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Posts from the ‘Vegetarian’ Category

Comfrey Cottage Chervil & Chive Vichyssoise

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I love Tipperary. Especially in the summer.

Despite the drought we’ve been experiencing these past weeks, things are still fairly green. Each day, the sky is an array of gorgeously arranged clouds. My kids run around the yard (well, two out of three of them run… the baby bum-shuffles), playing in their playhouse and making mud pies, Pat is busy fixing things around the farm and helping his dad milk the cows.

And me? I’m on “holiday” from The School of Food. Which actually means I’m run off my feet chasing after children, hosting playdates, writing articles (like this recent one for Irish Country Living on the Keenan Brothers, who grow heritage grain), selling cakes and sausage rolls at the Thurles Farmer’s Market and doing pop-up restaurant nights with Lucy at The Green Sheep.

So I’m still working, I guess. Just not teaching! I will be taking a proper holiday next week and the week after – we will be going “glamping” in County Clare with the kids. We are so excited; can’t wait to tell you all about it.

Lucy and I also recently signed up for Traveling Spoon. If you don’t know what that is, it’s  sort of like airbnb… but for food! Visitors can peruse the website depending on which country they’re visiting and choose from a selection of unique dining experiences. Some experiences are in people’s homes, while others – like ours – are in private dining establishments. When we get a reservation, Lucy and I close up the cafe and prepare the long, wooden communal dining tables for our guests.

We offer three types of experiences: a cooking lesson, dinner and local beer pairings, just dinner, or just dinner with beer pairings. We only take one group of visitors at a time, making it an intimate, unique travel experience.

The menu changes with whatever is in season and tasting good at the time, but last week, when we fed a group of Americans (visiting via Irish Fireside bespoke tours – a fantastic travel experience in itself!) the menu was this:

Comfrey Cottage Chervil & Chive Vichyssoise

Crawford’s Farm Pulled Chicken Empanada

John Lacey’s slow-roast Lamb Shoulder with Buttered Turnip, Crispy Kale and Gastrique

Ripe Cooleeney Cheese with Cherry Consomme, Walnuts and Lavash

Sweet Ricotta Dumplings with The Apple Farm Strawberries and Raw Lavender Cream

The menu featured all local (like within 50km of Thurles) ingredients and the group we had were all so wonderful and fun. They enjoyed their food (and beer pairings from White Gypsy Brewery) and even serenaded us in between courses.

I thought I would share the recipe for our first course because it’s so low-maintenance to make – it actually intensifies in flavour as it sits in the fridge. A classic French Vichyssoise is a chilled, creamy, mild leek and potato soup. It’s lovely.

At this time of year, in Tipperary, my friend Sarah at Comfrey Cottage has an abundance of bright, flavoursome chervil. I love its mellow, refreshing flavour – with a squeeze of lemon and a handful of chives, it literally transforms a classic into something entirely new and exciting.

This will keep in the fridge for up to four days. Do not add the fresh chervil until the soup has chilled – otherwise the lovely green colour will turn grey and the flavour will be less vibrant.

*If you can’t get fresh chervil, you can substitute with: 1 bunch flatleaf parsley, 1 bunch fresh dill, 1 bunch fresh chives, 1/4 bunch fresh mint

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Comfrey Cottage Chervil & Chive Vichyssoise

Ingredients:

1 Tbsp rapeseed (or olive) oil

1 Tbsp butter

3 leeks, pale green and white bits only, finely sliced

1 large onion, finely diced

3 stalks celery, finely diced

4 large potatoes, peeled and cubed (keep submerged in cold water until ready to cook)

4-6 cups/1L hot chicken or vegetable stock (depending on how thick you like your soup)

1 cup/250ml heavy cream

salt and pepper, to taste

Juice of one lemon

1 large bunch fresh chervil (around 200g)

1/2 bunch fresh chives

Directions:

