Thanksgiving or Christmas breakfast bread pudding

I am a bread pudding nut, and on these festive holidays, there is nothing nicer than to sit in the kitchen in the morning with the fire on, drinking champagne and smelling the aroma of something cooking slowly in the oven. The beauty of this dish is that it can be prepared up until cooking, the night before and refrigerated until needed.

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Serves 4

1 lb good quality pork sausage-meat
6 cups cut or torn up up French bread, about 1/2″ thick
3 cups whole milk
8 large eggs, organic preferably
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
6 sage leaves
5 oz cream cheese
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 tsp maple sugar
butter for the pan

The night before- cook the pork sausage-meat until it is nicely browned. If the sausage is in links, then remove the casings and crumble the sausage.
Mince the sage and toss it with your torn/cut bread in a large bowl
Whisk together the eggs, milk, salt and pepper then pour it over the bread. Stir it around several times, let it sit, then stir again.
Butter a 9″ by 9″ baking dish.
Stir the bread again. Most of the liquid should be absorbed.
Spread half of the bread mixture in the bottom of the greased baking dish.
Use a slotted spoon to remove the sausage-meat from the pan and spread it over the bread.
Now dot the cream cheese in with the sausage. Top with the remaining bread and pour any unabsorbed custard over the top.
Cover and stick in the fridge overnight. Go to bed.
The next morning…. Preheat the oven to 350 F
Pull the pudding from the fridge and drizzle the maple syrup over it, then sprinkle with the maple sugar.
Put it in the oven. Now it’s going to take a while as it’s dense, so go and enjoy yourself with your family while the aroma slowly seeps around the house.
It will turn a dark golden brown, be crunchy on top and puff up a bit. It might take up to 1 hour 30 mins, but check after 1 hour.
When you think it’s done, take it out of the oven and let it rest for a little bit. This goes really well with mimosas!

Easy no knead Guinness bread

This is another great moist, dense and very tasty bread we had in Ireland. The addition of Guinness beer whether draught or canned, makes it so rich and flavorful. All it needs is some salty Irish Kerrygold butter and some smoked salmon!


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This recipe makes one loaf and is better served fresh and slightly warm, especially as it’s a no-knead recipe.

5 ½ cups plain wholemeal / wholemeal all purpose flour
1 ¼ cups plain white / white all purpose flour
½ cup oatmeal
2 ½ teaspoons of baking soda or bicarbonate of soda
2 ½ tablespoons brown sugar
¼ cup unsalted butter
2 cups whole milk
3/4 cups black treacle or molasses
½ pint draught or canned Guinness

 Preheat the oven to 350 °F and lightly grease a standard loaf tin with butter.
Place all the dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl. Add the butter and rub into the dry ingredients until it resembles fine breadcrumbs – I recommend working quickly as the mixture can easily become greasy if over mixed, or mixed using too warm hands.
Add the milk, black treacle or molasses and the Guinness. Mix to create a wet dough.
Grease a standard loaf tin, add the wet dough and bake in the oven for 40 – 45 mins or until the bread is well risen and cooked through.
Leave for 10 minutes in the tin, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool. Eat while slightly warm if you like, or leave to go completely cold. Delicious with salty butter and Irish smoked salmon, cold meats or cheeses.



Val’s Ballinkeele brown soda bread

At the beautiful manor house of Balinkeele, County Wexford, Ireland, where we stayed for a night on our two week driving trip of Ireland, we got to know the young owners of this stunning property, Laura, Val, and their four young children. They live in the house, run a bed and breakfast in it and do all the cooking and cleaning themselves. At breakfast we were served this delicious  bread warm from the oven. The recipe, which is easy to make, is Val’s handed down over the generations and it was to die for.

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This was our bedroom and the view across the lakes and gardens was stunning.


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After breakfast we strolled around the property, taking as many pictures as possible of the gorgeous lakes, pathways and gardens.

Ballinkeele lake.

