Category Archives: dinners

Meat Chowder (serves 6) A Great Dinner Party Main Course!

I haven’t posted a recipe in quite some time because frankly I either have made nothing that I haven’t posted already or, on a day when I made something perfectly splendid, I had not bothered to take pictures!

However, this dinner that I whipped up last night (whipped not really the right word here as it was a slight bit persnickety to prepare) was blog worthy and I knew this ahead of time so was also camera, and pen and paper ready!

Glorious Meat Gumbo

Glorious Meat Gumbo

It was wholly inspired by a Jamie Oliver recipe for meat gumbo but as usual I changed things along the way to suit what I had on hand and because following a recipe to the letter is just not necessary. I think the one thing any chef will say about having to document a recipe is how they hate having to give exact ingredients and amounts and having to be super specific with instructions. Chefs don’t cook like that in real life and nor should you. Spontaneity is usually where the magic happens! In other words, consider my recipe here as a mere guideline and let your own culinary juices flow.

This is a great dish to make if you are throwing a dinner party as it can be made ahead of time and is so easy to serve!


What you need:

1 lb spicy sausage – cut into 1″ pieces (Italian, Chorizo, Andouille, or even a mild spicy sausage will do here)

4/5 chicken drumsticks

4/5 chicken thighs (bone-in, skin on)

1 1/2 tsp smoked paprika (if you don’t have smoked, use what you have got!)

1 tsp cayenne pepper flakes

1 tsp salt

olive oil for frying everything

4/6 slices smokey bacon – cut into large strips (whatever bacon you have on hand will do)

1 med/lrg sweet onion or yellow onion – diced

1 green pepper – diced

1 red pepper  – diced

1 yellow pepper – diced

3 celery stalks – large dice or sliced

5 tbs all-purpose flour

2lbs sweet potatoes  – peeled & diced (about two large)

4 large garlic cloves – peeled and minced

6 (or so) springs fresh thyme (Jamie picked the leaves, I say there is no point as they come off during the cooking and it’s a pain to do!)

6 cups chicken broth (have two more cups on hand just in case)

Chopped parsley for garnish if you have it!

Pot of cooked basmati rice (enough for six people so about 6 to 8 cups cooked rice, which translates to about 3 1/2 to 4 cups raw)


1 – Prep Everything first!

Dice the veggies, season the chicken

Dice the veggies, season the chicken

Mince garlic and dice sweet potatoes

Mince garlic and dice sweet potatoes

2 – Season chicken with the salt, paprika and cayenne pepper flakes. Put large pan on high heat and add olive oil. Fry chicken in batches until golden brown. Remove to a plate or bowl.

Sear chicken in batches on hot pan

Sear chicken in batches on hot pan

3 – Sear the sausages. Remove to a plate or bowl.

Sear sausage pieces

Sear sausage pieces

3 – Add bacon and fry for about a minutes before adding the peppers and onions. cook for about 10 minutes on medium heat.

Saute the pepper, onion & bacon

Saute the pepper, onion & bacon

4 – Add the flour and lower heat slightly. Cook for about 15 minutes, stirring regularly.

5 – Add the sweet potatoes, garlic, thyme stalks and broth and turn heat to high. Add the meat. When it boils, lower heat and cover. Simmer for about 1 hour (until chicken is fork tender and falling off the bone). Stir occasionally while it simmers.

Add the sweet potatoes, garlic, meat and broth

Add the sweet potatoes, garlic, thyme, meat and broth

Take the meat off the bone and return to gumbo (if you don’t want to do this, don’t bother!). Let this sit for about 10 minutes before serving. Serve with rice and garnish with chopper parsley. This would also be good with a dollop of sour cream and a dash of hot sauce!

Serve Meat Gumbo with chopped parsley and a dollop of sour cream and hot sauce if you like

Serve Meat Gumbo with rice, chopped parsley and a dollop of sour cream and hot sauce if you like


My Favorite Rice Noodle Brands for PAD THAI and other noodle dishes

Our favorite place to eat was Thai Orchid for thier Pad Thai

Pad Thai

 The noodles you use when making Pad Thai (or Pho, or any other Asian dish) is a very important recipe ingredient, just as pasta is when making some glorious Italian dish. Here are some of my favorites and between them, you should be able to find one in your region. You can also order online (but unless you buy in bulk it is a more expensive route). These rice noodles are no more expensive (and in lots of cases cheaper) than domestic brands so you will not have to feel guilty about buying them!

