Savour Kilkenny 2014 on Like Mam Used to Bake

So I’ve been a bit of a little Miss Judgey pants lately. Last week I selflessly tasted too many cakes to count in a sugar haze, and this weekend I will do the same. Savour Kilkenny is set to take place this coming weekend, and I will be donning my elasticated waistbands on Saturday and Sunday alongside Edward Hayden, with Dee Laffan and Gina Miltiadou of Easy Food magazine to judge Kilkenny’s finest bakes in the Easy Food Baking Games. If you love to bake you can enter your kitchen creations in four categories; cakes, cupcakes, breads and pastries. If you prefer to leave the baking to others you can pop along to simply marvel at the baked goods, and do a little drooling if you like. Full details are below. Savour Kilkenny is set to be a fantastic food filled weekend, the full programme of events is available here. Hope to see you there!

Savour KK

Christmas Baking on Like Mam Used to Bake

STOP SHOUTING AT ME!!! I know. I KNOW. The kids are barely back in school. We haven’t even dressed up for Halloween yet. But, I said it last year, and I’ll most likely say it next year again, you have to plan and bake ahead when it comes to Christmas. Now is the perfect time to make a start. Or just to start shopping for the ingredients. If you pick up a few bits each week you’ll be ready to go by the end of the month. The big bakes that you should tackle early, before the madness of wrapping presents and decking halls kicks in, are the Christmas cake, Christmas pudding and mince meat. They all benefit from time to mature too so that they are at their peak once the big day rolls round.

I will include links for each of them below so that you have all of the recipes in one place. I have also gone to the trouble of doing up a shopping list for those of you who plan on making all three. I’m good like that. No, honestly, no need to thank me. Print it out and stick it in your bag or wallet so that each time you are in the supermarket you can cross a few items off. Christmas baking is very forgiving, it doesn’t require any specialist skills, if you can stir you’re sucking diesel. What it does require however is organisation, and a little bit of patience to measure the ingredients out before you start to blindly throw things into a bowl. The recipes for the Christmas cake and Christmas pudding have a printable page included, print them out and as you measure each item put a little tick beside it, and then as you add each item to the bowl a second tick. If you do that much you really can’t go wrong.

The recipes for the Christmas cake and Christmas pudding both make two each. You can halve the recipes if you want but I think that when you are going to that much trouble you might as well bake two and gift one to someone else. You can find the printable shopping list for all of the ingredients required to make the Christmas cake, Christmas pudding and mince meat below, and links to the three recipes. Happy Christmas baking!

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Christmas cake, find recipe here.

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Christmas pudding, find recipe here.

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Mince meat, find recipe here.

Damson Cheese on Like Mam Used to Bake

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No, not that kind of cheese, think Membrillo or quince paste instead. I can’t remember when I first read about damson cheese, but never having stumbled upon damsons I hadn’t had the opportunity to make it. I have been very lucky in recent weeks to have received numerous gifts of garden bounty from various people. We’ve feasted on home-grown cabbage, lettuce, rhubarb and apples, and I’ve been roasting far too many potatoes for my waistband’s liking. But they’re just sooooo good. My latest garden gift arrived this week, dropped around to me by a very kind neighbour, and I made up my mind pretty much instantly on the fate of that beautiful bowl of damsons.

My favourite cheese is Gorgonzola. I love the sharp, salty almost pungent veining beautifully encased by the smooth and creamy cheese. Add a little sweet to the mix and you’re pretty much guaranteed a party in your mouth. I sometimes throw together a plate of Italian meats and cheese as a late snack or a light lunch for myself and Mr. LMUTB, and so I thought damson cheese would make the perfect accompaniment. As it is said to keep pretty much indefinitely in the fridge I am also hoping we might have some left to see us through Christmas entertaining too.

Before I set about making my damson cheese I did a little bit of investigating. Recipes varied quite a bit in both the list of ingredients and the ratios used. Following some tap tap tapping on my calculator, much scribbling on some paper and quite a lot of head scratching I decided that a ratio of 100g sugar to 150ml damson purée fell somewhere in the middle of the majority of recipes. I went with that and following much patient stirring, which I am terrible at because I think God left out patience when he made me, I was rewarded with a most glorious deep ruby jelly. I have eaten it both on its own and with some Stilton, the cheese counter was out of Gorgonzola, and it is deliciously sweet with just a hint of tart plum. If you are lucky enough to have a glut of damsons this is a super simple way to preserve their flavour to enjoy throughout the winter.

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Damson Cheese

Notes:

I am not going to give exact quantities for this recipe as it is likely that people will gather various quantities from their gardens or hedgerows, so instead I will give the ratios I used as a guideline.

This recipe is not difficult to make, if you can stir you’re already winning, but it does require some time and patience.

As you are working with hot sugar here be extremely careful, you don’t want to end up with a nasty burn. If you have small children in the house it might be an idea to keep them busy in a different room.

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Damsons

Caster sugar

Wash the damsons, remove any stalks or leaves, and discard any which have burst their skins or have been attacked by greedy birds. Pop them into a large, heavy based saucepan. Add a couple of tablespoons of water, cover with a lid and set over a medium-low heat stirring every few minutes until they are tender and break down easily. This will take at least 30-40 minutes, be patient.

Reduce the heat to low, remove the pan from the heat and one ladle full at a time press the contents through a sieve into a large bowl pushing the flesh through, discarding the stones and skin as you go. Rinse out the saucepan and set it on a scales. Add the damson purée to the saucepan and for every 150ml of purée that you have add 100g of caster sugar and stir through.

Return the saucepan to the heat, this time uncovered and allow it to simmer gently, stirring every 5 minutes or so to ensure that it doesn’t catch on the bottom of the pan. This is where that patience comes in to play as you will need to allow it to simmer for at least 60 minutes, but more than likely 90 minutes. Don’t be tempted to turn the heat up to speed things along as you risk burning it, and as a person who as many times burnt sugar onto the bottom of a pan you don’t want to have to clean up that mess.

As the liquid starts to thicken up keep a very close eye on it, you will notice the bubbles hold their shape a little longer before they pop on the surface. At this point drag a wooden spoon through it, when a clear path is visible for a couple of seconds it’s done. Grease and line a loaf tin or a brownie pan with parchment paper. I chose to use a loaf tin as I wanted slices of damson cheese, if you prefer squares go with the brownie pan. Very carefully pour the damson cheese into the line tin and set aside to cool and set. Once it has cooled pop it into the fridge overnight. Remove from the tin and cut into slices or squares, wrapping them individually in parchment or greaseproof paper. Store in the fridge until needed.

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Oat Spelt Cookies on Like Mam Used to Bake

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Back to school is tough going. Especially on the littlest of scholars. I’ve heard many tired and frustrated sobs emanating from little school uniform clad figures as they troop past the window each afternoon. So many new experiences, so many new faces and so many long hours away from home, well it can all be a bit much in the beginning. I need a little lie down just thinking about it. If all of that is not enough, there is still homework to contend with and uniforms to change out of before play time can begin. Sure it’s no wonder the poor childer are exhausted, and a little bit emotional.

I think a little treat might be in order, don’t you? What could be better than cookies, still warm from the oven? Well, maybe cookies, still warm from the oven and with lots of lovely oats inside. These cookies are also wheat, dairy and refined sugar free. In their place I have used spelt flour, coconut oil and maple syrup. It’s not just for drizzling over your pancakes you know. The cake like texture of these cookies means that one is more than enough to fill you up as a snack, and the oats provide a lovely slow release energy, keeping tummies feeling fuller for longer.

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If like LMUTB HQ your house is occupied solely by big people these cookies are a perfect pick me up for the 3 o’clock slump, or running between tasks throughout the day. If that’s not reason enough to make them just imagine warm cookies as a weekend breakfast treat, I mean it’s practically porridge, right? I also plan on packing them with a flask of hot chocolate for chilly autumn and winter walks in the park or on the beach.

Oh and did I mention they taste great too? Sweet without being overly so, with just a hint of warming spice. The ground oats add a lovely texture, and the coconut oil lends a buttery richness along with its subtle flavour of the exotic. Sure where would you get it, exotic oats, wah?! Ground oats can be more expensive than their whole cousins to buy so I just buy bags of jumbo oats and blitz them in the food processor. This way I can also control how finely they are ground. I don’t blitz them into oblivion as I like them to add some texture to breads and other bakes, but feel free to grind them finer if you prefer. Enjoy!

