This is such an easy loaf to make and is perfect for a new year treat that won’t send your sugar levels soaring. I used my husband and children to do the ‘taste test-drive’ on this. They are huge fans of my usual butter & sugar laden version, so this recipe needed their approval. Their opinions are easily swayed so I decided not to tell them them I had changed the recipe. It got the thumbs up from all with an added quip from my other half about how light it was. Perfect, there is now no going back to my usual recipe unless of course my cholesterol levels drop dangerously low!! Fat chance of that happening…..
It is very straight forward to make, uses maple syrup to sweeten instead of sugar and wholemeal spelt instead of white flour. It will make a great addition to our healthy lunch box tomorrow for the start of the new school term.
3 medium ripe bananas (the riper the better!!)
2 organic eggs beaten
4 tablespoons of melted coconut oil or you could use a good quality cold pressed oil such as vegetable (neutral taste) or olive (more savoury flavour).
6 tablespoons of maple syrup (runny honey will also do)
250g Wholemeal Spelt Flour
1 tsp of baking soda
1 tsp of vanilla extract
1/2 tsp of cinnamon
60ml of water
A good pinch of salt.
Preheat your over to 165degrees celsius or 325 degrees fahrenheit.
Grease an line a 9 x 5 ” loaf tin.
In a large bowl, add the spelt flour and baking soda.
In a separate pot melt the coconut oil. Once melted turn off the heat and add the maple syrup, cinnamon and vanilla extract. Now pour in the water and mix.
In a separate bowl add the beaten egg. Mash up the bananas until they are almost liquid. Add theses to the egg and mix well together.
The next step is to add the wet ingredients to the dry and fold the mixture carefully until everything is just combined and has formed a batter. There is no need to over mix this mixture.
Now pour into your tin, lightly dust with cinnamon and place in the middle of the oven for 55 mins. Leave it to cool for a while in the tin before turning out.
This banana bread is wonderfully moist and should keep for up to 3 days in a bread bin, 3 days or so longer if kept in the fridge. It freezes well and should keep for up to 3 months.
I’ve never met David Chadwick of Upsobags but I’m sure we’d get on. If we had no common ground other than our hatred of throwing things away then we then we’d have the foundations for a bonding session right there. He is a man after my own heart and when my friend Heather sent me a link to his site Upsobags I clicked on it and was duly filled with a sense of ‘Ah drat, why didn’t I think of that?!’
Well, why didn’t I?! I have recently learned how to use a sewing machine and was racking my brain for a great recycle project/business that I could get stuck into. It never happened, but if it had, I would’ve liked something similar to Upsobags to have been it. A great recycled range of products made in a sustainable way and retailing at incredibly competitive prices.
David Chadwick, founder of Upsobags is a bag manufacturer. Like myself, he hates throwing things away and coupled with a need to maximise resources and minimise waste he discovered that the old tarpaulins used for Lorries made great bags. They are waterproof, durable and unique. Old fire hoses and seat belts are also re-used as leather and webbing substitutes as other components of the bags. Based in Lancashire in the North of England, this business is not just about recycling materials into great products. They are about running a business in as sustainable manner as they can manage. The sewing machines in their factory are solar powered and every bag is hand cut sewn, bears a unique reference number and is signed by the maker. Because each bag is unique it created a challenge for online orders but they got around this by setting up a photo booth on the production line so that when a customer clicks on the photo of the bag they want to order, that very item is the item you will get. When the item is sold, the photo goes offline.
They remind me of the ‘Courier’ Bags that were so popular particularly in London in the 1990’s. They are hard wearing and practical and no one bag is ever quite the same.They now produce a large range of bags from ‘bum’ bags or ‘fanny packs’ as our American cousin’s hilariously call them to back packs, dispatch bags and panniers for bikes. I love this approach to waste and recycling and well just business in general.
Bum Bag (Fanny Pack)
Visit their website HERE for more information and online ordering.
What can be done when elected representatives fail to represent the views of their Constituents? There is always the next election but as we all know a week is a long time in politics and when the next election can be months or perhaps years away, not all of us can remember who exactly it was that sold us down the Swanee. Sometimes, and in our case with the proposed development of Malahide Castle Woodlands, there isn’t time to wait until the next election. We needed to act straightaway.