Roland Pad Thai Noodle Brand

Roland Pad Thai Noodle Brand – These noodles cost anywhere from $2.49 to $3.49

 This brand imported by the Roland Company is a product of Thailand. This company is a great place to find lots of really wonderful food products from around the world.

Rice Noodles

Rice Noodles  – These noodles are Erawan Brand and this company has a huge variety of noodles that are fun to experiment with. They are great value at $2.49

I can get these noodles from a supermarket that is pretty close to me. They come in S,M or L and this refers to the width. Sometimes I like the thin variety in soups and the widest (L) works great for Pad Thai, but it really is a matter of taste and your mood.

The large style from the Erawan Brand Noodle

The large style from the Erawan Brand Noodle

The packaging is exactly the same when it comes to all of these noodle brands but each width is a different color. So, if you put this item on your shopping list and like me, send your man out to the store (no real attention span when it comes to grocery shopping), make sure to note the color of the package or this simple task will become a nightmare.

Pork Pad Thai

Pork Pad Thai

Most of the packages say to prep the noodles by soaking in warm water but I find that this isn’t enough to get the texture I’m looking for. I don’t like soggy noodles by any means but the soaking method can leave the noodles hard on the inside and sort of gummy on the outside. My method is to plunge them into boiling water and let them cook until just al dente (have a toothsome bite) and then rinse in colander with lots of cold water. I can then toss them into my pan for Pad Thai or into a cooked soup. They warm up very quickly. You will have to experiment a little, depending on the brand (then it’s a good idea to write  what worked for you).

Main ingredients for Pad thai

Some of the key ingredients for Pad Thai (scallions, beansprouts, carrots, limes and of course, rice noodles

 Also, don’t limit yourself to Pad Thai and Pho. I use rice noodles for lots of other dishes that have a tenuous at best, Asian twist (which might only be soy sauce or sriracha sauce). It is lighter than pasta and for those Gluten Free people out there it is just the ticket.

This is the medium width from the brand Asian Best distributed by EastLand Corp

This is the medium width from the brand Asian Best distributed by EastLand Corp

I hope this has taken a little of the mystery out of buying rice noodles, but if in doubt, buy a brand with Thailand’s most revered animal on the package: the elephant.

Stir-fried beef with rice noodles

Stir-fried beef with rice noodles

  Once you try noodles from a country where it is a diet stable, you will never buy domestic noodles again!

Rice Noodles

Three Elephants Brand Rice Noodles

MUSHROOM CREAM – A GREAT PANTRY ITEM. Forget Campbells – Make your own!

Who uses Campbell’s Condensed Mushroom Cream Soup as a flavor agents, or sauce enhancer?? It does have the power to add a burst of flavor to a dish but it is not some magic elixir that you cannot make and freeze yourself and have ready to use at a moment’s notice.

Passing these georgeous mushrooms in Rome made me long for my kitchen awaiting me in Cortona

 Took this gorgeous picture of  mushrooms in Rome (you can make your mushroom cream from exotic mushrooms like these, but using what you can find near you is fine too, and what I did this time around)

OR, have you ever made a stew, soup or sauce that felt lacklustre and needed a flavor booster of some kind? This can be frustrating and sometimes it ends up with you adding possibly too much salt to compensate and ruining the dish. A concentrated cube of mushroom cream is a great foil for situations like this and I am going to give you an easy recipe and a handy way to have some on hand – yeh!

add cream and stock

Making Mushroom Cream Enricher is easy and simple cream and stock

Make a big batch of this when you are in the mood to potter in the kitchen or you are trapped there watching something in the oven but have nothing to do besides. It will become a little lifesaver!

Handy cubes of mushroom cream

Handy cubes of mushroom cream

These cubes are good thawed and served over steak, lamb or chicken. They make a great filling for little vol-au-vents or a filling for little pastry appetizers. They are a good base for a sauce (just add more cream or stock to the cubes and you have an instant pasta sauce). They be used to boost and bolster the  flavor of a stew or soup (just add a cube or two and taste).

Cook for 3 hours at 275*

Adding a couple of cubes of mushroom cream to a beef stew for example can boost and enhance flavor


Mushroom Cream Stock Cubes (makes 32 large ice-cube-sized cubes)

You will need:

2 tbs unsalted butter

1 sweet or yellow onion – finely chopped

2 cloves garlic – finely chopped

1lb mushrooms (use all different kinds together or one kind – anything will work) – sliced

1 cup (have more on hand) heavy cream

salt and freshly ground black pepper (for seasoning)

optional fresh herbs: 1 tbs freshly chopped parsley, I tsp chopped thyme leaves


1 – Put large saute pan on low to medium heat and add a 1/2 tablespoon of the butter. Add the onions and garlic and cover with lid. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove to a plate

2 – Add a tablespoon of the butter and half of the sliced mushrooms. Season with a sprinkle of salt and a few grinds of pepper. Turn heat up to high (or just below) and cook mushrooms until they brown. Remove and add the rest of the butter and mushrooms (remembering to season with salt and pepper), and continue to cook until they are done.

saute mushrooms in batches in butter until browned..

saute mushrooms in batches in butter until browned..

