This week, I earned a very important piece of paper.
I graduated with an honours degree in English, German and Creative Writing.
After the year I have had, I am honest-to-god delighted to have graduated at all. If you have no idea what I am talking about … then read this article here.
My Mum, Catherine, also earned it as she has been talking care of the ‘homework and school side of things’ for our four children for the last four years. She has also carved out an inordinate amount of time to just being ‘Granny’ to them and ‘Mammy’ to me.
I love you Mum.
Husband and best friend of mine, aka the Chef, should not be left out either. He is still cooking up a storm and taking excellent care of our little family – and the feathered flock too.
I can’t imagine that my smile could be so smiley …
I feel … educated. I also feel exhausted and am still worried about that pile of laundry that just never seems to stop growing.
After the conferring ceremony had finished, Mum, the Chef and I, with my cousin Jamie (who took the photos) all went to Kai Cafe for a quick bite of lunch. We rarely get to do this without the children … so this was a nice treat.
We were greeted with Quince Bellinis … if you have never had one … then go get one right now.
I have not said it enough … but there is fierce comfort in going to a cafe where you just know every bite will be perfect .. everytime.
After the festivities had died down, I made a few important stops to see my BFF’s for a few photos ‘in cap n’ gown’ and then paid a visit to my Dad who has been laying low for 13 years now.
Those that state it it gets easier as time goes by are big fat liars. I have never cried so many tears. It is not like I have been a big loser my whole life or anything. I never questioned whether or not Dad was ever proud of me. I just hate that he is not here to see me kinda-sorta get my shit together.
And then the mucksters got home from school … and all hell broke loose.
Things are going well here in Galway. I decided at the very very last minute to take on ONE FINAL year of college and have jumped in with both feet to the MA class of Journalism.
This is a 12 month course so there will be one more graduation next year before I get back into the world of ‘all work and no play’.
One of my first radio broadcasting assignments aired last week on Flirt.fm (101.3 fm).
I titled it ‘Life as a mature student’.
It is ten minutes long. Have a listen.
Thanks for all the love and support over the last four years guys n’ dolls.
I could not have kept sane without my blog and all my buddies.
The Kings Head
Sometimes … it takes me an age to get around to blogging about a place I love. I could pull several different and unique excises out of my hat to lay on this one … but the truth is I am just buried alive.
Late in August I took the boldest and bravest decision yet, and signed up for the MA in Journalism at NUIG. I am knee deep in the 1st semester and loving it. I have had to shift gears completely and am writing about news and politics and all kids of interesting and different topics.
I miss writing about food though. And I miss y’all.
I was flicking through my images last night and found these photos and it reminded me that I had never told you how much I love this pub. Not only do I love it … the Chef loves it too … and the kids …
They really love it …………
And shur what is not to love? The Kings Head is a family-run business that has been under the ownership of Paul and Mary Grealish for over 20 years now. They also own the beautiful …. and a bit posher …. Malt House restaurant next door. Their chefs have been with them for 15 + years. They run a tight ship.
They dip their crab claws in melted butter with hot fresh chilie slivers.
These – are to die for.
A variety of daily specials always on the menu and never will dissappoint.
Something we love (during the summer months) is the grilled Lobster with drawn butter and thick steak cut chips.
But it is the mussels that bring me back everytime. A massive bucket to share for the table so the kids can get stuck in.
Graduation season is upon us and I have a special blog post lined up for next week – so stick around.
In the meantime, if you know anyone that is graduating in Galway, why not meet them for a pint at The Kings Head?
This is the week the children go back to school after a long family-fun filled summer holiday. Eight long weeks ..fishing, swim lessons, sea side scampering …followed by lazy evenings lounging on their trampoline. They have it made in the shade…
As we ramp up for their first day back to school, on Thursday, we set aside a small bit of time to make and bake a few of their favourite treats … easing them back into their routine of early mornings.
If you have ever read any of my blog posts you will know that there is something wrong … there is no such thing as easing them back into early mornings … it will be total and utter chaos. Lunchbox lids will fly, I will be roaring and shouting like a lunatic and the kids will resist, with all their might, dragging their pre-teen butts out of bed. But … we still want them to get off to a happy start on their first day back to school … so we will play nice.
This recipe, I can now make with my eyes closed. I use rhubarb in the spring, strawberries in the summer and my favourite, now, blackberries for autumn.
- 250 ml sour cream
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 160 g coconut oil (or butter)
- 100 g raw cane sugar
- 300 g honey
- Zest of one orange (reserve juice for frosting)
- 3 eggs
- 400 g blackberries (washed and left to drain)
- 1 Tbsp cornflour/cornstarch
- 380 g self raising flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- Using your stand mixer, mix the coconut oil, the sugar and the honey together. Add in the eggs, one at a time. In a separate bowl, mix the bread soda with the sour cream and leave it to do its thing for a few minutes. Once you see it start to bubble, set it aside for a minute or two. Add the eggs to the sugar mixture, still mixing slowly. Add the orange zest and then the sour cream.
