#ScrumptiousSunday – Family Dinner & Beef Wellington

Nothing beats a family dinner, especially a home cooked one, so whenever Derek and I get the chance to invite family for a meal, we jump at the chance. 😉 A few months back, my Dad’s brother Norbert and his wife Birgit (who happens to be my wonderful God Mother) came to Ireland for their first visit in many many years. As a part of that visit, Derek and I wanted to host them and my parents, in our little apartment that we had at the time, for dinner. There’s just something special about playing host to family members, who always hosted you as a child.

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Of course we wanted to serve up something very special, so we went with a recipe created by the man himself – Gordon Ramsay.

We found his very popular Beef Wellington Recipe online, after seeing it served over and over again in his various TV shows, and tried our best to recreate that for dinner for our family. The challenge? My parents don’t eat carbohydrates, so we needed to find a way to cook for them that didn’t include the usual puff pastry wrapping.

Original Recipe here: https://www.gordonramsay.com/gr/recipes/beef-wellington/

We followed the recipe precisely for my Aunty and Uncle and ourselves, but had to get creative with the dish for my parents. We wrapped the roast and mushroom layer in another layer of parma ham instead of puff pastry and then wrapped the whole thing in baking paper, which we tied tightly with oven safe string. This allowed the beef, flavours and mushroom layer to cook beautifully, at the same time as the normal Wellingtons, while keeping in all the juices and flavours, without burning the ham layer (and keeping it completely carb free 😀 ).

We served the Wellingtons with mashed potatoes (mashed cauliflower for my parents), chilly string beans and sautéed garlic mushrooms.

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For dessert? Chef Ramsay’s no-bake cheesecake (with the ground digestive biscuits replaced with fresh fruit, and the sugar replaced with Stevia sweetener for my parents). I regret that decision now… because now I can’t go to my Dad’s house for dinner, without having to make that dessert. 😉 hahahaha

It was a wonderful evening, and we had loads of fun recreating some of these iconic recipes. The preparation was actually really simple and yet the flavours so rich and complex, that the evening was a complete success. If you’ve ever struggled to find a show stopping Sunday recipe, this might be for you. 😀

 

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How to plan an Advent Calendar – #WhimsicalWednesday

I know, I know, it seems a little very early to be posting anything Christmas related, but trust me, you need the time from right now to properly plan, design, shop for, organise, wrap and deliver your home made advent calendars by November 30. 🙂

Of course I was also inspired by this; it popped up on my Facebook today (August 24th):

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When I first started this blog, I wrote a post describing my personal infatuation with Christmas, which also included my attachment to these calendars, so for anyone who’s interested in that, I will link back to it here: ’tis the (al)most wonderful time of the year…

The modern Advent Calendar is a simple little thing with 24 doors filled with wee helpings of chocolate to count down the days to Christmas. If you’ve been anywhere near a shop at Christmas time, you’ve probably seen one of these (and they come in countless themes):

The concept in a home made calendar is exactly the same; you get a special 24 day calendar to countdown from December 1st to December 24th, except this calendar is custom made specifically for the recipient, with foods, drinks, and other gifts, they will genuinely enjoy. (You know, because you know them so well. haha)

Lets get down to the basics, you will need:

  • 1 roll of wrapping paper per calendar you want to make
  • 1 thick marker OR numbered stickers from 1 – 24
  • scissors
  • tape
  • 24 individual presents
  • a plan to present them*

*more on this at the end.

Step 1)

Ask yourself the following questions: Who is it for? What do they enjoy? Do I want to create a theme? Do I want each gift to be different?

Themes can include but are not limited to: Lego Sets, Beauty Products, Candles, Sample After Shaves, Sample Perfumes, Chocolates, sweets, recipes, arts & crafts supplies, nail art supplies, Beer, Whiskey, Wine … so many more!

Step 2)

Set a budget. A single calendar can cost as little as £10, but can also go as high as you want it to.. Personally I aim for approximately £30 per person, that allows me a nice variety. (I also make this a part of my overall Christmas budget.)

Step 3)

Plan the gifts; once you know what you want to get them, plan what order you want to gift them in and then make your shopping list.

