Smörgåsblog

2010 — Page 3

Mini Strawberry Sponge Cakes

Joanna Schaffalitzky — 

Prepartion Time
Total Time

On Monday just gone we had tickets to go and see the excellent Bitter Ruin in concert at the Sugar Club. They had appealed via their site for people who would be willing to house them during their time in Dublin. While we couldn't provide them somewhere to stay, I did offer to give them a good old feed. In the end though their hosts were providing them with dinner, so I thought I would bring along a little dessert for them instead.

As it was Bord Bia's National Strawberry Week, I was inspired to make them some mini sponge cakes filled with cream and delicious Irish strawberries. The result was pretty to look at and a little bit of heaven in your mouth. It was nice to see that the band thought so too.

Ingredients
Strawberries
250g
Cream
125 ml
Self-Raising Flour
110g
Baking Powder
1 tsp
Butter
110g
Caster Sugar
110g
Eggs
2
Vanilla Essence
2-3 drops
Icing Sugar
to decorate
Other Requirements

cupcake baking tray, paper bun cases and a sharp knife

The sponge in this recipe is an older version of Delia Smith's All-in-One Sponge as found in her Complete Cookery Course. It's really simple, and just perfect to showcase the strawberries to their best.

Preheat the oven to 170°C. Sieve (or not, I am very lazy about sieving) the flour into a bowl and add the baking powder.

Add in the butter, sugar and eggs.

Mix together by hand or using a hand blender. Add in the vanilla essence and stir it through the mixture.

Take your baking tray and place the bun cases into the depressions. This recipe makes 12 large buns, so you should only need one tray.

Divide the mixture between the cases and put the tray into the oven for 25 minutes or until the buns have turned golden brown.

When the buns are ready, take them out of the oven and let cool in the tray for a couple of minutes before transferring to a wire rack.

While the buns are cooling. Hull and slice your strawberries, keeping to one side 12 nice slices to decorate the top of the cakes with. Whip the cream, I used a balloon whisk as I find I stop at a softer whip than when I use a hand mixer. You want the cream to softly whisked for easy spreading later.

When the buns are cool, remove their paper cases and cut them into two pieces, cutting them closer to the top than the bottom.

Blob a heaped teaspoon of cream on the bottom half and smear a small amount on the underside of the top of the bun. Place some strawberry pieces on the lower part and sandwich the top on.

Put another little blob of cream on the top of the bun and carefully place one of your good slices of strawberry on it. When you have finished all the cakes, dredge or sieve icing sugar over the top.

Sit back and enjoy with a cup of tea or a glass of wine. Perfect for afternon tea on the lawn, if the sun ever comes out again.

Pizza Falls Into My Mind

Joanna Schaffalitzky — 

Last week there was a lot of pizza talk floating around Twitter between the Irish foodies, then Reindeersp suggested that we should have a pizza party via twitter aka the #twizzaparty! The plan was that last Thursday we would all make our own pizzas and these efforts would be judged by Italian Foodie. The other pizza makers extrodinaire were; An American in Ireland, Babaduck Babbles, Bibliocook, Dinner du Jour, Gluttony for Beginners, I Can Has Cook and Like Mam Used To Make.

I started off by using the dough recipe and method detailed here by Gluttony for Beginners. I was interested to read the part about putting the dough on the hot baking tray before adding the toppings, as I think this is where I went wrong the first time I tried to make pizza, as the dough didn't end up quite cooked in the middle.

Anyway, I made my dough on the Wednesday evening and it rose spectacularly. I knocked it back and stuck it in an oiled freezer bag in the fridge overnight. When I went to look at it again the next evening, the dough was busily trying to escape from the bag, I had forgotten that it would continue to rise in the fridge and would need a little extra room than what I gave it.

I also made my normal tomato sauce, but let it reduce further than I would if I were using it for pasta, exchanged the mixed herbs for oregano and left out the red wine. As you can see, I also made a bit of a mess while cooking it. The little bit of chilli in the sauce ended up giving the pizzas a lovely warmth, which worked really well.

