Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Gluten free Brownies, because equality matters

So this weekend has been a huge one in Ireland. Same-sex marriage was brought into the constitution by popular vote and it was the most exciting and amazing feeling to see my country of origin rise up in acceptance and love for the LGB community. I went to an awesome yes celebration barbeque and anxiously watched as the votes were counted and the announcement made that the law would be officially changed. I would love to have made something delicious in celebration, particularly in rainbow flag colours. However that would have involved going out and buying food colouring in all the relevant colours and then throwing out the resulting bake because I cannot stand the taste of food colours. So that doesn't seem all that great, so instead I decided to make delicious gluten free brownies and embrace the wheat and gluten free peeps.

So brownies are an awesome food to make gluten-free but I should emphasize that gluten free doesn't equate to healthy in this instance. I adapted them from a couple of recipes and I am very happy with how they came out. Also in the spirit of embracing I have rolled in a number of other holidays into the celebration dessert; how you might ask?? By using up left-over christmas and easter chocolate is how!! If you plan on doing the same, be sure that the chocolate that you are using is also gluten free because  not all chocolate is. Also, always be sure that your chocolate is in date.

Gluten free Brownies

90g Butter
75g Caster sugar
75g Dark brown sugar
250g chocolate (preferably dark, but I used milk and it was delicious)
2 large eggs
3 tbsp cocoa powder (NB - not drinking chocolate)
3 tbsp cornflour
100g hazelnuts and/or almonds, ground
1 tsp vanilla extract.

1 - Preheat oven to 180. In a thicked based saucepan, melt the butter and sugar together.

2 - Add the chocolate and stir vigorously until melted. Remove from heat before fully melted and

3 - Add eggs and beat.

4 - In a seperate bowl mix the ground nuts, cocoa and cornflour.

5 - Add everything to a mixer, or one bowl and then beat with an electric mixer, or vigorously with a

6 - Pour into a buttered (and optionally cocoa powdered) cake or bread tin and bake for 30 minutes, or until the center no loner shakes. Let cool in the tin and then enjoy.

These brownies are deliciously fudgy and nutty with a huge chocolate hit. They are also firm which is useful for serving a parties and other celebrations. I sprinkled on icing sugar for decoration, which worked as good contrast.

Monday, May 18, 2015

My whole life popcorn has always been a microwave affair for me. My mother was never into processed foods so we didn’t have those microwaveable popcorn packets but she bought us this special contraption for microwaving popcorn without using oil. None-the-less it was always in a microwave. Moving on we bought packets that can thrown in the microwave and make one batch at a time. Always, always in a microwave. Until now, recently we made a decision to be more healthy and suddenly, all the added salt in the packet and the process of radiating it seemed excessive. Then I started to wonder why we never popped microwave on the stove. I had always been warned that it’s dangerous, but that’s somewhat ridiculous. I deep fry on the stove, why could be so dangerous about popping popcorn?!

The best part is, it’s so easy and cheap. In fact it’s significantly more economical than buying the microwave packets and you can flavour it any way that you like.
So what do you need – 

1 – Deep Saucepan, with a lid
2 – 1 tablespoon almond oil
3 – ½ cup popping corn

1.       Heat the oil in the base of the pan and then add the corn and immediately apply the lid
2.       Let them start to heat and then begin to shake the saucepan
3.       Continue to shake the saucepan while it pops, to ensure that the popped kernels move to the top and don’t get burnt.
4.       Once the corn reached near the top of the saucepan then remove from the heat and don’t open the lid until the corn stops popping
5.       Add your seasoning of choice to the bottom of a large bowl and pour in the popcorn and toss. Then serve hot and delicious!!

Easy, right?! The whole thing is done and dusted in a few minutes and before you know it you will be enjoying amazing popcorn with a friend and a movie or tv-show.
A tv-show like Rita – a new edition to the Netflix family of tv-shows. First thing I should mention. It’s Danish, so there are subtitles. However if you don’ mind that, this show is hilarious. Rita is a teacher who never really grew up.

Image from IMDB

The result of this is that she is amazing with her students and extremely direct with adults, which….. doesn’t always go over that well. Diplomacy is definitely not her forte and as a less than diplomatic individual this gives me great joy to see in a television show. She has three children of her own who she raised alone and there is a very Lorelai Gilmore feeling to it. However unlike Rory Gilmore, Rita’s children aren’t the academic high achievers but instead they are feeling the ramifications of an erratic childhood. 

Image from dakans.dk

Relationships are a point of issue for Rita. She is sleeping with her principal, but refuses to commit to any kind of relationship. Her relationships with men provide an interesting set of storylines to the point where my bf commented that she should lose her right to engage in romantic relationships. I would agree with him, if it weren’t for how unbelievably entertaining it makes the show.
I would highly recommend watching Rita, if you have Netflix. It’s not quite ‘sign up to Netflix’ worthy like Orange is the New Black (next month - s3, eeeee! excited!) or House of Cards, but it is definitely a good show that it worth a try. 

