Tag Archives: sweet things

Truffle Hearts


Valentines day is coming and Con spent today making truffle hearts and plain old truffles which are delicious.
We think he makes the best chocolates ever.
Go Con!!


They had to be protected from sneaky fingers.



They’re all packed up and ready to head to the shop.
Serious limited edition


These are the ones that didn’t fit into the bags!!
Happy Valentines

Xmas Baking Frenzy

Our kitchen has turned into a cookie/cake/truffle factory and we are all feeling slightly sick from eating so many sweet things. All in the name of research that is.


We have made Cranberry and Pistachio Biscotti,


Hand Made Truffles – absolutely the best even if I say so myself


Xmas Jewel Cakes, jam packed with candied fruit and nuts


Torta di Nocciole e Clementini – an Italian extravaganza which we make with home made candied clementines, soaked in brandy and mixed with toasted almonds and hazelnuts, fatty sultanas and chocolate


There are also hand made chocolates , raw chocolate truffles, Baci di Dama and all manner of home-made cookies waiting to be packed.

And I have finally finished packing the Xmas puddings.


Time for lunch – we’re off to Deasy’s!

Funky Carrot Cake

Now that the cookbook is up and out there it’s time to get back blogging. This has been sadly neglected in the past month.

I have recently rediscovered one of my original cookbooks. It was printed in 1973 ‘The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook’, and it is so well thumbed that it’s held together with sticky tape.


It was printed when cookbooks contained very few pictures which means there are in fact an awful lot of recipes. I reckon we probably tried near enough fifty percent – it was one of our only cookbooks – before it retired quietly to the back of the shelf. Rereading it is like a trip down memory lane – food’s like that – and I find myself remembering all sorts of gatherings and occasions. There was one recipe, which did have a picture , for a carrot cake.


This was before carrot cake became famous and in every cafe. What attracted me was not only the cake made with a vegetable but it was also orange. I thought that was so funky that I had to try it. I made it for a friends birthday. I vaguely remember it being an outrageously expensive cake to make – ground almonds were expensive and we were as broke as church mice. I was living in an apartment in Antwerp with a dodgy oven. It was before I owned any kitchen gadgets and the cake was made with the aid of a potato masher and a whisk .

On rediscovering this recipe I’ve realised that it is also gluten and dairy free which most carrot cakes aren’t and also is why the cake is orange. It’s made with eggs, almonds, sugar and carrots.

Here’s the recipe made with the help of a food mixer and a magic wand – aka hand held blender.

350g carrots

225g sugar

6 eggs

350g ground almonds

grated rind of 1 orange

1tbs brandy or similar booze

Peel the carrots and chop into equal sized pieces. Put them into a small saucepan, cover with water and a little salt and bring to the boil. Cover with a lid and simmer for about fifteen minutes or until tender. Drain and buzz to a smooth puree. Leave to cool.


Pre heat the oven 170c

Line a 24cm cake tin with parchment paper

Separate the eggs.


Put the yolks into a bowl and whisk until they are pale and frothy, add the sugar and continue beating until the mix is blond and creamy.


Add the carrots, ground almond, orange zest and tablespoon of booze.


Whisk the egg whites until they form soft peaks then add a tbs sugar and whisk until stiff peaks.


Using a large metal spoon fold half of the egg whites into the carrot mix then tips the remainder of the egg whites onto the mix and fold them in.


Pou the mix into the prepared cake tin and bake for about 50minutes.


To test the cake is done poke skewer into the centre. If it comes out clean it’s ready



Cooking on the Green Line



Yesterdays expedition was slightly hairy.

Kamal is involved in an initiative called ‘Make Food Not War” and today he took us to cook with war widows in Tripoli .


The idea is to bring people together through food regardless of religion and equip them with some skills that so that they can make a living. The group of women involved come from both sides of the warring factions and working together gives them common ground. We set off early this morning through the insane traffic  heading north out of Beirut. The roads are pretty much a free for all. There are very few road markings and basically all the cars go full pelt honking and weaving in and out all frantically trying to make progress.


We stopped at a fish market on the way to pick up some fish for Sally to smoke – beautiful bright fish, bonito, tuna, parrot fish, garfish, sea bass, some of it still twitching. Sally selected a the sea bass,  a garfish and something we’re still not sure the name off.  The coast road is the main artery through Lebanon which is a surprisingly small country – no bigger than Co.Cork . It doesn’t look that small on the atlas  and of course it’s a completely different shape, long and skinny.   The closer we got to Tripoli the more road blocks we passed through and Tripoli itself is something of a full on war zone with fully manned tanks, machine guns and sand bags. The buildings are covered in bullet holes and some aren’t there any more at all. The building where the cooking initiative is held is right on the Green Line. Smack bang in the middle of the troubled zone. Luckily it was quiet today but it definitely added a certain edge, not our usual cooking location.


The doors were manned by armed soldiers and we were welcomed in and taken upstairs to meet the ladies.who were in the middle of making “maamoul’ sweet pastries to celebrate Eid al-Adha, the Muslim holiday which is this weekend. There was an enormous lump of dough on the counter and dates and nuts were being pounded to make the fillings.


They took a break to check out Sally’s fish smoking lesson.



They found the idea of smoking fish very strange.The idea of cooking fish in smoke didn’t appeal at all and they were looking at each other sideways, very sceptical. Sally, being the genius that she is at her craft soon had them filleting and brining then placing the fish on her jerry-rigged smoking gadget. Fifteen minutes later when the fish was cooked they were persuaded to have taste and  were absolutely amazed. Next thing the plate was empty!


