A taste of the American Dream in the heart of the Mediterranean …. how to make Stromboli

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I write this blog knowing that most of you who visit are from the USA, an ocean and continent away.

You have become so very special to me and I am touched by your contact and daily messages. You are curious and ask questions, a mere spot on the world map that some of you did not know about.

Yesterday I prepared my food and cookery page that appears on Thursdays in the local newspaper. Tomorrow I will be sharing with with my readers on the island the story of the American dream, of hope and opportunity and the importance of following your dream.

On the island over the next few weeks, we are publishing the story of Vito who left Italy for America in 1966 to pursue his dream. We saw the opening of one of Vito’s restaurants on the island last month and with the courtesy of Vito we are able to offer our readers with tomorrow’s paper a taste of the American Dream all the way from New York in the form of a voucher for a free meal and if you scroll right down to the bottom of this posting, I am giving you a preview of tomorrow’s front page !

And for you all in the USA who will not be able to get a voucher for a free meal tomorrow, I am instead showing you a step-by-step guide of how we made Stromboli at Vito’s and perhaps you will want to try it out at home!

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The dough is rolled out into a rectangular shape

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A thick layer of mozzarella is scattered

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Generous slices of chorizo topped with smoked ham

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A topping of caramelized roasted vegetables

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The dough is closed up to form the hugest, longest turnover

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Slits are made to allow the steam out and more roasted vegetables are added to conceal the gaps, and into the oven

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A wonderful smell of something so delicious and fresh

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A dusting of Parmesan and herbs, a drizzle of olives oil and ready to eat, mmmmmmmm just delicious …

In tomorrow’s paper I am writing about Andrew Farrugia , one of the world’s best chocolatiers today and young Jamie Anthony Cini. We also catch up with my friend Reuben Grixti who I believe is one of the best role models for the younger generation and together with Reuben, I have developed many new recipes. We go over to the United Kingdom and catch up with Joe Pace at Parparellu in the Fulham Road, London and with Chris Zammit in Eastbourne who is making a name for himself with his butter sculptures.
And you will also hear about Andrea, Rodianne and Michele three young talented cooks. I was also impressed by Jesmond Ciantar’s investment in the younger generation, very similar to the way Vito grew his chain in New York ……and lots more…..

And to you in the USA, I will share with you in my blog over the next few weeks these achievements and more recipes that you love.

But for today from the heart of the Mediterranean, I wish you all again a good day and a fabulous year ahead.

And here is a photo of me and Andrew discussing the tallest chocolate building in the world

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A preview of tomorrow’s front page !

Was the Chelsea Bun the Victorian Cronut of its time ?

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I could not sleep tonight, one of those sleepless nights when the harder you try, the less you manage to nod off. I am an extremely early riser but this was too early for my usual routine and I decided to bake something for a night-time breakfast….

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There is an added bonus because I love to work with yeast….

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Chelsea buns are such iconic old English pastries created by the Chelsea Bun House in Victorian times and they remind me of Christmas, Charles Dickens and London … time to treat myself and indulge now ….. So just out of the oven are these lovely, mini Chelsea Buns loaded with a mix of grated local citrus. I have not eaten them for a while and apparently crowds lined up the old London streets to get hold of them as they do for the cronut today. I have a feeling that sleepless people may be baking old-fashioned cronuts at night in centuries to come and write about its historical appearance in the 21 century ! ….Of course I cannot describe the magnificent smell that has filled the whole house but I am sure you can imagine…. And the best way to eat a chelsea bun is straight out of the oven ! No need for butter, just as they are….

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This recipe makes 8 medium buns or 10 to 12 mini ones depending on the size.

You will need :

200g strong flour
10g dried yeast
30 ml milk mixed with 30 ml water warmed up but not hot.
1 egg
50g butter, melted
25g caster sugar
60g mixed dried fruit of your choice. I used raisins.

Sieve the flour into the bowl.
Add the yeast.
Make a well in the centre of the bowl.
Add the warm milk and water.
Add the beaten egg and melted butter.
Knead together to form a soft sticky dough.
Cover and allow to prove in a warm place for half an hour.

