My First Blog nomination: Liebster Blog Award……it’s the big time people ;)

Just got nominated for the Liebster Blog award!! 

What a gorgeous surprise and a welcome distraction from my early morning shock and horror: Lucinda O’Sullivan’s Twitter was hacked, numerous vile and terrifying messages were flung far and wide amongst her followers, mine read: ‘Bad blog going around about you, seen it yet’, quickly followed by; ‘Change your Twitter password folks…etc etc’!!” Loving all this social networking but it’s not without its madness!

My nomination is all thanks to another fabulous foodie Rhoda Kirwin. Like myself, she’s relatively new to the game but absolutely inspired and driven by her obsession with all things food related; check her out  x

The Liebster Blog Award is given to recognize your favorite up-and-coming bloggers who have fewer than 200 subscribers, and that you feel deserve more. It’s a cool way to meet more folks and learn some new things…and generally expand your horizons, in my opinion.

Rules are:

  1. Thank the giver and link back to the blogger who gave it to you.
  2. Reveal your top 5 bloggers and let them know by leaving a comment on their blog.
  3. Copy and paste the award on your blog.

And we would be delighted to nominate the following blogs:

Hey Pesto!   Yvonne Carty is a Ballymaloe trained cook and runs a thriving boutique catering business in Tullamore. I was delighted to see her beautiful and informative blog finally come into existence. She’s been in the epicentre of foodie Ireland for a while but her blog is relatively new. definitely worth a look 🙂

Dorcas Barry   Dorcas is a women after my own heart! In fact she was a huge inspiration to me when setting up my own blog, she’s Ireland’s health food guru and her blog is turning into something of an institution for people seeking to optimise their  health and well-being. Check out her website for classes and workshops!

Bia Ó Mo Chroí   Caroline is an avid foodie, crafter, reader and weight watcher! In her blog she shares some delicious recipes and foodie finds; her Roasted Red Pepper Soup is delicious and her reviews informative, be sure to take a look!

Mary Carney Creative Cooking   Now a house hold name all over Ireland, Mary Carney, winner of MasterChef and foodie inspiration for ever more has launched her website and food blog!! Having finally succumbed to her natural talent, Mary is pursuing a full-time career in the food industry. Her website features all the winning recipes from the MC final…Langoustine paparadelle and her Summer berry plate…num num and! Looking forward to all the recipes and insightful banter 🙂

Stitch and Bear   Joanne is another new arrival on the foodie scene and is mainly focusing on restaurant reviews. I was captivated by her most recent review of The Box Tree in Stepaside, she is definitely food writer to look out for in the future; honest and interesting! She does also include some beautiful recipes on her blog such as Sweet potato and Coconut Soup…a winter warm to look forward to.

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Food to make you happy, part 1: Baked French Toast and Warm Raspberry Compote with a Seed and Nut Brittle

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Physical anomalies like lethargy, back pain and brain fatigue are an habitual experience for a large percentage of the Irish population and are routinely disregarded as common place. It’s only when other symptoms present such as shortness of breath, weight fluctuation, insomnia, headaches and even more alarming, reduced libido that we begin piecing things together…..STRESS has become Ireland’s neoteric epidemic and if left unchecked can contribute to far more serious and chronic conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity and diabetes!

I can’t remember where I read this, but I repeat it often to remind myself of our personal responsibility to how we feel; “All situations are neutral, its how we respond to them that counts”. If we react negatively to a situation our body will respond accordingly; signals stimulate the adrenal glands to produce adrenalin; our fight or flight antagonist. Immediately, stores of glucose are released into the blood resulting in increased heart rate and rapid breathing putting huge demands on our heart and lungs, even our pancreas and liver are distracted from their regular maintenance to produce insulin and glucagon to help control the blood sugar racing around our system. This can actually happen ten or twenty times a day, depending on your ability to deal with stressful situations……no wonder everyone is soooooo exhausted!!

So if your one of the many now suffering from either adrenal exhaustion or chronic bouts of brain fatigue, please read on: some of the solution is in the food we eat; nourish the mind and heal the body people. ♥

My first recipe in this series of stress busting antidotes is Baked French Toast and Warm Raspberry Compote with a Seed and Nut Brittle: Yummy!

This recipe is a brunch must, not only because it taste gorgeous, but because it’s so good for you! The compote is made from fresh raspberries which I believe are mother natures sugar; they are flagrantly sweet with a subtly tart overtone which pairs beautifully with baked french toast. The bread is jam-packed full of linseed, millet, poppy-seeds and rye; this combination of seeds and grains will ensure the slow release of sugar into the blood, which means you will feel fuller for longer, therefore less hungry! My brittle recipe is an elite blend of brown linseed, blanched almonds, chopped walnuts and hazel nuts; adding these ingredients to any meal will not only support digestion and prevent weight gain but also provide you with the all important EFS’s; essential fatty acids. These little gems are reported to improve intelligence, reduce aggression and enhance mood…ahhhh serenity at last!

The sweetener chosen for this recipe is Agave. Agave syrup is a real sugar, unrefined and untreated. It is produced from the Blue Agaves that thrive in the volcanic soils of Southern Mexico,  and is a storeroom favourite among foodies trying to reduce their glycemic load.

Gi is a modern concept and was developed by Dr. David J. Jenkins in the early 80’s while researching the relationship between food and diabetes. The glycemic index is a clever way of measuring the relative impact of foods on blood sugar levels. ‘High’ Gi foods release quickly into the blood stream, triggering the release of the hormone insulin. ‘Low’ Gi foods, such as agave are slow releasing which provide sweetness without the unpleasant “sugar rush”.

It’s all genius if you ask me, I follow a Gi diet more by default as I simply prefer whole foods to refined ones. Where it has helped me, is understanding the simply chemistry behind the food we eat and its impact on our health and wellbeing; making better food choices can change how we look, how we function and how we feel…so go on, get happy, make yourself some french toast this weekend x

Recipe creation: Caroline Murray
Food styling and photography: Caroline Murray
Prep/cooking time: 50 minutes
Serves: 4

Baked French Toast

Ingredients

  • 5 freerange eggs
  • 1 cup of milk
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Salt to taste
  • 8 thick slices of multi grain bread
  • Zest of 1 orange

Preparation

  1. Beat together the eggs, milk, and cinnamon in a bowl.
  2. Whisk in the orange zest and pour the mixture into a shallow bowl.
  3. Dip the bread into the egg mixture, allowing each slice to soak up some of the mixture. (5 minutes per slice).
  4. Pre heat the fan oven at 180C.
  5. Line a baking tray with parchment paper and lightly spray with sunflower oil.
  6. Lay the soaked bread on the parchment paper and place into the oven for 20minutes.
  7. Remove from the oven and serve with warm raspberry compote and seed and nut brittle (see recipes below).
Warm Raspberry Compote

Ingredients

  • 200g (7oz) of fresh raspberries, rinsed
  • 3 tbsp agave
  • 100ml of water
  • Juice of ½ lemon

Preparation

  1. Combine the agarve and water in a medium saucepan. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat and simmer for 2 minutes, stirring continuously until the syrup has completely dissolved.
  2. Add the lemon juice and raspberries to the saucepan and cook for a further 2 minutes on a low heat until the compote has a syrup consistency.
Seed and Nut Brittle

Ingredients

  • 4 tbsp agave
  • ½ cup of brown linseed
  • 1 cup of  blanched almonds and coarsely chopped hazel nuts and walnuts
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • Zest of 1 orange

Preparation

  1. Combine ½ the agave and the linseed into a bowl, mix until well coated.
  2. Add remaining nuts, cinnamon, salt, and orange zest.
  3. Add the remainder of the agarve and mix well.
  4. Spread mixture on the parchment paper (1/2 inch deep) and bake in the middle of the oven at 180C for 15 minutes.
  5. Check after 7/8min that it’s not burning, rotate parchment paper if it is browning too much on one side.
  6. Remove from the oven and leave it to cool. Don’t worry if the brittle doesn’t seem set, it will become crunchy goodness 10 minutes out of the oven.
  7. When set, peel off and break over the baked french toast and raspberry compote.

TIP: Store the remaining brittle in an air tight jar, but be warned, it will not last long. Combine with yogurt (Glenilen Farm if you can…totally addictive) and muslie in the morning, or if in a rush, just grab a handful and eat on the run!

 
I hope you enjoy this recipe, I know I loved making it and as always, the eating of it!

Homage to Pure Sushi…..

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It may have been too many afternoons spent at farmers market, or simply too much time spent looking for a decent lunch that propelled the girls from Pure Sushi out of their latte drinking stupor and into the epicentre of gastronomic Ireland.

