Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Ode to Tea....

I love tea....on any day, in any weather, mood or moment. What better comfort and stillness can you find than the time spent with your hands cupped around a hot mug,  steam rising up and hitting your face, tingling your skin and making you smile?

I love tea.

I love when you make tea for someone.  You notice that an opportunity has come to stop and sit, involving yourself in the other person's thoughts and feelings for a few minutes, listening and sipping - imitating each other as your cup your mugs and sigh....

I love when someone makes tea for you.  I love the care and attention given to the brewing of the pot or the single bag in your mug.  I love the mug they choose for you - your favourite mug, a big mug, a small and cheerful mug, a matching mug to theirs... an old mug.  I love how they ask which way you want it - black, "just a wee drop of milk," "just a dash" "pretty milky"...  I love how they ask with a twinkle in their eyes whether or not you want sugar and if so, "how many?"  Of course, one is the norm, two would be acceptable but ask for three or four and a chuckle will follow with a predictable comment about your health....

I love how tea looks.  It changes from pure clear steamy water to a warm brown as the tea diffuses and then when you add the milk, we have to make a joke of the risk that it might turn out like "dishwasher water"..

Ode to Tea... Amen...

So, as I was browsing through Etsy, I found these:

You know when you really just want your tea to last?- you're having a great conversation and as you sip, you're listening intently to what's being said and it all becomes one.. then the other person stops to sip and you watch as they begin to listen intently as you make your comments...and it makes you feel so good.... well how about these - these fantastic mug warmers - never mind how cute and cosey they are, how practical! You tea doesn't have to go cold and give you that one shocker sip that interrupts your thoughts and the flow of that deep intimacy as you choose whether to swallow that sip or subtly release it back into the cup...even the thought makes your cringe...

Anyhow -ode to tea and ode to woman with such creativity and sensitivity... I love it!!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Beef Stroganoff

As I was finishing up this meal and picturing it all for you, Chris called on his way home from work and asked me to meet him at the vet with Jozy to get her second round of vaccinations... suffice to say when we got home we were so eager to eat that it was only after practically licking our plates clean, I remembered I had not documented the finished product... therefore, do please put your imagination to work!

This is another family favourite.  However, with father's day this weekend I thought I'd break out one of those dishes that makes my Dad smile....  It is a great Beef dish - relatively economical if you have one or two of the ingredients in your cupboards, and also works with Pork AND Chicken - so pick your meat!

In the past I have dropped into our local butcher and picked up some nice fresh rump beef but yesterday I just grabbed a packet of 'stewing beef' from the store and got to work and with great results.  Provided you allow your meat to cook until tender you don't have to worry too much about the cut.


You will need:

2 medium onions
400g Creme Fraiche
at least 200g mushrooms (more or less depending on your personal preferance)
Dijon Mustard (2tsp)
English Mustard (2tsp)
Wholegrain Mustard (2tsp) 
approx. 600-700g Beef/ Pork or Chicken
a little Dry White Wine (optional but I highly recommend it)
Olive Oil and Butter for cooking

1  In a large skillet pan or low, wide 'everyday' pan, heat approx. 2 tbsp oil and a knob of butter over medium heat...

2  Cut meat into rough cubes about 2-3cm all round and add to pan.... allow the meat to cook from pink to brown in the juices, oil and butter (don't be tempted to remove the liquid - it becomes part of the sauce)

3  When the meat has browned add a little water and allow meat to absorb some of the juices.  This will help the meat become tender.  Add approx 1 glass of white wine and leave meat to simmer on low-medium heat for another 15 mins.

4  Slice and fry your onions in a seperate pan so as not to overwhelm the meat with the onion flavour.  Once soft, add the onions to the pan of meat...

