My Plan for the Paddy’s Day Weekend!

Keeping this as brief as possible but as I won’t be able to put up pictures etc until after this weekend I thought I’d share what I plan on doing now.

I’m heading to Dungarvan in Waterford for 3 nights with my mum’s side of the family. It’s a tradition on for everyone to get together this weekend with exceptions being applied for ‘busy’ years when there’s a family wedding on etc. This year there are 31 of us going and I’m in a house with my cousin Paul, who I went skiing with, his wife and their two adorable children, my cousin Aisling and her boyfriend Donal, who also came skiing, and my cousin Lauren.

I’ve decided to try and get a lot of baking done when I’m there and hopefully everyone will be able to try something they’ll enjoy. So, the plan is as follows:

Soda Bread

First thing when I arrive down on Friday afternoon I’m going to get some soda bread’s done. There’s 3 houses there for 3 days so I’m going to do 3 normal soda bread loaves and 3 black pudding ones.


Stout Parkin

I’ve Edd Kimber’s book The Boy Who Bakes and he’s a recipe for Guinness Parkin, I’ve never tried it but I figure I’d give it a go this weekend. I prefer to use some of the craft brewers instead of the commercial Guinness so I’ll probably pop in to the Porterhouse next to work tomorrow and get some of their award-winning stout. The recipe can be found here if you’re interested:

Chocolate Stout Cake

I’ve made this before, it’s very easy to make and is really tasty, the ingredients are combined in a pot on the hob and it smells delicious when you are heating it up. Here are some pics from the last time I made it, the recipe can be found here:

Again, buy local, support Irish and find a better choice of stout than Guinnessūüôā

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I’m going to try some salted caramel brownies with an Irish Whiskey glaze, it’s going to be a bit made up as I go along so I’ll let you know how it goes. I’ll also make some normal brownies for the kids and people who are fed up with me feeding them drink via baked goods!

Tricolour Citrus Chiffon with Swiss Meringue Buttercream

This bake will take a good bit of effort but I’m hoping it’ll be worth it. It’s going to be another practise for my work Bake Off and I’m hoping it all comes together on the day. I’m going to do a lime, lemon and orange Tricolour layered chiffon which will hopefully look that bit more ‘competition ready’ then the Neapolitan Chiffon I did the other day pictured below:

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I’ve also very kindly been invited along by Sinead @BumblesOfRice to a mini tweet-up that has been arranged in Dungarvan on Friday night which I’m really hoping to find time for and I want to at least have a look in on the Tannery and hopefully convince someone to come along and have some food with me there.

I’m pack up my stand and hand mixer, loaf, spring-form, brownie and baking trays and tins, various whisks, spoons and spatculas and about two-thirds of my ingredients store to take with me; it literally isn’t far off from an “everything but the kitchen sink” approach. Hopefully it’ll be a lot of fun and people will enjoy everything I make!

I’ll report back early next week but until then have a very Happy St. Patrick’s Day. I hope you’re spending time with family and loved ones and that there’s booze filled cake close at hand.

Happy Mother’s Day – Better Late Than Never

Ok, so full disclosure up front, we don’t usually do anything for my mum in our family on Mother’s Day. I probably haven’t done anything in particular to mark the day in 20 years and back then it was probably a poorly made breakfast and a homemade card. I rang my mum on Saturday to see if she’d gotten the baked goods I’d made (as detailed below) and her response was “we don’t normally do anything”.

I did feel like I should do something nice for my mum this year, I owe a large slice of gratitude to her for lots of the support and advice she gives me with baking but I can’t really think of many things I’ve baked specifically for her. You should really need an excuse for doing something nice for your mum but mine has had a more difficult year than normal, I also saw a tweet at the weekend from Kathryn of @LondonBakes which I realised was also true of my mum and added some extra meaning “@londonbakes Tomorrow will be my mother’s first mother’s day without her mother and so I have bought her some of her very favourite things.”