My next thoughts were on what delightful toppings to put on what would surely be a masterpiece of a pizza. I decided that since it was only my second time making pizza I would keep it simple and use a variety of differnet cheeses and hams. I choose some baked ham and parma ham, then I picked out three cheeses to use, buffalo mozzarella (of course!), mature white cheddar and gruyère. Here they are all laid out on a plate for easy access.

I split the dough into 4 pieces and proceeded to roll out the first piece using loads of flour. I also used my hands to stretch it out as well. Eventually I had something that resembled a pizza base, though it wasn't very circular or square for that matter, it was more blob shaped.

While I was organising my dough and toppings, the oven had been heating up to 250°C with the baking tray inside also heating up. I decided to use my baking tray upside down as it gave me a larger, smoother surface area to deal with. I removed the tray from the oven and carefully placed my excitingly shaped pizza base on top of it. I then added the delicious tomato sauce, leaving a gap around the edges for easy handling once it was cooked.

I had a bit of a mental blip while putting on the toppings and forgot that the cheese goes on first and then everything else. I did it the other way around, putting on the ham first and then the cheese.

One it was covered with all the hammy, cheesey goodness I popped it into the oven for about 10 mins. As it came out there was the most wonderful smell and a pall of smoke that set off my smoke alarm, as my oven needs a little bit of clean and gets bit smokey when it gets hot. Once I got the alarm under control, the pizza was cool enough for eating and it tasted so very, very good.

Once the Beau came home I cooked up a couple more, and his first one came out a little rounder.

I ended up cooking 4 pizzas of which the Beau ate 1½ and I ate 1 and 1 slice, but had the rest cold for lunch the next day.

I will definitely be making pizza again, it was really easy to put together and tasted delicious. Next time though I will be a little more experimental with the flavours, I particularly liked the sound of asparagus, which was used by some of the other participants.

Here's a final picture of the Beau, looking pleased as punch to be having homemade pizza.

UPDATE: The winner of our Twizza Party was Gluttony for Beginners, from whom I pinched the recipe for my pizza base. Congratulations to her on the win!

Rhubarb & Ginger Cake

Joanna Schaffalitzky — 

Prepartion Time
Total Time

Back in April, the lovely 9 Bean Row, suffering from a surplus of rhubarb in her backgarden, enquired over Twitter if anyone would like to take some off her hands. Of course I leaped at the chance and arranged to collect it from her in town.

Not wanting to go down the crumble route, I decided that the best thing to do with the rhubarb would be to make a cake out of it and throw in a little ginger as they work so well together. Below is the result of the experiment. It tastes very good and I think would possibly be even better with a little softly whipped cream on the side. Go on, the cake is calling!

Ingredients
Rhubarb
500g
Fresh Ginger
10g
Self-Raising Flour
350g
Butter (plus additional 30g)
225g
Caster Sugar (plus 2 additional tblsps)
175g
Eggs
3
Other Requirements

Mixing bowl, frying pan and a 20 cm diametre cake tin.

First preheat your oven to 150°C. Then you need to rinse your rhubarb and chop it into pieces about an inch in length.

Put the butter into the frying pan, when it starts to foam add in the rhubarb pieces.


Sprinkle the 2 tblsps of caster sugar over the rhubarb, gently stir through and lower the heat. Let the rhubarb cook until it has slightly softened and the butter, caramel and fruit juices have formed a syrup. Leave to one side to cool while you prepare the rest of the cake.

Take the ginger and use the handy 'peel it with a spoon' trick that I mentioned before. Grate the ginger and leave to one side.

Now onto the cake proper. First sift the flour into a roomy bowl and add the butter cut into pieces. Rub the butter into the flour creating a breadcrumb textured mixture.

Add the sugar to the mixture and stir it in.

Add the rhubarb and ginger into the bowl and stir in.

Beat the eggs in a seperate bowl and add bit by bit to cake mix. Make sure that you mix everything together thoroughly. Leave to one side while preparing the cake tin.

I used quite a deep baking tin as my only other one of appropriate diametre is very shallow. A springform tin would also work. You need to grease your cake tin well. I like to use old butter wrappers as it's a handy way of recycling them, but you can just rub in some marg or butter with your fingers or a bit of baking paper.

