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Monday, 28 November 2011

My Traditional Irish Christmas Cake

Christmas cakes are made in many different ways, but generally they are variations on the classic fruitcake. They can be light, dark, moist, dry, heavy, spongy etc. They are made in many different shapes, with frosting, royal icing, a dusting of icing sugar or plain.

The spices and dried fruits in the cake are supposed to represent the exotic eastern spices brought by the three Wise Men to the newborn King! The fruit is all soaked overnight in the whiskey, in a covered bowl, before use.

I always make three cakes - one for Christmas Day and two to eat every day for tea until then!
My Ingredients:
150g (5oz) raisins
125g (4½oz) stoned dates
125g (4½oz) sultanas
100g (4oz) glace cherries
100ml (4 fl oz) Irish whiskey
(all of the above are soaked together overnight before making the cake)

225g (8oz) real butter
extra butter for greasing
200g (7oz) caster sugar
4 eggs
grated rind of 1 lemon & 1 orange
2tbls black treacle (or molasses)
225g (8oz) plain (all purpose) flour
½ tsp salt
1 rounded tsp baking powder
1 tsp mixed spice
¼ tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp grated nutmeg
¼ tsp ground clove
50g (2oz) ground almonds
50ml (2 fl oz) extra whiskey 

My Method:
1. Preheat the oven to 150°C (300°F), Gas mark 2. Grease a 20cm (8") cake tin and line it with greaseproof paper. Wrap some Newspaper around the outside and tie it with string. This will help the outside of the cake from browning too much during the cooking and prevent it from drying out.

2. Beat together, in a bowl, the sugar & butter until creamy. Gradually add the eggs, dusting a little of the flour in with each egg added. Add the treacle & grated fruit rinds and mix well.

3. Sift the flour and baking powder into the bowl of soaked fruit and add the salt, spices and almonds. Stir all of this together, mixing well.

4. Fold the fruit mix into the egg mix, stirring evenly. Spoon the completed mix into the cake tin.

5. Bake in the centre of the oven for 3 hours. If it is browning a little too much cover it loosely with tinfoil. Cook for another ½ hour. The cake is cooked when a fine skewer, inserted into the centre, comes out clean and dry.

Make small holes all over the warm cake with a skewer and spoon the extra 50ml whiskey over the holes until it has all soaked in. Leave the cake to cool in the tin. 

When the cake is cold, remove it from the tin, peel off the lining paper, then wrap it first in clean greaseproof paper and then in foil.

A small amount of brandy, sherry or whiskey (depending on your favourite tipple) should be poured onto the cake every week until Christmas. This process is called “feeding the cake”. You also should turn the cake over, each week, before you pour another little bit of your favourite tipple over it. This ensures that all that lovely alcohol penetrates to the very middle of the Christmas cake and definitely creates that "Yum!" factor on Christmas Day. :)

zack

Thursday, 24 November 2011

This week's Guest Chef - Ruperta Gallagher

Ruperta Gallagher returned, with her husband Brian, from America in 1993 and opened the Blueberry Tearooms in Donegal Town. She loves baking tasty pies & tarts and this recipe, from her kitchen, is one of her favourite homemade Autumn cakes.

The Blueberry Tea Room & Restaurant, Donegal Town
Cinnamon Pear Cake with Vanilla Fudge Sauce
750g ripe Pears
40g butter
3 tbls muscovado sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
200g butter
200g caster sugar
3 large eggs, beaten
200g SR Flour
1/2 tsp baking powder

1. Set the oven at 160*C. Melt 40g butter, dark sugar & cinnamon together slowly in a shallow pan, stirring often. Carefully add the peeled, cored and roughly chopped pears and cook until tender and coated in sauce. Don't let the sauce go dark. Set aside to cool.

2. Beat the 200g butter and sugar until light & creamy. Add the eggs and flour alternately and fold in any remaining flour with the baking powder.

3. Add the pears and their syrup and mix gently. Pour into a 24cm loose-bottomed and lightly-buttered cake tin and bake for 45 mins. Leave to cool before removing from the tin.

Cinnamon Pear Cake with Vanilla Fudge Sauce
For the Fudge Sauce bring 100g muscovado sugar, 100g golden syrup & 50g butter to the boil in a heavy-based pot. Stir in 150ml cream and a few drops of vanilla extract and leave it to cool & thicken. Serve over the cake with some ice cream.

