Tuesday, January 26, 2010

i suspect...

i suspect that the romantic rose and pistachio bar will run away with the cocoa bean bar valentine sales award this year though i wouldn't be too quick to write off the aphrodisiac qualities of the chilli and pink peppercorn. those living in the glen, who are in the know, will put the smart money on glamorous g and t - the runaway winner every year. come on rose and pistachio - you're my favourite!!!!

lemon curd truffles and experiments with vinegar

i made lemon curd on the same night as i was making truffles for a friends 40th birthday party and i joined them in beautiful union! 60% ganache with single cream, a good dollop of lemon curd (easy recipe below) and enrobed in lovely dark, dark chocolate. they were perfect.

i remember eating a divine chococo lemon curd truffle a couple of years ago and now wonder why it has taken so long to try one myself. then i started experimenting with vinegar and made the most beautiful chocolate ganache with rich undertones of thick and sweet seggiano balsamic, almost like a winter walk through the woods but much warmer...

recipe for lemon curd - inspired by tana ramsay's recipe in home-made, this is very easy although my mum's lemon curd is the best in the world (but more complicated.)

30g cornflour
50g caster sugar
300ml water
zest and juice of two lemons (i always use unwaxed when zesting)
2 large egg yolks

put cornflour and sugar into a medium saucepan and gradually stir in the water, mixing all the time. firstly it will go into a smoothe paste and then into a cloudy liquid. add the lemon zest. bring to the boil, stirring all the time. when it starts to boil, the liquid will become thick and lose its cloudiness. simmer for a few more minutes and then remove from the heat. add the lemon juice and stir well.

Friday, January 22, 2010

irish blog awards

the nominations for the irish blog awards are open until february 5th. if you fancy nominating us, just click on the link! http://awards.ie/blogawards/

Thursday, January 21, 2010

lola's late lollies

this recipe came from the december issue of 'favourites' a magazine someone bought lola to keep her occupied in the run up to christmas. we'd been planning to make the biscuit lollipops on christmas eve morning but as it turned out i was otherwise engaged as i was in the throes of labour! so lola ended up making them with chris, lucy and mum in the gap between christmas and new year and we enjoyed eating them at elsie's birthday party.

ours were christmas trees as per the recipe but we have since made them as hearts, snowflakes and clouds (we are eating a fair few biscuits to ward off the cold weather!). We have stopped sandwiching them together to make lollipops because, to tell the truth, it makes them disturbingly large! they are lovely as a single layer but if you do want to lollipop them use a bit more melted chocolate to stick 2 biscuits back to back with a lollipop stick (or a wooden coffee stirrer from a coffee shop) inbetween.
225g self raising flour
100g caster sugar
3 tbsp cocoa powder
100g butter or margarine
5 tbsp milk
3 drops of vanilla extract
100-200g milk chocolate (depending on if you're making lollipops)
100g white chocolate
2 tubes of smarties or similar

1. preheat the oven to 190c and grease 2 baking trays
2. mix the flour, sugar, cocoa and rub in the butter.
3. add the vanilla and milk and mix well, combine the mixture with your hands and then knead on a lightly floured surface to form a dough.
4. roll the dough so its 0.5cm thick and use the cutters to make the biscuit shapes.
5.bake on the preprepared trays for 8-10 minutes. cool on a wire rack.
6. gently melt the milk chocolate, coat each biscuit- pair them up with the sticks if you are making lollipops, and let them set.
7. decorate with melted white chocolate and smarties.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

cherry custard tart

i got a really good quality tart/flan tin from my mum for christmas and was looking for a chance to try it out. i wanted to use up the cherries in the freezer that we had picked from the trees in our local park. this recipe worked superbly except that the cherries were far too sour. last summer we had eaten them straight from the tree and i seem to remember them being sweet enough. anyway, i thought their tartness might be the perfect accompaniment to the sweetness of the custard but i was wrong! so, i recommend you wait for cherry season and make this with eaters rather than cooking cherries (unless of course you get to pick up some ludicrously out of season reduced bargain in the local supermarket.)

remember to leave at least an hour to chill the pastry and an hour for the tart to set.

pastry crust:
250g plain flour

125g softened butter
1 egg yolk
1 tbsp granulated sugar
a pinch of salt

500g pitted cherries (not cooking cherries!)
2 eggs, beaten
125g whipping cream
60g plain flour
75g granulated sugar
1 tbsp grated lemon rind
1 tbsp vanilla extract
a pinch of salt

grease a 23 cm tart tin with removable bottom.

