Monday, 27 May 2013

E-D's Wholemeal Loaf

Monday is the day for new beginnings, great intentions and healthy habits. Making your own bread may seem like an unnecessary chore but having delicious, fresh home made bread is a healthy treat that is worth the effort. These days the breads we buy in the supermarket are often laced with all sorts of unhealthy surprises that most of us are unaware of. Ever wonder why shop bought bread stays fresh for so long? It's because breads nowadays often contain sugars and preservatives that they didn't many years ago. So the benefits of making your own bread are endless and all the more reason to get started with this healthy Wholemeal loaf recipe. I often bake a loaf of bread on a Sunday afternoon that keeps Molly and I fed right up until Wednesday. This wholemeal loaf is perfect for open prawn sandwiches, tune melts or for a quick fix served with jam and butter. There is very little actual work involved in this loaf but it is a little time consuming as you need to give the yeast time to activate and react. The loaf can be made in a round or square tin, depending on what way you like to cut your slices.

Wholemeal Loaf

30g butter
750g strong wholemeal flour
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tsp salt
1 sachet  (7g) of fast action dried yeast
450ml lukewarm water
sunflower oil for greasing
milk for glazing
Handful of sunflower seeds
1. In a large bowl rub the butter into the flour using your fingertips. Next stir in the sugar, salt and 
    yeast. Create a well in the centre and add the water, a little at a time until a sticky dough is 
2. Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface before  placing in a large oiled bowl and 
    covering with oiled cling-film. Place the bowl in a warm, draft free spot and allow to double in 
    size (approximately 1-2 hours).
3. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead for a further 3-4 minutes or until smooth.
4. Oil an 8 inch cake tin and place the dough into it. Flatten the dough gently with your hands to 
    fit the tin. Cover again with the oiled cling-film and allow to rise for a further 1-2 hours.
5. Finally brush the loaf with milk, sprinkle with seeds and place in a preheated oven (230C, 
    210C fan) for 20-25 minutes or until the base sounds hallow when tapped. Allow to cool 
    completely on a wire rack.

E-D's Notes
I chose to sprinkle pumpkin seeds on top of my loaf as I am allergic to nuts. That said you could just as easily sprinkle a few of your favourite nuts or alternatively poppy or sesame seeds if you prefer.

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Colourful Confirmation Cake

I'm back! After 2 weeks off due to a series of unfortunate events including having no broadband and having my phone stolen, I am officially back online. I've had a hectic couple of weeks and though I haven't been writing and sharing have been busy in my kitchen as usual. The great weather over the last couple of days has been really fantastic and there has been lots of opportunity for eating outside with family and friends, so plenty of summer recipes to come. Summer time also means tis' the season of confirmations and communions and this cake is one I made for my cousin for her confirmation on Friday. Her dress for the big day was covered in bows and she was sporting a flash pair of gold Lipsy high top boots. So I decided to incorporate these elements into the cake along with a girly theme of colours and flowers. She was really delighted with the cake on the day and everyone enjoyed looking, but more importantly eating it!

The cake itself is consists of a moist caramel chocolate cake on the bottom, sandwiched together with a caramel frosting. The top layer is a delicious lemon madeira cake, smothered in a light lemon buttercream icing. All the decorative components are made from roll out or fondant icing. 

E-D's Notes
Cake making can be an expensive hobby so finding great value ingredients is key. I always  
use the Tesco own brand fondant icing which is great value at €3.39 per kg. You can pick it up 
in 500g or 1kg packages.

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Rainbow Pride Cookies

As always the weekend has flown by and Monday morning is already looming. I had such a great weekend though, and got lots of cleaning and cooking down. Today's recipe is another idea that I spotted on Pinterest and something I thought I'd love to give a try.These cookies look incredible! When making them today Molly thought that they looked like play-doh. He was right, the colours are a bit mad, but such a great idea for kids birthday parties  or big kids parties. The cookie itself is a really nice, buttery chocolate chip cookie, with the perfect balance of chewy and crunchy. I used milk chocolate chips, but of course you could just as easily throw in some white or dark chocolate chips.

