I have a confession to make: I’ve just bought myself a shiny, glossy red KitchenAid Artisan Stand Mixer! The workhorse of many an American kitchen and beloved by cooks like Nigel and Nigella, I’ve been lusting after one of these babies for quite a while. I first fell in love with one I saw in the Cork branch of Meadows and Byrne a few years ago but, after peeking at the price tag, never thought there was going to be a chance that it would ever be sitting in my kitchen. Then we got married. And one of the lovely things about having a celebration of your relationship is that people give you gifts. So, several of those gifts, in the handbag of a rather giddy girl, made their way to Brown Thomas a couple of weeks ago. Although my hopes were initially dashed as they had sold out of red mixers – and, having set my heart on a red one, who would want an almond-coloured one instead? – the helpful staff ordered one in and gave me a call when it arrived. The poor Husband got the job of carrying the heavy box, all rapidly-getting-heavier 22lbs of it, home, having been promised future riches of cakes, cookies and breads, and it sat, in its box, in the hall of our Dublin flat – no space for mixers – until this weekend when I finally got to take it down to the cottage.
It’s moving week so there’s not much cooking and baking going on, apart from me making loaves of brown bread to try and use up some of the six – yes, count them, SIX! (and that’s not mentioning the few that are down at the cottage, ahem…) – bags of flour that I have sitting on my shelves. The flat that we are moving into in Dublin is much smaller and doesn’t have a freezer so for a while there was a mad race to finish up all the frozen foodstuffs at our current place. Then we made a quick trip to DID Electrical so we now have a new under-counter freezer and the pressure is off. It still leaves me scratching my head at some of the things that I have in there though. Who knows why I froze a brioche loaf or what kinds of curry are in all those little plastic containers that I use for lunches? Certainly not the person who should have been labelling them!
This is the most useful recipe to have in your repertoire. I use it – sometimes with the addition of broccoli, chorizo, bacon or chilli – with gnocchi, pasta, cannelloni and polenta, as a topping for pizza and even when baking pancakes. If you can track down some decent Italian plum tomatoes, it’s all the better for that; if you can’t, just keep tasting and adjusting the flavour with sugar if it’s too bitter, red wine or balsamic vinegar if it’s too sweet, tomato purée if it needs more body, water if it’s too thick. If you have fresh basil, add it at the end to lift the flavour of sauce. I often use thyme – fresh if I have it but sometimes dried – if I want the sauce to have a herby tinge.
Well, after years of searching plus 2½ never-ending months of frustrating to-ing and fro-ing with mortgage providers, solicitors and auctioneers we have finally managed to take possession of a little country cottage, our Irish bach, in North County Cork. It is a typically small Irish cottage with a pair of small bedrooms upstairs. It could not, by any stretch of the imagination, be described as roomy although the current lack of furniture does make it feel slightly more spacious!
One of the (very) many events organised by fellow food bloggers is a series of regular parcel exchanges. Last year in New Zealand I thoroughly enjoyed participating in Blog By Mail 2 and now I’ve gotten involved in Euro Blogging By Post #5, this round of which is being run by Jeanne over at the London-based Cooksister blog. Jeanne picked “The Taste of Summer” as her theme so I’ve assembled a parcel along those lines with a (slight) emphasis on Irish products.
Ingredient experiments – Pomegranate molasses: Bulgur and Cauliflower Salad with Pomegranate Molasses Dressing
When out shopping – especially in ethnic food shops – I’m a demon for picking up new and unusual ingredients that I’ve no idea how to use. I just see something in Dublin’s Asian Market, say, or – very especially – Middle Eastern shop Spiceland that looks interesting and, before I know it, it’s in my basket and I’m thinking: “didn’t I see a recipe for that somewhere recently?” Hence my food cupboards are filled with lots of things that keep getting pushed to the back and never used.
Honey – Moroccan honey is the most un-honey-tasting honey that I’ve ever eaten. We often had it for breakfast, the rich caramel sweetness drizzled across English muffin-styled Moroccan pancakes called beghrir or the flaky, multi-layered m’semen. Accompanied with a tall glass of freshly squeezed orange juice and a café crème, it made the perfect start to the day.Spices – although I’ve been really happy with my old blend of ras el hanout from Greg Malouf‘s Moorish, I couldn’t resist the chance of picking up some more to compare and contrast it with what I use. I also got turmeric, ground ginger and two types of chilli powder(at least I think that’s what piment fort/piment doux means!).Olives – a kilo of green olives in what the shopkeeper described as “piquante” flavouring and another half kilo of wrinkled sweet black olives. I loved how each meal in Morocco started with a small bowl of these olives and a basket of flatbread as we perused the menu. They never lasted long.Dates – considering the variety and quality on offer, I was restrained and came home with only a half kilo of the sweet, plump fruit. One dish that kept turning up in the books that I read while travelling there was of a roasted fish, stuffed with almond-filled dates. Must try and keep a few true Moroccan dates to try out that recipe.Preserved lemons – while picking up the olives and dates in a small shop near the Casablanca train station, minutes before we had to get the train to the airport, I couldn’t resist getting a few of these glorious-looking lemons. This, despite the fact that I’d made a jarful from some organic lemons before I left Ireland! Another thing for the compare and contrast experiments, methinks.Garlic – the small bulbs of garlic available in Morocco are much sweeter than the stuff that you can find on sale in Ireland. I love to use raw garlic but it can be very off-putting if, instead of gently cosying up to the other ingredients, it decides to loudly broadcast its presence. I brought some good quality garlic home from Paris and it lasted me ages so I couldn’t resist grabbing a couple of bulbs in Casablanca when I got the chance.