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Food & Drink

Much More Than a Meal: Braised Red Cabbage Recipe

October 17, 2015

Braised Red Cabbage and Apple Recipe

I’d love to tell you that the following seasonal, braised red cabbage recipe will be so good for you it’ll light your internal fire all winter. Red cabbage is packed full of antioxidants and due to its purple colouring and organic growing conditions, it will make you look and feel younger. But telling you that would be wrong of me.

I was recently reminded by a plant breeder how inaccurate those kind of sweeping statements can be. Pat Fitzgerald explained during a horticultural tour of his nurseries, that unless the variety of fruit or vegetable in question has been tested in a laboratory, the ‘goodness’ contained within it can vary enormously.

Among other vegetables, Pat has been trialing and growing sweet potatoes in his nursery in Kilkenny for several years. Before he chooses which plants to breed for the discerning European market, he not only looks at the colour, texture and taste, he also sends tissue samples off to the laboratory for detailed chemical analysis of the nutrient content. The results help Pat make the final decision about which plants to choose for his breeding programmes. Apart from variety, several other factors will influence how nutritious a vegetable will be before it hits our stomachs, including its growing conditions and how we cook or prepare it.

So while I might tell you that a portion of red cabbage has 95% of your daily vitamin C allowance, as well as a good dose of fibre and minerals, that statement can only be used as a general guideline as the detail can vary widely.

However, there’s a lot more to vegetables than their nutritional content. We can often get hung up about how good food is or isn’t for us, but what’s often overlooked is how food makes us feel.

Transformative Autumn Sunshine

The first batch of braised red cabbage I made earlier in the week contained crab apples as they were all I had to hand. My fingers were sore from teasing the seeds out and my eyes streaming from chopping the onions and I wondered if the time spent standing at the counter was worth it.

Braised Red Cabbage and Apple Recipe

Nevertheless, as I continued and began to layer all the ingredients into the cooking pot, the low sun came out from behind a cloud and its rays streamed through the window, catching the vegetables in their dark pot, highlighting the depth of autumn colour contained within them in a way that wouldn’t have been out-of-place in an art gallery.

The moment stopped me in my tracks. It made me feel thankful for the experience and the bounty before me.

Braised Red Cabbage RecipeOrganically grown, these weren’t the most attractive looking red cabbages that were plucked from the soil to make way for the onions. In an industrial, commercial farm they’d have been ploughed straight back in. Full of holes from a failed slug control experiment, I had to strip their hard, outer leaves before revealing firm hearts that transformed into slices of marbled, glossy seductiveness. The transformation made me thankful of their growth and existence!

Braising slowly for hours in the slow cooker, spicy aromas filled the kitchen, evoking thoughts and memories of crisp mornings and warm log fires, laughter and sharing food over candlelit dinners. A definite smell of Christmas hung in the air on the sunny October afternoon as the nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves blended with the vinegar and apples.

Home grown food

Yes, the preparation was worth the effort. This alluring side vegetable reminded me that home-grown food is more than just something to keep us alive. It’s a thought and a feeling, a memory and a moment. It doesn’t deserve to be quickly boiled or fried without a second thought, before being stuffed and into our mouths as we rush from one job to another. Cooking and preparing food we’ve grown ourselves or sourced from somewhere close by can awaken an indescribable pleasure within us, one that can’t be measured in a lab.

The Recipe

If you’d like to have a go at reproducing the fleeting feeling for yourself and perhaps think about the emotions that eating and preparing a seasonal dish can unravel in your own psyche, here’s the recipe:

Braised Red Cabbage & Apple CookedBraised Red Cabbage Recipe

Serves 4 very generous portions

900g red cabbage, outer leaves removed, washed and sliced
450g red onions, sliced
450g peeled, cored and sliced apples (any variation)
45ml red wine vinegar
3 tblsp soft brown sugar
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
¼ tsp ground cloves
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
Knob of butter
Freshly ground salt and pepper

Have all the ingredients ready and simply arrange layers of the cabbage, onions, spices and apple in a large casserole dish or slow cooker, with the garlic, spices, salt and pepper sprinkled between each layer.

