Tuesday, 6 May 2014


The Amalfi coast in Southern Italy is a 28 mile winding narrow route of dramatic coastline that is home to some of the most beautiful towns and stunning panoramas in Europe. One of the best holidays we've ever had and I'd go back in a second.

Below are some of the highlights of our trip including some tips and hints of where to eat, drink and travel around. Do some research before you go and plan your itinerary well - there are things you won't want to miss!


For our trip we decided to fly to Naples and then go directly to our furthest stop, Ravello. We then worked our way back from Ravello to Amalfi, Positano, Sorrento, Pompeii and Capri and then finally back to Naples to fly home.

Direct flights from Dublin to Naples with Aer Lingus.

Transfer from airport:
I would highly recommend booking a private car/bus transfer from Naples airport to Ravello if you are going to make this your first stop. This costs approximately €90 if you book ahead of time or €120-€130 if you hire a taxi there.

Your other alternative is to take a bus from Naples airport to Naples city centre, then take a bus to Salerno, then a bus to Amalfi and then a bus to Ravello! We opted for the least stressful route of getting a taxi with all our baggage - I know it seems expensive but believe me it's worth it.

The local bus and boat service is really great though once you get to your first destination. You can then easily move between the small towns along the coast.

I wouldn't really recommend renting a car while you are traveling along the Amalfi Coast. The roads are extremely windy, narrow and steep.

Bus services along the coast are year-round and efficient. SITA operates a service along the SS163 between Sorrento and Salerno, with buses leaving about every hour. Buses also connect Rome and the Amalfi Coast, terminating in Salerno. http://www.sitabus.it/

Boat services to the Amalfi Coast towns are generally limited to the period between April and October. From Naples, Metrò del Mare www.metrodelmare.com) runs summer-only services to Sorrento, Capri, Ischia, Positano, Amalfi  and Salerno. TraVelMar (089 87 29 50) connects Salerno with Amalfi and Positano.

View of Amalfi Coast

Villa Casale
Villa Casale is located a short walk from the main piazza of Ravello, with the Duomo and the gardens of Villa Rufolo within easy reach. It is very conveniently located close to lots of lovely restaurants which set their tables out in the Duomo's piazza in the evening where you can enjoy the local food and vibrant atmosphere. A large swimming pool is set on the main terrace of the complex, surrounded by beautiful scenery. The view from here is unbeatable. 

Villa Casale is composed of 9 apartments,with a total capacity of 25 people. 


Eating and drinking out in Ravello and in general along the Amalfi Coast is not expensive, you just need to have done some research on where to go. There are mega expensive restaurants in lots of the 5 star hotels but if you are on a tighter budget, like we were, listed below are some of the places we tried and had great value food and wine.

Restaurant Figli di Papa
Located just a few metres from the main square, Restaurant Figli di Papa is a great place to try local specialities at a very good price. Delicious fresh fish, homemade pasta, delizie al limone (traditional lemon cake) and local limoncello. The local wine from the Amalfi was more often than not, cheaper to drink in the restaurants than to buy in the shop.

Beef Carpaccio - Villa Maria
Villa Maria
Villa Maria, a traditional Italian Villa, is situated up a gently sloped pathway, towards the Villa Cimbrone gardens, a few minutes walk from the main square. With their own organic fruit and vegetable garden, it is noted for its good food and fresh, seasonal ingredients. During the summer months you get to enjoy a candlelit dinner sitting in their beautiful garden terrace with a fantastic view over the valley.

Homemade Raviol Parcels - Villa Maria
Cocktails in Hotel Caruso
Hotel Caruso
Nestled on a clifftop in Ravello, overlooking the Azure sea, Hotel Caruso is a haven of tranquility on the Amalfi Coast. Drinks aren't cheap but it's well worth venturing here for an unforgettably  romantic candlelit evening with live piano in the background, delicious cocktails and nibbles while staring out at the incredible view. We were in heaven.

Walks from Ravello to Amalfi & Minori
The Ravello Tourist Office, beside the Duomo on the main square, provide a free walking map of the area. 
Also sunflowerbooks.co.uk have published a full hiking/walking guide of the area. 

