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Thursday, 26 April 2012

irish onion soup...

French onion soup made properly is a joy. But, this is not French onion soup. This one has an Irish accent and is all the better for it.

The most important element to a good onion soup is the proper caramelisation of the onions. Caramelising onions take at least thirty minutes of slow cooking of the onions over a medium high heat. This browning brings out the sweetness in them and that's what makes this soup so good. The chicken stock and cider give it a lighter finish than the traditional French version which usually lists beef stock and Cognac among its ingredients, but at the end of the day, it's just a different kind of delicious.

It's the bog-standard brown onions you want here, red onions will go a sickly grey colour as they cook. Thinly slicing the onions is a doddle if you do it with the shredding attachment of a food processor.

50g butter
1kg brown onions, thinly sliced
2 tbsp picked leaves of thyme
200ml Irish cider (MacIvors or another artisan cider is ideal)
Chicken stock fresh, cube or concentrate made up to 1.2 litres

1 nice sourdough or baguette, sliced
1 garlic clove, halved
Extra-virgin olive oil
100g Mossfield or other hard Irish Cheese, grated

Heat the butter in a large pan and gently cook the onion and thyme until the onion is softened but not browned. This might take up to thirty minutes. Increase the heat slightly and cook for another 15 minutes, stirring now and again to stop them catching, until the onion becomes dark golden, sticky and caramelised. Add the cider and simmer for 2-3 minutes, then add the stock and bring to the boil. Season. Simmer for 10 minutes.

While that's simmering, toast the bread, rub each slice with garlic, then drizzle with a little oil. Sprinkle with the cheese and grill until golden and bubbling. Serve the soup with the cheese croutons on top.

Monday, 23 April 2012

donut muffins...

These are called doughnut muffins but in truth are not very doughnut-like at all. The sugar coating and spoon of jam in the centre is about as far as it goes. What they do have going for them is no resting or rising is needed and no vats of boiling oil are required. They are very quick to throw together, taste better the day after you make them and keep for four or five days in a sealed container. They also make a very acceptable breakfast muffin and kids just love them.

The original recipe for these little cakes is from BBC Good Food Magazine and lists raspberry preserve, which I love. But some are not keen on the pips, so I used the universal crowd pleaser that is Bonne Maman’s Strawberry preserve instead. Show me someone who doesn't like strawberry jam and I will show you a kitten kicker.

150g caster sugar
200g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
100ml plain yoghurt (I used regular Glenisk but low-fat works just as well)
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
150g butter, melted
12 tsp strawberry preserve
150g caster sugar to coat
Makes 12 muffins

Heat the oven to 180°c and lightly grease a 12-hole muffin tin.
Put the sugar, flour and baking powder in a bowl and mix to combine.
In another bowl, whisk together the yoghurt, eggs and vanilla extract. Pour the wet ingredients and melted butter into the dry ingredients and fold until mixed well.
Place 2 tbsp of the mixture into each muffin hole. Add 1 tsp of the jam into the centre of each and then cover with the rest of the batter.
Place the muffins into the oven and allow to bake for 15-20 minutes until golden brown and cooked through.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes in the tin before removing and tossing in the caster sugar. Top tip folks - keep them bottom side up after coating as they will hold their sugar crust better.

Friday, 20 April 2012

natural blonde...

In the world of human stereotypes it is the blonde who is the more obviously attractive and the brunette who has the duller, 'girl next door' image. But, in the cake world it's the other way around… the Blondie with it's paler coloring is the less attractive on the plate and has to work a little harder to get some attention. The rich chewy chocolate charms of the Brownie is the one that most would reach for.

These Chocolate Fudge Blondies have a chewy, hidden depth. They are so easy to throw together and bake in no time. As with any moist brownie, they keep well in an airtight container. So, put your preconceptions aside and have a blondie moment...because you're worth it!

200g butter softened
175g brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
250 plain flower
1 tsp baking powder
200g white chocolate, melted
75g fudge small chunks
75g dark chocolate small chunks

Grease and line a 20cm x 30cm tin with baking paper. Preheat the oven to 180c (350F). Place the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat until pale and creamy. Gradually add the eggs and vanilla beating well after each addition. Add the flour, baking powder and melted chocolate and beat until combined. Spoon half the blondie mixture into the prepared tin . Mix together the fudge and chocolate chips and sprinkle over the mixture. Spoon the remaining mixture on top and spread out to cover the chips completely. Bake for 25 to 30 mins until cooked when tested with a skewer. Allow to cool in the tin, slice in to 12 large pieces or, as I do, 24 smaller ones. If you do cut them into 24, remember to eat twice as many.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

a post about toast...

Bread slices that have been brushed with oil, sprinkled with salt and pepper, and baked until golden brown. Crostini is just a fancy name for toast. You can make them ahead and they keep for ages in an airtight container. Munch on them plain, crumble 'em on top of a smooth soup or make an endless variety of instant canapés. Just spoon on your choice of toppings and serve them on a smear of something, in this case a good quality mayonnaise, micro greens pined on top is a must.  Arrange them elegantly on the very trendy slate-ware from Irish company Slated… voila! Restaurant food at home!

Here the tangy goat cheese is perfect with the sweet roasted pepper. I am loving Bluebell Falls' goat cheese at the moment when I can find some (not pictured) but use your own favorite. You can buy the peppers pre-roasted and skinned from any good deli if you can't face all that fiddly peeling. A few olives are a nice addition and, for that cheffy touch, pea-shots are the new rocket (arugula to my American friends). If you are looking for a quick dish that requires only a few ingredients and saves you hours in the kitchen, then 'fancy toast' is the one for you.

Basic crostini
Good quality baguette, cibatta or sourdough, sliced 1/4 inch thick
Olive oil (For extra flavor, use an oil infused with garlic or herbs)
Sea-salt and coarse-ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Drizzle two large baking sheets with oil, and season with salt and pepper. Arrange your bread slices on the oiled sheets, then drizzle top with olive oil and season again.

Bake until golden, 15 to 20 minutes, rotate tins and turn crostini over halfway during baking. Leave to cool on baking sheets. Cover crostini with desired toppings, and serve.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

I'm back...

Hello, it's me! I've been away. This is the bit where the absentee blogger usually says "I'm soooo sorry - I haven't blogged in ages, I've been so busy!" But I have been busy. Blogging. Loads. Somewhere else. 

I have been food 'festivaling', eating, taking loads of gorgeous foodie pics and searching out the best food & producers in the neighborhood. You can read all about it over on the Galway Food Festival blog here. These are a few of my own personal favorite shots from my food festival adventures, recipes for these dishes and others to follow naturally, just watch this space. I will, of course, be sharing with you here all the other tips and tricks that I have picked up along the way, now that the festival is over… until next year anyway!