Many thanks to all of you for your lovely comments to my last post. I’m touched and I really appreciate it :-)

And I also want to say a big thank you to whoever nominated me for the Irish Blog Awards- this little corner of the blogosphere has been longlisted in the Best Food & Drink category and it’s a real honour to be considered. Cheers! 

Jen

xxx

Well, the title gives it away, doesn’t it?

I think it may be time to, er, call time on this blog. For one reason or another, I’m just not feeling very inspired these days and that doesn’t make for particularly interesting blog material.  

Thanks for reading and all your wonderful comments over the past 18 months – it’s been an absolute joy to meet so many fabulous people through this site.  You all rock :-)

See ya later.

edinburgh-castle

Off to Edinburgh for the weekend to catch up with friends, potter about, eat good things and gossip.

In the meantime…

1. Check out Homepages – brought to you by Catherine Brodigan,  it’s a unique collection of stories and photographs, the first of its kind in Ireland. The nation’s best bloggers hold forth on the theme of “home”, covering everything from pets and expat life to parenting and the Kellogg’s Variety Pack. By turns hilarious, heartbreaking and thought-provoking, it promises a captivating read and showcases some of Ireland’s best undiscovered writing talent.

All proceeds from the sale of this book, compiled on an entirely voluntary basis from submissions made via this website, go directly to Focus Ireland, who provide services and support for people who are homeless across Ireland.

The book is now on sale for €14 via Lulu.com on a print-on-demand basis. Click here to order your copy!

My copy is winging its way to me in the post as I type and I can’t wait to check it out! Congratulations to Catherine on this brilliant project :-)

2. Coming along to the Bloggers Christmas lunch in Dublin on Tuesday 16th December? If so, I’ll see you there. Many thanks to Niall for organising this get together.

3. And last, but certainly by no means least, Ireland’s favourite Swearing Lady is back! Huzzah!

edinburgh_rooftops

baked_brownies

Last year, I thought I’d found the perfect brownie recipe. Oh, I was so damn sure of it, I was quite the smug little madam at the time.

Well, budge over French Brownies, there’s a new contender for the throne with this recipe from the NY bakery… Baked. And, unless someone tells me the place completely sucks (please don’t!), I’m going to make a beeline for it if I’m ever lucky enough to go back to NY (looking increasingly unlikely, given the current economic climate).

Whereas my old favourites have a quite fudgy texture and sort of dissolve on the tongue, the Baked recipe turns out dense slabs of chocolate which demand a large mug of something hot and caffeinated to help wash down all that sugar.

Time to put on the kettle then…

The ‘Baked’ Brownie, from Baked by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito

Makes 24 brownies

You’ll need:

1 and 1/4 cups plain flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons dark unsweetened cocoa powder
11 oz dark chocolate, coarsley chopped
220g unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
1 and 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup firmly-packed light brown sugar
5 large eggs at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1.  Preheat the oven to 180C. Butter the sides and bottom of a 9×13 inch baking tin.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, salt and cocoa powder together.

3. Put the chocolate, butter and espresso powder in a large bowl and set it over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate and butter are completely melted and smooth. Turn off the heat but keep the bowl over the water and add the sugars. Whisk until completely combined, then remove the bowl from the pan. The mixture should be room temperature.

4. Add 3 eggs to the chocolate mixture and whisk until combined. Add the remaining eggs and whisk until combined. Add the vanilla and stir until combined. Do not overbeat the batter at this stage or your brownies will be cakey.

5. Sprinkle the flour mixture over the chocolate mixture. Using a spatula (not a whisk), fold the flour mixture into the chocolate until just a bit of the flour mixture is visible.

6. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake in the centre of the oven for 30 mins, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time, until a toothpick inserted into the centre of the brownies comes out with a few moist crumbs sticking to it. Let the brownies cool completely, then cut them into squares and serve.

Tightly covered with plastic wrap, the brownies keep at room temperature for up to 3 days.

boiled_egg
The work of months is coming to a head this week. As much as I thrive on a certain amount of pressure, this project has got me biting my nails, nawing my lip and starting awake at ungodly hours in a sweat, brain cranking into overtime about all the things that could possibly go wrong. 

In the meantime, I haven’t been spending a lot of time in the kitchen, so there isn’t much that’s new and interesting for the purposes of food blogging :-) Hence the boiled eggs for breakfast today. Although you can’t beat a good, soft-boiled egg with piles of hot buttery toast. Mmmmmm. Toast. [Stops typing and wanders off to make more.]

So, in substitute of a recipe, here are my answers to the Six Random Things meme that Rachel of Fairy Cake Heaven recently tagged me with. I’ve done something similar in the past but thought it would be fun to write up some food-related facts, what with this being a food blog and all:

1. One of the first things I made in Home Economics class at the age of eleven was macaroni cheese without the cheese as I’d forgotten to bring any with me. So macaroni with white sauce then. I received a mark of 6/10 for it.

2. I hate coffee. Bleurgh. But I have a drawer full of tea and hot chocolate:

tea_drawer

3. My grandad was a baker by trade. You couldn’t tell him you were going round to visit, otherwise you’d come away with more bread than you could possibly eat before it went stale. And it was great bread, so it was a shame to see it go to waste.

4. My favourite meal as a student: crappy white bread, Philidephia cheese and Frazzle crisps. I haven’t had one of those in years… I wonder if I tried one again whether it would be absolutely revolting. Perhaps it’s best left in the drawer marked ‘fondly remembered’.

5. My favourite food-related word of the moment is ‘spudnut’. Go on, try saying it without a smile cracking across your face. Spudnut. See?

It’s a type of doughnut with mashed potato in it and I’m itching to try out the recipe I’ve found to see if the taste is as good as the name.

6. The two books that really got me cooking as an adult were the MooseWood Cookbook and its follow-up The Enchanted Broccoli Forest, both by Molly Katzen. Somewhere in my early twenties, I realised that I couldn’t exist on a diet of Frazzle and Philidephia sandwiches alone (dammit) and a veggie friend recommended Molly’s books. It also helped that, at the time, I lived in a flat with an enormous kitchen and people willing to eat my experimental offerings of Green, Green Noodle Soup, Spinach-Ricotta Pie and many, many others. I still stand by her challah recipe as being the best I’ve ever tasted next to my grandad’s.

OK – would you like to do this meme? I’m throwing it open to anyone who wants a go – but particularly if you read this blog and have never commented before. Why not stop by in the comments section, say hello and tell me a little bit about yourself? :-)

eggshell_empty

Sometimes I want to make a recipe more because I’m as curious about the production process as I am about eating the final result. In the case of this marshmallow, that was a process that saw a lot of gooey mixture being splattered all over me and the kitchen. I’m still picking bits off the wall.

Folks – if you’re going to make this, use the biggest bowl you’ve got because otherwise it is going to go everywhere. I was just too lazy to drag the mother of all mixing bowls out of the cupboard. But nothing else will do when you’re whipping up hot syrupy liquid into puffy clouds of sweet nothing.

After that kind of warning, I suppose that it’s going to come as no suprise that I had to carefully prise the pages of, wait for it, Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey open to type up this recipe because, oh yes – I also managed to splash that with molten marshmallow as well.

Homemade marshmallows from Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey by Jill O’Connor

Makes 20 large marshmallows

You’ll need:

1 cup cold water
3 tablespoons unflavoured gelatin
2 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons pure vanilla
Cornstarch and icing sugar for dusting

1. Pour 1/2 cup of the cold water into a large ixing bowl or the bowl of a mixer. Sprinle the gelatin evenly over the water, 45 to 60 minutes.

2. In a large saucepan, combine the remaining 1/2 cup of cold water, the granulated sugar, the corn syrup and the salt. Heat the mixture over medium heat, stirring occasionally until the sugar dissolves.

3. Increase the heat to high and let the mixture come to a boil. Cook the syrup, without stirring, until it reaches 240F on a candy thermometer. Do not allow the syrup to go past 244F or the marshmallows will be rubbery rather than tender.

4. Remove the syrup from the heat and slowly beat it into the dissolved gelatin with an electric mixer set at low speed. Increase the mixer speed to high and continue beating until the mixture is very thick and white but still warm – about 15 minutes. Beat in the vanilla.

5. Generously dust a 9/13 inch baking pan with cornstarch. Pour the marshmallow mixture into the pan, smooth the top with a spatula and dust the top liberally with icing sugar.

6. Let the marshmallow stand, uncovered, for 8 to 12 hours to firm up. Turn the marshmallow from the pan on to a sheet of greaseproof paper liberally dusted with icing sugar. Cut into 20 large squares. Dust each square with more icing sugar. Store in a tightly covered container until ready to serve.

Cook’s notes

Next time, I’d ease off on the vanilla essence a little bit. It was just a touch too strong for my tastes.

And, next time, I’ll play with some food colouring for variety.

Sometimes you come across a beautiful ingredient and it’s a pleasure to just spend some time thinking about how best to use it.

I found these figs in Beshoffs* in Howth on Saturday, along with the jaw-dropping array of fish and shellfish that the shop is better known for. (Living a few miles inland, I just don’t get to see that kind of fishy feast very often and it was tempting to go a bit bananas in there.)

After a knock-out lunch at Ivan’s next door and a post-prandial stroll along the pier to shake off some of the food-induced snooziness, we returned home – Mr B with a big parcel of fish, me clutching my paper bag of dusky-purple fruit, dreaming of all the possibilites…

Fig, mozzarella and prosciutto salad… that would be nice. Or maybe I would roast them and then drizzle honey over the lot, accompanied by a dollop of something sharp. What about making a jam or compote? Although did I really have enough for that…

Cake.

Yes. Definitely cake. (Although, let’s face facts, it’s always cake with me.)

 
So I spent Sunday puttering around the kitchen, the comforting hum of the oven in the background, roasting hazlenuts, before skinning and pulverizing them for this cake.

Normally, that would seem like too much effort to me but it was more relaxing than anything else, in the way these sorts of activities can be when you don’t have any plans for the day and time magically expands to fit your needs. Now, if only I could apply that trick to my working day as well (answers on a postcard or blog comment please).  

Hazlenut and fig cake from Holiday by Bill Granger

(Serves 6-8)

You’ll need:

125g unsalted butter, softened
150g caster sugar
75g plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
3 eggs, lightly beaten
100g ground hazlenuts
50g hazlenuts, chopped into small pieces
8 fresh figs (not too ripe), halved
2 tablespoons honey

1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gask mark 4. Cream the butter and the sugar in a large mixing bowl until pale and fluffy.

2. Sift together the flour and baing powder. Use a large metal spoon to fold the flour and eggs alternately into the creamed mizture. Fold in the ground hazlenuts and then the chopped ones.

3. Grease a 20cm/8-inch cake tin and line with baking paper,  leaving the paper hanging over the sides to help you lift out the cake. Spoon the mixture into the tin. Arrange the figs, cut side up, in a neat layer on top of the cake. Bake for 55 mins to 1 hour, or until a skewer poked in the middle of the cake comes out clean.

4. Leave to rest in the tin for 10 minutes before turning out. Drizzle honey over the top of the cake just before serving.

(Bill notes that this is lovely both as a cake and as a dessert with lightly whipped cream.

*Beshoffs doesn’t appear to have a website – how can that be? However, the also-excellent Wrights do…

… and I never want to.

Chopped salads weren’t a feature of my childhood. Run-of-the-mill lettuce n’ tomato combos (tomato ignored by me at the time) and coleslaw were regulars on our table. But chopped… Not that I remember. And I’ve always flicked past them in cookbooks because copious amounts of mayonnaise always seem to be involved and that just makes me feel a little queasy. Teeny tiny pieces of unidentifiable food drowning in an ocean of gooey dressing does not make for an appetising dish.

Also, somehow, in my brain, chopped salad equalled egg mayo salad. Don’t ask me why.

Well, that’s one prejudice well and truly demolished. I don’t know what drew me to this recipe the most – the promise of the salty feta or the contrasting lighter flavour of the cucumber, along with the herbs. But all of a sudden, there I was at the kitchen counter, crumbling cheese, chopping red onion and rifling the fridge for whatever herbs I could find like my life depended on it.

The result was a crunchy, tangy revelation. To the point where I just stood there, scooping one spoonful after another onto a hunk of bread and shovelling it greedily into my mouth. Scoop, shovel, chomp, repeat. Followed by small sighs of contentment.

Joanna Weir’s Cucumber and Feta Salad via the incomparable David Lebovitz.

*Coughs quietly* So, er, anyone still out there?

Turns out, I just needed three straight weeks of sleep. Amazing what a few early nights can do. In the meantime, this place has started to look a bit neglected, a little sad and cobwebby in the corners, so it’s probably time to set that right.

With chocolate cupcakes.

These babies definitely come from the no-frills school of cupcake baking but are none the worse for that. One day, I will dust off that piping kit I bought when I was full of good intentions about doing some schmancy-pants decorating – but this recipe from Ottolenghi, The Cookbook will somehow get me through in the meantime.

Ottolenghi is the kind of deli/bakery/food nirvarna I would give my right eye, firstborn child and, well, anything really, to have at the bottom of my street or preferably next door. But I live in deepest, darkest 
commuters-ville, and the only thing at the end of my street is… another housing estate. So Ottolenghi is allowing me to indulge a little daydream about tripping down the bustling city street to my new favourite place and lingering over the mouthwatering selection of salads, mains and baked goods. Cucumber and poppyseed salad, cauliflower and cumin fritters, sweet potato galettes, plum-marzipan muffins, two-textured chocolate cake…

Oops – did I wander off there for a minute? Now, clearly I’m a sucker for a bit of good photography and a great concept. I have been sold a little slice of the urban living fantasy with this book and I know it. But no recipe feels too complicated for a school night and the friendly voices of Sami and Yotam, the owners, flow off every page like they’re old friends just hanging around in your kitchen, talking about what they’d like to make next.

Hmmmmmmm…. what to make next…     

Chocolate cupcakes from Ottolenghi, The Cookbook

Makes 12

2 free-range eggs
115ml soured cream
80ml sunflower oil
20ml black treacle
20g unsalted butter, melted
60g caster sugar
60g light muscovado sugar
120g plain flour
35g cocoa powder
1tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/4 tsp salt
40g ground almonds
200g dark chocolate, cut into small pieces

For the icing:

165g dark chocolate, cut into small pieces
135ml whipping cream
35g unsalted butter, diced
1tbsp Amaretto liqueur

1. Heat the oven to 170C/gas mark 3. Line a muffin tray or bun sheet with 12 paper cases.

2. Whisk together the first seven ingredients in a large mixing bowl until they are just combined – don’t overmix. Sift together the flour, cocoa, baking powder and bicarb. Add them to the wet mix along with the salt and almonds, and gently fold together. Fold in the chocolate pieces.

3. Spoon the batter into the cupcake cases, filling them up completely. Bake for about 20-25 mins – if you insert a skewer in one, it should come out with quite a bit of crumb attached. Remove from the oven and leave to cool, then take the cupcakes out of their tins.

4.  While the cupcakes are in the oven, start making the icing. It will take time to set and become spreadable. Place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Put the cream in a small saucepan and heat almost to boiling point, then pour it over the chocolate. Use a rubber spatula to stir until all the chocolate has melted. Add the butter and the Amaretto and beat until smooth.

5. Transfer the icing to a clean bowl and cover the surface with clingflim. Leave at room temperature until the cupcakes have fully cooled and the icing has started to set. You want to catch it at the point when it spreads easily but isn’t hard. Do not rush it by refridgerating!

6. Spoon a generous amount of icing on top of each cupcake and shape with a paleete knife.

Cook’s notes

I may have had the oven turned up too hot, as these were done and a little dark around the edges at bang-on 20 mins. Icing, however, covers a multitude of sins.

I left the icing to set for too long – easily distracted, see – so my efforts don’t look as luscious as they do in the book.

Ok – I haven’t posted for about two weeks and, to be honest, I’m just feeling a little extremely tired right now. Work, life, a lack of anything resembling a good dose of sunshine, whatever – I’ve got a pair of holes in my head where my eyes should be.

So I’m going to make a giant nest from all the duvets in the house, switch off the lights and hibernate for the next couple of weeks.

Back in October. Be good in the meantime :-)

Hello

I'm short of stature (a family trait) but big of appetite (also a family trait). If you're reading this then you're probably big of appetite too. Or a member of my family (hello Mum).
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