Mint and Basil Martini

I love a cocktail. Usually I’ll pick something that’s fruity and not too strong. But sometimes you want something a bit more grown up.

These are fragrant and refreshing but they are strong, so enjoy responsibly (or not).

These need a simple syrup. You can buy this but it’s basically equal amounts of water and sugar heated together until the sugar dissolves and it becomes a syrup. This takes a couple of minutes to do and is a fraction of the price of syrup you can buy. Once the syrup is made allow it to cool and transfer to a jar with a lid. It keeps for ages.

This cocktail works best when everything is really cold i.e. your gin and simple syrup should be chilled. I pop the cocktail glass in the freezer about 5 minutes before I plan to serve these.

Ingredients

50ml Gin (or Vodka if that’s your thing)

25 ml Simple syrup

Juice of 1 lime

4 Basil leaves

2 Mint leaves

Method

  1. Some of you may have those fancy cocktail kits with shakers and muddlers etc.
  2. I don’t, so in a small jug I add the mint, lime juice and basil and “muddle”. What this means is that you bash or bruise the leaves so they release their natural oils and flavouring. I used the end of a wooden spoon
  3. Add the gin and simple syrup, you can decide if you are the shaken (like James Bond) , or stirred like me because I didn’t have a cocktail shaker
  4. It doesn’t matter which you choose, it will still taste fabulous. Transfer to a chilled glass, making sure to not to include the bashed leaves

No Churn Toasted Marshmallow Ice Cream

This is inspired by a recipe I saw from Katie’s Cucina, and I knew I had to try. I’ve tweaked the proportions of her recipe but it’s pretty straight forward. The hardest thing about it will be not going back and forth to the freezer to “check it’s OK”.

Spread the marshmallows evenly on a tray before placing under the grill

It has only 3 ingredients, and doesn’t need all the faff most ice creams recipes involve, like needing stir it constantly or having to have an ice cream maker.

Remember to keep an eye on these so they don’t burn

This tastes spectacular as it is, but teams really with anything chocolate related. Really the taste of toasted marshmallows is something else. This is definately a pure filth recipe. But there is always room for a little filth in your life.

Ingredients

200 Grams Mini marshmallows

250 ml Condensed milk

125 ml Double cream

Method

  1. Line an oven proof tray with tin foil and rub this with a thin film of oil
  2. Turn on your grill to high, spread the marshmallows evenly across the tray
  3. Put the tray under the grill and watch closely. You’re looking for toasted but not burnt, and this can happen in a matter of seconds if you don’t watch out
  4. In a bowl with the cream and condensed milk together with an electric whisk until it thickens. You can use a stand mixer if you have one
  5. Add the toasted marshmallows gradually (they’ll want clog up the whisk otherwise) and whisk at a medium speed until thoroughly mixed. You’ll see little flecks of brown from the toasted parts of the marshmallow but this where the flavour is.
  6. Freeze for 8 hours (and do your best not to eat it all yourself)

Croquetas de Jamon Serrano (Spanish Ham Croquettes)

Crunchy coating and molten melting centre.

I first had these a couple of years ago in Madrid. The Spanish have an incredibly civilised social life. When going out for the evening you can order plates of tapas to snack on while enjoying a cold beer or glass of wine. Most bars will give you a little snack or tapas if you order a drink, and each bar has their own specialty.

So with a little bar hopping you can taste some great food if you don’t fancy a big sit down dinner. The tapas also helps you slow down to enjoy your drink and is also meant to help line your stomach to help prevent you getting drunk (I honestly didn’t see a single drunk person on my nights out, so maybe they’re on to something)

These croquetas are made with ham, but this can also be substituted with a cheese like manchego, that has a good flavour. While these are a little bit fiddly, you’ll be rewarded with highly addictive tapas that you’ll love.

