Dark chocolate and ginger biscuits

We’ve been flat out making biscuits in our house lately. Nothing beats a homemade biscuit and a strong cup tea when you get a minute to sit down. These little beauties couldn’t be easier to make. Get the kids involved and let them add treats like chocolate chips or sprinkles. These biscuits are so versatile that you can add almost anything, sweet. We made some with a ginger and dark chocolate twist. Normally the kids wouldn’t touch dark chocolate let alone ginger but they loved these. We bought the dark chocolate ginger in a health food shop. If you can’t find them then use crystallized stem ginger and dark chocolate pieces. By the way, you can buy pre cut baking paper. When I found this out it blew my mind. It’s the small things that matter.

The Ingredients:

1 block of softened unsalted butter (245g)

200g light brown sugar

400g Plain flour

100g chopped dark chocolate stem ginger

1 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp mixed spice

The Make:

Allow the butter to soften at room temperature. Using a stand mixer with the whisk attachment cream the butter and sugar together by mixing on high speed until the mix has a smooth like consistency. Now sieve in the flour, dark chocolate ginger pieces and spices until you have dough. Roll dough onto cling film into a sausage shape and chill in fridge for 20 minutes. Pre-heat oven to 130C. Slice biscuit dough into coins and place on some baking paper and cook for 13 minutes. Allow biscuits to cool on a wire rack. You can eat these straight away if you want or you can add decorations like melted chocolate.

Enjoy.

Creamy Honey Hummus

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The Ingredients:

1 tin of chickpeas

1/2 tsp bicarbonate soda

2 garlic cloves

2 bird eye chillies

2 bay leaves

1/3 cup of lemon juice

Maldon sea salt

1/2 cup of Tahini

110 ml olive oil

1 tbsp honey

1 tsp ground cumin

1/2 cup of ice cold water

The Make:

Drain and wash chickpeas under running water. Place rinsed chickpeas in a bowl with 1/2 teaspoon of bicarbonate soda. Pour in cold water and cover by 2 inches. Let this soak over night. Next day rinse off chickpeas again and place them in a pot and cover with water. Add in 1 crushed garlic clove, bay leaves and chillies. Bring to the boil and simmer for 30 minutes. Drain chickpeas and keep a cup of the cooking liquid. Remove the bay leaves, garlic and chillies from the pot. Now add Tahini, grated garlic clove and lemon juice to a food processor. Pour in 1/2 cup of ice cold water. Blitz on high until smooth. While processor is running carefully pour in the olive oil. Season with salt. Add chickpeas and cumin and blend until creamy smooth. If the texture is not smooth enough add a bit of the reserved cooking liquid until the desired consistency is met. Check for seasoning at this stage and correct it if needed with more lemon juice or salt. Now add in the honey and blend in to the mixture.

Enjoy.

Our Beekeeping journey so far

IMG_4628This January I started a new journey in food production. I enlisted in a beginners beekeepers course with my local beekeeping association. Regular visitors to our site will know of how important a self sufficient life is to us here at Married with Cauldron and having covered so much of this lifestyle already on the blog it wasnt going to be long before we got involved with bees. It goes without saying that the real value in bees is the pollination service they provide but with this service we get a fantastic by-product, Honey. Beekeeping is an essential husbandry skill needed to really complete the cycle of a self-sufficient lifestyle. Pollination is the life blood of crop growth from allotments to acres of rapeseed. Either way you can increase your yield by having an active hive of vigorous honey bees close by.

A bee will travel as far as 3 miles to forage for pollen and nectar. During this trip they will visit between 100 and 1000 flowers with an average flight time of 30-60 minutes, 10 times a day. Now you know where the term busy as a bee comes from.

