Festive Bites

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It’s that time of year! Parties. People dropping in unexpectedly. Midnight feasts just because. So I’m coming up with lots of new things to make!

Here’s one I tried out last night and it was gorgeous. And healthy which at this time of year is no mean feat! It will appear on my table again and again. And once you taste it you will do the same!

 

Ingredients:

1 large cucumber, 1 packet of feta (greek not danish), juice of half a lemon, 1 small pack of smoked salmon (I used smoked trout from Lidl at €2.49), black pepper, fresh dill, balsamic vinegar, honey, olive oil.

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Method:

In  a large bowl, crumble your feta, add your chopped salmon or trout, lots of fresh dill, the lemon juice, a good bit of black pepper and a drizzle of olive oil. Mix together well. Keep a bit of dill for garnish.

 

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In a small bowl mix the balsamic vinegar and honey to taste.

Cut thick slices of cucumber and remove about half of the seeds with a spoon. You need to be careful as you don’t want the spoon to go through. You need a full bottom to your slice.

Place the slices bottom down on a tray and pour a tiny bit of the honey and vinegar mixture in the little hollow and stack some of the feta and fish mixture. Add some dill on top for garnish.

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Butternet Squash, Pepper and Feta Quiche

Butternut squashes are in season just now and I love the wee beasties. I bought one for 0.49 c in Lidl a while back and I didn’t want to just soup it up. I decided to try something a bit different with it for once. So here you go.

Ingredients:

1 rolled up pastry, 1 pot of creme fraiche, 4 eggs, 250 g of grated cheese, a pinch of nutmeg, a pinch of chili powder (I used mild chili) half a butternut squash, 1 red pepper, half a slab of feta. Optional: if you were smart enough to follow my advice you will have stocked up on the Lidl saffron and can spare a measure of it! It made all the difference to the depth of the dish.

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Method:

Pre-heat your oven to 180 C. Peel, core and slice your squash and lay it on a tray. Bit of olive oil, salt and a sprinkle of chili (to taste).

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Let the squash roast for about 20 min. Take it out and turn it around. Slice and deseed your pepper and add it on the tray. At the same time blind bake your pastry in the pie case. I went for a puff pastry and it was mighty. Leave it on for 15 more min then take out of the oven.

In a bowl, combine your eggs, creme fraiche, eggs, nutmeg and saffron. Give it a good whisk.

Place the squash and pepper on your pastry after you’ve removed the beans used for blind baking.

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Crumble your feta on top.

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Pour your mixture over the feta and place in the oven for 20 min.

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Gluten Free Chocolate Brownie

Right, so Ammo hit me up late last night looking for a healthy brownie recipe. I never need too much of an excuse to think about cakes and so I’d a wee look around. Toyed with the idea of sweet potato or beetroot as a gluten replacement and then thought better of it. I had ground almonds and I love the slight sweetness they bring to a cake. You use cocoa powder in this recipe instead of chocolate in bars so that reduces the amount of fat intake. It’s gluten free too so really it’s as good as brownies can get. I think! As usual this is note based on one recipe but on a mix of tips and recipes I read.

So here goes:

Ingredients:

100 g ground almonds; 3 eggs (put them in the fridge); 150 g of butter; 250 g of caster sugar; 1 teaspoon of vanilla essence; a handful of chopped walnuts or brazil nuts if you fancy them; 1 good pinch of salt if you’re using unsalted butter and 65 g of good cocoa powder.

Method:

Place a bowl over boiling water. In your bowl place the butter, the sugar, the chocolate and the salt (if you’re using salt).

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Let it melt gently and mix it together. If it stays granular don’t mind it, it’ll rectify itself later. When all the butter has melted down and been mixed with the sugar and chocolate, take the bowl of the heat and let it cool down for 5 min. Once it’s cooler mix your ground almonds and then add your eggs and vanilla extract.

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Now, if you’re using nuts, don’t do what I did, which is to forget them altogether! Add them in at this stage.

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Pour your mixture in your cake mould and place in the oven for 20/ 25 min (oven should be nice and hot at 180 C). Do the knife taste. This brownie is rich and decadent so your knife should have some moisture on it.

Wait until the cake has cooled down completely before taking it out of the mould.

It’ll look something like this.

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It’s rich and yet not too sweet. Crunch on the inside and deliciously gooey inside. Let me know if you make it!

Surprise Chocolate Fudge (gluten free)

So it’s Saturday, and if Saturday is not a day for treats then I don’t know what’s what anymore. I’ve been trying to cut down on my flour and “white food” intake and this is a happy compromise.

It all started with this lot: 1 tin of condensed milk (just under 400 g), 350 g of dark (gluten free chocolate); 2 handful of pealed pistachios,  a few flakes of sea salt.

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On low heat, place a pan with the condensed milk and chopped up chocolate. Let it melt and then mix it until the mixture is smooth.

Peel your pistachios. You’ll have roughly this much.

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Place them in a freezer bag and bash them a few times with a rolling pin. Particularly satisfying if you’re feeling angsty!

They’ll look like this:

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In a bowl mix them with your chocolate. Spread the mixture in a tin of your choice. You’d want it at least 3 cm deep. Make sure you have some baking parchment in the tray. I used some silicone molds but when you don’t have those a tray does just grand! Sprinkle the sea salt flakes on top.

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Let it all cool down and place it in the fridge then until it’s set. Utterly gorgeous and you can keep them in the freezer!

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Shrooms Of Glory

So I got myself a new job and I am VERY relieved. As in giddy, happy, elated kind of relieved. It’s been 5 months and some of it has been tough. So I felt I needed a wee bit of a pat in the back and so I thought I’d make something that I’ve been missing a lot this season: mushrooms. I don’t know why really, it’s not like you can’t buy them everywhere after all…They’re even in season so I’ve no excuse. Anyway, I went off to Fallon & Byrne because not only did I want mushrooms but I wanted fancy mushrooms. And bought a mixture of their mushrooms.

This dish is really basic and can be done with any mushrooms.

First don’t wash your mushrooms. If they have a bit of dirt on them just brush them. Hack them up roughly and throw them on melted butter on a medium heat. Add salt and pepper to taste.

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Cover and simmer for 10 min. After 10 min, remove the lid and grate 2 cloves of garlic and add a handful of chopped up parsley and a swig of white wine. Cover for another 10 min.

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Add a generous spoonful of creme fraiche and melt it through. Serve and devour!

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Cheesy Pasta Ohlala!

It’s a damp miserable day and I’ve had my first taste of driving in the rain at rush hour in Dublin city centre. I need food love and lots of it!

There’s not much more comforting than cheesy pasta and here’s what I did.

I’d some fresh Lidl pasta which I plunged in boiling water for 3 min.

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Rinsed them with cold water and drained them.

Put them in my magic ceramic pan and put a heaped spoon full of my blue cheese sauce left over from last nights dinner (2 parts blue cheese to 1 part sour cream melted together slowly) and some grated cheddar. Mix it all and let it warm through till the cheese melts. Tuck in!

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Warming Autumn Salad

I had a few carrots left in in the ground that I needed to use up and so I pulled them out and gave them a good scrub and a rinse.

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I roasted them at 180 C for 30 min with whole garlic cloves, salt, pepper and olive oil.

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Once they have cooled right down, toss them with some green peas (use the frozen one and let them steep in boiling water for 5 min), salad leaves of your choice, feta and some rainbow trout (€2.49) for a portion in Lidl at the moment. Drizzle some balsamic vinegar and you’re done!

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I made this again this week for a dinner I was going to and I had no trout. I did have some lovely flowers though so it was much prettier this time around!

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A Fine Stock

Did you make like me and go completely crazy on the specials in Lidl this week?

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They are selling safron threads for €1.29 a pop. That is excellent value and I’m most excited. So if you’ve gone a bit over board and aren’t too sure what to make with yours, here is an idea! This can be used as based stock for some seriously sexy soups or you can spoon a bit of it in some creme fraiche and serve other some pork chops and sauteed potatoes. It’s versatile and will really enhance your cooking. What’s particularly good about this stock is that you can freeze in small portions, say in ice cube trays so it’s easy to make a batch in advance when you have left over wine (I know… who am I kidding).

Ingredients:

1 portion of saffron, 2 chicken stock cubes, half a bottle of white wine, a few twigs of rosemary, 2 bulbs of garlic. You can off course change the cubes to vegetable ones if you want to make this a vegetarian affair.

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Method:

Place the cubes to melt in the wine, add the saffron, grated garlic and rosemary leaves. Cook down on very low heat for 30 to 40 min. Once it’s cooked down, I put the stock through a sieve, let it cool down and then freeze it.

The Devil’s Carbonara

It’s Halloween weekend and Lidl had a special on Italian products so I picked up some black pasta. I had one egg left over and an open pack of streaky rashers. I decided to go for the authentic version of the Carbonara sauce which has no cream in it but instead uses the egg yolk to coat the pasta and form that creamy sauce. Really tasty.

I just boiled the pasta and drained them. Fried the lardons and put the pasta through it. Added the egg yolk on top and a few drops of hot water for extra sauce. Perfect and seasonal!

The (gluten free) Jane

So my friend Jane Ruffino deserves a cake. So I tried to make on that was just like her. So this is sweet and a bit tad exotic. It’s got a secret kick and a bit of spice to it too. Mainly and most importantly it’s warm and lovely inside and out.

Ingredients:

Love is absolutely key. Only ever make this cake for someone special. You will also need 200 g of butter, 200g of almond powder, 100 g of dessicated coconut, 4 large eggs, 1 teaspoon of vanilla essence, a good pinch of nutmeg and ginger, 200g of sugar and a punnet of blueberries.

Method:

Pre-heat your oven to 180 C.

Melt your butter in a large bowl over boiling water. Once it’s fully melted, take it off the heat and add all your ingredients apart from the blueberries.

Place your blueberries in your oiled cake tin.

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Pour the cake mixture over the blueberries.

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Leave in the oven for 30 to 40 min until your knife test is moist but not gooey.