Bibliocook - All About Food Blog

Bibliocook.com - Baked Irish Brie with Sunburnt Red Ale Caramel and Pecans 1

Baked Irish Brie with Sunburnt Red Ale Caramel and Pecans

Melted cheese. Hot, bubbling, gloriously rich, fabulously molten melted cheese. From fondue, Irish-style, to Diana Henry’s Tartiflette or the simplest Tuna Melt, anything that involves cheese + heat is a wintertime winner at the cottage, especially with the recent cold snap.

Working on recipes for this week’s cookery demonstration at Bulgaden Castle, I decided to feature some Irish cheese. It was a cold day when I was looking at my Cooleeney brie and the oven was already on. I couldn’t resist. It had to be baked, served under a blanket of bitter-sweet caramel and crunchy pecan nuts – and half-eaten before anyone else got near it.

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Cookbooks for Christmas 2013 – Part 1

Shuush…you may not realise it but Christmas is coming. Or, like me, you may have small people in the house.

It took until June this year until I managed to distract them away from singing Christmas carols; now we’re back in full flow with Frosty the *blinking* Snowman. Sigh.

Still, with all this early concentration on the season in question – we had our first Christmas dinner two weeks ago before the Little Sister headed back to life in Aus – I’m hoping to get well ahead with my preparations. No allowing the Little Brother to order my cookbook presents on 21 December. He’s based in Austin, Texas for the moment.

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Listen: Kamal Mouzawak

Kamal Mouzawak was the first person I ever interviewed for Culture File. At the time – September 2010 – the inspirational Lebanese chef and food activist was visiting the Taste of West Cork food conference to discuss sustainability and food for the future.

He’s had first hand experience of this. In 2004 he had a vision of uniting his divided country through food. Souk el-Tayeb, the farmers’ market that he set up in Beirut has become a place where people – of all backgrounds and beliefs – can come together to share food, feed their fellow countrymen and relish the culinary traditions of Lebanon.

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Thursday jamborees: Damson Amaretto Jam

This time two years ago, we had a four-week-old baby, an obstreperous two-and-a-half-year-old, a newly renovated – but not entirely finished – cottage and a six-month-old brewery. There was no time, no money, and precious little peace.

So I made jam.

Actually, to be entirely precise, after morning naps on Thursdays, I grabbed a box of jam jars, a pair of girls and drove over to my mother’s house for lunch. In contrast to the chaos at home, the table would be laid, kettle boiling, floor swept – and an extra pair of hands ready to dandle a baby.

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Bibliocook: best blog of a journalist

Saturday night was supposed to be quiet. It was a work weekend for me, the day spent talking at and attending Jim Carroll’s Banter in Kinsale, with a side trip to check out an Ummera smoked chicken sandwich at the book-lined Poet’s Corner. I came home to two post-bath, pj-clad little girls sitting up at the table to have their favourite “Daddy’s dinner” – baked beans (not homemade!) on toast.

Car packed with beer for Sunday tastings at Cloughtoberfest and our smallies in bed, it was time to curl up on the couch in front of the fire and get stuck into the Saturday papers.

That didn’t last long.

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30 Years at Ballymaloe by Darina Allen

In 2007 I did the 12-week cookery course at Ballymaloe. I only had to come down the road for it; many of my classmates had travelled much further, coming from England, Spain, Sweden, Australia and America to study in this internationally known Irish cookery school. It was an intense, hard-working, food-filled transition time for me, a hiatus between full-time work in Dublin and freelancing from a country cottage.

It was also pure luxury, three months spent immersed in a kitchen. We cooked all morning, ate the results for lunch, watched demos in the afternoons and – hungry again – queued eagerly to devour what had been produced. Just as well there was some time spent hoovering the demo room, carrying buckets of scraps to the hens (two of the students’ chores) and walking to the pub (not such a chore!) to balance it all out.

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Culture File: Seaweed and oysters

It was all a bit Caroline-goes-down-to-the-sea this week for Culture File.

I was fortunate to have the opportunity to scramble about on a beach in West Cork with Sally McKenna, author of Extreme Greens, a fascinating and accessible look at foraging for, cooking with and using seaweed in a matter-of-fact everyday manner.

It doesn’t have to be all about eating it with seafood either. You can use the umami of seaweed to highlight the flavour in a simple loaf of bread, a bowl of popcorn, homemade lemonade or some crackers.

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Polenta Lemon Buttermilk Cake

Two years. Two sisters. Two cakes.

Two pairs of little hands to get stuck into my mixing bowls.

Every year, when trying to figure out what to make, I remind myself about rule number one of birthday cakes: kids don’t care about eating the cake, it just needs lots of colour and some candles on top. Every year – twice a year – I disregard my own advice. I can never resist making a cake that the adults will enjoy after all the icing and edible glitter has been picked off.