Wednesday, 29 May 2013

I've been away

I hope you have, but that you're not mad. I promise I was away scouting the world for tasty treats, tidbits and a tan. It wasn't easy, but someone has to do it right?

After completing the last couple of days at Camp Cavan with Neven, Sharon, Jo and the rest of the team I headed off to Palma de Mallorca. I've been before and loved it. In the sense that if someone offered me an apartment I would be there, like yesterday. It's an old town with the biggest Superyacht marina in the world. Pretty darn fancy (or it can be if you forget Magaluf)

I walked around, went for coffee, I always seemed to find my way to my new favourite cafe, The Room in Santa Catalina. Please visit if you can. It's a modern mix of easy style furniture on an old street with the Grannys and Grandpas walking around, sitting on their doorstop and generally running a muck!

It was lovely to be back in markets where the colours were so vibrant. Don't get me wrong, Cork has the English Market, Dublin has many all of which which are fan-bloody-tastic but it's cold, miserable and kind of grey on a regular basis. Imagine if the sun was shinning down, making every colour brighter, every smell stronger, everyone friendlier. There's just something about it. About a market in the sun.

We went to the beach and saw the boats, we played with the puppies and ate lots of food. There were a couple of days of really sunny weather in which I think I have turned one shade darker although, being half Indian, I still look albino!

I caught up with friends, walked the streets and tried to make menu plans. Honestly it was a little tough,  having to think about my soon to appear responsibilities and all that grown up stuff that come with my new job when the sun was shinning, the beach was calling and my friends were talking. Don't worry though, I worked as well! For a long time I have realised I meant to live a warm weather country but truth be told, until I had spent the last 4 months in Ireland I still was not convinced. I am now.

So now I'm back in Ireland at the Castle. The prep has been done, the shopping been shopped and I'm waiting for the bosses to turn up. The nerves are zinging (yes, it's a word) but I'm excited for a new challenge. Personally I think challenges are good.

In the meantime though, until the job finishes and I can head off towards sunshine. I have memories of the sun. Let's hope for a sunny Irish summer…

Thursday, 16 May 2013

My Second Smoking

Last week, I was lucky enough to do work experience in the kitchen with the crew at Fenns Quay restaurant in Cork city. What a great team of people who care that what comes out of their kitchen is as local as it can be, good quality and beautifully presented. The head chef Kate is a power house of ideas and vision. She is a great cook, teacher and now my friend.

We all know how my obsession with smoking is gaining in strength and at Fenns Quay they do some cool things with Earl Grey, a blow torch and salmon. So guess who volunteered their services to do this  weeks?? You got it, yours truly.

Here's the process.

Line a tray with salt and dill (or herb of your choice). Lay your pieces of salmon down. Sprinkle with tea of your choice, they use Early Grey.

Cover with more salt and herbs. Leave over night and then wash off the salt.
Pop the salmon back in a tray and wrap it up ¾ with cling film, not touching the salmon. In a little dish put some more Earl Grey tea leaves and get out the blow torch.

Once you get a good colour from the tea leaves, wrap the cling film around the gap as quick as poss. Leave for about half an hour and repeat. The more you repeat, the stronger the taste!

And voila, smoked Early Grey Salmon. Yum.

Friday, 10 May 2013

Ballymaloe LitFest

If you are not aware of the Ballymaloe LitFest where have you been living?!?

What a weekend. The sun shone, the atmosphere buzzed and I met my food hero. Yes, I met the incredible Madhur Jaffrey. She is a legend that brought Indian food to the Western World some would say.

She is a petite, beautiful 80year old woman who learnt to cook through her Mother and the other women in her family and continues that tradition of teaching others to cook.

The weekend was a conglomerate of chefs, authors, foodies, non foodies, stall holders, local producers. The list goes on and on. Over three days there were cooking demos, panel discussions, dancing, lots of eating and drinking, pop up wine shops, pop up bands and much much more.

I met some brilliant and world renowned chefs, David Thompson, Stevie Parle, Thomassina Miers, Stehpanie Alexander, Claudia Rhoden and many more. 

It was literally a who's who of the cooking world and what was fantastic to me as a young woman chef was how many more female cooks where speaking than men. A push in the right direction where, in todays world head chef posts are male dominated.

Sandor Katz the fermentation guru speaking over the weekend and showing us the art of fermentation.

There was the big shed, where drinking and eating activities where part of the weekends events. The pop up bar was a creative explosion with books hanging from the ceiling, old beer kegs as lights and a chandler made from an old whiskey barrel. All adding to the atmospherical aromas of food.

There were gardeners and foragers, dogs running around with children, laughter and ideas. Lots of them. New friends were made, old friends were introduced and it was just a melting pot of cultures. A beautiful melting pot that had all of us who attended in awe once again at the power of Ballymaloe.

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

A natural sugar snack that's healthy!

The last 2 weeks have been a powerhouse of workouts, trying to cut out sugar and generally getting back to health after the copious amounts of food I ingested whilst at Ballymaloe. The jeans are still a little tight (insert sad face).....I need a big change in my eating habits.

So as much as possible I'm trying to cut out sugar for the foreseeable future. All sugar which means fruit, juice, things like ketchup, carrots, tomatoes…the list goes on! Sometimes it's easy, sometimes I have sugar cravings so bad that I reach for anything sweet. These, are a healthy option.

Most people (like here, here and here) who make traditional sugar free treats use dates as a base but, these have a super duper amount of natural sugar (60% sugar content to be exact!) which is not so great if like me, you're trying to cut out sugar. Apricots on the other hand have an overall lower sugar content so I decided to give it a go and see what happens.

I used pre-soaked dried apricots but this is an easy step you can do yourself by putting them in a little water overnight. Do you know about the goodness of apricots? Well, basically they are little bundles of orange coloured flavourful goodness!

The nectar was the preferred drink of the Greek and Roman Gods. These beautiful 'Moon of the Faithful' fruit are highly concentrated in betacarotene which has been shown to be successful in thwarting certain cancers. Dry apricots have an even higher lever although do contain more calories if you're counting. Tree ripened fruits are one of the best sources of copper, cobalt and organic iron, great for building red corpuscles in your blood stream!

These made about 13 and were best kept in the fridge or freezer.

I used 11 almonds
1 good tbsp of chia seeds
2 tbps of a blended mix of pumpkin, sesame, sunflower seeds and goji berries

Pulse of all these together to the consistency you want. I like a bit of a bite so I kept them fairly chunky.

Next pulse 6 apricots in a blender till mush.
Add the nut/seed mix and pulse together.

Roll one and test to see if the mixture is nutty and solid enough. If not, add more seeds/nuts etc. I found that if I didn't put enough solids in, the balls where very mushy when it came to eating and not great texturally. You'll probably think you've put too much solids in but that's improbable. As long as it still comes together you're fine.

Wet your hands a little and then roll into balls, pop on some baking paper and freeze or fridge…Eat at your hearts content! without feeling guilty!

This recipe is so adaptable for your mood it's wonderful. Roll in desiccated coconut, add cinnamon, different nuts, or drizzle some homemade chocolate over. Have some fun and experiment!