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By Fiona Staunton 12 Jan, 2018
Winter is here, short days and cosy evenings indoors!  In this first part of my Irish Winter Veg blogs I thought I would have a look at carrots.  I have also shared my recipe for a lovely warming carrot soup , with a few variations to meet everyones tastes!

Did you know, carrots are part of the parsley family?  They are cheap and probably one of the most frequently bought vegetables, to cook without carrots seems unimaginable.  Their natural sweetness and unique flavour makes them a popular ingredient in most stocks and soups.  There are so many different ways that carrots can be prepared and cooked, that is why I have chosen them for part one of my vegetable focus!

In Ireland they are in season most of the year, except March - June.  Carrots can be big or small and vary in colour from a pale to deep orange, although there are some white and purple varieties available now.
By Fiona Staunton 14 Dec, 2017
Just over a week to go to Christmas Day.  Do you have all your gifts sorted?  Or do you have a few more to get?  Maybe a few stocking fillers.

Here is some inspiration for food related gifts this Christmas. At each of my cookery classes, I always give tips on where to buy food, which gadgets work, which don't.  Below is a list and some links to help you with your Christmas shopping!

  • Joseph Joseph Citrus Catcher - A great gadget for squeezing citrus fruit straight into a bowl/saucepan.  It catches all the pips and pith!  It costs around €12-15.  
  • Zyliss garlic crusher - No need to peel the garlic cloves, this is the best garlic crusher I have come across! It even comes with a piece to push out the skin afterwards so your hands don't smell of garlic. It is costs around €15.   
  • Non-stick baking sheets - These are great for baking and cooking savoury dishes.  No need for parchment paper, they can be washed each time and you can reuse them 2000 times!, I have used them a lot more than that.  I use them for turning out & baking sourdough, rolling & baking crackers, roasting slices of veg ....The brand I use is Seraphina's kitchen which can be bought online.  However the recently opened Triggerfish  cookshop in Blackrock, Co Dublin has other brands in stock, they usually cost under €20 for 2.
  • Knife set - If you are looking for a set of knives for someone, this fabulous set of Global knives is usually half price (€250) in the Christmas Sale at Brown Thomas 
  • Knife sharpener - If you want to keep your kitchen knives, and your food processor blade sharp throughout the year, this 3 in 1 sharpener is easy to use and is good value under €10!   The Kitchen whisk on Wicklow Street in Dublin may well stock these but don't have a website just yet. 
  • Wine decanter cleaning beads - Find it tricky to clean your wine decanter or Kefir bottles?  These cleaning beads are brilliant, get into all the tricky edges, costs around €25 !  
  • Cook Books - I have fond memories of the year I spent working with Rory in the kitchen of Ballymaloe House.  His new book Cook Well, Eat well is a really balanced cookery book and costs around €20.   For someone who likes to bake and make desserts then Sweet by Ottolenghi is great and costs around €35.
  • Practical Cookery demo in a fun environment - How about a gift voucher to one of my Cookery Demos?  Jan and Feb schedule is on the website  Starting with my new classes of Quick Midweek dinners on Jan 10th!  For €50 you can come for dinner and learn how to cook at least 6 dinners Gift vouchers can be bought online but if you would like a voucher card in the post, simply email fiona@fionasfoodforlife.ie

  • Home- made edible presents - Last week I wrote a blog and posted the recipe for Pecan Christmas cookies.  I like to make these with the kids at Christmas time so they are gifting something to loved ones on Christmas Day. It helps shift the weight from what they are 'getting'.   Why not check it out and make them with your nieces & nephews, children or grandchildren so they have something to give?
Good luck with your shopping and I hope you have a happy and healthy Chrismtas,

Fiona


By Fiona Staunton 08 Dec, 2017
It is now two weeks to Christmas.  If your house is anything like mine, the kids have a long list of all the things they are 'getting'.  I constantly remind them that it is a list of things they are 'asking for'.  Where is their list of cards to write, presents to buy and gifts to wrap?
Personally, I feel that it is so important to remind them of others less fortunate and get them involved in gifting.

Each year I get the kids involved in a charity.  The last few years it has been the shoebox appeal.  The kids choose what goes into the box and use some of their pocket money to purchase items for children less well off so that they receive a lovely shoe box of gifts and useful items at Christmas.

This year, thanks to Siobhan Fitzpatrick and the Women In Business Network (WIBN) we are providing dignity packs  to local homeless people.  My children were intrigued by this and each put together a bag, my daughter for a homeless female and my son for a homeless male.  As it is so cold, we added in some warms, hats, scarves, gloves and socks.  They even put in some treats from their Halloween stash.  We then dropped it off to a local homeless charity to be distributed. A great ideal by Molly Comish.

As Christmas week approaches, I like to set aside some time to make cookies with the kids and to get them to package them up ready to give to all the relatives on Christmas Day.  They are simple to make, really tasty and simply melt in the mouth!  You will get approx. 40 biscuits in each batch and I usually allow 6 per person!

If you visit Sostrene Green  or your local Tiger  shop you can get lovely cellophane bags, of different sizes and ribbons to tie around them.  You can let your children's creativity run wild and they can create the labels or messages they want to add to the gift.

The recipe can be found on my website .  I often put these in the goodie bags at the end of my cookery classes at this time of year but seldom make them during the cookery demos.

Maybe we should ask kids occasionally, what are you 'giving' someone you love this Christmas?
By Fiona Staunton 01 Dec, 2017
At my cookery demos, I love to give people tips and advise around various aspects of food.

Last week, one customer told me she loved the advise I gave on prolonging the life of your herbs so I thought I would share my tips with you!

I remember as a chef in Ballymaloe, at 6pm, before dinner service, we would go into the herb garden and select all the beautiful, aromatic herbs for garnish for dinner service, then we would come back in and sit down for staff dinner.  I often wish I still had access to that fabulous herb garden!

I amn't one for gardening, I never seem to get the time.  I read somewhere recently that it can be hugely beneficial for your mental health to spend 15 mins per day gardening.  The connection with the earth, the clean air, the sense of satisfaction and the beauty and appreciation of life and growth all help to switch our minds from the busy, technology based lives so many of us live.  Below are the hassle free herbs I grow and what I use them for in the kitchen.

I am sure a horticulturist would give you an extensive list and great advise on how to look after and feed the herbs but here is my practical experience from someone who prefers to spend her time in the kitchen rather than gardening but appreciates fresh herbs at her fingertips. 

1. Bay tree/ shrub .  The leaves are fantastic for stocks and stews.  It grows all year round and needs little or no minding!

2. Mint - Be sure to plant it in a pot, in the ground, rather than straight into the ground as otherwise it will take over.  I use this for making mint sauce for lamb, adding to a Mojito or to freshen up a cup of green tea.  It is often my herb of choice in my well known Quinoa salad.  This tends to die off in Winter but comes back in Spring.

3. Chives - They grow most of the year and once you cut them back they grow again the next season.  They have lovely purple edible flowers in summer.  They are great chopped up in a salad and the flowers work as a great garnish!  I don't do much to look after them at all!

4. Rosemary - Rosemary is hardy and grows all year round.  I put it in marinades, stocks ad roast potatoes.  I stick stem pieces into a leg of lamb along with garlic to flavour it.  I do nothing to the rosemary, I just let it grow.  Have you noticed how rosemary was used in the creation of my logo?

