Monday, February 28, 2011

Ding ding... Seconds Away - Round Two!

That's my blog, so it is...

No, I'm not talking about boxing... I've just found out that my little blog has made the shortlist in the Food/Drink category of the Irish Blog Awards 2011 organised by the wonderful Mr. Damien Mulley Esq.  I am in absolutely fantastic company with lots of other Irish Foodies members and I've no idea how the poor judges are going to narrow it down even further. 

To say I am thrilled is an understatement and I thank you all very much for your lovely words of support and encouragement which keeps me going.

Aoife xxx

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Magical Marinara Sauce

We do love pizza a lot at Maison Baba, and next week when I get my new swanky Bosch oven, I'm sure to love it even more (because the current one has a nasty habit of burning anything unlucky enough to be in the corner).  One of my lovely work colleagues who I shall call Mrs. M, very kindly gave me a recipe for marinara sauce which she thinks is sheer perfection, so I decided to give it a whirl yesterday.  Naturally, I made a few tiny amendments to suit my personal taste, but the end result was gorgeous so I shall share my version with you.

Fast Food : Asparagus & Pancetta Soup

Take a handful of ingredients and the result is this delicious (please make it again was The Hubs' response when we finished this batch) soup which you can make in minutes.  The saltiness of the pancetta is a perfect balance to the delicate flavour of the asparagus - which was on special offer last week.

Now that's what I call a Cup a Soup!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Cranberry Chocolate Orange Cookies

Just like a puppy, a cranberry is for life you know, not just for Christmas!  I had bought a bag of dried Cranberries in December but had forgotten about them until I did a clearout last week - their ruby squidginess makes them a great baking ingredient & I've seen them paired with orange before.  I always like to go one step further and decided to add chocolate to the mix.  Everybody loves chocolate cookies so I knew they would be a hit.

The trick with this recipe is to chill, chill and chill the dough again because it stops the raw dough spreading into an unseemly mass in the oven, rather than pristine cookies.  I actually stick my dough in the freezer for about 25 minutes to make it as cold as possible, and repeat this with the leftover dough while the first batch is in the oven. I made the whole lot in my trusty Kenwood Chef using the K beater, and my new super duper Salter scales.  If you saw what I've been using for scales until now, you'd laugh your head off...

This quantity makes exactly 36 large cookies.  Bake them 9 to a sheet otherwise they'll run into each other.  Trust me...

Crunchy Parmesan Chicken

This is for Little Sis's friend Sharon who saw the photo & demanded the recipe!  It's impressive looking but very easy to make.  Getting all your ingredients prepared in an assembly line style is the trick to making this in a flash. It's a great midweek dinner and works really well for kids as a really high-quality chicken goujon.  I fry my chicken in rapeseed oil with a tiny bit of butter added for richness.  You can bake the chicken but I find that the crumb dries out too much, so out comes the non-stick frying pan instead.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Bramley Apple & Vanilla Sponge

When I made the Tarte d'Amour for the Romance Cookalong,  I had a bit of pastry left over.  Now I have a waste not, want not philosophy in Maison Baba (also known as make more, eat more) so I started to plot.  I had promised the work peeps something nice so I decided to use the apples from that week's shopping expedition and make an Apple Sponge with a difference.

Normally if you add fresh fruit to a light and delicate sponge, it sinks down to the bottom and merges into a fruity slush.  I wanted to avoid this so I created a bottom layer of shortcrust pastry, baked it blind, put the apples on top and then covered it with a vanilla infused sponge - which was baked in a deep 10 inch square tin.  The resulting cake was absolutely gorgeous - apple and vanilla work beautifully together and it was duly devoured.

A Hat Trick of Happy Things

They say that good things happen in threes and I am most definitely proof of that with three absolutely lovely things happening to me recently...

 I suppose I'll start with the most recent event. I've been nominated in the Best Food/Drink Blog category of the Irish Blog Awards 2011. And I thank you all for your lovely nominations - I've only really been blogging for a year and this is amazing. I found out on Sunday night & I screamed so loudly that the poor Hubs nearly fell out of the bed with fright. The poor man.

The second piece of happy news is thanks to James Whelan Butchers.  They held a competition in January to find the ultimate stuffing recipe so I decided to submit my Pork, Onion & Herb Baked Stuffing.  And it won.   And The Hubs got very excited because my prize is a voucher for their online store.  He now steals the laptop to browse through the categories and offers me his opinion on what he would like me to buy.  We'll see...

And now to complete my Hat Trick of Happy Things... I managed to win not just one, but TWO of the Irish Foodies Cookalong competitions.  This was a complete shock as I honestly believe that everybody else had far nicer and prettier dishes than mine.

The first one was sponsored by Llewellyns Orchard Produce in October with a theme of Autumn Fruits and I decided to try something new with an Orchard Fruit Shortcake.  We were so eager to scoff it, that we almost forgot to take photos.  My prize was a bottle each of David Llewellyn's apple juice, real cider and Apple Balsalmic Vinegar.  The only thing left is the vinegar, and not for long as it's a fantastic ingedient for dressings & marinades.

The second one was Winter Warmers in November and was sponsored by Cully and Sully.  This time out, I was inspired by a Domini Kemp recipe and produced a Daube of Pork with Apricots with Colcannon Mash.  My prize was a giant hamper stuffed to the brim with Cully & Sully soups, pies and hotpots.  We dined like kings after its arrival & my cooking output decreased dramatically!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Romance Cookalong : Tarte d'Amour

The February assignment in the Irish Foodies Cookalong series was Romance, given that it's Valentines Day & all that.  Actually Feb 14th features very prominently in our house, but not for the reason you think.  Both my Mum and The Hubs' Mum were born on Valentines Day so for us, it's all about them.

Romance generally means love, so what better ingredient to use for my dish than Love Apples.  What do you mean, I'm making it up?  Oh no I'm not - love apple is an old name for a tomato so how could I not create the  most romantic of dishes - and it's heart-shaped as well!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Pop (up) Goes The Restaurant

In recent years, it's been quite the thing to have a pop up restaurant or store appear out of nowhere, make lots of people happy, and then vanish in a flash.  Finally, the concept has arrived in Dublin... with Clonakilty by Candlelight, brought to you by the clever bods behind the delicious Clonakilty Black Pudding.  Opening for just 6 nights in Dublin City Centre and hosted by the Queens of Neon, this secret restaurant will provide foodies with a fleeting but memorable culinary experience.

It promises to deliver a gourmet food feast with an intimate dinner party atmosphere - Come Dine With Me, it most certainly is not!  The chef for this special event is the very handsome Ted Berner of Wildside Catering who will be cooking up a storm with the wonderful Clonakilty Blackpudding Co's rage of products.  Did I mention that it's also free?  Thought you'd like that...

You can read all about it & find out more on their dedicated Facebook page.

That's Ted.