Sample Calendar – “Pamper Yourself”

1 Hot Chocolate Sachet, Marshmallows  & Perfume Sample
2 Cappuccino Sachet, Chocolate & Tea Candle
3 Herbal Tea, Candy Cane & Hand Lotion
4 Latte Sachet, Chocolate & Mini Bath Bomb
5 White Hot Chocolate Sachet, Marshmallows & Face Mask
6 Mini Bottle of Wine, Loofah & Mini Bubble Bath
7 Hot Chocolate Sachet, Candy Cane & Tea Candle
8 Cappuccino Sachet, small chocolate bar, & Hand Lotion
9 Herbal Tea, Fudge & Perfume Sample
10 Latte Sachet, Chocolate & Hair Mask
11 White Hot Chocolate, Marshmallows & Mini Bath Bomb
12 Mini Bottle of Wine, Bathroom Slippers & Sugar Scrub
13 Hot Chocolate Sachet, Toffee & Hand Sanitizer
14 Cappuccino Sachet, chocolate & tea candle
15 Herbal Tea, mini jam & crackers, & Face Mask
16 Latte Sachet, small chocolate bar, & nail file
17 White Hot Chocolate Sachet, Candy Cane & nail polish
18 Mini Bottle of Wine, Paraffin Wax Hand moisturiser set
19 Hot Chocolate Sachet, Marshmallows & Perfume Sample
20 Cappuccino Sachet, Chocolate & Hand Lotion
21 Herbal Tea, Toffee & mini bath bomb
22 Latte Sachet, mini chocolate bar & Face Mask
23 White Hot Chocolate Sachet, Candy Cane & Tea Candle
24 Mini White Wine, Pedicure Set

Step 4)

Wrap them up, number them and present them in what ever way you want! You can hang them from a pretty wreath with string (if they’re light enough), make the recipient dig through a stocking filled with gifts every day to find the right number or even present them under a mini Christmas tree! It’s your design, so anything (appropriate) goes. 🙂

Most importantly: have fun with it!!

In my nuclear family, the whole family gets an Advent Calendar, meaning, yes, our canine family members too! (Alternating dog biscuits and the occasional pigs ear. 🙂 )

Have a great time making your own advent calendars, and please do share any inspiration in the comments below. xx

Around the World in 26 Breakfasts – #3 France

In this weeks addition of “Around the World in 26 Breakfasts” we are heading to France, and the creation of the delicious all butter croissant.

I have it on good authority that in France breakfasts are usually very light and quick, yet still very delicious. Traditionally the French would enjoy a pastry, such as either an all butter croissant or a sweet brioche, along with a coffee, usually a Café au lait before beginning their day, with more emphasis put on lunch and dinner. That is not to say though that the croissant is easy or even humble, no no, it is a very delicate thing to master and extremely decadent to enjoy. 🙂

I found this recipe on the YouTube Channel of Sorted Food, I have linked the recipe from their website in their name there on the left, and I will include a link to the original video at the bottom of this article. It was an incredibly helpful and easy step by step guide to follow, although they most certainly made certain things look a lot simpler than they actually are. 😀

You will need: 

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  • mixing bowls (medium to large)
  • a scale
  • measuring cups
  • a glass
  • a teaspoon
  • a rolling pin
  • baking paper (paper or silicone)
  • cookie skeet/baking tray (not pictured)
  • wooden spoon or spatula
  • pizza cutter (it’s easiest, trust me)

Ingredients:

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  • 2 tsp dried yeast
  • 250 ml whole milk
  • 30 g melted butter
  • 230 g cold salted butter
  • 25 g caster sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 60 ml warm water
  • 1 egg (for egg wash)
  • 350 g plain flour

Method:

Place your yeast in a glass with 60ml warm water, and add a pinch of sugar. Stir and set aside. IMG_0653

Measure and melt your small portion of butter:

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Now add your flour, remaining sugar, melted butter, milk and yeast into a large mixing bowl and mix thoroughly until you have a (lump free) sticky dough.

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Place your sticky dough in the fridge for about 30 minutes to rise and while that’s setting, get on to preparing the rest of your butter. For this, you are going to want to place your stick of butter (room temperature) on a generous amount of wax/baking paper and then squish, squash and beat it until it’s an evenly shaped rectangle of butter, approximately 1 cm thick. (This is one of those steps that the video made look SIGNIFICANTLY easier; it took me almost 10 minutes and I had to do it on the floor…

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It was not pretty… IMG_0670trying to get it into the right shape without having one end too fat or too thin and not having it triangular either, was actually quite tricky, but after a few experiments and some good use the wax paper as a guide, I got there in the end: a perfect slab of butter.