- Remove the mixture from the stand mixer and add flour to the batter, making sure you get all the flour well incorporated into the mix.
- Toss the blackberries in a bowl with the cornflour then add them into the cake batter using a large spoon taking care not to bruise the fruit too much.
- Line two greased 5″ x 8″ pans, or a few smaller ones, if you are planning on sharing with your friends and family, with baking/parchment paper. Pour the cake batter evenly into the cake pans and place in the pre-heated oven (175ºC) for 45 minutes. The cakes will rise up nicely. Do not open the door to have a look at them – as they might flop. Once the time has passed – remove from the oven and leave to cool for ten minutes in the cake pan, then transfer to a wire rack. Best eaten same day but works deliciously well as a sharing cake for the office the next day too. I highly recommend the frosting below too .. and garnish with a few blackberries.
Blackberries are in season. Get out … start picking them (they are free after all) and most importantly, preserve the last delicious drop of summer. We freeze them in little sandwich bags. Perfect for quick tea cakes and pies in the depths of winter. I also like to make hot toddies with them. That recipe will come in a few weeks.
Thanks for reading along as always .. I am as stressed as a bag of cats this week with a lot of big changes happening here on the home front … and I am in major need of a few virtual hugs … anyone?
Those are all the WiseWords I have for today,
Wise (or maybe not so much this week) Móna
I know. You are getting ready to send your kid out the door and off to college in a week or two, and it has just dawned on you that they know absolutely nothing about living on their own.
Your years of caring for them, and your parenting efforts, have been minimised into the space of about 30 minutes (or less) and you are becoming increasingly aware of all the stuff that little Johnny or Mary are not able to do for themselves. No point in blaming yourself (or your spouse) for all your grievous errors. Best to just pack them off to college – throw them in at the deep end – let them sink or swim, like.
They’ll be grand.
OR MAYBE THEY WILL NOT!
Here’s the thing. I have just completed a four year undergraduate degree at NUIG. Granted, as a mature student, I had my wits about me, for the most part. One of the things I kept close tabs on whilst on campus, was how the younger students behaved. I figured I would be able to tweak my own parenting skills by watching the, sometimes scary, state of incoming first years.
You know the kids I am talking about. The girls all fake-tanned and Ugged up, worrying more about how they look, than on which classes they should take and the lads that are positively excited about not having to take a shower more than once a week (on Sunday nights because Mammy says he has too). These same kids, standing in long lines at the canteen waiting to pay (with your heard earned money) for a plate of greasy chips, will be up in the sick bay by mid-October looking for the fastest flu-shot or antibiotic going because they (who never missed a day of school in their life) are dying. Really dying. They have never been so sick.
Now, they might be just hungover, especially if they are like most normal students breaking away from the clutches of home for the first time, but the harsher reality is that they are probably at the start of a nutritional deficiency that is only going to get worse unless you give them a few last minute culinary tips. That plate of chips (for lunch or supper) will not sustain or nourish them for 4 years – but they are cheap and tasty, so the kids will keep eating them.
It is not too late to give them a quick lesson in the kitchen.
Why not start with the basics. Lets look at one of my favourite cupboard items – a bag of jumbo oats, costing around €2.75 per kg at the local grocery store. I reckon a savvy student can get at least 8 portions out of this bag and adding in a few other raw ingredients they will be loaded and ready to take on their day classes and evening study sessions.
I know … they won’t eat porridge, right? Well, if you explain that learning how to use Oats (a hugely versatile and affordable product) will give them more drinking money, then I am sure that will get their attention. And don’t hate me for reminding you that students are spending your hard earned money on beer and booze. It is what most of them do. It is our job to make sure they have a somewhat healthful diet … so all that alcohol does not wreck their stomachs.
Toasty Oaty Breakfast
80 g jumbo oats (toast in a non-stick pan for a few minutes until they turn light brown in colour)
240 ml water
Pinch of salt
1 tsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp butter
1 tbsp fruit preserve
1 tsp vanilla essence (optional)
50 g almonds/hazelnuts (optional)
60 ml milk (full fat)
How to make it
Bring water to a boil. Add in a pinch of salt (this will sweeten the breakfast oats). Stir in the oats when the water comes to a rolling boil and reduce heat to medium. Keep stirring for 7 minutes or until the water has evaporated. Place oats in a bowl then add sugar, fruit preserve, butter and vanilla. Mix with a spoon. Add nuts and a splash of milk if desired.
Now that they know how to make a well balanced, hot, nutritious and delicious meal to start and keep their engines running, they will be more likely to drag their butts out of bed and get to class. Encourage
nag them constantly about the importance of class attendance and participation.
For their first year, there is room to skip one or two classes. By second year they need to bring their A game and show up for every lecture. Third year is a confusing year for those that go abroad on Erasmus because they have no rules, in class or from the home front, so just bury your head a hope for the best.
FINAL YEAR is the most important. Up until last year (2012/2013) students were allowed to pull their final degree grades from second and final year results, enabling many to have a higher mark than expected, if they worked hard throughout their college careers.
This is no longer possible.Now, all final results for their overall degree comes solely from their final year exam results. If your student has worked hard, attended and participated in classes, and handed in their assignments on time, then their lecturers might have some say in helping them squeeze an extra mark or two in their favour if their results are not so favourable.
So what can you do to help?
Their first essay (1500 words) will be due in or around halloween. This will be the week that they experience a massive amount of stress.
Tell them to break it down into a game of numbers just like this :
Introduction ………………. 200 words
Make the statement of what you are going to discuss making sure you have answered the question.
Paragraph 1 ………………. 350 words
Paragraph 2 ……………… 350 words
Paragraph 3 ……………… 350 words
Conclusion ……………….. 200 words
Wrap it up re-affirming that you have answered the question.
Total 1450 words .. they give a 10% leeway on the word count.
This may seem trivial now, but they will thank you for this advice when the time comes.
Whatever happens, tell them not to panic and just to get it in on time. Once you go down the road of asking for extensions on assignments (especially in first year) … it never ends well.
Now, back to the cooking lesson.
Part of an essential piece of kitchen kit is a non-stick pan and rubber spatula. If they hand wash the pan and only use the silicone spatula or a wooden spoon, the teflon will stay in great shape for their four years of college.
Still using the jumbo oats, why not teach them how to make a savoury (vegetarian) dish that they can soup up with a bit of meat or fish when the craving hits and the budget allows.
(Veggie) Toasty Oats
80 g jumbo oats
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp butter
100 g frozen peas
100 g fresh tomatoes, chopped
1 cube (chicken) veggie stock
240 ml boiling water
1 tsp black pepper
50 g parmesan cheese (optional)
How to make it
Dissolve the (chicken) stock cube in the 240 ml water and set aside.
Sauté the onions and garlic in the olive oil and butter for 7 minutes on medium heat.
Add black pepper then stir in the uncooked oat into the onions and garlic.
Turn the heat up and continue to cook until the oats turn brown.
Pour the veggie or (chicken) stock liquid into the pan and allow to simmer (medium heat) for 5 minutes or until the liquid has evaporated.
Remove from heat and pour into a bowl.
Add frozen peas and stir well into the oats.
Add chopped tomatoes and grate a little parmesan cheese on top to finish.
Teaching the younger generation about eating a balanced diet is sadly coupled with teaching them about budgeting their money for their meals and entertainment. These young students have massive amounts of stress to wade through during their first year and sadly, nutrition is rarely at the forefront of their daily chat at Starbucks. The canteen offerings are quite costly and, for the most part, serve massive amounts of overly processed foods. Thankfully, most on-campus medical clinics are still free for students but I think it is always better to take preventative measures when it comes to staying healthy and fired up for all the learning they have to do. There will be a few more back to school recipes in The Sunday Times this week (August 25th).
Make a batch of these cranberry oatmeal squares (below) for your teenager to snack on while they are studying. They will thank you later in life by constantly asking you to bake a batch for them.
If your student is coming to Galway to study, then you might be looking for a place to stay when you come to visit them. You might even wonder where to have a bite or two when you are here.
This is my cheat sheet for y’all :
A nice place to stay : Corrib Townhouse
A nice place to eat : Kai Cafe
Irish music fix : The Crane Bar
College is hard. Really bloody hard. Keep open lines of communication with your teen even if you are exhausted from raising them. Every year students take their own lives because they cannot handle the pressure – that college is. From the minute they enter into the world of academia, they are faced with the reality of failing. It is a fear that is laid on thick and follows you to the finish line. For many it can be frightfully debilitating. Be there for your child. All they way.
Those are all the WiseWords I have for today.
PS – thanks for ALL the emails and FB messages about the Blog Awards Ireland 2013. As you know, I won three categories and overall best blogger last year (2012) but have decided not to participate this year, in order to give others a chance to share in the limelight. Although I am sad to not be part of the mix this year, I will be judging … so starting tightening up your P’s and Q’s. I will be watching and reading years worth of blog posts over the next few months. If you are interested in becoming a judge, and you should if you like to read blogs, or are indeed a blogger yourself, then please sign up on the Blog Awards 2013 website.
