Being a big fan of cranberries, I decided to turn some of the fresh ones currently in the shops into desert for our annual Christmas bookclub dinner last week. For the last few months I’ve been experimenting with Clotilde‘s versatile Gâteau au Yaourt or Yoghurt Cake, making different flavoured versions, including an All Spice Upside Down Plum Cake for dinner with my uncle, aunt and cousins in the cottage and, when the Boyfriend was hosting his Arabic class at our flat, a Middle Eastern-inspired Pine Nut, Orange and Rose Water Cake.
Yearly Archive: 2006
Number three in an occasional series…Any foodie can’t help but be seduced by Ana Pascal’s (Maggie Gyllenhaal, never looking sexier than here, kneading dough in dungarees) passion for cooking in Marc Foster’s Stranger than Fiction. You can find a good review here on Confessions of a Film Critic. An anarchist baker, Ana runs a little café in New York, counters laden with tempting-looking cookies and cakes – just like the kind of café that you’d like to have in your own neighbourhood. Not amused by having to be audited by IRS agent Harold Crick (Will Ferrell, playing it straight for once), she nevertheless bakes him fresh chocolate chip cookies, serving them up with a glass of milk and a helping of light-up-the-screen charisma. She also has an amazing speech which, of course, I can’t fully remember or find online anywhere, about how she realised in law school that she was meant to be a baker, giving a litany of American cookies, traybakes and brownies that will have you salivating at the cinema. And how does the IRS agent win her heart? With a box of flours – rye, wholegrain – all in littlebrown paper bags with colour-coded stickers. Anyone stuck for an idea for your favourite foodie this Christmas?
If you’re looking for a Christmas present with a difference, Oxfam Ireland recently launched an online Fair Trade shop at www.oxfamirelandshop.com – they have plenty of foodie gifts, including a selection of Blake’s Irish Fairtrade and Organic Chocolate Bars, coffees, teas and a couple of lovely Fair Trade Hampers, along with jewellery, throws and wooden toys.
An early, very generous, Christmas present from my brother arrived on Friday. A rapidly couriered, well padded little box containing a gold mine – a selection of walnut-sized, pungent-smelling black French truffles. Needless to say, I’ve never before had the opportunity to cook with truffles so this weekend, down at the cottage and far from the internet, was spent excitedly poring over my many cookbooks for recipes and ideas. Saturday night’s dinner was an extravaganza of gently Scrambled Eggs with Truffles with a musky Truffle Risotto to follow, all accompanied by some decent sparkling wine (Jacob’s Creek Chardonnay Pinot Noir), courtesy of the sister, and plenty of pauses for taste appreciation, much to the Boyfriend’s amusement!
If anyone’s around Dublin for the weekend and at a loose end – although that might be unlikely given the time of the year! – the National Crafts and Design Fair is on at the RDS in Dublin this weekend. The Dublin-based Cousin and I went along last night and discovered plenty of ways of spending our money on arty, crafty bits for Christmas, plus a whole room devoted to a variety of food products, whether you’re looking for regato style goat’s cheese from Cloon Goat Farm or tubs of soft Springwell Sheep’s Cheese, to stock up for Christmas on Filligans’ chutneys, mustards and jams (make sure you check out the Irish Peach & Cardamon Chutney), mini caramel waffles from Wicklow Fine Foods and Boozeberries festive-coloured liqueur.
Last weekend’s (unexpectedly extended) stay in England included a trip to the best farm shop I’ve ever visited, the HFG Farm Shop at Beeston, Norfolk. We were in Norwich visiting the Engineering Couple and my kinswoman, their beloved Irish terrier, Bridie, who, knowing my love of food, brought us there after a morning spent tramping and on the river in their Canadian canoe. Outside the shop were long stems of brussels sprouts and sparkly Christmas wreaths but the real treasure was inside. Tables were piled with home baking – hungry from our morning’s activities, Paradise Slices, Flapjacks, Shortbread and Date Slices immediately caught our eye – while groaning shelves of jams, jellies, oils, vinegars and chocolate lined the walls. A freezer was stocked with a multi-coloured selection of loose frozen fruits and baskets of locally grown vegetables were stacked high at the end of the room. The food available was more than tempting and, although I did resist, I still managed to walk out of the shop heavily laden with the aforementioned baking, brown paper bags of spelt and wholewheat flour from Letheringsett Watermill, a warty celeriac, a selection of nobbly Jerusalem artichokes and, because I never can resist something gingery, a bottle of Great Uncle Cornelius’ Finest Spiced Ginger Non-Alcoholic Apertif.
I didn’t have much time for shopping on my recent Berlin trip but I did manage to make a selection of purchases around the themes (although I didn’t notice this at the time!) of cherries and chocolate, mostly from the fantastic Kollwitzplatz Saturday Market.In the cherry category we have:1 x bottle of Griotka cherry liqueur from Prague Airport. Very useful when you arrive at a cold cottage late on Friday nights, especially when sips of the liqueur are alternated with sips of caramelised cinnamon hot chocolate.1 x bottle of kirschwasser or cherry brandy from Berlin. Still unopened. I’m limiting myself to one bottle of alcoholic cherry drink at a time!1 x small tin box of Pulmoll cherry sweets, also from Prague Airport.1 x bar of Nestle Noir Cerise chocolate. Decided to pass this to the family – it then disappeared too quickly for me to test it.1 x jar of amazing cherry-laden jam from Scandinavia, I think, that I ended up buying after starting a conversation with a Very Persuasive saleswoman in Kollwitzplatz Market.
I recently got a mail from a New York PR company about a Nextbook podcast featuring one of my favourite cookbook writers, Middle Eastern food enthusiast Claudia Roden. Nextbook’s interviewer, Hugh Levinson, visited her kitchen in London and talks to her while she prepares Poulet aux Dattes (Chicken with Dates) and Salade de Tomates et Poivrons Grillés (Grilled Tomato and Pepper Salad), both from her last publication, The Book of Jewish Food.