Congratulations to all those who are on the longlist for the Best Food and Wine Blog 2008 – it’s great to see so many old favourites there, including Val’s Kitchen, Italian Foodies, Ice Cream Ireland, Martin Dwyer, The Humble Housewife and Eat Drink Live. There are also plenty of new blogs, reminding me that it’s definitely time to do some work on my blog roll!
Don’t forget Pancake Tuesday tomorrow! I’m looking forward to trying out a new product from Sowan’s Organics – two organic pancake mixes, one with unbleached white flour and a spelt variation, which I’m particularly interested in. Both come fortified with organic vanilla, a great addition to savoury dishes – when I’m making Nic‘s Buttermilk Pancakes, I flavour them with some vanilla extract before adding the crispy bacon and maple syrup. If you have to buy a mix, best stick with something organic but, if you’re interested in making your own pancakes, you’ll find my standard recipe here with a useful dish for Pancake Tuesday – Ricotta and Spinach Pancake Bake. For more ideas check out Greatfood.ie‘s pancake special.
I was recently asked whether baking – particularly bread making – in Ireland is undergoing a recent resurgence or is it on the way out? Are people too busy/too tired to cook, never mind bake, for themselves? Judging by the amount of people that bake and blog about it, it doesn’t look like it! What do you think?
Black Forrest Gateau was one of the joys of a ’70s childhood. With its layers of chocolate cake, punctuated by cream and tinned cherries, then decorated with chocolate curls, it always stood proud on desert trolleys of the era during the infrequent times my family went out for dinner. My attempts at assembling my own variation on, what was for the time, perfection, were made with the assistance of a small cookbook that purported to show you how to cook everything possibly needed for Christmas well ahead of time and freeze it. I took this all very seriously and well remember myself piping trays of cream rosettes for freezing (and forgetting) in advance of the festive season. That Gateau wasn’t too bad but a recent attempt to bring the cake into the 21st Century was even more successful.
Apologies for the loss in transmission for the last while. My hosting company decided to play silly buggers and, as we were in New Zealand on an in impromptu trip to surprise the Husband’s grandfather for his 80th birthday, it was a little difficult to sort out. Still, I’m back now and ready to start eating my way through 2008!
Christmas Cake, made by my mother from Granny’s recipe – rich, more-ish and, best of all, still around to enjoy with pots of tea.My aunt’s fabulous Plum Pudding, eaten after Christmas dinner with lots of Brandy Butter and oodles of cream.Black pudding from Hanley’s of Mitchelstown, nicely flecked with oatmeal and hot from the pan with some late homegrown apples cut into segments and caramelised.Greatfood2buy‘s Wild Cranberry and Apple Chutney, with toasted cheese sandwiches (particularly anything involving blue cheese) and, especially, with the aforementioned black pudding.An almost disastrous Stephen’s Day soup – Split Green Pea and Ham this year – which got left on too low a heat during the family’s traditional woodland walk so that the peas almost didn’t disintegrate in time for lunch. Some rapid simmering and cheeseboard distraction saved the day, however!Stollen, toasted under the grill until brown and bubbling, buttered and served with mugs of cinnamon hot chocolate in front of the fire.The traditional family post-Christmas dish: left-over ham and turkey stripped off the bones, heated in a simple Mushroom and White Wine Sauce and dolloped over sourdough toast or steaming heaps of garlicky mash.Savoury tarts made for visiting family – a seasonal combination of broccoli, Cashel Blue, fresh cranberries, chorizo and caramelised onions snuggled together under a custard blanket.Little wooden crates of brightly coloured clementines, heaped under the Christmas tree and eaten in great quantities as the antidote to Christmas excess…
Super Natural Cooking: Five Ways To Incorporate Whole and Natural Ingredients into Your Cooking by Heidi Swanson (Ten Speed Press)Blogger, photographer, graphic designer and passionate cook Heidi Swanson demystifies unfamiliar health shop ingredients in Super Natural Cooking, a cookbook that drags the world of whole foods very firmly into the 21st century. Nothing is complicated, all is creative and original and Heidi is an encouraging teacher. This is a satisfyingly chunky book, designed with love and attention to detail. Must Cook: Giant Crusty and Creamy White Beans with Greens
Although I’ve been immersed in study, there is (somehow!) always time for reading cookbooks. Here are a few recommendations for Christmas.Cook Simple by Diana Henry (Mitchell Beazley)I’m a fan of Diana’s Crazy Water, Pickled Lemons and last year’s Roast Figs, Sugar Snow so I was looking forward to reading Cook Simple and it’s remained on top of the pile ever since. Here you’ll find brilliant ideas for dinners, and plenty of them, with influences from Sweden, Sicily, Turkey and Georgia. Divided into chapters based around easily available core ingredients – pasta, fish, sausages, leg of lamb – with seasonal vegetables and fruit in their own sections, Diana gives lots of recipes and ideas to make mealtimes easier. Must Make: Roast Squash, Feta and Black Olive Salad.