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Tuesday, 29 May 2012

blogging birthday...

It has come to my attention that it will be my blogs birthday in a couple of days. So happy birthday blog! Strangely enough as an unexpected side-effect I have made a lot of new friends through blogging many of whom I have met in person, many more I hope to meet soon.

I didn't really know what I was getting into when I started this blog of mine or how addictive and compelling it can be. I've been bitten by the photography bug and have seen my hits grow from a handful to over 20,000 a month. Lately I have even been offered gainful employ as the food writer for my local paper.

So to celebrate my blogging birthday here are some pictures of a lovely meal I had tonight at Lisloughrey Lodge - which will be reviewed in next weeks paper in my new role as a grown up food writer. Thank you little blog and a happy birthday to you.

A tiny bon-bon of  black pudding and chocolate in a sticky pomegranate vinaigrette.

A chicken liver pate 'lolly' in a nut crust with a rhubarb jelly

Turf smoked scallops - with sea vegetables.

A little soup - delicately spiced squash 

Marmalade crusted ham on a bed of pea porridge

Monk fish tail, black pudding, asparagus.

A tiny but perfect berry jelly, with an orange custard atop!

A deep chocolate tart with indian spices.

Lemon and yogurt pannacotta with an elderflower ice-cream.

Monday, 14 May 2012

double chocolate salt caramel brownies...

Call me mad, but I love salt! Artisan salt, that is, not the big tubs of Saxa. I go out of my way to get my Fleur de Sel and Maldon and so I was delighted when I found a new Irish one from the Beara Peninsula in West Cork. Irish Atlantic Salt, made from evaporated seawater, is 100% pure, brilliantly white and has lovely flaky sea salt crystals. To celebrate this find, I made a batch of these bad boys - a chewy brownie with a thick cocoa-caramel layer and a sprinkle of flakey sea salt just for good measure. They have a thousand million calories in every square, but the salt is Irish, so they are totally worth it.

Double Chocolate Salt Caramel Brownies

The Brownie
450g dark chocolate chopped
140g butter
350g brown sugar
4 eggs
110g plain flour

The Chocolate caramel
220g butter
175g dark brown sugar
250g golden syrup
1 can of sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon sea salt flakes
1 tablespoon cocoa sifted

Preheat the oven to 160C and place the chocolate and butter in a small saucepan over a low heat and stir until melted and smooth, set aside. Place the sugar eggs and flour in a bowl with the chocolate mixture and mix to combine. Pour into a lightly greased 20cm x 30cm tin lined with non-stick baking paper and bake for 40-45 mins or until cooked when tested with a skewer. Allow to cool in tin.

To make the caramel topping, melt the butter in a saucepan over a low heat. Gradually whisk in the sugar until well combined. Add the golden syrup, condensed milk and salt and increase the heat to high. Cook for 15 minutes, stirring continuously or until thickened - whichever happens first. Remove from the heat and stir through the cocoa powder. Sprinkle the top evenly with a little bit more of the salt flakes at this stage. Refrigerate for two hours or until set and cut into squares.

The original recipe that this was adapted from says to cut into twelve but I think even for a generous dessert portion this is far too big. It is very dense and rich so even cutting into 16 will give you a very generous portion, 20 more elegant portions may be better. Served with a spoon of good ice-cream and a handful of toasted nuts it makes a lovely, decadent dessert.

Cut into very tiny squares and covered in a few cheerful sprinkles they make a pretty petit four as shown in the pictures.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

bakewell cheesecake

It's hard to think of anything to better a creamy, tangy baked cheesecake with a light brown crust that reveals a silky creamy interior. Except maybe a classic bakewell tart, a buttery tart shell and a pool of raspberry jam underneath a toasty baked frangipane filling. Such a wonderful afternoon tea treat when it's still slightly warm from the oven. If you cannot choose which you like better then try this - Bakewell Cheesecake!

Americans have come to call cheesecakes made with cream cheese as 'New York' or 'Jewish' cheesecakes, as to differentiate them from the Italian type made with ricotta. I always find the best results are gotten from using the regular full fat Philadelphia cream cheese, nothing fancy needed here.

This is quite a special occasion dessert, not an everyday sort of a treat. Although it is a very straightforward recipe, you need to make sure you don't want to cook anything else in your oven for a few hours as your cheesecake goes through the cooling down process. This is to ensure the surface of the cake doesn't crack, but in truth it could still happen and if it does, relax, a few flaked almonds and a lot of icing sugar will make it look just about perfect again.

Serves 10 - 12

200g plain shortbread type biscuits
1/2 tsp almond extract
4oz butter, melted.
3 x 300g packs full fat cream cheese
8oz caster sugar
4 tbsp plain flour
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 large eggs
200ml tub sour cream
About 150g of raspberry jam (Thats half of an average 300g jar)
A handful of flaked almonds
Icing sugar to dusting

Heat the oven to 200°c/180°c fan and line the base and sides of a 23cm springform tin with baking parchment. To make the crumbs, double bag the biscuits in food bags and bash with a rolling pin or whizz in a food processor. Mix with the almond essence and the melted butter and press into the base of your tin. Bake for 10 minutes and set aside to cool in the tin while you mix up your cheesecake filling.

You need your biggest bowl for this next bit. Whisk the cheese with an electric whisk until creamy, add the sugar and whisk again. Whisk in the flour, the vanilla, the eggs one at a time and lastly the soured cream. Dollop nice big spoonfuls of the mix into the tin. Drop in spoonfuls of the jam as you go. Cover all the jam up with the rest of the cheese mixture and smooth out the top carefully. Gently slide it into the oven on the middle shelf and bake for 10 mins. Scatter the flaked almonds on top and reduce the oven temperature to 110°c/90°c fan and bake for another 35 mins. Turn off the oven without opening the door and leave the cake to cool for an hour. Open the oven door and leave it ajar for a further hour, I wedge it open with a tea towel or similar. Cool for a third hour at room temperature then cover and chill overnight. Remove from the tin and peel of the parchment. Dust the top with icing sugar and serve.