Thursday, August 27, 2015

One Pot Roast Italian Chicken

Sometimes, myself and Little Sis make what we call Emergency Dinners.  They usually include stuff in the bottom of the fridge and freezer that needs to be used up and they give surprisingly delicious results.  One of these is my messy, lazy one pot roast Italian Chicken because it can be assembled in minutes, gets thrown into the oven in just one dish and is crammed full of Italian flavours.  Oh, and very little washing up.  Thought you'd like that.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Eve's Pudding

Something I hanker after is a fruit tree or three in my garden.  At this time of year, apple trees are heavy with delicious fruit and there's so many wonderful things you can make.  I'm very lucky to have generous friends with apple trees who share their bounty with me and at the moment I'm working my way through about 6kg of apples which I helped my friend Fiona to pick from her tree last week.  One use is my Hit The Floor cake as we're off to Killarney this weekend for another end of summer BBQ and my entrance fee is a giant cake, apparently.

I also love keeping things simple and once I've peeled, cored and chopped my way through a veritable mountain of cooking apples, I just add sugar and reduce them to a chunky compote which can be used in so many ways.  I freeze some for instant apple sauce to go with roast pork, fold into basic muffin batter and top with crumble for Apple Crumble Muffins or fold into mascarpone with a spoonful of Calvados for a sinful cake filling.  Today, I'm going back to my childhood and making a really simple, comforting dessert.  Eve's Pudding was a recipe I first learned in Home Economics class in secondary school and it's one I absolutely adore as it's a mix of tangy apples and soft buttery sponge with a crisp top.  Serve it with cream, custard or icecream and everybody will be happy.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Travel : Sailing to France with Irish Ferries

Holidays abroad.  Usually a mad panic to cram everything you possess into a 10kg bag and a teeny tiny plastic bag that can barely accommodate two lipsticks and a mascara and long queues through security.  Not for us though.  We love bringing the car (also lovingly known as the Mobile Wine Machine), throwing all the stuff in the boot and heading for Rosslare.  Minimal queuing, a nice comfy bed and no baggage restrictions, what's not to love?

Passports at the ready

There's three ways to get directly to France from Ireland by boat : Brittany Ferries go weekly from Ringaskiddy to Roscoff on the Pont Aven, Stena Line (formerly Celtic Link) thrice weekly to Cherbourg on the Stena Horizon and Irish Ferries from Rosslare to both Roscoff & Cherbourg on the Oscar Wilde, and Dublin to Cherbourg on the Epsilon.  We've sailed with both Brittany Ferries and Irish Ferries - my preference would be Brittany Ferries as the cabins and food are both superb, but Rosslare is much closer to where we live and the frequency of sailings is much better.  Also, I save our Tesco Clubcard vouchers throughout the year & exchange them for Boost tokens.  Each €100 in Tesco vouchers gives us €400 in Irish Ferries vouchers, so if we're clever, the crossing can be paid in full by the tokens.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

This Weekend - The Harbour Hopster Fest

As a native of the lovely seaside town of Bray in Co. Wicklow (also the birthplace of other luminaries like Dara O'Briain and Katie Taylor), one of my favourite places for a drink is the The Harbour Bar.  Tucked away under the railway bridge and overlooking the harbour, it's always been a little out of the way from the busy seafront but a hidden gem.  If the pub could talk, I'd be running into witness protection as it's been the venue for many happy and slightly inebriated occasions over the years.  At one stage, it would have been simpler to have my wages paid directly to the pub as I was never out of the place!  Time passes and we've both moved on, me out of Bray as house prices rose out of my reach, and the Harbour from the O'Toole family to new owners who have transformed it from a shabby, cosy, "we only do crisps and bacon fries" old pub to a equally shabby & cosy pub with great bands, food and beer.

This weekend, the Harbour Hopster Fest is happening on Saturday 8th & Sunday 9th August to celebrate their love of craft beers and delicious grub.  There's brews from locals The Wicklow Wolf Brewing Company and O Brother Brewing, food from The Big Dog's Gallery and Just wing it, loads of lovely music including Rake the Ashes & Brand New Switcheroo.  Not into music?  Regress to your childhood with games like giant Jenga, Pitch-a-Penny and Ring Toss.

Why not head down for a weekend of fabulous food & drink and some great music?  It's a 2 minute walk from Bray Dart Station so you can leave the car at home and really enjoy yourself.

The Harbour Bar, 1-4 Dock Terrace, Bray, Co. Wicklow
Follow The Harbour Bar on Twitter or Facebook for more information 

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Coconut Lime Iced Loaf Cake

In the day job, I do quite a bit of work with a really brilliant photographer called Harry Weir and his handsome assistant Brian.  We've found that long days pass even more quickly with liberal helpings of cake.  As neither of the lads are bakers, just eaters, the job of making the food falls to me.  I had a session booked with them last week and the first thing I heard after the date was confirmed was "what are you going to bake for us".  Presumptous pups. At the same time, my colleague Dawn is about to go on maternity leave.  The cry of her pregnancy has been "baby needs cake" and her favourite is my Citrus Coconut but I wanted to make it a little more zingy and informal, so I turned it into a loaf. ramped up the flavour with lots of lime and made a lime glacĂ© icing for the top.

We scoffed half of it over breakfast at the studio and I have it on good authority that the rest was saved for a road trip breakfast the following day.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Parmesan Roasted New Potatoes

It's new potato season and my default setting is steamed with heaps of butter and a bit of salt.  But there's so many other ways to eat these tender tasty beauties. One of my favourites is Hasselback Potatoes which look so impressive but are incredibly simple.  I can't believe I wrote that recipe 5 years ago so it's time to do something a little different.

I was in town (what we call Dublin's city centre) recently and spied some Italian new potatoes in Fallon and Byrne so they had to go into my basket.  Italian potatoes deserved a suitably appropriate recipe so I took advantage of a huge chunk of Parmesan, generously bequeathed to me by Little Sis and created a delicious side dish for Saturday night's dinner.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Lemony Limey Loaf

It's been a while since I've baked a cake - work has been a bit hectic, then we were in France on holidays, cleaning up after the renovations (more, so much more to come on that) and then my beloved laptop packed up.  Thankfully the laptop is fixed and I've got my Sunday Baking mojo back once again.  It's been ages since I've made anything citrusy and I had a longing for a loaf cake but with something a bit extra.

This cake is light and luscious because it's full of creme fraiche which makes it really moist - no dry as a desert sponge here - and adding lime to the usual lemon really intensifies the citrus hit.  I've a couple of ideas to use this cake.  Naturally, a large slice with a cup of coffee is the first one, but it could form the base of a grown up Italian style trifle, spiking the sponge with a shot or two of Limoncello liqueur or as a lovely stacked dessert with fresh raspberries and softly whipped vanilla cream.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Dinner at Molly's Yard, Belfast

Sometimes, a restaurant is worth a second visit.  Even though it's in a city with loads of brand new, look at me our food is amazing, restaurants that appear on every list of recommendations.  Molly's Yard is that restaurant.  It's nowhere near the usual suspects, tucked away in a corner beside Queen's University in the heart of studentland, but it's somewhere you should plan to visit.  Why?  They've inventive, delicious food and a love of all things gin.  Sometimes they combine the two for sold-out gin tasting menu events which are much sought after.  Lucky people of Belfast.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Calvados Apple Cake with Salted Caramel Mascarpone

Something we're a little bit fond of in the day job is cake.  We pretty much drop everything if there's the rattle of forks and the chance of something sweet to bring a bit of sunshine into our lives.  Doing the Bake Off in work is a great way for everybody to show off their baking talents (or blatantly cheat in some cases - you know who you are) and I have a great time being Queen Judge and very fairly evaluating everybody's entries.  You'd think that would absolve me from having to bake myself, wouldn't you?.

Not a chance.  Especially with my colleague Karen sitting across from me. If she hears the C word, there's an immediate yelp of "cake, cake, CAKE???" and she gets very excited.  When she heard I had bought some apples, I was instructed to go home and make a cake.  With the apples and maybe some salted caramel because she's fond of that too.  How could I resist such an order?  To turn it into a very grown up cake, I marinated the apples in some Calvados and made a mascarpone cream with the last of my salted caramel.  As I'm feeding a crowd, I made a large traybake cake and topped it with the salted caramel mascarpone,but if it was for a smaller crowd, I'd make two 8 inch cakes and sandwich them together with half of the mascarpone and use the rest to decorate the top, with a few swirls of salted caramel for added prettiness.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Taste of Dublin 2015

2015 marks the 10th anniversary of the Taste of Dublin food festival which kicks off in the Iveagh Gardens today.  Sadly, I'll be missing it due to #babaduckenvacances but if you're planning a trip into town, here's my top tips for a great afternoon or evening out.