Donal Skehan

My Top Tips For Growing A Herb Garden!

Whether you have a huge garden or a little balcony, Growing herbs at home means you will always have a good supply to add to your recipes when you need it. Herbs such as rosemary, sage and thyme are hardy enough to keep you going throughout the year. Oregano and mint tend to prefer the spring and summer months.  I love being able to head out into the garden to pick big wads of fresh herbs which go great in marinades, dressings and salads.  More than anything it saves on buying packs from the supermarket which can be an extremely expensive habit to get into.

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Ever Heard Of Monkey Bubble Bread?

I read recently in Nigella Lawson’s most recent book, Kitchen, that when she came across the recipe for Grasshopper Pie, an American pie with a neon green filling, she just couldn’t resist making one.  Well I had a similar reaction when I first came across Monkey Bubble Bread, not only because the name is quirky but also because it look absolutely delicious!

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Monkey Bubble Bread

I came across monkey bubble bread on my travels in NYC and knew the minute I saw I had to make it!  It’s basically a sweet bread loaf made up by a collection of dough balls dipped in butter and sugar… I know it won’t win any healthy eating awards but it is truly amazing and so tasty. 

Makes one loaf
55g butter
200ml milk
1 x 7g sachet dried yeast
55g caster sugar
A good pinch of salt
375g plain flour

For the coating
110g/4oz butter, melted
90g/3oz dark brown sugar
2 tbsps cinnamon
A good handful of pecans

Grease and flour a bundt tin or a cake tin. Melt the butter gently in a large pot on a low heat and then add the milk. When the mixture is lukewarm, remove from the heat and add the dried yeast, sugar and salt. Mix the flour in with a wooden spoon, little by little, until you are left with a thick dough.

When the dough has taken shape and is no longer sticky, turn it out on to a floured surface and knead for about three minutes. Leave the dough to rise in the bowl in a warm place, covered, for 45 minutes.

When the dough has risen, punch it down and then push it into a rectangle and slice it up into squares. Roll the squares into little dough balls and set aside. For the coating, place the melted butter in one bowl and the sugar and cinnamon in another. Dip each ball in the melted butter and then toss them in the sugar mix. Layer the dough balls in the bunt tin with the pecan nuts until filled.

Bake in the oven at 180°C for about 20-25 minutes, or until they rise and turn golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Turn out on to a wire rack and allow to cool completely.

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Perfect Easter Sunday Lunch!

Normally when I shoot my food shots, I’m generally alone in the kitchen, but a few weeks ago, I was joined by the amazing Pearl from Pearl and Godiva, along with her daughter, the very cute Tallulah, and 3 rabbits who came over to style an Easter Sunday spread for the Irish Independent.  We were later joined by the equally amazing Iseult from The Cake Stand who makes the best Macarons I have ever tasted, to pose with Tallulah for some of the pics.  We had a lot of fun shooting this one, as you can imagine!

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Mocha Chocolate Crater Cake

This recipe is adapted from Nigella Lawson’s famous Chocolate Cloud Cake, but I like to add espresso powder to emphasis the flavour of the dark chocolate and a few drops of vanilla extract…

Serves 8-12
For the sponge
250g good-quality dark chocolate
125g butter, softened
6 eggs: 2 whole, 4 separated
175g caster sugar, separated into 100g and 75g measurements
1 tsp vanilla extract

For the filling:
450ml double cream
1 tbsp cocoa powder
tbsp instant espresso powder
Mini chocolate eggs, to decorate

Pre-heat the oven to 180°C/Gas Mark 4. Line a 23cm springform cake tin with parchment paper and set aside. Melt the chocolate and butter in a bowl set over a small pot of simmering water, allow to melt slowly, stirring gently to help it.

While the chocolate is melting, separate four of the eggs, place the whites in a mixing bowl. Put the yolks in a separate bowl along with the two whole eggs, 75g of caster sugar and the vanilla extract.

Using a handheld mixer, beat the contents of the bowl with the egg yolks until light and fluffy. Pour in the melted chocolate and butter and stir through until combined. Whisk the egg whites until foamy and then gradually add the remaining 100g of caster sugar. Continue to whisk until you are left with soft white peaks.

Using a spatula, mix a dollop of the egg whites through the chocolate mix until combined and then gently fold the rest through. Pour the mixture into the prepared cake tin and place on the middle shelf to cook for 35 minutes, until the middle has risen up and is no longer wobbly. Remove the cake from the oven and allow to cool. As it cools, the middle should sink down and you will be left with a craterlike hole.

When you are ready to serve, whip the cream until firm but not stiff and then fold through the espresso powder and cocoa powder.

Dollop the cream into the crater of the cake and then pile mini chocolate eggs on top to decorate. Serve nice big hefty slices, and your guests won’t be able to resist!

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Cheesy Cauliflower and Broccoli Bake

This is pure, unashamed, comfort-food indulgence! Don’t be scared of making the  sauce — it takes minutes.

Serves 4
1 large head cauliflower, broken into florets
head broccoli, broken into florets
50g/2oz butter
50g/2oz plain flour
500ml/18fl oz of warm milk
150g/5oz of cheddar cheese
1 tsp Dijon mustard
Sea salt and ground black pepper

Pre-heat the oven to 190°C/375°F/Gas Mark 5. Bring a pot of water to the boil, then add the cauliflower and broccoli florets and cook for no longer than two to three minutes — they should still have a good bite to them, as they will finish cooking in the oven. Drain them under cold water and set aside.

In a saucepan, melt the butter and stir in the flour quickly so you have a smooth paste. Gradually whisk in the warm milk and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to a steady simmer for two minutes until the sauce becomes thick.

Remove from the heat and add in the cheese, Dijon mustard and season with sea salt and ground black pepper. Place the cauliflower and broccoli in a high-sided baking dish and pour over the cheese sauce. Top with a little extra grated Cheddar and another sprinkle of ground black pepper.

Bake in the oven for 20 minutes until the top is nice and golden. Serve in big hefty spoonfuls!

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Kitchen Hero Tasty Tea Food Blogger Launch at The Westbury Hotel!

Last week I was joined by a group of my fellow Irish food bloggers to celebrate the launch of “Kitchen Hero” at the Westbury Hotel in Dublin. As a group we are rapidly growing in numbers, so it really was great to catch up with some old faces and one or two new ones!

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Feel Like A Fishy Friday?

Things are going full steam at the moment with the book hitting shops the last few weeks, so am just about getting enough time to cook in the kitchen.  Quick meals are the order of the day, so I’ve been making sure the storecupboard is packed with lots of quick cheat ingredients.  If you haven’t come across Harissa paste before it’s a fantastic little north African ingredient made up of sweet and spicy elements which goes quite nicely with a lot of different ingredients.

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Mexican Quesidillas

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Have Your Cake And Eat It!

Earlier this year, many food writers made their predictions for 2011’s hottest food trends, and one of the big things mentioned again and again was the rise in popularity of home baking.  Rather than trying to find something to topple the mighty cupcake, baking in general is being made cool again.

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Lemon Drizzle Days…

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