Smörgåsblog

July 2010

Competiton: Win Dinner for Two

Joanna Schaffalitzky — 

The lovely people of Gallagher's Boxty House in Temple Bar (a review of which you can read over at the Daily Spud) have created a series of short videos showing you how to prepare some simple Irish dishes. My favourite, below, is how to make Irish Coffee.

To mark this, they would like to give you a dinner for two, including a bottle of house wine. To enter the competition, all you have to do is leave a comment before 10pm* on Tuesday 3rd August and a winner will be picked at random.

*10pm as per the time stamp on the comment.

UPDATE (04/08/10): Congratulations to our randomly chosen winner; Marcel! We hope you enjoy your meal out at Gallagher's.

Makin' Bacon

Joanna Schaffalitzky — 

Last Thursday, 22nd July, myself, Babaduck Babbles, the Beau and one of his friends, went on an adventure to Dun Laoghaire to learn the art of curing bacon from the gregarious Ed Hicks of J Hick & Sons.

We arrived at the factory shop of Hicks which is located in the laneway behind Upr George's Street and were warmly greeted by Ed and met the rest of the people taking part in the course that evening. We were all there to learn for various reasons; ranging from owning a pig to curiosity at one of the oldest food preserving techniques.

The first thing Ed did was give us a run down of pork curing and how there is two ways you can cure; wet and dry. Wet curing is when the salt is mixed with water to create a brine in which the bacon sits. Dry curing is when the curing salts are rubbed directly into the skin of the bacon which is then wrapped and left in a dry, cool place. We listened to this information whilst surrounded by sausage making machinary and the work bench where we would later cure our bacon.

Ed then produced some raw beech-smoked rashers, some of which he put immediately onto a hot plate to cook, after a brief discussion about whether cutting or not cutting the rind is the best thing to do when cooking.

He cut the remaining rashers into pieces which were handed out for us to smell. The rasher had a golden ring around it from the smoking and a lovely wood smoke scent, which got more complex the more you smelled it. Then we got to eat some of the pieces that had already been cooked, and boy were they good! The first flavour, unsurprisingly, was salt, then you got the flavour of the beech wood smoke. I'm afraid that my descriptive powers are a little lacking at this point, but suffice to say they were the nicest smoked rashers I have ever tried.

Still chomping on bits of bacon, Ed showed us around the rest of the factory. We saw the smoker and the walk in fridge which contained stacks of curing bacon, which are rotated during the curing process, in order that all of them get time in the liquor, the liquid that is released by the salt coming into the meat.

He also showed us their brine mix for wet curing. He explained that, much as with a sourdough bread, it's good to have a starter for the brine which is kept between each curing. This gives a greater complexity of flavour to the wet cured bacon.

We then headed back to the main room to get down to the business of curing our own bacon. First we each had to claim a metal container, which we then weighed, making a note of the weight for future use. Ed then produced 2 loins of pork which he divided up between the 7 of us that were there that evening.

Each piece of pork was at least a kilo in weight, my own ended up being 1.5 kg and the Beau's piece was 1.3kg. We put the piece of pork into the containers and weighed them again, taking away the empty container weight to get the size of our pork piece.

Next came the complicated maths to work out how many grams of the curing mixture we would need for our piece of meat. The curing mixture was made up of salt, saltpetre and sugar. 34g was needed of this mixture per kilo, so out came the calculator. The curing mixture was weighed out in a seperate container for better accuracy. Then it was poured on to the top of the meat.

After a quick removal of my rings, it was time to rub the cure into the meat, making sure to especially rub it into the rind side and get it into all the little crevices.

After we had thoroughly salted our pork, Ed came around and put each piece of meat into a plastic bag with as much of the salt as we could scrape off our fingers and out of the container. Then we stuck our names onto the bags for easy identification.

Each of the plastic bags was then vacuum packed and Ed gave us the all important instructions on what to do with our bacon once we got home. He also told us that if we had any queries at all to email him (with pictures if we were really worried) and he would help as best he could.

Before we left we picked up our own bags of curing salts to take home, weighing 300g so that we could cure another 10kg of bacon ourselves. We also got a bag of beech wood chips so that we could try smoking our own bacon too.

For €40 per head, this is a very competitively priced evening. You spend 2 - 2.5 hrs learning about curing, you get at least 1kg of bacon, 300g of curing salt and a large bag of wood chips. I would highly reccommend it to anyone who is really interested in food.