The girls behind Pure are Madeleine Murray and Maire Carney, together they have managed to create an artisan food product that not only tastes gorgeous but also challenges the Irish palate in a most unrelenting and surprising way.

True to their vision, the sushi they create has a distinctive ‘Irish twist’. They pride themselves on supporting local food producers in the south-west by only using products made in Co. Cork and organic where possible.

This dedication to sustainability and local industry meant veering away from the recognised Japanese style of sushi making, most famous for it’s raw fish and tempura and into something far more challenging and original.

Their combinations are evidence of their good taste and culinary experience; combining melt in the mouth buffalo mozzarella and sun-dried tomatoes may seem predictable but when added to vinegared rice and wrapped in strips of nori seaweed to create what is traditionally known as a maki roll is something far more inspiring!

Their producers include Joseph, from Orchard Cottage Farm who supplies them with his creamy goats cheese and who also runs a stall at Mahon Point Farmers Market in Cork. Anthony from Ummera Smokehouse, who provides their famous smoked silver hill duck which won a Gold at the 2010 Great Taste Award, The Good Fish Company in Kinsale, who supply some of their wonderful smoked and fresh fish and Toby, from Real Olive Company who provides them with mozzarella from his own herd of buffalo in Cork!

Their repertoire also includes Roscarbery Black Pudding, from Caherbeg Free Range Pork. This delicate and flavourful pudding has been creatively combined with apple and rape seed oil dressing, earning them much notoriety in the artisan food community. Madeleine believes that this combination is ‘the hook’; people who are curious about sushi, but would rather eat a blue steak then a piece of sashimi tend to go for this and then gradually move onto something more experimental like the crabmeat, grated carrot and sesame oil or the raw salmon with sweet chilli sauce.

Its been hard work and their success story is still unfinished, but with the support of the Cork people behind them and plans of nationwide distribution in 2012- you can be sure you’ll see them around.

♥ Sushi as a Superfood

Before I go on to the recipes, I have to address the health benefits of eating sushi. It is a power house of nutritional gold, supporting the body in numerous ways to enhance vitality and reduce symptoms of disease and disharmony.

The dried sea vegetable, or nori, which is used to wrap the rice, contains an abundance of minerals such as magnesium, calcium, iron and iodine which is instrumental in its effects on the hormonal function in the body. Nori also boasts antioxidant phytonutrients and folic acid which are essential for expectant mothers preparing for the birth of their child.

Renowned for its high protein and low saturated fat content, sushi is highly recommended to anyone trying to lose weight or reduce cholesterol. This not only applies to combinations containing smoked and fresh fish, but also to vegetarian and vegan combinations. This may  be attributed to the japanese vinegar used in the rice preparation; it is reported that individuals who use rice vinegar frequently have a lower percentages of body fat and as the rice in this recipe contains at least 2 fl oz per 500g, you can be sure your making a dent in your cholesterol!

♥ Sushi Recipes

As It’s not my job to convince farmers from deepest darkest Leitrim that sushi is the bee’s knees, I can afford to be a little creative and incorporate some lesser known ingredients into the mix, one of those being Koya Matcha Green Tea. For some of you super healthy foodies, this may be a morning staple, (gold star). My advice to those of you who have never heard of nor tasted this green gold: run as fast as you can to your nearest health food store and purchase, this is the holy grail of green tea and  the most powerful antioxidant known to occur naturally in nature, Japanese samurai warriors were not drinking it in the 13th century just because it make their hair shiny!

As fusion is at the heart of Pure’s manifesto, it was important to incorporate some Irish grown vegetables into the recipe. Organic purple sprouting broccoli and beetroot are both very seasonal at the moment and as they’re growing in abundance in my own kitchen garden, I knew I had to give them a go. I’m also going to play around with Pure’s very popular buffalo mozzarella and sun-dried tomato recipe. Though the combination is a veggie favourite, the addition of my homemade pesto makes a meal out of a mouthful. Enjoy x

Recipe creation: Caroline Murray
Food styling and photography: Caroline Murray
Prep/cooking time: 2hrs
Makes 10 sushi rolls
Serves: 6

