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.

Special Request Jamie Oliver’s Italian Sausage Pasta

When we have a birthday in this house I always offer to make them ANYTHING they want.  So when the eldest wanted a pasta dish he picked one out of “Jamie’s Italy“- Linguine alla carbonara di salsiccia (sausage carbonara) Doesn’t it sound better in Italian!!!! Sausage pasta sounds just NAFF


My daughter likes, no LOVES me to make a dish that uses “spicy sausage” aka chorizo, but this recipe calls for uncooked sausage meat. I used best quality black pepper sausages in this recipe.  Sometimes if you are lucky you can get some Italian spiced sausages, that would be just PERFECT in this dish. Jamie says it’s like a breakfast pasta, but I for one wouldn’t be a fan of pasta for breakfast!

Jamie Oliver’s Linguine alla carbonara di salsiccia

This of course is my take on it as I did not have all the exact ingredients. As Usual.


Jamie Oliver’s Linguine alla carbonara di salsiccia


4 quality  sausages- Italian if available

olive oil

2 slices of green bacon, thinly sliced

sea salt

freshly ground black pepper

3oog pasta

4 large free-range egg yolks

100 ml  cream

50 g Parmesan cheese , freshly grated

1 lemon , zested

1 sprig parsley , chopped

extra virgin olive oil



I started by slitting the sausage skins lengthways and pop all the meat out. Then as Jamie suggest- Used wet hands to roll little balls of sausage meat about the size of large marbles and place them on a plate.


Next fry the sausage meatballs until golden brown all over, then add the bacon and continue cooking for a couple of minutes, until it’s golden. While this is cooking, bring a pan of salted water to the boil, add the pasta, and cook according to the packet instructions. (It’s a much shorter cooking time for fresh pasta- but a far superior taste in my opinion)


In a large bowl, whip up the egg yolks, cream, half the Parmesan, the lemon zest and parsley.

Sausage Pasta

When you are in the middle of cooking but the light is *just* right-

NB: This step- adding cream to carbonara is an OUTRAGE in Italy, but I don’t really mind in this sauce, as it’s not a pure carbonara anyway.

When the pasta is cooked, drain it in a colander, reserving a little of the cooking water, and immediately toss it quickly with the egg mixture back in the pasta pan. Add the hot sausage meatballs and toss everything together. The egg will cook delicately from the heat of the linguine, just enough for it to thicken and not scramble. The sauce should be smooth and silky. If the pasta becomes a little too stiff looking add a few spoonfuls of the reserved cooking water to loosen it slightly. Sprinkle over the rest of the Parmesan, season if necessary, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and serve. Divine.

Needless to say it went down very well, it’s a really nice summer dish, and would have gone really well with some griddled courgettes.


Strawberry Heaven in a tart

Who doesn’t associate strawberries with Summer? I know you can now get strawberries all year round, but honestly, there is NOTHING better than in season, local strawberries.  And as my love of pastry is always lurking somewhere beneath the surface, strawberries+ pastry= strawberry heaven.

As much as I always love my favourite recipes and make them often, it’s nice to try new things.  I picked up “The Boy Who Bakes”- Edd Kimber while in the UK on a trip.  Although I follow him on #Instagram, I had never seen him on TV on the GBBO, or tried one of his recipes.  Until now.

And it was worth the wait.  There is almonds in both the pastry and the frangipane, so you wouldn’t want to be catering for a crowd- cost wise, but the pastry was easy to make, and once chilled in the fridge for the requisite 30 minutes, the pastry rolled out beautifully.  I think I’ll definitely make this again as a sweet pastry.


I made one big tart, and a few little ones.  The tart tins have to be fairly deep as you are putting jam, strawberries and frangipane in them.

Strawberry Tart Prep

Strawberry Tart Prep

And I know “baking blind” comes across as being a) too much effort and b) time consuming,  it does make for a crisper non-soggy-bottom tart finish.  Once the tarts were baked, and cooled slightly, I added some homemade strawberry jam and the luscious frangipane.

The Strawberry

Strawberry picking in Ireland, especially in Wexford, is a real industry.  Sure when the strawberries are ripe here on the farm it;s an all hands on deck operating machine.  Too ripe, they grow mouldy and attract insects, not ripe enough- the flavour is off.

