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.

Charity work- my recipe for Soul Food

In this day and age, when we are striving under difficult circumstances to live our lives, we can sometimes forget that doing something for nothing, for someone who needs it, is good for the soul.

Soul Food

Soul Food

I do work for various charities that help both animals and humans, and although I struggle to fit everything in as I juggle lots of theoretical balls in the air, the rewards are plentiful.  Be it seeing a pony eating grass when it’s being starved for months, or the gratitude if you are to help someone in difficulty, is good for me.

Last year I stood shaking a box on behalf of the Samaritans.  My mum in law had to go into hospital for chemo so was unable to fulfil her annual role, so I stepped in.  I stood outside a small supermarket in the morning for about 3 hours (until she came back and INSISTED on taking over!).  Every single person, with one exception that went in, or out donated.  I was actually gob smacked. From the very old, to the very young, from the very busy, to those who just wanted a chat.  They all put their hands in their pockets.

Charity work ,whatever is is, I believe, teaches humility.  Giving you the opportunity to experience something larger than yourself.  I have spoken to many people who do marathons, or runs for charities, who find that simply doing the run, with other like minded people has helped them through the ardour of the exercise.

I always felt I would have loved to work with Medecins Sans Frontiers (Doctors without Borders), and I think at some stage in my life I would still like to help them.

But for the moment, I’ll stay put! So, my recipe for Soul Food:

Take time, more than you think you can give,

Mix it with enthusiasm and other like minded people

Serve it with a smile, and the knowledge that you are doing a good thing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review: Peggy Porschen

This book is just built for drooling over, this is the second book I own of Peggy’s, the other being a well worn Cake Chic which, to be honest I only used for ideas as I felt the recipes themselves were beyond me.

Wednesday 26th August 006

But with this one, I was determined.  Quite a number of the recipes caught my eye, but one in particular tickled my fancy as it was seasonal as well as stunningly beautiful.

Plum Cake

Plum Cake

The sponges, with cinnamon syrup, were easy to make, although I only have two of those small tins so had to re use, which took time.

Sponges wrapped with sugar syrup

Sponges wrapped with sugar syrup

Next the levelling and icing, I always feel that to take any top off the sponge is a waste, but for the perfect look it has to be done.The icing is the fun- but stressful part.  The piping work takes a while and I think maybe doing it earlier in the night is a better option, but I was putting it off while I got my metaphorical ducks in a row!

Cinnamon buttercream icing

Cinnamon buttercream icing

And the finished article……..

Plum and Cinnamon Cake

Sugar Plum Cake

With a few tweaks I think I will perfect it, but according to an expert- it tasted great!  Let me know by email, or Facebook message if you want one made.   I’m thinking a caramel one next, or maybe toffee apple….

 

For the love of … Pancakes

With the “sleepover” party in full swing, the making of breakfast pancakes was requested. Jords has watched her Dad makes these pancakes for years, so very ably put the batter together while I took an extra few minutes to myself.

For the love of pancakes

For the love of pancakes

I said that I would fry them for her, so got my two “good” pans out, these pans are well seasoned so only need the lightest addition of butter to prevent sticking.

Cooking pancakes

Cooking pancakes

After a mere minute the bubbles appear indicating they require turning,

Nearly ready for consumption

Nearly ready for consumption

And that’s it. Quick, simple, requiring very little ingredients.  We all have our favourite ways of eating them, mine is with maple syrup and bacon, the kids love chocolate spread.  But due to lack of inclination to also grill bacon, I settled for the fruit-cream-pancake-maple-syrup option.  Definitely not low calorie, but surely one won’t hurt??

Freshly made pancakes with fresh fruit

Freshly made pancakes with berries, cream  and maple syrup

Travelling with the blinds down

I was VERY excited to be travelling to New Orleans (I know, I’m sorry, you’re sick of hearing about it!!).  Packing and getting the flight for me is half the fun, and the breakfast before hand obviously!

