About MWC

We are a Family who Cook, Bake and Hunt together. Mom Bakes, Dad Hunts and Kids Eat. Oh and Dog eats too.

Cheesus, I did it.

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So I made my own cheese. This has to of been the most satisfying food experiments to date. Apart from making my own butter that is. When you can see the cheese form right in front of your very eyes, that is absolutely incredible. So to get started I went and bought some rennet on Amazon. Rennet is an essential part of cheese making. It is an enzyme usually formed from sheep stomach acid. Vegetable rennet is usually formed from a variation of dried caper leaves, nettles, thistles, mallow, and Ground Ivy. Vegetable rennet is suitable for Kosher and Halal cheeses. To get started I had to buy 3 litres of organic full fat milk from the supermarket because my local Farmer has only gone and sold his farm. A sign of the current climate, I guess. It’s a real shame because nothing could beat unpasteurised milk straight from the cow. My cow was Tesco.

To get started you need:

3 litres of full fat milk

1/4 teaspoon of rennet

A large pot to heat milk

Metal slated spoon

Large sharp knife

Food thermometer

Deep roasting tray

 

This is how I made cheese. The technique is not written in stone as you will find from the internet searches. As like all of my experiments I learn by doing. To really get started you have to make sure everything is sterile. As in beer making, bacteria can be your enemy. Take that extra care here. You can use your dishwasher on it’s hottest wash to get the tools ready. Once you have everything clean and sterile you can begin. Pour the milk into the pot and gently heat it to 37C . Keep stirring to ensure the milk doesn’t burn. Once it has reached this temperature cover it and take it off the heat. Carefully place the hot pot of milk into a deep roasting tray. Pour some freshly boiled water into the tray. This will help maintain the heat of the milk. Add 1/4 teaspoon of rennet to the milk and stir gently. Cover again and leave it work for around 1 hour. Adding rennet actually works straight away but I felt it worked better when I left it. Once the hour has passed uncover the mixture and slice it in a cross hatch design. Basically slice the curd vertically and then horizontally across the pot. You will immediately see the curds and whey separate. The white pieces are the curds and the liquid is the whey. Gently stir this to allow more of the whey release. If you want you can use a cheese cloth for draining, I didn’t because I used a plastic sieve. So you can now drain off the whey into a pot. This by product is a great source of protein so keep it as long as you can. We made scones using it. On self sustaining farms this whey is often fed to the animals. Little Ms Muffet knew her stuff. Now you have your curd in the sieve, gently rinse it under a cold tap to remove any excess curd. Carefully mould the curd into ball shapes and store in water in the fridge. As an exercise I split the batch in two. I stored one half in fresh water and the other half in salted water. The taste difference was amazing. The fresh water cheese had a very dairy flavour while the salted had a more savoury taste. I have also stored a batch in olive oil with herbs.

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The cover photo is a portion of the cheese charred in our clay oven and served with honey and pistachio nuts. I saw this recipe on an episode of Mind of a Chef and had to try it. It is exquisite.

Enjoy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mince pie Irish coffee 


If you’re looking for a festive drink this Christmas then look no further. This is strictly for the adults. At this time of year a lot of people worry about how many mince pies they eat. And in January they blame that extra belt size on these little delights. ” Who ate all the pies? You f** b******.” So why not drink them instead without any guilt.

Ingredients:

2 jars of mince pie meat

400 mls of water

Whiskey

Coffee

Cream

The Make:

Empty jars of mince meat into a pot. Add water and bring to a gentle simmer until mixture is all loose and easy to stir. Pour mixture into a food processor and blitz until smooth. Add more water if needed. Pass mixture through a sieve to ensure that you have a smooth paste. You can now jar this paste for use over the holidays. You can even spoon it over ice cream and lift any Christmas dessert. Now for the important bit. Get yourself two heat resistant glasses. Make some fresh brewed coffee. Add a shot of whiskey into each glass and one teaspoon of the mince pie mixture. Pour in coffee into each glass and stir. Make sure to allow for a top up of whipped cream.