Makes 10-12

Ingredients

30 Grams Butter

2 Tbsps Olive Oil

1 Small onion (finely chopped)

70 Grams Serrano ham (finely chopped)

500ml Milk

60 Grams Plain flour

2 eggs

Extra flour for coating

Breadcrumbs for coating

Salt and pepper

Bite into the crunchy croquetas to the creamy tender ham flecked centre

Method

  1. Heat the oil in a pan, and fry the onion over a gentle heat (so it doesn’t colour) until until translucent
  2. When the onion is cooked add the butter
  3. When the butter is melted, stir in the flour. Add the milk and stir continuously to make sure there are no lumps
  4. The sauce will start to thicken, keep stirring and simmer until the sauce no longer tastes “floury”
  5. Stir in the ham, and remove from the heat. Check the seasoning, I like to add a little black pepper, but because the ham is salty you shouldn’t need to add any. Place a layer of cling film on top of the sauce (it will stop a skin forming), and allow to cool
  6. Separate out the flour, eggs and breadcrumbs in different bowls
  7. I usually take a good table spoon of the the cooled sauced mixture (which should now be firm), and roll in to a small oblong shape (wetting your hands is a good way to stock them getting sticky)
  8. Once you have rolled all the cooled sauce mixture into little sausages, heat vegetable oil (I usually wait the oi is hot enough for a cube of bread to fry quickly, i know this is low tech but I don’t own a deep fat fryer)
  9. While the oil is heating, roll the little sausage you made first in flour, then egg, and finally roll in the breadcrumbs
  10. Once coated with breadcrumbs add the croquetta to the oil and fry for 2-3 minutes ensuring the brown on all sides (don’t add too many to the oil all at once)
  11. Drain on kitchen paper and eat while hot.

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Little nuggets of yummyness

On a wet crappy Sunday afternoon I was craving something sweet and couldn’t be bothered going out. I had a rummage through the cupboards and came up with these. I have saved this recipe under “pure filth”. They may sound pretty healthy, but in reality there is a substantial amount of sugar and butter in these cookies (and is probably part of the reason they taste so good).

Mix ready to be scooped into cookies

This is based a round an American recipe, so these will be soft cookies, rather than a crunchier biscuit. If you like a crunchier biscuit just bake these for longer, (be careful they don’t dry out too much). When I made these I didn’t have enough raisins, so I made up the difference with dried cranberries and they were great. So be brave and don’t be afraid to experiment with different types of dried fruit.

Makes 24

Ingredients

150 Grams Butter

150 Grams Sugar (preferably brown, but use what you have)

125 Grams Plain flour

1 Tsp Baking soda

1 Tsp Cinnamon

150 Grams Raisins

125 Grams Desiccated Coconut

2 Eggs

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees, and line to two baking sheets with baking parchment
  2. In a bowl, cream the butter and sugar together (I use an electric whisk), add the eggs and mix well
  3. Stir in the dry ingredients and mix until thoroughly combined
  4. I use a tablespoon to scoop out enough mixture for each cookie (you can make these bigger or small if you prefer, just remember to adjust your cooking time) and place spoonfuls of the mix evenly on your baking sheets (leave enough room in case they spread a little)
  5. Bake for 10 minutes, and then allow to cool completely on a wire wrack before storing in an airtight box

Lime and Lemon Grass Gin Fizz

I’m currently in mourning as I had hoped to visit Bali this Summer, but COVID 19 crapped all over that plan. Bali is my favourite place on earth, but mercilessly hot and humid at times. Being a pasty, super pale Irish girl, I often need to sit in the shade and enjoy a frosty beverage (that’s my story and I’m sticking to it)

Usually this is an ice cold Bintang (local beer), or coconut water straight from the coconut with a straw.

This is where I should have been. Do you see why I needed a cocktail.

I made this with the Balinese flavours I love in mind. To get these flavours you make a simple syrup. This is the cornerstone of loads of different cocktails, just take equal parts sugar and water and cook together with any other flavours you like.

The simple syrup will live quite happily in a sealed jar in your fridge for a month. It probably won’t last that long. I keep finding myself going all Mad Men and enjoying a pre dinner cocktail (even when dinner is just beans on toast).

