Week 1: Recipe 2
Make Once Eat Twice
Yesterday I made a braised beef with seasonal veg dish and using the leftovers I’ve now made a cottage pie.
I’ll keep it simple, because my recipes have to take little time in the kitchen. The only additional ingredients you will need are about 200g of frozen peas and sweetcorn, plus a small amount of grated cheese.
Shred the remaining beef from the previous meal and stir it into the leftover gravy.
Preheat your fan oven to 150 degrees Celsius.
Spoon the gravy and beef mixture into a large baking dish. Top with the frozen vegetables.
Spoon the leftover mashed potatoes on top of the vegetables and gravy mixture. Sprinkle grated cheese on top of the mashed potatoes.
Cook in the oven for 45 minutes, until all the food is warmed through and serve immediately.
If you want to, this meal is also perfect for freezing so once assembled, cover well and put straight into the freezer where it will keep for up to 1 month. Ensure it is completely defrosted before cooking in the oven.
Week 1: Recipe 1
Make Once Eat Twice
For the first in the recipe series I’ve gone back to a family favourite. Mam used to make this braised beef dish in a heavy casserole dish with a lid. The homely flavours come thanks to the veg that all comes from a local farm. It doesn’t get more Irish than this.
3 onions, peeled and roughly chopped
1kg housekeepers cut of beef (note remove any string or elastic before cooking)
4 large carrots, peeled and chopped into large chunks
1/2 small turnip (or swede) peeled and chopped
1 litre of vegetable stock (use hot water and 1 vegetable stock cube)
1 heaped tablespoon cornflour
Mashed potatoes (make enough for 2 meals)
For the braised flavour you will need to sear the onions and the beef. So first grab your casserole dish, put it on a high heat and fry the onions in a teaspoon of vegetable oil until they turn brown/charred. Remove the onions from the dish and put them on a plate.
With the dish still on high, sear all sides of the beef so that it’s dark brown. Add the onions back to the dish, the rest of the vegetables, and then the stock. Cover the casserole dish and reduce the heat so that the stock is on a slow simmer. Cook for 3-4 hours. Note the stock should reach a maximum of halfway up the piece of beef, it should not be covered in the stock.
Adapted for the slow cooker: Fry the onions and then the beef in a frying pan before putting them into your slow cooker. Add the chopped vegetables, stock, put the lid on top and cook on high for 5-6 hours.
Before serving, remove the beef from the dish/slow cooker. Remember you have to keep half for your second dish tomorrow so it may be easier to cut it in half and cover now before serving dinner.
In a small cup mix 1 heaped tablespoon of cornflour with a splash of cold water until you get a loose paste. With the vegetables and the stock still on the heat, quickly stir this paste into the mixture. It should thicken the mixture to a gravy instantly. Once again, half of this mixture is to be reserved for your second meal.
Serve the beef with the vegetables in gravy with mash on the side. I’ve served ours with buttered cabbage as I got some fresh from the farm yesterday and I love the vibrant colours.
One of the main reasons why I love this recipe so much is because all of the vegetables used here are Irish and in season. It makes it very budget friendly for what is a very frugal time of the year.
Cover the leftover food and chill the food when it reaches room temperature. I’ll have the second recipe for you tomorrow!
Ham Soup With DumplingsIngredients
- 1 litre ham cooking liquid/stock
- 1/2 turnip/swede, peeled and chopped into dice sized pieces
- 4 medium carrots, peeled and chopped into dice sized pieces
- 100g of dried soup mix
- 300g plain flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 2 spring onions/scallions finely chopped
- 30g melted butter
- 70ml cold water
- 400g shredded, cooked ham
Take a large, heavy bottomed saucepan with a firm lid. Pour in the stock, soup mix and chopped vegetables and bring to a simmer. Put the lid on and simmer for 20 minutes.
In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, scallions and melted butter. Then slowly pour in the cold water in quarters. Stir the mixture with a fork and stop adding water when you have a stiff dough.
Once the vegetables in the pot are cooked and tender, stir in the shredded ham. Shape the dough into small ping-pong sized balls. Sit them on top of the soup. Put the lid back on the pot and simmer for 15 minutes. Using a large spoon, gently turn the dough over and simmer for a further 10 minutes.
Serve in large soup bowls and eat with a spoon. NB: Soup mix is a dried mixture of pulses that you can buy in your supermarket. There are 2 types. One requires presoaking, I only buy the ready to use version! You’ll typically find a mixture of barley, wheat, lentils and small beans in the mixture. Very handy for bulking up a soup or stew and adding fibre to your diet.
These malted milk treats have a beautiful fudgy flavour thanks to the malted milk powder that I use in the baking process. There are a couple of brand names if you’re looking to pick it up for yourself. The ones that are easiest to find in the supermarket are Ovaltine & Horlicks.
Allegedly, the malted milk that I like is used in a large Irish diner-style chain of restaurants for their malted milkshake. Ever wanted to make one yourself at home? Simply add a couple of tablespoons to some quality partially melted vanilla ice cream.
The first thing you could do with the malted milk is to include them in some food-themed gifts for Christmas.