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The slab of butter then also goes into the fridge to chill until your dough is done its full 30 minutes. Once the dough is ready, flour your baking surface and roll out your sticky dough into a large rectangle, of about 2 cm thick. You want it to be large enough to fit the slab of butter in the middle and have generous amounts of dough on either end to fold over the butter.

Like so:

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This is how Croissants get their layers. The yeast rises, but the individual buttery layers are created by the butter in the middle. Now, of course a single layer of butter won’t do, so we need to fold this several times; this process is called laminating.

You gently fold your dough into thirds, roll it out again, and repeat the process.

So at this point you will have folded the first rectangle into thirds, rolled it out again (carefully to maintain the shape), folded that into thirds, turned it 90 degreed and repeat again. (Math: you folded it into thirds three times.) I know this sounds confusing, but that’s why I’ll link the sorted video right here; because they showed it best: SORTED Croissants 

It should look a little something like this when you’re done (the first time):

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You then flour yourself a tray and pop your folded dough on there and into the fridge for 45 minutes. Once the time is up you repeat the laminating. You take it out of the fridge, roll it out, fold it thrice and do that 2 more times and pop it back into the fridge for another 45 minutes, before you repeat that process one last time. Meaning you will have laminated your dough 3 times in total. As you can imagine, this has now created countless layers of butter within that dough, which is why it is so important to fold and not “squish”.

From here you let your dough rise overnight.

MATH BONUS: 

First fold causes 3 layers of butter, then you fold again making 9, folding again making 27 layers of butter by the end of the first lamination. In your second lamination you are folding 27 layers of butter on top of each other 3 times (81 layers), before repeating the process a second time bringing your folds to 243. Your third and final lamination will as such first bring you to 729 and then finally 2,187 layers of butter. All of a sudden this makes sense:

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You can even see the layers in the rolled out dough!! 

The next day, you take your dough which should now look something like this:

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Flour your surface and roll your dough out nice and evenly, until it’s about as thick as a one pound coin. From there, use your pizza cutter to trim the edges so that you have a nice and even square shape.

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Then, cut the dough into long triangles, stretch the bottom corners out a little bit and cut out a tiny triangle at the bottom to avoid it getting too doughy. You immediately start to roll the triangle from the bottom to the top, holding on to the tip so that the dough is tight not loose. The finishing touch is to tuck the tip to the bottom of your roll and slightly bend the whole roll into a crescent shape… a croissant.

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My lovely hubby helped me out with this part. 😀

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BONUS:

Derek and I can’t stand wasting the left over dough, so we very gently laid it all next to each other, laminated them over and over again until they regained one smooth dough shape (to save the layers) and then we turned them into two, yummy, pain au chocolat.

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Finally, you get all of this yumminess on a tray, add some egg wash and get it into your preheated oven, baking at 220°C for 15 minutes.

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(Make sure to use the proper oven setting, otherwise they might get a bit doughy.)

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Pull your croissants out of the oven and set on a wire rack to cool.

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Serve warm or cold, with a dollop of any jam that you like!

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Voilà! You have French Croissants! 😀

There is no child proof recipe variation needed here, since it is easy and delicious for the entire family. 😀

Now, I did not have an opportunity to make a lovely café au lait to go with this, however I do want to show you the lovely massive French cups of coffee that you could expect to see with breakfast in France, since they are traditionally as large as bowls and beautifully presented.

What’s your favourite way to enjoy French Croissants? Please share down in the comments! Don’t forget to check out Sorted Food for more amazing recipes right along with the original of this one; they even have an app that you can get for your Apple device. 😀

As always, thanks for reading and take care. xoxo

Homemade Popcorn

It was a little bit of a slow week for me personally, and I have to be honest, I don’t really have the energy to properly dedicate to coming up with just any topic to write about for the sake of writing, so instead… I made my very first batch of homemade popcorn with the awesome popcorn maker that my brother and sister in law got me for Christmas.

This process was so exciting, that I filmed it and made a YouTube Video out of it… Yeah. So that happened.

Here’s the link to the video: http://youtu.be/658mdGE23kc

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What do you add to your popcorn?