Logo designed by Ray McDonnell at www.LinkAssociates.ie
It’s not often that we can all get together and have dinner. Many of our food industry friends work nights and weekends. Many of us have kids, big or small, making it hard to bring them, or break away from them.
Sometimes we make plans to meet and eat, and have to change the date several times before we can all actually just find one day, in the middle of the summer that works for everyone, ven the pregnant lady that was a week past due.
And boy when it happens … it is always worth the wait.
The Big Green Egg said to stir up almost religious levels of devotion among owners was fired up at 9:00pm the night before, for the larger pieces of Pork (shoulder and collar) and the slow and steady watching of cool coals began. Maintaining a temperature that needs to hold at 200 celsius all night long, and for most of the next day, is not for the faint of heart. One would need to be up checking and replenishing the lump charcoal every two hours, and by the time the Pork is ready for pulling and eating, you might be ready for bed.
Unless of course you are a chef and BBQ’ing is in your blood. Luckily for me … this is right up our alley.
And when I say our, I do of course mean my husbands alley. I slept soundly thank you very much.
If you have decided that you are ready to get serious about Bar-be-cue, and want to learn how to cook a beautiful shoulder of pork to make pulled pork sandwiches for your end of summer BBQ … then I would start doing your research right here. We have not found a better source on the internet for technique and recipes AND he is sassy as all get out too. Gotta love a guy who writes with attitude.
Once you are up and running and have pulled off a few decent parties with your pulled pork, then you should buy this book because it is one of the best BBQ’ books ever.
I have book envy every time I pick it up, or even walk by it in the kitchen. It leers at me from across the room sneering ‘you will never write a book as excellent as me‘ …..
It does! I hear it! Daily. MAYBE it is the bright orange coat it wears, or maybe it is the fantastic block print used.
It has me vexed. Buy the book. You will love it too.
Tying up the pork, after rubbing it down with your spice rub, is important; It is not, however, essential. We tied up one piece and left two untied and none of them fell apart but were all cooked to perfection.
For the spice rub we use a mixture of old bay seasoning, chilli powder, cumin, cinnamon, coriander, nutmeg, salt, pepper, and what ever else we find laying around on the day.
We only use a dry rub, and make sure that the meat has come to room temperature before placing it on the grill, where the flame has died down and there are only silver coals glowing, no flames.
Having a trusty assistant to help
because she did not want to go to bed is always nice.
We use this guys guidelines for pulled pork every time. If it ain’t broke – then don’t fix it.
We figure about 250 g of pork per person and it takes 1.5 hours (at 200 celsius – low n’ slow) per 450 g of meat.
You need to purchase an internal thermometer if you do not already have one. You also need to figure out how to throw a party the next day if you have to get up every two hours in the middle of the night to feed your fire.
Timing is important. Ours finished up about one hour sooner than our guests arrived so we had to wrap it in foil and hold it in a water bath in the oven with the hopes it would not dry out.
We did not eat straight away, as a few of our guests ran late (understandably so - they were serving record breaking numbers at sunday brunch at their restaurant!) … the chef was sweating it.
We decided to have a drink and relax …
My brother is here visiting for a week, and knowing we are whisky fans, he brought us a delicious bottle to share with our friends.
My cocktail making skills were not needed on this occasion, although I did make a few fresh cherry manhattans for myself and one of my BFF’s (who baked her heart out and brought all the desserts for the party) as the men all chose to drink it straight up with a few cubes of ice. Worth looking for if you like your American whiskies.
While we were waiting, another one of our pals from this excellent cafe in Castlebar, cooked for us; A rare treat, I assure you. He came boldly into our kitchen carrying a massive tub of Cuinneog Sour Cream (you know the buttermilk people?) This new product is not yet on the market and I have to tell you that there is nothing like it. Not anywhere in the world, and we have traveled far and wide, have we come across such a buttery sour cream. Forget the spuds, which we did have it on and boy were they fabulous, this cream needs to be on scones. Goodbye clotted cream.
Of course, and because I am the hostess with the mostess, we made sure to have several other libations on hand for our guest to quench their thirst. Peter Boland, from Cases Wine Warehouse, toted along several excellent wines in the hopes that he would get some honest feedback on which types of wine might be best suited to BBQ’d meats.
His re-cap and list of suggestions is right here and most certainly worth your time if you are planning on hosting a BBQ before summer fizzles out. On a side note, the stellar find of the evening was a beer we sampled, given to us a few weeks ago by our friends from OldFarm Pork. It is called Bo Bristle (we tried the Amber Ale) and it is from County Offaly. Check out their website here and if you are coming to visit me … bring me some, as it is still not available in the West and I am thirsty for more!