Roll out the bun into a rectangle about 30 cm by 10 cm,

Brush with melted butter.
Sprinkle with caster sugar.
Roll up like a Swiss roll.
Brush with butter.
Cut up in slices 3 cm wide.
Place on a baking sheet and cover to allow to prove for half an hour.
Bake in a hot oven 220 C for 15 to 20 minutes.
As soon as you take them out brush liberally with bun wash made with 30g water,
30g full-fat milk, 60g caster sugar. Heat together and bring to a boil. Keep on a constant simmering boil for 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Use while still warm.

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Straight out of the oven …

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The Chelsea Bun House, 1839

Banana Yoghurt Bread with no added fats

banana bread

This is a cake with no added fats. It is a moist all-in-one cake, my type of cake, completely hassle-free to make. And banana bread is such a great way to use up all the over ripe fruit. I also add the juice of one lemon and it retains a very good color. This cake will remain very moist for a week without even the need to store in the fridge or an airtight container.

You will need:

2 cups self-raising flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 cups sugar or stevia equivalent
2 tablespoons agave
3 bananas, mashed
seeds from 1/2 vanilla pod
3 eggs, lightly beaten
150g Greek Yoghurt or plain local yoghurt
Juice of half a Lemon

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Preheat oven to 160C

Grease a ring tin and line base with baking paper.
Sift flour and baking powder into a bowl. Add sugar or stevia.
Make a well in centre and add bananas, eggs, vanilla, agave and yoghurt.
Stir until mixture comes together but do not overmix.
Pour into cake tin and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour.
Leave to cool before removing from tin.
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The citrus on the island is coming into season…

Celebrating Thanksgiving on an island abundant with blessings …

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The US Ambassador HE Ms Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley welcomes me to her home and shares her favorite Thanksgiving recipes.

It is the time of the year again when Americans all over the world stop to thank for their blessings, to appreciate and give thanks for what they have. Gratitude for the harvest, the provision, the abundance….. a nation so diverse with a fusion of cuisines and an integration of cultures, today is thanksgiving for everyone to remember and thank and spend a day with those who matter.

20131128-122142.jpg The Thanksgiving Table at the Embassy with beautiful Pickard crockery and Lenox Silverware

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And HE The Ambassador of the USA shares some of her favorite recipes.

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Her mother’s recipe for Sweet Potato Pie

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Home made Cranberry Orange Marmalade with Mediterranean oranges from her garden…

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Old fashioned corn muffins

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And her favorite chocolate cake with beetroot frosting

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A recipe for my Apple Meringue Pie

20131128-101501.jpgA Stuffed Turkey Breast recipe from Luke Woodend at Le Meridien.

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Today’s newspaper

On a glorious island blessed with abundance …
with much to be thankful for, where it is thanksgiving everyday; the golden sunshine nurturing the fruit and produce growing in the Mediterranean earth, completely surrounded by the bluest sea, a feast of natural beauty all around, we stop and remember to thank for all our blessings …

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Ambassador Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley’s family favorites for Thanksgiving !

Ambassador Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley welcomed me to her official residence and we tasted all her home made family favorite Thanksgiving specialities. What a treat, everything was so delicious and fresh……Corn muffins, her own mother’s recipe for sweet potato pie, a home made cranberry and orange marmalade using Mediterranean oranges from her garden and the most luscious beetroot chocolate cake with beetroot frosting which I can only describe as divine !

The US Ambassador shared her recipes with me and I cannot wait to make them at home !

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Beetroot Chocolate Cake

200g butter
250g pre cooked beetroo200g dark chocolate preferably 70 %cocoa
4 tablespoons hot espresso
135 g self raising flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
5 eggs, separated
190g caster sugar

Preheat oven to 180C. Grease a 20cm cake tin and line the bottom of the tin with baking parchment,
Blend the beetroot in a food processor to a rough purée.
Melt the chocolate in a bowl then pour in the coffee.
Stir in the butter in small pieces and leave to soften. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.