In this recipe I have used our own strawberries, but it is possible to make this tart sing with bought ones.  Just please, for my sake make sure the strawberries are as local as can be, and in season.


Once the strawberries are on, and the flaked almonds sprinkled on top, they are sent to the oven to bake. Personally I think they are just divine slightly warm, but this tart is equally good a day, or two days later. If, that is, you can hide a piece away.  Hats off to you Edd Kimber, you’re onto a winner.


And relax…. At the Cliff House Hotel

My hubby and I had a voucher for the Cliff House Hotel which we redeemed for my birthday.  It is without a doubt one of my favourite places on the planet. And I know, kind readers, that I haven’t actually BEEN all over the planet.  But I tell you, anywhere that has a place as peaceful and beautiful as Ardmore is doing well.

Part of the attraction is, of course, that it’s less than an hour away.  Anyone with family/ animals/ own business / anyone at all- knows that if you are going away for an overnight break, it’s nice not to have to travel that far.  I went first and arrived in time to have a top to toe treatment (birthday treat).  And it was just FAB.  Might have been helped by the gorgeous Bellini I had while perusing the lunch menu.

The thing that for me, makes the hotel special is the staff.  All of them, from the receptionists to the masseuse in the spa.

I had the most gorgeous massage.  There aren’t enough words in the dictionary to describe how relaxed I felt. For me, to take that time to have a treatment is the hardest thing to do. And it was worth every second. I always regret not booking more than one treatment… next time.

Of course by the time you have a swim, and wander back to your room it’s time for dinner.  We have been lucky enough to dine in the Cliff House Hotel restaurant a number of times over the years.  It’s a true culinary journey, and isn’t to be rushed or started on anything except an empty stomach.

I’m not going to post pictures of all our courses, just two, or my absolute highlights- apologies in advance for the dark photos, but I don’t like disturbing the ambience of the restaurant by having the camera flash on.

The cutest carrot EVER

The cutest carrot EVER

Honestly, the time that it must take with every single morsel that goes on the plate! Then of course there’s the pièce de résistance…. Of course my love affair of food is also with wine, and their Head Sommelier, Thierry Sauvanot and I are besties 😉

Cliff House Hotel

In short you need to visit. For the view alone it’s worth the trip. Tell them I say Hi.



NB I wrote this post after our stay, I never review by request, as I never review, simply visit and enjoy.  The odd time I do blog about a hotel or restaurant it is because we have visited there, either by chance or design.  I write purely for pleasure and don’t get reimbursement. In short this blog about the Cliff House Hotel is because I believe in giving credit when credit is due. So thanks Adriaan and the team, again, sincerely, for a wonderful 24 hours.

Rocket Gnudi- Yep I’d never heard of them either

My Mum and Dad are great at spying recipes for me to try, and when they proudly presented me with this particular Gnudi one, there was a definite hint of -I’ve-stumped-you-now in my father’s eye.  But never one to resist a challenge, I went about making some. This recipe is  from the book – Too Good To Waste by Victoria Glass.

Technically dumplings, these billowy puffs of cheese are from Tuscany originally, where ricotta replaced potato in the more common Gnocchi. Gnudi is an English-adopted Tuscan word for the Italian term “nudi” (naked), the idea being that these balls of ricotta (and sometimes spinach) are “nude ravioli”, consisting of just the tasty filling without the pasta shell. Fine with me. I’m not adverse to a bowl of nude pasta if push comes to shove.

Rocket Gnudi


150g Rocket/ or you could probably use baby spinach

250g ricotta

50g freshly grated Parmesan

1 egg, beaten

1/4 teaspoon of freshly grated nutmeg

250g semolina

Sage butter or tomato passata sauce to serve.


Place the rocket in a saucepan with 1 tablespoon of boiling water and heat until the leaves are just wilted. Drain well, cool and chop finely.  Mix this chopped rocket together with the ricotta, parmesan, egg, nutmeg, salt and some black pepper in a bowl.


Pour the semolina into a separate shallow bowl.


Wet your hands (to prevent sticking) and roll a walnut sized piece of ricotta mixture into balls in between your palms. Then coat this in semolina, leaving it to one side in the semolina dish when you move onto the next ball.

Continue like this until all the balls are used up.  Then roll all the balls again through the semolina to make sure that they are well coated.


