Quick Pea Soup

Pea Soup In a Snap

Making soup doesn't have to be complicated... as this recipe shows. It's adapted from Nigella; adapted in that I saw her TV show but can't remember exactly what she did so made it up a little as I went along. Turns out nice though; and As this uses frozen peas there is even less work to do.


  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • Half a clove of garlic (grated) & a dash of olive oil
  • 3 cups frozen peas
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • Cream

Heat the olive oil and gently fry the garlic in a saucepan. Add the stock and warm over medium heat. Add the peas; cook until tender. Transfer peas and stock to a blender [or blend in situ with a hand blender], and process until smooth, adding the balsamic vinegar toward the end.

Pour in a bowl, season with salt and black pepper, and pour a little cream on top.


Doesn't get much easier than that!

Slow Roasted Tomoatoes

Oven baked, Not Sun Dried

Another easy one and tasty too ! I've always liked tomatoes and it helps that they are good for you [here's why]. I was recently browsing Kalyn Denny's excellent blog and came across her version of Slow Roasted Tomatoes. I've played with it a little so here's my version (and her picture which links back to her version).

  • Tomatoes (of course)
  • Mixed herbs (dried are fine in this recipe)
  • Garlic
  • Olive Oil
  • Drizzle of Balsamic Vinegar


I didn't give amounts in the recipe, use your own judgement and what you like to eat. I like lots of garlic but not everyone does.

Roughly chop the tomatoes and garlic and toss with the the mixed herbs and oil making sure the tomatoes have been evenly coated. Place into a baking tray and put into a warm (125c) oven for between three and six hours.

Tip: The smaller the pieces of tomato the quicker they will cook so keep an eye on proceeding. Cherry tomatoes can be used, put cut down the cooking time considerably.
Tip: If you want just a hint of garlic add the whole clove and allow to cook with the tomatoes but remove it at the end.

I tend to remove from the oven every hour or so and give it a stir making sure no edges are burning. The tomatoes will shrivel and as they do the flavour concentrates.

Drizzle over the Balsamic Vinegar for the last half hour or so.

Remove, allow to cool and store in an airtight jar in the fridge, or.., put straight onto a cracker and enjoy warm!

Use anywhere that calls for Sun Dried Tomatoes.

Thick & Creamy Yoghurt

Tip for thickening home-made yoghurt

Home-made yoghurt, yum, it's so easy and good for you. I have already written and instructions on how to make you own yoghurt. Sometimes, though, it's not as thick as store bought yoghurt. Fear not! Don't panic if your yoghurt is a tad thin or runny - use this easy tip to thicken your home made yoghurt.

Very simply, the yoghurt can be thickened by draining off some of the excess liquid. Line a strainer with muslin (or strong kitchen paper [if you use kitchen paper, don't use one with colours or scents]) and pour the yoghurt in. Allow to sit for about an hour - the excess liquid will drain through the muslin leaving a thicker yoghurt behind.

The longer you leave it, the thicker it will get. When you have your desired thickness, spoon the yoghurt into an airtight container and return to the fridge.

I'm not sure, yet, what you do with the liquid that has drained off. I'm sure there must be a use for it, and will post again when I've found one. Leave a comment if you have a suggestion.

NOTE: Whilst I've concentrated on thickening home-made yoghurt, this will work just as well with any shop-bought rubbish :)

Eggs from Caged Hens

Go Free Range!

Lots of media coverage recently in this part of the world on Chicken meat and eggs, and in particular on the conditions under which they are produced. Real eye-opening stuff and no self-respecting cook would look twice at produce which is produced under anything less than humane conditions.

Eggs in this part of the world (eh.. Ireland) now have to carry a notice if they have come from caged hens aka. battery hens. The notice may be small but it is there and worth checking for. Look at this picture and tell that you're happy to eat eggs produced like this?

And it gets worse, these poor hens spend their entire lives in one cage and are deemed spent after about a year or so and are killed [using by electrocution]. In comparison a free range hen can on to lay eggs for upto 10 years!

Barn hens, have a slightly better live but still not great. Best of all [from the hens point of view of course, and your taste buds] is Free Range.

Go on, make a stand and buy Free Range eggs. You'll feel better and know what, you're food will taste better too!

Battery Cages

In the battery system, hens are crammed into a cage so small that they cannot stretch their wings, let alone walk or peck and scratch at the ground. Under these conditions hens are prevented from performing most of their natural behaviours, such as dust bathing, perching and laying their eggs in a nest. Up to 90,000 caged hens can be crammed into one windowless shed. The cages in Europe are stacked between 4 and 9 cages high. Japan is said to have the world's highest battery cage unit, with cages stacked 18 tiers high.

