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

Ingredients:

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.

Method:

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.

Gnudi

Pour the semolina into a separate shallow bowl.

Gnudi

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.

Gnudi

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.

sorry

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

Ingredients:

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

Method:

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.
Chicken
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.

Chicken

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

Ingredients:

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

Method:

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

Ingredients:

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

Method:

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.

Tiramisu
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.

Divine.

Gluten Free Chocolate Brownie

 

An unexpected lunch at the Italian Batoni’s in Emo

We recently had an hour to spend en route from Dublin to Mount Mellick , and decided to stop in Emo for Lunch. This Italian Restaurant is a really hidden gem in Emo. It’s directly opposite the entrance to Emo Court. Jordan and I had visited there a number of years ago for a schools orienteering event, but had never spotted Batoni’s.
Although it looked closed driving by, once in the car park there’s a lovely entrance into the restaurant. We were seated immediately, and just to note, if I ever own a restaurant, I want those chairs.  SO comfortable.

Italian Food at Batoni's

Bruschetta Starter

The menu was really nicely presented and the specials clear- too clear- and delicious.  Nigel went for the Pate dello Chef (duck pate), and I the Bruschetta Contadina.  As a teeny aside, I’ve been learning Italian using the cool little Duolingo App, and really thought my language skills in this area were improving greatly.  Alas when I proudly ordered my starter in my BESTEST Italian accent, our server corrected my pronunciation without a second glance.  Total MORTO.  I really enjoyed the starter, despite my inability to pronuonce it! Both were unusually plated, but gave it uniqueness.

Batoni's Italian Restaurant

The pic doesn’t do this Italian take on pate justice

Main courses were as good, I went for Lasagna, and was not disappointed at all. Nigel had the special Linguine con Coniglio (rabbit pasta).

Batoni's Italian Restaurant

Lasagna with the most amazing cheese sauce

I’m not sure who got the better deal.
EmoAnd although I’m a BIG Dessert fan, I really couldn’t fit in anything else.  The only downside for me was the cheesecake special -Nutella and Strawberry Cheesecake.

a) Not a fan of Nutella AT ALL

b) Nutella and Strawberry WHA?

I had managed to have a really nice glass of Pinot Grigio with my meal, and would have quite happily sat having another glass, but we had to move on.  After a very strong coffee (too strong for me- so himself had to have the equivalant of three espressos!), we paid and left. Very satisfied.

Sometimes I fear, I am guilty of thinking that restaurants outside of major towns are not as busy or offer the same quality of food.  I was put firmly in my place here.  It was a real diamond.

Parking: Yes

Easily Accessible: Yes

Price: Mid Range but definitely value for money

Decor: Subtle

Food: Very Good Authentic Italian with their own stamp.

Portugese Egg Custard Tarts- Easy and Tasty

These little beauties, also known as Pastel de nata are so moreish I’m forever grateful I don’t live near Portugal, I’d be the size of a house!  The history of them is very interesting, as they were originally made in FRANCE!

Pastéis de nata (the Portugese name means pastry cream as far as I can see, already winning me over) were thought to be created during the 18th century by Catholic monks at the Jerónimos Monastery, Santa Maria de Belém, in Lisbon. These monks were originally based in France where these pastries were found in local bakeries. At the time, convents and monasteries used large quantities of egg-whites for starching clothes, such as nuns’ habits. It was therefore quite common for monasteries and convents to use the leftover egg yolks to make cakes and pastries, resulting in the proliferation of sweet pastry recipes throughout the country.

Portugese Custard Tart

Pasteis de Belem

Following the extinction of the religious orders in the aftermath of the Liberal Revolution of 1820, the monks started selling these dainty little pastries at a nearby sugar refinery to bring in some revenue. In 1834 the monastery was finally closed and the recipe was sold to the sugar refinery, whose owners in 1837 opened the Fábrica de Pastéis de Belém. The descendants own the business to this day, a Portugese stalwart.  In this recipe I use bought puff pastry, but plan on making them again in a few weeks with homemade puff pastry.  My aim was to get the filling right.  And I think I did.  They were EXTREMELY popular.

Portugese Egg Custard Tarts

Ingredients:

1 egg
3 egg yolks
120g caster sugar
30g cornflour
400ml full fat milk
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract (use good stuff please!)
1 sheet ready rolled puff pastry, I like the lidl one.

1 teaspoon of cinnamon

Method:

Lightly grease a 12 hole muffin tin and pre-heat oven to 180oC

Put the egg, yolks,  caster sugar & cornflour in a saucepan and mix well together then gradually add the milk until mixture is well mixed and smooth.

Custard

Place pan on medium heat and stir constantly until mixture thickens and comes to the boil. Remove pan from heat and stir in your vanilla extract.

Put this custard aside to cool.  I dust with icing sugar then cover with cling film, to prevent skin forming.

Roll the pastry on your lightly floured counter, and using a cutter,  cut this into 12 even sized rounds. Press the pastry discs into the muffin tin. I like if they are a bit ruffled.
Tarts

Spoon in your now cooled custard, sprinkle over the cinnamon and bake for 20 minutes until nicely golden on top.

Tarts
Leave to cool in the tin for 5 minutes then move to a cooling rack to finish cooling although they can be eaten warm.  You frankly won’t be able to stop the hoardes.

Divine.