Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Brown Irish soda bread - the definitive version

Trial and error

It took me six attempts at making brown bread to figure out how to get it exactly right. I wanted chewy, dark, malty, deliciousness, and to begin with I got dry and hard as a bullet. I tried using all manner of powders and sodas, I tried all wholemeal, half wholemeal, several different types of flour, I overcooked it, undercooked it, and cooked it so that it fused itself to the baking parchment that I inadvisably used to line the tin. And after all that, this one, which takes one bowl and 20 seconds to make is the best brown bread...possibly ever. Now if only my house mates would stop eating it before its even cool!!

My main bit of wisdom to impart is this: use buttermilk. Nothing else makes it taste even nearly as good.

3/4 lb of coarse wholemeal flour
1/4 lb plain white flour
1 heaped teaspoon bread soda
1 level teaspoon salt
1 level teaspoon sugar
450ml buttermilk

in a bowl combine flours, breadsoda, salt and sugar in a bowl. Add buttermilk and stir to a sloppy consistency. Pour this mixture into a well greased 1lb loaf tin. Bake in a preheated oven at gas 8/about 230 Celsius for 50 min. Remove from oven and take out of tin. Tap the bottom of the loaf. It should sound hollow. At this point I usually put it back in the loaf tin upside down and return it to the oven for another 10 mins to crisp up the bottom.

Apologies for not blogging for AGES! My cooking mojo is hiding under a rock and I dont have a decent camera. I will be back soon though. XxLola

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Black Bean & Barley Chili

Veggie Treat
I love a nice big bowl of vegetarian chili, it picks me up and comforts me. Winter is most definitely on the way out - so I may have to forget about dishes like these until Autumn - hurray! 
Black beans are great for you too, packed full of fiber and are also good at lowering cholesterol. I've been trying to cook with them for the last while, but haven't come up with anything with sharing until now. The colour that comes form the beans lends a really dark and 'meaty' tone to the dish.

Ingredients - Serves 4
1 tin of black beans
I large onion - finely chopped
3 cloves of garlic crushed
1 teaspoon of fresh rosemary - finely chopped
1 teaspoon of fresh thyme - finely chopped
2 carrots - finely cubed
1 cup of pearl barley
1 tin of tomatoes
1 teaspoon of balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon of paprika
Dried or fresh chili to taste
2 tablespoons of olive oil

To serve
Fresh lime juice to taste
Cream Cheese - I used Yeats County Cream Cheese 
Freshly chopped parsley


  1. Put the peel form the onion, outer layer and the gratings from the carrots in a pot - cover with a small amount of water and bring to a boil, simmer while you make the rest of the dish.
  2. In a large high sided frying pan, gently sweat your onion in the olive oil. After a few minutes add the garlic. Once the onion is translucent, add in the fresh herbs (if you have fresh oregano all the better!) Cook for a further 2 minutes.
  3. Then add in the paprika and chili and stir briefly. Next stir in the tomatoes, beans, vinegar, carrot and pearl barley. Add in the stock you made with the onion and carrot. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer gently for about 30 minutes until the barley is cooked. You might need to add a little more water so check on it every so often.
  4. To serve top with a good dollop of yummy cream cheese, add a good squeeze of lime and a healthy sprinkle of parsley. I'm sure that cream cheese and barley aren't traditional ingredients in a chili - but I don't care this was so satisfying.

You can serve with some rice, in Quesadilla, with corn chips - or anything else that is vaguely Mexican. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Crunchy Toasted Chickpeas

Higher Protein Popcorn

This is a great stock cupboard snack to have up your sleeve. Nice to serve with drinks, or while watching a film should you have been watching (god forbid) Heston Blumenthal pointless quest to rid cineworld of popcorn. The less said about that programme the better. You have to allow these to cool before eating as it's only once they're cooled that they gain their crunchiness. You can use any variety of herbs and spices for these - whatever you like just chuck it in there! The chickpea flour is not necessary, you can use ordinary flour. I used a mixture of chickpeas and other beans (kidney and haricot) - they didn't come out so well so I'd just stick with the chickpeas

1 can of chickpeas - well drained
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 tablespoon of chickpea flower
1/2 teaspoon of turmeric
1 teaspoon of garam masala
a dusting of dried chili flakes
A good bit of salt
Freshly milled pepper

1) Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl, until all the chickpeas are evenly coated.
2) Toss onto a baking tray
3) Toast at 200c for 30 mins turning every 10 minutes
4) Allow to cool and serve. I served mine with a lemon and yogurt sauce though it was kind of tricky to eat, they're best eaten on their own with a nice beer - Helwick Gold maybe mmmmmmm beer! 
What's wrong with this picture?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


The Best of Inishowen, and Ireland

So what started out as a few bloggers going to visit Harry's restaurant, became about 60 foodies, producers, farmers and chefs descending on the Inishowen Peninsula. It was a packed 2 days (it would have been 3 had the weather not failed us!) Filled with demos, tastings, lunches, dinners, coffees, drinks and the tasting of fresh blood!