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Oat Spelt Cookies

{Makes 12}

60g coconut oil

100ml maple syrup

1 large egg

120g spelt flour

60g ground porridge oats

1tsp baking powder

1tsp mixed spice

1/4tsp salt

In a large bowl cream together the coconut oil and the maple syrup, using an electric hand whisk/standalone mixer, for approximately 3 minutes. As you cream them and the coconut oil breaks down into smaller pieces the mixture will look like it has split, and rather disgusting if I’m honest, but don’t worry just continue beating.

Add the egg and mix just until evenly combined. Again the mixture will look like it has split, but don’t worry.

Add all of the dry ingredients and again mix until just combined, use a spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl for any of the dry ingredients that escaped the electric mixer and mix them through. Pop the bowl into the fridge to chill the dough for half an hour.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4.

Remove the dough from the fridge and with slightly wet hands roll it into 12 equal balls, roughly walnut sized. Place the dough balls evenly spaced apart on the baking sheet and flatten them down a little with your hand. Bake in the preheated oven for between 12 and 15 minutes, rotating the tray half way to ensure they bake evenly.  The cookies are done when they are just starting to crisp up around the edges, they will remain pale in colour as you can see from the pictures. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on the baking tray for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely, or gobble them up while they are still warm.

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Scally’s SuperValu ‘Clonakilty Gluten Free Cuisine’ on Like Mam Used to Bake

I always remark to Mr. LMUTB when we travel around Ireland that the further you are from a large town or city the better the quality and selection of the produce in local supermarkets. I am a little envious. The vast choice and volume of supermarkets in Dublin, and other large cities, can often dilute the quality and variety of products stocked, meaning that trips to speciality stores are necessary. One such supermarket in Clonakilty paving the way in specialty foods is Scally’s SuperValu.

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On August 28th Scally’s SuperValu launched a range of 30 gluten-free goods, made fresh in their new designated in-store gluten-free bakery and food production facility. Investing €500,000 and creating five new jobs Scally’s SuperValu has become the first supermarket in Ireland with a  designated facility producing products certified for coeliacs. To further reassure customers that goods are 100% gluten-free all products are independently tested and verified by Alpha Analytics. Scally’s SuperValu aim is to offer a diverse gluten-free range of exceptional quality, that is keenly priced.

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Scally’s SuperValu very kindly sent me a generous selection of the gluten-free goodies to try. I can be a little bit fussy when it comes to baked goods, given that I spend so much of my time eating them, but I will admit to being very pleasantly surprised by the range. Petit pans had the delicious aroma of freshly baked bread, and the texture for me was that of ‘real’ bread, not your usual supermarket offering. Lemon polenta cake and carrot cake were both a hit in LMUTB HQ. I had some help in testing both the cupcakes and scones from the neighbours kids, and they gobbled them up. For me the scones lacked the lightness of their glutenous cousins, but the kids didn’t complain. I would also prefer to see butter used in place of margarine in the cupcakes, but again the kids worked some magic on them and made them disappear in the blink of an eye. I loved the potato and leek soup and the vegetable soup, both of which made for some very tasty lunches for me. Best of all for me is the simple list of ingredients for each item, no hidden nasties, just plain and simple ingredients.

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Clonakilty Gluten-Free Cuisine is currently available from Scally’s SuperValu in Clonakilty, and Scally’s SuperValu Blackrock in Cork City, with future plans for expansion expected. Below is a list of some of the products available.

I received a hamper of goods from Scally’s SuperValu, all opinions are my own. 

