Posted in What's for Dinner Mom?

Carrot & Fennel Soup

Treacy’s Bar in Ballincollig does a great soup and half-sandwich lunchtime offering and believe me both are huge and will amply sate even large appetites.  It was there that I tasted Carrot & Fennel soup last week and just had to recreate it at home.Carrot and fennel soup close-upLuckily my local SuperValu had fennel on special offer today and I duly purchased one bulb for 95c.  Would this be enough, I had no idea, as I had never cooked with fennel before.
FennelI decided to cook this rotund vegetable much like an onion.  Stalks were chopped off as was the woody base and the remaining bulb was finely chopped.  Delicate little fern-like fronds were retained for garnishing the finished soup.
In Merchant’s Quay Shopping Centre in Cork City I recently came across Pana Bakery which has been opened for around a month.  It is so rare to walk into a bakery that has fresh-baked bread as the main offering and I picked up a delicious loaf of Green Olive & Parmesan.  Perfect for soup dipping.
Pana Bakery Green Olive and Parmesan
Pana bread slicedCarrot & Fennel Soup:
You will need:
1 bulb fennel
1 tbsp butter
8 medium carrots
500ml vegetable stock
Cut the stalks and wooden end off the fennel bulb then finely dice.
Melt the butter over a low to medium heat, add the diced fennel, cover the saucepan and allow to sweat for a few minutes until softened.
Meanwhile peel and chop the carrots.
Add the carrots to the softened fennel and then add the vegetable stock.
Bring to the boil and reduce to a simmer for 20-30 minutes or until carrots are tender.
Use a blender (stick blenders are excellent for this job) to blend the soup.
Delicious served with crusty bread.
Carrot and fennel soupEnjoy.
‘Til next time, Sheila.

Posted in Dinner Party

Easy Party Food – Mary Berry’s Canapés

In the build-up to Christmas I really enjoy watching the cookery programmes specially produced for the event in the hope that I’ll pick up some tips.  One of these for 2013 – Food & Drink Christmas Special BBC Two – was hosted by Michel Roux and featured Mary Berry demonstrating a number of her festive favourites.  When I saw her doing these simple canapés I knew they would be gracing my Christmas celebrations too and they duly did, making appearances at parties and as pre-dinner nibbles on Christmas day.
Party Food Mary Berry Canapes

These appetizers are simple to make requiring only four accessible ingredients and four steps, however be warned, they are a little fiddly and I would set aside half an hour for unhurried assembly.
Simple Party Food Four Ingredients
The tricky part is the separation of the slices of ham from each other and then gently smearing them with some soft cheese without breaking them too much.  Do not fret though as any damage is easily hidden when they are rolled up tightly.  Patience is required so if you are rushed these are not the best option.
Simple Party Food Four StepsMary Berry’s Canapés
You will need:
Thinly sliced Parma or Serrano ham
Soft goats cheese or any cream cheese
Rocket leaves
Dill Pickle (gherkins)
Method: (as per photo above)
1. Lay out slices of ham and thinly butter them with soft cheese
2. Sprinkle over some rocket leaves
3. Place a slice of pickle at one end
4. Roll up tightly and chill.  To serve, cut each roll in two and stand them up on a plate.
Party Food Simple CanapesThese were universally enjoyed by children and adults and I’ve been asked for the recipe so that says it all really.
I do hope you get the chance to enjoy these and that you too had a wonderful Christmas.  Looking forward to sharing another recipe with you in February. ‘Til next time, Sheila.


Posted in Baking Day

Christmas Dessert – Cloudberry Choux Buns

I love discovering new food products and the innovativeness of Irish producers never ceases to amaze me.  I recently came across some of The Cloudberry Bakery’s produce at one of my favourite shopping haunts – Brown Thomas in Cork city.  Cloudberry’s stand in the Brown Thomas Food Emporium stopped me in my tracks, had me intaking my breath and dreamily sighing.  Beautiful. If you’d like to get a feel for their brand and products you can check out The Cloudberry Bakery by clicking here.
Cloudberry Lemon Curd and Sea Salted Caramel
In the meantime let me tell you about the two products that I tried out – Lemon Curd and Sea-Salted Caramel.  Besides eating them by the spoonful or simply spreading on some shortbread I could also imagine them as the perfect companion to some delicious vanilla ice-cream. However I decided to take a few spoonfuls of each to up the ante on some choux buns that I think would be a delicious Christmas dessert.  If you made the choux buns a day or two beforehand, made sure to release the steam and cool them properly before storing them in an airtight container they could then be simply filled on the day with  the Cloudberry flavoured pastry cream which you could also make the day before.
Christmas Dessert Cloudberry Choux Bun