5  In a bowl to the side, mix together 400g creme fraiche, 2 tsp of English Mustard, 2 tsp Dijon Mustard and 2 tsp Wholegrain Mustard.  (Add a little more of the mustards if you desire a stronger taste)
6 Prepare your side dish - we made brown rice and the nutty texture and flavour was a perfect accompaniment!  When the side dish is close to ready - add the creme fraiche and mustard mixture and let it all come together until sauce is hot.  *

*Make sure to test a piece of meat before adding the mustard mixture as you may want to let it become a little more tender before finishing the dish and serving.

Voila - a fantastic and easy Stroganoff recipe to make your mouth water.... again, apologies for the lack of final presentation photo!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Beaches and BBQs....

Well - where to begin!  It is another gorgeous day here in Ballinamona and with the pup down for her morning nap I'm right back to blogging.  Later on today I hope to cook you up a nice Beef Stroganoff but for now let me catch you up o what's been going on here at the Limpach household....

Last week Chris' company had a big joint sales meeting here in Limerick with folks over from England, Scotland and the US - and when did it fall? right on his birthday.... so we had a big company/birthday BBQ.  Upon asking my dear husband what the essential food items would be, I got the response "Mom's potato salad and your Tiramisu" '- but of course..'  - then burgers, sausages and a birthday cake were a give,n so off we went to Tesco in Limerick, bought in all the food and drink we needed and from 830am until 5pm I spent Tuesday in the Kitchen.  Several soundtracks kept me company - anything and everything from a musical selection including The Sound of Music to the newest Glee soundtrack, to the Cranberries (getting me in the mood for their concert next week in Cork - Chris' birthday present and, I have to say, present to me - they haven't been 'home' in 17 years....).  Anyhow, the long day was worth it and to be honest, I love my kitchen and I love to cook so labor-filled as it was,  I enjoyed it all!

The menu ended up being:

BURGERS - made from mince-meat, a dash of woodsmoked brown sauce, fresh herbs from the garden, breadcrumbs, eggs and plenty of seasoning...
SAUSAGES from just around the corner from our house... award winning pork and fabulously fresh!
SALADS - Cous cous with mixed beans in balsamic vinegar, Mixed Greens with fresh cherry tomatoes and of course, the Limpach family Potato Salad...


However, for my personal challenge and pleasure, I decided to throw in a novelty cake for Chris...I don't know whether or not I will ever make another attempt at this form of baking - the icing was too warm, the marzipan was drying out and Chris' head changed shape a good 5-6 times before I slopped it all on the cake and was done... I am not overly proud of how it turned out BUT I will say it put a smile on his face...

After such a long week, we decided it was time to hit the Beach in this fantastic weather.  We packed a picnic and puppy and headed off to Spanish Point up in Co. Clare.  There was little divide between the blue of the ocean and the blue of the sky, the sand was golden and the water a perfect temperature (for paddling!).  We introduced Jozy to the puddles that the waves made, hoping that one day she might want to bound down the sand and straight into the water.  Success? Maybe... it's hard to tell if she's going to be that typical Lab who just loves the water.  The ocean is so big and she's still so small that I can only imagine it was more intimidating that potential fun, however, we ran and played in the water and the fun only disappeared when we stopped running and realised we were wet... oh dear...

Now, if my windswept hair could only be half as cute as Jozy in the photos we'd be onto a winner....

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Why not Pork?

Pork is, I believe, a somewhat overlooked meat.  We are always trying to find the next perfect chicken or beef dish and end up eating our old time favourites over and over again, albeit with a new twist we found to add from someone else's recipe.  So, I've decided to shake it up a bit for you and blog on a fantastic dish my mum used to make with many of my favourite ingredients....This is a great slow cooker recipe or something that you can put in a caserole dish and pop into the oven in 25-30 mins with great results.

So, to our ingredients and step by step method....

Middle East Pork with Apricots

50g Dried Apricots 
250ml dry cider
600g pork steak or pieces
oil for frying
1 small onion
25g flour
70ml chicken stock
juice of 1 orange
50g raisins
1 Tbsp. soft brown sugar
1 clove of garlic
1/2 tsp curry powder
1 bay leaf

1 Soak apricots in cider overnight (OR... like I did, soak Apricots first whilst you cook meat etc - approx 30mins - 1  hr and it was just fine!)

Cut Pork into 2cm cubes - I used pork chops/loins off the bone - find a cheap pork cut and just make sure it's chunky enough for stewing or cutting into cubes and it'll be fine... )

3 Heat oil until it's very hot and fry cubes of pork
4 Remove, drain off fat, leavig approx 1 tablespoon in the pan
5 Chop onion and fry in pan with remaining fat.

Now.... PORK STOCK.... because I used a cut of pork that had lots of fat and end bits, I decided to make my own stock from that instead of using pre-made Chicken or Beef Stock.... Why? Well, if you can make the stock you need from the ingredients already in the dish, then you will maintain a better flavour throughout - it will typically be bolder and blend better with your dish.

So... "How to..."

This recipe calls for approx 70ml chicken stock.  Since you will need to boil the water to make stock, account on adding at least 2 times the amount of that stock needed (i.e. here it will be 2 x 70mls) in water measure to the pan.


1) Heat approx 150- 200ml water to a pan, adding remaining fat from meat cuts. 
2) Peel your onions for main dish prep. and excluding the outter tough or papery skins (the skins I'm pointing to in the picture below should give you a good idea!), add other brownish/dark yellow skins to pan of water.  
3) Leave to boil together for 5-10mins or until water turns a nice golden-brown colour.
4) Remove pan from the heat, drain stock into a measuring jug, removing onion skins and bits of fat and voila! now you have your stock!

Now, back to the main recipe...

6 To your fried onions, add flour and curry powder and cook over medium heat for 1 min

7 Gradually blend in stock
8 Remove from heat, add your meat, garlic, apricots, sugar, curry powder, juice and your bay leaf (which I picked fresh from the garden though the dried leaves work just fine too)

9 Place mixture in caserole dish (or slow cooker for approx. 1 hour or until meat is nicely tender)
10 Heat in oven Gas 5/ 375 F/ 190 degrees C for 25-30 mins


Now, my husband declares that this is not in his top 10 and I'll agree that it's not high class cuisine however, like I said before - we all crave something a little different and I believe the combination of flavours here gives us just that.  It's certainly a great dish and very delicious served with some sticky rice (or nice healthy brown rice)...a notch above stew and a worthy contender to stand right alongside our old favourites like spaghetti bolognese, Middle Eastern Pork with Apricots will not disappoint!

Did I make a mess? Of course - Clutter really is creative!  My #1 rule is that there's always another great song to clean up to....

... Until next time, happy tasting!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Bath time...and I'm promise more cooking asap!

I simply cannot leave yesterday's garden affair unfinished.. Please laugh as much as we did at the following.... that is all....

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Mud everywhere....

Today I am unashamed to admit that I sit writing this post whilst my husband pops out and fetches a chinese takeaway... how we all fall hard...  Still, I hope you won't judge my lack of cooking since today's almighty task was the jungle beyond our doors and windows.

We are very fortunate to have a good bit of land around our house, we are not so fortunate to have the world's worst ride-on mower.  This week, the battery died and there was no convincing it to help us tackle the wild grass and all varieties of wierd and wonderful weeds that had sprung up, honestly, in a matter of days.  So, off Chris and I went to our local Garden Centre to a very nice man named Ray, who had had first hand experience with our mower, having done the first go-around for us thanks to our obliging landlords...  Ray managed to give us a battery jump pack and a multitude of colour to bring back to our patio... here in lies the key to the title of this blog....

Not only did the new pots and plants get their fair share of mud, so did dear Jozy.  Chris mowed, helped by the jump pack several times, and Jozy helped me pot plans in her own special way.  I do believe a third of the compost bag may now be in her stomach and another third was fully caked into her coat by the end of the afternoon.  However, her highlight of the day was eating the most delicate and beautiful flower we bought... it was potted in the centre of a large, wide circular trough, edged with smaller pretty flowers aimed at highlighting the extreme beauty of the centre....