Brown soda bread, 450g – €2.00

White bread, 400g – €2.00

White bread rolls (four pack) – €2.00

Garlic bread (130g) – €2.00

Bread crumbs (400g) – €2.00

Fruit scones (four pack) – €2.50

Plain scones (four pack) – €2.50

Celebration cake / Birthday cake – €15.99

Trifle sponge – €2.00

Cupcakes (four pack) – €3.00

Carrot cake, 400g – €3.99

Lemon polenta cake, 400g – €3.99

Mushroom soup (500ml) – €3.00

Pepper sauce (460ml) – €3.00

Roast gravy (460ml) – €2.75

White sauce (460ml) – €3.00

Vegetable soup (500ml) – €3.00

Carrot & coriander soup (500ml) – €3.00

Tomato soup (500ml) – €3.00

Potato & leek soup (500ml) – €3.00

Shepherd’s pie (450g) – €3.25

Seafood chowder (500ml) – €4.00

Seafood pie (450g) – €3.50

Ham & Cheese Toastie on Like Mam Used to Bake

 

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It would seem that I am hard-wired to crave comfort food in September, the instant that I lay eyes on a child in a school uniform. With the return to school well and truly under way my body has been screaming at me to feed it foods that warm and salve it through the colder months. Even though there is just a slight chill in the air, and the sun has been most generous with its time over the past week,  I have been unable to resist the lure of comfort on a plate. We have had our first stew of the season, quite early even by my standards, and the slow cooker I bought in advance of temperatures dropping has been a busy little bee.

One day last week when I was feeling a little less than full of the joys of life I decided it was a day to eat purely for the soul. For me, only one thing will do for lunch on such days…the humble toasty. I say humble as it is as standard a ham and cheese sandwich toasted. Nothing fancy schmanzy about that, right? That is how they were made when I was growing up, barring a short obsessive period when the Breville sandwich maker was introduced into our lives. And if you order one in any Irish pub I have no doubt it will be prepared in the same way.

That is how I continued to make them when I moved into my own house, until one day I had an epiphany. Now I’m sure many of you do this already, and I don’t know why it took me so long to think of it, but I realised the error of my ways. I had been making toasties as you would a regular sandwich. Butter the inside of the bread, add fillings, sandwich the bread together and toast on both sides. If you’re nodding along and saying to yourself, “yes, yes, that’s the way you do it”, well then you had better listen up to this next bit. Don’t butter the inside of the bread, you butter it on the OUTSIDE. If you’re sitting there thinking to yourself, “sure I knew that, I mean EVERYONE knows that you butter the outside”, carry on as you were. For those who are reading brand new information, you’re welcome.

Buttering the outside of the sandwich before grilling solves that age-old dry toast encasing molten hot burn the tongue off yourself cheese problem. It’s a little bit like fried bread, golden and buttery and delicious. You can opt to fry it instead of grilling it if you’re that way inclined, I have been known to myself on occasion. What follows is not so much a recipe as a rough guide to ultimate ham and cheese toastiness. Use this a base for all other toasted sandwich experiments too.

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Notes:

I’m partial to sourdough bread when the ultimate sandwich is in construction, however, for the humble ham and cheese toasty only batch bread will do. Feel free to use your preferred bread.

Likewise, for the cheese I use sliced Emmental, I find the slices easier to deal with when melting comes in to play. Feel free to use your preferred cheese, cut, sliced or grated as you choose.

Real ham please, it’s the only man for the job.

Oh, and proper butter too, none of your ‘heart healthy’ spreads.

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Ham & Cheese Toastie

Makes 1

2 slices of bread

Dijon mustard, or English mustard if you’re feeling brave

Cheese

Ham

Unsalted Butter

Place the two slices of bread under a hot grill for a couple of minutes, just until the surface has dried, but try not to allow them to colour.

Spread some mustard onto one or both slices of bread, make sure you go right to the edges.

Cover the surface of both slices of bread with cheese and return to the grill until the cheese has melted and started to bubble.

Now place some ham on top of the melted cheese on both slices of bread, followed by some more cheese on one slice. This will hold the sandwich together. Once the cheese has melted and started to bubble sandwich the two slices of bread together. If some melted cheese oozes out as you do this you know you’re doing an excellent job.

Butter the top slice of bread, again making sure to go right to the edges, and return to the grill until golden and crisp and starting to brown around the edges. Flip the sandwich over and repeat that last step.

Remove from the grill and cut in half, you should have some more cheese oozage at this stage to confirm that you have indeed made a top-notch toastie. Now allow it to cool a little so that you don’t burn your tongue.

