Sweet nostalgia

There are certain smells that have the ability to transport me to a specific moment the second a waft hits my nose. Cinnamon and nutmeg will forever remind me of Christmas preparations, tomato soup brings me back to an ill-fated family holiday hit by food poisoning, and burnt toast makes me recall my first attempts (bad ones!) at fending for myself in the kitchen.

Food has an amazing ability to conjure up long-forgotten memories, which wrap themselves around you like a comforting shawl. When in need of comforting, or if simply in the mood for a treat, I’m partial to retro goodies. Perhaps because such treats – the likes of a good ol’ finger of fudge, or a mini bakewell tart – remind me of being a wee one!

When it comes to retro treats, it doesn’t come much better than a snowball. For those of you unlucky enough not to have had one, it’s a gooey, oozing, sweet affair: a fine chocolate shell, covered in coconut, encasing soft, sweet, fluffy marshmallow. Bliss!

Snowball

Snowball

Pizza with a twist

When it comes to comfort food, you really can’t beat a gooey, cheesy pizza with lots of toppings and a hint of spice.

I’ve seen lots of recipes recently for a less doughy alternative, using cauliflower and ground almond to make a gluten-free crust. To be honest, I was intrigued…but not convinced. Cauliflower does not scream comfort food, does it?!

After a lazy Sunday that did not involve a trip to the supermarket, my fridge was pretty empty. I was tempted to order a pizza, but then decided to put the rather sad looking cauliflower that was lurking in the fridge to use.

To start, blitz the cauliflower florets in a blender until very fine. Then microwave for 4 minutes or so. Next, add ground almonds (approx 100g for a full head of cauliflower, or reduce accordingly), a beaten egg and some seasoning (salt, pepper and oregano).

You’ll now be wondering how the gloopy mess in front of you is ever going to resemble anything like pizza. But stick with it. Spread the mixture on a baking try and bake for about 20 minutes, until it starts to crisp.

Then knock yourself out with whatever toppings take your fancy and pop it back in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes. The aforementioned empty-ish fridge meant few options. I roasted some tomatoes and then blended them, sieved off some of the excess juice and used the pulp as a tomato base. Next I added some grated cheese, a sliced yellow pepper, some mushrooms, spring onions and chilli flakes.

A twist on pizza

A twist on pizza

Continue reading

The humble spud

Potatoes…where would we be with out them?!

I’m a big fan of spuds: baked, boiled, fried, mashed…whatever is going.

Today was a day of catching up on admin, so it called for a very quick lunch.  Thankfully I had a few sweet potatoes in the fridge, baked and ready to go.

A quick zap in the microwave, add some spicy yogurt (yogurt mixed with Cajun seasoning), fresh chilli, spring onions, coriander and some salad on the side. Done!

Here’s to hummus

It’s been quite a while since I gave my blog any attention. A busy few weeks between one thing and another. But I’m determined to get back on track now!

It’s a quick post today, just to get me back in the swing of things. My go-to quick lunch recipe recently has been hummus. I’ve tried a variety of recipes, and have found that I tend to prefer hummus with some added flavour, such as sun-dried tomato, chilli or roasted red pepper.

It takes about five minutes to make (if even). Simply whizz the following in your blender:

  • 1 can of drained & rinsed chickpeas (approx 400g)
  • a good glug of olive oil
  • juice of 1 small lemon
  • 1 tbsp of tahini
  • salt & pepper to season
  • and finally, your flavour of choice

For my latest batch  I threw in some chilli flakes, a roasted red pepper (skin removed and chopped roughly) and a handful of coriander.

Spicy red pepper hummus

Spicy red pepper hummus

Lentils for lunch

Lentils have a habit of sitting in my kitchen press for quite a while. They are the kind of thing I buy, thinking they’ll be handy and healthy. Yet they are not something that I get excited about cooking. I struggle to do much with them beyond making dahl or adding them to soups or stews.

Thanks to a column by Lilly Higgins in a recent edition of the Irish Times, I was encouraged to look at lentils in a new light. Her lentil salad recipe looked tasty, and quite filling. It also seemed like a recipe that would pass my lunch test, namely quick to prepare and easy to transport.

A glance at the ingredients list revealed nothing too complicated: cooked and cooled green lentils, a splash of olive oil, some sea salt, lime juice, mango chunks, red onion and coriander. I added sweetcorn and pomegranate too, and also some fresh parsley.

A tasty lunch, and it would be nice as a side for dinner too. Plus, bonus points for being colourful!

 

The beauty of simplicity

When it comes to special cakes, I swing between two points of view. I love the creativity of a cake covered in fondant icing, and decorated with little figurines and all the bells and whistles, but I also find the simplicity of a more rustic cake really appealing.