Myself and the Beau can hardly wait the 4 - 6 weeks until our bacon is ready to eat.

Triple Chocolate Cookies

Joanna Schaffalitzky — 

Prepartion Time
Total Time

This is the last of the cookies that I made for the Twookie Party. This is also the recipe that I think might be slightly wonky, but it does still work and makes pretty tasty cookies.

I've modified it again a little from the original version in the Best-Ever Book of Cookies by Catherine Atkinson. I have lessened the amount of plain chocolate in the mix and left off putting more plain chocolate pieces on the top of the cookies. I found this made them quite rich and hard to eat, but if you would like to try it, change the 60g of plain chocolate to 200g, of which you put half in the mixture and blob the other half on the tops of the cookies before they go into the oven.

Ingredients
Plain Chocolate (Split into 100g and 60g)
160g
Milk Chocolate
90g
White Chocolate
90g
Macadamia Nuts (halved)
100g
Self-Raising Flour
150g
Butter
90g
Muscavado Sugar (Light)
150g
Vanilla Essence
1 tsp
Other Requirements

Glass bowl, saucepan, 2 baking trays and a wire rack.

I found that these cookies were ideal for using up all the spare chocolate we had hanging around our kitchen, some of it which was quite out of date, but still good for cooking with. So in the pictures if you think a piece of chocolate looks a lot like the bottom of a Lindt bunny, it probably is.

Preheat the oven to 180°C. weigh out 100g of the plain chocolate and put in a glass bowl. Put some boiling water into a saucepan that is slightly smaller than your bowl so that the bowl can sit in it without touching the water. Put the pot on a low heat so that the water stays just under a simmer to help melt the chocolate. Let the chocolate slowly melt.

While the chocolate is melting, roughly chop up the white chocolate, milk chocolate and remaining 60g of plain chocolate and put to one side along with the halved macadamia nuts.

Take the melted chocolate off the hob. Add the butter and vanilla essence, stir both through the mixture. The butter will melt into the warm chocolate.

Now add the sugar. You may have to mush up the sugar a little with your wooden spoon to make sure it's not clumping.

Once the sugar is mixed in, add the flour and carefully stir into the chocolate mixture. It will pull together to form a dough.

Add the chopped chocolate pieces and nuts. Mix into the chocolate dough as best you can. You might find that you need to use your hands for this.

Don't worry if the mixture looks a little bit crumbly at this point, it does come together nicely in the oven to make pretty tasty cookies. The next thing to do is grease the 2 baking trays very well.

Then, as the mixture is so crumbly I took a spoonful of the mix, squished it together a little in my hands and then put it onto the tray. I fitted 9 on one tray and 8 on my other, smaller tray. Put into the oven and bake for 10 - 12 mins.

When they come out of the oven, leave them to cool on their trays for at least 5 mins as they will be very soft and difficult to move. Once they've cooled a bit and become a little harder, move carefully to a wire rack and leave to cool completely.

There you have it, triple chocolate cookies. Let me know what you think, and how you get on with the recipe. I think an egg might pull it together a little better, but they work as is anyway.

Peanut Crunch Cookies

Joanna Schaffalitzky — 

Prepartion Time
Total Time

This is the second of the biscuits that I cooked for the Twookie Party. Again, this recipe comes from the book Best-Ever Book of Cookies by Catherine Atkinson. This time I made no modifications to the recipe, as I think they're fine just the way they are.

Ingredients
Muscavado Sugar (Light)
115g
Peanut Butter (Preferably crunchy)
150g
Egg
1
Butter
115g
Self-Raising Flour
150g
Baking Powder
½ tsp
Other Requirements

Mixing bowl, electric hand whisk or beater, 2 baking trays and a wire rack.

These cookies were so fast and easy to make I think they will become a favourite for those days when you really need something baked with your cup of tea.

Preheat the oven to 190°C. Weigh out your sugar and butter into a bowl together and whisk well until pale and fluffy. This takes at least 3 minutes but probably closer to 5 depending on your whisking method. I used an electric hand mix.

Add the egg and again, whisk until thoroughly beaten into the mixture.

Now add the baking powder, flour, and peanut butter.

Beat until well mixed.

Grease the baking trays well. I like to use old butter wrappers for the job, as it uses up the little ends of butter that would otherwise go to waste. This way they fulfill their buttery destiny.

Once the baking trays are greased, measure out a dessertspoonful of mix, spaced well apart. Then place in the oven and bake for 15 mins. If they still look a little pale after this time give them another 5 mins.

After 15 - 20 mins they should be a lovely golden brown colour. Take them out of the oven and leave to cool on the tray for 5 mins as they will still be a little soft at this stage. After the 5 mins, carefully transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Serve with a nice cup of tea or a glass of milk.

Chocolate Nut Slice

Joanna Schaffalitzky — 

Prepartion Time
Total Time

This is the first of the biscuits/cookies I made for the Twookie Party. I've modified it a little from the original recipe that's listed in the Best-Ever Book of Cookies by Catherine Atkinson.

My modifications were adding a little plain chocolate in with the milk for the main base of the slice as I think this makes it not as sweet as it is with just milk chocolate. I also added equal amounts of white and plain chocolate, whereas the original recipe says to choose one. My final modification was to add Cointreau into the mix, this I think adds a lovely orange flavour to the chocolate slice.

Ingredients
Milk Chocolate
170g
Butter
40g
Plain Chocolate (two lots of 50g)
100g
Rich Tea Biscuits (or any plain biscuit or cookie)
75g
White Chocolate
50g
Chopped Nuts (almonds, hazelnuts or macadamias are best)
50g
Cointreau (optional)
2 tbsps
Other Requirements

Glass bowl, saucepan, and a loaf tin.

This is a nice simple recipe, but the results are fantastic and a slice would make a lovely dessert.

First weigh out all the milk chocolate and 50g of the plain chocolate then break into pieces in a glass bowl. Add the butter.

Put some boiling water into a saucepan that is slightly smaller than your bowl so that the bowl can sit in it without touching the water. Put the pot on a low heat so that the water stays just under a simmer to help melt the chocolate. Let the chocolate and butter slowly melt, stirring occasionally with a spoon. When the chocolate and butter is melted together, take off the heat and leave to cool for a couple of minutes.

While the chocolate is melting, measure out the rich tea biscuits and break up into pieces.

Roughly chop up the white chocolate and the remaining plain chocolate. Place them to one side with the chopped nuts.

Back to the slightly cooled chocolate, now if the moment to add the Cointreau if you're using it. Pour it in and stir through thoroughly.

Add the crumbled rich tea biscuits and stir in. Next add in the chocolate and chopped nuts and again stir into the mixture.

Now take your loaf tin and run it under the cold tap for a moment, then shake of the excess water so that it's damp rather than wet. Tear off enough clingfilm to line the bottom and sides of the tin. Don't worry if you have too much, you can just fold it over the top of the slice.

Spoon the mixture into the loaf tin and pack down using a fork.

Fold the excess cling film over the top of the flattened mixture and put in the fridge to set for 2 hours.

After 2 hours (or more if you forget about it like I did the first time I made it) remove from the fridge and tin and unwrap the log from the cling film.

Turn out on a plate or board and peel away the remaining clingfilm. Serve by cutting into slices and scoffing as many as possible without feeling sick. Enjoy!

Smart Cookies

Joanna Schaffalitzky — 

On Friday 2nd of July, the Irish Foodies once again took to our kitchens in a synchronised cookie cooking extravaganza. This time suggested by Sarah and DinnerduJour. The others taking part were Babaduck Babbles, Like Mam Used to Bake, The Daily Spud (suprisingly with no potatoes), Uplifting Food, Bibliocook, Gluttony for Beginners and not forgetting Theresa from The Green Apron, who agreed to ajudicate this time around.

As my Beau was out galivanting for the evening, I pottered over to my parents' house to use their much nicer and bigger kitchen to cook in. I brought with me a bag full of ingredients and my copy of the Best-Ever Book of Cookies by Catherine Atkinson, which no longer seems to be in print. Though this book seems to be the latest version.

Unfortunately while we were trying to tweet about our cookie creations, Twitter was having a bit of a meltdown. However, we valiently cooked on, posting pictures as we could and hoping they would make it past the defences of the Fail Whale.

During the week coming up to our twookieparty, there was a lot of chatter about who was going to bake what. As usual though, I left my planning to the last minute and spent my lunch break trawling through the cookie book and then running to the nearby supermarket to stock up on supplies. My final choices were;

I made the chocolate slice first and put it into the fridge to cool and set for 2 hours while I put the oven into overdrive with the other two.

The next thing I put together was the peanut crunch cookies. Both these and the chocolate nut slice are some of the easiest cookies I've ever made and very tasty too! The batter for the peanut crunches only takes about 15 mins to throw together.

Pop into the oven for another 15 mins and they're ready to eat.

While the peanut crunches were cooling, I had a break and a little dinner before setting into the challenge of the triple chocolate cookies. I actually think that there might be an error in the recipe for these as the mixture is more crumbly then I would have expected. However, they do cook up alright and are quite tasty.

They have lots of chocolate in them, as you would expect, as well as my favourite, macadamia nuts.

When the triple chocolate cookies had finished cooking, I took the chocolate nut slice from the fridge and cut a couple of slices to try. Hands down this is the best recipe and an excellent thing to prepare as a dessert or served with tea or coffee.

Once again I had a super evening with the other Irish foodies through the medium of Twitter. I really enjoy the challenge of finding something new to cook and showing off the results to others doing the same thing. I can't wait for our seafood evening in August!

UPDATE: The winner of the Twookie Party was Like Mam Used to Bake, who made these delicious Peanut Butter Button Cookies. Congratulations to her on the win!

Shortbread

Joanna Schaffalitzky — 

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Total Time

I acquired this shortbread recipe when I was singing with the RTÉ Philharmonic Choir. There was a team of 3 ladies who would provide tea and biscuits for us at our break. As a special treat at the first and last rehearsals of the year one of them would make homemade shortbread. This is her recipe.

Shortbread is also my dad's absolute favourite thing to eat. So for Father's Day, I had to make it for him. I whipped up a batch before we started barbequing (what else could we do for dinner on a sunny Father's Day?) and let it cook in the oven while we were eating. It made a delicious dessert, I only wish we'd had a few strawberries to have with it.

Ingredients
Flour
225g
Butter
225g
Caster Sugar
110g
Cornflour
110g
Sugar
to decorate
Other Requirements

Mixing bowls and baking tray

This is a really easy recipe that anyone can use to make delicious shortbread. I especially love that it only has four ingrediants.

Preheat your oven to 150°C. Next, measure out into a bowl your flour, sugar and cornflour.

Next, measure out your butter and melt, either in the microwave or on the hob. It took just under a minute to melt it in my microwave.

Mix the dry ingrediants together and make a well in the centre. Pour the melted butter into the well.

Stir the butter into the dry ingrediants until it all comes together into a ball.

Grease a small baking tray thoroughly. You can also use a round cake tin with a diametre of approximately 20 cm. Place the dough onto the tray and using your hands, spread it out across the tray until it covers it.

Put the tray into the oven and bake for 25 mins. After the 25 mins, turn off the heat but leave the tray in the oven for at least another 35 mins to allow the shortbread to dry out and crisp up.

The shortbread is done when it is a golden brown colour and feels firm to the touch. Immediately after removing from the oven cut the shortbread into squares (or wedges if you are using a circular tin), sprinkle with granulated or caster sugar and leave to cool in the tray.

Once cool enjoy with a cup of tea or fresh strawberries. Delicious!

Bloom 'n' Taste

Joanna Schaffalitzky — 

I was out and about quite a bit this June. First stop was the Bord Bia run Bloom Festival, which was held in the Phoenix Park over the Bank Holiday weekend.

I went to Bloom with my friend Thaed on the Bank Holiday Monday and we spent quite a pleasant morning wandering around the Artisan Food Market, the Bord Bia demonstration tent and all the beautiful gardens.

Our first stop was to look around the Victorian Walled Garden. It was full of rows and rows of vegtables interspersed with bee friendly flowers.

We then wandered through the show gardens, admiring them and taking numerous photographs. I really liked how some of them managed to incorporate edible plants into the garden without having an obvious vegetable patch. There was a lot of emphasis on growing your own, and of course multitudes of water features.

After enjoying the beautiful and innovative gardens we listened to our stomachs and went to explore the Artisan Food Market and the In Season tent. We both picked up some lovely mushroom and strawberries, which were some of the sweetest I have ever tasted.

The market was filled with a wide variety of producers and it was great to finally meet Mags from Goatsbridge Trout with whom I had been conversing on Twitter. I also had great talks with some of the other producers and we left laden with goodies ranging from air dried pork to chocolate chip cookies.

We also had a good nose around the stalls for skills such as blacksmithing, bee keeping and woodturning, which were all very intersting and we also poked our heads into the Bord Bia demonstration tent, but as it was Neven Maguire demoing at the time it was a little crowded!