3 – Return the onions and cooked mushrooms back to the pan along with the cream and herbs and let it come to a simmer. Turn off pan and let it cool.

4 – When it is warm or totally cooled, add the mushrooms in batches with a slotted spoon (so as not to fill up your processor with liquid) to your food processor or blender and pulverize to a rough texture. When it is all blended, mix back into the cream and stir to distribute.

add cream and simmer for 5 minutes...

add cream and bring to a simmer.

5 – When it is cold, spoon into two ice-cube trays and place in the freezer. (I got some of the cheap plastic kind from my supermarket and they worked great). When frozen, pop them out and into freezer bags. They can be stored for up to 6 months in your freezer and used whenever you need them.

Roast Chicken with stuffing & veggies.

Can be added to your roast Chicken pan sauce


top with a sprinkle of the cheese of the gods! (parmaiagiano reggiano)

Add to pasta to make a quick and delicious pasta sauce

Thanksgiving 2015 and a Great Roasted Turkey Recipe for any Festive Occasion

I never really thought that it was important to do the exact same thing every year when celebrating a holiday or event. I still make a point of changing up the food on occasions like our  Christmas and Easter dinner. However, I have found that since having children, there are certain things that I cannot mess with, and if I do, I will ruin or mar their experience and expectations

Our Thanksgiving Turkey cooked by yours truly (recipe below and is great for amateur turkey cookers like myself)

Our Thanksgiving Turkey cooked by yours truly (recipe below and is great for amateur turkey cookers like myself). Try it next time you have the daunting task of being in charge of the focal point of your next big festive dinner.

On our way home in the car from my mother-in-laws house last night my daughter said, “Thanksgiving wasn’t as good this year” and her comment took me by surprise. The whole clan probably turned out the best food in years and surly that was the most important thing? Well, not the case according to my kids (at this point my son had piped in his agreement of it “not being the same as before”).

We all have a stash of pieces of paper like this right? Where you jot down a recipe over the phone or from your mother in a hurry so you can make that special recipe that you gre up with. You have plans of course to catalog it properly for the future but it ends up in a little bag or stuck in some recipe book and pulled out once a year. It becomes this very precious and treasured slip of paper, which will one day find itself in the leaves of a cookbook you handed doen to one of your kids and they will pull it out each year, perhaps forgetting where the recipe came from but

We all have a stash of pieces of paper like this right? Where you jot down a recipe over the phone or from your mother in a hurry so you can make that special recipe that you grew up with for a special event. You have plans of course to catalog it properly in the future but you never do and it ends up in a little bag or stuck in some recipe book and pulled out once a year. It becomes this very precious and treasured slip of paper, which will one day find itself in the leaves of a cookbook you hand down to one of your kids and they will pull it out each year, perhaps forgetting where the recipe came from, but counting on it completely when its time to make this pie or that special beef stew your mother used to make when you were little.

Since moving closer to my husband’s family 12 years ago we have always celebrated Thanksgiving at my husband’s parents house. I never really wanted to take on this holiday because growing up Ireland I did not know about Thanksgiving, nor had ever seen, let alone eaten, pumpkin!

Pumpkin Pie yesterday made using the recipe from Dave's grandmother

Pumpkin Pie yesterday made using the recipe from Dave’s grandmother

My introduction to this holiday was a long time ago at my friend Dave’s friend’s house in a town in upstate New York. They were an older couple, and when I sat at their Thanksgiving table the spread before me felt habituated in tradition and familiarity. They offered me sweet potato pie with white fluffy marshmallow on top like they ate it everyday. So many of the dishes were so alien to me that I did not really know how to approach or even enjoy the meal.

sweet potatoes fries are a great alternative to a sweet potato pie

sweet potatoes fries are a great alternative to a sweet potato pie

It turned out that this particular Thanksgiving dinner was only one take on Thanksgiving food, and what is cooked varies from generation to generation and from family to family. I landed myself in an era and in a house that added a lot of sweet elements to practically everything, from the broiled marshmallow topping to the jello which accompanied the turkey meat. The only remote similarity to anything I had ever eaten was mint jelly with lamb (and that was extremely rare as it is more of an English than an Irish tradition – a bit too posh for us!) and mango chutney on my cheese and toast (another english thing which came from the British Empire expansion into India) which I love to this day to the disgust of my kids who find it distinctly unappealing and adds one more thing to their list of what makes me a weird mother (in a good way I think).