Tuesday 04 Au 028

Boarding

Boarding

The flight was getting into Washington at around 6pm, so I was looking forward to seeing my first glimpse of one of the most important cities on the planet! Even if I would only be seeing it from the air.  As I was flying onwards later that evening.

Little did I know that these days, everyone pulls the blinds down, for the ENTIRE TRIP.  I thought maybe it was just going to be for the flight over the sea, but no, every single blind was down!  I think I was the only one on the plane who was excited to be travelling so far, to a place I’d never been.

travel

I am a nervous traveller, although less as I do more of it.  My OCD always kicks in, and this causes me a little stress, but is there anything more exciting than seeing a new country or city for the first time?

When Nigel and I were driving the “Back” roads down through France to the Pyrenees, were arrived around 4 hours later than we’d hoped as we spent so much time stopping to take photos around every bend. Which we LOVED.

Even when Robert or any other family head away, I love looking at the pictures and hearing the stories, and although I am a true home bird, a trip every now and then makes life exciting.

So I, definitely do NOT travel with the blinds down.

world

Eggs- all in one basket…

I recently posted a quote on Facebook about the length of time eggs are around before they actually reach the supermarket shelves.

Thankfully the information I posted was not relevant in Ireland.  Here, thankfully, the egg moves from hen to shop in 4 days.  Which is very good news, further more, my good friend Ruth Conefrey told me ” little known fact … Every commercially packed egg is 100% traceable. They each have a stamp that identifies the county & unique identifier of the packing centre (where they are boxed). Then the packing centre keeps traceability records for all the eggs they pack – so an egg can be traced right back not only to the farm but also to the hen house! Very interesting things eggs!”

We have 11 hens at the moment, and have just ordered delivery of 3 more, with 3 ducks and a turkey!  Very exciting!

They live very happily behind a small electrified fence in the orchard on the farm, and the egs are collected by wiling hands every day, although the young ones soon learn not to put a hand in a nesting box with a hen in it, it’s the quickest way to get pecked! When collected, the date is put on them, and we try to keep track of how many eggs we get each day.

Happy Hens

Happy Hens

 

We were always told the Cuckoo Marron were the best layers and mothers, and we only have one of those left, (she’s the big speckled lady), but over the years have expanded into a number of breeds.  I have to admit to not having a single hen-whispering bone in my body, my eldest has that talent.  They love me to feed them, but NEVER go into their house when I want them too!

Freshly laid eggs

Freshly laid eggs

We tend to use all the eggs laid, I love a boiled egg on a sunday morning, with some freshly baked soda bread.  Nothing nicer, or more Irish I think.  With lots of tea, and followed up with some marmalade on yet more bread!

Boiled Egg with freshly made soda bread

Boiled Egg with freshly made soda bread

 

 

The joy of Birthday Cakes

I only have two children, lots of nieces and nephews, but only two of my own.  So there’s only a requirement for 3 extra special birthday cakes a year.  Believe it or not there’s a lot of pressure.  And actually multiple cakes, as there’s the cake on the day, then “the” cake on the day of the family party, and sometimes there’s a third cake, depending on what other celebrations are in order.

We have a real thing for lemon curd in our house, and meringue, and sponge.  So together they made the “day” cake yesterday.

Meringue ready for the oven

Meringue ready for the oven

Its not the fanciest looking cake, but the flavours work really well.

Second the lemon curd

Second the lemon curd

The addition of cream makes it luscious.

Lemon Meringue Cake

Lemon Meringue Cake

And it was certainly polished off quickly, in the garden with afternoon tea.

Afternoon tea in the garden

Afternoon tea in the garden

Of course, its always nice to have a candle to blow out, and we went out for pizza in one of her favourite restaurants- Emiliano’s in Waterford, and where the addition of the candle to her crunchy cheesecake, made for one very happy newly minted teenager.

Birthday dessert in Emiliano's, Waterford

Birthday dessert in Emiliano’s, Waterford

Retro Cooking

I love getting to spend time at the weekend in my kitchen cooking for the whole family, usually something special that takes a little more time, and as there’s always lots of extra people to help us eat the mountains of food.  As we were catering today for a group in Alan’s garden, Saturday was chosen for the dinner of substance.

I was going to decorate the dessert with rose petals, but it looked so beautiful on the bush, I couldn’t bear to pick it.

Rose in almost fool bloom

Rose in almost fool bloom

Baked Alaska is truly retro, and not simple in its execution.  Needing a few basic ingredients, it comes together in it’s majesty at the last minute.

Preparing the ice cream

Preparing the ice cream

A simple sponge is used as the base, I usually make two, one for this, and one to freeze for an emergency. Homemade strawberry ice cream is a complete must.

Ice cream and a sponge base

Ice cream and a sponge base

This gets frozen while I make meringue, which is then spread carefully over the entire dish, completely covering the ice cream, this is very important, so that it stays intact in the oven.

Final addition of meringue

Final addition of meringue

This then gets put back in the freezer until you are 10 minutes away from serving, the entire dessert goes into a very hot oven for ten minutes until turning golden.

Baked Alaska

Baked Alaska

It was polished off rapidly, sure there was no point in keeping any leftovers, they wouldn’t have been nice!

You’re never too old to try something new

Charlotte’s Pilates classes

Tonight I tried something I’ve been promising myself I’d try for years. Pilates. As non impact exercise it’s good for my dodgy knee and ankle, but still feels like exercise.

And as each day I feel a little older, some days more than others, this evening I feel great (get back to me in the morning!!)

So, will I go back? yes!

Would I recommend it? Yes! Looking forward to my six pack! Thanks Charlotte!

There’s no place like home…

Tramore in the summer is not my favourite place.  I walk along the prom trying not to throw nasty looks at people using my beach.  I jest in part, but am secretly delighted that so many people like to visit the Copper Coast, in the Sunny South East.  So although I prefer the seaside town in the Winter, many others do, actually, prefer the Summer!

thursday 13 August 002

So if you are visiting and are looking for something to do, here’s my list of suggestions.

Walk the prom- both in the sun and the rain.

thursday 13 August 002

Eat chips in Dooly’s Fish and Chip Shop

Doolys Fresh Fish and Chips

Doolys Fresh Fish and Chips

Bring the kids to the Amusements

A view of the amusements from the prom in Tramore

A view of the amusements from the prom in Tramore

The Jungle Roller- Tramore Amusements

The Jungle Roller- Tramore Amusements

Run or walk all the way around the sand dunes.

The dunes

The dunes

Drive down the Copper Coast to Bunmahon, have afternoon tea in the renovated Bunmahon Church, look at the Comeraghs.

The Comeragh Mountains on a sunny day

The Comeragh Mountains on a sunny day

My favourite thing to do in Tramore? Walk the prom during a storm, you can feel mother nature in her purest form.

 

Blackcurrant Cordial- a bumper dose of Vitamin C …

… phytochemicals and antioxidants.  In other words, feel good in a bottle. (100g of blackcurrants can provide 218% of the RDA!!!) Growing up, the kids couldn’t get enough of it, and it really makes me happy that I can make it now for them, and their younger cousins, to strengthen their system as we move into the Autumn, and the back to school bugs.  It has a unique flavour and such a rich colour.

The fruit cage

The fruit cage

During World War II it became impossible to purchase the then traditional source of Vitamin C, oranges, so growing blackcurrants was encouraged, from 1942, cordial was distributed free of charge to children under 2 in the U.K.  However in the U.S., in the 20th Century, the growing of blackcurrants commercially was banned as it was a vector of a rot that threatened the logging industry, this ban was reduced to state bans in the 1960’s and blackcurrant growing is on the rise, although severely damaged.

Cordial Prep

Cordial Prep

Enough history, it makes the kitchen smell great, and takes but an evening. If anyone would like a bottle of this deliciousness contact me through Facebook, or by email.

Ready for shipping!

Ready for shipping!

Blackcurrants

Blackcurrants