Friday, 31 July 2015

Fudgy Chocolate Brownies with Malt Ice-Cream & Coffee Liqueur Syrup

I know I have mentioned this before, but my three children are obsessed with chocolate and cannot understand why everything I bake does not include it in some form. The truth is, although I like chocolate, I can also take it or leave it and it doesn’t set my heart aflutter in the same way that it does others’.
Having said that, I do love a good brownie and by this I mean one that is fudgy in texture with a deep chocolate taste. I find it amazing how so many foods that claim to be chocolate don’t actually taste of it. In this regard, when making brownies, it is important to balance the sweetness of the sugar with the chocolate that is used and this often means using a good quality chocolate with a high percentage of cocoa solids. Also, whether one likes it or not, brownies contain a lot of sugar but it is the ratio of the sugar to the other ingredients which gives them their characteristic crisp exterior which gives way to a moist and fudgy centre.
Some brownie recipes advocate the use of cocoa powder only and others the use of melted chocolate. Whilst cocoa powder undoubtedly gives the brownies an intensely chocolate flavour, I find that they tend to be more ‘cakey’ than fudgy, which is not what I am after. Using melted chocolate alone creates a brownie which can lack depth of flavour, so I hedge my bets and use both.
I am really pleased with this recipe because I think that I have finally succeeded in baking brownies that satisfy my exacting requirements. I used a slightly larger tin than normal which resulted in 24 generous sized brownies measuring approximately 6cm x 6cm each.
I have not included nuts in this recipe as my children prefer that they be omitted and also because brownie purists insist that they should not be used, but feel free to add some, roughly chopped is you like. To be honest, I rather like the nutty crunch of pecans and often would include them despite the disapproving howls of annoyance that escape from my children.
You will see in the accompanying photos that I have topped the brownie in them with a scoop of malt ice-cream and a coffee liqueur syrup. I have included the recipe for the syrup here, but feel that the malt ice-cream deserves its own post which I hope to publish soon (trust me… it’s really good).


265g chocolate
230g butter
430g caster sugar
150g plain flour
20g cocoa powder
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
Coffee liqueur syrup:
100ml coffee flavoured liqueur
25g caster sugar


1. Preheat the oven to 170C/Fan Oven 150C/Gas mark 3. Line a 36cm x24cm x 5cm baking tray/tin with non-stick baking parchment and set aside.
2. Put the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl and set over a pan of lightly simmering water making sure that you do not let the base of the bowl touch the bubbling water. Stir the chocolate mixture occasionally.
3. Remove the bowl once the chocolate and butter have melted and add the sugar, stirring well until fully incorporated. Sieve the flour and cocoa powder together and stir into the chocolate mixture making sure that no ‘pockets’ of the dry ingredients remain. Lastly add the eggs and stir these in so that they too, are well incorporated.
4. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin, levelling the surface with a spatula or the back of a metal spoon and bake in the preheated oven for 40-45 minutes or until the brownies are flaky on top but still a little squidgy in the centre.
5. Leave to cool completely before cutting in to 24 squares. These are lovely served re-warmed slightly with a dollop of ice-cream and a drizzle of the following syrup.
Coffee liqueur syrup:
6. Place all the ingredients into a small saucepan and bring up to simmering point. Allow to bubble uncovered until the liquid has reduced by half. Allow to cool slightly before drizzling over ice-cream.

Makes 24.

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Treacle Brown Bread

This has to be one of the quickest breads to make and it also tastes absolutely delicious.  Although I love making yeast-risen breads, there is a time element involved where you have knead the dough and set it aside to prove. Whist this doesn’t bother me, it is a little frustrating when you want something freshly baked in the minimum amount of time possible.
This recipe satisfies these requirements and you will be rewarded with a bread that emerges from the oven with such a tempting aroma that I guarantee that you will find it impossible not to cut yourself a slice immediately. The inclusion of treacle brings out the underlying sweet nuttiness of the brown flour that is used and gives the bread a wonderful depth of flavour.
The bread can be baked in one large 900g loaf tin but the recipe that I give here specifies the use of 4 x 250g loaf tins. I love the little loaves that they create as anything miniature, baked in individually sized portions always thrusts me back to my childhood with force and makes me feel joyous and carefree again without all the responsibilities of adulthood.
The bread pictured in the photos that accompany this post uses both white and wholemeal flour, but you can play around with the ratios of white to brown flour to suit your own tastes. I sometimes like to include some chopped nuts and I find that roughly chopped walnuts work particularly well.
This is heavenly bread, which unlike many so-called ‘quick’ breads actually keeps very well due to the humectant properties of the treacle that is used to make it.  It goes without saying that this bread is delicious, thickly sliced with a generous amount of butter slathered over it!


