Mary's Brown Bread

This is a ‘fond memory’ bread which my mother made very often – and in two minutes flat we’d demolish it! It’s made in a Pyrex bowl. Something simple .... but there’s something comforting about the aroma of soda bread baking in the oven.

  • 225g plain flour
  • 225g wholemeal flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp bread soda (bicarbonate of soda)
  • 1 tbsp molasses
  • 40g butter, melted (about 2 tbsp), plus extra for brushing
  • 1 free-range egg, beaten
  • 380ml buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 200°C/fan 180°C/gas 6.

Brush a 900ml Pyrex bowl with melted butter.

Place the flours and salt into a large bowl. Sift in the bread soda and mix well. Put the molasses, melted butter, egg and buttermilk in a jug and whisk well. Add the buttermilk mixture to the dry ingredients and mix to form a soft dough.

Transfer to the prepared Pyrex bowl. Bake in the preheated oven for 40 minutes. To

check that the loaf is cooked, tap the base – it should sound hollow. Transfer to a cooling rack. If you want a soft crust, cover with a damp tea towel.

Catherine's Chocolate Roman Numeral Tart

Chocolate Roman Numeral Tart

Makes 23cm

This is a delicious rich chocolate tart. If you have a sweeter tooth than me (though I’m hard to beat), add some runny honey to the cream when mixing the filling.

For the pastry

  • 220g plain flour
  • 4 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 100g cold butter, diced
  • 3 tbsp icing sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp cold water

For the filling

  • 60g butter
  • 200g chocolate drops
  • 3 tbsp rum
  • 80g cooked beetroot, pureed
  • 200ml double cream
  • 3 eggs, beaten

For the clock face

  • Cocoa powder, for dusting
  • White “roll out” fondant icing
  • Gold edible shimmer powder
  • Paint brush
  • Music notes and numeral cutters

Preheat the oven to 190°C/ Fan 170°C/Gas 5. Brush a 23cm deep loose-base tart tin with melted butter. 

To make the pastry, sieve the flour, icing sugar and cocoa into a bowl. Add the diced butter and rub it in with your fingertips until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.  Beat the egg with the water and add to the flour and butter and mix until the pastry forms a medium dough.  Wrap and leave to rest in the fridge for 20 minutes before rolling out.

Flour a work surface with some cocoa powder and roll out the pastry slightly larger than the tin.  Line the tin with the pastry and lightly prick the base with a fork. Place in the fridge to rest for approximately 20 minutes.  Remove from the fridge, line with parchment paper and fill with baking beans or rice. Place in the preheated oven for 10 to 15 minutes, until just baked. Set aside.

To make the filling, add the butter, chocolate and rum to a bain marie and melt gently. Set aside to cool.  Add the beetroot to the chocolate butter mixture and fold in the cream and eggs.

Carefully pour the mix into the pastry case and bake for about 20 minutes or until just set. Leave to cool completely and only add the clock face when you are about to serve.

To make the clock numbers, roll out the white fondant, paint with the golden shimmer and then cut out “12 / 3 / 6 / 9” in roman numerals.  Cut out two “clock arms” with a sharp knife – one shorter than the other and paint with gold shimmer and leave all to dry.

This is best done overnight or kept dry in a sealed container.  

When ready to serve, lift the tart out of the tin and place on a board or cake stand. Dust the tart with cocoa powder. Place the numbers on the tart.  Position the “clock arms” on the face – five to twelve and serve.

Catherine's Christmas Berry Tiramisu

Christmas Berry Tiramisu


Serves 10

This take on trifle is from the BBC's 'The Best Christnas Food Ever' and what a luxurious dessert it is and pretty impressive to present at the dining table. This is my twist on a tiramisu, which is a light option and an alternative to the traditional trifle

The trick to getting the layers to even is to divide the mixture before layering – for example, if planning on 3 layers each of the compote, biscuits and cream, then divide each of these into 3 before constructing the dessert. And a handy tip is to pipe the cream mixture to achieve a more even layer. And for a deeper biscuit layer, lay them on their side rather than flat..


For the biscuit layer

  • 300g raspberry jam
  • 75ml Marsala (or sherry)
  • 150ml orange juice
  • 2 x 200g packet Savoiardi biscuits (about 36)50g mascarpone cheese
  • 600ml double cream
  • 75g caster sugar
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • Zest of 1 orange
  • 6 tbsp Marsala (or sherry)

For the mulled wine mixed berries compote

  • 1kg frozen mixed berries
  • 1 orange - grated zest
  • 1 star anise
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • ½ tsp ground nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp ground cloves
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 100ml red wine
  • 5 tbsp arrowroot mixed with water (to thicken mix)
  • A 21cm deep trifle dish.

Firstly place all the ingredients (except the arrowroot) for the mulled wine berry compote into a saucepan and gently heat through, allowing the flavours to blend.  After about 10 minutes of gentle simmering, mix the arrowroot with some cold liquid – water or orange juice and pour into the compote.  Stir gently until the mix thickens.  Remove the star anise and cinnamon stick.  Allow the compote to cool.

