Tolkien on Food - Day 17 - 31 Days of Food

“If more of us valued food and cheer above hoarded gold, it would be a much merrier world.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien

Just a thought to ponder.

That's it for now ...


Salt & Sparkle = life Remarkable


Flapjacks - day 16 - 31 days of food


My to tins were empty but luckily my cupboards were not bare. Oats, coconut, honey, butter, soft brown sugar, dried cranberries, cherries & apricots were worked together into the most delicious flapjacks. That I could serve as an after lunch as a sweet bite with a cup of tea or coffee.

As I felt the mixture with my hands or reminded me of the Australian Anzac biscuits which would have added some flour to the recipe. So I decided to bake some of the flapjacks as little biscuits. The result, chewy cookies perfect for a
Cup of coffee or an energy boost.

Here's the recipe
6oz butter
3oz soft light brown sugar
7fl oz clear honey
2 tbsp maple syrup
10oz rolled porridge oats
4oz dried cherries
5oz dried cranberries
3 tbsp desiccated coconut

Melt the sugar into the butter, honey & syrup
Add the soft fruit
Add the oats & coconut
Stir well off the heat
Push into a greased tin & bake in a cool ovens 170 degrees
Bake for 15 mins
Cool with tin sitting wire rack then cut into squares.

If you'd like to make the flapjack biscuits. Place flatten little blobs of the mixture on a baking sheet & cook for 5-9 minutes at 180' watch to make sure these do not burn.

How do you like to make flapjacks?

That's it for now ...


Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable

Photographs taken on an iPhone


student friendly risotto - Day 15 - 31 days of food 

I love risotto. I love making chicken stock. But when a student texts you for an immediate recipe as I always want to encourage their cooking. Especially as risotto is one of the key dishes in any students repertoire. Here's a conversation I had by text last week

Question - how do I make leek & cheese student friendly risotto again ie I'm not standing around making stock from
Chicken bones. I want it I want it now.

My answer -
purists don't hate me -

Make chicken stock with stock cubes & hot water about 4-5
cubes per bag of rice. Put in saucepan & simmer for entire process.
In another pan
Heat olive oil medium fry three cloves crushed garlic stirring, add finely chopped and washed leek. Fry until
Leek is soft about five minutes. Add another dash of oil pour in rice. Cook rice for 4mins stirring while time until it starts to go clear. You can add a slice of butter here and fry rice if you want a creamy flavour.
Add one ladleful of stock at a time stirring & cooking until it is dissolved. Over high heat. keep stirring aways or rice will stick to pan. About 15-17 minutes adding stock & stirring. Rice should have a little vote in the middle when ready. Once done

Take off heat add three cubes butter mix hard into rice (optional) then add preferably grate from wedge of parmesan to taste about a cupful or otherwise one tub of Parmesan cheese fresh pre grated stuff - you may want to add more cheese. Add freshly ground pepper. Enjoy.

So how would you tell a student to make a risotto?

That's it for now ...

Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable


Beetroot Humus - Day 14 - 31 Days of Food

As Autumn draws in there seems to be. Glut of fresh beetroot in the shops. Pickled beetroot has been a mainstay in my family fridge and garden as far back as I can remember. In fact I can see dad & Gran now boiling and pickling huge glass jars of the stuff. Bright purple staining their hands.

Having tasted a smoked beetroot this week at SHU Belfast, from chef Brian McCann I wondered what else I could do with the stuff.

On Friday as I finished preparing for the dinner party I found four bulbs at the back of the fridge nearly at the end of their life.

A can of butterbeans from the larder, some ex virgin olive oil to bind, salt, pepper, garlic and that Middle Eastern marvel Tahini whizzed together with a handful
Of chickpeas left over from a salad made the most cerise humus I've ever seen.

Perfect for dipping into with flat bread or carrot chunks. The flavour is earthy, the tahini bringing a dry depth which was balanced by the olive oil.

I think I may have found my latest craze and its pink. What more can I say?

I think I'm going to try making humus with other winter veggies - carrots or butternut squash are next up.

That's it for now ...


Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable

Photos taken on my iPhone


Rice Pudding with Rose & Pistachio

Growing up we ate rice pudding once a week or so. Baked in the Aga it was a traditional Irish pudding, milky baked until it was set quite hard with a skin sprinkled with nutmeg and underneath the rice was speckled through with sultanas. I found it comforting to eat & was intrigued with the idea it went into the oven & came out a few hours later ready to eat.

