Saturday, June 30, 2012

Traditional porridge...

"Oats are generally considered "healthful", or a health food, being touted commercially as nutritious. The discovery of the healthy cholesterol-lowering properties has led to wider appreciation of oats as human food. (..) Oat bran is the outer casing of the oat. Its consumption is believed to lower LDL ("bad") cholesterol, and possibly to reduce the risk of heart disease. (...) Oat protein is nearly equivalent in quality to soy protein, which World Health Organization research has shown is equal to meat, milk, and egg protein. The most recent research indicates that some cultivars of oat can be a safe part of a gluten-free diet, because different varieties of oat have different levels of toxicity." - by

OK, so everone knows that oats (and porridge) is good for us, but not everyone eats or even likes porridge. Usually it reminds us about really bad food in hospitals etc. but it doesn't have to be that way! One thing I've found out is that you need to prepare your porridge on milk rather than water and you might actually like it that way :) Lil baby J (she's just over 2 years old now) eats porridge every morning for breakfast (and I realy mean every! morning). We've noticed that it keeps her full for longer, she's not so 'pekish' before lunch anymore and it helped her tummy and digestive system  working better as well. What I do for her is to blend the oats so they're smaller and the prorridge has smoother consistency, we also make her porridge sweet by using either honey or putting a spoon of strawberry jam in.

How to make it...

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Summer Italian salad - Panzanella... and mussels on the side...

We went to the Glenbeigh farmers market last Friday, for the very first time. It was a great day out, as the sun was shining and we were able to go to the beach as well. Both girls love that kind of family trips, as we do too. At the market we decided to treat ourselves a little and bought ready made, stuffed mussels from the local stall at Glenbeigh Shellfish. They were delicious! We usually buy 'raw' producty, so I clean and cook the mussels myself, but this time I didn't feel like doing all that work. Mussels were already prepered - with bread, butter, garlic and herb filling on top of them. Just pop them under the grill for 15 minutes and they are ready. I can't describe how good they were!!! Declicious and without any work at all! Just sit and enjoy :) I was wondering what would go well with those mussels and immediately remembered a salad that Hugh (River Cottage) made in one of his programs. Light, summery, tomatoey salad. Perfect with seafood. So the recipe below is by Hugh and the mussels are from Glenbeigh Shellfish.

How to make it...

Monday, June 25, 2012

Brown Soda Bread by Darina Allen...

I've made soda bread before using a different recipe so I tried this one instead - as it has slightly different proportions. This actually turned out better than the other one and I've already made brown soda bread 3 times using the recipe below - each time a perfect result! I like soda bread - it's emergency bread at our home - when we don't have a time to make a sourdough bread or yeast bread. This one takes literally minutes to make and not too long for baking either.
The recipe comes from a great book Darina Allen 'Ballymaloe cookery Course'. She uses twice the amount of ingredients for one big loaf, but I halved it to suit my family needs.

How to make it...

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Fried fish in buttery, creamy lemon & thyme sauce...

There's a huge advantage of living close to the sea - well, there's more than one but it's a blog about food so this one matters here ;) - access to fresh seafood! This recipe is for fresh fish really, as this won't work so well with the frozen one. Always - the fresher the fish the better. This dish was completely my Hubby's invention. He wanted a fish for some time now  - we usually eat it at least once a week, but past 3 weeks somewhat went without seafood... don't know why really... Back to the recipe itself - it's easy, pretty quick, the only time you have to put some 'elbow grease' in is when making the sauce, constant stirring so it won't burn and won't be gloppy like custard ;)

P.S. We normally don't eat such 'decadent' sauces... and I have to honestly warn you - this calls for a heart attack! or high cholesterol at least... but once in a while... won't hurt! ;)

How to make it...

Monday, June 18, 2012

Lily's Tea Shop new pyramid teas...

In general I'm a coffee person but...when I drink tea it has to be a good one and it's kind of a treat for me. I was so happy when I received a little parcel with some rather unusual teas. Couldn't wait to try them so I've put the kettle on straight away... it was a good cuppa :)
At the end of the day everything is a matter of taste... so to be more objective (if that's even possible...) I've asked my Hubby to try those teas with me. So you'll be getting a woman's and man's point of view :)

The teas arrived in very nice box, all individually air packed (I presume to keep the aromas and flavour fresh for longer). The pyramids are quite big - which is an advantage, as the tea has 'room' to infuse better. All teas had clear colour and beautiful aroma, which filled my kitchen straight away...

