I’m Back #mayolife

It’s been 10 months since my last post and an awful lot has happened….

A year ago, I rocked up to the beautiful Ariel House in Dublin with a close friend, to hear two woman speak. What none of us knew at the time, is that Nicola, ‘the naked blondie’ and Fiona‘s evening of honest talk and delicious food would spark something inside me. Nicola spoke of losing over 8 stone and has since gone on to set up the The Naked Meat Company, she’s such an inspiration. Fiona is a food blogger who I’d been following for a while, she’d launched the amazing children’s book series Freddy Buttons, after nearly loosing everything following the recession. I found myself telling a room full of strangers that I was working myself into the ground, doing far too many hours and commuting for far too long every day. That night I realised that these were two normal woman were living their dreams. It was time to start living mine.


Within a couple of months I given up my job and had moved to the other side of the country! That sounds a lot easier than it actually was…

We’re never, ever, EVER, ever moving again. Dr Doolittle did most of of the packing; well he emptied cupboards into a boxes, and if there was the tiniest bit of space left , he’d fill it with something random. To add to the chaos,  he marked all the boxes ‘kitchen’. All of them!



It’s stunning, it’s beautiful, it’s peaceful, it’s heaven. We’re so lucky to be able to live in the middle of nowhere again. The Glen House was mind-blowing, but this house is uncomplicated. Perfect little rooms, simple windows, a front door that opens in two and thick, thick walls make up this small farm house. It’s like a mini version of River Cottage, the famous residence of the cook/writer Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall!The land has already proved fruitful, providing us with peas, beans, tomatoes and apples. The plan over the coming years is to expand our fruit and vegetable production to become a lot more self sufficient.

We live near the little village of Cong in County Mayo, made famous by the John Wayne/ Maureen O’Hara film ‘The Quiet Man’. People kept asking why we’d chosen this part of the country? Well the food is fantastic! Cong is becoming a destination for foodies, with wonderful eateries and the world’s best hotel!

The Hungry Monk is a small cafe in the village, that sells the famous ‘salad of lovely things’, as well as delicious homemade treats. I love the decor, painted, shabby chic furniture and textured walls! We popped in on our 2nd ever visit to Cong, earlier this year and fell in love with the place. Aisling and Johnathan have  remembered us ever since…


Pat Cohan’s Bar serves the best pub food in the world! Whether it’s the delicious lamb hotpot or Granny Newells trifle, it’s all tasty and fresh. I had the great pleasure of working in the gastro-pub for a couple of months when we moved, it taught me so much. I saw how difficult it is to run a small food business, even if it’s a successful one. I came to realise that just because I make damn good cake and have plenty of business and managerial experience, it doesn’t necessarily mean I’ll get to open a tea shop. The hard truth is, unless I find a fairy godmother with some serious cash to help me start the business and keep it going in the first year, it won’t succeed.


So here I am, with a new life laid out in front of me. I’ve no idea what will happen next (apart from marrying Dr Doolittle next year)!

Melissa xx


Advent Calendar Day 11: A lighter Christmas Cake


The countdown is on…. Two weeks until Christmas, three weeks until I land in Goa- what that actual all means is a little time off…. I can’t wait! It’s hard to believe that I only have one day off between now and Christmas. Ugh!

With the little time I have at the moment, I’ve realised just how useful my blog is! I’d completely forgotten about the next recipe until I was going through last years advent posts…. It’s just what I need to bring to Fiesta Friday ! I haven’t been to the virtual party for months, so hopefully this will make up for lost time. This week it’s hosted by Sadhna from herbs, spices and traditional and Natalie from kitchen, uncorked.

This recipe is for a lighter fruit cake, with less eggs, no raising agent and a smaller tin with all the same yummy ginger, spices and loads of fruit.

Ingredients :
zest and juice 1 orange
zest and juice 1 lemon
140g unsalted butter, softened
140g golden caster sugar
2 large eggs, beaten
175g plain flour
100g raisins
100g dried apricots, roughly chopped
100g cranberries
100g golden sultanas
100g brazil nuts, roughly chopped
50g crystalised ginger
150ml rum
1 tsp mixed spiced
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon


Soak all the dried fruit in the rum (or tea or apple juice) over night.

The next day add the brazil nuts and ginger.

Grease and double-line the base and sides of a deep, 15cm cake tin. Wrap a double layer of greaseproof or brown paper around the outside of the tin, too, then secure with string (with a pretty bow).

Heat oven to 160C

Cream the butter and sugar together until fluffy and light. Beat in the eggs gradually. In a small bowl mix the zest and juice of the orange and lemon.

Fold the flour and spices, then dried fruit, nuts and ginger into the creamed mix, followed by the juice and zest mix.

Spoon the mix into the prepared tin and bake for 30 mins, then turn oven down to 150C and bake for another 1 hr 45 mins until risen, golden and an inserted skewer comes out clean.

Leave to cool for 15 mins before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

The cake will keep well wrapped in a cool place for up to 1 month.


Melissa xx

Advent Calendar Day 8: Chilli Jam


Here’s another festive foodie gift, or a gift for yourself!


Chilli Jam

8 red pepper, roughly chopped
10 red chilli, roughly chopped
finger-sized piece fresh root ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
8 garlic cloves
400g can tomatoes
750g golden caster sugar
250ml red wine vinegar

Tip the peppers, chillies (with seeds), ginger and garlic into a food processor, then whizz until very finely chopped. Scrape into a heavy-bottomed pan with the tomatoes, sugar and vinegar, then bring everything to the boil.

Skim off any scum that comes to the surface, then turn the heat down to a simmer and cook for about 50 mins, stirring occasionally.

Once the jam is becoming sticky, continue cooking for 10-15 mins more, stirring frequently so that it doesn’t catch and burn.

Cool slightly, transfer to sterilised jars, then leave to cool completely. Keeps for 3 months in a cool, dark cupboard – refrigerate once opened.


Melissa xx

Advent Calendar Day 7: Shimmering Cupcakes


So I missed December 6th…. Having worked my day off and then driven half way across the country I was a little tired. Anyway, it’s Monday, it’s the 7th of December and it’s time for my favourite Christmas post from last year….


The shimmery cupcake recipe is a perfect one to do with children, it’s very simple to do. It uses my fail safe chocolate muffin recipe with shop bought icing.

Chocolate cupcake Ingredients:
100g butter
150g brown sugar
2 eggs
200g plain flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoon cocoa powder
180ml milk

1 can of Dr Oetker’s chocolate icing
1 can of Dr Oetker’s gold shimmer spray
1 can of Dr Oetker’s silver shimmer spray


Line a cupcake tin with foil cases. Preheat the oven to 190°/ gas mark 5 or turn your Rayburn off! Cream the butter and sugar, then add in the eggs. Sift in all the dry ingredients and then add the milk. Spoon the mixture into the cases.

Bake in the oven for 12-15 minutes, then leave to cool completely.

I used the cupcake icing to top each cake and left them to set.

I covered the table with newspaper and starting spraying! It was great fun building up the shimmering layers.


Melissa xx

Advent Calendar Day 4: Donna’s Salad


The weekend hasn’t even started and I’ve eaten lots of rubbish. Thankfully Donna from The Cookbook Collection posted a wonderful, healthy Christmassy recipe earlier that will balance it all out!


Brussels Sprouts, Beetroot and Pomegranate Salad – http://wp.me/p3BTn3-HQ looks amazing!

Melissa xx

Advent Calendar Day 3: Jammy Presents


Tonight I’m wrapping Dr Doolittle’s jam for Christmas presents whilst eatting Brownies made by my brilliant mate Ruth! If she shares the recipes, then I will….