Rainbow Pride Cookies

100g sugar 
180g butter (softened)
130g chocolate chips
170g self raising flour
80ml condensed milk
Pinch of salt
Selection of gel food colourings

1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Line 2 large baking trays with baking parchment and set aside.
2. In a free-standing mixer, mix together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Next add the 
    condensed milk and incorporate into the mixture.
3. Mix in the flour until a dough is formed. Finally stir in the chocolate chips.
4. Divide the mixture into four separate bowls. Using a hand held mixer, add the food colouring 
    and mix until the colour is even and well distributed.
5. Place teaspoon sized balls onto a baking tray, and press down and flatten gently. Bake for  
    10-15 minutes or until slightly golden.  

E-D's Notes
- To make the multi-coloured cookies pictured below, simply take a small amount of each of the 
   coloured doughs and form one ball. Place on a baking tray and flatten slightly. 
- These cookies will keep well for 2-3 days if kept in an airtight container or biscuit tin.

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Chilli Chicken with Basil Leaves

My love affair with Thai food, started many years ago. It's one of my favourite types of food, and a trip to Thailand last year only strengthened my appreciation of this nations culinary genius. Whether in my favourite Thai restaurant  or my delicious local Thai take away, Chilli Chicken and Basil Leaves is always my go to dish. I love the combination of the flavours and the when you make it yourself you can make it super healthy by controlling what you put in. Healthy doesn't have to mean tasteless, and this dish proves that.

1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 large red pepper (finely sliced)
100g mushrooms (quartered)
6-8 basil leaves (torn)
1 chilli (sliced finely) or alternatively 1 teaspoon of chilli flakes
2 large chicken breasts
1 small onion (diced)
4 tablespoons of oyster sauce
30ml water
Basmati or Thai Jasmine Rice

1. Bring a pot of water to the boil and prepare rice as per the package directions.
2. Heat the oil in a large wok. Add the chicken and cook for 4-5 minutes or until browned. 
    Season well with salt and pepper.
3. Next add the onions, peppers and mushrooms and chilli. Cook for a further 2 minutes or until 
    the onion has softened. Add the oyster sauce a little at a time, followed by the water. Finally 
    add the torn basil leaves and allow the mixture to simmer for 5-6 minutes or until the peppers  
    and chicken are cooked through.
4. Place the cooked rice on a plate. Top with the chicken mixture and juice. Garnish with a basil 
    leave and serve.

E-D's Notes
I made this dish with chicken breasts, diced into chunks. When I arrived to Thailand however I was somewhat surprised that in Bangkok this dish is actually traditionally served with chicken mince which I found a little odd at first but grew to love. Alternatively you can of course use pork, prawns or strips of beef.

Monday, 6 May 2013

Balsamic Roasted Vegetables

It's been a long week, and all in all I haven't been feeling great, so apologies for the delay in posting. I had a marvellous long weekend with my better half, who treated me to a luxurious night away to celebrate our 9 year anniversary. We enjoyed some great weather, an amazing picnic and copious amounts of delicious food. The weekend felt really long, and I feel well rested and prepared for the week ahead. The start of a week means starting out with healthy intentions! Sometimes eating 'healthy' can be hard. Especially when you start out, it really feels at times like you are depriving your taste buds of all things delicious. In all honesty though, it doesn't have to be like that. Being healthy just means you have to think a whole lot harder to make things tasty if your trying to avoid certain foods. After a long weekend filled with eating out and over indulging, I'm looking forward to tomorrow so I can get back to eating some delicious vegetables, along with simple weekday dinners. This is one of my favourite way of preparing my vegetables for everyday dinners. Balsamic roasted veg, are simple, tasty and packed full of goodness. 

Balsamic Roasted Vegetables

4 carrots (peeled and cut lengthways)
1 red pepper
1 yellow pepper
6 cloves of garlic (whole)
2 pink onions (or small red onions) quartered
6 mushrooms (quartered)
2 tablespoons of rapeseed oil
4 tablespoons of balsamic vingear

1. Prepare the vegatbles and place in a large baking dish.
2. Pour the oil and balsamic over the vegetables and season well with salt and pepper.
3. Cover the dish with tin foil and place in an oven preheated to 190C. Cook for 40-45 minutes 
    or until the carrots are cooked.

E-D's Notes
- This is a really simple but delicious way of preparing vegetables. Perfect served with chicken 
  or beef.
- You can add a little extra oil or vinegar if desired. Any left overs will be delicious reheated for 
  lunch the next day.