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.

Shepherds Pie Potatoes

I always cater for at least 4 people for dinner.  But for a while, as my better half is in New Zealand, I have to downsize.  And it got me thinking about catering for 1.  The secret is to not over cook, as food waste is not good for the pocket or the environment.  And also to have some “master” recipes.  This recipe uses a mince sauce, basically a bolognese that can also be simply heated to go with pasta, or made into a lasagne. And while we are being picky, a shepherds pie is traditionally made with lamb mince. But in this case I’m using beef, so as to stretch out the number of meal options available.  Quick, easy and very moreish, suitable for hungry families after long days, or simply a snack for one.

Shepherds Pie Potatoes

Ingredients

2 teaspoons of olive oil

1 onion, peeled and diced

150g minced beef

250ml beef stock

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon of tomato purée

1 large jacket potato, baked

20g butter

A handful grated cheese, your choice

Method

Heat oven to 180oC. Heat the oil in a non-stick pot.  Cook the onion gently for 3-4 mins, then increase the heat and add the mince.  Fry for a further 10 mins until the beef has browned.  Stir in the stock, Worcestershire sauce, tomato purée and season to taste.  Gently bubble for 15-20 mins until the mince is tender and the sauce has thickened.

 

Sheperds Pie

To assemble, cut the baked jacket potato in half lengthways and scoop the flesh into a small bowl, leaving the skin intact.

Sheperds Pie

Mash the potato with the butter and season well. Divide the mince between the potato skins, then cover with the mash.

Sheperds Pie

Transfer the potatoes to a baking dish, sprinkle with cheese, then bake for 15-20 mins until golden. These can, of course be multiplied up to have as a canape or starter.  However you have these mini shepherds pies they are divine!

Shepherds Pie

Shepherds Pie Potatoes

Blood Orange & Ricotta Pancakes with Dark Chocolate Sauce

Not only are you probably all sick of pancakes, you are also a little fed up of my current blood orange obsession.  Well fear not, this is the last blood orange hurrah…. and these pancakes are SO totally worth it.  With, or without the chocolate sauce.

Blood Orange & Ricotta Pancakes with Dark Chocolate Sauce

Ingredients
FOR THE PANCAKES:
250g ricotta cheese
2 tablespoons of caster sugar
2 eggs
1 tablespoon blood orange zest
2 tablespoon blood orange juice
120g flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
FOR THE SAUCE:
200g chopped chocolate
2 tablespoons blood orange juice
1 teaspoon blood orange zest
20g butter
2 tablespoons of caster sugar
To serve: Some chilled mascarpone cheese combined with 2 tablespoons of icing sugar
Method
To make the sauce: Combine all ingredients in a small bowl, place over a pan of simmering water, stirring frequently until the chocolate is melted and looking smooth. Turn off the heat but leave over the pan of water so it doesn’t thicken too much while you are making the pancakes.

Ricotta Pancakes

The Pancake Batter

In a large bowl, whisk together ricotta, sugar, eggs, orange zest and juice. Add flour and baking powder and stir until well combined.
Heat a large frying pan over medium-low heat. Add a little bit of butter to melt.

Ricotta Pancakes

Frying the batter

Ladle batter into the pan and cook pancakes until edges are beginning to crisp, about 5 minutes. Flip pancakes and cook an additional 3-4 minutes.

Ricotta Pancakes

Chocolate Sauce with Mascarpone Cream

Serve pancakes topped with warm chocolate sauce.

Ricotta Pancakes

Ricotta Pancakes

Divine!

 

French Toast for Mother’s Day

I know I’ve posted a French Toast recipe before, but this Rachel Allen one is so beautifully simple. So simple that anyone in the family could take it upon themselves to make it for, say Mother’s Day….

French Toast by Rachel Allen
This is my go-to book for simple quick recipes that taste of the flavours you’d expect of the dish. And with “traditional” French Toast you need not add anything except the 4 main ingredients. Then you can add all the fancy blueberries and maple syrup afterwards.

Mind you if you try to look up “French Toast Recipes” there’s a myriad to chose from.  This Guardian Article is excellent and very informative about alternatives if you chose to follow a different path to mine- so to speak….

