Commenting on blogs takes up a lot of my time and not for one second do I feel it is a waste of time. I feel like if someone goes to the effort of writing a thoughtful (or thought provoking) piece and I have taken the time to read it because it interests me …. then it usually deserves a head-nod of some sort.
Another thing that takes up a lot of my time is drafting and writing a blog post of course, because (him) cooking and (me) shooting the food, editing the recipes, re-writitng the first draft because I ‘got it wrong’ (according to my more knowledgeable partner in crime) all takes quite a bit of time. So, I will be the first one to sit around and hope and pray that I get a few of those comments floating about. I have put the work in and I like the feedback.
Now – since my big win late last year and seeing as I hold the title(s) for these blog awards I felt it was time to throw a few answers at all the ‘Frequently asked questions’ I get; and there are many.
Some questions come in the form of comments themselves, which I believe I have already answered. FYI – WordPress tells me I have responded to over 1500 comments on just my blog since 2010. Time well spent, in my opinion.
Other FAQ come in the form of emails and the ones I like the best are from the anonymous faceless trolls that troll the internet looking to start a fight. Needless to say, these are hardly worth a mention, because we cannot highlight from where they have originated, but maybe I will throw a few out there for good measure and to give y’all a giggle.
Incidentally – RIGHT after publishing this blog post … I did get an anonymous comment (I never publish ‘anon’ comments) so I am sharing this with you just so you see that sometimes getting ‘comments’ is not all that exciting.
But moving on from all that, er, drivel??
The most Frequently Asked Question is invariably ‘How do I get more people to comment on my blog’ …
One of my favourite sites (Write-on-Track) gets asked this question all the time too.
So, how do you get readers engaged, keep them coming back to read your blog and (eventually) drop you a minute of their time in the form of a comment?
1. Write engaging (and relevant) stories for your blog. This might seem easy or simple but if you look at the blogs from your peers right now there is a lot of complaining and suffering going on (Ok – we all get the January blues!) and it is just not what I want to read. I am hip to current affairs and what is happening in the global and local news. I watch the news on TV (morning and evening) and read the newspapers online. If you are a news blogger – then I will come to you for the news. If you are a food blogger I will stop reading you if you keep reiterating the doomsday news and blues.
2. Run the occasional give-away. This draws (quiet) readers out of the woodwork and it is one of my biggest delights to see how many readers never miss a blog post. (MailChimp (a free service) tells me I have a higher than average ‘open-rate’ for all our updates received by email. This makes my heart sing! The reports (at first) can be a little daunting because you see how many readers are ‘not’ opening your emails – but hey – only makes a gal work harder! )
On a side note regarding giveaways … I get A LOT of crap from readers about the giveaways. ‘Why are you always doing giveaways‘, ‘you would never have any commenters on your blog if it weren’t for the giveaways‘ … Sigh. yes. I get all this free stuff like Mauviel Copper Pots, Oxo kitchen gadgets, Le Creuset cast iron cookware, and even a few hotel city breaks (including dinner!) and you are right – faceless troll – I should be greedy, and keep it all for myself and just blog about the fact that I have all these goodies and you don’t.
Double sigh. Giving and receiving …. pure joy.
3. Stop trying to copy your peers. There is no ‘real’ formula for successful (food) blogging. It is all in your voice. If you come across as open, humorous, loving, intelligent, caring and have tried and tested your recipes … then readers will find you. One of the ways I knew our blog was becoming popular was people started emailing me questions about the recipes. Sometimes they find an error with a recipe (I totally hang the Chef for these) and others were asking of they could substitute one ingredient for another. They might not have been ‘commenting’ but the readers are there and already eating the food we have shared. On the flip side, if you are a bit cranky or fly off the handle on every trendy topic trying to garner more traffic for your site (because it is relevant in the media ‘right now’) then you need to quit blogging and become a newscaster.
4. Be the expert on only one or two things. David Leite does this so well; He is the expert on Love. I love David’s Bhlag because his stories are filled-to-the-brim about the food he cooks for those that he loves. Do not strive to be the expert on everything. You only dilute yourself.
5. Ask questions. Best to finish the blog post with a weighty question if you want a flurry of comments . . Dianne Jacob is the queen of this. As a matter of fact, if you want to be a better blogger, then just take a few weeks of work, read back over her blog posts (and buy her book) and emerge knowing how to ‘do it right’.
Now that you have a few tips and tricks up your sleeve to garner more comments on your blog – which seems to be what A LOT of bloggers want, I have two questions for you, and this is something you should have already asked yourself.
1. WHY do you want more people commenting on your blog?
2. Once they do actually comment, are you going to respond?
Again, from David Leite …. ‘No comment left behind‘ … RESPOND to every comment please, and for the life of me, do not tell me you do not have time. Turn off your TV and take care of your readers. Engage with them if you want them to do the same.
Those are all the WiseWords I have for today …
PS – and because there was chat of a giveaway … if you are thinking ahead and planning to come to Galway for the Annual Galway Food Festival (you should be!) on Easter weekend (March 28th – April 1st) then please make sure you check back here next week or sign up for email updates.
