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Treats & Snacks

Treats & Snacks

Home Made CHai SPice

Chai is an orgy of healthy spices that has become a sensation across certain postcodes of Cork and Dublin. Here’s why. There is ginger to warm your tonsils; cinnamon to ignite your toes; nutmeg and clove to heat your insides; and cardamom to excite your synapses.

Chai coffee is my winter battery. I just add a pinch to my French press, and let the spices perform acts that only a defibrillator could rival. A teaspoon of chai will also dazzle crumbles, cakes and bakes. We love it sprinkled on top of foamy hot chocolates with some crunchy cacao nibs and woolly socks by the fire. Or packed into dinky jars as little gifts for friends feeling under the weather during these crazy viral times.

However, packets of spices can be dastardly expensive and wasteful. Most recipes only call for small amounts, so what’s the point in buying big supermarket packets? I recommend ordering the exact quantity you need, from as little as 10g, at specialist refill stores. Check out paxwholefoodsecogoods.com for example where you can buy this recipe in its entirety, no excess, no waste, no plastic. Other nation-wide delivery options include thegoodneighbour.ie and thesourcebulkfoods.ie . (See here for a map of Ireland with refill / bulk stores nearest to you).


3 tablespoons green cardamom pods
4 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon ground ginger
2 whole star anise (optional)
Fresh crack of the black pepper mill
2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon ground allspice (optional)


Coax the cardamom seeds out of their papery pods. You can compost the pods, and then transfer the seeds into a coffee grinder or Nutribullet.

Add the remaining ingredients, and grind into a fine powder. That’s it!

Store in a screw-topped jar and use within 5 months. A pinch is all you need on top of hot chocolate, or 2 teaspoons in cakes and bakes.


Originally appeared in the Sunday Independent December 2021

Lunchbox, Treats & Snacks

Lunchbox Brack

Some get theirs following Wim Hof into iced water. Others rely on several espressos. The sensible among us find it hiking in nature. But I get my high from sneaking vegetables into family favourites. And brack is no exception.

My boys eat thick slices of brack at a speed that would rival a half-price sale at JD Sports. This made brack very vulnerable to a make-over, and a sly introduction to my Veggie Dance.

The result? Beetroot bombed. Parsnip wheezed. And courgette flopped like an exhausted backing dancer. Finally I figured we needed a sweet and spicy groove, the Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers of baking. We found it in carrot and, yes, ginger. Feel free to add some crystalised ginger to raise the temperature like Fred would have wanted. We leave it out, to avoid screaming children.


320ml cooled rooibos tea

350g raisins

100g plain flour

100g wholemeal flour (or more plain flour, but GF flour won’t work sorry)

55g coarsely grated carrot

140g light muscovado or coconut sugar  

1 & 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons ground ginger

1 teaspoon ground allspice or mixed spice

1 egg


1 Soak your raisins in cooled tea overnight (or for 6-8 hours). Hot tea may sound preferable, but you’ll end up with no soaking liquid and a drier loaf.

2 The next morning, fire up your oven to 180°C. Line a 1lb loaf tin with non-stick parchment.

3 Beat the egg and stir through your puddle of soaked raisins.

4 Tumble in your flours, the grated carrot, your preferred sugar, some baking powder and a delicious smattering of spice. Rake through carefully. Spoon into your lined loaf tin and bake the brack for 75-80 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. (Soggy centres are a common problem for brack beginners, so leave it in an extra 5 minutes if you’re unsure.)

5 Remove from the oven once cooked, leave to settle in the tin for 5-10 minutes, and turn out onto a wire rack. Let your nostrils twerk and boil the kettle! We love it toasted with a scrape of butter and a hot cuppa. If you want it to look really shiny on top, professional bakers brush it with a simple sugar syrup, which you can too.

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In other news, I’m holding a special vegetarian cookery demo on November 16 . Want to learn how to make some swift midweek vegetarian meals? That don’t break the bank or your tastebuds?! For more details, or to book your spot, click here. Come join me in my Zoom kitchen!

Treats & Snacks

Wholefood Banoffee

I’m not religious. So I get my regular fix of divinity from this banoffee pie. In place of white sugar and butter, we’re using toffee-tasting dates with tahini to conjure up the creamy caramel. Eat your heart out Hermione!

No boring white flour either – our base is a brilliant medley of ground almonds and Irish oats for us wholefood whores. We like almonds for their treasure-trove of vitamin E, the patron saint of sexy skin. And all that fibre packed into almonds and oats will help blast pesky toxins out of our plumbing like a power hose. Not bad for a slice of banoffee!

Chef’s note: We prefer using an odourless coconut oil from a trustworthy brand for this recipe, which can be accessed through any Irish health store online. When done correctly, odourless coconut oil is gently steamed to remove the stronger coconutty tones, but leaving the beneficial lauric and caprylic acids intact. Nyom.


For the base:

100g ground almonds

80g oats

3 tablespoons coconut oil, melted

3 tablespoons maple syrup

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

For the caramel:

125ml light tahini

225g dried dates

1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

To top:

3 bananas, sliced

10g dark chocolate, to grate

120ml coconut yoghurt (v) or whipped cream


Shoot up the oven to 180 C (160 fan-assisted). Oil an 20cm loose-bottom pan with a swipe of coconut oil and clean fingertips. I have a fluted loose-bottom pan that works beautifully, and can be found online in kitchen stores for around €11. 

Using a food processor or coffee grinder, blitz the oats with your ground almonds until uniform. Add the melted coconut oil, maple syrup and salt. It will feel too wet for a pastry base, so leave it to rest and absorb for 10 minutes.

By now, your base will be easier to handle and feel drier to touch. Tumble into your pre-oiled pan, flatten into every corner, bringing the mixture up the fluted sides. Go as thinly as you can, especially at the elbow part which often comes out thickest.

Bake for 12-14 minutes before the pastry colours. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 2 hours.

While the pastry cooks, you can get jiggy with your wholefood caramel. Cover the dates with a little water, and boil for 8 minutes. Transfer to a blender with your tahini and vanilla. Blitz until lusciously smooth. Leave to cool for 2 hours (this avoids the trauma of a soggy pastry butt).

To assemble, spoon your lickysticky caramel over the cooled pastry base. Top with a blanket of sliced banana, followed by clouds of cold cream or coconut yoghurt. Dust with lots of chocolate scrapings (a potato peeler is good for this). This banoffee will last beautifully for days in the fridge.