Birthday Cake - 31 days of eating, day 5





Don’t you just love cake and birthday cake most of all? There is something lovely about eating a cake that was made especially for you.

Or on the other hand, making a cake for someone else.  Children love to make Ice Cream Cake and there is no adult on earth who doesn't love the best chocolate cake in the world.

Baking cakes is one of my favourite things to do, and I prefer to bake a cake rather than buy one, especially as then I can get the flavours just right like this Lemon and Sugar cake.

I find it really soothing to weigh out ingredients, mix them together, pop in the oven, let science do its work, and end up with a yummy cake.  There is something about baking that grounds me, and makes me feel satisfied.  I love tinkering with recipes, and developing them, trying new things, and remaking old favourites.  

When I have finished I love giving cakes away as presents.  There is something special about creating a cake.  What's more I always think where cake is involved there are lots of willing recipients for tasting.  This Pavlova Birthday Cake disappeared in moments and fruit cake does not have to take forever, this Quick Cranberry Fruitcake can be made in a hour or so.

I write a food column for the Belfast Times and this month is all about Birthday Cake.

What kind of cake do you like?

That's it for now ...


Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable





Brownies for a tender heart - 31 Days of Eating, Day 4 


Feelings tend to send me into the kitchen.  When I don't know what to do with myself I find solace in my kitchen.   Measuring, mixing and creating.  

When I am confused, sad and my heart feels tender for oh so many reasons.  My kitchen is my sanctuary, the place I have always retreated to.  The place my heart feels cared for.

Plans changed today, and they left me feeling a bit unfooted.  Wobbily.  It wasn't the change of plans it was all the stuff that came before.  Disease Diagnosis.  Friends and family coming to terms with what that means. The mother who lets her husband slap her children in public.  The innocence of children stolen and smashed. Watching in something resembling horror as an abuser manipulates.  A rejection. Refugees.  A friend hurting. Betrayal. The end of things. Those left behind.   Dreams  that aren't quite reality but are on their way there.  

The space never filled, the voids in our hearts.  Pain. Ache. The scent of sadness.

There are days, like today, when all it takes is a change of plan for all these things held lightly to feel heavy and unbearable.  

The heart the wellspring of our lives, weeps.  This weeping can overspill into a tin of brownies.  Brownies baked from a recipe I have wondered about since I read it in 'Tender at the Bone' by Ruth Reichl at the start of September.

The heart our bodies strongest muscle is still fragile, tender.  Seasoned by experience and the difficulties of daily existence.  Our hearts can easily become bruised.  When they are tender as mine was today, it is better to acknowledge the feeling, than hide from it.  Name it to tame it, rather than let it run rampant spinning itself into such a tale.

I take my tender heart into the haven of my kitchen and bake Ruth Reichl's brownies.

For ten minutes on a high speed 2 cups of sugar beat into four eggs, as my tear rimmed eyes watched chocolate melt into bright golden Irish butter.  Clouds of flow fell as all was mixed together, with a pinch of salt and two teaspoons of Vanilla.  Ooozing and soft it fell into the tin to be baked for 40 minutes.  Resulting in a sweet fudge like brownie, tender in the middle but tough on the outside.

Our hearts are tough, they are strong, but when we remember their tenderness it is good to take care of it.

Guard your heart for it is the wellspring of life.

Ruth Reichl's Brownies (comfort for a tender heart)



  • 2 cups of sugar
  • 5 oz of the best dark chocolate
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup of flour
  • 2/3 cup of butter
  • 1/2 tsp of salt




  1. Mix the salt into the eggs, add the sugar and beat on high for ten minutes, until the mixture is nearly white
  2. Meanwhile melt the butter and chocolate until smooth, add the vanilla
  3. Pour into the sugar egg mixture, and mix on low until combined
  4. Sift in the flour and mix quickly and gently until there are no white streaks
  5. Pour into a prepared tin and bake for 40 mins at 350'F
  6. A skewer should come out crummy not clean - do not overcook


You have just read the day four in the series 31 Days of Eating, read Day One Vegan Chocolate mousse and Day 2 Leek and Potato Soup, day three Saturday Reading.