Sift the flour, baking powder and cocoa together in a bowl and set aside.
Separate the eggs. Whisk the yolks in a bowl until they are frothy. Stir the eggs into the chocolate and butter mixture, then fold in the beetroot.

Whisk the egg whites until they form stiff peaks and fold in the sugar.

Fold the egg white mixture into the chocolate mixture then fold in the flour and cocoa.

Pour the batter into the prepared tin and bake for 40 minutes or under a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.

Allow to cool in the tin then serve with cream or this special beetroot cream.

Beetroot Cream Cheese Frosting


1/2 packet cream cheese
1/2 half cup butter
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 1/2 cups icing sugar
6 tablespoons beetroot juice drained from the beetroot used for the cake

Blend all ingredients together.

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Cranberry and Orange Marmalade

1kg Cranberries
4 cups sugar
1 tsp Ground Ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
6 small oranges, peeled and chopped
1 liter water

Mix the water and sugar and bring to a boil for 5 minutes?

Add the rest of the I gradients and boil for another 10 minutes
Cool and store in fridge.
This can be served cold or warm, with meats or desserts
Thank you for featuring our recipe on www.howtomakefood.net .

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Mrs Flo’s Sweet Potato Pie

8 sweet potatoes, the yellow kind
6 eggs
2 sticks butter, melted
2 cups white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 can evaporated milk
1 cup egg nog
1 can Carnation condensed milk
Nutmeg to suit your taste
Cinnamon to suit your taste
Vanilla extract to suit your taste.

Boil sweet potatoes with jackets on, mash u til smooth
Add melted butter, eggs and sugar and mix well
Add the evaporated milk and condensed milk to get a medium heavy consistency
Add spices to suit your taste
Place into pre baked pie shell and bake at 180 C one about one hour dependent how deep the pie shell is.

Serve with fresh cream or whipped cream cheese.

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Corn Muffins

1cup flour
1 cup cornmeal
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 beaten eggs
1 cup milk
1/4 cup oil

Grease the bottom and sides of a muffin tray.
Mix together the flour, sugar baking powder and salt.
Make a well in the centre and set aside.

In another bowl combine the eggs, milk, oil and add egg mixture all at once to the dry ,is true,
Stir just until moistened
Spoon batter into prepared pan
Bake at 200 C for 15 to 20 minutes until a skewer comes out clean.
Cool on wire rack. This recipe makes about 10 to 12 muffins.

We had ours with home made cranberry and orange marmalade.

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US Ambassador H.E. Ms. Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley welcomed me to her home to speak about Thanksgiving

A day of remembrance and planning Thursday’s meal…..

Today, the American Embassy on the island lowers its flag on the 50th anniversary of President J F Kennedy’s assassination …. 20131123-180551.jpg

I am fascinated by America and whatever makes America tick when it comes to food.
Everyone watches while America innovates, everyone copies while America moves on to the next new creation….

And far away from the USA, on a tiny island in the heart of the Mediterranean blessed with an abundance of sunshine, completely surrounded by the bluest sea, I cook and bake and replicate to taste the American dream.

I am planning a lunch menu for Thanksgiving…..and i decide definitely Apple Meringue Pie for dessert….

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You will need:

One pie crust of your choice.

And for the filling :

7 cups thinly sliced peeled apples
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons flour
1/3 cup milk
2 egg yolks, beaten
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel

In a bowl, toss apples with lemon juice.

Separately whisk the sugar, flour, milk, egg yolks and lemon peel until smooth. Pour over apples and toss to coat.

Pour apples and batter into a pie crust that had been baked blind for 10 minutes. Cover the pie dish with foil.

Bake the crust and filling at 180C for 20 minutes. Remove foil; bake 25-30 minutes longer or until apples are tender. Reduce heat to 150C.


For the meringue you will need:

6 egg whites
600g caster sugar
Pinch of cream of tartar

Whip the egg whites and a pinch of cream of tartar until they are stiff.
Sprinkle the sugar and carefully mix in
Place in a piping bag and pipe it on top of the filing.
Give it some color by either placing in a hot oven at 220 C until it reaches the color of your choice or use a blow torch to color the surface.

Note: the volume of the eggs when whisked could increase by 7 times. Eggs should be fresh for best results. The bowl and whisk should be meticulously clean for the best results. When separating the egg yolk from the egg white no trace of yolk must be allowed to mix with the whites as this will prevent the egg white from whisking to its maximum.

And you may live on the other side of the globe and only able to dream of America but you can certainly bring a taste of the American dream into your home no matter where you are with these wonderful recipes from my collection of new and old fashioned favorites from the USA:

Pineapple Coconut Cobbler Tart

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Gnudi New York Style

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Nutty Buttery Squash with no butter

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Cronuts

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Peach and Cherry Sundae Tart

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Spinach Artichoke Chicken Bake

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Stromboli

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Hummingbird Cake

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Juicy Lucy

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Chorizo Feta Muffins

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Ramen Burger

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New York Cheesecake

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Chocolate Cherry Chubbies…. an Irish soda bread recipe

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An old shop front in the City *

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I made these Chubbies a couple of weeks ago when I was working with Mrs Hennessy on a number of Irish recipes for a newspaper spread but did not feature them at the time.

I used an Irish soda bread recipe and added chocolate and maraschino cherries. They are very! rustic in appearance, certainly not suitable for an elegant tea party but will be great if you have young kids especially or if you have a craving for something sweetish and not too indulgent as they are satisfying and wholesome. Freshly baked, straight out of the oven with a cup of hot tea, they were marvelous and it was not necessary to spread them with butter or jam but of course this is up to personal taste. I used an extra large cutter and to make them as chubby as possible and you will need:

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4 cups self raising flour
4 tablespoons white sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup butter, cut into cubes
1 cup buttermilk or yoghurt
1 egg
1 cup chocolate powder
200g maraschino cherries
Cocoa powder or drinking chocolate for dusting

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C.
Lightly grease a large baking sheet.
In a large bowl, rub together the flour and butter until it looks like breadcrumbs. Add the salt, baking soda, sugar coco powder. Stir in the buttermilk or yoghurt and egg. Add the cherries and form the dough. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead slightly. Form dough into a round and use a large cutter to make your chubbies. Dust with powdered chocolate.
Bake in preheated oven until a skewer inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean for about 45 minutes. Serve fresh or split and toasted the day after.

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*Photo by Ari

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Today’s newspaper

An Irish week in the heart of the Mediterranean !

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Following a dinner at the residence of HE the Ambassador of Ireland and Mrs Monica Hennessy to promote Irish foods with The Hon Karmenu Vella, Minister of Tourism and Mrs Vella as guests of honor, I am dedicating the next week to cooking dishes using ingredients from Ireland. My pages on today’s newspaper features Mrs Monica Hennessy at her home with her family. She shares with me her vast knowledge of Irish cooking. And of course there will be more irish ingredients for my recipe in Saturday’s Independent.

I will be using recipes from one of my favorite TV chefs Rachel Allen. I just love her practical creative recipes and her informal style. I was also introduced by Mrs Hennessy to Donal Skehan’s new book Kitchen Hero and I am looking forward to try out some of his recipes too.

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The Hon Karmenu Vella , Minister of Tourism, me, Mrs Monica Hennessy, HE the Ambassador to Ireland and Mrs Vella

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Perfect Roast Leg of Irish Lamb for Sunday Lunch

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I cook with Ronan Hennessy and we make Brown Irish Soda Bread with A Mediterranean Twist adapted from Darina Allen’s original recipe.

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Mrs Hennessy bakes Irish Foccacia from one of Rachel Allen’s recipes !

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Amon Baldacchino at Le Meridien… creates a special Mushroon Soup with Guinness

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Irish Stromboli for the Hennessys all the way from New York

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And Amon also prepares Braised Irish Lamb Steaks …

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And my recipe for Mint and Caper Scones …. very local ingredients in a very Irish scone !

And finally Shamrock Cup Cakes by Martha’s Cake and Bake

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From a glorious island in the heart of the Mediterranean …..

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An Irish week in Paradise !

Mrs Hennessy bakes Irish Foccacia using Rachel Allen’s recipe !

The table is set for dinner with Waterford Crystal and Newbridge Silver cutlery at the home of HE the Ambassador Jim Hennessy and Mrs Monica Hennessy20131107-084342.jpg

Mrs Hennessy welcomed me to her home and prepared a most delicious meal. She is a person of great warmth and intelligence and a wonderful mother to three children. Her eldest daughter is studying medicine in Dublin and her elder son is away at boarding school in Ireland. Ronan who turned 16 yesterday lives at home and i fell in love with their dog Phebo.

Mrs Hennessy also made Foccacia for us using a recipe by Rachel Allen. I love Rachel’s books and her creative and informal style of cooking. Mrs Hennessy also introduced me to a new book Kitchen Hero by a young and dynamic Irish Chef Donal Skehan and I am looking forward to trying out his recipes which I will post on my website.

This is a fantastic foccacia recipe using the same dough as Irish soda bread without any yeast making it very straightforward to prepare. It is very interesting to see such a traditional Irish recipe paired with local ingredients of smoked sausage and freshly preserved olives.

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For this recipe you will need :

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Olive Oil
450 g plain flour, plus more for dusting
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp salt
400 ml buttermilk or if not available use Maltese yoghurt

And for Mrs Hennessy’s special topping which she created to make it appealing for both Irish and Mediterranean cuisines, you will need:


Local Smoked Sausage
, chopped into squares
Fresh Rosemary
Local Black Olives
Tomato, chopped into squares
Parmesan
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
dried Oregano

Preheat the oven to 230C/gas 8. Brush a baking tray generously with olive oil.

Sieve the plain flour and the bread soda into a large bowl, add the salt and 50g of grated cheese and mix with your hands.

Make a well in the centre and pour in most of the buttermilk. With your hand stiff and your fingers spread out like a claw, start mixing the flour into the buttermilk or yoghurt using a circular motion. Add the remaining buttermilk and keep mixing like this until you have soft dough. Do not knead it but work it very gently to bring it together.
Transfer to a floured surface and roll out to about 35x20cm. Sit on the oiled baking tray and brush the top with some more olive oil.
Make dimples all over with your fingertips, on the top of the dough.
Push a small piece of sausage, rosemary, olive and tomato into each dimple.
Then drizzle over the olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt, freshly ground pepper, Parmesan and dried oregano.
Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes at 200 C until the bread is nice and golden on the top and bottom.
When the focaccia is cooked but still hot, drizzle just a little more olive oil over the top and allow to cool slightly before serving.

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At home with the Hennessys …

Ronan’s Mediterranean Soda Bread adapted from Darina Allen’s recipe

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This is Ronan Hennessy. He is 16 years old today… happy birthday Ronan !

He loves living on the island and has made a lot of friends and feels very settled here. He plays a lot of sports and especially likes football. Ronan appreciates the warm weather and the island’s mild winters. He also enjoys local food and cooking and last year he attended a Jamie Oliver course.

While I visited the family at their home in the weekend, I chatted with Ronan about Irish food and recipes and we came up with the idea of using Darina Allen‘s original recipe from her book Simply Delicious and adding some ingredients which are very popular on the island.

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We all enjoyed eating the result of Ronan’s Mediterranean Irish Soda bread created by simply adding ground almonds, dried prunes and local thyme honey

You will need :

675g wholemeal flour
450g white flour
30g oatmeal
50g ground almonds
35g destoned dried prunes, chopped up
1 egg
50g butter, I use kerrygold
2 tablespoons honey, we used local thyme honey
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
750ml buttermilk, Ronan and I used yoghurt

Preheat the oven to 220C

Sieve the flours and combine the oatmeal. Rub in the butter. Add the ground almonds, salt, bicarbonate of soda, salt and mix until even. Add the dried prunes. Beat the egg and honey lightly and stir into the mixture. Finally add the buttermilk or yoghurt and being the dough together without overworking it. Butter a loaf tin and place the dough in it and immediately bake in a hot oven for 45 minutes.

Serve with butter or plain and fresh which is the way we ate it.

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