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.

High on a Hill- were some lovely flowers

Regular recipe hunters to my blog may well unfollow me after this one.  But I had to write a blogpost on the Alpine flowers literally everywhere in Switzerland. Anyone who watched “Heidi” growing up will remember the fields and fields of grass and flowers that she danced through every episode.  And would you believe- they are REAL!

High on a hill was a field of flowers

High on a hill was a field of flowers

They also have these really cool BBQ areas- fully stocked with wood! for passers by to use.  We saw them while in Finland.  I think it’s a wonderful idea.

Flowers
This beauty is the Common Spotted Orchid (Dactylorhiza fuchsii).  And really, I think she’s the furthest thing from common a flower can get!

Flowers

The Aquilegia alpina is of course found at home in Ireland in many a cottage garden, but is completely wild here and flourishing in abundance.
Flowers

At first glance I thought this little lady was Edelweiss, but alas no, sorry Nigel.  We found her high, high up in the Pass dal Fuorn.

Road Trip

She actually has a VERY fancy name, (Pulsatilla alpina ssp.millefoliata) and is only found at altitudes of 1,200–2,700 m. Obviously she is very hardy, but doesn’t like the wet, so would not be commonly found at home.
Flowers
The White Bog Orchid (Platanthera dilatata var. albiflora), is only found near water, so is one of the lower alpine flowers.  But still as majestic as it’s cousins found up high.

Of course, Edelweiss (Leontopodium alpinum) is the one flower I want to find, but alas not so far. of course, it’s not simply a flower- Each bloom consists of five to six small yellow cluster surrounded by fuzzy white “petals” in a double-star formation.  And of course it’s only really found at altitudes of over 1800m. So maybe next time!

The Campsite at Marlice

After travelling through Italy to get there, I was a *little tired and fractious when we arrived at Camp Marlice, in the village Trevignin.  So the tiny little cabin was a bit of a shock after our time in Switzerland.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s in the most gorgeous area, with views to die for.  And the rooms were lovely and cool that we spelt in night- and that’s a definite plus in this heat.  But still- there’s no oven- or BBQ.  So we might have to purchase one (a BBQ that is!) as feeding the masses on a hob is more challenging than possible, and although there is a microwave- I refuse really to do anything in one other than heat milk- and then only if I have to.

Marlice

Breakfast in Marlice

To be fair and honest, these cute little cabins are not really made for mass catering, and at least we can all eat outside.  This week is purely training with some small events planned so hopefully will be a bit more relaxed and holiday like.  I hope.

Annecy has the most beautiful lake and the area is used all year round for both skiing and snow sports in the Winter and for hiking and water sports in the Summer.  Aix de Bains is our closest town and I’m very much looking forward to the market there in Wednesday. More of that in another post.  A little like Scuol in Switzerland, this is also a spa town and was used by the rich and famous for years, now though, since the recession, it’s being promoted as a tourist destination for all.

Marlice

Our Balcony in Marlice

Today’s plan? Not entirely sure- but it will involve some orienteering in a forest not too far away- followed probably by a couple of glasses of vino and a nice French produce meal- salad is sounding attractive considering the cooking facilities!

However all is forgotten when we arrive to the coaches house for food and meetings.  The view is spectacular, and the company excellent!
Marlice

Sweet Potato and Aubergine Curry

Sweet Potato and Aubergine Curry was the vegetarian dish du jour for our team dinner the other day.  And although it sounds a bit daunting, it’s very simple and perfect for the athlete to fuel before a race. The benefits come from both the sweet potato and the anti inflammatory effects of the turmeric in the curry.

Sweet potato is nothing to do with the British Queen, and is only a very distant relative.  The first Europeans to taste sweet potatoes were members of Christopher Columbus’s famous expedition in 1492. Later many explorers found many varieties under an assortment of local names, but the name which stayed was the indigenous name of batata. The Spanish combined this with the Quechua word for potato, papa, to create the word patata for the common potato. The first record of the name “sweet potato” is found in the Oxford English Dictionary in 1775.

Sweet Potato

Sweet Potato

Besides simple starches, raw sweet potatoes are very rich in complex carbohydrates, fibre, and vitamin A. When cooked by baking, small variable changes in micronutrient density occur to include a higher content of Vitamin C at a whooping 24%. (Nutritiondata.com)

But these are going into a curry- with some Graffiti Aubergine. And before you admonish me at the end of the piece-

Disclaimer: Due to the starving hoards there is no nice plated picture at the end.  You’ll just have to use your imagination!

Grafitti aubergine

Sweet Potato and Aubergine Curry

Ingredients:

2 peeled onions

3 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped

1 teaspoon garam masala

1 teaspoon turmeric

1 Large Sweet Potato

1 aubergine- can be any variety

1 tin of tomatoes

1 tin of coconut milk (I use a lovely organic one from Lidl)

Rice to serve

Method:

Fry off the onions, garlic and spices in some olive oil, until translucent with a curry twinge! Season well at this stage.
Onion

Finely chop the peeled sweet potato and the aubergine into cubes.  A commi chef comes in handy here when you are multiplying up the recipe, thanks Nigel!

Sweet Potato

Chopped Sweet Potato with some sneaky tomatoes

Fry all of these off with the onions, cover and leave with occasional stirring for about 15 minutes.  Then simply add the tomatoes, coconut milk. Rinse the cans out with about 200ml of water and add this to the pan.  Bring to a simmer and leave for 20 minutes.  season again if necessary. Meanwhile, cook your rice, and serve with a big green salad to bring the colour balance back!

Sweet Potato

Sweet Potato and Aubergine Curry

Travelling by Road

We are very lucky to be able to travel to Europe by car using ferries.  We normally travel using Irish Ferries from Rosslare to Pembroke Dock.  It’s a route we’ve worn for years.  But still always brings with it a sense of excitement! Be it travelling for work, or pleasure, or in this latest journey- both.

Irish Ferries has operated out of Rosslare since 1997, and we now have a few tricks up our sleeves to make the journey a little easier. We always spend that little extra to get a “plus” or a “double plus” cabin.  Primarily because I detest boats, me lying horizontal before the ship even moves is the only way himself can get a bit of peace and quiet on the journey.

The ferry trip takes about 4 hours. Getting into Pembroke dock after midnight.  As we were travelling to the EuroChannel Tunnel on the other side we decided to “pitch our tent” so to speak around 1/3 of the way there, while the roads are quiet.  The Premier Inn chain of hotels are cheap and cheerful, with comfortable beds and far too much breakfast- perfect so for the travelling pit stop.

Our “normal” haunt was booked up for some reason so we stayed in one just off the motorway at Junction 24.
Premier Inn
And other then the fact that the lift was out of order, the hotel was lovely.  We checked in really late and they were very accommodating. The downside of travelling late at night is that you only get a couple of hours in bed- but then the traffic is far easier in the small hours.  Mind you it always surprises me how much traffic there still is!

The other difference in the hotel was the breakfast.  Normally there’s a buffet, and sometimes that’s just fine, but I prefered this freshly cooked option.  You might have had to wait for it, but when it arrived it really was lovely.

And off we went again- this time to the Eurotunnel.  And we were delighted to get there earlier than we needed to, but there was a hiccup.  A train had broken down the night before, thus there was a backlog.  And the waiting area/ loading area is really like a supermarket car park on Christmas Eve.  Bedlam.  This wasn’t helped by the fact that the Welsh were all trying to get to their match in Lille. All the red tops made it feel like a Munster Final in Cardiff!

Travelling to the Eurotunnel

Travelling to the Eurotunnel

And so our lunch plans for Calais were dashed.  And we sat, sometimes patiently, sometimes not so patiently until we left at 18.00hrs.  It kind of took the shine off the trip, especially as we had a 5 hour journey to Strasbourg ahead of us.

Travelling by the Eurotunnel Train

Travelling by the Eurotunnel Train

But hats off to Nigel, and the French Motorway system. And the hotel in Strasbourg who left an envelope out with our key card and parking code.  We fell into bed about 02.00hrs.  But we were nearly there. And at least the last leg would be in daylight.

Of course there was the small matter of shopping for the hoardes in the French Supermarket on the way through. So with shopping on board we headed off into Switzerland.  I was DYING to see the mountains and the lakes. But guess what? We had brought the Irish weather.  it was raining, and misty.  But still there was lots to see- the security at the Swiss border is tight.  But only to get your €40 road tax off you.  Mind you, at least then the road travel is free all inside the country- not like all the tolls in France!