That's it for now ...


Salt and Sparkle = Life Remarkable



Saturday reading - 31 Days of Eating, day 3

When I am not eating, cooking or wondering about new recipes, I can usually be found reading about food among other things.

These links are to a few of my favourite pieces I have recently read on the web.

20 Foods to Naturally increase your brain power - because let's face it, it's always good to keep the brain in great shape

Deliciously Ella's Sweetpotato and Chickpea Soup - I will be having a go at this next week

Baked Eggs and roasted tomatoes - what a great brunch

Riso al Forna all Siciliana - Everything Lusia writes or cooks makes me smile, have you read My Berlin Kitchen, well you should.

The Lost Art of Conversation - because conversation is an art, everyone should partake in

Helping Children when they are anxious - because anixety is allowed to run riot in our society and we need to reclaim calm from the earliest age, especially in the kitchen.  I am so tired of these people talking about chucking it in the oven, firing it under the grill eating in 30 seconds.  Children need to be taught that food should be savoured and eaten slowly.

Life doesn't have to be perfect, the truth behind Instagram - I love a good photo, I enjoy Instagram immensely, but I tire and shudder when I hear people compare their lives to the pictures they see.

When Donna met Barbara - because aren't they both just so fabulous.

Industrial Farming is wrong full stop - we are currently in the middle of a campaign to stop an industrial pig farm in our area where thousands of pigs would be butchered everyday.

What is wrong with the way we eat? - Nine TED talks take us through it - don't you just LOVE TED?

How to know if you are dealing with an manipulator - because we all need to know, and realise we don't have to be manipulated

On top of these I will be enjoying my Saturday Papers - The Irish Times, The Saturday Telegraph, and the Belfast Telegraph, as well as eating big bowls of this Leek and Potato Soup.

You have just read the day two in the series 31 Days of Eating, read Day One Vegan Chocolate mousse and Day 2 s Leek and Potato Soup.

Happy Saturday everyone.

That's it for now ...


Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable 





Leeks - 31 Days of Eating, day 2

Autumn has arrived in Ireland.  The Indian Summer of September is immediately forgotten in swathes of fog.  Mist which as dawn breaks clings to trees, where leaves are beginning to colour.  There is a new chill to the air as the haze lingers throughout the day, only clearing for late afternoon.  It's time to put away my flip flops, and embrace socks, shoes, sweaters and soup.  Warm chunky soups made with root veg, as well as light and fragrant broths.

Morning mists silence the world, making the sound of birdsong much more piercing, in the stillness.  The colours of Autumn are only starting to come but in 31 days, this world of green will be gone.  In its place bare branches, dark nights and the coming of winter.

There was a glut of leeks at the market today, I must have picked up 20 for less than a couple of pounds.  

There ends slightly whizzened, but the leeks themselves, firm. 

Leeks are verstile and flavoursome.  They are mentioned in the Bible, eaten by St David of Wales, and were a favourite vegetable in Roman cookery.  Welsh myth believes they have mystical qualities.  Apart from all that, they have always been one of my favourite ingredients for adding flavour to dishes.  Finely sliced tossed in melted butter and dusted with cheese, they make a crunchy topping to Shepherds or Cottage pies.  Sweated in butter with garlic and mixed through marconi cheese before baking, adds depth of flavour, and nutrition to perhaps one of the worlds best comfort foods.  After frying some lardons or pieces of bacon, mix with a cup of leeks then use as the base for a cheddar cheese quiche.  


Wandering home, wondering how I will cook them. 

I start with Leek and Potato soup  my sisters favourite soup.   Behind me as I write, a pot of leeks sweating in butter murmurs and occasionally pops.  

Stirring the leeks, I feel sad Naomi is not here to share the soup with me.  I remember making this soup for her when she came to visit me in Dublin.