The frost sparkled outside the window the night I decided to experiment with rice pudding. I remembered a conversation with my Indian Friend Nelson Thomas Raja & where he mentioned a pudding made with basmati rice & spices. Intrigued, I wondered if I had the ingredients & could create it.

In the cupboard I found cinnamon sticks & green cardamom, vanilla pods, pudding rice and tins of evaporated milk. My fridge showed a little milk & not wanting to drive in the ice, I substituted cans of evaporated milk, some vanilla sugar, the little milk I had & water plus the spices. I also decided to cook the pudding on top of the stove on the Aga simmering plate rather than in the oven.

The spices lifted the rice to a completely different level while the evaporated milk brought depth. Since then it's become a staple pudding in my kitchen. I love serving it with mandarin oranges or eating it cold the next day.

Recently I received Ottolengi & Tamimi'd book Jerusalem. I'll be posting about it shortly. But let me just say I ADORE THIS BOOK & read it cover to cover the moment I discovered it had been sent to me.

In the book they have a recipe for rice pudding with pistachios and rose water that was similar to my spicey rice. In their book I discovered that rice pudding is the most common everyday dessert throughout the old Sephardi world - eaten hot or cold throughout the day.

In the Arab world rice pudding was also common & it would have been flavoured with sugar flower blossom syrups.

I decided to combine the idea of rose & pistachio into my spicey Indian rice pudding. This is the result. A pudding so delicious. So comforting. It just soothes my soul. I hope it will yours too.

I served it the first time I made it at the dinner party I cooked on Friday night.

Here's the recipe.

2tins evaporated milk
1pint semi skimmed milk
1/2 water maybe a little more or less
10 green cardamom pods bashed
1 vanilla pod seeds scraped out & pod or 4 tsp of food vanilla extract
1 small cinnamon stick
1 bay leaf
300g pudding rice - you can use basmati if you wish but the texture will be different.
7tbsp runny honey - use a honey that's as local to you as possible
Pinch of salt

7tbsp runny honey
5 tbsp rose water if using rose extract about 2-3tsp as its stronger

Finely sliced pistachio nuts
Dried rose petals


Bring to the boil the milk, evaporated milk, vanilla pod, bashed cardamom seeds and shell, cinnamon stick and bay leaf. Take off the heat & set aside. Either overnight in the fridge or on the back of the cooker while you make all your other dishes. I left mine on the back of the aga for about 2hours. The longer you leave the flavours to develop the richer the pudding will be

Make the syrup by adding the ingredients to a small pan with a four tsp water heat until all the ingredients come together then leave to the side but keep warm

Bring the milk and spice mixture to a simmer add the honey

Wash the rice then add to the rice

Stir continually over a medium heat - I use the simmering ring of the aga - for about 17-20 minutes. The rice should be cooked al dente like a risotto so it will have a bite. The pudding will be thick, I add up to 1/2 pint of water towards the end of cooking if the pudding is becoming to thick

The consistency should be soft & oozing not sticky & thick

Remove the pan from the heat, pick out the cardamom, vanilla pod, bay leaf and cinnamon stick.

Serve in little bowls, tea glasses or cups drizzled with syrup & sprinkled with pistachios and dried rose petals.

The pudding can be made a head of time & reheated it can also be served cold.

I love the rich flavour of this pudding it is aromatic, sweet and soothing. You may not like as much flavour as me. So I encourage you to taste taste taste the pudding as you cook it. If you feel to your palate the spice is just right 1/2 way through cooking remove te cinnamon stick, and vanilla pod.


I'd love to hear how you make rice pudding.

That's it for now ...


Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable


Favourite sweeties - Day 20 - 31 Days of Food 

Here in Ireland we call candy sweeties. My favourite sweeties at the moment aren't even available here. They are pretzel M&Ms!

I love the crisp coloured shell, the slick of chocolate then crunch of slightly salty pretzel. Here's an example when salt & chocolate work perfect together.

What are you favourite sweeties?

That's it for now...


Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable


To Do lists- Day 11 - 31 Days of Food

Here's a glimpse of how I write my to-do lists for dinners.

The menu

- salt baked chicken served with

Lentil, parsley, lemon, & curry dip
Beet root humus
Minted bean dip

- roasted butternut squash & red onion with roasted garlic & Tahini

- Toasted Lebanese flat bread

- Vietnamese pickle Carrot & Beansprout salad with mustard seeds

- honeyed rose, pistachio, rice pudding with vanilla, cardamom and cinnamon

- frozen chocolate loaf with sliced pistachios

There you have it folks a sharing dinner that after shopping took three hours to make.

Let me know what you think.

That's it for now ...


Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable