Friday afternoon was a good time to be at the inaugural Taste of Dublin event as blazing sunshine encouraged a cheerful and good humoured crowd to linger, sample and wander around a Dublin Castle courtyard crowded with stands and stalls. My €35 ticket (I managed to keep the dreaded Ticketmaster booking fees to €2 by buying from the Ticketmaster outlet in Stephen’s Green Shopping Centre) entitled me to €20-worth of florins, the festival currency, but the sky was the limit as soon as you set foot inside the event areas. With sample signature dishes priced from €5 to €8, that €20 didn’t last long and I’ve even read of people spending another €70 on top of that. I was well behaved though – after spending my first €20, I just bought €5 extra – and, although portions were less than generous, I would have been hard pressed to find something I really wanted to spend more on.
In the summertime I love to cook quiches and tarts – although I do have to admit that I often cheat and use ready-made frozen pastry. When I’ve time to actually make the pastry as well as the quiche (all too often it becomes a trade-off), I use Susan Loomis‘ short, sumptuous and food processor-friendly recipe but, last Friday, with our Scottish ex-NZ Housemates coming round for dinner, there simply wasn’t time. I ditched the idea of making the pastry but, while talking to our guests from the kitchen and getting some salad together, I did manage to give the onions enough cooking time so that they were meltingly sweet and a really good base for the rest of the flavours – pungent smoked bacon and sharp mature cheddar cheese.
Not long after food blogging first cropped up on my radar, I discovered Julie Powell’s blog, the Julie/Julia Project. I thought the idea was great – to document her attempts to cook the recipes in Julia Child’s classic cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking in just one year – but I didn’t much like Julie’s blog persona and I never went back. How times change. A couple of years later, I couldn’t put down the book that she wrote, much of which was taken directly from her the same blog entries that had annoyed me.
When the weather is good no one wants to spend time in the kitchen and, when the Boyfriend arrived home from the supermarket the other day with a large box of button mushrooms, I didn’t much feel like frying them or using them in an omelette strognoff or making a mushroom stroganoff or risotto or any one of the thousand and one things I use mushrooms for. I normally prefer the meatier, large flat Portobello mushrooms but, after spending the weeks in Morocco poring over Claudia Roden’s salad recipes in A New Book of Middle Eastern Food, I had an idea for these styrofoam buttons.
The Tax Advisor had decided to have another bring-a-course dinner party and, because the Boyfriend and I have plenty of space in our current Dublin flat – as well as small but useful items such as cooking utensils, crockery, chairs and a table – I volunteered us as hosts. Although there were to be eight for dinner, we decided to avoid having as many courses as last time, and limited it to just an opener, mains plus salads, and deserts. There were still the usual “who’s cooking what ” emails doing the rounds and, only being just back from our travels, I decided to make something Moroccan.
Lonely Planet’s World Food MoroccoDoes exactly what it says on the tin. Having travelled and eaten our way around Thailand and Malaysia with the respective versions of these small, incredibly useful books, I recently added their Moroccan edition to my collection. Dense with information on everything from food customs to street foods and including recipes for traditional Moroccan dishes like couscous and tagines, they’re an invaluable resource while travelling. A mine of fascinating facts on argan oil, which is used to make the nutty breakfast spread called amalou; details of the ubiquitous mint tea and other drinks; regional variations in foodstuffs; and the utensils used in the Moroccan kitchen. A selection of great photos help you to identify ingredients and – Lonely Planet are nothing if not thorough! – it also has a dictionary of culinary terms, a glossary and useful phrases in both Arabic and French. As well as our well-used Malaysia & Singapore and Thailand books, the Lonely Planet World Food series also covers places like Portugal, Vietnam, Ireland (but, to the Boyfriend’s disgust, no New Zealand!), Greece and New Orleans. An invaluable travelling companion.