Thursday, 29 August 2013

Which Oil?

This title reminds me of Which magazine that my father used to pour over prior to making any big purchase. But honestly you would need to do your research before; "God forbid" you would believe a label!

That Guardian article was the final straw for me. I was not going to line Mafia coffers ever again.

Pork lard and olive oil contain oleic acid
Olive oil adulterated with cheaper oils and passed off as extra virgin, first cold pressed and the rest.

Now the way to overcome this is probably to buy the uber-expensive, single estate oils that cost a king's ransom. I don't know about anyone else, but to me it's a huge waste - if you are going to fry with it.  I have no problem using it for a dressing but......

So I have changed from using all olive oil to using the really good stuff for making dressings. I'm a bit of a traditionalist in that I like the taste in dressings. I use sunflower oil in mayonnaise. I tried organic sunflower oil and it was vile. Apparently the non-organic is filtered and refined and most of the flavour removed. Maybe if I had persevered I would have developed a palate for it, but it was very strong and overpowering.

For frying and roasting I use rapeseed oil. I usually buy it from my fruit and veg man at the farmers' market over at Sheridans. He only sold a Dutch brand and when I asked him why, he told me none of the producers in Ireland are organic.  But apparently Second Nature Oils based in Kilkenny are producing organic oil so I must try to source some.  I prefer to buy organic and use less than use lots of non-organic.

I also use my pork fat rendered down for frying and roasting. It makes the most amazing roast potatoes as it has a very high melting point. This basically means it does not burn at roasting temperatures and become denatured or degrade into nasty toxic and carcinogenic chemicals (see here). It also means food cooked in it does not absorb as much fat as would normally be the case. Horray!

Lard (read this link, it's fantastic) from organically reared and free range pigs is probably one of the healthiest saturated fats. It is beginning to enjoy a revival of sorts although official bodies have yet to wake up and smell the roses. But you know granny knew best and probably still does.

Nearly half the fat in lard is monounsaturated. This is the type of fat that is good for you and is 90% oleic acid (a fatty acid), the same as found in olive oil. Oleic means derived from olives. If you read the article it even goes so far as suggesting, if you replace the quantity of carbohydrate in your diet with an equal quantity of lard you actually reduce the risk of heart attack.

I have also tried it in savoury pastry and can confirm it gives a really delicious flaky texture.  I'm pretty sure it can be used in a sweet pastry as well, I just have not tried it yet.  I suppose some of that old brainwashing that all animal fat is bad is still a bit of a hurdle to overcome for most and some of it still lingers in the back of my head, but I'm getting there.

I'm even going to try out the Lardy cake recipe in The Independent link above.

Which magazine might not be consulted as much any more, but for oils and fats an equivalent really should be.

Buyer beware. 
Tags: Which cooking oil  Adulterated olive oil Organic rape seed oil  Second Nature Oils  Organic and free range pork fat

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

A Different Cream Tea

Is there anything more luxurious than a cream tea? Freshly baked scone with cream and jam. You can almost feel the calories glide onto your hips. With Greek style yoghurt you can still experience the sensation of cool, creamy smoothness combined with a fruity kick and not feel as guilty. How?

Here's how. Organic Greek style full fat yoghurt has 10g of fat per 100g serving. Cream has 40.3g per 100ml. So you have a lot less fat without sacrificing flavour. That means you can enjoy more.

You can still feel decadent.

I discovered how delicious making this soda scone recipe with yoghurt is, by accident. I had a pot in the fridge opened for a while and as it smelt fine and I had no buttermilk, I decided to use it instead.

The sour yoghurt cultures react in the same way as buttermilk with the bicarbonate of soda to create a rise.

(1 used a mug for ease of measuring (mine held 300ml liquid). Remember it is proportional so if your mug holds less that's fine).

1 mug fine wholemeal flour
1 mug plain white flour
Half a mug of a coarse stoneground flour
1 tablespoon of poppy seeds
1 egg beaten
a good half teaspoon of bread soda
a pinch of salt
Approximately 140ml of buttermilk or 100g of yoghurt thinned out with 40ml whole milk

(All flours absorb different amounts of liquid, so measure it out in a jug and add slowly until the mix comes together and resembles a stiff porridge texture. Add more if required).

Pre-heat oven to 200 deg C.
In a mixing bowl combine flour, bread soda (sieved), salt and poppy seeds. Make a well in centre of bowl and pour in the beaten egg. Add a small amount of the yoghurt/milk combination and with a fork begin to work in the flour. Add the liquid slowly. When the mixture has all come together, turn out onto a floured surface and shape gently into a round. Don't handle any more than necessary. Using a scone cutters cut out your scones (This mix made eight).

Transfer to a floured baking tray. Bake for approximately 12-15 minutes or until well-risen and browned. Turn one over and if browned on base then they are baked.

Cool on a wire rack.

Cut in half and serve with a good dollop of Greek style yoghurt and some homemade jam.

Make a big pot of tea. Enjoy!

Tip {using live natural yoghurt is a good tip for those who live in countries where buttermilk is not readily available especially students.} 

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Currant Flap

This is absolutely my last blackcurrant recipe but at this stage my bumper crop has become fully ripe and the berries are plump and sweet. Before the crows finish off what's left, I decided to try to use up the remainder. I was given half a bag of Bunalun organic porridge which resembles pinhead oatmeal and makes a not very pleasant gritty-textured porridge. Rather than bin it, I decided to use it in this flapjack recipe.

Blackcurrant Flapjacks                                       

250g porridge oats
100g butter
75g honey
75g sugar
40g roughly chopped whole almonds (skin on)
100g blackcurrants
1 tablespoon blackcurrant jam
splash of Crème de Cassis

Put the oats, butter and honey in a bowl and melt in the microwave until butter is soft.  Stir well and add in all the other ingredients. Transfer to a rectangle roasting tin lined with greaseproof paper. Bake for 25 - 30 minutes at 160 deg C. If they haven't browned turn the heat up to 180 deg and give them a further 10 minutes but be careful not to over bake.

 Cool tin on a wire tray. Lift out when cool and cut into portions.

Tags: Blackcurrant flapjacks  blackcurrant recipes  Bunalun organic porridge  Irish food  Irish Baking

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Bake a Cake Patacake.

My mother used to sing this for my son. It came into my head today when I used one recipe to bake both these blackcurrant buns and a blackcurrant bundt cake.

Blackcurrants - Nutrition
"It may not be as fashionable as its more exotic cousins but the humble blackcurrant is the healthiest fruit of all.
Research shows that the common or garden blackcurrant is more nutritious than other fruits, from home-grown apples and strawberries to tropical mangoes and bananas.
Blackcurrants also contain the highest levels of health-boosting antioxidants - natural compounds credited with the ability to stave off a range of illnesses from heart disease to cancer."
Read more....

They make a lovely tangy icing and give a really vibrant natural colour.

The colour and flavour comes from making a purée with 100g of blackcurrants cooked down and then adding 75g of sugar.  Taste while adding the sugar and add according to palate. There is sugar in both the cake and in the icing so it needs to be reasonably tart.

Push the mixture through a sieve and allow to cool.

For the cake mixture:
125g softened butter
125g sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon baking powder
150g plain flour
2 tablespoons of blackcurrant purée.

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs one at a time. Sieve in the flour and baking powder. Stir in the purée.

Bake in 12 bun cases at 200 degree C for about 12 minutes or pour the mix into a bundt cake tin and bake at 190 degree C for approximately 35 minutes or until springs back to a gentle touch. 

For the icing
100g icing sugar
25g soft butter
2 tablespoons of purée
a drop of milk if necessary to adjust consistency.

Mix well and pour over cake or pipe onto buns. Decorate with fresh blackcurrants.


Meanwhile -
Pat-a-cake, pat-a-cake, baker's man.
Bake me a cake as fast as you can;
Roll it, Pat it and mark it with B,
Put it in the oven for baby and me.

Saturday, 10 August 2013

The RDS Horse Show 2013

Friend's daughter entering Ladies Day Competiton
Fillies, frocks, fashion and fast food. It can only be the RDS Dublin Horse Show once again.

Every year the show is held at the beginning of August at the show grounds of the Royal Dublin Society in Ballsbridge, Dublin.

It is a major international display of show jumping and showing of every category of Irish Sport Horse. From stallions to mares with foals at foot to show ponies, Connemara ponies, working hunters, cob classes, pony club games and top class international show jumping competitions; it is a feast for the horse lover.

It also is a fantastic display of fashion with Ladies Day usually held on the Thursday of the show. There is also a best-dressed-man competition. There are fashion and craft stalls in the main hall and then lots of equestrian fashion and accessories over at Simmonscourt.

Even if you are not a horse lover there is plenty to keep you amused.

Taking a break while showing
I can stand for hours horse watching. I love to watch their movement, their spirit and their beauty. When man and horse work together in a relationship of trust and understanding it is something to behold.

Horses love to perform. They also love to show off. Watching the stallions stepping out in a class yesterday arching their muscular necks, tossing their heads and their tails, saying "look at me" to the passing mares.

The mares were relaxed while their foals were at foot but if for any reason they lost sight of them, the whinnying started.  The foals, for their part were mad to play and get loose from lead ropes.

The Connemara ponies trotted, cantered and posed in Ring One while bowler-hatted judges conferred, taking into account conformation, gait, and behaviour in the ring as the rider put them through their paces.

View of the main arena from the corporate boxes
The Nation's Cup (the Aga Khan Cup) is held on the Friday and is a major event in the show jumping calendar with teams from Ireland, Britain, France, Holland, Italy and the USA amongst others competing.

