Could Portugal be the new Spain? Reading Tessa Kiros’ Piri Piri Starfish and its references to petisco (tapas, Portuguese-style), chourico (substitute chorizo), port instead of sherry and salt cod (in Portugal – bacalhau, in Spain – bacalao) you could be forgiven for thinking things are moving that direction. This, the follow up to Kiros’ acclaimed parent-and-child-orientated Apples for Jam, is a more straightforward cookbook. As with Apples…, colour is very important, although the chapters are laid out in a more clear-cut way – Essential Recipes, Petisco Plates, Starters and Soups, Mains and Side Plates, Deserts and Cakes – than that book’s rainbow bright colour-coded sections. Here the tone is more grown up, with lots of muted blues and greys, beautifully designed page titles and a thick white and blue ribbon for marking your way through the book.
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Hog roast from Gubbeen was on the menu at the Waterford Food Fair farmers’ market in Dungarvan yesterday. Cooking started on Grattan Square at 5.30am so appetites were well-stimulated by the time Fingal Ferguson and his staff started serving blaas stuffed with roast pork to a hungry crowd around 1pm. It wasn’t the only food on offer at the market – think Chocolate Brownies from Tara’s Cookies, Baldwin’s farmhouse ice cream, O’Flynn’s Gourmet Sausages that I often pick up in the English Market, apple juice from Killowen Orchard and the Crinnaughtaun Juice Company – but, with waves of pork-infused smoke wafting through the square as it cooked, it was definitely the most spectacular.
Some weeks things work, at other times my attempts to fill the tins with sweet treats for work falls flat. This time I have a not very successful variation on Almond Honey Squares from a neat little Woman’s Weekly Simple Slices book that the Husband ordered for me recently. I think he’s trying to ensure his supply of different nice things to take to work – before I started making these weekly variations, it was a consistent diet of Chocolate Sesame Flapjacks and variations thereof.
Sometimes you start with one particular recipe and end up going off on a slightly different tangent. That’s what happened with these Chocolate Hazelnut Squares. After a comment by Sarah on my Lemon Traybake, I wandered over to Val’s Kitchen and took a look at the Hazelnut Caramel Slice that she made from a Rachel Allen recipe, dug out the book and started baking.
I think my mother has one of her legendary Pavlovas already in the works for the aftermath of the Easter family lunch but, if you’re not going to be as lucky, these Chocolate Hazelnut Mini-Puds, adapted from a Nigella recipe, are well worth trying. This mixture makes eight – serving our family of seven, with one left over to fight for – but it’s a very easy thing to halve the recipe if you are serving less people. You do not want to over cook these mini-puddings so the easiest way to make them is to melt the butter and dark chocolate just before lunch, leave to cool then combine with the rest of the pre-weighed ingredients as everyone relaxes after the lamb (it’s Easter – it has to be lamb!), sticking it into the oven while the table is cleared and the obligatory pot of post-lunch tea is made. And please do serve with the recommended jug of pouring cream – the combination of cold cream, gooey chocolate interior, crunchy hazelnuts (and, in the spirit of keeping this simple, I don’t worry about peeling them) and crusty sponge is truly worth enjoying in concentrated silence.
After the success of last week’s Chocolate Peanut Butter Squares, I decided to move on to something lighter and more fruity for this week’s sweet treat. I’m have been reading Annie Bell’s Gorgeous Cakes recently – the Mallow library is coming up trumps for brilliant cookbooks – and I have plenty of recipes bookmarked to try. Annie is not afraid of using her kitchen appliances and, after finally getting a kitchen to call my own, I now have both food processor (one of the first birthday gifts from the not-yet-Husband – he knew how to set up things for future baking happiness!) and KitchenAid mixer out and at my disposal. This recipe uses the food processor, taking minutes to put together although, if I were in my NZ kitchen appliance-less days, it would also be manageable with a wooden spoon, although I have to say that I avoided any creaming recipes for the whole year I was living there. I’m sure it would also work with any mixer at your disposal.
Nowadays, with a little breathing space and a (slightly) more regular routine, I’m on a mission to expand my cooking horizons and explore the years of stored up recipes. I finally have all my cookbooks in one house, albeit still scattered between the kitchen shelf, a corner of the table in the living room, piled up next to the computer, along the sides of the stairs and filling the recently-built shelves upstairs in what is supposed to be my office (these days it’s still too cold to heat more than the main living room!).
Sunday was family dinner day. One of the advantages of living in the countryside in North Cork is getting to spend more time with my family – and getting to try out lots of new recipes on them! This time round I decided to go with something very simple – Roast Chicken with Garlic and Lemon. “That doesn’t sound like you at all,” the Little Sister said suspiciously when I was talking to her on the phone that morning. “What’s the catch?” The last time she was around we were talking about serving her rabbit from the back garden so her reserve wasn’t entirely unwarranted, although unnecessary on this occasion. A good chicken needs no disguising. I just pushed some lemon thyme under the skin on the breast, tucked a few cloves of garlic and half a lemon inside the cavity and landed it in the oven, serving it with roasted carrots and peppers (livened up with a few chillies) and potatoes. There was supposed to be a side dish of Buttered Leeks as well – our leeks, grown from a bundle of seedlings that a friendly neighbour left on the doorstep last summer, flourished in the garden all winter – but, between breakfast in bed and flat tyres we forgot to pull them.