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.

Christmas Cakes and Puddings- Let me do the hard work for you!

Hand Painted Christmas Cake

“Happy Christmas”

Today is traditionally stir up Sunday, when the Christmas Pudding is traditionally made. When all the family get together to mix the ingredients and make the pudding.  Although this tradition has died out, I still like to make my Christmas Puddings in advance.

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Hand painted Cake with a halo of mincepie cupcakes

Recently at my “Christmas Prep Part 1″ course, I went through making a Christmas pudding.  It’s a matter of being organised, having a good scales, and a little alcohol to start the process.   We don’t drink spirits in this house very much, (except the odd mojito in the summer!).  So I lavish it lovingly in my cakes and puddings. And continue to lavish it lovingly on them until the cakes get iced. This year I am also making Christmas Broken Biscuit Cakes, for those who want a Christmas Cake to cut, but not a fruit cake.

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Chirstmas Broken Biscuit Cake

If you would like to order any of the below listed products, contact me by email or mobile (0879295673).  Delivery is free within the Waterford area.  


6″ Hand painted luxury Fruit Cake 30.00
8″ Hand painted luxury Fruit Cake 40.00
10″ Hand painted luxury Fruit Cake 80.00
6″ Chocolate Broken Biscuit Cake 30.00
8″ Chocolate Broken Biscuit Cake 60.00

Mince Pies

6 7.50
12 12.00
24 20.00
Mincemeat (no suet) (per 1lb jar) 3.50

Christmas Themed Cupcakes

12 15.00
24 20.00

Christmas Puddings





Marmalade- a little sunshine in the Winter

I love marmalade. On hot toast, or freshly made soda bread.  But am traditional in that I only like it at breakfast time. In the 19th Century the Scots led the charge of putting marmalade on the breakfast table. And I’m sticking to that.  Sure even the English thought that was a good idea.  The Scottish City of Dundee has the longest association with this preserve.  James Keiller and his wife opened a factory producing “preserve with Seville orange rind”.  The arrival of citrus fruit into these isles brought a whole new flavour to cooking for quite some time.  I love to get oranges and lemons in the house, and always have plenty of recipes to hand to convert them into something yummy.

It’s a little early to get the best oranges for making this golden yuminess. I know, I tried.  Seville Oranges are the just perfect amount of bitterness.  It is primarily grown in the Mediterranean, as the climate is perfect for it there.  It has a higher pectin content than sweet oranges, giving a higher set, and a higher yield.  The UK and Britain take 80% of these oranges grown!

Of course in Ireland it is not unheard of to add a little smidgeon of whiskey to the pan. To give a little “warmth” apparently.  The recipe I’m using at the moment does not include any alcohol.  But maybe I’ll make a batch for Christmas. Three fruit marmalade is my go to recipe for when the Seville oranges are not available.  I use a mix of grapefruit, sweet oranges and lemons.  I find this gives the bitter flavour people like in a marmalade.

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Marmalade on fresh brown bread.

So, if anyone would like to purchase a pot, let me know through the usual email.  Looking forward to my toast tomorrow!

Raspberry Swirl Rolls- Delicious

Although it’s very late in the season to be getting raspberries, this recipe works just as well with frozen, as with fresh.  It’s basically a cinnamon roll without the cinnamon.  Nice and fresh at this time of year, with none of the Christmassy tones, or overly sweet taste of the renowned Cinnamon Bun.

Autumn raspberries from the garden

The Autumn Raspberry

The Sweet dough is very simple to make.  I use my Kenwood Mixer, which eliminates the donkey work, and lets me get on with other things.

Raspberry Swirl Rolls

Serves 6- 8



240ml milk

110g caster sugar

20g Fresh yeast (use half quantities of dried, if using)

110g butter, softened

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

630g strong white flour, plus more for dusting


One package of fresh raspberries

40g Icing Sugar & 2 tablespoons

1 teaspoon cornflour


120g Icing sugar

50g butter, melted

1 1/2 tablespoons cream


In a small saucepan, warm the milk until warm (NOT hot).  Add the sugar and the yeast and leave to sponge for 5 minutes.  Sieve the flour and salt into the Kenwood bowl.  Add the milk/yeast and mix slowly.  Add the eggs and the soft butter.  Mix well until a soft dough forms, about 3 minutes. I then change to the dough hook, and increase the speed to medium and beat until the dough is soft and supple, about 5 minutes longer.