The man that no one will argue was the driving force behind the weekend was Donal Doherty of Harry's restaurant. He made everyone equally welcome and seemed justifiably excited in the shared enthusiasm of everyone there for this ethos and ideas of how we should eat.

The atmosphere and tone of the weekend was unbridled enthusiasm and positivity,  which in recent times is like a refreshing jump in the cold Atlantic - yeouch! The occasion made you feel like you would look back at this weekend in the years to come and say - yes I was there! The simple and very straight forward fact is that we have such a rich and fantastic island here - we should eat as much that comes from it's soils for a multitude of reasons. Supporting our farmers, keeping money on our shores, keeping carbon emissions down, freshness, this list could go on and on. Donal used the term locavorism, a term he really takes seriously in the running of his restaurant, using meat and produce from his closest neighbors.

On a more personal level, recently I have become slightly disillusioned with the blog. A point that arrives in each bloggers life where you think "Do you know what I don't think anyone reads this?" A little down at heel I got myself all the way up to Donegal. Now re-inspired by a wealth of local producers and farmers, who all seemed keen and interested in the bloggers and the work that we do. Donal during his introduction to the walled garden community project, he said that bloggers were responsible for spreading the word. The weekend told me no don't give up, what you do is important to people outside the blogging community.

Now to do a quick pictorial run through of the weekend - get ready to drool!

Darren Bradley - very generously invited us all into his back yard where he has built his own pizza oven. With the help of his neighbor they fired out the pizza for several hours, while we all enjoyed a beer. My favorite slice was of goats cheese, carmelised onions, rosemary and truffle oil pizza.

Men of the moment - Donal of Harry's and Darren Bradley - self named Pizza Guy
After a quick welcome speech from the lovely Kirsten and Caroline of the Irish Food Bloggers Association and the blogs Dinner Du Jour and Bibliocook. It was the turn of Colin & Seanin from L. Mulligans Grocer in Stoneybatter. He introduced 3 Irish brewed and produced beers. Dungarvan Brewery's Helwick Gold, a lovely crisp beer ideal for serving with fish and chicken. A second beer that escapes me now. Thirdly was Dark Arts from Trouble Brewing Company, a truly beautiful porter, it maybe in the running for my new favourite beer.
Colin from L Mulligans Grocer loves his beer

Then it was away down a candle lit drive to Linsfort Castle B&B for storytelling and songs. A great range of stories told from Inishowen natives. The highlight of which had to be Bertie (88?) a true performer and he made me cry.

In the room next door a stew was bubbling on the stove, of venison and Dexter beef, prepared by Raymond Moran the head Chef at Harry's. It was truly tasty. In the following room a table was groaning under a weigh of cakes and a wheel of the creamy goodness that is Durrus cheese and Glebe Brethan cheese too.

Off to bed, breakfast the next morning was prepared by the welcoming Mary at Westbrook B&B.

The day at Harry's was kicked off by the lovely Juan of Coffee Angel, he was using Bailies Coffee Beans in a multitude of different ways to produce a range of coffees. 

Harrys' own butcher butchers one quarter of beef every week, so when it's gone it's off the menu! They have their own hanging room where they hang all their meat. Surprisingly little waste as seen here in this bin!
Then it was over the the enigmatic Ed Hick to demonstrate Pork Curing. We all got stuck in and I have alovely piece curing away in my fridge. I also got talking to the pigs producer of Wishing Well Farm, who told me this was his first pig. I'll be reporting back on my piece when it's ready to go.