Nah, I’m only kidding, patience is impossible in this case, go right ahead and burn your tongue. It’s totally worth it.

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Books and Bobs on Like Mam Used to Bake

It’s back to school time here in Ireland, and as I mentioned on Twitter the other day this time of year always gives me that New Year vibe. The notebook and pen have come out and I am making lists, lists and more lists. At this rate I will need a list of the lists. The summer months with their longer daylight hours and warmer temperatures have a tendency to send me into an ultra relaxed mañana state of mind. As the temperatures have dipped and leaves flutter free from trees it would seem that mañana has finally arrived, and I am ready to begin ticking tasks from lists once again.

I have accumulated some new cookbooks over the last few months, and if you are anything like me I know that the autumn chill will have you curling up with a stack of cookbooks seeking comforting kitchen inspiration. And if like me you intend to expand your collection you might be interested in what has been added to the growing pile in my living room. I’d like to say bookcase but I would be fibbing. Both bookcases in the kitchen are full to bursting and sway precariously when I remove or return an item from/to them. Which is why I’ve added built-in floor to ceiling shelving to one of my lists. DIY abilities in this house are low though, so I’m not hopeful.

Oh and this post should really just be titled books. I have no Bobs to offer. They were all busy.

Wholesome: Feed Your Family Well For Less, Caitríona Redmond {Mercier Press}

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Image via Mercier Press

The first book from Ireland’s domestic frugalista Caitríona Redmond was published in the spring of this year and is based on her very popular blog Wholesome Ireland. Like many others, in recent years Caitríona Redmond has faced the demands of feeding a growing family on a limited budget, and so began blogging recipes and tips on how to get the most from ingredients and meals. Charting her experience and offering advice to others on how best to enjoy a healthy, balanced diet on a limited budget her blog grew a loyal readership. In her own words Wholesome:Feed Your Family Well For Less “should be treated as a manual for managing a kitchen on a budget.”

Chapters include ‘Bountiful Breakfasts’, ‘Lovely Lunches’, ‘Fifteen-Minute Suppers’, ‘Take One Chicken, Make Many Meals’, ‘ESP: Eggs, Spuds & Pulses’, ‘Hearty Meals’, ‘Simple Sides & Nibbles’ and ‘Sweet Treats’. In addition to recipes Caitríona offers advice on meal planning, writing a shopping list and carrying out a kitchen stock take, things that I know I am guilty of overlooking which in turn adds to the cost of grocery shopping. If you are cooking to a strict budget or simply looking to reduce food waste you will find some helpful tips and advice in Wholesome: Feed Your Family Well For Less. With the start of the new college term fast approaching a copy of this book could also prove invaluable for those living on a student budget.

I received a copy of Wholesome: Feed Your Family Well For Less from Mercier Press.

The Extra Virgin Kitchen, Susan Jane White {Gill & MacMillan}

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Image via Gill & MacMillan

The Extra Virgin Kitchen published earlier this year was added to my ‘to buy’ list along with many others. Some books linger there for a very long time. However having attended an event hosted by Linwood’s, which included a demo by Susan Jane White, I pretty much ran straight to the shops to buy a copy. Having suffered ill-health a number of years ago Susan Jane White now follows a wheat, sugar and dairy free diet, and she is the perfect advertisement for her own recipes. She positively glows. And without sounding slightly stalkerish I will admit to having a teeny tiny girl crush. Not only was she blessed with model looks (she was an actual model) she writes with great humour that had both me and Mr. LMUTB chuckling as we read through The Extra Virgin Kitchen.

While not intent on eradicating wheat, sugar and dairy from my diet, I’m far too weak for the willpower required, I was seeking to introduce a little ooomph to my energy levels and general well-being. I will admit to often shying away from ‘healthy’ cookbooks because they sometimes feel a bit like a science lesson, and so I lose interest, and quite frankly don’t understand half of the gibberish. The Extra Virgin Kitchen however is written in a light bulb manner, by which I mean the explanations of the effect of certain foods on the body had me saying “oh yeah, that makes sense” over and over again. Chapters include ‘Ideas for Breakfast’, ‘Snacks and Other Nutritional Hits’, ‘Soups’, ‘Salads, ‘Suppers’ and ‘Extra Virgin Treats’. For those looking to super fuel their lives, or maybe mammies and daddies hoping to sneak some extra nutrition into picky eaters The Extra Virgin Kitchen is worthy of some bookshelf space.

