When asked about Irish food producing areas the Midlands is rarely the first place that comes to mind but did you know that we have our own honey, ice cream, yoghurts, sausages, cordials, cheese, chocolate, bread, chorizo …..to name but a few products
My father used to talk about Meitheals in the West of Ireland where he grew up – everyone coming together to help their neighbour to complete a task which would have taken forever otherwise.
I saw the Meitheal concept in operation last week when very good friends gathered round to help me photograph my food offerings. The wonderful Derick, one half of Kenmare Foodies, ventured up from the Kingdom and spent the day cooking up a storm. The lovely Fiona from Hunters Lodge arrived supposedly to potwash but was quickly put to work as a food stylist (and ironer). The fabulous Paula Ryan was photographer for the day and the results are stunning. Paul from the Shoebox arrived in the afternoon and we even got him to do some work in the kitchen! Then Jacqui & Geoff appeared that evening to make us cocktails and sample the food.
Here’s a flavour of the day…
And then there was the poser…..
And I love this one – very Downtonesque
Food photography is hungry work so I had to provide everyone with a treat to keep them sweet – with chocolate cake of course 🙂
This gorgeous cake is from a Nigella recipe and then topped with lovely orange and almond chocolate which turns it into a rather large jaffa cake…..
Chocolate & Orange Cake
Oven: 180°C/fan 160°C/Gas 4
What you need:
- 5 clementines
- 6 eggs
- 225g /8oz caster sugar
- 250g/9 oz ground almonds
- 1 tsp (heaped) baking powder
- 2 bars Butlers Orange and Almond Chocolate
What you do:
- Simmer the clementines in saucepan of water for 2 hours. Check occasionally to make sure you don’t run out of water! Drain and allow to cool
- Cut each clementine in half, remove any pips and then whizz oranges in a food processor.
- Line the base of 20 cm springform tin with baking parchment and butter the sides
- Beat the eggs
- Mix the dry ingredients – sugar, almonds and baking powder together.
- Add in to the beaten eggs and mix well.
- Finally stir in the puréed oranges.
- Pour mix into the lined tin and bake in preheated oven for 50 mins to an hour or until skewer comes out clean.
- Allow cake to cool in tin for about 10 mins before transferring to a wire rack
- To finish, melt the chocolate bars and spread quickly over the top and sides of the cake.
Happy Cooking !
Thanks again to Derick, Fiona and Paula for all their hard work – you were brilliant guys x.
Oh and the lover bit – well to quote Meatloaf two out of three ain’t bad – the CT was on business in the UK and missed all the fun.
My poor blog has been much neglected of late. Despite all my resolutions there always seems to be something else that to done or somewhere else I need to be………
There’s lots I want to share – like the weekend at Inishfood and all the amazing food; the surprise no-menu that I had in Springfort Hall….and of course recipes that I’ve tried from my cookbook collection……..
So let’s start with the most recent – Summer Cocktails in Fallon & Byrne .
I love this shop – they have the most amazing selection of fresh fruit and vegetables; great variety of oils, vinegars, seasonings, savouries, cheese and chocolates to name but a few; one of the best deli counters for lunch or coffee and of course a very tempting wine cellar…….
So when I received a tweet from them asking for my email address I was intrigued…..and not disappointed when I received an invitation to an evening of summer cocktails, nibbles and natter! Through the magic that is twitter I soon discovered others that had received a similiar invitation and it looked like shaping up to a lively evening………
It didn’t disappoint – I met up with the lovely Aoife otherwise known as Babaduck and the debonair Paul from The ShoeBox in Kilkenny for a catch up and wander up Grafton Street (there are times I regret leaving Dublin). The sun even made an appearance for the occasion!
Then at the appointed hour we presented ourselves at Fallon & Byrne where the wonderful Jennifer treated us like royalty (despite my falling up the stairs!)
We meet Paul Lambert the man behind the Cocktail Menu who explained that they were using the fresh produce from the food hall to add that difference to their cocktails – and on tasting we agreed! There was so much fresh fruit and herbs in the cocktails they were almost healthy.
I opted for the Poppy Honeysuckle to start – a blend of Jameson whiskey, elder flower liqueur, Sauvignon Blanc, honey, pressed apple juice, lemon juice & passion fruit syrup – all served in a ‘grown up’ Martini glass. I am not a whiskey fan but this was divinely palatable! My companions chose the French 75 and the Mojito.
The staff were most attentive and as soon as our glasses were empty they ‘insisted’ on serving us more….
I went for the Passion Fruit & Jalapeño Margarita (jalapeño-infused tequila, passion fruit, mint and lemon juice) on the recommendation of Lily from A Mexican Cook in Ireland. I’m a bit of a chilli addict and my taste buds loved this. This time my companions went for an Old Fashioned & a Rspberry Caipirinha.
We were also treated to some beautifully crafted canapés – naturally I was very interested (call it industrial espionage!!). I need to work on getting mine to look this good!
My favourite was the goat’s cheese tartlets followed by the gazpacho – I loved the cups!
Before leaving I had to try one more cocktail – a mojito on Paul’s recommendation! Then Cinders headed back to the country whilst the rest of them partied on to the Tapas Trail launch……..
Take my word for it you should go and try their cocktails for yourself – they will definitely brighten up your summer and if you want my recommendation go for the jalapeño margarita …
Pssst they have “buy one get one on the house’ cocktails on Mondays & Tuesdays…………….
PS Special thanks is also due to my ‘chauffeur’ who put up with my post cocktail giggling all the way home!
I make a lot of canapés – both for business and home entertaining. This year I’ve been asked for easy canapé ideas at my cookery demos so I thought I’d share a few of my favourites. I hope you like them!
I used to make my tartlets from filo pastry – a rather long process but I came across the idea for these on holiday last year and they have made my life much easier!
You need a mini-muffin tray, a packet of wonton wrappers, some sunflower oil and a pastry brush – brush each wonton sheet with oil and mould it into the muffin tin to make a small case. (This is much easier to demonstrate than explain!)
When you’ve filled the mini muffin tray sprinkle the cases with a little salt and bake at 200 C for 4 mins. Allow to cool on a wire rack and then use or store in airtight container for up to 4 days.
This is what your end product should look like:
The possiblities are now endless….Some fillings I use are:
- Avocado & crab topped with some créme fraiche and dill mustard
- Red onion marmalade and Cooleeney brie (put in oven for minute or two to soften the cheese)
- Prawn cocktail
- Thai beef salad
Sticky Christmas Sausages
This is another great recipe from my favourite Christmas book ‘Nigella’s Christmas’ and the best thing is that they can be prepared in advance and frozen – just put mix and sausages in plastic bag and take out of freezer a few hours before your guests are due!
What you need:
- 2lbs cocktail sausages (approx. 60)
- 125 ml sweet chilli sauce
- 60 ml cranberry sauce
- 60 ml soy sauce
- 1 tbsp. dark muscovado sugar
- Juice of 1 small orange
- Juice of 1 lime
What you do:
- Mix together all the ingredients except the sausages to make glaze
- Put sausages in foil tray (much easier than cleaning a roasting tray!)
- Pour glaze over sausages and mix to coat.
- Cook for 20 mins then turn and cook for another 10 -20 mins until they’re hot and sticky.
Smoked Salmon/Trout Wraps
This is another quick and easy idea which doesn’t really need a recipe!
What you need:
- Tortillla wraps (I find the Discovery ones the easiest to roll!)
- Some Goatsbridge Smoked Trout or some Smoked Salmon
- Cream cheese
What you need:
- Simply ‘butter’ your tortilla wraps with the cream cheese
- Place strips of trout or salmon on the cheese
- Season with a little black pepper and lemon juice then roll into a ‘tube’
- If you have time wrap in clingfilm and leave in the fridge to set but otherwise trim the two edges, cut wrap into three then cut each piece into two diagonally (again this is much easier to show!)
- Other fillings which work are roasted peppers, parma ham, pesto……..
Christmas came early to Hey Pesto! this year – with my first ever full day ‘lifestyle’ course on ‘Getting Ready for Christmas’
There was great fun organising everything – turning my living room into a ‘pop-up’ dining room and my garden into a temporary flower shop!
- Canapés – Crab & avocado tartlets, sticky cocktail sausages, brie & red onion marmalade tartlets and coronation turkey vol-au-vents
- Starter – Chestnut soup with crispy bacon
- Main – Risotto stuffed quail, celeriac & potato gratin, jazzed-up parsnip mash, caramelised potatoes & chestnuts, apricot & hazelnut stuffing balls
- Dessert – Christmas pudding ice cream
After a few last minute vegetable cooking, the guests (yes they were upgraded for lunch!)adjourned to my ‘new’ dining room where lunch was served to them.
I have to apologise for the lack of colour on the main course plate – I concentrated more on different ways of cooking the vegetables rather than working on the colour! In ‘real life’ I would probably serve something like red cabbage with the quail to add colour! There was a debate over gravy – it’s not a tradition in our house so I never think of including it!
Thanks to Kate for taking the photos at lunch – we were busy turning the kitchen into a flower arranging room!
Once the guests were fed and ‘watered’ they reverted to students and Joanie from Flower Rangers took over – introducing us to the art of flower arranging and seasonal centrepieces.
We rounded off the afternoon with more tea with vanilla shortbread, gingerbread cookies and more mince pies.
After much hilarity everyone left happy with their goody bags and recipe booklets.
And once the tidying up was done Joanie and I celebrated a job well done
A big special thanks to my sous – chef James who played a blinder – I hope he remembers me when he’s famous!
Now the question is – do we do it all again?!