Enjoy.

Eccles cakes


Merry Christmas everyone. We hope you have had a great year. 2016 has been a bit of a rollercoaster for us. Sometimes literally, I will never set foot on that Tayto Park rollercoaster ever again. I can think of other ways to terrify myself, like finding out Malcolm is a vegetarian. At the end of another year it is easy to reminisce about what you have done and what you have failed to do. It is also easy to plan forward for the next year too and get a better perspective of what is essential to get done. 

Thanks for following us on our food journey this year. Let’s make 2017 the best yet.

I like mince pies, especially hot and smeared with brandy butter. This time of year you can try any amount of them in the shops. Most of these pies struggle to get the pastry just right. They are mostly too dry and sometimes too soft. There is no arguing that Kipling, the crafy fella,  has nailed it though. So we went and made Eccles cakes instead where the pastry is sweet and delicious. Any recipe that contains Jägermiester has my full attention. Give it yours and enjoy.

The Ingredients:

For the pastry

175g butter

225g plain flour

1/2 tsp salt

120ml cold water

For the filling
50g butter

100g light brown soft sugar

250g mixed berries

50ml Jägermiester 

1 egg white

1 tbsp granulated sugar

The Make:

Freeze butter an hour or so before preparation. Put flour and salt into a big bowl. Grate frozen butter into flour and mix together well with your hands. Add cold water enough to bring the dough together. Wrap in cling film and leave in fridge for 30 minutes. 

For filling mix together the butter, sugar, mixed berries and Jägermiester in a saucepan over medium heat and let it stew until berries plump up. Leave to cool at room temperature for an hour.
Remove pastry from fridge and roll out to €1 coin thickness. Stamp out circles using a 10cm cutter.

Divide filling into each circle pastry. Brush the edges with a little water. Pull up the sides of pastry and pinch together to seal. Flip cakes over and press each one down into greased baking tray lined with greaseproof paper. 
Whisk the egg white until foamy and brush over each cake. Sprinkle with sugar. Slice three little lines onto each cake to allow steam to escape while cooking. Place cakes in fridge for 20 mins before baking. 
Preheat oven to 180C fan oven and bake Eccles cakes for 20-25 mins until golden and crisp.
Enjoy!

December Newsletter 🎄

Hi guys. Here is our December newsletter. Listed below are the best of what is interesting us at the moment.

YouTube Clip

I have mentioned before on the blog about my family connections in Ballyporeen County Tipperary. Here’s a link to an amazing video detailing the history such a beautiful part of the Avondu valley.

 

 

Books 

Tim Ferriss has been an inspiration of mine for a long time now. From his podcasts, books and experiments I have learnt so many life hacks. His latest book has just been released. Unfortunately for me I can’t read it until Christmas Day as the kids got it for me as a gift. Beats underwear and socks any day.

Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers

 

Music 

Ever since my little girls could talk we have been singing. As a Dad of girls, I have fully embraced my inner pop music fan. Everything from Katy Perry to Sia gets sung in our house. Below is our current kitchen album. We love to listen to this while cooking. I have even printed the lyrics out for the girls so they can learn the songs. All I can say is that the lessons on this album are about standing up for yourself, having courage and being confident. There is not one swear word or instruction to shake your booty. Perfect for my warriors.

This is Acting by Sia

 

Apps

This is a clever tool. At Christmas most people drink far too much. This calculator tells you exactly how many calories you consume. Warning, it can come as a shock how many calories are actually in your alcoholic drink.

Drink Calculator

Parenting 

I came across this website after hearing the wonderful Abigail Wald an instructor at Hand in Hand Parenting interviewed on the Truth Barrel podcast. Nobody tells you how to be parent. Your child is born and suddenly you just are. Some people fly out the gates at parenting and some people struggle to grasp any control at all. This website contains tools, real stories and lessons to help ease the job.

