Chocolate Heaven

DSC_0013A Special Treat for a Special Occasion

This is the most indulgent chocolatey dessert that I’ve ever made and it is delicious.  I made it for Valentines Day and so mine looks a bit different!!

Ingredients:

Pastry case:
8 oz plain flour
5 oz butter
1 oz sugar
1 egg

Filling:
250ml cream
125ml milk
250g dark chocolate
2 tbsp. sugar
1/4 tsp salt
2 large eggs

To serve and garnish:
Strawberries or raspberries
Mint leaves
Whipped cream

Make the pastry case first.  Rub the butter into the flour until it resembles breadcrumbs, then add the sugar and egg and bring together to form a dough.  Allow to rest for 10 – 15 mins.  Preheat the oven to 180C. In the meantime prepare the tin by greasing with butter and dusting with flour.  I used a heart shaped tin but a deep 8″ tin is ideal.  Roll out the pastry and line the tin.  Dock all over with a fork.  Place greaseproof paper on top of the pastry and then fill the case with ceramic baking beans or use some dried beans or rice.  Of course you could bypass all this by buying a ready made pastry case!  Bake in the oven for 20 mins.  Remove from the oven and take out the beans and greaseproof paper.  Separate one of the eggs and paint the pastry case with some of the egg white.  This egg white layer forms a barrier to prevent the filling from making the pastry soggy.  Return to the oven for a further 10 mins then remove. Reduce the temperature to 160C.DSC_0002

To make the filling place the cream and milk in a saucepan and heat to just below boiling.  Add in the chopped chocolate and stir to melt.  Then add in the sugar and salt.  Using the cracked egg yolk and white from earlier and the remaining egg, whisk up all the egg with a fork and add to the chocolate mixture.  Mix it in well and then pour into the pastry case.  It is best to place your smaller tin onto a baking sheet as it will be easier to move in and out of the oven.  Return to the oven and cook for 20-25mins.  It will look like its not cooked but once it cools and sets it will be the perfect consistency.  DSC_0005

After allowing to set and cool decorate with berries of your choice and mint leaves.  A sprinkle of icing sugar will also look good.  Serve with whipped cream.

 

Spicy Meatloaf

A spicy alternative to warm you up on those cold winter days

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This is the leftover bit – I forgot to snap the whole meatloaf when it came out of the oven.  The delicious smell had my mouth watering and taking pictures was the last thing on my mind!!

Ingredients

1kg minced beef
1 tsp seasoned salt
1 tsp Cajun spice
1 tsp Smoked paprika
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
1/2 tsp wholegrain mustard
1 Beef Stock Cube diluted in 50-75ml of boiling water
6 tbsp. dried breadcrumbs
1 Egg
6 slices parma ham
Sauce:
150ml ketchup
100ml Brown Sauce
4 tbsp. brown sugar
1 tsp chipotle paste
4 tbsp. water
50g butter
Few dashes of Worcestershire sauce

Place the minced beef in the bowl and add all the spices, mustard, stock cube (diluted), breadcrumbs and egg.  Mix all the ingredients together until well combined.  Remove from the bowl and place on a lined tin.  Shape into a loaf shape.  Use the parma ham to cover the loaf tucking the slices under to help it hold its shape while cooking.

Next make the sauce.  Add the ketchup, brown sauce, brown sugar and chipotle sauce to a bowl and mix well.  Divide this mixture in half.  One half will be used to coat the meatloaf.  Paint the meatloaf with the sauce and place in a preheated oven at 160C for 30 to 40 mins or until cooked through.  DSC_0003

Halfway through cooking remove from the oven and paint again with more of the sauce. Return to the oven. Place the second half of the sauce into a small saucepan and add the water, butter and a few dashes of Worcestershire sauce.  Heat through gently and whisk to incorporate the butter.  Remove the meatloaf from the oven and allow to rest for 10-15 mins.  Slice in 1-2cm slices and serve with salad and fries and the warm sauce.

I had leftovers from this recipe and transformed them the next day.  I sliced 2cm thick slices from the chilled meatloaf and placed them on a dry non-stick frying pan.  Fry on a low heat until nice and crispy on the outside and fully heated through.  Serve with bacon and fried onions, lettuce, cheese and sliced tomato and any leftover sauce on a burger bun…….delicious!