Fluffy Blood
Pudding Ingredients
Ed Hick gets down to business
Jack Mc Carthy - you can't hide behind that pudding!
Theatrical Shots of the Puddings
McCarthy of Kanturk Award Winning Pudding
The Happy Butchers!
Lunch was slow cooked the brisket, rib, pot roast & shoulder from Marshall farms very first dexter  5mins from Harry's
After lunch we were treated to  raw milk latte, which was Divine. Then it was onto butter making with Imen from I married an Irish farmer. Great demo and so easy to do - you just need some good elbow grease. I think I've learnt the secret to Imens great photos - it's all her  pretty accessories! 
Then a tour of the walled garden that Donal along with the help of are setting up as a community garden. 
Pretty Lichen is bad for the fruit trees
A Man with a Vision!
Whippet on the Wall
Curious Horsie
Then home for a quick change of clothes and onto what I can pretty safely call the best meal of my life. Not only because of the quality of the food, cooking and ingredients, but the build up started that morning at Harry's when we got to talk to and meet the producers and farmers, that passion really came through in the food that night.
Selection of pates and toasted brioche
Butter we made earlier
Breaded Langoustine, Salt Cod and Greencastle Scampi
Pollack with Thai Spices, seaweed crisp and
sweet pepper sauce
Beef Shin Ravioli with horseradish Sauce on wild garlic
Venison Carpaccio, Mc Carthys pistahio, mint and chocolate black
pudding &  Venison Confit with Hazelnut Crust
Football Special Panna Cotta, Buttermilk Ice-cream
& deconstructed cheesecake with Yeats Country
Cream Cheese  
The only thing left to do is thank everyone from my fellow bloggers to the farmers and producers who all gave so generously of their time. Thanks to the lovely Joanna of Smorgasblog for the lift. To Catherine at the Runcible Spoon and the hilarious Aoife of I Can Has Cook for their good company. A big thank you to Caroline and Kirstin of the IFBA. An finally the man who I've mentioned about 20 times in the post - Donal Doherty for sharing his passion and showing us how things can be done when you really believe in the quality of our amazing local produce! 

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Cinnamon & Raisin Bagels

Boilin' the Bagels

A trip to New York is never complete without ordering a bagel from a deli. The bagel emerges toasty hot and stuffed to the gills with your chosen filling. Pastrami to the thickness of a couple of inches, topped with thin ribboned iceberg lettuce and mayo and tomato. It's a feat to try and take in that first bite.

Since I've visited New york twice, I can by no means make any claims to be an expert. The bagels there are different from the ones you get in the local Spar here. A real bagel has to be boiled, and I don't see no large vats of bubbling water beside the ovens churning out the jambons and chicken fillets. After boiling they are indeed baked as well, but the boiling gives them a chewy and slight hint of dumpling that you just can't get here.

Leaning Tower of Bagels on a Sunny Day!
I decided to make some of my own after reading Donal Skehans post on his mammoth eating holiday in Manhattan. I found a recipe for Cinnamon and Raisin Breakfast Bagels on his blog too - so that all came together nicely. Donal is a long time Irish blogger, just celebrating the release of his second cook book 'Kitchen Hero' Congrats to Donal, hope the book does fantastically!

I followed his recipe faithfully here, and now have a freezer half full of bagels, just pop them in the toaster for instant breakfast or afternoon tea. Spread with fresh butter, or cream cheese. I attempted hot cross buns last year - and failed miserably, these are much better alternative.


Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Pancake Stack with Toasted Almonds and Maple Syrup

Today is Tuesday

Some confusion arose this morning as to - firstly what day of the week it was and then subsequently - was this pancake Tuesday? I decided it was and went off to fix myself a massive coffee and what turned out to be an equally enormous stack of pancakes.

It is pancake Tuesday - but not until next week, so for once I am ahead of the game and have this recipe for you to try on the real pancake Tuesday!
Serves 2 - makes 10 mini pancakes (diameter 10cm!)
55g plain flour
1 egg
100 ml of milk with 35 ml cold water added in
melted butter - around a tablespoon
Maple Syrup
Large Handful Toasted Almonds

  • Sieve the flour into a large bowl. Add in a pinch of salt if you like.
  • Make a well in the centre of the sifted flour. Break the egg into the centre. Break up the eggs with a spoon and then gently stir, so that the egg pulls in a little flour with each stir. Continue to do this until the mixture is getting thick.
  • Add in a little of the milk mixture - continue until all the flour has been incorporated. If you don't rush then you should have a nice batter that has little lumps. If you do have lumps give it a whisk with a balloon whisk.
  • Allow the mixture to rest for a few minutes if you did use a balloon whisk.
  • Heat up a small non stick frying pan on a med/high heat. Add in a small nob of butter. When it begins to bubble add in a spoonful of the pancake mixture. Swirl around to coat the base of the pan.

  • If you have the pan heated up well - the pancake should take 230 seconds or so on each side. You can see the batter on top slowly turning opaque as it cooks through.
  • Stack pancakes in a warm oven on a plate covered with kitchen towel until you have a huge pile of pancakes. Then enjoy with your topping of choice - sugar and lemon, maple syrup, nutella, banana and Chantilly cream.