That includes some fudge cookies in a jar inspired by The Pink Whisk:
Also some malted hot chocolate inspired by a Jamie Oliver recipe from an old show of his. Both gifts will go down splendidly well.
What will be a huge hit though have been my malted milk malteaser cookies. As per usual with my cookies, the dough can be chilled in advance and baked within 3 days or frozen for up to a month before baking. This recipe makes approximately 20 large cookies which are chewy in the middle and crunchy on the outside.
make ahead cookies
- 90g Malted Milk Extract
- 90g caster sugar
- 85g butter at room temperature
- 2 medium eggs
- 200g plain flour
- 1 teaspoon of baking powder
- 1 packet Malteasers (malt balls covered in chocolate)
Preheat your oven to 200 degrees Celcius and line 2 baking trays with greaseproof baking paper.
Cream the milk extract, caster sugar and butter together until light and fluffy. Beat in the 2 eggs until fully combined then add the flour and baking powder and mix again. Finally crush the malteasers in your hands before stirring them into the cookie dough.
Using a dessert spoon, spoon the mixture directly onto the tray, leaving a lot of space between each cookie. I normally bake only 4 on each tray so you will need to rotate your trays, however it’s rare you’d bake the whole batch all at once. That is, unless your step-daughter decides to stick her fingers in each of the cookies on one tray as soon as they come out of the oven. Ahem.
Bake in the oven for between 9-12 minutes. As soon as they start to turn golden brown, remove the trays and leave the cookies on the baking paper for 10 minutes before gently moving with a spatula to a cooling rack. The cookies will keep for up to 7 days in a sealed container kept in a cool, dry location but honestly I’d refrigerate or freeze your dough and bake these cookies fresh.
It’s the season to love your brassicas. No it’s not a dirty word, it’s a family of vegetables. Included in these are the brussels sprout and this is what I did with some this week.
Brassicas are a fantastic family of vegetables and if you’d like to learn loads about them then click here.
Lets not fuss about though, you either love or hate brussels sprouts and according to the link above, that relationship is down to your genes.
All I know is that I ruddy love these little green snotballs as they are affectionately referred to in our family. All of us do. Come Christmas Day when we were growing up Mam & Dad struggled to keep enough on the table to satisfy myself and my siblings.
It can be hard to judge when sprouts are cooked just right and you can end up with either hard, impenetrable little bullets or balls of slush that have been overboiled.
Prepare your sprouts by trimming the ends and peeling off the outer leaves until you’re left with pale green, firm brussels sprouts. Then cut a small “x” or cross into the bottom of each one. Some people argue that it makes no difference to the cooking but it’s something we’ve always done in our family so I’m happy to continue the tradition.
Try braising your sprouts (a net bag of about 250g) in 100ml of water and 50g (I know I know artery clogging) of butter with 3 shaved garlic cloves interspersed between them in a shallow baking dish, covered in greaseproof paper. Pop your dish into a warm fan oven of about 125 degrees Celcius for at least 1 hour. Check the edges of the dish often in case you need to top up with a dribble of water to prevent them from drying out.
For extra flavour use ham water instead of regular tap water for the braising liquid.
On Christmas Day, once the oven is turned off and your bird is resting you could pop a dish of prepared sprouts into the base of the oven to braise in the residual heat. This is a great idea if you have an Aga or similar.
Serve by tipping the dish upside down so that the sprouts nestle in the paper that covered them during cooking, season and sprinkle with slivers of freshly cut hot chilli if you dare or perhaps even some torn preserved lemons.
Most Sundays there is a market that himself likes to visit. It’s not too far from home, as the kids would say it’s “a spin”. Normally he rambles around with the kids and sometimes picks me up bits for photographs and at the end of his stroll he always drops by the vegetable stall. Most of their vegetables are either grown in the next county or sourced fairly locally and they are cheap.
Day 18 of my Christmas with Caitríona series is a classic Christmas recipe!
On Sunday he couldn’t believe his luck when he got a big red cabbage bigger than his head (this is very big) for €1. Score! He also picked up buckets of other vegetables including some fresh kale, carrots, apples and parsnips for under a fiver.
What better side dish to put with turkey than braised red cabbage? It’s lovely hot or cold. In fact, I had some cold today with some cheese on toast for lunch.Braised Red Cabbage Ingredients
- 15g of butter
- 1 teaspoon each of ground ginger, cumin and coriander
- 2 apples, peeled and chopped
- 300g shredded red cabbage
- 1 tablespoon of brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons of white wine/white balsamic vinegar
- 100ml water
Melt the butter in a large saucepan on a medium heat. Sprinkle in the ground spices and stir for about a minute so that they toast in the warmth. Add the apples and coat them in the spiced butter. Stir around for 5 minutes until they soften.
Take the cabbage and add it to the saucepan, stir so it’s mixed with the apples then add the sugar, vinegar and water. Stir well until the sugar dissolves. Turn the heat to medium low, cover the saucepan and simmer for 60 minutes, stirring occasionally so that it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the saucepan.
