10 Things Plus to Pack on an Irish Family Holiday



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Four seasons in one day. 

Beautiful Irish weather. 

As an Irish woman, Mother and wife packing for a family holiday within Ireland involves strategic planning, facilitation skills and logistics.  All vacuum packed into 3 suitcases in what my Father calls a girls city shopping car. 

It’s been a while since I lived in a city, so after giving away, for a song,  my Honda 4 x 4 in the country in which I could have fitted my kitchen sink in the boot, this internal family holiday with my city car was without doubt a challenge.  Look, I have never been a refugee from the country adopting the princess ‘D4‘ attitude and accent. 

Ireland has developed a strange breed of non-Dublin Irish born immigrants who developed the Howth accent more colloquial than Howth natives themselves during the boom years and it’s roots probably born within the Yuppie years and bless these country folk for not feeling worthy.

Being more a post Corkonian and London student I now have the ability to laugh at myself back then thinking I was a tremendous intellectual with ‘100 Years of Solitude’ bible by Marquez constantly in my rucksack with its wife (ouch) ‘The Green Room’ by Marilyn French.

However I did lose the weekend accent. Yes false accents are a pet hate, you might have gathered. I’m digressing. Tsk.

I had been used to packing a rucksack practically for essentials, if you can imagine the bohemian hippie student writer type.


Well not really.

Below is part of the four pages of lists I made to visit a Wexford holiday house for one week, if it is of any help to any souls. 

I thought it would get easier after having two babies under 12 months a few years ago and of course it has, although we didn’t bother with a family holiday in those early years…..

If you need to ask why – here’s a non patronising smile 🙂 

We did have a fabulous time though with crab fishing in Cahore really being the highlight. Lil Diva screaming on the pier after catching her first crab and entertaining the crowds when it escaped and chased her slowly..

Rugrat Angelica vocals.

Children X 2

  • Wellies
  • Kangaroo Raincoats
  • Wetsuits
  • 16 pants and socks
  • Welly Socks
  • Sandals
  • Trainers / Runners
  • Good Shoes
  • 6 Pairs Shorts
  • 6 T-shirts
  • 4 Fleece Hoodies
  • Summer PJ’s
  • Winter PJ’s
  • Winter bedsocks
  • Dress outfits
  • Wetsuits
  • Swimsuits
  • Floats, armbands, surfgear
  • Teddies, dollies, dollies dresses
  • Hairbands, brushes, clips
  • Toiletries, suncream
  • DS3, games, books, crayons
  • DVD’s
  • Lego
  • jigsaws
  • Buckets, spades, sun hats
  • Medications & thermometer
  • (The – ‘Ive a feeling I’ve forgotten something important)

Mammy & Daddy

  • Whatever room is left in the boot
  • Hardline essentials

Sheelagh x

Clementine & Polenta Birthday Cake



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My Mother-in-law turned 70 years young a few weeks ago and her daughter, my sister-in-law asked me to make her party birthday cake.  I will admit I was slightly apprehensive as I haven’t much experience with baking for special diets except for my 6 year old Lil Diva who is Diabetic Type 1.  I did bake and decorate  gluten-free Christmas cakes a few years ago for Joan and her sister and I found the Tritamyl gluten-free flour a nightmare to work with, but found it safe enough in a rich Christmas cake.  I really was nerve-wracked decorating it aswell as this was a very public party, and I really wanted it to be special for Joan who was a widow and re-married in Vegas at age 69 last summer to her long-term partner.  So the plan involved two cakes.  One small one for any coeliac other than Joan and her sister and one large cake for the masses.  She wanted a very traditional buttercream sponge cake, thankfully, as a baker I am not.  Nor a cake decorator.

And as they came from all ends of the Earth including Cork & England, (the US contingency are still recovering from Vegas) I would love to say I wowed the crowds with my cakes, but I never got to taste them as my Mother-in-Law kept me dancing all night after she blew out the candles and performed her paparazzi smiles.  Off she went down south the next day for a few days Spa  holiday to recuperate whilst I felt I needed a Zimmerframe the following week. 

Which brings me to Tana Ramsay.  Hands up I did under-estimate her and never took her seriously, the wife of a celebrity chef, but after reading the introduction and background information (ordinary farming country childhood) to her book and scanning the recipes I was pleasantly surprised.  This was a free publication with a well-known magazine being re-sold in a charity shop with an enormous selection of second-hand books.  To put it simply I have made three or four of her no-nonsense honest family food recipes and they have all turned out good and of course she may have a ghost writer, but she definitely has her own softly spoken sophisticated style with food.  And as they say, the backbone of every good man was or is a good woman…

 This Gluten Free cake is testament.

Adapted from ‘Good, Honest Food Made Easy’ by Tana Ramsay

You Will Need –

3 Clementines

5 eggs (medium)

250g / 9oz caster sugar

100g / 4 oz polenta

100g / 4oz ground almonds

1 tsp baking powder

To Decorate –

Your favourite buttercream recipe

To Do –

Pre-heat oven to 170C /325F

Grease and line with baking parchment or brown paper a spring form cheesecake tin.

Wash the clementines and put in a saucepan covering with water.

Bring to the boil and simmer for an hour.

Blitz in a food processor for a minute keeping some texture, but not a puree.

Pick out the pips, or strain through a sieve, there shouldnt be many.

With an electric beater whisk the eggs, sugar polenta, almonds and baking powder.

Add the blitzed clementines.

Pour into the tin and bake for approximately 1 hour. Test by inserting a clean skewer and if it comes out clean the cake is ready, if not bake for another 15 minutes.

This cake will sink slightly in the middle. Leave to cool in the tin before turning out and decorating with buttercream or just eat as is.


Sheelagh x

ABC of Me Award



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I was awarded the Awesome Blog Content award a little while back by ArignaGardener, a lovely Irish blog which you should definately have a look at, so thanks Bridget, I do graciously accept and apologies for the delay!

The rules of accepting the award are to share something about yourself using the letters of the alphabet. This is tougher than it looks, but here you go….

A – Art, something I love and wish I was better at.

B – Baking, I cant get enough of it lately

C – Chef, of which I was before my lovely children

D – Determination, I dont give up easily (can be a good & not so good trait!)

