Back to School Banana Porridge Bites

Bake at 180C/ GM4 until golden

Well how did you all cope? We’ve had tears and recriminations but this was from the child heading into Ranga 5. Nipper 3.0 sailed into Naíonán Bheaga gan stró ar bith uirthi. So that’s it all my children are now “in the system” Our job now is feeding and watering and damage limitation (especially as Nipper 2.0 is in communion year.)

I’ve really noticed in the last couple of years, where I have been with them in the afternoons, that the boys EAT ALL THE TIME. I thought this was some sort of gender stereotyping but so far, so true, the older boy in particular. We feed them porridge everyday. They have a full on lunch at school and then come home expecting a meal circa 3pm and then dinner around 7pm. It’s my imagination that is mostly sapped by this experience. How do I feed them, keeping it healthy AND varied. When I experiment one of them is bound to turn their nose up (“Rocket Pesto? I don’t care that you grew, picked and made it yourself, it’s yuck!”) and I tend to fall back on those childhood staples of fish fingers and waffles or baked beans or scrambled eggs on toast. Soup, if I’m careful about its ingredients and consistency can sometimes gain their royal highnesses’ approval. This tomato and courgette soup was a surprising hit. With tomatoes and courgettes in season around about now  I would recommend you give it a whirl.

Not only do my darling children demand lunch they usually expect a dessert with it. I blame the parents. Having a sweet tooth myself I understand the hankering so I was quite happy when I found this recipe for Chewy Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Breakfast Cookies on This site is one of my favourite sites for family friendly, health conscious recipes although at times the recipes rely a little too much on products that can only be found in the US.Banana Oatmeal Bites with sultanas

These bites are great and never last jig time in our gaff. They are NOT flapjacks and are a squishy consistency but are a great energy booster on long days when the kids are rushing hither and yon to after school activities. I have substituted the chocolate chips for raisins and they are still delicious so experiment with dried cranberries, blueberries or chopped dried apricot. While I’m not a big fan of what chocolate they are gorgeous with White Chocolate Chips. Here’s the recipe, Europeanised 🙂

Banana Porridge Bites

Makes 12.(So consider making a double batch!)

  • 2 ripe bananas (I always keep a couple of bananas in the freezer for ripe banana recipes)
  • 80g oat flakes
  • 40g chocolate chips (dark, milk or white or a mixture)
  1. Preheat oven to 180C/ GM4.
  2. Mash the ripe bananasLay a sheet of silicon or baking paper on your tray. These do NOT spread so don’t need a huge amount of space between the cookies. Note in the pics below my silicon paper is completely crumpled. This was an excellent tip I picked up from some TV show to stop your paper rolling up and off your baking tray. Works when lining tins too.
  3. Mash your banana and stir in oats and chocolate chips.
  4. Take bite size portions or tablespoons full, create small balls and flatten onto your prepared baking tray.
  5. Pop them in the over for 12 – 15 mins or until golden brown.Mix in the porridge oats and the chocolate chips or raisins
  6. Allow to cool on trays.
  7. Store in an airtight container. I have no idea how long they keep because the Nippers have them shnarfed in no time.

Bake at 180C/ GM4 until golden







The little things bring it: Cannellini Bean and Bacon Soup

Cannelin Bean and Bacon Soup

Serendipity. Sometimes the little things bring it. Rocking up to my local Supervalu to restock after two weeks holidays and finding a new line of Batchelors tinned beans* give me a little blasht of serendipity. You take it where you can get it, right?

I’m all for change but, gosh darn it, I want to be the one making the changes! When my local Superquinn switched to Supervalu I saw a few of my favourite products disappear off the shelves. Admittedly there are some new or expanded ranges but I can no more buy Doves Farm Yeast, for example. I have to schlep all the way to The Hopsack in Rathmines to pick it up. I use this nearly everyday. The range of De Cecco pastas has shrunk to insignificant – no more fusilli or lasagne sheets – but thankfully The Best of Italy in Dunville Avenue, close to the ancestral home, seems to be the importer for this brand and so stocks a dazzling range of my favourite pasta. I’m easily dazzled, folks.

Back to the beans. We were just back from our holidays. I was still in my one pot cooking mode after 2 weeks of Trangia creativity and rooting around my “Get into my mouth” Pinterest board when I came across a link to this beautiful photograph by Rachel Hathaway with accompanying instructions which fitted my mood: comforting, warm (it’s gotten colder), and easy to prepare ahead. I’ve made it three times since and I think I have it now. This is also a hit with the Nippers.

Cannelini Bean and Bacon Soup

Ingredients for Cannelini Bean and Bacon Soup
Ingredients for Cannelini Bean and Bacon Soup


1 tbsp olive oil
125g smoked bacon lardons (I use the Dulano lardons from Lidl, always have a stock of them in the freezer)
1large onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 carrots, diced
1/2 tbsp Selection chopped fresh herbs, chopped (I use sage and rosemary which taste great with beans and bacon and grow well all year round in Ireland. Do it!)
1tbsp tomato puree
2 cans (400g) canellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 litre chicken stock
1 Parmesan rind (optional)
  1. Heat the oil in your favourite soup pot and, once hot, add the bacon.
  2. Once it’s beginning to render a little add the onion and cook until soft.
  3. Add the garlic and soften but don’t burn and lastly add the carrots and cook for about 3 minutes.
  4. Add the drained and rinsed beans, tomato puree and the herbs.
  5. Cook, stirring, until all the ingredients are evenly mixed.
  6. Lastly add the stock (home made or sure, feck it, from a good quality cube. I like Kallo Just Bouillon Stock Cubes which are low in sodium.)
  7. If you are using the Parmesan rind, add now.
  8. Bring to the boil and simmer for 45 minutes.
  9. Remove Parmesan rind and discard
  10. You can if you like blend some of the soup but I didn’t think it needed it. Some of the cannelini beans will soften into a lovely mush.
  11. Serve with delicious crusty bread (both the aformentioned Hopsack and Best of Italy stock lovely sourdoughs.)
Cannelin Bean and Bacon Soup
Cannellini Bean and Bacon Soup

A couple of notes:

You can, of course, make this with fresh beans correctly prepared.
You may find that smoked bacon makes your soup too salty so do try with an unsmoked variety i.e. chop up some traditional rather than smoked rashers.
Adding a Parmesan rind is a soup tip I got from the Corkonian and I save all my rinds in the freezer for this very purpose. It brings an extra depth to the flavour. Try it!
I’ve tried this recipe with black eyed beans and while this will render the kitchen table very tuneful the cannellini beans really are a must.
* So new, in fact, that they don’t even feature on their own website. You heard it hear first!

A sweetener to raise funds for the Philippines

Wellington Squares
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)
125g butter
125g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
90g dessicated coconut
115g caster sugar

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

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.

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.

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


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!