I highly recommend getting in touch with your local association when getting started with bees because without the knowledge from experienced beekeepers you are setting yourself up for failure. By getting involved and sitting a course with the association you will receive membership, insurance and access to lectures from the best in the field. You will be taught how to recognise diseases and pests and how to treat them. This is so important in managing a healthy life for your bees. You will also become part of a vast network of passionate people who are only more than willing to help you get started, and one will eventually become your mentor or bee sensei. For me, Jim Agnew has been a fountain of information. His patience with my many questions has helped in keeping me from getting discouraged in this new hobbie. He has even supplied me with my first bees. He once told me that when he first got started with beekeeping there was someone who was very generous with their knowledge in beekeeping and time that he wanted to be able to give back what he had now learned. Jim gave the majority of our lectures during my course and was popular with many of the students. He is an asset to the association. Jim also advised me that I was getting involved with a hobbie that was going to eventually cost me a lot of money. He wasn’t wrong. As with all new hobbies the initial set-up cost can run into the hundreds. Over the years I have taken up many past-times from motocross, kayaking, rock climbing and shooting. You will spend up to €1000 getting started in many of these. You will pay more for brand names and higher quality products so it pays to shop around. I will leave a list of the suppliers I have used so far below:

beesupplies.ie

irishbeesupplies

donegalbees.ie

Although the initial cost of set up will run into the hundreds of euros don’t be deterred.

Essential start-up kit :

  • Hive ( polystyrene or wooden )
  • Beesuit
  • Smoker
  • Hive tool
  • Gloves
  • Bees

This kit will get you started alright but you always find a reason to add to it. Here in lies the crux. I am in the process of taking on my third hive, all in a matter of months. Something nobody tells though is just how much time you will spend thinking about your bees. For me it’s like every waking minute. Are they OK? Are they flying? Is it warm enough outside? Do they have enough stores? Are wasps attacking them? Is the Queen laying?……………

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Our kitchen table two days ago

This what happens when you are responsible for these beautiful social insects. One healthy hive can have up to 40000 workers (female), 1000 drones (male) and 1 Queen. These days in our house it’s not unusual to hear Davinia ask where I’m going to and for me to reply “Oh, I’m just going to check on my girls. All 40000 of them.” This response usually gets a sceptical hippo eyes look. I am grateful to have a very understanding wife, after all she is going to get a sweet reward at the end of all of this. In all seriousness when you have a hive it requires a once weekly visit from April to September. From late September to March you will rarely make a visit at all as they will boxed up for winter.

Stay tuned to the blog as we post our progress and new honey recipes. If you are new to the site feel free to read any of our previous posts and follow one of the recipes. This an exiting time to be involved with food as more and more people educate themselves of the benefits of this locally sourced edible product. For example Irish heather honey is said to be as beneficial as Manuka honey in it’s medicinal properties. All at a fraction of the cost and with minimal food miles. As I’m sure with many beekeepers people often say to me that they could never work with bees because they are terrified of them. Fear has no place near a hive. Caution does. Believe it or not but working with bees brings a certain peaceful feeling and mindfulness because you have to remain calm and calculated with every move. A panicked slip of a frame can result in a squished Queen. It can sometimes feel like you are diffusing a bomb and making sure that you don’t snip the red wire as the timer runs out but if you take your time, be prepared and stay calm your bees will thank you for it.

Thanks for reading.

Try The Federation of Irish Beekeepers Association for a list of local associations.

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My happy place.

Baklava

I was inspired to make this wonderful sweet desert while watching one of my favourite chefs Nigel Slater on BBC in his new series which tours the Middle East. Although baklava takes a lot of effort, it is absolutely worth the time. They are sticky and sweet and have so many layers of both texture and flavour. They crunch with every bite and pack a wonderful honey nutty taste. A labor of love for sure, but for your hard work and patience, you will absolutely be rewarded with this delightful treat, for it is fit for a King.

The Ingredients:

2 boxes of Filo Pastry sheets at room temperature

285g unsalted butter

200g ground almonds

100g chopped mixed nuts

200g chopped pistachios

1 tsp cinnamon

200g granulated sugar

2 tbsp fresh lemon juice (juice half lemon)

180ml water

170g honey

The Make:

Preheat the oven to 160 fan. Now prepare the syrup by adding water, sugar and honey to a saucepan. Bring to the boil over a high heat and stir until the sugar is completely dissolved. Now reduce the heat to medium and boil for another 5 minutes, but do not stir. Once it has reached a clear golden colour, your syrup is ready. Remove from the heat and let the syrup cool while you prepare your Baklava.

Melt the butter in a sauce pan and remove from the hob. Now cut filo sheets so they measure exactly the same size as your baking tray. There were 7 large sheets of filo in each box and I managed to cut each sheet twice to the size my tray. The second set of sheets had two strips to make up an even layer. So in total I managed to cut 28 sheets to size.

Add all the chopped and ground nuts to a bowl but hold back 16g of pistachios to garnish at the end. Add the cinnamon to the nut mixture and mix well.

Brush the bottom of your tray with some of the melted butter. Layer two sheets of filo pastry into tray, then brush top layer with butter. Add two more sheets of filo, then brush with butter and top with a layer of the nut mixture. Now repeat this pattern 5 more times.

For example:

2 layers filo, then brush with butter

2 layers filo, then brush with butter and sprinkle a layer of nut mixture on top

Repeat this until finish the  nut mix

Complete the baklava with a topping of 4 layers of filo brushed with butter to finish

Now cut down through the filo layers, four rows across and then cut diagonal to give a wonderful diamond effect. You can judge the rows and diagonals depending on the size of your baking tray.

Now bake in the oven at 160 fan oven for approx 30-40 mins until baklava is golden brown and crispy on top.

Now pour the cooled syrup over the hot Baklava. Place the remaining pistachios in a food bag and pound with a rolling pin. Now sprinkle the pistachio over the Baklava. Allow to cool and set completely before serving. Patience is required here as this process will take approx 4-5 hours. It seems a lot but believe me it’s so worth the wait. I left mine to set completely overnight and they taste absolutely divine.

Enjoy.

Peach glazed pork belly

Pork is definitely one of the most versatile of all the meats when it comes to cooking. It takes the flavors of sweet, spicy and savory so well. Pork is typically paired with apple so I decided to experiment a little here and see how far I could push the sweetness. The result here is so morish I didn’t even serve the pork with anything because it was eaten directly from the tray.

The Ingredients:

700g pork belly

2 tins of peaches

Hot sauce (Shiracha, Franks or Tabasco)

Salt

Honey

The Make:

Dry pork with kitchen paper and place on a wire rack tray. Pour peaches and syrup in to a food processor with one tablespoon of hot sauce, one tablespoon of honey and pinch of salt. Blend until smooth. Taste and add more hot sauce and honey if needed. Pass the blended peaches through a sieve to get a smoother purée. Cook pork at 160C for around 3 hours. While cooking the pork baste it with the peach purée and turn the meat every 30 minutes. The final result will be a sticky glazed delight.

Enjoy.

Chocolate Heart Lollipops

Our little chocolatier hard at it. Patience is needed to allow chocolate to melt and not to scoff it all at once. “The Candyman can cause he mixes it with love and makes the world taste good.”

All you need is:

400g Lindt Chocolate

Sprinkles

Chopped Cashews

Chopped Cranberries

Heart shaped lolly mould

Lollipop sticks

Firstly melt chocolate. Fill heart moulds with sprinkles, cashews and cranberries. You can really be as adventurous as you want here and add whatever you fancy. Place stick at the end of each heart and pour over melted chocolate. Place in the fridge to chill for about 20 mins. Now remove from the mould and Enjoy. 💝

Strawberry & Coconut Jammy Heart Biscuits

This Valentines Day you may have booked a table at a fancy restaurant to impress your date. You may splash out on chocolates and roses too. But wait. All you need to woo your loved one is the most delicate lightest biscuits made with lots of TLC and that’s our homemade strawberry and coconut jammy heart biscuits. Nothing says I love you more than some homemade treats. ❤️

The Ingredients:

225g unsalted butter

100g caster sugar

200g plain flour

100g desiccated coconut

1 tsp vanilla extract

100g strawberry jam

60g icing sugar

The Make:

Put the butter, sugar, flour, coconut and vanilla extract into a food processor and blitz until the mixture comes together into a dough consistency. Pat into a ball, wrap in cling film and place into the fridge to chill for 20 mins.

Remove the dough from the fridge, knead until soft. Divide dough into two even half’s. Sprinkle plain flour over work space and roll out one ball of dough to 5mm thickness. Using a circle cutter, cut out cookies. Prepare a large cookie tray with greaseproof paper and gently place cookies on tray. Repeat with the other half of dough but once circle cookies are cut, use a small heart cutter and cut a heart shape in the middle of each cookie. Again prepare a second large tray with grease proof paper and place the cookies onto the tray. Place both trays of cookies into the refrigerator for 15 mins to chill. Now heat the oven to 140C fan oven.

Once the prepared cookies have chilled for 15 mins remove from the fridge and place in the hot oven for approx 15-20 mins until lightly golden.

Remove from the oven and place on a cooling rack to cool completely. Spoon a teaspoon of jam onto the centre of each of the circle biscuits and smooth out neatly. Now dust the cookies with heart shape center with some icing sugar using a small sieve. Place the heart top halves of the biscuits onto the jam smeared cookies and push down very gently.

Enjoy.

Beef Adobo

Adobo is a traditional Filipino dish. It involves marinating a meat, commonly chicken or pork, in vinegar, salt and peppercorns overnight and then frying or braising it in the same liquid the next day. This method helps season the meat and would have been used by locals back in the day as a way to preserve meat before the invention of today’s technology of refrigeration. I have wanted to try this dish for a long time. I work alongside a lot of Filipino nationals and we’re often talking about favourite recipes and comfort foods. The Filipino community are incredible, their whole life revolves around meeting up with family and keeping that tradition very much alive today with their own children. Many of them have left behind family in the Philippines, a 17 hour flight away, to work here to provide a better life for their young families. I admire them so much and am grateful I have my own family close by. Friends come and go but Family will always be there. Cherish it.

Adobo always tops the list when we talk about family dishes and it is delicious. The overnight marinade tenderises the toughest cut of meat and fills it with so much flavour. In preparation for this dish I made a visit to my local craft butcher, Tuites at the Bullring, for some beef short rib and shin beef. These two cuts are very tough and need a low and slow cook. Done right, this meat will melt in your mouth. We usually use a dutch oven or casserole pot for our slow cooking with great results so we have never used a slow cooker until this dish. I recently bought a Crock-Pot Slow Cooker and this was it’s first recipe. On first observations the slow cooker has a very delicate way of cooking the vegetables and meat because the cooking heat is a consistent low even temperature. This heat helps the ingredients to cook and keep their shape and not turn to mush. This slow cooker really does free up a lot of your time in the kitchen, you literally fill the pot, cover it, turn it on and walk away. The results will speak for themselves.

The Ingredients:

400g Beef Short Rib (on the bone)

1 cup of Soy Sauce

1 cup of white vinegar

1/2 cup of cider vinegar

1 tbsp of black peppercorns

1 cup of brown sugar

1 cup of chopped scallions

1 chopped green chilli

1 tsp of garlic salt

2 tbsp corn flour

Boiled rice for serving

The Make:

Take a large Ziploc bag and place in the beef ribs along with the soy sauce, vinegars, sugar, garlic salt, scallions and chilli. Seal the bag and refrigerate over night to allow the marinade to penetrate the meat. I asked my butcher to use his saw to cut the ribs into smaller pieces so they would fit in the slow cooker. The next day you can empty the bag into the slow-cooker and cook it for up to 10 hours. I set it on the High setting for 2 hours and then the Low setting for the remaining 8 hours. When the dish is finished the meat should fall straight of the bone. Remove the meat from the pot and set it aside. Using a sieve drain the cooking sauce into a large pot. Mix the 2 tablespoons of corn flour with a little water and add it to thicken the cooking sauce into a gravy consistency. Before serving remove all the meat off the bone.  You need to remove the fat from the meat as there is a lot of fat in between the intercostal muscles.  Serve up the dish with a bowl of boiled rice, place slices of meat on top and spoon over gravy. Finally, garnish with scallions and green chillies.

Enjoy.