Simple ingredients will transport your taste buds.

Ingredients

(for the simple syrup)

100 Grams Sugar

100 ml Water

1 Stalk Lemon grass

1 Lime (sliced)

2-3 Kaffir lime leaves (optional, but definitely takes the flavour to another level)

(for the rest of the cocktail)

Gin

Soda water

Method

  1. Bruise the lemon grass, add to a pot along with the sugar, water, lime leaves and sliced lime
  2. Bring the mix to just before the boil and reduce the heat. Simmer over a gentle heat for 10 minutes. Strain through a sieve and allow the syrup to cool
  3. You can make this cocktail as strong or as weak as you like. I usually add equal parts chilled gin and simple syrup and then top up with as much soda water as you like.
  4. Treat yourself and serve it in a fancy glass with a cute garnish (go on, you’re worth it)

Hazelnut and Raspberry Eton Mess

Chewy meringue, luscious cream, and juicy raspberries

Most of my baking is throw it in a bowl give a quick stir and throw it in the oven. Every now and again I like to go a little bit fancier, not as fancy as those creations you see in French patisseries that are total works of art, but a bit more involved than a tray bake.

As with some of my favourite recipes this came together as the result of an accident. I was in a supermarket and meant to lift ground almonds but lifted ground hazelnuts instead. If you can’t find ground hazelnuts, just give whole hazelnuts a whiz in the food processor, just don’t go too fine with them or else the hazelnuts will start to release their natural oils which is death for a meringue. I used raspberries in this, but oranges or strawberries also go really well.

I’ll be honest, I was trying to make pretty frou frou little meringue nests. It went horribly wrong (I have a checkered past with meringue and it beat me once again. I think I need one those beautiful very expensive mixers, just saying in case anyone would like to send one to the Sunnyside Kitchen and break my meringue curse). If you are better with meringues than I am please give the little nests a try I think they would look adorable.

My meringue nests didn’t really work out.

So I had a pile of ugly meringues, and rather than waste these I just adapted what I had and layered broken meringue, cream, chocolate and fruit to make a version of Eton mess, it tasted fabulous! This is also a fantastic gluten free dessert.

I like to think of cooking as a metaphor for life, sometimes you end up with something you didn’t want or didn’t ask for. Sometimes things don’t work out as you hoped or planned. But with a little imagination and the right attitude you can still create something great.

Served in little jars or glasses these make a delicious dessert.

Ingredients

Meringue

150 Grams Hazelnuts (ground)

7 Eggs whites

385 Grams Caster sugar (if you don’t have caster sugar, whiz ordinary granulated sugar in a food processor of a couple of seconds)

1/2 Tsp White wine vinegar

Filling

100 Grams Chocolate (use the the type you prefer and grate or scrap into curls

1 Punnet of raspberries

250 Ml Whipped Cream

Method

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 180 degrees, line two baking sheets with baking parchment, drawing on circles (if making meringue nests)
  2. Separate your eggs and whisk the egg whites until they resemble stiff peaks, whisk in the sugar a tablespoon at time and then add the vinegar.
  3. Gradually fold in the ground hazelnuts with a metal spoon, and then pipe or spoon onto the prepared baking trays
  4. Bake for 25-30 mins and remove and allow cool before carefully removing from the baking parchment
  5. When the meringue are completely cold, start to layer them up with the whipped cream, prepared fruit and grated chocolate. I use little jam jars, but these also look really good served in tall glasses. If you have any whole hazelnuts left you could also toast these in a pan and allow them to cool before topping the desserts to give some crunch

Tropical Rice Pudding

Scrumptious served with ripe mango or pineapple

I’ve mentioned before that when I was a kid, my Mum wasn’t a great cook (I love you Mo, but we both know the truth). Dessert in my house was usually shop bought, and when I was really young one of favourites was tinned creamed rice with a big spoonful of jam.

Fast forward God knows how many years, and I taught myself how to cook. I was also lucky enough to go out into the world and try some amazing flavours. So I decided to try and experiment with some of my favourites. Coconut, ginger and lemon grass gives a new twist on this traditional dessert.