Add butter, parsley & salt to potatoes and serve with chicken (optional)

simply boiled potatoes with chopped fresh parsley 

Over the years I have been to quite a few houses for Thanksgiving and each one had their own unique style of celebrating. The elements that are key however are the same across the board, even if cooked in very different ways. There is always turkey, some kind of sweet potato, yam or squash dish, cranberry relish/dressing, corn in one form or another and pumpkin pie. After that, you can add things like green beans, brussels sprouts, mashed potatoes, meat or bread stuffing and perhaps a salad with something sweet added, like dried cranberries.

the Cranberry & Ginger relish by my sister-in-law Beth...

My Sister-in-law’s Cranberry & Ginger relish

When we moved closer to my husband’s family, it was so much easier to settle into their traditions than try to create my own version of Thanksgiving. My mother-in-law always makes the turkey, mashed potatoes and her mother’s meat dressing (sort of tastes likes an aromatically spiced Shepard’s pie). Our family and my sister-in-law’s family work out the rest of the sides between us. Even though Diane likes to plop out a gelatinous can of cranberry sauce onto the table, my sister-in-law began making a fresh cranberry sauce/relish infused with fresh ginger a few years ago which is sublime (and now she always makes extra for me to take home for my cheese and toast breakfasts) and now we expect her to make it every year.

This was heavenly on my turkey, but works equally well on countless other foods!

This relish was heavenly on my turkey, but works equally well on countless other foods!

I have ended up making various vegetable side dishes (and I always make my mother’s bread stuffing that we had every Christmas day growing up) while Dave makes the pumpkin pies. My sister-in-law’s husband ( I still do not know how I should refer to him, but Bob is his name so I’ll go with that) Bob grew up with an Italian-American mother and so he always brings an unctuous pasta dish that feels celebratory to him. I look forward to this dish because there is always something magical about a dish that someone has been making their whole life that you can never copy, even if you follow the recipe to the letter. I am still trying to unlock the secret to my mother’s bread stuffing and have yet to capture the essence or soul of the dish.

Barly remenbered to take this picture before it dissapeared!

 My version of my mother’s bread stuffing

This year was different because my lovely mother-in-law Diane was under the weather and we insisted that she not darken the door of the kitchen this Thanksgiving and that we kids would take care of everything! That left me in charge of some of the more important components of the meal, namely the turkey – yikes. My strategy was to look at lots of roast turkey recipes to get a sense of things and what would work best for me. There were all sorts of decisions to make: marinate or not marinate, brine or not to brine, barbecue perhaps??? Anyway I went with a slow-cooked method with lots of basting but pretty straightforward. That way, while the turkey lazily cooked, I could get on with all the other dishes I committed to preparing, (and I was severely committed).

Baked onions, a new Thanksgiving side dish

Baked onions, a new Thanksgiving side dish

I stuck to what I knew about roasting chickens and adjusted for the weight (15lbs, small really by Thanksgiving standards). I used a very basic mirepoix (celery, carrots and some fresh herbs from my garden, along with a lemon from the grocery store!) and white wine and it was pretty darn wonderful. So much so that I want to share it with all of you who might have to tackle this job on the 25th of December.

Turkey Melt with Hot "Slaw"

Leftover Turkey Melt with Hot “Slaw”

But back to why my kids were disappointed yesterday. When we got to Diane’s house she was lying on the couch and asked if it was okay if she didn’t join us at the table and we could hang out with her after dinner. Of course, but we felt bad and made a seating adjustment to make sure she was not left out completely. Some of us sat around the ample kitchen table and the rest set up a makeshift table in the living room with Diane, and this is how we ate our Thanksgiving dinner. The dining room felt so much further off so this was a good compromise. (I liked it better in some ways as the food was all right there with no schlepping dishes to the center of the dining room table and the usual running back to the kitchen for forgotten items).

I finished off my baked onions with a fresh cream, thyme and cheese sauce

I finished off my baked onions with a fresh cream, thyme and cheese sauce

I asked why it was not “good this year” and she told me that it was not the same because we were not all sitting together in the formal dining room. I didn’t even think about this. She said she missed the food running down the center of the table in lovely bowls and the big ceramic turkey (that Grammy insisted on being there) right in the middle of it all, and how we all went around the table to say one thing we were thankful for (always a dreaded moment for some, including me – so hard not to sound cliché). She said the food was good but that it didn’t taste the same from the plate sitting on her lap on the couch.