There is clear scientific evidence that hens suffer in battery cages. Common sense also tells us that to keep a healthy hen in a barren wire cage, with less space than an ordinary sheet of typing paper, is bound to cause suffering. These conditions prevent the hens performing their natural behaviours and cause their bodies to degenerate through lack of exercise.

"Enriched" Cages

The European Union has agreed to ban barren battery cages from 2012. However "enriched" cages will still be allowed. "Enriched" cages must provide at least 750 cm2 per hen, of which 600 cm2 is "useable area", the rest being shared space for items such as a nest box. "Enriched" cages must be 45 cm high over most of the cage. This compares with 450 cm2 of cage space per hen in battery cages and a height of 40 cm. "Enriched" cages must also have a nest, "litter such that pecking and scratching are possible", 15 cm of perch space per hen, and a claw-shortening device.

It is claimed that "enriched" cages will be better for the hens' welfare than battery cages. However scientific and practical evidence shows that, in welfare terms, a cage is still a cage, "enriched" or not, and that birds will continue to suffer. The space and facilities provided in "enriched" cages are so inadequate that they deprive the birds of the ability to fulfil natural behaviours, leading to abnormal behaviours, frustration, suffering and body degeneration (Lymbery, in press).

Barn Systems

"Barn" eggs are produced from hens kept in loose flocks confined within a shed. Birds in this system are not caged and can roam throughout their house but are not let outside. They are provided with perches, platforms, and nestboxes and litter areas. Some barn units keep their hens in large flock sizes of up to 16,000 birds in conditions that can resemble a crowded football terrace.

Free Range Systems

Free range is a method of farming husbandry where the animals are permitted to roam freely instead of being contained in any manner. The principle is to allow the animals as much freedom as possible, to live out their instinctual behaviours in a reasonably natural way, regardless of whether or not they are eventually killed for meat. In practice, there are few regulations imposed on what can be called "free range," and the term may be used misleadingly to imply that the animal product has been produced more humanely than it actually has been.

Bread Soda (again)

How to tell if Bread Soda is active

I recently had the misfortune of a recipe not producing the expected outcome. A Brown Scone recipe from a well known source used Bread Soda and Greek Yoghurt as the raising agents. Interesting I thought, but alas it didn't work out well - the scones tasted okay but well flat & dense.

So, I was left wondering, Is my Bread Soda gone off?

I decided to test it; easier than you think and very quick. The chemical reaction we're looking for from a raising agent is air - mix the raising agents together and you should get air... bubbles to be precise. So, here's the test.

Start with a clean glass - best to use a glass as you can check exactly what's going on. Add a teaspoon of Bread Soda and a tablespoon of vinegar. If you get an instant froth then your Bread Soda is okay, if not, ditch it and buy yourself a new box.

Healthy Granola

Great tasting and good for you too!

Granola is surprisingly easy to make; if you're paying $6 for a bag of granola think again - you can make your own far cheaper, better tasting, and easier than you think. Good for you and good for your pocket.

The trick with granola is the bake it slowly in low-heat.

  • 2 cups old-fashioned oats (rolled large oats are best IMHO)
  • 1/2 cup wheat germ
  • 2 Tbs. dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup mixed seeds & nuts (sunflower, sesame, almonds, peanuts etc)*
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 3 Tbs. flavorless oil, such as vegetable or canola
  • 1 Tb. water

* See variations below

Pre-heart the oven to 275F. Coat a 9-by-13-inch metal pan with cooking spray, then set aside. Mix oats, wheat germ, brown sugar, salt and Extra Ingredients --except dried fruit -- in a bowl. Heat the oil, water and maple syrup along with any flavourings (see variations) to simmering pint and drizzle over the oat mixture. Stir well to combine ensuring all the dry ingredients have been coated.

Pour the mixture into the pan and bake for 30 minutes. Give an occasional stir during baking. Add dried fruit to the mixture and bake until golden - about another 15 minutes.

Store in an air-tight container for 2 weeks - bet it doesn't last that long though.

1. Classic Granola
Extra Ingredients: 1/3 cup chopped walnuts, 1/3 cup sweetened flake coconut, 1/3 cup dark or golden raisins
Flavoring: 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
You can replace the 1/4 cup of maple syrup with 2 Tbs. each of maple syrup and molasses.

