Chocolate Berry Pavlova

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When you have had a bad day there is nothing like a slice of my friend Caroline’s yummy chocolate Pavlova to cheer you up. This uses the same method as a regular pavlova but with the addition of cocoa powder instead of cornflour. Make sure you beat the sugar into the egg whites well as failure to do so will cause your pavlova to leak sugar syrup when it is cooking. Enjoy!

For the meringue

6 egg whites

300 grams caster sugar

3 tablespoons cocoa powder (sieved)

1 teaspoon cider vinegar

 

For the topping

500 millilitres double cream

500 grams raspberries/ blueberries/strawberries

3 tablespoons dark chocolate (coarsely grated)or icing sugar

 

Method

Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4/350ºF and line a baking tray with baking parchment.

Beat the egg whites until stiff and you can hold them over your head and then beat in the sugar a spoonful at a time until the meringue is stiff and glossy. Sprinkle over the cocoa and vinegar.

Then gently fold everything until the cocoa is thoroughly mixed in. Mound on to a baking sheet in a fat circle approximately 23cm / 9 inches in diameter, smoothing the sides and top. Place in the oven, then immediately turn the temperature down to 150°C/gas mark 2/300ºF and cook for about one to one and a quarter hours. When it’s ready it should look crisp around the edges and on the sides and be dry on top, but when you prod the centre you should feel the promise of squidginess beneath your fingers. Turn off the oven and open the door slightly, and let the chocolate meringue disc cool completely.

When you’re ready to serve, slide on to a big, flat-bottomed plate. Whisk the cream till thick but still soft and pile it on top of the meringue, then scatter over the berries. Coarsely grate the chocolate so that you get curls rather than rubble and sprinkle  on top. Alternatively dust with icing sugar.

Adapted from Nigella Lawson’s Chocolate Raspberry Pavlova

Practical ideas for lunches that really work!

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Today I was featured in The Independent supplement Mother and Baby

http://www.independent.ie/life/family/mothers-babies/think-outside-the-lunchbox-35016666.html

This is the unedited version:
I am an English teacher so the whole lunch box blog is like a school project complicated by the fact I had 3 fussy eaters aged 11, 9 and 6 who weren’t afraid to complain! Also our school is nut free which is probably becoming the norm now.

Tips to make lunches simple:
If you are a successful with school lunches you should want to eat them yourself.

Buy a snazzy lunch box we have Bento boxes with lots of different little boxes I them with lids and come with a proper spoon and fork and allow you to add a napkin too for sticky fingers.

I think it’s all about the planning. I usually have batches of muffins in the freezer, at least two flavours as one kid won’t eat banana and the other won’t eat lemon! There are recipes for banana or fruit ones on my blog which I alternate during the week as our dessert element. I know it gets eaten first though! We experiment with flavours and vote if they are lunch box worthy. For example everyone hates courgettes in my house but will happily eat zucchini and orange muffins or zucchini and chocolate cake. These can be popped into the lunch box in the morning and are ready to eat by small break if not sooner.

I also have different breads in the freezer such as brioche or homemade rolls. We don’t make sandwiches each day as mine won’t eat them, instead I deconstruct them. So a roll with cherry tomatoes and mozzarella balls on the side is really a cheese and tomato sandwich in disguise! Also I have one daughter who will eat brown soda bread but hates it if I sandwich it together with butter as when she opened it all of the butter was on one side. So now I put a little pat of butter or jam into the mini bento box and a kiddie knife and she butters it in school.
Lots of articles suggest cutting sandwiches into different shapes realistically who has time for that? By using different breads you recreate the mundane.

We also use leftovers input lunch box. Cold pasta with pesto or parmesan cheese becomes a salad item! Chicken goujons or pizza also goes in there too, much to the envy of school friends surprisingly.

Variety

I believe variety is important. I want to raise kids who will enjoy food and will experiment with flavours as they get older. For example while on holiday in France we had foie the porc for lunch, pâté to you and I, all three tried it and Aoife liked it. She suggested that we could put it in the lunch boxes with some crackers!  If they have the same lunch each day they

Pavlova

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 If you are entertaining or visiting and have offered to do dessert there is nothing easier than a Pavlova. The simple rule of thumb is the double the amount of sugar to eggs for example: 6 egg whites and 12 ounces of sugar. The dessert was created in honour of the Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova either during or after one of her tours of New Zealand in the 1920s. Make this dessert even easier by using the bottled egg white and save yourself having to think of what to do with the leftover yolks! This dessert contains no flour and so is gluten free!

