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Posts from the ‘Bread’ Category

Green Sheep Charity Tapas Pop-Up

On November 25th, The Siùcra Shack (my small business), Hedgehog Bakery and The Green Sheep got together for a pop-up tapas night in Thurles. Ìt came about because my friend Lucy, who owns The Green Sheep, was involved in a fundraiser for the Mill Road Riding Club. Members of the riding club were hosting “Come Dine with Me” style nights in efforts to raise money to purchase a special needs saddle for the club.

Lucy thought she would take it one step further and host a pop-up restaurant night with live music, tapas-style eats (meaning food you can eat while standing up!) and a few drinks.

Since I run my business out of Lucy’s cafe, it was natural for me to get involved. We invited our friend Mags to join the fun – she is a boulangiere extraordinare and, if you were at Savour Kilkenny this past October you may have seen her demo on the live stage. A lady of many talents.

Together, we developed a menu for the night: local cheeses (Knockdrinna, Cashel Blue, Derg Cheddar, Cooleeney) and charcuterie (from Irish Piedmontese Beef and The Wooded Pig) with our own pickles, Mags’ bread and chutney from Ayle Farm were the first course. For a starter, I made fresh haddock and cod fritters with warm lardons and preserved lemon salad with buttermilk herb dressing. Then, for the main course I made bulgur wheat salad, tahini-infused remoulade and slow cooked harissa lamb shoulder. We finished the evening with my chubby churros (they were extra eggy; therefore, extra chubby!) and hot fudge sauce.

We sold tickets for €30 per person or €50 per couple. A full house ensued, and we had such a fabulous night. Not without a few hiccups, but it being our first pop-up we were expecting the unexpected. Food producers around the community donated food for the night and everyone says they had a wonderful time.

Now that I’m headed off to Canada from Christmas, I will be sourcing some very special ingredients for our next pop-up. I’m not giving anything away, but I hope everyone who attends likes pork. That’s all I’m going to say about that.

For now, enjoy this mix of photos and video clips I put together from the night. Most of said photos and videos are from the lovely Sinead of Delalicious – I don’t think we would have had nearly as good as night if she hadn’t shown up! What a great human being she is.

‘Til next time, friends.

 

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Vegan Creamy Tomato Soup with Foccacia

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I’ve learned so much over the past few months.

I’ve learned that it’s possible to function on one hour of sleep. I’ve learned that you can learn to function on one hour of sleep and absolutely no coffee because coffee affects your baby’s reflux. I’ve learned that you become a really awful person when you only had one hour of sleep and no coffee, and your other children tend to bear the brunt of that (sorry Maeve and Ciara; I’m going to make it up to you!).

I’ve learned that, whenever possible, you shouldn’t have a baby around silage/calving time. I’ve learned to let some things go – ok, a lot of things – ok, ALL OF THE THINGS.

I’ve learned to give my husband some extra credit, because he works really, really hard and is a good human being.

Most importantly, I think, I’ve learned to go easy on myself. Because this parenting thing is hard. Because I, like so many other women out there, am my own biggest critic. And I don’t blog enough/exercise enough/play with my kids enough/read enough/socialize enough. And I drink too much wine/avoid annoying tasks/spend too much money/am too selfish. Enough, already.

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Life is short. You’ve heard it before. But in the past few weeks there has been a lot of death – deaths in Canada, deaths here in Ireland, horrible atrocities committed around the world in the name of religion/ideology. And I’m here, safe and healthy with a safe and healthy family. In any case, life is far too short to spend it irrationally angry and blaming myself for not being perfect.

My posts have become a lot more introspective lately. I really think writing helps work out the kinks in my brain (and there are many). I also think the early days of motherhood can make you lose sight of yourself and your abilities. This can be kind of devastating in a first-world-problem kind of way, when you’ve spent your life having a really firm, if fluid/constantly changing, view of who you are. When I write down phrases like “first world problem” I tend to cop on a bit.

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The way you treat your body helps work out brain kinks, too. Now, I’m in no way vegan. I’m not really interested in giving up cheese. Or my thrice daily latte (doesn’t bother the baby anymore!). But I have drastically changed my diet, and it’s not only helped me lose that last bit of baby weight – combined with a good daily dose of vitamin supplements, it’s helped my mental health a great deal.