E – England, born in Liverpool to Irish parents (so am not officially Scouse I think)

F – Father, mine is fantastic and I’m very lucky

G – Gardening, something I love but have a blind spot for weeds 😉

H – Housework…. Ugh!!!

I – Ireland, where I was raised and love.

J – Jam, I used to make a LOT for my market stall

K – Kids, my whole world and who make me laugh and smile most of the time

L – Loyalty, a trait I am good at

M – Mother, who is fantastic and Im very lucky

N – Nature, love being outdoors.

O – Okra, one of the few vegetables I detest

P – Purple, a color I like

Q – Queit time, when I do get it I value it

R – Reading, Im either in the midst of 3 books at a time or don’t read for months

S – Strength, I use kettle bells for workouts to build strength and tone

T – Theatre, I worked in street theatre for a couple of years.

U – Underestimate, something I try not to do with people

V – Vegetarian, of which I was for 9 years

W – Women, met some amazing women as a facilitator for rural womens courses

X – XXX mints, couldn’t think of anything else!

Y– Yoga of which I dont do enough of & Yoodling, this ABC is reminding me of the Sound of Music, do-ray-me…

Z– Zodiac, I am Libran

Phew!!..so here some great blogs I am sending this to…

Thingsmybellylikes (who sent me an award – haven’t forgotten)

Go Bake Yourself (who sent me an award – haven’t forgotten!)

Carolannes Kitchen

Chocolate Log Blog

Karistas Kitchen


Now Im off to enjoy the lovely spring weather outdoors gallivanting in the woods with the kids!


Sheelagh x

Mexican Tortilla Lasagne



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The magic of this dish is convenience, as is the case with most of Nigella Lawson’s family reality creations.  I make this the day before sometimes and I’ve found the tomato or passata sauce seeps into the tortillas fluffing them and permeating more flavour.  I will admit when making this for the first time I flapped about a lot like a virginal traditional lasagna maker with the kitchen turning into a complete bombsite, and I am actually one of those irritating clean as you go cooks.  This probably was because the idea itself of a mexican lasagna sounded downright odd and alien and had me zig zagging in circles ejecting me deservedly out of my comfort zone.  The dish in fact is based on the same principle of layering not dissimilar to an Italian lasagna, and although Nigella keeps it vegetarian as you can do, I added finely sliced chorizo and some waning scallions.

Also I omitted the jalapeno for a version of this for the children, although I stealthily add a very tiny pinch of cayenne to build up their taste buds and palate, and for the grown-up kids who are wary of spice use whatever chilli heat you are comfortable with. Halve the jalapeno quantity below or rocket the chillisphere by adding half a bird’s eye chilli either. If you aren’t a fan of goats cheese (incomprehensible) you will be happy to note the tart flavour can’t be detected, but it definitely adds a creamy and delicious dimension in terms of flavour to the dish.  You will need the pinch of sugar if using cheap versions of tinned tomatoes too.  It’s just as delicious re-heated the next day for leftovers.

Adapted from ‘Kitchen’ by Nigella Lawson

You Will Need –


1  tbsp rapeseed oil

1 onion, diced

1 red pepper, diced

2 fat cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 tsp salt

2 large jars of basic tomato sauce or passata (800ml approx)


2 tins chopped tomatoes plus 400ml water

pinch of sugar if using tinned tomatoes

1 tsp tomato puree

1/2 tsp smoked paprika


2 tbsp chopped jalapeno (from a jar)

2 x 400g cans black beans, drained and rinsed

2 x 250g cans sweetcorn, drained

150g goat’s cheese (I used Ardsallagh)

150g Cheddar

4 large tortillas

handful of roughly chopped coriander

Loose bottomed cake tin or casserole dish

To Do –

 Pre-heat the oven to 200C.

Heat the oil in a pan over medium heat, add the onion and peppers and cook without colour for 2 minutes.  Add the chopped garlic, tomato puree and paprika and fry for a minute stirring. Add the 2 jars of tomato sauce or passata or tins of tomatoes plus water, pinch of sugar and simmer for 15 mins.

To make the filling, mix the drained beans and sweetcorn in a bowl. Add most of the grated cheddar, crumbled goats cheese and coriander and mix together, reserving some cheese and scallions to sprinkle on the top before baking.

Pour a quarter of the tomato sauce into the base of your dish. Don’t be too generous, you haven’t won the lotto plus you need enough for the rest of the dish and a little for the top.  Layer a tortilla over this, then the chorizo, then beans and sweetcorn salsa. Repeat the process like a traditional lasagna until the sauce and salsa mixture are used.

Cover the top tortilla with a little of the tomato sauce / passata and sprinkle with remaining cheese.

Bake in the oven for 30 minutes and cool for 15 minutes  before slicing.

Serve with guacamole and salsa or just eat as is with a fresh green salad. T2J5MBHH48HG

This pretty senorita is going on tour to a few other delicious blogs in no particular order…

Ren at Fabulicious Food!

Dom at Bellau Kitchen for Random Recipes

and over to Farmersgirl who is hosting this month’s Sweet Heat Challenge

(theme this month is Tapas and I’m chancing my arm)

also  At Home with Mrs M



Shortbread Lollipops – Parade Pocket Snacks



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 It’s been a hectic week with family birthdays involving cakes and sinful copious quantities of buttercream, so it was refreshing to just make an old-fashioned classic such as traditional shortbread. These are perfect for children on St Patrick’s Day to munch away watching parades and so are packed away here in an airtight container in my new ‘safe’ hidey hole far from the reaches of the oldest grown-up cookie monster of the house.  Last year I made delicious and healthy Baked Baby Doughnuts recipe and they went down a storm.

These shortbread are so simple to make and another great starter recipe for kids in the kitchen to help with.  Also unsalted butter always gives the best results with shortbread but if you have to as a last resort – use margarine. 

Makes 12-20 depending on size and shape of cookie cutters

You Will Need –

180g plain all purpose flour

60g cornflour

80g caster / superfine sugar

160g unsalted butter / margarine at room temperature

To Do –

Pre-heat oven to 170C.

By hand or using an electric beater cream togethor the sugar and butter for 5 minutes until pale and creamy.

Sift in the flour and cornflour.

Mix briefly but thoroughly and roll out to a depth of approximately 1/2 centimeter on a lightly floured board or counter. 

Cut into desired shapes and attach lollipop sticks gently.