I got stuck into the cookie department. The cookies are made with fine semolina, butter and rose or orange water kneaded together with a little dried yeast until smooth then filled with either dates mixed with a little coconut and butter or walnuts or pistachios mixed with a little sugar syrup and rosewater.


There’s definitely knack to assembling them and my first couple of attempts were rejected but once I got the hang of it it was full steam ahead



Here’s the recipe to make quite an enormous amount. Scale it down if you don’t want to supply a market stall!

2.5kg fine semolina

1 kg butter

2 cups sugar

2 cups rosewater

2 cups orange blossom water

1 tsp dried yeast

Put the semolina on the counter, chop up the butter into small cubes, add the dried yeast and sugar and knead everything together. Gradually add the rose water and orange blossom water and keep kneading until silky. Leave covered with cling film for 2 hours

For the fillings

mix chopped walnuts with some sugar syrup and rosewater

chopped pistachios with sugar syrup and orange blossom

Chopped dates with a little desiccated coconut, a little butter and sugar syrup. This needs to be pounded to a smooth paste.

Next take little walnut balls of the dough and press them into a circle in the palm of your hand. Put a little spoonful of filling in the middle and carefully pull the sides together to close the parcel. The little parcels are then put into moulds and press them to fit snugly them tip them off and rap them sharply to tip them out.


Bake at 180c until lightly golden. Let them cool off then dredge them with icing sugar.








Courgette Trio

The courgettes are back and it’s time I got back to my blog. I have spent the past few of months working on The Lettercollum Cookbook, it was good fun but didn’t leave time for much else. Now that it’s pretty much done and dusted- fingers crossed – I can think of other things.

The garden has been growing away all this time and there is an abundance to eat at the moment. The courgettes are increasing their momentum.They are very healthy after such a sunny early summer, and the rain in the past couple of weeks has helped them along even more. Each day we wander through the courgette patch and pick the ones that have grown inches over night. We try to pick courgettes when they are small as they are tastier but somehow there always seems to be the odd escapee that camouflages itself under the big leaves. We’re not quite wheel barrowing them away yet but I have been checking out some new recipes to deal with the anticipated glut.

These recipes are especially for anyone that is growing courgettes and wondering how to eat them all – it’ll save sneaking round to friends houses and leaving them on the doorstep!


Courgette Fritters



These fritters are are tasty and light, perfect for lunch or dinner, they’re even good cold for a picnic.


3 courgettes

1 large potato

2 eggs

1 small onion, finely grated

Grated zest of one lemon


A big handful chopped mint

Oil for frying


Peel the potato.

Grate the courgettes and potato on the coarse side of the grater and sprinkle over a little salt. Put them into a colander and sit it over a bowl. Leave for 30 minutes. You will be surprised at how much liquid will come out and what initially looked like an enormous amount will shrink dramatically. Next take a clean t-towel and put the courgette and potato into the centre, gather the four corners up and twist to extract the rest of the liquid. Put the squeezed courgettes and potato into a bowl and mix together with the lemon zest, onion and eggs. Season with some black pepper and a little salt.

Heat a large frying pan, add enough oil to barely cover the bottom of the pan. Put tablespoons of the courgette mix around the pan leaving about 5 cms between each fritter.. Flatten slightly with the back of the spoon Turn the heat down to medium and cook gently until a golden crust has formed. Carefully flip the fritters over and cook the other side.

Delicious served with tzatziki or mayonnaise on the side.


Courgette and Rocket Soup



Courgette soup has a reputation for tasting and looking a little bland but the addition of a handful of rocket picks it up and adds a dash of bright green.


1 medium onion

25g butter or olive oil

1 potato

3 courgettes

500mls vegetable stock

1 tsp white wine vinegar

100g rocket-


Peel and chop the onion. Heat a saucepan, add the butter or olive oil and the onions and sweat gently for a few minutes. Peel and chop the potato and cut into a very small dice. Add to the onions, season with a little salt and give everything a good stir. Cook gently for at least 5 minutes. Don’t let them brown. Chop the courgettes into small pieces and add to the pot along with a little ground black pepper. Cook for a few minutes more then pour over the vegetable stock. Bring to the boil, turn down and simmer for five minutes. Check the potato is soft then take of the heat and buzz until smooth. Roughly chop the rocket and buzz again. Don’t cook the rocket otherwise it will loose the vibrant green colour. Serve immediately or if needs be re-heat gently without boiling.


Courgette, Poppy Seed and Lemon Cake



This cake is deliciously moist with no distinguishing vegetable flavor, the only evidence of courgettes are little green flecks throughout the sponge.


150g caster sugar

125g butter

200g grated courgette

200g plain white flour

1 heaped tbs poppy seeds

half tsp bread soda

half tsp baking powder

1 tsp ground cinnamon

finely grated zest 2 lemons

half tsp salt



Pre heat the oven 180c gas 4

Line a 1lb loaf tin with parchment paper.

Cream together the butter and sugar then mix in the egg and grated courgettes.

Sift the flour, baking powder, bread soda and cinnamon then stir into the mix along with the poppy seeds and lemon zest.

Pour the mixture into the loaf tin and bake for 45 minutes until a knife inserted in the centre comes out clean.

Remove from the oven and allow the cake to cool in the tin for ten minutes before turning out.