I have many vices, but they all seem to come in the form of either cake or chocolate. Carrot cake, banana walnut bread and orange chocolate brownies, I am powerless before. Similarly, put me in front of a box of Leonidas and I won’t stop eating until I have a pain in my tummy.
However, despite being such a chocolate lover, I’ve never really bothered making my own, despite regularly satisfying my cake cravings by baking pretty little cakes. I decided to try my hand over Christmas at making my own little chocolates, and after a few variations, I think I have cracked the ultimate after dinner or tea time chocolate. This has so many complementing flavours going on, the spicy cinnamon, zesty orange, roast honeyed hazelnuts and dark chocolate make the perfect, most indulgent treat.
Make this once and you’ll never look back, they’re unbelievably easy to make. Just take my word for it when I say that they won’t last long!
200g 70% Dark Chocolate
100g Hazelnuts, whole
100g Candied Orange Peel, chopped
First things first. Place the hazelnuts on a piece of tin foil within a baking tray. Drizzle with a tablespoon or two of honey and then generously dust with cinnamon. Pop into an oven preheated to 150C and roast for 5 to 7 minutes. Check regularly, you don’t want to burn the nuts or they taste awful. When they’re done, take them out and let them cool. They’ll probably stick together when they cool, that’s okay- just crack them apart again.
You can use a bain marie to melt your chocolate, but I never bother. If your pot is heavy bottomed enough and the heat is low enough, you should be fine to heat it directly in a pot over a low flame. That’s what I always do (mainly because I love cutting corners). Stir the chocolate continuously until it’s all just melted, then take it off the heat.
Lay out a grease proof piece of paper on a large, flat and even chopping board or surface. Drop about a tablespoon of melted chocolate at a time onto the sheet, leaving plenty of space in between each chocolate disc.
Then place a few nuts and about a teaspoon of candied orange on each chocolate disc. Make sure that each topping is touching the melted chocolate or it won’t stick when the chocolate hardens. Finally, sprinkle all the chocolates with some more cinnamon.
Leave to cool for an hour or two and then when they’re hard, peel them off the greaseproof paper and store in an airtight container in the fridge.
Something I’ve wanted to make for ages has been turkey meatballs. Apart from roast turkey at Christmas dinner, it’s not something we ever really cooked at home. However, being on a huge health kick this January (such a cliche, I know), I decided to give them a go. Turkey is obviously a great source of protein, but it’s also an extremely lean meat so it’s often suggested to people who are trying to eat healthily.
These meatballs are jam packed with veggies for an extra nutritional hit and flavour, and I used almond flour instead of breadcrumbs for a change. They taste absolutely gorgeous and this recipe makes about 30-40 small meatballs, so I tend to make a big batch and freeze smaller portions of them to defrost throughout the week for a quick and easy meal.
These taste completely decadent and are so comforting despite being really healthy. So if you’re getting sick of eating chicken salads as you try and get healthy, these are just the thing for you.
2lb turkey mince
1 bunch basil
2 large carrots
2 sticks celery
1 large onion
1 – 2 eggs
50g ground almond
1kg vine tomatoes
6 large shallots
4 large cloves garlic
1 bunch basil
For the meatballs- grate the carrots and celery and very finely dice the onion. Finely slice the basil as fine as you can get it. Set it all aside in a bowl and add the mince. You may not need both eggs to bind the mix (depends on their size) so add one first and if it doesn’t hold together add the second egg. Add in the flour to help further bind the mix (again, if the mix is too wet, you can add more ground almond).
On a baking sheet lay out the washed tomatoes and the peeled onion and garlic cloves (just remove their outer skin). Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt. Throw into an oven preheated to 180C for 20-30 minutes.
Using your hand, roll your meatballs together into whatever size you please. I kept mine a bit smaller than a golf ball. This will make 30-40 meatballs so you can freeze the ones you won’t be cooking straight away. Fry the meatballs in some olive oil on a medium high heat until they’re golden all over. If they’re sticking to the pan you could add some stock instead of oil as they continue to cook. They’ll take about 10-15 minutes, depending on size. Add your spaghetti to a boiling pot of water when the meatballs are looking close to being ready.
When the vegetables are ready (the tomatoes will start to split and the shallots and onions will be soft), pop them all into a large bowl and blend with the other bunch of basil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. It’s that easy!
Add some of the sauce to the pan and let the cooked meatballs stew away in the sauce until the pasta is ready.
Drain the pasta when cooked and serve on a plate with a heap of meatballs and grate some parmesan cheese on top!