Bake for 20-25 minutes on a tray lined with baking parchment or greaseproof paper.

Cool completely before decorating.

To Decorate –

Mix 1 tbsp cornflour with 1 tsp water.

Roll out fondant and cut into desired shapes.

With a pastry brush or using your fingers paint the cornflour paste ontu the back of the fondant and stick to the shortbread.  I prefer to use this cornflour paste instead of raw egg white as these are for children.



The Secret Recipe Club


Green Tea Bread



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 I got the idea for this recipe T2J5MBHH48HG from Sophie who reminded me of this type of old-fashioned bread of my childhood.    I detested it then and would methodically pick out every raisin or sultana from the slice as we used to call them ‘dead flies’, so by the time we were finished we would be left with a plate of crumbs and butterfingers.  Now as a grown up (?) I love this bread with its slightly chewy texture and plump tea soaked sultanas, served alongside a pot of Green Tea.  Toasted it makes for an alternative breakfast option either. The other healthyish advantage is it contains no fat, as in no margarine or butter, adding the butter to the slice is entirely up to you when it’s baked!I searched high and low for a dog-eared old little cookbook that held a recipe my Mother used to bake teabread from, but to no avail, although I’m sure it’ll turn up when I’m not looking for it, as things usually do.  So I played around with measurements and came up with this hybrid loaf which uses Green Tea instead of ordinary tea and it turned out absolutely delicious.  I love Green Tea and try to incorporate it into dishes whenever I get the chance as it’s so healthy and full of antioxidants.  You can use whichever tea you prefer and experiment a little with fruit or herbal teas for a different flavour combination if you like.  T2J5MBHH48HG The main tradition with this bread involves soaking the fruit overnight in cold tea.

You Will Need –

250g sultanas

25g dried mixed peel

25g crystallized ginger chopped finely or 1 tsp dried ginger

150g light brown sugar

1 tbsp treacle

270ml Cold Green Tea using 2 tea bags

1 egg

225g self-raising flour

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1 tsp mixed spice

To Do –

Make the tea, add the treacle stirring well and leave to go cold. 

In a large bowl place the sultanas, mixed peel, ginger and sugar and add the cold tea.  Cover and leave overnight.

Pre-heat the oven to 180C. 

Line a 2 lb loaf tin with greaseproof paper or baking parchment, or use a liner.

Sift the flour, bread soda and spice into the soaked bowl of fruit and tea, add the egg and mix well.

Turn into the lined tin and bake for 1 hr to 1 hr and 10 minutes. 

Leave to cool in the tin for 30 minutes before turning out.

Keeps for 4 – 5 days in an airtight tin.






If You’re Afraid Of Butter Use Cream – Julia Child



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The first time I made butter it wasn’t deliberate but a lovely delicious kitchen disaster.  Overwhipped cream is in fact actual butter and incredibly easy to make.  At the time I was whipping almost 2 litres of cream at work and left the mixer on high-speed, as you do, forgetfully.  Straightaway it flashed through my mind to do a runner and high tail it home feigning sickness, but a lightbulb flickered in my brain (occasionally happens) and I remembered some old cookery programme somewhere in the far recesses of time about how to deal with these sorts of incidents. 

I had made butter!

And some buttermilk to boot too! 

Wasn’t I the clever Bridie!

Although I only had 5 seconds to savour smugness before the Boss Man seen it so I hid it in the dark depths of the fridge.  Custard was made instead and the cover – up story entailed crows pecking holes in the plastic cartons of cream left by the Milkman at the door at 5AM and because of health & safety, and it smelling a bit off and……etcetera……etcetera.  I’d just about sold the story but a look of doubt did sweep across his eyes for a second regarding oversized overfed crows the size of small dogs pecking through plastic.

‘But sure look at the size of those flying lads out there, don’t they look like they’re down the gym pumping iron and popping steroids?! ‘

Luckily he was too busy and stressed to have time to think and listen to my incessant nattering about monster crows – as I had hoped.

[Insert naff sayings here: Butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth.  He was butter in her hands]

 I did have to confess the next day though when I produced homemade butter and made a few scones with the resulting buttermilk.  After a brief scolding and a  ‘not bad I spose’ comment, I was off the hook. 

 So now I continue to make butter at home for special occasions, and for me there is a great sense of achievement and nostalgia about carrying on this ancient and dying craft even without using the butter churn as our Grandmothers and ancestors once did.

The lovely Imen over at I Married an Irish Farmer has easy step by step instructions with great photographs if you would like to try your hand at butter making for St Patrick’s Day. It’s creamy, preservative free and fresh tasting to have with your colcannon or champ mashed potatoes. Basic butter can be made using pasteurised or unpasteurised double cream which can be found in most supermarkets if you can’t source raw milk/cream as Imen has used.

Homemade Butter also makes a very impressive gift for someone made by your own fair dairy hands! 

You can find the simple recipe and instructions here..




Pomegranate & Walnut Circassian Chicken



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This is one of my favourite creamy sauces without actual cream and very quick to make.  Of middle eastern origin it’s flavoured with paprika and cayenne oil which gives it that pink decorative look and is a handy number when in a rush with hungry children and a dog barking at your ankles.  Zoos usually seem so calm and serene.

I’ve added pomegranate here which means it isn’t officially a traditional Circassian chicken dish, but pomegranate is widely used in the middle-east, and it does give it a little sour but rich twist to the sauce.  This sauce makes for a great chilled dip too.  You can poach a whole chicken if you like, or just use reheated leftovers with this.  A fresh spring salad on the side with steamed couscous and you’re done.

You Will Need –

(Serves 4 & a yorkshire terrier)

(No I don’t give Piddledy Pippa the dog chicken bones)

A whole pre-cooked hen or leftovers

8 oz shelled walnuts

2 oz breadcrumbs

1 oz butter

2 tbsp walnut oil

1 clove garlic

1 small onion finely chopped

300ml chicken stock approximately

2 tsp paprika

pinch cayenne pepper

salt and pepper

1 tbsp pomegranate molasses / sauce

Dried Pomegranate seeds

To Do –

Poach, roast or fry your chicken pieces or use leftovers.

Whizz walnuts with breadcrumbs and garlic in a food processor or grate and chop very finely.

Melt butter over a low heat and cook the finely chopped onion without browning for 5 – 8 minutes.

