Friday, 6 April 2012

Boozy Baileys Cupcakes.

What IS the big deal with cupcakes? It's like overnight they became totally trendy and everyone's must have accessory. I'm not sure if I missed some revolution where the good ole fashioned bun suddenly morphed into the sexy cupcake, where businesses were born, wedding cakes were assembled with them and celebs were papped stuffing their skinny jaws with their sugary wonderfulness.

So, don't be scared, they're just buns in fairness. I created my own recipe, which was originated from a red velvet recipe, which uses sunflower oil and buttermilk rather than butter. Not only is it more cost affective, but it makes for devine mouthfuls of moist cupcake heaven. The dressing of cupcakes is essential. Pick yourself up a piping bag and some glitzy sugars and your elected. Prettiness is essential for alluring cupcakes. 

Here is my recipe for Baileys cupcakes. You can ditch the baileys and opt for whatever flavour takes your fancy. Try some lemon zest and juice, chocolate chips, mint, some vanilla extract or maybe some food colouring for whatever colour mood you are in; the list goes on. Feel free to contact me if you need some help in customizing your own.

Boozy Baileys Cupcakes
Makes 12-16 cupcakes
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees


Dry ingredients
7oz Flour
1 heaped teaspoon of baking Powder
8 oz caster sugar
1 Tablespoon of Cocoa Powder

Wet Ingredients
1 egg, lightly whisked
125ml Sunflower Oil
125 ml Buttermilk (shake the carton before pouring)
1/2 tablespoon of white wine vinegar
100ml Baileys 

Buttercream Baileys Icing

6oz Butter, soffened
10oz icing sugar
100ml Baileys 


1. Put all the dry ingredients into a bowl and mix

2. Put all the wet ingredients into a big bowl and whisk. (I used my Kenwood chef, but a hand mixer is fine)

3. Dump the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and mix well. 

4. Pour the batter into a pouring jug. 

5. using the jug, pour the batter evenly into your lined bun tin.

6. Put into a preheated oven for 20 minutes, or until the cupcakes are well risen and are dry to touch.

7. Allow to cool on a wire rack.

Now for the icing. 

8. I find to achieve really nice icing, you need to beat the baileys, sugar and butter for at least 10 minutes. Practice your swirls before you get to ice the cakes. You'll be a pro in no time. 

9. Dust with some chocolate shavings and some coloured sugar if you have it.

I am currently organsing a fundraiser for the mighty Pieta House. The theme is Coffee 'n' Cupcakes. Please come along on Friday 27th April from 9.30am-midday to the Hunt Museum, Limerick or take a look at

Happy Cupcaking! 

Roast Fillet of Pork with Sage and Orange

I wasn't a lover of pork. I simply didn't 'get' it. To me, it had no distinctive flavour or attributes. The problem was any time I had it cooked for me it was most likely overcooked and not given any special TLC. I picked up a fillet of Pork in my local supermarket recently as it was good value and decided to see if I could tackle my pork demons. Not only did I bury them but I can safely say I discovered something wickedly awesome with this dish. I scour the Internet when researching a dish, pairing flavours that I think will work. I had sage growing in the garden and a bowl full of juicy oranges....and so this Helena Pork Classic was born. I was wowed by the porks juiciness, incredible taste and complimenting flavours. 

Try it, it's impressive and embarrassingly easy.

1 Pork Fillet
I big Juicy Orange, sliced
Tablespoon of Dijon Mustard
Bunch of fresh sage leaves

For the Jus
One glass of wine
3 slices of the Roasted Orange
1 Tablespoon spoon of muscavdo sugar (or regular if you have no muscavdo)
5 tablespoons of Balsamic Vinegar
good knob of butter

(The quantities for the jus are from memory as I tend to taste my way through cooking. Feel free to add a little less sugar or a little more vinegar, what you want at the end is a sweet and slightly tangy orangy syrupy drizzle)

Preheat the oven to 220 degrees


1. On a roasting tray, arrange orange slices in a line, overlapping half ways

2. Rub the pork fillet liberally with the mustard, and season lightly

3. Lay the pork fillet on top, and cover with sage leaves (They will stick to the mustard)

4. Drizzle with a little Olive Oil, and put into preheated oven for 15 minutes.

5. Take out and wrap the pork in tinfoil

For the Jus

1. In a pot, fire in all the ingredients listed under 'For the Jus"

2. Boil the bejaysus out of it until it's well reduced and the alcohol is burnt off.

3. Sieve it, and then add the knob of butter for a nice glossy finish 

To serve
Slice the pork one in inch thick rounds, place three slices of orange on a warmed plate, top with pork slices, drizzle with jus and throw a few sage leaves on top. 

I served with with creamy mashed potatoes, tender stem broccoli and pureed wholegrain mustard carrots. 

Why not do this for Easter? This dish is so easy, quick, reasonably priced and tastes like you got it in a posh restaurant. 

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

My Cliff House Hotel Journey, The Beginning

Picture the scene. It's New Years Eve, I'm sipping my favourite beverage, a bottle of Corona and Lime, fire is going, iPad balanced on my lap, chatting to all my new found pals on Twitter. To some, it might appear as an uneventful New Years eve, but to me, I was in my element. After a less that fantastic 2011 almost behind me, I was feeling positive and grateful for battling some demons as we all have to face at some stage in our lives.

You know I love to cook. You're here after all. Every evening, I race home from work, put on my apron and blast some tunes from my iPod and take comfort in my kitchen zone, stirring, melting, blitzing, pureeing, dancing, and lying on the floor oven gazing. You could say, it's my daily therapy and lights the fire in my spoilt belly. As my favourite film, Ratatouille signature quote states; “anyone can cook... but only the fearless can be great". I'm not claiming to be great, stubbornly fearless certainly and unashamedly aiming for greatness.

   I tweeted that I'd love the opportunity to work in a professional kitchen to which the great Martijn Kajuiter, Michelin star Dutch chef replied “Sure, be my guest". And so the story began. I'm only on chapter one, pardon the pun, but I'd love for you to jump aboard the foodie train.

March 17th, 2012, I arrived to the Cliff House Hotel after an eventful traipse across the country on La le Padraig. Diversions, 'road closed' signs and grumpy gardai didn't do much for my nerves. 4 hours later, I arrived at the hotel, greeted by my new found and unlikely chum, 6 ft 8, gentle and ferocious Michelin man himself Martijn Kajuiter. What I was most nervous about was how I would perceived by the young Trojan chefs that dedicate their lives to their jobs. I perceived myself as an “in your face” smiley foodie type. So how on earth would I be received in this kitchen. I was surprised, really pleasantly surprised. Martijn announced my arrival, and whilst the team was polite, they continued diligently preparing for the Saturday night service ahead. 

Martijn brought me through the kitchen, my eyes devoured the surroundings, bamboozling my brain as I tried to retain everything in sight. This was a different ball game to anything I had ever experienced. I cast my mind back to when I worked as a waitress, aged 18, in the infamous Hi-way Bar and Restaurant in Limerick dishing out steaks and mixed grills to burley builders and post pub grub seekers. I worked my backside off at that restaurant and it was there where I discovered my love of people. My food love affair was to come later in life, right about...........Now. 

It was about 5pm, I donned my chefs jacket and apron, and joined the kitchen habitat. I wasn't sure where to place myself, always aware of my gender and potential nuisance to the masters and apprentices at work. After about 30 seconds, I eased, as it was clear these guys and I had a lot in common. Food, the appreciation and adoration of food was in our hearts. 

There was a lull in the kitchen for about 15 minutes, about 6.45pm. I could feel the rising tension, like a kettle coming to the boil. Not in a bad way, but an expectant hush....5,4,3,2,1. "Let's go disco!" And the kitchen party started. So this is what it's all about. I asked, I quizzed, I observed and I danced around the kitchen, drinking in and savouring the atmosphere. I was in a Michelin star kitchen for Heaven's sake, and I hadn't even read 'The Secret'. 

What struck me was the passion that flared. Everything has GOT to be impeccable. There is no room for even the smallest of mistakes. And if one is made it's felt like tremors from an earthquake. I've never experienced an earthquake, but it's got to be like this. The way you see it on the TV? Yes, that's kinda it. But, I loved it. I loved it the same way I love thunder and lightning. It's scary but I feel alive as I witness it because it a force of nature and can't be helped. But after the thunderbolt, there is calm and work resumes and everyone is even more determined to achieve that flawless finish that I witnessed on every plate that those lucky diners got that night.

I have to admit, I was in awe as I saw Martijn stride through the kitchen observing everyone’s station, and picking up the slightest of imperfections, demonstrating how to rectify and achieve ultimate impeccability. These imperfections are invisible to the naked eye, but like I said, this is the madness of Michelin. The attention to detail was incredible, ingredients from the coastal shore of Ardmore, and the adjoining gardens. The use of smoking apparatuses, water baths, dehydrators and all the cheffy gear is somewhat bigger than my epicurean grasp right now. It's a journey and when I am more familiar with the twists and turns I'll share them with you. 

The kitchen is like a simmering stockpot. With carefully selected ingredients, you bring to a simmer. It reaches boiling point, with stock bubbling furiously, if you take your eye off, it may bubble over. But with effort and attention to detail, you've got something really special, really worthwhile, and it's evident what all the effort is for.
I cannot wait to return to The Cliff House Hotel. Each time I go back, I will learn more, participate more and hopefully learn more. Where will this lead? Who knows, but I'd love for you to break the road with me.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Coffee 'n' Cupcakes Fundraiser 
in association with

I am delighted to announce details of the Pieta House Coffee 'n' Cupcakes Fundraiser. Pieta House is a non profit organization who provide treatment to individuals who have suicidal thoughts or self harming tendencies. It has helped so many people, myself included to rebuild their lives and see the light from the darkness of a sad and hopeless world. Pieta House services are free of charge and 80% of their income is derived from Fundraising like this.

Come along Friday 27th April to the Hunt Museum restaurant from 9.30am-12 midday. 
Apart from enjoying a cuppa coffee (or tea!) and of course delicious Zest! cupcakes, there will  be guest speakers from Pieta House and the most exciting raffles where amazing prizes will be up for grabs. 

So why not bring your pals, enjoy a cuppa and indulge in some sweet delights all whilst contributing to this hugely important and deserving cause. I would love to meet you to have a chat, have a laugh and smile at life. 

Thanks & Hugs,

NB- for those who cannot make it to the Pieta House Coffee 'n' Cupcakes morning, and still would like to donate I will shortly be setting up a '' page. 

Thursday, 16 February 2012

White onion & Parmesan Soup with fresh chives and truffle oil

A couple of tweets here, a couple of tweets there, and the inspiration flows. This Avoca soup had been doing the twitter circuit as being the most delicious soup ever experienced by some influential blogger ladies on Twitter. The way they described it's lusciousness, I could just taste it. 

As I drove home this evening, I wrote the recipe as I imagined it in my head. 

I cooked, it worked, and I IMPLORE of you to make this absolutely amazing soup. You will not be disappointed.

White Onion & Parmesan Soup 
with fresh chives and truffle oil
Serves 6 Happy People or 4 deliriously Happy People

2 lbs white onions thinly slices (I used magimix to slice)
2 bay leaves
400ml milk
400ml cream (feel free to add all milk if you want to watch the calories and be a party pooper)
I jelly chicken stock cube
8 oz of Parmesan + Rind
salt & white ground pepper to taste
1 teaspoon of sugar

In a large casserole, add the onions, bay leaves, Parmesan rind, stock cube, milk and cream.

Bring to the Boil

Simmer for 20 minutes, or until the onions are completely tender.

Discard the rind and bay leaves.

Add Parmesan, salt, pepper and sugar....Blitz in food processor for at least 2 minutes

Top with snipped fresh chives and a drizzle of truffle oil, or fresh truffle shavings if you are incredibly rich.

Enjoy with lots of crusty bread, unashamedly spread with proper butter.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Lamb & spinach Curry

I'm so excited about the coming weeks. I've decided to completely change the look of my blog and, well, lets just say, it's going to be fun. Watch this space.....

I love Indian, and with so many wonderfully exotic ingredients now readily available through supermarkets and ethnic food stores, we really don't need to resort to only opting for take away Indian meals. When looking through any curry recipe it always looks like there are so many ingredients, but once your cupboard is well stocked with spices it's easy to whip up something wonderful from scratch. There are lots of good quality 'lazy' garlic and ginger pastes available which work fine in an emergency. Plus, in my experience, if you happen to be missing a spice, it's not the end of the world and it won't affect the dish. The most common spices I use are cumin and corriander (ground) so I tend to by big bags of these, for everything else the small little jars last for a considerable length of time. 

This dish is the best Indian curry I've made in a long time. Please don't be disheartened with the list of ingredients. The method, is a doddle, and the results are better than any Indian curry house! 

I'd recommend you download some Indian pop music when cooking and eating this. A bollywood dance and a bottle of beer makes the cooking process even more fun. I love a dance when I'm cooking.

Lamb & Spinach Curry (or is it Sagg?)

1 1/2 lbs diced lamb shoulder

1/2 tsp whole cloves
1/2 tsp Cardamom pods
1/2 tsp Corriander Seeds
1/2 tsp pepper corns
3 star anaise
1 cinnamon stick
2 bay leaves
1 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp  ground corriander

3 chopped large red chilis 
2" piece of fresh ginger, grated
1 onion, diced
5 garlic cloves, crushed

1 tin of chopped tomatoes
4 tblsp of natural yogurt
1/2 pint chicken stock
2 teaspoons of salt
1 large bag of fresh spinach, finely chopped.

Butter & groundnut oil

1. In a large casserole, heat 3 tablespoons of oil. Add all the spices and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently. I love this part, the smells are overwhelmingly fragrant.

2. Add the meat and fry for a couple of minutes. Then add the tomatoes, stock, salt, yogurt and spinach. Bring to the boil, then cover and simmer for 60 minutes, or until the lamb is tender

3. I added about 1 oz butter at the end to enrich the sauce. This isn't necessary, especially if you want to save calories

4. Serve with basmati or pilau rice. 

Monday, 23 January 2012

Spiced Banana & Walnut bread

Right, and so it appears I have a baking addiction. Typical, as I'm trying to shift a stone. I find when I'm down, stressed, happy or sad, the kitchen is where I need to be. Today my mood is off. I'm down in the dumps a bit and when I decided to bake my mood took an upturn. My mam told me she had black bananas so excitedly I got in the car and took a spin to the folks to retrieve the said overripe fruits. The blacker the better, k?

So Banana bread. In my opinion, it'd got to be so moist bursting with banana goodness and this recipe certainly is. I've adapted a basic recipe adding some spices and the walnuts give it a nice earthy element. Of  course, I adore muscavdo sugar in baking as I love the richness it brings. 

I love this bread with some butter,  and a cuppa tea, but a friend suggested I toast it, top it with a bacon and a poached egg. It's different, but it works, trust us.

Spiced Banana & walnut bread
Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius 
Grease a loaf tin

Don't bin 'em! celebrate black bananas with my
spiced Banana and Walnut Bread
9 oz plain flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp cinnamon 
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 oz butter, soft
6 oz dark brown muscavado sugar
2 eggs
4 large over ripe mashed bananas
4 oz walnut pieces (I'd like to say 1/4's as halves are too big and I don't like to chop them too small either)


In a large bowl combine the all the dry ingredients
In a separate bowl, cream the sugar and the butter. 
Whisk the eggs and add the butter and sugar mixture, along with the vanilla extract and mashed bananas. Mix well.

Sir wet batter through the dry mix and combine well. (have a taste of the batter, it's oooooh so good)

Pour mixture into greased loaf tin and bake in preheated oven for 60 mins. If a toothpick or skewer comes out clean, it's ready.

Allow to cool in the tin for about 15 minutes. Then turn out on a wire rack.

NB-All funds for my baking addiction will be gratefully accepted. 

There's cake in it for you.