Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Sunday Walks powered by oat cookies

We are still talking about our amazingly long walk two days ago in the beautiful Wicklow mountains.  Amazing for us as parents in the sense that our two little boys aged five and nearly four walked all of ten miles up and down the mountain.  Admittedly it did take about five hours with many breaks but, even I, as their mother who believes that even their smallest achievements are amazing, think that this was pretty special.
The key to getting them to walk so far was to break up the walk with frequent pit stops for lunch and several other small breaks for snacks and a leg rest while all the time trying to distract them from the shortness of their legs and the actual length of the walk.  I did not hold out hope that they would manage even half way and had envisioned having to carry them back to the car, both weighing on average 20kg.  However they were amazingly resilient and we had a wonderful day.  I also put their energy down to these tasty little biscuits.

I packed some regulation ham sandwiches, a few tomatoes, apples, a packet of digestive biscuits (or 'digested' biscuits as the boys call them which never fails to disgust me) and a tin of these oat and lemon cookies.  Now I haven't made these since school broke up in June (they make excellent lunch box treats) and I suspect in a few weeks I will be making them again on a regular basis.  Anyway, they kept us alive on our walk among the stunning heather, the colours, smells and sounds of which are impossible to accurately capture.  So my advice is to go up there, its amazing.

Oat, hazelnut and lemon cookies

I will give you the basic recipe to which you can add and subtract as your store cupboard or taste buds allow.

For approx. 12 cookies (depending on the size), you will need:

  • 125g butter, softened
  • 75g light brown sugar( I have previously used unrefined caster)
  • 1 egg
  • 150g porridge oats (I used Flahavans jumbo oats)
  • 50g self-raising flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • zest of a lemon finely grated
  • 50g chopped hazelnuts or if you like raisins/sultanas/chopped dates/dessicated coconut
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • Preheat the oven to 190 degrees(Gas mark 5)
  • Lightly grease 2 baking trays with butter.
  • Start by creaming together the butter and sugar until it is light and fluffy - I did this using my hand-held electric whisk. Add the egg and whisk until it is all combined.
  • By hand, stir in the oats, flour, baking powder, lemon zest, chopped hazelnuts and maple syrup.
  • If the mixture seems dry, then add another splash of maple syrup.  Although I have at this point added some chopped and flaked almonds, raisins, sultanas, dessicated coconut and then adding another beaten egg to combine everything together.  Do as you please.
  • Dip your finger tips in a little flour and pinch out a small amount of mixture.  Roll or press it into a small ball about the size of a cream-egg or a golf ball and place on the baking tray roughly 11/2"-2" apart (they will spread out during cooking).
  • Slightly flatten onto the baking tray and repeat leaving ample room for spreading.
  • If you run out of room on the baking tray, simple place the remainder of the mixture into the fridge and bake in batches.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Farro all'antica with home-grown cavolo nero

I am back from our holiday with mixed feelings as usual.  Berlin gets well and truly under my skin while I am there and although we were only there for three weeks, it really feels like home -  adapting this time made a little easier for we Irish by the  torrential rain and dramatically loud thunder storms! Weather aside,  we had three lovely weeks together swimming, taking boat trips, a lot of cycling carrying small yet heavy passengers and a small amount of running in an attempt to reverse the effects of quite a lot of eating, prosecco drinking and general overindulgence of curry wurst mit pommes here.

As fresh off the flight as one can be at near midnight, we headed straight to the garden to find a jungle of rhubarb, cavolo nero, strawberries and tomato plants well over a metre tall.  The sounds of excitement and amazement could be heard down the quiet dark of the street for at least an hour before tiredness chased us all to bed.

So I have spent this past few days unpacking, refilling the fridge and getting back to normal.  I have had to turn to the far reaches of the store cupboard for something to add to the cavolo nero and found a long lost packet of farro.

Farro looks a bit like wholegrain rice but is in fact the wheat grain in its whole form. It is sold dried and is normally boiled in water until soft, but still crunchy. It may be eaten plain, though it is often used as an ingredient in dishes such as salads and soups.

This recipe is adapted from a recipe on the back of this Casa Rinaldi packet for Farro all'antica - it turned out like a nutty full-flavoured risotto which was a delicious change to carnaroli or arborio which I use mostly for risottos. I really enjoyed it and would definitely make this again for a warming winter lunch or mid-week comfort supper as long as the kale is in abundance.

You will need for 4:

250g farro
extra virgin olive oil
200g mince meat
2 sticks celery, finely diced
3-4 medium sized organic carrots, peeled and finely diced
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 tin chopped tomatoes
salt and pepper
100ml organic beef or vegetable stock

6 broad stalks of cavolo nero - centre stem cut out and the leaf shredded

Parmesan cheese to serve.
  • Firstly rinse the farro under cold running water and add to a large pan of boiling salted water.  Boil the farro for 10 minutes, drain and set aside.
  • In a large heavy bottomed casserole with a lid (my le Creuset was perfect for this) warm a tablespoon of olive oil and add the finely chopped onion, celery and carrot and mince meat.  Break the meat up as you stir through the vegetables, a bit like making a bolognese sauce.
  • Cook through for 5 minutes until the meat has browned all over, add the tinned tomatoes and gently bubble on the stove top for 10 minutes.
  • Now add the farro and stir it through well.  Place the lid on the saucepan and on a very slow simmer, cook gently for 20 minutes until the farro has softened further.  Add a little stock as you go, a little bit like feeding a risotto - adding more as it is absorbed.
  • At the very end of the cooking and you are happy with the seasoning and the texture of the farro, it should be nutty and not too soft, cook the cavolo nero.
  • Heat a little olive oil in a frying pan and add some finely sliced garlic.  Add the shredded kale and saute for 4-5 minutes until it is slightly soft.
  • Stir the cavolo nero through the farro and serve with grated parmesan.