When the compote is cold, then beat the mascarpone, cream, sugar, vanilla, orange zest and Marsala to reach soft peaks, and set aside. (at this point, place in a piping bag if you choose to pipe the cream mix into the trifle bowl)

Then whisk the jam, the 75ml of Marsala and the orange juice together and pour the mix into a shallow dish, add the biscuits and allow them time to soak up some of the mixture turning over to ensure a full coating.

Spread some of the compote at the bottom of the trifle bowl, add in the biscuits, standing them on their side (allow about 12 biscuits per layer if using 3 layers), followed by a little more compote, then the cream mix and continue with the layers to complete the dish.

Allow at least one hour for the flavours to meld.  Garnish with crystalised rosemary and fresh cranberries.

Tip: to crystalise the rosemary and cranberries, lightly dip them into slightly beaten egg white and the toss in caster sugar.  Set aside to dry, which can take up to 5 hours in a warm area, depending on the size and fullness of the rosemary sprigs

#TheBestChristmasFoodEver #christmastrifle 

Pheasant Breasts with Wild Mushrooms and Parmesan Polenta


Pheasant Breasts with Wild Mushrooms and Parmesan Polenta

Serves 4

  • 20 thin pancetta slices
  • 4 pheasant breasts, butterflied
  • 4 large sprigs rosemary
  • 100ml red wine

For the stuffing

  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 spring onion, finely chopped
  • 1 small stalk celery, finely chopped
  • 4 juniper berries, crushed
  • 100g breadcrumbs
  • 2 tbsp rhubarb ginger jam
  • 150g wild mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 tbsp chopped thyme
  • 3 tbsp port
  • 120ml cream
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • Olive oil

For the parmesan polenta

  • 750ml of water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 150g polenta, quick cook variety
  • 75g butter
  • 50g parmesan, grated
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Sprigs of rosemary, to garnish

Preheat the oven to 190°C/fan 170°C/gas 5.

To prepare the stuffing, melt the butter in a saucepan over a medium heat, add the spring onion and celery and sauté until softened – this will take about 5 to 6 minutes.  Add the crushed juniper berries, jam and breadcrumbs and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Leave to cool before stuffing.

To prepare the pheasant, stuff the butterflied breasts and wrap the pancetta around them. Tuck in a rosemary sprig. Heat an ovenproof frying pan with a little oil and brown the pheasant on both sides, this will take 5 minutes. Pour in the red wine and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Roast in the oven for about 25 minutes. Leave to rest for 5 minutes.  

To make the mushroom sauce, heat a little oil and butter in a saucepan, add the garlic, thyme and mushrooms and sauté for 6 to 7 minutes before adding the port. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Deglaze the juices from the pheasant and add to the mushroom sauce.  Simmer for about 3 minutes before pouring in the cream and cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Check the seasoning again. 

To prepare the polenta, pour the water and salt into a large heavy based saucepan and bring to the boil.  Gradually pour in the polenta, whisking continuously and quickly to ensure the mixture stays smooth and no lumps form.  Add in the butter and parmesan.  Reduce the heat to its lowest setting and cook for 1-2 minutes or until the mixture is thick and creamy and coming away from the pan. (add more water if necessary) Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve immediately.

To serve, spoon the parmesan polenta onto serving plates, ladle on some of the mushroom sauce. Slice through each pheasant breast at an angle and arrange it over the polenta and sauce. Garnish the top with a sprig of rosemary.


Rum Chocolate and Marzipan Truffles

Rum Chocolate and Marzipan Truffles

I love making gifts for friends and family at Christmas and this recipe is perfect for that, I prepared these little delightful truffles for singer and actor Martine McCutcheon on BBC's "Best Christmas Food Ever", I hope you enjoy them as much as she did!

The recipe below makes about 20 depending on the size

  • 250ml double cream
  • 30g butter
  • 250g dark chocolate
  • 2 tbsp rum
  • 50g marzipan
  • 3 tbsp very finely chopped dried apricots
  • Cocoa powder, pistachio and toasted hazelnuts - both blitzed to fine consistency, for finishing
  • 20 mini cases

Place the cream and butter in a saucepan over a medium heat and bring to the boil.  Remove from the heat, add in the rum.  Break the chocolate into small pieces in a bowl and pour over the hot cream mix.  Stir until the chocolate has melted and is thick.  Then leave the mixture to cool completely – this will take about 3 hours

Mix the marzipan and dried apricots together and shape into about 20 small balls.  Leave top set a little.

To make the truffles, place the pistachio, hazelnut nut and cocoa powder on separate plates.  Place the ball in the chocolate mixture and using a teaspoon scoop the chocolate around the marzipan ball. This is messy! Shape the chocolate around the apricot marzipan balls about the size of a walnut. Move to the plates of pistachio, hazelnuts or cocoa and roll. Roll and place on a clean plate. Leave to dry before transferring into cases, ready for boxes or to serve or enjoy simply with a delicious freshly brewed coffee.

#BestChristmasFoodEver       #EdibleGifts

Fine foodCatherine FilvioGood living


Ballyknocken House & Cookery School
Glenealy, Ashford,
Co Wicklow, A67 X720
Ireland. Tel: +353 (0)404 44627
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