By the time everyone had arrived … we were all more than ready for supper. The kids had their picnic blanket set up outside and at the last minute had to relocate to the bike shed due to a deluge of a downpour that had been threatening all day. Not to worry … haven’t we had a lovely stretch of three weeks with all that sunshine. We needed the rain.
Ok – back to the pork … which had been holding in the oven for two hours longer than it needed to be.
It pulled apart perfectly.
It was served on buttery baps that the chef had made the day before, a spicy kimchi coleslaw, loaded baked potato skins, an heirloom tomato salad and a few other dishes I neglected to take photos of, but I assure you .. were as beautiful as they sound.
Desserts were made lovingly by our friend Anne Marie and there is no doubt in my mind that this woman should open her own bakery. She seems happiest when she is watching people gorge themselves on her gorgeous creations.
They actually looked too good to eat.
By the end of the evening … everyone drove back to their respective homes all happy and well fed. They got a lesson in pork-pulling and we had a wonderful afternoon sampling all their beautiful side dishes, desserts, wines and beers.
Making time …and it is not easy, to gather together with friends and family, is so important. It is easy to become overwhelmed with all that goes into the planning and production of a good party and I can’t recommend the pot-luck style party enough to you. As the host, you cook the meat and advise the guests on items to bring to share. In this case, advice was not needed and there was, at one point, a worry that the side dishes would all outshine the pork … but hey … wouldn’t that make for a great party too?
On that note … go forth and plan your end of summer bar-be-cue.
Do the reading and research required and figure out your schedule on how to keep the coals burning through the night and still be able to catch 40 winks.
On a side note, and if you already are the king of your BBQ world, which book or website do you turn to for your BBQ advice? I’d love to know.
Those are all the WiseWords I have for today,
This week … I learned how to make (blitz) Puff Pastry from scratch.
He is always giving out that I buy the crap in a box.
But lets face it – I have been busy guys.
I have not had time to mix and roll and fold and chill.
I have not had time to wait in between each thirty minute spell . . the stuff outta the box is fine, I said. It’ll do.
What’s a busy Mum to do?
The lesson was for me … but I think I should share it with you.
Because, truth be told, it ain’t that hard to do.
Our weekly feature in The Sunday Times this Sunday (21st July) will feature three excellent recipes using puff pastry. If you have a wee bit of free time, why not try to whip up a batch at home?
What you will need
450 g plain flour
450 g cold butter
7 g salt
300 ml ice water
The mixing of those ingredients will deliver you a beautifully soft ball of puff pastry dough.
WiseTip: Freeze the butter then grate it into the flour. Use ice cubes (even though they are slated for your Gin & Tonic) to chill the water. It really does make a noticeable difference.
Then the rest is all down to rolling, folding and chilling. Something we are all trying to do a bit more of these days, what with the Irish heatwave we are experiencing.
Roll out the dough onto a cool (marble slab if you have it) surface. Roll it thickly, and try to keep it in the shape of a rectangle.
Keep your hands cool and floured. Work fast and do not over knead the dough.
Once it is the correct shape and seems fairly pliable it is time to start folding.
Fold one third of the pastry inwards ….
fold the other piece inwards.
Once you do that, fold it ‘bottom end up to top’ making a two-fold piece of pastry. But hold on – and fold it again because you need a four-fold.
It is also recommended that you roll each fold as you go.
Once you have your four-fold piece of pastry ready to go, it is time to set the timer (for 30 minutes) and set about distracting yourself from the task at hand. I find this is always a good time to reflect on the pile of laundry that sits washed, dried and carelessly strewn in the downstairs (unoccupied) bedroom.
OR you might succumb to an ice-cold drink that you found laying shamelessly on its side in the fridge. Either way, stay alert because you have to repeat that four-fold process two more times, rolling and folding and chilling
and three more ciders in order to get the pastry ready for its final three-fold.
And even after you get to the final three-fold you then have to chill the pastry for an hour. Now, I know that cider was involved, and the days are nice and long, but can we just check our watches here and wonder how many hours of this day did we actually devote to making puff pastry?
The final three-folded piece has an amazing smoothness. Soft as a peach.
So we made a peach pie.
And the recipe for this will be in the Sunday Times later in July or early in August.
“T’is all fun and games around here these days folks. My four children (and four of their cousins) are eating, sleeping, swimming and dreaming all over the place. The noise levels are ferocious and fabulous.
I hope you are having a delicious summer where ever you are.
Those are all the WiseWords I have for today,
Before we get started into the nuts and bolts of my latest life crises … we should take a moment to reflect on the past 400 blog posts.
Yes folks .. I have (now) written 401 blog posts.
Wayhay! Where the heck does the time go?!
… ‘What will you do next?’ …
’tis the most asked question I get these days.
I am struggling to come up with a real bonafide answer, so have thrown together a few random suggestions for y’all to ponder on and if you have time, why not offer me up a few suggestions – because I’m plum out of ideas myself.
