Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Comfort Eating

Spring was in the air, the Daffoldils were with us and the clocks had just gone back, announcing daylight saving hours. But oh no, we spoke too soon. How surprised was I to look out the window yesterday morning and see snow on my car!! Snow & daffodils? What a soggy (the snow didn't even stick!), dark and depressing day. Nothing for it but to comfort eat I say! That means pie...


Kidneys are like marmite. You either love them or hate them. I love their amazingly strong flavour and usually hanker after any offal when in need of an iron boost. Without potentially freaking you out altogether, try adding 2-3 anchovies to the filling (when adding the stock) for an even richer flavour. Yes, this recipe takes a little bit of time to prepare, but the filling can easily be made in advance and refrigerated overnight or even frozen. The pastry is quick to make but again can be made beforehand too, turning this into an actually quite quick dinner!

Serves 6

4 tbsp olive oil
900g beef stewing steak pieces
300g lambs kidneys
250g baby button mushrooms, wiped clean
2 onions, finely chopped
2 carrots, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tbsp chopped thyme leaves
7 bay leaves
200ml red wine
600ml beef stock
1 tbsp tomato puree
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 quantity of hot water crust pastry (see recipe below)
a little flour for dusting
1 egg, beaten
your favourite greens to serve (e.g. peas, beans, broccoli, cabbage)
salt and freshly ground black pepper

You will need: 6 x 350ml ramekins

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pan over a high heat. Working in batches, sear the beef and kidneys all over until well browned. Remove with a slotted spoon between batches, leaving any oil behind.

Add another tablespoon of oil to the pan, reduce the heat a little and sauté the mushrooms for 4-5 minutes until golden. Remove from the pan, adding to the meat.

Finally, heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in the pan and sauté the onion, carrots, garlic, thyme and 1 bay leaf for 4-5 minutes until softened and just catching colour.

Return the meat and mushrooms to the pan and increase the heat to high. Add the wine and allow to bubble down for a minute or two before adding the stock, Worcestershire sauce, tomato puree and salt and pepper. Bring slowly to the boil, pop the lid on and reduce to simmer gently for 1 ½ hours, removing the lid after an hour. The beef should be tender and falling apart and the sauce reduced and thickened. Check seasoning, adjusting if necessary.

When ready to assemble and cook, preheat the oven to 200C (400F / Gas Mark 6). Roll the pastry out on a lightly floured surface to a few millimetres in thickness. Use the top of a ramekin as a template to cut out 6 discs. Use the remaining pastry to make 6 strips (about 1-2 cm wide) to go around the edge of the dishes. I used the remaining pastry to cut out the word ‘pie’ with letter cutters, but you can make any shapes you like for decoration (or not!).

Arrange the ramekins on a large baking tray and divide the steak and kidney mixture evenly between them (discarding the bay leaf as you go). Arrange the strips of pastry around each edge, pressing down a little before brushing a little beaten egg over. Place a disc of pastry on top, make a hole in the centre with the tip of a knife (to let the steam out) and use the back of the knife to feather all around the edges. Brush all over with egg and then arrange the pastry letters or other decoration on top, brushing them with egg also.

Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes until the pastry is crisp and evenly golden. Place a steak and kidney pie on a base plate and decorate each one by sticking a bay leaf out of the hole in the top. Serve piping hot with your favourite greens.


I remember making hot water crust pastry in finishing school for young ladies (aka my Home Economics degree) and thinking it to be kind of stodgy and old fashioned (like most things on the course). However, now that retro food is just so uber cool, I’m declaring hot water crust pastry to be back in vogue. I’m thinking nibbling on Cornish pasties on romantic picnics or making hearty meat pies while humming to Ella Fitzgerald on a rainy Saturday afternoon.

(Makes 500g)
100ml whole milk
100g unsalted butter, diced
225g plain flour
½ tsp salt

Place the milk in a small saucepan with the butter and 100ml of water. Bring slowly to the boil, stirring occasionally and then remove from the heat.

Meanwhile, sift the flour and salt into a large warm bowl (I pop mine in the microwave for about a minute). Make a well in the centre and pour the milk mixture in. Immediately start working the flour in from the sides with a wooden spoon until a smooth dough ball is formed.