 

Christmas recipes

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“Another year over and a new one just begun”. John Lennon was right about a lot of things and especially about Christmas. Time absolutely flies by when you have 3 young kids. They’re exciting little lives move at light speed compared to ours and this is what keeps us feeling young or wrecked, one feeling is merging into the other it’s beginning to feel normal these days. The anticipation in our house at the moment waiting for Santa Claus’ arrival is incredible. This is definitely going to be the most memorable one yet. The kids can’t wait and neither can we. We almost had snow this weekend in Co. Louth but it just didn’t make it this far. The Midlands got a nice little downfall but all we got was frostbite. I bought a sleigh for the kids (really me) back in 2010 and it has yet to see snow. I love the snow, I have nothing but fond memories of growing up in Dundrum Co. Dublin and heading up to Stackstown Golf Course during the annual snow fall only to be chased off the fairways by a Grinch, good times. Now I’m a little older and would probably be locked up if I tried it today. You never know though, you can’t beat a good chase to get the  blood flowing.

I was going through our recipe for Eccles cakes yesterday and decided to put together a post of festive food. Below you will find links to some of our most popular ones. Enjoy.

Mince Pie Irish Coffee

Eccles Cakes

Candy Cane meringue pie

Leftovers Terrine

Turkey Frittata

Hunters Loaf

Remy & Linguini’s Soup

 

On a side note, it seems every other person is an artisan of food these days and although that is good in showing the creativity out there it takes away from the genuineness of what it is to shop local. I recently paid €16 for a coffee, kids hot chocolate and two hand made buns in Co. Louth. This was a bit much of a bill to pay if it wasn’t for the awesome company of one of my kids we may have walked. We might be out of a recession with these prices but we are a little wiser with our spending and know what is quality over quantity.

Have a Merry Christmas and thank you so much for following and supporting us over the last couple of years. As you know our blog is a collection of some of our favourite recipes that we want to archive and share with you. We don’t do restaurant reviews or product test items. We just enjoy everything there is to do with food. Although our posts have slowed down of late our passion certainly hasn’t.

Stay tuned to us in 2018 for a food journey worth taking.

Cheese and tomato toastie 

A cheese and tomato toastie is a classic go-to for that quick lunch. A handful of simple ingredients is all it takes, cheese, tomatoes and bread. Recently I learned a little tip for the perfect toasted sandwich. Most often the bread is buttered on the outside for a golden crust. Try mayonnaise or salad cream instead next time. It creates an extra flavour on the crust, taking away the greasiness of butter. I prefer the vinegary zing of salad cream myself as it goes incredibly well with the tomato.

The tomatoes are in full growth at the moment in our poly tunnel. We have to make the most of these fresh jewels. So this year I have been pickling them to help them last longer. It is a very simple process. Well worth a try.

The Ingredients: 

A bunch of vine tomatoes

Vintage cheddar cheese

Sourdough, sliced

For the pickle

100ml malt vinegar

100ml red wine vinegar

100ml Shaoxing rice wine vinegar

3 tbsp brown sugar

Pinch of Maldon sea salt

The Make:

Add the vinegars, sugar and salt to a bowl. Chop up the tomatoes into bitesize pieces. Add these to the pickling juice. Stir to make sure every tomato is coated in the pickle. Cover and set aside for an hour. Overnight is better. Spread salad cream on the bread. Don’t soak the bread in it or it won’t crust well. Heat up a dry non-stick frying pan. Place the slice of bread salad cream side down in the hot pan. Spoon some drained pickled tomatoes on top of the bread. Top with some grated cheese. As the bread toasts put the pan under the grill for a moment to melt the cheese. Once melted place the other slice of bread on top, salad cream side up, and flip it. Use a spatula to see when it’s golden brown. Accompanying the sandwich with a bag of cheese and onion King crisps is optional.

Enjoy.

Note: The left over pickled juice can be used to make your own ketchup. Add it to a handful of roasted tomatoes and blitz it in a blender. Pour into a pot and reduce the sauce until it thickens. Adjust the flavour to your liking with sugar and tomato puree.