  • In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, heat 1 Tbsp rapeseed oil and 1 Tbsp butter over medium-high.
  • Gently cook the leek, celery and onion together until pale and translucent – you don’t want them to brown, just soften and cook through.
  • Add the potatoes and gently cook, stirring regularly, for another 3-5 minutes.
  • Add 4 cups of hot stock (reserve the extra for after, in case you want to thin out the soup) and bring to a gentle simmer.
  • Simmer the soup for 20-30 minutes, until the potato is completely cooked through.
  • Add the cream, stir, remove from heat and allow to cool for 1 to 1.5 hours.
  • Once the soup has cooled, transfer for the fridge and chill completely for 1-2 hours.
  • Add the chervil and chives – allow to steep into the soup overnight or for at least 3 hours. Continue to chill in the fridge.
  • In small batched, blend the cold soup completely in a vitamix or good quality blender. A hand blender would probably work, but I haven’t tried.
  • Once completely blended, season with salt, pepper and lemon juice to taste.
  • Continue to chill until ready to serve, Garnish with chive flowers, nasturtium, a drizzle or oil and microgreens.
  • Serves 8-10 people (starter size, approx. 200ml per person).
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Gateau Breton aux Pommes

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This time last year, I was frolicking (OK, well, no – I don’t actually frolic) around Brussels with a great group of girls. We took off for a weekend of rest, frivolity, food and shopping. I actually had the best time, even though I was pregnant, sick with a horrendous chest infection and couldn’t imbibe in Brussels’ famous beers. I swore I would go back, and I will – probably with my husband – sometime in the next few years.

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Even though I couldn’t drink with the rest of my friends (save for one, who was as pregnant as I was at the time), bon vivant I am,  I still over-indulged. Friends, being pregnant in Brussels isn’t so bad. Sure, you can’t drink the beer, but you’re surrounded ON ALL SIDES by waffles and chocolate. And, my personal favourite, speculoos!

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I packed so much eating into those two days, I’m amazed they didn’t roll me off the plane when we got back to Dublin. Waffles three times a day were a must.

“Just plain, no toppings, please! I’ll take six to go.” Hot and fresh off the iron, biting into a doughy Liege waffle was like taking a bite into heaven. I never wanted to be far from those angelic delicacies.

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Belgian frites were a must, at least twice a day. Triple fried in beef fat with a side of truffle mayo? Why not. I’M ON VACATION.

Moules-frites, fricadelle, chocolate (MOUNTAINS OF CHOCOLATE), nougat, pain au chocolat – I even over-indulged in some Turkish cheese pastries I found on our final morning. Everything was delicious. Drunk food and pregnant food are basically the same thing, and Belgians are really good at both drinking and creating drunk food.

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Can I let you in on a secret? The absolute, VERY BEST THING I ate while in Brussels wasn’t Belgian; it was French – from Normandy, to be exact. It was a caramelized apple pancake at Chez Leon, an old-school restaurant best known for their moules-frites. I didn’t enjoy my moules-frites very much, but I would return to this restaurant just for the desserts.

It was perfect. Sweet, but not too sweet, cooked table-side by our very entertaining waiter, served hot with a dollop of vanilla ice cream melting over the top – it was just what I needed after a highly anticipated, then disappointing dinner. My friends ordered other desserts but nearly everyone ended up taking a bite (or two) of my pancake; it was just so scrummy.

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Now, a year on, I’m just after turning 33. For my birthday I really wanted to replicate these flavours – my favourite flavours. I’m lucky to have an October birthday in Ireland – it’s peak apple season. Using tart cooking apples (like Bramleys) in this Gâteau Breton aux Pommes is a must, but equally important is the salted caramel sauce to drizzle over top.

This cake uses A LOT of butter and eggs, but no milk. The consistency post-bake is nearly custard-like, or that of a baked pudding. Your fork slides through the layers of sponge and apple with ease and the caramel adds the perfect amount of sweetness. I think this will be my birthday cake for years to come.

Recipe via Bon Appetit

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Vegan Creamy Tomato Soup with Foccacia

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I’ve learned so much over the past few months.

I’ve learned that it’s possible to function on one hour of sleep. I’ve learned that you can learn to function on one hour of sleep and absolutely no coffee because coffee affects your baby’s reflux. I’ve learned that you become a really awful person when you only had one hour of sleep and no coffee, and your other children tend to bear the brunt of that (sorry Maeve and Ciara; I’m going to make it up to you!).