So if I don't have herbs growing in the garden, where do I get them from and how do I store them?

a. Thyme - I often buy a pot of thyme and have it on the windowsill for a week or two.  It is great in stocks and stews and is really nice with mushrooms.  I have had minimal success with re planting the pot in the garden!

b. Parsley - Similar to thyme, I buy it in a pot if I know I need a little over a few days.  However, if I need lots, eg if making gremolata or eggs mememen or salsa verde I buy a large bag in a vegetable shop.  See tips below re keeping small bags fresh.

c. Basil - I love basil, great for pesto but it is tricky to grow in Ireland.  You really need a sunny greenhouse!  I usually buy in bags as I need it, small bags from supermarkets if I only need a little but large bags from a Veggie shop if I want more.  It is better to tear or cut basil with a scissors rather than chopping as it bruises easily.

d. Coriander - I find people either love or hate coriander!  I use it in lots of marinades and to flavour lots of dishes, like my turkey burgers, thai curries etc.  Similar to basil it doesn't. 

Storing herbs.

If I buy herbs in a bag, I open the bag, wrap the herbs in some kitchen paper, soaked in cold water and put it back in the bag again and store in the fridge. I find this helps to keep the herbs fresher for longer. Refresh the water on the herbs every second day.

If you have excess herbs, you can

1. Put into a stock/bone broth
2. Chop and add to an omelette for breakfast, sprinkle over salad etc.
3. Chop and freeze in ice cube tray in a little water or olive oil, ready to stir fry!
4. Freeze them (together with veggie peelings and onion tops) for stock
5. make a herb butter to add to grilled fish
6. Tie a bunch and hang to dry, as I don't grow much I haven't tried this method myself.

I hope you enjoyed my tips.  Please drop me an email if there is an area you would like me to write about.
By Fiona Staunton 24 Nov, 2017
Do you find Christmas stressful? Want to take the hassle out of the Christmas dinner?

Dec 25th is only one month away! There is no doubt it is a stressful time of year, but it should be an enjoyable time too. I cant help with shopping for the vast array of presents, juggling the social engagements, making it to all the school nativity plays, carol services & pantomimes but I can try to help take some of the hassle out of the food on Christmas day!

At this time of year,  when people are at my cookery classes, I am often asked for tips and advise around food over Christmas . My best advise would be to KEEP IT SIMPLE.

Prepare things in advance where possible. I find that I want to enjoy the day and the social occasions also, not stuck in the kitchen and stressed about the food.

For me, I am lucky enough that both my family and my husband's are nearby so we don't have to choose any year which family we will spend Christmas with, we spend it with both! We have a turkey dinner with one family at lunchtime and a goose for dinner with the other family in the evening. Obviously we have very small portions at each meal but we are very lucky that we get to see everyone on Dec 25th. We take turns in hosting the meal and I always bring at least one course to the hosts house!

Below are 10 tips that I hope may help you take some of the hassle and stress out of the Christmas dinner.

1. Now : Make your red cabbage now and freeze for Christmas, Recipe here.

2. Dessert : Make your Christmas pudding well in advance, (if you don't like traditional pudding, why don't you make a chocolate biscuit cake version).  Alternatively a lemon tart would be delicious if you don't want traditional and can be made 1-2 days in advance.

3. Menu: Plan the menu, keep it simple, but tasty. I usually opt for   
        Smoked salmon salad   
        Turkey, baked ham, red cabbage, sprouts and roast potatoes and cranberry sauce.  
        Christmas pudding with brandy butter.

4 . Outsourcing : Outsource items to other family members, eg ask a brother to bring the ham, a sister to bring the starter and your mother to bring the plum pudding, made from an old family recipe! It can be a lot of pressure, and financial burden on one person.

5. Decoration : Get the kids involved in place settings or decoration. I find that girls in particular love craft and decorating things, why not get them to make place names for everyone?

6. Time : allow extra time when cooking the main course. Remember that when you have lots of things going on in the oven, it can take longer for things to cook. Allow the turkey to stand for 30mins before carving.

7. Turkey & Ham : Buy enough to have some leftovers the next day but unless you enjoy making up batches of curries or pies don't buy a massive turkey or ham! If you don't want to deal with a large turkey, why don't you get a boned and rolled turkey from your butcher? Buy the best quality you can afford, eg organic bronzed turkey. Bake the ham the day before, have it hot on Christmas eve if you like, chill overnight but serve at room temperature on Christmas Day.

