Spring Recipes
Avocado Hummus
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Avocado Hummus

Last week I shared my first recipe of basic homemade falafel, but one of the things I served it with was another new recipe: avocado hummus! I’m an absolute sucker for hummus but I wanted to try something new, and decided to try it with avocado’s, another one of my favourite things to eat. It might not be very traditional, but hey I’m all for pushing boundaries!

You do need to make sure to find a great balance when adding spices, not adding enough might make it too boring, adding too much might take away the flavour of the avocado and chickpeas. I opted for just a few grinds of pepper, some good quality Irish sea salt and a tiny pinch of dried chili. By adding some lime juice I added another dimension to the dip, creating some extra freshness at the same time.

  
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Homemade Flavourful Falafel
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Homemade Flavourful Chickpea Falafel

I spent most of my life being completely unaware of how delicious falafel is, as I only discovered it around 3 years ago. I’ve been a huge fan ever since but I actually never attempted to make it myself, until last week and I can say for sure I will be doing this at least once a week. It’s an ideal lunch during the weekend, it’s so quick and you can experiment with the flavours then as well. You can make it more spicy for example, change the texture (make it less smooth) or use fava beans instead of chickpeas, grill them or pan-fry them instead of deep frying them.

  
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Traditional Antwerp Butter Cookies with Kerrygold butter and Guinness chocolate sauce
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Traditional Antwerp Butter Cookies with Kerrygold butter and Guinness chocolate sauce

Antwerp, an absolute must-visit if you ever find yourself in Belgium. There’s plenty on offer, there’s a gorgeous Cathedral, a medieval fortress ‘t Steen, which you can find along the river, plenty of museums (Reubens, MAS, ..), a street dedicated to antiques, a stunning central station, a zoo, an impressive opera hall and a fabulous shopping street to name a few.

But as with most cities in Belgium it’s also rich in food heritage and traditions. No matter where you go in Belgium you must always try two things: local beers and local food products. Belgium has many well known national dishes (mostly featuring fries) but when it comes to sweets there’s usually not a lot tourists are aware of. In Ghent for example there’s cuberdons (purple cone-shaped candy), in Geel you can try heart shaped cookies, in Geraardsbergen they have ‘Mattentaartjes’.

One of the traditional sweets you can only get in Antwerp are ‘Antwerp hands’, a butter cookie with a secret recipe, shaped into hands.

  
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Rachel Allen Recipes from my mother
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Book tip May 2017: Recipes from my Mother by Rachel Allen

With Mother’s day coming up in the majority of countries in the world, I figured there was no better book to share with you as my book tip of the month, than Rachel Allen’s new masterpiece: ‘Recipes from my mother’. The book is dedicated to both her mother Hallfridur and her mother-in-law Darina as both women shared wonderful stories and recipes from their mothers with her.

As you may now Rachel grew up in Dublin with her sister, Irish father and Icelandic mother and has always been proud of her heritage. “I count myself fortunate in that it was a very happy home with lots of good food. While my father made great brown bread and the best poached eggs in town, it was my mum who always cooked a delicious and nutritious meal for us all to eat at the end of the day.

  
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Spring is in the air
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Spring is in the air

Spring is here! You wouldn’t be able to tell from the extreme drop in temperatures we had here in Ireland this week though as it suddenly went below 0 again. But apart from this one week things have been looking good! I already put away my winter coat but now it’s time for the winter accessories in your home to be replaced with bright coloured decorations instead! It’s not that easy to pick my 4 favourites for this spring cause Spring and Summer are my absolute favourite seasons and each store has just so much to offer.

When it comes to inviting people over for dinner I find that most people end up going for the same style all year-round, but by introducing just a few elements related to the season you can really turn your dinner table into something special.

If you add some lovely scents to that in the background you’ll really have the ideal setting for a Spring/Summer barbecue or salad party.

  
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Pork, red onion and tarragon meatballs with courgette pesto, pine nuts, limes and olives
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Pork, red onion and tarragon meatballs with courgette pesto, pine nuts, limes and olives

One of my favourite dinners to both make and eat is anything with meatballs. Over the years I’ve come up with so many different types of meatballs as well as sauces, going from plain spaghetti meatballs to a meatball wrap with arrabbiata sauce. It was the first time I made meatballs without using panko breadcrumbs, as I can’t eat wheat anymore. Instead I’ve gone for Rice Krispies. Sounds weird but the result was smashing! I had tried using wheat-free bread before and turned them into breadcrumbs, but I really liked the result of the Rice Krispies a lot more!

Other than that I kept the meatballs quite basic, just some pork mince and red onion but I did also add some tarragon to give them more flavour. The bigger surprise in this meal was the pesto however, as I’ve decided to make a courgette pesto, which I had never tried before. I also kept this pesto dairy – free (and thus vegan) so vegans can use it for their other recipes without meatballs of course.

