Monday, September 29, 2014

BF's birthday weekend: 50 Ways to Kill your Mammy review

This past weekend I've been having an amazing celebratory weekend at home for the bf's birthday. We have had such an fun time and there was baking but no time for photos. To be honest, I didn't even try as I've been down this road before and tried to get photos, failed and been annoyed with myself and as other bloggers can attest - if it's not fun, there's no point!! SO instead this week I intend to introduce you to something I've only recently discovered but which has changed my Friday nights - 50 ways to kill your Mammy!

In this incredibly funny show TV and radio presenter Bazil Ashmawy takes his mum on the adventure of a life-time, doing every crazy and adventurous thing that you can think of; bungie jumping, sky-diving, alligator wrestling (more like hugging) and rally car driving. Each adventure more exciting and terrifying........ and there's Baz and his 70 year old Mum trying them one after one!

Baz is entertaining and his commentary provides a lot of the continuity and movement between activities. Some of his reflections on his mother are really very funny and relatable. However for me the star of the show is his Mammy Nancy. Never have we seen the like on television before! Imagine your own mother or grandmother being asked to do these things and the reactions they might give 'No,, now I don't think that's a good idea,' 'That's lovely but it's not for me now!' Mild mannered, polite, dignified but resistant. It's Nancy's reactions that make every adventure absolutely hilarious. We've seen people sky dive, we seen people bungie jump and jump on alligators, nothing surprises us on television anymore but you have not seen these things done by a resistant 70 year old woman!! I have to say I just love her, she reminds me of a combination of both my grandmothers together and my bf's mother whom I absolutely love also. The most admirable part is that despite her resistance Nancy pushes herself to try almost everything, you're never sure if she will, but the courage and indomitable spirit that this woman shows is something else.

Best of all is the genuine and heart-warming commentary that she gives to the camera after the activities are over. She more often than not recommends that other older people give it a try and says things like 'I'm glad I did it now!' or 'Sure you only live once, sure you might as well give it a go.' I honestly believe that she views the whole thing as a travel show that pushes the boundaries of expectation for older tourists and sure why can't it be just that?!

I should note that my being Irish helps in the enjoyment here. These two are not only Irish but also from an area very similar to the one I grew up in, so there are a lot of Irish-isms that I really enjoy. That said I think anyone would love this show and I truly truly recommend trying it if you can. So yes that's it and I'll be back next week with more deliciousness =)

Pictures and video property of Sky Entertainment

Monday, September 22, 2014

Peanut Butter Choc chip Energy Balls

 So it's the week of my bf's birthday and we are getting all excited to celebrate. We are getting ready for a weekend of cake and fun times. I am very excited. That said other things are happening this week. I am going back to college (yay eternal student!) and there are a great many things to organize. So when I was thinking about what to make for this post I wanted something delicious, energy giving but healthy, as we want to be able to look good next weekend. Yet it was important that it was really delicious and enjoyable for the birthday boy and he has a nose for when things are  healthy (a term he uses disparagingly). After much sampling (he'd say not enough) the bf's verdict - 'Too tasty to be good for you!' Ah but that is where he is happily mistaken!

The ingredient list for these puppies is beautifully short and filled with healthy ingredients that do not include any dairy, wheat or processed sugar.  The end result is all natural, raw, vegan and oh so good!

Peanutbutter Chocolate Chip Energy balls

10 dates
40 ml warm water
3 heaped tsp crunchy all natural peanut butter
2 heaped tsp smooth cashew butter
1 1/2 tsp agave nectar
40g 70% dark chocolate chips (for these to be vegan they need to contain no milk products)
100g organic oats

to cover:
Ground hazelnuts
Raw cocao

1- Soak the dates in the warm water for an hour or so

2 - If you have a blender blend the water and dates, if not pour the water into a bigger bowl and then chop up the soaked dates as much as possible and add them to the big bowl.

3 - Add the nut butters into the date mixture and mix well

4 - Then add the oats and mix thoroughly before adding the chocolate chips.

5 - Finally add the agave nectar. I added this last because if it's easy to gauge how much you need or want by adding bit by bit and tasting, you may want/need more or less.

6- Finally take small amounts and roll into balls before rolling in the ground nuts or the raw cocao.