225 millilitres egg whites approximately 6 eggs

330 grams /12 ounces 1 ½ cups caster sugar

1 teaspoon cider vinegar

1 teaspoon cornflour

To serve

500 millilitres fresh cream lightly whipped

Fruit of your choice, I used raspberries,blueberries and strawberries

Icing sugar to dredge

Preheat the oven to 150C/ 300F

Place the egg whites in a spotlessly clean bowl and whisk on high speed until stiff. Test by tipping the bowl upside down, the egg whites shouldn’t fall out!

Gradually add the sugar one tablespoon at a time waiting about 30 seconds between each addition. Once all the sugar has been added, scrape down the bowl and add the vinegar and cornflour. Whisk for a further 5 minutes until the mixture is stiff and glossy. If you don’t whisk in the sugar fully your pavlova will ooze a sticky sugar syrup while it is cooking making it impossible to remove from the parchment paper.

Pile spoonfuls of the mixture onto a baking tray lined with parchment paper and using a spoon shape to form a 20 centimeter mound with a dip in the centre to hold the fruit and cream once cooked.

Reduce the oven temperature to 120C/ 250F and bake for 90 minutes or until dry and crisp to the touch. Turn the oven off and allow the pavlova to cool completely in the oven.

Decorate with cream and fruit and dust with icing sugar and serve at once!

Strawberry Cheesecake

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I am a big fan of cheesecake especially baked, but my friend Sam served this recipe at her son’s communion recently and I was very impressed. She did a blueberry version but I have tweaked it because strawberry season is upon us and it works very well with her basic recipe. This can be made on the same day without having to chill it overnight as you would for baked cheesecakes. Thank you Sam!

Ingredients

280 grams/ 10 ounces digestive biscuits crushed

140 grams / 5 ounces butter melted

450 grams /1 lb cream cheese

140grams / 5 ounces caster sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Grated rind and juice of one lemon

440 millilitres cream whipped

200 gram strawberries hulled and chopped

To decorate

400 grams strawberries hulled and chopped

Juice of half lemon

2 tablespoons icing sugar sifted

 

Method

Melt the butter and stir in the crushed biscuits. Press the mixture into the base of an 8 inch spring form tin which you have greased with spray oil or butter. Place in the fridge to set. My friend Sandra told me if you turn the base of the tin upside down it’s much easier to slide the finished cheesecake onto a serving plate. Believe me it works every time! Make your base gluten free by using s GF digestive biscuit as your base you wouldn’t even know the difference!

Whip the cream and set aside

Mix the cream cheese with the sugar, lemon rind and juice in the bowl of your mixer and fold in the whipped cream with the mixer on a slow speed. Fold in the strawberries by hand and spoon the mixture into your prepared tin. Chill for at least three hours or overnight.

When set remove from the fridge and place 200 grams strawberries on top. Blitz the remaining 200 grams strawberries to a smooth sauce in your blender and stir in the lemon juice and icing sugar. Don’t be tempted not to sift the icing sugar as it will clump when it hits the blitzed berries and you will end up with a lumpy sauce. You can serve the sauce on the side or pour it over the top of the berries, but I found that the sauce dripped down the side of the cheesecake onto the plate and beyond! So now I drizzle it on a slice of cheesecake just before serving! Enjoy!

Chocolate and Zucchini Cake

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The only vegetables my youngest Seán will eat are carrots, so in an attempt to introduce him to other veggies I happened across this recipe with the secret ingredient of zucchini or courgettes as they are known here in Ireland. He is not quite sure what zucchinis are but he knows he doesn’t like courgettes! We call it Maedbh’s Chocolate Cake as my daughter was my co conspirator and helped me bake this. We served it warm with vanilla ice cream and it was a big hit. Seán had two helpings! It even qualifies for the lunchbox, who can argue with the zucchini ingredient!