I love this soup because it has all of the comfort and warmth of a full-fat cream of tomato soup with none of the dairy. The coconut milk is just sweet enough to balance the acidity of the tinned tomatoes and the whole thing comes together in just a few minutes.

The foccacia is made with my mom’s famous pizza dough recipe. I make the recipe and allow the dough to rise for around 1.5 hours. When it’s doubled in size, I punch it down, divide it in half and press each half of the dough into two rectangular cookie sheets. You can roll it out on a floured surface to fit the pan or just press it into an oiled cookie sheet with your hands.

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Once it’s spread out, I gently dent the dough all over with my fingertips, brush the top with olive oil and sprinkle with an array of toppings. The toppings can literally be anything (olives, roasted peppers, rosemary, garlic) but if I’m rushing I just give the top a good sprinkle of flaky sea salt and dried mixed herbs. Bake it in a really hot oven (up to 500°F/250°C) for 20-25 minutes, until the edges are golden brown and crisp. Use another sweeter in the dough if you’re vegan and don’t like honey. This is the perfect dipping bread for a creamy soup. Like this one!

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Vegan Creamy Tomato Soup

Ingredients

1 large onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 carrot, diced

1 Tbsp coconut oil

2 cans diced tomatoes

1 can full-fat coconut milk

2 cups/500ml hot vegetable stock

Salt and pepper, to taste

Fresh basil, for garnish

Directions:

  • In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, heat the coconut oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and carrot and sauté for 10 minutes, then add the garlic and cook for an additional minute.
  • Add the tomatoes and hot vegetable stock; bring to a boil.
  • Turn the heat down to medium and simmer for 20-30 minutes, adding more stock (or water) if necessary.
  • Blitz the mixture using a hand blender and return to the heat. Add the coconut milk and bring back to a simmer. Cook for another 10 minutes, then season liberally with salt and pepper.
  • Serve hot, garnish with basil and serve with warm foccacia.

Maple Walnut Scones

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People often ask me if I miss living in Canada. I’ve been living in Ireland now for almost five years. I have three great kids, a house we’re fixing up, a big garden (and more gardens planned), a small business and lots of friends and family milling around.

So yeah, it’s safe to say I’m usually too busy to be feeling homesick for Canada. That said, I recently got my kids their Canadian citizenship and, this year being Canada’s 150th birthday (if you’re First Nations, though, I should add that Canada is thousands of years older), I started feeling a bit nostalgic with all the celebrations and activities posted all over my social media streams.

Canada Day is July 1st, so it’s already happened. I didn’t do anything on the day to celebrate. Sometimes I host barbecues, bake a cake and have my friends over for Canada Day, but this year – having just had a baby – I wasn’t really feeling it. Too much, too soon.

But I can’t say Canada hasn’t been on my mind lately. So while I don’t miss living in Canada, there are a few things about Canada (or just Cape Breton, really) I miss in general:

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  1. Lobster season: May to July in Cape Breton. Lobsters everywhere you look. Lobster boil dinners at every small community hall. Lobsters being sold right from the boat. I love lobster, and I really miss eating it when it’s at its best. That also goes for mussels, scallops, haddock, salmon, chowder… and the list goes on. I know Ireland is surrounded by ocean, but there isn’t great seafood in landlocked Tipperary!
  2. The beach: Cape Breton has so many gorgeous beaches. By July the water is warm enough to swim, the sand is golden and fine-textured and the beaches are relatively isolated. I love Irish beaches, but find the water is usually a bit too cold and most beaches a bit too crowded.
  3. The restaurants: I love lobster and seafood. I love the places that prepare these foods as well. The Rusty Anchor in Pleasant Bay (where I once had some decadent lobster poutine with a cold beer; one of my most favourite meals), The Dancing Goat in Margaree, The Herring Choker in Nyanza, Charlene’s Bayside in Whycocomagh, The Bite House in Big Baddeck – all of these places make amazing Cape Breton food and deserve all of the accolades. I miss these places.
  4. My friends and family: Obvs. I love and miss my *very large* extended family. Aunties, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephew, brothers – I miss them all.
  5. The weather: in summer, it’s warm enough to swim in the river and in the ocean almost every day. On the East Coast, though, it’s not as hot as it would be elsewhere in Canada. We have the ocean to keep the temperature moderate (like, 35°C and under). A great deal warmer and sunnier than an Irish summer, but still comfortable (I don’t miss black flies and mosquitos, though).10631983_387625851388458_1137852623_n
  6. Wild Blueberries and good Maple Syrup: I miss these things very much. The fruit in Ireland is lovely, but the blueberries here don’t compare to the blueberries in Cape Breton.
  7. Canadian beer and wine: in Nova Scotia there is a wine appellation called Tidal Bay. It’s located close to where I went to university. The wine is gorgeous. Once, a sparkling wine called (Benjamin Bridge) Nova 7 beat out actual, expensive champagne at a tasting I attented in Toronto. It’s that good. The beer in Ireland is great, so I don’t miss Canadian beer that much; just certain kinds.
  8. Homestyle baking: I know I do a lot of Cape Breton-style baking here in Ireland, but I miss other people’s baking. Namely from the cafes I mentioned previously, my aunties and older people from around my community.