The Puissance is usually held on Saturday. This high jump competition regularly reaches the dizzying height of over two metres.

Andalusian display
There are usually other displays in between. This year some Andalusian horses put through their paces by their handler with only voice control. They danced, swayed, pirouetted and were ridden with no aids.

A show jumping master class by Commandant Gerry Mullins demonstrated how to tackle the S bend on a show jumping track and how to shorten and lengthen strides and change lead according to the fence layout.

Sadly my other passion, food, is badly catered for at the show.  There are the ubiquitous fast food outlets, the restaurant canteen/carvery outlets and The Champagne Bar. The latter serving grossly overpriced, pre-prepared platters of sea food and cheese and cheap, outrageously priced wine (Blossom Hill) and champagne. There was a new addition, the "Fast Food Village" this year. A number of smaller style "artisan" food outlets selling their wares out of mobile units down by the bandstand off paper plates and using plastic cutlery.

It strikes me as a shame not to use the opportunity to showcase Irish food and ingredients at an international event such as this.

The Long Bar
The Long Bar is the place to meet and catch up with old friends. I have fallen out of it many times in the past. The atmosphere is great and the buzz legendary.

Accommodation is plentiful nearby. We have stayed at The Four Seasons numerous times in the past. However, this year they lost our business by not bothering to get back to us when they promised they would. We ended up staying in The Herbert Park Hotel which is not quite in the grounds but almost as close as The Four Seasons. It was fine, although a misunderstanding about breakfast led us to go to Roly's in Ballsbridge the first morning. (It was very good.)

When you are at the show for a number of days it's great to stay somewhere you can go back and forwards to easily during the day to change shoes or clothes or to just use the loo. The queues for toilets are legendary in the showgrounds.

I have been going to the Horse Show since I was a child, watching my cousins showjumping in the main arena and as a teenager lusting after Eddie Macken. I wouldn't miss it for the world.

Tags: RDS Dublin Horse Show  Ballsbridge  Irish Sport Horse  Ladies Day  Simmonscourt  Connemara ponies  The Four Seasons  The Herbert Park Hotel

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Fruity Alcohol

Feeling a bit overwhelmed by the amount of soft fruit ripening in my garden and rapidly beginning to run out of jam jars and ideas. I suddenly thought "alcohol"  - as you do!

But not as in throw the fruit in the compost freezer type of way and pour a large glass of wine. Although the thought did cross my mind several times.

Alcohol, as in fruit marinating or steeping in a relatively neutral alcohol to transmogrify it into a fruity, flavoursome kick-in-the-glass type of alcohol. For enjoying in front of a blazing stove on a freezing cold, windy, rainy Irish winter's night when memories of a lovely, long, hot summer are in the distant past.

Cue idea!

Redcurrants in vodka, following a recipe I made last year for homemade crème de cassis. I have named it crème de groseille rouge.

Well why wouldn't it work? Or would it? The only way to find out was to try it.

So a 75cl bottle of "cheap" vodka was purchased (there's not much point using a premium vodka when you are going to add fruit and sugar to it: to my mind anyway).

I added 750g of red currants to the vodka and put into a demi-john. Any glass jar with a lid or a bottle will suffice.  Leave to steep for three months.

After three months pour the mixture out into a large bowl and using a potato masher mash the fruit into the mix extracting as much of the flavour and colour as possible. Pour the mix into a large kitchen sieve lined with muslin. Allow to drip through for a couple of hours. Give it a gentle push to help it along with the masher.

Make up a sugar syrup with 300g of sugar and 150ml of water.

Add the syrup to the fruit mix. Add to taste. I don't like anything too sweet so I always aim for less rather than more.  Add according to your palate.

Transfer into clean, sterilised bottles.

I can't tell you what it tastes like because I've only just made it, but when I do get around to tasting it I will let you know. I intend to serve it with white wine, prosecco, or even sparkling water.

So gooseberries.

Googling recipes I came up with this.

I'm not sure how I will make the gooseberry syrup especially as I made gooseberry jelly with what I had left over. I also made redcurrant jelly with the rest of the redcurrants.

I read recently that the gin in Aldi had beaten Hendricks Gin in blind taste tests so I used this in the gooseberry recipe.

I will also report back on what the gooseberry martini is like. Being a gin lover I don't imagine it will be too unpleasant.

For the jelly recipes I used a Nigella one for the redcurrants.  And I used this for the gooseberry one.

I bought these lovely little 250ml Kilner bottles in a kitchen shop in Gorey, Co. Wexford and I'm going to use my fruity alcohols to fill them and give them as little gifts at Christmas. Otherwise I would be very tempted to drink it all myself and that wouldn't do at all (at all).

Tags: Fruity alcohol recipes  Redcurrants in vodka  Crème de groseille rouge  Gooseberries in gin  Green Cowboy Martini  Redcurrant Jelly  Gooseberry Jelly