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.

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

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.


Ingredients
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


Method

  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.
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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.

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

Venue:
Home Economics Room, Moate Community School

Price:
€ 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 NessasFamilyKitchen@gmail.com

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?! 


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

Ingredients
250g blackberries
125g caster sugar
400mls brandy

Method
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.


blog awards ireland

It's with great delight that I can proudly announce I'm a finalist in two categories of this year's blog awards. I'm truly honored, as the standard of my fellow finalists is simply staggering. If you would like to familiarise yourself with a few new blogs, take a read through some of the blogs of the listed finalists, and be prepared to be impressed. I would just like to take this opportunity to thank you, the readers of my blog, the judges, who kindly voted me in as a finalist, and the organisers, who work tirelessly each year to make these awards happen. The awards ceremony takes place on the 4th of October, in the Westgrove Hotel and tickets for the event are available to buy over here. It's sure to be a great night out.

It never ceases to amaze me that when one fruit goes out of season, in our garden, another can take its place. I had but a few days of yearning for fresh berries, when I spied the first of our blueberry crop, already ripened by the summer sun. For the past number of years we've successfully grown blueberries in pots filled with soil, acidic compost and the odd shovelful of rich compost, from our compost container. The blueberries are deliciously juicy, and even seem to thrive without the benefit of a sunny summer. Rather surprisingly, they are the only fruit in the garden that the blackbird isn't drawn to, leaving all the more for us to enjoy.


One of our old, large pots that we filled with soil and acidic compost before planting the blueberry plants.

This little lady is a big fan of blueberries, and loves them best when she has picked them herself for her morning cereal. 
I was recently sent a few punnets of blueberries from a relatively local grower in Ballyteague, Co. Kildare, called Kildare Blueberries. Here they have a farm shop selling their berries, but visitors can also pick their own, if they’d prefer to have a hands-on fruit picking experience. Like my own blueberries, these were remarkably bigger and juicier than many of the foreign, shop bought varieties. We mostly munched on these berries as they were, but with one punnet, in a matter of minutes, I made a tasty compote, which served nicely on that morning’s pancakes. This flavoursome compote also made a perfect accompaniment to a few afternoon scones. When blueberries are at the height of their season, now is the time to buy a few punnets of them, pop them into the freezer and enjoy them winter long in smoothies, jams and delicious compotes, such as the one in the recipe below, (just increase the cooking time by 5 minutes when the berries are frozen).


Blueberry Compote

Ingredients
250g blueberries
zest of 1 orange
2 tbsp soft brown sugar
2 tbsp water

Method
1.      Place 225g of the blueberries into a medium sized saucepan, along with the orange zest, sugar and water.
2.      Place over a low heat and allow to simmer for 10 minutes, stirring regularly. After this time stir through the remaining 25g of blueberries, and let the saucepan remain on the heat for a further minute, and continue to stir well.
3.      Allow to cool slightly and serve with pancakes and a dollop of yogurt. Otherwise allow to cool completely and keep in the fridge for up to three days. 
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In Other News
I'm thrilled to announce that my blog has been shortlisted for three categories in this year's Irish Blog
Awards. Thank you so much to anyone who nominated me and to the judges who shortlisted this blog.
Also a big congratulations to all my fellow nominees. Best of luck. xx
* Móna Wise has written a great blog post all about blogging, and the opportunity of
gaining employment as a result. I was delighted to contribute to this. Have a read here - http://www.wisewords.ie/index.php/2014/08/blog-awards/

We're not long back from a week of holidaying in East Cork, and even though we have taken many a holiday there it's somewhere that we tend to return to again and again. There really is no place more beautiful than Ireland, once the sun makes a bit of an appearance, and we were ever so fortunate with the weather. The temperatures were just perfect for basking by the beach, as we kept an eye on the children, as they tried to outdo each other with their castle creations. For each of these beach visits much fuel was needed to optimise our energy levels. Rather conveniently, the ever impressive Midleton market made light work of filling the picnic hampers. It must be the best Farmer's market in the country, with each and every stall holder a true artisan. I even managed to have a cuppa with my blogging buddy, Lilly Higgins, who's lucky enough to have this beautiful market as her local shopping ground each Saturday morning. 



In between beach visits and market shopping I managed to take in a visit to the Ballymaloe Cookery School. My eldest boy, Jack, and I spent the afternoon at the most enjoyable cookery demonstration, guided by Rory O'Connell, who founded the school in 1985, along with his sister, Darina. The food he demonstrated was eloquent, but most of the ingredients were simply sourced from the school's impressive gardens and glasshouses. One such dish was a tomato water served with ripe peaches; perfect as a canapé or as a starter for a dinner party. The flavours reminded me of my Tomato & Feta Salad, which I tend to make lots of while Irish tomatoes are at their ripest. So, the day after our demo Jack and I put together a big bowl of this salad, and generously packed it into an Arbutus ciabatta, which we had picked up at the market. With flavours true to summer, this was the perfect picnic sandwich for that day's outing.




Tomato, Basil & Feta Ciabatta

Ingredients
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 clove garlic, crushed
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
4 tomatoes, thinly sliced
Bunch of basil leaves, roughly torn 
100g feta, crumbled
1 large Ciabatta

Method
1. First make the dressing by combining the balsamic vinegar and the olive oil. Add the garlic and season with a little sea salt and pepper.
2. To a large bowl, add the tomatoes, basil and feta. Drizzle over the dressing and combine well.
3. Cut the Ciabatta in half and stuff with the tomato and feta mixture. Wrap tightly with tin foil and refrigerate until ready to go on your picnic. 




While in East Cork, we also spent a day at Fota Wildlife Park and paid a visit, and of course a kiss, to the Blarney Stone. This year's holiday was extra special as the children had the company of all of their O'Donovan cousins. I know for sure that the fun memories they made together will last a lifetime.


In my house the meal times tend to be a little more irregular during the summer holidays. The structured routine during the school term allows for set dining times and, in turn, I find myself having a pot of stew, curry or soup always ready for the return of the school goers. As much as I love the continuity of the school day routine, I’m always ready to embrace the more relaxed mealtimes once July is upon us. Naturally I still like to serve dishes that are nutritious, as well as tasty, but time is generally the essence, so my summertime meals are ones that can be rustled up in a hurry. Like in many households, our old reliable barbecue is ever ready at the back door, throughout the summer months. Even though I still find myself predominantly cooking at my stove, that barbeque vibe of handheld meals is still prominent for my summer months. Burgers, fajitas and hot dogs, of sort, all work wonderfully well when you're trying to make the most of our Irish summer sun.


Chicken Fajitas with Caramelised Red Onion & Peppers

Summer or winter alike, fajitas are one of my all time favourite fast, family dishes. To enhance the flavour of the chicken I generally like to leave it marinating for a few hours, however if you're pushed for time you can cook the coated chicken straight away. Fried onions and peppers are a must for my fajitas, but simply adding a little balsamic vinegar and brown sugar, towards the end of cooking, transforms them into something very special.

Ingredients
½ lemon, juiced
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
A few twists of black pepper
1 tbsp olive oil
4 chicken fillets, sliced into strips

Caramelised Red Onion & Peppers 
1 tbsp olive oil
1 red onion, cut into slices
1 red pepper, cut into thin strips
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp soft brown sugar

Harissa Spiced Sour Cream Topping
150g sour cream
1 tsp harissa
Sprinkle of smoked paprika

To Serve
4 large flour tortillas
Lettuce
Grated cheese

Method

  1. Combine the lemon juice, smoked paprika, ground coriander, ground cumin, black pepper and olive oil in a large bowl. Add the chicken strips and combine well, making sure that all the chicken is coated. Cover and place in the fridge to marinade for at least 4 hours.
  2. Place a large pan or wok over a medium heat. Add a tablespoon of olive oil. When hot add the onion and pepper and stir fry, until they are cooked through. Add the vinegar and brown sugar. Stir well and continue to cook for 2 minutes. Over a very low heat keep warm, until the chicken is ready to be served.
  3. Heat a large griddle pan. Dry fry the flour tortillas, one at a time, for a minute on each side. Remove to a warmed plate.
  4. Next, add the chicken strips and stirring regularly, fry the chicken until cooked through and nicely charred.
  5. To make the topping combine the sour cream together with the harissa and then sprinkle over a little smoked paprika.
  6. To serve, add some chicken, caramelised onions and peppers to each tortilla, along with some lettuce and a little grated cheese. Top with a dollop of the harissa spiced sour cream.


I feel very privileged to be building a career out of something that I gain so much pleasure from. I love all the different elements to writing my columns; the recipe development, the styling, the photography and the personal introductions. I have a weekly column with the Westmeath Independent, a bi-monthly column with Easy Parenting magazine, and I'm ever so proud to announce that I now have a new column, starting this week, in The Farmer's Journal, Irish Country Living. Coming from a farming background, The Farmer's Journal was the best read paper in our house each week. Both of my parents were such loyal readers, and as I grew older I too became a fan of this ever informative publication. On the back of a chapter from Apron Strings, which was titled 'Home Nurse', I was asked by Mairead Lavery, the editor of Irish Country Living, to write a four part series last winter. I received lots of lovely positive feedback from these features so, earlier this year, when I was asked to write a regular 'Home Nurse' column I jumped at the opportunity.
I trained as a nurse, and completed my degree at Trinity College Dublin, before working in many varied areas of nursing. My nursing background has certainly aided me in writing these columns, but I'm very much writing them from a carer's perspective, basing them on my experience as a 'home nurse', in a home setting. For many years I cared for my Dad, who was convalescing from different complaints, and previous to this my dear Mother, who was living with Multiple Myeloma. Without even having a family member seriously unwell, at some point we all take on the role of the home nurse. As a mother, the role of the home nurse can frequently be called upon, from sniffles and fevers, to eczema and grazes. Through this column, I want to share with you all that I've learnt through the years. The recipes that I've developed may be nutrient-specific to someone, for example, nursing a fracture, however within a busy family home it's fundamental that the dishes are pleasing to the entire family. As I learnt, it is a huge worry when a loved one is sick, and you certainly don't need the hassle of cooking two or three different meals. I have many different topics planned for my upcoming columns and I'm very much looking forward to sharing them with the readers of Irish Country Living. They also have an on-line subscription option, so you don't have to feel left-out, if you're not residing in Ireland.



Over the past couple of weeks, we have been treated to a number of intermittent days of heat and sunshine. The heat of the mid-day sun always has the ability to trick me into thinking that this warmth will last the evening long. However, as soon as I decide to leave the house, without the winter jackets in tow, a blistering cool breeze seems to blow and I find myself, yet again, complaining of the cold. I've two young men who keep me active will all things GAA-related, so this scenario is normally at the side of a football pitch. Therefore, after a busy weekend of cheering from the sideline, it was no surprise I found myself with a touch of a cold this week. 





As a child, my mother’s first line of action, for any sort of snuffles, was freshly squeezed oranges & lemons. To this day, I maintain the same approach to everyday colds. I use quite a few lemons in my cooking and baking, so I normally have a couple in my fruit basket. To some freshly squeezed lemon I add a bunch of whatever herbs I can get my hands on, and this concoction normally eases the symptoms of a croaky cold. If there is an advantage to a summer snuffle, it’s that my lovely herb garden is in full season, so I'm spoilt for choice as to what herbs to include in this nutritious drink. Mint or lemon balm pair very nicely with the lemon; however if I'm hoping for a little anti-inflammatory action I normally add a few sprigs of fresh thyme. If I have some to hand, fresh ginger is a great addition to this cold-busting drink. The feeling of nausea can also accompany the symptoms of a cold, and sometimes a little fresh ginger can be enough to ease this.  This tonic won’t cure a cold, but it will ease the symptoms. I plan on arming myself with a little flask of this tea, the next time my cheer-leading qualities are needed at an under 10’s match.



Lemon & Thyme Tea

Ingredients
½ lemon, juiced
2 sprigs of thyme
1 inch knob of ginger
250ml of recently boiled water
1tsp honey

Method
  1. Using a bowl, flask or teapot, add the lemon juice, sprigs of thyme and ginger. Cover with the 250ml of recently boiled water.
  2. Pop a saucer on top and leave to infuse for 10 minutes. Then, pass through a sieve and stir in a teaspoon of honey. Enjoy straight away.

These days, this little lady hasn't had as much time to help me out in the garden. She has three new kittens that she's taking great care of non-stop. We have a good few kitties, at this stage, so she has agreed that two of them can take up residence with a very nice new family. I know that there will be tears when that day comes. However, we're planning to extend our outdoor family, here at Killachonna, over the next few months, so this animal-loving lady will be kept very busy. 
Have a lovely weekend. Nessa x 


A number of years ago, when I immersed myself into the world of food blogging little did I realise what a wonderful and significant step this was going to be for me. My love for photographing and writing about food naturally deepened, but what has come as the greatest surprise to me are the friends I have made, as a result of my musing on the computer. This coming weekend I'll have the opportunity to catch-up with many of my blogging buddies, as The Kerrygold Ballymloe Lit Fest of Food & Wine is kicking off on Friday. It has to be the most anticipated food event of the year, and I'm proud to say that I'm parttaking in two seperate panel discussions. If you would like to book a spot, head over to the Litfest website. It's sure to be a truly memorable weekend. If you can't make it to Cork, but would like to keep up with some Litfest related news, I'll be tweeting all about it at @Nessa_Robins or follow the hashtag #litfestie.