Don't forget to Feed the Fish at the bottom of this Post!
zack

Saturday, 19 November 2011

An Example of how modern Social Media can work

Some friends have been set a challenge by the Regional Cultural Centre in Letterkenny
and the Nerve Centre in Derry to promote one film from Donegal and one
from Derry using free social media.

I (of course) am helping to promote the Donegal film "Brighter Days" !!!

 Everything we do during the challenge will be recorded
and presented at a free seminar on 25th November to show local film
makers, arts and community groups how they can use social media to promote
their work.



 The challenge is part of the Sharing Stories project, a
collaboration between the Nerve Centre and the Regional Cultural Centre
under which about 20 short films have been produced in the past 2 years.

Please share this film by copying & pasting This link: http://youtu.be/gC_T6y9Oy9U and do Share it with your real friends!

And Don't forget to Feed the Fish at the bottom of this Post!
zack

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

"Waterford Blaa" to be EU Registered as Unique

2013 BLAA GOOD-NEWS UPDATE AT THE BOTTOM OF THIS POST!

The Irish government has begun the formal process to seek EU recognition of the unique characteristics of the Waterford 'Blaa' - the simple, but special, bread roll/bap that is associated with Waterford City. 

The Waterford Blaa

Minister Simon Coveney launched a national consultation process on the application of the “Waterford Blaa” for registration as a Protected Geographical Indication (PGI). On completion of the national consultation the application will be forwarded to the European Commission for review. Granting of this intellectual property protection to "Waterford Blaa" would mean that producers of the product within the specified region only could use this name.



Bakers from the Waterford Blaa Bakers Association

Minister Coveney said "The publishing of the specification document follows a period of engagement between the producer group in Waterford (Waterford Blaa Bakers Association) and my Department."

He went on to say, "It is important that we take advantage of the EU Quality Products Scheme; to date Ireland has not sufficiently exploited this opportunity, this is a positive step forward, I would encourage producers of regional products to discuss possible applications with my Department". 


Technical Description:

“Waterford Blaa” / “Blaa” is a soft doughy white bread roll clearly identified by the white floury top on the product. Unlike other products in this category Waterford Blaa contains no enrichment and is made from preservative free strong bakers flour, table salt, compressed yeast, dough conditioner and water only.

The bread has the following characteristics:

Shape:

“Waterford Blaa” / “Blaa” can be round or square. They are made both crusty and soft are pined out round and trayed up round but the batch together as they expand during baking, when they are pulled apart they are square shaped but their domed top gives them a round appearance.

Size:
“Waterford Blaa” / “Blaa” is 3-4.5cm high with a diameter of 8-12cm and weighs 40-65g.

Presentation:

“Waterford Blaa” / “Blaa” may be presented in two different ways:

Crusty:
Rustic square, or round shape of bread with a dome shaped, crusty top dusted with flour. Crunchy at first bite, then chewy with a subtle malt taste and a pleasing bitter aftertaste from the well cooked, dark crust.

Soft:
Soft, well-defined square, oval or round shape of bread, pale in colour and heavily dusted with flour. Slightly sweet, malt flavour, light but firm in texture and melts in the mouth.




Geographical area:

The geographical area that applies to this application is described as Waterford city and county and an area of south Co. Kilkenny as outlined in the map.

The Blaa can only be made withing the area marked on the map

The geographical area is restricted to the geographical area known as all of County Waterford and that part of South County Kilkenny, which directly adjoins County Waterford made up of the Ullid and Dunkitt electoral divisions which is part of the southern Piltown electoral area The river Blackwater runs through the area and includes the town-lands of Dangan, Narabawn, Moolum, Newtown, Skeard, Greenvilleand and Ullid.



You can read the actual Technical Specification Document for the Protected Geographical Indication (PGI status) of the Waterford Blaa  HERE.





The PGI scheme protects particular product names that are linked to a particular territory or to a production method. The products themselves do not have to be unique, yet the applications must show how the characteristics of the region - topographic, reputation, natural resources - have an impact on the characteristics of the product.



A Lamb burger on Waterford blaa topped with sweet cherry toms & dressing  from Eden Restaurant, Dublin,  who get their Blaas delivered from Waterford every day. pic via @MarkMatanes


The requirements for Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) are:
  • The product/foodstuff originates from the defined geographical area
  • Possess a specific quality, reputation or other characteristics attributable to the defined geographic area
  • At least one stage of production, processing and preparation of the agricultural product or foodstuff takes place within the defined geographical area.
It is a stringent process and can take several years to complete from the time a decision to apply for the registration of a product is made. After analysis by national authorities it goes to Europe for consideration. Once it gets to European level the Blaa will undergo examination by the Commission services & publication with a 6-month opposition period before registration may be granted.


Four Irish products already have an EU Quality label:
Clare Island Salmon, Connemara Hill Lamb, Imokilly Regato, and Timoleague Brown Pudding. These products were worth €35 million to the Irish economy in 2010 and have a strong track record in the export market.

12% of Irish products bearing EU quality labels are sold within the Irish market, 82% are sold to other EU countries, and 6% are sold outside of the EU. In the EU as a whole the opposite is the case, as the vast majority of quality label products are sold within their country of production. This difference reflects the strong export-oriented nature of Ireland's food production industry.



UPDATE - NOVEMBER 19th 2013

After over two years of consultation, the Waterford Blaa/The Blaa has, this week, received Protected Geographical Indication (PGI status) and is now a "protected food species". The Blaa was one of five new quality farm products added to the European Register of Protected Designations of Origin (PDOs) and Protected Geographical Indications (PGI), this week.

The other foods indocturned into this European Food Hall of Fame were for a French goat’s cheese Rigotte de Condrieu (PDO); Italian cheeses Puzzone di Moena/Spretz Tzaorì (PDO) and Pecorino di Picinisco (PDO) and for a Slovenian soft cheese Mohant (PDO).

Congratulations ans well done to the Waterford Blaa Bakers Association and the Department of Agriculture in their long struggle to get recognition for this unique bread product.


Zack

Thursday, 10 November 2011

FOOD & WINE Magazine Christmas Show, in the RDS, November 25th/27th

The FOOD & WINE Magazine Christmas Show is back this November! The event focuses on family and home cooking and has all the elements to help create the perfect Christmas occasion. The hugely popular 3-day event runs from Friday 25 - Sunday 27 November in the RDS Main Hall, Dublin.

The three-day event will see Ireland’s top chefs demonstrating their skills and sharing top tips on the Chef’s Stage. Household names and heavyweights at this year’s show include Donal Skehan, Richard Corrigan, Ross Lewis, Derry Clarke, and Kevin Dundon. Catherine Fulvio, and Sunil Ghai will also be joining in the fun this year and there might even be a celebrity cook off or two.

As always there will be a special Chef’s Table next to the Chef’s Stage where lucky competition winners will be able to sit and sample the food as it is cooked.

TV Foodie personalities Catherine Fulvio & Donal Skehan
FOOD&WINE Magazine Wine editor Raymond Blake will be on hand to talk the audience through wine and food pairings. Editor of FOOD&WINE Magazine, Ross Golden Bannon says, “Unlike other imitators, the FOOD&WINE Magazine Christmas Show does not feel the need to ship in foreign cooks to teach us how to make great food, we’re backing Irish based chefs and producers all the way.”


F&W Wine Editor Raymond Blake & Magazine Editor Ross Golden Bannon
Top retailers such as Tesco and Marks & Spencer will be located throughout the hall offering exclusive show offers on those essential treats for the festive period. Top restaurants will also be offering  ‘tapas-style’ samples of their menus and flash-tastings from Ireland’s top artisan producers will take place numerous times each day. Supporting Irish producers has always been a key focus for FOOD&WINE Magazine and this year’s winter wonderland village will showcase a host of quality Irish producers.  Stop by the Artisan Village and sample tasty treats, which are all homegrown and produced.



The FOOD&WINE Magazine Christmas Show is not only for food enthusiasts, but is fun for all of the family. Children under 12 go free and our guest of honour for the whole weekend is the man in red himself, Santa Claus, who kids can visit for free and get a free gift.



Browse the Kitchen Zone, which will be offering everything required by everyday committed cooks and enthusiastic amateurs. Pick up essential kitchenware, quirky gadgets or those must haves for busy bakers and innovative cooks. Take a break in the relaxing lounge area and enjoy a festive beverage and something tasty to eat before continuing on your foodie journey around the hall.

TV Chef Richard Corrigan

Richard Corrigan, TV chef and patron of Corrigan’s in Mayfair and Bentley’s will be gracing the Chefs’ Stage at the FOOD&WINE Magazine Christmas Show on Friday 25 November. Richard will be sharing his top cooking tips and proving his star rating when he takes to the stage on the opening evening of the Show.



Flying in from London especially to appear at the Christmas Show Friday launch will be food enthusiasts only opportunity to see Richard in person demonstrating his skills. Not only does he have a much coveted Michelin star he has been awarded many other culinary accolades, including Outstanding London Chef at the London Restaurant Awards. He also has his own food programs on Channel 4, Cookery School and RTE’s ‘Corrigan Knows Food’.

Richard Corrigan will be taking to the Chef’s Stage at 7pm on Friday 25 November at the FOOD&WINE Magazine Christmas Show, Main Hall, RDS.
The three-day FOOD&WINE Magazine Christmas Show is paradise for Foodies and families alike with each day packed full of shows, master classes, demos, tastings and special show bargains designed to help visitors stage their own festive gathering, big or small!


Tickets for only €15 to the FOOD&WINE Magazine Christmas Show, 25-27 Nov, RDS. Logon to www.ticketmaster.ie and use the promotional Code FOODWINE05. Kids under 12 go FREE.

The FOOD & WINE Magazine Christmas Show takes place on 25 – 27 November 2011 at the Main Hall, RDS, Ballsbridge, Dublin 4. The Timetable for the show & full details can be found here at: http://www.foodandwineshow.ie/?page_id=1089


Don't forget to Feed the Fish at the bottom of this Post!
Zack

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

This week's Guest Chef - Dave Houraghan

Dave Houraghan is the Head Chef at Woodhill House in Ardara. His cooking style is traditional French cuisine with a modern Irish twist and insists on using fresh Irish produce, especially fish & seafood from nearby Killybegs and Donegal-produced beef, lamb & pork. 
Dave Houraghan - Chef at Woodhill House in Ardara, County Donegal
Woodhill House is an historic coastal manor house dating back in parts to the 17th century and formerly the family home of the Nesbitts, local landlords and Ireland's last commercial whaling family of the 19th century. The 6th century religious relic, St. Conal's Bell, was mysteriously stolen from Woodhill House in 1845 and has never been recovered.
The elegant dining room contains antique furnishing from by gone days


The house which overlooks the beautiful Donegal Highlands is set in its own grounds with an old walled garden. It is half a mile from the sea and a quarter of a mile from the coastal town of Ardara.


"I love this time of year" says Dave. " It's a great time of year to go foraging for wild mushrooms in the woods around Ardara".

Toasted Devilled Kidney and Wild Mushrooms

Ingredients for 2 people:
Half a stick of French bread
200g mixed wild mushrooms, quartered
1 Pigs kidney (or 4 lambs kidneys)
50g Butter
1 Tablespoon plain flour
¼ Teaspoon hot smoked paprika
Salt
Cracked black pepper
15ml Brandy
100ml red wine
Parsley



Method:
1. Slice the French stick horizontally and toast on both sides, leave aside to cool.
2. Melt half the butter in a frying pan and fry the mushrooms, when done set aside and keep warm.
3. Meanwhile slice the kidney lengthways but not all the way through, open like a book. Add the paprika to the flour and season with salt and pepper.
4. Dust the sliced kidney with the flour ensuring a good covering. Melt the remaining butter in the frying pan and fry the kidney for 2 minutes turning regularly.
5. Reintroduce the mushrooms for 30 seconds and mix with the kidney. Remove from the pan and cover to keep warm.
6. Toss the flour we used into the pan with the juices and stir well. Cook for 30 seconds, add the brandy and red wine. bring to the boil and reduce by half. Season to taste.
7. Butter the toast then spoon over the ingredients, drizzle the sauce over the top and garnish with torn parsley before serving.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Irish Duck Breasts, Parsnip purée & a Cranberry wine sauce


Duck is a very popular meat on the menu of many restaurants in Ireland today. It is a tasty alternative to chicken and at this time of year it is an introductory step for conservative eaters, to all of the wonderful Game meats that are now coming into season over the winter months. Duck, especially if you can get wild duck, will open your taste buds to a whole new range of delicious meats like pheasant, quail, Pigeon, Grouse and even Rabbit!

The secret to cooking a duck breast lies in dealing with the quite large amount of fat in the skin, but  without ruining the meat. To address this simply pour off the fat after you seal the skin-side, leaving a beautifully delicious and crispy skin, before you turn the breast to seal the other side. Keep this fat, as it is delicious for roasting potatoes and will keep for weeks in a jar in the fridge.

I recommend that you treat your duck breast as you would a steak and cook it to the same degree that you would eat a steak- I like mine just shy of medium - but please don’t over-cook your meat!


Duck Breasts with parsnip purée & cranberry wine sauce

My Ingredients:
500ml Red Wine
1/2 chicken stock cube mixed in 200ml boiling water
2tbls cranberry sauce
4 Irish Duck Breasts
3 Parsnips
50g Real Butter
a little olive oil
salt & black pepper
A few trimmed heads of Broccoli

My Method:
1. Pre-heat the oven to 200°C.

2. Bring the red wine to the boil and reduce by two thirds.  Add liquid stock and reduce by half, add the cranberry sauce and simmer for approximately 10-15 minutes. Stir in 1 teaspoon butter (this will give your sauce a wonderful shine and extra flavour) and season to your taste.

3. Trim the sinew off the meaty side of the duck breast and score the skin with a sharp knife. Rub a little salt and black pepper into the skin, this will also help to make it even crispier.

Parsnips have a delicious sweet taste that works well with game birds like Duck

4. Prepare the parsnip purée by peeling the parsnips and cutting them into chunks. Boil in salted water, cooking until tender. Drain and add a little butter & white pepper. Mash until smooth. If you wish you can use a hand blender to make the puree very smooth like you would get in a restaurant. Keep it hot under a lid.

5. I like to serve a little broccoli with this dish and I would steam the broccoli now, over the parsnips while they are cooking. Keep the broccoli hot under a little tin foil.

6. Heat a heavy metal frying pan but do not put any oil or butter on it.  Place the duck breast on the hot pan skin side down. Cook for 2 minutes until crisp and golden brown. Gently pour off the fat and turn the breasts to seal in the other side for another minute. 

The dry pan will make the skin crispy and you pour off the fat before you turn the Duck

7. Transfer the pan to the oven (or place the duck on a baking tray if your pan has a plastic handle) and cook for approximately another 6-8 minutes for medium. You can adjust this time depending on your preference.

8. Remove the duck breasts from the oven and cover with a dry cloth to let them rest for 3 or 4 minutes. When you cook any meat, it is essential to let it rest for a little bit before you carve it. This ensures that all the juices that are under pressure during the cooking are redistributed throughout the whole piece. As a result, less juice runs out of the meat when you cut into it.

9. To serve, slice the duck breast and sit it on top of the broccoli. Garnish with the parsnip puree and cranberry gravy.

If you wish, you can take another peeled parsnip, cut it into thin strips with a veg peeler and drop into some hot oil, as you would when making chips. Take them out after 20 seconds just as they start to colour and dry on some kitchen paper. They will go crispy and you can arrange these on top of your duck for that extra special touch!

Zack

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The Irish Food Guide Blog www.IrishFoodGuide.ie includes news, foodie chat, recipes, award results, links and other general information on the Food & Tourism Industry in Ireland.

It is written & curated by Zack Gallagher, Donegal Town, Co Donegal, Ireland.

“My Blog is a slice of the Irish Food ‘Network’. I’m a Chef with over 27 years experience and also have a background in media. I’m passionate about Irish Food Tourism and I believe that a rising tide really can lift all boats!”

Supporting Irish Food created by passionate producers and encouraging the Irish food & hospitality industry to use modern social media methods to increase their business.

Zack is building an all-Ireland Food Tourism network to assist Tour Operators bringing guests into Ireland to connect easily with artisan Irish food producers, so as they can experience the provenance and personality behind our Irish food.

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