2. Crunchy Granola
Extra Ingredients: 1/4 cup slivered almonds, 1/4 cup sunflower seeds, 2 Tbs. sesame seeds, 6 Tbs. currants
Flavoring: none

3. Granola with Tropical Flavoring
Add the coconut along with the cashews and banana chips.
Extra Ingredients: 1/4 cup chopped roasted unsalted cashews, 1/4 cup chopped banana chips, 1/4 cup sweetened flake coconut, 1/4 cup chopped dried pineapple
Flavoring: 1/2 tsp. ground ginger

4. Granola with Cherries and Almonds
Extra Ingredients: 1/3 cup sliced almonds, 1/3 cup sweetened flake coconut, 1/3 cup dried cherries
Flavoring: 3/4 tsp. almond extract

5. Trail Mix Granola
Extra Ingredients: 1/4 cup chopped roasted unsalted peanuts, 1/4 cup sweetened flake coconut, 1/4 cup dark or golden raisins, 1/4 cup mini chocolate chips*
Flavoring: none
*Stir chips into the granola only after it has completely cooled.

6. Orange-Berry Granola with Pecans
Extra Ingredients: 1/2 cup chopped pecans,1/4 cup dried cranberries, 1/4 cup dried blueberries
Flavoring: 1/2 tsp. finely grated orange zest

7. Pear Granola with Hazelnuts and Vanilla
Extra Ingredients: 1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts, 1/4 cup chopped dried cherries, 1/4 cup chopped dried pears
Flavoring: 1 tsp. vanilla extract

8. Orange-Flavored Granola with Pistachios, Mangos and Dates
Extra Ingredients: 1/2 cup chopped roasted pistachios, 1/4 cup chopped dates, 1/4 cup chopped dried mangos
Flavoring: 1/2 tsp. finely grated orange zest and 1/4 tsp. allspice

How to make an Authentic Irish Coffee

Step by step guide to a making a delicious Irish Coffee

Many people believe that an Irish Coffee is just another excuse for a drink! Well it is, of course, but there's an art to making a proper Irish Coffee. The finished product should look much like a proper Pint of Guinness - a black coffee with white collar of cream floating on top.

  • Half a cup of good quality coffee
  • 1 measure of Irish whiskey
  • 2 Spoonfuls of brown sugar
  • 20ml of fresh pouring cream

Put a tea spoon into the glass (best to use a glass with a stem) and pour some boiling water into the glass to warn it up. (the reason you put in the spoon is so that the spoon takes the heat from the water and so the glass will not crack, but be careful!).

Pour the shot of whiskey into the glass.

Pour in the coffee up to within 15mm (1.5cm) from the top.

Put in the two spoons of sugar and stir until all the sugar has dissolved.You will see if the sugar has dissolved by looking at the base of the glass. (the sugar ensures that the cream will float).

Place the spoon onto the rim of coffee, face up (ensure that the curved part of the spoon is touching the coffee, touching...not submerged) With the cream in a small jug pour it onto the spoon. The cream will flow over the edge of the spoon and rest on top of the coffee.

What you should be left with is a glass of black coffee (not cloudy and with no trace of cream) with a white collar about 10mm (1cm) deep.

It should then be served on a sideplate with NO SPOON.

If you are making a Speciality coffee with a liqueur such as Tia Maria or Baileys, follow the same steps, just remember that often no sugar is required as the liqueur contains sufficient sugar to keep the cream afloat.

A hint or tip: If you whip the cream slightly, it is easier to create the effect (but don't tell anyone you did this). Irish people do not use whipped cream, or heaven forbid the squirty-from-a-can cream - a sin in Ireland!!

Many bars and restaurants have their own speciality coffees, here are a few of the favourite other types of speciality coffee’s.
  • Highland Coffee with Scotch whisky
  • French/Napoleon/Royal Coffee with Cognac
  • Calypso Coffee with Tia Maria
  • Baileys Coffee with Baileys Irish Cream (highly recommended)
  • Russian Coffee with Vodka
  • Jamaican Coffee with Dark Rum<
  • Caribbean Coffee with Bacardi
  • Bonnie Prince Charlie Coffee with Drambuie
  • Kahlua Coffee Kahlua
  • Mexican Coffee with Tequila / Kahlua
  • Spanish Coffee with 2/3 Brandy 1/3 Tia Maria
  • Roman Coffee with Galliano
  • Monks Rope/Monastery Coffee with Benedictine
  • Keoko Coffee with Cognac and Kahlua/Crème de Caco (Dark)