"Lily Chen is originally from the Fujian province where she was reared on quality leaf tea. Over the years she has developed a strong passion for quality tea served in the most natural way. Lily is now settled in Termonfeckin, Co. Louth with Dominick and their two children.
Thanks to the accessibility to the best tea farms in China, Lily's Tea Shop only selects the finest tea leaves for her customers. We encourage the use of whole leaves from which you can enjoy each different unique taste and keep the whole nutritional benefit. Also by drinking leaf tea, you help to promote a healthier, more natural and eco-friendly life experience.
Lily's tea shop also provides a wide range of tea accessories, which enable you to savour the best quality tea leaves in an easy and convenient way."

Tropical Green - Green tea with lemongrass
box of 15 tea bags €5.95

"Top-grade whole-leaf green tea and lemongrass in a see-through Pyramid Gourment bag. Delicious and cleansing. Naturally high in anti-oxidants. Detoxifying and aids digestion." - Lily

Anula: refreshing, every day tea, not bitter at all! (I find most of green teas very bitter...), delicate, little lemony taste, very nice

Hubby: delicate, hint of green tea, dominant but very nice and refreshing taste of lemongrass, could be great as ice tea

Cloud Nine White - White tea with lemon and ginger
box of 15 tea bags €5.95

"Premium whole-leaf White Tea, Ginger root and Lemon Peel in a see-through Pyramid gourmet bag. It smells and tastes so gorgeous! Naturally high in anti-oxidants and detoxifying." - Lily

Anula: this was my least favourite but it was nice too, I'm afraid that a lemon and ginger taste was a little bit too strong for my taste, if you like stronger flavours this tea is for you

Hubby: very gentle flavours, ginger a little bit too dominant but all in all a very good and light tea

CinnaMint - peppermint with cinnamon
box of 15 tea bags €5.95

"Top-grade whole-leaf peppermint leaves and Cinnamon bark in a see-through Pyramid gourmet bag. Cinnamon bark adds naturally sweet taste to the striking peppermint. Sumptuous and refreshing. Detoxifying and aids digestion." - Lily

Anula: I just love peppermint and this one was no exception! there's only a hint of cinnamon (which I happen to love too), great tea after a bigger dinner :) beautiful aroma!

Hubby: too much cinnamon, but good combination of flavours.

In general - if you're looking for a nice, good quality tea look no further! You can really taste the difference between a bad, cheap tea and a good quality one - trust me on this! Like with the green tea - all the green teas I've tried in the last few years were too bitter for me, but not the Tropical Green one! The Tropical Green is a definite favourite of mine and my hubby's too! :) It's on my shopping list :) Lily's teas are very good, nice aromas, nicely balanced flavours. OK, they are a little bit more expensive than your supermarket ones, but... you know what you're paying for!
If you're still concerned about the price Lily's teas would be a great idea for a present or a treat from time to time for yourself - just like in my situation :)
I also found out that I can finally buy some of those blooming teas at Lily's too! Yupi!

For a great selection of good quality teas go here

*I received a free sample of the teas to review from the Lily's Tea Shop. All thoughts and opinions stated in this post are 100% mine.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Nutella cupcakes & Peanut butter cupcakes...

There are lot of recipes for Nutella cupcakes on the Internet. I had a look at few of them and my thinking resulted in the below recipe. The cupcakes are very light, fluffy and crumbly. During making those little beauties I approached a small difficulty - I've already made the batter and noticed that I had only a little bit of the Nutella left, so... had to think of some other topping, and think quick. There's a peanut butter jar next to my Nutella one in the cupboard, always ;) so I thought 'why not?' It was a good idea, a very good one. Both versions are fantastic! I can't really decide which one I prefer!
Besides me getting right a very nice recipe, this baking time was made even more special... my 2 year old (2 years since last week! how the time fly...) helped me! She was mixing the batter, counting the eggs ;) licking the Nutella jar... it was great! I can tell you already that she will be baking/cooking herself one day... It was "Mummy and J time", a good quality time together... I'm so looking forward to many more baking/cooking opportunities with my Baby J... and in the future with Baby E too, she's only 5 months old at the moment so I have a little bit of waiting there...