Hotel Meyrick has VERY generously given us a two-night break (including dinner for two on one night, and breakfast both mornings) for our readers. This is a gorgeous hotel and even those of you living in our beautiful city could take advantage of this one and invite some friends down for the festivities over the Easter holidays. Sign up for email updates right here (and send the link to your friends and family if you do not want them staying with you – ha ha!)
Ah … January. You are cruel and cold to most of us.
Bills piling in from Christmas overspending, and the dank, dark, dull dreariness of winter doldrums lingering too long.
With all the low lying clouds about us here in Galway, you can imagine how fast we jumped at the opportunity to steal away for a night (or two) to the beautiful Fitzwilliam Hotel in Dublin’s fair city. Wow. What a treat we were in for.
St. Stephen’s Green,
Dublin 2, Ireland
+ 353 (0) 1 478 7000
To start with, they have very large beds and bathtubs big enough for two. I know. We are easily pleased, right?
We are too persnickety for our own good to be honest. Upon arrival, we checked in are were faced with the dilemma of where to dine. The Fitzwilliam Hotel boasts two award winning restaurants. Thornton’s being an institution in our capital already, and Citron having just been awarded Best Hotel Restaurant in 2012. In a bout of eagerness and anticipation, we settled on Citron.
Met at the door on the mezzanine level of the hotel by a smiling waitress named Lucie who allowed us to sit wherever our hearts desired. We choose to sit along the right wall, fitted with plush leather banquette seating. We sat side-by-side, enjoying the lack of fussing and fidgeting that comes naturally to a brood of four kids under the age of 11, who were home with their Granny in Galway. God bless Granny.
Lucie came back to review the details of the menu and tried to sway us in the direction of chancing our arm with sampling of rabbit. Now, the Chef & I are not opposed to eating rabbit at all, as a matter of fact, we enjoy the meat quite a bit. But he had spied a trio of beef, and I a langoustine and poussin dish, with a pea risotto to share. All that food seemed like ‘enough’.
We declined her wishes and carried on.
But first a little ‘chips n’ dip’.
Irish readers…think Tayto and garlic mayo and all other readers who might not know what Tayto is . . think potato chips and dip. And …. think delicious. Clever, crafy and cute. Almost a bit too much whimsy for me – but I am a fan of doing laundry, what with four kids and all, so it got me good.
Once the food started to arrive … all small, tidy amounts of food on a plate and nothing looking too large or overly fussed with, we lost track of time. The mushroom capped ceiling of lowlights, the beautiful French Rosé by the glass, the seamless service from the entire team at Citron. Not a beat was skipped and although they took entirely way too much care of us, we never once felt like they were there. For us, a sure sign of exemplary training. Sadly, not something we see much of, so we relished every second.
And every bite.
Until we threw in the towel and begged for our bill so we could retreat back to our room. We could eat no more …
Lucie was having none of it. She had convinced the Chef in the kitchen to plate us up a tiny portion of the rabbit dish she was insisting we try, which we did. It was indeed fabulous and came with a side of pickled pear that we will have to replicate here soon on the blog.
Hands over our ears when she returned to sway the Chef to enter into dessert discussions, we declined and bid them all a good night.
As we had a meeting scheduled for later in the evening, we enjoyed a walk around St. Stephen’s Green before heading back to the hotel. As soon as we got back to our room, we received a call from our trusty friend Lucie, who felt that enough time must have passed for us to have surely changed our minds regarding dessert.
And, shur why not have it sent up to our room.
This (above) dessert is called ‘Strawberry-basil’ soup. If you only go to the Fitzwilliam for a cup of tea … order this one and let me know how it is. The Chef ate every bite greedily and swears it is one of the most refreshing and exciting desserts he has ever had. And he – is a chocoholic!
The following morning, on our way out to go for a walk, we noticed a tray full of gorgeous ‘special and significant’ messages waiting to be delivered to rooms on our floor. It is all these extra little touches that makes this hotel stand out from the others.
Strolling around Grafton street, and enjoying the frosty day for what it was, we ambled along like tourists (which, technically we were as we do not know the city all that well) we found ourselves wishing the kids were with us. Silly, isn’t it. We had only been away for 12 hours.
Dinner at Citron was special. The level of style and service in the restaurant and throughout the hotel is what earns it a five-star rating. The passion the culinary team have on display does not go un-noticed. Lucie’s persistence might have down right annoyed a person on any given day if it weren’t for the fact that she had a cracking smile the entire time, and she believed strongly that these dishes were as good as ‘all that and a bag of chips’.
Lucie – you are a gem of a girl. Well done.
Now – down to the fun part.
The Fitzwilliam Hotel have kindly given us an overnight at their gorgeous hotel, in one of those fabulous big beds, to include dinner for two at Citron with a bottle of wine and also breakfast-in-bed the next day.
We noticed that Valentines Day falls on a Thursday this year and have decided to offer this to our readers as a little token of our love for y’all here at WiseWords.
How to enter:
Leave a saucy comment finishing the sentence:
‘ I want to stay at The Fitzwilliam Hotel in Dublin because …… ‘
AND a small song and dance I know :
you must be a subscribed reader of our WiseWords Blog and also need to pay a visit to the Fitzwilliam Hotel Facebook page to ‘like’ them or follow them on Twitter. If you neither Tweet or use Facebook then let me know and I will come up with a crafty song and dance for you to get your name in the hat,
Trust me, these guys are first class all the way. This give-a-way is open to anyone living anywhere in the world – assuming you are going to be here in Ireland to take advantage of it for Valentines Day weekend 2013.