8. Gravy : Make the gravy the day before, prevent the last minute pressure. Jamie Oliver has a nice recipe for this.

9. Brussel sprouts : The supermarkets and veg suppliers are loaded up with brussel sprouts in the lead up to Christmas, it is traditional but not most people's favourite veg! Why not give a modern twist and shy away from the overcooked soft sprouts of our youth? If you shred them and steam fry in garlic and olive oil and top with bacon lardons it can be delicious. You can shred them the day before, store in the fridge covered in damp kitchen paper and they only take 5 mins or less to cook.

10. Cheese: Ireland has some amazing cheese. I think it is a wise investment to visit somewhere like Sheridan's Cheesemongers or a good local deli and buy a selection of Irish Cheese. While you may not eat it on Christmas day, a nice cheese board can make a fabulous, lunch, supper or final course to any dinner and if kept well will last for the whole holiday.


By Fiona Staunton 17 Nov, 2017
How do you instill confidence in your children, and yourself and remind yourself of the positive attributes you have and focus less on the challenges or negative situations?

Well, about a year ago, my then 6-year-old daughter came to chat to me one evening about a situation in the schoolyard she had to deal with that day. She was upset and troubled by it and for her, it was a big deal. I, of course, wanted to reassure her how great she was and how this moment would pass. More than that I wanted to give her the tools to deal with situations like this whenever they arise, and they will arise, again and again.

And so we sat down and created our 'jars of awesomeness'!

By Fiona Staunton 14 Nov, 2017

Fish Chowder

This delicious and simple one pot is low in fat and high in protein . It allows you to showcase the best of local seafood


The addition of vegetables increases the vitamin and mineral content. It is lighter and so much more refreshing than the traditional creamy version. It is a meal in itself but would also be delicious with a slice of homemade brown bread or garlic toasted sourdough.

 

 

Serves: 4 people                                                                                                     Prep time: 20 mins

 

Ingredients:

 

2 chorizo sausages, chopped

2 onions, chopped

2 sticks celery, chopped

2 cloves garlic, crushed

2 anchovies, chopped

800ml Fish stock

400g passata or crushed tomatoes

1 handful parsley, chopped

400g potatoes, peeled and chopped 1cm square

1 courgette, sliced & quartered

Pinch saffron, dissolved

Pepper and salt

20 cherry tomatoes, halved

600g mixed fish, including smoked and shellfish

Zest & juice 1 lemon

A few shots Tabasco (optional)

Small handful samphire (optional)

 

Method:

 

1.    Place the potatoes in a steamer to cook for 8 mins.

2.    Cook off the chorizo for 3-4 mins in a pot, remove and set aside.

3.    Heat 1 tbsp. olive oil in the pot, cook the onions, celery and garlic for 3-4 mins.

4.    Add back in the chorizo and anchovies, add in the stock, parsley, courgette and the passata and simmer for 5 mins, season.

5.    Add in the fish, potatoes and cherry tomatoes, simmer for a further 5 mins.

6.    Serve warm in bowls, topped with lemon zest and juice. Add samphire or Tabasco to taste.

 

 

Variations: You can use any sustainable fish you like; I like mixing in smoked and shellfish. You can replace the potato with sweet potato if you wish.

 

Serving suggestions : Serve immediately in bowls as a main meal.

 

Storage:   This will keep for 2-3 days in the fridge but the fish will break up over time.

By Fiona Staunton 11 Nov, 2017
I write some blog posts for Mummypages, in relation to preparing nutritious food for the family. 

I have lots of information and I am happy to share. 

Here is a link to the blogs I have written
https://www.mummypages.ie/author/fiona.staunton

Please contact me if you have a food related area you would like me to blog about.
https://www.fionasfoodforlife.ie/contact

By Fiona Staunton 24 Oct, 2017
I really enjoyed my first live TV cookery demo on Ireland AM on TV3. Here is the video where I make a meal that I usually have 20 mins to make but live on TV had 7 mins!  The recipe is here
By Fiona Staunton 18 Oct, 2017

Mostly my kids do eat their meals because I let them have input into what they are eating.  This gives them a great sense of control, and although they might not think it, it is limited.


