Monday, December 22, 2014


Juno churning
In my novel due out next year, Emily Dickinson's Irish maid makes butter. Since writing it I have been obsessed with mini butter churns, particularly the glass table-top ones with wooden paddles. I bought one on eBay after drooling over similar ones in Nairn Museum in Scotland and The Butter Museum in Cork.

I finally got around to making butter with it today and it was fun! I used a 500ml tub of double cream and put in two pinches of salt (not enough salt for my tastes, as it turns out).

Mr Vegan has a go
We all had a turn of the handle and I guess it took about ten minutes worth of churning, which is not long at all.

After the butter came together I drained it in a sieve, then pressed it more with my hands to remove the buttermilk. (If you leave it inside, the buttermilk sours). I then put it into a bowl of cold water, squeezed it again (with cold hands) and patted it into shape.

A little video to hear the sound of the churn and Joe Duffy chirruping in the background. (Oh, the sound has not come over with the video for some reason - I will try to fix this but, for the mo, it's just a jerky visual.)

Friday, November 28, 2014


All the ingredients, ready to go
It's hard to believe it's Christmas cake time again already. I've been making this Rose Elliott-based recipe for years and vegans and non-vegans alike love it - it's a boozy, fruity, moist cake. Absolutely delicious.
Juno mixing and wishing
We made the cake yesterday and Juno (5) said, 'We are celebrating Thanksgiving by making this cake.' Sweet girl.

Finn having a mix and a wish
Get all the ingredients measured out and ready before you begin. It will make the whole thing much easier. We don't ice our cake but it's easy to get vegan marzipan and icing.

Breadcrumbing is serious business
My wishes made while stirring this cake always seem to come true so I am hopeful for this 2014 version too.

The finished cake
Scotch this year (again!) instead of brandy.
350 gr wholegrain spelt flour
175gr vegan marg
175gr light muscovado sugar
1 tsp mixed spice
150gr sultanas
200gr raisins
150gr dates, halved & pitted
50 gr flaked almonds
1 tblsp treacle
100gr glacé cherries, halved
grated zest of an orange
2 tblsps ground almonds
120ml soya milk
2 tblsps red wine vinegar
¾ tsp of bread soda (bicarbonate of soda)
6 tblsps (90ml) brandy/whiskey

• Preheat oven to 150˚C
• Grease an 8” cake tin and line with greaseproof paper. Make an outer 'lining' with a higher cuff to stop the top of the cake burning.
• Sieve the flour and spice
• Rub in the marg until the mix is like breadcrumbs
• Stir in the flaked almonds and treacle
• Add the sugar, dried fruit, cherries, orange zest and ground almonds and mix
• Warm half the soya milk in a small pot and add the vinegar
• Dissolve the bread soda in the rest of the soya milk, then add
this to the milk and vinegar mix
• Stir this into flour and fruit mix until well combined
• Spoon mix into greased tin and smooth the top
• Bake for 2 hours, until a skewer/cocktail stick comes out clean
• Leave cake in tin to cool, then turn out and peel off greaseproof
• Prick cake with a cocktail stick and feed with a third of the brandy
• Wrap cake in greaseproof and store in a tin
• Feed with the rest of the brandy/whiskey at weekly intervals
• Will keep for 4 weeks or so

Nollaig shona! Merry Christmas!

Friday, October 31, 2014


I'm jetlagged so rather late baking my barmbrack and organising my Trick or Treat for Temple Street, But it's all go now. A few pics, a brack recipe, and a hope you are having a Happy Hallowe'en, wherever you are.

A witch eating curried pumpkin soup
Jack Skellington!
The barmbrack


150ml tea
30ml whiskey
250g mixed dried fruit
75g brown sugar
1 beaten egg
45g melted marg
250g wholegrain spelt flour
1tsp bread soda
1 tsp mixed spice


- Soak the fruit, sugar, whiskey and tea in a bowl - leave until cold
- Preheat the oven to 180C
- Grease and line the bottom of an 8" round tin (I used a 2lb loaf tin, this time)
- Add the melted marg to the fruit mix. Stir through.
- Add the beaten egg. Stir through.
- Sieve then fold in the flour, bread soda and spice
- Pour into the lined tin (insert wrapped coin or ring at this point, if using)
- Bake for 55 minutes, until a skewer comes out clean
- Cool in the tin for 10 mins then turn onto a wire rack.

Eat plain or buttered with a cup of tea. Yum!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014


We were in Cork last week and went, of course, to Café Paradiso. Veggie heaven!! I took one pic of the food, that's all. I was too busy eating it!