Hand in Hand Parenting

On the subject of parenting I couldn’t go much further without mentioning my fabulous sister in-law Sharyn Hayden. Sharyn writes for HerFamily.ie and she runs her very own parenting website RaisingIreland.com. Sharyn is one of the busiest people I know. Not only did she get married this month, she launched Ireland’s latest subscription site. If you are looking for an amazing gift this Christmas to treat a new mammy or your own mammy follow the link below for more information.

Mum’s Box

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Keep following us through 2017

Slainte

Butternut and Ginger soup

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Butternut squash is a vegetable that we never get tired of. Here is our latest soup, perfect for these cold days ahead. It’s pretty chilly out here today. We even had a spot of snow on the M50 this morning . A sure sign of what’s to come. This soup is easy to make. It might be an idea to put some into a flask in case you, do, get stuck on the M5o.

The Ingredients:

1 Butternut Squash

Maldon sea salt flakes

Unsalted butter

2 sprigs of fresh rosemary

Olive oil

300 mls Milk

1 tsp English mustard

1 tbsp Ginger, ground

1 tsp Turmeric

 

The Make:

Slice squash in half. Scoop out seeds. Rub olive oil over each half. Sprinkle with sea salt. Place rosemary sprig and a knob of butter into the seed cavity. Use a cocktail stick to hold the sprig in place. Roast in a 190C oven for 1 hour or until the squash is tender. The skin should be a little charred. Allow to cool for a couple of minutes. Discard the rosemary sprigs. Now scoop out the butternut squash flesh and place into a blender. Also add in the milk, mustard, ginger and turmeric. Blend until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to your liking and serve with some farmhouse brown bread. Enjoy.

 

November Newsletter 

Hi guys, here in the Married with Cauldron household we are introducing a newsletter containing all of our current interests and inspirations. It will be available every month. All you have to do is follow the blog by entering your email address and you will receive our newsletter every month. We hope you enjoy all of the little caveats featured below. And it’s not always about food. Just click on the links to find out more.

Most recent purchase:  ← ← ←

This Zojirushi flask is absolutely amazing. When you want to travel with a hot beverage you need this flask. It has exceeded all my expectations of what a flask does. In the past, recent purchases of other flasks have either failed to keep the drink hot or the internal chamber has broken by being dropped. You will not have those concerns with this flask. The only negative point is, for example, whatever temperature you pour in your coffee then it will stay that temperature. So if you want to avoid scalded lips on your commute, prepare with caution and make sure your drink is at the desired sipping temperature.

Most recent download: ← ← ←

Jon Snow said it best, ” Winter is coming “. This  booklet and website was prepared by the Government Task Force on Emergency Planning and the main message is simple – be prepared, stay safe and know where to find help should you need it. It’s easy to download and very informative. You can save the booklet to your smartphone for easy access. Be prepared, it’s the only way.

Most recent YouTube clip: ← ← ←

I showed this clip to the kids and they were not expecting the outcome for a second. It was priceless in an age where everything is instant and skewed. It tells an important life lesson that can’t be told on Peppa Pig because we’re always being told how stupid Daddy Pig is.

Most recent book purchased: ← ← ←

Anthony Bourdain has written ‘ Appetites ‘ his first cookbook in 10 years. Anthony Bourdain has been an inspiration and influence of ours for years now. He has made some of the best food travel shows on television to date. From his ‘ No Reservations ‘ on The Discovery Channel to his current show ‘ Parts Unknown ‘ on CNN, currently in its eighth season. There just isn’t another food show airing out there like it. This new book of his was a birthday present for me to enjoy for weeks to come.

Most recent tip: ← ← ←

Everyone, I’m sure has a tape measure. For measuring, right? Well, here are some interesting things you didn’t know about the humble little tool.

Most recent interesting article: ← ← ←

Neil Strauss is a journalist, author and lifestyle designer. He is famous for writing ‘The Game ‘, ‘ Emergency ‘, and numerous biographies. He regularly writes for The Rolling Stone magazine. His most recent article about ” Fear ” is well worth a read.