place flour in bowl and make a well in the centre. add butter, egg yolk, sugar and salt and mix with a fork until the mixture is smooth. gradually stir in the flour to a make dough that holds together. press into a disc and wrap it in clingfilm in the fridge for about 1 hour.

roll out the pastry into 28 cm circle. fit it into the tart tin. trim it to leave about 2.5cm overhang which you need to fold over inside the tin and press gently.

spread the cherries over the pastry. whisk together the eggs, cream, flour, sugar, lemon rind, vanilla and salt. pour the mixture over the cherries. bake on a baking tray in the bottom of the oven at 190ÂșC for about 40/45 minutes until golden and the tip of a knife inserted into the custard comes out clean. Let cool on rack.

leave the tart at room temperature for up to 1 hour.

it looked so beautiful. i will try it again in the summer with fruit from my mum's eating cherry tree. i might try it sooner with frozen raspberries. watch this space...

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

snow baby

it's snowing again - we only managed to move our car off the hill yesterday and now there's a fresh covering. last week everyone was sent home early, full of excitement and eager to be out on the sledge! today schools are open as usual and the snow seems like old news. even iris wasn't going to let it interrupt her nap. but despite all the negatives, i am thrilled when I look out of the window and see it's still snowing. the venom i feel for the person who announces that it will turn to sleet is probably out of all proportion...

Monday, January 4, 2010

suntanned snowmen

me and lola have a thing for this meringue recipe - i can't remember where it came from so sadly i can't credit the genius who first gave me it. in the summer we make huge pillows of it slathered with cream, strawberries, raspberries and blueberries but wanting to find a more seasonally appropriate reason for eating it we invented these little snowmen. lola's initial plans involved hundreds-and-thousands adorned chocolate biscuit hats but i was too hasty in trying to prise them off the foil cases i'd shaped them round while baking and was left with just a delicious pile of cookie crumble. the meringue loses it's glorious snowy whiteness in the oven hence their suntannedness but they are a fairly easy and impressive little winter project. i'd love to hear your ideas for decorating them too. can you manage hats and scarves?
makes approx 5 snowmen

for the bodies and heads
4 egg whites
8 oz caster sugar
1 tsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp cornflour
few drops of vanilla extract

1. in a very clean glass bowl whisk the egg whites on a slow speed until very bubbly and then increase the speed until the whites form stiff peaks. (lola loved the test where you have to hold the bowl upside down your head to make sure they are whisked enough).
2. continuing to whisk add the sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, until combined with the egg whites.
3. mix the cornflour, vinegar and vanilla together in a small bowl and then add to the sugar and egg white mixture and whisk until the mixture turns glossy.
4. spoon out 5 big heaps and 5 smaller heaps onto a couple of lined or well oiled baking trays and bake in a preheated oven (140c), you'll probably need to remove the heads (very gently) after about 20 mins and the bodies 10 mins later.
5. leave to cool.

for the adornments
30g white chocolate buttons
few drops orange food colouring (or a mix of red and yellow)
dark chocolate buttons
tube of black icing
icing sugar

1. melt the white chocolate, very gently, either in the microwave or in a bain marie. add the food colouring to turn it orange. this will make it form a sort of malleable orange coloured chocolate putty. mould into carrot or tangerine shapes and cool briefly in the fridge.
2. draw little smiles on the cooled heads using the tube of black icing.
3. add water to the icing sugar to form a very thick paste and use it to stick the heads to the bodies, the noses to the faces and the dark chocolate buttons for the buttons and eyes.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

a happy and sparkling new year!

i hope everyone had a great time over christmas and new year. we are just coming back down to earth after the whirlwind of births and birthdays that required a lot of gin and tonic, hot ports, champagne, chocolate and cheese in order to celebrate properly!

and after all that, there is call for something invigorating and alcohol free so here is my recipe for a really refreshing drink that still has an element of sparkle (and would happily take a splash of gin or vodka if you haven't yet finished celebrating...)

chop up a few lemons and limes into wedges and divide between tall glasses. add a teaspoon of caster sugar and gently crush with a pestle to release some of the juice and the flavour from the zest
crush ice. i use a strong food bag filled with ice cubes and tied, rest it on a folded tea towel and bash with a rolling pin. add a generous amount to each glass

top up with your choice of mixer (soda water, tonic, lemonade, sparkling water)

mix the drink with a long spoon or use the cocktail shaker from your unopened cocktail kit

add a fresh mint leaf, a straw, a miniature umbrella, a sparkler.....