The Doc is amazing at making jam…. Chilli Jam, Rhubarb and Ginger Jam, Plum and Ameretto Jam, Mixed Fruit Jam, Blackberry and Vanilla Jam… The list is endless!


He makes it, he labels it, I put pretty frilly hats on and pop them in a box!


My favourite jam is the blackberry one.


800 grams of blackberries
1 kilo of jam sugar (sugar with pectin added to it).
1 vanilla pod
Several empty jars and lids (4/5)
A heavy/thick bottomed pot


Sterilise jars, then wash and prepare blackberries.

Add seeds of the vanilla to the jam sugar and blackberries, then over a medium heat, slowly heat up the mixture and stir until all of the sugar has dissolved. Do not let it boil at this point.

Once it has dissolved, bring to the boil…. Once the pot has started boiling furiously set a timer for four minutes, and let boil.

Once your four minutes is up, remove from the heat and test to see if your jam has set. Place a teaspoon of jam on a plate, and then place it in the fridge for a minute or two. If the jam is still runny after being in the fridge then return the pot to the heat and boil for another two minutes, and repeat the test. Keep doing this – boiling for two minutes and testing – until your jam sets on the plate.

Once set, give the pot a good stir, remove the jars from the oven, and ladle in the jam into the hot jars, working quickly.

Wipe any spills off of the rim of the jar and sides with a clean warm cloth. Remove the lids from the water and screw on tightly.


Melissa xx

Advent Calendar Day 2: Christmas Cake


This year I thought I’d risk making a new Christmas Cake recipe and only time will tell if it’s any good….

I was gifted Darina Allen’s Christmas book last Christmas and having spent a couple of weeks in Ballymaloe this year, I thought it was only right that I try the cake! I also had the crazy idea of swapping the whiskey for some of the Madeira that I brought back from holidays in the summer….

Darina Allen’s Christmas Cake
225g butter
225g soft-brown sugar
6 organic free-range eggs
285g flour
1 tsp mixed spice
65 ml Irish whiskey (or Madeira)
340g best-quality sultanas
340g best-quality currants
340g best-quality raisins
110g real glacé cherries
110g homemade candied peel
55g ground almonds
55g whole almonds
Rind of 1 organic unwaxed lemon
Rind of 1 organic unwaxed orange
2 small  apples, grated


Line the base and sides of a 9 inch (23 cm) round tin with brown paper and greaseproof paper.

Wash the cherries and dry them out. Cut in two or four as desired. Blanch the almonds in boiling water for 1-2 minutes, rub off the skins and chop them finely. Mix the dried fruit, nuts, ground almonds and grated orange and lemon rind. Add about half of the Madeira and leave for 1 hour to macerate.

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F


Cream the butter until very soft, add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Whisk the eggs and add in bit by bit, beating well between each addition so that the mixture doesn’t curdle. Mix the spice with the flour and a pinch of salt and stir in gently. Add the grated apple to the fruit and mix in gently, but thoroughly (don’t beat the mixture again or you will toughen the cake).

Put the mixture into the prepared cake tin. Make a slight hollow in the centre, dip your hand in water and pat it over the surface of the cake: this will ensure that the top is smooth when cooked. Lay a sheet of brown paper over the top. Put into the preheated oven; reduce the heat to 160C/325F/regulo 3 after 1 hour. Bake until cooked; test in the centre with a skewer — it should come out completely clean, 3-3½ hours in total. Pour the rest of the Madeira over the cake and leave to cool in the tin.


Next day remove from the tin. Do not remove the lining paper, but wrap in some extra greaseproof paper and tin foil until required….

Melissa xx

Advent Calendar Day 1: Research


Can you believe it’s been two months since I last wrote a blog post? Sorry.

I’m working too hard; long hours, day in, day out… every day. I am enjoying the new job (most of the time), but it leaves me little time to bake or blog. It’s heart breaking because I feel that my life is running away from me.