Travelling

Irish Weather- Swiss Countryside

And the clouds cleared as we headed across from Davos, and all was forgiven…
Untitled

Breakfast at Scuol

When I’m away I like to try different things to start the day off.  You have more time, and hopefully access to more ingredients.  Although in Switzerland, everything is so expensive that is makes it a bit more tricky.  However as those HORRID sugary cereals are also prohibitively expensive, you need to get creative.

As the team and appendages (read- managers and supporters) were arriving in dribs and drabs, was started off with just the two of us.  The first breakfast of fried girolles on baguette was just too good to photo, it would have broken the breakfast internet.

The tomatoes I delightedly purchased in France were begging for an outing.  And all it took was a very hot pan, some olive oil, salt pepper and a little nerve.  You need to get those tomatoes really caramelised.  Hands up who refuses to eat “cooked tomatoes” that have probably never even seen a pan???? Well ?? And with a sneaky few girolles as well. Delish.

Breakfast

Breakfast while abroad

It’s normally a piece of cake, so to speak, to get fresh bread and pastry.  But here it seems to be a bit more of an issue.  There’s no nice baker delivering baguettes to us here in Pradella.

So the other option is fruit- fresh fruit during the summer is the best way to start any day.

Breakfast

The melons are so sweet and can be coupled with other fruit and some yogurt to help you feel top of the world.  Cause that’s where you feel here at 1200m above sea level.

Realistically though, fresh fruit and yogurt in the quantities we are talking about, is a little unrealistic.  So along with cooked porridge, and the muesli option, we made Bircher. Which is, in fact, a Swiss Oatmeal. I first had this really really good oatmeal dish in Ballymaloe House Hotel, and actually, if truth be told, thought it originated there!

It is the creation of Maximilian Bircher Benner, who was a Swiss doctor and nutritionist, who developed it for patients at his Zurich sanatorium around 1900 as a way of shoehorning yet more raw fruit into their diets. His charges started every single meal with a bowl of his “little mush”. Bircher-Benner believed apples had cured him of jaundice as a young man, leaving him unfashionably evangelical, for his time, on the powers of fruit and vegetables.

Breakfast Bircher

Ingredients: (Serves 4)

Porridge oats, I like the bigger variety (about two handfuls per person- 8)

Handful of dried fruit- I’m using raisins

Grated apple (half per person)

Enough yogurt to thin out the muesli

Chia Seeds

Method:

Mix together  the oats, raisins and grated apple, and cover with milk.  Leave overnight, or for a minimum of 2 hours.

In the morning add some more fresh fruit- for example bananas or raspberries.  Sprinkle with the chia seeds.

Serve! Not the best picture- but you get my drift!

breakfast

 

Tuna Steak Crostini

Sometimes we crave a little simplicity.  This recipe can be used as a prelude to a banquet, or a quiet meal for two.  The tuna can be changed into slow poached chicken breast, or good quality striploin steak.  But for a little bit of healthiness on a weekday- fish it is. Tuna Steak is about as far removed from the old style tinned tuna that your grandmother used for sandwiches with some sandwich spread- (remember THAT!) as the original ford motorcar is from a Ferrari.  Some species of tuna are now verging on extinction- the opening day fish auctions at one of Tokyo’s fish market  have seen record-setting prices for bluefin tuna, reflecting market demand. In each of 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013, new record prices have been set for a single fish – the current record is 155.4 million japanese yen (US $1.76 million) for a 221 kg fish. Wowsers. Due to changing fishing practices, catching tuna is more friendly to other species, most notably dolphins, who are found with them in their natural habitat.

Tuna

Tuna Crostini ingredients

Tuna Steak Crostini

Ingredients:

Tuna steak 

½ teaspoon lime zest

¼ teaspoon ground cumin

Pinch cayenne pepper

Olive oil

1 tablespoon lime juice

2 cloves garlic, divided use

1 pressed through garlic press and 1 left whole

1 French baguette, sliced on the bias into 12 slices

Avocado-Lime Salsa

Method:

Marinate the tuna steak by placing it into a large bowl and adding the lime zest, cracked black pepper, about ½ teaspoon salt, the ground cumin, the pinch of cayenne pepper, about 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, the lime juice and the 1 clove of pressed garlic. Rub the marinade into the fish and allow it to sit for about 20 minutes.