Scrape the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead it with your hands 2 or 3 times. Form the dough into a ball and transfer it to a lightly buttered bowl. Cover the dough with a shower cap (!) and let stand in a warm place until doubled in size, 1 to 2 hours.

Line the bottom of a high sided Swiss roll type tin with parchment paper, allowing the paper to extend up the short sides. Butter the paper and sides of the pan. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and, using a rolling pin, roll it into a 10-by-24-inch rectangle, as best you can.

In a small bowl, toss the raspberries with the sugar and cornflour.  Spread the raspberry filling evenly over the dough. Tightly roll up the dough to form a long log.  Working quickly, cut the log into quarters.  Then Cut each quarter into 4 slices and arrange them in the baking pan, cut sides up. Scrape any berries and juice from the work surface into the baking pan between the rolls. Cover the rolls and let them rise in a warm place until they are puffy and have filled the baking pan, about 2 hours.

Raspberry Rolls

Not very rectangular shape, but you get the drift!

  Preheat the oven to 200°C.  Bake the rolls for about 25 minutes, until they are golden and the berries are bubbling.  Transfer the pan to a rack to cool for at least 30 minutes.      

Raspberry Rolls

Raspberry Swirl Rolls baking in the oven

Raspberry Swirl Cake

Raspberry Swirl Cake

In a small bowl, whisk the icing sugar with the melted butter and cream until the icing is thick and spreadable.  Dollop icing over each roll and spread with an offset spatula. Serve warm or at room temperature.  

The poor maligned sausage

With all the WHO HA (excuse the pun) about sausages and processed meat, I decided there was no better honour then making an old fashioned Toad in the Hole.  We all love it at home.

The earliest reference of this dish, or similar dish, is found in Hannah Glasses’s “The Art of Cookery, where she talks of putting yorkshire pudding batter over pigeons. British cuisine especially has unusual names for dishes- roly poly pudding, bubble and squeak! There are every type of recipe to choose from.  Some use water and milk in the batter (makes it a little lighter).  Some use sparkling water, which gives a VERY light batter, but the end result is then not so filling.  Some add other flavours, sage or tomato ketchup.  It very much depends on the occasion I feel. But stick to good sausage meat, and a nice generous batter.

It’s not complicated, it’s not rocket science- but there are a couple of basics:

A good pan, is a complete must.

Good quality Sausage Meat: Preferably from your local butcher, but if I can give you one bit of advice, don’t buy the cheapest sausage meat.  It’s just not worth it, and that goes for all meat. I fry them up in the good quality extra virgin olive oil until starting to brown, then set aside while I make the batter.



The Humble Sausage

The next thing to get right is the batter.  There’s always a lot of smoke and mirrors around yorkshire pudding batter.  It’s not that complicated.  I don’t ever seem to have time to rest it, and my “secret” is to NOT whisk it too much, and make sure to put it into a really really hot oven.


Toad in the Hole

Toad in the Hole- in progress


Toad in the Hole-

Serves 4


350ml full-fat milk

4 large eggs

250g plain flour

Pinch of salt

8 good quality Pork sausage links

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

small rectangular roasting tin or pyrex ovenproof dish, or use the frying pan



Preheat the oven to 220°C. Heat the oil in a good quality, oven ready frying pan, with deep sides and brown the sausages for about 1 minute each side: you need do no more than make them look caramel brown.

Meanwhile, whisk the eggs, milk and salt, whisk in the flour, but its ok, and actually better if there are still a few lumps.

With the sausages and oil still hot, pour in the batter.  Absolutely immediately put into the oven for about 35 minutes or until the edges of the batter have risen and turned golden, and the eggy middle has set.

Serve immediately, with a rich gravy if you have one, or I simply add a green salad.