Anyway… It’s December 1st and for the third year in a row, I’m going to try and bring you my Advent calendar to mark the 24 day run up to Christmas. Who needs chocolate behind a little window when you can have recipes and fun behind every post!


I’ve started flicking through my Christmas cook book collection for ideas and inspiration. I’ve also looked back over last year’s posts to remind myself of some great recipes.

I’d forgotten all about Sharon Hearne-Smith’s No Bake Baking book. Last year I made her flash florentines and substituted some of the fruit and nuts with others, as she suggested.


50g unsalted butter
100g caster sugar
100g soft brown light sugar
50g creme fraiche
1 piece of stem ginger, finely chopped
150g nuts (I used almonds and hazelnuts)
100g cranberries
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
50g chocolate


I melted the butter in a medium pan over a low heat. I added the sugars and turned up the heat, stirring for 5 minutes until smooth and gooey.

Then I carefully stired in the creme fraiche, stirring over a high heat until the sugars dissolved and the mixture thickened.

I removed the mixture from the heat and stired in the fruit, ginger, nuts, bicarb and vanilla.

I dropped the mixture onto a lined baking sheet, flattening into discs and left them to cool in the fridge.


Once the florentines were set, I melted the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of water. I allowed the chocolate to cool before spreading the back of each florentine with chocolate, popping it back on the tray and back in the fridge.


Melissa xx

Lemony Cupcakes

I’m still in my cupcake phase and I still don’t know where it came from. For years I was very against cupcakes- they’re just jazzed up versions of old fashion fairy cakes! I loved fairy cakes growing up; little cakes with chocolate chips or sultanas in…. With a blob of runny white icing running down the paper case. Delicious! So why make fancy versions, that were inevitably too sweet with way too much icing on top?

Maybe I just decided that life is too short to worry about such complicated matters, cake is still cake after all!


Lemon Cupcakes
125 g butter, softened
200 g caster sugar
3 eggs
150 ml milk
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp vanilla
300 g plain flour
3 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

For the icing
Rind of 2 lemons
1 tbsp lemon juice
175 g butter, softened
600 g icing sugar, sifted
1 bottle of Dr Oetker Violet Crystals


Preheat the oven to 160C/140C fan/gas 3. Line a 12-cup muffin tray with paper cases. I actually got 18 out of the mixture.

Cream the butter until soft in a large bowl or in an electric food mixer. Add the sugar and beat until the mixture is light and fluffy.

Whisk the eggs together in a small bowl for a few seconds just until mixed, then gradually add them to the creamed butter mixture, beating all the time.

Beat in the milk and lemon juice, followed by the vanilla, then sift in the flour, baking powder and salt and fold in gently to combine.

Divide the mixture between the muffin cases, filling each case about two-thirds full. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until well risen, lightly golden in colour and springy to the touch. Allow to cool for 5 minutes, then remove from the tin and place on a wire rack to cool completely.


Finally mix up all the buttercream ingredients and pop into a piping bag, pipe onto cupcakes and finish off with a sprinkle of Dr Oetker’s violet crystals.

By the way, I was a little confused when the guys from Finish emailed to asked if they could send me

1x Finish Salt
1x Finish Powerball Quantam Max
1x Finish Rinse Aid
1x Finish Dishwasher Cleaner

Why? I’m a home baker that blogs about cupcakes, I’m not WHICH? magazine! Then I realised that I do bung all my bowls and utensils straight into the dishwasher once my cakes are in the oven. So I thought I’d give it a bash. Dr Doolittle read the instructions and filled the various dishwasher compartments with the various cleaners.


I was genuinely shocked at how good the Finish Dishwasher tablets was! We normally buy own brand dishwasher tablets and am used to the dishes coming out washed. I couldn’t believe how sparkling and shiny the pots and pans were AND how clean the inside of the dishwasher was too! Who would have thought?!

Off to bake more and therefore wash more!

Melissa xx