Rachel Allen’s Simple French Toast

Ingredients

25g Butter

2 eggs (as fresh as possible)

2 tablespoons of cream or milk- use the cream.

thick slices of at least one day old white bread
French ToastMethod:

Put a heavy frying pan on the hob to heat and add some of the butter. Whisk the eggs and cream together in a shallow dish big enough to take the slices of bread.

Soak a slice of bread briefly in the egg mixture then turn over to soak the other side.  Lift up to drain off the excess liquid then place gently in the hot pan.  You may need to turn down the heat.  Let it cook away until you start to see the bottom turning golden.

French Toast
Flip over onto the other side. Cook for a further 2  minutes then put on a plate in a low oven to keep warm while you cook the other slices. Add more butter to the pan as necessary.

French Toast

NOTE: I usually make twice this recipe! But we are always hungry at breakfast

NOTE2: as a disclaimer- my wonderful daughter actually made these, I just watched and photographed.  She insisted, it was my birthday after all!

NOTE3: On the day I treated myself to a dollop of cream, some raspberries and slices of banana.

French Toast

Divine!

Happy International-Day-of-Happiness

So apparently today is International-Day-of-Happiness.  Which is a bit hard on an Irish die hards around the world, as it’s the Monday after St Patrick’s Weekend.

But we’ll do our best, in the spirit of the global community.

We are lying 15th, which isn’t too shabby at all.  And having visited Norway, I can see why it’s at the top.

I feel that happiness around the globe, and in our communities starts with us.

“No act of kindness, however small, is ever wasted.”  Aesop

And we can help others; and part of that can be as simple as a smile.

HappinessAnd fake it ’til you make it if you have to.

I was listening to the Mark Rowe talk at the local Enterprise Week event run by the Bank of Ireland in Ardkeen. He said a simple sentence that really struck a chord with me.

“We are the leaders of our own well being”. And this really hit home to me. We can’t complain that someone else is out exercising/achieving their goals.  They can’t make us go for a run, or set our life goals up.

I’ve recently started learning Italian, using a super little app called Duolingo.  Spending 5 minutes learning how to ask for gelato really puts a smile on my face.

And I have been meaning to finish my new vision board for ages.  Maybe it’s time to stop procrastinating and get doing. A vision board is great for focusing the mind.  It helps to clear my mind of self doubt, and that “stop” word “Can’t”. My fab sister in law is a master at them, but always reminds me that a little progress each day adds up to big results. I need to get out of my own way and stride towards my bigger picture.  Hopefully making others happy along the way.  And giving them a yummy cake or two won’t go astray I’m sure either.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Impressions of Maastricht

As you know I travelled to Maastricht in the Netherlands last month to a college open day with my eldest. It was a city, to be honest, I knew nothing about.  Other than there was some kind of Treaty named after it.  That and stroopwaffles. The height of ignorance- I know!

And, due to one thing and another I didn’t have a huge amount of research time prior to travel either.  Thankfully a family friend had a good friend who grew up there, and he was a great help.

Often when you are up against it time wise, it’s good to have a list of must dos, and may dos.  And that is how I have categorised my list.  Which really is Julien’s list, with a few of my photos.

Our accommodation was, thankfully, really nice.  Classified as a boutique hotel, I was dreading a nouveax but not very comfortable establishment.  I need not have worried. The beds were lovely and comfortable.

Maastricht

I loved that the headboard was a door on it’s side!

With the cutest tea set in the room, which looked over the garden terrace.  Apparently it’s important to get a back room, like we had, as otherwise the street noise can be disturbing.

Maastricht

A teapot kettle. NEVER seen one of these before!

They’ve obviously never lived beside the dart line in Glenageary, and heard the diesel train making itself known to all and sundry every morning at 7! The hotel was called Boutique Hotel Sint Jacob.  And turned out to be about 30m from the college campus we needed to see.  Even if we took the long way around to get there.  A story FAR too embarrassing to tell.  Anyway- to the sights!

Boekhandel Dominicanen

Maastricht

The most amazing bookshop, and unique book shop.  It is a real treat,  with quite a number of english books also.  There is also the added benefit of a cute cafe in the “front” of the church. The cakes looked very sophisticated, but we’d just finished breakfast *sigh*

Vrijthof Square

We were literally a 30 second walk from this wonderful square.  I’m a complete sucker for the European cafe’s/ winebars with all the pretty tables and chairs outside.  (I mean, seriously- does it NEVER rain?)

