Nowadays, with a little breathing space and a (slightly) more regular routine, I’m on a mission to expand my cooking horizons and explore the years of stored up recipes. I finally have all my cookbooks in one house, albeit still scattered between the kitchen shelf, a corner of the table in the living room, piled up next to the computer, along the sides of the stairs and filling the recently-built shelves upstairs in what is supposed to be my office (these days it’s still too cold to heat more than the main living room!).
Sunday was family dinner day. One of the advantages of living in the countryside in North Cork is getting to spend more time with my family – and getting to try out lots of new recipes on them! This time round I decided to go with something very simple – Roast Chicken with Garlic and Lemon. “That doesn’t sound like you at all,” the Little Sister said suspiciously when I was talking to her on the phone that morning. “What’s the catch?” The last time she was around we were talking about serving her rabbit from the back garden so her reserve wasn’t entirely unwarranted, although unnecessary on this occasion. A good chicken needs no disguising. I just pushed some lemon thyme under the skin on the breast, tucked a few cloves of garlic and half a lemon inside the cavity and landed it in the oven, serving it with roasted carrots and peppers (livened up with a few chillies) and potatoes. There was supposed to be a side dish of Buttered Leeks as well – our leeks, grown from a bundle of seedlings that a friendly neighbour left on the doorstep last summer, flourished in the garden all winter – but, between breakfast in bed and flat tyres we forgot to pull them.
Chocolate Chippies are big in New Zealand. Also known as a chocolate chip cookie, none of the Husband’s family gatherings are complete without a box – or several – of these small addictive biscuits, made by the Husband’s Mother or Sisters. When we were in Nelson in January, I spent time going through the Husband’s Mother’s great collection of recipe notebooks, taking down details of dishes I have enjoyed in the past – especially Gracie’s Brown Rice and Chickpea Salad and the Chocolate Chippies.
Being a big fan of porridge – especially good with Muscovado sugar and natural yoghurt on a cold morning in the cottage – I always have a bag of oats in the house and they often find their way into my baking. I regularly make batches of Anzac Biscuits and Oaty Apricot Biscuits to keep the tins filled. I’ve also been known to make my own Granola, using Tessa Kiros’ recipe in Apples for Jam as a starting point, throw a few handfuls into Brown Soda Bread, and have been experimenting with variations of Bill Granger‘s Muesli Bars. But, of all the oaty dishes that I make, this one for Chocolate Flapjacks is a true favourite. It originally came from Green and Black‘s decadent book of chocolate recipes but has gone through a few changes since with the addition of coconut, dates and seeds. Although there’s lots of butter in it (not to mention the golden syrup and sugar!), it’s still a slightly healthy snack and has been known to get me though many an evening’s post-work yoga class.
A baked cheesecake is one of those dishes that I’ve been meaning to make for a long, long time. So, when I saw that it was the theme of Hey Hey it’s Donna Day #10, as hosted over on Culinary Concoctions by Peabody, nothing was going to stop me from participating. I had also fully intended to get involved with HHDD #10, soufflés, as well but that kind of fell by the wayside when we had to start flat hunting in Dublin again. Spending your evenings getting frustrated with trying to find somewhere to live and the calmness necessary for soufflé cooking just don’t seem to go hand in hand.
Cookies, especially chocolate chip ones, are always a winner. But, when they also contain the nutty goodness of oatmeal and you get your hands on them, fresh from the oven so that the chocolate is still warm and melted, they are a treat indeed. A recipe that caught my eye recently on one of my regular wanders around Nic’s bakingsheet blog (her buttermilk pancakes are a regular weekend breakfast favourite) was this one, for Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies from The Frog Commissary Cookbook.
As a child, I was an avid cookbook reader and collector. Of course, growing up in a small town in the middle of the countryside, there weren’t too many opportunities to actually buy many new cookbooks so the few that I did have were well-treasured. One of my most loved books, judging by the ingredient-encrusted pages, was a cookbook devoted to chocolate. Although the book itself has long since disappeared, it did leave a legacy behind – my beloved Chocolate Brownies recipe.