Best of luck to you – the winner will be chosen at Random by ‘And the Winner is‘ on Sunday February 3rd 2013 and will be posted right here. Please remember that you are entering a competition for a get-a-way for two and you might actually win. If you find that you cannot steal away for the night then please have a deserving person in mind that you can gift this to as a token of your love and generosity. Be nice. Share the love.
Ok – those are all the WiseWords I have for today,
Disclaimer : We were ‘on-location’ in Dublin filming a reality show that will air on RTE in March 2013. The production company we are working with paid for our lovely stay at The Fitzwilliam Hotel. We feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to stay here are are delighted to give you the same chance. Best of luck and stay tuned over the next few weeks for more goody giveaways.
AND THE WINNER IS - well done Steve!!
3 Daly’s Place, (near McSwiggans)
Woodquay, Galway, Ireland
Phone + 353 (0) 91 44 56 18 / + 353 (0) 91 44 57 34
eMail : LunaresRestaurant@Hotmail.com
Facebook : Lunares
It is no secret that the world of (food) blogging can be downright competitive. I would even go as far as to say that there have been plenty of occasions where bloggers, despite many insisting it is a ‘supportive’ community, get down right nasty.
I manage to steer clear of a lot of it because I live in a small city and to my knowledge there is only one other food blogger in my hometown … she can kick my ass with her words any day of the week.
As a matter of fact, I am sharing this restaurant review with you today because she beat me to the finish-line with her review of Lunares Spanish Restaurant and Tapas Bar in yesterday’s weekly issue of the Galway Advertiser.
Lunares is what I like to call a ‘mom & pop’ shop. It is run by two sisters, Amaya & Virginia Fernandez (both chefs) with the help of Amaya’s husband, Lucho, and their son Alvaro, who handle the front of the house. The exterior is painted in a happy splash of yellow and red, livening up this nook of Galway. They have been open for over a year now and seem to be trucking along just nicely. Open daily from noon (or 1pm) onwards they have quite a decent range of menu items to choose from. With all we have eaten at Lunares I cannot imagine that anyone is complaining about their food, or their service, or their prices. There have only been a few reviews on Trip Advisor and so far – all looking good methinks.
As much as the Chef & I enjoy dining alone when we get the chance, we very rarely actually eat a meal without our kids in tow. This restaurant is unique in the sense that it is a great date night place or equally suitable to bring the whole family. And so we did.
Here are a few photos from our last few visits. If you are not already hungry for your next meal then you will be when you get through looking at these.
One of their house specialities … Patatas Lunares …. lightly fried potatoes with serrano ham, topped with a perfectly poached egg. Note there are two eggs on this plate above because the Chef reckons they do the ‘best eggs’ in town.
This is one of my favourites … Sopa Castellana … think egg drop soup with a chicken and tomato broth. I could dive in right now for another bowl for my supper and be very content for the evening. Note there are four small spoons sharing this massive bowl. No one complained about sharing and they are looking forward to their next Tapas adventure already.
There may have been a few other little snacks for the kids …. like ham and cod croquettes. I have it on good authority that these were cooked perfectly but no-one offered to ‘share’ a bite of these nibblers.
Prawns in a spicy tomato sauce … there is a secret ingredient in this one; you MUST try it.
A bit of whimsy on the wall …
Window seats and soft cushions inviting us to linger longer at the table ….
A bit of kitsch to remind us not to take everything so seriously and just kick back and have a bit of fun ..
A reminder that it is two women running the kitchen … love this one.
but my personal favourite bit of décor from Lunares Spanish Restaurant and Tapas Bar is this ….there is love in their kitchen … and it is certainly evident in their food.
Oh …. and the fact that lunch for seven starving people cost €53.00 … that was with two glasses of wine … hic!
Go to Lunares. Mark it on your calendar … make an evening out of it. I hear they have traditional Spanish music at the weekends too.
Those are all the WiseWords I have for today,
The blogging authorities have stated, and rightly so, that bloggers must declare if they were, in any way, compensated for reviewing restaurants, products, books etc. In this particular instance, like 99% of my reviews, this was paid for in its entirety by us here at WiseWords; and worth every penny. If you have a restaurant or café or food product you would like us to review then please send us a link via email to MonaZWise@GMail.com or just share the link in the comments section down below.
Wow. What an amazing year.
I cannot wait to see where 2013 brings us.
The kids are all happy and healthy, thank goodness. My Mum, who is like a 3rd parent to our kids here at ChezWise, is also happy and healthy and keeps a close watch over us. For this, her health and her love, we are truly blessed.
The Chef & I are just like all other couples out there trying to work and raise a family at the same time. We abide by the rule of loving each other 80% of the time and wanting to kill each other the other 20%.
I thought it best to start where I left off last year in late December where I reviewed our year of salads.