Add walnut, garlic and breadcrumb mix and fry for a minute or two with the onion.

Add 200ml of the chicken stock and heat over medium with pomegranate molasses / sauce.

Stir, season with salt and pepper and if still too thick add another 100 ml of stock.

Add chicken and heat for 10 minutes.  If sauce is still too thick add a little more stock.

To Make Oil –

Mix 2 tbsp walnut oil with paprika and cayenne

Strain through a sieve.

Plate up, drizzle with the oil and sprinkle with dried pomegranate seeds.





Food Art & Kitchen Inspiration



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I have been waiting patiently all winter to pull out the paintbrushes and re-paint certain rooms of the cottage which are badly in need of a loving spruce and bruce. The cuteness of those 3 eyed alien sketches by my darling children a couple of years ago on many walls is wearing thin, although I did take photos just in case an artistic scholarship award looms in their future.  Even if it is as a painter / decorater and they all follow their heart, of course they will shine. Mother’s prerogative.

I have of late been drawn toward certain decorating trends, namely – wallpaper.  Practically ‘wilting’ wallpaper is a big no no in this house for two reasons. I remember my poor DIY decorating mad Mother wallpapering our house repeatedly because of little fingers tearing strips from the edges of her perfectly aligned matching flowers. This is irresistible to a child. Picking the chips from the wood chipped wallpaper (which was all the rage in those ’old’ days to cover imperfections in the plasterwork) was my particular favourite boredom hobby as a kid. The other reason I procrastinate is fear.  Hanging wallpaper in this old cottage could result in a slow unravelling at the seams due to rising damp or another unforeseen costly reason which means I really want to bury my head in the sand. I have a love / hate relationship with these four walls of stone.

This brought me to thinking wouldn’t it be brilliant to have a virtual wallpaper for each room that you can change with the flick of a switch and mood?

I’ve long been a fan of Carl Warner who is an amazing artist and if in the future  technology develops or maybe already has, I would love virtual wallpaper of his work adorning the imperfect walls of my cottage kitchen. Complete inspiration for food and recipe development, even for the most discerning foodie. If you have never heard of him you’re in for a different diverse visual food treat. You can find Carl Werner here




Coconut Milk Crumpets



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This was my first time making crumpets, so I decided to experiment a little.  Risque Risky but successful. Sunday morning boredom was in full swing and as pancake day is around the corner, why not.  The reason I’d never made these is that they seemed time-consuming and faffy so I usually just buy my favourite brand and toast them, smothering with lashings of butter. Not again.  These are less bother to make than yeast bread. There’s no kneading involved, just make sure you have a couple of metal rings or scone cutters and the pan or griddle/skillet does the work.  They are delicious still warm from the pan with the hint of coconut, drizzling butter and sprinkling with sugar or honey, which melts and disappears into the holes.  A soft poached egg draping one of these is looking highly probable for supper later too.  With chestnut mushrooms and maybe coriander.  May as well go the whole hog and squeeze some lemon juice for the Sunday thrill.

Makes 10 – 12 depending on size of metal rings/scone cutters. If you havent any cutters, use well washed small tuna tins with lids removed from top and bottom – don’t cut your digits though.

Adapted from ‘Mums Know Best’ by The Hairy Bikers 

You Will Need –

350ml/12oz coconut milk

350g/12oz plain sifted flour

1 x 7g sachet fast-action dried yeast

1 tsp salt

1 tbsp caster sugar

1 level tsp bread soda

150ml/5¼fl oz warm water

Butter and sunflower oil

To Do –

Warm the milk gently with the sugar.

Sift the flour into a large bowl and stir in the yeast and salt.

Stir in the warmed coconut milk with sugar and beat with a spoon or beater for 2 minutes or until the batter is thick and elastic.

Cover the bowl with cling film and set aside in a warm place for an hour.

When the batter has risen, mix the bicarbonate of soda with the warm water, and beat the mixture into the batter for a minute. Rest in a warm place for a half hour.

Brush the metal rings and griddle or frying pan with a teaspoon of oil.

Put the pan with the metal rings ontu a low heat to warm for two minutes.

Half fill the metal rings and cook for 15 minutes, or until tiny bubbles have risen to the surface and burst and the batter looks dry on top.

Turn over with ring attached and pressing gently remove the metal rings and cook for another 15 minutes.



Darina Allen’s Tomato & Chilli Jam Salsa



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This was one of the more popular preserves I have sold at my little market stall.  It’s one of those condiments that brings sunshine to everything from what can be a boring sandwich to a basic tomato passata sauce.  Great too at sprucing up an enchilada or goats cheese salad or just simply with a mountain of tortilla chips like Mr VP and me in front of the TV coveting a small pot each.

Most salsas only last a couple of days in the refrigerator but this can be kept for months unopened or eaten within a few weeks after opening.  You may accidentally lose the lid of the jar leading to ‘waste not want not’  frugal thoughts and eat it all within the day, (ahem).  Be proud, as this is cost-conscious kitchen budgeting.  Dip it, spread it and try it on everything, even a fried egg as Darina suggests.  I have been known to eat it with a spoon straight from the jar when I’m waiting for dinner to cook, when I can’t get my hand any further into the bottom of the nutella jar that is.  

Also this isn’t a jelly so don’t expect a supermarket type jam with a ping-pong ball set.  It’s home-made without chemicals and is more of a salsa texture.  I sometimes use cherry tomatoes and up the chillies, use whatever chilli heat you’re comfortable with.  I treble the recipe below too, especially in summer, add another 30 minutes cooking time though.

Adapted from one of my main cookery bibles ‘Forgotten Skills of Cooking’ by the iconic  Darina Allen of Ballymaloe Cookery School in Cork.  My first ever cookbook as a teenager was her first publication ‘Simple & Delicious’.

You Will Need –

500g ripe tomatoes

2-4 red chillies

4 garlic cloves, peeled and finely

1 small red onion, peeled and halved

1″ or 1/2 thumb size fresh ginger, peeled

310g granulated sugar

100ml red wine vinegar

To Do –

Place the onion, garlic, ginger and chillies into a food processor or blender and blitz until fine.

Add rinsed halved tomatoes and blitz briefly until roughly half inch size.  Don’t terrorise into mush, you need texture.

Put all of this with the sugar and vinegar into a saucepan and bring to the boil, stirring every now and then.

