Friday, July 31, 2009

fine food and swimming in the sun

we have returned sun kissed and relaxed from celebrating a friend's birthday in the south of france. it was 4 days of fabulous company, faultless hospitality and unforgettable food.
since there was always at least 12 people to cater for we had simple breakfasts of croissants and fig jam, lunches were a sprawling mass of cheeses, meats, pates, breads and salads - delicious and then took it in turns to cook the evening meal.
definite highlights for me were sophie and stewart's anchovy crostini, jo and dave's barbecued garlic bread and nick and isabelle's lancashire hotpot! i will try to get them to post their secret recipes on here...

our menu -
trout en pappiotte (chris's recent speciality)
medley of roast damsons and plums with toasted almond and honey mascapone
sea salt truffles

the recipe for the dessert is below - the damsons were picked freshly from the trees in the garden (thank you to the birthday boy -chris a. x); nothing was a greater pleasure than coming out of the tent in the morning sunshine and helping ourselves to a handful of plump, just ripe fruit. i've scaled this back to serve 4 but it is an easy one to do for large numbers.

medley of roast damsons and plums with toasted almond and honey mascapone

serves 4
8 ripe plums, halved and destoned
40 damsons, halved and destoned
1 tbsp caster sugar
1/2 tsp ground cardamom

tub of mascapone
1 tbsp ground almonds, toasted
1tbsp runny honey
1tbsp marsala wine
seeds of 1 vanilla pod or 1/2tsp vanilla essence

1.beat the almonds, honey, marsala, and the vanilla into the marscapone til thoroughly combined. set aside til later.
2. layer the plums and damsons in a large oven proof dish and sprinkle with the cardamom and sugar.
3. roast in the oven at 220c for 20-30 mins til beginning to caramelise and bubble in their own juices.
4. serve (careful - it is hot as hellfire when you bring it out) with the almond mascapone and almond tuiles if available.
5. a nice alternative is to use figs instead of plums. follow the instructions above but dip the cut side of the fig in the cardamom and sugar mix and grill or barbecue the cut side for 3-4 mins til brown and caramelised.

nothing better when sat by candlelight with frineds, in the warmth of a summer evening. thank you to all the adlingtons and the rest of the gang for a truly unforgettable holiday.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

singing in the rain...

we tried to be cheerful but in the end it was just thoroughly wet and we ended up racing to the coach for shelter. hard to believe we were swimming only 20 minutes before this photo!
we got home and lit the first fire of the summer and made unfailingly comforting eggs, beans and chips. i know everyone knows how to make this but will just share my chip secret.
leave the skin on good waxy potatoes and cut into chunky chip shapes. pour olive oil into a bowl along with a good scrunch of sea salt and twist of black pepper. throw in the raw chips and toss in the oil to coat thoroughly. bake in the oven at 200 C for 20 - 30 minutes until crispy. you can do them under the grill but i always forget them and they burn too easily.
we are at liscannor, county clare for 3 days next week - we got married there 6 years ago. fingers crossed it's better weather or that i remember to take wellies and bags of dry clothes.

Monday, July 27, 2009

happy all round

an inspired idea from my friend kyra - having spent all friday night making a superbly light and fluffy chocolate birthday cake for clara, she realised with only moments to go until the party started, that she had forgotten to ice it! she whipped out her homemade raspberry jam and used it to stick white and pink mini marshmallows all over the top of the cake. done in seconds! the children loved it.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

chocolate chilli cake

it has rained everyday since my birthday. my birthday happens to fall on st swithin's day. if it rains on st swithin's day it is supposed to rain for 40 days and 40 nights. it is having a damn good shot at it by the looks of things.

we are keeping our fingers crossed for a nice afternoon tomorrow. tomorrow we are joining in the neighbourhood street party and are contributing this cake to the cake stall, our spare chilli plants to the plant stall and spicy chicken kebabs to the barbeque...mmmm...anybody would think we have a thing for chilli in our house!

chris came across this recipe in his mum's enviably organised folder of cut out recipes and decided it was worth a go. i'm not sure what magazine it is from but james tanner is responsible. we've adapted a bit by thickening up the ginger chocolate sauce he suggested and making it into a ganache style icing for the top. the recipe below includes our adaptations.