Bear in mind that we are a low-salt family so I don’t add seasoning. You may like to add a half teaspoon of salt with the sugar.
Braised cabbage can be eaten immediately and is a great side dish with pork, turkey or game. Alternatively spoon the cabbage into a sterlised jar and allow to come to room temperature before sealing. It will keep in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.
If, like me, you’ve got that slightly rising panicked feeling about Christmas Dinner and what the last shop before Christmas Day will cost, stop now and have a little read of Day 17 of my Christmas With Caitríona series.
That last shop for us is probably my most stressful shop and this year I am cutting back on Christmas shopping. I’ll do it at some stage before the end of the week ahead, and then pick up the fresh fruit and vegetables, along with the meat on Christmas Eve. You would think that the shops won’t be open for nearly a week, as was the tradition years ago, but in truth the shops will barely close for longer than 36 hours all told and the local supermarket will reopen on St Stephen’s Day. The reason why I do a large shop before Christmas Day isn’t that I’m trying to stock up the cupboards, it’s so that I don’t have to go near a shop unless I absolutely have to. There is great escape in shutting the door on Christmas Eve and knowing that the next couple of days are for family only.
This trip to the supermarket before the main day though is the one where we are prone to the most amount of impulse buys. There are Christmas traditions in our house that revolve around food. For example it was always a treat for my siblings and I to have Sugarpuffs on Christmas morning; there were always tins of chocolates to be scoffed along with bags of King crisps in hubby’s house (always King at Christmas from a cardboard box); and tins of premium biscuits, nevermind bottles of lemonade and alcohol for visitors.
If I’m typing this and the pressure is rising in my chest then I can imagine it is for you too. So here are a few, short bullet points for you to try and bear in mind for the next couple of days so that you can try cutting back on Christmas Shopping.
- Make your list & check it twice (if it’s good enough for Santa, it’s good enough for you).
- Go without kids (no attacks of the gimme-gimme to spend more money).
- Know your budget.
- Only buy what you need.
- Be brutal, if there are items that you rarely eat or you always have in the cupboard for months afterward then scrap them and don’t buy.
- Make sure you have storage space so you’re not falling over a Turkey or the Ham hasn’t taken up all the fridge.
- Likewise make sure your oven can handle all this food you’re intending to cook.
- Many hands make light work. Sometimes one of my sisters and I do the big shop together and each push the trolley through the supermarket side by side. It makes the shop easier for us and we have a bit of a laugh too.
Above all, don’t panic!
This is a great recipe to use up your leftover meat from the Christmas dinner. This is a tray bake that can be lifted from plain and simple eating (not a bad thing after Christmas excess) to a meal with a zing from some flavoured salt.
Turkey and ham are staples on our dinner-table on Christmas Day. Yet when the main meal has been cleared away there is still a turkey to break down, stock to be made and the ham to be divided into portions. There is always leftovers. The generosity on the day itself led, last year, to me having over 20 meals worth of cooked meat in the freezer for the weeks beyond. While we all love turkey and ham there are only so many times we’re happy to eat a classic roast dinner and yet I don’t fancy having to be too inventive in the kitchen with leftovers because I prefer not to make work for myself.
This flavoured salt theoretically should keep until Christmas if you make it now and keep it in a clean dry jar.Flavoured Salt (makes enough for at least 10 meals) Ingredients
- 50g sea salt
- 2 stalks of fresh rosemary
- Freshly grated rind of 1 organic lemon
Spread out the ground salt on a flat surface lined with baking paper and leave in a warm dry spot. I used the oven after cooking dinner a few nights back. I left the salt in the cooling temp of the oven overnight and it dried out a good bit.
Store in a dry container with a tight seal on the lid. Sprinkle as flavouring on your meal or bread of choice.
- 2 tablespoons cooking oil (I used rapeseed oil here)
- 1kg of small potatoes with the skins on
- 4 red onions peeled
- 3 generous handfuls of cooked turkey/chicken meat
- Flavoured salt
Preheat your (fan) oven to 180 degrees Celcius.
Take a large ovenproof dish and pour the oil into the bottom. Slice the potatoes to 2cm from the bottom, Cut the onions into quarters. Toss the potatoes and onions in the oil then reposition so that the cut sides of the potatoes faces upwards. Put the ovenproof dish into the oven for 40 minutes.
After 40 minutes, remove from the oven and add the turkey meat. Gently stir so that they are coated in the cooking oil and won’t stick to the dish. Return the dish to the oven for a further 15 minutes.
This is the kind of gift that a small child can make, and actually they’d probably love the feeling of squishing the oil and other ingredients together. We used organic ingredients because we’d rather use them where we have the option.Ingredients
- 250g Raw Organic Coconut Oil
- 200g Organic Sugar
- 50g Coarse Organic Sea Salt (I like using Oriel Sea Salt, a local producer)
- 1 Organic Vanilla Pod
Into a large bowl, weigh out the coconut oil, sugar and sea salt. Split the vanilla pod down the middle and using the flat end of the knife, scrape out the seeds into the bowl.