Last May, our local area Councillors voted against the proposal but in true Irish fashion, another vote was called, but this time allowing for a full vote by all Fingal Councillors. At a Council meeting and vote on July 11th, 40 Fingal County Councillors were invited to vote on this proposal that contained three elements. The details are complicated and frankly boring but one of the elements concerned the development of a ‘Tree-top Canopy walk and Forest adventure’ in Malahide Castle’s Woodlands by a commercial company. One important detail is that Malahide Castle Demesne is a historic and ancient publicly owned space that is teeming with wildlife. Not one environmental impact or wildlife study was undertaken. The proposal was carried by 18 votes to 16 with 6 absentees with one Councillor citing the Tree-top adventure as a great prevention for obesity. Really Councillor??
Bit by bit, sections of this incredible parkland are being chipped away. To be fair, the parklands and the public have greatly benefited by development in the past. We have a huge and gorgeous branch of Avoca, we have a great Bike Hire Company, we have the brilliant Malahide Cricket Club that has been vital in pushing Irish Cricket to an international level. We have Golf and Tennis in a public facility and an array of playing pitches for the local GAA and Soccer club. There even is a train! Toots The Malahide Road Train pootles up and down between the village and the pathways of the Castle ferrying Visitors.
The Demesne is busy and no doubt the The Talbot Family would be delighted if they could see how much this incredible place is enjoyed everyday. But in the last 5 years, small changes have occurred without much public consultation and now this latest proposal is in my mind a step too far. Whatever about adding a ‘multi-use car park extension’, allowing a business to come in and take over the beautiful peaceful woodlands for profit seems obscene. As it turns out, it is a step to far for many Malahide Residents too, so we are not alone in this.
So what to do?!?
Fabian running through the woods on a Summer’s evening.
Our petition was still running online and we didn’t halt our social media campaign but rather than standing around complaining about it, a few like-minded individuals put their heads together and planned a Picnic for Saturday Aug 6th at 12 noon. We invited anyone and everyone to come join us to celebrate this beautiful space. Social Media is our bedfellow in all of this, but Malahide has an older demographic than some other small towns, so we organised and funded leaflet drops and stood outside the Village Church informing elderly parishioners what was happening at their own front door in person. The majority had no idea this was happening and were shocked and angered at the prospect.
Lisa Bissett takes the stage
We asked people to show their love yesterday and show their love they did. Unusually for an Irish Summer’s Day in early August the weather behaved. There was a balmy breeze and the sun shone strong in honour of our Woodlands. Hundred’s more people signed our petitions and wrote postcards to the Chief Executive of Fingal County Council. A few people from the campaign spoke publicly to explain what was happening and where we were at. We then asked our picnickers to enjoy their picnic before entering the woods and ‘adopting’ a tree. Ribbons and tags with simple messages were tied around trees throughout the Woodlands. Visually it was perfectly beautiful. The Woods came alive with the sound of families, young people old people, children and dogs enjoying and really appreciating their beautiful surroundings.
The cynic in you might question what did we achieve. I can’t fully answer that question today but I do know that myself and thousands of other people agree that these woods and their wildlife require our protection. We may not be able to stop the Council from destroying these beautiful Woods forever but at least, hand on heart, I know that I stood up and was counted.
Niamh removing ribbons from the Trees and leaving no trace of our picnic.
If you want to be counted alongside me and many others please sign our online petition.
Spelt is my ‘go-to’ flour for baking. It is wholesome, lower in gluten than regular flour and wholemeal spelt has a delicious nutty texture that works so well with cookies and scones. If you want a delicious, nutritious scone that is free from sugar (I use honey, cinnamon and vanilla to sweeten) then you will love this incredibly quick recipe.
500g wholemeal spelt
2 tsp baking powder
85g butter cut into small cubes
200g raspberries ( fresh or frozen)
Zest of 1 small lemon
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp honey
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1 tsp cinnamon
1 cup of milk
A handful of jumbo oats
Heat the oven to 180 degrees celsius (350 fahrenheit) and grease and dust a large baking tray with flour.
Combine the flour, baking powder and butter and rub between your fingers until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. You can also stick it into your food processor and allow it to do the work for you just ensure you give it a good stir when your transfer it from your processor to the bowl. Now add the lemon zest and the raspberries and mix well. Frozen raspberries do not need to be defrosted fully just add and mix through. I prefer frozen fruit as the mixture is quite wet and the frozen fruit can make it easier to manage.
In a separate bowl add the milk, honey, lemon juice, cinnamon and vanilla extract and whisk together.
Making a well in the centre of the dry ingredients, combine the liquid mixture until it comes together and shape into a circle. Now sprinkle the oats onto a board and press the scone mixture on top of the oats. Now turn onto the other side and cut into 8 equal sized triangles. Place on the baking tray and place in the middle of the oven.
Bake for 20 – 25 minutes until the scones are a gorgeous golden colour.
At 5pm today (BST) our Councillors in Fingal County Council in North County Dublin will vote on a proposed development which will allow a commercial enterprise operate a ‘Treetop Canopy Adventure’ in 5 hectares of ancient woodland in Malahide Castle.
I grew up here in Malahide and from my earliest memories the castle and it’s woodlands were my playground. We climbed trees and explored the hidden woodlands as children and as teenagers we languidly spend our school holidays watching the cricket under a shady tree. I spent years in London, started my own family and then migrated back to the town that shaped me. The Castle has always been the focal point of this beautiful village. My tiny London natives now have their earliest memories intertwined with the trees and serenity of the Castle grounds.
Malahide Castle built in 1185, is not only one of the oldest Castles in Ireland but it is home to some exceptional fauna and wildlife. The Castle belonged to the Talbot Family for 800 years until 1973 when it was sold to the State to pay inheritance taxes. Lord Talbot was an avid collector and spent many years collecting seeds and plants from Australia where they surprisingly flourished in our often damp seaside climate. As a result, we also inherited the much maligned ‘Malahide’ mosquito which is responsible for keeping the Castle’s thriving colony of bats well fed. This habitat is unique to Ireland and it’s fragility cannot be overstated.
Everyday I am there for a run or walk with the dogs. Fridays after school are spent in the castle playground and always on the same picnic bench. Mothers chat while the kids climb and explore. Saturday’s football matches are played on the Castle pitches, Parents’ on the sidelines, both hands encircling a takeaway cup of hot Avoca coffee in a vain attempt to keep warm. Sundays can be whatever I want them to be, spending time in the grounds with no schedule to hinder my amble.
The Castle and it’s grounds are part of the fabric of this village and are enshrined in our DNA. It belongs to us and we know it and we will fight tooth and nail to protect it. I never take it for granted and want to cherish this incredible ancient fortress as it has cherished me and my family.
Please sign this petition if you think there is any validity in what I am saying. Once this has been done it cannot be undone. In the last 40 years the Castle has changed hugely and nearly always for the better but I implore you, do not let this next step be a step to far.
You can sign the petition today. We will be handing the petitions to the Lord Mayor of Fingal at 1630 in advance of the Council vote.
I make this great ‘Irish Barnbrack‘ otherwise known as my Mother’s healthy Halloween fruit cake. Barnbrack is a traditional Irish fruit cake made at Halloween however I rarely wait for Halloween on this one. I make it all year round. It’s free of sugar and butter and instead uses lots of dried fruit and a trick or two to give you a scrumptious healthy fruit cake that isn’t just for Halloween.
No Trick Just Treat Healthy Halloween Brack
It is my Mother’s recipe. My Mother is the original ‘Green Bee’. By that I mean she appears to be a respectable middle class housewife but she is in fact an Eco minded hippie to her core….but she doesn’t know it. She always cooks from scratch and passed those skills on to me. Why eat something from a jar or a packet when you can make a more delicious version yourself for a fraction of the cost?? Well, the answer is because invariably convenience food is just that, it’s very convenient and saves time but there is a price to pay. Taste and nutritional value are lost. My mother thought, ‘then I must find the simplest and quickest ways to cook as time costs money’!