I’ve learned that, whenever possible, you shouldn’t have a baby around silage/calving time. I’ve learned to let some things go – ok, a lot of things – ok, ALL OF THE THINGS.

I’ve learned to give my husband some extra credit, because he works really, really hard and is a good human being.

Most importantly, I think, I’ve learned to go easy on myself. Because this parenting thing is hard. Because I, like so many other women out there, am my own biggest critic. And I don’t blog enough/exercise enough/play with my kids enough/read enough/socialize enough. And I drink too much wine/avoid annoying tasks/spend too much money/am too selfish. Enough, already.

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Life is short. You’ve heard it before. But in the past few weeks there has been a lot of death – deaths in Canada, deaths here in Ireland, horrible atrocities committed around the world in the name of religion/ideology. And I’m here, safe and healthy with a safe and healthy family. In any case, life is far too short to spend it irrationally angry and blaming myself for not being perfect.

My posts have become a lot more introspective lately. I really think writing helps work out the kinks in my brain (and there are many). I also think the early days of motherhood can make you lose sight of yourself and your abilities. This can be kind of devastating in a first-world-problem kind of way, when you’ve spent your life having a really firm, if fluid/constantly changing, view of who you are. When I write down phrases like “first world problem” I tend to cop on a bit.

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The way you treat your body helps work out brain kinks, too. Now, I’m in no way vegan. I’m not really interested in giving up cheese. Or my thrice daily latte (doesn’t bother the baby anymore!). But I have drastically changed my diet, and it’s not only helped me lose that last bit of baby weight – combined with a good daily dose of vitamin supplements, it’s helped my mental health a great deal.

I love this soup because it has all of the comfort and warmth of a full-fat cream of tomato soup with none of the dairy. The coconut milk is just sweet enough to balance the acidity of the tinned tomatoes and the whole thing comes together in just a few minutes.

The foccacia is made with my mom’s famous pizza dough recipe. I make the recipe and allow the dough to rise for around 1.5 hours. When it’s doubled in size, I punch it down, divide it in half and press each half of the dough into two rectangular cookie sheets. You can roll it out on a floured surface to fit the pan or just press it into an oiled cookie sheet with your hands.

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Once it’s spread out, I gently dent the dough all over with my fingertips, brush the top with olive oil and sprinkle with an array of toppings. The toppings can literally be anything (olives, roasted peppers, rosemary, garlic) but if I’m rushing I just give the top a good sprinkle of flaky sea salt and dried mixed herbs. Bake it in a really hot oven (up to 500°F/250°C) for 20-25 minutes, until the edges are golden brown and crisp. Use another sweeter in the dough if you’re vegan and don’t like honey. This is the perfect dipping bread for a creamy soup. Like this one!

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Vegan Creamy Tomato Soup

Ingredients

1 large onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 carrot, diced

1 Tbsp coconut oil

2 cans diced tomatoes

1 can full-fat coconut milk

2 cups/500ml hot vegetable stock

Salt and pepper, to taste

Fresh basil, for garnish

Directions:

  • In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, heat the coconut oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and carrot and sauté for 10 minutes, then add the garlic and cook for an additional minute.
  • Add the tomatoes and hot vegetable stock; bring to a boil.
  • Turn the heat down to medium and simmer for 20-30 minutes, adding more stock (or water) if necessary.
  • Blitz the mixture using a hand blender and return to the heat. Add the coconut milk and bring back to a simmer. Cook for another 10 minutes, then season liberally with salt and pepper.
  • Serve hot, garnish with basil and serve with warm foccacia.

Coconut Chickpeas with Spinach

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The past four months have been both one of the hardest times of my life and, mercifully, one of the fastest. Here we are, after a summer full of Canadian visitors and weekend trips, back to just the five of us in our little, ramshackle farmhouse. And I’m happy.

I did not spend the past four months feeling happy. Sleep deprived, unnerved and slightly depressed were my main emotions, with brief respites of happiness. But now I’m feeling happy again.

Postpartum Depression is a real thing, and something that shouldn’t be as stigmatized as it is. That said, I don’t think I had it – a form of it, perhaps, caused by a very irritable newborn and no sleep – but it was close enough to the real thing to make me understand how mothers suffering from extreme PPD must feel. It’s certainly not something I want to go through again.

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Photo by my brother Rory. Thanks bro!

My baby girl is happy now, too, though, which is the reason I’m happy. The hours-long screaming sessions are a thing of the past, she is feeding regularly, finally seems to actually *enjoy* eating and loves being out and about. She’s even handling short car rides with very little crying. We took her for her first “swim” at a local community pool today and she happily floated around in my arms while Maeve splashed, jumped and played (Ciara stayed in her Dad’s arms the entire time – she is not a fan of the pool).

Sure, she still doesn’t sleep through the night. Maybe she never will. But she is happy and content, which makes my life a lot less stressful and worrisome. I can handle the sleep deprivation for a while longer.

So, with a happier baby, my days spent caring for three-under-four have been less daunting. Some days are bad, but for the most part we’re having fun, the house hasn’t been condemned and I haven’t torn out my hair. My mom, after spending two months here, went back to Canada last week, though, so I definitely find myself running low on energy by the end of the day.

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I’d love to know what other moms out there do to make their day-to-day more organized and efficient, to the extent that they’re able to sit down and eat something other than toast scraps and cold tea.

I have a small system in place that is mostly working. Mostly. If we’ve had a bad night, the day is going to be terrible – there’s no way around that. But if I was able to get a bit of sleep, my weekdays usually look like this:

  1. 7am – Maeve comes into my room to let me know she and Ciara are awake (as if I couldn’t already hear them shrieking in their bedroom).
  2. 7:30am – both kids have eaten breakfast, baby has nursed and is *hopefully* playing in her playpen (sometimes she’s crying).
  3. 8am – Maeve’s lunch is packed and she is dressed for school.
  4. 8:30am – Ciara and Aine are dressed and I have somehow managed to make donut dough.
  5. 9am – I have some kind of outfit on and have plastered my face with BB cream and mascara (though no amount of BB cream will erase the last five years, I fear).
  6. 9:15am – Kids are in the car (no small feat) and Maeve is dropped at school.
  7. 9:35am – The other two kids are dropped to my friend for two hours.
  8. 10am – I make donuts at The Green Sheep (though currently this is only three days per week).
  9. 11:30am – Collect the two small kids and drive to Maeve’s school.
  10. 12pm – Collect Maeve from school and drive home.
  11. 1pm – Ciara goes down for a nap, I try to eat something, Maeve watches TV or goes outside to play.
  12. 2pm – Hopefully Aine is napping, Ciara is still napping and I am getting housework done. Also starting dinner now.
  13. 3pm – All kids are awake. We go outside, or to the shop, or if it’s raining and dreary we watch TV, do puzzles and colour.
  14. 5pm – I call Pat to make sure he’s leaving work (work is a 1.5 hour drive away!). I try to handle a cranky baby, cranky toddler and demanding four year old while keeping my cool and finishing dinner. Sometimes I shout. Ok, I usually shout. Any cleaning I’ve accomplished during naptime has been ruined. The entire house is a mess.
  15. 6:30pm – Pat arrives. I immediately throw the baby at him (not literally; I’m not that bad… yet). We tackle bedtime together – bathing, a bottle of milk for Ciara, stories, pj’s, songs, teeth-brushing and cuddles.
  16. 7pm – The bigger girls are in bed. Pat eats his dinner and sometimes I try to tidy again, but not always, then I try to have a shower, but not always and a few nights a week I run, work out or meditate (but not always). I always end up on the couch with a sleeping Aine sprawled over me.
  17. 10pm: I try to put Aine down in her bassinet, which is sometimes but not usually successful. Sometimes she’ll sleep til 2:30am and sometimes she’ll wake up immediately. She always ends up in bed with me and will wake 2-3 times before we all wake up and start again.

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Leftovers have been my saving grace for a healthy mid-day meal, so I try to make larger amounts of our dinner and eat the remainder for lunch. This Coconut Chickpeas with Spinach is one of my favourite meals. It’s tasty, comes together in less than an hour, and is nice with brown rice but stodgy enough to eat on it’s own, like a stew.

If you don’t like chickpeas you can substitute them with: firm white fish (like cod), chicken, paneer (or, if you don’t have paneer, use halloumi – it’s just as good!) or sweet potato. If you don’t like coconut milk, like my husband, you might still like this, like my husband.

It’s a beautiful dish and I’m no nutritionist (I make donuts for a living) but I think it’s also really healthful and makes me feel good. And, bonus for us crazy-busy moms, it’s even better the next day (and the day after that!).

*Most importantly, if you think you or someone you love is suffering from postpartum depression, click on this link for some much-deserved support (and, by the way, you’re doing a great job).

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Coconut Chickpeas with Spinach

Ingredients:

2 cans drained chickpeas, rinsed in cold water

1 large head/bag of spinach, washed

1 large onion, thinly sliced

3 cloves of garlic, minced

1 hot chili (I use bird’s eye chilies here but any will do), finely chopped

coriander stalks, finely chopped (a handful)

1 Tbsp coconut oil

750ml/3 cups hot vegetable or chicken stock

2 tsp curry powder

1 can full-fat coconut milk

1/2 lemon, juiced

2 tsp salt

Fresh coriander leaves, for garnish

Directions:

  • Heat a heavy-bottomed pot or dutch oven on a medium high hob.
  • Add the coconut oil, sliced onion, minced garlic, chili and coriander stalks. Cook until soft and fragrant, about 8 minutes.
  • Add the curry powder. Cook for one minute.
  • Add the chicken or vegetable stock; bring to a boil. Then add the rinsed chickpeas.
  • Simmer on medium for about 30 minutes, until the stock has reduced by half and the chickpeas are tender. Add the coconut milk and bring to a simmer once more.
  • Continue to cook the chickpeas until they are tender and have taken on the flavour of the broth (you will have to taste to know for sure; canned chickpeas can taste artificial if they haven’t been cooked for long enough).
  • Add the spinach to wilt. Season with salt and lemon juice.
  • The dish is complete when the coconut milk has thickened into a light, gravy-like sauce and the chickpeas are fully cooked and tender.
  • You can eat this like a stew on it’s own, or with hot brown rice. Garnish with fresh coriander leaves.
  • It will keep in the fridge for up to four days. Served with rice or flatbread, this will feed four hungry adults. It’s nice paired with beer – a wheat beer or pale ale goes really well.

Upside-Down Strawberry Rhubarb Cake

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I’m back home. In Ireland, I mean. It’s funny, I call Cape Breton “home” and Ireland “home”, but when I talk about Cape Breton being home it’s meant to be past tense. As in, it used to be home and will always and forever more be referred to as home. But, as wonderful as Cape Breton was, and Vancouver, and Victoria, it is so, so good to be back in Tipperary.

In my own house.

With my little family.

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Babies at pasture here in Tipperary

And it’s summer. My garden is growing. There are baby animals everywhere (and thanks to my cat, baby animal corpses everywhere, but we won’t go there right now) and, even though it’s often grey and rainy, it’s sometimes warm and sunny. Already much better than last summer, which was mostly cold, windy and rainy.

I’ve been home a little less than a month and I’m already super busy. Making plans, going to playdates, taking little day trips here and there, visiting, baking. The bit I’m most excited about is the plan-making, but I’m not ready to say anything more about it at the moment – just stay tuned!

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Home in Cape Breton

Also, once again, this little blog has been long-listed for two Littlewood’s Ireland Blog Awards, which is really, really lovely! I’m also up for a Huawei Snapy Instagram Award! If you feel so inclined, you can check out my entry (and possibly give it a vote) here.

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So yes; I’m super busy. But don’t worry, I always have my two darling children to keep my ego in check. Whether it’s by peeing on the floor (daily) or simply staying up all night long, my kids continually remind me who’s truly in charge of my life (or I guess you could say: what’s truly important in life). I wouldn’t have it any other way, really.

When I came home, my garden was so overgrown with weeds it looked more like a jungle. It took four solid evenings of weed-pulling and seed planting, but my hard work is paying off. Napa Cabbage (for autumn kimchi making!), sprouting broccoli, cauliflower, squash, pumpkin, courgette – you name it, it’s been planted and is currently sprouting. I was late getting a few things planted, but the growing season is longer here than it is in Canada so I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a good harvest.

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Two things that were ready when I got home were our strawberries and rhubarb. I’ve never grown strawberries before, but this year Maeve asked if she could plant them. Our old farmhouse is surrounded by very old, black cauldrons (I think they were used for laundry or something back in the day) so we found the biggest one and planted the strawberries there. We left tiny seedlings and came home to a huge, vine-laden bunch of plants just dripping with beautiful berries.

This is a great summer cake to make with whatever fresh fruit or berries you have on hand. I made it with our gorgeous strawberries (of course) and fresh rhubarb, but it would be great with blueberries (with some maple syrup and lemon), peaches, plums or cherries. The cake base is a super-moist hot milk cake recipe that I use all the time – it never, ever fails me.

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Strawberry Rhubarb Upside-Down Cake

Ingredients:

For the cake:

1 cup/250g granulated sugar

2 large eggs

1 tsp vanilla

1 cup/250g AP/plain flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup/125ml scalded milk

3 Tbsp butter (melted into the hot milk)

For the topping:

1 punnet strawberries – hulled and cut in half

3-4 stalks rhubarb, chopped

1/2 cup/125g brown sugar

1/4 cup/60g butter

Directions:

  • Preheat the oven to 350∘F (190∘C, no fan). Grease a round springform pan and place the pan on a lined cookie sheet (in case it leaks) set aside.
  • In a small saucepan, combine the butter and brown sugar for the topping. Bring to a boil and remove from heat.Pour the mixture into the bottom of the pan and arrange the strawberries and rhubarb over the top. Set the pan aside again and make the cake batter.
  • To make the cake: whisk the eggs, vanilla and sugar until pale yellow in colour and nearly doubled in volume (this is known as the ribbon stage – the mixture should drip off the whisk in ribbons).
  • Add the flour, baking powder and salt to the mixture and stir until just combined. Add the hot milk all at once and, again, stir until just combined and there aren’t any lumps in the batter.
  • Gently pour the cake batter over the strawberries and rhubarb in the springform pan.
  • Bake in the preheated oven for 30-35 minutes (if you have an extra-hot oven start checking your cake at 25 minutes). A skewer inserted in the centre of the cake should come out clean.
  • When the cake is ready, allow to set in the pan for 15-20 minutes, then run a knife around the edges and gently remove from the pan. Flip the cake onto a plate and gently lift the bottom of the springform pan. Voila! You should have a perfect upside-down cake.

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Perfect Italian Buttercream

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Well, the weeks and months seem to be flying by. Suddenly my sleepy little newborn is wide awake and PLAYING WITH TOYS and FOCUSING ON PEOPLE and GIGGLING and generally being adorable. These are all amazing developments, even if they mean less me-time and more baby/toddler-time. The blog suffers, as do my other interests, general health and well being and, sometimes, my sanity. But it’s all good. The Spring has more or less arrived and the sunny weather does great things for the spirit.

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In a little over a MONTH I’ll be flying to Canada with my girls. Ciara really needs a passport. My mom is here in Ireland, which is amazing, and she’ll be flying home with us, as will a friend’s daughter, who will travel around with us in Canada and be a great help with the smallies. I’m looking forward to it. I can’t wait to see all my extended family members and friends at home in Cape Breton, and at the end of our “Canada time” we’ll fly out to Victoria, BC to spend time with my brothers and their kids.

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In the meantime, days are spent on playdates and coffee breaks. The Easter bunny came over the weekend, leaving way too much chocolate for a two year old. Luckily Maeve has her mom, dad, grandad and nana to help do away with the spoils. We spent our Easter having lots of family time. This included a feast of epic proportions on Easter Sunday with a huge roasted gammon joint, garlicky dauphinoise potatoes, spring veggies, smoked trout from the fabulous Goatsbridge Farm in Thomastown, Kilkenny, lots of wine and THIS. This dark chocolate layer cake with vanilla Italian buttercream and chocolate mini-eggs.

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The whole meal was great, but the cake was extra-delicious. Even though we were massively full, everyone managed to save room for a slice. The cake was moist and rich and the buttercream was light, airy and blissful – which is surprising, considering an entire pound of butter went into it. Yes, this isn’t a diet-friendly recipe (are any of my recipes diet-friendly? I need to take a long hard look at my life) but it is the perfect indulgent holiday dessert.

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You don’t need to make it “Easter” or even “holiday”. Top it with chocolate-dipped strawberries, edible flowers, candied orange slices or nothing at all. I like how it looks with the naked-mask of frosting. It would make a really impressive birthday cake for someone.

I used a few tools to make this cake.

  • 4 small sandwich tins
  • a cake turntable
  • a stand mixer
  • a large pallet knife
  • a sharp serrated knife

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If you don’t have any of these things, don’t panic. This buttercream masks the cake perfectly and is very forgiving if, like me, you have a bit of a wobbly hand. I will say that the pallet knife, at least, is important if you like sharp, defined corners on your cake. The turntable helps because you can keep the knife as steady as possible with one hand while turning the cake with the other. But even if you slap this buttercream on with a spoon, or just schmear it in between the layers and leave the sides alone, it will still look great and taste amazing.

This cake was made with my usual Never Fail Chocolate Cake recipe with dark, good quality cocoa powder and hot coffee instead of boiling water. I made the cake in the four sandwich tins, let them cool, wrapped them in plastic and let them sit overnight. That way they were cool enough and retained all their moisture when the time came to ice them.

So here it is! The recipe for the perfect Italian Buttercream (no icing sugar in sight).

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Perfect Italian Buttercream

Ingredients:

5 egg whites, room temperature

1 tsp cream of tartar

1.5 cups/375g white sugar

1/3 cup/90ml water

1 tsp good quality vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste

2 cups/454g/1 big block good quality butter (like Tipperary Co-op)

Directions:

  • Place the egg whites and cream of tartar in the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a large mixing bowl with a hand mixer). Using the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites to stiff peaks.
  • While the egg whites are being whisked, combine the water and sugar in a small saucepan and boil into a thick syrup (soft ball stage). You don’t want the sugar to caramelize. I don’t keep track of the temperature (who has time for that, really) but it’s at the point where the syrup is quite thick and about to begin to caramelize.
  • Turn the stand mixer down to low and slowly pour the hot syrup into the whisked egg whites. Do this slowly enough that the syrup doesn’t splash too much on the sides of the bowl. Touch the side of the bowl. It will be quite warm from the syrup and the egg whites will have gone down in volume.
  • Continue to whisk on med-high until the mixture cools to nearly room temperature – about 3-5 minutes.
  • Take the pound of butter and cut it into small cubes. Once the egg white mixture has cooled, continue mixing while adding cubes of butter, 2 or 3 at a time. Allow the bits of butter to be combined into the mixture before adding more butter. Slowly add the entire pound of butter while constantly whisking. Once all the butter is added, don’t freak out if the mixture looks curdled. Keep whisking for several more minutes until everything is well incorporated. Add the vanilla and beat into the frosting.
  • The finished buttercream should be aerated, totally smooth, slightly thick and off-white in colour. Use it immediately to mask your cake, or pipe onto cupcakes.

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A Gastro-Weekend in Cork

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I can’t believe it, but I’m officially on maternity leave. This pregnancy has completely flown by, and I’m feeling a bit unprepared, so it’s a good thing that I have a few weeks off work before Christmas to try and get my life – not to mention, this blog! – organized.

I spent a weekend in October in Toronto. It was my first time back since Patrick and I moved in 2013. I was so excited to see my friends, my brother, my sweet baby nephew. One of my dearest friends got married in a beautiful ceremony and I’m so glad I could be there.

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Hong Kong-style Fried Chicken & Waffles – Patois, Toronto

Another chef-friend had opened a gorgeous little restaurant specializing in Caribbean-Asian cuisine, so of course I ventured over for brunch and ate everything on the menu (I’M PREGNANT, OK?). Patois is a great spot – I still dream about the fried chicken and Hong Kong-style waffles and Kimchi “pieriogi-style” potstickers.

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Pieriogi-Style Kimchi Potstickers – Patois, Toronto

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Cookie Butter-Stuffed French Toast – Patois, Toronto

Despite getting to see everyone and eating delicious food, I was really happy to get home to Tipperary. Who knew how impatient I’d gotten with traffic? And cities in general!

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Wandering Kilkenny Castle’s grounds

We also went, once again, to the Savour Kilkenny Festival of Food over the October long weekend. It was great, as always. Maeve had a great time, Patrick & I went out to Zuni for a delicious dinner and we all enjoyed the sights and sounds.

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Enjoying the food at Savour Kilkenny!

More recently, Patrick and I took a weekend away to get some Christmas shopping done and some kid-free time to ourselves before #2 arrives in early Janurary. We spent the night in Cork and enjoyed some amazing food.

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My delicious masala dosa from Ayer’s Cafe – picture taken at Ballymaloe Litfest, May 2015

While we’re spoiled for fresh ingredients here in Tipperary, we are definitely Asian-food-deprived (unless you count the local Chinese & Indian takeaways… which we don’t).

For lunch, despite Storm Desmond wreaking havoc all over the country, we trudged through the wind and rain to get to Iyer’s Cafe on Pope’s Quay. I love Iyer’s! I first tried their dosas and samosas at Ballymaloe Litfest 2015 – they tasted so amazingly authentic; I couldn’t get them out of my mind. As soon as we had Cork booked, I knew I’d be taking Patrick there for lunch.

We had a samosa chaat bowl (samosas with fresh chickpea, veggie and popped rice salad in a big bowl), masala dosa (a type of Indian crepe made from a batter of soaked lentils, served filled with spiced potato, chutneys on the side and a bowl of soupy masala sauce to pour over) and fried chili gobi (spiced cauliflower fritters) to share and were not disappointed. Iyer’s specializes in Southern Indian cuisine, all vegetarian or vegan, all authentic.

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Chicken Gyoza – Miyazaki, Cork

And speaking of authentic… later that evening, on the tip of fellow food blogger and my buddy Cork Billy, we went to Miyazaki Takeaway on Evergreen St. for some Japanese food. This was one of the best meals I’ve had in Ireland, and some of the best Japanese food I’ve had… well… ever! That’s including what I’ve eaten in Japan (is that blasphemous?).

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My Tempura Prawn Roll – Miyazaki, Cork

This place is tiny with minimal seating (there’s a counter with a few stools if you want to eat in). BUT the kitchen is open-concept and you can watch the very-talented chef at work while you wait for your yaki-udon and katsu-don.

I need to make this clear: Miyazaki’s food is Michelin star quality. My tempura-prawn roll was filled with fresh veggies and microgreens (not just for garnish; where they can be annoyingly superfluous – they added SERIOUS FLAVOUR to the roll).

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Japanese-style Fried Chicken don buri (front), pork yaki-udon (back) – Miyazaki, Cork

We had one of the evening’s specials – Japanese style fried chicken don buri (in a rice bowl with fresh veggies, egg, broth), pork yaki-udon (stir-fried noodles), chicken gyoza (dumplings) and a hand-roll each. It was the best date we’ve had in years – sitting on a few stools at the counter. The only thing missing? Some ice cold Sapporo.

Our Cork weekend, despite the terrible weather, was a total success: we relaxed, ate amazing food and got a huge chunk of our Christmas shopping completed (with minimal arguing!). It’s a very easy 1.5 hour trip from the farm, so we’ll be back for more food really soon.

*Look, I don’t normally do gushing reviews like this as an entire blog post, but the places mentioned above do wonderful work. I will say that I wasn’t asked to write any of these reviews; I was just really impressed and wanted to share my opinion. I hope you get to check them out, too, and let me know what you think!

 

 

 

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