A friend of ours back in Cincinnati, Ohio helped us clean up our act and designed a brand spanking new logo for us. We were looking or something that was a bit girlie (for me) and a bit manly (for the chef) and this is what our good friend Tommy Sheehan of TommyInk came up with.
What do y’all think?
I got a lot of
‘it reminds me of Jack Daniels‘
‘it looks kinda like the Coca-Cola‘ logo.
Both of those guys marry quite well together and are doing alright … so we are sticking with it.
Because Tommy is a true artist, and a gentleman to boot, he threw in a few fun designs to give us something to think about depending on what we decide to ‘do next’.
I am loving some of his ideas ….
How easy would this be … maybe we will sell our eggs. Gawd knows we have a boat load of them and Dr. Doolittle, aka the Chef, is getting ready to hatch a few goslings so I need to come up with a way to keep the eggs moving!
Or how about we get into product development and do a bit of Sausage making? You have no idea how good these sausages are. No promise of lovely and lean here. Just real chicken meat and real real duck fat – which makes them exceptionally delicious.
Perhaps we will brew some beer?
OR bottle and sell some of my Rhubarb Cordial?
I’d even save a few for you, my loyal readers.
This gorgeous and bespoke Moleskin notebook would be on my Christmas wish list, on my anniversary wish list, my birthday wish list, my valentines day wish list … you get the picture. I’d be wishing for this.
So you see … we have lots of options; and we are doing a lot of thinking. Working for The Sunday Times keeps us busy so whatever we do take on, it will be secondary to that.
I have a lot of ‘giveaways’ slotted for the summer. Just the other day I got an email wondering if our readers would like a new tea kettle or toaster? Once we get the blog post released from the drafts folder I will alert you to this one. Aren’t they gorgeous!
On a side note … regarding the giveaway posts. I have received a few emails from disgruntled readers who hate ‘giveaway’ blog posts. I am truly sorry to hear this. Ron and I get A LOT of crap to review here at Chez Wise and most of it is so bad it never makes it on to the blog. Occasionally we get a book that is a real gem or experience a sleep over that leaves a lasting impression. So when we get these treats we like to offer them to our readers. We could keep them for ourselves, but we choose to share them with you. It is our way of saying THANKS for all your support. I am not sure if I ever told you this, but almost 70% of our blog readers have bought our book (the hard copy) and another 35% have bought the ebook.
If you want to work with us promoting your book or hotel or food product, then feel free to contact us right here.
But it will cost you. A girls gotta eat!
Ok – so in order to answer the question I posed at the start of this blog post of mine …
What will I do next? ……… now that my college career has come to a close and I will graduate (with honours) in the Autumn ……
My answer is this …
Haven’t I already done enough?
Ok … maybe not exactly nothing … we will be selling Texas Chili to the masses at The Galway Garden Festival at Claregalway Castle (in our neighbourhood) on July 6th and 7th 2013 from 11am – 6pm daily.
Stop by for a bite!
Those are all the WiseWords I have for today,
Clyde Court Hotel,
In a few weeks …. our children will all be home for eight long lazy weeks of summer.
By the third day of this deliciously long summer holiday, I will have pulled out most of my (already short) hair and will be wondering, come August, why the teachers won’t take them back a week earlier than expected .
We have the world of respect for teachers here in this house. Mostly because they help shape the minds of our offspring whilst we work or study, but also because they have our children under their watchful eye for several hours a day – five days a week. We do not, for one second, worry about our children when they are at school.
We do, however, worry about the teachers; Our four alone would drive any teacher crazy.
Before school wraps up this year we will be making a gorgeous Rhubarb tea cake to share with the teachers at our children’s school.
You should give it a whirl too.
It’s just that good.
First, before the recipe … I have a small recipe for how to roast your Rhubarb. Use the roasted fruit for cakes and cheesecakes and the leftover syrup becomes the best base for one of my favourite summer cocktails or it is also excellent when poured liberally over pancakes.
Roasted Rhubarb Cordial
Cordials or syrups are an excellent way to preserve summer fruits and can make for a thoughtful house warming gift, or a welcome surprise in a student’s care package when the time comes. If you do not have a square of cheesecloth (or muslin) then best to invest in a piece as it comes in quite handy when dabbling in drinks and cordials in the kitchen. I am a dab hand at dabbling in drinks. It is what I do best.