Spread the dough out onto a tray to allow it to cool quickly. Once cool, knead it back into a ball, cover with cling film and refrigerate until needed.

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Magical Mushrooms

I went a bit crazy cooking at the weekend. This time not with cakes though. Still trying to steer clear of cakes. Not having entire success on that one but vegetables have been a good distraction. Here are some mushrooms that worked their magic on us....


This is a great vegetarian starter or lunch. The mushrooms would also be perfect for a dinner party, re-warmed through on the BBQ or even frozen for another time. Fry streaky bacon or panchetta pieces with the onions for a non-vegetarian version. Chopped olives would be nice in this too. The mushrooms are delicious served with a red pepper vierge. This sounds a little fancy. It’s really easy so don’t be thrown by the cheffy term! It is usually made with skinned and diced tomatoes but I have made a red pepper version.

Serves 4

25g unsalted butter
1 tbsp olive oil
4 portobello or flat breakfast mushrooms
1 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
125g fine white breadcrumbs
50g semi-sundried tomatoes, chopped
1 tbsp finely chopped parsley
1 tbsp finely snipped chives
25g finely grated parmesan
75g soft cheese like Goats, Brie or Corleggy
75ml extra virgin olive oil
1 small red pepper, finely chopped
1 tbsp finely chopped parsley
1 tbsp finely snipped chives
wild rocket leaves to serve
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 220C (425F / Gas Mark7).

Melt the butter with the oil in a saute pan over a medium heat. Pop the stalks out of the mushrooms and finely chop them (the stalks!). Saute them with the onion and garlic for 4-5 minutes until softened.

In the meantime, toss the breadcrumbs, semi-sundried tomatoes, parsley, chives and parmesan together in a large bowl. Crumble the cheese in and then toss through with the cooked onion mixture. Season to taste.

Arrange the mushrooms on a baking sheet, underside up. Pile the crumb mixture on top, pressing it down a little as you go. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes until the mushrooms have wilted a little and the crumb topping is crisp and golden.

In the meantime, make the red pepper vierge. Simply warm the oil through in a small saucepan for a few minutes. Add the red pepper and allow to cook very gently for 3-4 minutes before removing from the heat. Stir the parsley and chives through.

To serve, spoon the red pepper vierge around each serving plate. Sit a stuffed mushroom in the centre and pile some rocket on top. 

Monday, 29 March 2010

Spot the Zebra

Before & After

I picked up this chest of drawers in Oxfam home for €50 (was I robbed?!). The one on the left thanks, very funny! What I was really after was a beautiful dressing table. I found lots, but realised they just didn't have enough storage...something I needed more than the glamour of sitting there pretending I was a movie star. Anyhow, I went with my usual Gok Wan clashing and chose black and white zebra stripes for the green flowery wallpaper bedroom. I have those black & white cushions in there already so hopefully you agree it works?!

I painted the whole chest white egg shell first of all. Several coats. And more again. Once dry, I then painstakingly worked out the spaces evenly and masking taped to create the stripes where the black paint would go. Also, I forgot to mention that there was a crack in the top so I figured that if I planted that right on the edge of a black stripe it would be sufficiently hidden. I do know how to make life hard for myself don't you think? Hmmm.

Then I found these cute vintage drawer knobs at the Newmarket Brocante for €15. There was a set of ten (which I needed) although they didn't match. But all the better and they came as a family so I love them. I found the mirror in Gibson Bailey salvage yard. I've kept the yard afloat during the recession so your man gave it to me for free. Thanks Sean! It has a lovely art deco detail at the top which I of course slapped a bit of (purple) paint on. Me and paint eh? It's one of those bevelled mirrors with hangy chain thingys (another obsession I must reveal to you another time). I preferred to leave it sitting on top of the chest though instead of hanging it above. And, ta da...I can be a movie star after all!

Now, as always a woman's work is never done. So i have more plans for this baby. What on earth has she got planned for this already riske chest now I hear you cry? I'll be back. It might be a while!

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

ruby wrong-doing corrector juice

Here at Friendly Cottage we've had a weekend of excess. Both booze & food sin. Naughty stuff. Our punishment has arrived in the form of the fat monster. So we've learned our lesson and are trying desperately to behave ourselves. Admittedly our love for chocolate cake is actually equalled by our love for fresh juices. I know, weird. Anyhow....let the fat monster think this is our penance and we can all be happy...

For want of a shorter name....THE RUBY WRONG-DOING CORRECTOR JUICE
For about 600ml (2 large or 4 small glasses)
....Juice 2 large peeled beetroots, 4 small-medium peeled carrots and a 1" square piece of ginger.

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Trekking Toasted Triangles

So we are back from the hills (as per last post). We obviously got back a few hours later but I'm only getting around to telling you about it now. I'm also choosing to be ultra lazy and recycling a post I blogged way back. Hope you don't mind! Our ritual is usually the same anyhow so here goes...

"The family at Friendly Cottage escaped to the Wicklow mountains to end the bank holiday Paddy's day on a high. Of course, the only way to get me to the top of a huge mountain is to lure me with food. During the trek, I tried not to moan too much and sugar levels only started to critically plummet during the final ascent....nothing the thoughts of digging into trekking toasted triangles, couldn't sort out! yeeeaaahh!"


Makes about 20 triangles

4 Soft flour tortillas

4 tablespoons of your favourite tapenade or pesto

6 sundried tomatoes, cut into slivers
75g cheddar cheese, grated
2 slices parma ham, shredded into strips
handful rocket leaves
1 tablespoon roughly chopped coriander
1 teaspoon chilli flakes
freshly ground black pepper

1. Preheat a cafe style flat sandwich toasting machine (or frying pan wide enough to take the tortillas).
2. Halve the tortillas to fit the toaster if using.
3. Spread the tapenade or pesto evenly over two of the tortillas.
4. Scatter the sundried tomatoes, cheese, parma ham, rocket, coriander and chilli flakes over and season well with black pepper.
5. Pop the remaining tortillas on as lids and toast for a few minutes until crisp, golden and the cheese is beginning to ooze out (if toasting in a pan, dry fry for 2-3 minutes each side).
6. Remove and leave to cool and set. Cut into triangles and package up before they get eaten!

Really you can use anything you fancy in these toasty treats. Substitute cheddar cheese for goats or blue cheese, parma ham for regular ham and coriander for your favourite herb. Olives are delicious too. 

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Green Day

Happy Paddy's day! So, what does the day mean to you? A huge chunk of Irish even bigger tuft of shamrock...a parade...a sequined green cowboy hat?...hhmmm. a day off work perhaps? or just another excuse to head to the pub? 

Here at Friendly Cottage we're spending the morning at home before heading to the hills (to escape all of the above!). Looking around I'm seeing lots and lots of green...

My junk shop habit can't be kicked, but thank goodness as I found this gorgeous platter last week. 
Some  teensey dishes I bought here in New York.

My green spotty bedlinen find in TK Maxx *Hot Flush & Faint*. 
Old school chair in a bedroom.

The junk shop & polka dot theme continues on the dresser. 
Retro Habitat enamel lampshades thanks to the ebay addiction.

Bedspread from M&S. 
Cookbooks in the yet to be revealed bookcase.

Shabitat again...this time their spindle lamp. 
My comfort blankie & cushion on the couch.

Kitchen cabinet door knob from Lizabeth Dahl.
Green panelling in the kitchen.

Basil pot by Rice
My Green Goddess juice....another addiction....
juice 1 large pear, 2 apples, 1 stick of celery, a small piece of ginger and a few handfuls of spinach....uuummm

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Spring in my Step

some pretty flowers in our hallway today

It was great to come home to the sweet smell of spring in the air. Doesn't the stretch in the day and the hopeful twinkle of sunshine make life so much better? We're planning outdoor activities for this weekend...ok, so it does involve painting again (thankfully our very embarrassing front of house at last!) but hopefully we're going for a spin on our bikes too. I'm definitely going to enjoy the Spring time as God knows that could be it for the sunshine this year! Hopefully many sunny photos to follow...

Monday, 8 March 2010

Home Sweet Home

Well, I'm Home Sweet Home. I'm totally wrecked from working hard....but I had a ball! It feels like I've been away forever though. I've missed my comfort blankie by the fire and forgot I had my swan fur duvet (well, goose down, but swan fur makes me sound more like a princess!), my fluffy, stripy sheets and of course Marty's tender loving arms. there's no place like home....there's no place like home....there's no place like home...