Leeks prefer butter to oil, and are best cooked over a low heat. A piece of baking paper placed over the leeks as they cook will stop them becoming brown and bitter, as it encourages them to cook in their own steam. Leeks are full of nutrients and anti-oxidants which help stave off winter colds and flu.

Before I start to make the soup by adding golden chicken stock (vegetable if you want a vegan/vegetarian soup) I set two ladles of leeks aside, to later make Pappardelle with Leeks and Parsley.  

To the leeks left in the pot I add the stock, and cubed floury potatoes, a light seasoning of salt, and a grind of black pepper. Rummaging around in the fridge I find some parmesan rinds, and decide to add those to the homemade Chicken Stock , silky soft leeks, and cubes of potato.  Parmesan rinds are always worth saving when added to stocks and soups they impart a rich depth of flavour to the dish.  Over a low heat this mixture will cook slowly, until the potatoes soften, eventually falling apart.  

Taking the pot off the stove, I use a stick blender to smooth the soup to a veloute, and cool before refridgerating to serve over the weekend for lunch.  One of the secrets of eating well is to be prepared. Tomorrow I have a busy morning and come lunchtime I will be ready to eat my hand, so knowing all I have to do for lunch is warm a nutritious healthly soup, is very satisfying indeed.

Pappardelle with Leeks and Parsley

I cook some pappardelle in well salted water until it is al dente.  As it cooks I warm the leeks in butter and add a handful of spinach and 1/4 cup of chopped parsley, one red pepper.  Draining the pasta, I toss it through the leeks and spinach, add a squeeze of lemon juice to add a note of freshness and serve with a grating of parmesan.  Additions - Sliced grilled chicken, flaked salmon or some chorizo.


Serves two


  • 250g Papparedelle or other long pasta,  tagliatelli, fettuccine or even spagetti
  • 3 leeks chopped and sweated in 100g butter for 20 minutes
  • 2 cups raw baby spinach
  • 1/4 cup freshly chopped parsley
  • 1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • freshly grated parmesan to serve



  1. Cook the pappardelle in boiling well salted water until it is al dente
  2. Drain the pasta keeping 2 tbsp of cooking water
  3. Add all the other ingredients to the saucepan toss together, place the lid on and leave to 1 minute for the spinach to wilt
  4. Serve with parmesan and ground black pepper, and maybe even a pinch of chilli flakes.

How do you like to cook Leeks?

You have just read the day two in the series 31 Days of Eating, read Day One Vegan Chocolate mousse.

That's it for now ...


Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable 



Clean Chocolate Mousse - 31 Days of Eating, Day 1

Chocolate Mousse reminds me of dessert trolleys wheeled to the table where among the mounds of cream and cake, a wine glass would stand proud.  Filled with dense sticky sweet chocolate and usually topped with a kiss of whipped cream, these wine glasses felt like sophiscation to an 8 year old.  First I would eat a big spoonful, then taking less and less, as I tried to make the sweet soft mixture last.  Eventually scrapping the glass with my spoon, until all that remained were the faintests lines of brown on a smeared, smudged glass.

When I cooked professionally chocolate mousse was a firm favourite of my clients.  My Chocolate Mousse recipe is one I have served across the world.  Whether cooking in a chalet in the Alps, in a town in the Mid-West of America or on a beach in Italy.  

I remember the hostess who loved to have me create all kinds of extravagant dinners for her, then disappear well in advance of her guests arriving.  She liked to take all the credit for her food and pretend she had cooked the dinner.  At the end of the meal she would smile and bring out sparkling crystal glasses filled with her secret recipe for chocolate mousse, to a table where the sounds of oohs and ahhs would reverberate throughout the room making her smile. 

Then there was a cold night in February many years ago, when I stood for hours making Chocolate Mousse, upon Chocolate Mousse, to fulfil a Valentine's Day order for a local restaurant.  I think I made 200 wineglasses full in one evening.  

