Friday, November 5, 2010

Winter Warmers- Aromatic Pork Belly in Broth

This should definitely help banish the winter blues, and cure any sniffles that are beginning as we make our way into the colder months. It's gutsy and warming, but still feels light and fresh. This recipe was concocted for the Irish Foodies Cookalong for November, the theme of which is Winter Warmers. The Cookalong is a lot of fun and a great way to showcase the brilliant Irish food bloggers.
  • 1 piece of whole pork belly, about 500g, skin on
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground all spice
  • 1/4 tsp cumin seed
  • 1/4 tsp chilli flakes
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • 1 onion quartered
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 3/4 whole red chilli sliced
  • 2 thumb-sized pieces of ginger, peeled and sliced
  • 1 litre of chicken stock

1. Mix together the spices (ginger, chilli flakes etc.) with a splash of water to make a paste. Rub this all over the pork belly in the casserole dish. You can leave it at this stage for a few hours, overnight, or just go ahead with it now.

2. Preheat the oven to 170c. Add the soy sauce and star anise to the casserole, then cover the whole pork belly with chicken stock. Place in the preheated oven and cook for 2-2 1/2 hours, until the pork is meltingly tender and shreds easily with a fork.

3. Cook some noodles according to packet instructions, place in a bowl, and ladle some of the broth over the top. Top with some shredded pork, and garnish with chopped coriander and sliced fresh red chilli.


Friday, October 29, 2010

London Calling, part 2!

Hello lovely readers!

I’m sorry if you thought that you had been abandoned by us in the past few months, you would be forgiven for thinking so. We have not disappeared, but have both been going through some major life changes. On my part, this involved a move to London, England; home of red telephone boxes, double decker buses, pie and mash shops, and y’know, the Queen. It’s been an exhausting two months, but I am no longer homeless (it was touch and go for a while though, the rental market here is more cutthroat than a department store sale the day after Christmas) and am now able to return to this, one of my favourite places.

In another potentially life changing move, I am taking part in a competition for a once in a lifetime place at Ballymaloe cooking school in Co. Cork, Ireland. I have been dreaming about attending this school for a really long time now, ask the friends and family who have patiently listened to me talking about it for the past several years! My move to London was actually made as I got a job here, so that I could save to go to Ballymaloe. It would however take quite a few years for me to save the tuition fee, so this competiton sponsored by wonderful Irish food brand Cully and Sully (seriously, their chicken soup tastes like your Grandmother’s homemade recipe) really is a dream-come-true kind of opportunity. If you would care to vote for me to win, and I do wish you would, please just follow this link (also to be found in its entirely below this post), and click the ‘like’ tab above my entry. Every vote really will count, and it only takes a second!
It feels great to be back here again, I have missed Cake and Cordial so, and look forward to spending much more time in your most excellent company.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Songs To Feel A Bit Sad To

Hello again everyone! I have a post in the works about delicious, delicious food but in the meantime I've been procrastinating by making this mixtape for the the Poppytalk Mixtape Contest. I was also inspired by Sarah at Pink of Perfection's September mixtape about her autumn melancholy. It got me thinking about how the sound of an anguished female voice somehow always gets to me, especially as the weather cools and cozy sweater season approaches.

The mix contains some of my favourite angsty-female-singer numbers (and I know that Nico only sings back-up on "Sunday Morning" but I wanted it anyway, and it's my mix, so no complaining!). I made it with with a rainy day mood, but even if it's sunny where you are I'm sure you'll find some enjoyment in it.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Prodigal Blogger

Vanilla Ruby Sunshine (Gina) 2010.

Hello again friends! It's been awhile, but I'm back from my hiatus. A few things have changed since we last met. I've obtained a steady source of internet access again, and I've relocated out of Toronto to the bustling metropolis of Kitchener-Waterloo. For those of you unfamiliar with the area, its about an hour and a half northwest of Toronto. Let me know if you're in the neighbourhood - we'll grab a cookie together!

A while back I mentioned that the world seemed to have gone baby crazy. One such baby, that I've recently had the pleasure of making the acquaintance of, is the reason the cake pictured above came to be. I made these mini-cakes for a dear friend's baby shower and thought I'd share the results with all of you.