Sometimes I feel like I am running an a la carte restaurant in our house!


Take breakfast, for example.  I wake them up, kiss, cuddle, talk about the day and what's on and then ask “ how do you want your eggs today?"

 

I work on the presumption that they will have an egg of some kind; egg in a cup, egg and soldiers, scrambled, fried,  poached or omelette.  And with some lovely crispy sourdough toast?

 

About one out of two days they will actually choose to have an egg, usually, eggs in a cup or scrambled on toast. If they really don't want eggs, I offer Weetabix or porridge.  Sourdough toast with hot chocolate is also an option.

 

Rice crispies are the only other cereal I have in the house and is allowed once a week and they can choose which day.

 

The goal is to have a protein at breakfast to give them the best start. This is the food that will help them to be strong and help them concentrate rather than judging it on being healthy/bad.

 

They will also have a glass of water kefir or a milk kefir smoothie to give them a dose of nature's probiotics! I have a passion for cooking and food and it is something I hope my children will benefit from.

 

What is water kefir, you ask? It is a naturally sparkling drink, rich in probiotics that I make every second day, I ask the kids to suggest the flavour. It varies from raspberry, pomegranate, lemon to elderberry or blueberry. They love when I open the bottle, sometimes it can ‘explode’ and fizz and froth over, which they jump in and suck it up! Other times, there are great expectations but no froth at all!

 

Milk kefir is made every morning in our house, it has more probiotics than the water kefir. It is made from fermenting full-fat organic milk with ancient kefir ‘grains’ which have been handed down for generations. It tastes like a mild,  natural yoghurt. I find the best way to serve it is blended with fruit to make a smoothie or with frozen sliced bananas and fruit to make an instant ‘ice cream’ – depends if it is breakfast or dessert time!

 

Kefir is a fermented drink. It is best to make milk and water kefir at home, that way you can maximise the probiotic count. As ‘grains’ multiply each time they ferment, regular fermenters will often have a surplus and the community are more than willing to share. You can get them from places like the Facebook group ‘sharing starter cultures' or you can go to a fermentation workshop in your area where they provide attendees with starters.

 

I love running food demo's at my home and I have found that mums are now discovering some of the benefits of foods such as kefir that they may not have known about before.

 

 I posted this Blog originally on Mummy Pages Voices

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By Fiona Staunton 12 Jan, 2018
Winter is here, short days and cosy evenings indoors!  In this first part of my Irish Winter Veg blogs I thought I would have a look at carrots.  I have also shared my recipe for a lovely warming carrot soup , with a few variations to meet everyones tastes!

Did you know, carrots are part of the parsley family?  They are cheap and probably one of the most frequently bought vegetables, to cook without carrots seems unimaginable.  Their natural sweetness and unique flavour makes them a popular ingredient in most stocks and soups.  There are so many different ways that carrots can be prepared and cooked, that is why I have chosen them for part one of my vegetable focus!

In Ireland they are in season most of the year, except March - June.  Carrots can be big or small and vary in colour from a pale to deep orange, although there are some white and purple varieties available now.
By Fiona Staunton 14 Dec, 2017
Just over a week to go to Christmas Day.  Do you have all your gifts sorted?  Or do you have a few more to get?  Maybe a few stocking fillers.

Here is some inspiration for food related gifts this Christmas. At each of my cookery classes, I always give tips on where to buy food, which gadgets work, which don't.  Below is a list and some links to help you with your Christmas shopping!