115 grams/ ½ cup butter

240 grams/ 2 cups plain flour

60 grams/ ½ cup cocoa powder

1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda/ baking soda

½ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

180 grams/ 1 cup light brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon coffee granules reconstituted in 2 tablespoons boiling water

3 large eggs

350 grams/2 cups unpeeled grated zucchini

160 grams bittersweet chocolate

 

Preheat oven to 180C/ 350F

Grease and line 20cm springform tin

In a medium bowl, measure out the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt and mix with a hand whisk to combine.

In another bowl combine the zucchini, chocolate chips and about one third of the flour mixture making sure the zucchini strands are well coated and not clumping too much.

In the bowl of your mixer, cream the sugar and butter until fluffy. Then, add the eggs, vanilla and coffee mixing well.

Add your flour mixture and mix. The batter will be thick. Then, add the zucchini mixture and with the mixer on a slow speed combine all the ingredients together.

Pour into the cake tin and level the surface.

Bake for 50 minutes until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out cleanly. Allow to cool for 10 minutes in the tin before unclasping the sides of the tin and allowing to cool fully. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Make this cake gluten free by substituting the flour and baking powder with a GF variety. I like Dove’s Farm brand. Remember to include ¼ teaspoon of Xanthan

Adapted from the blog Chocolate and Zucchini

Homemade Blueberry Muffins

 

IMG_4098[1]My youngest, Seán is five and won’t eat blueberries but loves these muffins! These are so easy to make and are ideal for your child’s lunch box or even for a breakfast treat if you have a fussy eater! You can of course substitute the blueberries for your favourite berry or even use a combination of berries. These are also very tasty when made with frozen berries!

312 grams /2 ½ cups plain flour (all purpose)

1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

150 grams / ¾ cup granulated sugar

113 grams/ 1 stick/ ½ cup butter

1 large egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

250 millilitres / 1 cup buttermilk

150 grams /1½ cups fresh or frozen blueberries plus  25grams / ¼ cup to press on top

 

Method

Preheat oven to 180C/ 350F

Grease your muffin tin using non stick cooking spray or use muffin cases.

In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, vanilla and butter milk and mix until combined. Don’t worry if it looks lumpy.

Add the flour mixture and mix until combined, the batter will be thick

Gently fold in blueberries. Note that frozen blueberries will make the batter even stiffer as it brings down the temperature of it. It will also take about 6 minutes longer to cook but the results are just as good.

Scoop the batter into your muffin tin using an ice-cream scoop to evenly distribute the batter. Press 2 or 3 or the remaining blueberries onto the top of each muffin and cook for 20 minutes.

Make these gluten free by substituting the flour and baking powder with a GF variety. I like Dove’s Farm brand. Remember to include ¼ teaspoon of Xanthum gum.

 

If using fresh blueberries cook for approx 20 minutes

If using frozen blueberries cook for approx 26 minutes

 

Eve’s Pudding

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This is sometimes called Apple Sponge here in Ireland but the correct name is actually Eve’s Pudding because of the Garden of Eden and the stolen apple. Eve obviously went home and made this for tea! A special thanks to my friend Zita who shared her recipe with me.

188 grams butter at room temperature

188 grams sugar

188 grams Flour

½ teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 tablespoon milk if mixture is too dry

3 eggs beaten

675 grams approx 3 – 4 brambly apples peeled cored sliced and stewed

2 tablespoons water

Sugar to sweeten

 

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F

Place the apples and water in a small saucepan on a low heat. With the lid on, cook for about 10 minutes, stirring every now and then, until the apples are soft. Alternatively, cook in microwave for 5- 7 minutes. Bramley apple are sour so make sure you sweeten them to taste. Allow to cool

Grease a casserole dish with spray oil or butter and place the cooled apples in the bottom.

Using the creaming method; in a bowl beat the butter and sugar until creamy, and then add the eggs and vanilla. Gradually fold in the flour. Add a tablespoon of milk if batter is too stiff to spread

Alternatively, use the all in one method: Place all your ingredients with the exception of the milk into the bowl and mix to a smooth batter. If your mixture is too dry, add the milk.

Spoon the batter on top of the apples and level it out with a spatula.

Cook for 40 -50 minutes until a skewer inserted comes out cleanly. Serve with ice-cream, cream or custard. Enjoy!