I’d gotten the idea of adding a bit of a twist on some of my mum’s classic” recipes because nothing says “I love you mum” more than ruining some of her favourite recipes I have my mum’s recipes for around 5 years now. The Christmas after I moved in to my apartment I was getting in to cooking more; she bought me the recipe book below and typed out some of her recipes on index cards for me but this is the first time I’ve used some of them. She’s very sweet when she wants to be.ūüôā


I was supposed to bake these a week before Mother’s Day so they would arrive with my Mum before the weekend but I completely blanked on it and didn’t make a start on these til Tuesday with two of the recipes requiring an overnight fruit soak. So here’s what I made:

Gur Cake Mini Pies

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My mum has never actually given me her recipe for Gur Cake and speaking to her this week she doesn’t actually use on. I pinched the recipe for the Gur Cake filling from Catriona over at but decided to change the pastry and normal style to create a bit of a smaller and lighter pie. Catirona’s recipe calls for cake crumbs and I used Madeira cake. I’ve discussed the recipe with my Mum since I sent these to her and her recipe is quite different. I may well use it some day now I’m not baking things in secret from her and post it here when I do.

I made my mum’s almond pastry recipe for the cases with 170g Plain Flour, 20g Icing Sugar, 20g Ground Almonds and a pinch of salt all blended in with 112g Margarine and an egg yolk and some cold water to bring it all together. I cut out the pastry discs, places in my tray and pressed in the Gur mix on top of them. I baked for 20-25mins at 170 degrees C

The almond pastry, orange juice and spices in the filling give the final gur cake alternative I made a very Christmas feeling and could certainly be used an alternative to Mince Pies at Christmas.

Oatmeal Slices

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This is probably the recipe I messed with the flavour on the most. My mum traditionally makes pastry (220g Plain Flour and 10g Caster Sugar blended with 100g Margarine, cold water to combine) and rolls it out to the size of a normal sized baking tray. The pastry is spread with 150g Apricot Jam on the pastry and tops with an Oat Meal Mix (180g melted Margarine, 180g Caster Sugar dissolved in to the melted Margarine, Almond Essence and Egg mixed in once cooled and 280g of Oatmeal stirred in at the end). This is baked at 210 degrees C for 20-30 minutes.

I decided I’d spread the pastry with Peanut Butter and Strawberry Jam (and leave the Almond Essence out of the Oatmeal mix). My mum isn’t a big fan of peanut butter and strawberry jam…I love peanut butter and jam…still, it’s the thought that counts Mum!

Personally I loved these and the ones that didn’t make it to my mum went down well in work.

Lemon and Ginger Green Tea Brack

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Recovering a bit from my selfish PB&J Oat Squares my Mum loves Tea Brack and I’ve experimented with different teas before (with little success). My mum has been using ginger a lot in bakes the last few months so I wanted to include some here. My mum’s traditional recipe calls for 250g Dried Fruit soaked in 1 large mug of tea overnight. I pinched two tea bags of Lemon and Green Tea from one of the girls in work and made a bit of a stronger brew. I combined the drained fruit with 250g Self-Raising Flour, 100g Brown Sugar, 1tsp Mixed Spice and 1 Large Egg. I also added two ‘bulbs’ of grated stem ginger and a splash of the syrup from the jar. A squeeze of lemon juice wouldn’t have been out-of-place here but I didn’t include any myself.

The loaf was baked for 180 degrees C for 35-45 minutes.

This was my mum’s favourite of the three things but she seemed to enjoy trying them all.

I’d baked them Wednesday night and posted them before 10:00 Thursday Morning. Being the loving son I am I picked the cheapest option which should have arrived within 2-3 business days, the package arrived the following Tuesday, two days late…I blame An Post/Royal Mail!

So I baked these later than planned, they were posted and arrived later than planned and this post has gone up later than planned. Not to worry, my mum knows I’m far from the perfect son.

I’ll finish off with a song I like that’s from a son to his mum but it doesn’t have any special meaning to me and my mum, I just happen to like it.

Graham Crackers, Smores Brownies and Camping

A few weeks ago during a Twitter chat someone mentions Smores Brownies to me. I had a camping coming up and as Smores are so intertwined with campfires (in America at least) I decided they’d be ideal to bake and bring along. There aren’t really any rules to making this one, for those of you not familiar a Smore is a Graham cracker (Gram for short) that is used to sandwich freshly toasted marshmallows and chocolate together. The marshmallow melts the chocolate and you get a gooey centre to the cracker sandwich.

(Not my photo!)


Graham crackers are made using Graham Flour which isn’t available in Ireland as far as I know. I read up on it and it’s basically a hearty and healthy flour and the finished crackers maintain that quality. I followed a recipe from here:¬† but swapped out some ingredients for things which were easier to get hold of. I swapped Graham Flour for Wholemeal Flour and swapped Molasses for half Black Treacle and half Golden Syrup. (I also doubled the 1/8 of a teaspoon of cinnamon cause I live on the wild side!).

My finished crackers were fairly coarse and didn’t look like the commercial product as I think Graham Flour is smoother than wholemeal but I was fairly happy with them. Knowing I was going to be breaking them up in to my brownies I didn’t bother with any presentation:

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I followed the normal brownie recipe I use and placed half the mix in the bottom of my tray before adding a layer of broken Graham Crackers and topping with the second half of the brownie mix. There is a real mix of styles of Smores Brownies available is you do a Google search – some bake Graham crackers into the base of the brownie, some have the crackers top and bottom and some have them broken up throughout the brownie mix.

I baked the brownies for an hour at 150 degrees C. Once they were finished I put half pieces of marshmallow on top before they cooled and popped them back in the oven. I left them to bake for a couple of minutes following a tip I’d seen online but I think if I was making them again I may grill the top instead as the marshmallows rapidly lost their structure (but thankfully not their gooey and sticky deliciousness)

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I was pleased enough with the finished result. The marshmallow topping is sticky and a bit difficult to cope with but the Graham cracker layer is interesting and adds a nice texture to the centre of the brownie.


So I was all set and ready to go camping. I jumped on a bus after work on Friday night and arrived in Slane just as it was getting dark. Everyone else was there before me and my tent had been put up for me already. My cousin is in to his cooking and home brewing so he’d been slow cooking a brisket of beef for 5 hours and had brought along a tub of German-style wheat beer. We ate, drank and were merry until the early hours before finally giving up and trying to get some sleep in our freezing cold tents. It was -2 that night but well worth the trip and a good fire keeps the worst of the chills away.

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Andy and the Chocolate Factory

“Come with me, and you’ll be, in a world of pure imagination”

Ok, so it wasn’t quite like entering Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory but The Baking Academy of Ireland is probably as close as you’ll get on a cold night in Dublin. I’d been given a voucher for a Baking Academy course for my birthday back in November and after browsing through the list of courses they had I settled on Hand Made Chocolates. I LOVE chocolate but haven’t really done much with it beyond the normal melting required for baking.

Derek O’Brien was our enthusiastic and very knowledgable guide to the world of chocolate. Derek has trained and worked as a Master Baker and at one point as one half of a hand-made chocolate production line. During my six-hour, two night course at the Academy Derek mixes the course content with stories from his own experiences and helpful tips and hints on suppliers and practical applications for our newly learned craft. Microwaves were the main tool used on the course but we were shown a chocolate tempering machine in action and other methods for tempering were covered. Chocolate mould choices and maintenance was well covered by the course as well and it’s a lot more important then I realised and probably the part of the course I took the most away from.

Here’s some pics of Derek at work and some of the moulds demonstrated.

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It was very much a hands on course and we had plenty of opportunities to have a go ourselves. Below are some pics of my work station and my attempts at making chocolates. I was easily bottom of the class on our first night; my first attempt at pouring out my tempered chocolate had to be scrapped and I was the only one who had to use the back up chocolate!

Chocolate making is an unusual combination of patience and precision. My fellow class-mates and I spent a large amount of time staring into microwaves chanting “45…27…33” `to remind ourselves of the temperatures we were supposed to be achieving. Often the bowl would be removed from the microwave, the temperature checked and then popped back in as the chocolate just needed another two seconds, not three seconds though, three seconds will ruin everything.

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Most of our first night’s work needed to sit overnight and was turned out and finished on the second night.

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In the end I went home with over 1kg of chocolate, lots of knowledge and tips and a 13 page instruction book covering the course content. I was very happy with the course and with the Baking Academy in general and would recommend them to anyone. You can check out all the courses on offer here: and you can give them a like on Facebook too

I know I need more practise and I definitely need to buy some moulds and a good thermostat but I want to try my hand at making chocolates again soon and with Easter around the corner I’m sure I’ll get the chance soon!

