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Food

Irish food truck

Thursday, 20 April, 2017 0 Comments

Irish food truck

Basics: fish and chips = iasc agus sceallóga

Example: “We ordered fish and chips to go.” (D’ordaíomar iasc agus sceallóga le tabhairt linn.)


Unboxing Millie’s Easter cake

Sunday, 16 April, 2017 0 Comments

Great neighbour, great friend, great baker! Happy Easter! Beannachtaí na Cásca! Boa Páscoa! Frohe Ostern! ¡Felices Pascuas! Buona Pasqua! Joyeuses Pâques!

Cake 1

Cake 2

Cake 3

Cake 4


Berries

Thursday, 30 March, 2017 0 Comments

Blackberry panacotta, raspberry, pistachio and blackberry sorbet with biscotti at the Fern House Café in Kilmacanogue, County Wicklow.

Berries

“As one who appreciated the tragic side of eating, it seemed to him that anything other than fruit for dessert implied a reprehensible frivolity, and cakes in particular ended up annihilating the flavour of quiet sadness that must be allowed to linger at the end of a great culinary performance.” — Manuel Vázquez Montalbán, La Soledad Del Manager


Cod

Tuesday, 28 March, 2017 0 Comments

Roast filled of cod, fennel, spinach, beurre noisette and almonds at the Fern House Café in Kilmacanogue, County Wicklow. Eaten slowly and remembered for a long time.

Cod

“Consider the subtleness of the sea; how its most dreaded creatures glide under water, unapparent for the most part, and treacherously hidden beneath the loveliest tints of azure.” — Herman Melville, Moby-Dick; or, The Whale


Scallops

Sunday, 26 March, 2017 0 Comments

Pan-fried scallops, curried parsnip pureé, crispy capers, raisins and poached apples at the Fern House Café in Kilmacanogue, County Wicklow. Big thanks to Noel, Patricia, Ann and Brian. Great people, great food, great night.

Scallops


Bitter-sweet cake, in memory of AA Gill

Sunday, 11 December, 2016 1 Comment

The great Sunday Times writer and critic, AA Gill, died at Charing Cross Hospital in London yesterday, shocking the journalistic community with the suddenness of his death. Only a few days earlier, Gill, 62, had finished what turned out to be his last article — an account of his search for a treatment that might have extended his life. His death robs British journalism of one of its most individual voices.

AA Gill was wholly politically incorrect and he delighted friend and foe with his observations: “There are many wonderful things about Egypt, but none of them is gastronomic. An Egyptian restaurant belongs on the same street as a Fijian ballet school, a Ukrainian tailor and a Nigerian interior decorator.” RIP.

AA Gill cake with citrus

“Death lends everything a metaphoric imperative. Mundane objects become fetishes when the departed no longer need them, and breakfast conversations grow runic and wise from behind the shadows.” — A.A. Gill


Balkan mushroom wisdom

Sunday, 28 August, 2016 0 Comments

“All mushrooms are edible, but some only once.” — Balkan proverb

mushrooms


It’s not about the bike. It’s about the app.

Saturday, 2 January, 2016 0 Comments

There’s no web address to be seen on the brand being pedalled here. Instead, foodora, an “on-demand food boutique that offers meals from the most beloved restaurants that traditionally don’t deliver,” urges people to download the app from the Apple and Android stores. By the way, foodora is what you get when you mix Hurrier (Canada), Suppertime (Australia) and Heimschmecker (Austria) with Urban Taste (Germany). They’ve all been gobbled up by Delivery Hero in Berlin. It’s about the app; not the bike.

foodora


The second Station: Food

Wednesday, 25 November, 2015 0 Comments

The most treasured of my mother’s many recipe books was published in 1960 and over the years it had doubled in size thanks to countless newspaper clippings interleaved between its pages. Strong, red rubber bands kept the lot in place and prevented the volume from breaking its spine. Full and Plenty by Maura Laverty was aptly titled for the needs of its users and the eight chapters embraced the essentials: Bread; Cakes; Pastry; Fish; Vegetables; Meat, Poultry & Game; Puddings & Desserts, Accompaniments.

When good musicians are presented with a simple melody, they improvise and transform the piece into something delightful, and good cooks are no different. Down through the decades, Maura Laverty’s recipe for currant buns morphed into my mother’s framework for fruit scones, with the margarine being replaced by butter, yeast by baking soda and buttermilk taking over from milk, while the candied peel was dropped entirely. Here is Maura Laverty’s original recipe:

Currant buns

Ingredients: 1 ½ lbs flour, 2 ozs raisins, 2 ozs currants, 2 ozs candied peel, 6 ozs margarine, 6 ozs sugar, 1 teaspoon salt, ½ pint lukewarm milk, I oz yeast

Method: Cream yeast with a little sugar. Sift flour with salt. Melt margarine in lukewarm milk. Add yeast and milk mixture to flour and beat well. Cover and leave in a warm place until mixture doubles its bulk. Turn onto floured board, spread with sugar and fruit and knead well. Cover and leave 30 mins. Shape into buns (these quantities will make 20). Place on greased baking tin, leave in warm place 20 mins, then bake 15 mins at 240 °C / 475 °F / Gas Mark 9. Just before they are cooked, brush with water or egg white and sprinkle with sugar.

No matter how many buns/scones were formed from the ingredients, there was always an extra piece of dough left over after my mother had finished and this would be the first item retrieved from the oven after the 15 minutes had elapsed. This prototype would be assessed for colour, felt for consistency, then be broken in two and spread with butter. “How does it taste?” was the expectant question. It was exquisite every time.

Currant buns/scones

Writing in the Irish Times at the end of October, historian Diarmaid Ferriter summed up the significance of Full and Plenty in contemporary Irish food preparation. He noted Maura Laverty’s focus on the idea of a balanced diet; praised her advice about everything in moderation and drew readers’ attention to the fact that Laverty’s “minimum daily ration” included egg, cheese, butter, bread, vegetables, fruit and “a serving of meat or fish or bacon.” His conclusion? “Bring it all on.”

That cherished and much-used copy of Full and Plenty was placed on my mother’s coffin on the day she was buried. Its presence was a reminder to the mourners that most of them had benefited greatly from her interpretations of its contents during their lifetimes. The hands that that had lovingly turned its pages had generously and without demur placed before them bread; cakes; pastry; fish; vegetables; meat, poultry & game; puddings & desserts and accompaniments. The best of the lot was those mysterious “accompaniments”. They were the incantations, the acts and the embellishments that made the cooking and the presentation so memorable. Maura Laverty mentions this extra dimension of the kitchen in her introduction to Full and Plenty when she describes the sensation of “rubbing butter into flour scones”. She continues: “The purity of flour, the pure velvety feel of it, the gentle, incessant, calm-giving motion of the finger-tips — no tangle or turmoil could hold out against such homely comforting.” And none did.

Our next station in this series of meditations on 14 photographs is Thanksgiving.


Breakfast with Bond

Tuesday, 10 November, 2015 0 Comments

When he’s not gallivanting around the world saving civilization from the likes of SMERSH and SPECTRE, James Bond likes to relax at home. The day begins with the same routine: breakfast, and every breakfast is the same: a boiled egg, two slices of whole wheat toast with marmalade jam and coffee. Ian Fleming describes this in great detail in From Russia With Love. The brown egg is boiled for three-and-a-third minutes before being placed in Bond’s favourite eggcup:

“It was a very fresh, speckled brown egg from French Marans hens owned by some friend of May in the country. (Bond disliked white eggs and, faddish as he was in many small things, it amused him to maintain that there was such a thing as the perfect boiled egg.)”

Marans hens, for those who don’t know poultry, originated in the département of Charente-Maritime, in the Poitou-Charentes region of western France. In Fleming’s short story, 007 in New York, Bond’s passion for Maran eggs is such that he travels the length and breadth of the city in an attempt to track some down only to be told by a grocery store clerk, “We don’t stock ’em, mister. People think they’re dirty.”

Bond had better luck with eggs in the Big Apple in Live and Let Die. On the run from the evil Mr. Big, 007 “hides” at the St. Regis Hotel, where he orders a substantial breakfast: pineapple juice, cornflakes, eggs and bacon, toast with marmalade and a double espresso. Although he is in mortal danger, Bond does not want to face death over sunny-side up eggs. He insists instead on œufs cocotte à la Provençale.

Speaking of eggs and New York City, Paul Simon says he was eating in a Chinese restaurant in downtown Manhattan and there was a chicken and egg dish on the menu called “Mother and Child Reunion.” Simon: “And I said, I gotta use that one.”

The best boiled egg

“Have you ever seen a man, woman, or child who wasn’t eating an egg or just going to eat an egg or just coming away from eating an egg? I tell you, the good old egg is the foundation of daily life.” — P.G. Wodehouse, Love Among the Chickens


Those articulate scones

Wednesday, 28 October, 2015 0 Comments

The scones

No photograph nor no text can convey the warmth of what came out of that oven. Yes, the baking was all about converting ingredients — flour, milk, eggs, sugar, salt, butter, raisins — into food, but there was something else going on. Maybe “improvised tradition” is near the mark as each batch was different. No slavish adherence to a recipe handed down the ages, here. Creativity was at play. A pinch of this and a fistful of that altered the balance each time the scones were made.

When they were placed on the old wire trays, almost too hot to handle, the first tasting took place. It was all very far from what takes place when wine connoisseurs get together, but there were similarities. The aroma, with its remembrances of things past; the initial impact of legacy on the tongue; the lingering aftertaste of love crafted into nourishment.

“How does it taste?” The question deserved far more than the prosaic “fine” and “good” that were usually offered, but poetry was beyond us. The scones were more articulate.