Sunday, 31 January 2010

Celebratory Cake

So with the unveiling of our newly renovated home and also of this blog, what better way to celebrate than to eat cake?! This is also for all the new-comers to Friendly Cottage too - we hope you come back to visit again. Here's my recipe for a delicious lemon polenta cake. I like to serve it drizzled with a lemon and rose syrup and scattered with sugared rose petals....because I'm a lay-dy!


Serves 6-8

200g butter, softened + extra for greasing
200g caster sugar
3 eggs
zest and juice of 1 lemon
150g ground almonds
150g polenta
1 tsp baking powder
125g sugar
1 tsp rosewater
25g sugared rose petals
crème fraiche

Preheat the oven to 180C (350F / Gas Mark 4). Lightly grease a deep 20cm round tin with butter.

Beat the butter and sugar together in a large bowl until light in colour and creamy. Add the eggs in one by one, mixing well to combine. Add the lemon zest and juice (reserving the lemon shells) and then fold in the ground almonds, polenta and baking powder to give a smooth mixture.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin, smoothing the top with the back of a spoon.  Place on a baking tray and bake for about 1 hour, covering with foil for the last 15 minutes, until golden and cooked through.

Meanwhile, make the lemon and rose syrup. Pop the reserved lemon shells in a small saucepan and pour over 125ml of cold water. Add the sugar and rosewater and bring to a simmer, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat and leave to cool and thicken. Remove and discard the lemon shells.

Leave the cooked cake to cool in the tin for a few minutes before removing and leaving to cool completely. When still warm, pierce all over with a skewer, pushing it in fairly deeply. Drizzle half of the syrup over slowly, allowing it to seep into the cake.

Once the cake is ready to serve, scatter the sugared rose petals over the top. Cut the cake into wedges and arrange on plates. Drizzle some of the remaining syrup over and serve with a dollop of crème fraiche.

Sugared rose petals can be bought in jars in some supermarkets or speciality shops. Alternatively, you can make your own by dipping fresh rose petals in lightly beaten egg white and then caster sugar to stick. Leave them to dry out a little on a cooling rack before using to decorate.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

The Friendly Cottage Face-lift

Ta Da.... Introducing the new face of our blog.....isn't she pretty? The face-lift is perfect timing to coincide with our home's recently completed (well almost) transformation too.

The extreme make-over was taken on by a lovely woman called Happy. She has an adorable home which you can see through her blog. And if you would like Happy to create a fabulous banner for you, check out her other blog

I feel a celebratory cake coming on....

P.S. A couple of hardcore Irish have asked why the British butterflys?....don't forget my boy is London's Finest Export ;)

Monday, 25 January 2010

House & Home Magazine

I'm probably the last blogger to post about this but how exciting is this months House & Home mag feature 'the Irish bloggers guide to interiors'?! Zita over at Homebug put together a fab article once again and drafted in top tips from the blogging troops with many familiar blogger friends like Lorna from Garrendenny Lane and Mel over at Design Heaven. Thanks Zee for the Friendly Cottage link and your lovely words too. And of course, welcome to any new visitors who have popped by because of it!

Also, Paula over at Mabel & Violet must be beaming to take position in the mags 'Hot 100' feature alongside Lorna and Zee too. Well done girls!

P.S. Friendly Cottage is currently having a bit of a make over & she will be revealing her new 'do' soon, so watch out for the grand reveal!

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Sick Week

So we had 'snow week' a few weeks ago and now here at Friendly Cottage we've had 'sick week'. Our medicine chest has been out throughout the week for various snuffles and sniffles. Then a strange thing happened to me that I won't go too into, but basically involved bad facial burnings from Tiger Blam (of all things!), resulting in swellings which made me look like a cross between Mike Tyson & the Elephant Man and took steroids to take down!! No clue where that came from, but all I know is I've had my annual fill of Jeremey Kyle for sure! Marty's mutant wife is just about making it out in public now under hat and scarf but is awaiting facial bits to fall off!

Anyhow, my facial horror story aside, I realised I hadn't shown you our medicine chest above which I bought here (but have seen in Avoca in the meantime). More to the point though is this gorgeous old elastoplast tin which we keep inside the chest. I scored in a car boot sale last summer. Isn't she a cutesy?!