Villa Cimbrone

Villa Cimbrone was once an old farmhouse which was transformed into a fortified palace and luxury hotel. Situated on the cliff top with incredible views over the Amalfi coast, Villa Cimbrone is a beautiful place to spend an afternoon wandering around. The garden is laid out along the cliff edge and includes a Temple of Bacchus and Roman statues. The restaurant in Villa Cimbrone 'Il Fauto di Pan' is a one michelin star restaurant. A must visit for any foodie.

You pay a small fee into the gardens & villa - open daily 9am - sunset

Villa Cimbrone

Villa Rufolo and the Ravello Festival 
To the south of Ravello's Cathedral, a tower marks the entrance to this 13th century villa. Villa Rufolo is famed for its beautiful cascading gardens and for staging concerts during the town's annual classical music festival, the Ravello Festival.  

Ravello Festival

Casa Cuccaro

Casa Cuccaro is a B&B set in one of the most idyllic, dramatic sites above Positano in a little town called Nocelle. It's a fantastic retreat from the hustle and bustle of Positano town during the summer months. A local bus goes every few minutes from the centre of Positano, up the very windy and steep road to Nocelle.

Each room in Casa Cuccaro has it's own balcony with sun loungers where you can sit and basque in the sun with a view over the entire bay. Absolutely amazing breakfast is served every morning on the large communal terrace where the owners Gerardina and Peppe love sharing a beer and local stories with the guests in the evening.

Casa e Bottega
Great lunch spot in the centre of Positano. Delicious sandwiches, salads and cakes served in the middle of a modern and trendy ceramic gift shop. The place has a very homely feel with the food prepared right in front of you on an island in the kitchen.

La Tagliata (Dinner)
5/6 course traditional Italian dinner cooked up by the Italian 'Mama' and her extended family all for about €35 including wine. Fantastic value for the feast of amazing local foods that you get to try here. There was even singing and dancing and playing local instruments at the end of the meal which everyone got involved in! 

Il Ristoro de Pizzeria (Dinner)
A hidden little gem that we came across very close to our B&B in Nocelle. We loved this place so much I think we returned 3 times for dinner. Incredibly good value and authentic experience of what the Amalfi coast is all about.

Positano beach

Hotel Prestige, Sorrento
Lovely hotel, very reasonably priced with an incredible pool view over the whole town of Sorrento. Free shuttle service up and down to the town every 15 minutes. The hotel recommended this lovely restaurant 'Il Panorama' for dinner which is just down the road and well worth going to.

A visit to the ancient town of Pompeii near Sorrento cannot be missed. It's an unforgettable day out. Guided tours are available on arrival for approximately €10 each on top of your entrance fee. It's well worth joining one of these tour groups as Pompeii is so vast and would take a full day to see the entire place. The tour guides will bring you on a condensed 3 hour tour and show you all the highlights, giving you are very good insight into the lives of the people that used to live in Pompeii.

For more information on Pompeii; getting there, opening times etc check out this link.


Da Gelsomina, Anacapri
Da Gelsomina has a small number of guest rooms, a restaurant and swimming pool situated just a few steps away from the famous and spectacular viewpoint Belvedere della Migliera. Each room has a small terrace with a view right over the sea. Most nights we sat here, watching the sun go down while sipping on Da Gelsomina's own wine made from the grapes growing right outside our door.


Unbelievable day trip by boat around the island of Capri. A little on the expensive side but well worth it. 

Da Gelsomina Vineyard
Capri by boat

A simple boat trip from Capri to Naples enables you to have a quick bus trip then directly to Naples airport.

Monday, 6 January 2014


25g butter
2 sticks of celery, chopped
1 medium sized carrot, chopped
1 medium sized onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 red chilli, de-seeded and finely chopped
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp garam masala
1 x 800g-900g butternut squash (600g peeled & de-seeded weight)
700ml chicken or vegetable stock
1 x 400ml tin of coconut milk
Salt and ground black pepper

Peel and chop all your vegetables to begin with. To prepare the butternut squash, remove the top and tail and peel off the thick skin completely. Slice down the middle vertically, scoop out the seeds with a spoon, then chop the butternut flesh into rough chunks.