So enjoy your popcorn, radiation free and your shows with subtitles and feel all kinds of fancy til next week =)

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Raspberry basket cake

This weekend was mother’s day (in the states) and here it was my birthday! Unfortunately this year I was away from my family for my birthday for only the second time ever. Thankfully, not from all my family. My wonderful partner treated me to a lovely day out and delicious dinner. As a result of my being such a grown up we decided to go to a pet show. It was amazing, there were such a huge number of wonderful pets and we met and pet them all; well pet a few, but it was still great! Here’s a few examples – 

I decided to make a little birthday cake because there would be two of us eating it. Of course I couldn’t just make a tiny thing and in tribute to a wonderful birthday party with an amazing four-layer chocolate cake that my mum organized for me 10 years previously. I decided to make a teeny tiny 4 layer cake.

This raspberry basket cake has four layer of vanilla sponge, moistens with blueberry and blackberry drizzle. Each layer is separated by homemade raspberry jam and the whole thing is covered in delicious raspberry buttercream. The basket weave pattern is remarkably easy to do and turns out beautifully. The topping of fresh raspberries really adds a beautiful light juiciness to each piece.

Raspberry basket cake

Cake (4 layers of 4 inch cake tin)

170g unsalted butter
170g caster sugar
2 eggs
1 tbsp vanilla extract
4 tbsp milk
300g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder

1 - Preheat the oven to 180'. Beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy

2 - In a seperate bowl beat together the eggs, milk and vanilla extract and onto a floppy chopping board sieve the flour and baking powder together

3 - Beat the egg mixture and the flour mixture, alternating betweeeen the two into the butter until just combined.

4 - Butter and flour your tins and then bake for 30 minutes. Remove and let cool; first in the tin then on a wire wrack.

Raspeberry jam

I made this myself but feel free to use store bought

100g Frozen Raspberries
75g Caster sugar

1 - While your cake is baking, heat your frozen raspberries

2 - Add sugar, once the raspberries have melted, then stir and boil until it thickens and then let cool


10 Blueberries
5 Blackberries

1 Mush these together. You can add a spoon of sugar but I didn't because you probably don need it.

2 - Pour these over your cake.

Raspberry Buttercream

125g Unsalted butter
390g Icing sugar
2-3 tbsp homemade raspberry jam ( I included the seeds but you may want to go for a seedless option)

1 - Beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
2 - Add the cooled raspberry jam and beat until combined

 To assemble, alternate your cakes, cutting the top off two; one cut, one whole upside down, one cut and then top one facing up.

Apply a crumb coat and then chill to set this

Isn't this beautiful?!
Once the crumb coat has set then start to apply the basket weave icing. Use a head that has a serrated edge. Then pipe one line going up.

 Then pipe sideways line over this

Add extra icing to the top and secure the raspberries. I deliberately put them facing different directions in order to look more like a basket of raspberries.

Then enjoy with candles and a smile =)

Monday, May 4, 2015

Blueberry Pie, cos Suits, obviously

Myself and my bf have recently gotten back into watching Suits. We watched it for a long time and I liked it but we reached a certain stage where you are a couple seasons in and we can't have a single episode without everyone talking about 'Mike's secret.' Ok, we get it, he doesn't have a law degree, stop talking about it and get a f**king law degree already! There's also an issue with Suits that exists in several major dramas (Grey's Anatomy, to name a huge culprit) where the characters supposedly work intensive, high stress jobs but spend the majority of their time on screen making emotionally driven, ill-conceived decisions and talking about their relationships. I enjoy it, don't get me wrong, but I probably wouldn't have them represent me in court.

So rant aside, We were watching the intro and we really enjoy the part of the intro music that says 'See the money, wanna stay for your meal. Get another piece of pie for your wife.' I reflected to my boyfriend how much this song really made me crave pie (something they NEVER eat in the show, just saying!). Hence we made pie.....

Blueberry pie is a classic summer dish and in this part of the world it is now, officially, summer. So we decided to go for a classic design and spice it up slightly with a puff pastry, which tastes amazing and has a rustic (read less than perfect) appearance.

Just look at those berries

The center has a B for blueberries, my boyfriend's idea; his name may or may not start with a B also, so that might have had something to do with it too! The puff may not make the perfect pinterest style pie image but it sure makes for a wonderful mixture of textures. The base pastry, as you can imaging absorbs a lot of the blueberry juice, so while it is certainly not soggy (respect Mary-berry), it is denser with juice and the fluffy puff pastry lattice really contrasts it nicely.

I made the short-crust pastry but used a store bought puff pastry, because who has the time for that?!
So make sure that your short crust pastry is chilled well before rolling out. Then push down into the pie-tin. Chill again after rolling and shaping. Then fill with pastry beads or rice and par cook.

Now the filling -

1200g frozen blue-berries
150g Caster sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
45g cornflour
1 teaspoon butter

Mix well together and fill the pie case when it's partially cooked

I added the butter to the top but you could mix it in, either.

To make the lattice top, We followed these instructions - they are straight forward and very helpful.
and then bake at 180' for 30 minutes.

Leave to chill for a few hours if you can resist or otherwise eat with ice-cream. Enjoy =)

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 ...