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Speaking of homestyle baking, I especially love East Coast scones. Large, triangular, sweet with a crunchy sugar or glazed topping, scones in Cape Breton are indulgent – often made for sharing – and perfect with a cup of strong tea.

I whipped up these maple walnut scones with another nostalgic food in mind – ice cream! I love the ice cream at home. It’s not soft serve like a 99 here in Ireland, it’s hard and comes in a million and a half flavours; one of my favourites being maple walnut.

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No need for butter and jam on these scones. The glaze is thick enough to ensure the right amount of sweetness in each bite, and the walnuts are toasted in the oven and then soaked in maple syrup. Perhaps most importantly, the flavour is nostalgic enough to get me through to my next visit home.

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Maple Walnut Scones

Ingredients:

2 1/2 cups/375g Plain Flour

1 Tbsp baking powder

1 tsp sea salt

1/4 cup/60g light brown sugar

1/2 cup/125g cold butter, cubed

1 large egg

2 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup/250ml cold buttermilk

For the glaze:

2 cups/500g Icing Sugar

1 tsp vanilla or maple extract

3 Tbsp good quality maple syrup

Splash of heavy cream

Toasted walnuts, soaked in maple syrup

Directions:

  • Preheat your oven to 200°C (400°F). Line one or two baking sheets with parchment and set aside.
  • In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt, brown sugar and cold, cubed butter.
  • Using a pastry cutter or your fingers, cut/rub the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Make a well in the centre of the butter/dry ingredient mixture.
  • In a large measuring cup, measure out the buttermilk, then add the egg and vanilla. Mix to combine.
  • Add the wet ingredients to the well in the middle of the dry ingredients. Using a wooden spoon or just using your hands (your best pastry tool!) mix the wet into the dry until just combined (mixture should be on the wet side – if it’s dry and crumbly add more buttermilk!).
  • On a lightly floured surface, turn the dough out and knead lightly for one minute. Form into a ball and allow to rest for 10 minutes.
  • Using more flour for dusting and a rolling pin, roll the dough out into a thick rectangle (you want to get 8-10 scones out of this dough at most). At least 1.5 inches thick.
  • Cut the rectangle into 8-10 smaller rectangles or triangles. Transfer to the prepared baking sheets. Using a pastry brush, lightly brush the tops with milk and sprinkle a bit of sugar over each scone.
  • Bake the scones for 20-ish minutes. Let cool slightly on a rack.
  • Make the glaze: in a mixing bowl, combine the icing sugar, maple syrup, maple extract (or vanilla) and about a tablespoon of heavy cream. You want the glaze to be thick, but still be able to drizzle it over the scones. If the glaze is too thick for your liking, loosen it up with a bit more cream.
  • Dunk the tops of each scone in the glaze, or spoon the glaze over each scone allowing the excess to drip down the sides. Top with toasted maple walnuts. Allow glaze to set slightly before eating (if you can wait that long).
  • The scones will keep no longer than two days, so make sure you eat them right away!

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Quick and Easy Cinnamon Rolls

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I had a whole post written yesterday about life with our new, sweet baby girl.

I gave birth just over three weeks ago, and now it feels like Áine is truly part of the family – I actually already forget what life was like when it was just the four of us (this is mostly due to sleep deprivation).

I had a whole post written about how sweet she is, how happy we are and how we’re in love with our new little person.

And that’s all true – don’t get me wrong. But it’s just a small part of the story.

Truthfully? I didn’t realize it would be this hard. Three kids under four.