Most recent podcast: ← ← ←

The Truth Barrel was released two weeks ago and is already gaining a loyal following. If you are looking for a new and interesting podcast then give this a try. Here’s the description from ITunes – Life isn’t easy. And most people have secrets they don’t discuss: affairs, fears, challenges, double lives, and inner struggles. In The Truth Barrel (a 220 degree barrel sauna), New York Times bestselling author Neil Strauss (The Game) and pro athlete Gabby Reece (NBC’s Strong) sweat the truth out of some of the most famous, knowledgeable, and interesting people in the world, from Grammy-winning musicians to gold-metal Olympians. The goal: To learn from these experiences and solve the biggest challenges of life that most people are too afraid to discuss.

We hope you enjoy these little insights. This is just our way of de-cluttering an all too chaotic social media circus.

Keep following us for more.

Spiced Autumn Apple Crumble Cake


Apple season is in full flow right now. A sure sign Autumn is upon us. We foraged for crab apples last week and made some of the finest crab apple jelly yet. The apples were plump and red and nearly sweet enough to eat. The full flavour really made the jelly. Of course we added a couple spices, cinnamon, nutmeg and bay leaves. Even some pink peppercorns to give it a special edge. Our own tree in the back garden produced a fine crop of Cox’s Orange Pippins. With all these malus domestica there was only one thing to do, apple crumble of course. Not just any apple crumble though. A cake was the direction we chose. We made a cake base and mixed in chopped Cox’s apples. Then we then layered the cake with a generous helping of crab apple jelly. We topped the cake with apple jelly buttercream and finished it of with a spiced crumble. Needless to say but it didn’t last very long on the cake stand. 


The Ingredients:

For the cake

250g unsalted butter

250g light soft brown sugar

1 tsp ground mixed spice

1/2 tsp ground nutmeg 

1 tbsp golden syrup

4 eggs

250g self-raising flour

2 Cox’s pippin apples, cored and diced small (any eating apple will do)

For the buttercream
50g unsalted butter, left out at room temperature to soften 

100g icing sugar

1 tbsp milk

2 tbsp crab apple jelly

For the crumble
50g cold unsalted butter

100g plain flour

50g light soft brown sugar

1 tsp ground mixed spice


The Make:

Preheat the oven at 170C fan oven. Grease and line a 9inch deep cake tin. Whisk together the sugar and butter. Then add the spices and golden syrup. Now slowly whisk in the eggs one at a time. Gently fold in the flour and diced apples. It helps to lightly coat the apple pieces with some flour before adding them to the batter this stops the fruit from sinking to the bottom of the cake. Gently spread the cake batter into the greased cake tin. Place cake in the oven for roughly 30 mins or until the cake is golden and a skewer comes out clean. Leave to cool completely on a wire rack. 
To prepare the crumble, add the flour, brown sugar and mixed spice to a bowl and using your fingers rub in the butter until you reach a light breadcrumb consistency. Do not overwork it or the crumble will become too heavy. Spread the mixture evenly over a baking sheet and bake in the oven at 180C fan for approx 10-15 mins until lightly golden. 
To prepare the buttercream, add the butter to the mixer and slowly add the icing sugar. Now add the milk followed by the crab apple jelly. Mix until you have a smooth icing. 
Slice the cake in half and remove the top half. Now layer bottom half of cake with two tablespoons of buttercream and then top with two tablespoons of crab apple jelly. Now put back on top half of cake and spoon over the rest of the buttercream, smooth over with a spatula and then sprinkle with the crumble. 
Enjoy.