The only thing we missed during our day at Bloom was the tent where the plant sellers were, I have no idea how we managed to completely miss this until we were leaving as it was quite a large marquee. All in all though we had a brilliant day and I would definitely return to Bloom as you get a lot of value for the price of your ticket.

The weekend following the Bloom Festival, myself and my mum headed along to the Taste Festival in the Iveagh Gardens. We had tickets for the 12 - 4pm session, so arrived just at 12 to enter the grounds along with hundreds of other people.

Our first order of business was to exchange our real money for the florins that are the only currency useable within the confines of the festival. Joining a long queue of other people also doing the same thing.

We then did a bit of a scope out of the festival, working out where each of the restaurant stands were (we had done a little research the previous evening to decide which dishes we liked the sound of) and what else was on offer.

Then it was time to head to the demonstration tent to see the lovely Donal Skehan cooking up 3 delicious dishes of cupcakes, a goat's cheese pasta dish and a roast duck salad.

We both enjoyed his style of cooking tremendously as it was so full of energy and humour, though he did become a little distracted by a giant bear joining the audience half way through.

We were now feeling a little peckish, so we made our way back to the restaurant stands to try some of the fare on offer.

We started off with a Shrimp & Smoked Haddock Croquette with Herb Mayonnaise from Chapter One, which was very nicely presented and put together. I was little worried that the smoked haddock would overpower the more sublte shrimp flavour but you could definitely taste it.

We only had to go to the next stand over for our next dish, a portion of the Roasted Scallop, Confit Duck, Summer Squash Puree & Foie Gras Lollipops from Salon des Saveurs. This was delicious, but both myself and my mum felt that they were being a little mean only giving half a scallop rather than a full especially considering the price. The fois gras lollipop was my favourite part of the dish and I could've easily eaten enother of those.

We took a little break from eating then and strolled around the other stands. It was a little disappointing to see how few small producers there were, especially after Bloom had been packed with small artisan producers. Most of the stands were for large, well known companies, with the exception of the Good Food stand who had a collection of smaller producers.

We then headed up the other end of the site to try out the other restaurant fare. Instead of sharing this time, we went for two different dishes from different restaurants and compared notes. My mum went for the Tempura of salmon and courgette from First Floor Restaurant at Harvey Nichols and I had the Steak Frites from The Saddle Room.

Mum really enjoyed her tempura, and from the little nibble I had the batter was lovely and light. It was served with a wasabi mayonaise. The steak frites was very nice, though I like my steak a little less well done, but that's personal preference and not something I expect at a big event like this. The bearnaise sauce that was served with it was very good, though it did clump a bit as it got cold.

After all the food we were feeling a little thirsty so we splurged a large chunk of our remaining florins on a bottle of prosecco to enjoy at one of the outdoor tables. It had been spitting a little earlier in the day but it seemed to have cleared up a little, so we found and couple of seats, poured our drinks and sat back to enjoy. Just as we did the sky opened and we desperately huddled under our umbrellas.

This picture was taken just as we thought it had eased off a bit, it hadn't, and got dramatically worse. We managed to grab a couple of the free rain ponchos, we only wished we had done so sooner!

We spent the rest of afternoon session wandering around exaiming the stalls and deciding what to spend our last few florins on and taking pictures.

The clouds opened just as we were trying to leave so we made a run for the shelter of the stand being shared by L. Mulligan Grocer and edrinks.ie, which seemed to have become a Noah's Ark for several others. We hung out there talking to 9 Bean Row amongst others until the rain had eased off a little. This is when we encountered the most annoying thing of the afternoon, we could only leave through the gate we came in, even though they wanted us out as soon as possible and we were closest to one of the other gates.

All in all I would definately go to Bloom again, but I wouldn't bother with Taste unless I got a really good deal on the tickets like I did this year (Two for One). You don't get as good value for money with Taste as you do with Bloom.

I really liked that Bloom had lots of small producers and really encouraged growing and cooking your own food. Taste on the other hand only had big producers along with the restaurants. The prices for the tasters are also very high, 5 to 7 florins and as a florin equals a euro, that's not very good value. It can be a good day out, so long as you are aware in advance how much it is going to cost you and you set a limit of how much you want to spend.

Did any of you go to either the Bloom or Taste Festivals? What did you think? Did you enjoy them? Were they value for money?