Love, by Smyth and Barry

Oh My! It is has been far far too long since I shared my little treats with you. These days I am mostly working on Smyth and Barry an events and catering business that my dear friend Anne Barry and I have started. The Lille Cook kitchen has provided a fertile ground for product development and many of the plates I have shared with you here have appeared on the tables of our clients. 

I am so excited to share with you the details of the Smyth and Barry Valentine’s Dinner Hamper. We will deliver a hamper to your door on Valentine’s evening containing all you need for a romantic foodie night at home. Our Dinner Hampers start at 28.50 per person and will contain, amongst other little things, the menu items listed below. 

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If you would be interested in availing of our special service or have any questions please drop me a line at smythandbarry@gmail.com

 
 
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Small Indulgences

The Superquinn Birthday Cake was the only birthday cake to have when I was a wee girl. The cake was not particularly luxurious but it was absolutely adored. A sponge and buttercream delight adorned with chocolate sprinkles, rice paper roses and the essential chocolate greeting. As I write I can absolutely taste this beautiful cake. I had a very small shindig (gathering is a dirty word round these parts in 2013) last Saturday night to celebrate my entry into the last year of my twenties. I had a particularly lovely night and while I did cook my little heart out, the delightful company was always going to surpass anything I put down on the table. As there is probably a good twenty years since I had my last Superquinn Birthday Cake, I decided I would bake my own treat, a lime buttercream sponge.

I followed a very simple recipe, 225g of each of butter, sugar and cream flour, a teaspoon of baking powder, four eggs and the zest and juice of two limes. I followed the creaming method, creaming together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. I then added each egg separately mixing well after each addition and folded in the flour and baking powder. To this soft batter I added the lime zest and juice and gave a quick stir to incorporate. The batter then went into two eight inch sandwich tins which I had buttered and lined with parchment paper. The cakes baked at 180 degrees for about 25 minutes.
When the cakes were completely cooled I whipped up a lime buttercream with 225g of unsalted butter and 450g of icing sugar, adding lime juice to taste. I used a very hot offset spatula to spread the buttercream. I like the rough edges on the icing. I like a simply iced cake. However, I did go a little bit bonkers with a star tip and some candied rose and violet petals. Please forgive this indulgence, it was my birthday after all! I swapped out rice paper flowers for some delicate edible flowers. So pretty!
I have been making a traditional buttermilk pudding recently but I wasn’t sure if it would be everyone’s cup of tea at dinner so I went for a super super similar but perhaps more familiar yoghurt pannacotta. The pannacotti (?) were topped with berries and edible rose petals.
We even had petit fours at this feast, white chocolate fudge and coconut marshmallows. For the marshmallow, I followed Neven Maguire’s recipe from The MacNean Restaurant Cookbook and I absolutely loved it. My previous attempts at marshmallow involved gelatine and cornflour and (like these constituent elements) were not particularly nice or palatable. No one should have to eat raw cornflour, even when cut with lashings of icing sugar. Neven’s marshmallows are a different beast altogether. Delicious. I couldn’t resist getting the heart shaped cutter out, again indulge me!

The Rose of Tralee

Well today has been a very exciting day! My little blog has been nominated for two Irish Blog Awards! Lille Cook is nominated in both the Best Food / Drink Blog and Best Newcomer Blog categories. How very thrilling. This is so unexpected and I would so like to thank my nominators – whoever ye are! As I am now too old and too married for the Rose of Tralee a blog award would do nicely!

Last week to celebrate our second anniversary we packed our bags and headed off to the wilds of West Kerry. We were married in Dingle and back in March of this year our wedding was featured on the wonderful wedding blog One Fab Day. We really did have the best day, it was one of those sadly rare enough occasions where people and place come together and it is just magic.

We had a relatively quiet week and I left every scrap of cooking equipment at home determined not to lift a wooden spoon or pan. I did end up cooking a couple of nights, making use of the beautiful local potatoes, prawns and a little bit of tuna from a stupendous haul which landed at the pier on the Bank Holiday. The landing of the 160 kilo bluefin tuna was quite a spectacle and the tuna was quite delicious!

We had our anniversary dinner in The Half Door restaurant on John Street and it was just perfect. Who could say no to a Baileys frappe for dessert?
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We didn’t make it in to one of our most favourite restaurants Fenton’s on Green Street – we are saving that until September!

In keeping with tradition, every second day we headed off around Slea Head – by car – and made a stop at Caife Dun Chaoin for a toasted special and a sweet treat. I have been making a stop at that Caife for at least twenty years. To my eyes nothing has changed since my first visit and that is absolutely a good thing. Their coffee cake, chocolate cake and apple pie are the gold standard. Truly delicious. The ladies in the Caife also sell their own pottery and over the years we have accumulated some precious items.

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I always come home from Dingle inspired and raring to go. As soon as we got back to our little house I made an apple pie in honour of the Dun Chaoin ladies. I looked to Darina Allen’s Forgotten Skills book for just the right recipe based on Darina’s mother’s pie. This is a beautiful tart. The pastry is a delight to make and best of all there is no blind baking to be done. I rolled my dough right on to a tart plate, layered some bramley apples and granulated sugar on top and rolled a dough lid on top. Rather than decorate further I left my tart bare adorned only with egg wash and a springing of demerara sugar. The tart baked at 180 degrees for close to one hour. It was golden brown and delicious. We ate it straight off the plate out of the oven. Gluttons!

Apple Pie

A Long Table Gatsby Dinner

I just wanted to share with you a few pictures from a beautiful pre wedding celebration dinner for a darling blushing bride to be, including some of the desserts I made. For the styling we worked with the bride’s vision and added our own flourishes. The stunning stunning menus came from ever wonderful and super efficient Dusty Boy Designs.

Such a wonderful wonderful evening.

An education in spice and subtlety.

This week I have mostly been trialling recipes for an upcoming event. The occasion calls for a little heat. Subtle though. I have been playing around with spice and what an education. The more I trial and taste the more I tweak. All to achieve a (here comes that word again) subtle balance.

This tandoori chicken is based on this Atul Kochhar dish and I was lucky to pick up Deggi Mirch chilli powder in our local Asian market. As not everyone in our house is a fan of brown meat, I used chicken fillet and sliced it into fingerlike strips. The marinade calls for strained yoghurt and I decided to strain a little extra for labne. I added the labne to diced beetroot, honey and a drop or two of balsamic vinegar. The sweet creaminess of the beetroot was the perfect counterpoint to the rich spiced chicken. The crown of baby boiled potatoes was a completely unnecessary adornment but very much loved.

I am completely in love with my Jme platter which I picked up in Mayfield Merchant in Terenure. It has been on constant rotation for all my dinners.

Another day, another Ottolenghi inspired recipe and an opportunity to incorporate spice into dessert. The delicate fragrance of cardamom in the pistachio shortbread rounds is irresistible. The addition of rice flour in the shortbread gives a soft crumbling texture to the biscuit while the crushed pistachio crust adds bite. Just delicious. An exotic twist on something so familiar in this little part of the world. We have so much to thank our Scottish cousins for!

On our trip to New York in May, we were so lucky to get a table at ABC Kitchen. I have long been a fan of ABC Carpet and Home. Many an evening I rode out the subway to Union Square to walk back a few blocks to ABC on my way home. Stepping inside was to enter a dream. A highly stylised expensive dream, but a dream nonetheless. Everything about ABC Kitchen appeals to me. The beautiful aesthetic. The organic and locavore ethos. The food is deceptively complex. Truly stunning. To start we shared a crab toast. It was exquisite. Like nothing I could have imagined. I expected the meaty crab to be cut with a sharp citrus but the crab was creamy and luxurious, with a subtle spice and a hint of garlic. After lunch on a crosstown walk, at risk of blowing our roaming download limit, I frantically googled the recipe.  Jean Georges Vongerichten, thank you for sharing!

The spice element of the dish comes from Sriracha, a blend of sun dried chilli and garlic. A new one on me and it took a bit of a hunt in the Asian market to find it. I couldn’t wait to try this dish. I picked up some delicious Ted Browne crab from Dingle (the first pack of crab that I have picked and NOT found some shell fragments, well done lads!) and away I went. I added to Sriracha to the mayonnaise drop by careful drop to achieve the right balance for me. Not too hot so as to overwhelm the beautiful crab. Once the mayonnaise was folded into the crab I balanced a careful dessertspoon on top of some homemade soda bread and sprinkled with some dried chilli flakes (to be honest for colour as much as anything else!).

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I am a fan of the dainty and the cute. These beautiful meringue kisses are a big hit in our house. The recipe and technique are one of the easiest I have found and the yield is fantastic. I warmed 600g of caster sugar in the oven at 100 degrees for about 10 minutes and very very (VERY) slowly added the sugar to in and around 300g of egg white (which is about 14 eggs). Once all the sugar was added, I cranked the kitchenaid up to the highest setting and walked away finding small jobs about the house to keep me occupied for 10 to 15 minutes. The egg whites were as white as snow, shiny and incredibly voluminous upon my return. I divided the mix in three and added pink, violet and green food gel. It was then back to the piping bag and I piped the mix directly onto a silicone baking sheet and popped into a low oven (100 degrees). I got an outstanding 100 kisses out of the mix. I left the heat on in the oven for about an hour, turned it off and headed out the door to work. When I got home, I had some delicious sweet treats awaiting me.

Dainty, cute and delicious.

A Little Bit Sweet and Sour

Hello Loyal Reader(s)

I must apologise for my recent disappearance. I am still here baking away. But in order to fund my baking (and credit card) habit I have been somewhat distracted by my new nine to fiver! I also managed to pack in a cake *research* trip to New York and Boston and I so hope to share the fruits of my intensive labours with you soon.

Well what else have I been up to? I love small gatherings. I love welcoming friends old and new into our home to break bread and working with others to bring some of that love to their own kitchen table. The sweet treat at the end of the meal as the evening begins to soar is always my favourite part. Lately I have been determined to find the perfect biscuit accompaniment to the Lime and Chilli Posset and I think these delicious Limoncello Cranberry Amaretti do just the job! 

 

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These wee fellas are based on an Ottolenghi recipe for Sour Cherry Amaretti. Sadly I haven’t been able to find a link to the original recipe online but it is available in the (amazing) Ottolenghi The Cookbook. This Summer, Sour Cherries have been rarer than hen’s teeth in these parts so I have had to improvise. I soused a good handful of dried cranberries in limoncello overnight and folded them in to a light egg white, almond and caster sugar batter. The limoncello cranberries are both sweet and sour, a perfect counterpoint to the creamy spiciness of the posset. Provided that your ground almonds are not cut with any gluten containing agent, the added beauty of these guys is that they are gluten free. Ta-dah!

If you have any left the morning after, they go particularly well with a well deserved (and needed) espresso.

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Tartine / Smørrebrød

I am a big fan of Jim Lahey and his Sullivan Street Bakery in New York. Jim has most generously shared the recipe for his ‘No Knead Bread’ online. When I am missing NYC I like to make a batch of this delicious bread.

ImageThis process itself is relatively easy, no more difficult than the soda bread which I made earlier this week. What is a little different is the timing. The dough is to be left to rise for a minimum of 12 hours. I like to make the dough in the late afternoon and bake off first thing in the morning. To add a little extra to the dough I like to line the bowl with a good quality extra virgin olive oil, in this case Fontodi, whether or not it actually makes a difference to the finished product remains to be seen but i’m sticking to this little extra luxury. I bake the bread in a Le Creuset cooking pot which was a parting gift from my former colleagues at work, most thoughtful! The dough is particularly loose and fluid which will initially scare more seasoned yeast bread bakers but have faith, it works a treat!

For a little after work lunch today I grilled the a hefty slice of the bread and had a simple open faced sandwich with whipped St Tola goats cheese, chorizo, apple and Irish honey.
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We do not have a local term for the humble open faced sandwich, whereas the French have the the elegant Tartine, and the Danish the more robust sounding Smørrebrød. My sandwich was particularly rooted in Irish flavour but was certainly influenced by its continental cousins. 
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Whimsy and a Tart

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It is not all that often that you could classify soda bread as whimsical. It is an old reliable, a standard, even a relic oft maligned in this new(er) world of yeast, sourdough and, it has to be said, more labour intensive breads! I am here to champion the humble soda bread and festoon it with flags. 

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During my time at cookery school, I favored soda above all other breads. While I did indeed find the not so gentle art of kneading a yeast loaf therapeutic, I found great comfort in the knowledge that while (gently) mixing a soda dough I was following the example of my female forebears. Due to the limited availability of fresh yeast in Ireland, even to this day, I don’t think my Nana would have made many, if any, yeast loaves. Although I stand to be corrected by one of my aunties (all avid blog readers i’m sure!). 

I try to bake soda bread a couple of times a week. I alternate between a round loaf and a traditional loaf. I bake the traditional loaf in a silicone loaf tin which gives the side and bottom crust a lovely smooth feel and shine. I sift together a pound of cream flour, a tablespoon of sugar, a teaspoon of salt and a teaspoon of bread soda and give the dry ingredients a good mix to disperse the bread soda. To the dry ingredients I add about 14 fluid ounces of buttermilk. Using my hand, I bring the wet and dry ingredients together. I then tip the dough onto a floured countertop and either shape into a round loaf or drop it into the loaf tin. The round loaf should be quartered with a sharp knife or the traditional loaf halfed lengthways.  I pop the loaf into the oven at about 200 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes. You will know the loaf is baked when you tap the underside and the bread sounds hollow. 

