Monday, May 16, 2011

Oh I Do Like To Eat Beside The Me-Side

By which I mean: staying in is the new going out again. And also: I heart the 'burbs. Another one: I am so lazy/poor that I prefer to have pals over to my house so that we (actually, lets be honest, I) can eat as many portions as hunger/greed demands and refill endless pots of coffee and tea without having to fork out for the very unhardcore (but not without its own perils) substance addiction that is caffeine. Sitting chatting and eating for as long as time and responsibility allow is one of my favourite things to do. This is an activity that takes place primarily at weekends, and many of my weekend eating hours have been spent in pursuit of the perfect croque monsieur. C'est parfait comme brunch food: bread - check; cheese - check; eggs - check; meat - check. No invasion from healthy, green foodstuffs here, just carby, dairy, processed meatsy indulgence. It can be pretty hard to get an aw-fen'ick croque monsieur round these parts. I do love the cheese and ham toastie that they call a CM in Fallon and Byrne, but it just lacks the essentials (incidentally, those who think that a CM is 'just a toasted cheese and ham sandwich' need a good KICK). The beaut of a CM in Chez Max is certainly the real deal, but the €7.90 pricetag is only the start of it - add the price of at least two coffees and then a tip to that and you're talking the guts of €20 - OUCH! Non, merci. So when I saw that Nigella, ever the friend of the greedy lady, had come up with this beauteous wonder of a croque monsieur bake I was more than a little excited. It's low maintenance, squidgy weekend perfection. It'll even do for those times when you want the best of both worlds: a bit of a mad one on a Saturday night, without missing out on crucial home entertaining catch-ups over Sunday brunch. Get your shizzle together before you head out on Saturday night and it'll be sitting there ready to crack into the oven on Sunday morning, filling the house with smells that will warm you right to the core.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

More Cake? Don't Mind If I Do

Hmmmm, yes I have indeed been up to my tonsils of late - yet somehow I have managed to fit a large amount of cake into my life. Curious. Or not so much - I mean, everyone thinks that baking is really hard but to be honest once you stick to what you're told then you're not going to go too wide of the mark. And time-wise I personally think that you get more return on your investment than when you cook a regular meal - like, it'll be there for the guts of a week, whereas a savoury, main coursey type meal things, well, they kind of disappear in a jiffy to be honest - in my presence, at any rate. When I was tweeting/FBing excitedly about my new Ottolenghi cookbook, my friend Gemma commented that I really must make the apple and olive oil cake with maple icing. Given that decisions are not always my forte when faced with an array of attractive options, I considered this one made. 

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Jam Session

When I was, I think, about seven or eight a nurse came to school to instill some nutritional wisdom in us small mid-eighties Irish kideens. What I took away from her visit was that jam and tea are bad for you, so I diligently trotted home and told my parents that I would be having neither from thereonin, thank you very much. To this day I am mystified as to the allure of tea, not to mention the assumption that every living person drinks it, and sure what else would you have with your fry up/when you visit someone's house/when your head is done in. People just plonk it down on the table in front of you, and I think that it's only recently that my own family have stopped asking me if they'll put my name in the pot. Jam, however, I have become very happily reacquainted with, particularly since my exercise habits have really ratcheted up my sugar cravings. Since I began making my own bread I take particular pride and pleasure in having a slab of hot toast covered in lumps of rough-n-ready homemade jam or marmalade along with a big pot of coffee of a morning. I have hazy memories of my mam making jam (oooo, sounds like a Dr Seuss book!) when we were small. We had lots of fruit growing in our garden, and as far as I can remember gooseberries and blackcurrants were the most frequent visitors to the ginormous jam saucepan that wasn't used for anything else and went into hiding in the back kitchen when it wasn't jam season. I have similarly hazy memories of a particular type of jam sugar that was a key part of proceedings, but for the life of me I can't remember the name of the brand; it came in a blue tin and the name was written in curly, swirly writing, and I think that it began with a G...anyone want to help me out on this?! Argh, not only is it only going to drive me bananas, now I want one of those old tins to plant herbs in. Why don't I distract myself by telling you about my grapefruit, orange and lemon marmalade.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Cheer-Me-Up-Quick Cake

I reckon it's fair to say that I'm not the only person in the country who has needed a fair bit of cheering up of late. Cake is quite the cheerer-upper, I find, a comforting friend that doesn't disappoint. And what could provide more perk-me-up solace than a cake made from some beamingly orange vegetables? Carrot cake is a fresh, moist joy of a cake; I know that 'moist' isn't a very appetising word, but it perfectly describes that 'just so' texture between my-fan-oven-isn't-so-amazing-after-all and dammit-why-did-I-spend-so-long-in-the-shower. There's the nuts chunking out through the fluff, and somehow carrots taste like a natural treaty dessert ingredient, not at all like that gag-inducing Kelkin juice stuff that I went through a (frankly, pointless) phase of forcing into myself. Then there is the lovely chilled slab of icing on top; lets face it, the majority of the joy derived from a cake is via the icing, and I think that this applies to carrot cake more so than any other kind. This recipe came from my not-so-new-anymore Ottolenghi cookbook (as recommended by the lovely Lilly Higgins), which I haven't had much time to pore over and experiment with, unfortunately - but as things are slowly becoming less hectic I'm hoping to have some more quality time with this delight of a book in the near future. In the meantime, I honed in on this classic beauty to brighten up my little world.