Maastricht

The Shopping- Grote Staat

I saw some fabulously unique shops around most corners in Maastricht.  But if you are looking for the mainstream, if slightly up market brands, they are also to be found here.  I know we were walking around on a sunny Saturday in Spring, but the buzz was mighty, as they say.  At one stage, while we were walking through the maze of streets, we suddenly heard a full brass band rendition of “It’s a long, long way to Tipperary”. We tracked it down, and it was a local feast day- celebrating the “Prince of Fools”.  Very colourful and loud!

Maastricht

The Mosa forum Shopping Centre

The “Walls”

Although I wasn’t expecting the Waterford Walls.  The city  walls of Maastricht are beautifully restored for the most part.  And the majority of them are incorporated into park lands.

Maastricht

The “Walls”

The Food- oh my- the best til last

As you well know, I am ALWAYS looking to where my next meal is coming from.  And as we checked in to the hotel late on the Friday evening, I was already concerned about breakfast.  I need not have been.  The most GORGEOUSLY quaint and perfectly formed cafe called “Taart” was a mere 5 minute walk from our hotel.  Barely enough of a leg stretch to build up an appetite.

Maastricht

An afternoon tea style breakfast!

And even though we breakfasted there twice, I was reluctant to do anything but drool over the amazing cakes they were producing in front of our eyes.  It was like being at home with the mixer on in the background!

The other place we ate, and I’m not entirely sure how traditional it was- was basically a burger joint- Patty n Bun.  One word.  Heaven.

No, it wasn’t traditional.

No, it wasn’t healthy (HA).

Yes, it was reasonably priced.

Yes we saw them making the “fries” from scratch, and by hand.

And they were the best garlic chips I’ve ever had. They chopped fresh garlic, fried it in butter and covered the hand cut fries with it. Spectacular.

Maastricht
The college student from Newcastle (!) was extremely nice, and I can’t WAIT to return.  Might share the milkshake though this time….

Maastricht

Don’t even start counting the calories, you’d need a calculator

And that was it.

The college? Well, suffice to say if they decided to ask me to come and study there I would.  However I will get to return.  And I can’t wait. Who’s coming?

Consequences

I have been thinking about consequences lately.

The consequence of my son doing his Leaving Certificate is that he will be leaving home to go to college. Cue sad face.

The consequence of getting back into my running means I have to deal with my aching ankle.

Consequences

My Grandmother always told me to “hold my whist to cool my porridge”.  And sometimes it’s easy, especially in this “instant” world, to retaliate like a reflex if someone is being harsh with your soul.  But the consequences to an outburst can be long and far reaching. I’d like to say with my advancing age (!) that I have learnt to be calm and serene in all situations.  But, well, I’m still working on it.

One of my favourite quotes is-

“Wisdom is knowing the right path to take…integrity is taking it.” – M.H. McKee

And it’s a case of taking it on the chin.  And reminding yourself that you may not know what is going on in someone else’s life that they have taken it out on you.  And more importantly for your own well being, they cannot fully appreciate what is going on in your world.  The whole- walk a mile in my shoes before you judge me.

Having both the ability to identify your personal values and the integrity to follow them in life are two qualities that make up a strong moral character. It requires wisdom to identify your own personal values, and even then, this perception is subjective; variable for each individual. And that is very important to understand. And hard to put into practice, unless in the cold, calm light of day.

There will always be those who will debate the contents of your values, but if you unfailingly do what you know to be right, no one will ever be able to question your integrity.

 

 

 

 

Tom Kerridge Pulled Beef, with homemade Bread rolls, and fresh ‘slaw

Pulled pork is so “in” at the moment.  And I’m not all that mad on it.  It can be very dry and taste a little like old stew.  This is a not-dry, very tasty version that I found in my recent Tom Kerridege book purchase.

I serve this in some milk dough bread, the recipe for which you can find deep within this french toast post (now I want to cook French Toast).