Cook for forty minutes over a low to medium heat, stirring a few times.

Pour into sterilised jars, see here and seal tightly with the lid.


Sheelagh x.

I’m sending this over to Dom at Bellau Kitchen for Random Recipes

and also Vanilla Clouds and Lemon Drops for the Sweet Heat Challenge

Valentines Dark & White Chocolate Ganache Cake



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There was a birthday in the cottage this week, so the children’s choice as always is this Decadent Chocolate Cake.  I did suggest Nigel Slater’s Beetroot Chocolate Cake but little noses were pulled askew and jaws hit the floor, especially by my other half, the birthday boy.

“What! Those red things we grow in the garden?!”

Many concerned side glances were a given me throughout the day.

She needs to get out of the kitchen more, confiscate the cookbooks  aprons and check for fever.

I had an ulterior motive though, as I’ve been meaning to enter the We Should Cocoa challenge for ages.  The theme this month is savoury and hosted by the lovely Choclette over at the chocolicious Chocolate Log Blog.  Well there’s always next month even if I have to eat cake by myself – purely of course for quality control.

This is also the same recipe I used as the base tier for my sister’s wedding cake I made last year and has been requested by my lovely other sister who is recently engaged and getting married this summer! It’s a rich delicious cake and the ground almonds keep it moist and crumbly.  I covered it in white chocolate ganache, which is the same frosting Catherine Leyden uses in the recipe below, just substitute the plain dark chocolate for white chocolate and double the quantity. A perfect celebration cake for Valentine’s, birthdays or weddings.

Catherine Leyden at Odlums Decadent Chocolate Cake recipe you can find here..

At the suggestion of Brownieville Girl I’m sending this over to What Kate Baked who is co-host with Lavender and Lovage  for the monthly Tea-Time Treats Challenge.  Kate is hosting this month’s theme of Romance, well worth a look. 

Also sending it to Very Good Recipes for Be My Valentine Challenge too.

Sheelagh x.

Also got featured as this week’s Featured Food Blogger with BlogHer, which has a readership of 37 million. Thank you Genie.

Sea of Love – Dublin Bay Prawn & Mussel Bisque



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 This is sexy eating and drinking food.  Cutlery required or not, drinking mussels from their shells and eating prawns with your fingers by intimate candlelight can be very impressive as a starter for dinner for two.  With no fuss ingredients, be ready to roll with this starter as an appetizer.

As my very Irish lovable husband says-

 ‘there’s both eating and drinking in it’

Serves 2

You Will Need –

1 tblsp butter/ olive oil

2 smoked slices bacon or 50g lardons

1-2 scallions

small stick celery finely chopped

10-12 live mussels washed and de- bearded

12  Dublin Bay Prawns shelled & de-veined

1 medium potato

1 tsp dried /sprigs of dill

1 bay leaf

600 ml fish stock

1 small garlic clove crushed or finely chopped 

100 ml cream

sea-salt & white pepper

To Do –

Peel potato and chop with the bacon into cubes.  You could use lardons either, trim excess outer rind though. 

Wash and finely slice scallions.

Melt the butter or oil in a pot.  Add potatoes, bacon and celery and fry over medium heat for 5-8 minutes without colouring.

Wash the mussels thoroughly, scraping off the beards and rinse 4 or five times.  Throw out any open mussels.

If you are using shelled frozen prawns, defrost for an hour at room temperature before using.

 Add fish stock to the potatoes, bacon and celery with the mussels and prawns.  Break the bay leaf in half and add in with 3/4 of diced scallion.  Keep the rest for garnish.

Add the garlic.

Simmer for 8-10 minutes, check that the mussels are all open and add cream.

Simmer for another 2 minutes.

Season to taste with salt and pepper, remove bay leaf.

Add dill and chopped scallion to garnish.

Serve hot.


Sheelagh x.

Love Month – Rustic Mille-Feuille with Berries



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The classic french pastries and desserts should never be disgraced.  However my excuse for this ‘rustic’ – love that all-forgiving term, is having a campsite of tactile resistance forces advancing into my chest. Retreating to bed is never an option here (Mammy’s haven’t time to be sick) so I went to the medicine-man and got re-inforcement antibiotics.

I had intended to give this to my husband as a show of my affection and love,  but some anonymous Jane Doe nose-dived into it and demolished it without apology. She disappeared before I could get a description for the wanted poster over the doghouse door.

I have also heard this special treat comes highly recommended as a lovely light lunch for some ailments and poorly invalids.

You will Need –

 A selection of berries frozen or fresh 

1 puff pastry sheet

100 ml Double cream

2 oz white chocolate

1 oz dark chocolate

Icing sugar

Vanilla extract

1 beaten egg

Baking parchment/greaseproof paper

To Do – 

Pre-heat oven to 220°C. 

Lay out the pastry. With a love heart cookie cutter make three shapes, or use whichever shape cutter you prefer. 

Place the cut pastry shapes onto a flat baking tray lined with baking parchment or greaseproof paper.

Brush with beaten egg and bake for 10-15 minutes until nicely browned and risen. 

White Chocolate Cream 

100ml double cream 

2oz white chocolate, melted

1 tsp sifted icing sugar 

Whip the cream with the vanilla extract to soft peaks. 

Melt the white chocolate and when it has cooled, fold it into the cream with the sifted icing sugar. 

On a plate place one of the baked pastries and spread a quarter of the cream over it. Top with your choice of fruits and spread with another quarter of the cream.

Lay another pastry sheet on top and repeat the cream/fruit filling. Top with the final sheet of pastry and dust heavily with icing sugar.

Melt the dark chocolate and with a spoon drizzle, not blob as shown below, over the top pastry.

Again try to drizzle, not blob, as below, raspberry or strawberry coulis around the plate and serve!


Sheelagh x.



Erins Irish Fairy Cakes



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This is a recipe by my beautiful eldest daughter Erin who is fast becoming a talented baker.  She made these under the supervision of her beautiful little sister aged 6 1/2 years  (a.k.a – Lil Diva or she who must be obeyed) and the proceeding  kitchen frolics caused much mirth and giggles for the rest of us as we earwigged at the kitchen door. 

We did scatter like sheep when we heard little footsteps approaching though…

 “You’re doing it all wrong Erin!”

“That’s NOT how Mammy does it Erin!”