To mark my grandmother’s 90th birthday this weekend, we were under strict instructions “not to make a fuss”. So with that in mind, birthday cake wise, it was all about keeping it simple.

Aerial view

Lemon birthday cake dressed with berries and fresh mint

Continue reading

How was your Pancake Tuesday?

I was all set to make healthier pancakes last night, with yogurt and berries for a simple topping.

But sometimes, the traditional option is called for. On a wet, icy evening, all I wanted was a plate of comfort food: fluffy hot pancakes topped with lemon, butter and sugar, and a big mug of tea.

From batter to plate: pancake time!

A post shared by Emco Eats (@emcoeats) on

And the best bit? Leftover pancakes for breakfast this morning!

A ball of energy

We all have days when we are zipping from A to B, with a to-do list a mile long and people pulling us in multiple directions. Those are days that usually call for a Double Decker for me. And sometimes that’s exactly what you need.

However, I recently spotted a recipe for energy balls that I thought might be a tasty alternative and a good way to give me a boost on the go. This recipe features lots of things I love, including oats, banana and coconut, so I was hopeful that these snacks would be right up my street.

Energy balls

My attempt at energy balls

The recipe also uses raw cacoa, something I have never used before. As far as I understand, it’s basically unprocessed cocoa. A lot more expensive than regular cocoa powder, but I decided to give it a try once anyway!

After blending all the ingredients, roll the mixture into balls and bake in the oven for 5 to 8 minutes. Allow to cool before munching.

These were very easy to make, but to be honest not as tasty as I’d hoped. Not a bad flavour, but possibly a little dry. I might add dates next time or some sort of dried fruit, for a bit more stickiness. So, all in all, unlikely to replace my Double Decker just yet!

Have any of you had success with energy ball recipes? I like the idea of nutritious, portable snacks, but they need to be tasty – not just virtuous! Share your recipes via a comment. Thanks!

The flip side

Cottage cheese is decidedly awkward. Recipes call for a dollop here and there, but invariably I’m left with a half-full tub of the stuff, wondering how to use it up. And let’s face it, it really isn’t the most inspiring of ingredients, thanks to its lumpy texture.

I’ve come across a few recipes for sweetened cottage cheese protein pancakes, but (1) I’m not a fan of protein powders as it all seems a bit artificial and (2) these recipes seemed a bit too breakfasty.

Instead, I decided to try a more ‘lunchable’ sort of pancake creation this week, albeit without a recipe. I had some cottage cheese to use up, so I winged it a bit! The finished result was actually quiet tasty, and the lumpy cottage cheese texture was well hidden.

Pancakes for lunch

Pancakes for lunch

What you need (makes 1 decent-sized pancake):

  • 2 tbsp of cottage cheese
  • 2 tbsp buckwheat flour
  • 1 egg
  • pinch of baking powder
  1. Blitz your ingredients in a blender. I use a very cheap, yet very efficient ‘mini-chopper’ from Aldi for small things like this (when I can’t be bothered taking the full-sized blender and all its paraphernalia out of the press).
  2. Heat a little butter in a medium-sized pan.
  3. Pour in the mixture, and cook on each side for 2 minutes
  4. You can use this as a base for whatever takes your fancy lunch-wise. I opted for sauteed mushrooms and spinach, some parmesan shavings and a little black pepper.

Lazy Sunday

It’s a bit miserable out today, a bit damp and grey, and well…January-ish. On such days, I’m usually far more susceptible to the lure of tea and biscuits, accompanied by a ‘straight-to-TV’ film or a flick of a magazine.

A few weeks ago I watched a documentary on sugar, which quite frankly terrified me and was far more effective than any January health kick in motivating me to step away from the biscuit tin.

That said though, life would be terribly dull without a few treats.  So my current approach is to at least try to opt for homemade ones where I can control the sugar and other ingredients. I’ve been meaning to try The Little Green Spoon blog’s pistachio and cranberry squares for the last couple of weeks.

These were really simple to make, and quick too (an added bonus!). In summary, lightly toast oats and pistachios. Blitz these with coconut and cranberry, and then bind with melted coconut oil, almond butter and maple syrup. I reduced the amount of maple syrup slightly.

If you happen to be into icing cakes, and have an icing smoother, it comes in very handy for squishing the mixture into a baking tray to set. If not, your hand or a sideways mug (hold by the handle and roll) will also do the trick.

The recipe I was working from yielded 12 perfect squares. My attempt was a bit crumblier…so broke a little when I cut it into pieces. Still tasty, just a bit misshapen (and the leftover crumbs were delicious sprinkled into yogurt).