Yesterday I roasted sweet potatoes with whole garlic cloves which we could the slather over

Yesterday I roasted sweet potatoes with whole garlic cloves which we then slathered over the cooked potatoes – truly yummy

Wow – I completely got it of course. I am the one who always insists, no matter how many people are crammed into our house for any kind of party, that we use real glasses and real plates. I cannot stand eating from paper plates and drinking wine from a plastic cup! The dining room at her grandmother’s house is so different from her own. It is filled with heavy dark wood which is carved and serious-looking. The seat and seat back of the chairs are all covered in a rough tapestry fabric with dark wood to match the side boards and table. There is a chandelier hanging from the ceiling and we eat in this room exactly once a year, each Thanksgiving.

My turkey roasted on this makeshift rack of veggies

My turkey roasted on this makeshift “rack” of veggies

This room has become the very heart of Thanksgiving for her, and my son. When they get excited about this holiday they picture the turkey with all of the trimmings, and that dining room. And she was right. It was different for me as a grown-up whose life has been made up of making adjustments and juggling my way through unforseen obstacles. I did not think anything of shifting from the dining room to the kitchen and the couches and chairs in the living room. However, it did make a difference to them and I felt sorry that their experience was lessened. I told them that we didn’t think about the implications but that next year we would make more of an effort (even if someone is sick, we can prop them up in a comfy chair!) to all sit around the table and eat together. And now that I think about it, we never did say what we were all thankful for either.

Sweetcorn always makes an appearance on the Thanksgiving table (this year in the form of corn bread)

Sweetcorn always makes an appearance on the Thanksgiving table (this year in the form of corn bread)

I don’t think it was a total disaster by any stretch, but I just wanted to comment on how we count on things when we are young. It was very poignant to hear my kids talking in this way and made me more aware of how we unconsciously shape their childhood memories. I will tread more mindfully in the future. After all, I don’t want them to end up on some psych couch blaming me for all of their problems (that’s a joke folks). 

So here at last is the ROAST TURKEY RECIPE (serves 12-15)

You will need:

1 12-15lb turkey (whatever quality bird you can afford)

1 head garlic – peeled and finely minced

1/2 salt

1 tbls fresh thyme leaves

1 tbs tomato paste

1 tbs honey

juice of 1 lemon (save the juiced lemon for the cavity)

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

several grinds black pepper

3 sticks of celery, broken in half

2 cups baby carrots or 3 carrots cut lengthways and cut in half

2 to 3 stalks of sage with leaves

bunch of fresh thyme with stems

2 cups white wine (Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon blanc)

2 tbs all-purpose flour

2 tbs soft unsalted butter


Preheat oven to 400*

Each pound of meat will take 14 minutes to cook so write down the time you put your turkey into the oven and calculate the time it will be done and write this time down also. It will save you guessing and being confused later!

1 – finely chop the garlic with the thyme leaves, salt and pepper until is looks paste-like. place in a small bowl and add the tomato paste, honey, lemon juice and olive oil. mix together.

Mixture to season turkey

Mixture to season turkey

2 – pat the turkey dry and then run your hand between the skin and the flesh to separate. Take some of the mixture and insert it between the skin and the flesh, covering as much of the area as you can open up. Rub it very well. Rub about 3 tablespoons of the mixture all over the outside of the bird.

3 – put the thyme leaves and the juiced lemon halves into the cavity.

4 – Arrange the celery, sage and carrots in the bottom of your roasting pan (like a rack – see picture in this blog post) and set the turkey breast side down on top.

5 – Turn the oven down to 325* place into oven. Cook for 30 minutes and then pour a cup of the wine over the turkey and cook for another 30 minutes. Pour the last cup of wine over the bird and continue to cook. Baste turkey every half hour or so.

6 – one hour before your turkey is cooked, remove from oven and turn turkey over so it is breast side up. Baste and cook for the last hour basting once halfway through.

7 – remove from oven when your turkey reads 175* and remove to platter and loosely cover with foil. Rest for 30 minutes.

8 – strain the turkey juices and skim off as much of the fat on the surface as you can. Place back in roasting pan or into clean saucepan and bring to a low boil. Mix 2 tablespoons of soft butter and 2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour together until you form as paste (called a roux)

whisk roux into pan juices..

whisk roux into pan juices..

