None of the much loved Enid Blyton‘s Famous Five books that I read as a child were complete without a picnic – ham rolls, hard boiled eggs, slabs of fruit cake, tinned pears and, of course, lashings and lashings of ginger beer. The only kind of ginger drink that I came across in Ireland was ginger ale, ginger beer’s much sweeter and less spicy sibling. I wasn’t too impressed.
I have to agree with Ice Cream Ireland‘s comment on the incongruous presence of Starbucks at last weekend’s Taste of Dublin. It’s difficult to see what they have to do with food at all and in Dublin in particular. RTÉ 2FM DJ Rick O’Shea also writes of his experiences at A Taste Of Dublin (Or Two, Or Three…. Maybe Dessert Too…) and there’s debate over at the forum on Ernie Whalley’s forkncork.com. While you’re there, it’s worth taking a look at the conflicting opinions on Fallon & Byrne.
This is the perfect book for any foodie who’s ever spent hours puzzling over unfamiliar ingredients in their local delicatessen or ethnic food shop. Glynn Christian, originally from New Zealand, has been a food writer and broadcaster in England for many years, and as a result, has a rare international perspective. His breadth of experience also includes setting up the legendary Mr Christian’s Delicatessen in London’s Notting Hill in the 1970s.
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.