The raw cocao has a strong flavour and adds a little more energy kick but my favourite and the bf's favorite was the ground hazelnuts. As you can see I did a relatively small batch here so feel free to double or triple the recipe (I think bf would have preferred if I had ;). Also if you don't have agave nectar feel free to use honey but just note that they will not longer be vegan. So I do hope you try these I am very very happy with them and I hope you enjoy.

Look at the deliciousness!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Browned Butter Nutella Cookies

Let’s talk cookies shall we? These ones are AMAZING!

I am not exaggerating. I’d forgive you for thinking that I was, this is my recipe on my blog, so of course I’d say positive things. That said my experience of eating these was filled with repeated, repeated expressions of pure joy and excitement at the outcome of a hunch. My poor boyfriend probably thought I had finally left the land of the sane after the fifth time I said ‘these are just….just…..incredible,’ and that was with my first cookie. Enough justification of myself, let me tell you how they taste. The texture is crisp on the outside with a thicker chewy center, there’s added crunch from the nuts but it’s the flavour that’s the essence of these cookies. Think gourmet Nutella and depth, such depth. Each bite seems to initiate itself boldly with a rich chocolate and hazelnut hit but then the flavour achieves another level, the nutty flavour emerges and your whole mouth feels as if you are enjoying something special. These cookies are not for the faint-hearted one cookie filled me for dessert (I do make them quite big) and the depth and richness of the flavours satisfied me completely. 

Monday, September 8, 2014

Comfort Healthy food

Jamie Oliver appears to have a new television show and book out entitled 'Comfort Food,' which reportedly puts a spin on classic comfort food dishes and encourages people to treat themselves. Well it has inspired me to make my own comfort food, but it may not be what you think.

A year ago I wrote about how I was moving to the UK and I made some delicious double chocolate chip cookies (link) to comfort myself then. Now a year on I am settling into UK living and enjoying exploring the varieties of cuisine available as well as all the different cultural and (SOMETHING) opportunities. However there are things that I miss from home; my family (of course), my friends (naturally) and dark wholemeal seeded soda bread! 'Erm, what??!' you may be asking, and ok it may seem somewhat unconventional but it is my favourite type of bread. It's healthy but hearty and sometimes one slice will fill you up. Toasted with butter, there is simply no better bread (in my humble Irish opinion). I have searched for this deliciousness without success, sure you can get a normal soda bread everywhere but that pales (literally) in comparison to this beauty. In Ireland I would go through a loaf (at least) of this a week and since moving over here I have craved it and made sure to over-dose on the stuff every time I go home. So when the concept of comfort food was plastered in every book window and channel four advertisement, the first thing I thought of was this deliciousness and then it hit me!! Like an ACME anvil from a cliff - 'Cat, you're a home-baker!!! Make your own for goodness sake!!!!' Oh yeah, duh!

So I scoured the internet for recipes. My favourite is the loaf from Avoca and that's where I started my search. However I couldn't find the recipe, so I widened the search and voila deliciousnutritiousambitious had made the recipe from the Avoca Cookbook but altered it to suit an american baker. So using the recipe posted there in combination with my own knowledge of irish bread baking I put together a recipe and tried it out. Thankfully it amazing and I will share it with you here.

Dark Brown Seeded Irish Soda Bread
Adapted From deliciousnutritiousambitious and the Avoca Cookbook

200g Strong white bread flour (I use organic, non-bleached)
350g Malted wholemeal flour
1 tbsp Baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp sesame seeds + more to sprinkle on top
2 tbsp sunflower seeds
2 tbsp linseed
2 tbsp pumpkin seeds
2 tbsp poppy seeds + more to sprinkle on top
(Or 10 tbsp of seed mix)
500ml milk (I made this today with skimmed, lactose free milk and it's perfect)
1 tbsp lemon juice
3 tbsp black treacle

1 - Preheat your oven to 200'

2 - To your 500ml milk add the tablespoon of lemon juice and let sit (this will turn the milk sour and
      you want that!)

3 - In a large bowl measure out and then whisk together the white flour, wholewheat flour, baking
     soda and salt until thoroughly combined.

4 - Create a well in the flours and pour in the milk/lemon juice and the black treacle.

5 - Mix only until fully combined, do not knead or overmix as the bread will be tough.

