I Can Has Bake?


My perfectly imperfect wholemeal and almond cake.

I’ve said quite a few times on this blog that I can’t bake. That I was more of a cook, and that the science behind baking flat out freaked me out.

Well. I was being silly. The main reason why I “couldn’t” bake was because of my stinking attitude.

I have finally realised that of course I can bake. Now, it’s highly unlikely that I would ever make a living from the things that I bake. But I can still bake. You don’t have to be a science boffin to get a bit of flour together. And putting up a mind block about it certainly doesn’t help.

This revelation came along at the same time as my recent epiphany of You’re Not On Masterchef, Aoife. The point is, cooking and baking should be fun. So what if your cake turns out lopsided? If it’s a complete disaster, it’s certainly annoying when you have to throw it all away but…is it really the end of the world?

I’ve realised that, actually, there is no great mystery to baking. That old saying of you can either bake or you can cook is unhelpful and untrue. Like anything else, you can pretty much get the hang of it with a little bit of practice. Again, you might not be brilliant at it, but you can certainly give it a go.

So, yes. I’m feeling very zen about my baking future for 2012. And in honour of that, I’d like to point you in the direction of a wonderful wholemeal and almond cake from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage Every Day cookbook. I made it recently and was wooed by its simplicity and deliciousness. Definitely a good cake for fledgling bakers who aren’t into fuss.

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Steak Dinner for Two


James Whelan’s Butchers striploin steak, as purchased in Avoca Monkstown

Aren’t dinners that are fuss-free to prepare yet taste positively luxurious the best?

A Sunday or two ago, I whipped up this extremely quick dinner made up of few bits and pieces that were lurking in the fridge. I’m not sure where the inspiration for the feta potatoes came from (somewhere divine and delicious anyway) but they worked so unexpectedly well with the rest of the steak dinner.

I was so very pleased. I mean, I practically didn’t even have to do anything to make this dinner! Really, I can’t even express how delighted I am when I make a simple supper that boasts luscious flavour combinations. And, truly, it almost always happens like this meal – an accident!

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Carrot Soup with a Squeeze of Lemon Juice


A squeeze of lemon juice? Although you’d be forgiven for thinking that a squeeze of orange juice would be the more appropriate choice as an addition to carrot soup, I’m delighted to report that its bitter cousin the lemon works equally well.

This is a recipe I adapted from one I found on the wonderful 101 Cookbooks blog. It was exceedingly quick to make and turned out to be a flavoursome hug-in-a-bowl. An excellent addition to anyone’s kitchen repertoire. Especially for this time of year!

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I’m Ready For My Close Up, Mr Eggville.


The holiday season is a surprisingly brilliant time to move house. It’s the second time myself and Niall have done so, and we couldn’t help but grant ourselves a few smug pats on the back for being so clever.

I mean, first of all, people don’t usually look for houses in the lead up to Christmas. Which means you have the pick of the lot. When it comes to actually moving, not only do you have a few days off work to get the heinous task of shifting your accumulated stuff from one abode to the next, but your friends and family are often free too. Which means loans of cars (thank you so much, Pauline), siblings hepling out with the move (thanks Lorcan and Peter) and Dads with van-like cars (that’s you, Eugene) at the ready to help. Which makes the process a helluva lot less painful.

But then of course, you have the psychological perks of starting a New Year in a new house. You’ve decluttered through the move. Well, you’ve certainly made an attempt at it anyway and have probably gotten rid of even a little bit of unnecessary junk. You’re in a new house in a new neighbourhood and everything is lovely and, well, new. It certainly brings a bit of oomph to the start of the year.

So not only have we moved, but we have been lucky enough to move from a lovely apartment to a stunning house. Of course, one of our main reasons for moving was to find a bigger and better kitchen. And by gum, have we lucked out.

I am a different cook in this new kitchen. Although I am very fond of my old kitchen because I learned how to cook in it, the difference in space between it and the new one is almost overwhelmingly amazing. It makes for an entirely less stressful kitchen experience. Which, as you may know, has always been the top aspiration for my kitchen life. Well, that and being able to make tasty food for friends, of course.

On New Year’s Day, we had one last brunch in our old flat. Niall made us some amazing baked eggs and I knew I wanted it to be the first recipe I posted from the new kitchen. So, it’s a dish that was perfected in our old place, but one that we’ve brought with us to the new place. Have a look after the jump for Niall’s recipe, as well as a few pics of our kitchens, old and new.

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Intermission: See you in 2012


Just one of the delicious things that have met my gob in the last few weeks, Nigella Lawson’s Choco Hoto Pots as prepared by Niamh Byrne-Poe (aged 2 and 8 months) with a little help from her mum Ali and Nana Pauline.

I trust you had a lovely holiday season, full of good food and cheer. I’ve been a little quiet round these parts and will most probably be back in 2012.

I am typing this in the living/kitchen room of my city centre apartment, surrounded by boxes and wondering how on earth I am going to pack away my over-flowing kitchen. For you see, myself and Niall are moving over to the southside to a lovely house in D8.

You’ll be delighted to hear that it has a wonderfully sized kitchen with a double oven and a dishwasher. And a full-sized fridge and freezer. And a Belfast sink. As you can imagine, I’m beside myself with excitement at the thought of cooking my first meal in this lovely new environment.

In the meantime, I will be lovingly packing away and saying goodbye to my old kitchen. We’ve been living here for three years and it was here that I started this food blog. This little city centre kitchen is where I learned to cook. And for that, it will always have a special place in my heart. And my stomach.

Wishing you all the very, very best for the New Year. If you’re feeling hungry in the meantime, you can follow me on Twitter for all food updates!

Whiskey and Ginger Bread and Butter Pudding


When I was approached recently by Kerrygold to design a Christmassy butter-based recipe, my thoughts turned almost immediately to Bread and Butter pudding.

One of the ultimate comfort desserts, it began its culinary life as a peasant’s dessert, a way of using up stale bread while providing the family with an after dinner pudding.

This version still delivers on the comfort, but in a slightly more luxurious way. By using ingredients such as Locke’s whiskey, Glenisk cream, fresh vanilla and Kerrygold butter, this classic has been taken right on up to another level of nomness. I’ve also paired the whiskey with ginger jam, as whiskey and ginger ale would be my Christmas tipple of choice.

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Most of us would agree that some ingredients inspire more than others. If I think of a butternut squash, at least five delicious ways of preparing one comes to my mind instantly. Or the versatile spud, for instance. There are countless delicious things to do with our friend the potato.

But cabbage…? Often seen as a rather discouraging player in one’s kitchen life, it doesn’t exactly exhilarate.

In a Twitter conversation with food writer and all-round-dude Joe MacNamee of The Swashbuachaill, we got to talking about cabbage, both red and green. It turns out there are (of course) quite a few flavour combinations to be had with these particular brassicas.

I took Joe’s suggestion of pairing chorizo with cabbage and found this recipe on BBC Good Food’s site, which led me to make a one-pot meaty red cabbage dish scattered with roasted apples.

All modesty aside, it was rocking.

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Molly’s American Stuffing


Thanksgiving has an awful lot to be said for it. Here are my main thoughts on it.

  1. It’s a secular holiday, meaning it’s all inclusive. That is very good. Leading to my next point…
  2. Everyone can enjoy it without feeling pangs of hypocritical guilt.
  3. It gives people an excuse, or a reminder even, to take stock and be thankful for the good things in their lives. Like family, friends, Marmite, etc…
  4. It breaks up November. Which, as we all know, can be an unforgivingly dreary month.
  5. It gives you a perfectly valid excuse to have two feast style-dinners a year. Hello?! That’s awesome.

This year, we were very thankful to be invited to our wonderful friends Ben and Anna’s for Thanksgiving. They live in Stroud, in the beautiful county of Gloucestershire, England and so that is where we spent the last weekend of November this year. Ben is American so has hosted a few Thanksgiving dinners since we’ve been friends. This year’s, however, turned out to be the most epic of them all.

We had wonderfully brined turkey, succotash, creamed onions, roasted vegetables, pecan pie, pumpkin pie, another pecan pie, lovely conversation and fantastic music, cuddled around a long table at Ben and Anna’s Stroud cottage, joined by Ben and Anna’s Gloucestershire family and friends.

There was a lot of chatter about the stuffing served with dinner. It turned out it was Anna’s grandmother Molly’s recipe. She was always known as Molly, rather than Granny, and Anna told us how she was a very independent and feisty lady who always did what she thought was right, however much society tried to tell her otherwise. Anna was very kind enough to share this recipe with me and you’ll find it after the jump.

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Roasted Cauliflower


I’ve remarked on this blog how cauliflower and broccoli were vegetables I struggled with, due to their mistreatment by the cooks at the boarding school I ate in for four years. It was often a case of “Please sir, don’t give us any more” when it came to the sodden mush formerly known as vegetables served up every night.

(It should be noted that we had lots of lovely food in the school, too. Some mornings we had warm croissants and honey, and about four times a year we got strawberries and cream for dessert. There was a pretty much constant supply of Coco Pops and lots of relatively fresh salads on Wednesdays. So, we did quite well, really. It was just the vegetables that seemed to suffer the most.)

If I’ve made one food discovery this year that I will take forward with me throughout the rest of my cooking days, it is that roasting is more often than not the best way to cook vegetables. The roasted broccoli pasta dish is now a firm favourite in this house.

More recently, I discovered a stunning recipe for roasted cauliflower on one of my fave food blogs, Smitten Kitchen. I’ve made it a number of time since, but, in an unintentional bout of selfishness, have neglected to share it with you until now. This is such a simple yet outstandingly satisfying dinner, that you I must simply insist you to try it for yourself!

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Inchydoney Island and Seaweed Kayaking


Locally smoked kippers with poached eggs at Inchydoney Lodge & Spa

“I’m going down to Indochiney this weekend.”

“What?! Where?!”

“Indochiney. You know, in Cork.”

“Inchy-DON-ey, Aoife, you lunatic.”

So went a conversation with a friend a fortnight ago. She was right. I did mean Inchydoney.

I had been invited down for a complimentary stay to Inchydoney Lodge and Spa by the good people at Conway Communications, to not only sample some of the food and service at the hotel, but to indulge in one of their spa’s treatments. When a day of seaweed foraging on a kayak with Jim Kennedy from Atlantic Sea Kayaking was thrown into the mix, I was halfway out the door before I could say “I’m not sure what a kayak is.”

Ah, so that’s a kayak!

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