Saturday, January 10, 2015

New Year, Same Resolution

Another new year brings another batch of resolutions. However, if you're anything like me, the main resolution may be similar to the one decided upon last year, and possibly even the year before that. The most common one, which I'm sure many of us vow to on January 1st, is to eat less and move more. Never is this sentiment more concreted in my mind than after an indulgent fortnight of festive feasting. After many years of striving for smaller dress sizes it’s clear to me what I need to do. A little bit of regular exercise is essential and staying clear of cakes and snacks is paramount. It sounds so simple, doesn’t it? However, experience reminds me, that keeping the hand out of the cookie jar can sometimes prove a little harder than it sounds, and sticking on the trainers, when all I want to do is collapse on the sofa, isn't an easy task either. If I’ve to have any hope of success with my New Year’s pledge I have to choose my lunch and dinner dishes carefully. My mealtimes are normally filled with nutritious dishes, and I know that this is essential to a healthier life. Certainly for me when I’ve enjoyed a nutritionally filling meal, I’m a little less likely to scoff a pile of biscuits after. This soup recipe I’m sharing with you today is one of my children’s favourites, and it happens to make a delicious lunch. Serve it with a few slices of brown bread and a little green salad for a satisfying, calorie-conscious meal. To anyone who’s en route to their health kick 2015, the very best of luck!

Potato, Leek & Sage Soup

Serves 4
30g butter
2 leeks, whites only, sliced
450g potatoes, peeled and diced
1 onion, diced
Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper
Handful of sage, about 15 leaves, plus a few for serving
1 lt chicken stock
150ml milk


  1. Melt the butter in a large saucepan. When it begins to foam add the leek, potato and onion stir to combine with the butter.
  2. Sprinkle with a little salt, a few grinds of pepper and the sage leaves. Place a butter wrapper or a piece of greaseproof paper over the vegetables, to help them sweat. Cover with the lid of the saucepan. Sweat over a low heat for about 10 minutes, making sure the vegetables don’t stick to the bottom of the saucepan.
  3. When the vegetables are soft but not coloured, and the stock, and continue to cook for another 15 minutes until the vegetables are soft.
  4. Using a hand blender or a food processor purée the soup until it is smooth. Taste and season, if necessary. Pour in the milk and stir well to combine.
  5. Pour the soup into serving bowls and garnish each with two sage leaves and, for those who aren't watching calories, add a little drizzle of cream. 

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Grow, Cook, Eat

My Dad was a wonderful gardener. After we moved into our home seven years ago, he developed the most beautiful vegetable and fruit patch for us. From spuds to loganberries, a little of everything was planted that first year. Even though I would never describe myself as an avid gardener, I found over the years as my passion for food heightened the love of growing my own food was ever so satisfying. Many of the recipes I develop are driven by what’s in season, and quite often what’s on offer to me from my garden. So, when the opportunity came about to contribute a couple of my recipes to a new Irish Grow It Yourself cookbook I accepted the invitation immediately. The book is called Grow, Cook, Eat, and its author is Michael Kelly, who is the founder of Grow It Yourself Ireland. The book was released last month, and already it has received an array of wonderful reviews in the media. I must say that I can see why; it’s a beautifully put together book and it is extremely informative. The book is essentially a month-by-month GIY guide to growing and cooking your own food, and it includes an abundance of tips and practical advice on how to be a successful kitchen gardener. Each month’s guide is supported by seasonal recipes, which have been contributed by some of the top chefs and cooks in the media, including Darina Allen, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Donal Skehan. It really is a wonderful piece of work, and I feel truly honoured to be included in such a prestigious book. If you have a loved who has any sort of interest in growing their own food, this would make an ideal gift for them this Christmas. Grow, Cook, Eat, by Michael Kelly, is edited by Cristíona Kiely, and published by GIY Ireland. All proceeds from sales will be invested back into the GIY movement and will go towards funding Grow HQ, the organisation’s national food education centre, which will open in Waterford in 2015 on a three-acre site at Ardkeen. You can pick up a copy of the book online or in any good bookstore.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Nessa's Christmas Kitchen eBook

I'm excited to share with you that I've put together some of my favourite festive recipes, and my talented son Jack has very kindly brought them together to create a new Christmas eBook. The recipes included are fresh updates on some of the traditional holiday favourites, and I really hope that my recipes will make cooking the Christmas dinner the easiest part for you this year! 

Nessa's Christmas Kitchen, is fully illustrated with 15 lush colour photos and it includes 14 easy-to-follow recipes. From the moistest turkey and ham possible, to a perfect bread sauce, to a towering Victorian trifle that will have them oohing and ahhing as it comes to the table, recipes for Christmas starters, desserts and the main meal itself are all taken care of. 

Recipes Include:
Potato Cakes with Smoked Irish Salmon
Poached & Butter-Basted Turkey Breast
Sage, Date & Pistachio Stuffing
Creamy Potato & Leek Gratin
Mulled Berry Trifle
Lemon Meringue Pudding

Nessa's Christmas Kitchen is available to download at Amazon for only 99 cents. However this holiday season, my Christmas eBook is available for a limited time as a free download, here on the blog. It's my way to say Happy Christmas, and thank you for your support throughout the year. Please feel free to share through Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and use the hashtag #NessasChristmasKitchen 

Happy Christmas.
Nessa xx

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

A Hearty Soup For a Change of Seasons

Even with a drop in temperature and the evenings drawing darker by the day, I'm eager to welcome all that winter has to offer. I'm never too dismayed when brisk, winter chills replace our milder autumnal climate. With a colder spell upon us the opportunity to light up the stove arises, and evenings sitting cosily under a blanket on the sofa is suddenly within our reach. Along with the change of season comes the excuse to indulge in quintessential comfort foods. When we’re in search of warmth from the inside out, stews, soups and carbohydrate-laden dishes become top of our dinner menus again. For someone who gains great pleasure in devouring a bowl of dumpling topped stew or using a crust of toasted bread to savour that last morsel of soup from a bowl, this change of menu can't but make me happy. I also happen to live in a household where Halloween is much celebrated, so the plotting and planning for the scary season brings much delight. Of course I miss the late evening walks or gardening until late, but I do so appreciate the somewhat calmness that winter dictates, and as it arrives I embrace it with open arms.*

Hearty Tomato Tortellini Soup

A big pot of soup is one of the best ways to feed a family. To make it into a more substantial meal a few spuds or some pasta is a great way to bulk it up. Tomato soup is a real favourite in my house, and with the addition of some fresh tortellini, this easy to prepare soup is not only filling but also extremely flavoursome.

Serves 4
1tbsp olive oil
knob of butter
1 large onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, peeled & crushed
1 red pepper, finely diced
2 tins of tomatoes (400g each)
500mls vegetable stock
Sea salt & freshly ground pepper
1 tbsp sugar
1tbsp balsamic vinegar
Pinch of dried chilli
Handful of fresh basil, plus a few leaves for serving
250g tortellini


  1. In a medium sized saucepan add the olive oil and the knob of butter. Over a gentle heat sweat the onion, garlic and red pepper until the onions are soft but not coloured, which will take about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the tomatoes and the vegetable stock. Season with a little sea salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar. Add the balsamic vinegar and a pinch of dried chilli. Bring to the boil, and then turn down the heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
  3. Add the basil and using a hand blender or processor, purée until smooth. Place the soup back in the saucepan, add the tortellini and on a medium heat simmer for a further 8 minutes.
  4. Pour the soup into serving bowls and garnish each one with a few small basil leaves. Serve with a few slices of garlic bread.

Before popping up this blog post yesterday, I decided to take advantage of our glorious Autumnal weather, and head outdoors with the camera. A shot couldn't be got without the inclusion of a cat, a hen, a duck or an alpaca, so here are a few pics of our beautiful pets.

Millie has named most of our animals, and this little kitty goes by the elaborate, Oz-influenced, name of Pippy Dorothy. 

Always camera-ready, two of our beautiful alpacas, Goldstar and Caesar.
Delilah the duck. 
The ever inquisitive Caesar.

I also picked the last of our apples yesterday, which makes me feel like winter is certainly on the approach. 
*Excerpt from my column in the current issue of Easy Parenting.

Friday, October 10, 2014

NEW Cookery Classes

This November will see me returning to my role as cookery teacher, as I have just finalised plans for a five-week intensive, practical cookery course, for adults, which I will host in my home-town of Moate. Even-though, in the past few years, I've travelled the length and breadth of the country giving cookery demonstrations, it has been three years since I ran my part-time cookery courses. Now that I have a course devised I'm very much looking forward to delivering it.
We'll start each evening with a cuppa and a sweet treat, while I run through the programme for the class. Using the state of the art facilities of the Home Economics room at Moate Community School, each course participant will have their own work station where they will prepare and cook their dishes, before bringing home the fruits of their labour to enjoy with their family and friends. Each evening I will also demonstrate a number of dishes for the class to taste. The chosen recipes will focus on cooking techniques and methods, while the merit of these recipes won’t be solely on taste, but also on the seasonality and health benefits of the included ingredients. From quick family suppers to a special weekend get-together, over the five weeks we will cook sweet and savoury dishes to suit all occasions. I'm strictly limiting the number of participants for the course, so that each one will gain the optimal amount of experience over the five weeks. At the end of this course participants should be armed with the confidence needed to take control of their family mealtimes.

Class Dates:
Wednesday 5th, 12th, 19th, 26th November
Wednesday 3rd, December

Time of class:
7pm - 9pm

Home Economics Room, Moate Community School

€ 200 for the five evenings. Recipe packs and all ingredients needed are included.
A 50% deposit is necessary to secure your place when booking. 

For enquiries and bookings drop me an email at

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Galway Bake Fest 2014

This Saturday and Sunday will see a baking extravaganza taking over Leisureland, Galway, as baking enthusiasts from around the country will meet for this year's Bakefest. From cake displays to 'bake offs' it's guarenteed to be a great day out for all the family. I'm delighted to join the line-up of chefs and cooks who will be demonstrating in the kitchen theatre. My slot is from 2pm-3pm, so if you're at Bakefest, do stop by and say hello. This marvelous event is organised by Goodness Cakes and ACT for Meningitis. ACT for Meningitis is such an important charity. It was set up by Siobhán Carroll, after the heartbreaking loss of her daughter, Aoibhe, aged 4, to meningitis. ACT for Meningitis helps to support those affected by meningitis, while also raising awareness of the signs and symptoms of meningitis. Check out their website for more information.What makes Bakefest so special is the fact that it is a not for profit event, meaning that all monies raised will go directly to ACT for Meningitis. Isn't that just marvelous?! 

Monday, September 22, 2014

A Seasonal Treat - Blackberry Brandy

At this time of the year, countrywide, the hedgerows are sparkling with free autumnal berries. Sloes, rosehips and elderberries are all making an appearance, but it’s the bountiful blackberry that takes centre stage for most foragers. This autumn there seems to be an abundance of berries free for the picking. Rich in antioxidants and packed with vitamin C, these luscious berries are best eaten straight from the bush. They do, nonetheless, make the juiciest of fillings for tarts, pies and crumbles. 

Some evenings there is neither the time nor the need for indulging in puddings, so on that particular evening, where a good bounty of blackberries have been retrieved, I take the opportunity to make my annual Blackberry Brandy. As sophisticated as it may sound it is incredibly easy to make. Freshly picked blackberries, sugar, brandy and ideally a kilner jar are all that is needed to create this deliciously fruity liqueur. However, you do need a little patience, as it will be a number of weeks before you get to sample a sip of this tipple. When made in mid-autumn, this blackberry brandy will be ready just in time to serve at a Christmas feast. It can be drank with just ice, included in a cocktail mixture {I would love some suggestions, on this one} or used as a rather impressive pudding ingredient. After straining the brandy an added bonus are the beautifully preserved blackberries, which are perfect to be used in a Christmas pudding mixture or simply served over pancakes with a dollop of yogurt, as a very grown up breakfast treat.

Blackberry Brandy

250g blackberries
125g caster sugar
400mls brandy

1. Sterilise a medium sized kilner jar or a large, wide-necked jar.
2. Very carefully wash the blackberries, then dry them using a paper towel.
3.Place the blackberries in the jar and top with the sugar. Pour over most of the brandy. 
4. Close the lid and gently shake the jar, helping the sugar to dissolve and topping up with the brandy as it sinks into the berries.
5. Place the jar in a cool, dark place and take it out daily, for the first 2 weeks, to give it a little shake. After this, just give it a shake once a week for 6 weeks. The blackberry brandy can then be left at the back of a dark press for another few weeks.
6. When ready to use, strain the brandy, using a muslin-lined sieve, into another sterilised bottle or jar and reserve the berries, which can be used as part of a dessert or popped into a glass as a tasty addition to a blackberry based cocktail. The strained blackberry brandy can be kept in a cool, dark place for at least a year.

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