Saturday, 16 January 2010

seeded irish brown soda bread

We usually make this delicious bread on a Saturday and once its cool we pop it on a board with a bread knife and pop the butter dish nearby. By the time we finish pottering around with whatever it is that eats a Saturday morning and afternoon up, the bread has usually been eaten up too! It is just irresistible when lovely and fresh so it doesn't stand much chance of lasting long. In fact, once I made it very late one night before I headed off on a work trip the next morning. I thought I'd make it as a taste of Ireland for an American colleague. So, I proudly left it to cool while I headed off to finish packing, only to come back and find Martin had devoured half of it!! I'm sure he knew it wasn't for him but couldn't help himself!


Makes 1 loaf

200g wholemeal flour
200g plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp salt
25g pumpkin seeds
25g sunflower seeds
1 tbsp linseeds
300ml buttermilk
1 tbsp treacle
1 tbsp sunflower oil

Line a 1Lb loaf tin with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 200C (400F, Gas Mark 6).

Place the wholemeal flour into a large bowl and sift the plain flour and bicarbonate of soda over. Add the salt and stir almost all of the pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and linseeds through, reserving a small handful for the topping.

Make a well in the centre and pour the buttermilk, treacle and sunflower oil in. Stir the mixture together until well blended, adding a little more buttermilk if necessary to give a soft dropping consistency.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin, spread it out with the back of a spoon and sprinkle the reserved seeds evenly over.

Bake in the oven for 40-45 minutes until well risen and crisp and deep golden on top. A skewer should come out clean when poked through to the middle of the loaf. Leave to cool in the tin for a few minutes before lifting out and leaving to cool completely.

Cut into slices and spread with butter to serve or other favourite topping like cheese, jam or honey. Store for a couple of days in an airtight container. This is also delicious when toasted and perfect as an accompaniment to soups and salads.

Friday, 15 January 2010

Snow & Salt

There has been so much talk lately of our snow and more so the salt shortage. I came across some photos the other day from our travels in Bolivia five years ago - these ones are taken on the salt flats, Salar de Uyni - my absolute most favourite place on earth (so far!). The expanse of white goes on for about 4000 square miles - it was fascinating and stunningly beautiful. Anyhow, I thought it was ironic that it looks like beautiful snow in the snaps, when in fact it's 100% salt - the one thing we could have done with lots of, badly last week!

The photo on the right was taken from a strange island on the salt flat made up entirely of cactus, amazing! For some perspective, that thing on the salt just below the island is a plane!

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

sleeping beauty

Our King & Queen of France bed (as I like to call it!) has finally had it's makeover. We bought this bed on a whim on ebay a couple of years ago and it sailed it's way to Ireland from France (not very easily I might add, but that's another story!). I thought the wood part was off white but when I saw it for real I realised it was a very rich creamy colour. So, it just had to go. Well, not that easily, as first of all we had to get through the guilt of slapping crown white eggshell on top of 70 year old french crackle paint, yikes! Anyhow, we got over it and just did it and are so pleased with the result. No regrets, phew! No doubt some people will quake in their beds at the thought, but she's ours for life and we have to sleep in it. And what a sleeping beauty she is...

painstakingly applying masking tape as close to the edge of the fabric as possible and cleaning any dust and dirt from between the grooves of the wood.

we protected the velvet fabric with lots of pages torn from magazines (it actually looks quite funky like this don't you think?!)

we used a fine artists brush for hard to get to areas. yay, peeling the masking tape away, job done!

And here she is....

P.S. The wall paper is by Cath Kidston. It makes me die every time I see it, I love it & had to fight hard against Mart's 'Transformers' option! Thankfully the old lady one won!

P.P.S. By the way, we didn't brave doing any of our wallpapering ourselves but have the number of the fantastic guy who did - we would definitely highly recommend him as he did an amazing job so let me know if you need the contact.

Sunday, 10 January 2010

lazy sneggy bread

Hasn't it been just fab to have such an unexpected extended holiday because of the snow?! We have stayed snuggled up in front of the fire for sooooo long now that I think we need some sort of reintroduction to society tomorrow! Besides tv-watching and net-surfing we've kept up that other christmas activity of constant grazing. We kicked off today with some Lazy Sneggy Bread (otherwise known as eggy bread in normal peoples houses!)....

