summer and we have been known to make jams and pies from foraged fruits.  Moving from armchair onwards to a chapter on ‘Sweet and Savoury Pies and Tarts’ with recipes for the various pie crusts and some amazing looking pies there’s plenty here to please.  Country Suppers is where the ‘Irish Farmer Cheese Souffle’ is nestled though we had ours for breakfast.  Imen’s photography is stunning (see the image at the end of this post).
The picture of the ‘McDonnell Family Christmas Pudding’ has you wishing for a Christmas dusted with snow and full of stuffed roasts followed by decadent cakes. There’s a glorious chapter called ‘Puddings, Cakes and Confections’ which stating the obvious is laden with temptation including Imen’s spectacular ‘Rich Chocolate ButterMilk Cake.’

Having tried the souffle I can’t wait to try more.  Imen’s instruction is clear and easy to follow and even if you don’t feel like cooking just pull up a stool and a mug of coffee and she will speak to you through each recipe introduction and after you’ve flicked through go back to the beginning and read how ‘Girl Meets Farmer’ and how this American girl ends up living ‘with grace in the Irish countryside.’
A beautiful book.

Here is the recipe for IRISH FARMER CHEESE SOUFFLÉ from ‘The Farmette Cookbook’ by Imen McDonnell.


Makes eight 6-ounce (177-ml) ramekins or one 2-quart (17.75-liter) soufflé

5 tablespoons butter, plus extra for greasing the ramekins
1 cup (240 ml) heavy cream
1 cup (240 ml) milk
1 small carrot, peeled and diced
1 small onion, quartered
4 to 5 black peppercorns
1 lemon thyme sprig with flowers, if in season, a few flat-leaf parsley stalks, and 1 bay leaf
½ cup (60 g) all-purpose flour
5 large organic eggs, separated
1 cup (110 g) farmer cheese, crumbled
¾ cup (75 g) Gruyère cheese, finely grated
½ cup (50 g) mature Parmesan or Coolea cheese, finely grated
Generous pinch of salt, cayenne, freshly ground black pepper, and nutmeg
2 teaspoons fresh lemon thyme leaves and flowers, for garnish

  1. Preheat the oven to 450°F (230°C). Brush the bottom and sides of six 3-inch-deep ramekins (or six soup bowls) with melted butter; set aside.
  2. Pour the cream and milk into a saucepan, add the carrot, onion, peppercorns, and fresh herbs. Bring slowly to a boil over low heat, then remove from the heat and set aside to infuse for 10 minutes. Strain, discarding the flavorings.
  3. Melt the butter, stir in the flour, and cook for 1 or 2 minutes. Whisk in the strained cream and milk, bring to a boil, and whisk until the sauce thickens. Remove from the heat and cool slightly. Add the egg yolks, farmer cheese, Gruyère cheese, and most of the Parmesan or Coolea cheese (reserving some for the topping). Season with salt, peppers, and nutmeg. Taste and correct the seasoning if needed.
  4. Whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks form, and fold them gently into the mixture to make a loose consistency. Spoon into the prepared dishes, scatter the lemon thyme leaves on top, and sprinkle with the reserved Parmesan or Coolea cheese.
  5. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes (9 to 11 minutes for the individual soufflés), or until the sides and top are nicely puffed up and golden—the center should still be creamy. Garnish with lemon thyme leaves and flowers, and serve immediately.

Recipe above & the following Image are from The Farmette Cookbook, © 2016 by Imen McDonnell. Reprinted by arrangement with Roost Books, an imprint of Shambhala Publications Inc., Boulder, CO.

Image and Recipe were furnished to me by a PR company for Bord Bia however the book review was unsolicited and book I used is my own copy of ‘The Farmette Cookbook.’  I was not asked to review this book.  I only write about and promote what I LOVE!!!

MG The Farmette Cookbook_ p. 205_ Cheese Souffle_ Roost Books copy-1

Image from ‘The Farmette Cookbook’

‘Til next time, Sheila.

chocolate cake

Black Cherry Gateaux

Mother’s Day is a week away and if you’re stuck for funds a homemade cake is always a welcome and special gift.  Combining chocolate, cherries, liquor and cream makes this a grown-up cake that everyone will enjoy.
chocolate cake
With six children our days and weeks are very busy and time appears to fly by.  It was so lovely to wake up this Sunday morning to a beautiful crisp blue spring sky and the knowledge that I didn’t have to drive anywhere today other than to get supplies for dinner and tomorrow’s school lunches.  Sunday generally either means a huge fry-up brunch and a lighter tea later in the evening or a Sunday roast.  Today was a day for a beef roast and I was also in the mood for baking and we all dug into this delicious Black Cherry Gateaux with extra cream, cherries and syrup for dessert.
chocolate cake
chocolate cake
chocolate cake
chocolate cake
chocolate cake
chocolate cake
chocolate cake

The bases will bake in 35 minutes and will need 30 minutes to cool them before decorating.
Black Cherry Gateaux.
You will need:
For The Cake You Will Need:
2 tbsp cocoa powder
5 tbsp hot water
200g unsalted butter
200g caster sugar
200g self raising flour
2 tsp baking powder
4 eggs
For Decorating:
1 tin black cherries
100ml kirsch or creme de cassis (I use the latter)
125g caster sugar
150ml whipping cream
2 bars chocolate 70% cocoa solids
Icing sugar for dusting.
Preheat the fan oven to 170C.  Grease two round 8 or 9cm cake tins with some butter and line the base of each with a round of parchment paper.
Mix the cocoa powder with warm water to make a thick chocolatey paste and leave to cool.
Mix the flour and baking powder together and set aside.
Use an electric mixer to soften the butter and then add the caster sugar and beat well.
Add one egg to the mix then some flour and continue doing so until all eggs and flour/baking powder are added and mixed.
Finally mix in the chocolatey paste then divide the mixture between the two tins and bake for 30-35 minutes, (test with a skewer to see if baked)
Remove cakes from tins and allow to cool on a wire rack before decorating.
To Decorate:
While the cake are baking strain the liquid from the cherries into a saucepan and mix in the caster sugar and the liquor.
Mix well and bring to the boil and simmer for around 5 minutes until reduced by about half and thickening to a nice syrupy consistency.
Pour the syrup into a jug and allow it to cool.
Whip the cream.
Once the cakes are completely cool break the chocolate into pieces and melt in a bowl in the microwave for a minute or two mixing well to make a nice chocolate sauce.
Once the cake has completely cooled top one of the cakes with a good dollop of cream and scatter the cherries on top.
Pour over a generous drizzling of the cherry sauce then top with the second cake.
Pour over most of the melted chocolate, top with a few cherries and then dust lightly with a little icing sugar.  Serve with extra cream and syrup.
‘Til next time, Sheila.