Sunday, 26 February 2012

A Marriage of Taste

Gingerbread has not really been "in vogue" for a while now.  It's funny how foods go through cycles of popularity - from being on every trendy bistro menu to suddenly disappearing.  Prawn cocktail, baked Alaska, Black Forest gateau have all made the comeback as "retro foods". So why not gingerbread?  I have to admit I love gingerbread and remember my mother making big trays of it when I was a child.  She had an old beaten up copy of Maura Laverty's Full and Plenty, which was well-used and had drawings of cats and other doodles at the back, done by my father and me and my siblings.  Funny the things you remember - so when I found the copy at home recently I got all nostalgic for gingerbread.  There are four recipes in the book and I just took down one and true to form modified it. 

I made it the first time recently - the same weekend I had invited people to dinner.  More due to laziness than anything else I decided to turn the gingerbread into dessert and started thinking how I could "jazz" it up.  For some strange reason caramel sauce came into my head.  I had never made it before so did a search in Google for a recipe.  What followed was a marriage made in heaven.  Some combinations just work together and this works supremely well.  I served the gingerbread with the caramel sauce and a good vanilla ice cream. 

This is my version of Maura Laverty's Recipe

100g Butter
150g dark brown sugar
2 eggs
300g spelt flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. grated zest of lemon
1 tsp. grated nutmeg
2 tsp. ground ginger
A piece of stem ginger (optional)
half a cup of boiling water
2 heaped tablespoons of treacle or molasses

Cream the butter and sugar until soft and fluffy.  Add in eggs one at a time and continue beating. Add lemon zest, nutmeg, ginger, stem ginger chopped finely, treacle or molasses.  Then fold in sifted flour, baking powder and gradually beat in boiling water.

Place in a lined roasting tin and bake in a pre-heated oven gas mark 4 for about an hour or until feels firm to a light touch.

Caramel Sauce
100g butter
100g brown sugar
100ml cream

Heat together until combined and then simmer for a few minutes.  Pour into a jug.  It can be re-heated in the microwave if it cools and thickens.

Gingerbread   Caramel Sauce  Maura Laverty  Full and Plenty Cakes  Dessert Recipe Ideas  Food

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

What's up with Wheat?

My brother got a big scare recently when he had some tests done and they discovered he was very anaemic. Usually in a male this is considered serious and may be an indication of internal bleeding.  He now suspects that he may be gluten intolerant the same as our mother.  When I was studying nutrition we were given a statistic that in the general population, 1:2000 can expect to be coeliac but people from the west of Ireland have a much higher incidence; up to 1:200.  But this does not explain the explosion of people now saying they have an intolerance to wheat or to gluten.  Gluten is the protein portion in wheat and is what allows the bread to rise, being elastic and therefore able to trap the bubbles of carbon dioxide produced by yeast metabolism. 

I read an article by Dr. William Davis in Rodale News about the modern wheat plant.  He claims that by selective cross-breeding the plant we grow now does not have anything in common with the original wheat plant.  It is almost half as tall with a huge seed head and is bred for high yield.  As it is a hybrid it would be unable to grow in the wild and so has to be doused with a combination of toxic chemical fertilisers and pesticides.  Now before you say "oh, that only occurs in America", which to be honest was my first thought, my mother was told in a farmer's market by one of the women working there that this happens here in Ireland.  She said wheat is soaked in Roundup before sowing!!  Not a very nice thought because I certainly do not want to eat anything soaked in Roundup or Agent Orange.

The same doc says that modern wheat is so nutritionally deficient it may be responsible for obesity, diabetes and other inflammatory conditions,  This is due to the changes that have occurred in the gluten protein gliadin which has become a "potent appetite stimulent". He goes into a lot of other theories about why this has occurred but by this stage I had had enough, however if you want to read his article here is the link,0&cm_mmc=Twitter-_-Rodale-_-Content-RecentNews-_-mutantwheattakingoverbreadaisle

Now you may think that by only buying certified organic flour that you will be on the pig's back however, if the actual wheat genus has been mucked about with that much, you are still getting a nutritionally deficient product, albeit free from the toxic chemicals; so what is the point?

I decided to eliminate wheat from my diet and then started looking into alternatives.  I now use spelt flour for almost everything and today I experimented with making bread using rye flour, buckwheat and a "new" product called Kamut which is an ancient type of wheat grown by the pharaohs in Egypt (Triticum turgidum).  Because it is a wheat variety it contains gluten so would not be suitable for diagnosed coeliacs.  The recipe I used is as follows:

1 mug each of rye, buckwheat and Kamut flours.
1 mug of oat bran,
2 tablespoons of mixed seeds (sesame, pumpkin and sunflower)
1.5 teaspoon of bread soda sieved
1 tablespoon of olive oil
Buttermilk to give the consistency of gloopy porridge
Some more seeds sprinkled on top

If you wanted you could add a tablespoon of blackstrap molasses to give a nice dark, sweet flavour which makes the bread really good to eat with cheese.

I baked it at gas mark 6 (200degC) for about an hour and then turned it out and cooked it upside down for another 10 minutes until the base sounded hollow when tapped.

The resulting loaf was delicious, liberally smothered with butter and some of my brother in law's honey!
My next plan is to try making yeast bread and pizza dough with the Kamut flour and I will let you know how I get on.

Wheat  Wheat Intolerance Coeliac

Monday, 13 February 2012

Liebster Blog Awards

I was away on my "foodie weekend" in Cork when I got a notification that I had been included in this award by Colette from  I was needless to say delighted, but a bit "under the weather" as they say from a night dining out in Cork's finest and partaking of some lovely wine!  
It's a nice surprise to be included and a really good idea to promote other blogs.

So how does it work?
  • You thank the person who gave you the award
  • Then link back to that person's blog
  • Copy and paste the Liebster award to your own profile
  • Pick 5 blogs who you feel deserve to be noticed (they have to have under 200 followers)
  • Then finally blog it and leave a comment to let your 5 choices know they have been chosen.

My 5 choices in no particular order are;

1. Jill is a student and a passionate foodie blogging about everything to do with food from Ann Arbour, Michigan and also about her travels in Germany.  

2. Piglet is an Englishwoman married to a Frenchman and living in France in a rural area. The blog is a lovely record and journey of her life's trials and tribulations dealing with the French and living in the country.  This blog is a real find and I love her posts.

3. This is a couple blogging about living in France for part of the year and also in Dublin.  The blog is not only about food but also very interesting observations on the difference between the French and the Irish.  They are based in my favourite part of France and an area I have come to know very well of late.  I envy their lifestyle and love their blog.

4.  Rory is a passionate foodie who works in the food industry and has a passion for cheese as well as all things Italian food and wine wise.  The reason I love this blog is I have an Italianophile brother (if that is how you say it) and Rory reminds me of him.

5. Margaret blogs about her life in rural Tipperary and raising free-range pigs as a business.  Lots of lovely recipes feature many of which I have tried recently, the apple beer being the most successful which really says a lot more about me than her recipes ;-)

So there you go - pass it on and share the "Blove" especially as it's Valentine's Day tomorrow!

The English Market Cork

I am just back from a weekend in Cork and a visit to the English Market.  I had wanted to visit the market for ages and a couple of years ago I booked myself in for a charcuterie course with a friend in Ballmaloe.  Unfortunately she injured her leg and was unable to make the trip and our plan to visit the market had to be put on hold also.

The English Market is the oldest market of it's kind, trading since 1788 on the same site and surviving famine, fire and economic decline.  It predates the Boqueria in Barcelona by 80 years.  There are many differing theories why it is called the English Market, varying from only English was spoken there to only
"English" were allowed trade there.  According to an article by Donal Ó Drisceoil in his historical overview, the Market was created in 1788 by the Protestant or “English” corporation that controlled the city at that time. It was a new flagship municipal market located at the heart of the new commercial city centre.  The other market in the city, St. Peters was often referred to as the Irish Market to differentiate them.

                                                      View of the market from Farmgate Cafe

The stalls are varying and include fabulous cheese selections, baked goods including a stall dedicated to amazing macaroons, butcher counters, fish mongers, dried goods and olives.  The fish selection is one of the best I have seen in Ireland and the butchers sell local delicacies such as drisheen, crubeens, and spiced beef. It is a "foodie" paradise buzzing with people doing their weekly shopping and gawkers like me.  Although, I bought some beef cheeks, sausages and spiced beef, hoping the car boot would be cold enough to preserve them until I got home. 

Above in the gallery is the Farmgate cafe and restaurant, serving really good coffee and cakes as well as a sit down section for lunch - sourcing local delicacies.  Booking is advisable at weekends.  The staff are lovely, friendly and knowledgeable.  We had big, steaming bowls of seafood chowder, more than adequade as we intended dining out that evening.  But you can have tripe and drisheen or local big, meaty sausages and mash as well as salads with local black pudding.

The English Market is truly a fine place to visit and browse.  I can't wait to go back and really wish there was something similar in this neck of the woods. 

                                                                   A stunning Monkfish

                                                       The fabulous O'Connell's fishmongers