Even with a drop in temperature and the evenings drawing darker by the day, I'm eager to welcome all that winter has to offer. I'm never too dismayed when brisk, winter chills replace our milder autumnal climate. With a colder spell upon us the opportunity to light up the stove arises, and evenings sitting cosily under a blanket on the sofa is suddenly within our reach. Along with the change of season comes the excuse to indulge in quintessential comfort foods. When we’re in search of warmth from the inside out, stews, soups and carbohydrate-laden dishes become top of our dinner menus again. For someone who gains great pleasure in devouring a bowl of dumpling topped stew or using a crust of toasted bread to savour that last morsel of soup from a bowl, this change of menu can't but make me happy. I also happen to live in a household where Halloween is much celebrated, so the plotting and planning for the scary season brings much delight. Of course I miss the late evening walks or gardening until late, but I do so appreciate the somewhat calmness that winter dictates, and as it arrives I embrace it with open arms.*

Hearty Tomato Tortellini Soup

A big pot of soup is one of the best ways to feed a family. To make it into a more substantial meal a few spuds or some pasta is a great way to bulk it up. Tomato soup is a real favourite in my house, and with the addition of some fresh tortellini, this easy to prepare soup is not only filling but also extremely flavoursome.

Serves 4
1tbsp olive oil
knob of butter
1 large onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, peeled & crushed
1 red pepper, finely diced
2 tins of tomatoes (400g each)
500mls vegetable stock
Sea salt & freshly ground pepper
1 tbsp sugar
1tbsp balsamic vinegar
Pinch of dried chilli
Handful of fresh basil, plus a few leaves for serving
250g tortellini


  1. In a medium sized saucepan add the olive oil and the knob of butter. Over a gentle heat sweat the onion, garlic and red pepper until the onions are soft but not coloured, which will take about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the tomatoes and the vegetable stock. Season with a little sea salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar. Add the balsamic vinegar and a pinch of dried chilli. Bring to the boil, and then turn down the heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
  3. Add the basil and using a hand blender or processor, purée until smooth. Place the soup back in the saucepan, add the tortellini and on a medium heat simmer for a further 8 minutes.
  4. Pour the soup into serving bowls and garnish each one with a few small basil leaves. Serve with a few slices of garlic bread.

Before popping up this blog post yesterday, I decided to take advantage of our glorious Autumnal weather, and head outdoors with the camera. A shot couldn't be got without the inclusion of a cat, a hen, a duck or an alpaca, so here are a few pics of our beautiful pets.

Millie has named most of our animals, and this little kitty goes by the elaborate, Oz-influenced, name of Pippy Dorothy. 

Always camera-ready, two of our beautiful alpacas, Goldstar and Caesar.
Delilah the duck. 
The ever inquisitive Caesar.

I also picked the last of our apples yesterday, which makes me feel like winter is certainly on the approach. 
*Excerpt from my column in the current issue of Easy Parenting.

This November will see me returning to my role as cookery teacher, as I have just finalised plans for a five-week intensive, practical cookery course, for adults, which I will host in my home-town of Moate. Even-though, in the past few years, I've travelled the length and breadth of the country giving cookery demonstrations, it has been three years since I ran my part-time cookery courses. Now that I have a course devised I'm very much looking forward to delivering it.
We'll start each evening with a cuppa and a sweet treat, while I run through the programme for the class. Using the state of the art facilities of the Home Economics room at Moate Community School, each course participant will have their own work station where they will prepare and cook their dishes, before bringing home the fruits of their labour to enjoy with their family and friends. Each evening I will also demonstrate a number of dishes for the class to taste. The chosen recipes will focus on cooking techniques and methods, while the merit of these recipes won’t be solely on taste, but also on the seasonality and health benefits of the included ingredients. From quick family suppers to a special weekend get-together, over the five weeks we will cook sweet and savoury dishes to suit all occasions. I'm strictly limiting the number of participants for the course, so that each one will gain the optimal amount of experience over the five weeks. At the end of this course participants should be armed with the confidence needed to take control of their family mealtimes.

Class Dates:
Wednesday 5th, 12th, 19th, 26th November
Wednesday 3rd, December

Time of class:
7pm - 9pm

Home Economics Room, Moate Community School

€ 200 for the five evenings. Recipe packs and all ingredients needed are included.
A 50% deposit is necessary to secure your place when booking. 

For enquiries and bookings drop me an email at NessasFamilyKitchen@gmail.com

This Saturday and Sunday will see a baking extravaganza taking over Leisureland, Galway, as baking enthusiasts from around the country will meet for this year's Bakefest. From cake displays to 'bake offs' it's guarenteed to be a great day out for all the family. I'm delighted to join the line-up of chefs and cooks who will be demonstrating in the kitchen theatre. My slot is from 2pm-3pm, so if you're at Bakefest, do stop by and say hello. This marvelous event is organised by Goodness Cakes and ACT for Meningitis. ACT for Meningitis is such an important charity. It was set up by Siobhán Carroll, after the heartbreaking loss of her daughter, Aoibhe, aged 4, to meningitis. ACT for Meningitis helps to support those affected by meningitis, while also raising awareness of the signs and symptoms of meningitis. Check out their website for more information.What makes Bakefest so special is the fact that it is a not for profit event, meaning that all monies raised will go directly to ACT for Meningitis. Isn't that just marvelous?!