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The leeks and spinach bubble away in the pan.

The leeks and spinach bubble away in the pan. Smells good!

Crunchy Oat-Topped Leek and Spinach Bake

Spinach is one of the power veg, but not everyone enjoys eating a plate of soggy spinach, myself (Terry) included. My Crunchy Oat-Topped Leek and Spinach Bake is all good and no gloop. It also adds another health-giving veg, leeks, into the mix, plus the healthy carbs of oats and the essential fatty acids of linseeds. It’s so tasty you’ll never even realize it’s actually good for you too– plus its easy to make & easy on the budget. It will please any vegetarians, but meat eaters won’t miss the meat either. It also goes well with pretty much any meat you’d like to serve on the side. Here is my recipe:

Casserole ingredients

4 leeks ; chopped into 1 inch rounds

¾ bag washed spinach

2 -3 cloves garlic

Veg stock

¼ cup milk

Dash olive oil

Teaspoon coconut oil


Topping Ingredients

1 Cup oat flakes

¼  cup milled linseed mix

Salt to taste

Black pepper to taste

1 tablespoon coconut oil

Let the oat topping for the leek and spinach bake run through your fingers.

Let the oat topping for the leek and spinach bake run through your fingers.

How to Make:

In large pan on a medium high heat, sauté the leek rounds in the olive oil & 1 teaspoon of coconut oil until the leeks are golden. Add salt & pepper & crushed garlic.

Toss in ½ of the bag of spinach; stir. The spinach will shrink; and after a few minutes add ¼ bag of spinach & stir.

Add ½ of the stock; let it render down and pick up the flavours.

After the stock reduces, add the rest of  your stock; lower heat & let thicken; this will take approximately 2 minutes.


In a bowl mix the oats, linseed mix, salt black pepper & 1 tablespoon of coconut oil.

Crumble with your hands & let the mix flow through them.


Remove leeks & spinach from pan & put in medium size oven casserole dish

Top generously with your oat mixture, and firm it down so the stock from the leeks & spinach rises into the bottom of the oat mix.

Bake in the centre of a 200c oven for 20 minutes until top is golden brown.


Finished Crunchy Oat-Topped Leek and Spinach Bake

Finished Crunchy Oat-Topped Leek and Spinach Bake

If you’d like the crust a bit more golden & crunchy, put under a medium grill for a couple of minutes—keep your eye on it so it doesn’t burn.

I also like this Crunchy Oat-Topped Leek & Spinach Bake cold the next day.

— Terry


Happy seaweed foraging!

Gap of Dunloe Adventure!

**UPDATE** Due to Petal’s extended acute health crisis & (hopeful) recovery, we are not able to go on this trip yet. We hope to later in the year as it sounds wonderful!

We’ll visit Kerry’s Muckross Park soon, and Terry will do an all-day outdoor adventure.

He’ll canyon & kayak through the Gap of Dunloe, courtesy of Outdoors Ireland & Muckross Park Hotel and Spa. (Their Cloisters Spa is where I’ll be, whoop!)

Here’s the blurb on the Adventure Activity Terry will be doing:

Canyon & Kayak Through The Awe Inspiring Gap Of Dunloe

Journey through the ice carved and inspiring Gap of Dunloe, following the water course, from the highest height to the deepest pool.

By canyon and by kayak travel through stream, river, lake, gorge and track, using rope and trolley in places. Pass through five deep black lakes, full of history; and several cascading water systems.

Descending a height of one hundred and fifty meters and traveling a distance of six kilometres, this incredible journey in the untamed wilds of Kerry will give you an experience never to forget!

No Previous Kayaking Experience Is Needed

Price: €75 Per Person
9am – 4pm
Equipment Provided
Beginners Welcome

Terry is under instruction to take as many photos as he can; Kerry is a very beautiful place and I imagine on this trip he’ll be seeing amazing views not everyone gets to see. We both look forward to reporting back to you, and Terry will be tweeting some of his photos over on @FurnaceFitness, so keep an eye out. If you’ve any Kerry/ Killarney tips to share, do give us a shout! 🙂

Seaweeds in a strainer & Guide to Edible Seaweeds by Prannie Rhatigan

Seriously, this stuff is fantastic!

Pepper dulse is like a delicious seaweed garlic. You can nibble it straight from your seaweed foraging as a snack! Also, Terry’s created a tasty recipe for you.

dog reads Irish Seaweed Kitchen cookbook

Petal considers reading Irish Seaweed Kitchen recipes

Inspired by So Sligo Festival and the beautiful book Irish Seaweed Kitchen by Prannie Rhatigan, on the sunny Summer Solstice Terry & I drove to the seaside in Wexford to forage seaweed.

As well as seaweed, we got seaside photos from both Wexford & Sligo for you to enjoy, even if you remain unconvinced about the seaweed 😉

Summer Solstice was a stunner of a day, hardly a cloud in Ireland’s skies. To tell the truth, this foraging seaweed lark was a bit of an adventure for us– we’d never even tried cooking with seaweed, much less hunting for it!

Doing so was all down to Prannie’s enthusiasm, knowledge, and tasty samples during the seaweed excursion she led at So Sligo. She had passed her excitement on to me, so I got her book, showed it to Terry, and he got the seaweed bug as well.

If YOU are curious about seaweeds, and fancy a special weekend on the Wild Atlantic Way in Sligo, I’ve cool trip info to pass on to you in a minute.

blue sky & beach grasses  co Wexford Ireland

Blue sky & beach grasses, Summer Solstice. co Wexford, Ireland

Sea Spaghetti and Pepper Dulse (the garlic seaweed) were top of our seaweed foraging list. Both are tasty nibbled straight from the sea, the sea spaghetti nutty/salty/crunchy; its long strands fun to eat. I was armed to hunt with my laminated font of knowledge: Prannie’s identification Guide To Edible Seaweeds, a handy beachside companion to the Irish Seaweed Kitchen.

Forage for seaweed at low tide, as many interesting varieties are to be found at the farthest receding of the sea. Always be aware of when the tide will turn, aware of your surroundings, and go with a friend. Never forage alone with your back to the sea; freak waves are not unknown, so always have someone with you facing out towards the sea. Don’t go too far out that you can’t easily get back in– tides can come in quickly! Find out the quirks of the area you are foraging.

You can get phone apps that track the tides, and have a look around online (and talk to locals!) for tide times & local sea / beach information before you go.


The ‘spring tides’ are ace times to forage for seaweed; the sea goes out farthest then.

Never pick the whole plant of any seaweed. A good general rule is to only snip off the top third. This ensures it can continue to grow sustainably.

Only take what you’ll use. Legally, removing things from the seaside in Ireland is prohibited.

Many seaweeds need gentle handling. They can become unrooted by human clumsiness & tugs.

Avoid places where you can see lots of bright green seaweed & seepage/runoff from land, as there could be pollution here. Same for marinas & ports.

Don’t forget your plastic bag to carry your seaweeds, and boots or a towel to dry you bare feet. (Yes, when we went the water was warm enough for a very enjoyable wade!)

Pepper Dulse & other seaweeds

Pepper Dulse is the golden one here. The strands are Sea Spaghetti, and the discs are the beginnings of Sea Spaghetti

In the crevices of rocks at Baginbun, Wexford we found our gold– the Pepper Dulse! When it is not growing at the lowest reaches of the shore it is quite tiny, so you must be careful to only snip off the tips of this flavoursome seaweed. The easiest way to harvest most any seaweed is just go armed with scissors & snip, but with these tiny Pepper Dulse I found fingertips easiest– next time I’ll also bring quite small scissors.

Our seaweed harvest had a pleasing variety, but we only found a tiny bit of sea spaghetti. Terry could see some more farther out; maybe we’ll look up the date of the next Spring Tide & try again then.

I really want to find some because in the Irish Seaweed Kitchen there’s a yummy recipe for Sea Spaghetti & Cheese Straws. I sampled them on the So Sligo seaweed walk. Apparently kids love ’em, but any kids around that day missed out cuz us (supposed) adults gobbled the straws all up!

Irish Seaweed Kitchen cookbookby Prannie Rhatigan

Irish Seaweed Kitchen cookbook by Prannie Rhatigan. Beautiful to look at, tempting to read, and a helpful bookmark too!

Prannie Rhatigan’s cookbook is fantastic, and the descriptions & photos will make you want to try some recipes. These are of a great variety, and plenty that aren’t seaweed based; you won’t feel like you’ve a mouthful of ocean 😉 The thing about seaweeds is that they have so many healthful nutrients, so adding just a touch here in there can be beneficial.

Terry loves to use cookbooks as a jumping-off point to create something himself. What he did with the garlic-y Pepper Dillisk was to bring it into a summery bean salad:

Easy Seaside Summer Bean Salad

tin of sweetcorn, drained
tin of chickpeas, drained
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1 carrot
hot sauce, to taste (Terry likes Franks Original Hot sauce for this recipe)
juice of 1/2 lime
tablespoon or more of shredded Pepper Dulse, to taste
chopped/ snipped sea spaghetti (we had about  2 tablespoons)
1 tablespoon of Shoyu sauce, OR 1 teaspoon of dark soya sauce
1 tablespoon of sesame oil
black pepper, to taste

Peel your carrot, using the peeler to make wide ribbons of carrot. Chop them roughly. Into a good sized bowl add all of your ingredients, stirring well to mix them up. Let it settle and serve. A tasty source of protein as well as part of your 5-a-day veg, with the bonus of seaweed nutrients!

It’s delish, do try it! I even shared it on Twitter’s #SundayCookoff. It got a good response from the Cookoff Chef 

Another interesting thing you can do with Pepper Dulse is to dry it in the sun & then grind it up to use as a seasoning, like pepper. This was a traditional way of using it. I’m curious as to whether it will lose some of its garlic flavour when dried. I will try this and let you know!

If you’ve been tempted to learn more about foraging and cooking with seaweeds with Prannie Rhatigan and you’d like to enjoy a fantastic weekend on Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way in county Sligo, this weekend break may fit the bill!

Sligo Seaweed Days 30th and 31st July, 2014

Day 1:  You will enjoy brunch at Lang’s Bar before joining us on a seaweed identification walk on Streedagh beach. A dolphin spotting trip around Sligo/Donegal Bay will be followed by an aperitif and dinner at Eithna’s By the Sea.

Day 2:  You will begin with a visit to Creevykeel court cairn with local archaeologist. Then a cookery demo and hands on workshop with Prannie rounded off with a leisurely lunch at Eithna’s.

Full details and to book, here.

Prannie Rhatigan is a medical doctor with a lifetime experience of harvesting, cooking and gardening organically with sea vegetables. Born and raised in the North West of Ireland where she still lives, she has a lifelong interest in the connections between food and health. Hailed as “Ireland’s leading seaweed expert” in Food and Wine in June 2012  she has represented Ireland’s finest food abroad on many occasions and has given workshops and lectures on sea vegetables and cooking. Amongst other awards, in May 2012 she was awarded Special Acknowledgement for her Outstanding Contribution to Irish Food by Euro-Toques 2012.

I ate at Eithna’s By the Sea as part of my So Sligo visit, and certainly recommend it. De-lish! Amazingly fresh seafood and a charming, lovingly run restaurant. The harbour setting is lovely, too. I’ll tell you more about Eithna’s & how you can do some beach horseriding in the area in an upcoming post.

You can also learn plenty from Prannie’s the Guide to Edible Seaweeds, too. Each seaweed even has a QR code you can scan to watch a video with more information! You can purchase it, and/or the cookbook, from the Irish Seaweed Kitchen website, in bookshops or on Amazon.

When I was having a look around online to see if many other folk found Pepper Dulse garlic-y, I found this on Wikipedia:

Sligo beach

Sligo is special!  This is the beach where we seaweed walked with Prannie

“Osmundea pinnatifida is a species of red alga known by the common name Pepper Dulse.

It is a small seaweed widely found with the tidal zone of moderately sheltered rocky shores around Britain and Europe. Although technically a red seaweed, it can show a wide range of colouring from yellow-buff to a red so dark as to be almost black. Reference is made to its being harvested and dried in Scotland and in the Channel Islands for use as a curry-flavoured spice.”

Curry flavoured? Interesting! I’d love to hear what you all think Pepper Dulse tastes like! If you’ve had Pepper Dulse, let us know–what did it taste like to you? Or if you’ve had another unusual tasting seaweed, have a great recipe or other tip, let us know, too! I’d love for you to share. Leave your comment below, or tweet me at @VibrantIreland or tell me over on the Vibrant Ireland Facebook page.

Enjoy the Irish Seaweeds 😀

Furnace Fitness demo

DO try this at home!

Food lovers, health lovers & coffee lovers all got loads of great tips and tasty eats at my hubby Terry’s Furnace Fitness’ Healthy Eating & Meal Planning demo. The demo was filmed and will be up online in a few weeks, but until then, here are 2 of  the recipes and we tested out a new way to treat yourself to coffee. (Yes, coffee can be good & good for you for you- just don’t go overboard!) 


Irish Chili Sauce?

This recipe is made extra delicious by any spicy ingredients you might add. Terry loves Irish- made Mic’s Chilli, but you can add whatever you fancy. Mic’s has all different grades of hotness, so there may be one perfect for you.


Frittata Oven Baked Vegetable Omelette

Broccoli, bell pepper, other left-over veg you may want to use up
You can also add half a sweet potato (pre-cooked) 
Olive oil
1 small red onion  & 2 large cloves of crushed garlic
Spices – Asian/taco/curry. Hot sauce, Worcester sauce. Salt & black pepper

1/2 cup milk

6-8 Eggs, free range preferable


Round one of food samples at the demo

Heat up the veg in a wok with a few glugs of olive oil, add crushed garlic and pepper, your chosen spices ( for Taco seasoning about half packet, or for curry or Asian spice apprx 2 tablespoons) black pepper to taste, pinch salt, stir-fry for 2 minutes.
In a blender whizz eggs, dash Worchester sauce & chilli sauce and the 1/2 cup milk.
Place veg in deep oven dish, pour egg mix over it, add some feta cheese on top and bake 20-30 mins in the oven at 180c or gas mark 5/6; til the centre doesn’t wiggle.

Allow to cool, cut into generous squares and serve with a salad or you can even eat it cold the next day.

I have to add here a big thank-you to Bosch, who make the fantastic red whizzer you see in the photo. I was given it when I attended the Tassimo hot drinks machine launch a few days before Terry’s demo. Don’t you know he loved it & robbed it for the demo straight away! Seriously, it is good. When Terry whizzed up the eggs in it I heard more than a few appreciative comments in the audience.


Irish Pork is Top Notch

The second recipe is for pork. Ireland has some of the best pork products I’ve ever tasted, so it is no wonder we love our pork. This quick & easy recipe was a big hit and takes only minutes to make. Additionally, food that you can pick up and eat with your hands can be extra satisfying, especially when it is crunchy &  savory. Kids really enjoy it, which is fantastic.


Crunchy Pork

Pan sear minced streaky pork

Add Thai 7 spice, continue browning pork until golden

Add 1-2 crushed garlic cloves, and a few dashes each of Soya sauce & Worcestershire sauce.

Stir them in, browning off pork to semi-caramelise the outside

Scoop up pork & serve on  Baby Gem, Cos, or other large leaf lettuce

Drizzle with Honey Mustard dressing (2 tbsp sherry vinegar, 2 tbsp olive oil, 1  tbsp of Dijon mustard & wholegrain mustard, pinch herbs Provence, 1 tsp  manuka honey, pinch black pepper, salt, dash of Worcestershire sauce. Shake.) This is a good recipe to play with adding/subtracting ingredients/amounts to find your/your family’s favorite taste combination.

Crunchy pork

Eating with your hands is fun! Scoop up a leaf!


 Time for Coffee!

Now for testing the new way to make coffee— and hot chocolate! Ok, hot chocolate is not officially ‘healthy’ but a little of what you fancy does you good 🙂 As I had been invited to the Tassimo coffee machine launch, I was given of those beauties to have & test out and share my thoughts. What better place than the Furnace’s demo to see was the machine & the taste of the coffees up to scratch.


Was it any good?

Loads of thirsty attendees put the machine through its paces. The way it works is you put a ”T-Disc” in the machine, the machine reads a barcode on the disc pack and knows how to adjust the brewing time, pressure and water temperature for the hot drink you want. There are T-Discs for lattes, espressos, cappuccinos, teas, and so on.

The Tassimo did well even though there were several different newbies all giving it a go. All enjoyed their drinks, and what is brilliant is that even though you may be making, say, a hot chocolate immediately after a latte, there is no taste mixing because the machine steam cleans itself between each cup. The only hitch came when a few people removed their cups too soon and there was an overflow. The Tassimo is easy to use, but as all the use by newbies showed, it can take a time or two before some of us get completely used to it. (Some of us- I was guilty too- don’t look at the lit-up buttons telling us what stage the machine is in!)


Tassimo, Kenco Caffe Crema, mmm

Tassimo, Kenco Caffe Crema, mmm my fav one

Less Than A Minute

Where the Tassimo really shines is for that quick cup of something hot. From switching the machine on, to drinking a perfect hot beverage is only about a minute. This is something non-morning people really appreciate! Also, although coffee in moderation can be good for you, too much is not, and I’ve found just making a single cup when I want it has saved me drinking that extra cup left in the French coffee press because I didn’t want it to waste! I have to say that even though I’m normally a grind-fresh-coffee-beans-for-coffee kind of gal, I have realized I’m also quite lazy! Sometimes I don’t want all the fuss. 


Taste, and a Big Winner

So, how does the taste compare? Well, the coffees in the Tassimo range are the High Street names and tastes you know and probably love- Costa, for example. The Tassimo Costa coffees are just like the ones in the shop, but cost only around 37 cent vs 3-ish euros; good savings on your daily fix. Of the ones we’ve tried so far, the Kenco Caffe Crema is Terry’s & my favourite. It obviously is not an artisan coffee like our Irish favorites Badger & Dodo, but maybe they’ll start a Tassimo sideline 🙂 A BIG winner at the Healthy Eating demo was the Cadbury’s Hot Chocolate. LOL. Several people said it was the best hot chocolate they’d ever had! Hey, that’s great- and if they keep coming to the exercise classes they can have a cup everyday 😉 Win-Win!

You can buy the Tassimo machine &  8 varieties of T-Discs at Tesco, and there are additional T-Disc varieties available to purchase online at

The Bosch Tassimo range is available both in store and online RRP €119.95*. Irish consumers can get €20 discount* off T-DISCs  when they spend €25 +P&P at

*18 years only, see for further details

Many thanks to all who came to the demo, to Event Media for filming & photos, Eoin for all his assistance & to Tassimo and Bosch for providing their products mentioned in this post.