I like this chilled and served with mango or pineapple, but it’s also really good warm, and you can enjoy it with whatever fruit you prefer.

I used milk in this recipe, but you can substitute some of this with cream if want to make a really indulgent dessert. If you want to make a vegan version, swap cow’s milk for almond milk. I’ve tried both versions and they’re both delicious.

Coconut and spices bring a new twist to an old classic

Ingredients

400 ml Can Coconut milk

250 Grams Pudding rice

40 Grams Sugar

500 ml Milk

1 Large stalk of lemon grass (kept whole but bruised)

1 Thumb sized piece of ginger

Method

  1. Cut your piece of ginger in half length ways, then smack your lemon grass with the back of a knife (or pot if you want get some frustration out). Bruising the lemongrass helps release the flavour. The ginger and lemon grass are kept big to make it easier to fish out when the rice pudding is cooked
  2. Put all the ingredients in a pot with a lid and heat until just before the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer over a low heat stirring regularly. Each type of rice is different, so cook until the rice is soft. (mine took about 30 minutes). Different rices will absorb different amounts of liquid so if you think the mix is looking too dry add a little milk/water
  3. When the rice is cooked you can scoop out the ginger and lemon grass. The rice pudding can be served hot or cold. I like it served with fruit

Corned Beef, Potato and Onion Pie

Simple and delicious dinner.

I first had this as a teenager when a school friend’s Mum made this one night when I was at their house. It was a taste revelation to me. Up until then I had only had corned beef (chipped beef in the US) in sandwiches.

I had the idea to make this when looking in a cupboard I found the strange shaped tin with the stupid little key and strange opening mechanism. Honestly, after all these years, why does corned beef have to be stored in these weird shaped tins. And don’t even start me about the stupid key thing you need to open it, that you cut yourself on every single time. I mean it, if anyone knows why this still happens please tell me.

Cheap and simple ingredients make a really delicious filling

Anyway, rant over. You can make this with ready made pasty if you want this to be super quick. I have included details for anyone who prefers to make their own pastry. It’s a good way to use up left over potatoes, and makes an easy inexpensive meal.

Use a loose bottom pie tin to make it easier to remove the pie.

Ingredients

For the pastry

225 Grams Plain flour

100 Grams Butter (cut into cubes)

Cold water

For the filling

300 Grams Potatoes (cooked)

1 Onion (finely sliced)

340 Gram Tin of corned beef

Salt and pepper

Method

  1. My hand are always really warm, so I’m not best suited to make pastry, this is part of the reason I add the flour and butter to a food processor and pulse until I get a mix that looks like bread crumbs (you can also use the traditional rubbing in method, but generally I’m too lazy for this).
  2. When your mix looks like breadcrumbs, start by adding a little cold water at a time until the mix comes together to form a ball. Wrap in cling film and chill in the fridge for 30 mins. If you’re stuck for time or just can’t be bothered, it’s totally fine to use shop bought pastry
  3. Pre-heat your oven to 180 degrees and put a baking sheet in the oven to heat. Grease a 9 inch loose base cake/pie tin and set to one side, ready for your pastry
  4. Remove your pastry from the fridge and let it sit for 5-10 minutes so it isn’t too stiff to roll out. While you wait on this, chop your onion finely, and cube your cooked potatoes (which should be cold), after you have wrestled your corned beef out of the tin and tried really hard not to scream f*ck at it, you should cube this as well
  5. Mix the potatoes, corned beef, and onion together and season with salt and pepper
  6. Put the pastry on a floured surface and cut approx 1/3 off and set to one side (this will be the lid for your pie)
  7. Roll the remaining pastry out as thinly as possible, and make sure it’s big enough to fit your pie tin. Line the tin with the pastry, making sure that you have pushed into the edges
  8. Put your corned beef mix into the lined pie dish, and then roll out the remaining pastry to form a lid. brush the edges of the pastry lining the tin with beaten egg and then place the lid on top. I press down the edged with a fork to make sure it’s sealed
  9. Brush the pie with some more beaten egg (it will help it look pretty when it’s cooked) and add a couple holes to allow steam to escape. Place the completed pie on top of the baking sheet that has been heating in the oven (this help ensure the base if cooked).
  10. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until the pastry is a deep golden brown

Peanut Butter & Jelly Blondies

So good and so simple

I know, I’m becoming obsessed with blondies during the lock down, but they are so easy and so versatile.