What you will need
2 bunches of Rhubarb
200 g caster sugar
150 ml water
125 ml orange juice
2 vanilla beans, split
3 cardamom pods, bruised (or Star Anise would work fine too)
How to prepare it
Pre-heat the oven to 160ºC. Cut the rhubarb at an angle -about 6 cm in length. Place on a roasting pan and sprinkle with caster sugar. Add the water, orange juice, vanilla beans and cardamom pods. Roast in pre-heated oven, turning once, for 20 minutes or until rhubarb is tender but still holds its shape. (Although, it does not matter if it loses its shape). Remove from heat. Transfer the cooked Rhubarb to a bowl and pour the syrup into a pot and cook over a medium heat until the syrup thickens. Drizzle over the roasted rhubarb and place in the fridge to cool completely. For best infused taste, leave in the fridge overnight. Remove from fridge and strain through a fine mesh strainer or cheese cloth. (If your syrup has set up a little thick then you can heat it for a minute before pouring into strainer).
The cordial can be stored in the fridge in an airtight container for up to two months and is delicious poured over a stack of buttermilk pancakes or a piece of French toast and also works excellently in summertime cocktails. The left over roasted rhubarb can also be stored in an airtight container for two weeks and we love to use this as a topping for baked Rhubarb cheesecake too. (email me for the recipe at monaANDron@Sunday-Times.ie ).
A quick rhubarb whisky cocktail can be whipped up in a minute. Crush some ice and pack tightly into a medium sized glass. Mix the juice of one orange, half a lemon, 2 oz of whiskey, 2 oz of rhubarb cordial and a spring of mint and a dash of bitters in a glass. Pour over crushed ice and garnish with a slice of orange.
Ok – now that you know how to make the roasted Rhubarb … you can move on to this recipe and make the cake!
This is what the roasted Rhubarb looks like …. but the recipe calls for it to be baked into the cake so it looses some of its hot-pinkness when baked.
Don’t we all … heh heh!
- For the fruit
- 60 ml lemon or orange juice (2 lemons)
- 120 g light brown sugar
- 40 g cornstarch
- 3 Tbsp water
- 450 g Strawberries, hulled and cut in quarters
- 450 g Blueberries
- 450 g Rhubarb, roasted
- For the streusel topping
- 90 g flour
- 120 g light brown sugar
- 150 g whole almonds, crushed
- For the cake batter
- 275 g butter
- 360 g flour (we like to use Spelt)
- 150 g light brown sugar
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 large eggs
- 360 ml buttermilk
- 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- Scrapings of a whole vanilla bean pod
- Preheat the oven to 175º/350F. Brush a 9 x 12 x 3-inch baking pan with butter, and set aside. Make the fruit sauce: Combine the lemon juice and sugar in a medium saucepan and heat until the sugar has dissolved. Add the blueberries; cook, stirring frequently, over medium heat until it begins to bubble. In a small bowl, mix the cornflour with 3 Tbsp cold water and then pour into the blueberries, mixing with a spoon until it is well incorporated. You will notice the liquid has thickening after a few minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl and stir in the strawberries, already quartered; let cool. Use the spears of roasted rhubarb too – but leave them aside until it is almost time to put the cake in the oven.
- Make the crumb topping: Combine 90g sugar and 90g flour in a medium bowl. Melt 30g butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Drizzle the butter over the flour mixture; using your hands, mix until crumbly. Add in the crushed almonds and set aside.
- Make the cake batter: Whisk together the remaining flour and sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. Grate the chilled butter into the flour mixture and rub together with your fingertips until it resembles coarse meal. In a separate bowl, mix the eggs, buttermilk, and vanilla essence and vanilla pod scrapings. Pour the wet mixture into the flour mixture; stir to combine.
- Spread half the cake batter evenly into the prepared pan. Top with all the fruit mixture, including the roasted rhubarb too. Top with the remaining fruit sauce. If there is too much liquid, save some for pouring over the cake later after it has baked. Sprinkle with the crumb topping.
- Bake for 1 hour at 175ºC until the cake is golden brown and springs back when touched in the center. Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool slightly. Serve warm or at room temperature, cut into squares.
Ok … a smooth enough re-emerging of sorts back in to Blogtopia. I have just finished up four years of college and one of the hardest years of my life … Thanks for all the well wishes and flowers and presents etc. I am back on my feet, taking long strides again, kicking ass and taking names.
On a side note, and because many of you have been asking me, my next blog post is going to be titled ‘What comes next’ …. so stay tuned.
That’s all folks … back on the bandwagon!
I like to test the theory ‘you can’t teach an old dog new tricks’ from time to time .. especially as ‘the old dog’ aka my handsome Chef, knows
everything quite a bit about cooking and baking. A few weeks ago I noticed a few images flitting about on Facebook and I clicked my way back through the myriad of friends that had been ‘liking’ the images to a very cool landing page of LizzieMay’s Cakes, Cookies and Cupcakes.
There was a few images on her page that made me think of my dear friend Paula over at VanillaBeanBaker blog . And I thought ‘bummer . . another highly skilled cookie decorator that – probably – lives on the other side of the world’.
