Since I first wrote about the McDonnell’s Good Food Cookbooks I have had several emails asking for recipes that people remember from their childhood or enjoyed years ago but have since lost. The latest request, from Renee who wants to make the cake for a family occasion, is for the Tea Brack recipe from the first cookbook. This is one of our family favourites, a much used recipe, but – as I well remember from frustrated occasions searching for it – annoyingly filed under the name Irish Tea Brack in the Irish Tea Time Favourites chapter, just across the page from Gingerbread.
In the “I wish I was still living in Dublin” category, check out the forthcoming evening of Italian food, wine and song organised by Greatfood.ie and the Italian School of Cooking for this Saturday night (29 March). Tickets for that are on sale at Greatfood2buy.com. Independent wine blog Sour Grapes – well worth taking a look at for some decent wine reviews – is organising a wine tasting event at Fallon & Byrne for 15 April. Sign up at Sour Grapes here.
Not having a TV, I’ve only just heard about Willie’s Wonky Chocolate Factory, a Channel 4 series about chocolate entrepreneur Willie Harcourt-Cooze and his dreams of growing, importing and manufacturing high-end chocolate products in England. Although there’s no video online, there is a selection of photos from each of the four episodes of the show, the last part of which was shown last night, alongside some of Willie’s recipes – I particularly like the Black Beans one. And make sure you don’t miss the feature on chocolate ad blasts from the past, including the caramel bunny, the Man from Milk Tray and – of course – “Ambassador! You are spoiling us”.
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.
…in which Bibliocook pays a quick visit in the rain to Blackheath Farmers’ Market, picking up a log of goat’s cheese on the way, has dinner in a rather nice private room at The Punter in Cambridge, eats breakfast in Baker and Spice (while admiring the enormous rectangles of butter and jars of jam for sharing in the middle of the communal table, wondering idly how long it takes before the display is irretrievably destroyed) dashes into The Hummingbird Bakery to take a peep at their cupcakes, walks all the way from Richmond train station to Skye Gyngall‘s tea house at Petersham Nurseries only to discover – oh tragedy – that it is shut on Mondays, cooks dinner (a gnocchi dish, with Gubbeen cheese and chorizo imported by Caroline, very much adapted from an idea in this month’s delicious.) for the London-based Brother and his partner, pays homage – once again – at Books for Cooks and catches up with a former Ballymaloe classmate over dark Americanos, Mushrooms and Goat’s Cheese on Brioche and a Chocolate Loaf Cake at the Grocer on Elgin. Phew!
Spring may not be properly sprung, judging by this week’s storms, but there’s still a lightness in the air, a brightness in the mornings and evenings which translates itself onto the dinner table. Not being entirely well organised gardeners, it took us a while to figure out which of the selection of plants still standing (or half battered down) in the garden is kale – the other that we still have growing is purple sprouting broccoli or PSB, although not yet P or S, although we still have our fingers crossed. We’re growing a variety called Ragged Jack, with large frilly leaves, and I had only ever encountered curly kale before this so initially refused to believe that it was edible. After confirming that it is indeed edible – more than that, it’s actually delicious, with tender and juicy leaves – we have been eating it with abandon.
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!).