Wednesday 12 January 2011


Thanks to amazing IFJ photographer, Jack Caffrey, for all the gorgeous snaps as always.

Well hi there if you've been directed here from Country Living Magazine! Hopefully you enjoyed the feature written by the lovely Imen (who you will find here) and thanks also to the IFJ for having me grace their cover (a cover girl at last, yay!). If you fancy, you can read more about my work as a Food Stylist and Home Economist over on my website and other blog. UPDATE: and you can now see the feature here.

Anyhow, welcome to Friendly Cottage. Around here we mostly eat. lots.

Now, you may be on a New Year healthy eating buzz but these muffins, as seen in the feature snaps, contain fruit (result), healthy nuts and wheatgerm (double score) and then everything else is merely mood enhancing which is always a good thing after the festive anti-climax.

If you buy a bunch of bananas, it’s inevitable you are going to be left with at least one that everyone avoids because it’s going black. I mash these orphaned bananas and stick them in the freezer until I have a build up of three. I then whip them out to make banana bread or these yummy spiced muffins. Such a domestic goddess me.

Anyhow, these are delicious for breakfast on the run (I’d probably pass on the sugary icing in that case though!) or as an afternoon treat. If you choose not to top with the icing then pop a pecan nut on top of each before baking. I like to use wheat germ (for extra nutrients) as I always have some in the fridge anyhow, but you can omit it if you like.

Makes 12

75g unsalted butter
250g self-raising flour
1 tbsp wheat germ (optional)
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
pinch salt
1 tsp mixed spice
½ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
100g caster sugar
50g pecan nuts, roughly chopped
125ml buttermilk
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 ripe bananas
200g cream cheese
50g unsalted butter, at room temperature
300g icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
pecan nuts and / or redcurrant strings, to decorate

Preheat the oven to 170C (Gas Mark 5 / 375 F). Set paper muffin cases into a 12 hole muffin tin.

Melt the butter and leave to cool.

Sift the flour, wheatgerm, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, salt, mixed spice, cinnamon and nutmeg together in a large bowl and stir the caster sugar and pecan nuts through.

Measure the milk into a large jug and then crack the eggs in. Add the vanilla extract and cooled melted butter and beat together.

Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour the egg mixture in. Mash the bananas in the jug and then tip them in too. Stir everything together, but do not over mix, to give a lumpy (because of the bananas) paste.

Divide the mixture between the muffin cases, bringing it almost to the top. Bake for 20-25 minutes until risen and cooked through. Leave in the tin to cool for a few minutes before removing and leaving to cool completely on a wire rack.

Meanwhile, prepare the icing. Beat the cream cheese and butter in a food mixer for a few minutes until smooth and creamy. Scrape down the sides, sift in the icing sugar, add the vanilla extract and then gently beat again to give a smooth, thick paste. Refrigerate until ready to use to firm up a little.

Pipe or spread the icing quite thickly onto each cooled muffin. Decorate with a pecan nut or redcurrant string and enjoy!

Tuesday 4 January 2011

Making a house a home

Well, Happy New Year and I hope you had a lovely Christmas break. We certainly did here at Friendly Cottage. After spending a few days down home with my family we raced back, got into our jim-jams and pottered, well, lounged about for a whole week! 

Having flown the nest for work early last July and pretty much returning just before Christmas, I relished being at home so much. Especially as it will be our last peaceful Christmas before baby comes along and causes chaos. God, don't remind me of the potential horror of my wallpaper being drawn on, my old lady plates and tea cups being shaken off the dresser and my sofa cushions & blankies being vomited on! 

It was with luck then that Dara, the editor of our fab Irish Interior Magazine, House & Home, asked to feature Friendly Cottage in the November / December issue when it was just freshly done and before smallie comes long & wrecks it. At least I'll have this lovely feature (snapped by the lovely Paul Sherwood) to look back on proudly. (You can see more online here too)

Although, I suppose it's everyday life that really makes a house a bring it on!