  • Joseph Joseph Citrus Catcher - A great gadget for squeezing citrus fruit straight into a bowl/saucepan.  It catches all the pips and pith!  It costs around €12-15.  
  • Zyliss garlic crusher - No need to peel the garlic cloves, this is the best garlic crusher I have come across! It even comes with a piece to push out the skin afterwards so your hands don't smell of garlic. It is costs around €15.   
  • Non-stick baking sheets - These are great for baking and cooking savoury dishes.  No need for parchment paper, they can be washed each time and you can reuse them 2000 times!, I have used them a lot more than that.  I use them for turning out & baking sourdough, rolling & baking crackers, roasting slices of veg ....The brand I use is Seraphina's kitchen which can be bought online.  However the recently opened Triggerfish  cookshop in Blackrock, Co Dublin has other brands in stock, they usually cost under €20 for 2.
  • Knife set - If you are looking for a set of knives for someone, this fabulous set of Global knives is usually half price (€250) in the Christmas Sale at Brown Thomas 
  • Knife sharpener - If you want to keep your kitchen knives, and your food processor blade sharp throughout the year, this 3 in 1 sharpener is easy to use and is good value under €10!   The Kitchen whisk on Wicklow Street in Dublin may well stock these but don't have a website just yet. 
  • Wine decanter cleaning beads - Find it tricky to clean your wine decanter or Kefir bottles?  These cleaning beads are brilliant, get into all the tricky edges, costs around €25 !  
  • Cook Books - I have fond memories of the year I spent working with Rory in the kitchen of Ballymaloe House.  His new book Cook Well, Eat well is a really balanced cookery book and costs around €20.   For someone who likes to bake and make desserts then Sweet by Ottolenghi is great and costs around €35.
  • Practical Cookery demo in a fun environment - How about a gift voucher to one of my Cookery Demos?  Jan and Feb schedule is on the website  Starting with my new classes of Quick Midweek dinners on Jan 10th!  For €50 you can come for dinner and learn how to cook at least 6 dinners Gift vouchers can be bought online but if you would like a voucher card in the post, simply email fiona@fionasfoodforlife.ie

  • Home- made edible presents - Last week I wrote a blog and posted the recipe for Pecan Christmas cookies.  I like to make these with the kids at Christmas time so they are gifting something to loved ones on Christmas Day. It helps shift the weight from what they are 'getting'.   Why not check it out and make them with your nieces & nephews, children or grandchildren so they have something to give?
Good luck with your shopping and I hope you have a happy and healthy Chrismtas,

Fiona


By Fiona Staunton 08 Dec, 2017
It is now two weeks to Christmas.  If your house is anything like mine, the kids have a long list of all the things they are 'getting'.  I constantly remind them that it is a list of things they are 'asking for'.  Where is their list of cards to write, presents to buy and gifts to wrap?
Personally, I feel that it is so important to remind them of others less fortunate and get them involved in gifting.

Each year I get the kids involved in a charity.  The last few years it has been the shoebox appeal.  The kids choose what goes into the box and use some of their pocket money to purchase items for children less well off so that they receive a lovely shoe box of gifts and useful items at Christmas.

This year, thanks to Siobhan Fitzpatrick and the Women In Business Network (WIBN) we are providing dignity packs  to local homeless people.  My children were intrigued by this and each put together a bag, my daughter for a homeless female and my son for a homeless male.  As it is so cold, we added in some warms, hats, scarves, gloves and socks.  They even put in some treats from their Halloween stash.  We then dropped it off to a local homeless charity to be distributed. A great ideal by Molly Comish.

As Christmas week approaches, I like to set aside some time to make cookies with the kids and to get them to package them up ready to give to all the relatives on Christmas Day.  They are simple to make, really tasty and simply melt in the mouth!  You will get approx. 40 biscuits in each batch and I usually allow 6 per person!

If you visit Sostrene Green  or your local Tiger  shop you can get lovely cellophane bags, of different sizes and ribbons to tie around them.  You can let your children's creativity run wild and they can create the labels or messages they want to add to the gift.

The recipe can be found on my website .  I often put these in the goodie bags at the end of my cookery classes at this time of year but seldom make them during the cookery demos.

Maybe we should ask kids occasionally, what are you 'giving' someone you love this Christmas?
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