These were delicious and my kids particularly loved the Lemon Curd flavoured ones.
Choux Buns
Makes 14-18 depending on size.
You will need:
70g flour
50g butter
150ml water
2 eggs
Preheat the fan oven to 180C/Gas Mark 6.  Line 2 or 3 baking trays with parchment paper.
Sift the flour into a bowl.
Place the butter in a saucepan with the water and put it on the hob to melt.  Once melted bring to the boil and take it off the heat.
Stir the water and butter in the saucepan with a wooden spoon in one hand as you add in the flour with the other hand beating continuously until smooth.
At this stage you should have a smooth soft pastry ball.
Leave to cool for 5 minutes.
Lightly beat the two eggs in a bowl.
Add one third of the egg to the pastry and beat with a wooden spoon.  It will seem to separate and collapse but keep beating until it begins to stiffen up again.
Add the next third of egg and again beat until the pastry is back to a stiffened mixture and do the same with the remaining egg.
Spoon small blobs of the pastry onto the baking sheets, spaced well apart.  Use no more than half a tablespoon and you should get 18 -20 small choux buns out of this quantity, you may wish to go bigger.
Place in the oven and bake at this temperature for 15 minutes, then raise the temperature to 200/Gas Mark 7 for 10 minutes.
As soon as they are out of the oven cut a slit in the side to release the steam, otherwise they will collapse.  Allow to cool on wire rack.
Pastry Cream flavoured with Cloudberry Lemon Curd and Sea-Salted Caramel

Pastry Cream
This is more of a custard than a cream and takes a little bit of diligence, care and attention to avoid lumps, the end result is worth it.
You will need
250ml milk
Half tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
40g caster sugar
25g flour
15g butter
150ml whipping cream
Jars of Cloudberry Lemon Curd &/or Sea-Salted Caramel
Bring the milk and vanilla extract to the boil in a saucepan and take off the heat.
Use an electric mixer to cream together the eggs, caster sugar and flour.
Gradually add the hot vanilla milk into the egg, sugar and flour in the electric mixer.
Add in the butter.
Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and bring back to the boil stirring continuously to form smooth thick custard like cream.  Do not allow to stick to bottom of pan.
Pour the pastry cream into a bowl and sprinkle the top with caster sugar to prevent a skin forming.
Once the pastry cream is cool, beat the whipping cream until beginning to stiffen and then fold this in with a spoon along with a couple of tablespoons of Cloudberry lemon curd or sea-salted caramel.  Taste and increase flavouring if necessary.
Cloudberry Flavoured Pastry Cream Filled Choux Buns
Chocolate Sauce
You will need:

100g dark chocolate (70%+)
150 ml water
50g caster sugar
Break the chocolate into pieces and melt in a saucepan with the water.
Keeping the saucepan on the heat stir in the sugar until dissolved, mixing well.
Simmer the sauce for 10 minutes until thick and glossy but still a drizzling consistency – keep stirring occasionally as it simmers.
Cloudberry filled Choux Bun
Cloudberry Choux Buns
To assemble the choux buns carefully fill the cooled choux buns with either lemon curd or sea-salted caramel flavoured pastry cream.
Drizzle over the chocolate sauce.
Chocolate Splattered Choux Buns
‘Til next time, Sheila

Posted in What's for Dinner Mom?

Insanely Good Sauces – Bombay Curry Sauce

As I’ve been very busy with ‘real’ work lately in our food safety business developing a new website and running the office I’ve been reaching quite gladly for various Insanely Good sauces on the days that I am strapped for time.   Insanely Good Sauces are Irish and produced in West Cork and are now being stocked in Dunnes Stores – you’ll find them in the fresh pasta section.  The kids love this Bombay Curry Sauce and I’ve been ramping up the vegetable content with some chopped onion and frozen peas.  Insanely Good describe it as a ‘medium-spieced, family-friendly curry containing 10 natural ground spices’ so it should please most palates.
Insanely Good Sauces
Insanely Good Bombay Curry Sauce
To prepare this Indian Feast roughly chop some onions and add to a heated pan with a little oil along with chopped chicken.  When the chicken is cooked I semi-defrost frozen peas in a jug of hot water then strain them and add them to the pan along with the Insanely Good Bombay Curry Sauce.
Turmeric Rice & Toasted AlmondsVibrantly colouring your rice by adding a tsp of turmeric to the cooking water as it cooks makes it visually more appealing and is also good for you.  Add a little texture by dry-frying some flaked almonds but watch them carefully as they will burn quickly.
Indian Feast of Insanely Good Bombay Curry Sauce with Turmeric Rice & Toasted Almonds served with naan breadNo Indian Feast is complete without some tear and share naan bread which is great to mop up the Insanely Good sauce!
‘Til next time, Sheila.

Posted in I'm Enjoying

Lilly Higgins’ Dream Deli

Lilly Higgins has written a beautiful new book called Dream Deli.  It is different, it is fresh, it is vibrant.  Turn the pages and you will be sitting down at one of the jam-packed tables in Lilly’s dream deli.  Jam-packed because not only is this the food that Lilly wants to serve it is also the food that you have been longing for.  No need for further words here other than buy a copy because you will really enjoy the experience that is Dream Deli.
Below are some pictures from the book launch/brunch.
Enjoy your browse,
’til next time, Sheila
Photo by Sheila Kiely
photo by Sheila Kiely
photo by Sheila Kiely
photo by Sheila Kiely
photo by Sheila Kiely
photo by Sheila Kiely
photo by Sheila Kiely

photo by Sheila Kiely

photo by Sheila Kiely
photo by Sheila Kiely

photo by Sheila Kiely

photo by Sheila Kiely

photo by Sheila Kiely