115g white self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground ginger
330g wholemeal flour
115g butter, cubed
115g dark brown sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
50g treacle
225ml of buttermilk


1. Preheat the oven to 180C/Fan Oven 160C/Gas Mark 4. Line a 900g (or 4 x 250g) loaf tin(s) with some baking parchment or grease with a little butter and set aside.
2. Sieve the self-raising flour, baking powder and ground ginger into a large mixing bowl and then mix through the wholemeal flour.
3. Add the butter and rub into the flour mixture using your finger-tips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the brown sugar and mix through.
4. Put the eggs, treacle and buttermilk into a medium sized jug and mix together with a small whisk.  Pour this mixture into the dry ingredients using a wooden spoon to mix them together (the mixture will be slightly sloppy). Pour the mixture into the prepared tin(s) and bake in the preheated oven. A large loaf will take 45-50 minutes to bake whilst the smaller loaves will take approximately 25 minutes.
5. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for ten minutes. Then remove the bread from the tin(s) and place on a wire rack to finish cooling.

Makes 1 x 900g loaf OR 4 x 250g loaves.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Achill Mountain Lamb Celebrates New Season

As you approach Achill Island, located off the County Mayo coastline, you are immediately struck by the wild beauty of the landscape. This is countryside that is stunning and dramatic but which also possesses an air of foreboding about it. Ever present is the island’s brooding headland which on the wet and windy day that I visited was covered in an ominous looking blanket of sea-mist.

This is where Mayo Blackface lambs are born and reared by the Calvey family to produce the exclusive and unique tasting Achill Mountain Lamb. Here the sheep wander freely, grazing on the wild grasses, heathers and seaweeds that they find on the thousands of hectares of land to which they have unfettered access to on the island. If you ever doubted the veracity of the old adage ‘you are what you eat’ I urge you to sample some Achill Mountain Lamb and you will be smitten by this vaguely salty yet wonderfully sweet meat which comes from animals who feasted on the best that the earth around them offered up. Without a doubt, Achill Mountain Lamb has a taste and tenderness unlike any other lamb I have ever eaten and without doubt, is very much a product of the West of Ireland and the place it comes from.
Achill Mountain Lamb is reared, slaughtered and butchered on Achill by the Calveys who have been producing this distinctive tasting lamb for over 50 years. Although there were originally 23 other butchers/abattoirs on the island when Martin Calvey started off in 1962, the Calveys are now the only licensed abattoir within a 30 mile radius. It is testament to their tenacity and their belief in their product along with a willingness to embrace and respond to customer needs that has seen this family-run business continue to develop to a point where the lamb is much sought after by many of Ireland’s top restaurants.
The Mayo Blackface lambs which make up the Calvey flock is a pure breed, which has never been crossed with any other and is specifically suited to the conditions on Achill. The sheep love to wander up the mountains and as one can imagine, herding them can be challenging! However, Martin told me that they dislike midges nipping at their faces and will always try to come back down from the mountains in the evening to avoid being bitten.
I strongly believe that Ireland has some of the best food and food producers anywhere in the world and Achill Mountain Lamb is a wonderful example of this. I was therefore delighted to be invited to this year’s launch of the New Season Lamb which was held earlier this month on Achill.  Achill Mountain Lamb has a later season than most other lamb, kicking off in late June/July and continuing until Christmas.
The event was officially launched by Mairead McGuinness MEP, Vice President of the European Parliament. At the launch a lamb carcass was brought in and presented with great pomp and ceremony to the sound of bagpipes playing. As a full member of the Agriculture & Rural Development/AGRI Committee in the European Parliament, her time as a presenter on RTÉ’s Ear to the Ground and her work in agricultural journalism, Mairead McGuinness is extremely well-versed on the issues and concerns of Irish farmers and food producers and gave a very witty speech as part of the launch.
Grainne Calvey, one of Martin’s daughters then gave a fascinating butchery demonstration. Watching the skill and dexterity of Grainne as she worked was totally absorbing and something I found very interesting. In no time at all she had divided the lamb carcass up into different joint and cuts and as she did so, gave some great suggestions on how the different cuts could be used.
The Calveys operate a bespoke butchery service and can arrange delivery to anywhere in Ireland, so you don’t have to live in and around the Island to be able to cook and enjoy eating Achill Mountain Lamb. Although they have a well-established trade directly with restaurants which they continue to develop, the ordinary consumer can also buy their product; either the whole animal butchered into different joints or specific cuts of the meat. When you buy Achill Mountain Lamb, you can be certain that it is 100% traceable meat that you are buying, from animals that had a good life and were able to roam freely.
Gary O’Hanlon, Head Chef at Viewmount House in Longford Town then treated the crowd to a great cooking demonstration using the lamb. Many people will be familiar with Gary as he is one of the resident chefs on TV3’s (previously RTÉ’s) The Restaurant. What Gary so deftly showed us was that lamb is far more versatile than we might think. Granted, I love a roast leg of lamb with all the trimmings, but that takes time to prepare… the dishes that Gary made were flavoursome and more importantly quick to prepare using different, less familiar cuts of the meat.
I love cookery demonstrations where you get to sample the food and I can confirm that all three of the dishes that Gary cooked were absolutely delicious. First up was a Lamb Stir-Fry, full of oriental flavours and next came a fabulously fragrant Lamb Pasta dish. Both were fantastic and incredibly easy to make. The final dish, a Lamb Tagine, was superb. Lamb can stand up to very robust flavours and here garlic, chilli pepper and other spices were added to create an incredibly tasty dish and one that I will definitely be trying out at home. These recipes and many others are available on the Calveys’ website at
Too often we are removed from the food we eat and where it comes from. We all posture and pay lip-service to terms like ‘artisan’ and ‘locally-sourced’ without often really understanding what they mean. Sadly these are terms which have also been hijacked by big business and multi-nationals and this has resulted in the underlying philosophies and practices behind these terms being somewhat devalued. It is therefore reassuring and heartening to visit farmers like the Calveys where you can witness (and taste) for yourself, the results of their commitment to producing lamb of the highest quality from the island which they were brought up and live on.
Calveys of Achill
Achill Island
County Mayo
Tel: 09843158
This article first appeared in