Bread On The Table: Baking Traditions for Today, Valerie O’Connor {The O’Brien Press}

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When a book, and even better a cookbook, plops unexpectedly through my letterbox it makes me a little bit giddy. Opening the envelope to be faced with the beautiful image above also made me more than a little bit hungry. I mean, just look at that perfect crust! There is little in this life that beats a loaf of bread still warm from the oven, generously slathered with proper butter and sprinkled with a smidgen of sea salt. Bread On The Table will equip you with just the skills needed to produce real bread in your very own kitchen, from a basic white loaf to sea lettuce ‘baguettini’. Did you ever hear the like?

Chapters include ‘White Yeast Breads’, ‘Soda Breads’, ‘Brown Bread’, ‘Sourdough’, ‘Walk on the Wild Side’, ‘Gluten Free Goodies’, ‘Sweet Things’ and ‘Butter’. Bread on the Table is beautifully illustrated throughout with a photograph to accompany each recipe. This also has the effect of making me hungry each time I flick through it. Instructions are clear and concise, and there is even a ‘bread lingo’ page at the back. Once you have mastered the basics Valerie O’Connor provides plenty of inspiration for more adventurous experiments. If you have already mastered bread baking I think you would also enjoy Bread On The Table as I found many flavour combinations within that would never have occurred to me to try in bread baking.

I received a copy of Bread On The Table: Baking Traditions for Today from The O’Brien Press.

No-Bake Baking: Easy Oven-Free Cakes & Treats, Sharon Hearne-Smith, Photography by Donal Skehan {Quercus}

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When I heard last year that Sharon Hearne-Smith was releasing her own cookbook excitement levels reached ‘only dogs can hear me scream’ levels. Having worked with people like Jamie Oliver, Lorraine Pascale, Ina Garten and Neven Maguire Sharon is Ireland’s food styling queen. As you may have noticed I have a penchant for all things pretty and floral and so I absolutely adore Sharon’s style. Imagine a whole book packed full of all of the pretties! No-Bake Baking: Easy Oven-Free Cakes & Treats is the visual confection I imagined it to be, and more.

Chapters include: ‘Biscuits’, ‘Cakes’, ‘Slices and Bars’, ‘Cheesecakes’, ‘Pies and Tarts’, ‘Sweet Treats’, ‘Iced Dreams’ and ‘Desserts’. As the title suggests there is no baking involved, although some recipes do call for the use of a microwave or the hob, and most will require setting in the fridge or freezer. If you are a baking novice No-Bake Baking would be a great step to building confidence in the kitchen. Likewise if you bake with the assistance of little hands the elimination of the oven may prove a welcome relief. For those times of the year when oven space is at a premium (I know, I’ve been mentioning the ‘C’ word a lot lately), or when time is tight and you need to make ahead, a book bursting with no-bake recipes will earn its keep. And rather beautifully too.

Robert Roberts Deliciously Strong Tea

 

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With all of that reading to do you’ll be needing something to sip. I don’t know about you but in the past couple of weeks I have found myself boiling the kettle more frequently than I have done for a few months. Robert Roberts Deliciously Strong Tea is a unique blend of 50% Assam tea and 50% Kenyan Tea, making it perfect for those who favour a more flavoursome cuppa, and is believed to be the only tea blended in Ireland to contain as much as 50% Assam tea. I favour my tea strong, and usually allow it to steep for five minutes. I actually set the oven timer thanks to a tip from Kristin over at Edible Ireland. I found three minutes just right when brewing a mug of Robert Roberts Deliciously Strong Tea, and on the mornings I was rushing out the door with my travel mug one minute still produced a nice palatable tea. Looks like I found a Bob after all. Available from Dunnes Stores nationwide, RRP €3.85 for 80 bags.

I received a box of Robert Roberts Deliciously Strong Tea from Robert Roberts.