A sweetener to raise funds for the Philippines

Wellington Squares

Chocolate Caramel Sqaures with a coconut shortbread base

The nippers’ school are holding a cake sale in aid of disaster relief for the Philippines tomorrow. I’m sure this is a scene that will be repeated across the land tomrrow! This gives me an opportunity to make cakes and also eat them with a good conscience. I’m looking forward to doling out my hard earned cash on lots of goodies tomorrow morning. No doubt many other schools are doing similar. I made what we, in the Murphy Smith family, call Wellington Squares. Don’t ask me why. These are a speciality of my youngest uncle but I found a most amazing recipe online years ago and have been using this ever since. I can no longer find it online so I am going to share it here with you but on a condition.

I got an email from a friend during the week who is very proud of her niece who, completely unprompted, decided that she wanted to raise funds for the victims of the tornado in the Philippines. Off her own bat she investigated which charity she would like to send her funds to and chose the Red Cross. So she plans to do a 10km sponsored walk. Now she is a couple of months younger than Nipper 1.0 and I know he would find 5km challenging, never mind 10, so I’m very impressed.

What does this all have to do with my recipe you might wonder? Well what I would like you to do is this: if you think you might ever use this recipe, please sponsor my friend’s niece in her sponsored walk. Not only will you help the disaster stricken folk in the Philippines, you will make an aunty very proud and a young girl very chuffed! You will also be able, like I, to eat these calorie laden delights with a clearer conscience.

Wellington Squares
(Makes 32 squares of a smallish but perfect nature)
Base
125g butter
125g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
90g dessicated coconut
115g caster sugar

Filling
100g butter
100g brown sugar
397g tin condensed milk
2 tbsp golden sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

Topping
200g dark chocolate or 100g each dark and milk chocolate
I usually make this the night before I need it as the base and filling must be cooled before adding the chocolate topping which must also be allowed to set.

Preheat the oven to 180degC/ Gas mark 4 and grease and line a 18 x 28 cm tin. I usually make this in a small roasting tin but I have also made them in a square brownie tin – they just end up deeper.
Melt the butter (I usually pop it in a pyrex bowl in the microwave for 30 second blasts)
Sift the flour and baking powder into a large bowl. Add coconut, sugar and melted butter and mix well together.
Press into your prepared tin and pop it in the oven for 10 – 12 minutes until a very light golden colour.
Take it out of the oven but leave the oven on for now.

Filling
Put butter, brown sugar, golden syrup and condensed milk in a thick bottomed saucepan over a low heat. Cook, stirring all the time, until butter has melted and sugar has dissolved.
Bring it to the boil, then reduce the heat to low and continue cooking for 5 minutes, stirring all the time. It will turn a light golden colour. No matter how very, very tempted you are do NOT taste this. You will burn the tongue off yourself!
Pour this over the cooked base and then return the lot to the oven and bake for a further 10 minutes. It will deepen in colour and bubble.
Remove from oven and allow to cool completely.
Once cooled start prepping the chocolate topping. Melt whichever chocolate you have chosen in a heat resistant bowl over a pot of boiling water. Spread over the filling and allow to cool before placing in the fridge to set.
I usually remove the whole slab from the pan and cut into squares. You can cut them really quite small as this is a very rich little treat.
Enjoy!

None of your holiness at CongRegation

I’m still involved with the IIA in a very roundabout way: I remained a member of the Social Media Working Group. Like any voluntary group it is active in fits and starts. I was very happy recently to get a notification about an upcoming meeting. As usual I learned tonnes and hope I shared some information myself. There was a few things that are  well worth looking at if you are interested in social media so click on to read more.

  1. Eoin Kennedy, the group chair gave a presentation about Managing a Social Media Crisis, which is well worth a look at if you fear the worst. (But I was at pains to point out that your company is more likely not to get this amount of attention. As a complete aside I would love to do some research about how badly affected companies really are by Social Media Crises similar to those Eoin covered. I know Schoolbooks.ie didn’t seem to be… but I wonder how honest the companies themselves would be in responding to research questions.)
  2. Lisa Jackson of Leman Solicitors. gave a presentation about the legal aspects of creating Social Media Guidelines for the workplace. This includes very helpful tips and advice and is well worth a look. Also lovely use of Prezi :)
  3. Lastly the aforementioned Eoin Kennedy has taken it upon himself to organise a social media gathering in Cong, Co. Mayo which he is dubbing CongRegation. Here’s the deal from the CongRegation.ie website:

“CongRegation is a one day ‘un-conference’ social media gathering taking place in Cong, Co Mayo on Saturday November 30th.

This free ‘earned entry’ event focuses on peer to peer sharing of quality information and social media insights through a ‘huddle’ style collaborative structure.

Congregation also creates a fertile base for true social engagement and connection.

The un-conference takes place in the village of Cong in County Mayo with 100 speakers spread over 7 venues with 4 sessions.

With CongRegation:

  • Tickets cannot be purchased.
  • You pay with your insight.
  • You blog your way in.
  • Everyone is a speaker.
  • Open sharing of insights.
  • True social setting.
  • Inclusion in post event eBook.
  • All attendees are equal.”

I think this is going to be a very interesting, insightful event and would highly recommend that you get your thinking cap on and “blog your way in“. I hope to be there once I get my rant on…

Food, glorious food. And also fishcakes

Thinking about next week’s dinner while enjoying yesterday’s leftovers.

Salmon and mackerel fishcakes with a blue cheese and honey salad

Salmon and mackerel fishcakes with a blue cheese and honey salad

Most weeks we pop into Rathmines Library while the nippers are doing extra curricular activities. It’s a real refuge and extremely kid friendly. I usually wander over to their recipe book collection and end up lugging a hard backed tome home. Libraries are great for many things, not least being able to try before you buy on books such as this. There are quite a few books on my recipe bookshelf that I wish I had test run before buying.

Anyway this week is Nigel Slater’s The Kitchen Diaries
which has been firmly placed on my Amazon wishlist. I know it’s been around since 2005 and was recommended to me way back then but there you go. I get to things in my own time. One of these days…

I already made what he calls English Apple Cake but instead we made Irish Apple Cake using apples from the garden and the breadcrumbs from the brown bread monster encountered on my brown bread odyssey. (As an aside next stop on the voyage of discovery is Imen McDonnell’s recipe currently residing on one of my many Pinterest boards.)

So I had a thoroughly enjoyable lunch perusing Mr. Slater’s diary while munching through my super wholesome lunch. It hadn’t started out so well yesterday. This week’s menu included the wholly uninspiring entry for yesterday evening; “Fish from freezer”. Oh. Yum. Thankfully I had also added a reminder to my phone totake said fish from the freezer the night before. I was so glad I tell you. So freaking glad. So it was now 5.30 and I was no closer to a “delicious meal featuring perfectly cooked fish” except for the defrosted-ness of three small mackerel fillets and one salmon fillet to feed five-ish. I’m not the most inspired when it comes to fish at the best of times. What I really wanted was soup. It was a cack day that needed a delumptious, hugger of a soup to save it and all I had was cold fish.

So I did my usual and did a Google search for salmon and mackerel and found this recipe for which I actually had all the ingredients. Okay I had no herbs so I lashed in some sad looking spring onions. I added a dash of Cayenne Chilli Pepper, only used one egg because well you know… However my big problem with fishcakes persisted. These were lovely: held their shape well, no frying involved as they are oven baked and a nice balance of potato and fish but what the heck do you eat fishcakes with? We went with couscous and sweetcorn but it was all a bit, well, yellow. We had no dipping sauce. Maybe a tartare sauce would have worked.

However with two left over I picked up a bag of rocket and baby leaves while in the shops today to which I added quartered cherry tomatoes, diced cucumber, crumbled Gorgonzola, vinaigrette and a dash of honey and had a delicious lunch. You see I never think of salad when the nippers are around because I just end up throwing it out. Ungrateful wretches.

 

 

 

Hot in her (apple) leather

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I first read about apple leather on the Fox’s Lane blog a while ago (Northern vs Southern Hemisphere) and I just thought I have to try that. We have a very fruity apple tree but the apples get a bit spotty and aren’t all that appealing. Once peeled they are grand and we larrup them into crumbles with blackberries from the bottom-of-the-garden wilderness. We slosh them stewed onto delicious Irish pork chops and joints. We stir them semi-stewed into yoghurt. The apple leather has proven to be another hit and if I had an Aga or Stanley range I would make fruit leather 2 weekly. Apparently you can make it with any fruit that stews or purées to a thick consistency. As things stand it’s a bit of an indulgence that takes up the oven for a large chunk of time. The resulting leather is perfect for lunchboxes in a school where no sugar is allowed.

What you need:

  • Apples – the sweeter the better, it’ll save having to add honey or sugar
  • A large tray
  • Silicone baking paper (I’ve bought this in Lidl)
  • A day/ evening in
  1. Preheat oven to 75C/ 170F
  2. Line a large oven tray with your silicone paper. One recipe I read suggested using cling film as the oven doesn’t get that hot but I baulked at that idea. If you have a silicone mat now is it’s time to shine!
  3. Stew your apples with a few tablespoons of water or juice of a lemon
  4. Sugar or honey can be added to taste at this point. You could also add a spoonful of cinnamon
  5. Either transfer cooled apples to your blender or use your handheld blender to get a really smooth sauce.
  6. Spread the apple sauce as evenly as possible over the tray trying to avoid thinning edges as these will dehydrate too fast.
  7. Stick it in the oven for 6 – 8 hours. I switched mine off and went to bed and took it out the next day while we used the grill so it’s not a fussy process. You are drying it out, not baking it.
  8. When it is done it will no longer dent if you stick your finger in the middle.
  9. Peel silicone paper off and, using a scissors or sharp, cut into strips or any agape you like.
  10. Enjoy!

The Circle of Life (Weekly menu)

A rather grand title for a weekly menu blog post but I think anyone who knows me will agree that this week we certainly saw the full cycle of life. As the menu below covers we went to a christening on Saturday afternoon. The first rite of passage for our newest grandniece. No I’m not that old: Himself is the very youngest of seven. We had a delightful time, meeting all the niece’s in-laws and Nipper 3.0 made friends with EVERYONE! We sang, we ate (by jeebus did we eat!), we chatted and we went home happy.
We felt happy that we had represented Himself’s family well. Unfortunately, it was difficult for the others to make the journey and this is a family who’ll party at the drop of a hat. Himself’s mother, who has been unwell for some time, had become gradually worse over the previous few weeks . Bad news arrived in the small hours of the morning and the worst news was shared by one of  his sisters just after 7am. So forgive me if this menu has holes or is less detailed than others.
So farewell Úna Meyler: you will be missed. You have left a wonderful legacy of music, laughter and good financial sense. What more could a woman ask for?
Saturday
Carrot and thyme and star anise soup - I heard a snippet of an interview on the radio where this recipe was mentioned so I had to try my own version. Glorious.
I also baked these choc chip “cupcakes” but I adapted the recipe to Irish measurements and tastes and will post again. I baked ham and cheese muffins for lunchboxes as well. Boy was I glad I did.
Christening
Sunday
Nipper 1.0′s tortilla feast – I can’t remember what we actually had…
Roast – what’s good value? Or maybe steak? – these were my instructions for the shopping. I bought a cut of pork (I can’t remember which) that I roasted most perfectly. So perfectly I nearly cried that Himself wasn’t there to join us. I was feeling pretty teary to be fair. Oh the crackling was devilish good.
Monday
I grabbed a beef stew, bolognese sauce, pear and ginger compote and crumble topping from the freezer before we headed “down Home” as Himself would say. There was, of course, stacks of beautiful food from neighbours and family in the house but it was only later when we landed at Himself’s brother’s place for the night that we felt like eating. This was delicious mixed with slow cooked rice and my sister in law’s signature garlic potatoes. I threw the compote and crumble in a pie dish and left it for dessert the following evening as we were all too whacked for anything else.
Tuesday
A sad day gladdened by one of Úna’s favourite things: warm sunshine. I know we ate when we got back to Dublin but I have no idea what we had.
Wednesday
Delicious sweet and sour pork from our Edmond’s cookery book, a present from a Kiwi friend that is another go-to basic recipe book.
Thursday
Ham and cheese muffins in the car en route to classes.
Stew – well the stew had gone south so I made mash which I used to top shepherd’s pie filling taken from the freezer the night before which we shared with my Dad who really had eaten already. Who can resist Shepherd’s pie? Big learning for me since school began again is that Thursday’s are freezer day as afterschool classes don’t finish til 5 so it can be 5.30 before we all get home, exhausted, to homework.
Friday
Pizza
To bake:
Ham & cheese muffins
Oaty cookies – these are a revelation which I will share with you shortly when I have converted the recipe to metric. I am now making at least one huge batch a week.

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