December 8, 2012

Gingerbread Nativity Scene Recipe & Template

Every Christmas I make some form of Gingerbread scene. I use a traditional molasses based gingerbread dough which tastes amazing, you can use half honey or agave syrup if you feel it’s too dark or rich in taste. This dough can be sticky but if chilled properly and rolled between greaseproof paper the results are perfect and it holds it’s shape beautifully when baked doing the most complicated cookie cutters justice. A few years ago I began to make Nativity Scenes which are perfect to display at home instead of the usual wooden or  porcelain decorative crib. Although it may look complicated the stable is easier to make than a full gingerbread house. This recipe makes a large amount of dough and usually is enough for the entire Nativity scene and up to twenty gingerbread tree decorations. Simple but delicious decorations can be made using a gingerbread man or star shaped cookie cutter. I make a hole in the top using a knitting needle and string a ribbon through once baked. Children’s names can be piped onto the decorations to personalise them as well as being the perfect vehicle for glistening gum drops and multicoloured jelly beans. I bake these cookies the day before I decorate them, leaving enough time for them to cool completely. The assembly and decoration can be a time consuming process although it is very enjoyable. If you do decide to just make cookies as tree decorations or simply for eating then I suggest having a cookie decorating party. Have a group of friends over, make a pot of tea and lay all the sweets and cake decorations on the table for everyone to decorate their own. Some of the biscuits may not make it to the decorating stage having been dunked in the tea and eaten but it’s a lovely way to kickstart the festive season. 

Here are the links to the downloadable templates for the Characters and Stable. So just print, bake and assemble! 

Happy Festive Baking!
Lilly x

December 7, 2012

Christmas Present ideas for food lovers!

I cannot believe Christmas is nearly here already! I always associate this time of year with gorgeous food and drink, but it's also a time for giving! I've been spying lots of amazing Irish present ideas this year so have compiled a list. I know I've probably left loads out but these are the ones that have caught my eye and are a little different and special for the food lover in your life that already has everything.

The best chopping boards have to be wooden and I really love working on a natural surface. Wood is also healthier as wood has natural antiseptic properties that a plastic board just doesn't have. I've really fallen for these Kerry made boards and you can even get them engraved with a message for your loved ones! *romantic potential!!!!*

The west Cork native famous for his incredible charcuterie making skills is also a knife maker and has an impressive selection of hand crafted knives on his website. 

A few years ago I bought my partner the gift of membership to The Cheese Club. Not only did a parcel of perfectly packaged cheese arrive each month but we got tasting notes too! We didn't have to buy cheese all year and it was fantastic exploring all the different varieties. Definitely one to recommend.
Alternatively you could just pick up a hamper of cheeses complete with wine, chutney, crackers etc. to suit your budget. And they can even post it out. Blessed are the cheese makers!

Print Block are a textile print collective based in Dublin and have just opened their first pop up shop.  Unique handprinted items such as tea towels, table runners, napkins and trays are all on offer at The Culture Box in Temple Bar. The shop is open Mon-Sunday 10-6 and Thursdays till 8 until December 22nd.  Their website has all the info and it makes me wish I was living in Dublin! Pictured below are chopping boards, napkin and mini table runner by Print Block member Jennifer Phelan, five other stylish designs are available. 

A Cookery Course
Theres a huge variety of brilliant courses on offer, to suit all budgets and times. The Firehouse Bakery and Bread School has been on my 'must visit' list for a while and has a brilliant day course that will guide you from soda breads to sourdough for an affordable 110 euro.
Good Things Cafe based in Durrus have ran their friendly cookery school for the past seven years with great success. Small class sizes and quality produce make it the perfect place to learn.
Ballymaloe Cookery School have a long list of different day courses too ranging from sushi making to food writing.

The Cork based Horgans produce award winning Christmas Hams and Spiced Beefs, cooked and ready to carve. They do hampers too but the Irish Angus Spiced Beef is a real Cork tradition and Christmas wouldn't be the same without it. They also deliver straight to your door. What a dream present! 

This is such a genius idea! You can buy a share in one of Whelan's renowned Angus, Hereford or Wagyu/Kobe cattle and the bond certificate comes beautifully packaged. Once the bond matures the share holder gets delivery of their bounty of various cuts of prime Tipperary beef. You're guaranteed a return of investment (i.e no risk and a gorgeous dinner). All the details of how to become a steak holder (!) are on their website. 

Smoked Salmon is another traditional and truly delicious food that has to feature on the menu over Christmas. I always give my inlaws a side of smoked salmon as it's guaranteed to be eaten and always welcomed! This year I discovered Duncannon and their beautiful range of smoked fish, the cold smoked trout is incredible too and you can order online and it comes beautifully packaged. 

What better than a nice bottle or a selection of wines? I go to my local Bubble Brothers or The Wine Buff here in Cork and ask them for a good recommendation. It really is a lovely present and guaranteed to be drank over the holiday season!

So no need to panic, just get online and start ordering! Let me know if you have spotted any other brilliant Irish gift ideas.
Lilly x

November 24, 2012

Download my free Christmas Card!

Every year my Granddad would start talking about Christmas around August. Like me, he was obsessed with all things glittery and festive. He loved everything that Christmas involves: excessive food, presents, drink and merriment. So each year as summer came to a close I would get a phone call from him requesting a serious meeting to discuss 'this years card'. We would have several meetings where I would present initial rough sketches, he would make me change them loads (angels could be plumper/happier etc.) and then we would finally decide on a drawing. He had a little book stuffed full of names and addresses of his various friends that he would send them to. Most were in their eighties or nineties and kicked up a huge fuss if their names weren't on his card list. He would stagger the postage because as his buddies received the cards they would then ring him to discuss the card etc. and stay on the phone for hours. Being in his nineties his phone was on the loudest volume setting possible so if you were in the room to witness one of these calls it was quite deafening as he tended to yell back too! 
Granddad is no longer here but I recently found one of these cards and decided to scan it in and share it with you. I can't remember what year it was from but I do remember him insisting that I write have 'a holy Christmas' as he had a few nuns on his books so wanted to keep on their good side. Of course it worked a charm and his phone was hopping for days. 

Originally I printed these on cream paper and placed gold star stickers on top of the stable. We spent a good few enjoyable  hours folding and sticking. Well I was folding and sticking he was sipping a hot whiskey. Here are a few ideas of ways that you can personalise the cards for your own use:

  • Print out loads and get your or someone else's kids to color them in.
  • Print them on colored or gold paper and you won't even have to color them in!
  • Glue glitter or place a gold star sticker over the stable.
  • Print out scaled at 40% and thread with a ribbon, use as gift tags.
  • Enlarge and print on to A3 paper, use as a disposable Place mat on Christmas Day. Your fellow diners could even color them in whilst they wait for the turkey to be carved!
So I've created a google group page thing where you can download it. The link is here.
Lilly x

November 19, 2012

Sugar free, Butter free and Wheat free Banana Cake

The Banoffee Cake from my book Make Bake Love is one of my favorites. It's oil based and really moist and it only takes minutes to make. Another one of it's winning features is the thick toffee icing spread oh so generously over the top. But lately I've been trying to make healthier cakes, well a little healthier. Liam is nearly one year old already and the pressure is mounting for his Birthday Cake. Of course a first birthday cake has to be amazing. It's the first of many incredible celebration cakes. So I'm practicing but I do want a baby friendly cake. The last thing I want to do is to overload him with sugar. He loves honey in his porridge so I've altered this recipe and replaced the sugar with honey and most of the flour with oats. So really it's a breakfast cake. Porridge in a heart shaped tin. 
This cake won't be THE birthday one but it is a celebration cake of sorts as he started walking last week and is now unstoppable. One of many milestones. He loves the cake (phew) so I'll be making it again!
Lilly x

Sugar free, Butter free and Wheat free Banana Cake
This cake doesn't rise the same as a cake with lots of gluten but it is rich and moist making it the perfect thing to have with hot tea or even vanilla ice-cream! I blitzed normal porridge oats in the food processor to make a fine flour, I then made the entire cake in the processor. It may seem like a very wet mixture to begin with but the oats absorb loads of that moisture and it thickens up quickly. You can make this cake entirely wheat free by using coconut or rice flour.
180g oats, blitzed to a fine flour in a food processor
45g plain, Tritamyl, coconut or rice flour
1 tsp baking powder
3 eggs
120g honey or 100g Agave Syrup
2 medium ripe bananas, mashed
1 tsp vanilla essence
220ml olive oil or rapeseed oil

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Butter a 28cm springform tin and dust with flour.
2. Sieve the flours and baking powder into a bowl. Set aside.
3. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs and honey on high with an electric mixer until thickened and light in colour. Fold in the mashed banana and vanilla. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil while still mixing.
4. Add the flour mixture and mix on low speed, taking care not to overmix. Pour the batter into the prepared tin.
5. Bake for 25–30 minutes, until golden. Cool on a rack.

