Champ

Buttery champ, the ultimate comfort food.

Northern Ireland has many unique dishes like potato bread, soda farls, fifteens etc. The place has world class scenery and is luscious and green, but that’s mainly because it rains pretty much every day. We have numerous types of rain that range from soft pillowy drizzle, to sideways stingy rain that feels like someone is pinging your face with rubber bands.

Because of our unique weather system, we love carb heavy comfort food. The king of comfort foods is champ. Champ is basically mashed potatoes with milk made smooth and velvety by milk infused with with scallions (spring onions). Traditionally it’s served in a big mound with a well in the middle where you melt a knob of butter. I’ve heard of a few tweaks, like beating a raw egg into the potatoes and most families will make it how their Mum taught them. This is how my Mum made it. I love this just on its own, but champ and sausage is a really popular family dinner. There is basically nothing this doesn’t go with. In a lot of recipes fancy chefs tell people not to use the green part of the scallion. Champ is peasant food, so nothing is wasted. The green part of the onion is what gives the champ the distinctive green flecks.

Allow the milk to infuse with the taste of the scallions.

Ingredients

1Kg Potatoes (pick a floury variety rather than waxy potatoes)

1 Bunch of scallions (spring onions)

250 ml milk

Salt and pepper

Butter

Method

  1. Peel the potatoes and cut into equal sized chunks
  2. Put in a large pot of cold water and salt. Bring to the boil and simmer until the potatoes are soft
  3. Trim the tops and ends of the scallions, cut into 1cm slices and add to a pot along with the milk. Heat on a low heat for 5- 10 minutes (do not allow to boil)
  4. Mash the cooked potatoes. Gradually stir in the milk and scallions until you get a consistency you’re happy with
  5. Check the seasoning and add salt and pepper if it needs it. Spoon a mound of the champ onto a plate and make well in the centre and add a knob of butter which will then melt into a gorgeous pool of golden deliciousness

Mock Crab

It may not be pretty, but OMG it’s tasty.

I have no idea why this is called mock crab, as it isn’t remotely fishy. But, what it is, is a really quick and tasty filling for sandwiches, toasties, and maybe controversially baked potatoes.

My Mum made this mix of corned (chipped) beef, tomatoes and onion for slightly fancier lunches. I love her, but she wasn’t especially adventurous, this was one of the things she knew we all loved.

Someone told me that this was devised during World War II, because people had to rely on tinned food as there could be shortages of fresh food. However it came about, it’s really delicious.

Ingredients

340 Gram Tin of corned beef

1/2 Small onion (finely chopped)

2 Small tomatoes

2 Tbsps Mayonnaise (you can increase this if you want a creamier texture)

Method

  1. Remove the corned beef from the tin and either chop finely or mash with a fork
  2. Finely chop the onion, and chop the tomatoes into 1 cm chunks (you can makes the mix a bit chunkier if you prefer)
  3. Add the mayonnaise and mix well, before filling sandwiches or baked potatoes

Blueberry Galette

I love a galette, mainly because you don’t need to be a super talented baker. Galettes are open free form pies, so you don’t have to be a whiz with pastry to make something great.

I make different versions of these, both savoury and sweet and usually try to use seasonal fillings. They are really versatile, and if you’re organised you can make a double batch of pastry and freeze it for the next time you bake. You can of course use shop bought pastry if you’re short on time, but home made pastry will taste better. I’ve included some sugar in the pastry but if you want to make a savoury galette just leave it out.

Ingredients

For the pastry

200 Grams Plain flour

100 Grams Butter

2 Egg yolks (1 yolk goes into the pastry, and the second yolk is for brushing the pastry with)

1 Tbsp Caster sugar

Zest of one lemon (optional)

For the filling

400 Grams Blueberries

1 Tbsp Cornflour

1 Tbsp Caster sugar (reduce or increase depending on the sweetness of your fruit)

Method

  1. In a food processor add the ingredients and pulse until resembles breadcrumbs (you can use the rubbing in method if you prefer)
  2. Very gradually add cold water until it starts to come together. Turn onto a floured surface and form into a ball. Wrap in cling film and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes
  3. After your pastry has chilled, remove from the fridge and allow it to come back to close to room temperature (it will be too difficult to roll out otherwise)
  4. Pre-heat your oven 180 degrees. Line a baking sheet with baking parchment
  5. On a floured surface, roll out your pastry to make a circle about 1.5cm thick. Transfer your pastry to the parchment (if you’re not especially confident with pastry, just put your ball of dough on the parchment at the start and roll it out (means you don’t have to transfer it)
  6. In a bowl add your fruit, corn flour and sugar and combine
  7. Place the fruit in the middle of the pastry, leaving a border of about 5-6cm around the edge of the pastry
  8. Brush the border with beaten egg yolk, start to pleat the pastry border together to bring the border towards the centre. Brush the pastry crust with the remaining egg yolks
  9. Bake the galette for 40-45 minutes until golden brown, allow to cool a little before dusting liberally with icing sugar. I love this served ice cream, or whipped cream

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