Sunday, 28 September 2008

Off on Vacation

We're off on ours hols for some much needed R & R so see ya next week when we're back tanned, chilled and a stone heavier! S & M x

Saturday, 27 September 2008

Battle of the Chandelier

Martin has finally got his way and put his chandelier up in one of the spare bedrooms - albeit only for a trial period. He bought it for a steal as a last remnant from the now closed Habitat. It was originally €495- a price we definitely would not have payed for it (what is it about sales that make you impulse buy?!).

Anyhow, I thought it was going to grow on me but it's not - I like it but I don't like it, obviously martin loves it so this is a tricky one. I love the way it twinkles when lit but I hate the metal arms which dangle to make it look like a daddy long legs!

HELP! please cast your vote on the right hand bar of this blog and help bring our 'debating' to an end!

Terms & conditions:
- Don't be swayed by the fact that he's a boy and is even bothered with this kind of thing - that's a sympathy vote!
- Do bear in mind that this is in your room when you come to stay so you will be the one looking at it most often!

Friday, 26 September 2008

Christmas comes early

I am totally and utterly over this years Christmas already, having just spent the last few months working on Christmas shoots, recipes and features. It all started out so well as I excitedly dug the decorations out of the attic and hummed festive tunes in June. But oh boy am I hoping that todays seasonal treats are the last ones I cook until at least Christmas!

I'm not sure that our fridge, never mind our waists, can take any more turkeys, stuffings, cranberry sauce or mulled drinks. Oh well, just one last sneaky freshly baked mince pie then...Here is the yummy recipe I cooked today for a shoot for Neven Maguire...mince pies are not just for Christmas!



(Note to Bernie - I know you were looking for a recipe to make this with the kids in school - hopefully it's not too late as this is a nice one)

Makes 1.6Kg

350 g / 12 oz eating apples, peeled, cored and finely chopped
225 g / 8 oz raisins
225 g / 8 oz sultanas
225 g / 8 oz currants
100 g / 4 oz candid citrus peel
225 g / 8 oz butter, melted
100 g / 4 oz blanched almonds, chopped
175 g / 6 oz dark brown sugar
Grated rind 1 orange
Grated rind 1 lemon
½ teaspoon grated nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons brandy or whiskey

Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl, cover and leave overnight. Mix well before use.

Tip Why not put the mincemeat in sterilised jars, top with some pretty fabric and wrap with a red ribbon to give to your friends for a Christmas gift?The mincemeat can be stored in a a fridge for about 3-4 weeks.

Makes 12

125 g / 5 oz butter + extra for greasing
225 g / 8 oz plain flour
50 g / 2 oz icing sugar
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon cold water
½ teaspoon lemon juice
300g of homemade mincemeat

1 egg, beaten
icing sugar for dusting

Preheat the oven to 180°C / Gas 4. Sieve flour and icing sugar into bowl. Add butter cut into 5 small pieces. Add egg yolk, water and lemon juice. Beat with electric mixer at slow speed until mixture forms dough.

Place pastry in greaseproof paper or a plastic bag in refrigerator, for at least 30 minutes before use. Roll out 2/3 of pastry thinly on a lightly floured board. Cut out rounds with a cutter a little larger than the holes of a 12 hole patty tin. Grease the tin and line with rounds of pastry. Put 1 tbsp mincemeat in each.

Roll out the remainder of pastry and cut with a slightly smaller cutter to fit the tops. Brush the edges of the mince pies with water and place smaller rounds on top, seal with tips of fingers. Make a small slit in each mince pie. Brush with beaten egg. Bake in a preheated oven at 190°C / Gas 6, for 15-20 minutes. Cool in tins before lifting out the mince pies. Dust with icing sugar to serve.

Thursday, 25 September 2008

The Majestic Merchant

I have found a sanctury away from home in the form of an amazingly luxurious hotel in Belfast called The Merchant. I was there with work, but being accustomed to being put up somewhere averaging a travelodge, I was blown away.

I think photos on their website do more justice than my snaps, but I couldn't help myself in trying to bring the feeling home with me. I totally loved the stripy carpet, which I had considered before for our own house, the stairs in fact, but thought a little risk-e. I loved the fact they had a lot of black mixed in (in the carpet, one of the several layers on the bed and the antique wardrobe) to help with the luxurious feel, something I have planned to do in some of our rooms - but more because I'm using bright colours, so for clashing and bringing colours together.

I was also totally inspired to see fabric trims stuck or pinned to the walls - this trim in the photo ran along at eye level but the top of the wall (too high for a photo) was framed with amazing tassles which were totally majestic - they've got me thinking!!

Lovely William (an institution in The Merchant) informed me when showing me round my room that everything in the hotel was antique, WOW! If only I could have unscrewed the gorgeous French sink and got away with it! Art like this is not really my thing but I can appreciate how old it is and the effort and thoughts that went into it so I was happy to share my room with this posh bird.

After my scrumptious mood lit bath I headed to the cocktail bar (very appropriately just opposite my room) where I met Hayden the bartender. He made me a delicious cocktail and was even happy to send the recipe on to me - Check out Hayden's blog for his now not so secret recipe for the Clover leaf. Obviously, it won't be quite the same for me making it for myself and sipping it in Drimnagh! Also, it turns out we have a friend in common, Paul Lambert of Saba cocktail making fame. Phew, I can relax now knowing I can get a great cocktail in two Irish cities.

Then after a hard nights partying, I was back in the sanctury of my room. Once again I was blown away finding handmade chocolate truffles, a weather report for the next day and a little poem to lullaby me to sleep. Oh the life of a princess....

Rabbit Food Ratatouille

My friend (and work colleague) Harry Weir is an amazing gardener. Each time I go to his studio I love to sit on the window sill and look down on his ever changing urban garden. It's gorgeous and if our garden ends up anything like his I would be very happy. Besides this though he also manages to head home to Monaghan every weekend to tend to his other (massive) garden where he grows fruit, veg, herbs and keeps hens (all for his stall at the farmers market in Castleleslie on sundays). Anyhow, this week he brought me back an amazing box of organic veg - all knobbly and mishappen, just like they should be.

Here is a recipe for the first thing we made from the box of delights - there is no way it will taste the same with offerings from tescos though! We had it with a yummy char-grilled fillet steak and some of Harry's spuds, simply boiled.


Serves 2 of us but maybe 4 of you!

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 red onion, sliced
1 garlic clove, roughly chopped
1 large knobbly courgette, diced
300g mix of funny shaped yellow and red cherry tomatoes
1 large red chilli, deseeded and chopped
1 mishappen green pepper, sliced
good glug of red wine
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Heat the olive oil in a saute pan and soften the onion and garlic for a few minutes before adding the courgette. Saute for a further 3-4 minutes and then toss the cherry tomatoes in, allowing them to soften for a few minutes, crushing them a little.

2. Next, add the red chilli, green pepper and red wine and leave to simmer down gently for 6-8 minutes. Season to taste and get in there quick before it's all gone!

Now just the small task of working our way through a huge bunch of carrots, beetroots and a prize pumpkin!

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Happy Birthday Cath

It is Cath Kidston's birthday this week and she held a competition to win a limited edition Roberts radio. All you had to do was make her a birthday cake and send in a piccie of it. I sent in this hilarious chocolate barbie cake which I love (but do think is a bit freaky also)! I cheated a little as I actually made it for a friends (cliona's) birthday a couple of years ago and remembered I had the piccie. I think it's really good fun anyhow and hopefully will give Cath enough of a laugh to send the winning prize to me! Come on Cath - I've wanted a Roberts radio for ages!!

p.s. I'll dig out my chocolate cake recipe for you when I unpack all my much longed for cookery books at some point in the not so near future! Oh, and I'm sure to make this again in the future so I'll take some piccies as I go to show you how to recreate it!

Monday, 22 September 2008

Temple Bar Treats

Last weekend we had a lovely little wander around Temple Bar on a sunny Saturday afternoon. I bought a book from a second hand stall which is full of amazing vintage fashion and beauty ads. Here are some inspiring (and some hilarious) pages - they just don't make ads (or men!) like they used to!

We also tucked into pies from the Gallic Kitchen stall in the farmers market before heading to Urban Outfitters where we bought a wooden chandelier. We put it up on the stair landing as soon as we got home - no doubt it will gather lots of building dust and of course will have to come down again once we (i use the term loosely) come to finish decorating but it cheers me up looking so pretty there for the time being anyhow!

Finally, we were lured like bisto kids into the new branch of 'Queen of Tarts' on cows lane where we bought some amazing raspberry & lemon cheesecakes to have after tea. Totally yummy!

The original Queen of Tarts herself!

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Stripy Sheets

I am totally thrilled with finding these old lady candy stripe flanelette sheets - I've been on the hunt for ages now and finally, blue-rinsed bingo, I found them!

Unlucky for martin, I found them just before our second wedding anniversary; as it's traditional to give cotton, I returned the intended Y-fronts and wrapped these up for him instead! Of course I told him not to get too excited and that the gift was really for me.

They have great sentimental value to me as Mam used to dress our beds with them growing up. The older they got the more faded they became (which i secretly cant wait to happen to these bright stripes!). Do you know the ones I'm talking about? Check them out on the old lady website, Oxendales, who have a base here in Ireland too which makes a nice change.

Sunday, 7 September 2008

Happy 2 years married week!

Well, we've made it to our second wedding anniversary (good by celebrity standards) - Maria's parents have just celebrated their 40th (!!) so we have a long way to go before we deserve a party like they had! But as usual we like to celebrate everything in weeks rather than days, stretch out the glory a bit, you know?

Martin spent our actual anniversary with a bloke he had just met while working in the UK! And I was too caught up with Christmas shoots to notice. So when we finally got around to celebrating, we went to Alexis in Dun Laoghaire for dinner (yum yum), exchanged cards and gifts (see stripy sheets blog) and reminised with the first viewing of our wedding album (finally!). Here are some piccies to bore you with..