Recent Posts

Dublin City Break & The Paramount Hotel Review

Dublin City Break & The Paramount Hotel Review

Given that the last time Tom and I went on holiday, it had been to one of those, kinda soulless, all-inclusive resorts (which really aren’t my cup of tea) it was nice to know that our weekend break to Dublin was going to be an entirely different experience.

I love the sort of holidays where you are free to do completely as you please. Without being bogged down by organised tours or set meal times, we could take in the city at our leisure. If we wanted to get lost along cobbled backstreets for hours at a time, we could. And we did. If we wanted to go to the park in the torrential rain to make friends with the deer, we could. And we did. Or, if we wanted to say “sod it, it’s freezing cold” and go home for a middle-of-the-day nap in our stunning 1930’s hotel room, we could. And we did.

It was the ideal way to experience such a beautiful, fun, spontaneous city.

City Break To Dublin: Breakdown & The Paramount Hotel Review

 A Warm Welcome at the Paramount Hotel

The Paramount Hotel was more of a BnB than a large, generic chain Hotel. Its personal and homely feel made it an ideal place to stay for our trip. It’s located in the hub of the Temple Bar district, a stone’s throw away from the River Liffey and right round the corner from a seemingly endless number of bars and restaurants.

We were greeted with a warm welcome from the moment we stepped through the door. There were only a few members of staff, who were all very helpful and friendly- they even managed to remember our names throughout the three days that we were there.

The rooms were clean and the bed was superbly comfortable. Dark mahogany furnishings with crisp, white linens made for a “comfortable luxury” feel. That’s without being too fussy or pretentious, which is exactly what we were after.

There was some noise from the streets at night, but Tom and I were prepared for that. It’s a tribute, I guess, to the hotel’s central location. You can hardly close to stay in one of the most lively areas of a city like Dublin and then complain about noise!

City Break To Dublin: Breakdown & The Paramount Hotel Review

For those on a budget, The Paramount Hotel is perfectly reasonable. It’s good value too, considering its central location, large rooms and a very decent breakfast in the mornings! Tom loved having a cooked breakfast every mornings, and there were plenty of veggie options for me.

If you’re looking for plush, modern & lavish then it probably isn’t for you. But if, like us, you want to be a bit tight on the purse strings whilst staying somewhere (much) nicer than a hostel, The Paramount is a great option. Just remember to take some earplugs if you’re a light sleeper!

 

Pumpkin Swirl Halloween Brownies

Pumpkin Swirl Halloween Brownies

These awesome Pumpkin Swirl brownies are a by-product of the three hours I spend at the weekend carving Jack-o-Lanterns for Halloween. When you’re faced with a massive pile of pumpkin-insides to contend with, it sort of forces you to get creative!

I didn’t really fancy going with the standard pumpkin pie, and it felt a bit wrong to make anything savoury – it’s a holiday after all! So after spending a little while brainstorming and drafting recipes, I came up with the idea for Pumpkin Swirl brownies- filled with dates and walnuts.

It was a bit of an experiment, but overall result was far better than expected. The best bit is that they aren’t even that unhealthy. There’s no sugar, no butter and I’ve packed them full of fibre and protein simply by replacing the regular white, plain flour with Quinoa flour (so if you tried out my Courgette Cupcakes here’s a way to use up your extra flour!)

I’d definitely recommend the walnuts, but if you fancy a different filling you could always try white chocolate chips or pistachios.

Pumpkin Swirl Brownies

Pumpkin Swirl Brownies

 

Ingredients

For the Brownies

  • 150g Quinoa Flour
  • 60g Cocoa Powder
  • 2 Tablespoons Ground Coffee
  • 2 Tablespoons Sunflower Oil
  • 2 Tablespoons Soy Milk
  • 2 Tablespoons Honey
  • 2 Teaspoons of Vanilla Extract
  • 3 Eggs
  • 1 Teaspoon Baking Powder
  • 100 grams Walnuts (optional)

For the Pumpkin Swirl

  • Insides of 1 large or 2 medium pumpkins
  • 100g Quinoa flour
  • 2 Teaspoons Cinnamon
  • 1 Teaspoon Nutmeg
  • 1 Teaspoon Ground Ginger
  • 1 Tablespoon either Honey or Brown Sugar
  • A splash of water

 

Method

Pre-heat the oven to 180 celsius (about 340 or so fahrenheit). Line a baking tin with greaseproof paper.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, cocoa powder and ground coffee. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs with the sunflower oil, before stirring in the honey and vanilla extract.

cocoa-powder

Add the eggy mixture to the flour bowl, stirring thoroughly until it’s all mixed together. Carefully add the milk until the batter is nice and smooth, but not too runny.

chocolately

Stir in the walnuts, and set aside.

Put some water on to boil and get a pan.

Chop any large pieces of pumpkin into cubes, roughly 2cm x 2cm x 2cm. Put it into the pan and pour over the boiling water, letting it simmer at a medium heat for approximately 10 minutes, until the pumpkin is nice and soft.

When the pumpkin is ready, put it into a blender with all of the other pumpkin swirl ingredients, adding as much or as little of the spice as you like. Blitz for 3-5 minutes until you have a nice, smooth, orange batter.

3-steps

When both the chocolate and the pumpkin batters are ready, you need to pour them into the baking tin. Because there is more of the chocolate one, pour this one in first, spreading it evenly across the tin.

Next take the orange pumpkin batter, and layer it on top of the chocolate batter in the tin.

Using an ordinary dinner knife, gently mark some swirly patterns in the baking mixture, until you get a nice marbled effect.

baked pumpkin

Cook for approximately 35-40 minutes, until spongy and soft, and a skewer comes out clean.

Leave to cool before slicing into squares and putting onto a plate.

 

The Best Bits of Dublin (that are nothing to do with Guinness)

The Best Bits of Dublin (that are nothing to do with Guinness)

The first thing everyone mentions when you plan a trip to Dublin, is Guinness. “Oh you’ll drink a lot of Guinness” they say. “Guinness tastes different in Ireland”. Now, whether or not this is true remains to be seen, but the one thing I do know is that Guinness isn’t my drink of choice.

I’m not tea-total, but I’m also not a massive drinker either. Yes, I enjoy the occasional glass of wine with dinner. I love a good gin and tonic, every now and then. Ginger beer, I love, although the regular stuff, not so much. I probably sound very square, but it’s just not me and I’ve come to accept that!

The way people talk about it, you’d think that planning a non-drinker’s holiday to Dublin is like a vegetarian planning a trip to a steakhouse. Actually though, whilst Tom and I did make the customary trip to the Storehouse, where I dutifully sipped my “pour-your-perfect-pint-of-Guinness” this moment didn’t make it into my Dublin top 5.  My best bits were a) completely unplanned and b) nothing to do with alcohol whatsoever.

The 5 Best Spots in Dublin (for non Guinness Drinkers!)

1) Phoenix Park

I love nothing more than wandering around a big green park in the middle of a busy, bustling city. Phoenix Park is absolutely huge- the Dublin equivalent of Richmond park in London. The reason it’s made it to number one of my list is because Tom and I chose, quite possibly, the worst time to go. It was freezing cold, pouring with rain and with the threat of a torrential thunderstorm looming in the black clouds overhead. But despite the fact that our shoes were wet and we had our hoods up covering our eyes we both just had the best time. We had the whole place to ourselves, with the exception of a herd of deer that we managed to make friends with, thanks to a couple of apples left over from breakfast!

Go to get lost amongst the green and get some relief from the liveliness of the city centre.

2) Kilmainham Gaol

Kilmainham Gaol is a former prison, built in the 18th Century. It housed several of the Irish Revolutionaries of the 1916 uprising and was the sight of many public executions. It’s now a museum that runs regular tours every day and I would absolutely recommend booking tickets in advance for this place. It’s an incredible sight, which is is steeped in history. It also helps that the tour guides are genuinely passionate and really seem to know their stuff.

3) Backstreets and Bookshops

If you’re anything like me, then you’ll love getting lost around the lesser known streets of a new city. In my mind, it’s not getting lost if you don’t necessarily have anywhere to be! Dublin is a brilliant city for “getting lost” in and it’s definitely worth spending an afternoon exploring the backstreets with no purpose or time-constraints. This is how you manage to find the real gems – old music shops, antique stores, random street art. My favourite was a tiny green bookstore on the corner of a cobbled street. It’s name was fashioned out of old newspaper and there was an array of jumbled classics on display in the window. A book lover’s heaven!

4) The Army Barracks

Tom and I wandered into the former Collins Army Barracks on the walk back from Phoenix Park. The site is now home to the National Museum of Ireland for Decorative Arts and History. It was a solution to get out of the rain for a while! It’s also  not the sort of place I would have chosen, had a planned it out beforehand. Luckily, sometimes things just happen for the best and I actually found the museum (which is completely free) really interesting. The core exhibition is a tribute to Ireland’s Military History, including (of course) the 1916 uprising. As someone who was completely dense and naive to Irelands past (we studied the potato famine at school briefly when we were doing Seamus Heaney’s poetry in English, but that’s about the extent of it) it made for a very educational afternoon.

5) Trinity College Library and Marsh’s Library

If you hadn’t already gathered, I’m a die-hard lover of all things book related. Nothing makes me happier than curling up with a good book and a cup of tea. I always manage to find or stumble across a new library or fun bookstore whenever I visit somewhere new. Dublin was a haven for me. It seems that around every corner and in every other building there’s a library to visit. Trinity College library is a breathtaking sight even for non-bookworms, whilst Marsh’s library (round the back of St. Patricks Cathedral) has been perfectly preserved since the 18th century. You may not be able to understand what is written in the books, but it’s enough just to be surrounded by them!

The 5 Best Spots in Dublin (for non Guinness Drinkers!)

The 5 Best Spots in Dublin (for non Guinness Drinkers!)