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Dry Ingredients
14 oz wholemeal flour
3 oz plain flour
4 tbsp mixed seeds & nuts, (like pumpkin, sunflower, pine nuts, golden flax seeds, chopped nuts, or whatever you fancy)
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt

Wet ingredients
14.5 fl oz buttermilk
1 large egg
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp honey

Heat the oven to 450 F. Grease the inside of a 2lb loaf tin – cut a piece of baking parchment to fit the base.
Mix the dry ingredients together except for 2 tbsp of the nuts/seeds mixture, in a large bowl. In another bowl or a pitcher, mix the wet ingredients together, using a whisk, but don’t beat the mixture too much.
Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients, pour the wet ingredients in and mix well.
Turn the bread mixture into the loaf tin and pat down on the top with a fork or spatula. Scatter the remaining 2 tbsp seeds and nuts along the middle of the length of the loaf tin.
Cook at 450 F for 15 mins then turn down the oven to 375 F for the remaining 35 to 40 mins. Leave the loaf in the tin to cool a little and when cool enough to remove from the tin, it should sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.

Cornbread, bacon, pecan and leek stuffing

Another great stuffing to add to the repertoire

2 cups pecans
2 cornbread (rounds, squarers or loaves, 8 inches each) coarsely broken into 2 inch pieces (16 cups)
3 tbsp butter, cut into small pieces, plus more for the dish
8 slices smoked bacon, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
4 celery stalks, chopped nto 1/2 inch pieces
4 leeks (white and pale-green parts only), chopped into 1/2 inch pieces, rinsed well.
1 tbsp plus 1 tsp chopped fresh thyme
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 1/2 cups turkey or chicken stock (preferably homemade)
4 large eggs, lightly beaten

Preheat the oven to 350 F
Spread the pecans on a rimmed baking sheet. Toast in the oven for 7 minutes. let cool slightly; coarsely chop. Mix together pecans and cornbread in a large bowl.

Butter a 9 x 13 inch baking dish. Cook the bacon in a large high-sided skillet over medium-high heat until almost crisp, about 3 minutes.
Reduce the heat to medium; add the celery and leeks. Cook until vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.
Stir in thyme and 1 1/4 tsp salt; season with pepper.
Transfer to a large bowl.

Return the skillet to medium-high heat, and add the stock; bring to a simmer, scraping up the brown bits and stirring constantly with a wooden spoon.
Add to the bowl with the bacon-vegetable mixture.
Stir in the eggs.
Gently mix in the cornbread mixture. (Do not overmix)
Transfer to a baking dish, dot the top with butter.
bake until golden brown, about 35 to 45 minutes

Blueberry and brioche brunch bake

Another fab Holiday brunch dish prepared the night before. This one oozing with sweet blueberries then covered in a warm blueberry sauce for good measure.

Makes 6 servings

For the breakfast casserole

4 brioche (about 14 oz in all)  or 8 x 1” thick slices of brioche or other white bread, cubed
1/4 lb cream cheese, cut into cubes
3/4 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
1 1/2 tbsp grated orange zest
6 large eggs
1 cup whole milk
1/4 cup pure maple syrup

For the blueberry sauce

3/4 cup sugar
1 tbsp cornstarch
3/4 cup water
3/4 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
2 tsp unsalted butter
3/4 tsp freshly squeezed orange juice

Lightly butter the bottom and sides of a 12 x 9 x 2 (approx) baking dish

Arrange half the brioche slices or cubes in the bottom. Scatter the cream cheese cubes, 3/4 of the blueberries and the orange zest over the brioche or bread. Top with the remaining brioche or bread cubes.

In a bowl, stir the eggs, milk and maple syrup to blend. Pour this egg mixture evenly over the entire casserole. Cover with aluminum foil and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350 F

Remove the casserole from the fridge 30 minutes before you cook it.
Bake, covered, for 40 minutes. Remove the foil and bake uncovered until puffed and golden, about another 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the blueberry sauce;

In a large saucepan, blend the sugar and cornstarch, then stir in the water. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until the mixture boils, thickens, and becomes clear, about 5 minutes.
Stir in the blueberries. Reduce the heat to low and cook until the blueberries burst, about 10 minutes.
Remove from the heat and stir in the butter and lemon juice and keep warm until the casserole is done.

Cut the baked casserole into 6 squares, and transfer to plates. Pour abut 1/4 cup blueberry sauce over each portion and serve hot.



Baked Panettone with ricotta and mandarin oranges

Go out and buy a lovely fruity panettone and prepare this the night before, for a Thanksgiving or Christmas breakfast. All you have to do in the morning is pop it in the oven and you will think you’ve died and gone to Italian heaven!

Makes 6 servings

1 tbsp butter, preferably unsalted
8 oz fresh whole-fat ricotta cheese
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tbsp Cointreau or Grand Marnier ( or a litte more!)
Six 1/2 inch thick slices of panettone
One 11 oz can of mandarin oranges, drained
6 extra large eggs
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
Orange marmalade or maple syrup to serve

Preheat the oven to 350 F
Generously grease a 13 x 9 x 2 inch baking dish with all the butter

In a bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the ricotta cheese, sugar, cream and Cointreau together until the mixture is very dense and smooth

Arrange 3 panettone slices over the bottom of the greased baking dish, covering it completely.
Cover the panettone slices with the ricotta mixture and then arrange the mandarin oranges slices over the ricotta mixture. Cover with the remaining 3 slices of panettone.

In another bowl, whisk the eggs, milk and cinnamon until well blended. Pour this mixture over the panettone in the baking dish.

*At this point the dish can be covered with plastic wrap and put in the fridge over night until you’re ready to bake it.

Bake the casserole until dark golden brown on top, about 30 mins or so.

* If you have refrigerated it overnight, remove the dish from the fridge, uncover it and let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before cooking it.

Serve with the orange marmalade or maple syrup or both!

This one was done in a round baking dish


Wild mushroom bread and butter pudding with truffle oil and Madeira

I will not apologize for the richness of this dish!

Serves 2

olive oil for frying
2 large shallots, finely diced
2 good sized cloves garlic, crushed
1 heaped tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped
1 heaped tbsp fresh thyme leave, chopped
1 really generous splash of Madeira
10 fl oz cream
11 oz mixed wild mushrooms, each sliced in half
truffle oil
3/4 cup grated Gruyere cheese
2 extra large egg yolks, beaten with a fork
8 slices brioche, crusts removed

Preheat the oven to 350 F

In a heavy based saucepan, add a splash of olive oil and warm gently. Add the shallots, rosemary, thyme and garlic and cook gently for 5 minutes.

Add a good splash of the Madeira and reduce for 5 minutes.
Add the cream, bring to the boil then turn off the heat and set aside to steep.

Heat a frying pan, add a drizzle of olive oil and fry the mushrooms for around 2 minutes. Add the cooked mushrooms to the cream base you set aside, season with salt and pepper and add the truffle oil to taste, a very little at a time, stirring in between to check on the flavor.
Once cooled slightly, add the egg yolks and stir in.

To build the puddings, take two individual pie dishes and lay a slice of the brioche on the bottom then add a generous tbsp of the mushroom mixture.
Repeat until all the brioche and mushroom mix is used up.
Sprinkle the tops of the puddings with the grated Gruyere cheese

Bake in the oven for 12 minutes or until golden on top.
Let stand for a few minutes before serving.


Cornbread dressing with sausage and fennel

A lovely recipe adapted from Bon Appetite magazine.

Make this weeks ahead, freeze and bring out the day before you need it, to thaw slowly.

