Monthly Archives: December 2011

It’s beginning to look a lot like…cookies!

As the temperature dips and the days grow short, I definitely feel nesting urges. I swap afternoon trips to the park with my son for sticking a stew  in the oven, popping a Christmas movie into the DVD player, and sitting on the couch for a cuddle and a cuppa. It is always hard to have a cup of tea without a biscuit, but in December, it’s hard not to have three or four, as there is always an endless variety in my house – not to mention the mince pies! I’m an absolute sucker for a new Christmas cookie recipe, so when the Irish Food Bloggers Association presented the opportunity for a recipe exchange between members, I jumped at the chance.

My recipe came from Magda, who blogs here about all sorts of goodies. She sent me a recipe for Cranberry Noel cookies, which she first discovered here, and she thinks are loosely based on a Martha Stewart recipe. I made them for the first time this afternoon and they tick a LOT of boxes for me. To begin with, I was able to make them while my son and his friend were having a play date in the next room (for those without toddlers, this means I was able to make them in about 7 minutes using only half of my brain, as the other half was tuned in to the conversation about dragons taking place in the sitting room). It’s an icebox cookie, so it’s easy to make up a few logs, stick them in the freezer, and bake on demand, earning you serious hostess points if someone drops in for tea and sympathy. The red & green in the dough is also very pretty and gives them a seasonal feel. The texture & flavour combinations are fantastic as well – a not- too-sweet, crumbly biscuit with mellow, crunchy nut and chewy, tart cranberry…excellent. I highly recommend giving them a go. Thanks, Magda!

Cranberry Noel Cookies, ready to bake

 Cranberry Noel Cookies

75 g unsalted butter
75 g icing sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla sugar
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon milk
250 g plain flour
30 g chopped pistachios
40 g chopped dry cranberries

Coating (I skipped it)
1 egg white (lightly beaten)
50 g finely chopped pistachios

Beat the butter with a mixer until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
Add icing sugar, vanilla sugar, salt and milk.
Mix until just combined.
Gradually add flour, pistachios, and cranberries.
Mix on low speed until fully combined.
Divide dough in a half.
Shape each half into 8-inch logs, about 2 inches in diameter.*
If you are putting coating. Lightly brush the logs with an egg white
and roll them in the chopped pistachios.
Wrap logs in cling film and put into a freezer for 20-30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 200C/180C fan.
Line a couple baking sheets with unbleached parchment paper or a silicon mat.
Using a sharp knife, cut logs into 1/4-inch thick slices.
Transfer them into prepared baking sheets.
Bake until edges are golden, about 10-12 minutes. (Be careful, they burn quite easily)
Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

*At this stage, the dough was very crumbly and I was convinced that I had weighed the flour incorrectly; I hadn’t – the dough just needed a lot of shaping!



Filed under Uncategorized

All I Want for Christmas

It’s that time of year again when I start casually leaving dog-eared magazines & catalogues around the house, ‘accidentally’  leave the browser open with certain items on display, or (I’ll be honest here…) blatantly take my husband by the arm, drag him into a shop and point to things I like. The vast majority of my hinting points towards food-related items, be they cookbooks, cook’s tools, or luxury food items.  If you’re looking to drop a few hints yourself, or there’s a foodie in your life that leaves you scratching your head, here are a few items that are tickling me this year…

Image: Stuart Miles /


For yummy recipes, quaint design, and the feel-good factor, you can’t beat The Mixing Bowl, a fundraising initiative from Our Lady’s Hospice and Care Services. The book includes a wide variety of treasures ranging from Foccacia Soda Bread to Oxford Lunch Cake to Marilyn Monroe Chicken. All of the book’s recipes come from residents and clients of the hospice service, and all proceeds go to support their work – brilliant.

A must for any household that requires dinner-on-demand is Rachel Allen’s Easy Meals.  I am completely in love with this book & its TV tie-in at the moment. A selection of recipes from the book can be found here (I highly recommend the scrumptious tarka dahl – it blew my mind), but I recommend picking up the whole book. It’s chock full of store cupboard suggestions, fantastic baking ideas (OMG, the chocolate mousse cake…) and general tips for getting a proper dinner on the table in minutes. I suspect that I will be using this book a lot. In fact, I’m planning to try the huevos rancheros in about an hour…

On the complete opposite end of the spectrum is a book on the top of my Lust List is The Family Meal: Home Cooking with Ferran Adria Adria is the mad genius behind El Bulli. This gorgeous cookbook is a glimpse into one of the finest culinary minds of recent times, but contains achievable recipes. I also just love Phaidon cookbooks.

If baking is your thing, Phaidon have also outdone themselves with Ginette Mathiot’s The Art of French Baking. I got it for my birthday, and it is just a lovely thing to have, even if you are not ambitious enough to make anything in it! (I have drooled on it a lot, but not actually cooked anything from it…yet!)

Magazine subscriptions are also great for year-round giving. Food & Wine is a lovely Irish publication full of recipes, reviews, and tips.

Stocking Stuffers/Christkindl/Secret Santa

A few low budget ideas:

– Irish Atlantic Sea Salt

– This is perfect for those who like to add flare to their dinner parties

– Just about anything from this shop

-every kitchen should have a Microplane. Or two. Or twelve.

Cooking Fun

– A voucher for a local cooking school is a great gift. Look for a place with lunchtime options, like Cook’s Academy or Donnybrook Fair, or if it’s someone special, you could always plan a weekend away at somewhere like The Tannery or Dunbrody House.

– A trip to Kildare Village could net you some great Le Creuset Goodies. All of the products there are factory seconds, but are generally in great shape and significantly marked down from the average retail cost. There’s not a cook in the land who wouldn’t love a new enamel French oven or stoneware gratin dish.

Going for Broke

If you or someone you know has been VERY good this year (or you won the  lotto last night) these are my particular objects of desire at the moment…

– this beautiful stand mixer

– a complete collection of these

– book a trip to Denmark and try to get on the waiting list for dinner at Noma

When Visiting

By the time December 25th rolls around, I don’t want to see another bottle of wine or mince pie coming in my door. They both have their time and place, but they seem to pile up at an alarming rate during the month of December. This year, think outside the box for your host’s gift…I recently received a huge hunk of Comte Reserve from dinner guests and it was the gift that kept on giving (in fact, some of still lives on my hips…) Head to your local cheesemonger for a few wedges of something special and toss ’em into a red gift bag some some oatcakes or a crusty baguette. If you’re feeling boozy, when not try a craft beer? There are a few Irish microbreweries on my radar right now that are producing lovely stuff, like Dungarvan Brewing Company and Eight Degrees Brewing Company. But wherever you live, a guarantee that someone is brewing something lovely within an hour’s drive of your house. Find a stockist and share the goodness.

I’ll be writing about some DIY options next week, but hopefully the suggestions above might help you with your shopping this week!

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized