August 31, 2012

Chocolate Bark

Hey, you know that sugar hit you crave just after lunch? After eating a little bowl of pastasoup or a sandwich, you just need a little sweet hit to finish lunch off. 

I've got you sorted. Look no further. This chocolate bark it just the thing you need. It is small and (sort of) healthy. People say you should eat dark chocolate, riiiight? Swap the milk chocolate I have in the recipe, for dark chocolate and magic you have a healthy snack! With the dried fruits and nuts on top you're, getting some antioxidants and fibre.  I'm so good t reasoning! 

Am I saying this is going to be my new 'healthy snack'...maybe!

I didn't make mine with dark chocolate for two reasons, I prefer eating milk chocolate and I had milk chocolate at home. Legit reasoning. The milk chocolate looks like a bejewelled necklace-with scarlet cranberries, bright orange apricots and eye catching pistachio green. 

This chocolate bark was inspired by The Barefoot Contessa, Ina Garten. I just love her. She is so fabulous. Everything she cooks looks yum, her house is amazing. Her cooking utensils and equipment always look brand new, her friends are fabulous and her husband, Jeffrey, is like the cutest man going. 

Imagine this wrapped in a little piece of parchment with your lunch in the office/school or college. You will be willing the clock to strike 12 for lunch! 



PS- In this recipe to melt the chocolate I tempered it with the quick tempering technique.  This couldn't be easier! The method is in the recipe below! 

Choose your dried fruits and nuts. I'm using dried apricots, cranberries and unsalted pistachios.

Since the pistachios and cranberries are small, leave 'em whole but slice up the apricot into strips. They'll look much prettier and be easier to eat!

We're going to be tempering our the microwave!! Fear not, it is so simple! 

Tempering chocolate gives it a lovely sheen and snap when it's broken. 

Once melted and tempered, pour onto the parchment and using a palette knife to spread it out.

Spread it out nice and evenly. Don't make it too thin about 5x12 inches.

Sprinkle over the cranberries...

...followed by the sliced apricots...

...and lastly the pistachios.

Don't overfill it. Make sure all the fruits and nuts touch the chocolate so that they stick and don't fall off once you cut it!

Allow to set before breaking/cutting into pieces.

Recipe, makes 10-12 pieces.

200g Milk Chocolate, good quality with 30-55% cocoa solids or dark/white
Handful Dried Cranberries
Handful Unsalted Pistachios, shelled
Small Handful Dried Apricot, cut lengthways

Line a baking sheet with a rectangular strip of parchment. 
Chop the chocolate into the size of small chunks. 
Place 3/4 of it in a glass bowl and place in the microwave.
Melt on 30 second blast until melted. Stir after each 30 seconds.
Once melted stir in the remaining 1/4. 
(This is quick tempering. By adding the remaining 1/4 of chocolate you reduce the temperature of the chocolate which gives it  its shine and snap.)
Once melted pour onto the parchment and with a palette knife spread out the chocolate into a long rectangular shape about 5x12 inches. See picture.
Sprinkle over the cranberries, followed by the apricots followed by the pistachios-make sure the fruit and nuts touch the chocolate so that when it sets the fruits and nuts don't fall off.
Place in the fridge to set-about 1hour.
Remove from fridge and break into pieces that resemble the shape of bark.

August 27, 2012

Bacon Breakfast Hash

I've watched a helluva lot of Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives. I always watch it at night and end up going to bed absolutely starving. Well, not starving but extremely hungry. Hungry for gut-bursting food. The host, Guy Fieri, goes from restaurant to restaurant devouring cheesy, unctuous looking food. Not ideal before bed television viewing. 

A dish that pops up nearly every episode, is corn-beef hash. My brother, Sam, has been requesting I make this for months. I finally got around to it. I like to take my time doing things! Poor Sam, he didn't even get to taste it properly-he went rugby training and only got a mouthful before he left. He'll have to wait another few months before I make it again!

For most families, this week is back to school/work week-eww. I have another month or so before I go back to college. The weather this week-so far- has been shocking (good ole Ireland). 

I would like to think that this Bacon Breakfast Hash is a light at the end of your tunnel. Even if you've been back to work for a while or don't work,  this still is a glowing light in your very near future. 

It is simply beautiful. The mixture of salty bacon, crispy potatoes, sweet onions and creamy gooey fried eggs should give you a spring in your step. 

I see a lazy Saturday morning, some light slicing and dicing, friends or family, a pot of freshly brewed coffee and the weekend papers. Thank me later!


