Monday, October 27, 2014

October Roundup

This month, I decided that sharing was definitely caring.  To be honest, after two weeks of holiday where I ate, drank and was very merry, I needed to share out the tasting duties.  My lovely work colleagues rose to the challenge admirably and munched their way through many delicious things, so I wouldn't have to bring them home.  They're so kind.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Halloween Treats : Scary Pumpkinhead Carrot Cake

"I hate carrots but I love carrot cake".  Another gem from the Little Brother who was the happy recipient of this special scary Halloween cake.  I was browsing around TK Maxx last week, purely to help The Hubs buy a new wallet.  It's never that simple - I walked out with a set of Essie nail polish and a new pumpkin head cake tin.  I know, I'm a sucker...  Then, what cake to make?  With the changing weather from lovely to "holy moly, stick the electric blanket on", I reckoned a more substantial warming sponge would work best.  Add some spooky gel icing and you're all set for a Scary Pumpkinhead Carrot Cake.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Triple B Muffins

Muffins.  They didn't exist when I was a kid - the most glamorous thing we ever made was butterfly buns.  And I can assure you that buttercream was most definitely made with margarine then.  I'm still shuddering at the memory of margarinecream gritty with granulated sugar because icing sugar wasn't a staple ingredient, the way it is now.  If you're curious, a butterfly bun was a standard fairy cake (called a bun in the country to this very day) with the top lopped off to create a flat surface.  A splodge of gritty margarine buttercream and a dab of jam, usually strawberry, were spread onto the flat surface.  Then the leftover cake top was cut in half and placed back at angles on top of the jam and cream to create a sort of butterfly effect.  And there were no fancy paper cases either.  Just like Henry Ford, cake cases came in one colour only - white.  Take it or leave it.  Kids nowadays have no idea of the trauma we went through!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Review : Dinner at Eastern Seaboard

People of Co. Louth, you don't know how lucky you are to have a restaurant like this in your neighbourhood.  Eastern Seaboard is a big corner unit in a new building which embraces the space with a long banquette set into the curved end wall.  Long narrow chalkboards holding specials clad the central column and blades of grass in little glass bottles echo the height of the room. The floor staff are young and cheery in long navy striped aprons.  The corner bar is dark wood with attractive wine filled shelving and vintage lanterns suspended over the counter.  A large stars & stripes flag flutters gently at the entrance to the kitchen. Jeni Glasgow, the co-owner together with chef Reuven Diaz, glides from table to table greeting guests and ensuring that everything runs calmly and smoothly.  The presence of a former colleague of mine, Michael C behind the bar, adds to the air of happy calm.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Review : Lunch at Pichet, Dublin 2

I have a pair of friends, let's call them Jess and Packie, who have worked very hard (well, Packie has, Jess is a bit of a layabout) and love going out to eat.  I live vicariously through their many photos of lovely lunches, delectable dinners and many, many cocktails.  One such dining extravaganza involved lunch at Pichet on Trinity Street in Dublin 2 when I was starving at my desk.  I rang The Hubs and told him that we were going there for my birthday lunch.  Not being one to argue, he agreed on the spot.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Mocha Shortbread

Oh I love shortbread.  It's buttery, crumbly and very hard to refuse another piece. The Hubs and his Mammy are both big lovers so I decided I'd make a variation on the traditional recipe by adding coffee and chocolate.  When I was in France last year, I bought a box of espresso sticks - powdered instant espresso which you can drink or use as an ingredient.  Two little sticks gave enough oomph to turbo charge the shortbread from something nice into a special treat loaded with coffee and chocolate.  Sure, what else could you possibly want?

By refrigerating the dough before you bake it, the butter sets and the finished shortbread is crumbly and short.  It does really melt in your mouth.

Mocha Shortbread

225g Butter, very soft
200g Caster Sugar
225g Plain Flour
45g Cocoa Powder
1/2 tsp Salt
4g Espresso Powder
2 tsp Vanilla Extract

Line a square tin (10 x 10 inches) with baking parchment

Beat the butter and sugar together in a food mixer for 4-5 minutes until very light and fluffy.

Sift the flour, cocoa, salt & espresso powder into the butter and sugar.  Add the vanilla extract and mix gently until well combined.

Press the dough into the lined tin, cover with a layer of cling film and smooth out the top with the base of a jug or a plastic container.

Put the tin into the fridge for at least an hour - longer is better, even up to a day. When you're ready to bake, preheat your oven to 180c/Gas Mark 4.

Remove the tin from the fridge, discard the film and using a sharp knife, cut the dough into 24 bars about 2 x 1 inch - that's 6 bars across by 4 bars down .  Prick each bar with a fork and bake for 40 minutes.

You may have to re-mark the cooked shortbread when it comes out of the oven. Let the tin cool for 10 minutes before transferring the shortbread to a wire rack. Just lift the parchment out and leave the shortbread on the parchment -it's the easiest way.

This will keep in a sealed container for 10 days.  I wish you luck with that...

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Review : Bake Like an Italian

Although she's a Wicklow girl like me, Catherine Fulvio loves all things Italian and marrying a Sicilian, the very dapper Claudio, was the start of her amore Italiano. She's written four books already, all with a very distinctive Italian influence and this fifth offering, Bake Like an Italian, explores baking.  Anathema to carb haters, it's subtitled "more recipes for the good life" and is definitely written with la vita รจ bella in mind.

There's a very vintage feel to the book cover with three very home made cakes and beautiful panelling in the background.  Inside, more delights await with Graham Thew in charge of design, Harry Weir on photography and new author Kristen Jensen as editor.  Together, they've helped to create a beautifully illustrated and cleanly edited book which is a pleasure to peruse.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Hit The Floor Cake

This is a story of great triumph over adversity.  In work, we get a delivery of fruit every week to keep us all healthy and at the end of the week, there's usually a few apples or nectarines lying in the box.  I hate waste, so I brought home some nectarines and plums to turn them into a cake for work.  I made a stupendous cake and there were some very excited colleagues looking forward to Monday morning so they could have cake for breakfast (yes, I'm looking at you Cora & Karen...).  I was walking up the stairs from the carpark to the office laden with a handbag, laptop bag and a cake carrier.  Yes, you guessed it, the cake carrier went tumbling to the ground after being hit with a door.  The cake hit the floor with a tremendous bang and scattered all over the stairwell,  CAKETASTROPHE!

The cake was unsalvageable - it had hit the four corners of the lobby and was inedible.  With a very heavy heart, I scraped the remains back onto the plate, into the cake carrier and into the boot of the car.  I was heartbroken. Not as much as my colleagues, who told me that they would have eaten the cake off the floor- and they were serious.  Dirty beasts.  So that's how my gorgeous cake came to be known as the Hit The Floor cake.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Review : The Nation's Favourite Food FAST! by Neven Maguire

Pressure.  We're all under it and the one thing we consistently lack is time.  That means that we need to clever about how we eat well without resorting to ready meals or fast food.  This is where Neven Maguire comes in.  Subtitled "100 best-loved recipes for busy lives", this is his tenth (I think, I'm rubbish at maths though...) cookery book.  Neven is familiar to many of us from his TV show Home Cook on RTE and is also the chef/owner of MacNean House in Blacklion, Co. Cavan.  With a family of his own to feed, he's had to revise his way of eating and The Nation's Favourite Food FAST! is a great solution.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Asian Minced Pork

Last weekend, Lulu and the fluffy dog were down on their holidays.  After much moaning from Lady Muck (Lulu) in the back to her chauffeur (me) about how long we were taking to get there, the small talk turned to thoughts of food.  I had already planned Friday night's dinner which was burgers and Italian Potato Nuggets (fried gnocchi to you and I, but if I mention the "G" word to Lady Muck, her perfect little nose would be turned up).  Saturday evening's dinner was still to be finalised so when I mentioned Chinese, she was very excited.  When I told her it was the nice stuff that her mum gets in the restaurant with all the lettuce to make a wrap, she smiled.  But then insisted that she would only eat noodles and not rice.  No way.  Oh, and a box of milk lolly icepops would be just the thing for a pre-dinner snack.  Pester power ruled the roost, let me tell you.