As always, thanks for reading (and this time watching) and take care. xoxo

Around the World in 26 Breakfasts: #1 – Japan

As a part of my goals for 2015, I want to be more active on my blog, and I also want to visit more than 2 countries. Of course I still need to physically get off my bum and visit two new countries, but I thought how about regular culinary vacations, right from the comfort of my own kitchen?

The idea is to “travel around the world in 26 breakfasts”, a bi-weekly excursion into the ways of a different country and its cultures by means of their breakfast tables. Naturally I will be sharing some dishes that you as the reader may already be familiar with, just like I am, but then I will also strive to delve into cultures and recipes I, and hopefully you, have never encountered before.

In this series, I wish to share the recipes with you, as well as my thoughts and feelings about these dishes. Whenever possible, I would like to include a little bit of history behind the dish, to take us on even more of a journey.

Also, if a particular dish might not present itself as very child friendly (due to certain ingredients or extra-messiness), I will strive to include a “child friendly alternative” at the bottom, an alternative of my own invention, so that the recipes may be tried at your family’s table as well.

With no further ado:

#1 – Japan:

Tamago kake gohan (Rice mixed with egg) 

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I first encountered this particular breakfast when I was first living in Japan as an exchange student. The dish consists of a raw egg and soy sauce mixture being poured over hot rice. The heat from the freshly cooked rice would lightly cook the egg as it gets mixed and it is a surprisingly easy and nourishing breakfast to make.

For this demonstration, I cooked only a small amount of rice in a pot, however, my host mother has a massive rice cooker. In this, she would have already cooked enough rice for breakfast and lunch, since our packed lunches all included rice, before we had even gotten up. This way, this breakfast was incredibly quick to make and offered a great blend of carbs, protein, fats and salt to get the day started.

I must admit that, in the beginning, I found the texture a little slimy and the thought of raw egg was a little off-putting, but it has become one of my favourites and whenever I miss Japan, I make myself a bowl of Tamago kake gohan. 😀

You will need:

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– a small saucepan (or rice cooker if you have one)

– an implement to cook and serve with (I went with a standard ladle like thing)

– two bowls (one larger, one smaller)

– a spoon

– a fork

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Ingredients:

– a bowl (or cup) of dry rice

– water (double the amount of the rice)

– one egg

– soy sauce (I swear by Kikkoman Soy Sauce, but I had none after moving and my local convenience store only had this one…)

Preparation:

– wash your rice if necessary

– add rice and water to a saucepan and cook the rice on a low heat until all the water has been absorbed and the rice is soft and fluffy (depending on your saucepan, you may need to add extra water as you go along since the rice might still have a tough/grainy texture, just try as you cook)

(If you are using a rice cooker, please follow your machine’s instructions.)

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Once your rice is soft and fluffy, it should look something like this:

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Serve the hot rice into the bigger of the two bowls and immediately start preparing your sauce. (You can also have the sauce prepared before the rice is ready, that’s up to you.)

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Prepare your sauce by cracking the egg into the smaller bowl, adding about a teaspoon of soy sauce (you can always add more to taste) and then mixing these together with a fork, as though you were making scrambled eggs.

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Your mixture should then look a little something like this:

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Now, pour your soy sauce egg mixture over your piping hot rice…

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… mix thoroughly and enjoy!

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Child friendly alternatives:

I have been told that children under the age of two shouldn’t be fed raw egg products and that soy sauce may be too salty for their under developed pallets, so perhaps this isn’t quite suitable for the littlest of connoisseurs.

If you are uncomfortable giving your older children raw egg as well, you could try turning the egg and soy sauce mixture into scrambled eggs (cooked in vegetable oil, since butter or olive oil would alter the flavour too much) and put the cooked egg on a bed of rice.

Another alternative might be to just give them rice with a little bit of soy sauce, and leaving the egg out all together, however at this point most of the nutritional value is lost and so maybe not a very great idea after all. haha

In Japan, the customary thing to say before any meal is:

いただきます。

Itadakimasu. (Pronounced: eeta – dackee – mass.)

It usually is translated as “Let’s eat”, but it is important to note, that it is considered impolite not to say this before your meal (breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks), since it is also a way of thanking the cook (or your host) and the spirits for the food you are receiving. However, there is no real literal translation into English.

No matter which way you enjoy your very own tamago kake gohan, I hope you enjoy it and say: いただきます。

As always, thanks for reading and take care. xoxo