If you have an old school tin like this one, it's best to line it with baking parchment. If you don't have any baking parchment, then any kind of brown paper will do, I used a handy paper bag. If you have a non-stick tin, then you should be safe just greasing it.

Put the paper under the tin, draw a circle around it, cut it out and stick to the bottom of the tin. Then grease the paper.

Pour the cake mixture into the tin and place in the oven for 1½ - 2 hours, until the cake has turned golden brown and a skewer comes out clean.

If the cake seems to be getting too brown before it is cooked through, cover the top of it with tin foil to protect it.

Once the cake is ready, take it out of the oven and allow to cool in its tin for a couple of minutes, then carefully tip it out onto a wire rack where it can cool. You may also need to carefully remove the baking parchment from the bottom of the cake when you remove it from the tin.

Serve the cake warm or cold, it's pretty good both ways and as I said I think it would be pretty tasty with a little cream on the side or perhaps a dusting of icing sugar.

Let me know if you try it and like it, or if you try it with other fruits.

Foodie Fiesta!

Joanna Schaffalitzky — 

On Thursday 20th May a gaggle of food bloggers descended on Bord Bia at 11am for the first food blogger event that was brought together byBord Bia and Donal Skehan of the Good Mood Food Blog. I turned up a little early, and was worried that I would be the first one there. I was met at the door by Maeve and Klara of Bord Bia, who handed me a name tag, which included my blog's name and led me into the demonstration room where I was introduced to Donal and the lovely Móna of the Wise Irish Blog.

Maeve did some amazing memory work for the first 10 or so bloggers, where she managed to remember the names of all those who had arrived and introduced them individually to the new arrival. I was seriously impressed, plus it helped me to cement a few of the names myself.

After a little nervous mingling with tea and coffee, we were called to order for the first talk of the day. The main theme of the event was pork, as Bord Bia are trying to promote Irish pork in the wake of the 2008 dioxin scare and our first speaker of the day was David Owens of Bord Bia's Meat Department, who told us all about the Quality Assurance Mark and pork production in Ireland.

A couple of points that I found particularly interesting were that pork production is the third most important agricultural sector in Ireland after beef and dairy, that Ireland has a higher level of animal welfare for our pork production than some other European countries and that we export 50% of the pork that we produce. I was also quite excited to learn that as well as having the Quality Assurance Mark for produce that you buy in supermarkets, Bord Bia are working on a Quality Mark for butchers that would cover all the meat they sell in their shops. I'm pretty fussy about my meat, so knowing that everything a butcher carried is Quality Assured would be very reassuring.

After David had finished his talk, we next had a vegetarian based demonstration from Lorraine Fitzmaurice of Blazing Salads. First she demonstrated a spelt soda bread, some of which was passed around the room for us to try. It disappeared pretty fast! It had a lovely, rich flavour to it combined with a slight sweetness. I will definitely be making it at home myself. She also told us about spelt and why people who are coeliacs can eat it, as she was cooking it.

Next Lorraine made a miso pesto, served on tagliatelle with broccoli and green beans. She explained the miso is very important in vegetarian and vegan diets as it provides much needed vitamin B12 to their diets. A bowl of both the miso paste and the miso pesto were passed around the room, the smells from both were amazing. We also all got to try the pasta dish and, again, it would be something I will be trying at home, even though we're not the most vegetarian of households.

While we guzzled our pasta samples, Pat Conway of GMIT prepared to give us a demonstration of pork butchery. The hilarious Pat was clearly a man who knew his way around a set of knives. In the 15 minutes allotted to his talk, Pat demonstrated to us about 12 different cuts of pork. The first few coming from the loin of pork, included a rack of pork, pork cutlets and the loin. The second joint that Pat butchered was the fore of pork, from which you can get the chump chop.

Pat also gave out some helpful hints; such as using the bones from your joint as a trivet when you are roasting it as it prevents it frying on the bottom of the roasting tin. He also mentioned that the ideal ratio for a sausage is ⅓ lean pork, for the smoothness, ⅓ main ingredient for the flavour and ⅓ pork fat to make the sausage light. His final useful piece of information was that if you were unsure of whether your pork it cooked or not, so long as the core temperature has reached 75°C the meant will be safe to eat.

Next up was Maire Dufficy, a Bord Bia Food Advior, who demonstrated a range of easy to cook pork recipes which included a delicious looking, slow roasted pork belly and noodle dish, minced pork pita pockets and pork on ciabatta. The smells from her cooking were amazing, never before have I been part of a mass drool. The only pity was that we didn't get to try any of it.

Maire was also a hot bed of useful tips. My favourite was her suggestion that you ask your butcher to vacuum pack your marinade with the meat. That way there are no spills in your fridge and it's easy to travel with.

When Maire was finished we were all dying to get to our lunch, but we had one more speaker before we could eat. Damien Mulley sympathised with our hunger pangs before talking to us about how best to market our blogs by using services such as Google, Twitter and Facebook. He also spoke about how to make contact with journalists and publications.

Lunch was of course pork, the most delicious pork belly as well as some roast pork, all served along with a variety of salads and potatoes.

This was the best chance for chatting to some of the fellow food bloggers. I was seated next to I Can Has Cook, An American in Ireland, Adventures in Veg, Daily Spud and Dinner du Jour. There were lots of other bloggers there, who I only got to speak to briefly but their links are all to the the right now (if it's not, please let me know).

Just as we were thinking about digesting our lovely lunch, dessert arrived, a beautiful strawberry tart and with it we were treated to a talk by Eoin Purcell on the transition of blog to book. It was very interesting hearing about what it takes and the time scale of getting a book published.

In the afternoon session we were treated to a demonstration of food styling and food photography from Erica Ryan and Jocasta Clarke. Erica told us all the tricks of the trade for making food look good and the sometimes odd tools they use to achieve this, including cotton buds and glycerine. Jocasta showed us how a bit of pre-planning can improve pictures and how to reflect the light using things as simple as a sheet of kitchen paper.

She and Erica also did a step by step demonstration of styling a bowl of pasta, showing us how much different lighting and accesories can change the feel of the picture.

We also got to see some very realistic fake ice cream and possibly some of the most luridly decorated cupcakes I have ever seen. I will definitely be trying to incorporate some of their tricks into my photos from now on.

Afterwards their talk, there was a chance for mingling and grabbing some swag, thank goodness we were told to bring a bag with us, or I would never have got it home. I managed to snag a rosemary plant from Living Flavour, some amazing cheese from Mossfield Organic Farm (highly recommended), tasty biltong (a kind of beef jerky) from Biltong.ie, beautiful smoked trout from Goatsbridge (we ate it as a starter for my mum's birthday), a tea-time biscuit from Lilly Higgins (in the cutest packaging ever!), churtney from Sheridans, seeds and spouts from Good 4 U, rooibos and pu-erh tea from Barry's and a delicious fruit salad from Garden Orchard.

Arms and bag bulging, I had to run off to meet my mum for tea, as it was her birthday, and missed out on socialising with the rest of the bloggers. However, I had a terrific day and I'm really looking forward to the next one.

St George's Market

Joanna Schaffalitzky — 

A couple of weeks ago, myself and the Beau took a very fleeting trip to Belfast on a Friday evening to see some friends. In our brief look around the city on the Saturday morning, we went to visit the St George's Street Market.

The minute we walked in the door I was jealous, as you can see from the picture above, it's vast! We also happened to enter to the end with the seafood stands and the variety of fish, shellfish and other underwater delights was overwhelming. I'm not the world's biggest fish fan but at that moment, visions of paella, bouillabaise and simple baked fish dishes floated through my mind.

But it didn't just stop at fish, pretty much anything you could imagine was there. We spent about an hour there wandering around and drinking in all the sights, smells and sounds. In the middle of the market was a space where people could sit, eat and listen to the band.

Around this central space were stalls that specialised in food to eat there and then. These varied from the usual sandwiches and crêpes to more exotic things such as paella and intriguing Indian dishes. There was even a hog roast, if I hadn't just had my breakfast, it would've been in my belly in the blink of an eye!