Chilli con carne

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Warning! This dish is powerful. I cooked this dish before to help bring on labour when Davinia was pregnant with Malcolm. He was born very healthy and without incident on the 4th December two years ago. We are truly blessed. Davinia had gone four days over her due date and was getting very unsettled. My mother was a midwife for over 40 years and has heard every old wives tale of inducing labour from hot curries to sex. The latter wasn’t an option with 2 kids in the house and after all that’s what got us here in the first place. So I went with chillies. Now that we are growing our own chillies and tomatoes I couldn’t wait to see what they could bring to the dish. I wasn’t disappointed. The vibrancy and freshness was palatable. This dish has been made since the 1800’s and there are wide variations of what is added to give it that certain kick. No matter what you add to chill con carne the base of this dish is always beef mince, tomatoes, kidney beans, chilli peppers, paprika, cumin, garlic and onion. It’s totally up to you to add whatever you like, try and be as adventurous as you can. Our larder probably has more hot chilli products than anything else and I took complete advantage of it. I added ‘Bull Snort’ cayenne sauce, sriracha, gochujang (fermented chilli paste) and of course our own chillies. The type of chilli we grew was a piri piri variation. I was given these seeds by a good pal of mine Brian, who also grows his own veg. These seeds came directly from a Portuguese plant. For the entire growing season my four plants did not give up, they kept on producing whopper chillies right up until November. Brian also gave me a Scotch Bonnet plant at the end of the season and I am carefully nursing it until next year. I guess Brian is like my chilli pusher man and I am truly hooked. I am currently drying some of the excess chillies to make a hot chilli salt. This can be sprinkled on pizza, baked beans or eggs. It’s all about making what you have grown last through out winter.

Warning! This dish can also get you pregnant. After stimulating your tongue’s pain receptors, endorphins are released when you eat chillies. Your heart rate increases and you start to sweat, much like the way your body reacts during sex. You have been warned, now play nicely.

The Ingredients:

500g beef mince

1 large onion

3 garlic cloves

10 tomatoes

4 chilli peppers

1 tin of kidney beans

2 tbsp smoked paprika

1 tbsp paprika

1 tbsp Bull Snort ( cayenne pepper sauce) or Tobasco

1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

1 tbsp Sriracha sauce

2 tbsp Ketchup

1 tsp ginger

1 tsp ground nutmeg

1 tsp cayenne chilli pepper

1 tsp ground cumin

Salt and pepper for seasoning

1 tsp Sunchang Gochujang paste (Korean fermented chilli paste)

1 tsp garlic mixed herb seasoning

2 squares of Cadburys Bournville grated

2 beef stock cubes

Oil for cooking

The Make:

Place tomatoes and chilli peppers in an oven tray. Pour over a little oil and roast them in a hot 170C oven until the skin starts to burn. This should take around 20 mins. Don’t allow them get too burnt just enough to allow the smoky flavour to stay. Once done blitz the tomatoes and chillies in a food processor until smooth. Pass the sauce through a fine sieve to remove any skin or seeds. Set sauce aside. Now finely chop the onion and garlic. Get a large pot and cook the chopped onion and garlic until they become soft. Add in mince with a little more oil and brown off the meat. Rinse kidney beans under running water and add them to the pot. Now add all the spices and sauces including your roast tomato sauce. Stir well. Add some beef stock to loosen up the overall dish. Grate in the Bournville chocolate now. Salt and pepper to season. Let this chilli simmer on a low heat for around 2 hours. Longer if you can. Boil some long grain rice to serve with your chilli. I served ours with cornbread as the sweetness marries perfectly with the hot smoky sauce. Enjoy.

 

Cookies, soft and chewy

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This recipe for cookies is so easy to make. It is just a simple few ingredients mixed together. You can change it around a little buy adding some raisins or rolled oats. I’ve experimented with rum soaked raisins and dark chocolate pieces, this one was obviously for the adults, delicious with a shot of coffee. You should ask the kids what they would like to add in, I’m sure they’ll entertain you with their choices. This is a very versatile recipe and takes no time at all to complete.

