Friday, December 28, 2012

A toolbox and other delights from Brussels

As it's still technically Christmas indulgence time I'm taking a break this week from the Lunchbox Of The Week.

For 'taking a break' read eating so much cheese if you spot a talking Camembert in London next week that's me. We're staying with La Maman de Mr. Moustache in Brussels and as a result copious amounts of my favourite foods are being consumed:

Cheese, with a side portion of cheese, sprinkled with a little cheese, topped off with a slice of, oh OK then, cheese.

The Queen of the Cheeses - Truffle Pecorino
So this week Mr. Moustache had to do a DIY lunchbox. Or rather his toolbox.

Chocolate DIY. Courtesty of his cousins, a sweet gift from Die Schokoladenwerkstatt in Germany. Beautiful chocolate tools that you almost don't want to eat. Almost - that hammer has hammered its last cocoa nail.
Of course it's not just chocolate tools and cheese being consumed in Brussels. There's also been a little bit of this:
And some of these. Sure it would be rude not to have at least a few croissants. One or two pain au chocolats. With mirabelle jam. Wouldn't it?

Finished with...

Wait for it.

Yes. Oh yes. Oh yes.

Whatever you're indulging in I hope you're enjoying it. And remember, cheese is not just for Christmas - it's for life.

Bon appetit Xx.

If you'd like to see more delights from Brussels have a little read here.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Christmas Lunchbox Of The Week

You won't fit a full turkey into a Lunchbox. Trust me on this one. But for this week's Lunchbox Of The Week it had to be a Santa hat tip to Christmas.

For those of you who like sprouts (shudder), you'll notice the absence of the little green monsters. For monsters are what they are and that's my final word on the subject.

The Christmas Lunchbox

Baked Brie pops (recipe here)
Turkey, ham, cranberry and sour dough sandwich
Mini roasties

Mr. Moustache's verdict? 'Ou est les sprouts?'


I''m at home for Christmas and that's one of the best feelings. Merry Christmas from Ireland Xx.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Crispy cheesy crackers

I think you should take a little break. It's the week before Christmas and you're probably running around like a headless turkey.

Sit down there now and have some cheese and crackers with me. Sshh we won't tell a soul. 

Let me see how can I make that even better for you? How about if the cracker was made from cheese too? Like a cheesy cracker, mixed with some leeks. 

I give you the cheesy leeky cracker. 

Christmas can wait for a few minutes. But these little crackers won't. Mainly because I'll have eaten them all.

Enjoy, have a cracker, have a break.


(Makes approximately 32 crackers)

3 leeks
1 tsp olive oil
130g plain flour (and extra for flouring)
1/2 tsp sea salt
55g butter
160g cheddar (or hard cheese of your choice)
2 - 3 tbsp water
Poppy seeds, for sprinkling (optional) 

How to

Finely slice and dice the leeks. 

Pan fry the leeks in the olive oil over a medium heat until soft (approximately 4 minutes). Set aside and leave to cool. 

In a medium mixing bowl combine the flour, salt, butter, cheddar and cooled leeks until they form a dough. It's easiest to use a food processor. I'm a bit of a hero and didn't. If the mixture doesn't combine to form a dough add 2 - 3 tbsp water to mix it together. 

Form the dough into a ball and wrap in clingfilm. Chill in the fridge for 30 minutes - 1 hour.

Pre-heat the oven to 180C/355F.

Remove the dough from the fridge. Lightly flour a worktop and roll out the dough to 5mm. Using a cookie cutter or knife cut into desired shapes. 

Place on a baking sheet and bake until golden brown (12 minutes).


Looking for other canape or snack ideas? Why not try:

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Back to school...

I thought I was finished with school...I also thought I would never be so excited about going back to school.

Cookery school. 

In a couple of weeks I'm starting a full time diploma in the Leiths School of Food and Wine

Excuse me while I jump up and down and scream here.


OK, all done. That's the toned down version of how I'm feeling.

I'm nine parts ecstatic whisked in with one part oh-my-god-am-I-really-doing-this, sprinkled with a little hell-yes-I'm-doing-this.