At this stage they need to go uncovered into the fridge for at least 48 hours. Here the gnudi will develop a skin to make them easier to cook.  They can be frozen in a container at this stage.

When you are ready to cook the gnudi, bring a large pot of salted water to the boil.  Adding a few gnudi at a time to this water, you will know when they are cooked as they will start to float.  Using a slotted spoon remove the cooked gnudi to a frying pan with sizzling melted butter to finish them off.

Rocket Gnudi

Rocket Gnudi

I love them just like this, with extra parmesan, but you could throw them into a bowl of bubbling passata if you were feeling indulgent.  Whatever way you chose they are divine.








Why Sorry seems to be the hardest word

We all have problems admitting when we are wrong.  So sometimes Sorry is the hardest word. Often, it seems, the answer lies in how the person apologises. But what makes one apology acceptable and another one not? What makes it possible for some people to say they’re sorry and impossible for others? And what makes one person forgive and another hold a grudge forever? Bit Deep for a Tuesday? Sorry…

I’m a *bit* hot headed at times, but quickly calm down, a little deep breathing, a cup of tea, or some exercise does the trick- and am always willing to apologise. What gets me is when others DON’T feel the need to say sorry. But as my very wise mother in law use to say- not my monkey, not my circus.


So when this song came on recently, when I was having the ever present conversation with myself in my head about how someone was, to be honest, really upsetting me because they, I feel, had completely wronged me, I paused. Because Sorry is the hardest word.  And maybe they aren’t ready to apologise, or maybe they don’t feel they have to. So I need to move on. And listen to more music.

And while we are are on the Elton John theme…. one of my favourite albums of “his”, is

Two Rooms: Celebrating the Songs of Elton John & Bernie Taupin. It’s is a tribute album consisting of interpretations of sixteen songs written by Elton John and Bernie Taupin.  And some of them are complete magic. My favourite? “Tonight” sung by George Michael, interestingly on the same album “Blue Moves” as the song in the blog title. It’s movingly hauntingly beautifully written and sung. And brings me to goosebumps every time I hear it. Maybe I should put “learn to play tonight on the piano” on my bucket list…





Donal Skehan’s Baked Indian-Spiced Cardamon Chicken

I recently purchased “Fresh”, Donal Skehan’s latest cookbook “Fresh”. My first foray into this beautifully crafted set of recipes is the above titled “Baked Indian Spiced Chicken with Cardamon”. MMMMMM Cardamon…….

Anyway, it requires a little preparation, and a lot of time. But it totally worth it
Baked Indian-Spiced Cardamon Chicken

Baked Indian-Spiced Chicken with Cardamon & Coriander Bulgur Wheat


1 Whole Chicken, preferably free-range, but ideally organic

2 large onions, peeled and cut into thick slices

1 tbsp rapeseed oil

1 lemon, halved

For the marinade:

2 large garlic cloves, crushed

1 tbsp freshly grated root ginger

1 tsp ground cumin

2 tsp ground coriander

2 tsp garam masala

1 tsp hot paprika

1 tbsp ground turmeric

2 tbsp rapeseed oil

250ml natural yogurt

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the couscous:

3 cardamom pods

200g bulgur wheat

2 tsp vegetable stock granules

handful fresh coriander leaves, roughly chopped


Make the marinade first by mixing the garlic, ginger, cumin, coriander, garam masala, turmeric, paprika, olive oil and yogurt in a large bowl and season with salt and pepper. Then Slash the chicken legs several times with a sharp knife, then rub the marinade all over the chicken, both inside and out. I added the sliced onions at this stage to try to encourage as much as possible of the flavours to mingle. If you want use disposable gloves for this if you want, otherwise just make sure to wash them straight away afterwards to avoid any cross contamination.  I was organised enough- for once- to marinade this overnight, but please leave it as long as you can.
Take your Indian-Spiced chicken out of the fridge at least 30 minutes before it goes into the oven. Preheat the oven to 230°C. Make a base in your roasting dish with the onions and then drizzle over the rapeseed oil. Season generously with salt and pepper and sit the chicken on top.


Put the lemon inside the chicken’s cavity and place in the oven and immediately reduce the heat to 200°C. Cover the Indian-Spiced chicken loosely with foil and roast for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and roast for another 60 minutes, basting the chicken halfway through cooking.