July 20, 2012

Quick and Easy Black and Redcurrant Cordial

This year we've rented an allotment and it's been a brilliant way of making us actually grow and nurture  plants. For the past few years we've attempted the whole kitchen garden 'thing' in our own garden but there's something a lot more sociable and enjoyable about gardening with your community. It's really encouraging to see our neighboring plots flourish too and after all that planting and weeding it's finally time for us to start harvesting more than just radishes and salad leaves! We've had the freshest new potatoes and a brilliant selection of herbs that aren't available in shops like Apple and Ginger Mint. For me it's a total joy to be able to stop off on my way home and pick a bunch of dill or fennel to have with our dinner. This week I picked lots of currants. I was totally unsure of what to do with the red currants though, such pretty glistening red berries but are they used for anything useful apart from decoration? A quick online search revealed that red currant jelly was my best bet but it's not something I often use. So I simply added the berries to the cordial I was making. And.. it's addictive! I used a mixture of 1/3 blackcurrants to 2/3 red and it's a rich plummy colour with a fruity fresh taste bursting with vitamins. 

Pop Up Supper at The Science Gallery

Last April I curated a pop up supper in Dublin's fantastic Science Gallery. It's a brilliant resource to have in our capital and I definitely recommend visiting the gallery, such an inspiring space and all the staff are so enthusiastic and friendly. I chose Superfoods as my theme for the pop up and there were salads scattered with ruby red pomegranate seeds and sprouted seeds things as far as the eye could see. And of course antioxidant rich chocolate cake for dessert! Thanks to the lovely Shaun O'Boyle for being a brilliant host and giving me these great photos! Hack the city is the current exhibition at the Science Gallery and it sounds amazing, read all about it here

April 14, 2012

Chia Seed Protein bombs

My sister Raedi is a personal trainer and founder of Run Like a Girl where she teaches girls how to go from walking to running in no time. She leads groups of happy women running around Phoenix Park and is a picture of health and vitality. So naturally I want whatever she's got. Shiny hair and lots of energy? Yup. That sounds good to me. But seeing as I live in Cork and she's based in Dublin I have to do it through distance learning and her first brilliant tip was to make these Protein Bombs from Susan Jane Murray's blog. I didn't have all of the ingredients listed so changed around a few and the results are so delicious! I don't know how these can be good for you but Susan Jane assures us they are. I used Irish company Chia Bia's ground chia and cranberry mix. They have a blueberry one too and it's equally tasty and full of chia goodness.I got organic whey protein in my local Health shop. I'll definitely make these again! 
Lilly x

March 18, 2012

The best chocolate muffin recipe ever!

Have you ever felt like you've been searching for something all your life and then suddenly BOOM! Well get ready because here's that chocolate muffin recipe you need. I'm not a major fan of chocolate but my goodness these muffins... They are unreal. They are the perfect combination of bitter cocoa, rich chocolate, buttery richness yet feather light thanks to the cornflour. It's Dan Lepard's recipe for Chocolate Custard Muffins and it does have a long list of ingredients and a rather unusual method but the results are well worth it. First you make a custard with the cocoa and cornflour then you beat in the chocolate and butter. I really wasn't convinced that it would work but I trust his recipes and twenty five minutes in the oven later and I'm in love. Best Chocolate Muffin recipe ever.

Dan Lepard's recipe for Chocolate Custard Muffins can be found here on the Guardian website. It's also in his book, Short & Sweet, which has just won the Andre Simon Award for food book of the year.
These are the ultimate muffin to have with a glass of cold milk!
Lilly x

February 2, 2012

Happy Belated New Year! Two days after my last blog post our gorgeous baby boy Liam came into the world! I was planning on making a gingerbread house but never got around to it as he decided to arrive early. My festive baking plans were sabotaged! Liam is doing really well now and we're almost in some sort of routine. I feel like I've known him forever and he sleeps most peacfully in the kitchen with the oven humming and the mixer whirring!
I've been up and down to Dublin doing a series of Baking demos on RTE's Fourlive programme for the past few weeks. We did four in total: Breads, Scones, Sponge cakes and pastries. They're all on RTE player now. I also did one just before Christmas on the Peanut Butter Cookies. One of my absolute favourites from Make Bake Love.
I've been doing lots of writing including a once a week piece for The Sunday Business Post's Agenda magazine. I really love that as it involves making a great family meal each week.Next Sunday's will be a gorgeous roast vegetable and goats cheese tart. It's great because I spend the week cooking and experimenting with different flavours. It really has become my dream job!  
So if you've only just come across my blog as a result of Make Bake Love or if you're a regular around here: Happy New Year and let's make 2012 an absolutely great year full of gorgeous food!
Lilly x