Tag Archives: Salad

The Healthier Roast Dinner

Who doesn’t love a roast dinner? We regularly have a Roast Chicken dinner as a treat.  And depending on the time of year, may of may not have “all the trimmings”.  In the summer I try to add fresh salads instead of stuffing, and new boiled potatoes instead of roasties.

  • Choose your meat carefully

A Roast dinner is like any meal really- you can choose to make it healthier with just a few simple changes.  The one thing I don’t like to compromise on is the meat.  I’m not a fan of buying leaner meat to reduce the fat.  Cook it with the fat on to give it the taste, but you don’t have to eat the fat once it’s cooked- except if it’s pork crackling- then you do.  It’s the law. And if you do buy a lean joint.  Wrap it in some good quality prosciutto or failing that back bacon, it needs the fat to help the flavour!

Chicken PrepIn this case I’ve taken a free range chicken (organic is just out of my budget unless it’s one of our own- and they aren’t really suitable for roasting.)  Sprinkled a little flaky sea salt and some freshly cracked black pepper, and added the slightest drizzle of some super duper special olive oil.

  • Make sure the balance of vegetables on your plate is right.

This means in essence- make sure you have more vegetables/ salad on your plate than everything else. And yes, I know we are all trying to be conscious about portion sizes.  But in this case- as long as there’s no hidden dressings or gravy over it all- go for broke.

  • Sauces

Speaking of sauces- they are often a key addition to any Roast dinner.  If you really have to have gravy- make it yourself- and be careful of the amount of salt you add.  Also it’s ok to have a little gravy, the spuds don’t have to be swimming in it!  The same with the salad dressing- make it yourself- or even just sprinkle over some good quality extra virgin olive oil.

But in this case we’ve gone with simple. Some homemade coleslaw, my super salad and some boiled new potatoes.

Healthy Roast Chicken Dinner

Healthy Roast Chicken Dinne

Now I’m off to watch the olympics….




The Aldi Pizza Oven- A Success!

Pizza Oven

The Aldi Pizza Oven

The Pizza Oven. I know, I know… EVERYONE has one.  But that’s ok.  I’m not ashamed of the fact that I think it’s a fantastic addition to our garden.  Probably helped by the fact that since we purchased it, the sun has been shining non stop.  We love pizza in our house.  It’s a real favourite, and to celebrate the new oven we were going with a sourdough pizza base, due to “Sabina” being in such good form and all…

Sabina the starter

Sabina the starter


Sourdough Pizza  Recipe:

500g strong White Flour

360g room temperature water

150g sourdough starter

10g salt


Mix the flour and water in your mixer slowly for about 2 minutes.  Leave this, covered for 30 minutes.  You are almost making a starter for your starter! Then add the starter to this, and start mixing slowly.

This needs to be mixed using a dough hook for about 5 minutes.  At some stage towards the end slowly add the salt. You can do all this by hand, but I prefer the mixer, leaves me more energy and time to devote to toppings. Finish the dough by hand, then pop this back into the bowl.  Cover and leave to sit in a cool place until doubled in size.

Proving Dough

Proving Dough

This then needs to be split into balls for rolling into the bases. We had added some einkhorn flour to the dough (reducing the amount of strong white used) as I love ancient grains and use them as much as I can.

Pizza Dough

Ready for rolling

At this stage it’s all systems go.  Everyone in our house is in charge of their own toppings, I usually have the following available:

Roasted and thinly sliced duck breast

Red onion

A couple of different types of cheese

Homemade Passata






The list is sometimes endless- but all are out on the counter ready to roll.

We discovered the secret to lighting the pizza oven and getting it to the hot temperature required was good quality charcoal, and not rushing it.


Duck, ham, mozzarella and spinach

And although only one pizza can cook at a time, everyone usually shares- and with a big bowl of salad floating around, it makes for a great evening.


Spinach, Egg and Pesto Pizza

But I like mine with a cold glass of something white… it was just fabulous.


Birthdays and Parties- The Big Family Events

As we have a large extended family, there are regular birthdays and various celebrations.  We all give a hand, and this makes life easier for everyone!

Robert was away for his 17th birthday in Romania, so we had a cake for him when he came home for his stopover-

Robert and his Birthday Cake

Robert and his Birthday Cake

It was a variation on his favourite- vanilla layers with raspberries and cream, covered in an Italian Meringue, finished with a blow torch.

This weekend I’m on savoury duty for my nieces birthday, I’m thinking a nice salad- and a vegetarian tart- maybe asparagus if I can lay my hands on some nice stuff.



We learnt so many salads in Ballymaloe, and I really came to love making those salads that weren’t simply based on lettuce.  The roasted sweet potato and red onion with bulgar and herbs is one of those.  So simple.  So Healthy.  So tasty.

Roasted Sweet Potato and Red Onion with Bulgar and herbs

Roasted Sweet Potato and Red Onion with Bulgar and herbs

The tart took more time and effort, as it has many stages, but is totally worth it.  First the pastry base is made and blind baked,

Pastry Shell ready to be baked blind.

Pastry Shell ready to be baked blind.

While that’s baking I prepared the fillings, sautéing the finely chopped onions, blanching the asparagus tips, and whisking the eggs, milk and cream.

Asparagus tips

Asparagus tips

After quickly combining everything in the shell, and a 30 minute bake…. voilà!

Asparagus Tart

Asparagus Tart

And everything went down a treat.  Now just the washing up to tackle….


Chickpea & Olive Salad with Lemon Dressing- Guest Blog

The wonderful blogger Evin O’Keeffe is guest blogging on Jen’s Kitchen this week, here is her vibrant recipe for Chickpea and Olive Salad.

Spring is around the corner. I can feel it. Or maybe I’m just hoping it is. Either way, one of my favourite ways to feel like it isn’t winter is to cook with fresh lemon and herbs. This salad is a quick, healthy, and nourishing meal that is a regular in my lunch rotation. It is meat-free so a nice option for Friday meals in Lent or an unconventional side salad for a larger meal.


Chickpea & Olive Salad with Lemon Dressing

2 cups cooked chickpeas (it’s ok to use canned, but drain/rinse first)

2 teaspoons parsley, chopped

1/4 cup pitted green olives, rinsed and drained

1 tablespoon minced garlic

2 tablespoons chopped scallions

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1. Add the chickpeas, parsley, olives, and scallions to a medium bowl and stir the ingredients together.

2. In a separate dish, whisk together the oil, lemon juice, vinegar, garlic, and black pepper. Pour it over the dressing over the chickpea mixture. Refrigerate the salad for at least 20 minutes or until it is time to dine. This salad can be made ahead of time and refrigerated in an air-tight container for up to 24 hours or served right away for a quick and healthy salad.

3. Serve the salad with spare sprigs of parsley as garnish. It goes well with grilled vegetables, such as eggplant, or alongside grilled breads and tapenade spreads. I give it another squirt of fresh lemon just before serving.



No Pressure



I had a party for family yesterday for my Dad’s 70th Birthday.  There were 20, including kids, and the pressure was definately on to deliver due to my new found cheffiness.

I wanted to try out so many new recipes, but limited myself to a couple of canapés, and a selection of salads and meats so that everyone could help themselves buffet style.

Close up of pud

Close up of pud

These were a definate favourite, mini yorkshire puddings with homemade horseradish sauce, and thinly sliced fillet of beef.

Smoked Salmon Spirals and Mini Yorkshire puds

Smoked Salmon Spirals and Mini Yorkshire puds

The spirals were delicious and very handy as they were make ahead.


A Selection

A Selection

I had two salads made myself, all of my sister in laws contributed to salads and dessert, as did my mum, which makes the whole experience a lot easier, and of course the family were all great sous chefs.

Hard Boiled Quail Eggs with celery salt and EV olive oil

Hard Boiled Quail Eggs with celery salt and EV olive oil

Hazelnuts, roasted toasted and ready to go

Hazelnuts, roasted toasted and ready to go

Although I myself am not nutty about nuts, I made this delicious salad filled with crunchiness and goodness.

Pate de Campagne

Pate de Campagne

This starter is really good with almost everything, and although is quite labour intensive at the start, I was able to make it a couple of weeks ago and freeze it, and then cooked it on the day.

Bouquet Garni

Bouquet Garni

And of course by the time I got to dessert, I had put my phone down somewhere so no pictures of the ice cream meringue cake, or the honeycomb ice cream that went down a treat.

Speaking of pressure… exams next week so I’m heading off to study.





Tuesday Already?

I can’t believe it’s Tuesday already. Monday just seemed to go so fast.  Before I knew what hit me I was sitting in the car dazed after information overload.

The entrance hall at the cookery school shop

The entrance hall at the cookery school shop

Today was the first day cooking in our designated kitchen, we had various talks from the teachers in relation to the different areas, cleaning up etc, etc.

What struck me most about the day, was the wonderful atmosphere. Everyone is so very helpful and willing to impart knowledge.  Lunch was almost an emotional affair as we had worked so hard as a team to produce what, even if I do say so myself, looked, and tasty great.

It was so good to hear comments from the other people at our tables, one of my fellow students professes to not liking mushrooms, yet, really enjoyed the mushroom pasta dish.  I only regret not being able to taste the cheese that was on, I completely forgot!

The salads served each day at the lunch are legendary, and when you see all the composite ingredients, it gives you an enormous respect for the people growing , or foraging for the ingredients. 2015-01-06 10.44.31

Now all I have to do is learn the names…..




My Autumn Salad- Venison & Pinot Noir.

I truly love Autumn, the slight chill in the air, the earthy smells as the leaves start to fall from the trees.  This year we were incredibly lucky with our beautiful summer and felt justified in having BBQ’s and salads nearly every day.

Into the back garden

Into the back garden

So I wanted to have an Autumn salad meal, as a transition between the two seasons.  Venison is lovely at any time of the year, but I think particularly comes into it’s own in Autumn, I use our own Seika Venison, grown on the farm.  I chose the pinot noir to accompany the dish as you can almost smell the autumn earthiness when you open the bottle.  The soft tannins complemented the St Tola Goats cheese in the salad also.

Vision Cono Sur

Cono Sur Single Vineyard Pinot Noir

With a salad using such bold ingredients I think it’s nice to have a dressing that both draws out the other flavours and brings the whole meal together.  I made a pinot reduction slowly with some of our own honey, the cherry character that finely touches the wine also goes well with the game.

The venison was pan-fried first as it benefits from resting for a time, and I then used the pan to flash fry the field mushrooms, this addition to my salad further encouraged the mouth feel of autumn, before finishing off the reduction.

Pan Fried Venison

Pan Fried Venison

Then it was just a matter if preparing the salad with the cheese., and the in season tomatoes.  I thinly sliced the venison, and served it warm with the Cono Sur Pinot Noir.

Venison Salad

Venison Salad

Perfection in a salad.  Perfect for a Monday. Who said salads were boring?