Marinading Tuna

Marinading Tuna

Drizzle the bread lightly with some olive oil. Sprinkle over a pinch of salt and black pepper and toast the slices in a hot oven until golden brown.  Next, rub the whole garlic clove over each slice of the toasted baguette to gently perfume it; set the slices aside for a moment.

Prepare the Avocado-Lime Salsa, cover and put  in the fridge until ready to serve over the crostini.

Grill the steaks by placing a large griddle pan over high heat; once the pan is very hot, (smoking) add a drizzle of olive oil to it, add the tuna. Grill the steak for about 1 minutes on the first side and about 1 minutes on the second side, and allow it to stand for about 10 minutes before slicing.

To assemble, add several thin slices of the grilled fish steak to each charred crostini, then top with a spoonful of the Avocado-Lime Salsa, sprinkle with an additional twist of fresh cracked black pepper and salt.

Tuna

 

Avocado-Lime Salsa

Ingredients:

1 avocado, diced very finely

¼ red onion, diced very finely

1 ½ tablespoons lime juice

1 teaspoon lime zest

Olive oil

Salt

Cracked black pepper

Method:

Place all ingredients including the lime zest into a bowl, and drizzle with about 1 tablespoon of olive oil, with a few pinches of salt and pepper; gently fold the ingredients together, cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Avocado Salsa

Avocado Salsa

A French Supermarket marathon

I love to shop in a French Supermarket.  The bigger the better. The one we visited in Strasbourg was just mahoosive. We were of course on a mission. To purchase as much as we could, for as reasonable a price as we could, for the team in Switzerland for the next two weeks.  So this meant LOTS of pasta etc.  With enough fresh produce to see himself and myself over the weekend until everyone arrives.

E. Leclerc is one of the main supermarkets in France, along with Carrefour (another firm favourite.  And my kids were probably counting their luck stars that they weren’t being dragged along.  As it was I’d say I looked a little like a Chinese tourist in Trinity College- click, click, click.

Of Course the first thing you see in a french supermarket is all the wine.

French Supermarkets

 

And all the cheese

French Supermarket Shopping

Every type of cheese including my all tine favourite Tete a moine

And all the fish

French Supermarkets

 

And all the veg and salads.

French Supermarkets

I have a serious tomato fetish. Seriously.


Basically it’s like an Irish Supermarket on steroids.  And not only does the french supermarket stock only in season vegetables, it also stocks cheese that’s in season.  Oh yeah baby.  I was in HEAVEN.

French Supermarkets

A little more choice than just “superquinn” sausages here!


The patisserie caught my eye (OBVS) and after drooling carelessly over just about everything I persuaded himself to sit down for a coffee to *try* a little something out.  You know, cause we were on holidays??  It’s very convenient to have a cafe in the middle of the Supermarket. As we were actually starting to wane at that stage!

French Supermarkets

“Come to Mama”

 

I could have taken a thousand pictures, and will take more when we are back in France in two weeks time.  It’ll be interesting to compare it to the Swiss Supermarket.  We will see if the rumours about price are true.  I really hope not, as we’ve a lot of mouths to feed!

 

 

 

 

A Muffle of Muffins

As you know I bake regularly for a cafe in Tramore. We decided to try muffins as an addition to the menu.  I  then had the happy task of trying some flavours out to the critics at home.

I was going with sweet as opposed to savoury muffins, and tried three flavours (drumroll please….)

Blueberry & Chia Seed  (to support the local business)

Banana & Chocolate (as there’d have to chocolate in ONE of them)

and lastly:

Caramelised Apple and Raisin

I debated before- (mostly with myself) what the differences are between a cup cake and a muffin.  For me- it’s two things- I don’t believe that a muffin needs icing.  Whereas a cupcake looks unfinished if not iced. The other is the texture and taste, the cupcake is just a miniature cake, whereas the muffin is not so refined, generally not as sweet and often flavoured with fruit.

First up was the Blueberry And Chia Seed Muffins
Muffins

Blueberry & Chia Seed Muffin

This baby is just belting out the healthy eating vibes.  Chia seeds are the buzz food of 2016, and add a nice topping and texture to the antioxidant busting blueberries in the mix.

Next Up:

Caramelised Apple and Raisin

This took a little longer to make, peeling apples is a pet hate of mine.  But I got through it- thanks for the concern. These ones had no specific topping, so I dusted them with some icing sugar.

