Category Archives: General

A Sprinkling of Fairy Dust

A little over a month ago I left a comment on Cake in the Country’s blog, and shortly after I received an email from the “Appliances Online Fairy Hobmother“. Despite the girly-sounding name, it’s a wonderful bloke called David who is behind the invention of this supernatural being, whose purpose is to travel the blogosphere sprinkling round fairy dust and Amazon vouchers wherever she goes.

Image via Wikipedia

I was lucky enough to be offered an Amazon voucher to spend as I liked and I had several items on my wishlist just waiting for such an opportunity. George also had a lot of items on his wishlist, so there was much debating as to who could get what. Happily, my work came through with another voucher as a little thank you, so I was able to treat both of us!

Ever since George spent some time working inĀ Eden in Temple Bar, he’s been hankering after their cookbook so that he could replicate the dishes at home more accurately, so that was an easy choice for both of us. Next up was baking supplies – I’ve been trying to bake more often, and to do decent batches of stuff so that it will last for more than a couple of days. Space is at a premium in the kitchen, so a set of stackable cooling racks seemed like a great idea, and it was joined by a set of springform tins, so that I can finally make Grannymar’s Infamous Chocolate Cake.

It’s become a bit of a tradition for me to make jelly shots for any parties we throw, and ever since I discovered Jelly Shot Test Kitchen Blog, my ideas have been getting more ambitious! A set of silicone jelly moulds will ensure that the next jellies I make will be a little more adventurous than basic jelly shots.

Our final choice was a joint one and an easy decision to make. We’ve both been lusting after a gorgeous book by Niki Segnit, called “The Flavour Thesaurus” for a long time now. It’s an incredibly useful book that details what flavours and ingredients go best together, which means that if you suddenly find yourself with excess of an ingredient you can find classic or less well known matches for it without having to experiment yourself.

Now it’s your turn! Tell us what you would choose if the Fairy Hobmother granted your wish. Is there a cookbook you’ve been meaning to buy for ages, a piece of equipment that your kitchen is sorely lacking or even something that you’ve wanted to treat yourself to for a while?

Leave a comment below telling us what you’d wish for and it might come true! The Fairy Hobmother will be inspecting all wishes left here before midnight (GMT) on Sunday 14th August, and it could be your wish that gets granted! [Open to residents of Ireland & UK only]

Foodie Links for 1/8/2011

A really great video about knife skills from Jamie Oliver, with a bit of a plug for his “Jamie’s 30 minute meals” book at the end.

So are the billboard guys trying to tell us something?

Until recently, I have been a bit of a picky eater, that has changed in the last few years and I’m getting to the point where there is very little I won’t taste. It’s something that I’ve tried writing a post about in the past but I’ve never been happy with the results. Now, I don’t have to thanks to Slice of Feist, who have summed it up far better than I could.

A short interview with one of the chefs I admire most, Heston Blumenthal

Finally, someone puts a figure on what obesity is costing this country. I wonder how much it would cost to teach the entire country some cooking skills? How much (if anything) could that save the economy?

Why we got rid of our deep fryer

So, you all came here today expecting a recipe to follow on from my Deep frying post yesterday. Well I’m sorry to disappoint, but as we got rid of our Deep Fryer years ago, I don’t have any way of preparing and photographing a dish, even if I wanted to. That’s not strictly true, I could use the cooker top method. However, it’s difficult to control the oil temperature as well as being dangerous and to be honest it’s not something I’m really comfortable with, so I’ve decided instead to tell you about why we got rid of our deep fryer.

Fish and chips, a popular take-away food of th...
Image via Wikipedia

The short version of this story is because I was morbidly obese and deep frying was one of the reasons that I had become (and remained) that way. The long version goes a bit more like this…

When we first got our deep fryer it was a fabulous tool – every so often, we’d have chips with our dinner or onion rings or some battered fish etc. This is back in the days when I was first starting to cook “properly” from scratch. It was really handy just to be able to fire something in there to go with whatever I was cooking from scratch.

That was part of the problem though, it was too easy, too convenient. What’s for dinner tonight? Fish and chips? Chicken, chips and onion rings? Steak and chips? you get the idea and what was even worse was that we were using frozen chips, onion rings etc. We weren’t even cutting our own potatoes not to mention cooking from scratch for more than half our meal but that was OK cause at least we were cooking something from scratch!?

In truth, that would be fine if we were only doing it occasionally, but it started to become multiple times a week. All because of the convenience and the easy excuse “I’m too tired to cook after a long day in the office”. And then there was the smell of chipper throughout our entire home. It became easy to use the same excuse to leave the cleaning of the fryer and changing of the oil until the weekend.

Eventually we came to our senses and we said that we would put the fryer away in the back of one of the cupboards and try to eat “proper food” for 2 weeks. Thankfully, about 6 months later we discovered the fryer in the back of the same press and it wasn’t a pretty reunion, as soon as I lifted the lid and got the smell from inside I gagged and I knew deep fried food had returned to it’s proper place in my diet as a treat every once in a while.

Have I ever regretted it? On occasions, when I see a nice piece of cod in the fish monger or when we visited Fifteen Amsterdam on holidays and tasted deep fried Zucchini for the first time, oh and that time experimenting with Gnocchi before service in a restaurant kitchen and someone threw the little pillows of heaven in and crisped the outside, they were divine!

Overall though I don’t regret getting rid of our deep fryer, we both lost weight and are healthier as a result :)

Are you a food tourist?

I have no problem in admitting that a fair chunk of my decision-making process, when it comes to a place to visit on holiday, has to do with the food that is on offer. As an example, our recent holiday took in both Amsterdam and Copenhagen.

Deepfried Zuchini Flower, Buffalo Mozz, Salad of Faro and Pea Shoots
Deepfried Zuchini Flower, Buffalo Mozz, Salad of Faro and Pea Shoots

Amsterdam is a city that both myself and Elly love, we got engaged there and have had some fantastic breaks there over the years. Every time we visit, we seem to find more and more things to do. Not least of these is the food. On our recent trip we ate in all sorts of locations, Restaurants, Cafes, street vendors you name it. we sampled cuisines as diverse as Argentine, Italian, Greek, French, Egyptian, euro organic and Chinese. I really couldn’t say a bad word about the food or the service we received in any of these places. Prices were reasonable and reflected the meals served very well.

Potato Gnocchi with Gorgonzola
Potato Gnocchi with Gorgonzola

We did have one negative experience on the morning we decided to get breakfast in a touristy cafe, you know the type of place big menu with everything from an English breakfast through to pancakes and waffles. We sat for 10 minutes while staff member after staff member walked passed ignoring us until we got up, pushed our way past the staff blocking the exit (while having a chat) and went across the street and had breakfast elsewhere. The service staff really didn’t care about their customers at all, they didn’t even apologise or bother to ask why we were leaving, I almost went back to look for the manager, but I was on holiday so why bother with the stress and frustration, the staff have to take their lead from somewhere, right?

Perfectly rare steak
Perfectly rare steak

Copenhagen was chosen as a destination because Primus, a band that I have been a fan of most of my life, were playing their first European tour in over a decade and we missed out on the tickets for the Amsterdam gig as they sold out in minutes. Apart from that, the “best restaurant in the world” Nemo is located there, so there has to be a knock-on effect on all the restaurants in the city, right?

Maybe it was the lack of familiarity with the city but we didn’t find it as easy to locate restaurants as we do in Amsterdam, with a notable exception of a fantastic little cafe/restaurant we stumbled on, which was filled with organic, vegetarian and vegan foods as well as meat dishes for us omnivores. What really made this place for me, was that  you could see pots of fresh herbs growing all over the place and a lot of the vegetables were actually grown within walking distance and were literally harvested to order for whatever dish was being prepared.

For Food's sake logo

Ireland has a fantastic reputation abroad as a food producer, particularly so when it comes to artisan products, but would you describe Ireland as a destination for a food tourist? Could we eat our way out of the current “trouble”?

This is the question being posed to the panel at “For Food’s Sake III”, a regular bi-monthly evening of food talk and tastings. I’ve missed the previous events but will be there with bells on this time and I’m really looking forward to an interesting discussion about this large and growing part of the tourism and food industries in this country.

The event is taking place in The Sugar Club this Thursday 28 July at 7 pm and full details can be found here. I’ll be there barring any disasters, so please feel free to say hello if you decide to come along.

The Results are in…

The postman dropped off a letter earlier this morning, well, a few letters to be honest but I won’t bore you with details of the bills and the spam. The letter that grabbed my interest first off was one from the college.

I opened it wondering was it the results I’ve been waiting on? Sure enough, there they are, my results for all my hard work over the year. Whether it was by accident or design I really would like to thank whoever packed the envelope, cause the first thing I saw after I realised it was my results was “Awarded”. Never before has one word given such relief!

Not only that, but 8 out of the 12 subjects were distinctions with the rest being merits, so to say that I’m thrilled about the result would be an understatement, I’m walking on air at the moment.

Now to find the job that will take me the next step in my new career.