 
♥ Matcha green tea, purple sprouting broccoli, beetroot and goats cheese maki
Recipe makes 5 maki rolls
Ingredients:
  • 200g cooked sushi rice (see recipe above)
  • 4g, 1teasp of Koya Matcha Green Tea
  • 70g soft goats cheese
  • 5 stalks of purple sprouting broccoli
  • 2 raw or shop bought beetroot
  • 30g chopped hazel and walnuts
  • 30ml of olive oil
  • 10ml of honey

preparation:

  1. Add the Koya Matcha Green Tea to 20ml of hot water (not boiling) and stir until smooth.
  2. Pour the tea onto the rice and mix until the rice is marbled (do not over soak the rice, doing so will make it less glutinous and prevent it from sticking)
  3. To prepare the brocoli simply remove woody ends and trim or julian into very narrow stalks.
  4. Wash the beetroot and place in a preheated oven (180 degrees) for 30 minutes, let them cool and peel the skin off, slice into narrow wedges.
  5. Pulse or chop the nuts until fine and add them to the honey
  6. Mix the beetroot with the honey and nut mix
  7. Now your ready to lay your ingredients out and roll: refer to the point below ‘Direction for rolling sushi’. 
  8. The order in which you lay this recipe onto the rice is as follows; firstly smear  a narrow line of goats cheese across the rice, then add a thin layer of broccoli, followed by the beetroot.
 
 
♥ Buffalo mozzarella, sun-dried tomato and pesto maki
Recipe makes 5 maki rolls
Ingredients:
  • 200g cooked sushi rice (see recipe below)
  • 1/2 ball of Buffalo mozzarella
  • 100g of sun-dried tomatoes
  • 100g of basil pesto (see recipe below)

♥ My Homemade Pesto
Ingredients:

preparation:

  1. Combine the basil, garlic, and pine nuts in a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped.
  2. Add the olive oil and blend again until smooth.
  3. Transfer the pesto to a large serving bowl and mix in the grated parmesan cheese

Now your ready to lay your ingredients out and roll: refer to the point below ‘Direction for rolling sushi’. The order in which you lay this recipe onto the rice is as follows;  firstly smear 1 dessertsp of pesto across the rice, then break the mozzarella into small chunks and lay a narrow line across the pesto, followed by a small handful of sun-dried tomatoes.

 
 ♥ Directions for making 500g of sushi rice
 Ingredients:
  • 500g uncooked sushi or sticky rice
  • 600ml of water
  • 2 floz of rice wine vinegar
  • 2.5 teasp of sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
preparation:
  1. Wash and rinse the rice thoroughly until the water runs clear.
  2. Place the rice and water into a medium saucepan and let it soak for 30minutes (this is referred to as ‘waking the rice’).
  3. Secure a lid onto the saucepan and bring the water to boil over a high heat, when it starts to boil, reduce to a low simmer and let it cook for 10minutes exactly.
  4. After 10minutes, without taking the lid off, turn the heat to full for 10seconds then right down again to a low simmer for a further 10 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, mix together the rice vinegar, sugar and salt in a small bowl.
  6. Put the cooked rice into a large mixing bowl; pour the vinegar sauce over the hot rice and mix well.
  7. Allow to cool completely before using in the sushi recipes.

TIP: I usually make my sushi rice the night before so it is ready to be rolled. Just make sure it is at room temperature and not cold. Sushi rice will keep in the fridge for 4 days

 Directions for rolling sushi
TIP: the more you add, the more difficult it will be to roll, less is more people, be frugal with your ingredients!
  1. Place the nori sheet, shiny side down, on the bamboo rolling mat. With water moistened hands, spread half a cup of sushi rice evenly over 2/3 of the nori sheet, pressing the rice down to create a thin even layer. 
  2. Arrange the sushi roll fillings in a narrow row across the top third of the sushi rice. NB: Leave a space of rice above and below the strip of toppings.
  3. Grasp the rolling mat with both hands and fold the close edge of the nori sheet so it overlaps the sushi rice and ingredients.
  4. Roll tightly with firm pressure using the rolling mat. 
  5. When you have reached the end, apply a little water along the inside end of the nori and roll again to seal
  6. Remove Sushi Roll from Mat
  7. Remove the sushi roll from the bamboo mat, and place the roll seam side down on a cutting board.
  8. To cut the sushi, moisten the knife in water, cut the nori rolls into six or eight equal pieces. (Cut the roll in half, then each half in thirds or forths.) Use a swift back and forth cut for best results.

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