Take a fork and mix all the ingredients together until well combined and/or wearing rubber gloves, squish everything together into a paste. Decant into 1 large tub or smaller jars. 500g of this scrub should do quite a number of hand scrubs!Body & Bathing Lotion Bars
These are fantastic. You can see a couple of them have pink glitter in them. We were experimenting and used some edible pink glitter in the end of the mixture. Something we won’t do again. Pink glitter aside, the lotion bars are made using just 3 ingredients.
They are very stable in cool temperatures but don’t leave them by the radiator! To use in the bath, pop 1 into a mug of boiling water and stir until dissolved, then pour the mixture into a bath with hot running water. To use as a body lotion, hold in your hands for a couple of minutes until the oils start to release and simply rub in. I use small silicone moulds to make these little bars. The circular bars are about the size of a €2 coin in diameter and twice as thick. You can certainly make this mixture in bigger bars though. Silicone moulds are the way to go here.
Just to note on the beeswax options. You can pick up organic beeswax from your local certified beekeeper (let me know if you find somebody locally as I’ve found organic beeswax hard to source), you can buy it online in bar form or if happen to have a suitable hive source you can use the raw beeswax from there providing you don’t need it later on in the year. I couldn’t find a suitable source locally so used bars that I bought online.Ingredients
200g Raw Organic Coconut Oil
100g Organic Beeswax
1 Organic Vanilla PodMethod
Fill a large saucepan partway with hot water. Put this on a low heat then sit a glass bowl on top of the saucepan, ensuring that the bottom doesn’t touch the water below (if it does then pour some water out). Put the coconut oil and beeswax into the glass bowl and allow to dissolve into oil. The beeswax takes longer than the coconut oil and this does take a while. Don’t worry!
Once the wax and oil have melted together, cut the vanilla pod lengthways, scrape out the seeds using the flat side of the knife and stir them into the oil mixture. Allow to infuse for 2 minutes before carefully pouring the liquid oil CAUTION HOT into silicone moulds. Cooling time depends on the size of your silicone moulds. Mine were small and only took 2 hours. If you use larger cupcake sized moulds then expect to allow about 12 hours or overnight cooling before you pop them out.
Store the bars in a cool, dry spot, away from direct sunlight.
This is a quick reminder that this recipe is Day 12 of ‘Christmas with Caitríona’ which is a 24 day series of Christmas content across my blog/YouTube channel etc aimed at saving you time and money in the run up to Christmas. I hope you like it and if so please do share the tips and tricks with your friends and family. Cxxx
Not everybody is a fan of desserts with dried fruits in them. However, I really love the appearance of a Christmas pudding. So we get around this by making a chocolate biscuit Christmas pudding cake. I like to lace mine with crunchy malteasers but you can add in any chocolates, sweets or nuts that you like!
As this recipe has no baking to be done I think it’s a brilliant one to make with children with little supervision. Once again I have a video to go along with the recipe on YouTube!
Chocolate Biscuit Christmas PuddingIngredients
- 500g digestive and rich tea biscuits (or similar)
- 100g butter
- 100ml golden syrup
- 75g caster sugar
- 50g plain or dark chocolate
- 1 large packet of malteasers (share pack works best here)
Take 2 large heavy duty sandwich bags and put one inside the other. Fill the inner bag with the biscuits and channel the anger in your life at the moment batter the bejeepers out of it with a rolling pin or wooden spoon.
Get a big heavy bottomed saucepan, stick it on top of a weighing scales and measure out the butter, golden syrup, caster sugar and chocolate directly into the saucepan. Put the saucepan on a medium-low heat on the hob and stir occasionally.
Line a pudding bowl really well with cling film.
Once the contents of the saucepan have turned to a liquid and the sugar has completely dissolved, pour in the crumbled biscuits. Stir well until they are well coated with the liquid. Take the coated biscuit mixture and press it firmly into the lined pudding bowl along with the malteasers; layer by layer.
Cover the pudding bowl and chill for at least 4 hours before decorating with melted chocolate and serving. Alternatively, this recipe will freeze well for up to 1 month so it’s a great one to make well ahead of the big day!
Day 10: This is a twist on the traditional mulled wine, it’s a mulled cider! To make an alcohol free version for kids/non drinkers, substitute the cider for pressed apple juice instead. There are some beautiful Irish apple juices to be bought at this time of the year. Personally I love both Stameen Farm and Llewellyns Orchard juices for local juices (and ciders) but whatever you can get your hands on is fine. Do yourself a favour though, don’t use juices made from concentrate, you just won’t get the same flavour.
- 1 litre of cider
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 2 pieces of star anise
- 3 cloves
- 2 all spice berries
- 1 lemon
- 1 apple
Take a large saucepan and put it on a low/medium heat. Fill the saucepan with the cider, and add the aromatics above. Slice the lemon and apple into thin slices and pop them into the saucepan too.
Stir with a wooden spoon and allow to warm through for about 20 minutes. Make sure it doesn’t come to the boil. Once warm through, serve immediately in mugs and enjoy.
This mulled cider recipe goes perfectly with blue cheese and crackers. The blue cheese is the perfect counterpoint to the sweet and tart drink.
Obviously the children had the non-alcoholic version which is actually my favourite.
If you have a slow cooker, pop all the ingredients in the slow cooker on high for 90 mins before serving.
The beauty of this stuffing recipe is that it can be made well in advance. No more faffing around the day before Christmas, if you make this stuffing this week and lash it into the freezer then it’s all good to go on the big day.
I was only chatting to Mam about this last night. We really love our stuffing in our family. This is the most basic, simple stuffing recipe that you can make. There’s nothing wrong with changing the spices or adding dried fruit to the mixture, we just like to stick with the classics!
To make life easier I’ve recorded this video to go along with the recipe below:
homemade stuffing recipe
- 2 onions, peeled and diced
- 100g butter
- 300g fresh breadcrumbs
- 1 pack of fresh parsley, finely chopped
- A couple of sprigs of fresh thyme, picked fromthe stem
- Salt & Pepper
Put the butter and the diced onions into a large saucepan. Cook on low until the onions become translucent (see through) and soft. Once the onions are cooked, pour the breadcrumbs into the saucepan and stir so that they soak up the butter and onion mixture. Add the chopped parsley and thyme, then turn off the heat. Stir well so that everything is mixed together.
Decant into a large freezer proof container and freeze for up to 1 month in advance of cooking the stuffing. Allow to defrost in the fridge for 24 hours in advance of cooking.
If you made it this far! This is a quick reminder that this recipe is Day 8 of ‘Christmas with Caitríona’ which is a 24 day series of Christmas content across my blog/YouTube channel etc aimed at saving you time and money in the run up to Christmas. I hope you like it and if so please do share the tips and tricks with your friends and family. Thank you as always for reading. Cxxx
These Christmas Fruit Parcels are a lighter alternative to cakes and puddings and have no suet and very little fat, no eggs and can be prepared quickly. They can easily be adapted for vegans too.The beauty of the recipe is that it is great if you have a vegan/vegetarian/lactose intolerant guest.
With no eggs in the recipe either, the only thing you need to worry about is the wheat in the filo pastry but always check the labels for the exact ingredients.
Did I mention the recipe is refined sugar free as well? The only sugars in this dessert are those from the fruit. It really doesn’t get much better than that.
On Christmas Eve buy some fresh filo pastry from your local supermarket. You should find it in the chiller section. If you’re worried you won’t get some at the last minute then buy some now and freeze the packet of pastry until next week. In a pinch, some wonton wrappers will do either.
Christmas Fruit Parcels
- 100g Dried Fruit
- 1/2 Cup of Orange Juice
- 2 Cooking Apples (Bramleys are good or Granny Smith apples will do if you’re stuck)
- 1 Packet of Fresh Filo Pastry
- 30g Melted Butter (coconut oil for lactose intolerant/vegan guests)
The night before, make sure your filo is out of the freezer (if you put it there) and defrost in the fridge overnight. Pour the orange juice and dried fruit into a bowl then mix well and cover. Leave overnight and forget about it.
On Christmas Day, peel the apples then grate them into the dried fruit mix and stir well. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celcius. Spread out the filo pastry and cut the sheets into 4 equal (square) pieces. Most filo packets come with 6 sheets so this will give you 24 squares or 12 parcels. In the middle of 12 of the squares put a teaspoon of the mixture. Brush the outside of the squares with melted butter then bring the edges together to make the parcel. You will now have 12 parcels and 12 empty squares. Put the parcels into the middle of the empty squares, brush the edges again and bring those together so that each parcel has 2 layers of pastry. Put the parcels onto a tray lined with greaseproof baking paper then bake in the oven for 10 minutes. Once golden and crispy at the edges, remove and let cool for 10 minutes before serving with a dusting of icing sugar, maybe a splash of cream/brandy butter/custard/ice-cream on the side?
- If making this dessert for a vegan or lactose intolerant guest then substitute the regular (dairy) butter for coconut oil instead.
- If your guests don’t like dried fruit then don’t put it in at all but I’d suggest that along with the grated apple you could add some chopped crystallised ginger which will sweeten and spice the mix slightly.
- For a bit of punch add some whiskey or brandy when soaking the fruit with orange juice the night before if you wish.
Normally when infusing alcohol with spices or fruit you have to wait a number of months for the best flavour. This is a cheat’s version, called dishwasher vodka, which if made today will be ready for drinking or gifting tomorrow!
When I first heard about this particular infusion trick I was a bit doubtful but hey I’m always the type of person to give something a go once. The original link I saw infused vodka with chocolate bars. That’s a shocking waste of chocolate if you ask me and as Christmas is on the way I’ve an alternative option which adds seasonal tones to your vodka. However, don’t let my Winter spices be the only way to infuse your vodka in the dishwasher. This is perfect with skittles but make sure you use just one colour skittles so that you don’t have a muddy brown colour vodka. Red or green colours work particularly well here.
The instructions are simple but follow them closely!
- 500ml Vodka
- 3 tablespoons demerara sugar
- 1 vanilla pod
- 1 stick of cinnamon
Half fill a glass bottle with a rubber stopper with vodka. As the vodka is going to be spiced and we are all on a budget I would suggest a bargain tipple from your local superstore such as Lidl (disclosure as you may already know I’m a Brand Ambassador for Lidl but they’ve not asked me to mention in this post).