Breaded Fish Goujons

An easy meal to satisfy the whole familyrecipe-image-legacy-id--653606_10[1]

I find it can be difficult to persuade the kids and even OH to eat fish.  With today being Ash Wednesday the only way to get them to eat it is breaded and fried.  I have to admit it is my favourite way to eat fish though not really the healthiest.

Ingredients:

3-4 fillets of any white fish
300ml Milk
250g flour seasoned with salt and pepper
200g dried breadcrumbs (I buy a tub of golden crumbs in the shop)
Sunflower oil
1-2 Lemons
100ml mayonnaise
1 Large Cornichon or a few small ones

Cut the fish into chunky strips and place into the flour.  Dust well in the flour and then place them in the milk.  Next place them in the breadcrumbs and make sure they are all well coated in crumbs. If you have time it is best to chill these for at least 20 mins but you can cook them straight away though you may lose some of the crumb coating.   Heat the oil in a frying pan – you need about 2cm of oil so the amount depends on the size of your frying pan.  Fry for a few minutes, then place on kitchen paper to drain.  Place in a warm oven while you make the tartare sauce.

Chop up the cornichons as fine as you like and mix into the mayonnaise with a squeeze of lemon juice to give a nice dropping consistency.  Cut the rest of the lemon into wedges and serve with the goujons and tartare sauce.  A few oven chips turn this into a lovely meal for the family.  Enjoy!!!

The Wonderful Sound of Silence

Do we realise the importance of sleep for our children and are we guilty of jeopardising our children’s education and learning by making them mould to our routine?

child-sleeping[1]

 

I recently read an article on what bedtimes you should abide by with children of different ages.  I think most parents would be surprised to know that bedtime can start as early as 7pm.  I wonder how many children are going to bed at the suggested times.  I certainly believe it makes a huge difference to our children if they get a good nights sleep.  And I know as a child I was put off to bed at 7 and 7.30 until I was around 7 or 8 years old.

Getting enough sleep really affects your child’s concentration levels.  I certainly know it affects my own concentration levels as an adult and you can imagine the amount of concentration it takes for a child to examine and absorb the little processes of life that they are continuously learning.  It affects their behaviour in a major way too.  A child that may not seem obviously tired but is displaying irrational behaviour or what we sometimes refer to as “bad behaviour” (though I hate that term)  could be simply affected by lack of sleep.  Its terrible to think that we blame the child for being badly behaved when in reality it can be our fault for not putting them to bed in time.  I know many parents would say if they put their child down to sleep at 7pm they wouldn’t go to sleep but i’m sure like everything it takes time to change a routine.  Of course the biggest culprit for stopping children sleeping is screens – TV, laptop, phone, games console.  They all affect your childs ability to settle down enough to sleep and most parenting experts recommend 1 hour before bedtime as the cut off point for screentime.  This time can be used for bathing, bedtime stories, playing a quiet game or some other form of relaxing activity – even eating.  Which brings me to another point.

My mother in law says all the time, particularly in relation to infants and toddlers that the reason they don’t sleep or wake in the middle of the night or too early in the morning is because they are hungry.  And I have to say in my experience that I have found this to be mostly true.  Of course there is the odd time that we can blame teeth/illness but the majority of times my kids have woken in the middle of the night or too early in the morning I can link it to them not having eaten much of their tea the evening before.  So I think its safe to say that my top tip to keep children sleeping for long periods is to fill them up!  That would always be my first port of call since I’m a feeder! 🙂

I know early bedtimes don’t suit a lot of parents because they are working etc and some don’t be home until 6 or even 6.30pm.  Then its the race to cook dinner (keeping the kids occupied with the TV) and maybe even do homework.  Its certainly not possible to fit all in with a 7 or 8pm bedtime particularly as you want to have some quality time too and not have their whole evening time experience listening to “would you sit down and concentrate on your homework”, “you have to eat all of your vegetables”, etc., etc.  I’m speaking from my own experience here!  I know I hate coming in from work and practically putting them straight to bed.  I do feel terribly guilty but I’m lucky that I don’t work full time and I console myself with the fact that I’ll have all day tomorrow or the next day to spend with them.  And they need sufficient sleep to make the best of that quality time.