“I’m telling on you Erin!”

Note: Big sister is 22 yrs young.

This is an all in one method, which to sum up basically = throw (graciously) everything into a bowl, turn on the electric beater and bake.  That easy? Yes, and the result is a very light moist and crumbly little bun that stays fresh for longer. It’s also a great easy starter recipe for kids in the kitchen.

You will Need –

100g / 4oz caster sugar

100g / 4oz butter, softened

2 large eggs

100g / 4oz self-raising flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

15ml / 1tbsp milk

1/2 tsp vanilla extract (optional)

For the Buttercream Frosting

50g / 2oz butter or margarine softened

75g / 3oz sifted  icing sugar

A few drops of vanilla extract or essence of your choice

A few drops of food colouring of your choice

To Do –

Preheat the oven to 190°C. Line a muffin tray with 12 paper muffin cases.

Place the sugar, butter, eggs, flour, baking powder and milk in a large bowl and mix with an electric whisk until pale and creamy.

Divide the mixture between the muffin cases and bake for 15-20 mins until risen, golden and firm to the touch. Transfer to a cooling rack. Leave to cool.

To make the buttercream, place the butter in a bowl and sift over the icing sugar. Beat until smooth.  Add the vanilla extract or food colouring of your choice.

Smooth over the cold fairy cakes.


Sheelagh x.



Roast Swede & Parmesan Wedges



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The humble swede is one of my top ten vegetables.  The sweet golden core of this adaptable ingredient proves indispensable I find for frugal cooking.  These crunchy wedges are absolutely luscious and great as part of a diet or healthy eating plan. So you can feel a little smug if counting the calories or following a Weightwatchers  plan with the pro-points totalling a meagre 1/2 a point per portion or 105 calories approximately. If you are one of the struggling diet soldiers like myself who watch the very popular ‘Operation Transformation’ weight-loss programme on RTE, this is a simple guilt-free lunch or side-dish. Substitute the drizzle of olive oil for a low-fat option of a spray if you want to be extraordinarily healthy and holy.  Do be warned though, they are more-ish!

Serves 2

You will Need –

400g swede / turnip peeled and sliced into slim wedges

1 tbsp olive oil or low-fat spray of choice

1 tsp thyme dried or fresh

25g / 5 tbsp grated parmesan

pinch salt

Black pepper

Pre-heat the oven to 200C

To Do –

Toss the swede wedges in a bowl with the thyme, oil and half the parmesan.

Place on a roasting tray and bake for 35-40 minutes until flesh is just soft and the outside crispy and golden.

When cooked, sprinkle with the remaining parmesan and a good sprinkling of black pepper.


Sheelagh x.

Country Blood Orange Marmalade or Scooby-Doo Vampire Jam



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 My first escapade with marmalade making for my market stall I will unashamadly admit, was a complete disaster.  It took hours to make and prepare and the disappointment was mighty.  Jams and chutney aren’t too much of a challenge in this old cottage kitchen, so I was determined to conquer marmalade.  

My kids nicknamed this ‘Vampire Jam’ (currently in the phase of Scooby-Doo vampires and Indiana Jones). They usually won’t eat marmalade, but love this less bitter version, after picking out all the ‘asgusting’ rind that is.

Mammy’s Hi-Tech Lab

This was an experiment, bypassing all the faff and traditional preparation in marmalade making by just chucking the halved oranges into a food processor. It’s straightforward and a little bit sweeter than Seville Orange Marmalade, and if I can make it successfully, go out and buy a couple of blood oranges and give it a go.  The trick is to make small batches, as modern-day domestic cookers sometimes are unable to bring the temperature of a large quantity of liquid to the very high heat or rolling boil required for reduction or set, plus the added bonus is the quality of taste is so much better than large-scale production.

Hunting For Jars?

 As for a lack of jamjars, check your fridge or pantry for near-empty jars, whatever size.  If you can’t remember how long it’s been there, the chances are it has gone off.  Most jars once opened only last 4 weeks in the refrigerator.  Voila! You do have jars.  This recipe yields 1 litre, so thoroughly wash out whatever jars you’ve discovered, measure with water the amount each jar will hold to total 1 litre. 

 Blood oranges are nutritious, with their red pigment called anthocyanin (also found in other plants, flowers and fruits) which is an antioxidant that may diminish the risk of heart disease, some types of cancer, cholesterol accumulation, and cataracts, plus of course full of vitamin C.

You Will Need –

Yields 1 Litre

5 200ml jars or whatever size washed recycled  jars you have

 7 small blood oranges, weighing about 600g

juice of 1 lemon

1.5 litres water

1.1 kg granulated sugar

 To Do –

Wash oranges.

Peel rind of 3 of oranges, and chop very finely.

Cut oranges in half and whizz  in a food processor.

Squeeze juice over a sieve into a saucepan, keeping the pulp and seeds.

Pour in water and chopped rind.

Juice the lemon, saving seeds, and place in the pot with the sieved orange juice. Discard the rest.

Put the pulp and seeds of orange and lemon into a muslin cloth or clean new j-cloth tying tightly and securely. These pips and pith contain pectin, the setting agent.

Pop this into the pot. Do not add the sugar yet.

Boil over a medium heat for an hour or so until reduced by half. This reduction is important as you wont get a set.

Remove muslin bag, squeezing gently to extract any juice, and discard the pulp, the muslin can be washed and re-used however!

Put a saucer or plate into the refrigerator.

To Sterilise Jars see here..

Strain orange juice again through a sieve into a Pyrex jug  and measure until you have 800 ml.  If you have less, add some water, if not reduced enough put back into pan and boil again.

Turn heat down to simmer and add sugar.

Dissolve sugar slowly stirring for 5 minutes or so.

Turn up the heat to the highest and boil rapidly (rolling boil) for 10 minutes.

If you have a sugar thermometer, once it reaches 220C it’s ready


Test for set on plate – put a teaspoon on the plate from the refrigerator and leave for about 20 seconds.  Gently push the marmalade with a finger and if it wrinkles slightly it’s ready.

If not boil again for a few minutes.

Test again on the plate.

Let the marmalade sit in the pot for 20 minutes. This prevents the rind floating to the surface when potted.

Carefully using a ladle, pour into the sterilised jars filling to an inch below rim.

Wipe any spills with a damp clean cloth or kitchen paper around  the rim and jar and seal immediately with a lid.

This jam will keep unopened in a cool dark place for a year.  Once opened, refrigerate and use within 4 – 6 weeks.


Sheelagh x.

I’m sending this over to Ren at Fabulicious Food for Simple and in Season


Much Ado about Gnocchi



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The first time I tried Gnocchi my teeth were pasted together for the rest of the day.  Gruesome balls of inedible stodgy dough.  This resulted in me ignoring these little dumplings for way too long, until lately. 

 At my newest, latest favourite Italian restaurant, I wasn’t hungry (thus is a rarity, believe me), so I took the plunge and ordered gnocchi with a wild mushroom and pine nut butter. Divine.  Even though they were ultra light and more-ish, I could only consume six of the beauties.  This I blame on  lightheadedness from lack of oxygen due to my rib crushing spanx.  

Note to self: Light the sitting room stove tonight with said spanx.

So gnocchi were the next big challenge. 

 Apart from 6 baskets of patient laundry.


…..and a dog bath

Photography & dog bathing simultaneously is a skill I have yet to master…

So, what was this gnocchi secret? 

A potato ricer. Or if you haven’t got one, like me, just mash the potatoes, being careful not to overwork and create a starchy mix.  I used leftover leek mash without butter or milk to make mine, but bake or boil fresh potatoes either.

These little potato dumplings are not far removed from potato cakes, so if you have ventured in making the latter, you will be surprised how easy gnocchi is.  Just be ready with lots of flour to prevent sticking and you can freeze any excess for a fast last-minute dinner.

You Will Need –

3 medium potatoes, boiled or baked with skin peeled

2 cups self-raising flour

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp white pepper

1 egg

1/2 tsp grated nutmeg

To Do –

Boil the potatoes, or bake and remove skin.  Leave to go cold.

Put them through a potato ricer or just mash by hand, being careful not to overwork. Make sure it is lump and bump free though.

By hand or with the paddle attachment of a food processor beat the potatoes lightly for a few minutes with the other ingredients adding the flour in 4 stages.  Mix well.  If the potatoes are still too wet add 1 tbsp flour and mix again.

On a floured surface place the dough making a couple of fist sized balls.

Gently roll out into an oblong shape.

Cut the strip into 1/4″ little dumplings.

Sprinkle with flour and lay them flat so they don’t stick together.

Refrigerate for a half hour if you have time.

Don’t get over excited yet, you still have to cook them!

Bring to the boil a large pot of water.

Cook the gnocchi 20 at a time.

When the first one or two dumplings float take them all out with a slotted spoon.

Melt 50g of butter with a teaspoon of olive oil and 1 clove of finely chopped garlic or dried wild garlic in a pan over a low to medium heat.  Cook for two minutes.  Don’t let the butter burn.

Add 1/4 tsp chilli flakes and a squeeze of lemon juice.

Drizzle this over the gnocchi with freshly milled black pepper and parmesan.



Sheelagh x

I’m sending this to Helen at Fuss Free Flavours for Frugal Food Fridays





Four Cheese Macaroni for Grown-Ups



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This is express sofa food.  The versatility of Mac ‘n Cheese makes it a midweek lifesaver after a busy day, using whatever favourite cheeses you have lurking in the fridge.  Also the frugality of it’s ingredients a winner when pursestrings are stretched or you haven’t had time to shop.  This is a part-steal adaptation from ‘Nigella Express’ and an entry to Forever Nigella, using evaporated milk instead of the laborious task of making a bechamel cheese sauce and I’ve added flaked almonds which gives the dish bite and texture.  I’ve often made this the night before, refrigerating, and then baked it the following day.  Feel free to substitute the cheeses to suit whatever you have.  Real fast food.

Serves  4

You will Need –

250g dried macaroni

410g tin evaporated milk

100g cheddar cheese, grated

50g camembert, rind removed

50g parmesan, grated

50g Blue cheese

2 eggs

250ml / 1 cup milk

1 tsp Djon mustard

2 tbsp flaked almonds

Half a nutmeg grated

salt and white pepper

To Do –

Pre-heat the oven to 220C.

Cook the macaroni according to the packet instructions.

In a food processor, or in a large bowl place all of the other ingredients and mix or whizz for a minute.

When the macaroni is cooked and drained, pour this cheese sauce over and mix well.

Put this into a baking dish sprinkling with flaked almonds and bake for about 10-15 minutes.



Elizabeth Davids Tarragon Roast Chicken



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Today is one of those days that I want to bung something in the oven for dinner and forget about it while I get on with boring house chores.  I want convenience but not something from a packaged box in the freezer.  So what can be more convenient or finger licking, lip smacking good than a simple roast chicken?  I enlisted the assistance of my baby girl for this ( a.k.a Lil Diva – or she who must be obeyed) to keep her busy for a while and break up WW3 in the playroom.  My 7yr old Lil Man was exhausted being chased around, threatened with lipstick.

Elizabeth David doesn’t mess around.  And I’m not in the mood for a recipe that messes me around.  I would never mess around with an Elizabeth David recipe.  So I’m not going to mess you around.  If there was a statue of Elizabeth David I think I would have it on my kitchen windowsill, much like old-fashioned Irish housewives have the ‘Child of Prague’  statue with a penny underneath.  I would put a pinch of herbs under mine.  This is from ‘At Elizabeth David’s Table’.  Highly recommended.

You will Need –

A 1 kg plump Roasting Chicken

30g /1oz butter

1 tbsp dried tarragon

half clove chopped garlic

pinch salt & pepper

olive oil

To Do –

Pre-heat the oven to 200C.

With a fork mix the butter with the tarragon, garlic and salt and pepper. It’s easier to mix if the butter is at room temperature.

Place this inside the bird, or if you didn’t read the instructions right like me, and through force of habit, put it under the skin of the breast.

Actually makes the bird extra buttery and tender.

Drizzle a little olive oil over the chicken and sprinkle with some salt.

Put into the oven on its side for 45 minutes, turning over at half-time.

Why on its side like a baby Mammy?  I honestly don’t know.  But as above I don’t mess with Elizabeth David.

Check it’s cooked as ovens vary.

Serve with yummy crunchy roast potatoes.