Meanwhile, prepare the bulgur wheat. Bash the cardamom pods with the back of a knife and place them in a bowl with the bulgur. Add the stock granules and cover with boiling water, cover with cling film and leave until all the water has been soaked up and the couscous is nice a plump. Using a fork fluff up the couscous when it’s ready and fold in the coriander.

Cardamon Chicken

Rest the chicken in it’s roasting dish for at least 10 minutes before carving.  Serve with the bulgur and a nice green salad.

Nice one Donal, one for the cooking playlist.

My Exam Stress- A Mother’s Musings

Hilarious isn’t it? I’m stressed and am not even DOING the exams. And it’s not like I’d like to try to sit the exam for them.  Because;

a) My days of Romeo and Juliet are well and truly over

b) CSPE? I’m not a fan of makey uppy subjects.  As my fellow Newparkers will testify there was never a civics class in MY day.
Exam Stress
And I think it has actually worked out with both kids doing exams this year.  Both rooms are quiet at the same time, and both are getting my only-divided-in-two attention. The house would be up in flames very quickly at the moment with the amount of paperwork bundles all over the floors and the sticky notes on every surface (herself’s Irish).

When I did the Leaving it was tough.  I think it’s even tougher now.  The whole social media angle is something we didn’t have to deal with.  If I wanted to chat to someone about an impending exam I had to ring them… Now there are so many platforms on which to, quite frankly, freak each other out.

And, I really should take my own not-engaging-in-social-media advice.  I engaged with someone on Twitter this morning over the new Junior Cert English Paper #NOTafan  And I shouldn’t have.  It was quite amicable.  But only I was actively restraining myself it might have turned nasty.

So what am I doing to support the heirs to the overdraft?

  • Cooking them whatever they want for meals and “treats”.  Both have slightly different favourites. But both want Domino’s Pizza as their finally-finished-exams meal.  Go Figure.  For all my friends and followers who sometimes wish they ate with me every night. My beloved children are abandoning my food for Domino’s. And thankfully the in between favourites include pasta dishes and lots of Granddad grown veggies.  We’ll still start the day with porridge and fresh fruit.  A little like a horse, best not to change anything in the routine coming up to the final competition.
  • Exercise.  Both for myself and Nigel, and the kids.  Even if it’s just a walk up the farm.  A bit of fresh air (and possibly a little rain) will hopefully help clear the heads.
  • Just being there.  Even though all I actually want to do is ride my horse, visit new places and start researching suppliers for our new business- I am staying put. Being here.  As a person to scream, cry or laugh at. It’s the least I can do.

PS English went well for both *faints with relief*

Chocolate and Beetroot Loaf Cake- Just Mix it

My Father in law was going away recently and gave me some items from his fridge to use up. There were three cooked and peeled bulbs of beetroot in a bowl. Hmm I said. Salad? nah. Cake? Yes! And I’m not a fan of the hiding vegetables-in-cake brigade, as

a) My family EAT vegetables

b) I’m hesitant about the nutritional value of the said vegetable post bake

Anyway, in this case the beetroot needed using, so chocolate cake ensued. Beetroot is almost always organically grown as it is resistant to most pests. Good News.  But grows best in cooler climes, so with the onset of climate change definitely starting to affect us here… Bad News.

9/365 Beetroot

Chocolate and Beetroot Loaf Cake


150g of cooked beetroot (simply boil in it’s scrubbed skin until soft, then peel)

140g plain white flour

1 rounded teaspoon of baking powder

60g good quality cocoa powder

150g caster sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

140g sunflower oil

50g dark chocolate, chopped


Heat your oven to 170oC.  Grease a good quality loaf tin, and line with baking paper, bringing it well up the sides. Unusually I am using my Kenwood food processor, that I normally wouldn’t DREAM of making cakes in.  (and yes, since you’re asking I dream about making cakes ALL the time)
Beetroot Cake

Anyway, I digress.  “Blend” the beetroot until like little grated chunks. Add the flour, baking powder, sugar, vanilla, eggs and cocoa.  Blend again slowly then add the oil down through the chute until you get a nice sloppy cake consistency.  You may need to scoot around the sides with a spatula to make sure everything is nicely blended.

Pour/ scoop into the prepared tin and sprinkle the chopped chocolate on top.