The perfect tea time treat

I wanted something delicious and had run out of chocolate. After a quick scan though my cupboards and my favourite recipes, I settled on this recipe based on one from Cafe Sucre Farine. I like these with a cup of coffee, but they’re also great with a big glass of ice cold milk, or for dessert served with ice cream.

Simple blonde mix, just waiting on its topping.

I actually used lingonberry jam (usually served with meatballs at a large Swedish furniture store), because it was all I had, and it worked fine. You can use whatever flavour of jam/jelly you want or have at home. This is a pretty simple recipe so is probably ideal if you have little hands to keep busy, kids love dolloping on and swirling the pb & j.

Dollop spoonfuls of peanut butter and jam/jelly across the top of the blonde mix

For the blondies

120 Grams Butter

60 Grams Peanut butter

125 Grams Light brown sugar

1 egg

1/2 Tsp Baking powder

1/4 Tsp Salt

200 Grams Plain flour

For the topping

80 Grams Peanut butter

80 Grams Jelly/Jam

Swirl the PB & J with the back of a spoon to give a marbled effect.

Method

  1. Pre-heat your oven 180 degrees, and line a 8in x 8in baking tin with baking parchment
  2. Melt 60 Grams peanut butter and butter together in the microwave. I usually give it 30 seconds blasts so as not to burn it, and obviously use a microwave safe bowl
  3. When the peanut butter and butter have melted allow to cool a little add the sugar, salt and baking powder, stir in a beaten egg and then the flour.
  4. Mix until thoroughly combined, and transfer the mix to your lined baking tin
  5. For the topping in two separate bowls add the jam and peanut butter, and microwave each for 30 seconds to soften. Dollop spoonfuls of each across the top of the blonde mix. Then smear with the back of a spoon to give a marbled affect.
  6. Pop in the oven for 30 minutes, and allow to cool in the tin for 10 minutes
Straight from the oven, allow to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before cutting into squares.

Five Spice Pork Belly

Crispy and deeply delicious.

I love pork belly. If I go to a restaurant (remember those). I’m really predictable, if pork belly is on the menu that’s what I’m ordering.

If you haven’t tried it before, it’s pretty rich and can be fatty, but it’s also really tasty. I enjoy it, cooked long and slow, and then crisped up in the pan.

Pork belly lends itself particularly to Asian flavours. I like to marinade the pork, usually over night but at least for an hour.

This is really versatile, and freezes well. It’s great served with salad (if you’re following a keto or low carb diet), or sliced in sandwiches with coleslaw. Its also really good sliced and served with noodles. You can crisp it up on a barbecue instead of the pan for a delicious smokey flavour.

Marinade the pork for at least 1 hour

Ingredients

500 Grams Pork belly strips

2 Tbsp Soy sauce

1 Tbsp Sesame oil

2 Tsp Chinese five spice powder

1 Tsp White wine vinegar (or what ever vinegar you have, just not something really strong like malt vinegar)

1 Tbsp Sesame seeds (optional)

Method

  1. Cut the pork belly into 2-3cm thick strips
  2. Add the oil, soy sauce, vinegar, and five spice powder, to an oven proof dish and mix.
  3. Coat the pork strips with the marinade. Cover the dish and refrigerate overnight (or for an hour at least)
  4. Preheat your oven to 160 degrees, put the covered dish in to cook for 90 minutes,
  5. Remove from the oven. Heat a frying, and add the pork to pan.
  6. Crisp for a few minutes on each side, and then sprinkle with sesame seeds