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Flavoured Soda Breads: Garlic & Pesto and Black & White Pudding

I’m going to keep this post as quick and simple as possible as I’ve a busy week ahead (more of that at the end).

Garlic and Pesto (and Mozzarella) White Soda Bread

Mix 500g Strong White Bread Flour, 1tsp bicarbonate of soda, 1tsp sugar, 1tsp salt in a bowl, rub in 60g of butter or margarine. Add 1 heaped tbls pesto, 1 tbls chopped garlic, 1 ball of mozzarella (completely optional) and 325ml buttermilk, stir until combined, place in a standard bread loaf tin and bake in a pre-heated oven at 200C for 35-45 minutes.

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The garlic works really well in the soda bread and produced a strong flavoured bread. The pesto does come through in the bread and adds some flavour but is lost a little. I may try a bread in the future that has 2 large/heaped tbls of pesto and no garlic to see how that tastes. The mozzarella didn’t really add anything (but it was in my fridge and needed using up). I do think I’ll try this again and a recipe with just garlic in would work just fine if I’m short on flavours one day.

Just as a note I use garlic from a (homemade) jar of chopped garlic in olive oil so it’s fairly moist and has a strong flavour that got in to the bread well. I’m not sure if the effect will be the same with ‘dry’ chopped garlic.

Black and White Pudding Wholemeal Soda Bread

Mix 500g Strong Wholemeal Bread Flour, 1tsp bicarbonate of soda, 1tsp sugar, 1tsp salt in a bowl, rub in 60g of butter or margarine. Separate mix in two and stir in 130g black pudding in to one half and 130g white in to the other. I used a Clonakilty twin pack for this recipe, you could easily make it using all black pudding but I had the twin pack and wanted to try both out. Add 175ml buttermilk to each half batch, stir until combined, place each half in one end of a standard loaf tin and bake in a pre-heated oven at 200C for 35-45 minutes.

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As I’ve mentioned on Twitter my parents happen to be in town this week and staying at my Aunt’s house so when I met them on Monday night I handed over most of the ‘Pudding’ loaf and some of the Garlic loaf. My parents like to fry soda bread for breakfast and had the Pudding bread with a fried egg in the morning which sounds lovely (I’ve still two slices in my freezer for the weekend!).

Generally we all agreed the Black pudding loaf if very nice, the flavour comes through the soda bread very well and it’s definitely something I’ll be making again, probably very soon. The White pudding wasn’t as nice and unless I find a white pudding with a particularly strong flavour I’m not sure I’ll be trying it again.

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So that was my 2nd and 3rd attempt at some flavoured soda bread and I think I’ve started to learn what is and isn’t working. Using the white bread flour allows more of the flavours to come through; I prefer brown/wholemeal soda bread but it has a stronger taste, I may try most recipes in future with white first of all and move on to wholemeal if the recipe is working well. Cheese hasn’t really had an impact on any of the breads so far, I may need to try a blue cheese or brie but I’m not a big fan of either of them so I can’t say I’ll be in a big rush.

Tonight (Wednesday) and tomorrow I’m on a chocolate making course at the Baking Academy of Ireland and on Saturday I’m hoping to visit the Honest2Goodness Market in Glasnevin so will hopefully be blogging about both of them (and eating lots of chocolate and market goodies). I’m really looking forward to both of these foodie adventures and looking forward to sharing how I got on at them hereūüôā.

Everything I baked last weekend

I had a hectic couple of days last weekend which included a fair bit of baking so thought I’d share what I’d been up to.

On Saturday night I was going to my uncle’s 60th birthday and didn’t want to turn up empty handed. A birthday cake had already been arranged so I thought I’d do something a little different. I was flicking through Lilly Higgins’ Make, Bake, Love and came across a recipe for Honey Cake. Thankfully I had most of the ingredients already and it’s easy to make. If you don’t have the book it’s well worth getting, it’s a lovely collection of recipes and pictures and well written. I was a little rushed for time so the pics aren’t great but it’s a nice, simple tasting cake that would go great with a cup of tea.