Holly x

I'm just going to draw attention to the bacon lardons. Bite size pieces of bacon. MMM, bacon.

 Dice the potatoes into 1/2 inch cubes.

Cook the bacon until crispy and delicious, drain on kitchen paper.

Add the potatoes to the bacon fat and cook. Having food envy??!

Half cook the potatoes, then add the onions, followed by the garlic. The bacon flavour is going to be in EVERY bite!

Recipe, Serves 3 for Breakfast

200g Bacon Lardons, unsmoked
3-5 Medium Potatoes
1 Medium White Onion, sliced in half moons
1 Glove Garlic
3 Spring Onions, sliced
3 Eggs
Salt and Freshly Cracked Black Pepper
Olive Oil

Heat a little olive oil in a pan.
Add the lardons and cook until golden and crispy.
In the meantime, cut the potatoes into 1/2 inch cubes-don't bother peeling them.
Once the lardons are cooked, remove from the oil and drain them on kitchen paper.
Add a little extra olive oil and add the potatoes. 
Fry the potatoes in the 'bacony' oil until crispy and cooked through-Stir regularly.
Half way through the cooking add the sliced onion.
When the potatoes are cooked, add the crushed garlic and cook for 1 minute. 
Make three pockets in the potatoes.
Break an egg into each pocket and fry the eggs to your liking.
Serve in the skillet (pan) sprinkled with sliced spring onions.

August 24, 2012

Italian Chicken Burger

I sometimes feel sorry for chicken. It can get a really bad rap. The whole salmonella thing freaks people out. (Of course it does Holly, its salmonella!). I've eaten chicken in all forms- slightly undercooked, perfectly cooked and so overcooked that you could throw it against a wall and it would bounce back at you! Believe it our not, I'm going to state the obvious here, be prepared-when chicken is cooked perfectly, it is one of the nicest things going.   

It has got to be shown some love. Don't just bung some chicken breasts in the oven and forget about them for 2 hours! Realistically, a chicken breast will cook in 15-25 minutes. Chicken is one of those go- to meats,  because it cooks so quickly. Honestly though, it can get so boring.

I opened the fridge the other day and saw a whole chicken there,  'uggh, not again'. It was a lovely day outside, and the idea of whle roast chicken just wasn't doing it for me. So, I decided to make chicken burgers. Ok, I dissected the chicken into 8 pieces and from those 8 pieces I removed all the meat and blitzed it. OH DON'T GO-PLEASE! I'm not suggesting you do the same. Buy minced chicken from your butcher. I defo will next time!

And yes, there will be a next time for these burgers. They are beautiful. I feel the love for chicken again! They are incredibly juicy and packed full of flavour. Chicken takes on flavour really well because it is quite bland. Sautéing the red onion, pepper and garlic gives them a lovely sweet flavour and means you won't be biting into a raw piece of onion. These burgers have great texture. The soft chicken mixed with the chunks of vegetables makes  a party in your mouth. Speaking technically,  chop the onion and peppers into a 1/4 inch dice-so that they're not too small or too big. The parmesan adds a lovely cheesy saltiness. A delicate, refreshing almost ladylike air comes from the basil and lemon zest. Be sure to season the burgers really well. Salt and pepper, people, salt and pepper!

All I'm saying is that chicken-you can be the King/Queen of boring meats!


Holly x

Italian flavours: parmesan, basil and garlic.

Gently sauté the vegetables and allow them to cool before adding them to the minced chicken.

Once the onion mix is cooled-add to the minced chicken along with the basil, egg, parmesan and lemon zest.

Shape into 5 balls, lay on a baking sheet and flatten slightly to give a burger shape.

A little bit of pan frying before the burgers go into the oven gives them a lovely golden crust. Completely up to yourself. They'll still taste amazing if you just bake them!

Recipe, Makes 5 burgers

650g Minced Chicken
1 Red Onion
1 Red Pepper
1 Garlic Clove
Bunch Basil
50g Grated Parmesan
Grated Zest 1 lemon
1 Egg
Salt and Pepper
Olive Oil

Preheat oven to 200°C.
Chop the onion and pepper into a rough dice. 
Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a saucepan.
Add the onion, pepper, salt and pepper and gently sauté until the vegetables are slightly softened-about 5 minutes.
Grate the garlic over the onions and peppers and cook for 1 minute.
Turn off the heat and pour the onion mix onto a plate in an even layer so that it cools down. 
In the meantime, grate the zest from the lemon, grate the parmesan cheese and chop the basil.
Chop the basil by laying the leaves on top of each other, rolling them up and slicing through. This can be seen here.
Place the minced chicken in a bowl along with the cooled onion mixture, grated parmesan, chopped basil, lemon zest and egg. 
Mix everything really well.
Divide into 5 burgers, moulding them into balls and flattening them out slightly.
Lay them onto a baking sheet and bake at 200°C for 20-30 minutes. 
Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a frying pan, lay the burgers in and fry for 1-2 minutes on each side, before placing on a baking sheet and baking for 20-30 minutes. This gives them a lovely crisp golden crust.
The burgers should feel firm when touched. Cut in half to see if they're cooked if you're not sure. 

Burger Building Necessities

Burger Buns
Sliced Onion
Sliced Tomatoe

August 21, 2012

Fudgy Avocado Brownies

Before you jump to conclusions. Give me a minute to explain. You trust me, don't you? You know I would never fool you. 

What we have here is avocado and chocolate. Together. In a brownie. Two things that shouldn't go together but ohmygod they treat each other so nicely. Once you try these brownies, you will understand. 

I love avocado. I used to absolutely hate it (so dumb). Now I think a world without it would be a terrible place. I could easily be best friends with avocado. So, you must see that the possibility of putting it in a dessert was a little overwhelming and a must do. 

Remember when people used to ask: 'If you were stuck on an desert island. What three things would you pick to have on the island with you?' I have a definite answer for one: a healthy fruiting avocado tree that would never die. For the other two choices, come back to me.

I could eat these brownies all day. Allllll day. They are not light, airy and fluffy. They are trouble: dense, dark and fudgy. They stay incredieble moist because of the high sugar content in the brownie recipe, the additional chocolate chunks and the nautral oils from the avocados. They keep really well for up to three days. Not that they're going to be hanging around for that long.

I saw avocado brownies on the Pinterest a while ago. The recipe only had avocado in the brownie and was a vegan recipe. I wanted the avocado in and all over the brownie. I figure, if you're going to use something unusual in baking put it where it can be seen. 

I used the avocado like butter in a regular icing. It works well like this because avocado is naturally creamy and full of healthy fats. What's fantastic about the avocado icing is that it stays green. Like, bright green. When people saw the brownies they thought, 'ooh, mint brownies'. WRONG. Avocado brownies!! Mind blown.

You may be thinking, 'isn't the avocado going to taste weird on the brownie? Like guacamole or something?!'. No, no. I can assure you, the icing is sweet and it has this flavour that I cannot quite describe. It's very moreish. 

 A fudgy brownie with sweet avocado icing is a thing of beauty. Beauty I tells ya!



Melt together the butter, sugars, chocolate and cocoa powder.

The high sugar content in these brownies makes them fantastically fudgy!

Once gloriously fudgy and melted, remove from heat and allow to cool.

Chop the almond chocolate into chunks. Remove the vibrant green flesh from the avocado and...

...mash with a fork until smooth.

Add the mashed avocado to the cooled chocolate, mix in, followed by...

...two eggs and vanilla essence. Mix

Sieve over the flour and baking powder.

Half fold in the flour before adding the chocolate chunks.

Continue folding until just mixed. Be super careful not to over mix!

Once baked. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely before topping with the glorious green avocado icing. 

Pile on the icing and spread out.

So good.

Recipe, Makes 16

Adapted from the book What's Cooking Chocolate

175g Caster Sugar
75g Dark Muscavado Sugar
100g Unsalted Butter
2 Heaped Tablespoons Good Quality Cocoa Powder
100g Good Quality Dark Chocolate
2 Eggs
1 Avocado
100g Dark Chocolate with Whole Almonds-Green&Blacks 0r 100g Dark Chocolate and 40g Chopped Almonds
1 Teaspoon Good Quality Vanilla Extract
100g Plain Flour
1 1/2 Teaspoon Baking Powder

Avocado Icing

1 Avocado
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1 Teaspoon Lemon Juice
1 1/2 Cup Icing Sugar, sieved

Preheat oven to 180°C and grease and line a 7 inch square tin with parchment.
Place 100g dark chocolate, caster sugar, muscavado sugar, butter and cocoa powder in a bowl set over a pot of lightly simmering water. 
Melt, stirring occasionally.
Chop the remaining 100g chocolate into chunks.
Half the avocado, remove the flesh and mash with a fork.
Once the chocolate mixture is melted, remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.
Once cooled, fold in the mashed avocado, followed by the two eggs and beat well.
Sieve over the flour and baking powder and fold in.
When the flour is half folded in, add the chocolate almond chunks.
Finish folding until everything is just combined. DO NOT OVER MIX!!
Pour into the lined tin and bake for 25-27 minutes.
The edges of the brownies should be set and slightly sunken from the tin but the middle should have a slight wobble.
Remove from oven and allow to cool completely before topping with the avocado icing. 

Remove the flesh from the avocado and place in a bowl.
Beat with an electric hand mixer until creamy.
Add the lemon juice and vanilla extract.
Add the icing sugar, mixing slowly little by little,
Add all the icing sugar until you have a spreadable icing.
Depending on your avocado you may need to add more icing sugar. 

August 17, 2012

Basil and Smoked Salmon Dressed Cracker with Boiled Eggs

Do you ever get excited about food? Like, really excited? Squeak at the sight of something, hold it close to your face and say 'aaah, it's so cute'.  Well I do. I'll proudly admit it- I get excited over food. There I said it.

I even get excited over utensils. I did today. I almost blushed at the sight of a mini whisk no bigger than my index finger. For real,  I just had to hold it. It was so god damn cute and tiny.

If you appreciate food of all shapes and sizes, different types of food and/or are like me, then you should go to the Swedish Food Market in Ikea. Whenever I'm in Ikea, I zoom through the bed section, pass the furnishing section and head straight for the kitchen section, swiftly followed by the food market, where... 

they have Knäckebröd. These are thin crisp breads made out of rye, flour, salt and water. Yeah, yeah whatever Holly, what's the big deal about a rye cracker?  Well, Ikea are selling these Knäckebröds at a very good price and oh, they are the size of a car wheel!

After these I will forever be disappointed with a regular cracker.

First thing-honour its size. Use the whole cracker as a blank canvas! Paint it with food of different colours, shapes and sizes. I made a glorious herbaceous speckled green sauce with basil and scallions and draped it with streaks of coral pink smoked salmon and perfectly 
boiled eggs, quartered to reveal pure white and vibrant yellow.

Beautiful coincidences can happen with food. According to the universal colour wheel, greens are complemented by pinky orange colours, seen here in the pink-orange of the salmon and the cool mint of the sauce. A beautiful coincidence. 

This is food for sharing, the sauce softens the cracker slightly, allowing you to break the cracker into rough slices for your hand. The cracker needs to be put together just before eating otherwise it'll go soggy. If you don't like salmon or eggs, you could substitute them with cured meats, marinated artichokes hearts, grilled vegetables, cheeses etc!


Holly x

Make the saucy spread first. 

Three simple (beautiful) ingredients: spring onions, sour cream and fresh basil.

Place all the ingredients in a blender and blitz until smooth.

What you have is this gloriously green goddess-like saucy spread. 

If you have any left over, use as a salad dressing. So delicious!

This is the gigantic cracker. Get it in the Food Hall in Ikea, like today.

This is the giant cracker out of the wrapper. 

This is the giant cracker beside a normal sized one,  so you can see how gigantic is!

Another three simple ingredients: smoked salmon, hard boiled eggs and capers.

Smear on the basil sauce.

Drape over the salmon.

Quarter the eggs and arrange them in and around the salmon.

Sprinkle over the capers.

Make sure to hit the eggs with freshly cracked black pepper. Eggs love pepper. 

Recipe, Serves 3 for Lunch.

1 Knäckebröd, from Ikea or Ryvita Crackers
Small Bunch of Basil-24g
3 Scallions
150-200g Sour Cream
2-3 Eggs, Hard Boiled
1 Tablespoon Capers
100g Smoked Salmon

To hard boil the eggs, bring a pot of water that will cover the eggs to the boil.
With the eggs sitting on a spoon slide them into the boiling water.
Leave in the pot for 7-8 minutes before draining off the water.
Immerse in cold water to cool the shells so you can peel them.
Place the sour cream, basil -stalks included- and scallions into the bowl of a blender.
Blitz until super smooth and slightly thinner.
Taste for salt and pepper. 
Place the Knäckebröd onto a serving plate.
Smear over  1/2 the basil sauce with a spatula.
Pour the rest into a serving dish to have alongside on the table.
Drape the smoked salmon over the cracker.
Quarter the eggs and arrange them in and around the salmon.
Sprinkle over the capers.
Hit each egg quarter with some freshly cracked black pepper.