Braised Red Cabbage RecipePour the vinegar over the top, add the knob of butter, put on the lid and cook slowly.

In the oven this dish will take about 2½ to 3 hours at 150ºC/gas 2/300ºF, or in a slow cooker, for about four hours on low setting, stirring once or twice during the cooking time.

This dish can be cooked ahead and stored in the refrigerator. I’m currently seeing how well it freezes given there’s a large quantity.

Are you tempted to give it a go?

Food & Drink

Gooseberry, Jostaberry and Elderflower Jam Recipe

July 8, 2015

Gooseberry, Jostaberry and Elderflower Jam Recipe

Is it just me or do you find it difficult to fit all the jam, chutney and cordial making, that we read so much about, into a busy lifestyle? Harvesting, storing and preserving our fruit and veg comes part and parcel with a self-sufficient lifestyle, but can take some planning when we’re trying to fit it into a work and family routine. 

I’ve been thinking about making one of my favourite seasonal jams for the past three or four years but for whatever reason, missed picking this tasty, tart berry and have been disappointed that another season of gooseberry jam making has been lost.

Gooseberry, Jostaberry and Elderflower JamAs a big fan of the humble gooseberry I was determined to make something with the fruit growing in our garden this year, particularly as they’re ripening later due to the long, late spring. Extra sugar was added to the shopping trolley “just in case”, the muslin cloth was washed in readiness and empty jars located. Sunday turned out to be a rare, lazy day at home – perfect for picking gooseberries. 

As I poked around the fruit area bowl in hand, I found that we’ve only one, small gooseberry bush growing, with three or four large jostaberry bushes over shadowing it, each dripping with under-ripe fruit. Rather than strip the gooseberry bush bare, I picked about a kilo of both berries, giving me enough to make just over six jars of jam, of various sizes.

Gooseberry, Jostaberry and Elderflower JamLike currants, if you’re thinking of making anything with jostaberries be warned, it’s mind numbingly tedious topping and tailing the small berries. However, once in the right head space, my pile of berries were cleaned, trimmed and ready to be added to the preserving pan.

If you’d like to make gooseberry jam, with or without the jostaberries, here’s a recipe that’s a combination of a couple I found in old recipe books. If you like your jam sweet but tart, this one is for you. I wasn’t disappointed with the outcome and am looking forward to tucking into it over the coming months. If I can enlist some help with the berries from one of my “bored” teenagers, I might even make another batch for gifts..

Gooseberry, Jostaberry and Elderflower Jam Recipe

Gooseberry, Jostaberry and Elderflower JamIngredients

1kg of gooseberries and green jostaberries, or a kilo of gooseberries on their own
1kg of granulated sugar
400ml of water
4 elderflower heads, picked in the evening


  1. Top and tail the gooseberries and jostaberries. I pinched them out with my fingertips but you can use scissors or a sharp knife.
  2. Place the berries in a stainless steel preserving saucepan and add the water.
  3. Shake the elderflowers in case there are insects lurking then wrap the flowerheads in some muslin, tie and place in the pan with the berries and water.
  4. Cook on the hob for around 20 minutes or so until the berries are soft but holding their shape.
  5. Remove the elderflower bag.
  6. Add the sugar to the pan and stir until the sugar is fully dissolved.
  7. Ramp up the heat and boil the berries for around ten minutes until setting point is reached. If you have a jam thermometer all well and good, setting point is marked at around 220°C. I don’t as it somehow landed in the dishwasher so now have to do the ‘saucer test’. This involves placing a saucer in the freezer until nice and cold, then when I think the jam is ready, dripping a teaspoonful onto the cold saucer and seeing if it holds its shape, or crinkles when I push it. Sometimes this works, sometimes we end up with runny jam on our toast.
  8. When the jam has reached setting point, remove it from the heat and pour it into steralised jars. Cover, seal and label.

Do you like gooseberries and jostaberries? They can be pricey in the supermarkets but you might find them cheaper at farm gates or markets at this time of year and they’re easy to grow in the garden, though beware, gooseberry bushes hide some wicked thorns. 