How to make it...

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Daring Cooks #21 Cannelloni with spinach and ricotta filling - Cannelloni di magro...

Manu from Manu’s Menu was our Daring Cooks lovely June hostess and has challenged us to make traditional Italian cannelloni from scratch! We were taught how to make the pasta, filling, and sauces shared with us from her own and her family’s treasured recipes!

I was so happy when I found out what was this month's challenge. I like cannelloni a lot, but never tried to make a spinach & ricotta filling. The result was fantastic! Delicious! My grill isn't in use at the moment that's why my dish may lack in colour a little bit ;) I ate definitely too much... even lil baby J ate one whole cannelloni! And that's a lot for her. Anyway! This is definitely a keeper - although maybe for big occasions as there's a lot of work involved... We divided a workload here at Casa di Anula - I made the sauce and filling (making even FRESH home made ricotta!) and Hubby made pasta.

How to make it...

Monday, June 11, 2012

Sweet Moroccan style chicken with couscous...

As you know chicken is one of the cheapest meats that is there at the moment. So why not take an advantage of it and cook it more often. We were bored with traditional roast or an Indian dishes which we cooked a lot recently. While browsing through one of many of our cookbooks my Hubby found an amazing recipe! Something Moroccan... I have to warn you - it's quite sweet and fragrant dish so it might not be for everyone. But please DO try it if the list of ingredients appeals to you - it certainly did to my Hubby ;)
At the end of the day we came to the conclusion that if you like you can end up with two dishes. The chicken with sauce would be perfect with plain boiled rice, as the sauce carries a lot of flavour. The couscous would perfectly compliment for example a lamb tagine or lamb/chicken skewers.
The recipe comes from a great book 'The chicken' by Simona Hill.

How to make it...

Saturday, June 09, 2012

How to joint a raw chicken...

We always buy a whole chicken, never only breasts or legs. It's often more expensive to buy two ready-prepared chicken breasts than a whole chicken. From a whole chicken you'll get two breasts, two thighs, two drumsticks, plus a carcass and wings for making simple stock.

My HUGE and best advice I can give you is to buy a free range whenever possible (organic would be ideal, but let be honest not everyone can afford such a luxury... I know I can't...). You will really notice a difference between farmed chicken and a free range one. The smell, the colour of the meat and taste - you won't regret buying a free range bird! Most of the supermarkets now offer a free range chickens for a reasonable price - look for a good looking bird with big, plump breasts (always a good sign ;) ) and whole, unbroken legs are always a good indication of a nice chicken.

Once you have your whole bird at home you have to joint it - well I guess you can always roast a whole chicken, but how many times can you eat it before you get bored and want something different... ;) Jointing is nothing to be afraid of. First of all, if you're buying a chicken from a butcher, you can ask him to joint it for you, but if you bought one in the local shop/supermarket you need to do it yourself at home. The main requirement is a really sharp knife and some really basic knife skills. So lets start:

How to do it...

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

My family's favourite spaghetti...

I just KNOW that each and every family that cooks at home has their own, unique recipe for their family's favourite spaghetti - and probably sometimes it has nothing in common with Italian, traditional version. So I also have a recipe which I cook over and over again and every time it's just perfect - the way we like it here at Casa di Anula ;) It's quite meaty, but has more vegs than only tomatoes. So if you're looking for a little bit of inspiration for your own spaghetti, or just want to try my version, here it is:

How to make it:

Friday, June 01, 2012

Apple & pear cinnamon muffins...

The other day I wanted something sweet - and I wanted it NOW! Unfortunately there was a case of not many 'baking' ingredients at home so I had to do with what I had at the time. Only(!) 1 apple, 1 pear, 3 eggs, but lots of flour (different types) and oil (not even a butter in the fridge..). So thinking about right proportions between liquid and the dry ingredients and the fact I wanted something quick in the making and baking ;) muffins were the obvious choice... The result -> deliciousness! Between me, Hubby and lil Baby J they disappeared in not even 2 whole days... and that's the best recommendation I can give you for those! Hope you'll try and make them!
If you don't like cinnamon you can easily omit it here, but it goes really well with the apple and pear. you can use different fruits though - maybe a banana...?

How to make it...