Add 3 tablespoons of demerara sugar, 1 vanilla pod and 1 stick of cinnamon (or cassia bark) to the bottle. Note, in my pictures I used 2 sticks and I found this a little bit overpowering but if you like cinnamon go right ahead.
Make sure the bottle is closed & sealed tightly then shake well for 2 mins. Put some welly into it!
Place the bottle on its side on the top shelf of the dishwasher. Fill the rest of the dishwasher as normal and run it on a full “dirty” setting. For me that is 130 mins at approximately 60 degrees Celcius.
When the dishwasher is finished, leave the bottle to completely cool on the top rack.
DO NOT open the bottle until it is stone cold.
Once cold, shake the bottle one more time and leave standing upright for 3 hours. Serve on plenty of ice if you’re going to drink it neat. Decant into mini bottles or jars for presents and decorate the bottles with bows.
Mix with soda water or decent ginger ale for a bit of sparkle. Just to add the yellow/orange cubes are recyclable ice cubes; if you don’t like your drinks watered down they are the bizzo.
It’s not too late to make my Christmas Cake Recipe! Simply because it’s designed to be frosted or iced traditionally. It’s not quite as heavy as old-style cakes, nor as sweet, because the shot of espresso adds balance to the flavours. This is a firm family favourite in my house. Since I iced our cake last week the kids have been begging me to slice it early because they love fruit cake so much!
Some of you may have spotted this Christmas Cake Recipe in Lidl Ireland stores last year. I’ve had many requests to put the recipe on the blog and here you go!
Christmas Cake Recipe
- 165g Butter (unsalted)
- 110g Light Brown Demerara Sugar
- 2 tablespoons Black Treacle
- 3 Medium Free Range Eggs
- 165g Plain Flour
- 1 shot good quality Espresso
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 400g mixed fruit presoaked (at least overnight) in whiskey (100ml) & juice and rind from 1 orange
- 50g finely chopped crystallised ginger
- 50ml whiskey to sprinkle on the cakes while warm
- Mixing Bowl or Stand Mixer
- Wooden Spoon
- 1 lined circular 25cm baking tin
- Preheat your (fan) oven to 150 degrees Celcius and line your circular baking tin.
- Cream the butter and sugar together then add the treacle and mix in well.
- Beat the eggs into the mixture one by one until the batter is smooth and not lumpy. If it is lumpy then add a small spoon of the flour.
- Slowly beat in the flour, espresso, baking powder, cinnamon and ground ginger. The batter will become thick.
- Stir in the soaked mixed fruit and crystallised ginger along with the juices from soaking.
- Pour the mixture into a lined baking tin and bake in the preheated oven for approximately 1 hour 40 minutes (100 minutes) total.
- After 100 minutes, using a cocktail stick test the cake by poking right into the centre, if it is baked then the cocktail stick will come away clean. If the stick does not come away clean then bake for a further 10 minutes and test again.
- Once cooked remove the cake from the oven and sprinkle the top with whiskey and leave to cool covered with a clean tea towel.
- If you’re going to freeze the cake, then once completely cool wrap well with baking parchment before putting it into the freezer to protect it from burn.
- You can ice traditionally with marzipan then fondant icing, or you can frost it if you’re making this cake at the last minute. Here I’ve iced the cake traditionally using 1 roll of marzipan and 1 roll of icing from Dr Oetker Baking Ireland.
- To ice/frost beat together 150g unsalted butter, 50ml full fat milk and 400g icing sugar. Flavour as you wish although perhaps a little whiskey in the icing might add a bit of zing!
Disclosure: I received the roll out icing and marzipan in a sample package from Dr Oetker. I was under no obligation to mention or blog about their products. I just like using them.
With the Toy Show being on last night Christmas season has officially kicked off in Ireland; in fact I have a Christmas party to go to tonight. The kids are obsessed with Christmas and their pure joy and delight in decorations in the shops and music playing on the radio is brilliant. As usual for the start of December though I don’t have the decorations up and I’ve no Christmas Tree in the sitting room quite yet.
I know I’m not the only one. I suppose it’s a hangover from the days of being so stressed out about money that we tried not to put the decorations up early or the presents under the tree until we had them bought. It felt like we were making promises to the kids (and to ourselves) that we just couldn’t keep.
The memories of tossing in turning in bed at night wondering how to borrow from Peter and pay Paul will never go away. I hope that they never do because I understand now that they have (a) brought me to where I am today and (b) know exactly what it’s like for those who are struggling at the moment.
Over the next month I’ll have something new each day for you to read or watch. I’ll share my tips on how to prepare for Christmas on a budget; how to not to be a Mammy-martyr in the lead up to the big day, how to ask for help gracefully, and some budget present ideas for all ages.
