Donal Skehan

Sweet Pumpkin Baking…

It’s definitely all about pumpkins this week with Halloween just around the corner.  We have a lovely homemade Halloween wreath on our door made from decorative gourds, hay and lots of string and there are four big pumpkins which are sitting on the kitchen table waiting to be carved.  One of my favourite things growing up was carving pumpkins and we used to plead with my dad to bring home the biggest ones we could find.  I love the whole process of cutting the top open, diving into the squelching flesh and seeds and then ripping and scooping them out.  Once the seeds are clean I toss them in a little melted butter sprinkle over some sea salt and then pop them in a hot oven until golden and crisp, they make the perfect little Halloween snack.

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Maple Glazed Spiced Pumpkin Muffins

This muffin recipe is incredibly easy to make. You basically combine wet and dry ingredients, spoon the batter into muffin cases and bake! You can make this same recipe without pumpkin puree and instead use milk. The tinned pumpkin purée is made by Libby’s and comes in 822g tins. Many good speciality food shops carry them at this time of year and they are perfect for seasonal baking. If you want to add more texture to the muffins add some of the nuts throughout the batter.

Makes 12
240g of plain flour
2 teaspoons of baking powder
1 teaspoons of bicarbonate of soda
200g of caster sugar
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon of ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon of ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon of all spice
80ml of sunflower oil
400g of pumpkin purée
2 large free range eggs

For the glaze:
90g of icing sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons of maple syrup
40g of walnuts, roughly chopped

Preheat the oven to 180˚C.  Line a muffin tray with paper cases. Place the dry ingredients into bowl and make a well using the back of a wooden spoon. Add in the wet ingredients and mix until you have a smooth batter. Don’t over mix. Divide the mixture amongst the 12 paper cases and place the whole tray into the oven to bake for 20 minutes.

While the muffins are baking, prepare the glaze by whisking the maple syrup and icing sugar together until you have a stiff yet runny mix. When the muffins have cooled completely on a wire wrack, drizzle with the maple syrup glaze and scatter over the nuts.

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Autumn in Stockholm and the small matter of a Swedish chocolate dream cake…

I was over in Stockholm last weekend to promote the Swedish edition of the book and for the second time this year, I agreed to cook on live TV in Swedish.  I have never officially learned the language but over the course of spending time there with Sofie’s family, listening to the music and flicking through papers, I’ve managed to gather enough vocabulary to have a conversation.

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Swedish Chocolate Dream Cake

One of my favorite Swedish chocolate related recipes is the kladdkaka, a rich gooey cake which is incredibly easy to make using basic and inexpensive storecupboard ingredients. The kladkakka recipe makes the base for this completely over the top cake which is sandwiched with a tangy cream cheese chocolate frosting.

Serves 8-12
300g butter plus extra for greasing
210g plain flour plus extra for dusting
600g caster sugar
6 large free-range eggs
9tbsp cocoa powder
3 tsp vanilla extract
icing sugar, to dust
whipped cream, to serve

For the filing:
100g butter, softened
450g cream cheese
320g icing sugar, sifted
50g cocoa, sifted

Preheat the oven to 180°C, grease three 23cm cake tins with a removable base, line with a disc of parchment paper and set aside.

Melt the butter in a saucepan. Remove from the heat, add the sugar and mix through. Add the eggs and mix well. Add the flour, cocoa and vanilla and mix until combined.

Pour into the prepared cake tins and place in the oven for 20 minutes. The cake won’t rise dramatically but you should be left with a set top and a slightly gooey middle.

If you don’t have space in the oven, you can leave one tin set aside while the other two cook. When cooked allow to cool completely on a wire wrack.

When the cakes are baking, make the cream cheese frosting. Place the butter and cheese in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat for 4 minutes or until pale and creamy.

Add the icing sugar and cocoa and fold through with a spatula until thick and spreadable.

To assemble the cake, place one of the cakes on a cake stand and spread with one third of the icing, repeat with the last two layers.

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October 2012 Update!

Hi folks,

It’s time for big wooly jumpers, crunchy fallen leaves, crisp evening walks and the smell of open fires, yes it’s definitely October!

With the change of season I’m seriously craving more comfort food, so this month it’s all about delicious dishes that warm you up, from the inside out!

There’s lots to keep us occupied in the kitchen with Autumn fruit and vegetables like apples, pears, figs, blackberries and big orange pumpkins plus great root veggies like beetroot, carrots, and Jerusalem artichokes.

After months of having to keep quiet (very hard for me to do!) it was great to finally reveal that I am the brand new judge on BBC’s Junior Masterchef, alongside John Torode. We recorded the series throughout August in London and it’s going to be airing on CBBC and BBC in November. It’s a really positive show and the young cooks who took part are definitely going to blow you away. The show starts on November 5th on BBC1 at 4.30pm.

Kitchen Hero: Great Food For Less also starts back on RTÉ One on November 7th at 8.30pm. You can find the recipes from the series in the book which accompanies the series, “Kitchen Hero: Great Food For Less”, available in all good book shops now.

I’ve been pretty much obsessed with Pinterest, in the last few months. It’s a super source of inspiration for food, photography and so much more, you can check out my boards over here and sign up also!

In this month’s update, there’s a selection of my favourite Autumn and Halloween recipes from the website, a review of Leila Lindholm’s new cookbook, three ingredients I’ve been using lots of, a wonderful little spot in Stockholm to eat at and two of my favourite food blogs.

Have a great Halloween!

Donal x

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Blood Red Mummy Cupcakes

These spooky mummy cupcakes have a secret blood-red inside made from a wonderfully rich red velvet batter.

Makes 12 cupcakes
225g caster sugar
225g of plain flour
180ml buttermilk
90g of butter
2 medium free range eggs
2 tablespoons of red food coloring
1 tablespoon of good quality of cocoa powder
2 teaspoons of white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1 level teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda
90g of icing sugar
1 teaspoon of red food coloring
1/2 pack of ready to roll icing

Preheat the oven to 190˚C, place the oven wrack in middle of the oven and line a 12 hole muffin tray with cupcake cases.

In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until it becomes light and fluffy.

Beat in the eggs one at a time until they are incorporated in the mix.  Use a spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl.  Mix through the vanilla extract.

Sift the cocoa powder and flour into a bowl and then mix thoroughly into the batter in 3 batches alternating with the buttermilk until you are left with a smooth mix.  Mix through the red food coloring.

In a separate small bowl whisk together the bicarbonate of soda and white wine vinegar which will give a good fizz and then stir through the red velvet batter.

Using two dessert spoons, divide the batter evenly amongst the cupcake cases.  Bake the cupcakes for approximately 20 minutes. Remove from the oven allow to cool slightly and then transfer to a wire wrack and leave to cool completely.

In a bowl mix the icing sugar with a few drops of cold water and the red food coloring until you you have a smooth icing.  Spread the icing over the cupcakes and place 3 smarties on each for the mummy eyes and nose.

Dust a clean work surface with icing sugar and roll out the fondant icing to 2mm in thickness and then cut out 1cm wide strips the size of the cupcakes.  Drape the fondant strips over the mummy’s nose and then continue to pile on the strips to form the bandages.

Make sure to leave space for the eyes which you can give a quick brush with black food coloring for character!

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Creepy Chocolate Eyeballs

Are you looking at me? These creepy little eyeballs stored in a jar are a perfect addition to any Halloween spread. Not only do they look impressive but they’re also incredibly easy to make.

Makes 30 eyeballs
400g of bourbon biscuits
300g of white chocolate
115g of cream cheese

Red, Green and black Food coloring
skinny paint brush

Line a baking tray with parchment paper.

Whizz the biscuits in a food processor until you have small crumbs.

Tip the biscuit crumbs into a bowl and add in the cream cheese, mix with a wooden spoon until a dough comes together.

Using your hands roll 30 little balls and place them on a baking tray and pop in the fridge while you melt the chocolate.

Melt the chocolate in a large bowl sitting over a pot of gently simmering water until it’s smooth. Remove from the heat.

Toss the balls in the melted white chocolate until they are completely covered then lift out using a fork and place on a lined baking tray.

Allow to set in fridge and then carefully decorate the eyeballs with food coloring.

Allow to dry and then place in a large jar. The eyeballs will keep for about a week in the fridge.

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Junior MasterChef!

I am so excited to finally announce the big news that I am the brand new Junior MasterChef UK judge!  We spent all of August recording the show in London and I had an absolute blast.  The whole crew were incredible to work with including that old softy John Torode!  However the true stars of the show are the young cooks who took part.  They never stopped surprising us with their talents and really made the show even more fun to work on!

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Belly’s Gonna Get Ya…

Due to poor planning on my part, I’m coming close to the end of my kitchen garden supply of vegetables this year. Only squash, Jerusalem artichokes and a few massive beetroot remain and by next month the peas and beans of summer will be a distant memory.

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Crispy Pork Belly with Thai Fried Rice

Most people don’t realise that pork belly is incredibly easy to cook. You can season it with all sorts of different things but when it comes down to it, it’s all about the crispy crackling and tender meat. The rice I serve with the pork belly is inspired by the salty, sweet and fresh flavours of Thailand. It’s best to use rice that has been cooked and cooled in the fridge for a stir fry, it won’t clump together in the pan the way freshly cooked rice would.

Serves 4
2kg pork belly
1 tablespoon of Sichuan peppercorns, crushed
Sea salt

For the rice:
300g of leftover basmati rice, cooked and cooled
6 large spring onions, finely sliced on the diagonal
A generous handful of coriander, roughly chopped
1 large red chilli, finely chopped
1 large thumb sized piece of ginger, finely sliced
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
200g of green beans or tenderstem brocolli
2 teaspoons of caster sugar
3 tablespoons of fish sauce
1 tablespoon of soy sauce

Preheat the oven to 160˚C.

Pat the pork belly completely dry with kitchen paper and then rub with sea salt and peppercorns all over.

Place on a wire wrack set over a roasting dish. Place in the oven to cook for 3 hours.

Turn the heat to 220˚C and cook for a further 15 minutes until the crackling is crispy.

Remove from the oven and allow to rest while you prepare the rice. When you are ready, using a bread knife, cut through the crispy skin in 1cm slices.

Heat the oil in a large wok until just about smoking. Add in the ginger, garlic, spring onions and chilli and fry for about 30 seconds until aromatic.

Add in the green beans or broccoli and fry for 2 minutes. Add in the rice and stir through. Season with the fish sauce, caster sugar and soy sauce and fry for a further 3 minutes.

Toss through the coriander and serve alongside slices of the pork belly.

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