Birthday cakes are, almost inevitably, chocolate–based in my family. It is undoubtedly the default option, beloved by everybody, not least by the birthday celebrants. This year, however, we were to celebrate the mother’s (January) birthday on an unseasonably bright February day and – unusually – I wasn’t in the mood for chocolate baking. After a discussion with my normal cooking-partner-in-crime, the Little Sister, and inspired by the amount of citrus fruit in the shops, I went down the orange and almond road instead, making a light but very moist cake. It seemed, at the time, to be the season for lighter cooking – an idea promptly destroyed by subsequent appearances of hail, ice and snow.
I have loved Pancake Tuesday ever since I was a child, standing on a chair so I could reach the cooker to make stacks and stacks of pancakes. It sometimes took a long time before the family was satiated! Since those crêpe-making days, the thinner the better, I’ve become a fan of fluffy American pancakes and I’ve yet to decide which way the pancake batter is going to go this evening. Maybe both – I’ve always loved two course pancake suppers and Ricotta and Spinach Pancake Bake is my default savoury option.
For anyone wanting more food blog reading, The London Times published a list of their top 50 food blogs which is well worth spending some time with. It’s got lots of old favourites – Chocolate and Zucchini is in there, along with 101 Cookbooks, Chez Pim and David Lebovitz – but there are plenty more to discover. Make sure you check out Dorie Greenspan’s baking, interior design in The Kitchn, step by step cooking on The Pioneer Woman Cooks, and amazing food photography from Cannelle et Vanille.
If you’re based in or around Cork and interested in growing your own food, take a look at the Cork Food Web. It’s been described as “facebook for foodies” and is dedicated to encouraging and facilitating local food production, with a series of groups for members interested in poultry, seed saving, compost, growing vegetables and all things garden related. I missed their seed swap last weekeend but one of the very helpful organisers is going to send me some of the left over seeds, including my favourite pumpkins, as we try to get the garden up and running for 2009. With all the sunshine today, it really feels like a day for getting out and planting.
Congratulations to the five who are shortlisted for the Best Food/Drink Blog at this year’s Irish Blog Awards. I’ll be looking forward to seeing who walks away with the award on the Saturday night! Click any of the links below for lots of good reading and there’s lots more in the other shortlisted categories over here.
Best Food/Drink Blog – Sponsored by Bord Bia
Not having a television, I missed Peter Ward of Nenagh’s Country Choice on the Late Late Show but fortunately was able to catch it online here. Peter is a passionate man – passionate about the food he sells, the quality of produce available in Ireland and passionate when talking about how he sees the supermarkets driving farmers away from the land. His idea of a national online farmers’ market, linking the producer directly with the consumer, makes a lot of sense, but there will have to be some rethinking about the barriers of regulation first.
After a relaxing, sunny weekend in Baltimore we’ve returned home with headfuls of ideas, lots of notes, a handful of mail order catalogues and lots of inspiration for our garden in 2009. Jean Perry, who owns the five acres and house at Glebe Gardens with her artist husband Peter, was our teacher for the two day course. They run a popular café on site, producing most of the organic vegetables, fruit and herbs that they use there from the raised beds and polytunnels in the gardens.