Sheelagh x

I’m sending this over to Ren at Fabulicious Food for Family Friendly Fridays


Beef & Beamish Stout Pie



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Even after the excess of chocolate and hearty food during the  holidays, there is nothing more comforting than an old-fashioned home-made pie on a blue January grey cloudy day. 

This pie I have forgotten to make frequently as I tend to get stuck in a rut with weekly recipes at times, as most of us probably do.  It is quintessentially Irish with the use of Stout, in this case Beamish which has been brewed in beautiful Cork for over 200 years.  Guinness can be used of course either, as Beamish I have heard can be sometimes difficult to source outside Ireland, but I personally find it a little smoother and less bitter in flavour for this recipe. No apologies die-hard Guinness fans! I’ve also added a little horseradish which isn’t traditional but lifts the sauce very gently with a little heat and marries happily with beef.  Serve it either as a delicious casserole with well buttered mashed potatoes as an alternative if you haven’t puff pastry, and feel life is too short to spend hours hand making it.  Shortcrust pastry would also be suitable and can be used to line the inside of the pie dish aswell. Puff pastry tends to be soggy if used as a filling pie base. Make in individual pie dishes or a large family pie dish, served with a dollop of buttery mashed potatoes if bear hug comfort food is lovingly required…x.

For 4 Greedy Pies

You will Need –

800g shin beef or chuck steak, diced

1 large white onion,  finely sliced

400g field / chestnut mushrooms, wiped & quartered

3 sticks celery, trimmed & washed

500ml Beamish

200ml beef stock

Vegetable / rapeseed oil

1 tbsp butter

4 tbsp white flour

1 tbsp tomato puree

1 tbsp horseradish sauce or 11/2 tsp fresh grated

1 tsp apple sauce / granulated sugar

seasalt & white & black pepper

3 sprigs thyme / 2 tsp dried

small handful parsley / 2 tsp dried

1 small sprig rosemary / 1 tsp dried

Ready-made bought Puff Pastry

1 egg

To Do –

Heat a tablespoon of oil in an ovenproof casserole dish over a medium to high heat on the hob.

Pre-heat the oven to 220C

Put the flour into a bowl and season lightly with salt and white pepper.  Toss the diced beef in the flour shaking off any excess and placing aside.

Brown the floured beef in the oil in batches, not overcrowding the pot as the meat will stew instead.  Place batches aside in a seperate dish when browned.

When finished browning all the beef, add another tablespoon of oil to the dish or pot and add the sliced onions and mushrooms with a 1/4 tsp of salt. Don’t be aghast at the possible charred remnants on the base of the casserole dish, this is all flavour! Cook, stirring for 2- 3 minutes.

Return the browned beef to the onions and mushrooms and stir.

Add the Beamish or Guinness if using, beef stock, celery sticks and the rest of the ingredients except the pastry and egg.

Stir well adding a 1/4 tsp of black pepper and cover with a lid.

Place in the oven and reduce temperature to 190C straightaway.  Cook for 1 hour and remove to check if the beef is tender.  If not, return to the oven for another 1/2 hour.

Remove from the oven, check the seasoning and adjust.  If the sauce is too thin, as ovens vary, place the dish on the hob over a high heat removing the beef and mushrooms and reduce for 5 minutes or so until thick.  Return the meat and mushrooms to the sauce and stir.  Discard the celery sticks.

Turn up the oven again to 220C.

Place the delicious rich casserole evenly into individual pie dishes or one large family dish leaving about an inch or so space at the top.

Rub the rim lightly with a little butter or oil and unroll the ready made pastry.

Dust the counter or board lightly with flour and cut out the pastry lid to fit your dish, slightly overlapping at the edges.

Push down the pastry gently around the rim of the pie dish. Pinch up the edges of the pastry with a finger and thumb.

Crack the egg and lightly whip with a fork in a small dish.  Brush the beaten egg over the pastry and bake for 10- 15 minutes. 


Sheelagh x







The First Wedding Cake – Carrot & Pineapple



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Decadent Chocolate, Carrot & Pineapple & Orange Blossom Madeira Cakes

So after a long sabbatical I’m cruising the village highway again in trepidation and with an armload of scribbled recipes.  Apart from trying to remember how to work this blogging machine, I am unarmed without many pictures of this, my very  first Wedding Cake. 

My lovely sister, Fiona asked me to make her Wedding Cake in April of this year and of course I was delighted to accept.  What followed in the next few months were many roadtested recipes and disastors.  The last few weeks before the wedding in October of this year were eventful, involving mini meltdowns, and I’m not referring to the frosting or sugar paste!  As it was my first time really working with fondant, I kicked myself for not paying attention in pastry class many years ago. 

As for the final decision on the cakes, Fiona and Finbar wanted Decadent Chocoate cake for the base, Carrot and Pineapple for the midddle tier and Orange Blossom Water Madeira cake for the top tier. 

This carrot cake recipe is a great alternative to a Christmas cake and non-greasy which was a problem for me roadtesting recipes, as many were too heavy on the oil.


Carrot Pineapple & Coconut Celebration Cake

You will need

8″ cheesecake or round cake tin

 ½ cups castor sugar

 ½ cup dark brown sugar

2 cups plain white flour

½ nutmeg clove grated

 2 tsp mixed spice

 1 tsp cinnamon

 1 ½ baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

 1 teaspoon baking soda

 3 eggs

 1 1/2 cups vegetable oil

2 cups finely grated carrots (about 3 to 4 medium carrots)

 1 can of  340g well drained  pineapple pieces

½ cup shredded dried coconut

½ cup ground almonds

 1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1 tsp rum essence

 1 tsp orange essence or orange blossom water

To Do

In a mixing bowl, combine dry ingredients and stir to blend.

Lightly whip the eggs and add along with the oil, shredded carrots, and essences.

Beat until well blended.

Drain the tinned pineapple and using your hands squeeze as much juice from the segments before whizzing in a food processor.  Add this pureed exotica along with the dried coconut and walnuts.

Line the base of a cheesecake tin, or a size 8 inch round tin and grease the sides well with margarine.

Pour the batter into the tin spreading evenly and bake for approximately 1 1/2 hours at 180C.

Cool in the tin for 30 minutes before turning out ontu a wired rack to finish cooling completely before decorating as you desire with either your favourite cheese frosting or sugar paste (roll out fondant icing).


Sheelagh x