Melt the butter in a large heavy based saucepan. When it begins to foam add the chopped celery, onion, garlic, chilli, cumin and garam masala. Stir to coat the vegetables with the butter and spices and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Cover the vegetables with a butter wrapper (if you have one and place a lid on the pot to allow the vegetables to sweat over a very low heat for about 10 minutes. Add the chopped carrots and butternut squash, along with enough stock to generously cover the vegetables. Bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer until the vegetables are tender. This will take approximately 15 minutes.

Liquidise the soup, then place back in the saucepan and stir in the coconut milk. Gently heat for a minute or two.  Taste to check the seasoning. Thin out with extra hot stock if necessary.

Friday, 15 November 2013


Hi all!
Sorry it's been a while since I've been blogging. It's been a busy few months with work and studying part-time and the nerd that I am, I have been enjoying reading and studying whenever I have a free minute. 
I hope you enjoy this recipe, it's a really simple, traditional dessert for these cosy wintery nights. The pre-cooking of the crumble gives it a lovely crunch and I think it's just the right amount of sweetness. Let me know what you think! 

Laura x

100g plain flour
60g light brown sugar
75g butter at room temperature, diced
50g rolled oats
25g flaked almonds
2 large Bramley apples
squeeze of lemon juice
2 tbsp sugar

Preheat oven to 170C fan. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Sieve the flour into a large bowl, add the sugar and rolled oats and stir to combine. Rub the butter into the flour mixture using your fingertips until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Spread the mixture evenly onto a lined baking sheet and bake in the oven for 12- 15 minutes or until golden in colour.

Meanwhile, peel, core and thinly slice the apples. Place in a saucepan with a good squeeze of lemon juice to stop the apples browning. Sprinkle over 2 tablespoons of sugar. Cook over a medium heat for a 5-6 minutes until the apples are beginning to soften. Transfer the apple mixture to a shallow ovenproof dish.

When the crumble is ready, remove from the oven and toss through the flaked almonds. Spoon the crumble evenly over the cooked apples. Transfer to the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes. Pierce the crumble with a skewer to ensure the apples are nice and soft. If not, bake for an additional few minutes in the oven. 

Wednesday, 11 September 2013


2 whole roasted red peppers
or 2 whole jarred roasted peppers
1 x 400g tin chickpeas
2 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne chilli pepper *optional
1 tbsp tahini paste
juice of 1/2 lemon
pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 220C.

Place whole peppers on a baking tray and roast in the oven for 30-40 minutes, turning twice during roasting.
When cooked, the skin should be completely charred and wrinkly. If still not charred enough, leave a little longer as it will make it a lot easier to remove the skins later on.

Remove from the oven and place immediately into a bowl covered tightly with cling film or a sealed Ziploc bag. Leave for approximately 30 minutes until the peppers are cool enough to handle.

Carefully remove the stems, seeds and skin from the peppers and discard. If you are not going to use the peppers straight away, place in a container covered with oil and you can refrigerate them for up to two weeks.


Drain the tin of chickpeas and rinse well under cold water. 

In the bowl of a food processor, combine half the chickpeas, olive oil, crushed garlic, cumin, cayenne chilli pepper *, tahini, lemon juice and salt. Pulse for 1 minute. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl then turn on and pulse again for 30 seconds. Add remaining chickpeas and process for 1- 2 minutes until thick and quite smooth.

Add roasted peppers to the hummus and continue to process for 1 to 2 minutes until smooth.
If the hummus is too thick or still has bits of chickpea, with the food processor turned on, slowly add a little olive oil or water until the consistency is perfect.

Store hummus in an airtight container and refrigerate up to one week.

Monday, 2 September 2013


Mac 'n' cheese, otherwise known as Kraft dinner in my mind, is a classic American pasta dish consisting of macaroni, white sauce and cheese. I feel a little deprived that I was never really introduced to this as a child. It was only while on a J1 in Canada, that I was introduced to the cheap convenience versions of mac 'n' cheese which soon became our staple diet. Only now, have I realised that Kraft dinner is an awful representation of what Mac 'n' Cheese is really meant to taste like, believe me, when it's done properly it's an absolute winner. Crispy lardons or pancetta is a really lovely addition to this dish and can be added close to the end.*

This dish is comfort food at it's best, exactly what you need coming into the winter months.

Serves 4
4 tbsp butter
1 small onion, finely diced
30g flour
800ml boiling milk
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
good pinch cayenne pepper
dash of Worcestershire sauce
250g grated white cheddar cheese
70g grated parmesan cheese
225g dried macaroni
2 slices wholemeal bread, whizzed into breadcrumbs
*140g cooked crispy pancetta

Melt 2 tbsp of butter in an ovenproof saucepan or casserole pot. Add the finely diced onion and cook on a low heat until the onion is soft.

Add the rest of the butter and once the butter bubbles, stir in the flour and cook for one minute. Gradually pour in the boiling milk, whisking all the time to ensure a smooth consistency.
Bring the mixture to the boil and continue to cook, whisking constantly, for 8-10 minutes or until the sauce is thick and smooth.

Remove from the heat and stir in the ground nutmeg, cayenne pepper, Worcestershire sauce, grated cheddar and half of the grated parmesan cheese. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

Cook the macaroni in a large pot of boiling salted water until 'al dente'. Drain, then toss into the cheese sauce and stir well to combine. * Stir in 140g crispy lardons or pancetta here.

If you havn't made your sauce in an ovenproof casserole-type pot, don't fret, you can transfer it all now into a deep earthenware dish. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs and remaining grated parmesan evenly over the top. Preheat your grill to high. Place under the grill for a few minutes to brown and crisp the surface.

If you would like to reheat at a later stage, pop the dish into a preheated oven at 200C for about 25 minutes or until golden brown and bubbling.

Saturday, 27 July 2013


I'm a big fan of Asian food and I could eat stir-frys every day of the week. There's something about the flavour of spice, garlic, lime and soy that I just love. Stir-fries are so quick, easy and hassle free so they are a great one to be able to whip up when you don't have too much time on your hands.

This dish is one that I rustled up recently on a warm, sunny evening and we all really loved it . It's really fragrant and full of flavour - a great refreshing dish for the summer. Enjoy!


4 chicken breasts, cut into 1cm strips
3 lemongrass stalks, tough outer leaves removed, very thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, crushed
2 red chilli, finely diced
4 tbsp vegetable oil
4 tbsp fish sauce
1 medium size red onion, thinly sliced
1 red or yellow pepper, thinly sliced
juice of 2 limes
5 tbsp light soy sauce
1-2 tsp sugar
handful of unsalted cashew nuts
2 cups of uncooked jasmine rice

Place the chicken, lemongrass, chilli, garlic, fish sauce and 2 tbsp of the vegetable oil in a large bowl and mix well to combine. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour or overnight if you have the time.

Heat a wok over a medium heat until very hot and almost smoking. Add the remaining vegetable oil to the wok along with the red onion and stir fry for 2-3 minutes until the onion begins to caramelize.

Add the chicken and marinade to the wok and stir fry for 2 - 3 minutes to seal the meat. Add the sliced pepper and continue to stir fry for a further 2 minutes.

Finally add the soy sauce, lime juice, cashew nuts and sugar and continue to cook for another 4 - 5 minutes to allow the sauce to reduce and thicken a little bit.  Taste and adjust the seasoning using sugar and soy sauce.

Press the cooked jasmine rice into a cup and invert onto your serving plates. Spoon the stir fry alongside the rice and garnish the dish with a few sprigs of coriander or basil.

Sunday, 14 July 2013


My granny has been making elderflower cordial as long as I can remember. It reminds me of many of my childhood summers in the west of Ireland. She used to make gallons of the syrup but still, there never seemed to be enough to go around. It was always a challenge to see how many bottles we could convince her to give us when we were going home to Dublin.