The Ingredients:

2 cups of flour

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1 tbsp of  Borneville cocoa

3/4 cup melted unsalted butter

1 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup white sugar

1 egg plus 1 egg yolk

2 cups of chocolate chips

1 tbsp vanilla essence

The Make:

Sieve flour, baking soda, salt and cocoa into a large bowl. Add the sugars and mix these dry ingredients together. Melt butter in a pot and allow it to cool for a bit. Add the eggs to the mix and stir. Once the butter has cooled add it to the mix and stir. Now add the vanilla extract and chocolate chips to the mix and stir. Use your hands to combine all the ingredients together to make a dough. Empty the cookie dough onto a sheet of cling film. Roll it out like a sausage and cover it with the cling film. Refrigerate dough until it is firm. Pre-heat oven to 160C. Line an oven tray with baking paper. Cut cookie dough into 5cm slices and lay out on the tray. Be sure to leave about 2 inches between each cookie as they will spread out during cooking. Bake in the oven for 12 minutes. Once the cookies start to brown at the edges remove the tray allow to cool for 1 minute. Using a spatula place cookies on a wire rack to cool more. You should now have some beautiful chewy cookies.

Enjoy.

 

 

 

 

 

How to beat an Irish Summer

img_2626How to beat an Irish Summer. ( Or how we did )

God knows we have had our fair share of rain this summer. I really can’t remember a wetter one. If I have found it incredibly frustrating you can only imagine how the kids felt. ” Dad can we go out?” “Sure, hang on while I open the door”. And just like that the heavens opened. This was a regular occurrence this summer. So much so that the kids would wait by the door to go out in between the showers. I even went and purchased rain trousers for the kids so we could head off no matter what. It wasn’t only showers this summer, we had torrential downfalls for hours on end. And for those days it was time to get creative with activities to do inside. It’s too easy to babysit the kids with a smart TV. Two months of this was definitely not happening.
Soft play areas were out of the question because every other parent would have the same idea. On a wet day crowded play areas are an audible nightmare, full of cabin fever kids of all ages running around burning off all that frustrated energy. And not a helmet in sight. On my day off I don’t much fancy nursing multiple little concussions. The cinema is not much of an option either, it’s an expensive two hours and a lot of the current kids movies contain very dark scenes from rabid animals to dogs being abducted and fed to a viper. Not the ideal viewing for a 3 and 4 year old . Having night terrors is not included in the price. Picture painting is fun for all of five minutes until Malcolm lashes a random blue splash across the girls pictures resulting in a burst of syncronised screams. Some might say this is how modern art masterpieces are achieved but believe me it’s not worth the ear torture. Play dough wasn’t much better as it resulted in a possible case of constipation. I have to say though some of the colours of play dough today are quite tasty looking.
This summer we even created a Spotify playlist of rain songs to play in the background while we were kept under house arrest.

So how did we beat the summer? We got cooking. We emptied the larder and got cooking. We picked recipes where the kids could get involved in the preparation. We made our own tomato sauce  from our homegrown tomatoes. We then made our own pasta to go with this. You can take as long as you like making this, let’s not get this made too quick or else you have the remainder of the day to fill. We made cookies of all sizes and flavours. We also made miniature slider burgers. Each one of these recipes allows the kids to get stuck in the ingredients up to their elbows. As each recipe comes together the sense of achievement each child feels is amazing. It’s one thing watching how much salt and sugar you put into your kids meals but allowing them to help teaches them the right proportion that goes in. Another important part of this hands on approach is portion size. A kids hands are only so big and they can help with the size of the burgers for instance, obviously a quarter pounder isn’t an ideal portion size for 3 year old.
This approach is great fun but it is very messy. The latest IKEA advertisement shows just how messy it can get. Is it me or is the IKEA Grandad terrifying?

At times I feel I harp on a lot about the weather on this blog. Evelyn Cusack and Jean Byrne from Met Eireann must feel like the Oncologists giving the same bad news to the Irish public all summer. In time though, when my grandkids get to read our posts, they will get a real feel for the Irish weather, summers in particular.
I hope this post has been helpful and inspirational to you. Remember if all of the above fails to beat your weather blues, get saving now and book a two week break in Tenerife where you will be guaranteed to get the sun and vitamin D you require.
Please forward on to any parent who needs the help. Thanks.