Beetroot Cake

Bake in the pre-heated oven for about 40 minutes or until the skewer comes out almost clean.  Leave in the tin to cool down completely.

This is a rich, dense cake that lends itself to be eaten with some softly whipped cream. And no, you don’t taste the beetroot.
Beetroot Cake


Calm is my New Superpower, What’s Yours?

Honestly. And I’m not known as the calm one at home.  But as I grow older and possibly* less tolerant of, well, bullsh*t, I find myself wrapping myself in my metaphorical cape and calming down.

Calm is a super power

I think they should teach it at school, mind you it may be what this whole “mindfulness” is all about. Maybe. I tried yoga when I pregnant with my youngest and never really got the whole clear your mind of clutter.  My mind is ALWAYS racing, so much so that I tend not to finish my sentences properly as I’m onto the next thing. Making me hard to understand, and making me look a little* mad.

So this is my “motto for the month”. By making it into a superpower  I hope I can use my calmness for good.  With my two kids both doing state exams, I “have” to be the calm one, the sense of reason, the pillar of society, and the positive influence. Sounds tiring???

Once the calm cape is on, next listening is the critical attribute. That is often easier said than done, as really if I was to have a specialist subject on mastermind- talking would be it. A million thoughts, frustrations, worries, and daydreams can drift in and out, diverting attention away from the speaker. Active, engaged listening while radiating calm in understanding the issues, needs, and wants so that I can better get on with the job of mother/ advisor/ diplomat is essential.

“Calm mind brings inner strength and self-confidence, so that’s very important for good health.” Dalai Lama
A win/ win so??

My Calmness was tested while heading into town this month on taxi duties I saw an older man kneeling, looking like he was trying to catch his breath on the ring road in Waterford.  It’s a dual carriageway, and the traffic moves quite fast, so I passed before I could stop.  I decided, while seeing none of the cars behind me slowing, to turn back at the next roundabout.  As I passed by the other side, I could see the man now lying on a track.  Slightly out of my calm zone at this stage I got back to him and although he was grey in colour he was still moving.  Thankfully. He refused a lift, and frankly I didn’t really want to move him, simply saying he felt unwell.  Against his wishes I rang an ambulance.  And stayed surprisingly calm throughout.  But was glad I stopped, what if it was my father, I hope someone with the same calm cape would stop to help him.

Maybe my cape is finally working. Stay tuned.



Gluten Free Chocolate Brownies Recipe

Chocolate anything is hard to beat. And I find that making something gluten free with chocolate always garners high praise as so often the commercially prepared gluten free confectionery is not very tasty, and often dry. It seems to be a love it or hate it type of food.  Many like to eat gluten free although they are not diagnosed as coeliac.  I like balance in my diet (yeah yeah I know- a chocolate cake in each hand), but I recognise the need to offer the choice.  Hence these brownies.

The ground almonds are added to help with the structure but are good retainers of moistness in a cake.  And as brownies are typically gooey, they work very well here. If I was substituting ground almonds for flour in a recipe with a raising agent, I would increase the amount of baking powder used, and really the almonds don’t work well in produce using yeast.  Biscuits are a good gluten free treat also, as there is no need for a raising agent, and there are many flours suitable for coeliacs.  I personally like to keep my ingredients as natural as possible, so stay away from the mixes as much as possible.  Buckwheat would be my flour of choice in this case.

Gluten Free Chocolate Brownies

Gluten Free Chocolate Brownies


225g dark chocolate, chopped

225g butter

1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla extract

225g caster sugar

3 eggs

200g ground almonds

50g white chocolate, chopped


Pre heat the oven to 180oC.  Melt the chocolate and butter gently in a heavy bottomed pan.  Whisk in the vanilla and the sugar.  Whisk in the eggs, then the ground almonds.  Leave aside while you line a tin. about 25cm square, or equivalent.

Add the white chocolate bits and immediately pour into the tin. Here I’ve added a mix of white and dark chocolate drops. Bake for 25 – 30 minutes.  It will still be wobbly in the middle. Leave to cool in the tin before dusting with icing sugar and cutting into squares. You don’t even have to mention “Gluten Free Chocolate Brownies”, Brownies will suffice, a little like Madonna really.


Gluten Free Chocolate Brownie