These mousses would always start with chocolate and flavour - maybe mint, orange, raspberry, champagne or hazelnut -tempered then poured thickly whipped cream, which would then be folded into the glossiest firmest beaten egg whites.

As clean eating became popular I started to develop recipes that were rich in flavour and high in healthy ingredients, just like this Clean Chocolate Mousse.  There are lots of health inducing ingredients such as - 

Dark chocolate is full of benefitical minerals such as potassium, zinc and selenium.  Coconut milk highly nutritious and rich in fibre, vitamins C, E, B1, B3, B5 and B6 and minerals including iron, selenium, sodium, calcium, magnesium and phosphorous and Silken Tofu which is an excellent source of amino acids, iron, calcium and other micro-nutrients

This clean recipe is rich, velvety, and decadent.  Those who don't 'eat clean' would have no idea that this recipe is dairyfree, processed sugar free and vegan friendly.

But shhhhhhhhhhhh, don't tell anyone how easy it is. 

Clean Chocolate Mousse


  • 3/4 cup coconut milk
  • 1 and a 1/4 cups of good vegan chocolate broken into pieces (or good regular chocolate broken into pieces) - do not use carob
  • 12 ounces silken tofu
  • 1/4 teaspoon natural pure almond extract 
  • 1 tbsp Bourbon (you can use a whole range of liqueurs here, whatever takes your fancy) - this is optional, you can add a tbsp of fruit juice instead, such as orange, passionfruit or raspberry juice
  • 1 tbsp Maple Syrup of more to taste
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • Rind of one small orange
  • to serve 100g frozen raspberries




  1. Bring the coconut milk to the boil and lower the heat immediately, stir in the chocolate chips unitl melted
  2. Add all the other ingredients and blend until smooth
  3. Add more vanilla or maple syrup to taste
  4. Layer in a glass or serving dish with frozen raspberries
  5. Chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours before serving


Tips - for a softer ploppier consistency add another 1/3 cup of coconut milk to the mousse at the beginning, or if a denser mousse is desired use about 1/4 up less coconut milk to begin with.


I have written this post especially for my friend Anna Burcombe who became a Vegan over the summer, and has constantly inspired me with her wonderful healthly meals.  You can check out her recipes on Instagram.

You have just read the day one in a series of 31 Days of Eating.

That's it for now ...


Salt and Sparkle = Life Remarkable


31 Days of Eating 

It gives me great pleasure to take part in Write 31 Days for the third year running.  

For 2015 my 31 Days series will be all about eating.  In 2013 I wrote about Real Food and in 2014 I wrote about moving from Fat to Freedom.

You can expect over the next month to find great recipes, thoughts on food, interviews, recommendations for products and recipe books, things to consider on health & wellness and eating.  As well as some fabulous photography.  Prepared to be inspired.

I look forward to you joining me on this journey.

That's it for now ...


Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable


Chipotle Red Onion Lime Salad

 Onions especially red one's can be very tough to eat, as they spend some time rumbling in our tummies.  This simple salad which is brilliant to serve with Nachos, Tortillas, casseroles or any Mexican food as a side dish, overcomes that, by lightly pickling the onion in salt and lime juice. This large flake Chipotle salt from Marks and Spencer brings a smoky depth to the sweet onions and tart lime juice.

 It is important to slice the red onions as thinly as possible, I would suggest using a mandolin or the finest blade on a food processor.

 Onions tossed in chipolte salt and lime, sprinkled with coriander left for a hour, then served - perfect simple and sensational.


Chipotle Red Onion Lime Salad recipe

serves 4 as a side dish


  • 3 red onions finely sliced
  • 1 bunch of coriander finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon of Chipotle Salt


  1. Combine all ingredients except the coriander, toss well leave for one hour covered at room temperature
  2. Before serving scatter with chopped coriander
  3. Serve as a side dish or scattered over nachos


That's it for now ...



Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable