Jen's Kitchen offers a fresh approach to home cooking with exciting recipes and blog posts that emphasise hands-on cookery using local and organic produce.

The “other” love of my life- with associated friends

She frustrates me, drives me mad, makes me smell funny, costs my a small* fortune.  But when we’re on form, we’re flying.  I really try to ride her as often as I possibly can, and when I’m in good form- she’s in good form.

Missy getting her bath

Missy getting her bath

She got her tail done especially for the day … I love plaiting tails, and hers is a dream as it’s so straight.  And there’s no chance in hell she’d kick, it would require too much energy!

Tail plaits

Tail plaits

And always loves to have a good look around when she gets to the events, munching her massive haynet all the time.  I should really only give her the net when she’s been ridden, but she hates travelling on an empty stomach. Don’t we all?

Nosy parker

Nosy parker

But ultimately she brought home the bacon-

Monday 2906 036

"The Bacon"

“The Bacon”

We came second in the dressage and won our small hunter showing, then reserve Champion in the Showing Championship class.  For the picture though- no smiles- just the usual get this bridle off me face!

My “grooms” pony also was out and about, as it’s pony camp this week.  And grey ponies are always a challenge.

Clean on this side anyway

Clean on this side anyway

But he really is the love of her life- I think the smile says it all.

Happy Daughter- happy pony

Happy Daughter- happy pony

And even better he’s stabled beside HIS best friend!

Jessie and Freddie

Jessie and Freddie

More horses this weekend as we are helping at the eventing.  I just LOVE summer!

 

Chocolate cake- with a touch of tart

We have our Riding Club show on Sunday, and I decided to make a chocolate cake for the raffle, and some quiches for the judges lunch.  Maltezer cakes seem to be the cake of the moment, so I guess I might aswell go with the trend.

 

This is the basic recipe-

Easiest Chocolate Cake for Icing

Ingredients:

225g plain flour

350g caster sugar

85g cocoa powder

1½ tsp baking powder

1½ tsp bicarbonate of soda

2 free-range eggs

250ml whole milk

125ml vegetable oil

2 tsp vanilla extract

250ml boiling water

Method:

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.  Grease and line two 20cm/8in sandwich tins.

Place all of the cake ingredients, except the boiling water, into a large mixing bowl. Beat the mixture until smooth and well combined.  Add the boiling water to the mixture, a little at a time, until smooth. (The cake mixture will now be very liquid.)

Divide the cake batter between the sandwich tins and bake in the oven for 25-35 minutes, or until the top is firm to the touch and a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.  Remove the cakes from the oven and allow to cool completely, still in their tins, before icing.

And at the risk of moving too swiftly- here’s the finished product!

Chocolate malteser cake

Chocolate malteser cake

And the quiches- both tomato and cheese, in case we’ve any vegetarians among us. Of course it was FAR too manic to take a picture of everything- and needless to say there was nothing left at the end of photograph either!  But we did have lots of fun decorating the cake-

 

Ode to my son

He’ll be completely mortified.  But won’t even be in the country, so I can basically I can do what I like. My baby boy is 17 today.  And I couldn’t be a prouder mother, of both my kids, but today I’m focusing on Robert.

Robert at the JHI's

Robert at the JHI’s

From the minute he arrived- ten days late, he lit up our lives.  And those lives around him. And hasn’t stopped since then.  He’s always loved the outdoors, and has embraced it fully over the last number of years with his orienteering.

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And he also loves to cook- definitely in the family tradition- and is officially head food stylist when I’m trying to sort my shots out!  And every time he’s on stage- I simply burst with pride.

Robert's own cookies and food styling

Robert’s own cookies and food styling

And as for his future- well after driving lessons it’s really all up to him. So-

Winnie thePooh

Winnie the Pooh

Strawberries- part deux

And the quest to make every possible strawberry dish continues.  At this stage it’s jam time. And strawberry jam goes with just about everything.  And bears no resemblance to the shop bought variety, even if the first batches can lack consistency, no pun intended!

The finished product

The finished product

Shop bought strawberries are often grown hydroponically, and for some reason they have less pectin, resulting in a runnier jam.  So use sure-set if you need to, half and half is probably best.

In it's natural environment!

In it’s natural environment!

My next favourite recipe, which requires a little planning is mini strawberry tarts.  Perfectly proportioned, these little beauties are best fresh and cold, and unlike most desserts, go equally well with both a cup of tea and a glass of champagne.

A strawberry tea party

A strawberry tea party

Credit at this stage must go to my willing team of helpers (and tasters) who rescued me as I frantically tried to get the shoot set up outside before the sun went in behind a cloud.They get paid well in food- don’t worry!

the food photography helpers

the food photography helpers

And for my nephews third birthday- a chocolate fudge cake filled with cream- and strawberries.  He even managed to sneak a few off the cake before anyone else got to it.

A birthday cake fit for a three year old

A birthday cake fit for a three year old

 

Sometimes late at night

I lie awake while the WHOLE world is sleeping- (and I know some of you are singing that). But night time is when the ideas come, and the worries.
I overthink EVERYTHING. And am the complete opposite of a fly by the seat of your pants kinda gal.
And my poor daughter has inherited it!
There has been research done that says your best ideas happen while in the shower, cause you are really a captive audience for your brain. But I think it’s at night.

And I know I should just sleep, but there’s still so much to do. And learn. And listen to. And calculate.

*sigh*

*sigh*

The time is now

The first strawberries from our tunnel

The first strawberries from our tunnel

After we’ve carefully picked the “tunnel” strawberries, the “outside” strawberries come thick and fast.  There is genuinely nothing like them.  They all seem to ripen at once, and it’s just aswell the children are on school holidays, as the weeding requires slave labour of epic proportions.

But the result is this….

Strawberry gateaux

Strawberry gateaux

And this recipe for Strawberry Ice Cream that I came across some years ago.

Strawberries, fresh from the garden

Strawberries, fresh from the garden

Strawberry Ice Cream

Ingredients

225g fresh Strawberries, hulled and chopped

18oml Milk

135g caster Sugar

250ml Cream

1-1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract

Pinch of salt

Method

Pulse the strawberries in a food processor until roughly chopped or finely chop by them by hand.  How you chop (fine or coarse) depends on your preference, but large pieces simply freeze and are not the best for the teeth! . Reserve in a bowl.

Strawberries for pulsing

Strawberries for pulsing

In another bowl whisk to combine the milk, sugar, vanilla and salt until the sugar is dissolved.

Milk, sugar and vanilla

Milk, sugar and vanilla

Stir in the cream.

Stir in the strawberries with all their juices. Cover and refrigerate for 1-2 hours or overnight.

Looks awful at this stage

Looks awful at this stage!

Next day, churn in your ice cream maker as per the manufacturers instructions.  Then enjoy- delicious!

Strawberry Ice Cream

Strawberry Ice Cream

Elderflowers- better late than never

I think the elderflowers are late this year.  And don’t ask me if that’s a sign of a good or bad summer- I have no idea!

Elderflowers and lemons- a perfect match

Elderflowers and lemons- a perfect match

As always Elderflower cordial is first on the list to be made- this is then used in a miriad of ways, including my Elderflower butter cookies.  They taste better than they look, and I remember why I only make them once a year- you need to watch them like a hawk, and they are very fiddly- but the texture is so soft, and they go just perfectly with a fragrant glass of cordial.

Elderflower cookies

Elderflower cookies

This year, I wanted to experiment with a Elderflower Liquor.  Actually more a prosecco- I hope anyway.  It needs to sit for two weeks, so we’ll have to wait.

The start of the fizz

The start of the fizz

And the finished article…

Elderflower Fizz

Elderflower Fizz

And of course the afore mentioned cordial….

Cordial ready to go!

Cordial ready to go!