The more I read on the topic of childrens sleep the more I realise the importance of it for their social, emotional and cognitive development.  I think as a society living in a rat race and being so busy ourselves as parents, we have changed the norms in relation to bedtime and some of us have the kids running round at 10 and 11 o’clock at night.  Some in the mistaken belief that if they go to bed late they’ll sleep later in the morning and give Mammy and Daddy a lie in!  Tried and tested and failed!!  And surely it has to have some bearing on the amount of behaviour disorders diagnosed.  I’m not saying that sleep will cure any of these but surely along with diet changes and some environmental changes it would be a big help in the day to day management of these illnesses.

Let me know your thoughts please!

Homemade Apple Pie made easy

No messing or fussing – an easy recipe for any busy mammy to make

This is my foolproof recipe and really the only secret is that I bypass most of the rules.  I don’t have time to be waiting for pastry to rest or fillings to cool so I make it my way and it turns out delicious.

Ingredients:

4 large cooking apples

Handful of sugar

Knob of butter

8 oz plain flour

Pinch of salt

5 oz butter from the fridge

1 oz sugar

1 egg

 

Now I think that is a simple list of ingredients and most of them you will have in the house anyway.

I start by cooking the apples – yes cooking the apples.  This is very unorthodox but I find its the best way to get the sweetness right.  Cooking apples vary in flavour so much that it can be hard to determine the amount of sugar you need until they have cooked.  Peel and core the apples and chop them up whatever way you like – the larger they are the longer they will take to cook that’s all.  I put them in a saucepan with a splash of water, a handful of sugar and a knob of butter, cover them with a lid and cook on a medium heat.  Stir them occasionally to encourage them to break down and when they have started to break down well, take off the lid and cook them until most of the water has evaporated and you have a nice thick puree.  A few lumps are okay though because you still want a bit of texture.  Its best to taste at this stage and decide if you need to add more sugar or not.  Turn off the heat and allow to cool a bit while you make the pastry.

Preheat the oven to 170 C.

Place the flour and salt in a bowl and add in the butter.  Rub it in with your fingers until it looks like rough breadcrumbs.  Add in the sugar and mix it through roughly.  Beat the egg and add it in too.  Using a normal butter knife cut the egg through the flour mix until it has practically disappeared.  The mixture will look quite dry still but don’t worry, its meant to.  Get stuck in with your hands and knead the mixture lightly until it starts to come together and form a dough.  Don’t knead too much as it will make the pastry tough.  Empty the dough out onto a floured surface and cut in two.  Roll out the first half until its just big enough to line an 8″ pie tin (I use an enamel tin but you can use an ordinary small dinner plate). Roll out the remaining half for the top.  When you have the second half ready place your apple filling on the first piece of dough in the tin.  (Because the filling is still warm you don’t want it sitting too long on the pastry before going into the oven so this part has to be done quite quickly.) When you have the filling in, quickly place the top on and seal with a fork or some fancy crimping if it won’t take you too long.  Place in the preheated oven and cook for 10 mins and then reduce the temperature to 150 C for a further 25-30 mins.  Just keep an eye on the pastry and don’t let it get too dark – its supposed to be a pale sandy colour, a little darker than shortbread.

Remove from the oven and sprinkle with caster sugar or brown sugar with a little cinnamon mixed in.  Allow to cool slightly and then serve with freshly whipped cream or custard.  I apologise now for not having any photos of the opened pie but it was gone before I realised I hadn’t got the “moneyshot”! 🙂

You can change this recipe around by adding 1 teasp. ground cinnamon or whole cloves to the apples.  Or you could add some chopped nuts and serve with caramel sauce if you fancy.  Also you can change the fruit fillings – blackberries, blueberries, cherries etc.  Most berry fillings will need a little help to thicken – I use a tablespoon of cornflour slaked in 2 tbsp. cold water and add in to the hot filling to thicken it up well.  You may need to add more or less.  Just judge by eye.  You want a thick gloopy mess!!