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Man Date Alert! I had invited a friend up from work on Sunday and I woke up late (slightly hungover) to missed calls, texts and facebook messages from him wondering if I was cancelling on him. “I’m up, I’m up, come on over”. I’d encouraged him to come up for an afternoon emersed in two of my passions – rugby and food. My friend, Kev, is a¬†Yank from Virginia and knows next to nothing about rugby; I go on about it non-stop in work and wanted him to catch the bug. Kev and I sit next to each other in work so he’s also the front line taster for nearly everything I bake and was keen for me “teach” him a thing or two.

I showed Kev how to make pizza from scratch as I whipped up sauce and dough, followed by buttermilk pancakes and icecream. We also enjoyed the rugby as well, Ireland beat England 100-0 in a classic game that was error free and full of beautiful rugby…(seriously, it was so bad Kev may never watch a game again!)

Pizza (dough recipe from Jamie Oliver

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Buttermilk pancakes following the recipe from Kitchen Complements with a couple of tablespoons of cocoa added to half the mix and a side of Honeycomb icecream. (Pancake recipe:

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It really had been an afternoon of Man vs Food but Sunday night was upon me again and one of the things I’m trying to practise at the moment is making bread. I’ve resolved to stop buying the bread for my lunch every week and this week I made a soda bread this which is adapted somewhat from my Mum’s recipe: 250g Strong White and 250g of Strong Wholemeal bread flour, 1tsp bicarb of soda, 1tsp salt, 1tsp sugar mixed together with 60g of margarine rubbed in and 350ml of buttermilk added at the end (which I had left after the pancakes).

I love making soda bread, it’s so easy and involves no proving time. Traditional recipes wouldn’t call for strong bread flour or use as high a proportion of buttermilk to flour. I find using the bread flour allows a thinner slice and the loaf doesn’t crumble as much as a plain flour recipe. This dough is also very moist so won’t form as free-standing loaf; I always use loaf tins but I find the more buttermilk in the mix the longer the bread keeps.

Soda bread also freezes really well and I always cover mine in a teatowel when finished to soften the crustūüôā

This week I decided to add in spring onions and cheddar to mix things up a bit. I added a standard bunch of spring onion, finely chopped and 70g of cheddar, gratted as fine as my gratter went. If I’m adding cheddar again I’m either going to add more or pick a stronger cheddar as the flavour didn’t come through the soda and onion that well. It was very nice though and I ate it during the week with some butter and a slice of ham.

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I’ve planned to do more soda bread experimenting this afternoon, I’m going to try a black and white pudding loaf and a pesto loaf (really not sure about the pesto but I’ve a jar in my fridge!). I’m also going to make my first attempt at bagels and I’ll hopefully be posting about all of them during the week ahead. Before I do any of that I have to go out for a worryingly long run. I’ve made a Lent resolution to run a total of 26 miles a week to improve my fitness and get back in to running. I’ve not started very well and somehow need to get at least 10 miles done today…oh dear!

Baguettes, Madeleines and Kinder Chocolate Cupcakes – France Part II

When in Rome France do as the Romans French do and the French bake! I had imagined I’d have a lot more time during my 10 days in France to do some relaxed baking but it didn’t turn out to be the case and the wealth of amazing baked goods everywhere you go does little to encourage you doing anything yourself. I did managed to make my first attempt at Madeleines and French Baguettes while I was there though, with some mixed results.

First up were Madeleines which I knew were fairly straightforward. I picked up a pack of random mixed fruit and nuts from the local shop to add a bit more flavour. My mum already had two traditionally shell shaped silicon trays in the house; they’ve the big advantage that the madeleines pop out of them really easily and don’t stick at all but I think metal trays would have resulted in a darker and more consistent colour which I would have prefered. I did manage to put them in a very authentic biscuit tin though and we munched through them over the next couple of days with a cuppa.

