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Archive for February, 2011

It began last week. I started thinking about apple turnovers. You know, the puff pastry, icing sugar-dredged, appley confection to be found in any self-respecting bakery in Ireland. You bite in, the pastry flakes everywhere. Someone makes you laugh mid-bite, you exhale rapidly out your nose sending icing sugar and flaky pastry flying onto your lap, into your tea, everywhere. Ah, the humble apple turnover.

I needed one. Now.

I wasn’t near an establishment that sells them (the University needs a bakery), so instead I had some cake. The cake was good (it was tart actually, bakewell. yum indeed), but it wasn’t an apple turnover.

I was craving them by now. So I bought some apples. And I took the frozen sheets of puff pastry out of the freezer – the sheets that I had been saving for some special savoury inspiration. Feck savoury, I wanted sweet, sweet apple!

I made the first batch using raw, cubed apple and a few frozen raspberries. They dripped everywhere in the oven and could have done with a bit more sugar. For the second batch, I stewed the apple and let it cool before using. The result was better, sweeter (I added more sugar to the cooked apple) and just as drippy in the oven.

Moral of today’s baking lesson: if you’re trying this at home, cook the apple first, add more sugar than you’d think, and use less filling than you’d think (or they will explode mid-baking. not a dramatic explosion, but still, you’ll need to clean up).

They tasted great even if they weren’t so photogenic. 😉 Alternatively, save yourself the hassle (and the washing up), take the easy route and just walk into town to buy some.

But then, this blog has never been about taking the easy route. 🙂

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I’ve never made blondies before. To be honest, I’d never really thought much about them.

Aren’t brownies better, anyway?

Turns out that brownies are great and all, but blondies are just a whole different animal. Imagine, if you will, a big, thick, chewy cookie. There’s never enough of the chewy part before you get to the thinner, crispier edges.  Enter: blondies. 🙂

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It is not easy to take a good photo of soup.  The lighting (here, the coffee room in college) and quality of camera (not DSLR) play a big part in making soup look appetizing.  I need a better camera! But what this soup lacks in photogenic qualities, it makes up in the taste department 😀

Almost every Sunday I make a big pot of soup which I store in containers in the fridge, ready to take to college for lunch with a couple of slices of homemade brown bread. The soup is usually a mish-mash of whatever vegetables are looking a bit sad and neglected at the bottom of the fridge – soup is a great way to use up and get a bit more life out of vegetables. I often throw in some lentils, pearl barley, or even some chickpeas.  For this soup, I let the roasted veggies speak for themselves.

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Snazzy Pizza Rolls

I find working with yeast a little bit daunting. I’m always afraid something is going to go terribly wrong. Is this yeast too old? Did I knead it enough? Is the dough the correct consistency? How do you know? It’s a minefield out there.

Recently, we have made pizza a weekly thing. Usually Saturday – make the dough in the morning, pop it in the fridge, use it in the evening – and it usually works out ok. Sometimes chewier, sometimes harder to roll, always eaten – and I guess that’s the real test? 🙂

This recipe is a softer dough than I usually use for pizzas – it puffs up more when baked and is all fluffy and delicious. It’s a little more hassle than regular pizza, but not alot. And it’s nice to have a change 🙂 Most importantly, this is my entry to English Mum’s Fresh Bread Bakeoff!

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I first tasted this dish about 5 years ago when I moved back to Galway after spending a year studying in Scotland. The flatmates in my new house used to cook dinners together quite regularly, and this was one of the veggie favourites. I had never encountered halloumi cheese before then – a solid cheese that holds its shape when fried, it has an almost squeaky texture. It was all a bit foreign and exotic after a year of pizza suppers and battered Mars bars. Still, I loved it from the beginning, and on a cold evening this is a lovely comforting dinner. Pasta in a creamy sauce, anyone? We’re trying to bring more meat-free days into our week, and this is a delightful (if not particularly low calorie) option.

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I love chocolate cake.

Recently, though, I have had a few very disappointing slices of chocolate cake in certain cafes around town. For such a popular cake choice, it seems to be difficult to get right. I’ve had slices that were dry, dull, disappointing.

I was in need of a proper slice of chocolate cake.  Not too sickly sweet, dark chocolate and cocoa please. This recipe hit the spot. It is another Nigella hit. This is not a fudge cake. It’s not extremely decadent, or sweet, or fussy.  It tastes good, it slices well, the icing is to-die-for, and it stays moist and delicious for a few days.

I can’t ask for more than that!

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Homemade Vanilla Extract

I think I just got tired of buying tiny bottles of vanilla extract that cost many of my hard earned pennies. Would be cheaper to make it myself? From scratch?

So I set to work.

This is a process I started many months ago. May 2010 in fact. And it’s February 2011 now. Making your own vanilla extract is not a quick fix when you are running low on your supermarket-bought extract. But if you happen to have a large bottle, some cheap vodka and some vanilla pods lying about, what’s stopping you making your own?? Could it actually be *shock* cheaper?? 🙂

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