Niamh Doherty

Archive for the ‘Life’ Category

Sweet Potato, Ginger and Coconut Soup for a So-Called Summer’s Day

In Comfort Food, Life, Lunch, Soup, Supper on May 14, 2012 at 20:48

I haven’t blogged in 18 months. Yowza. It sounds a lot longer than it feels. In any event, I don’t think anyone missed me, so I’m going to brush off my absence with a simple explanation –  some shit happened and I didn’t feel like blogging anymore, but now I do. Let’s get on with it, shall we?

It’s finally summer in Ireland – at least, according to the calendar. Yesterday was gorgeous, with an expanse of blue skies, cotton-wool clouds, and a breeze that would cut you in two. It was far too nice to sit around at home, so I took advantage of the fine weather and went adventuring around Co. Wexford with a friend of mine. We visited Hook Head Lighthouse and Duncannon Fort, built in 1588 by the British in anticipation of an attack by the Spanish Armada. Unlike your ordinary common or garden tourists, we got our hands on a set of keys and were able to go down into the dungeons which were properly creepy. I distracted myself from the gloom by taking some photos – I recently discovered Instagram and I. Am. OBSESSED. Here’s a shot of the fort itself:

All this exploring and running from the supposed spirits of Croppy Boys past worked up quite an appetite, so we sauntered down the road to the Sandy Dock Cafe for a delicious lunch. One of the daily soup specials caught my eye – Sweet Potato, Ginger and Coconut. I LOVE sweet potato, and it’s rare to see something so “daring” on the menu of a small Irish country cafe, so I was doubly intrigued. Unfortunately, I was too hungry to just have soup for lunch, and instead resolved to try it myself at home.

I’m going to annoy you all by saying that I don’t really have a recipe for this. I had a general idea of how I would go about making this tasty soup, and consulted a couple of online resources to make sure I was on the right track. Anna Olson’s recipe was more or less what I was going for, so I forged ahead. If you’d like a definitive recipe, feel free to use hers, but rest assured that my free-form effort turned out beautifully. The soup is silky smooth, with subtle warmth from the ginger and a luxurious feel thanks to the coconut milk. I divvied my soup up into freezable portions, and added the lime once I’d reheated it for some extra zing, topping with natural yoghurt and a sprinkling of chili flakes. Just the thing to warm your soul after a bracing walk, at any time of the year.

Sweet Potato, Ginger and Coconut Soup – Serves 4

Ingredients:

Glug of olive oil

1 onion, peeled and chopped

2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped

2 tbsps grated fresh ginger (I just grated the ginger over the pot until I got what I thought was 2 tbps because I’m lazy)

2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and diced

1 can of coconut milk (I used reduced-fat which is thinner – if you use full-fat you may need to use more stock)

2 cups of vegetable stock (be prepared to add more to thin it out if necessary)

Salt, pepper and lime juice to taste; natural yoghurt and red chili flakes to serve.

Method:

1. Heat up the oil  in a saucepan and, when hot, add the onion. Gently cook until soft. Add the garlic and ginger and stir until fragrant.

2. Tip in the diced sweet potatoes and add the coconut milk and stock – just enough to cover the vegetables. Put the lid on and simmer for about 25 minutes, or until the sweet potatoes are tender to the point of a knife.

3. Take the soup off the heat and blitz with a hand blender. Season with salt and pepper to taste. If you feel that the soup is too thick, you can add more stock to thin it out at this stage.

4. If adding the lime juice before serving, I would add the juice of one lime and mix well. You can add more if you wish. Personally, I prefer to spritz it over before serving.

This soup freezes well, so it’s just as easy to make double the amount for chilly days when you need something warm and comforting. Serve with crusty bread and enjoy.

SOMA Garden Market

In Baking, Life, Market on July 31, 2010 at 20:22

Today I had a stall at my first ever farmer’s market, which was a resounding success. By the end of the day, I had one Snickers and peanut butter muffin, and about 10 cookies left over! My sister helped me with the baking last night, and we fell into bed at 2am. I’m so grateful for her help – I would never have gotten everything done otherwise! Many of my friends and family came along to support me and buy my treats, including Candi of The Boho Kitchen – who is going to have a stall there next weekend, so if you enjoyed her baking at the recent Dunmore Food Festival, take note. I had a brilliant day – everyone was so friendly and, most importantly, enjoyed my baking, which was the best thing. I was a bit nervous going into it, but got great feedback which really boosted my confidence. One lady who’d bought some flapjacks came back a couple of hours later to buy all the flapjacks that I had left…apparently her husband told her that they were nicer than the ones she makes!

I was so touched and thriled that so many people turned up to see me – I really appreciated the effort that you all made, so thank you very, very much. I’m booked in to do it again on the 21st August, so I hope to see you there next time! Hopefully my table will look like this by 4pm again…

Dunmore Food Festival 2010

In Life on June 27, 2010 at 09:01

The annual Dunmore Food Festival has been running all weekend in Dunmore East, the most picturesque and charming fishing village in County Waterford. I’ve been lax this year, and haven’t visited it yet (last year I caught a pasta-making class in Azzurro with Polly and David), but I am most looking forward to the farmer’s market in the harbour today. This year promises even more stalls than last-year’s mind-boggling list of 40, offering everything from home-baked goodies to fresh fish, Comeragh lamb, fresh, crusty bread, a giant pan of paella, a whole hog roast – the list goes on, and on, and on. This year, the Dungarvan Brewing Company will be uncorking a cask in the in the Spinnaker Bar, and Candi of The Boho Kitchen will be selling her home-made cakes and cookies from her brand-new stall. I for one will be heading to the market armed with my camera, a large shopping bag and a fistful of notes – fingers crossed the rain holds off, and see you there!

A Weekend Away, Foodie Friends, and an Apology

In Life on June 21, 2010 at 21:44

Hello, remember me? It seems like ages since I’ve posted a recipe – the last few weeks have been hectic, with a weekend in Manchester, a mad dash to A&E with my friend Andrea in labour in the back seat of the car – culminating in the arrival of beautiful Natalie Arwen – and trying to fit in a walk each evening. Add to that the fact that it’s been unseasonably warm here – we, in the almost sarcastically-named “sunny south-east” are more familiar with experiencing four different types of rain as opposed to four different seasons, and certainly not at all accustomed to protracted bouts of wide-skied, glorious, glorious sunshine – leaving me at a complete loss as to what to make for dinner, that I feel guilty for sitting indoors blogging when I could be outside feeling the sun on my skin, and you have a recipe for abandonment. I decided it was high time to actually post something, before the WordPress equivalent of Social Services declare me to be an unfit and negligent blogger, before forcibly taking The Loving Spoonful into care.

Two weekends ago, I went to stay with friends in Manchester. Polly and David are very good friends of mine, absolute darlings, and my most favourite couple in the world. They are also as food-obsessed as I am, so I knew that a fabulously palate-pleasing weekend was in store. Before moving to Manchester, they lived in Waterford, and Polly and I worked together, which is how we met.  I shared many happy, food-centric occasions with them before they moved to Manchester, and I miss them lots.

After they picked me up at the airport, we started the weekend chez Whittebaugh in style, with Civilised Hour – like Happy Hour, but far, far more Civilised.

That’s my vodka with cranberry juice and a wedge of lime, and Polly’s G&T. Shlurp.

Of course, you can’t have Civilised Hour without snackage. That just wouldn’t be Civilised.

Here we have baby beetroot, carrots and red peppers, Doritos, with sour cream and chive dip. Deeee-lish.

Before meeting another ex-work buddy, Jo and her brother, Johnny, we toddled down to Manchester’s Canal Street for an aperitif. The place. Was. HEAVING – we were lucky to find a free table canalside. And can I just say, I know it’s a commonly-held belief that the majority of gay men are outrageously good-looking, but oh my GOD… I was minded to chat up  the delicious specimen at the table next to us – what happens on Canal Street stays on Canal Street – until I remembered that I don’t have a penis, and therefore he would not have been interested. No fair!

That’s David’s Champagne Cocktail, Polly’s Mojito and my Pomeranian. All overpriced, and all extremely tasty.

After finishing our drinks, we headed to Dough, an Italian place in Manchester’s Northern Quarter. After much humming and hawing over the menu, we plumped for the following:

I added prosciutto to my funghi pizza. David was jealous. Oooh it was good.

Polly decided on the Moroccan – spiced lamb, red onion, diced mango, mozzarella, tomato sauce, mint, and cool yoghurt. It tasted even better than it sounds – I snuck a taste and the meat was gorgeously spiced, with cinnamon flavours to the fore. With the sweet mango and slightly tart yoghurt, it was to die for.

Worried that the waitress hadn’t clocked his accent, David ordered the American, just to make sure.  His pizza came topped with spicy pepperoni, mozzarella and tomato sauce.

We finished our night with some drinks in the back room of a bar whose humidity levels made the Florida Everglades in July seem like a cool and comfortable alternative.

More drinks followed at home, before I surrendered to sleep and gratefully sank onto the comfy futon.

Polly busied herself by doing some baking for breakfast the next morning, serving up Honey Yogurt Scones from The Fiddlehead Cookbook, from the now sadly-defunct restaurant and bakery in Juneau, Alaska.

Honey Yogurt Scones from The Fiddlehead Cookbook (Juneau, Alaska Restaurant and Bakery) by Nancy and John DeCherney, Deborah Marshall and Susan Brook. This recipe was developed by baker Claudia Coyner.

Ingredients:

4 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon honey

1/2 cup plain yogurt (can sub sour cream or buttermilk)

1 egg

1 3/4 cups plain flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 dried currants, dried cherries, pecans or raisins (Polly added raisins, om nom nom)

1 egg, beaten (optional)

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 220 Celcius and place rack in centre.

2. Melt together butter and honey in a small glass bowl in microwave, or in a small pan on stove over medium heat. Remove from heat and whisk in yogurt and egg.

3. In medium-sized mixing bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir in currants.

4. Pour egg mixture over flour mixture and, using a fork, very gently cut together just until dough is beginning to come together but is not quite completely combined.

5. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and gently pat into a 6-inch circle. Fold Dough in half and pat out again. Repeat two to three times, taking care not to overwork or knead dough.

6. Pat into a 1-inch-thick circle (about 6 inches in diameter) and cut into 6 wedges.

7. Place on an ungreased baking pan. Brush lightly with beaten egg (optional) and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until puffed and golden brown.

8. Remove from oven and serve immediately with lots of butter and homemade jam. They’re also amazing with honey.

Yep. I think I liked them.

For dinner, David cooked what can only be described as The Meal Of Destiny. I can’t even begin to describe how good this was. We ate garlic and herb crusted roast loin of pork with raspberry-chipotle glaze, atop a citrus rice and barley salad. The recipe is courtesy of Mr Emeril Lagasse (BAM!), and is a little labour-intensive, but so, so worth it. In fact, it’s only as I read through the recipe that I am even more grateful to David for cooking it for us…it is pretty involved. Again, though, your effort is repaid with every mouthful. So incredibly tasty was it, that David brought the leftovers to work the next morning. David Whitten does not “do” leftovers. THAT is how good this is.

Here’s the roast just out of the oven, chillaxing.

Pretty as a picture. It almost looked too beautiful to eat. I said, almost. The recipe is here, if anyone wants to try it. And I URGE you, BEG you, to try it.

I think we liked this too!

For dessert, Polly conjured up a dessert to match the fabulousness of dinner: Apricot Crumble served with Basil Mascarpone. This is a recipe from La Boheme restaurant in Waterford, and is taken from the Zest cookbook, a cookbook compiled for charity, with recipes contributed by Ireland’s most prestigious restaurants. Here’s David with his portion…

Here’s the recipe:

Apricot Crumble served with Basil Mascarpone

Ingredients:

150g butter

150g ground almonds

150g caster sugar

50g mascarpone cheese

50g honey

1/2 bunch basil, leaves removed

400g can apricot halves in natural juice

Method:

1. In a pan, melt the butter, then add the almond power and caster sugar, cooking slowly until this caramelises slightly. Allow the mixture to cool. This is the crumble. If the mixture won’t break up into crumble, you can cut it with with a knife.

2. Mix the mascarpone with the honey in the a food processor. Add the fresh basil leaves (reserving a few to decorate) and blend again briefly. Remove and set aside.

3. Again using the food processor, puree the apricot halves without their liquid.

4. Take four martini or champagne-style glasses and layer first the crumble, then the mascarpone cream and finish with the pureed apricot. Repeat until you have reached the top of the glass finishing with the crumble. Decorate with a fresh basil leaf and enjoy.

So there you have it…my wonderful foodie weekend. Thanks again Polly and David – hope we can do it again soon -xxx.

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!

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?

Updates

In Life on April 20, 2010 at 22:45

Since starting this blog all of 10 days ago, I’ve been updating and posting new recipes daily. That’s all about to change, unfortunately, as I’ve gone back to work after a couple of weeks off, and don’t have as much time to cook or bake, let alone post. So, instead of updating daily, I’ll be blogging on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays instead.  Thanks to everyone who’s checked out my blog so far, I hope you enjoy it and I promise something quick and tasty tomorrow night to start us off!

Niamhy Luvs Darina 4-Evur

In Life on April 15, 2010 at 10:03

Yup, that’s me with Darina Allen. Be still my beating heart!

Regular readers (Hi Jen!) will have noticed a drop-off in posts over the last couple of days. This is because I was doing a cookery course in the world-renowned Ballymaloe Cookery School in Shangarry, Co. Cork. It wasn’t cheap, but it was one of the best investments I’ve ever made – I think I learned more in my two and a half days there than in all my previous years of baking put together. The level of teaching is incredible – the tutors were all very hands-on and more than happy to help all of us newbies who were floundering around their professional kitchen.

Darina herself is a force to be reckoned with – she is one of the world’s most recognised, respected, talented and passionate chefs, but still remarkably down-to-earth. She joined the other chefs in pouring teas and coffees, serving lunch to us students, and even popped up at my elbow in the kitchen yesterday morning to offer advice, before disappearing into the ether on one of her missions. Warm, and with an easy laugh, more than happy to pose for photos and delighted to sign any number of cookbooks thrust at her, she was the complete antithesis to celebrity. Getting to meet someone I so admire, whose recipes I have relied upon and whose shows I have watched since childhood with my mother furiously scribbling notes beside me was definitely one of the high points of my life!

Ballymaloe Cookery School is set in the middle of a 100-acre organic farm, and is one of the most peaceful and charming places on earth. The students stay in a variety of renovated outhouses a stone’s throw from the school, and are woken by the rooster every morning. Each day, they eat salad from the greenhouse, cook with free-range eggs from the flock of hens who wander around the school grounds, and pour cream from Darina’s Jersey cow on their porridge. Stepping through the farm gate really is like stepping into another world, a world where the focus is on great food that is locally sourced, simply cooked and, crucially, enjoyed.  The most wonderful thing about Ballymaloe, though, is the people. Their ethos – buy local, support farmers, and cook nutritious but delicious food – is utterly inspiring. They are so proud of their local produce, and go to great lengths both to source it and to make sure that the producers are paid a fair price for it; something that, sadly, is the exception as opposed to the norm for the majority of farmers and food producers in this country. Their passion and enthusiasm for what they do is just incredible, and has spurred me make some career changes in the next couple of years.

In the meantime though, stay tuned for some delicious baked goodies over the next couple of days, as I plan to be up to my elbows in flour, dough and icing nozzles before going back to work on Monday!

Here I am…

In Life on April 9, 2010 at 16:54

…drinking tea, waiting for my toasted sandwich to toast, and typing up Niamhy’s First Blog Post.

I’ve been meaning to start this blog for aaaaaaaaages now, and hope it will spur me on to cook and bake more often. Feel free to comment on any of my recipes, and please get in touch! I’m looking forward to hearing from my fellow food bloggers/obsessives.