Sunday, April 20, 2014

Spring Things I Love

Spring has finally sprung.  The tulips and daffodils are brightening up our garden and the grass has received its first cut of the year. As the days are growing longer, so is the list of great things that I've heard about recently.  Here's a few I think you'll like.

For a young lad, Adam Hoban is a very busy boy.  He started writing a food blog, then developed his love for food into a business making preserves, chutneys and condiment.  And he's in college too.  With 16 products in his range, including a delicious whisky & ginger marmalade and an Eastern inspired Apple & Pear chutney, there's a flavour to suit every palate.  The Purple Pantry is at the Honest2Goodness market in Finglas every Saturday or you can order online.  Prices start at €2.80.

Cinnamon Hill's Original Cinnamon Lover's Pack arrived on the desk recently and it's a far cry from the usual three little sticks in a jar format we're used to.  A beautiful honey oak grater with a ceramic cup holder and two packets of fresh cinnamon sticks from Ceylon and Saigon have transformed my humdrum morning porridge, added warmth and depth to roasted butternut squash and brought fresh life to my carrot cake.  £52 for the pack or £6 for the cinnamon sticks alone.

This has to be one of the cutest ideas I've seen in ages. An afternoon tea to takeaway and enjoy as a picnic in the park or a treat at home. I'd probably eat it in the car on the way home! With 24 hours notice, you can enjoy homemade roast Spiced Beef sandwiches, Cucumber and Dill Cream Cheese on soft white bread, Lemon Sponge Loaf, Pistachio Macarons, Red Velvet cupcakes with Vanilla Cream icing and White Chocolate and Strawberry Tarts.  And the cost?  €19.95 per person.

With the demise of Nespresso's stranglehold on the coffee capsule market, there's now lots of choice.  Caffe Cagliari are an Italian coffee company from Modena and with over 100 years experience, have really good coffee.  I was very pleasantly surprised by the Deca espresso which was rich with a great crema and indistinguishable from the real thing.  The range of 5 capsules costs £2.99 per box of 10.

Bonjour French Food

It's no surprise to anybody who reads Babaduck that I am a Francophile.  Last year was my all time record with three trips - one for work and two for fun and this year there (very sadly) looks like none.  When the March box from Bonjour French Food full of delights from Brittany landed on my desk, I was instantly transported to the land of the crepe and cidre.  First out was a Kouign Amann, a cake which is mainly butter and a bit of flour to hold it together.  Oh, the smell!  Next was a trio of jars containing pork rilettes, sardine rilettes and lamb pate.  The perfect lunch with a baguette and salad.  Finally, more sweet treats - a jar of Fleur du Sel caramel and Sable biscuits with more caramel.  Bonjour French Food is a monthly subscription box of gourmet delights for you or to share as a gift from £29 per month.

So, do any of these ideas appeal to you?  Do tell...

Friday, April 11, 2014

Review : Lunch at Pizza e Porchetta

Many years ago, I worked on Grand Canal Quay in a temp job - parking was at a premium and it was a regular occurrence to play chicken with the traffic wardens, sometimes winning, sometimes losing.  There was also nowhere to eat in the area - our sole source of food was a guy who delivered sandwiches at 11am, miss him and you'd go hungry for the afternoon.  Thankfully, the area has a lot more going for it now with the arrival of Ronan Ryan's Pizza e Porchetta at The Malting Tower.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Ethan's Minecraft Cake

It's that time of year again - the Handsome Nephew Ethan's birthday and this year, he reached the ripe old age of eleven.  Where has that time gone?  Anyway, with age comes changing tastes in birthday cake requests and this was was an absolute beauty.  Along with his sister and cousin, he's pretty much obsessed with Minecraft and wanted a suitably appropriate cake.  But he didn't tell me this, instead his cousin Lulu mentioned it in passing and then produced a photo of what he had selected.  So, I had to get on with it and create a masterpiece.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Review : Fitzwilliam Hotel Belfast

A few weeks ago, myself and The Hubs decided to have a mini-mini break and head up to Belfast for a night.  Dinner was duly booked in Howard Street and accommodation was next to cross off the list of things to be arranged.  The lovely people at the Fitzwilliam Hotel were more than happy to help and invited us to spend the night with them.  Despite our bi-annual visits, we had never stayed at the Fitzwilliam before so this was a great opportunity.

Image supplied by The Fitzwilliam Hotel

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Roast Pork with Garlic & Rosemary

There is nothing nicer than the smell of a roast wafting from the oven (sorry vegetarians!).  Something I absolutely adore is a roasted loin of pork, done in the French style with lots of garlic and rosemary.  Actually, I probably should have called this Rôti de Porc à l'ail et au romarin but you know what I'm talking about.  This is a really simple roast dinner that anybody can do, except possibly The Hubs, who has no desire to learn to cook.  Make the most of the oven space by putting the pork on a rack inside the roasting tin and scattering chunks of potato underneath to catch all the garlicky herby juices and become utterly delicious.  A kilo of pork loin will feed 4 hungry people and you might even have a few scraps leftover for sandwiches if you keep the slices thin!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Review : Japanese Soul Cooking

Soul Cooking isn't usually a term you associate with Japanese cookery.  In fact if you ask most people what Japanese food is all about, they usually respond with one of two words : fish or sushi.  I was very interested in reading Japanese Soul Cooking by Tadashi Oro & Harris Salat when it landed on my desk and learning more about what defines food from Japan's kitchens and streets.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Review : Howard Street, Belfast

Howard Street is a new kid on the block which already hosts Deanes, just around the corner from the Fitzwilliam Hotel and the Opera House.  Very unassuming from the outside, inside it's big, cavernous and very noisy indeed.  Most definitely not the place for a romantic dinner or to pop the question unless your intended can read lips.   Howard Street is industrial in appearance with exposed pipe work and a long bottle green wall that reminds me a bit of school uniforms.  Tables are simple and wooden, as are the chairs unless you're sitting at one of the green leather banquettes along the wall facing into the room.  The long bar is busy with staff pouring drinks, making coffees and issuing bills.  Peroni is on tap (£4.50) and the house Prosecco is deliciously moreish at £5 per glass.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Smelling the Coffee

One of my favourite smells is coffee.  Whether walking by a café, sitting in a restaurant or even at my desk while the machine hisses gently in the kitchen, the aroma catches my breath every time.  Despite loving the smell of it, I don't drink a huge amount of coffee and have just one cup of really good coffee in the morning in work.  My love of good coffee doesn't mean that I'm not a fan of convenience and I love coffee capsules as they're no mess, no fuss and give great results every time and they work perfectly in the Nespresso* machines both at home & in work. As soon as I opened the Carte Noire box in work, I was practically mugged (coffee, mug - geddit?) to share the coffee with my colleagues.  The reaction was overwhelmingly positive and my own favourite is No. 7 Aromatique.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Francesca's Lasagne alla Pesto

Lasagne, as we traditionally know it, is a rich and comforting Italian dish with layers of lasagne sheets, bechamel sauce, meat ragu and cheese, baked until it's all bubbling and meaty and fragrant. This recipe came to me via the VBF who works in a big multinational company with colleagues from all over the globe. Her workmate Francesca brought some of this lasagne into work and the poor girl barely got a bite as the rest of them scoffed most of it.  Greedy gannets.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Review : Rosehips on a Kitchen Table

The world has always been full of foragers, whether it's just collecting blackberries in the autumn (from as high up as you can to avoid little doggie spray surprises...) or picking wild garlic in the spring.  Right now, it's the buzzword du jour and terribly fashionable indeed.  It's actually a lot of common sense if you know what you're doing, so leave the mushrooms to the experts and concentrate on finding food that you can eat safely.  Anyway, enough of my sound advice. Rosehips on a Kitchen Table landed on my kitchen table last week and it's all about foraging and growing your own.  It's a very cute book, compact enough to keep on your kitchen counter, but packed with recipes to appeal to all levels of knowledge.