For today, the first day of December, I’d like to ask you to add 1 small extra item to your grocery shopping this week to donate to your local food appeal. It needn’t be something expensive, even if it’s an extra tin of beans or a bag of rice. If you’d rather not add an extra item in, why not see if you have something in your cupboards already that you’d like to share. Here’s the list from the St Vincent de Paul for their food appeal (this is also suitable for the Lions Club food appeals). Click here for the St Vincent de Paul list.
I’ve got some bags of pasta and some tins of beans which will be brought to our local collection point this week.
Chat tomorrow. Cxxx
Breakfasts don’t have to be boring with this take on french toast that all the family will love. Guaranteed protein from the eggs, seeds, and fresh greek yoghurt, will keep you feeling fuller for longer and give essential energy for training sessions and school.
This is one of my kids’ favourite breakfasts. They pester me to make it for them every morning!
If making French Toast for more than 2 people don’t be chained to the frying pan! Grease 2 non-stick baking trays and preheat your (fan) oven to 190 degrees Celsius. After soaking the bread, place it onto the baking trays until the trays are covered and bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes. Serve as normal.
Loaded French Toast
- 1 tablespoon cooking oil
- 5 medium eggs
- Thick slices of sourdough
- Pinch of salt & pepper
- Sunflower and pumpkin seeds
- Fresh berries
- Greek yoghurt
- Maple Syrup
Crack the eggs into a large, wide bowl, season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Whisk the eggs lightly with a fork so that the yolks and whites are combined.
Taking 1 piece of bread at a time, soak either side in the whisked eggs, so that the bread is covered in egg. Put the egg covered bread into the frying pan. Cook for about 90 seconds on each side or until the bread turns golden brown, then remove from the frying pan and put on a plate. Continue until all the bread soaked in egg is cooked.
While the frying pan is still on, toast the sunflower and pumpkin seeds in the pan on the heat so that they toast a little.
Top a slice of cooked eggy bread with a generous spoonful of greek yoghurt, fresh berries, toasted seeds, then drizzle a little maple syrup on top and serve.
The morning of the marathon I woke up full of fear, trepidation and unbridled joy. The build up to the marathon had been difficult but it was the day I was going to do it, complete the marathon and join the 1% club.
At no point did I seriously consider giving up. I’d trained for too long and sacrificed so much time to be here, plus I had the honour of being physically capable of completing the marathon. When we passed Alanna’s picture at Mile 8 it took my breath away and I had to pause and take a blast of my inhaler to recover. Serendipity meant that I was with my friend Olivia for the whole 26+ miles, and because I was running for Olivia, my sister who has Multiple Sclerosis, she was a constant reminder to me.
The Difficult Bits
As a slow runner the second half of Dublin City Marathon is bleak. By the time we passed the halfway mark most of the music and cheer points were being packed up, supporters are thin on the ground, and miles 18-25 are carried out in near deathly silence until you get closer to the finish line. . Somehow my husband managed to pop up at no less than 4 points along the course with words of encouragement, sometimes with dear family members, and that was an incredible boost. Then my friend Clare appeared another 3 times and every time I saw her I nearly burst into tears.
Why the heck am I doing this to myself occurred to me somewhere around mile 18 when the idea of just snuggling into my warm bed was foremost in my mind. I was nearly hallucinating at that stage, and visualising how it would feel to nestle into the duvet with the heat on full blast and a cup of tea beside me. I pushed through a bad pain in my hip by breathing deeply and reminding myself that it would pass. Thank goodness I had packed a painkiller which I took when the next water stop arrived.
Olivia’s chats kept me going the whole way around. We set the world to rights together as we distracted ourselves from the reality of the task ahead of us. I danced at points from pure glee and Olivia thought I was nuts and told me as such. I should have listened to her more because I pulled my shoulder ‘walking like an Eygptian’ in Crumlin which I will never be allowed to live down.
Hugs And Vodka (Or Maybe Tea)
At mile 22 the cold and tiredness set in, our hands which had been swollen the whole way around from the exercise became heavier and turned into claws. At mile 24 Olivia decided that the double vodka she’d promised herself as a reward at the finish line would have to be a treble, and I fantasized once again about that cup of tea in bed.
We passed the RDS and took as many free hugs on offer from the Asics cheer team as we could muster and there it was, mile 26, where Olivia’s husband had walked back after his marathon to cheer her home. I pushed her over to grab a hug and it revitalised her. She grabbed my hand and we ran, with a little bit of her dragging me. I doubted my ability to run, I was spent.
I heard a club member calling to say that my husband and ‘the others’ were on the right hand side. I looked and there he was with my parents and one of my Uncles. I cried out and clamped my hand over my mouth for fear I’d lose it completely. Olivia didn’t realise and was so focussed on the finish line at that stage, she carried on with my hand in hers and we went for it. Here’s the video of us crossing the finish line. Note there’s a discrepancy in the clock time compared to our finish time because we were in Wave 4!
WE DID IT
That morning we had discussed a target time of 6 hours 30 mins as being achievable. We crossed the line at 6 hours 26 mins and 4 seconds on our chips; we’d beaten our target with plenty of time to spare.
Everyone had told me to smile and I had forgotten; completely overwhelmed with what we’d done.
Seconds later we were grinning and hugging don’t worry!