Pulled Beef Brisket with BBQ sauce in milk dough buns

Ingredients

For the beef brisket

2 tablespoons of coriander seeds

2 tablespoons of cumin seeds

1 tablespoon of black pepper corns

1 tablespoon of dark muscovado sugar

1 tablesppon of smoked paprika

1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper

2kg whole piece of beef (I used a piece of round beef, but brisket is best if you can get it)

400ml beef or chicken stock

For the barbecue sauce

250ml red wine vinegar

75g of dark muscovado sugar

75ml whiskey

75ml coca cola

250ml tomato ketchup

A Splash of Worcestershire sauce

200ml cooking juices from the beef brisket (see above) or beef gravy

Method

For the brisket, put the coriander seeds, cumin seeds, mustard seeds and peppercorns in a frying pan and toast over a medium heat for a few minutes, taking care not to burn them.  Allow to cool.

Once cooled, add the spices to a pestle and mortar and crush to a powder. Add the sugar, smoked paprika and cayenne pepper and mix together.

Score the beef with a sharp knife and rub the spice mix all over the joint, inside and out. Cover with cling film and place in the fridge overnight.

Beef Brisket

Marinading the beef

The next day, preheat the oven to 160oC. Place the brisket on a wire rack inside a roasting tray and pour the beef stock around the outside. Cover the whole tray with aluminium foil to prevent any moisture escaping. Place in the oven to cook slowly for 4-6 hours, occasionally checking that the liquid hasn’t evaporated. Add some water if it looks low.

After 4-6 hours the beef should be soft and tender. Remove from the oven and leave to rest in the aluminium foil for 25 minutes. Reserve any cooking juices.

For the barbecue sauce, put a large pan over a high heat and add the vinegar. Bring to the boil, then turn down the heat and slowly reduce the volume of liquid by half. Add the sugar, bourbon, cola, ketchup and juices and Worcestershire sauce. Skim off the fat from the surface of the beef brisket cooking juices and add the remaining juices to the pan. Bring back to the boil, then turn the heat down and simmer very slowly for 15-20 minutes.

Meanwhile, remove the brisket from the rack and pull the meat apart using a fork. Add the shredded brisket to the simmering sauce along with any juices left in the roasting tray. Bring back to a very low simmer and cook for a further 10-15 minutes. Turn the heat off and put the pan to one side.

Serve the beef together with the milk buns and some homemade coleslaw to make the ultimate sandwich. What ever about the breadrolls which require some patience and planning.  Coleslaw is a breeze.

Coleslaw

Coleslaw prep

I do admit to using my mixer to shred everything, but I make the mayonnaise by hand.  Sadly it’s very satisfying!

Beef Brisket

Divine!

 

Mad as a March Hare -making traybakes

Although this phrase in general has been in use since the 16th century, it has become popular again in more recent times by Lewis Carrolls Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, which feature and rather eccentric March Hare.

But sometimes for me, the first week of March sees a bit of a pep in my step.  The birds are singing, the days are most definitely getting longer. And we can safely say we are in Spring.

Traybake Ingreidents

Chocolate, Cinnamon and Almond Traybake

Ingredients:

320g Ground Almonds

60g cocoa powder, sifted

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

6 large eggs, separated

200g coconut palm sugar

60g butter, melted and cooled slightly

1/2 cup cooled brewed coffee

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Softly Whipped Cream for serving

Method:

Preheat the oven to 160°C. Grease a loaf tin and line it with parchment paper, allowing 2 inches of overhang on the short sides.

In a bowl, whisk the ground almonds with the cocoa powder, baking powder, salt and 1 1/2 teaspoons of the cinnamon. In another bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the coconut sugar, melted butter, coffee and vanilla. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until the batter is smooth.

In your mixer fitted with the whisk, beat the egg whites at medium-high speed until stiff peaks form, 1 to 2 minutes. Fold one-third of the beaten egg whites into the batter to lighten it, then fold in the remaining egg whites until no streaks remain.

Traybake

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 
45 to 50 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out with a few crumbs attached. Transfer to a rack 
to cool for 20 minutes, then remove from the tin and let cool completely.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, beat the heavy cream with the remaining 1 teaspoon of cinnamon until soft peaks form. Cut the cake into slices and serve with a dollop of the cinnamon cream.

Chocolate Traybake for March

Chocolate Traybake for March


Divine!

Risotto Rice Pudding- Perfect for a Dinner Party

Rice Pudding is just the most comforting of desserts. It’s right up there with Apple Pie in my books.

