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Saturday, 30 June 2012

citrus squares...

These are the bomb. I had not made them in ages thinking that the kids wouldn't like such a strong citrus flavor. But recently I had my entire lemon tart stolen from me at an outing to a restaurant, by small hungry theives. I had only ordered it because I thought they would ignore it… but how wrong I was! After that, I started making these little citrus bars again. They are very lovely, the topping separates into two during the baking giving you a thin layer of baked lemon curd and thin layer of lemon meringue on top and is very, very delicious. Like a light summery version of millionaire shortbread, in fact.

The Base
250g (9oz) plain flour
85g/3oz icing sugar and extra for dusting
175g/6oz butter cut up into small squares

The Top
2 lemons
1 orange
4 eggs (large)
400g/14oz caster sugar
50g/2oz plain flour

Heat your oven to 180/160 fan. Line the base and leave a good large overhang for the sides of a shallow rectangular tin (about a 23x33cm tin, a swiss roll tin or thereabouts, you don't have to be to exact with this one)

Put the flour, sugar and butter into a food processor and whizz until it resembles fine bread crumbs. Tip it into your tin and press down smoothing level with the back of a spoon . Bake for 20 mins until pale golden.

Make the top layer by finely grating the peel from both lemons and the orange. Squeeze the juice from the lemons and top it up to 120ml with the juice from the orange, discard the rest of the orange juice.

Whisk the eggs and sugar together (an electric whisk is best) until pale and fluffy. Add in the zest and juice and whisk again for a minute. Then add the flour and whisk again to mix well.

Pour over the shortbread base and bake for up to another 20 mins until the topping has just set. Cool completely in the tin, then lift out from the tin using your paper liner. Cut into 3 down the length and then 6 or 8 across. Store in the fridge.

Pour over the shortbread base and bake for up to another 20 mins until the topping has just set. Cool completely in the tin, then lift out from the tin using your paper liner. Cut into 3 down the length and then 6 or 8 across.

high steaks...

The second best steak in Galway without a doubt comes from the Malt House. If you want the perfect steak and chips - that's where you go. It's rib-eye and enormously tasty. Bar 8 on the docks comes a close third. But the very best steak in Galway comes from my house. Now, I'm not really one to blow my own trumpet (I come from a family of trumpet blowers – some of them play the trumpet, you see), but I firmly believe that this is the best steak I've had.

Tonight was 'Steak Night' - and there are two rules to follow, which, if you have those down, you will never order steak out again. Firstly - make friends with the local butcher, supermarket steak is not a good idea. Secondly - a cast iron griddle pan that is left to get dangerously hot and then a bit hotter than that (mine was donated by my mother-in-law who felt that the weight of it and her little wrists were not meant to be together). Ideally, 1 or 2 mins on each side for the steak - or a tiny bit longer if you don't like it rare, serve with sauteed potatoes and a little salad and an easy hollandaise from the blender (instructions follow).

Hollandaise is one of those frightening things like custard that can go very wrong. This method takes the fear out of it and it will sit nicely in a warm spot for a little while - people that tell you to make it in advance and put it in a flask are mental! Have you ever tried to wash a flask that has had hollandaise in?

The easiest way to get perfect Hollandaise is to use a blender. This recipe has most of the same ingredients as the classic, but with no double boiler and no chance of the sauce separating.

2 egg yolks
A dash of Llewellyns balsamic vinegar
Juice of half a lemon
5 drops of tabasco
2 ounces butter

In a blender, combine the egg yolks, vinegar, lemon juice and hot pepper sauce. Cover and blend for about 5 seconds. Place the butter in a glass measuring cup. Heat butter in the microwave (or Aga) for about 1 minute, or until completely melted and hot. Set the blender on high speed, and pour the butter into the egg yolk mixture in a thin stream. It should thicken almost immediately. Keep the sauce in a warm spot until serving.