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For me, soda bread is the ultimate breakfast treat, with Irish creamery butter and jam. As a small girl, I would often have breakfast in my nana’s kitchen with my granddad who would sit on a high stool at the kitchen counter listening to the radio with a mug of tea, soda bread and jam. If you are really bold you could try some hot rashers. Hot rashers and melted butter. Delicious. 

As an after dinner treat last week, I baked a lemon and blood orange tart. In receipt of a windfall of blood oranges, you will have seen them crop up in my baking over the last couple of weeks. This is the last of them I promise. This is a very easy tart to put together especially if you use store-bought pastry. I do make my own pastry, but no judgements here if you buy your own. I have the benefit of a 12 week course and hands on pastry experience behind me and sometimes the thought of making my own pastry will set me off in search of a pastry free pudding. 

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I like to use fluted tins for smaller tarts (as you can see here) but for a tart for slicing I like to use a straight edged sandwich type tin. I love the smooth clean sides. The tin I used was probably (read totally) too deep for the amount of lemon and blood orange custard that I had whipped up, but who doesn’t love a little bit of extra sweet pastry? I like to let the pastry overhang the tin while baking to accommodate any shrinkage of the pastry due to loss of moisture. Once the tart is ready to serve, I cut off the overhanging pastry with a serrated edged knife. You can get a very professional clean result this way, or if, as in this case, you are in a hurry to get the dish to the table, the result will be bit more rustic!

When making the custard the blood oranges added a pinkish hue to the deep yellow mixture and I was a little concerned that this would bake off to an unappetizing beige but I am delighted to report that the custard baked a beautiful deep yellow. 

ImageGenerally and traditionally this tart would be served cool but in this case we couldn’t resist the tart as it came out of the oven and it was devoured while the custard was still warm served with softly whipped cream and mint. A new treat.

For presentation purposes, I relied on Mary Berry’s advice and topped the cake with one of its constituent parts, some blood orange and some icing sugar. The result looked a little like something from my first cook book We Can Cook. 1970’s food, appetizing!

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If you would like more detailed recipes or instructions for the soda bread and/or the tart just get in touch!

Twice Baked

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These little biscotti are a big hit in our house. I don’t think we see enough fresh biscotti in our coffee shops. They are such a delicious treat. I so love a dry, crunchy biscuit and I often find homemade cookies a little greasy. The texture comes from twice baking the cookies. The cookie dough is lightly kneaded and shaped into a log. This log is baked for about 20 minutes until the top of the loaf is golden brown. Once golden brown, the loaf needs to cool for about 10 – 15 minutes. Once cool, the loaf is sliced at a severe angle with a serrated knife into fingers. I like to leave the loaf to cool for as long as possible as it seems to firm up the texture of the loaf so you will get a clean cut rather than rough fingers. The fingers are then popped back into the oven for a further 8 – 10 minutes.

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There are so many delicious flavour variations for these biscuits. The only limit is your imagination. Personally I prefer a nutty biscotti, the pictured biscotti were baked with hazelnuts, almonds and pecans and the rind of one blood orange. A little bit of luxury.

As you can see I had a some fun with melted chocolate, some melted Pierre Marcolini ‘Le Familal’ to be exact. I am such a fan of Pierre Marcolini, it is always my first and last stop on trips to Brussels. The flagship store in the Sablon is truly beautiful, more like a high end jewellery shop than a chocolate shop. I love to bake with the Le Familial bar. It adds a rich balanced flavor. Owning to the distance between Dublin and Brussels, I need to make a little Pierre goes a long way. It is saved for the best. Chocolate befitting these biscotti. I love the look of the chocolate dipped biscotti, a little like chocolate dipped citrus peel (which by the way Mr Marcolini does very well!) but I adore the drizzled biscotti, that way you get a bit of chocolate with each bite. The addition of chocolate really brings out the orange flavour of the biscuits.

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Tonight, craving a taste of sunshine we had a little pudding of cointreau macerated strawberries with a little softly whipped cream and a biscotti on the side. Seriously good, seriously simple. I first had cointreau strawberries sitting in the blistering sunshine last May at Cap Horn in Nyhavn, Copenhagen (I also had a potato sandwich there, yum, but that is another story!), and felt for all the world that it was like an adult HB super split. Just add a drop (or three) of cointreau to a bowl of strawberries, give the bowl a bit of a whirl to coat the berries, top with cream and a simple, delicious dessert is ready to go. I really hope you will try this treat.