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I can’t sleep. Áine is either colicky, extra-sensitive or has reflux. Or something. But she doesn’t sleep at night unless she’s in my arms. Eventually, every morning at around 5:30, she drifts off and I can finally put her down for two or three hours. This is fine when my husband is home and let’s me sleep in, but otherwise? The other two kids have been taking full advantage of the longer summer days and have been waking at around 6am (or earlier, in Ciara’s case!).

During the day she spends most of the time in my wrap sling, which is fine, but I feel bad for my other two kids – the new baby is taking up so, so much of my time.

Yes, we are unbelievably happy, and having done this twice before I know how quickly this first year goes by. I am trying to cherish the never-ending snuggles, hours-long feeds and cute little snuffly newborn noises. It’s hard but we are happy and I know we’re also so very lucky to have three healthy, wonderful girls.

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So what do you do when you’re an exhausted mama of three and you can’t get a moment for yourself (to sleep, or shower, or do the things you enjoy)? You take it easy on yourself. You lower your expectations. You let your house get disgusting. You let the weeds grow in your garden (and come to terms with the fact that, no – those leeks are not going to get planted this year). You put off going for gentle runs or joining that yoga class and instead sit on the couch with a cup of tea, your baby and a good, comfortable nursing pillow.

You let your other two wreck the house with the three year old’s “science experiments” (my carpet is ruined with homemade slime and play dough) and the 17 month old’s penchant for destroying everything in her path.

You let your three year old watch weird toy shows on Youtube and your 17 month old watch Peppa Pig on Netflix. For an hour. Maybe two. Just so you can nurse and snuggle in peace with the babs.

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You let the new baby cry more than you ever let your other two cry. Because sometimes the other two need nappy changes, naps and can’t stay in their pj’s all day (I am actually writing this post in my pj’s… it’s 2pm…).

You live on toast, cookies, coffee and water because it’s all you have time to eat. You make some kind of dinner every night because your family needs to eat, too. But the baby likes to nurse at dinnertime and breastfeeding hormones give you zero appetite, anyway.

Most importantly, you come to terms with the fact that you can’t make the donuts, bread, cakes and cookies you’re used to making. You realize that this newborn phase will be over soon. You give yourself over to the fact that you just won’t be leaving the house for the next eight-ish weeks.

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Lastly, you make these cinnamon buns during nap time because they’re quick and delicious. Crumbly and sweet, with the perfect filling:dough ratio. The cinnamon and brown sugar caramelize in the oven to perfection, seeping slightly into the dough. So much deliciousness with so little effort.

And your zombie-like, unshowered, postpartum self thanks you.

I’ll post again soon when I’m in a better mood (ie: after I finish the batch).

Quick & Easy Cinnamon Rolls

Ingredients:

Filling:

1 cup/250g light brown sugar

1 Tbsp cinnamon

3 Tbsp soft butter for mixing

3 Tbsp soft butter for spreading on dough

Dough:

2 1/2 cups/320g plain flour

3 Tbsp white sugar

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1 1/4 cup/300ml buttermilk

2 Tbsp melted butter

Directions:

  • Preheat your oven to 425°F (220°C, no fan). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside (if you want pull-apart cinnamon buns like in the photos, line a small casserole dish with parchment and set aside).
  • Mix the filling ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.
  • In a large mixing bowl, whisk all dry ingredients together. In a measuring cup, measure out the buttermilk and then mix in the melted butter.
  • Add the wet ingredients to the dry all at once and mix until everything comes together (but don’t overmix – you don’t want to develop the gluten in the flour).
  • Roll the dough into a rectangular shape on a well-floured surface. Spread the 3 Tbsp of reserved, softened butter all over the surface, then sprinkle the cinnamon/sugar mixture over top, leaving some space around the edges.
  • Carefully roll the dough into a long line and divide into 8 (really large) pieces or 12 (smaller).
  • Place the cinnamon buns on the baking sheet or casserole dish and bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes. Then, reduce the temperature to 350°F (or 180°C) and bake for another ten minutes.
  • Serve warm with orange flavoured chantilly cream (or nothing at all!). These will keep in an airtight container for 3-4 days and can be frozen indefinitely (meaning I’ve never kept them in the freezer longer than two weeks, but I bet they can be kept frozen for much longer).

Enjoy!

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Fluffy Buttermilk Biscuits

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Things are slowing down around here, and just in time, too.

  • The calves are pretty much all born. The eldest are already weaned!
  • The cows are out in the field, loving life (if you’re a cow and you have a choice between luscious, green grass or silage, you choose the grass every time).
  • The weather is brighter. It was chilly this past week, but for the most part Ireland has thawed out from the bitter winter. My garden is growing, we just got our house power-washed (a preemptive move as the house is getting a lovely new coat of paint very soon) and landscaping plans are in motion. We’re hoping for a warm summer with lots of BBQ’s!
  • I’m slowing things down with my small business, The Siúcra Shack. Spending more time with my kids, getting the house cleaned and organized and baking for fun. Just for now!

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This is all because I am totally ready to pop. 38 weeks of pregnancy have flown by, and while I’m thankful for a complication-free pregnancy (and hoping for a complication-free delivery), I am so very ready to not be pregnant anymore.

I’m not being insensitive. I love my babies. I know we’re #soblessed. But three babies in less than four years is a lot for anyone to handle (except for all those women with more kids than me, or moms of multiples, or moms of multiples with other small kids – I’m in awe of those ladies). So, while we are very, very happy, I am also looking forward to a cold beer, getting my body back (in some form), and never being pregnant ever again once we welcome #3 in a few short weeks.

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Did someone say biscuits?

So no cold beer for me just yet, but I have been milking these last weeks of pregnancy for all they’re worth. Entire tubs of ice cream? Yes. Massive bowls of creamy pasta? Absolutely.

An entire pan of these flaky, fluffy buttermilk biscuits?

Um… well… Patrick, Ciara and my father-in-law helped devour these, but I’m pretty sure I ate most of them.

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They were just so good, you see. Especially with a generous schmear of Tipperary butter and a large dollop of strawberry jam. While still warm.

Actually, I made another pan this morning. I forced myself to give half away, but if Patrick is late coming back from work I can’t promise the remaining biscuits will still be here for his tea.

Since I’ve revisited the way I actually make biscuits, I thought I would share this recipe today. I’ve been making biscuits for a long time. I mean… I have no idea what age I was when I made my first pan of biscuits. I’m from Cape Breton. We literally eat these every day. I never thought I could improve on the recipe I already had in my head, but this “stand mixer/fold” method is getting a lot of online traction so I thought I’d give it a try.

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Fold that dough in half!

I can tell you, I won’t be going back to rubbing in the butter with my fingers and rolling out once with a rolling pin. You get better flakes, height, texture and an overall fluffier biscuit with this method!

*For the Irish reading (and anyone else who wouldn’t consider this a biscuit), this is more of a scone for you, I know. BUT it’s not as sweet. You can eat these biscuits with savoury or sweet accompaniments. I like biscuits with fish chowder, casseroles. made into breakfast sandwiches and with baked beans as well as with the traditional jam/butter combo!

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Fluffy Buttermilk Biscuits

Ingredients:

4 cups/500g (weight) plain flour

2 Tbsp baking powder

1 tsp sea salt

1/4 cup/60g sugar

1/2 cup/110g cold, cubed butter

1 1/2 cups/400ml cold buttermilk

Directions: 

  • Preheat your oven to 200∘C (400∘F) and line a large baking pan with parchment. Set aside.
  • In your stand mixer, add all dry ingredients and, using the paddle attachment, mix to incorporate.
  • Add the cold, cubed butter to the dry ingredients and, continuing to use the paddle attachment, mix on med-low for 5-8 minutes, until the butter is mostly incorporated into the dry mixture (some chunks of butter are ok, but most of it should be mixed into the flour).
  • Add the buttermilk and mix just until everything comes together.
  • On a lightly floured surface, dump the dough out of the mixing bowl. Using your hands and a pastry cutter, start to shape the dough. Fold it in half, flatten out, then fold again and flatten out.
  • Cut out the biscuits and place them on the baking sheet. You can shape/fold the remaining dough and do a second cut, but I would discard the leftover dough after the second cut.
  • Bake 15-20 minutes, or until the tops and bottoms are browned and the bicsuits have risen.
  • Eat the same day, if possible. Even better, eat them hot out of the oven. With tea. And butter and jam.
  • Makes about 14 medium sized biscuits.

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Una O’Dwyer’s Black Pudding & Thyme Sausage Strata

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Before we found out I was pregnant with our third child, I was in the best shape of my life.

When we got back to the farm after our 2016 Pan-Atlantic/Cross-Canada Adventure, I took up running. Actually, I took up running while I was home in Nova Scotia. The longer evenings and milder temperatures in June gave me a bit of energy. I started tracking my progress (and my caloric intake) on my smartphone. I started the Couch to 5k app and slowly, ever slowly, went from barely being able to run for a minute at a time to running for 25 minutes straight, without stopping.

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I was eating stuff like this pre-pregnancy/pre-strata.

Some runners may scoff at a mere 25 minute run (a jog, really) but for me – as someone who absolutely hated running; who swore she would never, ever be a runner – it was the biggest deal. I never thought I’d be able to do it, but I did.

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Then I got pregnant again. And the extreme exhaustion started creeping in, usually around mid-afternoon. And I started letting my three year old watch endless episodes of Paw Patrol so I could nap on the couch while Ciara napped in her room. And I started craving Big Macs every day at 2pm.

Yes, the calorie-counting went out the window, as did my tri-weekly run – even though my doctor told me I’d be fine to continue. It was just a bit too much.

But I miss it. 25 weeks into this pregnancy, I’m excited to meet our new baby and get back into some kind of exercise regime.

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But the calorie-counting? I don’t miss that. Especially when I can eat things like this decadent black pudding sausage-laden strata, made with Irish cheese (I used Derg Cheddar – they make their cheese using only raw, summer milk here in Tipperary), without feeling guilty.

Una O’Dwyer (aka The Butcher’s Daughter) makes really great sausages. She has a shop in Cashel, Tipperary – about a 40 minute drive from the farm – and sells a wide range of her sausages nationwide. I made this strata with her black pudding & thyme sausages. The earthy flavour of the black pudding went really well with the creamy farmhouse cheddar.

Oh, and thanks to all that pre-pregnancy running, my BMI went down an entire 3 points and I lost more than 15 pounds. We’ll see what the scales say post-pregnancy, but in the meantime I’m going to have a second helping of strata – with a generous dollop of herby sour cream.

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Una O’Dwyer’s Black Pudding & Thyme Sausage Strata

Ingredients:

1 loaf crusty bread, cut into thin slices

1 package Cashel Fine Foods Black Pudding & Thyme Sausages, casings removed

500g button or chestnut mushrooms, sliced

1 large onion, diced

500g cherry tomatoes, cut in half

250g/1 cup aged cheddar cheese (I used raw Derg Cheddar), grated

1 Tbsp rapeseed/olive oil

1 Tbsp butter (for greasing)

10 large eggs

200ml/3/4 cup cream

2 tsp Dijon mustard

2 tsp salt

1 tsp black pepper

To Serve:

Chopped, fresh herbs (parsley, thyme or chives)

250g/1 cup sour cream

Directions:

  • Preheat your oven to 400∘F (200°C, no fan). Grease a large casserole dish with 1 Tbsp of butter.
  • Heat a large skillet to medium-high on the stovetop. Add the olive oil, then add the diced onion.
  • Cook the onion for five minutes, or until translucent. Add the mushrooms and sausages and continue to fry until tender and caramelized (about 8-10 minutes). You’ve removed the casings from the sausages, so at this stage you can break up the sausages with a wooden spoon.
  • Take half the sliced bread and layer it evenly on the bottom of the buttered casserole dish. Add the sausage/mushroom/onion mixture over the top, then sprinkle that with half the cheddar cheese.
  • Sprinkle the halved cherry tomatoes over the cheese, then layer the other half of the bread over top.
  • In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, cream, Dijon, salt and pepper. Carefully pour the egg mixture over the casserole, ensuring each area is well-coated. Sprinkle the remaining cheddar over the top.
  • Allow to sit for at least 30 minutes, or up to 24 hours, before baking for 45-55 minutes. If you stick a sharp knife in the strata and some egg oozes out, you’ll know it’s not ready. Cook for another 10-15 minutes.
  • Serve hot with a dollop of sour cream and fresh herbs. This casserole serves 8-12 regular people, or 3-4 pregnant ladies.

