Cherry Clafoutis

This is one of the quintessential French desserts and it’s actually quite easy to make.  It’s basically a baked custard/batter with fruit.

Cherries are a traditional, but you can use other fruit like blueberries or apricots.

Straight from the oven, dust with a little icing sugar before serving.

I use frozen cherries that I allowed to thaw. This is mainly because fresh cherries here in Ireland are really expensive, and because the frozen type usually have the stones removed. Purists argue that the cherry stones add an almond flavour, but I think this is nonsense.

Ready for the oven.

If you have a blender you can make the batter in this or just use a bowl and whisk if you don’t. This should normally be cooked in a round pie dish and served in wedges. I didn’t have one, so my clafoutis is was probably a little deeper than the regular type. It also looks prettier cooked in a round dish but ho hum, you use what you have.

It’s usually served just warm or at room temperature. It’s traditionally served with whipped cream, but ice cream is also delicious.

Ingredients

For the fruit

450 Grams Cherries (fresh or frozen)

3 Tbsp Caster sugar

For the batter

100 Grams Caster sugar (plus a little extra to coat the baking dish)

4 Eggs

1/2 Tsp Salt

1 Tsp Vanilla extract

200 Mil Milk

150 Grams Plain flour

30 Grams Butter (melted and allowed to cool slightly, plus extra for greasing the dish)

Method

  1. Cover the cherries with 3 Tbsp of sugar and allow to macerate for an hour
  2. Pre-heat your oven to 180 degrees (Celsius)
  3. Add the milk, salt, vanilla extract, and eggs to a blender and give a quick blitz
  4. Add the flour to the blender and whizz for 1 minute, before adding the cooled melted butter. Whiz for another 30 seconds
  5. Rub a knob of butter along the inside of your baking dish, and a couple of tablespoons of sugar to the dish and shake this around the dish so that it sticks to the butter. Discard any sugar that hasn’t stuck to the butter
  6. Spread your fruit across the base of the dish, and then gently pour over the custard
  7. Place in the oven and bake for 45 minutes. To check if the clafoutis is cooked, stick a knife in the centre of the dish and if it comes out clean the clafoutis is cooked. If it doesn’t give it another 5 minutes and check again

Vanillekipferl (Almond Crescent Cookies)

About a million years ago I lived in Germany, and nobody does Christmas or Christmas confectionery like the Germans.

These rich buttery cookies are the perfect Christmas cookie. I have used pistachios but you could use any type of nut you prefer. These are quite rich, but they aren’t something you’ll be eating everyday. They also make great Christmas gifts.

You could also swap out the vanilla extract for almond essence or pistachio paste if you want to experiment with different flavours.

(Makes 24 cookies)

Ingredients

95 Grams Ground almonds

75 Grams Sugar

270 Grams Plain flour

25 Grams Pistachios (chopped)

225 Grams Butter (chilled and cut into cubes)

1 Tsp Vanilla extract

Method

  1. Add all the dry ingredients to a mixing bowl and combine
  2. Add the vanilla extract and butter, and rub the butter into the dry mix (you can also use a food processor to do this)
  3. When the butter has been rubbed into the dry mix, start pressing together to form a dough
  4. Wrap the dough in cling film and chill for 30 minutes
  5. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees (Celsius), and line a baking sheet with baking parchment
  6. Take the dough out of the fridge and turn out on a lightly floured surface
  7. With your hands, roll the the dough into a sausage and divide into 24 equal parts
  8. Shape each section of dough into a half moon shape with your hands and place on your prepared baking sheet
  9. Bake for 12-15 minutes until the cookies start to brown at the edges
  10. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire wrack
  11. When cool, dust liberally with icing sugar
  12. The cookies can be stored in an airtight container for 2-3 days

Miso Sesame Chicken

The cracking recipe comes from the national treasure that is Nigella Lawson.

I have tweaked it a little, leaving out the fish sauce (only because I didn’t have any). I’ve used chicken thighs, she used a spatchcocked chicken (whole chicken with the backbone removed and pressed flat), but again this was because this what I had.

The chicken is best if you can let it marinade overnight. So if you can be organised, you’ll have an amazingly tasty weeknight dinner. This is also delicious enough to impress friends if you’re cooking for them. If you’re feeding vegetarians/vegans this marinade is also fantastic spread on slices of aubergine before roasting them.

