Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Dinner at Cayenne, Belfast

Myself and Miss Like Mam Used To Bake were up bright & early last Saturday morning because we drove at a sedate pace up the M1 to Belfast where the Irish Blog Awards were being held.  I only made it as far as the shortlist, but she was a finalist (clever clogs) so it would have been rude not to, right?  As part of the festivities, the lovely Walter organised a bloggers dinner in Cayenne - just a quick stroll from our base in the Europa Hotel where we were joined by The Mire, Deirdre from Vulgo and her lovely friends B & MT.

Cayenne is owned by Paul Rankin, previously of Roscoff (where myself & The Hubs had a memorably delicious lunch many years ago) so I knew our meal would be lovely.  In fact, Mr. Rankin had heard about our visit & very kindly tweeted me fresh from his Comic Relief appearance, hoping to get back to Belfast in time to say hi.,  Sadly, this was not to be, but our evening more than compensated for this!

Simply Delicious Sausage Rolls

I was on a baking roll on St. Patrick's Day, what with the Fine Things Cake and a batch of the easiest, tastiest sausage rolls known to man.  One of my work colleagues - let's call her Miss Carnivore - isn't a fan of the old fruit & veg but she is very partial to a sausage roll every so often.  I have been promising for months to make her sausage rolls so she can see what the real thing is like.  These are very easy to make - all you need is high quality sausage meat, sage, shallots or onions, some ground pepper & pastry.

One really important thing is to buy the best quality sausage meat you can find.  Most supermarkets (with the exception of Superquinn) don't stock it, so go to your local Craft Butcher and ask for 70-80% pork sausagemeat.  If you can't get to a butcher, buy some really good sausages & remove the skins.  Cheap meat will end up with a cheap sausage roll and that just defeats the purpose of making them.

I use ready made puff pastry because it is quick and easy - If you buy the sheets of ready rolled, sprinkle them with flour & roll them even thinner - to about half of the thickness.  Puff pastry does exactly what it promises... it puffs up like mad when it is baked & I'm a fan of more sausage than roll!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Fine Things Cake

Yesterday was a great day for the followers of my favourite website Beaut.ie because it was when the 50 Fine Things were announced.  I was delighted to see most of my nominees in the Top 50 and beyond thrilled when the divine Mr. Tommy Bowe hit the top spot for the second year running (thanks to a little bit of canvassing by myself, Aifs and Little Miss Like Mam Used To Bake) which resulted in a special Twitter thank you today by @tommybowe14.

To celebrate this momentous occasion, I decided to make a cake - a chocolate & creme fraiche cake which I'm sure that any one of the Fifty Fine Things could whip up in a flash!  It's rich & delicious - just like the lads...

Monday, March 14, 2011

Support Irish Food on St. Patrick's Day

What does St. Patrick's Day mean to you?  In our house, it's just another day when The Hubs has to work but I get the day off (yay for me!).  We always make a point of having a nice traditional dinner in the evening though - no Shamrock Shakes or the like for us.

With this in mind, Good Food Ireland is calling on Irish people in the run up to St. Patrick's Day to buy local food and to choose restaurants and hotels that are committed to using Irish food ingredients.  Using local food or ingredients means that you're directly supporting Irish farmers, food producers and fishermen.

So, this St. Patrick's Day I shall be making Sausage Rolls using Irish sausagemeat, onions & sage to feed the hungry hordes in work.

That's Margaret & Linda from Good Food Ireland 
at Kate's Farm Shop in Drinagh (my favourite shop!)

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Trad Irish Cookalong : Beef & Guinness Casserole

It's March, so the only Irish Foodies Cookalong topic that we could possibly do was Traditional Irish.  Given my recent shopping (beef in Superquinn) and The Hubs' penchant for the black stuff, the dish that was in my head was a Beef and Guinness Casserole.  Casseroles are a perfect meal when it's cold outside - they take a long time to cook because they use cheaper cuts of meat, which means long, slow cooking to break down the fibres of the meat which gives you meltingly tender results.  It's also a very economical dish because it's crammed full of vegetables which makes the meal go even further.  I served this with a root veg mash to mop up the gorgeous sauce.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

A Guide to Perfect Pancakes

The lovely people at the Flour Advisory Bureau sent me a great guide on making the perfect pancake - with Shrove Tuesday coming up next week, I thought I might share their advice with you.

While the traditional sugar & lemon topping is still popular, more exciting flavour combinations & cooking techniques have been emerging,  Generally, pancakes are either griddled to form smaller thicker pancakes, or fried in butter to produce a thinner crepe.  Souffléd pancakes add a claassy, special edge to something which could be rather plain, while baking is an easier technique which can produce a similar effect.

Nonetheless, the quickest way to cook pancakes is to fry them. It can be hard to achieve perfect pancakes, so if you struggle to get them spot on then follow the Flour Advisory Bureau’s top tips. Here's a guide to what you may have been doing wrong.

What went wrong?
Soggy pancakes – the batter may be too thick or you may have used too much batter, the pancake may be undercooked or you may not have enough fat in the frying pan.

Broken pancakes – The batter may be too thin or you may not have used enough egg in your batter recipe.

Pancakes that are difficult to roll or fold – Either the batter or pancakes are too thick or the pancakes may be overcooked.

Tips for perfect pancakes
  • Measure the ingredients exactly to ensure that the batter reaches the right consistency.
  • Mix the ingredients using a large whisk until the dry ingredients have just been mixed in. The larger the whisk, the more air you can whip into the batter, which will help to produce light, fluffy pancakes.
  • Heat the pan for two or three minutes before adding the fat to ensure that it doesn’t burn. An olive oil spray is not only a good option for those who are concerned about the fat content, it also has a high burning temperature which helps to keep the flavour of the pancake delicate.
  • One ladles worth of pancake batter is usually sufficient to make one perfect pancake.
  • You only need to flip each pancake once to avoid overcooking and toughening the pancakes.
Now you’ve honed up on your pancake making skills, why not try this recipe for American style pancakes with a sweet berry sauce

Image courtesy of the Flour Advisory Bureau

So, what's your favourite pancake on Shrove Tuesday?  Please let me know in the comments box!

p.s. My favourite sweet one is warm apples with fleur du sel caramel & a giant blob of creme fraiche.  

Banana & Roasted Hazelnut Loaf

In keeping with my "waste not, want not" philosophy (also called "cook more, eat more"), I needed to use up the bananas lurking in the fruit bowl.  There were 4 when I last looked, but knowing The Hubs & his sneaky habit of eating the food I want to cook with, I bought a few more on the way home from work.  And that was a fortuitous decision because the sneaky sod had eaten, not just one but TWO of my manky brown bananas... the brat.  That meant I had to try to mash up two hard yellow bananas which require arms of steel, not arms of jelly after a night out with the girls the evening before.

Oh well, I persevered as I knew the end result would be worth it, and it was going to be the last thing ever cooked in my old oven, so I sent it out in a blaze of glory