When I was a small child she was making her own muesli. In Dublin in the 1970’s, muesli eaters were a rare enough breed so to be making your own was so akin to being just plain odd. My Mother didn’t shout about it but quietly made large vats of the stuff which we (the kids) occasionally ate when the cornflakes or Weetabix were running low. All meals and desserts were made from scratch apart from the occasional Angel Delight . Tissue and wrapping paper was ironed and re-used. Vegetables and herbs were grown in the garden and we never took the car if we could walk or cycle. To be fair, my Mum couldn’t drive so the car was only driven when my Dad came home from work. My Parent’s are a product of the 2nd world war where rationing was part of every day life. Factory farming hadn’t reared it’s ugly head and to cap it all Ireland in the 1950’s was gripped by a deep and dark depression. Even those who had money had a different approach to consumption. Never throw something away that can be fixed or re-used and if you want rid of something re-home it instead of sending it to landfill. I am a great fan of websites that are dedicated to this; Jumbletown. is my favourite one and there are also plenty of Facebook pages that offer a similar service.
In the spirit of all things traditional give this recipe a go. It couldn’t be easier and how pleased will my Mother be!?!
Wrapped and ready
Healthy Halloween Brack
12 oz Dried fruit (califiornian raisins, cranberries, dried figs,
sultatnans are my favourite mix but it’s your choice)
1 Mug of Tea in which the fruit is steeped overnight (soak in a herbal fruit tea for added flavour)
8 ozs of sifted Self Raising Flour (wholemeal also works well with 1 teaspoon of baking powder)
1 Egg, lightly beaten with a fork
2 teaspoons mixed spice plus 1 teaspoon of n/meg or cinnamon
Soak the dried fruit in the tea overnight (8 hours)
Place in a mixing bowl and add the sifted flour, spices, egg and mix well
Fill the loaf tin with the mixture and add 3 good sized coins (a Euro or 2 Euro coin are perfect) wrapped well in greaeproof paper and hide within the mixture. This is a great Halloween Tradition and makes eating Brack even more exciting!
Place in the middle of the oven.
Cook for 1 hour at 180 degrees in a greased 10″ x 5′ Loaf tin.
Gently remove from the tin and allow to cool fully before slicing.
October has arrived and despite our brief Indian Summer the temperatures are slowly dropping. I’m keen to move my away from our Summer fodder and start moving towards something more on the ‘hearty’ side but I need to gently coax the children to join me on a healthy comfort eating odyssey. If we go straight to stews I’ll lose them so I need a go-between that will spike their curiosity & get them excited about our new Autumn dishes.
So, my first solution to this problem is Ramen. The younger two aren’t very adventurous so the reality of eating soggy noodles needs to be presented carefully. For them, I hold back on the miso soup when I’m serving but for the rest of us it really is a steamy, delicious bowl of heaven. It’s more than a soup and substantial enough for an evening meal but the greatest thing about this dish is that it is very quick to prepare and is extremely nutritious.
and the kids are back at school. Yesterday it was just me and our dog Bella for our walk and we had the entire stretch of beach to ourselves.
Some things money can’t buy. This is one of them. There really is nothing like having access to some out door space. Whatever that may be. I am so lucky to be living by the sea. Our beach is not the most beautiful in Ireland (or even in our neck of the woods), but yesterday because the sun hit the sand and sea in the right way and it was all ours with no distractions, it was. It’s a natural remedy for well being.
Marks & Spencer have kick started in London a wonderful community based project entitled ‘Spark Something Good’. All across Britain and Ireland, communities with the support and encouragement of M&S are involved in completing 24 projects.
These projects range from coffee mornings to sprucing up a community centre. It is about pooling resources, talents and time to give something back to your local community. Get your kids involved. Everyone has something to offer.
The Dublin projects are happening from September 12th to the 18th. Go online here and find out what is happening in your local area. I’ll be getting involved with my local Oxfam next week.
Watch the Spark Something Good video with actress Joanna Lumley and Model David Gandy and see how a little effort can make a huge change.
There is nothing like a free giveaway and to be fair it’s not often that happens, well not here in Ireland anyway. This doesn’t even have a catch! Weee Ireland are offering everyone in Ireland flowering bulbs for their garden in exchange for their old CFL lightbulbs. It’s a simple as that. Free bulbs and your old lightbulbs will be recycled. Go online to www.weeeireland/bulbexchange and find your nearest participating retailer.