Serves 4

4 Large chicken thighs or 8 small ones

1 Tbsp Vegetable oil

1 Tbsp Soy sauce

2 Tsp Sesame oil (use one day in the marinade and reserve one for later)

4 Tsp White Miso paste

1 Tbsp Grated ginger

1 Clove of minced garlic

1 Tbsp Sesame seeds (reserve for during roasting)

  1. Add the marinade ingredients to a bowl and stir until well combined
  2. Put the chicken thighs in a large freezer bag, pour in the marinade and seal the bag. Rub the marinade onto the chicken to make sure it’s well coated and then refrigerate over night
  3. The next day if you have time, take the chicken out of the fridge about 30 minutes before you intend to cook it and allow the meat to come to room temperature
  4. Preheat your oven to 200 degrees, empty the chicken thighs into an oven proof dish (skin side up) and empty any remaining marinade from the freezer bag over the chicken
  5. Cover the dish with tin foil and bake for 25-30 minutes (depending on the size of the chicken thighs)
  6. Remove the tin foil and baste the chicken with any juices in the dish, drizzle over a teaspoon of sesame oil (a little goes a long way), and then sprinkle with sesame seeds before returning to the oven for another 10 minutes (check they are cooked by sticking in a fork and making sure the juices run clear)
  7. Remove and serve with your favourite side Asian slaw or spicy cucumber salad or just plain potato salad goes brilliantly with this

ANZAC Biscuits

I love learning about new recipes from other people and hearing about their food traditions. One of my bosses Amanda, is Australian, and she mentioned these as being a real institution back in OZ. The recipe she shared was from BBC Good Food, and these are scrummy.

The name comes from Australian and New Zealand Army Corp, and legend has it people originally made these to send with care packages to soldiers during the first world war because the ingredients didn’t spoil easily. Other people claim they were never sent in care packages, but were sold at bake sales etc. to raise funds for returning veterans. They’re now baked to commemorate ANZAC day on 25 April each year.

How long you cook these for will depend on the type of biscuit you want (chewy or crisp). I’ve also seen recipes that include ground ginger, and I think this would make a cracking addition. One of my work mates tried drizzling chocolate over hers, which would also be scrummy (thanks for the suggestion Tina). Which ever version you try they will taste pretty amazing and are easy to make from ingredients you might already have. They will live quite happily in an airtight tin for 4-5 days.

Ingredients

100 Grams Plain Flour

100 Grams Butter

100 Grams Caster Sugar

85 Grams Porridge Oats

85 Grams Desiccated Coconut

1 Tbsp Golden Syrup

1 Tsp Bicarbonate of Soda

Method

  1. Heat your oven to 180 degrees, and line a cookie sheet with baking parchment
  2. Add the flour, sugar, oats and coconut to a bowl and mix well before making a well in the centre
  3. In a separate bowl, add the butter and golden syrup and melt in a microwave (I usually do 30 seconds at a time)
  4. In a cup add the bicarbonate of soda and stir in 2 tablespoons of boiling water, before stirring into the melted butter
  5. Stir the melted butter into the dry mix and stir until fully incorporated
  6. Scoop dessertspoonful’s of the mix onto the baking sheet, leaving gaps of 2-3 cm between each biscuit, as they will spread
  7. Cook in your preheated oven for 10 mins for a chewy biscuit, or 15 mins or longer if you want a more crispy biscuit

Creamy Meatballs with Mushrooms

One of the numerous things I’m missing in lockdown is a cheeky visit to a well known Swedish furniture super store. This includes spending twice what I meant to and eating my own weight in meatballs.

You can freeze the meat balls (before they have been added to the sauce), and these make a really handy mid week meal. They can be added to a tomato sauce with pasta or in a meatball sub.

This creamy version is great for anyone following a keto or low carb diet. It’s also great with mashed potatoes or pasta for anyone who anyone who is isn’t reducing their carb intake.

Ingredients

For the meatballs

500 Grams Minced beef

250 Grams Minced pork

1 Egg (beaten)

1 Tsp Salt

1 Tsp Black pepper

1 Tsp Garlic granules, or 2 cloves of garlic (finely chopped)

For the sauce

250 Grams Mushrooms (sliced)

1 Tbsp Oil

250 ml Beef stock

250 ml Double cream

1 Tbsp Chopped parsley (optional)

Baked meatballs

Method

  1. Add all the ingredients for the meatballs to a large bowl and mix well with your hands to make sure the ingredients are well combined.
  2. Make meatballs slightly smaller than a golf ball and place in an oven proof dish. When all the mix has been used to make the meatballs, refrigerate for at least an hour to set
  3. Preheat your oven to 180 degree and bake the meatballs for 25 minutes
  4. To make the sauce, heat the oil in a large frying pan and add the mushrooms stirring occasionally until soft.
  5. Add the beef stock and cream to the mushrooms and alow to simmer over a medium heat for 5-10 minutes or until the sauce has started to thicken.
  6. Add the cooked meatballs to the sauce, and simmer for s further five minutes. Sprinkle with parsley and then serve

Sichuan Pork and Green Beans

I have to give a shout out to my friend Nuala for turning me into this, and I love it.

If you haven’t used Sichuan pepper before you can by it ready ground in most big supermarkets. You can also buy packets of the whole peppercorns, and are reddish black in colour. While there is some heat, they are also really aromatic and work nicely in lots of other recipes.

This makes a great mid week dinner and is ideal for anyone following a low carb diet. If you’re not then enjoy this with rice or noodles. I used frozen greens to save time.

Ingredients

250 Grams Minced pork

500 Grams Green beans blanched on boiling water

Thumb sized piece of ginger (grated)

2 Cloves of garlic (finely chopped)

2 Scallions/spring onions (finely chopped)

1 Red chilli pepper (finely chopped)

2 Tbsp Soy sauce

1 Tbsp Sesame oil

1 Tsp Ground Sichuan pepper

Method

  1. Blanch the green beans in boiling water and drain
  2. Fry the minced pork in a large frying pan or wok until no longer pink
  3. Add the rest of the ingredients and cook for a further 5 minutes. If the mix starts to catch in the pan you can add a little water to stop this

Sweet Arancini, (Deep Fried Rice Pudding Balls)

I tried these out these because I misjudged the amount of rice pudding I was making (in my never ending quest to use up things that have hanging around my cupboards). 

The up shot is that I had a big load of rice pudding that I didn’t want to throw away so I came up with these as a way of using it up.  Turns out pretty much any type of fried carb is delicious.  These also make a lovely dessert for anyone who needs a gluten free option. Yes, they might be a bit of work but you can make the rice pudding ahead of time. I would class this as weekend cooking.

Getting ready to coat the rice balls, cornflour, then egg, then rice crispies.

Just like making the savoury version, the rice needs to be cold.   I tried a couple of different versions with different centres. If you’re a chocolate lover, I tried one’s with a chocolate button in the middle which were really good.  However, for my favourite ones I added a teaspoon of jam for the centre, but feel free to experiment with other fillings.

Ingredients

For the rice pudding

200 Grams Pudding Rice

500ml Milk

300ml Condensed milk

For the coating

2-3 Tbsps Corn flour

1-2 Eggs (beaten)

150 Grams Rice crispies or puffed rice (put in a plastic bag and scrunch up to crush the cereal into finer pieces, but not dust)

Oil for frying.

Method

  1. Add the rice, milk and condensed milk to a pot with a lid. Bring up to just before boiling point, then reduce the heat to a gentle simmer. Stir regularly to prevent sticking, cook until soft (the rice I used took just over an hour, but other brands of rice may not take that long. Depending on the rice you use you may need to add more milk/water, but the pudding should be pretty thick
  2. When your rice is cooked, you can enjoy some rice pudding right away. The rest of it should be allowed to cool before transferring to an air tight container and refrigerate (ideally overnight, but at least for a couple of hours)
  3. Take a large tablespoon of chilled rice pudding and flatten in the palm of your hand. Add whatever filling you are using to the centre of the mix and form the rice around it until you make a ball (wetting your hands stops the rice sticking to them)
  4. When you have finished making all the balls, place on a plate and refrigerate for an hour to allow them to set
  5. To prepare the balls, first of all heat your oil (I don’t know the exact temperature to tell you, but my go way to check the temperature is to drop in a cube of bread if it start frying right away you’re probably good to go. Be careful the oil doesn’t get too hot or else the centre of the rice ball will be cold)
  6. In separate dishes, lay out the cornflour, egg and crushed rice crispies
  7. Roll each ball in first the cornflour, then the egg and finally in the rice crispies.
  8. Add to the oil in batches and fry until golden brown (don’t be tempted to cook too many at one time). These are gorgeous served with vanilla ice cream.

Lockdown Chilli

Yep, we’re in bloody lockdown again and we’re all trying to limit how much we go out.

With this in mind, like last time I decided to have a look and use up food I already had at home. I first made this type of chilli years ago when I was a flat broke student. My Mum would sometimes send me home with a bag of tinned food. I came up with this version of chilli and it’s surprisingly flavoursome.

I know most people wouldn’t use corned beef in a chilli, but it works well. If you don’t want to use baked beans you can use whichever beans you like, just maybe add some vegetable stock to loosen up the mix. This is also a good dish to use up any vegetables that have been hanging around your fridge or freezer for a while.

It’s cold and miserable outside and while I’ll admit it’s not fine dining it’s quick, cheap and proper comfort food. This goes well with rice, or pasta, in a baked potato or with garlic bread.

Ingredients

340 Gram Tin of corned beef (cut into cubes)

500 Gram Carton of passata (or a tin of chopped tomatoes)

410 Gram Tin of baked beans

1 Tbsp Oil

1 Tbsp Tomato purée

1 Onion (chopped fairly finely)

1 Carrot (grated)

1 Red pepper (cut into 1 cm chunks)

1 Tsp salt

1 Tsp Ground cumin

1 Tsp Chilli powder

1 Tsp Ground coriander

3 cloves of garlic

Method

  1. Heat your oil in a large flat bottom pan. Fry the carrot, pepper, and onion over a medium heat until the the onion becomes translucent
  2. Add the garlic, spices, tomato puree and corned beef, and stir through the vegetables and cook for 5 minutes until the corned beef starts to break down.
  3. Stir in the passata, and baked beans, mixing well. Cook over a medium heat for a further 15 minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking
  4. Serve with your favourite carbs. This keeps in the fridge for 3-4 days

Apple Crumble Muffins

This is another recipe scalped from one of the Great British Bake Off cook books.

I have included the original recipe, but you can change it up.  I’ve tried using different fruit like pears or raspberries and it was delicious.  You can also add some nuts to the topping for some added crunch, or a teaspoon of cinnamon in the base mix for an extra kick of flavour.

These keep for 3-4 days in an airtight tin

Ingredients

For the topping

50 Grams Porridge oats

50 Grams Caster sugar

50 Grams Plain flour

50 Grams Butter (cut into small cubes)

For the base

250 Grams Plain flour

25 Grams Porridge oats

175 Grams Caster sugar

2 Tsp Baking powder

Zest of 1 Lemon (finely grated)

150 Grams Butter

2 Eggs

100 ml Milk

1 Large eating Apple (peeled, cored and cut into 1.5 cm chunks)

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 190 degrees, and line a muffin tin with paper muffin cases
  2. In a bowl, add all the crumble ingredients, rubbing in the butter until all the ingredients are combined. Set to one side
  3. In a separate bowl, add the flour, oats, baking powder and lemon zest and mix to combine (dry mix)
  4. Gently melt the butter (either in a pot or the microwave), and allow to cool slightly. In a small bowl beat the eggs and milk together and then add the melted butter (wet mix)
  5. Add the wet mix to the dry mix and stir gently until just combined
  6. Spoon the base mix equally into the muffin cases. Top the muffins with the cubes of apple, and then add the crumble topping (try make sure there is an equal amount of apple and crumble mix on each muffin
  7. Bake for 30-35 minutes and allow to cool on a wire wrack (although these taste fantastic when they’re still warm)

Pecan and White Chocolate Blondies

Pecan and White Chocolate Blondies

I really enjoy coming up with my own recipes. But, sometimes I just want to make something that I know will turn out well and taste delicious.

For these Blondies I’ve used a recipe featured one of the Great British Bake Off cook books. I don’t know who the contestant was who came up with these beauties, but they taste fantastic.

Ingredients

175 Grams White chocolate

150 Grams Pecans

115 Grams Butter

100 Grams Caster Sugar

2 Eggs

1/2 Tsp Vanilla extract

125 Grams Plain flour

1/2 Tsp Baking powder

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees, and line a 9in x 9in brownie tin with grease proof paper
  2. Cut the butter and chocolate into chunks and add to a heat proof bowl. Put the bowl over a pot of warm water and stir until melted
  3. Add the sugar, (it might look curdled but don’t panic). Allow to cool.
  4. While the chocolate mix is cooling, put the eggs and vanilla in a separate bowl and beat with a fork until frothy, and stir in to the cooled chocolate mix
  5. Sift the flour and baking powder together and mix into the chocolate mix along with 100 grams on the pecans
  6. Transfer the mix to your baking tin and top with the remaining pecans
  7. Bake for 25 minutes, allow to cool in the tin
  8. These should stay fresh for 3-4 days in an airtight tin