100g soft butter
100g caster sugar
100g self raising flour
3 eggs
2 red chillies, deseeded and very finely chopped
50g dark chocolate drops or grated cocoa bean chilli and pink peppercorn chocolate bar

for the icing
100g dark chocolate
75ml double cream
25g butter
1 piece of stem ginger, finely chopped ( you could use a couple of peices of cocoa bean chocolate coated crystallised ginger)

1. preheat the oven to 180c and lightly grease a 20cm cake tin.
2. cream the butter and suagr until light and fluffy. add the flour, eggs and chillies and whisk to make a thick smooth batter.
3. pour into the prepared tin, sprinkle with the cake chocolate and bake for 15 mins until risen.
4. to make the icing heat the cream gently in a small saucepan, when it is just beginning to bubble gently at the edge remove from the heat and whisk in the chocolate, ginger and butter until the chocolate melts.
5. when the cake is cool spread the icing over the top.
6. we then went wild with tubes of coloured icing.
the street party was a great success!
the rain held off at the right time - terrifyingly windy though!
the cake was very delicious and even went down well enough with the 80 year old cake judge (the lady who has lived in the street the longest!). we didn't win this week but the chilli cake was certainly a talking point and that was the point of the day - to get everyone talking to each other. the chilli lends a sweetness and gentle heat but nothing too spicy and combines delightfully with the gingery flavour of the icing. definitely one to make again.

i did face painting!!!!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

happy birthday emily

we had a lovely birthday tea with emily, lola and chris - bump just starting to make an appearance!

i remember one birthday of emily's (25th??) when we were both desperately tempering chocolate at limerick food kitchens late into the hot, pre-air conditioned, july night. We were making truffles ready to set off at dawn the next day to a busy farmers market in dingle.
i often forget the sheer exhaustion of those crazy, early days of starting your own business. i have distilled the dingle days into a few perfect moments: racing down to the sea for a bracing swim before setting off home; having hot port with paulina in a cosy bar after enduring hours of rain; chatting as we all set up stalls in the early morning sun; eating smoked fish and still warm bread for breakfast and swapping star anise truffles for local goats cheese. 4am starts? i'm almost tempted...

back to emily's far more relaxed birthday 2009 and the all important cake! i wanted to try the celebrity masterchef penultimate episode chocolate cake: the one wendy made for the french chefs but i failed to find the recipe on the internet. i then realised i had no self raising flour and it was way too late to go out for some (with aidan out, it would mean waking up all three girls and loading them into the car)
thankfully, i remembered a green and black's recipe that uses plain flour and lots of eggs. perfect. i adapted it slightly, replacing double cream with greek yoghurt and fresh raspberries with frozen raspberries - purely through necessity as i was lacking the original ingredients. it worked fine and i managed to get double cream and fresh raspberries in the morning, for the icing and as decoration.

chocolate raspberry torte recipe
25g plain flour
5 teaspoons cocoa powder
75g dark chocolate
25g unsalted butter
5 teaspoons greek yoghurt or double cream
4 egg whites
3 egg yolks
3 tablespoons caster sugar
250g fresh or frozen raspberries
125ml whipping or double cream to serve

100g dark chocolate
50g unsalted butter
3 tablespoons double cream
1 teaspoon icing sugar
butter and line with greaseproof an 18-20cm, 6cm deep cake tin. pre-heat oven to 140c/275f/gas mark 1

sift the flour and cocoa. set aside.

melt the chocolate slowly in a bowl above warm water. removefrom heat, add butter and yoghurt/cream and stir well.

whisk egg whites until stiff peaks, add sugar and whisk again until thick and glossy. in another bowl, beat egg yolks and gently fold the cocoa and flour into the yolks. add the melted chocolate and stir well. spon a few dollops of egg white into this mixture and stir. gently fold in the remainder of the egg whites.

pour half the mixture into the cake tin, sprinkle over the raspberries and then cover with other half of mixture.

bake for 35-40 mins until a skewer comes out clean. cool in the tin for 5 minutes and then take out onto a wire rack.

for the icing, melt the chocolate as before. remove from heat and stir in the butter, cream and icing sugar. pour it all over the cake, top with fresh raspberries and leave for an hour to harden. (don't put it in the fridge at this stage or the icing wil lose it's shine!)

serve with whipped cream.

enjoy the rest of your birthday emily!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

a trip to the 1930's

we have just returned from a fantastic weekend. not only did we go and see the amazing elbow and halle orchestra concert in manchester (mind blowingly good!) we went to our friends' wedding and had a jolly spiffing time!
the theme of the wedding was a 1930's summer fete, everyone got dressed up and, following a beautiful, moving and jubilant ceremony, played games such as skittle and coconut shy. as at any village fete one irritating person swept the prize giving taking first prize for both the cake making competition and the soap carving competition. usually this would bug me but this time i was delighted as it was....ME!!!! woohooo!!!
i won't give you instructions for carving a bar of soap but below is the winning cake recipe. originally served on the menu of woodsmoke cottage tearooms (the tearoom me and sarah ran with our elder sister and mum when we were growing up) and so admittedly i am very experienced at making it! but it is extremely good - rich but tartly lemony - the perfect afternoon tea cake.

woodsmoke cottage tearoom lemon cake
serves 8

lemon curd
(plenty for the cake and a nice bit left over for on fresh white bread with thick butter...)