So the knives have been ordered, chef's jacket, safety trainers and an interesting set of equipment including a trussing needle and a few other things I'm going to have to Google. Plus lots of those blue plasters. Lots. I can be a little very clumsy.

Mr. Moustache had one vital question: 'Do I get to eat the food?'. 

He does. He's happy. 

His gourmet guinea pig role begins on 2 January 2013. I can't where did I put that trussing needle?


Mr. Moustache if you're reading this (and you'd better be!) thank you for believing in me and helping me to live my dream Xxx.

A couple of months ago I wrote about how I ended up on this crazy journey:

"So a deep breath and time to finally say it out. My name's Laoise and I used to be a HR Manager. I've always had a dream I've been too scared to follow. Last year my dad became critically ill and after the most terrifying rollercoaster survived. The cliché that life's too short suddenly rang sharply true. I could have stayed where I was, keep being sucessful at it and ignore that niggling voice telling me this isn't what it's meant to be about. That little voice started shouting. Now I'm here in my own scary-exciting adventure not knowing where it's going to end up.

Following your dream is a beautiful thing. But it can also be like slowly peeling off a plaster as you wince with the pain of rejection. It makes you want to curl up into a little ball. Cover your face. Hide. Then slap yourself back into reality and tell yourself forget it. But then sometimes something happens that makes you go on."

Time to begin the next chapter. Let's go!

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Asparagus in duvets

I spent a minute wondering if that title should read asparaguses. OK, it was a few minutes. It just sounds wrong doesn't it? But 'asparaguses' do exist. Apparently. According to the 'dictionary'. Hmmm.

Either way I really think you should also make these asparagus (asparaguses?!) in duvets. Let's call them little green vegetables in duvets shall we? With parma ham and parmesan. 

Serving them with The Very Hungry Caterpillar napkins is not obligatory.

Yes it is. I didn't know these napkins were missing from my life until I got them.

I'm loving these duvets/canapéfor a Christmas party....or New Year's eve....or Easter....Halloween...or World Knitting Day or...


Ingredients (makes approximately 18 - 20 canapés)

6 asparagus spears
5 slices parma ham 
40g parmesan, grated 
2 sheets filo pastry
30g butter, melted 

How to

Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas Mark 6.

Cook the asparagus in boiling salted water until just tender ( 2 - 3 minutes). If you prefer a crunchier asparagus just leave this step out. Drain and set aside.

Brush 1 sheet of filo pastry with the melted butter. Place half the parma ham in the middle and sprinkle half the parmesan along it. 

Place 3 asparagus (aaah!) end to end on top of the parma ham and cheese. 

Roll tightly into a long sausage shape and brush lightly with melted butter. Nearly there...

(At this stage you can leave in the fridge until you're ready to cook them, or continue on). 

Cut diagonally into approximately 10 slices. 

Repeat with the other sheet of filo pastry. 

Bake for approximately 10 minutes on a baking tray. Until golden and crisp and all asparagusey-like.

You could also try with goat's cheese. Or remove the parma ham for a veggie version (Clever Cuisine Genie). There's no need for a sauce. BUT if you wanted to, and I certainly won't stop you, what about a little hollandaise on the side?

Looking for other canapé party ideas? You might also like:

Friday, December 07, 2012

Poptastic Lunchbox Of The Week

Ah there you are Friday, you've been a long time coming. Hang around for a while now please. Friday that is and you too dear reader.

This week's Lunchbox Of The Week is a little similar to last week's Lunchbox. I'm still all about milkshakes and this time it's an Oreo one, in Mr. Moustache's fancy new cup. There's about a gallon of it in there. And some sides of course.

Poptastic Lunchbox

Crispy popcorn chicken
Crispier onion rings
Crispiest toffee popcorn and Oreo cookies
That was the last crispy thing. Promise.
Oreo milkshake (not crispy)

Mr. Moustache's verdict? 'Crispy'.

If you liked this Lunchbox you may also enjoy the others here. Go on and take a little peek. 

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

The (very) serious business of French toast. Part two.

Do you have a favourite food that you think there is no possible way it could get any better? You know that food you'd trample on your loved one for. Outta my way.

Like the perfect roast chicken. Or door-stop BLT sandwich. Or flaky beef wellington. Or crunchy fries. Or sticky toffee pudding. Or butterscotch sauce...or...

One of mine is a proper French toast. Like this sweet brioche one with carmelised banana and flaked almonds.  

Now I've a sweet tooth.....and also a lot of savoury I started thinking about how I could possibly make this favourite even better. This hard task has been carried out for your benefit also dear reader. I'm just that type of self-less person. 

So let's take some not-so-innocent French toast and add...oh, let's see, what about some creamy avocado and crispy smoked bacon?

Yes please. 

I'm not advocating eating this every day of the week...but on a wintery Wednesday no one's going to judge you for indulging now are they? 

Golden French toast combines with the crispy bacon and rich avocado and has a little party in your mouth. You'll want to keep eating it...and eating it....and eating it. Stop! Enjoy in moderation. Ahem.


Ingredients (serves 2) 

4 slices streaky bacon
1 ripe avocado
Salt and pepper, to season
2 medium free range eggs
60ml whole milk
4 slices bread
15g butter

How to...

It's best to use bread that is at least 1 day old. What a perfect excuse for using up those last few slices. 

Cook the bacon under a high grill until crispy. While the bacon is cooking, mash the avocado in a bowl with a fork and add salt and pepper to taste. Set aside while you make the French toast.

Whisk the eggs and milk in a medium sized bowl. Place the bread in the egg mixture and leave to soak for 1 minute, then turn the bread over. Don't let the bread get too soggy.

Melt the butter in a frying pan on a medium heat. When the butter is sizzling add the bread and cook until both sides are golden brown. 

Top the toast with the avocado and bacon. 

Sunday, December 02, 2012

The (very) serious business of French Toast. Part One.

French toast is a serious business in our house. As serious as finding the perfect toasted cheese (a lengthy and in-depth research study). And making deconstructed Irish breakfasts. Sampling hot chocolate flavours (of which there are many). And most serious of all, making pop-shaped brie bites.

But back to the current serious business at hand. When I was younger I used to call French toast eggy bread (clever child). But a bread by any other name would taste just as sweet. Dipped in egg and milk and fried in butter. What could be simpler and the perfect weekend breakfast treat? Let's add some caramelised banana and flaked almonds. If it's good enough for a banana split it's good enough for my breakfast.

Sweet brioche French toast with caramelised banana and toasted almonds. 
That'll do nicely. 


Ingredients (serves 2) 

1 tbsp flaked almonds
2 free range eggs, medium
60ml whole milk
4 slices of brioche bread (or bread of your choice)
30g butter
1 tbsp caster sugar
1 tbsp hot water
1 banana, sliced

How to...

It's best to use bread that is at least 1 day old. What a perfect excuse for using up those last few slices. 

Toast the almonds in a dry frying pan on a high heat until golden brown (approximately 2 - 3 minutes). They can burn easily so be sure to keep a beady eye on them.

Whisk the eggs and milk in a medium sized bowl. Place the bread in the egg mixture and leave to soak for 1 minute, then turn the bread over. Don't let the bread get too soggy.

Melt half the butter in a frying pan on a medium heat. When the butter is sizzling add the bread and cook  until both sides are golden brown. Place on a warm plate and keep warm while you look after the caramelised banana.

Heat the caster sugar and water in a saucepan on a high heat until the sugar starts to caramelise. Add the butter and stir well. Add the banana and cook until golden brown.

Top with the banana and flaked almonds. Sweet. Like life on a lazy Sunday...not very serious after all.

Prefer your French toast savoury instead? Check out:

Friday, November 30, 2012

The McGenie Lunchbox Of The Week

I apologise in advance for the cheesiness of this week's Lunchbox Of the Week.

And also that it's sadly lacking any actual could I leave that out? Let's blame the jet lag from Sri Lanka...

The McGenie Lunchbox

Chicken nuggets 3 ways; breadcrumbs, polenta and sesame seeds
Homemade ketchup and spicy sauce, crispy fries
Strawberry and almonds milkshake

Mr. Moustache's verdict? 'Je l'adore'.

Don't you mean you're lovin' it Mr. M? Sorry, couldn't resist.

Beats a ham sandwich anyway! Liked this? You can check out the other Lunchboxes Of The Week here. I hope you enjoy them. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Post holiday remedy - savoury (cheesy) crêpes

After weeks in the paradise of Sri Lanka I'm back with an icy bang to reality. Squeezed onto the tube, battling tourists on the crowded streets (damn those lucky people), Michelin Man style coat, boots, scarf, gloves...lagging jacket (still frozen).

Speaking of squeezing into things (we were, weren't we?), I've been on a post holiday detox after indulging in the 101 flavours of curry in Sri Lanka. 

But then I decided that's all a bit of crazy talk. Or in the words of the lady who taught me how to truss a chicken;  'Everything in moderation, including moderation itself'Julia Child.

My feel good treat for an easy dinner are crêpes. Savoury crêpes to be precise. Like these creamy (and cheesy) leek and bacon ones.

I also like to tell myself they're healthy-ish French fast food. If you like you can tell yourself that too. Bon appétit

Ingredients (serves 6)

Crêpe batter (makes 12 crêpes)

Since I was 12 I've used Delia Smith's pancake batter recipe. Now I call it crêpe batter, just to be fancy.

110g plain flour
Pinch of salt
2 eggs
200ml milk mixed with 75ml water
50g butter

Sieve the flour and salt into a large bowl. Make a well in the centre and crack the eggs into it. 

Add the milk and water and beat until the mixture is smooth. Melt the butter in a small bowl in the microwave. At this stage most purists recommend leaving the batter to stand. Delia's recipe adds a tablespoon of the melted butter to the batter. Mix well and then it's ready to go. No need to stand around waiting. Keep the rest of the butter to cook the crêpes.  

Wipe a frying pan very lightly with some of the melted butter (repeat as necessary). Heat the pan to a high heat then turn it down to medium. Using a ladle pour in enough batter to cover the bottom of the pan. Tip the pan to ensure the base is coated lightly and evenly. It should only take a minute or two to cook on one side. Flip over with a knife and cook the other side until golden brown.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that the first crêpe is the practice one - as the cook you get to gobble it up and enjoy. Then make the rest. Layer on a plate with greaseproof paper between each one.  

Leek and bacon filling 

2 tbsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, peeled and chopped
200g bacon lardons
6 large leeks, sliced
100g cheddar cheese, grated
3 tbsp crème fraîche 
salt and pepper, to season

Heat the olive oil in a frying pan over a medium heat. Add the garlic, bacon and leeks and cook for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the cheese and crème fraîche

Serve each pancake with a spoonful of filling and folded into quarters. Just what the doctor ordered for post holiday readjustment. I'm feeling better already. Now where did I leave my lagging jacket?  

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Sri Lankan memories. Goodbye paradise, hello London.


It's over. Nearly a month in Sri Lanka and it feels like only a few days. Now I'm back in London. Freezing. When did winter arrive?!

We said goodbye to two of our best friends yesterday morning. They're the reason we had this amazing trip as they're recent expats in Colombo. Goodbyes are always hard. Leaving them over 8,000 km away and knowing we won't see them for months was particularly hard. R and S - thank you for everything and experiencing paradise was even more perfect because we were together. Here's to our next trip. The Maldives is near Sri Lanka isn't it...?

We were all set to enjoy our final day and then I had to spoil it by getting food poisoning...and spent a pleasant day staring at the ceiling. Drama. 

As there's not much to update on from our last day I thought I'd share my 10 favourite moments and some tips for visiting Sri Lanka. 

Top moments

1. Arriving in Colombo and experiencing an overload of the senses. Driving down bustling streets trying to take it all in: palm trees, tuk-tuks, a monk walking, 101 things happening at once, monkeys, street vendors, an old man in a sarong, banana trees, a Buddha monument and 102 horns beeping at the same time.

2. Gazing at the stunning Lion Mountain sprouting out of the jungle in Sigirya and better yet climbing it (on my second attempt).

3. Cooking breakfast Sri Lankan style - egg hoppers.

4. Experiencing paradise on earth in Unawatuna.

5. Finding the perfect cup of tea in the Hill Country. And the perfect (cooler) weather.

6. Wandering the markets and supermarkets reeling at the many different kinds of spices, fruits, vegetables and rice (and doing my best to taste them all).

7. Discovering the wonder of nature in a spice and herbal garden.

8. Eating. Eating. And Eating. Like this. And then eating some more.

9. Waking up to sunrises like this.

10. And watching the day end with sunsets like this. Then sitting under the stars, feet in sand, cocktail in hand. Sigh.

Top tips 

(Ahem, tongue-in-cheek tips, please consult a guide book for more comprehensive travelling tips...)

1. Always cross the road in Colombo with a Sri Lankan, unless you're feeling very brave. They know how to avoid maniac tuk-tuks (autorickshaws) which screech to a halt just in front of you. 

2. Carpe curry. Seize the curry. So many types to taste; mango, mushroom, cashew nut, banana blossoms, mutton, chicken, biryani...and the spice goes on...

3. Caveat curry. Beware the curry. Always ask 'Is it spicy?'. Then double check. Perhaps triple check. Trust me on this one.

4. When taking a tuk-tuk, close your eyes and hang on. That's all you need do. And you'll have a story to tell afterwards.

5. Remember Sri Lanka is very VERY hot...prepare to sweat. Especially if you're Irish. Lots.

I loved Sri Lanka, I'll definitely be back and we're missing our friends already.

Now it's home to reality and wrapping up in winter clothes. Brr.

But I must admit, London, I missed you. Ah c'mere and give me a little hug. London sweet London.

What happens in Sri Lanka stays in Sri Lanka...but you can read about it here:

Friday, November 23, 2012

More of the black stuff: Heritance Tea Factory Hotel, Sri Lanka

After our tour of the tea factory we headed to...another tea factory in the Hill Country.

The Heritance Tea Factory  Hotel - which does exactly what it says on the tin. The welcome drink on arrival is of course a lovely cuppa. Ah go on.

Accompanied by a 'shot' of cumin seeds, cardamom and sugar. A sweet and spicy explosion in your mouth, I went back for seconds.

While the interior of the factory has been beautifully restored, the exterior hasn't been altered.

Memorial in the garden, over 35,000 Sri Lankans died in the 2004 Tsunami 

The reception area is where the drying room used to be. 

On the fourth floor the blowing fans represent the tea withering room.

Views of the tea plantations from the bedrooms complete the unique feeling of staying in a piece of living history.

The climate is much cooler in the hill country. Alleluia! We even had heaters in our room and hot water bottles...a novelty after weeks of humidity and 30 degrees heat. At night it felt so cosy wrapped up with a hot water bottle looking out at the misty plantations. 

The next morning we took the iron-grille door lift down to breakfast.

Seeing the hotel restaurant called 'Kenmare' in Sri Lanka made me think of the talented (and hilarious) Karen of Kenmare Foodies in Ireland!

I think she'd like all the spice on offer in Sri Lanka's Kenmare, just maybe not for breakfast...

Instead we opted for a banana milkshake, apple juice,  mixed fruits, egg hoppers, banana cake, waffles and Ceylon tea. The tea comes from the surrounding plantation and it would have been sinful to drink anything else.

Ooooh and an omelette. In our defence we had a long drive ahead of us.

Our lovely Chef in action at the hopper and omelette station

Stuffed we rolled into the car and headed to Nuwara Elyia for a little exploring. Nuwara Elyia, or Little England, is Sri Lanka's main hill resort, with English style buildings and houses.

We strolled around the market, thankful for the cooler temperatures. I was even in jeans for the first time. Madness. 

After some shopping it was back on the road to Colombo. I've been here nearly a month now and just thinking of leaving tomorrow feels strange. But it's not quite over yet. One last dinner of curry, wine and chat with friends to look forward to. 

Sri Lanka, I'm going to miss you X.

Liked this? You may also like: