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Mad as a March hare

March has just disappeared so quickly, I’ve been a little lazy on my blog posts lately, however with the extra hour of springtime, i’ll be back baking & cooking lots more… here’s what i’ve been up to the last few weeks, Christening / Birthday celebrations and yummy mini party merignue’s!!

Christening Cake

Iggle Piggle & Molly’s 2nd Birthday

Perfect meringue’s…

Vick

Two years running I spent my Valentines weekend making sugarcraft flowers, I have to say unless I actually came back with some proof the Fiance would be a little be suspicious, as all I talked about what a brilliant weekend I’d had,  an amazingly talented bloke and flowers.. 2 + 2 = 5!!

After doing the Alan Dunn Workshop last year, reviews of  Day 1 & Day 2 here, I just had to attend it this year, especially after getting my copy of Alan’s latest book Christmas  Cakes. On the Friday night demonstration, Alan make the amazing floral bouquet, he did a demo of each of the elements of the bouquet except the rose in about 2 hours.  It’s unbelievable watching him work & making everything look so easy & effortless! The bouquet is made up of Scorpion Orchid, ylang ylang , Proton, Cheese Plant leaves , yam foliage & beautiful deep red rose. Alan mentioned that he did time himself to make a similar bouquet from start to finish – 13 hours.. wow that’s impressive!

The Peony Rose below is also one of Alan’s pieces, its beautiful fully rose, approx the size of palm of hand open. Definitely one that I will have to attempt very soon.

The below is my final piece of work after 2 days, which I was really happy with, it was truly rewarding coming away with such a fanastic bouquet of exotic flowers.

Day One: The first day consisted of the big red passion-flower, which unfortunately had a few fatalities & broke some of the petals (the joys of working in sugar!) , also some hop leaves in different sizes.

Day Two: The second day we made the Fringed Vanda Orchid, yellow & plum colouring and also decorative yam foliage.

This is Alan’s Fringed Orchid in a rich pink dusting – fantastic ! This would be perfect to match up to bridesmaid dresses for a wedding cake.

Alan is so talented & if you ever get the opportunity to go to one of his demo’s or workshops its worth every penny! Am already saving for next years course!

Vick x

Lismore has to be one of my favourite spots in Ireland, its such a beautiful historic town with the fantastic landscape of Lismore Castle towering over the town, the locals have won tidy town on numerous occasions, and of course there are great places to eat there and cute little antique shops to browse in.

I previously reviewed O’Briens chophouse in Lismore, however last weekend we went for lunch in The Summerhouse Cafe, a cute little shop at the front selling greengate china, kitchen gadgets & beautiful stationary, however hidden in the back is a wonderful cafe.

I had O’Flynns sausages & mash with onion gravy, while mum had the most amazing Lemon Chicken Stroganoff, it was so lovely & light with fantastic fresh flavour. I did try to recreate it this evening however it was too tangy!! Will post it once i’ve mastered the perfect flavour combo.

To follow I had a yummy raspberry tart …yum

Finally I got around to taking part in the Irish Foodies Cookalong, below is my entry for the Food for Romance.  I decided to make Poached & Smoked Salmon Creme Fraiche served with Crostini -perfect starter for any romantic night in….

Poached & Smoked Salmon Creme Fraiche & Crostini

Ingredients:

2 x Poached salmon darnes 

100g Smoked Salmon

1 tbsp chopped dill

1 tbsp chopped chives

3 tbsp creme fraiche

1 tsp horseradish

Method:

1. Poach the 2 salmon darnes, put a pot of water on the hob & bring to the boil, remove from the heat, add the salmon & leave the water to cool – the salmon should be perfectly poached.

2. Dice up the smoked salmon, chop dill & chives.

3. Mix poached & smoke salmon & herbs in a bowl, add the creme fraiche & horseradish. Season.

4. Serve lightly chilled with crostini.

Hope this brings romance!

Vick xx

So my bread making project has kinda been put on hold but am hoping to get back on track now! Last weekend my sister flew home for the weekend & we went out for a gorgeous lunch in Nude Food in Dungarvan, she had Chicken Cornation Salad while I got a monster sized portion of slow cooked pork belly with couscous & hummus – it was AMAZING. I even brought home some of the pork belly I was so stuffed after it, alas I forgot to take some pictures but I will go back again soon & report. The atmosphere was great, there was a live jazz band playing in the corner.

 In the afternoon we decided to hit the kitchen & make some yummy Focaccia Bread for supper. After watching Hugh @ River Cottage rustle this up in Dec on the River Cottage Everyday prog I decided to give it a shout, I had reviewed a few recipes for focaccia and some chefs add a little mashed potato to the mixture, which seems a little odd to me. I think Focaccia Bread is one of those breads that you can bring with you for lunch, in a picnic or nibble on as a starter while waiting for dinner! I believe good olive oil is the key ingredient when making italian style focaccia. We made two types of focaccia, the first was Rosemary & sun dried tomatoes & second which was my favourite was Rosemary & garlic…yummy. (the photos don’t do them justice!)

Focaccia Bread

Ingredients:

2½ tsps dried yeast (or 1x7g sachet)

1 tbsp sugar

450ml lukewarm water (more if required)

700g Italian ‘00’ or strong white flour

2 tsps salt

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 large sprig rosemary

Sea salt

1 Mix the yeast and sugar in the lukewarm water and allow the yeast to activate. When the yeast is frothy, it’s ready to use.

2 Sieve the flour into a mixing bowl and add the salt, olive oil and yeast mixture. Mix to a soft dough, adding more flour or water as required. Knead until the dough is very pliable, which should take about seven to 10 minutes by hand.

3 Leave the dough to rise in a well-oiled bowl covered with clingfilm until the dough has trebled in size and is springy to the touch, which will take two to three hours. This will rise best in a warm, draught-free place, eg a hot press or near a cooker or oven.

4 When it has risen, knock the dough back and place on a lightly floured surface. Knead it again by hand for two to three minutes. Then divide the dough into two pieces and roll or press them out until the dough is 1cm thick.

5 Place the pieces on to two oiled baking sheets. Flatten the dough and push it into all four corners of the sheet, then make indentations with your fingertips. Drizzle the surface with olive oil, pull the leaves from the rosemary sprig and scatter them, along with the sea salt, on top of the dough. Allow the dough to rise again for 30-45 minutes in a warm place.

6 Meanwhile, pre-heat the oven to 230°C. Bake for five minutes, then reduce the temperature to 200°C and bake for a further 10 minutes.

Happy Baking

Vick xx

I think anyone living in Ireland the past few months should get a medal for the winter olympics, between cars sliding down hills, people struggling through feet of snow and then in January all of a sudden the temperatures change by 20 degrees from -10 below to +10 degrees!! Its crazy weather & no wonder so many people have been struck down with bugs & flu.

It really is time for hot soups & hearty dinners  if not just to cheer you up, but also heat you up. The below recipe is loosely based on the Spanish Patatas Bravas & Meatballs tapas, obviously mine has meatballs in tomato sauce with served with potato wedges!! The Meatballs were formly Clonakilty Ispini sausages which were left over in the fridge!

Sausage Meatballs with spicy Tomato sauce & potato wedges

Ingredients:

some left over good quality sausages

1 onion finely chopped

2 cloves garlic

1 tin of chopped tomatoes

1 tsp chilli flakes

1 tsp smoked paprika

Method:

Firstly cut skin of sausages & squeeze out the sausage meat. Then roll into small sausage balls, gently fry in a pan to brown slightly. Next gently fry onion & garlic, then add the tomatoes bring to boil, then turn down to simmer, add the chilli flakes, remove from the pan. Next paprika, also sugar to taste, then add back in the sausage balls & leave to cook for 15-20mins.

Serve as tapas or with Potato Wedges.

 Happy & healthy 2011,

Vick xx

 

Sincere aplogoies for the lack of blog posts recently, its been a busy month but thats no excuse!

Firstly I was down at Ballymaloe Chef Factor Party, it was so much fun, met my idol Darina, she’ s amazing really & truly inspirational. We stayed in Ballymaloe house which was beautiful, the night was great fun with lots of laughs and amazing food, there was little shot glasses of soup, pea & bacon, thai chicken & bloody mary tomato then the site of a pig on a spit welcomed us with a roaring fire on such a cold evening(just before the start of the first snow fall), followed by a fantastic cheese board, with one of my favourite Mossfield Organic Cheese & also sticky toffee pudding. Cully & Sully do it in style it was also great to meet other foodies.

Last week I went to the Cookbook club dinner in Ely, where the host chef was Domini Kemp  with her new “itsa cookbook”, I had the Crabcakes with lemon & caper salsa, Blackened Salmon with spiced aubergine which had amazing flavours & then to follow the Mini Molten Chocolate Cake. Oh and there were amazing Evil Cheese Puffs as appetizers which were fantastic. I would definitely recommend this book & if you’re looking for a christmas present for non-foodies & foodies alike its a great book.

In between which I was at the Tannery Christmas Baking Course, where we made mincemeat, mince pies, christmas cake & yummy cranberry amaretti which i have made since  & eaten them all myself, but these would be a great gift to give to friends over Christmas or have with a glass of mulled wine or cup of tea.

Finally, I have been baking Christmas cake, mince pies, making Jamie Oliver’s “get-ahead” gravy, which I can’t wait to have on Christmas day. On the Christmas RTE guide, Catherine Fulvio’s recipe mushroom & pancetta stuffing balls sound amazing. www.rte.ie/food/2010/1122/roastpheasant.html

 While in the Sunday Times Gizzi Erskine’s recipe for Lucsa’s Creamed Savoy Cabbage with Nutmeg sounds like a great alternative for those of us who aren’t big fans of the traditional Brussel sprout.

Happy Christmas & Best Wishes in 2011.

Vick xxx