Apple pi dish :)

Love that joke…. soz

I’ve had risotto rice as a dessert in quite a few restaurants. But had never tried it myself.  I’ve adapted a Tom Kerridge Recipe (I know -it’s my cookbook du jour, or du moi as it happens).  And of course you can make risotto with pudding rice too, it just takes a bit longer.

Conversely rice pudding with risotto rice is nice and quick.  I’ve used arborio.  As one of my chef idols Angela Hartnett also uses arborio in her rice pudding, it must be right. Tom’s additions of peaches and mint make it a fresher dessert than it first seems.

Risotto Rice Pudding with Peaches and Mint

Ingredients

200g Arborio Rice

50g Butter

450ml double cream (you’ll be fine, go for a walk tomorrow)

400ml full fat milk (a long walk)

50g light muscavado sugar

Crème fraîche Topping:

Crème fraîche

1 tablespoon icing sugar

2 teaspoons of cinnamon

Zest of an orange (if you have one)

To Finish

Some peaches, de-stoned and chopped into bite size pieces

some mint leaves, torn roughly

3 tablespoons of light muscavado sugar

Method

Now, bear with me- the method seems a bit pouncy- go with it- you should have seen the bits I left out.

Add the rice to a dry saucepan.  Shake over a medium heat until the grains start to turn brown.  Remove immediately to a bowl (to prevent them over cooking- once they start turning it’s a slippery slope to burnt).

Arborio Risotto rice starting to brown

Arborio Risotto rice starting to brown

Melt the butter in the same pan until it also starts to turn brown.

Beurre Noisette preparation

Beurre Noisette preparation

Turn down the heat and add the rice back in, stirring constantly.  When well covered in the butter add all of the liquid. And the sugar.  Stir gently for about 20 minutes until cooked. If the rice looks dry simply add some more milk. Then leave to rest for 5 minutes.

While the rice is cooking, mix the Crème fraîche ingredients.  Whip this if you can until semi solid.  This very much depends on the type of Crème fraîche.  But it’s fine just drizzled over the pudding at the table.

Scoop the rice into the serving dish and sprinkle with the remaining sugar.  Toss the peaches and mint leaves over the rice also.

Peaches and Brown Sugar

Peaches and Brown Sugar

Serve with the Crème fraîche if you feel you need to!.

Risotto

DIVINE.

 

A Side of Spice- Saag Aloo

I love Indian food.  Not too hot, but a gentle aroma of mixed flavours can really bring a dish to another level.  Saag Aloo is a recipe that nearly always includes spinach and potatoes.  It is most common in the Punjab region, though is also eaten in Nepal, often with goat.  Of course, when I cook curries it’s really just an excuse to make some naan bread.  There’s something about the soft billowy flat bread that is just MADE for moping up sauce.  No curry chips around here!

Saag Aloo

Ingredients

Vegetable oil, for frying, I use sunflower oil  Please don’t use olive oil, I know it’s pedantic but it’s too much “fusion” for my liking.  Plus you need the higher smoking point from a vegetable oil.

1 1/2 teaspoons of cumin seeds

1 medium onion, peeled, halved and thinly sliced

500g of waxy potatoes.  These are not native to our shores.  And although I’m pedantic about this, in this caseI make an exception.  It’s just not right without the tiny little spuds. Cut these into 1 cm cubes.

2cm of fresh ginger, peeled and grated

2 cloves of garlic finely diced, or crushed

1 teaspoon of curry powder (I use a mild one)

2 teaspoons of turmeric

500g of baby leaf spinach

Sag Aloo

A simple list of ingredients often make a great dish

Method

Heat the oil in a large frying pan, add the cumin seeds, and don’t move from the pan until they start to pop.  At this stage turn down the heat and add the onion.  Season and cook these gently over a low heat, stirring constantly until they are caramel in colour.  Add the garlic.  Stir for 1 minute more.

Turning up the heat, add the potatoes, ginger and spices.  Add 500ml of water and cook gently until the potatoes are ready.  Stir every now and then.

Sag Aloo

Finally stir in the spinach and cook for about 5 minutes until the spinach is wilted.  Check the seasoning again.

Divine just like this.  But you could serve this along side some roast lamb for a lovely dinner party treat.

Saag Aloo

The finished Saag Aloo