Chia Pudding is probably not for everyone, well on first glance at least. Despite it’s slightly tadpole appearance, it’s really tasty when mixed with interesting flavours and is a blank canvas to experiment with whichever way you like.
I decided to go with two of my favourite flavour combos, coconut and chocolate. The important thing with chia pudding is to jazz it up with fresh berries, nuts etc. This is one of the healthiest things you can eat in the morning as this super seed is jam packed with omega 3s, protein and is a high source of fibre. Having this pudding for breakfast is the ultimate morning health kick!
Ingredients (serves 3-4)
80g chia seeds
1/2 can light coconut milk
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tbsp cocoa powder
Stir together your seeds, cinnamon, vanilla and your coconut milk. At first they’ll float around but within a few minutes they’ll start to swell, stir again 10 minutes later so they don’t clump together. It’s best to do this step the night before so it’s ready for the morning. Just make sure to stir a few times and as it thickens you’ll need probably need to add more water.
With a hand blender blitz up the banana and the cocoa powder until it’s a smooth chocolatey sauce.
Layer up a jar one third of the way with chocolate and then fill the rest of the jar almost to the top with the chia pudding just leave a little space for the berries. You could also top with crushed nuts, yoghurt or bee pollen like I did.
Porridge gets a bad rep. Despite being one of our most traditional and much loved Irish breakfasts, many people perceive it as boring. I guess most breakfasts that don’t come with a side of pulled pork are considered boring these days. Porridge is one of my favourite things to eat (I couldn’t imagine a world without oats in it, seriously) and if I’m having an incredibly lazy day, I’ll sometimes even make a bowl for dinner.
Porridge is great because not only is it really nutritious, cheap and quick to make, it also is open to endless flavour varieties. You can add in pretty much any fruit, nut, seed, spice, milk or sweetener. While I usually have mine with some berries I decided to go a bit decadent today with a version that tastes like your favourite banana bread with lots of gooey banana and caramel flavours. Read on to see where you have been going wrong all these years…
Ingredients (serves 1)
1/2 cup oats
1 cup water
1/2 tsp Cinnamon (or a full tsp if you are a cinnamon monster like me)
Mix your oats, water and cinnamon in a pot- you can add a pinch of salt but I never find it makes a difference. If you can soak your oats overnight, all the better. It just makes the porridge more creamy. This is definitely advisable if you use jumbo oats.
Put the pot under a medium- high heat and stir vigourously. Non stop until it cooks. Many people walk away from the pot and let their oats boil in water which ends up in truly manky porridge- please don’t do that.
While the oats are cooking slice your banana into a frying pan on a medium heat with a tsp butter and a tsp brown sugar. Cook for a few minutes, flipping over halfway through until the bananas are golden.
When your oats are almost done (it should take between 5-8 minutes) and in a splash of milk and stir again until combined. Pour your porridge into your bowl.
Sprinkle your porridge with brown sugar (this is the traditional Irish way) and let the sugar melt into a nice caramel on top. Do this before you add anything else so it can melt, if you add the milk first it won’t melt. Then place your bananas on top, then add another splash of milk (or cream if you have it), a sprinkle of almonds and maybe even a drizzle of honey if you’re feeling decadent and in need of a sugar hit.
Enjoy in the knowledge that you have cooked and are eating porridge like a boss.
Every now and then you just need a little weekend indulgence. Porridge or poached eggs on toast sometimes just doesn’t cut the mustard and you need a little “yippee I made it to through the week” food.
In the spirit of all things OTT and way too decadent for breakfast, I decided to make this Chocolate and Coconut Stuffed French Toast. This is really simple to make and if you have someone over for brunch, they’ll think you’re a real whizz in the kitchen! You don’t even have to make the chocolate sauce, you can use Nutella… Simple!
Ingredients (Serves 1):
2 slices good quality white bread (I used cranberry white spelt)
Chocolate (I used dark but you could just use nutella instead of making the sauce if you have some handy)
Break 2 squares of chocolate and place in a heavy bottomed pan with 2 tbsp of coconut milk. Let it melt over a really low heat, taking it off the heat every now and then so it doesn’t curdle. Mix together until totally melted into a sauce.
Whisk together your egg, 2 tbsp coconut milk and some cinnamon in a bowl. When mixed through place on a big plate.
Slather both slices of bread with coconut yoghurt, then drizzle the chocolate sauce over the coconut yoghurt. Squish the two slices of bread together and place it on the eggy plate.
