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.

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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!

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#mayolife

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…

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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.

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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

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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

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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.

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Melissa xx

Advent Calendar Day 8: Chilli Jam

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

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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.

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Melissa xx

Advent Calendar Day 7: Shimmering Cupcakes

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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….

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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

Topping:
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

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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.

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Melissa xx

Advent Calendar Day 4: Donna’s Salad

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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!

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

Melissa xx

Advent Calendar Day 3: Jammy Presents

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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….

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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!

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

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My favourite jam is the blackberry one.

Ingredients

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

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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.

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Melissa xx