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My attempts at French bread weren’t very successful to begin with, I would like to blame the fact the flour and yeast packets were all in French but it probably had more to do with the fact I started each attempt after a few drinks over dinner and I really wasn’t reading the instructions on the website I was using. It is actually a good site so no blame there:¬† (Paul Hollywood also has a recipe and method in How to Bake which I own but haven’t used in these attempts..)
I managed to produce some bread that was ok in time for our final morning in France but none of the batches were great. I decided to have another attempt the afternoon I got home from my holidays and these are the results: (I was still on French time so it counts)

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As I mentioned in a previous post our office always brings back sweets when we’ve been on holidays and I like to incorporate the sweets in some baking. This year I picked up Kinder Chocolate which isn’t as unusual or local as I would have like but it is very popular and I knew what I was getting. I made some basic vanilla cupcakes and stirred in large pieces of Kinder.

They went down really well in the office with two of the girls saying they were the best thing I’ve ever made (which I actually took offense at as they are ridiculously easy to make!). There was also a pile of sweets to go with them but they were all gone very quickly…probably helped by the fact my desk is on the way to the tea room.

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So that’s everything from this trip to France, I didn’t managed to find any horse burgers, horse meat is apparently easier to come across in the frozen food aisle of my local Tesco then it is in France. I avoided injuring myself when skiing but did burn my hand in the kitchen one evening so didn’t escape completely damage free. All in all my skiing improved a fair bit and I got some baking done so a very good holiday and a great way to kick off the year.

Hopefully only 49 more weeks til I’m out there againūüôā

Bon Ski! – France Part I

For the second year in a row the end of January has been marked off as “ski time” in my diary, I’d skied a few times when I was younger but I’m able to go more regularly now and I’m determined to make this at least a yearly trip. So on a cold Thursday morning a few weeks ago I dragged myself out of the bed in the early hours and arrived half asleep at Dublin Airport where I was meeting up with the Irish contingent of our ski group.

Once onboard our plane I manage to drift off shortly after take off but woke an hour later just in time to order a breakfast on board. A ‘fry in the sky’, tea and OJ promptly arrives and as I let the caffeine go to work the voice of Aer Lingus Captain Mark Tracey chirped over the tannoy to inform us of our progress, he’s obviously a morning person and is in fine spirits as he updates us all adding that he’s jealous of anyone on board who’s going skiing. A few minutes go by and Capt Mark pops up again to declare that he’s just caught sight of The Alps for the first time and he is sad to inform us all the snow has melted and we won’t be able to go skiing – I find myself smiling in spite of myself,¬† the man’s mood is infectious and I’m awake enough to let that holiday feeling take hold of me. We were about 20 minutes from Geneva Airport at this point and the mountains can we seen out of the window rising straight up though the clouds. If you’ve never flown in Geneva it really is a sight to seen on a sunny day like we had, they really don’t make mountains like this in Ireland.

My parents have a house just under an hours drive outside of Geneva crossing the border into France. They bought the place a couple of years ago in what I can only assume is their latest attempt to make sure there’s no money left for their poor kids to inherit. It’s was a bit of a ‘fixer-upper’ but the main bulk of the work is complete now. The house is located in a small village near Chamonix in the Haute-Savoie region and from here the main road allows us easy access to three of four of the main ski resorts. The village is not a purpose-built tourist resort and so maintains a charm and community that you don’t always find in the larger resorts.

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The first few days of the trip are taken up skiing with “the boys” made up of me, my Dad, my uncle, my cousin and two of my cousin’s boyfriends. (The girl’s side of the family have their own gatherings we’re excluded from so don’t worry about them!). It’s obviously a very manly few days and the house is heavy with the smell of deep heat, rum and wood smoke only for the illusion to be ruined as we all apply for face moisturiser and lip balm.

The boys left on Sunday but my dad and I stayed on, with my mum arriving Monday night; the three of us skied then most days til the following Sunday.

Here’s a selection of photos to give out an idea of what it’s like around the mountains when you’re skiing. I can’t recommend it enough to anyone who’s not been and I should point out in no way do any of the pictures here capture the scale, majesty and beauty of the scenery you are constantly surrounded by.

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The lads having a drink bottom right


Me again! Bottom right.