9 – Add the roux to your gravy and stir quickly with a whisk to disperse. Stir for about 2 minutes and cook for about 5 minutes more so the flour cooks into the gravy. Taste gravy and adjust for salt.

Remove to platter and cover. rest for 30 minutes before carving

Remove to platter and cover. Rest for 30 minutes before carving

Carve turkey and serve with gravy.


Forgot to Get the Dinner rolls for Thanksgiving Dinner??? MAKE THIS CORN BREAD INSTEAD – FAST, EASY AND DELICIOUS!


First, Happy Thanksgiving to everyone who celebrates this holiday!  I have embraced it with a vengeance this year because for the first time I have been put in charge of the turkey. It is in the oven as I write this little post and the house smells divine, not only because of the roasting bird but the aroma of the two pumpkin pies made earlier this morning is still hanging in the air.

Super Quick Corn Bread and better than bought rolls any day!

Super Quick Corn Bread and better than bought rolls any day!

 I will let you know how it all went later but for now I want to get this recipe out there in case anyone is panicking over needing that one last thing OR you were supposed to make something for the table but you forgot (oops!) or you couldn’t find the time yesterday. This is easy and quick and you will look like a seasoned pro if you arrive with this in your hands. Even if you have to go to the grocery store – it is still fast!

Just out of oven - Pumpkin Pie - cracked but will still taste as delicious!

Just out of oven – Pumpkin Pie – cracked but will still taste as delicious!

QUICK Corn Bread (serves 15 squares)

You will need:

2 cups corn meal (the course kind works the best but whatever you have on hand will work)

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp salt

2 tbs sugar

1 tsp baking soda

6 tbs unsalted cold butter (if you only have salted – just use it and reduce salt to 1/2 tsp)

2 cups buttermilk

2 large eggs

Corn Bread made and cooked in under 45 minutes

Corn Bread made and cooked in under 45 minutes

Preheat oven 350*

  1. Mix the flour, corn meal, baking soda, salt and sugar in a mixing bowl with a hand whisk or your hands.
  2. Slice the cold butter into the flour and knead with fingertips until you have a nice rubble-like texture
  3.  Mix the egg and buttermilk together and add to the flour and mix with a wooden spoon until you have a wet dough.
  4. Spread into a greased dish (I used a rectangular pan (12 x 8 x 1 1/2 inches) and bake for about 25 to 30 minutes (until a knife in the center comes out clean).
  5. Cool. Cut into squares and ready to go!
Things to do with cut-up paper and a single flower petal!

Have a wonderful day (cool centerpiece made with cut paper and a little flower by my teenage daughter who was bored earlier this morning!)


 This Sunday morning was blissfully lazy wherein the only pressure I placed on myself was to make something truly indulgent (and woefully chocolate-y) for breakfast.

My Frivolous Breakfast

My Frivolous Breakfast ( this plate was made by a wonderful potter, Randy Johnston (click on his name to see the wonders for yourself!

I can make scones with my eyes closed. It is one of those recipes that can be altered to suit any kind of dish, sweet or savory. When I was growing up scones were plain or, if you were feeling decadent, you could make them with dried currants. 

Lemon Curd for Selma

Here I had my plain scone with some Lemon Curd (which is really easy to make and here is the recipe)

I make small batches as they are best fresh out of the oven. I opt for plain scones for the most part because then I can have them with butter and jam or serve them with a runny fried egg.

Hot Paprika Chicken with Buttermilk Scone Crust

This is an instance where I made my scone crust savory by omitting sugar and adding black pepper and grated sharp cheddar to the recipe (Hot Paprika Chicken with Buttermilk Scone Crust)

When I came to the United States I found that scones had taken on a life of their own. They were enormous, (usually big triangular-shaped monstrosities) in countless flavor varieties, but I am sorry to say, overly sweet for me. I cannot say I have warmed to them after 20 years. What I do appreciate is that wonderful American trait of not being afraid to mess with tradition. Which is why when I saw a recipe the other day for Chocolate Scones I was intrigued and ready to give them a try.

For breakfast, or, Afternoon Tea

 A scone is also a wonderful vehicle for freshly whipped cream and raspberry jam – great for Afternoon tea

While the premise of this recipe was great (adding chocolate – and I have added chocolate chips to my humble mixture in the past) I found it too finicky (using a mixer for the dough and cutting the dough into 3 pieces and then cutting triangles, as well as greasing the baking pan – all very laborious for my Sunday morning anyway), and too ingredient specific.