For the last month I've had my eyes peeled for elderflower, but living in the centre of the city, it was proving quite difficult to find. As elderflower is generally only in bloom throughout June and July, I was under pressure to find some. I managed to convince my Mum to come help me search in Howth and Sutton and after some time, we managed to have success.

To make cordial, you need to get the elderflowers at their best and when they are in full bloom. Once the flowers begin to die, they are less fragrant and won't make a very flavoursome cordial. There is probably only a week or two of flowering left so if you are eager to make a batch of cordial this year, I would make it as soon as possible.

Elderflower syrup is delicious to use in cocktails such as elderflower bellini's or my recent favourite cocktail, an elderflower collins which was made up of gin, elderflower syrup, basil, lemongrass and tonic. Elderflower syrup is also delicious to poach gooseberries in or to add to a fresh fruit salad. 

1kg sugar
1.5 litre water
25 elderflower heads
4 lemons
75g citric acid

Shake the elderflower heads well to get rid of any creepy crawlies. You definitely don't want them in your cordial.
Place the sugar and water in a large, deep saucepan. Bring to the boil, stirring until the sugar has completely dissolved. 
Grate the zest of the 4 lemons into the pot, then slice the lemons and add them too. Add the citric acid and elderflower heads and give the mixture a good stir.
Cover with a clean tea towel and leave to infuse for 24-48 hours. 
Strain the cordial through a muslin cloth or a very fine sieve to remove any impurities. Be careful not to squeeze the syrup through the sieve, let it drip naturally. If you don't, the cordial will be cloudy and you will need to strain it again.
Pour the liquid into sterilised glass bottles and store in a cool, dark place until ready to use.
Refrigerate once opened.

Thursday, 27 June 2013


Heading to a party and don't want to go empty handed? Try these seriously good salted caramel cupcakes which will surely be a crowd pleaser.


175g butter, softened
175g soft dark brown sugar
3 eggs
175g self raising flour
200ml milk
2 tsp vanilla extract

125g butter
225g soft dark brown sugar
80ml single cream
1/2 tsp sea salt
200g icing sugar, sieved
1 packet of Rolos for decorating

Equipment: cupcake tin, 12 cupcake cases

Preheat oven to 180C.
Line a cupcake tin with 12 cupcake cases.
In your electric mixer, or with a hand held mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla extract.
Turn the mixer onto a low speed and begin to add the flour, bit by bit, alternating with some milk until everything is fully incorporated.
Scrape down the sides of the bowl and give the mixture a final beat.
Using two spoons or a piping bag, fill the cupcake cases about three quarters of the way up.
Bake in a preheated oven for 17 - 20 minutes. To check if they are cooked, insert a skewer into the centre and it should come out clean. Once cooked, they should be firm with a nice golden colour.
Remove from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool.

For the frosting
Place the butter and sugar into a saucepan and melt gently over a low heat.
Once melted pour in the cream and bring to the boil for 3 minutes. The mixture will bubble away and thicken in consistency.
Stir in the sea salt and then leave aside to cool for 10 - 15 minutes.
Once cooled a little, beat in the sieved icing sugar until you get a very smooth and glossy frosting. The mixture might still be a little warm, so leave aside to cool again for a few minutes before piping or spooning onto the cupcakes. Top with Rolo's or caramel sweets for added yumminess!

Tuesday, 11 June 2013


The clock is ticking for the much anticipated arrival of Taste of Dublin which will take place this coming Thursday 13th - Sunday the 16th of June in the beautiful surroundings of the Iveagh Gardens. Sample a fabulous array of dishes from Dublin's latest, greatest and hottest restaurants, coupled with delicious wine, beer, champagne and cocktails from some of Ireland's finest producers.

Taste of Dublin will showcase a very impressive calibre of restaurants including Bon Appetit, Pichet, The Green Hen, Jaipur, Diep Le Shaker, Gordon Ramsay at Powerscourt, Brasserie Le Pont, Il Primo, Pho Viet, Ely, Rock Lobster, Clodagh's Kitchen, The Hot Stove, The Chop House and Dylan@The Dylan Hotel. There are also a few visiting restaurants from outside Dublin including The Ice House, Wineport Lodge and Aniar, Galway's first restaurant to receive a Michelin Star.

