Niamh Doherty

Archive for May, 2010|Monthly archive page

A Cosmo for Carrie

In Drinks on May 29, 2010 at 20:50

Unless you’ve been living under a large rock on a remote desert island recently, you will have heard tell of a small-scale, low-budget movie called Sex and the City 2. I’ve always been a fan of SATC, to the point where I’d seen every episode at least twice but still insisted on hogging the TV everytime it was on. Cosmopolitans and Sex and the City have always been inextricably linked, but they share another common denominator; for me, at least – the magic of the female bond. The conquests, heartbreaks and loves of Carrie et al struck a chord with me, and many other women, as we recognised ourselves and our relationships in them. It didn’t matter whether you were a Big or an Aidan girl – all of us viewers shared the girls’ struggles, identified with their pain, and recognised those strong female bonds in our fellow, real-life girlfriends.

In late 2004, my best friend Dara and I were both struggling through painful break-ups. As I was living in Dublin at the time, we decided that the perfect cure-all for our suffering was a Girls’ Night Out. Dara caught the bus to Dublin, and I gathered the ingredients to make us some Cosmopolitans.

It must be pointed out at this stage that my judgment has always been a little clouded. On this particular night, however,  it was positively languishing beneath a thick blanket of emotional-turmoil-induced volcanic ash. What followed became known as “The Great Cosmopolitan Incident of 2004”, or, simply, “Cosmo Night”.

We started out with Cosmopolitans at my house, joined by my friend Aine and then housemate Lorraine, before getting a taxi into town. I had the GENIUS – or so I thought at the time – idea of making up enough Cosmo mixture to fill two plastic litre bottles to drink in the taxi on our way into town. This was a wonderful idea because a), we hadn’t drunk enough already (we really had), and b), we wouldn’t have to spend the entire, endless, stretching on for all eternity, whole TEN MINUTES in the taxi without a drink in hand (we really should have).

We swigged our way through the entire two litres of Cosmopolitan in record time, and made it into town, I stepped out of the taxi, and the fresh air hit me. HARD. It was only because I worked in the bar we headed to that we were allowed in, such was our (my) state of intoxication. They say that lightning doesn’t strike twice, but I then had yet ANOTHER genius idea – I was going to drink Jameson. Or was it Bacardi? It might as well have been arsenic. I broke at least one glass, made a total fool of myself in front of the guy I liked, and generally spread havoc wherever I went that night. I don’t remember getting home, but I do remember being violently ill when I got there. And for most of the next day. It was a good two years before I could look a Cosmopolitan in the eye, let alone actually stomach one. And yet, whenever I think of that night, or taste the sweetly sour hit of that shockingly pink drink, I remember our infamous Cosmo Night, and smile.

So I urge you, put on your glad rags, get the girls round, and make a batch of these. Swap stories, laugh, cry, and savour the company of your female friends. There is nothing more sacred, unbreakable or beautiful than the bonds of friendship that us women are lucky enough to share. Just don’t drink two litres of Cosmo in 10 minutes. Don’t be like me.

Cosmopolitan

Ingredients:

Ice

Vodka (I used Smirnoff Citrus for this, which gives it an extra-fresh taste)

Cointreau (Triple Sec or Curacao will do in a pinch, but Cointreau is best)

Cranberry Juice

Limes

Method:

1. For one Cosmopolitan, half-fill a cocktail shaker with ice.

2. Fill a shot measure 3/4 full of vodka, and top it up with Cointreau. Tip this into the cocktail shaker.

3. Add the juice of half a lime and 125ml of cranberry juice.

4. Shake it up, and strain it into a martini glass. I like to serve this with a lime slice to decorate the glass. Simply make a slit from the edge to the middle of a slice of lime, and sit it on the rim of your glass.

5. Drink and enjoy!

For a traditional Cosmpolitan, mix two parts lemon vodka to one part triple sec and combine with one part cranberry and the juice of half a lime. I prefer my version though, hope you do too – cheers!

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Here Comes Summer…

In Supper on May 22, 2010 at 18:39

This is not so much a recipe, as a suggestion for a hot summer’s evening. Temperatures in the (for-once-aptly-named) sunny south-east hit the mid-twenties today, and seeing as I no longer have a garden, I suggested an impromptu barbeque in the local park. At the last minute, we got a fit of the is-this-legals, and we decided to cook at home instead. I didn’t make the burgers myself, but picked up some of the delicious Specially Selected Angus burgers in Aldi. They smelled delicious before they’d even hit the pan, so I knew we’d made a good choice.

I usually have to add fried onions and cheddar cheese to my burgers but, inspired by one that my friend Deanna had described in delicious detail recently, I picked up a log of goat’s cheese with which to top the patties, and added some halved baby plum tomatoes to the pan, too. I topped both burgers with goat’s cheese whilst still in the pan, and turned them cheese-side down for just a few seconds to melt the cheese slightly. I added salad leaves to my bun and accessorised dinner with glasses of cold, cold beer.

Here’s to summer!

Irish Food Bloggers Unite!

In Life on May 19, 2010 at 14:04

Another pretend post today I’m afraid…I’m going to the Irish Food Bloggers’ Event in Dublin tomorrow, and am heading up there tonight to stay with a friend so I won’t be posting any recipes this evening. I can’t wait for the event tomorrow – I’m so excited about the day itself, but more than anything I’m looking forward to meeting all of my fellow food bloggers and forging new connections. Hurray!

On the back of this event, my blog was listed in the “Ultimate List of Irish Food Bloggers” on Donal Skehan’s blog, The Good Mood Food Blog – very exciting! I know that it’s only because I emailed him and invited myself along, but still – I’m thrilled! I’ve only been blogging for about six weeks so it’s nice to feel like my little blog is becoming well-known. Thanks for including me Donal, and see you all tomorrow, food bloggers!

Oaty Hotcakes

In Breakfast on May 16, 2010 at 13:13

First off – an apology…I haven’t posted all week. I was having one of those weeks; feeling lethargic, uninspired, and too tired to cook, let alone blog about something interesting, so I didn’t. Rest assured, I’m back, feeling good, and full of inspiration and exciting plans for the blog! And to make up for a week of non-blogging, I present to you these oaty hotcakes, from Bill Granger’s Feed Me Now.

My friend Claire  makea these for breakfast almost every weekend, and now I know why. My GOD, they are good. Their crisply golden outsides hides a tenderly moist, cinnamon-y inside, all the better to smother in maple syrup. These are very quick to put together – literally mix and go – and don’t take long to cook, making them perfect for a Sunday brunch that’s quick to throw together and easy to linger over. They’re especially good for kids – of all ages and sizes! – as the oats release their energy slowly, and will keep little ones fuelled up until lunchtime. These are delicious with a fruit topping, and are therefore a good way of getting often-picky children to eat something healthy. Add in a glass of orange juice, and that’s two of their five-a-day taken care of first thing in the morning – not bad!

These hotcakes lend themselves well to all kinds of toppings – Bill suggests heating 125g of blueberries and 250ml of maple syrup in a saucepan to make a hot, fruity sauce with which to baptise your breakfast. Claire’s favourite topping is bananas and maple syrup, and this morning I topped mine with whipped cream, juicy new-season Irish strawberries, and maple syrup. Is your mouth watering yet?!

Oaty Hotcakes (taken from Feed Me Now by Bill Granger)

Ingredients:

185g plain flour

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp ground cinnamon (I love cinnamon, so I just shook it in straight from the tin with wild abandon)

pinch of freshly-ground nutmeg

1 tbsp caster sugar

25g rolled oats

375ml buttermilk

1 medium egg, lightly beaten

35g butter, melted plus extra to grease pan.

To serve:

Toppings of your choice

Method:

1. Sift flour, baking powder, cinaamon and nutmeg together in a bowl. Stir in the sugar and oats.

2. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients, and pour in the buttermilk and egg. Stir until just mixed. Add in the melted butter and stir to combine.

3. Heat a large non-stick pan over a medium heat and melt a little butter in it. Add in 2 or 3 ladles of the batter at a time, being careful not to crowd the pan. Cook for 2-3 minutes, until buttles appear on the surface. Flip over, and cook for 2-3 minutes on the other side. Transfer to a plate and keep warm in a low oven while cooking the rest. Serves 4.

Banana Bread

In Baking on May 9, 2010 at 12:02

I adore this recipe. Love it, worship it, want to marry it – and I don’t even like bananas. The fact that it contains bananas, raisins and pecan nuts make me feel virtuously healthy when eating it –  I tell myself that, the more of it I eat, the closer I get to one of my five-a-day. Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt, oh no…

My paternal grandfather always buttered the slice of fruit cake he was about to eat, and I continue the tradition by slathering my still-warm slice of banana bread with gorgeous Irish butter. I can’t remember if this is something I picked up from watching him, or if it’s genetic, but I do remember, at the age of about 8, being served slices of Christmas cake when visiting relatives, and my father and aunt bursting into peals of laughter when I asked for butter. Like grandfather, like granddaughter…

You need some very ripe bananas for this recipe, and I purposely scour supermarkets for overly ripe bananas on sale. When I have to buy a fresh bunch, I pick the ripest in the whole shop, watch their progress from yellow to speckled to brown with glee. Rage descends when I find that another hungry soul has gotten to them first, their appetite coming between me and my favourite tea bread.

Although this is called banana bread, it’s more like a cake, or a fruit loaf. Either way, I cannot think of anything better to have with a cup of hot tea, except for, well, another slice. If you are taking your first, tentative steps into the world of baking, or, indeed, into your kitchen, this is the best place to start. The only tools you need are a large bowl, a wooden spoon and a loaf tin, and you’re set. The smell of this wafting through your kitchen makes you feel like a proper, 1950’s housewife, all freshly-pressed pinny, high heels, and red lipstick, and is just the thing to boost the nervous cook’s confidence.

This recipe is taken from How To Be A Domestic Goddess, by the lovely Nigella Lawson. Even if you don’t cook, but love to read, I urge you to buy one of her books. When I am in need of comfort, I flip through one of her books in bed. Never mind her recipes; her prose alone is enough to feed the soul.

Naturally, I’ve made some slight changes to this recipe. Nigella stipulates soaking the sultanas in rum, but seeing as I hardly ever have rum in the house, I use orange juice instead. I did soak the dried fruit in Captain Morgan’s Spiced on one occasion, but I think I actually prefer the orange juice. I use raisins instead of sultanas, and pecans instead of walnuts to suit my own taste. Feel free to revert to the original if that’s what you fancy. It doesn’t matter what you use; what matters is that you make this. Soon. You and those lucky enough to be given a slice will be thankful.

Banana Bread (adapted slightly from How To Be A Domestic Goddess, by Nigella Lawson)

Ingredients:

100g raisins

75ml orange juice

175g plain flour

2tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

125g butter, melted

150g sugar

2 large eggs

300g mashed weight of bananas

60g broken pecans

1tsp vanilla extract

loaf tin, lined with a baking paper (bossy note – you MUST line your cake tin. Yes, yes; I know, I used to think that life was too short to sieve flour or line tins, but it takes a hell of a lot longer to chip stubbornly baked-on cake from the bottom of a tin than it does to rip off a piece of parchment paper and fling it in, so just line the damn thing)

Method:

1. Put the raisins and orange juice into a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat, cover and leave to stand for up to an hour. When the raisins have absorbed most of the liquid, drain and set aside.

2. Preheat the oven to 170 Celcius/Gas Mark 3. Mix the flour, baking powder and bicarb in a medium-sized bowl and mix well.

3. In a large bowl, mix the melted butter and sugar and beat until blended. Beat in the eggs one at a time, and then the mashed banana.

4. Stir in the pecans, raisins and vanilla extract.

5. Finally, add the flour mixture, one-third at a time, stirring well after each addition. Scrape the mixture into your (prepared!) loaf tin, and bake in the middle of the oven for 1-1h15mins. When it’s cooked, a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake should come out clean-ish, without too much sticky cake mixture on it.

6. Allow to cool (slightly) in the tin – you can be boiling the kettle and making a brew as it cools – before cutting into thick slices and slathering with butter. I love this with a cup of tea as a post-breakfast “dessert”, elevenses, mid-afternoon pick-me-up or pre-bedtime snack. Honestly, I wouldn’t turn it down  at any hour of the day.

Orange Breakfast Muffins

In Baking, Breakfast on May 6, 2010 at 18:55

I know, I know…it’s only Thursday, and I’m a bit ahead of myself with what is undoubtedly a weekend breakfast item. I don’t have weekend fever already; rather, I’m giving you, dear readers, a head start on your weekend plans. Buy the items listed below on Friday night – and I would suggest adding two extra oranges to your shopping list, seeing as you’re buying one already you might as well provide yourself with the wherewithal for some freshly-squeezed orange juice for breakfast – before weighing out and combining the dry ingredients, leaving you with little more to do on Saturday morning than some light stirring. Rouse your slumbering loved one with a prettily-laid breakfast tray – a pot of tea, the morning papers, delicious fruit jams and these tenderly light, fluffy, orange muffins. Surprised, touched, grateful adoration will be yours forever more.

These come courtesy of Nigella Lawson’s Nigella Bites. I’ve made these many, many times, and am always surprised at how good they are, wonder why I don’t make them more often, and, with each bite, promise to bake them on a weekly basis. That never happens, of course, but it’s nice to dream…

These are extremely easy to make – as I said, you can even weigh out and mix the dry ingredients together the night before, and all that needs to be done the next morning is juice the orange (if it doesn’t yield a full 100ml of liquid feel free to top it up with cartoned juice, it’s what I do), measure out your milk, and mix it up with the egg and cooled, melted butter, before lazily stirring the wet ingredients into the dry. As muffin mixes should be heavy, lumpy, and barely combined, it is utterly impossible to exert yourself when making these.

I love these muffins eaten as Nigella directs – that is, split when still warm and smeared, mouthful by mouthful, with butter, honey or jam; raspberry being my conserve of choice. I haven’t – surprise, surprise – tinkered with these at all, but imagine that some dried or even fresh cranberries would be a delicious addition. But don’t take it from me, try them yourself this weekend.

Orange Breakfast Muffins (taken from Nigella Bites, by Nigella Lawson)

Ingredients:

75g butter

250g self-raising flour

25g ground almonds

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1 tsp baking powder

75g caster sugar

zest of 1 orange

100ml freshly-squeezed orange juice

100ml full-fat milk

1 egg

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 200 Celcius/Gas Mark 6.

2. Melt the butter and set aside. Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl.

3. Measure the orange juice and milk, whisk in the egg, and add the cooled, melted butter.

4. Pour the liquid mixture into the bowl of dry ingredients, mixing with a fork as you go. As above, the batter should be barely combined; the heaviest batter makes for the lightest muffin.

5. Spoon the mixture into your prepared, paper-lined muffin tin and bake for 20 minutes.

6. Remove to a wire rack to cool ever-so-slightly before falling on them with grateful greed.

Makes 12.

Loaded Potato Skins

In Supper on May 4, 2010 at 21:13

I love these. I love them. I love them so much that when I walked into one of the restaurants near my office one day the waiter looked me up and down and said, “Potato skins?” before I was even in my seat. Mortified, I decided that it was time to stop frequenting that particular peddler of potato-based delights, and start making them at home instead.

These are not only outrageously delicious – although I can eat my weight in chocolate like any other self-respecting girl, I have a savoury tooth, and this pushes all my buttons – but ridiculously easy, too. All you have to remember to do is put them in the oven about 90 minutes before you want to eat, and you can sit down and do the crossword while dinner looks after itself. They’re not super-speedy, as you have to wait for the potatoes to bake, but it’s not your time, and they make up for the wait by their ease of assembly. When the potatoes have baked through, cut them in half, scoop out the flesh, mash it with some delicious additions, refill the shells, sprinkle with cheese, blast in a hot oven and apply them to your face. I like these with salad (if I’m being virtuous), peas (if I’m being lazy), or, like tonight, chive-sprinkled sour cream (if I’m being good to myself).

The amounts given below are approximations, so feel free to add more or less, depending on your taste, or vary the ingredients. I use creme fraiche in the mash, but butter can be used in its stead, and add spring onions, but some freshly-snipped chives would be gorgeous too, as would crispy bacon in place of the smoked ham I used. I prefer fully-mature cheddar as it gives more bang for its buck, flavour-wise, but any meltable cheese would be good. These are also good for parties, using bite-sized baking potatoes. A little fiddly, I grant you, but your guests will reward you with their unbridled appreciation.

Loaded Potato Skins

Ingredients:

500g baking potatoes

3tbsps creme fraiche

1.5 spring onions, chopped

2 slices cooked ham, chopped,

grated cheese

salt & pepper

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 200 Celcius/Gas Mark 6. Prick the potatoes with a fork and put in the oven to bake for approx 60 minutes, but they may need longer, depending on their size.

2. When the potatoes have cooked through, remove them from the oven and allow to cool slightly. Cut them in half lengthways, and scoop out the flesh into a saucepan, but be careful not to scoop right through the skin as you’ll need this later.

3. Mash the potato flesh and add the creme fraiche gradually, until you are happy with the consistency. Add the chopped spring onions and ham, and mix thoroughly. Season to taste.

4. Refill the potato skins with the potato mixture, and cover the top with a generous helping of grated cheese. Pop back into the oven and heat until the cheese is golden and bubbling. Serve with your chosen side and enjoy!

My New Baby!

In Baking, Life on May 3, 2010 at 22:50

I am embarrassingly, mortifyingly bad at hitting deadlines. Hence the lack of a scheduled blog post yesterday. And only a pretend post today. I am sorry. I am ashamed. I will try harder next time.

In the meantime, allow me to introduce you to my new baby – The Kenwood Chef. Oh my. After getting to play with one in Ballymaloe recently, I decided to further my career as a home baker by investing in one for myself. I made a birthday cake for my friends Claire and Aine yesterday, which was its first outing. Now, I just need to name her. Any thoughts?