Contact me here, or on Facebook if you want to buy some cordial- €5 a bottle, and you get €1 back if you return the bottle to me :)

Dr Seuss- The lessons I’ve Learned

Both my kids, and all the cousins have grown up reading Dr Seuss.

I spent an “enjoyable” car ride with the eldest reciting poor Mr Bix

“And poor Mr. Bix! Every morning at six, poor Mr. Bix has his Borfin to fix!  It doesn’t seem fair. It just doesn’t seem right, but his Borfin just seems to go shlump every night.  It shlumps in a heap, sadly needing repair.  Bix figures it’s due to the local night air.  It takes him all day to un-shlump it.  And then…the night air comes back and it shlumps once again! So don’t you feel blue. Don’t get down in the dumps.  You’re lucky you don’t have a Borfin that shlumps.”

And I remembered all the times we looked at the drawings, and all the different characters.

Dr Seuss' Characters

Dr Seuss’ Characters

And I got to thinking about their other favourites- the little yellow digger (I can still recite it word for word), and the Tiger who came to tea, who had the cheek, don’t you know- to drink ALL daddy’s beer!!

But the constant read in our house for about 2 years was Slinky Malinki and all his friends,

And now they are reading everything, from the Hunger Games to Philosophy for dummies!

The Gift of Books

The Gift of Books

Next stop is to try a kindle…….

 

Goosegogs- Forgotten Fruit

Goosegogs were very popular with my Gran growing up.  And they are one of the few fruits that really aren’t good until they are cooked! Gooseberries are a species of Ribes , a species that also includes currants.  Our climate seems to suit this fruit, and actually the further North they are grown the more they tend to flourish- some even being cultivated near the Artic Circle.   They have been written about in the UK since the 16th Century, but it is widely felt they got there current name from the Dutch Kruisbezie, may have been corrupted into the present English.

My father in law grows approximately 4 bushes,and they, thankfully, seem to fruit at differing seeds.  As this blog is for general use, I will refrain from mentioning the best way to stop mildew on the bushes!!!!

We had decided to make Gooseberry fool with under ripe ones, as my father in law thinks this will make a better fool.  Course for comparison we’ll have to re make the fool with ripe ones.  Can you have too much fool?

First I stew the fruit very gently with, what looks like, FAR too much caster sugar.  Often if the elderflowers are out I’ll throw in a few heads at this stage- but remove them before storing, or making the fool.

Gooseberries ready for stewing

Gooseberries ready for stewing

This takes about 20 minutes, and at that stage they can be transferred to a sealed container and left in the fridge until you are ready to put the fool together.  Then simply make a batch of pastry cream, and add this to the gooseberries with equal quantities of softly whipped cream.  This is best left in the fridge for a while to blend the soft flavours.

Gooseberry Fool

Gooseberry Fool

Happy Birthday William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)

The 13th June 2015 makes the 150th anniversary of the birth of William Butler Yeats.  Always a favourite in English, I think I only really appreciated his poems after school.  Brought back to especially as I saw one of them while travelling on the tube in New York, many years ago.

I think when you are away from home, and see something uniquely Irish it is all the more special.

The poem in question was The Cloths of Heaven

Had I the heaven’s embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths 
Of night and light and the half-light;
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

W B Yeats

W B Yeats

But there was more to the man than just poetry, he was an Irish Senator, and received the Nobel Prize for literature.  And some say completed his greatest works, after this award, which is unusual.

And the other favourite of mine… The Lake Isle of Innisfree

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,

And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made:

Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee;

And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

 

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,

Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;

There midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,

And evening full of the linnet’s wings.

 

I will arise and go now, for always night and day

I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;

While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,

I hear it in the deep heart’s core.

Poetry is very personal, but I think everyone can find a Yeats poem they appreciate.  I recommend his “The Rose ” Anthology, published 1893, his earlier works, which for me, strike the most poignant notes.  Like its namesake flower, Yeats’ collection is at once beautiful, sensual and thorny. Taken as a whole, these poems comprise the young Yeats’ homage to his homeland, my homeland.  I think I’m welling up.