  
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Hot Cross Buns with an Apricot glaze
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Hot Cross Buns with an Apricot glaze

With Easter only days away I knew I had to come up with a great recipe for you all to try this Easter. It’ll be the first year I’m spending Easter without my family so it wasn’t really on my mind but I made something that would’ve been perfect for my family’s Easter as it’s always celebrated as a brunch rather than an Easter dinner.

I’ve made something new the last couple of years, whether it was my own chicken curry spread, sesame bagels or bagels with salmon and cream cheese, I always try to bring some new to the table. I must say I wasn’t familiar at all with hot cross buns until my friend Helen brought them up and I started noticing them in stores as well.
As they were unknown to me I went to find out more about their history, which I learned all about thanks to Miss Foodwise: “The tradition of baking bread marked with a cross is linked to paganism as well as Christianity. The pagan Saxons would bake cross buns at the beginning of spring in honour of the goddess Eostre – most likely being the origin of the name Easter. The cross represented the rebirth of the world after winter and the four quarters of the moon, as well as the four seasons and the wheel of life. The Christians saw the Crucifixion in the cross bun and, as with many other pre-Christian traditions, replaced their pagan meaning with a Christian one – the resurrection of Christ at Easter.”

  
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Rhubarb jam with strawberries and raspberry vinegar
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Rhubarb jam with strawberries and raspberry vinegar

With the coming and going of each month we also have a change in fruits and vegetables fresh from the fields available in stores and markets. One of them is Rhubarb, which usually comes in season mid/end of March. It can be very tricky to grow Rhubarb, as it can’t be eaten if it’s damaged by severe cold, as it may be high in oxalic acid, which comes down from the leaves and can cause illness. That’s why apart from field-grown rhubarb you can also get forced rhubarb, which some consider to taste better than ‘normal’ rhubarb. Now don’t worry about the word ‘forced’, no one is doing anything unhealthy here! All they do when forcing rhubarb is putting it inside and deprive it of light, so they shoot upwards looking for light, which results in a more delicate flavour and sourness although it still needs extra sweetness. These are of course available for a longer period, compared to traditionally grown rhubarb.

It’s not a hugely popular vegetable, I’ll give you that, as many people are simply not sold on the flavour. I wasn’t used to eating it either, but I discovered how much I like it last year as I made Rhubarb Oatmeal Cookies, Rhubarb, Strawberry and Mint Limenade and my absolute favourite: Rhubarb – Plum tart. Rhubarb itself is very sour, but as I usually combine it with sweet ingredients the result is sweet instead of sour.

  
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101 Bar Bites by Ryland Peters & Small
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Book tip April 2017: 101 Bar Bites by Ryland Peters & Small

Each year at Christmas I’m hoping that my family will be in charge of making the appetizers. There’s just something about being able to make all these little bites and nibbles that makes it so much fun to do, especially cause it means you’ll be doing a lot of cooking! I used to always make these big dinners whenever I invited friends over, but lately I’ve started to be more of a fan of serving them little bites to eat instead throughout the evening! The result is just so much more fun that to have to cook one meal, as some people may or may not like every part of your big dinner, but when it comes to small bites there’s always something for everyone. At the same time it can be a big task to be in charge of cause most recipes out there will focus on the main event and it can be quite hard to find a great recipe for smaller snacks.

Thanks to Ryland, Peters & Small that problem is now well out of the way as they have collected 101 delicious bar bites in one cook book. It’s ideal for any cocktail party, gathering or cosy night in you may have planned at any time of the year. Stepping away from any classic cookbook, the book is also divided based on the portion size, since there’s of course no difference in the course.

  
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Cork's Whiskey Festival 2017
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Cork’s Whiskey Festival 2017

Never a dull moment in Cork (or in Ireland in general). I’ve only just recovered from the Cork Burger Festival: January 30th – February 5th 2017 we had back at the end of January – beginning of February and where I enjoyed not one but two fantastic nights filled with mouthwatering burgers in Yellow Sub and Electric but now it’s time for the next festival: Cork’s Whiskey Festival 2017!

Celebrating Irish Whiskeys

As home of the best selling Irish whiskey in the world, it only seemed right that Cork had it’s very own Whiskey Festival.

To celebrate whiskeys from Ireland and across the world, the festival is working with some top producers such as Hyde, West Cork Distillers, St Patricks Distillery, Teelings Whiskey, Dingle Whiskey, Jack Ryan Whiskey, Knappogue Castle, Jameson, Single Pot Still, Bulleit Bourbon, Nikka and The Irishman Whiskey to ensure you get to experience the best whiskeys available in Cork.

  
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