Community Gardens, Food & Drink

Cooking Pumpkins in the Community

October 14, 2014

Cooking Pumpkins in the Community |

Not content with growing the vegetables, a couple of weeks ago  I rashly gamely offered to demonstrate a few ways of cooking pumpkin flesh at Callan community garden as there’s little point in growing food if we don’t know how to prepare and eat it. It’s the first year we’ve grown a pumpkin patch there and as the fruit have swollen nicely, it seemed a good idea to demonstrate that there’s more to pumpkins than Halloween window decorations. I’m sure many of us are, or have been guilty of discarding the flesh we scoop out and it seems such a waste of good food. In the shops and farmers markets, pumpkins are coming into season and are a vegetable/fruit that will store for months in a cool, dry environment, making them a fantastic winter staple.

Not only do pumpkins make great decorations, they are extremely good for us, containing over 200% of our recommended daily allowance of vitamin A, the vitamin that’s good for our eye sight, they’re rich in fibre, contain very few calories and are great for helping to lower cholesterol among other things.

Cookery Demonstration

Cooking Pumpkins in the Community | greensideup.ieI’m a family cook who likes a recipe in front of me (even though I stray from it quite regularly) which therefore resulted in a very informal cookery session at the family resource centre where everyone helped with the prepping and washing up, before gathering to share the food presented. I chose two safe, tried and tasted savoury pumpkin recipes using the flesh from one medium-sized pumpkin, as well as a roasted seed recipe that you can find below. I also demonstrated how to make courgette cake, a recipe I’ve talked about on several occasions but gardeners had yet to try. The courgette cake recipe can be found here and the basic soup and delicately flavoured pumpkin rice recipes here. I’m afraid there’s no photos as I was too busy cooking.

I would have loved to have baked a pumpkin dessert for the group but simply didn’t have time to find a recipe that uses fresh pumpkin flesh – no matter where I looked, they all used tinned pumpkin purée. However, I’ve since been given this recipe that shares how to make our own purée by Kristen who writes That Blooming Garden Blog, so they’ll be no stopping us.

If you’d like to try cooking pumpkins this year, as well as the recipes linked above that I cooked for the group, I’ve added a few variations of soup at the bottom of the post from some fellow garden bloggers.

Cooking Pumpkins in the Community | greensideup.ieRoasted pumpkin seeds


225g pumpkin seeds
450ml water
2 tbls salt
1 tblsp olive oil

Heat oven to 20oºC/Gas 6/400ºF

Remove the ‘lid’ of the pumpkin at the stalk end by cutting a disk shape around the top with a sharp knife. Scoop out the soft, seedy, fibrous flesh inside with a metal spoon and place into a colander, leaving the tougher flesh that’s around the inside of the pumpkin to tackle later for another recipe.

Pick out as many of the seeds as you can before sifting through the rest under a tap of running water. (Tip: do this holding the colander over a bowl and use the drained water for the plants or flush the toilet with it.)

Add the seeds, water and salt to a saucepan, bring to the boil then simmer for ten minutes or so to allow the seeds to soften.

Take off the heat, drain, pat the seeds dry with a clean tea towel then toss in the olive oil before placing on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Roast in the oven for around ten to twenty minutes, until the seeds brown.

Three Pumpkin Soup Recipes

Soup is such a versatile dish, quick to make and winter warming too. Here are some links to three variations of pumpkin soup you might like to try.

Cooking Pumpkin in the CommunityThe first is from Emma from De Tout Coeur Limousin in France where she adds sage, garlic and chilli to her pumpkin recipe .

Secondly, from Kristin in British Columbia, a step by step guide to pumpkin soup with a nutmeg flavouring, very handy if you’re new to soup making.

Lastly (and these are in no particular order) Heather from the New House New Home New Life blog makes a curried soup and although has used purée as a base, the flavouring could easily be switched to a fresh pumpkin recipe.

Pumpkin Competition

Pumpkin Decorating Contest

Pumpkin Decorating Contest from The Empress of Dirt

If you’d like to try your hand at decorating this year’s pumpkins with embellishments and not carving them, there’s a fun competition over on Melissa’s Empress of Dirt Blog where the winning entry could take on the illustrious title of Creator Of The Ultimate Pumpkin Head of 2014!

History of Pumpkin Carving

If you prefer to carve your pumpkins, here’s an archived post on the blog that explains why we do it. Did you know the tradition originated in Ireland?

What do you think… will you be cooking your pumpkin this year?

Food & Drink

In Season: Apple Cake Recipe

September 24, 2014

In Season: Apple Cake Recipe

Choosing apple trees

We planted fruit trees almost ten years ago high up on our homestead and they’ve never fruited. Then, around three years ago, I bought Mr G a self pollinating variety on the advice of Arboretum garden centre manager Eamon Wall, an expert in the field of fruit growing. For the first time this year we’re seeing apples growing in our garden, branches bending, heavy with fruit, and we’re thrilled.

Lack of pollination

Apple trees can struggle above 600ft for various reasons including lack of pollinators, harsh winds and early frosts that damage the buds and at over 1,000ft we’ve not had much success with them. To be honest, we’d bought popular, cheap varieties (whispers not from a garden centre) when we should have looked for heirlooms or those more suited to our conditions, perhaps from Irish Seedsavers who have a fantastic collection. We have however, spotted some plums and pears growing on the older trees this year so we’re glad we haven’t given up on them. Perhaps it was thanks to our new bees, or simply that we had a mild winter followed by a dreamy summer here in Ireland, but this year we’re appreciating our new fruity treat.

apple treeAs the leaves turn golden our my mind turns to fruity puddings and cake. I was given this recipe for apple cake a few years ago by a friend and have mentioned it before but we enjoy it so much thought you might like to be reminded again. It’s delicious hot or cold, on its own or with cream. If you prefer a crumble topping with your apples, here’s a plum crumble recipe that’s topped with oats, nuts and syrup, just swap the plums for the new season apples.

If you don’t have apple trees in your garden, perhaps you could ask friends and neighbours who might have them and exchange them for a cake, a great way to open up a conversation. This isn’t the best photo I could have taken of it, but the cake was gone before I had time to snap a better photo! for Apple Cake Recipe:

190 g self-raising flour
pinch salt
150g butter or half margarine
1 free range egg
75g caster sugar
325g apples
lemon juice
2 tbsp apricot jam
2 tbsp granulated or Demerara sugar


Heat oven to 160°C then grease and line a 20 cm cake tin which should be at least 7.5 cm deep.

Cream the butter and caster sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg. Sieve the flour and salt then fold in to the creamed mixture.

Using a lightly floured board, gently pat or roll out three-quarters of the mixture and fit into the prepared tin (warning – very sticky. Cover hands in flour and ensure hands are very clean first and take off any rings!)

Peel, core and slice the apples and squeeze lemon over the top to keep their colour. Arrange the apples on top of the cake mixture. Heat the jam and brush or pour over the apples. Take the remaining cake mixture, roll out and either cut into strips and make place over the apples in a lattice fashion or roll flat and place over whole. Sprinkle the sugar over the top.

Bake in the middle of the oven for 1 hour. Cool on a rack and dust with icing sugar.

Hope you enjoy the cake as much as we do. Do you have a favourite seasonal apple recipe? I baked another cake recently that was just a simple sponge recipe with chopped apples added to the batter, delicious!

Food & Drink

Baked Cheesecake Recipe with Roasted Rhubarb

June 18, 2013
Baked Cheesecake Recipe with Rhubarb or Strawberries

Photo credit: Mona Wise of

Patience isn’t one of my virtues and this blog post is a case in point. With two or three other updates floating around, I’d planned this one for a couple of weeks time but it’s too difficult to wait. This cheesecake is simply delicious and I’m keen to share it!

On Sunday I dusted off the domestic halo that’s been in a bottom drawer for several months and made this Baked Rhubarb Cheesecake for a Fathers Day treat. Having done so I can’t keep it under my hat for another day let alone fourteen, it’s just too scrumptious. Also rhubarb is in season and strawberries are on the verge (literally if you stop for the Wexford ones) which we know is great for the environment if we choose them instead of buying out of season fruit. Continue Reading…