Saturday, 28 June 2014

Westport Greenway and Pistachio Lemon Muffins

I drove west 
in the season between seasons. 
I left behind suburban gardens. 
Lawnmowers. Small talk. 

Under low skies, past splashes of coltsfoot
I assumed 
the hard shyness of Atlantic light 
and the superstitious aura of hawthorn. 

Extract from White Hawthorn in the West of Ireland, Eavan Boland 

I love that Ireland is small. I love that I can get in a car and see the ocean within a few hours. Atlantic ocean preferably of course. I never considered myself to be outdoors-y, but there is a sense of calm and presence that I cannot find on the east coast, even on a beautiful grassy cliff in north county Dublin overlooking the Irish Sea. The Atlantic and its coastline, for me, knows no equal.  It is rugged and wild and.... spontaneous.  

And we all need spontaneity. To remember that we are actually young and not as young as we sometimes feel. 

So last week we took a 500 km roadtrip in one day to County Mayo to cycle from Newport, just outside Westport out to Achill Island on the Westport Greenway, the longest off road trail in Ireland. 

It was so pretty I thought I would share a few photos. 

I made these muffins the night before we left for some hearty sweetness on our journey. The pistachios add a lovely salty crunch but leave them out if you would rather a plain lemony soft muffin.

For the muffins- makes 12 large muffins

200g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
200g caster sugar
zest 2 lemons
Juice of one lemon
100g butter, melted
4 eggs, lightly beaten
4 tablespoons of natural yogurt
75g pistachios, shelled and roughly chopped plus extra for decoration

For the icing
250g icing sugar
3 tablespoons of lemon juice

1. Place the caster sugar and lemon zest in a bowl. Using the back of a big spoon mash the lemon zest into the sugar. This will bring the lemon oil out of the zest.
2. Add the flour and baking powder to the bowl.
3. Add the eggs, cooled butter, yogurt and mix gently. Finally add the lemon juice and pistachios and mix well but thoroughly.
4. Bake for 15-18 minutes @ 180oC until a skewer comes out clean.
5. Allow to cool completely.
6. Mix the icing sugar and lemon juice together until smooth. Spoon or drizzle over the muffins. Decorate with pistachios.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Mint and Lemon Iced Tea

When you are from Ireland you drink tea hot, with milk and maybe some sugar. I can only imagine the look of disgust I would get from the likes of my grandmother if I handed her a glass of iced tea. It would be the desecration of the great Irish tradition.

Luckily we have embraced the weird and wonderful (as we see it) and although iced tea isn't as popular as it is in the US or contintental Europe, the Irish no longer look aghast, or even possibly horrified at the thought of chucking ice cubes rather than milk into their tea.

Light and refreshing, this tea is perfect for sipping while watching the sun set over the garden on these summer evenings.

Makes 1 litre of iced tea

4 tea bags
100g sugar
600ml boiling water
7 sprigs of fresh mint
2 lemons, juiced

1. Put the teabags,boiling water, sugar mint and lemon juice in a big saucepan. Bring to the boil, stir well and allow to steep for 10 minutes.
2. Take out the teabags and mint, preferably by pouring the tea through a strainer. Add another 500ml of cold water.
3. Serve on ice with extra mint sprigs and lemon slices.

Monday, 16 June 2014

Salty Pretzel Chocolate Brownie

I am a commitment-phobe. No not the relationship kind but the kind that makes me run away from tying down any sort of weekend plans. It's not that I don't like doing stuff at the weekend, quite the opposite. It's just that I want the option not to do anything at all. I like nothing more than two days of possibility stretching out ahead of me.

Even if I only end up watching many many episodes of Nashville and having day dreams about becoming a country music star.

It's a matter of principle.

I also need some kitchen time at the weekend. So important. Chopping, mixing, turning up spotify, pouring, cooking. Good times.

I baked these salty pretzel chocolate brownies for an Orange is the New Black marathon a group of friends were having. They went down a treat! Crunchy and salty on the bottom, ooey gooey on top. Extra toffee on top to stick to your teeth is optional but highly recommended!


For the pretzel base 
1 cup and a half pretzels
3/4 cup plain flour
3/4 brown sugar
scant 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup melted butter cooled

For the brownies 
7 oz/175g milk chocolate
3/4 cup/150g butter
1/4 cup water
1 cup caster sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/3 cup plain flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

1. Line a 9 x 13 x 2 inch tin with parchment paper.
2. For the pretzel base  put all the ingredients into a food processor and pulse briefly until the pretzels are big crumbs and the butter is evenly distributed.
3. Pour into the tin and pat down with the back of a spoon.
4. Bake for 10 minutes at 180oC. Leave to cool.
5. For the brownies melt the butter until almost fully melted in a heat proof bowl over a bowl of simmering water or in the microwave (but keep a keen eye on it!). Add the chocolate and heat gently stirring every 30 seconds until evenly melted and mixed.
6. In a clean bowl mix the flour, salt, cinnamon and sugars.
7. Make a well in the centre and add the eggs, vanilla extra, water and melted chocolate mixture.
8. Pour the brownie mix over the pretzel base.
9. Bake for 35-40 minutes until a crust has formed and when you insert a skewer it comes out barely moist.
10. For the topping melt 10 toffee sweets in the microwave until runny- this should take about 1 minute. Drizzle over the brownies. Add a careful sprinkle of good sea salt.

Monday, 9 June 2014

Banana Peanut Butter Ice Cream

I can't remember exactly what age I was, but one year we all got these small round hard packets from The Body Shop that turned into facecloths when you put them in water. I distinctly remember this sense of awe and wonder watching the block dissolve into a billowing facecloth in the sink on Christmas morning.

Every now and then we need a little bit of wonder.

Enter magic banana 'ice cream'. Frozen banana pieces are blitzed in a food processor until creamy and then peanut butter is added for flavour and extra softness. It really does taste and feel like ice cream, although maybe more like soft serve.  

I can't wait to experiment with different flavours and toppings. Watch this space!

Serves 2 people

3 bananas chopped into bite sized pieces
3 tablespoons of peanut butter
big pinch of salt
pinch of cinnamon
chopped roasted peanuts to serve

1. Lay the bananas out on a piece of foil and put in the freezer until hard, around 2 hours.
2. Quickly throw the bananas into a food processor with a good blade and blitz for around 3 minutes until smooth. They will go bitty first off but keep processing.
3. Add the peanut butter, salt and cinnamon and process until evenly distributed.
4. Quickly serve with peanuts sprinkled over.