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.


Chewy, healthy flapjack bars


Instead of buying cereal bars, these are so much more tasty and nutritious.
They keep in an airtight container for up to 4 days, but you won’t have any left after 1 day.

Makes 12 bars
10 oz jar apple sauce
4 oz (1/2 cup) ready to eat dried apricots, chopped
4oz (3/4 cup) raisins
2oz (1/4 cup) raw sugar
2oz (1/3 cup) sunflower seeds
1oz (2 tbsp) sesame seeds
1oz (1/4 cup) pumpkin seeds
3oz (scant 1 cup) rolled oats
3oz (2/3 cup) self raising wholewheat flour
2oz (2/3 cup) desiccated (dry unsweetened) coconut
2 large eggs

Preheat the oven to 400 F
Grease an 8 inch square shallow baking pan and line with baking parchment.
Put the apple sauce in a large bowl with the apricots, raisins, sugar and the sunflower, sesame and pumpkin seeds and stir together with a wooden spoon until thoroughly mixed.
Add the oats, flour, coconut and eggs to the fruit mixture and gently stir together until evenly combined.
Turn the mixture into the greased tin and spread to the edges in an even layer.
Bake for about 25 to 30 minutes or until golden and just firm to the touch.
Leave to cool in the tin, then lift onto a board and cut into bars.

** Allow the baking parchment to hang over the edges of the pan, this makes it easier to remove the bars from the pan.

Easy, healthy homemade fruit, nut and seed chocolate

This is the most divine chocolate you can eat, and you choose exactly what you want in it and how dark the chocolate is. Everyone swoons with this chocolate.

It almost doesn’t need a recipe so I will give you the guidelines;

This makes about 40 pieces, at least

You will need;

A double boiler, or a bowl to sit on top of a saucepan without the bottom of it touching the water you put in the saucepan.
A shallow 9” by 13” baking tray lined with aluminum foil (however, you can make as little or as much as you want and vary the size of the tray.


12 x 4oz bars of really good quality chocolate. I use Lindt and use 8 x 85% bars and 4  x 70% bars, sometimes using a couple of the “Lindt Intense orange” flavor, or “mint” flavor but you can put in anything you want.

Salted, skinned peanuts (It’s nice to have something salted against the sweetness of the chocolate)
pumpkin seeds
pistachio nuts
sunflower seeds
toasted slivered almonds
any other nuts you like, chopped very coarsely
dried cranberries
dried blueberries
dried apricots
crystallized ginger
any other dried fruit

2 fresh oranges, grated zest only (if you like a lovely orange flavor)


You can really improvise with this, but all you do is break up the chocolate and put it in the top bowl of a double boiler.

Cut all the nuts until they are pretty similar in size and sprinkle all the fruits, nuts and seeds of your choice onto the lined baking tray.

Finely grate the zest of the two oranges and add to the chocolate in the bowl over medium heat so the water underneath is gently simmering. Stir occasionally until it has all melted.
Take off the stove and pour over all the fruits, nuts and seeds in the baking tray, shaking the baking tray so it spreads evenly into all the holes and crevices. Sprinkle a few bits and pieces of the fruit, nuts and seeds over the top for decoration and then refrigerate for 4 to 6 hours until set.

Remove the foil from underneath the chocolate, and start cutting it into chunks . Store in a container in the fridge and you will have divine chocolate for weeks!!

Roasted Delicata Squash, Pomegranate and Arugula Salad

This is a gorgeous show stealer for the Thanksgiving table. You can roast the Delicata squash the day before if there is no room in the oven on the day.

Serves 4 to 8

2 medium delicata squash, around 1 and 1/4 lbs total
1 tbsp olive oil
Fine grain sea salt
4 heaping cups baby arugula (or mixed greens if you prefer)
2/3 cup pomegranate seeds (or a generous handful of dried cherries or cranberries)
1/3 cup raw pumpkin seeds (pepitas) or pecans
4 oz Greek feta cheese, crumbled

Maple-balsamic vinaigrette
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp real maple syrup
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 425 F
Wash the squash and scrape off any tough bits of skin with a knife. Slice the squash into 1/2 inch rounds. Use a spoon to scoop out the seeds from each round. Drizzle the squash with a generous tbsp of olive oil and a sprinkle of sea salt.
Use your fingers to lightly coat all the surfaces of the squash with olive oil.

Bake for about 30 minutes or until the squash is tender and golden, flipping halfway.

In a medium skillet over medium-low heat, toast the pepitas (or pecans), stirring frequently, until they are fragrant and lightly golden on the edges. Remove from the heat.
In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, maple syrup and Dijon mustard with a pinch of salt and pepper.

Once the squash has had a few minutes to cool, combine the arugula, pomegranate (or dried fruit), pepitas (or pecans), crumbled feta and squash in a serving bowl. Toss with enough dressing to lightly coat the leaves. Serve immediately.

Yields 4 substantial side salads or up to 8 small servings.
To make this recipe vegan, skip the feta or serve it on the side.

Pumpkin seed stuffing with chorizo

This is a terrific stuffing as it uses the “pepitas” pumpkin seeds. This recipe was voted best recipe of the year for Bon Appetite magazine in 2008.  Toasted pepitas, fragrant Spanish chorizo, chiles and cornbread. Would could be nicer?
You can make this the day before but only if you’re not putting it in the turkey. I like to cook this separately.

Serves 6 to 8

* Pumpkin seed oil can be found online or in well stocked supermarkets and is worth having. For a little extra heat, roast 2 to 4 jalapeno chiles with the poblanos, then clean, stem, seed and chop them before adding them to the stuffing.

10 cups cubed corn bread, cut into 1 inch pieces
1/4 cup pumpkinseed oil, divided
1 1/2 tsp minced fresh thyme
1 tbsp chopped fresh oregano
1 1/4 tsp salt, divided
freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups shelled pumpkin seeds
4 poblano chiles
6 tbsp (3/4 stick) butter, divided
2 tbsp olive oil
3/4 lb Spanish chorizo, cut crosswise into 1/8 inch slices
1 1/2 cups fresh corn, from about 2 medium corn cobs
2 onions, cut into 1/2 inch dice
2 tsp minced garlic
1/3 cup dry white wine
3/4 tsp cumin (I roast my own)
1/2 tsp Spanish smoked paprika
2 to 3 cups chicken or turkey broth

Preheat the oven to 375 F
In a large bowl, gently toss the corn bread with 3 tbsp pumpkinseed oil, the thyme, oregano,1/2 tsp salt and several grinds of black pepper.

Spread the cubes in a single layer on a large, foil lined baking sheet and toast for 20 to 25 minutes until lightly golden, shaking the pan every 5 minutes for even coloring. Remove from the heat and allow to cool, then place in a large bowl.

In a medium bowl, toss the pumpkin seeds with the remaining tbsp pumpkinseed oil, 1/4 tsp salt and several grinds of black pepper. Place the seeds on a foil lined baking sheet and toast until fragrant, puffed and lightly golden, about 10 minutes. Remove and cool, then add to the cornbread.

Meanwhile, roast the chiles on the stove top directly over a hot burner until charred on all sides, about 5 minutes. Remove to a sealed bag to rest until cool enough to peel.
Peel the charred skin (do NOT rinse under water as this will remove the flavor)
Halve the chiles lengthwise, stem and seed. Cut the halves crosswise into 1/8 inch sttrips. Add to the cornbread.

Heat a large, heavy-bottom skillet over medium high heat. Add 2 tbsp butter and the olive oil, then the chorizo and cook until lightly browned, about 4 to 5 minutes.
Remove the chorizo with a slotted spoon, leaving the fat in the pan, and add the chorizo to the stuffing mixture.

Stir the corn and onions into the pan and season with 1/4 tsp salt and several grinds of black pepper.
Cook, stirring occasionally, until the corn is crisp-tender and the onions have softened and are translucent, about 5 minutes.
Stir in the garlic and cook until it is aromatic, about 30 seconds.
Stir in the white wine and cook, scraping any bits of flavoring from the pan, until the white wine has almost evaporated, 2 to 3 minutes.  Cool, slightly, then add to the stuffing mixture.

*(You are building layers of flavor with all these steps)

Gently toss in the cumin and smoked Spanish paprika, and season the stuffing with 1/4 tsp salt or to taste.
Melt the remaining butter and drizzle over the stuffing. Drizzle 2 cups of chicken or turkey broth over the stuffing and gently toss. Add additional broth as desired.

Place the stuffing in a buttered 13 by 9 inch baking dish, cover and place in the oven. Bake for 20  minutes, then remove the cover and continue to bake for another 20 to 30 minutes until the top is lightly toasted.
Remove and serve.