A quick 360 video of one of my favourite bars from our trip, the music isn’t added in but was blaring at the time I took this:

Being in the mountains could cause the most stoic person to become emotional and poetic and I’m far from immune. Lines from John Denver’s Rocky Mountain High¬†drift in to my head on a regular basis here despite the fact I’m half a world away from the subject of the song. The Ancient Greeks believed their Gods lived atop Mount Olympus which stands just short of 3,000 meters above sea level; you can take a cable car here to 3,777m and Mont Blanc is still staring down at you from a further thousand meters above. Whoever your Gods are you can be sure they took their time making the Alps and your breath can be taken away at any moment as you turn a corner or the clouds shift to cast light across the valley from a different angle. This whole experience is only added to by the collective mindset of everyone heading up in the cable cars around you each morning; if they are here to ski or board or walk or simple get lunch everyone is going up to enjoy the mountain and what it has to offer.

One of the many things the people of the Haute-Savoie Region have gotten spot on is the regional cusine. The food everywhere you go is warm, hearty and severed with the knowledge that you’ve spent the morning working up an appetite and have a full afternoon ahead of you. Every dish is served with fresh bread and you’ll struggle to find something to eat that doesn’t come with cheese. Here’s a selection of some of the dishes we had out and about and a couple of ‘home bakes’ we had in the evening.

After you’re all full up on cheese, ham, cream, pasta, potatoes and bread it’s important to top up your sugar levels…they could be dangerously low!

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Remember skiing is hard work and like all exercise it’s important to hydrate before, during and after to maintain optimal performance:

Food spotted out and about, including a selection of fruit and veg they don’t seem to stock in my local shop.

For me the food highlight of the trip has to include eating out at the local restaurant which is less than 10 minutes walk away. We went for the set menu at ‚ā¨29 for an amuse bouche and three courses, it’s fantastic value and each of the dishes were amazing. I didn’t get the best set of photos unfortunately but the lighting wasn’t great and I was acutely aware I was delaying everyone from eating a meal they were enjoying.. I also didn’t note down what all the dishes were…still working on some basic blogging skills!

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I managed to bake some french bread and madeleines in France and Kinder cupcakes for work on my return, they’ll all be included in a post going up in the next few days.. I’ll finish up with a quote from a fooide book about the Alps that’s in the house. Winter is my favourite time of year and I think this helps explain my love for the region:

“In Europe, the very essence of winter lies in the Alps…the Alps are, if you like, a concentration of the season, the full and complete experience”
Winter In the Alps, Manueia Darling-Gansser

Merci, au revoir et bon ski!ūüôā

Will you be my valentine?

Will you be my Valentine? I can make you the chocolate treat below; I don’t do a bad starter or main course either (breakfast¬†when appropriate!). So if you’re a fine-looking young thing then leave your details in the comments belowūüėČ


So another Valentine’s Day approaches, I’m not a huge fan of the commercialism of the¬†day but¬†I would consider myself a¬†romantic and I don’t need much¬†of an excuse to¬†do something nice for someone I care about. This¬†year I’ve no one special in mind but in honour of the day I’ve put together a little cake/dessert.

I did the same last year and made some semi-experimental Chocolate and Carrot cupcakes.

This year I decided to make something a little more like a dessert and obviously as it’s Valentine’s Day you need heart-shaped everything, I already had¬†my heart-shaped cupcake tray from the cupcakes above¬†and¬†I picked up a heart-shaped cookie cutter this year.

I wanted to make a light textured but rich dessert, I combined a chocolate Rice Krispies layer with chocolate sponge, chocolate mousse and raspberries.

Obviously the bottom and top layers could have been made with a proper biscuit but I think Rice Krispies are an easy way to add a crunch without being too rich or filling. I deliberately kept the chocolate amount low for this layer to make sure it would easily give way to a fork when being eaten. I melted 30g of butter and 50g of dark chocolate and combined with 1tbls of golden syrup before stirring in to 85g of Rice Krispies; the mix was just wet enough to hold together but not enough to form the solid coating you get making chocolate Krispie buns.

I made a dark chocolate mousse following this simple recipe from Jamie Oliver:
The chocolate sponge is very light and moist, I’ve used this quick and simple recipe from BBC Good Food several times before and it’s pretty fool-proof:

I pressed the Rice Krispie mix in to cookie cutter shape for the bottom layer and the smaller heart moulds for the top layer before chilling. I then used the cookie cutter to cut out the sponge. I baked two layers of the sponge at different depths, one tin had 3/5ths of the batter in and the second had the remainder. The mousse was chilled and then piped on.

To assemble I placed a large Krispie¬†heart down as a base, I¬†thinly spread some mousse¬†on to the underside of a one of the deeper sponge hearts to act as an adhesive and stuck it to the Krispie¬†layer. I then piped a layer of mousse¬†on top, placed a thinner chocolate sponge on top and topped with halved raspberries and a smaller Krispie heart. It’s all simple layers and easy to bring together with everything easily prepped in advance.

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Once I’d the main dessert assembled I had a lot of scraps and loose ends left over. I hate to waste anything when I’m cooking or baking so I used up what was left in a couple of wine glasses¬†which I think turned out well considering they’re made up of leftovers:

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So I’ve¬†my idea all ready but not the girl to make it for. I brought the above ones in to work and the lads on my team ate them…they seemed a bit suspicious of heart-shaped treats but soon scoffed them down. I’ve all the practise done and have 14 days to find the girl to make one for properly!ūüėÄ

I’ll end with¬†a clip from Stranger Than Fiction, (spoiler alert!) it’s a quirky film featuring Will Ferrell as a tax auditor sent to inspect a bakery run by Maggie Gyllenhaal; Ferrell’s character¬†ends up falling for her and decides to win her over with the following romantic gesture:

This is my kitchen. There are many like it, but this one is mine.

As I continue to try and blog more often I thought I’d post something about “my working conditions”. I didn’t do much baking in the first few weeks of the year and my kitchen was unusually clean so I’ve taken some photos of the space, equipment and utensils I use and my usually store cupboard fillers.

I love my kitchen. It really is my home within my home. I’m never happier then when I’m pottering around my kitchen usually with a cooking program on my tv and a cup of tea within arms reach. It’s the first kitchen that’s ever been mine and I have everything laid out just how I want it. It’s not huge but there’s only me and my flatmate using it and it’s big in proportion to the rest of my place.

When I was looking around for an apartment to buy some of the kitchens are really shocking (galley kitchens are for submarines and trains!) and I don’t blame a lot of people for saying they don’t enjoy cooking when you see the space they have to work with. The only thing I’d change about my kitchen is the amount of storage space…I only have one cupboard dedicated to stolen pub glasses which really isn’t acceptable to a modern bachelor such as myself!

I’ve been slowly building up baking equipment over the last couple of years, when I first started out I thought you could make do with whatever you have around but as I’ve tried to do more recipes I’ve needed more specialist tools. Some things have been purchased cheaply in my early days, other things have been more expensive.

I use a fair amount of sillicon moulds and some of it was bought a bit naively (like the cupcake trays) but I generally do like it and one massive advantage for me is you never have any trouble squashing it in to the bottom of carry on bag and jumping on the plane which I do a fair bit.

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Next up is my general storecupboard; it’s missing something vital which I only realised when I tried to start baking recently; see if you can spot itūüėČ .

As I mentioned in an earlier post I don’t make many recipes more then once, some of the more unusual ingredients below were bought once and have stayed in the cupboard ever since. If anyone has a recipe that will help me use up all of this stuff in one massive bake please sent it on!

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Other then getting in eggs and milk fresh when needed and chocolate (which I don’t stock up on cause I end up eatting it) the missing store cupboard essential is yeast.¬† I’ve picked up more since these shots were taken and I have to make sure I don’t run out as I plan to do a lot of bread in the months ahead.

So that’s everything I guess. The vast majority of things I post will have been produced in the few square meters of space I have and using the equipement shown above (except Kenneth who’s gota post featured all to himself).



*If anyone isn’t familiar with where I’ve nicked the idea for the title of this post it’s from a passage called The Rifleman’s Creed which features in two of my favourite films Full Metal Jacket and Jarhead. It’s commonly used by US Marines in training but I think the opening few lines work quite well if you replace the word rifle with the word kitchen:

This is my kitchen. There are many like it, but this one is mine.

My kitchen is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it as I must master my life.

My kitchen, without me, is useless. Without my kitchen, I am useless.