Spicy tofu with noodles - so delicious!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014


Plums and apples before boiling
My father-in-law Pat grows plums and he gave us a bunch of them at the weekend. Jam time! I added two apples to the plums as they were going to go in the compost otherwise. The jam is super sweet. It would be lovely on a Ditty's Irish oat cake, or on some nice brown soda bread. I enjoyed it on a rice cake, in the absence of other substances :)

Juno squeezing the lemon
Stirring, stirring

2lbs plums
2 eating apples, peeled and chopped small
2lbs granulated sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tblsp butter
100ml cold water

·         Wash plums and remove stalks. Cut the plums and remove the stone.
·         Peel, core and cut apples up small
·         Place fruit, lemon juice and water in a large, deep pot and bring to the boil, stirring frequently
·         Reduce heat and simmer for about 30 minutes until the fruit has softened
·         Keep heat low and add sugar. Stir until sugar has dissolved.
·         Stir in the butter to reduce frothing. Turn up the heat and stir continuously until the mixture comes to a rapid boil.
·         Continue stirring on high heat until the jam reaches setting point. This is when the mixture starts to thicken and set on the sides of the pot.
·         Remove from heat. To test, place a teaspoon of jam onto a cold saucer. Allow to cool, then push your finger through the jam, it should start to congeal and wrinkle up - if it’s still runny, you haven’t yet reached setting point.
·         If not set, return the pot to the heat; bring back up to a rolling boil and test again in a few minutes.
·         Remove from heat and ladle into clean, sterilised, warm jars. (I got four Bonne Maman jars of jam from this amount.) Seal while jars are warm.

Four jars - one with homespun lid
Sterilising jars
·         Preheat oven to 130C
·         Clean jam jars and lids in the dishwasher or with water and washing up liquid. Dry thoroughly.
·         Line a baking tray with newspaper. Place jars on it – make sure they are not touching.
·         Pop in the oven 20 minutes before you expect your jam to be ready – the jars must be hot when you put the hot jam into them.
·         Seal immediately with lids or with greaseproof rounds and greaseproof/plastic lids held on with elastic/string.

Plum jam on a rice cake - yum!

Monday, August 4, 2014


Vegan Pesto Orzo salad
Neglect! My life is too busy for blogging. Even baking has taken a back seat, though Mr Vegan kindly steps in on that front every so often. My beloved sister and my lovely brother-in-law both turn fifty and there's a big party. Everyone is bringing a dish or two, so I made salads and Mr V made his delicious focaccia. (Recipe for that to follow).

We bought orzo recently and the great thing about it, as a pasta, is that it is tiny and slippery so sauce sticks to it well. So I thought it would work well with pesto and it does!


300g orzo
vegan pesto (see below)
punnet of cherry tomatoes, halved


For the Vegan Pesto
handful of basil leaves
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 tablespoons pine nuts
2 tblsps olive oil
pinch salt
pinch pepper

- Cook the orzo as per the packet and rinse in cold water to stop it cooking further
- Whizz the pesto ingredients together in a blender. If too lumpy add more olive oil (or a drop of water)
- Mix through the halved cherry tomatoes

Vegan three bean salad


  • 400g tin of mixed beans
  • 150g sweetcorn
  • 1 carrot (grated)
  • 1 small onion – chopped small
  • handful roughly chopped basil (or coriander)
  • 1 clove of garlic (minced)
  • half tsp sugar
  • 15 ml olive oil
  • 15 ml red wine vinegar (or raspberry vinegar)
  • Mix the beans, sweetcorn, onion and carrot in a big bowl
  • In a small bowl mix the oil, sugar, vinegar and garlic
  • Mix dressing into salad then add the basil

Tuesday, May 20, 2014



My novel about Emily Dickinson and her Irish maid, Miss Emily, comes out next year in the USA and Canada with Penguin. My interest in the poet stems from school, then more recently from baking* too. So here is Emily Dickinson's recipe for gingerbread which I made last week for my ex-husband's birthday 'do'. This recipe was adapted by people who work in the Dickinson Homestead Museum and I have further adapted it for Irish measurements and to make a smaller cake.

This is not a sweet cake - the lack of sugar and the dark treacle make it a little tart. But the dusting of icing sugar and the cream were a perfect addition to it. A sweet yogurt would do the same work. I used a round 8" tin.


60g butter
55ml cream
280g flour
½ teaspoon bread soda
½ tablespoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup (125ml) treacle


·         Preheat the oven to 180ºC ( 350ºF)
·         Grease and line a baking tin
·         Cream the butter and mix with lightly whipped cream.
·         Mix through the treacle
·         Sift dry ingredients together and combine with other ingredients.
·         The dough is stiff and needs to be pressed into the tin
·         Bake for 20 minutes.
·         Dust with icing sugar


*(See here for Emily's coconut cake.) 