Muffins

Caramelised Apple & Raisin

And last but not least-

Banana & Chocolate

These muffins were nearly too light in texture, which was odd really, as banana tends to make bakes a little soggy.

Muffins

Tasting went according to plan, and was civilised for a change. As usual we all had differing favourites.  ME? I think the banana and chocolate is a smidgeon ahead of the apple and raisin.  But really, I’d eat any of them.  Might try savoury ones next….

Motorway Dreaming & Driving

I have been travelling a lot recently and thankfully most of it has been on the motorway.  And having travelled many a motorway in the UK and Europe, I think we are very lucky.  Granted the M50 can be tragic at times, but to be fair, and completely honest, the rest of our motorways are usually fairly quiet and peaceful to drive.

motorway driving

When I’m alone driving I spend my time wondering why nobody has put horses into that beautiful field, or the other burning question- why isn’t the service station on the M9 finished.

Depending on the time of day, I may- or may not listen to the radio.  I really enjoy most shows during the day.  The gentle easy listening mix of chat, interviews and “popular” music. Sometimes I out on the music on my phone.  What I don’t like is the heavier music in the evening.  It tends- for some completely unknown reason to leave me feeling agitated.

We don’t have really big motorways or intersections like you see in the United States, but this clip from Toy Story makes me realise that I definitely do not want to be driving on them!

We are driving to Switzerland in the next couple of weeks.  And then onto France through Italy.  It will be a looonnnnnggggg road trip, but motorways in Europe seem to be be designed with actual travellers in mind.  There are;

  • Good signage
  • Regular Service station stops
  • Good road surfaces- well most of them anyway!

The tolls on these roads can often mount up, but I’d rather pay a toll, and have access to clean, safe bathrooms and food stops. The toll motorways are outside of the main cities.  In other words you are not penalised for taking a ring road around a city.  Whereas Ireland seem to have done the opposite!

In France especially the first point to note is that full service areas are not the only points at which drivers can stop for a break on the French motorway system. Far more frequent than full-scale service areas are much smaller “aires de repos” which are in essence just off-road parking areas where drivers can pause for a break, a picnic or other essentials. But whatever the type of “aire” that is coming up, the services provided are always clearly indicated in advance, with standard picture signs easily read by locals and visitors alike.

 

Rocket Pesto Pasta Recipe

Rocket is one of my favourite salad leaves to use.  Very delicate with a powerful peppery punch.  Arugula as it is sometimes known as- is rich in Vitamin C and Potassium.  All parts of the plant can be eaten, but the leaves are the most popular. With tons of flavour you can feel the healthiness in the dish, also acting as a hydrator in the warm weather.

This recipe is a bit loose.  And by that I mean, there’s no quantities, as it depends on how many I’m feeding.  The general rule of thumb for the “pesto” is equal quantities of nuts, cheese and leaves.  With enough oil until you get the desired consistency.

The other essential to this dish is the Crème fraiche.  The level of acidity in the pesto needs to be balanced and cooled so to speak.  I always use Glenisk.  The quality is always spot on.

.

Rocket Pesto

 

Rocket Pesto Pasta Recipe

Ingredients

olive oil

Packet of rocket leaves

2 Garlic Cloves, peeled

Parmesan Cheese, Grated

Walnuts, halved

Pappardelle, or another pasta

Courgettes, approx. 3 very thinly sliced lengthways

Lemon Juice

2 Tablespoons of  Crème Fraiche

Method:

In a small frying pan, toast the walnuts over moderately low heat until golden, about 
5 minutes. Finely chop 1/2 cup of the walnuts; coarsely chop the rest for garnish.  Add some oil to the pan and quickly fry off the courgette.  Remove to a plate for later.

In a food processor, pulse equal quantities of the rocket (keep some to go through the pasta at the end) the garlic, the walnuts and the cheese until finely chopped. Season the pesto with salt and pepper, and add the oil slowly.

In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the pasta until just cooked. Drain well and add to the pesto in the bowl. Add the courgette and toss to evenly coat. Stir 
in the lemon juice and the remaining rocket and season with salt and pepper.  Add the crème fraiche, this is a really important step as it gives the softness to the dish.  Mix well.  Transfer the pasta to a platter, drizzle with olive oil and garnish with the coarsely chopped walnuts and some more grated cheese.

Rocket Pesto