One of my blogging friends, that I'm looking forward to having a good chat with this weekend, is Kristin Jensen. Kristin is the wonderful writer of the blog ‘Edible Ireland’. She is based in Louth but originally hails from America. Kristin and I have become great friends, through our mutual love of food, but we also have children of a similar age, which makes for the organisation of perfect play dates, while we catch-up. On one such occasion Kristin gifted me with a lemon blueberry buckle. A buckle is a traditional American dessert which has a thick crust, is filled with fruit, and finished with a crumble topping. With so many delicious elements it’s a truly splendid dessert. My recipe I'm sharing with you today, even though it’s really just a simple crumble, resembles many elements of Kristin’s Buckle. For that zingy lemon undertone I’ve added some lemon zest to both the rhubarb and the crumble. To exaggerate the lemon flavour even more, I’ve included a few sprigs of lemon thyme to the rhubarb while it stews. The lemon thyme grows in abundance in my garden, but if you can’t get your hands on any, simply add a little extra lemon zest. One marvellous tip I received from Kristin was to part-freeze the crumble topping, which ultimately leads to a crunchier crumble top. So now whenever I make a crumble, of any variety, I pop the topping into the freezer, while I prepare the filling, and I’m always reminded of the value of friendships, old and new.



Lemon Rhubarb Crumble

Ingredients
Crumble
150g butter
250g plain flour
150g caster sugar
zest of 1 lemon

Filling
600g rhubarb, sliced into bite size pieces
100g caster sugar
zest of 1 lemon
4 sprigs of lemon thyme
2 tbsp water


Method

1. Preheat the oven to 200°C/fan 180°C/Gas 6.
2. To prepare the crumble, place the flour in a bowl and rub in the butter until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Stir in the sugar and the lemon zest, and combine. Place the crumble mixture into the freezer until you have the rhubarb stewed.
3. Place the rhubarb, sugar, lemon zest, lemon thyme and water into a medium sized saucepan. Bring to the boil, and then turn down the heat, cover and allow to simmer for  two minutes, until the rhubarb has slightly softened.
4. Scoop out the sprigs of lemon thyme. Spoon the stewed rhubarb into a large ovenproof dish. Sprinkle over the chilled crumble mixture and place the dish on a baking tray. Bake in the pre-heated oven for about 35-40 minutes, until the crumble topping is golden brown and the rhubarb is bubbling around the edges. Serve with freshly whipped cream or custard.



Mother’s Day is one of those occasions that I find most difficult to face since my mother passed away. Even though I am a mother myself, and my little people always spoil me something rotten on this day, I can’t but feel desperately lonely. Mother’s Day always makes me reflect on the past and in turn I yearn for my mother’s busy kitchen, packed to the brim with chat, delicious food and love. My mother was one my greatest inspirations in life, and in so many ways I still aspire to make her proud. For those who are lucky enough cherish the time you spend with your Mother this Mother’s Day. And for those immersed in grief, even if like me you are a few years on, let’s take this day as an opportunity to give thanks for the women who helped to mould us into the people we've become.






Meringues Sandwiched with Lemon Curd & Cream

My mother had a real soft spot for meringues. Whether celebrating or commiserating, meringues seemed to always be a suitable treat. They are so simple to make and I'd happily crunch on them without any topping, however when paired with softly whipped cream and tart lemon curd they really turn into something special. For me, these are the perfect treat to make for Mother’s Day.

Ingredients
3 large egg whites
150g caster sugar

To assemble
150mls cream, whipped
100g lemon curd

Method
1.    Preheat the oven to 140°C/ fan 120°C/ gas mark 1. Line two baking trays with parchment paper.
2.   Place the egg whites into a clean, stainless steel mixing bowl. Using an electric whisk, on a high speed, beat them until they become thick and fluffy.
3.   Continue to whisk the egg whites and very gradually add the sugar. Continue to beat for at least 5 minutes, or until the mixture can form stiff peaks.
4.      Using a dessert spoon scoop a spoonful of mixture and scrape it off with another spoon onto the lined baking trays. This amount of mixture should make 12 meringues.
5.      Place in the preheated oven for 1 hour. After which time turn off the oven and open its door and allow the meringues to cool.
6.      When completely cooled sandwich two meringues together with a spoonful of lemon curd and some freshly whipped cream.