But any salad worth its salt needs a decent loaf of bread …
February got off to an excellent start as I was asked to give a talk on food blogging at The Foodie Forum which was held at GMIT last year (and is only around the corner so save the date for Tuesday February 5th 2013). I was a bag of nerves at first, as I would not consider myself to have great orating skills, but the crowd at this event were my kind of people. Farmers, fishermen, butchers, bakers, chefs, cooks, bloggers and of course, teachers – every single one of them. I can’t even begin to fathom how the organisers will improve this years event but have it on great authority that it will, of course, be a delicious and educational experience for all.
Then Annie Atkins came to visit and took some amazing shots of our family – kicking the book writing and designing project into serious high gear. The rest of the year is a blur but I am going to force myself to carry on because there are a few more pretty pictures to look at!
In March we were delighted to sample a few jars of Goatsbridge Trout Caviar. Oh-M-Geeeeee was this ever a highlight of our foodie year. What a delicious product.
April brought many treats to the table and all homegrown. We have not had to buy eggs for two and a half years now and have cut back to eating most of our own chickens, ducks and turkeys. If you have been thinking about doing this – then the time is now; don’t be shy about rearing your own turkeys – the meat is by far the tastiest of the bunch.
I had to include an extra ‘bird’ shot here. Because they are just too darn cute!
Now, moving on to the madness that was the month of May.
To start with, The Sunday Times offered us a weekly column in their new and fabulous Sunday section. We started May 13th 2012 and have been sharing three recipes weekly since then. This has been, thus far, one of the coolest experiences a blogging gal like myself could ever have with one of the highlights being the Christmas party at the Odessa Club. So.much.fun.
And as May was one of our busiest months …. we had a special day for our Rory Belle.
Jeepers. How much could a gal cram into a month? I will never forget that evening. So so so many friends, family members, teachers, employers and people I had never met in my life, all there to celebrate the birth of a new book. Thank you, each and every one of you. Yes, this was pretty fabulous experience and I feel very fortunate to have achieved the starting and finishing of my first book all in due time and I even earned a distinction for my efforts at college. Job.Well.Done.
On a side note, and kudos to my dear blogging buddy and comrade in arms here in Galway, Anne Marie Carroll was also hired to write a food column for the Galway Advertiser. Blogging, especially food blogging, is starting to pay off for many of us in the Irish Food Blogging scene; So play nice boys and girls.
We spent some time at Lisloughrey Lodge these past few months and our most memorable stay had to be in June. Right after the book launch, they invited us down for a quiet night away from it all. We have never had such a good nights sleep and cannot recommend this place highly enough for a mini-break.
July brought a massive amount of mayhem to our house with all the cousins visiting for three long glorious weeks. All but one of my siblings home for summer holidays. We took time to smell all the roses.
August saw a flying visit from my friend Simone (who has an excellent blog called Jungle Frog blog). She took a smattering of food and kid photos that we have on file now for our second book ‘The Chef & I …. with kids’. We will get cracking on that in the new year and I will keep y’all updated on how it is going. Truth be told – I miss the book writing. These last few months in college are killing my creativity and stifling me with dense dreary texts and essay writing. But I have started so I will finish. Only 12 weeks of class left to go.
So September rolled in and back to final year of my undergrad in college I went, after having had a year off of regular classes to live the life of a writer and write my book. The easiest way to describe that transition is to look at the photos below.
This is life before I went back to college …. gorgeous, vibrant, happy, tasty, exciting.
And this is what life is like ‘in college’ …. and just as an FYI – this is real canteen food.
Ok – I might be over dramatising it a wee bit … but my goodness I am so ready to be done with college.
12 more weeks. 12 more weeks. 12 more weeks.
October how I loved you because you gave me the best gift of all ….
A night out with my Mum AND the Chef …. and a few gorgeous prizes to take home with me. The whole experience of winning the Blog Awards in Ireland is still very surreal to me. I will admit, that my reaction to cower and hide and feel like I had not earned it has now passed and I am working even harder on a new blogging plan for 2013. Stay tuned!
November brought rain … study and exam stress into our WiseWorld. But there were a few days where we caught glimpses of sun and I always managed to capture it with the camera. This (above) is a scallop star. Puff pastry with a scalloped inside and a mustard dressing on a bed of rocket. Every home should have one.
A chef that is.
December brought colour back into my life … lots of foodie family fun. I have let go of the study stress for now and will face it on January 7th when I get back in to college for final semester. I.love.saying.that.
Aside from the Foodie Forum (February 5th at GMIT) I will also be participating in the Waterford Writers festival (March 21st to 24th 2013) and have also been invited to present a paper at a Gastronomy Symposium at GMIT 9th May 2013. You have no idea how much this terrifies me …. I am writing and presenting my paper on ‘Food & Social Media’.
So … there you have it. A well balanced wrap up of the year. The next few months are going to be INSANELY busy for the Chef & I, but hey, nothing we can’t handle.
I cannot thank y’all enough for all the love and support you have shown me here at WiseWords throughout the year. Blogtopia can be a lonely place and sometimes filled with a lot of crazies….so it is hard to stand your ground and just march to the beat of your own drum.
So, thank YOU … for reading WiseWords.