Toad in the Hole

The best way to enjoy sausage for dinner


An Apple a Day

We have just harvested the last of the apples.  Phew.  Well when I say we, I mean, of course the royal “we”. And most of them are going to cider making and apple juice.  But it would be just unfair not to make some apple desserts.  There are probably more variations on apple pies then there are apples.  But I have a number of favourites, one of which involves making THE easiest crust ever, and doesn’t take cold hands, or indeed, any resting.  This means it can be made at the last minute, if you feel like a little something sweet.


Elstar Apple

Elstar Apples

Apple Varieties:

We use alot of Elstar apples. It’s an offspring of Golden Delicious, and was introduced in 1972 from the Netherlands. It produces great crops, year after year, the apples last for some months when they are harvested.  We use it alot, and although it doesn’t have the sharp green skin that many want their apples to have, the taste is fantastic.  There are 144 apples native to Ireland, the Armagh Bramley Apple was awarded a protected status from the EU last year (A little like protecting champagne, and the Waterford Blaa).  I think my favourite is the Blenheim Orange for a cooking apple variety.

The recipe I use is great with lots of fruits, but with something like an apple, I tend to sauté them first to start the cooking process.


Caramelising Apples in Butter and Sugar

The crust is a simple crumble crust, that is simply mixed and pressed into the serving dish.  This tart doesn’t like being removed from it’s cooking dish, so is best served straight from it. But it also doesn’t need resting or chilling.

Crumb Pastry

Crumb pastry

Then simply add the semi cooked apples, cover with some cinnamon infused sugar, and bake until the sugar covering melts.

Apple Custard Tart

Crust with the caramelised apples

Then the cream/ egg yolks mix is poured gently over the apples, if possible while the tart stays on the oven shelf.  this cooks until golden and set.

Apple Tart

Apple Tart, with a custard filling

It only needs to cool for about 20 minutes before ready to slice carefully, and of course it can be served with more cream!


Cheat’s Beef Wellington

I love Beef Wellington.  I mean REALLY love it.  Mind you I like anything wrapped in pastry.

Beef Wellington doesn’t seem to have any connection to the Duke of Wellington.  It’s suggested that it is simply a “re-patriotion” of the well established filet de bœuf en croûte.  In fact the first written reference to Beef Wellington comes from The Los Angeles Times,who published a recipe for “fillet of beef, a la Wellington” in 1903. The Oxford English Dictionary pinpoints a 1939 guide to eating out in New York as the first reliable reference: Tenderloin of Beef Wellington.  In actual fact Theodora Fitzgibbon, the first lady of Irish Cooking, thought the dish originated as Steig Wellington in Ireland, as the Iron Duke was born here.

In a restaurant if you order this dish, you can expect fillet of beef, lathered in a mushoom duxelle or fois gras coating, and wrapped tightly in puff pastry.  This is normally served with a madeira sauce.

Mine isn’t quite the same.  Although with lots of time, it is made from scratch in totality.  But on this occasion, it was really kind of thrown together.

Nigel had got some flank beef, so I used this instead of fillet.  Yes it was going to be a little tougher, so I marinaded it overnight in lots of red wine and crushed garlic.  With a bay leaf thrown in for good measure.


Flank of Beef


The next day I “Roll” the flank, secure with kitchen twine, and brown well on a really hot buttered pan.  This is then wrapped straight away in clingfilm, tightly.  This helps with the shape, and to keep all the goodness in the beef.  Obviously, if you are using fillet of beef (or venison etc) you don’t need to secure it with string, as it is already in the bsic shape you want.  I would, however, still sear and wrap in cling film.  This can now be left until you are ready to prepare the dish.

Beef Flank- seared and rolled

After this it was simply a matter of blitzing the mushrooms and cooking them in a hot pan with lots of olive oil until they were “Dry”.


Mushroom Duxelle

Then, using shop bought puff pastry (I find the Lidl one excellent),  I lay out the pastry, cover this with slices of proscuito (to keep in the moisture).  Spread the duxelle over this.  Then I unwrap the rested beef (snipping off the string, while trying as best as possible to keep it’s shape).  And lay this on top.  All this is wrapped up, and brushed with egg wash. I cook this for 45 mins in a hot oven, for a medium Beef Wellington. If it was just for family, I’d cook it for less.  The most important thing is to leave it rest.  