Except this highly skilled cookie decorator lives right here in Galway and only a stones throw from us really. I sent her a message tout sweet (ha ha) and asked her if she could come out to the house and give us a lesson on ‘how to decorate cookies’.
Gail Porter, owner of LizzieMay’s Cakes, Cupcakes and Cookies got back to me straight away and was only too delighted to oblige.
At the very tender age of 30, Gail decided to take advantage of being made redundant at her ‘proper job’ with Nortel and followed her passion for food. She enrolled in a twelve week course at Ballymaloe but had no interest in working with sugar or making cakes. I think that is the cool thing about food; whether you like it or not, when you are good at something it weaves its way in to your world and you sometimes end up going down a road you had not planned to travel. After she graduated from her course (and needing to find a way to pay for her education loan) she launched her new business and called it LizzieMay’s after both her Grannies.
Gail arrived out to our house with her, eh, guns loaded and icing whipped and sorted in small little cling film pouches. This made clean up a snap later and I would encourage all of you to do the same should you attempt to decorate a few cookies any time soon.
Explaining as she worked, that the secret to becoming a pro at icing cookies, is first patience, followed by fabulous icing, followed by a steady hand. We had a few (duck) egg whites left sitting at room temperature and whipped up a small batch of royal icing (90 g egg whites/480 g icing sugar) and stood to attention waiting for her tutelage.
The peanut gallery looked on with eagerness. For future reference, this is an excellent way to keep the kids entertained for a while and keeps the kitchen that wee bit cleaner too!
When you want to learn ‘how to’ do something new, it is first best to admit that you know nothing and start fresh.
When icing cookies, start by piping a border using a heavy consistency of icing. By the time you have ten cookies iced, the border icing has set up enough for you to start filling in the rest of the cookie with the flood icing.
Once you have that part done, place the cookies in a fan oven on (almost) zero heat for twenty minutes. This hardens up the royal icing greatly and you can carry on and finish your cookies with a bit more bling.
While Gail worked away on her cookies, teaching and talking away, we gave an icing bag to the Chef to see if he could match her skill.
His cheerleading squad looked on with interest and were delighted that he did not screw it up!
When you remove the cookies from the oven you will have a fabulous hard icing with a beautiful matte finish on your cookie. The No. 1 icing tip is best for piping the border and writing.
But be forewarned folks. This.Takes.Time, and an incredible amount of patience, skill and creativity.
And it gets messy. Learning how to decorate cookies means you are working with sugar and food colouring, meaning you end up having a sweet sticky colourful mess on your hands for the afternoon.
And you know … someone has to clean it all up …
As we were mixing and matching colours I was getting a little confused over which ones were border/piping icing and which ones were flooded – because once wrapped up in little cling film packages it was hard to tell the consistency of the icing. Of course, and because I am so slow to catch on, the answer is easy … the little ones are the border icing (which you use less of) and the bigger ones are the flood icing, which you use lots more of.
A steady hand and the ability to not laugh or sneeze while working is vital .. because one false move can screw up a cookie. In Gail’s line of business you can’t just throw one out if you mess it up half way through the process. She likes to use a damp paintbrush to clean up her messes – but we did not see her put that into action once!
Supporting local business’s is something we strive to do more and more of each day.
Discovering a new local business woman making and baking her product from scratch only reinforces our way of thinking, buying and eating.
We will think of her now when we have a special occasion looming but are strapped for time and still want something real and delicious.
We are going to continue to buy local and support local business’s because we like to – and NEED to – know where our food is coming from. We like to see where it starts and how much work has to be done to the raw ingredients before they end up ready to go on our plate or cupcake stand.
Maybe you are wondering what to buy your Mum for Mother’s day next weekend? (March 10th here in Ireland and UK).
Gail can whip up a dozen cookies with a few days notice and can ship them to you!
Or maybe you want to get something for a client for a special Paddy’s Day party or for an Easter celebration?
Or maybe you will break down and give it a whirl yourself and even let the kids try their hand at decorating a few cookies.
No matter what you decide … there will come a time when you want to buy someone a beautiful gift from Galway and in our opinion this is one of the best places to start – so make a note of Gail’s contact details.
When you are popping in and out to our website (and we are ever so glad that you do) please note we have added a new tab called ‘When in Galway’ and this will make it easier to find all local business’s that we blog about. There are only a few on there right now but that will change over the next few months once I am finished with college …………..
and have a bit more time to tell you about all the Galway Food heroes we have in this tiny fabulous city by the sea.
Those are all the WiseWords I have for today,
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
You can't find the Chef here.
You might as well just come visit.
He prefers face to face communication.
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SHE WRITES, HE COOKS, THE KIDS MAKE A HUGE MESS