We love judging competitions, so when we were invited to join Miele at their Über cool test kitchen in CityWest, Dublin, a few weeks ago, to judge their dessert-off competition, we were only too delighted to head east for a day of tasting and judging fun. Along the way we stopped in to Avoca in Rathcoole and enjoyed a quick bite of lunch in their cafe. The christmas carols were streaming throughout the shopping arena and we certainly felt like the christmas and shopping season was going full tilt. It would have been very easy to get lost in that shopping complex for a couple of hours, but duty called. We headed over to Miele shortly after lunch and the four finalists were already working up a few treats in the kitchen.
Judging a competition like this can be a bit nerve wrecking. First, you have to review all the submissions, then, before you whittle it down to the finalists you need to test the recipes to see if they pan out the way the recipe creator intended.
You could tell from the way the contestants glided around the Miele showroom that they were seasoned bakers, all quite capable of making and baking their favourite dessert, and certainly all eligible to win the amazing prize; €10,000 euros worth of Miele kitchen appliances. Wouldn’t we all like a few new pieces of kitchen kit?
We observed with interest and listened intently to each contestant as they told us the story behind their creations. One of the desserts, and possibly the most complicated recipe of the bunch, was a gorgeous banana and amaretto cake. Another, a rich, dark chocolate cake decorated to the nines followed by a third cake, layers of pastry and jam smothered in an exquisite chocolate ganache.
We had a scoring system drafted and myself and Ron along with Margaret Crerar (from Miele) sampled each dessert one by one, stopping only for a sip of water to prepare us for the next bite. We sampled, we scored, and then we sampled a bit more. We then left the room to chat a little bit about the scoring system we were using and what we liked or disliked about each dessert. You can be sure we factored in how stressful it can be for any baker, novice or amateur, to come in to someone else’s kitchen and make or bake their favourite dessert. All four of the contestants were incredibly calm, cool and collected and the proof was certainly in the puddings.
Interestingly enough, all three of us with judging hats on had picked the (same) winner and it was from the first bite of a cake called ‘Grandmas gift’. A meringue and sponge layered cake, unlike anything we, or most others who were in attendance, had ever tasted. Now, many of you will have sponge cake in your repertoire and I am sure plenty of you make meringues or pavlovas to beat the band. It was the marrying of the two of these gorgeous desserts that sealed the deal.
The other three contestants worked as hard and as diligently as Geraldine, and did leave with a goody bag from Miele to take home with them. We were delighted that they came to spend the day with us in Dublin and hope to see them enter the competition again next year for another shot at wining a few new pieces of Miele appliances. If you would like copies of the other recipes please email me and I will send them on to you at MonaZWise@GMail.com
Geraldine Holohan, a grandmother now herself, presented her interesting and truly exceptional cake on a stunning silver platter that she had received from Macy’s department store (New York City) years prior, and it is on this very platter that she always serves her favourite cake. A good omen we would call it, but we assure you this cake would taste fabulous even if served on a paper plate.
Judging food competitions, be they savoury or sweet is a lot of fun, but of course, in most cases, there can only be one winner. Complexity of a recipe, choice of ingredients, texture, taste and over all presentation of the dessert were all taken into consideration when we three agreed that this was the winner alright.
- What you will need
- The cake mixture
- 2 oz margarine
- 4 oz caster sugar
- 4 egg yolks
- 4 oz flour
- A little vanilla essence
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 5 tablespoons creamy milk
- The meringue
- 4 egg whites
- 8 oz sugar
- 2 tablespoons almonds
- The filling
- Fruit of choice
- 1 cup cream
- Sugar as necessary
- How to prepare it
- Line the bottom of two 9 inch cake tins with circles of greased paper.
- Now prepare the cake mixture: cream the margarine and sugar together and when light, beat in the egg yolks one at a time. Then add the flour and other ingredients alternately with the milk. Divide the mixture between the two tins and spread evenly.
- Now make up the meringue: add a pinch of salt to the egg whites and whisk until stiff. Gradually beat in the sugar. Divide between the two cake tins and swirl attractively. Sprinkle one cake with the flaked almonds. Bake in a moderate oven for approx. 45 minutes at 150ºC.
- When the cake is cold sandwich generously together with a mixture of whipped cream and fruit. The cake sprinkled with the flaked almonds should be uppermost.
We took a little creative license with Geraldine’s recipe and cooked the sponge cake part separately to the meringue and then layered the cake with fruit and cream to make this one of the most delicious pieces we have ever tried in our kitchen. Also, Geraldine did use some stewed cranberry compote in her winning cake presentation and I have to say that shows again how versatile this dessert really is. A winner for all seasons. Congratulations again Geraldine. A well deserved win.
Special thanks to Clodagh Kilcoyne Photography for all the gorgeous shots from that day. You can find her on Facebook right here!
Those are all the WiseWords I have for today,
This new toy of the Chef’s has been taking up all of my time. It had to travel quite the distance to get here and now that it is here and working it seems that he will be spending even more time outside ‘cooking’.
We made Cranberry Pies this year. I am thinking of quitting school and starting a production line. They are that good.
I should be straightening up around here because we are having a mahoosive party here on St. Stephens’ Day – in less than 48 hours. But I am certain that a messy desk is the sign of creative works …. right?
The veg is prepped and the Turkey is bathing in brine right now. We are half ready for tomorrow. I am still the dishbitch around here so am not going to stress about anything other than the perfectly set table and the perfectly chilled wine.
I still have another batch of cookies to make, bake and ice before Wednesday.
Yeah – this is the kitchen table right now …. still buried under a pile of laundry. It.never.ends.
We have just had a Christmas Eve cocktail . . . and are thinking about the year we have had. How much we enjoyed visiting with those that came from near and far and how much we miss all our friends and family members scattered all over the world.
This year, our polytunnel has had its best production ever and I cannot wait to see the seedlings start to sprout soon for Spring!
The final few tomatoes – still on the vine – will be in our salad tomorrow.
Yes – we will eat salad on Christmas Day.
We are also going to eat brown bread stuffing …. because that is my favourite.
And – we are also going to eat Key Lime Pie …. because the Chef made one and we got real Key Lime extract so it tastes AWESOME.
So – there you have it. We are messy and content here in Galway. We are a tad lonely for all our friends and hope that this year (2013) will be the one where you decide to come visit us (again). And even though loneliness always hits us at the holidays – there is no place like home.
We are so glad to be here in Galway right next door to my Mum. She has the kids right now and is taking them to Christmas Eve mass where they will be singing in the choir – and we are wrapping presents! Ho ho ho!!!
Thanks for an absolutely amazing year.
I’ll be all back on the blogging bandwagon in the new year … with a few surprises tucked up my sleeve xx
Móna & Ron Wise
This is where I am at.
As you can see, I am studying for my exams. Studying so hard I have decided to listen to an audio book rendition of Virginia Woolf”s Mrs Dalloway because I might go blind if I read it again. I have hit the wall of ‘college burnout’ and can now totally understand ‘why’ people drop out.
College.is.hard. and for me, seemingly never-ending.
The thing is ….. when a girl is burnt out….one can tend to drag the whole family down so I have to do my best to keep my head above water.
I should try harder to stay calm and just make make some tea to have with these delicious muffins that I baked.
Yes. Do not adjust your screens or volume control …
I did in fact bake them but I got the chef to decorate them.
That is why they look so tasty.
If you are getting ready to ice some Christmas cookies or a gingerbread house then watch this video first …. then go over and follow the tutorials on this blog and then send me some photos to share of what you are baking and decorating this Christmas (on Twitter or on Facebook or right here on the blog).
Note – I have not shared what mine look like . . but if want to turn this into the ‘worst’ decorating job ever then I am so there.
A copy of our book (or maybe two copies if y’all are fabulous like) goes to the winner which the Chef will choose by December 15th.
(on a side note – Kenny’s is still shipping our book for free worldwide so if you want to send a fabulous present to your loved ones abroad – please keep us in mind).
This recipe is an easy one and the mascarpone cream cheese frosting is sinful. As in, one might eat it by the spoonful it tastes so good.
- For the muffins:
- 250g self-raising flour
- 1 tsp baking/bread soda
- 140g cherries (from a tin)
- 100g white chocolate chips
- 100g dark chocolate chips
- 100g raw cane sugar
- 3 eggs
- 150ml vanilla yogurt
- 100g butter, melted
- For the frosting:
- 250g Mascarpone cheese
- 60g powdered/icing sugar
- 1 Tbsp vanilla extract
- Pre-heat the oven to 180ºC. Line your muffin tin with some muffin cases.
- Sift the flour, and baking soda into a bowl, then stir in the chocolate and sugar. Add the beaten eggs, yogurt and then the butter and mix until it has formed a good batter-like consistency. Add in the juice from the tinned cherries if you wanted added sweetness. Then add in the cherries (cut in half) at the last minute.
- It doesn’t matter if the mixture looks a bit lumpy. Over mixing might make your muffins a bit tough. On a side note we made ours with Spelt wheat flour and they were pretty kick ass.
- Fill the muffin cases and bake for 20-25 mins until risen and golden brown. Transfer to a rack to cool. If you eat them warm, the chocolate is all melty and messy. And, I’m told, delicious.
- While they are cooling, mix the mascarpone cheese, sugar and vanilla together using an electric mixer until it fluffs up nicely. Add colour if so desired and ice away!
Yesterday, I gave a lecture ‘on blogging’ to first year students at NUIG. This was one of the best experiences I have had thus far since starting my blog in 2007. I gave a one-hour presentation and had a Q&A session afterwards and I brought these muffins in for all the students.
So. College is hard. Damn hard.
The decision as to whether I should carry on to do an MA or take a year off is impossibly hard because it affects more than just me. It affects the kids, the husband and of course, my Mum. And we all know that she is ‘the boss’ so we have to keep her happy.
I hate having to make decisions like this … but all the paperwork and applications have to be submitted in December / January … so a girl has to put her thinking cap on and make a decision.
What would you do?
Those are all the WiseWords I have for today,
Hello fellow food lovers,
It is wet and dreary and cold. I am trying to get all caught up on sharing a back long of The Sunday Times weekly recipes and I am loving all the light bright photos I have been flitting in and out of all weekend. The evenings have grown so short here in Galway since the time change and now, it is almost completely dark before 5pm each evening. I feel like hibernating, don’t you? Wake me up when the crocuses and snowdrops start to bloom.
I feel it would be unfitting if we did not mention how proud we are that Galway now has a Michelin star restaurant (Aniar), the first, and hopefully not the last, for the city of the tribes. When we moved back to Galway four years ago there was a slow and steady throb of excitement in the food and restaurant sector but it almost seemed like people were afraid to step out of their comfort zone and push the proverbial envelope when it came to dining out. JP McMahon (owner of Cava and EAT restaurants too) and his creative crew (Enda McEvoy – executive chef) have exceeded the expectations of all Galwegians, and then some. We are delighted to see them putting Galway on the Michelin map and hope many of you will come to sample their fabulous menu.
The notion of a restaurant serving up foraged food on a plate is very hip these days and finding the balance between something that looks and tastes like weeds to something that looks like but certainly tastes nothing like a weed takes skill. A few weeks ago shared a recipe for blackberry buttermilk buns and since then have discovered that the leaves of the blackberry bushes, when steeped in boiling water with a spoonful of honey, can help reduce the inflammation caused by a sore throat. Imagine, all these years we have been picking the fruit from the bramble bushes without ever knowing that the leaves had a value. This is what foraging teaches us.
The first recipe we are sharing this week is another for blackberries. Cumberland sauce, as we know or remember it, pours a bit thin, like a syrup. We have included a recipe for Blackberry cumberland sauce that is more of a chutney or jam than a syrup. It is also delicious and we are sure you will love it on a piece of roasted meat for Sunday supper or just by itself on a slice of cheddar cheese.
The second recipe we are sharing is for a pasta dish. Pasta is the fastest option to turn to in our house when everyone is in a hurry and starving. Although we do make a lot of our own pasta from scratch, there are several excellent fresh pasta options out there and tagliatelle is our favourite. The recipe is really for the sauce. Roasting bell peppers (and peeling the blackened skin off) enhances the overall flavour of the pepper, making it an excellent addition to any sauce or stew. It also decreases the chances of there being any digestive issues as most of the bitterness comes from the skin. Although we made ours a seafood pasta, you could throw a piece of chicken or pork into the sauce just as easily or keep it light and just add more veg at the end.
Our third recipe is our little way to nudge you into the entertaining spirit. Now that everyone has settled back into school, it is time start thinking about entertaining for the holiday season. This Scallop star appetiser does require a bit of finagling with the pastry but is worth every minute of your time. It is not often you see mustard sauce served with seafood but in this case the marriage of flavours works incredibly well. You can make your own puff pastry from scratch (email us for a recipe if you want one) but the pre-made pastry works just fine too.
This batch of recipes should put you in the mood for entertaining. The blackberry cumberland is delicious. That sweet mustard shallot tang will stand up well to a sizzling piece of duck or a slab of cold cheddar. We served it with a piece of duck. Our own back yard duck. You can only imagine how good this tasted.
- What you will need
- 400 g [2 cups] blackberries
- 240 ml [1 cup] dessert wine or port
- 2 Tbsp brown sugar
- 1 tsp mustard powder
- 2 shallots, finely diced
- 1 Tbsp butter
- 1 tsp black pepper
- Pinch of salt
- 1 Tbsp Orange/citrus zest
- How to prepare
- Sauté the shallots in the butter with the black pepper and salt. Add in the blackberries and mash them up a bit to release the juices. Pour in the wine (or port) and bring to a slow simmer. Add in the brown sugar, mustard and zest. Taste (careful not to burn your tongue) and adjust seasoning as necessary. Sometimes a squeeze of an orange will bring it to perfection but a lot has to do with your own personal taste. We like to serve this a little thicker than a traditional cumberland which is typically served runny like a syrup. The children love this on a piece of brown bread with a thick slice of Mossfield organic cheese for their school lunches.
A recipe for cajun pasta that will knock your socks off – because it is so very very simple
Cajun Cray fish pasta – serves 4 as an appetizer
A few weeks ago we received a small bag of crayfish from a friend of ours. The tiniest and most flavour packed present we have ever seen. Their is not a lot of meat on their little bodies but the shells are chock full of flavour so after you cook them for a few minutes in boiling water, remove the fish from the shells saving it for your dinner and make a small pot of fish stock from the shells. This is handy to have on hand when making a chowder for lunch on a Saturday. Waste not want not.
What you will need
For the sauce
1 small onion, large dice
40 g [1/3 cup] celery, large dice
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
A pinch of salt and black pepper
1 Tbsp butter
A small pinch of dried oregano, basil and cayenne.
A small sprig of fresh thyme
1 red bell pepper, roasted and skin removed
120 ml 1/2 cup stock (fish or chicken)
240 ml [1 cup] cream
125 g cray fish, pre-cooked
What you will need
For the pasta
250 g of fresh Tagliatelle pasta
How to prepare – the sauce
Sauté the onion, celery and garlic in a bit of butter with salt and pepper until tender (about 8 minutes on medium heat).
Add remaining herbs and spices and the red bell pepper.
Deglaze with the 1/2 cup of stock and add 1 cup of cream.
Simmer for ten minutes.
Using an immersion blender, blend until the sauce is smooth.
Add in the pre-cooked cray fish. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary.
How to prepare – the pasta
Cook the pasta in 2 liters of boiling salted water for 6 minutes. Make sure not to overcook it, you want it al dente. Drain once cooked and then add to your cajun cray fish sauce. Serve immediately.
and finally we have a recipe to get you thinking about those Christmas parties you are throwing ….
When using with puff pastry you need to work fast with very cold pastry. Roll it out and cut it as fast as you can and do not over work it as it might end up very chewy and dense; It should be light and flaky. Once you have the scallops seared and ready to put into the pastry stars, practice first on a few pieces of paper, just to be sure you get it right before you put it in the oven. If entertaining you can bake these ahead and eat them at room temperature if desired.
What you will need
320 g puff pastry (1 box store bought is fine or email us for a recipe)
4 large scallops
1 egg, for egg wash
What you will need – for the sauce
1 small onion/shallot, fine dice
2 tsp butter
1 tsp vegetable oil
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp wholegrain mustard
Dash of Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
3 Tbsp cream
Salt & black pepper to taste
Optional – to make this more of a main meal than an appetiser
1 kilo prawns, shelled
How to prepare – the sauce
Sauté the onion in some butter and oil. Add in the scallops, sprinkled with a bit of salt and pepper and cook for two minutes on each side. Do not burn the onions; if you have to, take them out of the pan while the scallops cook. (if using prawns to make a bigger meal out of this then add them in here).
Deglaze the pan with a squeeze of lemon juice and worcestershire sauce and add in the wholegrain mustard. Reduce heat and add the cream and mix well with wooden spoon. Finish with a knob of butter and fresh parsley. Remove scallops and add them to the pastry (below) and reserve the sauce for later.
How to prepare – the pastry
Cut the sheet of pastry into four perfect squares; only use very cold puff pastry.
Place each square on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
At each corner, cut a diagonal slice almost to the middle but not quite (1/2”).
Egg wash the edges. Place a cooked scallop in the center of each pastry square.
Take the left side of each corner and fold it over to meet itself and continue to do so in a pinwheel fashion. Practice first with paper. Once you have sealed the scallop in the star/pinwheel shaped pastry puff, egg wash the outside of the pastry.
Bake in a 220ºC oven for 10 – 15 minutes (depending on your oven).
Serve on a bed of salad greens with the sauce poured on top.
Enjoy the read and recipes … and thanks for all the emails and support guys and dolls. I cannot tell you how hard it has been adjusting back to the life of a student …I honest-to-god cannot wait to get back to the world of ‘work’ and away from the madness that is the world of academia. Almost finished with this semester so only 12 more weeks of ‘college/structured class’ after Christmas then we can take our life off ‘hold’ and get back to ‘normal’ whatever that is.
Thank you xxx
The Sunday Times. October 7th 2012. Recipes for Venison hotpot, Mushroom & Quinoa Goetta and warm potato and sausage salad.
Hello fellow food lovers,
I am hoping to get a back log of recipes (published weekly in our column for The Sunday Times) uploaded to the blog over the next few days.
I am back in final year of college and we just received our exam timetable yesterday. I am finished Semester 1 on December 14th … and have a few days of running around after that getting ready or Christmas before the kids get off school.
Come January I will be headed into my final semester of this four year undergrad and I am excited about just getting finished so we can take our life off hold and I can get back to ‘working’.
I hope you enjoy the recipes. We are particularly fond of the Mushroom Goetta one as it reminds us of our former life back in Cinainnati where Goetta is a very popular breakfast dish. If you have not tried it, now is your chance! Ours is a veggie recipe so it is perfect for those of you that want a delicious savoury and nutritious alternative to the traditional Irish breakfast.
If you have any special recipe requests for Christmas, then send me a quick email (MonaAndRon@Sunday-Times.ie) and we will get cracking on it.
Those are all the WiseWords I have for today,
Soup ….. or Chowder.
Call it what you will.
We steer clear of the thin and lacklustre ‘veg’ soup and favour bigger bolder flavours with a bit of body.
- 125 g smoked streaky rashers of bacon
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 260 g corn, frozen
- A half head of cauliflower, broken into florets
- 240 ml chicken/veg stock
- 500 ml skimmed milk
- 1 tsp white pepper
- 2 ears of fresh corn, uncooked
- Sauté bacon until cooked then add the onion and cook until it softens but do not let it brown.
- Season with salt and pepper then add the cauliflower and frozen corn.
- Add the chicken stock, cover with lid and allow to simmer for 15 minutes.
- Test the cauliflower to see if it is cooked (if not, allow a few more minutes) and then add the milk and more white pepper if needed.
- Bring to the boil slowly. Scrape fresh corn off the cob and add in at the last minute right before serving, reserving a decent spoonful for the top.
Ladled into a bowl steaming hot coupled with spice from the white pepper, this is delicious.
Oh yeah … and there is bacon in it too.
This is one of our favourite soups ever and I would love to know if you would ever make this or eat it?
Call it a ‘social experiment’ if you will.
Humour me please xx
** Please note that while this might seem that I might have actually made this soup myself, be under no illusion that I did. My willing husband, the chef, made it for me. He is ever so willing. **
I am a native Galway girl that seems to be drawn to professions that rhyme with 'err'. Writer, Mother, Restauranteur, Wedding Planner, Dishwasher, Grass cutter, Cocktail maker. I suppose you could say I am a well rounded entrepreneur.
You can find me here
About the Chef
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You might as well just come visit.
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