Derg Cheddar Stove-top Mac & Cheese

17815155688_ba31eb834d_z I hear tales of 30 degree weather in Canada right now, but here in Ireland it still feels like winter. Yes, we have some lovely weather for the month of April, but as my father-in-law says, “That was our summer, right there.” I’m currently bundled on the couch in my housecoat; a cat curled so far into my hip he’s almost invisible. There’s a fire in the fireplace and outside it’s absolutely dismal – wind, rain and very low temperatures. So much for our Irish summer! We’re busy on the farm, as always. We’re beginning to plan for cutting silage, but the growth is not as good as it should be due to the colder weather. We’ll have to wait for nicer weather to do that, anyway. Between our jobs, home life, farm work and Maeve being with her child minder during the week I barely have time to even think about blogging. But I need to keep this website going. It’s my portal to the rest of the world. And I love sharing our lives with you all (and thanks for deeming it interesting enough to follow!).

Diva Bakes stall at Ballymaloe Litfest

Diva Bakes stall at Ballymaloe Litfest

A few weeks ago I went to Ballymaloe Litfest. I’ve been going since the festival began – for about three years – and I have to say, it just gets better and better. The guest speakers, amazing chefs, food writers and food producers who come to the festival make it even more special. This year I ACTUALLY MET ALICE WATERS. For real. She is just as lovely in person as she seems, which is refreshing. She signed a book for Maeve, who will receive said book when she is off to university (yup, I’m going to keep it that long). I’ve looked up to Alice Waters for years and was thrilled to hear her speak and meet her.

The gorgeous falafel from Rocket Man

The gorgeous falafel from Rocket Man

My delicious masala dosa from Ayer's Cafe

My delicious masala dosa from Ayer’s Cafe

The food at Litfest was better than ever this year. The Rocket Man from Cork always impresses with their fresh salads and pickles, but this year they were doing falafel flatbreads which went down an absolute treat. I had an AMAZING dosa from Iyer’s Cafe in Cork – the best I’ve had outside of Asia, in fact – and we got Maeve a little wood-fired pie from Volcano Pizza. So, so good.

The love folk from Ayer's Cafe - such amazing Indian food!

The lovely folk from Iyer’s Cafe – such amazing Indian food!

Miss M was a bit out of sorts, so we couldn’t stay as long as we wanted to, but before we left I loaded up on Arbutus Bread (some of the best loaves in Ireland) and Cloud Confectionery marshmallows (they come in so many awesome flavours!).

Loved all the pickled/fermented product on display from My Goodness

Loved all the pickled/fermented product on display from My Goodness

When we got home we were a) committed to never travelling with a toddler ever again and b) exhausted. We needed some comfort food. I had a block of delicious Derg Cheddar, made just down the road in Nenagh (this cheese is amazing – made only from raw, summer milk when the cows are at pasture; it’s aged but manages to taste creamy and sharp all at once). I decided to make stovetop mac and cheese with crispy garlic breadcrumbs and it saved our lives.

18002974775_4dab097404_z Derg Cheddar Stovetop Mac and Cheese Ingredients:

½ lb pasta

60g plain flour

60g butter

1 bay leaf

½ L full fat milk

½ Tbsp Dijon mustard

Pinch of nutmeg

500g Derg Farmhouse Cheddar, grated

Salt & Pepper

For the breadcrumb topping:

500g fresh breadcrumbs

60g butter

1 clove garlic

Salt & Pepper

Chopped fresh parsley, thyme, chives and/or basil

Directions:

  • Heat a large pot of salted water to boil for the pasta. While the pasta is cooking, start the sauce:
  • In a medium-sized, heavy bottomed saucepan, melt the butter. When it starts to bubbles, add the flour and mix well. The mixture should look a bit doughy – this is called a roux. Let the roux cook for one minute, then add the bay leaf and half the milk.
  • Using a metal whisk, stir the mixture until it thickens completely. Make sure you’ve beaten out any lumps, then add the rest of the milk.
  • Allow the mixture to slowly come to a boil, gently whisking the entire time (the bottom will stick and burn if not!). When it comes to a boil and thickens, remove it from the heat.
  • Stir in the Dijon, salt and pepper, and finally, the cheese. When all is melted and combined, give it a taste and adjust the seasoning as desired.
  • When cooked, strain the pasta and toss with the cheese sauce. Make the breadcrumbs:
  • In a large pan, melt the butter and add the finely chopped garlic. Let it cook for 30 seconds, then add the breadcrumbs. Cook the breadcrumbs until the butter has been absorbed and they become golden brown and crunchy, stirring often. When finished, toss with the fresh herbs.
  • Serve the mac & cheese is bowls with the breadcrumbs sprinkled over-top. This makes four large servings.
We love Ballymaloe!

We love Ballymaloe!

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