Donal Skehan

My take on a Classic Victoria Sponge…

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Nothing says summer like strawberries and cream and a cake that combines both is a winner in my books! Light, vanilla scented sponges, layered with softly whipped cream and lashings of strawberry jam- this sponge cake is a total crowd pleaser!

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Now when you make a Victoria sandwich, there are a few key questions. Do you use strawberry or raspberry jam? Do you put cream inside or serve on the side? Do you sprinkle caster or icing sugar on the top? I like to use strawberry jam and cream to sandwich them together and finish with a light dusting of icing sugar. I let you decide how you want to serve yours!

Continue to the recipe for my Victoria Sandwich…

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Irish Coffee Swirl Cake…

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This recipe makes a moist coffee swirl cake cooked in a bundt tin. If you don’t have one, you can easily make it in a springform tin, buttered and the base lined with baking parchment. The addition of a cream liqueur is optional but really adds an extra special touch to both the cake and icing.

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This coffee cake is really simple to make but is quite the showstopper when topped off with it’s gooey icing and edible gold stars. It keeps fantastically in an air tight tin, ready to be sliced and enjoyed with a cup of coffee!

Continue to the recipe for my Irish Coffee Swirl Cake…

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Millionaire Chocolate Ganache Tart

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This decadent and delicious chocolate tart is perfect for a dinner party dessert. Serve up generous slices with a scoop of good quality vanilla ice-cream and cups of coffee!

Serves 6-8
For the pastry:
150g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
75g cold butter, diced and chilled
25g caster sugar
1 large egg, beaten

For the filling:
240ml double cream
200g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids), finely chopped
75g caster sugar
Gold powder, to decorate (optional)

To make the pastry, rub the flour and butter together in a bowl with your fingertips until the mixture resembles rough breadcrumbs. Stir through the sugar and a little beaten egg until the mix comes together to form a ball. Press it into a flat oval, cover with cling film and place in the fridge to rest for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F), Gas Mark 4. Dust a work surface with a little flour and roll out the pastry to 3mm in thickness and large enough to fit a 20cm diameter, 4cm deep fluted tart tin with a removable base. Line the tin with the pastry and press it into the sides before trimming the edges. As you line the tin, if the pastry crumbles, don’t panic, just patch it together.

Prick the base with a fork all over and line with foil, shiny side down, and fill with baking beans. Place the pastry shell in the oven to blind bake for about 15 minutes until the pastry is a light golden brown. Remove the tin from the oven, lift out the foil and beans and cook for a further 6–8 minutes until cooked through and lightly golden. Remove the tin from the oven again and allow it to cool on a wire rack.

Prepare the filling by placing all the ingredients in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water. Mix until smooth and then pour into the cooled pastry case. Allow to set in the fridge for 1 hour, before dusting with gold powder, if using, and serving in generous slices with a scoop of ice cream and cups of coffee.

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Blueberry & Chia Seed Muffins…

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If you’re anything like me, you’ll be running out the door every morning trying to make it to a meeting or to the office on time. We all know that breakfast is the most important meal of the day yet it’s the one that people skip the most. Not anymore! Healthy muffins are perfect for a quick breakfast on the go.

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These blueberry and chia seed muffins are packed with healthy ingredients, which will keep you going for any busy morning. I normally make them the night before and grab one or two just before I leave the house. The addition of the chia seeds give them an extra health boost as they are rich in antioxidants, essential fatty acids and are packed full of fibre! And all before you’re fully awake! 

Continue to the recipe for Blueberry & Chia Seed Muffins…

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What to Eat Now: Gluten Free Brownies…

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A few weeks ago I began a brand new weekly column, What To Eat Now, in the Irish Independent’s Weekend magazine. It’s a brilliant opportunity to research and test brand new recipes and photograph them on weekly basis as well as sharing new products, restaurants and cookbooks each week.  This week it was all about Gluten Free Chocolate Brownies, a recipe which I have been making over and over again!

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My Little Black Book

Savour Kilkenny Festival of Food:
If you are looking for something to do this weekend, the highly popular Savour Kilkenny Festival of Food is celebrating its eighth year in the Marble City this year! It’s a fantastic event packed with cooking demonstrations, food tastings and fine dining events which attracts a whole host of dedicated food folk every year. If you are a lover of all things food, this festival is a must. Stick it in your diary- October 24th-27th 2014.

The Happy Pear Book:
Set up ten years ago by brothers Stephen and David Flynn, The Happy Pear  has become a shining star in Greystones offering a wonderful selection of the seasons best fruit and vegetables, in their organic shop and an inspiring wholefood menu of soups, salads & cakes in their restaurant. If you can’t get to Co. Wicklow, don’t despair, the brothers are spreading their health food revolution in their just released The Happy Pear Book which celebrates their tasty, healthy, whole-food recipes. The book is filled with delicious, doable dishes and a great addition to the cookbook shelf, especially for this with an interest in healthy eating.

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Gluten Free Chocolate Brownies

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There is a continuous and growing demand for gluten free recipes with recent estimates showing that 1 in 100 Irish people are intolerant to wheat.  It can often be difficult to replace flour in baking recipes but these brownies, which rely on a dense and rich interior use ground almonds to bind, making them gluten free.  The batter can also be used to make a cake in a 20cm spring form baking tin.

Serves 8

225g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids), finely chopped
125g butter, diced
175g caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
100g ground almonds
6 large eggs, separated

For the chocolate glaze

100g of good quality dark chocolate
30g of butter
50g of icing sugar, sifted
75ml of double cream

Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F), Gas Mark 4 and line a 22 x 30 cm diameter baking tin with baking parchment. For the brownies, melt the chocolate and butter in a large heatproof bowl sitting over a saucepan of barely simmering water. Remove the bowl from the heat and mix in the sugar, vanilla extract and ground almonds with a spatula. Stir through the egg yolks, one at a time, mixing after each addition, until you have a thick batter. Put the egg whites in a standing food mixer (or use an electric hand-held mixer in a bowl) and whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Add the egg whites to the chocolate batter and fold through gently until just combined. Pour the brownie batter into the prepared baking tin and place in the oven to bake for about 35 minutes until it is firm but with a slight wobble. Remove the brownies from the oven and allow to cool before adding the glaze.

Melt the chocolate and butter in a bowl sat over a pan of just simmering water. When melted, remove from the heat, whisk in the icing sugar and the cream.
 Allow to cool until the mixture becomes thick enough to leave a figure of eight on the surface. Pour over the brownies and allow to set slightly before removing from the tin and slicing to serve.

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Nutella Cheesecake Bars

Nutella Cheesecake Bars_2I am a Nutella fiend and I know I’m not the only one so if you are a fan of the chocolatey goodness from a jar, this is the recipe for you! These little bars have all the flavour and richness of a traditional cheesecake but are ready in half the time! Sliced up, they are perfect for cakes sales, bringing into the office to share or even just keeping all to yourself to gorge on!

Makes 20 squares
For the biscuit base
300g of oreo cookies, bashed to a fine crumb
100g of butter, melted

For the filling
450g of cream cheese
2 large free range eggs
100g of caster sugar
4 tablespoons of nutella
75ml heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 180˚C. Mix together the biscuits with the melted butter in a mixing bowl until combined. Pour the mixture into a 18 x 28 x 5cm high sided baking tin lined with parchment paper and press down until smooth.  Place in the oven to bake for approx.. 15 minutes.  Remove and allow to cool.

In a food processor blitz together the cream cheese, eggs, caster sugar and 60ml of the cream until completely smooth. Pour 4/5 of the cream cheese mixture on top of the biscuit base. Add the nutella and remaining cream to the leftover cream cheese mix and blitz until smooth. Using a spoon blob the nutella mixture over the top of the cream cheese mixture and then using an offset spatula swirl the mixtures together until you have a nice swirling pattern.

Place in the oven to bake for 35 minutes until there is a slight wobble in the center of the tin. Remove and allow to cool before slicing up and serving.

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Gur Cake

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This cake was eaten by the poor of Dublin in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, for it was very cheap because it was made by bakers from their stale cake or bread stocks. This can be made with stale cake rather than bread if preferred, in which case omit the dried fruit. Recipe from The Pleasures of the Table: Rediscovering Theodora Fitzgibbon.

Makes 24 small squares
8 slices stale bread, crusts cut off
3 tablespoons flour
1⁄2 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons mixed spice
100 g (4 oz) brown sugar
2 tablespoons butter
175 g (6 oz) currants or mixed dried fruit
1 large egg, beaten
4 tablespoons milk
350 g (12 oz) shortcrust pastry
sugar for sprinkling

Soak the bread in a little water for an hour, then squeeze the moisture out. Combine the flour, baking powder, mixed spice, sugar, butter, fruit, beaten egg and milk. Mix well.

Line the bottom of a 22 cm (9 in) square tin with half of the pastry and spread the mixture over, then cover with the remaining pastry. Make a few diagonal gashes across the top and bake at 190°C/375°F/gas mark 5 for about an hour. Sprinkle the top with sugar and allow to cool in the tin, then cut into 24 small squares. (A square of this size used to be sold for a halfpenny.)

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Potato Yeast Rolls

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These are the lightest and most delicious rolls I have ever tasted. They freeze very well too. Recipe from The Pleasures of the Table: Rediscovering Theodora Fitzgibbon.

Makes about 16
100 g (4 oz) potatoes
25 g (1 oz) fresh yeast or 15 g (1⁄2 oz) dry yeast
50 g (2 oz) sugar
450 g (1 lb) white flour (warm the flour in a warmed bowl if it has been stored in a cool place)
1 teaspoon salt
50 g (2 oz) butter
150 ml (1⁄4 pint) warmed milk
1 egg, beaten
milk for glazing
100g of cheddar cheese, grated

Cook the potatoes in salted water and drain, reserving 2 tablespoons of the cooking liquid. Mash the potatoes very well or press through a fine sieve into a basin, then cover and keep warm. cream the yeast in a bowl with the reserved tepid potato liquid and a spoonful of the sugar, and mix well as it froths up (if it does not froth, it is not satisfactory to use). Sift the flour into a large mixing bowl with 1 teaspoon salt and rub in the butter. Make a well in the centre and add the rest of the sugar and the mashed potatoes, mixing well.

Add the tepid milk and 150 ml (1⁄4 pint) water to the yeast liquid, mix and add to the mixing bowl, then beat in the beaten egg. Knead very well. cover and leave in a warm place for about an hour, until doubled in size. Turn out onto a floured surface and shape into rolls. Put the rolls onto a greased baking sheet, well spaced, to allow for rising. cover and leave for 20 minutes. Brush with a little milk, sprinkle with the cheese and bake at 220°c/425°F/gas mark 7 for 15–20 minutes.

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Black Forest Gateaux

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Black Forest Cake is a traditional German dessert that has been well and truly adopted by happy dessert eaters worldwide. Typically, black forest cake consists of several layers of chocolate cake, with whipped cream and cherries between each layer. Then the cake is decorated with additional whipped cream, more cherries, and chocolate shavings. This version is particularly delicious as I spike each layer of the cake with rum or kirsch, a fragrant cherry liqueur making it moist, boozy and oh so good. Recipe from The Pleasures of the Table: Rediscovering Theodora Fitzgibbon.

Serves 8
6 large eggs
150 g (5 oz) castor sugar
50 g (2 oz) sifted cocoa powder
25 g (1 oz) sifted self- raising flour
300 ml (1⁄2 pint) double cream, whipped
1 level tablespoon castor sugar
1 × 450 g (1 lb) tin black cherries, stoned
50 g (2 oz) dark chocolate
1 tablespoon rum or kirsch
fresh cherries to decorate

Oil two 20 cm (8 in) sandwich tins, and line the base with oiled greaseproof paper. Separate the eggs: yolks in one bowl, whites in a larger one. Whisk the yolks with the 150 g (5 oz) sugar until pale and thickened slightly, then fold in the cocoa and sifted flour. With a clean whisk, beat the whites until stiff but not dry. Stir a heaped tablespoon egg white into the cocoa mixture, then gently fold in the rest using a metal spoon. (Do it very gently.) Divide this mixture between the tins and bake near the centre in a preheated oven at 180°c/350°F/gas mark 4 for about 15–20 minutes. They may not appear fully cooked but should be set and slightly puffy. They will shrink quite a lot, which is normal.

Leave the cakes to cool in the tins but turn out while still faintly warm and strip off the papers. Now whip the cream with the 1 tablespoon of sugar until floppy but not too stiff. Empty the can of cherries into a sieve over a bowl. Then mix 2 tablespoons of the juice with 1 tablespoon rum or kirsch and sprinkle this over the cake layers. Using a palette knife, spread about one-third of the whipped cream over one cake. Take any stones from the cherries and arrange the cherries over the cream on the cake. Put onto a serving dish. Carefully lift up the other layer and put on top. Cover the entire cake with the rest of the cream using a palette knife. Arrange the fresh cherries around the edges, or make a pattern, and finally grate the chocolate over the top and sides of the cake. Do not move the cake from the surface it is on and keep covered loosely with paper in a cold place.

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Video Recipe: Summer Berry Pavlova…

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This week’s youtube video features a super dessert for summer entertaining- a summer berry pavlova!  It has crisp, chewy, marshmallow meringue layers, stacked together with perfect soft whipped cream and sweet, summer berries. It’s a showstopper that really celebrates all things summer but can be adapted for any time of the year by swapping in different toppings.

This recipe for meringues is one I use all the time and rather than using caster sugar added gradually to the frothy egg whites, you place icing sugar in with them at the start and whisk on high until you are left with stiff white peaks.  It’s a fool proof method and can be used to make pavlova bases and normal meringues also.  We’re coming close to hitting the 60k subscriber mark on youtube so don’t forget to head over and ask a question on my Q&A and make sure to tune in this Sunday as I will be cooking with the godfather of Italian cooking, Mr. Gennaro Contaldo!

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Continue to the recipe for Summer Berry Layered Pavlova…

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