Beef Wellington

The Finished Beef Wellington

Best served with a rich dark gravy, this dish needs nothing else except maybe some steamed greens.  Delicious.


Happy Birthday George Boole

Truly the father of the mathematics, ( and I know it’s a hotly contested competition), George Boole is a legend.

He was the first Professor of Mathematics in UCC in 1839, and while there he started his journey that would ultimately lead to the very early concepts of binary.  That which makes our very world rotate today, as it is the basis of all digital programming today.  Google has tipped it’s hat also to this great mathematical mind.


Goerge Boole

Happy Birthday George Boole

“Boole’s legacy surrounds us everywhere, in the computers, information storage and retrieval, electronic circuits and controls that support life, learning and communications in the 21st century. His pivotal advances in mathematics, logic and probability provided the essential groundwork for modern mathematics, microelectronic engineering and computer science.”

—University College Cork.
George Boole was mostly self taught, having been officially educated only to primary school level.  And as a teenager became the breadwinner in the family, as a teacher.  Moving swiftly through the ranks.  Without a shadow of a doubt the man was a genius, yet still had time for a family and loved spending time with them,  He had five talented daughters, each of whom went on to excel in their chosen fields.  In fact his wife, Mary Everest, also worked on his theories, translating them into educational pieces.
It often makes me wonder what discoveries my children will see. Science Fiction is becoming more realistic day to day.  And I can’t even begin to understand the complexity of computers now.  Even to the fact that I’m currently writing words on a screen that will soon be published onto the internet.  How do you even begin to explain the internet??  There’s not enough coffee for those computations on a Monday.
So I salute George Boole, and others like him for taking their ideas and running with them.  Challenging the conceptions of their day, and simply going for it.
George Boole

Goodbye Dear Friend

We had to put our dog down this week. She wasn’t very well early in the week, but in my heart I never thought I would be saying goodbye.  Vets are truly miracle workers, and surely in this instance it would be ok? Wouldn’t it? But it was not to be.  We had to say goodbye.

Eile and PercyShe was always so tolerant of all the animals that parade in and out of our house on a regular basis.  But she always had a special fascination about cats.  When the kids were small we read the Dr Seuss Book “Did I ever tell you how lucky you are”.  In it there’s a town that has a bee watcher, and then they have a bee watcher watcher.  and so on, so forth.  We really felt Eile was our “Bee Watcher”.

Dr Seuss

Bee Watcher Watching

She spent her days watching the cats through the windows.  And when we weren’t there, she went to Alan’s.  And watched his cats through the windows.  And when the children were small she was always running around, making sure her herd stayed together!  Sunday 21 June 2015 010
Benny was her best friend, but Charlie was a close second.  Though in her hay day, she beat both of them in the run down the drive.  She was always first to the door for food, no matter who was staying!  We got Eile from Andrew, in Waterford Animal Rescue.  I literally scooped her out of his arms, she was only about 5 weeks old.  She never really liked being indoors, she much preferred to sit outside on the deck, making sure we were all ok from out there.  She loved going in the car too.  Even bringing her to the vet for the last time, she just hopped in.  Resting her head on my hand every time I changed gear.  Looking at me as if to say- it’s ok to be sad, it’s my time.

Monday 31 August 2015 006


Eile, I miss you so much.  You were the best guard dog, cat watcher, and child herder.  But most of all you were a friend to all. Sleep well.


Hot Chocolate Cakes. A small taste of heaven

Chocolate cake comes in many different shapes and sizes.  Indeed, I myself bake about 5 different kinds of chocolate cake, and the same for chocolate pudding, depending on my mood.  And how much time I have.  But as the weather gets a bit damper and colder.  And when the hour change reeks havoc on our lives.  I find a hot chocolate cake, with a dollop of softly whipped cream does the soul good.

I think the essentials are:

Good Quality Chocolate-

I use Callebaut. Dark Chocolate is one of THE best sources of natural anti- oxidants on the planet.

A 100 gram bar of dark chocolate with 70-85% cocoa contains approximately

  • 11 grams of fiber.
  • 67% of the RDA for Iron.
  • 58% of the RDA for Magnesium.
  • 89% of the RDA for Copper.
  • 98% of the RDA for Manganese.
  • It also has plenty of potassium, phosphorus, zinc and selenium.

Could it get any better? YES! It tastes great, and in small amounts can help reduce blood pressure. It’s a natural mood lifter, which is really a complete win win.

The Start of the Chocolate Pudding

This recipe is easy to make, and can sit either on the counter or in the fridge until it’s time to go into the oven.  I think it’s nicer to serve them in individual moulds.  It also means there’s no arguments at the table.  Everyone gets their own.

Hot Chocolate Cakes

Serves 6- 8


150g caster sugar

350g Dark Chocolate

4 Large Eggs, beaten with a pinch of salt

50g “00” Flour

1 teaspoon of vanilla essence

50g butter



Preheat the oven to 200oC. Melt the chocolate and let it cool slightly.  Either in a bowl over gently simmering water, or VERY CAREFULLY in a microwave.

Cream together the butter and the sugar, gradually beat in the eggs and salt.  Lastly add the vanilla.  Add the flour, and when this is combined, scrape in the cooled, melted chocolate.



Divide the batter between the 8 moulds.  At this stage they can be refrigerated until required.  When ready to cook, put a baking sheet in the preheated oven for a couple of minutes to heat.

Put the chocolate moulds onto the baking sheet and cook for 12 minutes (14 if fridge cold).

As soon as they are cooked, turn out onto plates, serve with softly whipped cream, dust with cocoa.

Hot Chocolate Cake

Cider Making- our journey.

Apple Trees were once one of the seven “nobles” of the woods, as taught through Brehon law.  Apple pips, most probably from crab apples (wild Irish crab apple Malus Sylvestris), having been excavated in Co Meath and carbon dated as 5000 years old. There seems to have been approx 70 varieties of Irish Apple, including, Maidens Blush, Buttermilk Russet, Bloody Butcher, Greasy Pippin, Lady’s Finger of Offaly.  For most users, apples are divided into three main categories, dessert (eating), cooking and cider making.  We are using eating and cooking apples to make our cider.  There are some old and some “newer” varieties.  As for cider making itself? Old Irish texts are so far somewhat silent on the matter of cider-making, although the first definite mention appears in the 12th century when a tribal leader from Ulster is praised for the cider he made from the produce of his orchards. As with many other traditions, the famine wiped out alot of the then cider makers.  After a while such few presses made it un-economical to make, as farmers had to travel with their apple crops.  Only more recently has the art of cider-making again become popular. ( Cider Ireland)

We have to wait until the early modern period and the 17th,18th, and 19th centuries before the discussion of cider-making in Ireland becomes commonplace among writers of the time.

Cider Making in this house has started in earnest.  “We” have been dabbling in it the last number of years.  It’s really Nigel’s baby.  But we all chip in with the apple picking, and of course advice! The apple press FINALLY arrived, so we are READY.  The cider-making really came about

Cider Making

The Cider Press

Course, the next most important thing is APPLES!

Cider Making


Once the press is assembled, the apples are crushed to make them easier to press for juice.

Then this is pressed through a fine mesh.  And then its onto the next stage…

but in the meantime we just make some apple juice for breakfast, we do pasteurise it and also sterilise the bottles, to be sure, to be sure!
Thursday 22nd October 2015 005

It’s not then a million steps into this stage, I love the sound of the gentle blurping that accompanies the faint angels share of cider in my utility room.  Just a little addition of yeast and sugar, with some gentle warming.

Cider Fermentation

Cider making

After about three weeks, once the liquor starts to clear, we then bottle it.  This bit is still a work in progress.  Trying to find the best way to filter it is not the easiest.  We’ve tried “jelly bags” and coffee filters.  Ultimately we want a really clear cider.

Cider Making Stage 3

Cider Making Stage 3

And now it sits again, and we wait to taste.