This is my saturday breakfast

Chocolate Chip Scones hot out of the oven

However, the revelation was adding cocoa powder (I’d never done that before) and adding an egg which made the dough richer. This recipe also called for dried cherries and this is certainly something I would have done if I had dried cherries (and I suppose a little more elevated than my little currants), but I am never put off by a lack of an ingredient and decided that more chocolate would substitute just fine!

In Ireland, where this butter comes from, they do not measure in "sticks" but happily now the marketing department at the Kerrygold headquarters have realised if they package butter like this for the US: they will sell more of this glorious butter!

In Ireland, where this butter comes from, they do not measure in “sticks” but happily now the marketing department at the Kerrygold headquarters have realised if they package butter like this for the US: they will sell more glorious butter!

So I made the scone taking my usual unsophisticated route and they were quite spectacular. I want to thank the original recipe for inspiration however as I would never have put cocoa powder in my recipe. If you want to try the other recipe (which is probably worth the trouble), it is here!

My version of the Chocolate Scone (which will definitely be added to my long list of: how many ways can I make a scone)

My version of the Chocolate Scone (which will definitely be added to my long list of: how many ways can I elevate the lowly scone

When the scones came out of the oven and the blast of chocolate-y odor wafted up the stairs, within minutes I was not alone in the kitchen anymore. Ah the power of warm confections


You will need:

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup cocoa powder

1/3 cup raw sugar (if you don’t have raw sugar, use white granulated sugar)

1 tsp baking soda (bicarbonate of soda)

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

6 tbs unsalted good quality butter (high butterfat content)

1 cup dark chocolate chips (I use Ghiradelli 60% cacao)

1 egg

1 1/4 cups buttermilk (whole or non-fat is fine)


Preheat oven to 400*

1.In a large bowl mix the together with a manual whisk the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt.

Mix all the dry ingredients together (excelpt the choc chips)

Mix all the dry ingredients together (except the choc chips)

2. Slice the cold butter into the dry ingredients and knead it into the flour with your fingertips until it feels dispersed and “rubble-like” Add the chocolate chips and mix into flour with wooden spoon or your hands.

3. Mix the egg with the buttermilk in a smaller bowl with a fork and add to the flour mixture. Mix together with a wooden spoon until it comes together. If it feel dry (floury bits in the bottom of the bowl) add a little more buttermilk until it comes together.

Cut or press out shapes of scone dough for baking

Cut or press out shapes of scone dough for baking

4. Turn out onto lightly floured surface and pat down to form a thick slab. Using a cookie cutter (I used a fluted round cutter 2 inches in diameter but a little bigger is fine too), punch out the dough and place scone on lightly floured baking sheet. Keep gathering the dough together and flattening until all the dough is used up. Do not overwork the dough and don’t get too hung up on getting perfect shapes etc.

Place scone dough on lightly floured baking sheet

Place scone dough on lightly floured baking sheet

5. Place in preheated oven and bake for 18 minutes (leave in longer if you check and feel they need a minute or two more. All ovens vary in temperature). Remove to a wire rack the moment you take them from the oven.

Hot out of oven

Hot out of oven

Wait about 3 minutes before splitting and serving with butter or butter and raspberry jam (the jam addition is sublime)


An excellent little plate of boiled potatoes

An excellent little plate of boiled potatoes and what makes them sing is the knob of butter, flaky sea salt and fresh parsley

I referred to a line from Pride and Prejudice when writing a recipe in a post in 2011 ((click THIS to see recipe), and I cannot tell you how many times the phrase “excellent boiled potatoes” has brought people to my blog! It makes me feel bad when they discover there is in fact no recipe to be found for this much sought after potato dish, and it is high time I put that to rights!

Georgous potatoes from the local Good Work Farm

Local Fingerling Potatoes; these potatoes have a wonderful buttery and almost nutty flavor.

If you are bewildered as to what I am referring to, it is this: (in a 21 second nutshell)

Johnstown Castle and Gardens built right at the time Jane Austin wrote how the Bennett sisters would tromp over hill and dale in all weathers

Johnstown Castle and Gardens in County Wexford, Ireland, built right around the time (early 19th century) Jane Austin wrote marvelous descriptions of her characters traipsing over the English landscape.

I’m not afraid or ashamed to admit that I will watch any movie based on the books of Jane Austin. Some are better than others, but my very favorites are Pride and Prejudice (both the 1995 BCC mini-series version and the 2005 Focus Features movie) and Sense and Sensibility, (starring Emma Thomas who also wrote the screen play and whose is an exemplary actor herself)

I love little potatoes.

I love little potatoes.

Anyway, the reference to “excellent boiled potatoes” came from the lips of an odious cousin of the Bennett Family who were obliged to entertain him. He was ingratiating himself in every way possible and when he asked to “which of my fair cousins” should he thank for making the dish, Mrs Bennett cut him in two with a remark that they were “perfectly able to keep a cook!” (I am quoted from memory here which exposes my true inner-fan heart!)

Toss potatoes into parsley butter

A veritable cornucopia of color: Potatoes tossed with butter, salt and fresh parsley.

I don’t really think for a minute that most people would go to such lengths to find this recipe (it is only a bowl of plain potatoes after all), if they were not so fascinated and enthralled by that scene at the dinner table. It captured the atmosphere of a family dinner where one has to put up with unwanted company so perfectly: the quiet clatter of cutlery on plates, the ting of glasses, the sidelong glances of family members to each other, along with some muffled snickering at the poor guests expense.

Boil potatoes..

Boiling potatoes..

When he inquires about the potatoes you have already been salivating over the meal, and the quick pan of the camera over the potato bowl is a hard thing to forget. Mr Collins (the undesirable guest), also describes the potatoes with words that are usually reserved for a more elegant vegetable such as asparagus or artichokes. Adjectives like “exemplary” and “excellent” only heighten your impulse to jump through the screen and try them for yourself.

Boil baby potatoes and slice in half.

Boil baby potatoes and slice in half.

So, I want to boldly suggest that it was not the potatoes you fell in love with at all: it was Jane Austin herself! But, I will give you the recipe anyway, just so you can complete the movie by actually tasting it too.

mash potaotes very well..

potatoes ready to be tossed gently in butter, salt and pepper

I am confident that this recipe will satisfy you and will bring to life the potatoes you have been dreaming about since seeing this sweet movie. I did not write to the producers, director or the food stylist to get the recipe either. Being a girl who was born and bred in Ireland, the land where once it was all we had to eat (or all we were left to eat, but that is another very long story), I feel about as sure as a person can be that I don’t need to inquire as to how this bowl of excellent boiled potatoes came to be.

June's roasted potatoes

My sister June’s roasted potatoes

The word “boiled” is a dead giveaway and there is only one way to boil a potato. The trick is to find the RIGHT potato for the job and in Ireland we call the potato in question a “floury” potato. A floury potato, when boiled, acquires a sort of outer layer of fluffiness that crumbles when you touch it with your knife or fork. They fall apart easily in the best possible way when very roughly chopped with a knife after they have cooked. All they need is a knob of butter and some salt and voila. They are so delicious you will want to forgo the rest of the meal and just eat the potatoes.

Excellent Boiled Potatoes

I would normally want you to absolutely ignore my suggestions for ingredient brands if you don’t have that particular thing on hand or it is too darn expensive, but here I am afraid, if you want that “exemplary” experience, you will have to follow my suggestions.

2-3 lbs best potatoes you can find (I suggest Russet, white, or baby potatoes of any color)

4 tbs (or more if desired) unsalted butter (use something special like Irish Kerrygold butter or Plugra butter from the United States OR any butter with a high butterfat content)

Flaky sea salt such as Maldon Sea Salt Flakes or other good quality rough-cut salt

2 tbs fresh flat leaf parsley (also called Italian parsley) – very finely chopped


1 – Peel potatoes and, quarter if large and half if on the small side. Rinse with plenty of cold water.

2 – Add to saucepan or pot and cover with cold water  (until potatoes a just covered with water). Place on high and bring to a boil. Cover and turn down slightly and boil (the water should still be bubbling, but at a steady rate, nothing so crazy as to make the lid hop around).

3 – Cook until a knife pierces the potato very easily (but not totally falling apart). Drain off the water and leave the lid off to let them cook for about 2 minutes.

4 – Add the butter and a sprinkle of salt (the amount is up to your taste and what your diet will allow). Replace the lid and using a cloth on each hand, lift the pot and shake it ever so gently. The potatoes with break a little and the butter will melt.

Turn into a large bowl and toss the chopped parsley over them. Set on the table and watch a movie (you know the one I mean!)

One of the many 150 year old trees on the estate

One of the many 150 year old trees on the grounds of Johnstown Castle

Why do I like the films based on Jane Austin’s books so much? (if you want to know, and just so you know).

I like listening to the ease and flow of normal conversation. In those days, even the most uneducated had a way with words. It came from practice. It was the only form of communication and of entertainment. So many people did not have access to books or any other forms of amusement. Talking was it, was the center of everything. The story lines do fall short for me sometimes but that doesn’t matter one bit because I am far too enraptured by every delicious word to care.