3oz butter
6oz caster sugar
juice and finely grated zest of 2 large unwaxed lemons
3 free range eggs, well whisked

sterilised jam jars

1. melt the butter, sugar, lemon juice and lemon zest in a bain marie over a pan of boiling water (don't let the water touch the bain marie) until the butter is melted and the sugar is dissolved.

2. add the eggs and combine - stir continuously to ensure the eggs don't scramble. keep the mix on the heat and continue to stir until the mix is smooth and thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon. this will take about 20 mins, or if you have an electric whisk about 7-8 mins (just make sure to keep it all moving and scrape down the sides of the bain marie now and again).

3. pour the hot mixture into the sterilised jars. allow to cool and store in the refrigerator.

lemon sponge

6oz caster sugar
6oz butter
finely grated zest of 2 unwaxed lemons
6oz self raising flour, sifted
3 free range eggs
2 tbsp milk, if necessary

2 x 8" sandwich pans, buttered and floured

1. preheat the oven to 190c.

2. whisk the butter, sugar and lemon zest together until light and fluffy. add the egg and mix in well. fold in the flour and add the milk if the mixture is a little thick.

3. divide the mixture between the 2 prepared sandwich pans and bake for 20-25 mins or until risen, golden brown and springy to the gentle touch.

lemon buttercream

8oz icing sugar
4oz butter, softened
juice of 1 lemon
a little water if required

1. blend all the ingredients together until smooth and fluffy.

when the sponges are cool spread the bottom layer with a generous layer of buttercream followed by a generous layer of lemon curd. gently place the top sponge on top and dust with icing sugar.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

busy days...

if you are in county. kerry, remember to call in and see us. during the week, you can watch chocolates being created in front of your eyes and taste delicious samples fresh from the skelligs and cocoa bean range. we are now also open at weekends.

if you want to avoid the stampede for chocolate, head to the glen early in the morning and watch our chocolatiers use traditional methods of dipping hand rolled truffles in tempered chocolate.

the aroma of cocoa and spices will get you in the mood for tasting, whatever time of the day. popular in the shop this week are the award winning baby fig and rum chocolates and the cocoa bean chilli and pink peppercorn bar.

don't forget to enter the great chocoholics competition while you are there . . .

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

early morning cookies or the perfect thing for unexpected guests

me and lola felt particularly productive this morning and whipped up a batch of chocolate chip shortbread. these are really, really delicious, quick and easy. it makes them perfect if you have unexpected guests as within about 15 minutes you can be serving freshly bakes cookies and they don't even generate a lot of washing up!

basic shortbread recipe
makes about 20 small cookies

115g plain flour
115g butter
60g caster sugar + a little extra for sprinkling
75g 70% chocolate drops

preheat oven to 220c

1. rub all the ingredients, except the chocolate, together to form breadcrumbs
2. knead together to form a dough, add the chocolate and mix to distribute evenly throught the dough.
3. roll to form a sausage about 2" thick and cut into 1cm slices, or pick small clumps of dough and roll into a ball.
4. flatten the slices or balls slightly and place, nicely spaced out, on an ungreased baking tray.
5. bake for approx 7 mins (or until golden brown at the edge)
6. leave to cool on the tray.

Friday, July 3, 2009

mccambridges artisan treats & coffee al fresco

aidan was a student in galway so when we met, he took me to all his old haunts; mccambridges was the first stop on a tour which included swimming at salthill, guiness at naughton's and mcdonagh's fish and chips.

now the much loved mccambridges on shop street, has undergone a transformation! call in and enjoy a coffee at the new barista style coffee bar or watch the world go by from a table at their pavement cafe.

though the changes will delight you, here to stay is the passion for selecting in-season food from local farms, butchers, bakeries and artisan food producers:

‘the aim of this project is to expand the variety of locally sourced quality foods, as well as the best of irish and international gourmet foods for our customers,’ said eoin mccambridge, managing director.

we're also glad to see that you can now buy murphy's icecream by the scoop (sean murphy pictured with natalie mccambridge outside the shop) and that cocoa bean and skelligs are still old favourites!

'we love your bars of choc and skelligs truffles are selling well' said norma mccambridge who then confided 'i love the gin and tonic'. There is something about that bar in it's purple wrapper bursting with bubbles that makes you feel like you're having the first zesty drink on a hot summer night by the sea...

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

become a chocolatier!

if you can't make it to our factory shop, everyone who orders cocoa bean or skelligs chocolates online from will be automatically entered into the competition. so those of you stuck in jobs over the summer or unable to leap on the next flight, train or boat will still get a chance to win this brilliant prize!

if you are planing to come to kerry over the summer this is when we are open:

july-august 2009

monday –friday
from 10.00 until 17.00.

saturday & sunday
from 12.00 until 17.00

bring a picnic and your swimming togs and enjoy chocolate on the beach.

open this weekend

remember this weekend is our first of the summer where our factory counter is open for tasters and chocolate retail therapy!