6 - Prepare a bread tin with butter and flour

7 - Pour your dough into the tin, it should be sticky but not too wet.

8 - Smooth out the dough and then sprinkle the extra sesame and poppy sides on top.

9 - Bake for 45 minutes in the center of the oven. After 20 minutes you might want to cover the top with tin foil in order to prevent burning. Remove from the oven and bread tin and tap the base when the time is up. If it sounds hollow then place on a wire wrack to cool slightly (at least 15 minutes) before cutting and eating.

If you are from Ireland and you know this bread then I would say that it comes out more like a Superquinn or Supervalu dark brown seeded loaf than AVOCA. So if you have been buying your bread there or craving this bread from there then this is the perfect recipe. Does it taste like the AVOCA loaf? not quite but this has not deterred me. I will be revisiting this recipe so expect another similar one soon. For the moment I am happily comforted with my healthy bread and I really hope you try this out and enjoy it for yourself.

My bag-o-seeds! Yum

 An end-note about the seeds: It's funny that I was inspired to make this by Jamie Oliver's 'Comfort Food,' as my major complaint about the recipes of Mr. Oliver is his use of ingredients. The man is clearly a culinary genius but any time I consult one of his recipe I notice that he will use a tiny amount of some unique ingredient that I never have in my kitchen already and that would probably cost me a couple pounds to buy. However he sometimes neglects to take into account that I'll need to buy a whole container to use one tablespoon and I probably won't use this again quickly enough, so one tablespoon really cost me £3-£4 and a whole lots of waste. I will be making lots of this bread so I went out and spent £10 on organic versions of all the seeds included and made a beautiful collection of bread seeds (pictured above). However it's not necessary for you to do the same. If you want to try this out then I recommend using 10 tablespoons of any seed mix instead. Most seed mixes will have pumpkin and sunflower and therefore some of the important flavours are covered . Now you have no excuse, so try this!

Monday, September 1, 2014

A 'Carrot' cake

I previously posted about a cake I had made for a friends birthday, but I said that I would make another post about the actual cake, so here it is!

Photo provided by Max Mercier
Please excuse the messy sides, there was originally a 'paper-bag' to wrap around the outside which the birthday people decided not to apply it, if I'd know that I would have brought a scrapper to give it a better design (good to know for next time=)

Photo provided by Max Mercier

The cake went down really, really well. The birthday boy was so happy with it, which is the best feeling, and the birthday girl who was presenting it to her boyfriend was so so pleased and excited to show him. Other people also got excited and a couple of different people commented that they thought the cake had real carrots stuck into it so the fact that it was made of marshmallow fondant was a sweet surprise. The bunny and the stalks you can see are inedible but everything else is yummy. So I'll show you how I did it.

The tools I used were the wilton PME flower and leaf shaper and the PME serrated and taper cones and the two tools god gave me, hands.

I will show you how I made the big carrot to go along side the cake but all the carrots were made this way, only smaller.

First use your hands to warm up and mould the marshmallw fondant into a basic carrot shape.

This might take a bit of work, as you can see the fondant can be dry and crack, so it's important to really work it well with your hands to get a smooth finish.

Then take your PME leaf shapper and use the curved sharp end to drag out the lines in the carrot

Once your happy with the amount of lines then swap to your PME taper cone and use this o shape the top of the carrot.

So putting together the cake. I used miny straws as dowels under each carrot as these carrots are heavy! The cake itself is the same recipe I used here and the icing is the same as the one I used here. Once the cake was baked, iced and moved to location only then did I add the carrots.

Photo provided by Max Mercier
Photo provided by Max Mercier

Once the whole top was cover then I took the stalks from the organic carrots that had been washed and saved and inserted them into the tops of my candy carrots.

Photo provided by Max Mercier
And placed in the little bunny. So yes, that's how I made this carrot cake  and as you can see it's really easy so I'd recommend that you try it yourself and enjoy =)

Rabbit in a sea of carrots!
Some of the photos for today's post were kindly provided by Max Mercier as he was taking photos at the party. I want to thank Max for his beautiful photos and the permission to use them here.

Honeymoon first Stops: Boston and Las Vegas

We left London on A Saturday afternoon and flew to Boston, arriving in at 7.30pm Boston time. We somewhat regretted flying from London when ...