Friday, 17 July 2015

A simple Gooseberry Pie

I am a massive fan of gooseberries as is evident by the amount of recipes that I have on the blog which use them.  Often when I’m thinking of recipes to post, I try to think of new and different ways to use my favourite ingredients but, by doing this I don’t get to share some of the recipes that I have been using for years and which are tried and tested favourites.

Part of my reason for starting this blog was to collect all my favourite recipes together in one place so that my children would have an easily accessible database of the dishes and meals that I cooked for them. I genuinely hope that as they approach adulthood and start rearing their own families that they will use these recipes from time-to-time and will remember me with fondness through my love of food and cookery.
Many of my favourite things to eat were dishes cooked by my grandmother when I was a child and it is a huge regret of mine that I did not write them down and take more notice of where she originally got them from. Each family has their own unique history when it comes to the foods that they eat and this is something that should be cherished and preserved. Our attitudes to food, in this collective context, say so much about who we are and our attitudes to life. Many key family events happen around meals or are celebrated by coming together to eat and for me it is something of fundamental importance.
This is a very simple pie, made using fresh gooseberries picked from bushes growing in my garden. Gooseberries can be very tart, so I have sweetened them with a little more sugar than I would use when making an apple pie and have added nothing else. This is a straightforward, no-nonsense pie which is all about the flavour of the gooseberries.
The pastry is incredibly simple to make. Very cold butter is grated directly into the flour and loosely mixed through without being further worked in. A splash of water helps to bring everything together into a dough, which is then refrigerated to allow the pastry to rest before it is rolled out and used to make the pie. The resulting pastry is flaky when baked with a buttery taste which goes perfectly with the gooseberries!


225g plain flour
160g cold butter (I place it in the freezer for 30 minutes)
3-4tblsp cold water
To fill the pie:
500g gooseberries, topped and tailed
75g caster sugar
To finish:
1 egg, beaten


1. Place the flour into a large mixing bowl. Using a coarse grater, grate the butter directly into the flour, mixing it gently through so that it is evenly distributed, but do not rub in. Sprinkle the water over the flour/butter mixture and mix in using a fork until it starts to come together into a dough.
2. Turn out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead briefly and then shape into a ball. Wrap in cling film and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to give the pastry a chance to rest.
To make the pie:
3. Preheat the oven to 180C/Fan Oven 160C/Gas mark 4. Lightly grease a Pyrex pie plate with some butter and place on a large baking tray. Set aside.
4. Divide the pastry in half and roll each into a circle slightly bigger than the pie plate.
5. Place one pastry circle on the buttered pie plate with any excess pastry slightly hanging over the edge.
6. Tumble the gooseberries into the centre of the pastry-lined pie plate and sprinkle over the caster sugar, leaving a 2cm pastry edge free around the outside.  Moisten the exposed edge of the pie with a little of the beaten  egg and top with the remaining circle of pastry.  Seal the pie around the edge by pressing the top and bottom pastry edges together to enclose the fruit.
7. Trim the excess pastry from around the edge of the pie, using a small sharp knife. Brush the pie with the remaining beaten egg and cut a cross in the centre of the pastry top to let steam escape as the pie bakes.
8. Bake in the preheated oven for 35-40 minutes until golden brown and the gooseberry juices are bubbling. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10-15 minutes before serving warm. The pie is wonderful served with some vanilla ice-cream or some lightly whipped cream.
Serves 8.