In addition to the tasting of food & wine there is also a brilliant line up of innovative and interactive programmes on cooking, eating and dining. One of the main features of Taste of Dublin is the Electrolux Taste Theatre, providing the perfect venue for you to enjoy live cookery demonstrations from some of Ireland's greatest chefs including Rachel Allen, Darina Allen, Oliver Dunne, Neven Maguire, Ross Lewis and many more.

In the Chef's Skillery marquee, visitors will have the chance to have a Q&A session with some of the best culinary masters. Visitors will get up close and personal with the experts and ask about things such as how to improve your knife skills, how to 'grow your own', how to 'host the perfect dinner party' and lots more.

If you fancy learning a new cookery skill or two at Taste of Dublin, there is also the opportunity to take part in a hands-on cookery class at The Electrolux Chef's Secret's area.  The Electrolux Chef's Secret's  in conjunction with Lynda Booth's Dublin Cookery School will host a number of classes throughout the weekend  with a number of guest chefs. The classes will be run on a first come first served basis so be sure to get there early to avoid disappointment.

Tickets for Taste of Dublin are available for purchase here.

Friday, 7 June 2013


The summer is finally here and we can enjoy some sunshine and vitamin D!
If you are heading to a BBQ with friends and are looking for a nice dessert idea, have a go at making this chocolate roulade. Strawberries are in season at the moment and are at their sweetest so you've got to make the most of them while they're around. 

This cake is a great easy entertaining option as it can be prepared ahead of time and all portioned up before you head off. It's hard to find someone who doesn't love chocolate and strawberries together so I think you're onto a winner here!

175g dark chocolate
175g castor sugar
6 eggs (separated)
2 tbsp cocoa powder, plus extra for dusting

300ml double cream, whipped
250g strawberries, plus extra for serving
zest of 1 orange
seeds of 1 vanilla pod

Serves 8 - 10

Preheat oven to 180C fan.

Grease and line a 23 x 33 cm swiss roll tin with parchment paper. 

Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pot of gently simmering water. Once the chocolate has melted, remove from the heat and set aside to cool slightly.

Meanwhile, place the egg yolks and sugar in a large bowl and whisk with an electric mixer until pale and mousse like.

Add the cooled, melted chocolate and stir well to combine.

Whisk the egg whites in a large, clean bowl until stiff but not dry. Spoon half the egg whites into the chocolate mixture and stir in gently. Fold in the remaining egg whites and the sieved cocoa powder.

Dust the lined swiss roll tin lightly with cocoa powder and gently pour the mixture into the tin. Level with a spatula.

Bake in a preheated oven at 180C fan for 16-17 minutes. 

Remove from the oven and leave to cool for a few minutes in the tin.

Gently peel back the parchment paper and cover with a clean, damp tea towel.

Now to making the filling and rolling the roulade:
In a bowl, combine the whipped cream, orange zest and vanilla seeds* and stir well to combine. 

Once the roulade has cooled, dust a sheet of greaseproof paper with cocoa powder to prevent sticking. Gently remove the roulade from the tin by inverting it onto the dusted greaseproof paper. 

Spread the filling evenly over the cake, leaving a 2cm margin all around. Quarter the strawberries and scatter over the filling. 

To begin rolling, get yourself set up by rotating the greaseproof paper so that you have the long side of the roulade facing you. Nudge the roulade closer to you before you start.

Begin to roll the roulade like a swiss roll, lifting the the greaseproof paper and using it as help. Roll quite tightly to begin with. Don't worry if it cracks, this happens to even the best roulade rollers. The cocoa powder you dusted on the paper will help disguise the cracks.

Cut into even size slices and serve with some fresh strawberries and ice cream. 

*To de-seed a vanilla pod, slit the vanilla pod down the middle and scrape out the seeds with a knife.