It’s not that I need an excuse to bake, especially if there’s a cake and/or chocolate involved, but the radio was so full of International Women’s Day blather today – George Hook was particularly enjoying himself with his list of “top ten females” on Newstalk! – that I just had to make something to distract myself.
Cookery demonstrations + cakes + ovens + me = narrow escapes! On Wednesday night I was demonstrating some recipes in the community centre at Knockcarron, a really lovely renovated primary school in Co Limerick, when oven issues arose once again.
When I was small we grew rhubarb in the back garden. Whatever variety it was – we had sourced the crown from some friend or relative so there were no labels – it grew gigantic stems, as thick as a baby’s wrist, topped by enormous leaves that we thought looked like child-sized umbrellas. I was never a fan: it was so stringy that it had to be peeled before cooking and I was always extremely dubious about any fruit or vegetable that did such a good job of shining the inside of the saucepan in which it was cooked.
After the excitement of our first – albeit cracked – egg, three out of four of the chickens have been earning their keep. We’re still not sure who’s holding out, but most mornings, when we go out to the run to feed and water them, there are three eggs waiting in the nesting box. They’re small – I’m using two instead of one at the moment – but perfectly formed and, I didn’t expect this, have an incredible flavour. It must be all the Ballyvoddy slugs that they pick up on their wanders around the garden.
On Saturday – two weeks after our (supposedly) point-of-lay pullets arrived – there was great excitement when the Husband discovered a little egg, still warm, on the bottom of the hen house. Unfortunately, by the time he found it, it was already cracked, proving that our chickens still haven’t got the hang of things. The chicken that laid the egg managed to do it from her perch, rather than the nice cosy nesting box. Still, the cat was delighted to get an egg for her tea and hopefully it won’t take too much longer for the rest of the girls to follow her example.When you take the cost of the hen house and run into consideration, this is, as the Financially-Orientated Brother pointed out, the most expensive egg ever in the history of egg-laying. When the chickens get the hang of the egg-producing life, we are hoping that the average cost of each egg will come down quite a bit.
On Friday night two friends were arriving in from Cambridge in time for a late supper. They didn’t arrive until after 9pm, fortunately, as the previous night at Mackerel and an after-work engagement party ensured that I didn’t get home until around half seven. Walking home from town I nipped into Spiceland to pick up some pita breads and a tin of dolmades (rice stuffed vine leaves) and together with a few house basics – potatoes, carrots, chorizo, eggs – decided on a simple tapas-style meal with a Mediterranean flavour.
My friend the Film Critic had a birthday last week and so I took it into my head, late on Tuesday night, to make him a birthday cake. Wanting something simple – and that I already had the ingredients for in the house – I decided on a straightforward Gâteau au Yaourt, which seems to be a French national dish. I first came across this cake on Clotilde’s Chocolate & Zucchini blog and, subsequently, it also cropped up in Christelle Le Ru’s Simply Irresistible French Desserts and also as a Frenchwoman’s contribution to the Moneystown school’s charity cookbook. It was evidentially time to try it out.