There’s no point in asking me if I’d do it again, I’ve already signed up for next year.
Sunday 28th of October 2018 was the most empowering day of my life and I can’t wait to see what Sunday 27th October 2019 will bring.
The Thank You’s
- Olivia (Mrs H) who buoyed me from start to finish. I am forever grateful.
- J, my husband, who did his own half marathon as he chased us over the course. He also took photos of club members on the course ahead of us and organised bags of jelly beans for us all. Not forgetting my Uncle and my parents who also came to support me.
- Clare, our fellow club member, who found us at 3 different points and walked nearly the last mile with us in her fabulous platform boots. Epic.
- The volunteers on the course on the day who always remembered to cheer and encourage us (even if it meant fibbing about the distance to the toilets). Many of our club were volunteering on the day close to the finish line and the goal of getting close enough to see them kept us going.
- The club for the laughs, hugs, support, encouragement, and for being all around amazing. I couldn’t ask for a better bunch of pals.
- R, the 19 year old, who has helped countless times by keeping an eye on the boys so I could go training and ultimately run a marathon.
- The supporters on the course on the day, particularly late in the day after all the speedy people had crossed the line and of course everybody who shouted ‘It’ll be grand Caitríona”.
- Our families and friends who offered words of support and advice.
- Every single person who read the blogs, photos, updates, and got in touch to wish me the best, you have no idea how much of a difference it made.
- If there is anyone I’ve forgotten I apologise but know that you are very much appreciated.
The beauty of the roast chicken pie is that you simply use up your roast dinner leftovers to make a second meal. It’s for this reason that I recommend you buy a medium or large chicken to roast for your dinner.
The recipe is below but even better again I’ve made another video to accompany it!
Roast Chicken Pie
- 50g butter
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 1 handful fresh parsley, finely chopped
- 100g breadcrumbs
- 3 Handfuls leftover roast chicken
- Approximately 250ml leftover gravy
Vegetables of choice – leftover if available, or cooked fresh – I use all the vegetables from a roast chicken dinner so carrots, peas, turnip, potatoes, whatever is to hand.
To make the stuffing mixture melt the butter on a medium heat in a large frying pan. Cook the chopped onions until translucent (this will take about 10 minutes). Stir in the fresh parsley and the breadcrumbs. Toast the breadcrumbs in the pan with the butter for about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat.
Preheat a fan oven to 170°C.
Take a large baking dish and pour in the roast chicken, cooked vegetables and gravy. Stir together. Sprinkle the stuffing mixture on top.
Bake in the oven for 25 minutes then serve.
There’s a fine line between cheering and jeering. It’s a line that somebody who has struggled with their fitness all their life is well aware of; in many ways is hyper-conscious of. It’s the point at which you look up in hope that actually, maybe somebody may be encouraging you and then notice that they are laughing at you. It’s a painful line and over time you become used to always being jeered and never getting cheered.
A Cheer First Timer
I was cheered on my first night out with our running group when I was far and away the last person back to our meeting point. There was at least 10 people standing around talking and now I know they were waiting for me. They saw me come around the corner and started cheering, clapping, and calling encouragement. I genuinely looked behind me to see if they were talking to somebody else. Then I trundled to the fence a wonderful shade of puce, muttering my thanks and not able to look them in the eye.
That cheer wasn’t just ‘for me’ so to speak. It’s a cheer that says ‘we know what you’re doing and we admire you for doing it’ and I’ve since given just as many as I’ve received. The cheer lifts your chin from your chest, raises hope in your heart and makes your feet lighter to pick up from the ground.
Cheering Other Runners
Last week when I was working my way around a 20 mile race course at a snail’s pace I started getting overtaken. Each loop on the course was 10km approximately and each person was doing their own race. There were people running a 10km, half marathon (2 loops), 20 miles (3 loops), and a full marathon (4 loops). I started early on account of being so slow, not in shame, but simply because I wanted to finish at a reasonable hour!
As I was overtaken on my second loop I made an effort to let a roar of ‘great running’, ‘fair play’, or ‘you’re doing great’ to every single person who passed me. Invariably some of them were in their own zone and didn’t respond but the vast majority did. Then I was overtaken by the first of the locals and as I let a roar to him, he let out a shout of encouragement to me. I smiled and my shoulders went back, I felt uplifted to keep up the pace for a little longer. As more and more of my local team members overtook me there was a tap on my shoulder, a gentle word of support, and a cheer which was reciprocated.
I felt like their energy was bolstering me on for the route ahead and when I rounded the final corner to go onto the home straight there they were. Roaring my name and cheering me home.
Long Term Effects Of Cheering
Every single person who runs has their own story to tell, their own journey to undertake. Yet they all appreciate and understand the importance of cheering you home, no matter what your pace or goal. Getting to the start line and then onwards to the finish line is an achievement worth celebrating.
Often at the end of races there is a medal or a t-shirt, or sometimes both. The medal is a great reminder to hang on a hook to mark how far I’ve come. The cheers though, they bolster us all for the races to come.
PS. This day fortnight I run Dublin City Marathon. Gulp.