Let the stuffed sandwich sit on the plate for a minute absorbing all the egg and then turn on to the other side to do the same.
Place a little coconut oil onto a hot frying pan and when melted place the eggy bread on top. Cook for about two minutes on each side, make sure the pan isn’t too hot.
When cooked slice in half and serve while marvelling how beautifully the coconut and chocolate oozes out the sides.
Shepard’s Pie is one of my all-time favourite recipes. We used to have it all the time for dinner when I was younger, and there was nothing better than coming in the door from school and into a warm kitchen to a piping hot casserole dish of Shepard’s Pie. You don’t see people make it as much anymore as people are moving away from traditional food in favour of exotic foreign dishes, but I think that’s their loss. This is one of the best, comforting and wholesome dishes in existence.
The beans may sounds really weird if you haven’t already tried them. But trust me, adding baked beans to a Shepard’s Pie will be the best decision you ever make and you will never look back. My mum used always add a tin of beans to her Shepard’s Pie when we were small kids, but as we got older we wouldn’t let her make it without the layer of beans. As well as tasting delicious, they add more protein and fibre to your meal too.
7-8 large potatoes (local)
2 tbsp butter
1 tin canelli beans
1/2 tin chopped tomatoes
2 cloves garlic
1 tbsp honey
1lb mince lamb
2 sticks celery
1 large onion
2 cloves garlic
1 beef stock cube
1 tbsp tomato paste
Boil the potatoes for about 15 to 20 minute, until cooked through and soft. Peel and mash with the butter and a little salt and pepper until all is soft and well combined. Don’t over mash or it will lose it’s fluffiness!
For the beans… Crush the garlic and fry for a minute in some oil in a saucepan, add the tomatoes, beans and honey and let simmer away for about 10-15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
For the meat.. Grate the carrots and celery. Finely chop the onion and garlic. Fry them all together in some olive oil for about 10-15 minutes until totally soft. Add the lamb mince and cook for another 10-15 minutes, stirring frequently to ensure it’s browned all over. Pop your stock cube into a mug of boiling water, when dissolved stir into your meat mix. Add in the tomato paste too. Season with salt and pepper.
Get your casserole dish out, line with a smear of butter. Layer in the cooked lamb mix, then layer in the beans then top with the mashed potato. Make a wave pattern with a fork on the potato, top with a little more butter. Cook in an oven preheated to 180C for about 40 minutes.
Serve with buttery peas and eat straight away!
This freezes perfectly, I often make a big dish of it and then portion up the pieces so I can have individual meals quickly during the week. You could add in herbs too, in fact I had parsley but forgot to add it in! Not necessary though.
When it comes to the simple pleasures in life, there are few things I love more than buttered bread hot from the oven, cake and chocolate. Thankfully this recipe is an amalgamation of all of those things! I’m a total bread fiend (hence working for free in a bakery last year) and have already waxed lyrical about my love of Spotted Dog when I made it earlier this year here. These Spotted Puppies are mini versions, like little scones, of the popular and traditional Irish Spotted Dog.
The Spotted Dog is basically a slightly sweet and fruity soda bread. I decided to pimp these puppies out with dried cranberries, chopped walnuts and dark chocolate chips. Sorry to be boastful, but they were incredible. Make sure to eat them hot from the oven slathered in salted butter… Delicious!
450g plain/cream flour
1 tsp bread soda (bicarb of soda)
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
100g dark choc chips (I just chopped a bar into little chunks)
75g chopped walnuts
Preheat your oven to 220C. Sieve the flour into a bowl (I actually never sieve it because I am lazy, but it helps get more air into the mix), stir in the salt, sugar, walnuts, chocolate and cranberries. Make a well in the centre of the mix.
Your wet mix (buttermilk and egg) should make 400ml, to be safe pop your egg into the measuring jug and then add the buttermilk until you hit the 400ml mark. Give it a quick whisk.
Pour the wet mix into the dry mix and start bringing it together by using your hand (stiff like a claw) to bring the dry mix into the centre. Keep doing this until just combined. The most important thing with this, or any soda bread, is not to overmix it or it will become tough.
When just combined divide the mix into six portions and pop it onto an oiled tray. Put into the oven immediately, again if you leave it out before putting it in the oven it will loose it’s lightness.
After the first 5 minutes you can turn the heat down to 200C, then let them bake for another 15 minutes.
When cooked slice open and butter with generous helpings of salted butter immediately! No need for jam. it will just mask the flavours of your beautiful fillings.