Serves 2

2 large eggs

50ml milk

25g unsalted butter

4 slices of white or wholemeal bread

salt and freshly ground black pepper


Your favourite sauce like ketchup, chutney or relish or brown sauce (optional)

Beat the eggs and milk together in a wide shallow bowl and season with a little salt and pepper.

Melt half the butter in a large non-stick frying pan over a medium heat.

Dip both sides of two of the bread slices into the egg mix to soak briefly and then pop into the pan to fry gently for about 1 minute each side until crisp and golden.

Remove and repeat with the remaining butter and egg dipped slices of bread.

Serve as they are or with a dollop of your choice of sauce.


Serve topped with some slices of crisp bacon, a dollop of crème fraiche and a drizzle of maple syrup.

Replace the salt and pepper with ½ tsp of ground cinnamon and serve with a dollop of natural yoghurt and a drizzle of honey.

Omit the salt and pepper and mash some soft fruits like bananas or berries into the egg mixture before dipping the bread.

Saturday, 9 January 2010

some girlie goodies

inside my kitchen cabinet...
some of the girliness that makes my world go round

Thursday, 7 January 2010

our kitchen unveiling

Ta here she is. What do you think? A touch girlie, I know, I really had to restrain Martin from any more of it!! Martin keeps asking if it's the dolls house kitchen I had always dreamt of - I hadn't really ever imagined a kitchen like this but it just transpired - obviously a sub-concious mind full of all things girlie that even a kitchen doesn't get away with it! Of course I had my ideas board for inspiration too...remember this post?

There are still bits and pieces to sort out (isn't there always) but she was a long time coming so to us she's just perfect! She used to be an old parlour room, hence the fireplace, which I might add I fought hard against everyone who came here and said we should rip it out (what and just throw her away?!). Our new extension is the other half of this room (to the left in the photo) which has yet to be finished enough for it's photo opportunity. Anyhow, more kitchen details later, for now, what do you think? Finally, here are a couple more snaps, this time not so pretty....the before and during.

Monday, 4 January 2010

and the winner is.....

Sorry it has taken so long to reveal our chosen hallway wallpaper! You may remember this post where we needed your help to choose between two favourites. Thanks for your opinion in the poll (on the top right of this page)....your overall vote (61%) went to kubooa's wistaria - which to be honest was our favourite too - we just needed that final push, so thanks! hope you like it!

A bit more work is still on the hallway 'to do' list so we'll post some more revealing snaps when we tick tick tick!

Friday, 1 January 2010

Happy new year & Happy new house! is not just the first day of the year, it's also the first day we have actually felt like we own and live in this house rather than the house owning us if that makes sense?! We are walking carefree from room to room and most things actually work ok, lol! It's great. We've been working hard on it again the last few days (after having a nice break over christmas) and have it in pretty good shape. Still lots to do of course but things are comfortable and enjoyable now, horrah!

I finally got to unpack our kitchen after all this time (oh, just about 2 1/2 yrs, blush) and have been having palpitations over the idea of being able to cook normally again....something that has been lacking from this blog. My list of things to make is ever increasing but what better to start with than some scrummy bread to fill our new home with that freshly baked smell of goodness. So, here's my basic recipe for white soda bread with a festive twist at the bottom..


500g plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp caster sugar
pinch of salt
400ml buttermilk
salted butter (and jam is yummy too!)

Preheat the oven to 220C (400F / Gas Mark 6). Sift the flour and bicarb into a large bowl and stir the sugar and salt through. Make a well in the centre and pour in almost all of the buttermilk. Stir from the sides to draw the dry into the wet, continuing to bring together to a dough (adding the remaining buttermilk if necessary). Knead lightly to shape into a smooth ball, without over-working it too much and place on a non stick baking sheet. Use a sharp knife to cut a deep cross in the dough and then bake for about 40 minutes until golden and cooked through. You can tell it's cooked if the bread is crisp on the bottom and sounds hollow when tapped. Leave to cool a little on a wire rack and then when just warm (or cold) serve sliced and spread with butter. This will keep fresh in an airtight container for a day or two.

Stir 50g dried cranberries, 50g sultanas and 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon into the mix with the sugar and continue as normal.