I will give her credit for this - she has good taste, not in the literal sense of course but she has good taste in flowers... out of all the plants, of course it looked the most appealing...  There was certainly a moment of shock, followed by disbelief, despair and then love washes over you and what can you really say?  We love our puppy and all of life is more colourful with her than without... bath time was had and now, to our Chinese....

Friday, June 4, 2010

A Taste of Summer

Welcome to my kitchen!  I hope over time many of you will visit us but for those of you who are miles away and across the waters, I hope to cook for you here in spirit.  

Today is one of those sunny, warm (hallelujah), life-is-great kinda days where you feel altogether inspired.  Therefore, after seeing my husband off to work, feeding our new puppy Jozy, waiting for Jozy to take care of her business and then flop down on the floor for one of her nice long naps,I decided this was the day.  Armed with fresh ingredients from a big Tesco run yesterday, I set about making a delicious summer recipe I found in this month's 'Country Kitchen' magazine.  Below, you will find a method accompanied by some fun photos but I'll leave the tasting up to you!

Elderflower and Raspberry Tart

Serves 6 - 8


125g (4 ½ oz) plain flour
60g (2 ¼ oz) butter
1 tbsp caster sugar
1 egg yolk
2 tbsp water


2 egg yolks
50g (1 ¾ oz) caster sugar
2 tsp cornflour
2 tsp plain flour
300ml (1/2 pt) milk
2 tbsp elderflower cordial
200g (7 oz) raspberries
Icing sugar to decorate


1 Preheat your oven to 180°C/ 350°F/ Gas Mark 4
2 Sift flour into bowl and rub together with butter until it looks just like breadcrumbs...
..Stir in the Sugar, then drop the egg yolk in, add the water and mix with a palette knife until it all binds together.  Wrap up your pastry and chill it in the fridge for 10-15 mins.

3 While your pastry is chilling, start work on the custard, placing the egg yolks and sugar in a small pan and whisking them together over a low heat.  Stir in the cornflour and then gradually add the milk, bringing the whole mixture to a simmer...keep whisking so no lumps appear!  Finally, stir in your cordial (I could only find elderflower and apple cordial and it worked a treat - so either straight elderflower or an elderflower mix should do the job!)...and leave to cool...

4  Take out your pastry and roll to approx 1/2 cm in thickness.  This will either fit a 20 cm (8") tart tin or..... as I found... 6 cute mini tart tins!  Make sure to prick the base of the pastry with a fork and get your ceramic baking beans at the ready...If your tins aren't non-stick use some greaseproof paper, if they are non-stick, the pastry case/cases should pop out no problem. 

Bake for 10 mins, take out, remove baking beans and then bake for further 12 mins.  Leave to cool.

When your pastry is cool, then it's back to your custard and on with the filling.  At this point, Jozy (our new lab pup) had had enough and alas, fell asleep in the midst of it all... only to stir if I moved around the kitchen, feeling the need to come and act as a foot warmer.  It's an endearing, sweet quality she possesses if not also a little inconvenient...

Finally, we're at the fun part.... filling your pastry cases with all those other fabulous calories...

Make your cup of tea, let it brew, fill your pastries, sit back, relax and admire your hard work!

I blog this as my husband naps beside me, our puppy naps beneath me and everybody's stomachs smile... I hope you enjoy this treat as much as we (excluding the puppy) did...

As I sign off I'd like to simply say this - thank you to my mother for teaching me the joy of food, and showing me how to bake with spirit, thank you to my mother-in-law and sisters-in-law who delight in food with me and gave me such beautiful and wonderful gifts to bake with (especially my beloved anthropologie apron)..... just know you're all on my mind and in my heart every time I'm in the kitchen...

More to come this bank holiday weekend...happy baking...