Also, to get back into the swing of things I thought I'd pass on some of the stuff I've been getting a kick out of over the past few months. So here ya go!
  • On a recent trip to Quebec City we came across the work of Tibor Timar on display at the Chateau Frontenac. His primary medium is ironwork and I really enjoy the industrial meets organic feel of his functional art.
  • I love this colourful seasonality chart from the Leon restaurants.
  • The World of Playing Cards has an endless array of entertaining and beautiful vintage cards. I especially like the Souvenir Cards.
  • I would love to get my hands on some of these candies from Papabubble. I love the artisanal approach to simple sweets.
  • Right before I left Toronto I had brunch with two lovely ladies at Mitzi's Sister. Andrew Shay Hahn's paintings were on display and I couldn't stop looking. They seem so textured, yet fresh. It somehow reminds me of how ocean mist feels.
  • The nerdy-baker in me is so impressed with this Periodic Table of Desserts. It's so well thought out and amusingly accurate. (The same fellow has also compiled an interesting list of a variety of different flavour wheels.)
That's all from me for now, but I promise to be back much sooner than before! I hope you enjoy these links as much as I do!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Recipe time!! Chocolate Chip Cookies

Apologies for my lack of posts lately, I have been all over the county recently and often with a lack of internet access. To make up for my bad blogging, here’s a treat; warm, chewy, melty, and delicious chocolate chip cookies. They are the perfect accompaniment for an afternoon movie, for a chat with friends, or for a solitary hour spend flipping through a magazine, or lost in a book. Don’t forget a glass of milk.

Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes 16
140g soft butter
200g plain flour
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp cornflour
½ tsp salt
125g soft brown sugar
100g caster sugar
1 egg
1tsp vanilla
130g chocolate chips

1. Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cornflour, and salt into a bowl

2. Cream the butter with a wooden spoon until very soft. Add the sugars, and beat until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg.

3. Add the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Add the chocolate and stir to incorporate, but don’t overmix.

4. Drop tablespoons of the mixture onto baking trays – if they’re non-stick there’s no need to grease, and if not, then only a light greasing will do. Keep them fairly well spaced, I do 6 at a time on a standard tray. Don’t flatten them.

5. Bake for about 10mins until the cookies are just taking a golden colour. They may seem a little underdone, but leave them on the tray for about 3 minutes to firm up before removing to a wire rack. This way they are firm enough to handle, but still deliciously soft and chewy.

6. Repeat until all of the dough is used up. They will then keep happily in a tin or an airtight container for a further 24 hours. Alternatively (and this is what I usually do) make as many as you want to eat now, then keep the rest of the dough in the fridge for up to 72 hours, baking the cookies as desired. This is handy, and in my experience chocolate chip cookies are actually better when the dough has rested in the fridge overnight. Plus, you get warm cookies on demand! Yum!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

In Praise of a Rainy Day

I can't be the only person out there who really loves a rainy day. These run the range of those grey, mizzly days, the torrential downpour ones, and even (or maybe especially) the stormy, windy, rain lashing against the window ones. Perhaps this stems from my deep rooted laziness; I mean, what could possibly be better than sitting in a squishy chair reading or watching a movie with the rain pouring down outside? It's practically an excuse to loll around and do nothing, and that is a-ok with me. My favourite things to watch on rainy days are usually old tv boxsets, which are practically the only dvds I own; favourites include Sherlock Holmes with Jeremy Brett (my personal favourite Holmes), and, major guilty pleasure territory, Sharpe, with Sean Bean. I lately managed to watch the entire Pride and Prejudice series (you know, the one with Colin Firth and the wet tunic Jennifer Ehle) in one sitting, and it runs into 6 hours. So clearly, I've got the laziness aspect down.

But there are so many other things I love about a rain soaked day; pottering about the kitchen, maybe braising something, maybe baking something, enjoying the aromas of home and comfort. Reading some classic literature or a mystery novel, or currently a mixture of the two, in the shape of Bleak House. Turning my attention to a task which a sunny day is likely to distract me from, like finally sorting through years of photos, or reading all of the newspaper supplements I didn't get around to on Sunday. And, should you find yourself absolutely in need of venturing out into the elements, try to see the (proverbial) sunny side. Donning a raincoat and walking in the rain can be a pleasure in itself; the pelting sensation on your umbrella, a sprinkling of rain on your face, and then the coming into a warm, dry indoors, shaking off and having a restorative cup of tea, making it all worthwhile. One of my most memorable holiday moments was walking along the Seine from Notre Dame Cathedral to the Musee d'Orsay in Paris in the middle of an electrical storm with a torrential downpour; watching the rain make angry, muscular splashes in the wide, elegant river, taking shelter under the red awning of a streetside cafe, admiring the great works of Lautrec and Degas accompanied by a sense of taking shelter from the elements - so romantic! So Paris!

Closer to the everyday, my favourite time to be on a beach is with rain coming down, the sea restless and turbulent, wind whipping around. It's the perfect cure for the cotton wool feeling of an overtaxed brain, for blowing away mental cobwebs, and it is wonderfully uplifting the morning after a few too many glasses of wine. And there is something so wonderful about the landscape after a rainstorm; the grass seems lusher and greener, the sun seems to shine brighter, there is a feeling that the world has been washed and is clean and fresh again.

I don't know if my precipitation love is a self-protective measure arising from the almost perpetually wet and damp Irish climate, or just a strange perversion which I can’t explain, but I do encourage you to treat yourself to a proper lazy rainy afternoon at the next opportunity. Being a particularly lashy, windy, day here today I made a batch of chocolate chip cookies and watched several episodes of The Good Life, appreciating both that, without really realising it, my life is starting to look an awful lot like that of the Good’s, and also that I am utterly defenceless against Felicity Kendal’s charms. And if you happen to be somewhere dry and sunny but still want to indulge, why then, you can always fake it.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Rock Lobster: Further Adventures in Free Food

Although there are lots of things I miss about living in a city; like access to bars and cinemas and live music, second hand bookstores, great bakeries and coffee houses, and places to get brunch, among others, I can’t say that I ever look out my window or step outside and don’t love being in the country. There may be less brunching, but there are wonderful things too, like seeing the buttery orb of a full moon against the inky night sky, without the rude interruption of streetlights, the undiluted sounds of rustling leaves and birdsong, and even something so simple as growing your own food. It’s just another way of living, with its own quirks and appeals.

One of these quirks which I am getting used to again is the countryside barter system. For instance, a friend of my family’s grows a lot of rhubarb in her garden, so this Spring she gave us bags of it, which I used to make lots of cakes and jam, some of which I send her way. Another keeps chickens and is always in need of egg cartons, so we stack ours up and keep them for her, and then every so often she brings us a dozen of lovely fresh free range eggs; with their bright orange yolks and still bearing the traces of the farmyard, they’re a million miles away from the uniform white eggs of intensive rearing.

There are also lots of great exchanges to be had when a member of your family is involved in rural sports. My father happens to be an angler, and lately the gift of a few trout to a neighbour brought a really unique exchange: two fresh lobsters. I have seen lobster crawling around in tanks in restaurants before, but this was the first time I have ever seen them up close, and fresh from the sea. They scuttled around on the draining board as I tried to find a suitably gigantic pot, and then get lots of heavily salted water up to a lukewarm temperature. Then it was time to, carefully and avoiding contact with pincers, lower little Lenny and Louis into the water and pop on the lid. I was very aware of the scene from Julie and Julia, where the lobster makes an escape attempt from the cooking pot, but my guys were clearly less spirited as they stayed put.

I gave them about 25 minutes boiling time as they were about 2lb each, but in any case you can tell that they’re cooked when the shells are completely bright red with no hint of blue. Once they were cool enough to handle, and with the occasional aid of a hammer, we extracted all of the meat from the body and claws.

I’m afraid that when it came time to eat everyone was too excited, and it all disappeared so fast, that I neglected to take any photos. In any case, I tossed the lobster meat in lots of melted butter on a frying pan, with a little fresh thyme and some lemon juice, and then piled it up on brown toast. It was absolutely delicious, and free to boot. Now, to find some friends who are truffle hunters..