Friday, 22 June 2012

honeycomb & banana bundt cake

Honeycomb, Yellowman or Cinder Toffee. Even Hokey Pokey to some. The innards of a 'Crunchie' without its chocolate casing. You can easily make it yourself, it's just golden syrup, sugar and fun when you add the bicarb! You can also buy it in a big bag of irregular chunks, available in many sweetie-shops now. I have had a couple of banana bread recipes here in the last year but this is a 'four banana' cake that is especially useful at this time of year when the bananas over-ripen faster than it is possible for a person to eat them.  As with a lot of my 'everyday' cakes, if you are not making the honeycomb, it takes very little effort and leaves little washing up.

I make this cake in my bundt tin but before I had that a lined loaf tin worked perfectly. The banana sponge with hidden sticky bits of melted honeycomb is just lovely on its own or with a cup of coffee. A little extra honeycomb crumbled over for crunch with a drizzle of icing over is a nice finish. Best of all is a thick caramel frosting that will find its way down the sides of the bundt cake and make your fillings hurt.

225g (8oz) plain flour
1 tsp. salt
1 heaped tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
110g (4oz) caster sugar
1 egg, beaten
75g (3oz) butter, melted*
a few drops of vanilla essence
65g (2½ oz) honeycomb, smashed
4 medium-sized ripe bananas, mashed

1. Sift the flour, salt, baking powder and cinnamon into a bowl and stir in the sugar.
2. Mix in the egg, melted butter* and vanilla but do not beat.
3. Fold in the honeycomb and mashed bananas, using a fork. Again, do not beat.
4.Spoon into a buttered and floured bundt tin or lined (3½ inch x 8 inch) 900g/2lb loaf tin and bake in an oven preheated to 180c/350f/gas mark 4 for 50-60 minutes, until the cake is golden brown and springs back when prodded gently with your finger.
5. Leave in the tin for 10 mins, then turn onto a wire rack to cool.

* Dear Ger - Just for you I tried it with 75ml/3 fl oz sunflower oil and it works just as well in place of the butter. See you soon.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

custard and white chocolate cookies

These chunky cookies caught my eye in the always reliable Good Food Magazine. It's the kind of recipe I tend to favor for mid-week treats - mostly made in a food processor with little washing-up and no fancy-schmancy ingredients, only that I wasn't all that keen on the custard powder. I don't like it or buy it - you could say I have a thing about it.

It all started with Auntie Angela, my father's elderly spinster sister. I'm sure she wasn't always elderly, but that how she always appeared to us kids. Prim, proper, a trim size eight with tiny feet, perfect make up and always dressed nicely. She nursed my grandparents at home and when they had gone she lived alone with some dogs, too many cats and worked every day of her life until she was 72 when she retired.

After my grandparents died, she always came to us for Christmas as we lived nearest, and she liked to be back at home for her pets in the evening. I had taken over the Christmas dinner preparations at this stage and it irritated me no end that every Christmas she would turn up with a shop-bought trifle as her contribution to the festive dinner. After the hours of menu planning, preparation and cooking and baking that I put into the meal it always seemed like an insult to me.

Fast forward a few years and the trifles are no more - nor am I likely to ever receive one of the pre-packed hyper-coloured offerings ever again, and I miss them. This is usually where I am supposed to say that dear old Angela has shuffled off this mortal coil, but no! She upped and married her childhood sweetheart at the age of 76, now spending half the year at home, half abroad with her new beau and has left me trifle-less. Anyway after some consideration I thought that if Angela could change her life so completely after a lifetime alone, then I could buy a packet of custard powder. Who says a leopard can't change its spots?

140g/5oz softened butter
175g/6oz caster sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
225g/8oz self-raising flour
85g/3oz custard powder
85g/3oz white chocolate, chopped into not too small chunks

Heat the oven to 180C/160C fan oven. Line a couple of baking sheets with parchment. Put the butter and sugar in a food processor and whizz until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and mix again.

Sift the flour and custard powder together and tip into the food processor, pulse to mix to a dough. Scrape out the food processor and work the chocolate chunks in by hand.

Roll the dough into small walnut sized balls and place on the lined sheets, leave room for spreading out between the cookie dough and press each one down a little to flatten out slightly.

Bake for 12-15 mins until golden, remove and cool on a wire rack.

These will keep for over a week in a tin. The custard powder does give these cookies a lovely sunshiny color, I will admit, but does anyone have any suggestions as to what to do with an almost full bag of custard powder?