The vegetable stands also caught my eye, and if I thought it would've survived the journey home on the train I would've bought a week's worth right then and there. As it was I contented myself with a bundle of extremely fresh rhubarb.

The two stands that really caught my eye were the seaweed stall and the most amazing spice stand that I have ever seen. I will have to write a shopping list for both of them and then return as the choice was just so varied, especially for the spices, that I couldn't remember what I had in my own cupboards at home. The seaweed I liked as I've never knowingly eaten it, but I've always wanted to give it a try and there seemed to be so many different types available.

The oddest thing I was shown while we were there was "Vegetable Roll", which seems to be an exclusively Northern Ireland thing, as it consists of a large sausage which has some green bits flecked through it. According to the Beau it's the green bits that earn it the title of "vegetable" despite it being almost entirely made of meat.

Regional idiosyncracies aside, the market also contained some lovely looking bread and cakes. There was also the usual fancy oil stand (though I loved the way he showed off the oils by putting lights behind them) and a delicatessan stand with olives, cheeses and a range of chacuterie style meats.

As you can probably guess from my rather gushing tales of the market that I loved it. Is there anywhere in Dublin that has somewhere like this? Where there is a huge selection of produce at competitive prices? If there was I would be there every week to buy my groceries.

Next time I go to Belfast I will be bringing the car and a lot of shopping bags.

2 Side Dishes

Joanna Schaffalitzky — 

Prepartion Time
Total Time

To ease us all back into regular updates I have recipes today for two very simple side dishes. Some of you may already know how to make these, but then there could be those who would never think of cooking them at all.

First up is oven chips. These are very simple to make and delicious with pretty much everything, but especially things like steak and roast chicken. They're crispy on the outside and light and fluffy in the middle.

The other dish is a very simple mushroom side, again this is delicious with steak and other beef dishes.

Here are both of them served with a t-bone steak. That was a good dinner!

Ingredients
Potatoes
4 large
Mushrooms
400g
Garlic
2 cloves
Butter
100g
Olive Oil
2 tbsp
Salt & Pepper
to season
Mixed Herbs
to season
Other Requirements

A sharp knife, an oven proof dish and a saucepan.

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Take the potatoes; peel them and chop them up into bite sized pieces.

Place the potato pieces into an oven-proof dish and pour over the 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Season with salt, pepper and herbs (optional).

Using your hands, spread the oil and seasoning as evenly as you can across the potatoes. Then pop them in the oven for 20 minutes.

After the 20 minutes, pull out the dish and flip the potatoes over with a spatula, moving them around in the dish as well. Then put them back in the oven for another 20 minutes.

After the second set of 20 mins the potatoes should be done and turned a nice golden brown colour. If they haven't pop them back in the oven for another 5 - 10 minutes. Enjoy!

Next up is the mushrooms!

For this recipe the mushrooms need to be cut as finely as you can make them. A really sharp knife is a great help in this.

Put the mushrooms into a saucepan and leave to one side. Next crush the garlic and add to the pot with the mushrooms.

Now add in the butter to the saucepan and turn on to a low heat. Stir the mixture until the butter has melted and the liquid has started to be released from the mushrooms. Turn up the heat so that the liquid starts to boil.

When all the liquid has boiled off the mushrooms and they have started to brown, the mushrooms are ready to serve.

Scrambled Eggs

Joanna Schaffalitzky — 

Many apologies for the lack of updates lately. I have been battling with writer's block. However I think I've got all of that sorted now and I am working on several new posts. In the meantime I thought I would put up my favourite breakfast recipe, by Gordon Ramsey. I'm not a big fan of his but this is a seriously delicious version of scrambled eggs.

I hope you enjoy it. Normal blog service will resume on Friday.

Kanelsnegle (Cinnamon Snails)

Joanna Schaffalitzky — 

Prepartion Time
Total Time

This time I thought I would give you a picture of the finished product before you get started so you can see just how worth making these little pastries are.

Don't they look mouth-wateringly good? The recipe for these comes from my friend Annemette, who is twice as Danish as me, and is currently residing in Westport. We went to visit her and her partner Paul a couple of weeks ago. On the rainy day we had while visiting, she and I cooked up a storm producing these and Medaljer, the recipe for I'll post later.

I've supplemented the pictures that I took there with a couple I took myself while having a go at them this weekend, so don't be surprised by different counter tops.

These pastries bear no resemblence to the "Danishes" you find in your local shop, they are a highly potent mix of butter and sugar.

I hope you enjoy these as much as I do and remember, you'll be able to boast that you can make your own Danish pastries now!

Ingredients
Flour
300g
Butter (In 2 100g portions)
200g
Dried Yeast (Two standard packets)
14g
Milk
100ml
Sugar
1 tbsp
Salt
½ tsp
Egg
1
Cinnamon (Plus a little extra)
2 tsps
Brown Sugar
100g
Icing Sugar
100g
Water
1tbsp
Other Requirements

Mixing bowl, a good amount of counter space, baking trays and a wire rack.

There is quite a bit of work in these little pastries and they do involve using yeast, but never fear, it will be worth it. The first thing to do is measure out the milk into a heat proof jug or bowl and heat it in the microwave for between 40 seconds to 1 minute depending on the strength of your machine.

To test the temperature of the milk, stick in a clean finger and if it burns, it's too hot. It should be warm, not too warm. Then add the sugar and stir until it dissolves. Sprinkle in the yeast, stir and leave to one side until it starts to froth. This will take between 5 and 15 mins.

I'm afraid I don't have a great picture of the frothing but you can't mistake it. Lots of bubbles will appear on the top, even more than are in the picture below.

When the yeast mixture has frothed up, add the salt and the egg and whisk together.

Next you mix in the first 100g of butter. Make sure that you have softened it before adding. For best results it should be half melted and half solid. Whisk the butter in with the rest of the mixture.

Measure out the flour into a separate bowl and slowly add it bit by bit to the liquid mixture. Stir it all together until it makes a soft dough. You should be left with some flour over, you will need to use this while kneading the dough.

Turn the dough out onto the well floured counter-top and knead the dough lightly for a couple of minutes. Click below to watch a video of Annemette kneading the dough. As you can see, you use the leftover flour to keep the dough from sticking to the counter.

After a couple of minutes of kneading, the dough should be a soft, round ball. Put this back in the bowl and cover. Leave to one side in a warm place and allow the dough to rise. This will take 30 minutes.

While the dough is rising, it's time to make the filling for the snails and have a cup of tea.

Put the brown sugar and the second 100g of butter into a bowl together. Add the cinnamon and beat together using a fork and elbow grease. You could possibly use an electric hand mixer, but I've not tried it, so if you do, let me know if it works!

The ingredients should start to come together into a paste. To help get the butter started, if it's a bit cold, you can microwave it, but I wouldn't do so for longer than 10 seconds.

Once the paste is smooth, put it to the side and have a cup of tea while waiting for the dough to finish rising, you deserve it after all your hard work!

After 30 minutes, check on the dough, it should have just about doubled in size. Tip it out onto a well floured counter or board and form into a long rectangle. This is the point at which you should start to preheat your oven to 220°C.

Time to roll out the pastry. You want to make it into a large rectangle, about 30 cms by 60 cms. The important thing it to try and keep the short edge ends straight as this will be important when rolling it.

Next, you have to spread out the filling over the pastry as evenly as possible. You should also do this as carefully as you can because the pastry will be quite thin at this point and can tear if handled too roughly. The best way to go about this is to put a lump of the filling on the pastry and carefuly spread it out using a palette knife or an ordinary knife.

At this point you can add a little extra cinnamon by sprinkling it over the top of the filling, this is entirely up to you, I've made them with and without the extra cinnamon and they both taste good.

The next part is possibly the trickest thing in the whole recipe, rolling up the pastry. Start at the long edge closest to you and carefully lift up the edge and curl it in towards the rest of the pastry. Gently roll it over and over, making sure the short edges and keep in line with each other and that you have a fairly straight roll across the centre.

You should finish up with a sausage like roll. This roll is then cut in half, then into quarters and the quarters are cut into thirds giving you 12 pillow like squares.

Place each square end up, so that you can see the spiralling centre, on a baking tray that is either thoroughly greased or covered in baking paper. Keep them nicely spaced out. An average sized baking tray will take 6 at a time.

Carefully squish down each parcel, to a height of approximately 1 cm. While squishing, try and make sure that the central spiral pattern remains visible. When you have them squashed down, make sure that the outside edge of the spiral is well tucked in against the side of the rest of the pastry, otherwise this will unravel during cooking.

Beat an egg in a bowl and brush the pastries with this to give the pastries a nice glazed look when they have cooked. Put into the oven for 7 - 8 minutes.

The snails will be done when they turn a deep golden brown colour. Leave them to cool on a wire rack for 20 - 30 minutes. While they are cooling make up the icing by mixing the icing sugar and water together until they form a smooth, slightly runny paste.

When they are cool, drizzle the icing on the top of them and let it set, this takes about 5 minutes, or you can just scoff them, runny icing and all.

That's it! The quite long, but, I hope, not too complicated method for making your own Danish pastries. They will keep nicely in the frezer for up to 3 months, or just eat them in a couple of days like we do, though they may need toasting after the second day. I really hope you enjoy these, do let me know how you get on and perhaps link to a picture of your attempt.

Bacon, Leek and Potato Hot Pot

Joanna Schaffalitzky — 

Prepartion Time
Total Time

Paddy's Day Food Parade

With St. Patrick's Day almost upon us, I thought it would be fun to do an alternative take on that Irish favourite; Bacon, potatoes and cabbage, encouraged by the Paddy's Day Food Parade over on The Daily Spud.

This hot pot is a great thing to have for lunches or dinner. While it does take a little time to cook, it is very tasty. I've put in leeks rather than cabbage though as they add a nice oniony flavour, but they are still green like cabbage. I also make this with a cheesey sauce rather than a plain white sauce as I think it gives much more flavour.

Ingredients
Bacon (50g smoked 200g plain mixed)
250g
Potatoes (Large)
4
Leeks (Large)
4
Butter
40g
Flour
40g
Milk
700ml
Cheese (Mix of Gruyere and Cheddar is best)
100g
Salt & Pepper
to season
Other Requirements

Deep oven proof dish, saucepan and whisk.

The first things to do in this delicious little hot pot, is to preheat the oven to 180° C and make the sauce that it will all cook in. This involves making a roux, but don't be afraid, this is really quite a simple task and not as difficult as you may think.

First grate the cheese so that you have it easily to hand when you need it. It is also a good idea to have your flour weighed out and milk measured and ready to pour near the stove also, as they will both be needed quickly in the sauce making.

Melt the butter in the saucepan until it is sizzling, then quickly lower the heat.

Add in the flour and stir. The flour and butter will bind together into a sort of soft dough. Let this cook on the low heat for about a minute.

Now add in the first 500 mls of the milk bit by bit, whisking all the time. Turn up the heat to a low medium and keep whisking until the sauce starts to thicken.

Bring the sauce to the boil, then turn down the heat and add the cheese. Stir through and add the remaining milk, if necessary, till the sauce is of the consistency to lightly coat a wooden spoon. Season with a little pepper and leave to one side till you need it. Don't worry if your sauce gets a little too thick as the liquid from the leeks when cooking will make it thin it out.

Now it's back to the fun job of chopping vegetables. First off the potatoes. Peel them and slice them into disks. Use a mandolin if you have one or the slicer on a cheese grater as they will make nice, equal sized pieces. If you don't have either of these a sharp knife and a chopping board are all you need. When you've sliced the potatoes put them into a bowl of cold water to soak.

The leeks must now be washed, trimmed and sliced into rings about half a centimetre thick. Then put to one side while you deal with the bacon.

The bacon needs to have the rind trimmed from it and then it should be cut into small pieces. The easiest way to do this is to use a kitchen scissors.

Time to start layering up the different ingredients in your oven proof dish. Start by putting down a layer of potatoes, then a layer of leeks and finally a layer of bacon. Try to make sure that your spread each ingredient evenly accross your layer.

Repeat these layers until you run out of ingredients, retaining enough potato for a top layer. Before you add this last layer of potato, season the hot pot with a little more pepper, then layer the final potatoes on.

Time to add the sauce that you put to one side back at the beginning of the this recipe. Carefully pour it over your layered meat and veg and spread out with a spatula to any places that look a bit bare.

Pop your hot pot into the oven for an hour. After the hour take it out to check how it's progressing. You can do this by poking a skewer into the hot pot. If the potato still feels hard, the hot pot should go back into the oven for another 30 minutes. If you're afraid that the top might burn during this time, cover the hot pot with a layer of tinfoil shiny side down.

After the 30 minutes, the hot pot should be done. Do check it again with the skewer if you're worried and if it still seems a little hard give it more time in 10 minute intervals.

Once the hot pot is ready, leave it cool for 5 - 10 minutes and serve. I really hope that you enjoy this. Please let me know if you need clarification on anything in the recipe above.

Twitter Blind Wine Tasting

Joanna Schaffalitzky — 

Last week, under my other Twitter username (@JoannaSchaff), my family and I took part in the blind wine tasting event organised through the social network.

The Twitter blind tasting was orignally set up in November of last year. A short history of the event can be found here on Brian Clayton's blog. As you can see this last event was the third such blind tasting through Twitter. The previous event's wine was provided by Bubble Brothers and Curious Wines.

I first became aware of the event back in February during the second tasting. I decided that I had to take part in the next one as it seemed like everyone involved was having such fun. Plus you learn stuff!

The first step to taking part was to order the bottle from Karwig Wines, this event's supplier. The price was €19 including cost of couriering the bottle. However, if you could pick it up from their shop in Cork, it was only €15. I ordered my bottle on the Tueday evening and it arrived nicely parcelled up on Thursday morning to my parents' house.

The event itself was to start on Sunday at 9pm. But in the days and the hours coming up to the start time, more and more posts appeared on Twitter with the hash tag for the evening: #twebt. This hash tag allowed you to more easily search for posts relating to it. On the Saturday the Karwig Wines accounts, posted a message letting us know when to open the wine, which was about 2 hours before the tasting started. I enquired whether the wine should be decanted or not and was told that if possible it should be.

Our household got a little overexcited and ended up opening our bottle at about 3.30pm rather than 7pm like everyone else, though we did then decant it at 7.

Then we had the impatient wait for the tasting to start at 9 o'clock. Luckily we had dinner to keep us occupied. Promptly at 9 o'clock, fisrt glasses were dutifully being poured and reported to the Twitter stream. For extra helpfulness, @kevatfennsquay or Kevin Crowley had created a list of all the people taking part in the tasting, which is what we used to keep up with what was being posted. Kevin and Brian (@brianclayton) were the facilitators for the tasting and kept us line with what we should be trying to guess at each stage of the tasting.

Again, we were a little on the enthusiastic side and kept skipping ahead a little. I'm going to blame my dad for this, as he was a bit impatient to being with, that is until he got into the swing of the online banter.

The first thing that has to be determined is whether the wine is Old World or New World. Next up is the year, then the country. Finally, you have to work out the grape variety and the region that the wine is from.

There were a couple of surprises with this wine; while it was easy to determine that it was an Old World wine, that it was fairly young (it was from 2005) and that it came from Fance (though there were a couple of people who were convinced it was from Portugal), the tricky bit came with the grape variety. Most of us were convinced that it was a Syrrah (Shiraz) variety mixed with something else. However, it actually turned out to be an equal mix of Grenache and Carignan. The region again, was fairly easy to work out, we managed to get it down to the Langueduc, though we didn't get the exact part, Corbieres.

Finally the mystery wine was revealled at about 10:30pm to be Domaine Aonghusa Cuvee | Laval 2005 about which more information can be found on the Karwig Wines blog.

All in all we had a very enjoyable evening and we will definitely be taking part again. I only hope that it's happening sooner rather than later.