8 cups cornbread cubes (dried out)
1lb bulk Italian sweet sausage meat or chorizo
10 tbsp (1 1/4 sticks) butter
1 large fennel bulb, chopped, plus some fronds for serving
4 celery stalks, peeled and chopped
10 scallions, white and pale green parts only, thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 Bosc or Comice pears, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup Sauvignon Blanc or other dry white wine
3 tbsp finely chopped Italian parsley
1 1/2 tbsp chopped fresh marjoram or oregano
1 1/2 tbsp chopped fresh thyme
1 tsp dried sage leaves
2 cups chicken broth
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 extra large eggs, beaten to blend

Preheat oven to 300F
If you don’t buy the pre-bagged cornbread cubes, then divide your cornbread cubes between two baking sheets. Bake, tossing occasionally, until beginning to brown in spots, 40 to 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook the sausage meat in a large skillet over medium heat, breaking up with a spoon, until dark brown, 6 to 8 minutes.
Using a slotted spoon, transfer the sausage meat to a small bowl. Let cool

Reduce the heat to medium and heat 8 tbsp butter in the same skillet. Add the fennel, celery, scallions and garlic and cook, stirring often, until the vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes.
Add the pears and wine, increase the heat to medium high and cook, stirring occasionally, until the wine is almost completely evaporated, about 5 minutes.

Increase the oven temperature to 400 F.
Butter a 13 x 9 x 2 inch baking dish.
Combine sausage, fennel mixture, parsley, marjoram, thyme, sage and 1 1/2 cups broth in a large bowl.
Add the cornbread and toss to combine: season with salt and pepper and let sit for about 10 minutes, then add the remaining 1/2 cup of broth and toss, adding more broth if necessary. (The bread should be moist not soggy)
Add the eggs and mix gently just to combine.
Transfer the dressing to the prepared baking dish and dot with the remaining 2 tbsp butter.

Cover the dressing with foil and bake until heated through, about 30 minutes.
Remove the foil and bake until the dressing is golden and crisp on top, 20 to 30 minutes longer.
Serve topped with the fennel fronds.


Easy bacon and cheddar pull-apart bread

This is almost not a recipe, but I was reminded of this yesterday and forgot it was in my “bottom drawer”!  Perfect for football season and SO tasty.

10 oz of your favorite mature cheddar cheese, grated
1 large round loaf of soft bread like a French or Italian loaf
10 oz diced, sliced bacon, cooked till crisp
1/2 cup melted butter
1 tbsp dry Ranch dressing mix from a packet

Cut the bread in 3/4 inch intervals, being careful not to cut all the way through.
Cut again in the same way, crosswise, still not cutting through. You are going to need a good sharp knife for this!
Place the shredded cheese in between all the cuts then sprinkle with the cooked bacon.
Blend the melted butter with the Ranch mix and drizzle evenly over the top of the bread.
Wrap in foil and bake at 350F for 15 minutes, uncover and bake for 10 more minutes.
Serve hot and pull apart the pieces to eat.

You can add fresh herbs, garlic and all sorts of other things to this bread and it just gets better!


Easy Greek feta flatbread (Alevropita)

This flatbread recipe is made with a simple egg batter and studded with Greek feta and comes from the region of Epirus.
It is very easy, thin crust and tangy with the Greek feta sprinkled over.
I have given you the basic recipe but I would recommend using chopped oregano or thyme to sprinkle with the feta and when you feel adventurous, some pieces of sun dried tomatoes, olives, rosemary, preserved lemon, garlic…..

Serves 8 to 10

6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp vodka
1 large egg
1&1/4 cups flour, sifted
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/8 tsp baking powder
12 oz Greek feta, crumbled. (don’t buy the pre-crumbled one as all the flavor has gone)
2 tbsp unsalted butter, softened

Heat the oven to 500 degrees. Put in an 18″ by 13″ by 1″ rimmed baking sheet  for about 10 minutes

Meanwhile, whisk together 2 tbsp oil, the vodka, egg and 1 cup water in a bowl.
In a separate bowl, whisk the flour, salt and baking powder together until well incorporated.
Pour the wet mixture over the dry mixture and whisk until smooth

Brush the remaining oil over the bottom of the hot pan and add the batter, smoothing the batter with a rubber spatula to coat the bottom evenly, if necessary.
Distribute the cheese evenly over the batter and dot with the butter.
Bake, rotating the baking sheet halfway through, until golden brown and crunchy, about 20 minutes.

Let cool slightly before slicing and serving