Wednesday, September 24, 2008

super buns

oh yes. they really are. they are a fabulous failsafe party favourite. generous, soft and delicately flavoured. the recipe was originally from the ivillage website but it has gradually been adapted with the addition of various flavours.

sadly these that I made do not contain a single trace of chocolate (it has been an overdose kind of day) but it is easy enough to add in chocolate chips, cocoa or chocolate icing to satisfy your cravings.


makes 12 large cupcakes

125g softened butter
125g caster sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract

grated zest of one large orange
125g self-raising flour
2 tbsp milk


preheat the oven to 190C. place the paper cases in the holes

in a mixing bowl beat the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. i thoroughly recommend an electric whisk.

add the beaten egg, a little at a time, whisking to incorporate, then beat in the vanilla and orange zest.

sift in half of the flour and you should fold it in carefully but i have no patience for this and just whisk it in and i have never had a trouble...yet.

add the milk and the rest of the flour and whisk until well combined.

spoon into the tin and bake for 12 minutes or until risen and golden on top.

allow to cool for ten minutes on a rack.


400g icing sugar

200g softened (but not melted butter)

5ml freshly squeezed orange juice

finely grated zest of 1 orange

plump and lovely raspberries

put all the above ingredients in a bowl and whisk thoroughly til light and fluffy.

cut the very top off the buns to give a flat surface.

generously pile the buttercream on the top and finally top with a raspberry.

variations we have enjoyed...

replace the raspberry with a blueberry, strawberry or bramble.

colour the icing and replace the cut top in 2 halves to make pretty as you like butterfly buns.

add lemon zest instead of orange zest and top with a dollop of lemon curd (preferably my mum's irresistable home made stuff!!)

blend the butter and icing sugar with about 2 tbsp of cocoa powder or 50g of melted dark chocolate.

Friday, September 12, 2008

lovely things for a weekend in caherciveen

this is the last saturday we are open at the factory before we go back down to our 5 day autumn week. call in if you are around to take advantage of our last saturday extended opening hours (10am-5pm). as much as i love the chocolates i am relishing the idea of all the relaxing weekend treats that will be my oyster again.

first thing to do is get the coffee brewing while we pop out to 'petit delice' the spectacularly good french patisserie that opened up in town this summer. light, buttery croissants and gooey, sticky pain aux raisins are the choice for breakfast. we stock up for lunch with goats cheese on black olive and walnut bread and afternoon delights, usually consisting of fresh fruit tarts and proper french style chocolate eclairs (with the thick chocolate custard inside rather than waffy cream). as you see we don't skimp on treats at the weekend!

a trip to the library and the park is usually rounded up with a drink in the welcoming arms of qc's or the anchor (if the football is on...)

qc's is quite possibly my favourite restaurant ever. it holds its own in terms of character, atmosphere and food against any restaurant i've eaten in (and that is a rapidly growing number). many a rainy evening has been spent sat in front of the fire bankrupting ourselves on fine wine and seafood. my addiction to the prawn cocotte and lola's penchant for deep fried squid rings is hard to finance.

i still remember when we were just moving to the area, it was paddy's day 2007 - the weather was wild. against squally winds and lashing rains - we took refuge in qc's amid the throngs of locals, soon to become our friends and neighbours, and gently steamed in front of the log fire while jack plied us with mackerel pate and homemade brown bread for lunch. as dusk set in coffees and hot whiskey saw us right until finally we succumbed to locally reared steak with colcannon and the wonderfully named 'orange roughy' from the evening specials. we tottered back to the b&b content, well fed and eager to return!

sundays will see us lazing in the
spectacular setting of the lighthouse cafe on valentia island. perched on the hillside above knightstown the lighthouse cafe offers a simple menu of excellently executed local food made breathtaking by the amount of produce grown in the cafe's garden. The salad is an explosion of colour with homegrown lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, peppers, onions and nastursiums. The bread is speckled with fennel seeds from the huge fennel plants protruding through the other vegetation. Delicious mussels in a chilli flecked broth, mackerel fillets, seafood chowder, followed by homebaked fruit crumble and pancakes with sugar and lemon. food like this can't fail to impress me when it is this quality in these surroundings. and i don't know whether this little corner of valentia is cultivating its own microclimate but every time i have been up there this year the rain clouds part and the sun sparkles across the sea, warming us enough to sit out in the fresh air and admire the view. should the rain force you in though the cafe itself is a simply and beautifully decorated barn conversion. even the toilets in the outhouse are a pleasurable experience - as you walk past the bursting greenhouse, past swathes of mint and homegrown potatoes for sale. at the bottom of the hill through the 'insects, gnats and nasties' of the long grass is a treasure trove of outdoorsy games to keep the family entertained through a lazy afternoon. not to be missed.

Monday, September 8, 2008

buckets o' chocolate

a useful tip for all you chocolate addicted cooks out there...
500g buckets of high quality couverture are now available on the skelligs chocolate website. the wipe clean, sealable and reuseable buckets are incredibly practical and useful to have stacked up in your kitchen cupboard for any chocolate culinary adventure you might encounter.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

chocolate tarte

another lovely chocolatey recipe from guillemette - we are being spoiled...

70g sugar
4 eggs
125g dark chocolate
50 cl double cream

2 tbsp milk

short crust pastry

put the pastry in a mould, brush with a little egg yolk and put in the oven for 15 mins.

melt the chocolate in a saucepan with 2 spoons of milk

add the sugar and whisk

add the fresh cream and mix well

add the eggs and continue to mix

pour the sauce on the pastry

put in the oven - 180°C 20-25min


Friday, September 5, 2008

Russian pulling cake / Russischer Zupfkuchen

a russian cake but very often cooked in germany.
the recipe comes from a german girl who came to stay for a couple of days so some words may be lost in translation (from german to french to english...)

for 12 portions

for the paste:
400 g flour
200 g butter or margarine
85 g sugar
40 g cocoa
2 eggs
1tbsp baking powder

for the quark filling:
250 g butter (soft)
125 g sugar
500 g margerquark (or yoghurt)
3 eggs
1tbsp vanilla sugar

you need a deep 9" cake pan


make a kneadable paste of all the first ingredients.
two thirds of the paste will go at the bottom and the sides of the mould.

for the filling, cream the butter and sugar and gradually mix in all the other ingredients.
pour the filling on to the paste base .

from the reamining paste create little balls and throw them into the filling.

bake at 200 °C (fan oven 175 °C) on middle shelf for approx. 1 hour.

to test whether the cake is ready, insert a skewer or sharp knife into the centre, if it comes out clean the cake is ready.

the cake is even better if it rests a day before eating...

good luck :)