Friday, April 4, 2014

TEABRACK & BANANA LOAF - Great Irish Bake 3

Poster, balloons and money jar - Great Irish Bake
It's the official Great Irish Bake Day - our money jar is in place, the balloons are up and I have baked two cakes so far. My husband plans to bake bread later. We will serve these to my writing group tomorrow and hopefully they'll leave a donation in the jar :)

Teabrack mix
Banana bread in progress
Teabrack and banana bread
If you want to make either of these loaves the teabrack recipe is here and the banana loaf is here.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

RAISIN SODA BREAD - Great Irish Bake 2

Kneaded dough
This is our second Great Irish Bake for Temple Street baking session. Lately I've been craving my mother's soda bread with raisins but as she lives 90 miles away, I've had to resort to making it myself. In my novel out next year, Miss Emily, Emily Dickinson's maid, Ada, shows her how to make soda bread. Dickinson was a good baker in her own right. (Which may be where my craving stems from - I am editing the book at the moment.)

The Odlums Baking site calls soda bread with raisins in it 'Station Bread'. I haven't heard this before - is this something to do with the stations of the cross, I wonder? Where is Regina Sexton when you need her?! I shall go and consult her history of Irish food and see if it mentions Station Bread.

This bread has about 99 calories per serving. (Adding butter means extra kcals!)

Cutting the cross - to keep the devil out of the bread


450g plain flour
1 level tsp bread soda
2 level tsps cream of tartar
big pinch of salt
1 tblsp white sugar
25g margarine

half pint milk 
a handful of raisins


  1. Pre-heat oven to 400°F/200°C/Gas 6
  2. Sprinkle flour onto a round baking tray
  3. Sieve flour, bread soda, cream of tartar and salt into a bowl. Add sugar after sieving and mix through
  4. Rub in the margarine until it's like breadcrumbs
  5. Add milk and mix to make a soft dough.
  6. Turn onto a lightly floured board and knead a little
  7. Turn over and shape into a round. Place the dough on a floured tin
  8. Cut a deepish cross into the loaf
  9. Bake for 45 minutes
  10. Tap underneath, if there's a hollow sound, the loaf is done
  11. Cool on a wire tray, covering with a tea towel to give a softer crust 
  12. Slather with butter and eat. Yum!
The finished bread

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

BANANA & SEED BISCUITS - Great Irish Bake 1

Juno sieving
The Great Irish Bake for Temple Street is already underway here in Ballinasloe. Our jar is out, ready for collecting the money. We made Apple Crumble on Sunday (eaten too quick for pics!) and today it was Banana and Seed Biscuits. This recipe makes makes about 12 biscuits. 77 Kcals per biccie.

Banana and seed biscuits

60g marg/butter
60g brown sugar
90g self-raising flour
50g mixed seeds (pumpkin and sesame)
1 small egg, beaten
1 small banana, mashed
half teaspoon mixed spice
1 tablespoon milk

Preheat the oven to 190C.
Line two baking trays.
In a bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until smooth.
Add the beaten egg and mix
Add the mashed banana and mix
Sieve in the the flour and spice; stir into the creamed mixture.
Mix in milk and, finally, the seeds
Blob dessert-spoonfuls onto the prepared baking trays.
Bake for 20 minutes.
Allow to cool on baking tray for 5 minutes before moving to a wire rack.

Friday, January 24, 2014


Like most people in January, I am trying to eat less sugar/fat/calories etc. I had a lonely lemon in the fridge and, as my usual lemon cake is sugar-packed, I went looking for a less calorific one to make. I adapted this Rosemary Conley recipe to include spelt flour, less egg and to make a smaller loaf.

If you make 12 slices of the cake, it is 100 calories per slice, which is pretty great.

I used a 2lb loaf tin which resulted in a squat enough cake, I was too lazy to line a 1lb tin (I have readymade liners for the 2lber). You could make double this recipe for a 2lb tin (bake for 1 hour), or this amount for a 1lb tin.

90g low-fat marg
90g caster sugar
1 egg, beaten
90g wholegrain spelt flour (or plain flour)
2 tbsp of porridge oats
1 tbsp milk
half tsp baking powder
1 lemon, zested

juice of the lemon
1 tsp demerara sugar


- Preheat the oven to 150°C/300°F/Gas Mark 2
- Line your loaf tin
- Zest the lemon
- Juice the lemon
- Beat the marg with the caster sugar, gradually adding the egg
- Sieve in the flour and baking powder and beat again
- Add the lemon zest, porridge oats and milk and mix through
- Pour into lined loaf tin
- Bake in the preheated oven for 40 mins, or until a skewer inserted into the thickest part comes out clean.
- Pour over the lemon juice and sprinkle with sugar, allow to cool in tin
- Serve cold