Life is uncertain. Eat Dessert first.


Big Elf Toys – Opening Day Treats

The fantastic Big Elf Toys opened their doors today at 7 South Main Street in Naas. Moveable Feast were on hand to provide an assortment of treats for the lucky children who dropped by today.

Clockwise from top left: mini fairy cakes, Mars Bar Rice Krispie Squares, Gingerbread Rockets, Gingerbread Robots, chocolate covered shortbread stars, Lemon Squares, Top Hats.


Private Dining Event – menu, photos and wine notes

All the courses served at this meal for ten people were inspired by recipes from both Le Champignon Sauvage in Cheltenham and The French Laundry in California. The wines were matched with each course by The Corkscrew Wine Merchants on Chatham Street. As always their research and attention to detail ensured that each wine was the perfect compliment to the food being served (where possible I have linked the wine to their online store).

Upon arrival guests were poured a glass of Dominio de la Vega Cava while they waited to be seated.   The sparkling wine accompanied the first course: A Puree of Garden Pea Soup with Truffle Oil, topped with a Parmesan Crisp “lid”, and served with Guinness and Walnut Bread (photos to right show the soup with and without the “lid”).

The next course was a Salad of Petite Summer Tomatoes on a Tomato Coulis, and a Brioche Crouton topped with Vine-ripened Tomato Sorbet and a Garlic Tuile, with Basil Oil Garnish. Made entirely from fruit grown in the Pieropan family vineyard (situated in the Soave Classic Zone in Italy), the 2009 Pieropan Soave had a great depth of fruit on the palate and a long length that was a perfect match for the three different types of tomato served in this course (the photos to the left show it with and without the Garlic Tuile).

The main course consisted of Crisp Belly of Pork with Cauliflower Puree, Tenderheart Brocolli, Morels and Pork Sauce. I needed a wine with a strong depth of flavours and a fine acidity, so I served a 2007 Quinta do Perdigao from Portugal, which balances Tempranillo’s red berry fruits with slight with slight balsamic notes, and the black fruits delivered by the Touriga Nacional.

For dessert I served a Chocolate and Coriander Tart with Lexia Raisin Ice-Cream. Lexia Raisins are very difficult to track down at this time of year (I think I bought the last packet in Dublin!) but they are so much more juicy and succulent then normal raisins, especially when soaked first in a rum syrup to let them swell up before adding to the churned ice-cream. Made from low-yielding Grenache grapes, the 2008 Pietru Geraud Banyuls Rimage I served with this course has a powerful and intense nose of wild strawberry and raspberry, with a rich, velvety palate.

To finish the meal, the cheese course consisted of slices of Mature Comte, served over a Spiced Carrot Salad on a Golden Raisin Puree, alongside a Carrot Powder. The Comte was 16-24 months matured, and the Spiced Carrot Salad included an intense Carrot Reduction. The wine to accompany this dish is a 1997 Castelhinho LBV Port, a traditional LBV who’s palate is dense, pleasingly sweet and extremely long.

Choca-mocha Cupcakes

Pay a visit to Quack and Dirk in Fairview today for a free tasting of some of these rich, dark, chocolatey cakes! Yum yum!

Preheat the oven to 180degC and line a muffin tin with paper cases. Melt 100g of dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids) in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water. Do not let the base of the bowl touch the water. Set aside to cool.

Beat 150g butter (at room temp) and 150g caster sugar together in a bowl until pale and fluffy. Beat 2 eggs together and then gradually beat into the butter and sugar. Stir in the melted chocolate and and 2 tablespoons of sifted cocoa powder. Sift 100g self-raising flour into the mixture, then stir in dissolved coffee (2 teaspoons instant coffee dissolved in 1 tablespoon boiling water). The original recipe from Susannah Blakes “Cupcakes” book includes 40g chocolate-covered coffee beans stirred in at this point, but I have left them out of my mixture.

Spoon the mixture into the paper cases and bake for about 20 minutes until risen and a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

To decorate, beat 100g butter (at room temp), 200g icing sugar (sifted) and dissolved coffee (as per the above quantities) together in a bowl until pale and fluffy. Spread the mixture evenly over the cakes and sprinkle with grated chocolate.

Half Blondie, Half Brownie

These incredibly rich treats are available to taste for free in Quack and Dirk ( today, Saturday 19th March. Come on over for a sample!

Linda Collister’s “Brownie Bliss” contains, as the name suggests, a whole host of brownies, blondies, and sauces to go with them. This recipe uses cream cheese instead of butter, and walnuts are added at the end to give a contrast in taste and texture.

Preheat the oven to 180degC, then grease and line a 23cm square brownie tin. Break up 100g of 70% cocoa solid chocolate, put it in a heatproof bowl, and set it over a pan of simmering water. Do not let the base of the bowl touch the water. Melt the chocolate gently, stirring frequently, then remove the bowl from the pan and put aside to cool. Melt 50g white chocolate in the same way.

Put 3oog cream cheese in a bowl, add 200g caster sugar and beat until smooth with a hand-held electric mixer. Beat 3 eggs together in a bowl, and then gradually beat into the mixture. Add 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract. Gradually add 100g of sifted plain flour, stirring at low speed on the mixer. Transfer half this mixture to another bowl. Add the melted dark chocolate to one portion and mix thoroughly. Mix the melted white chocolate into another portion. The dark chocolate mixture will be stiffer then the white.

Using a tablespoon, drop spoonfuls of the dark chocolate mixture into the prepared tin, spacing them evenly apart, with gaps between the blobs. Pour or spoon the white chocolate mixture over the top to fill in the spaces. Use the end of a chopstick or the handle of a teaspoon to marble and swirl the two mixtures together, then scatter 75g of broken up walnut pieces over it.

Bake in the preheated oven for 25-30mins until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tin before removing and cutting into 25 small pieces.

Hand-made Chocolate Truffles

Last year I blogged about chocolates I made for my sister wedding. I have made another batch of the piped truffles from Essence, a recipe book by David Everitt-Matthias of Le Champignon Sauvage. These will be available to taste for free in The Corkscrew Wine Merchants on Chatham Street tomorrow, Sat 5th March.

I chopped 500g of chocolate (70% cocoa solids) in a food processor, whizzing it until I was left with tiny pieces, and mostly powdery dust. I put this into a large bowl.

I poured 300ml double cream and 65g diced unsalted butter in a small saucepan and gently brought it to the boil, stirring regularly. Be careful not to over-boil it or the cream will burn. Take it off the heat, and leave it for about two minutes before very gradually pouring it over the chocolate. You will be using the heat of the cream to melt the chocolate, but if the cream and butter mixture is too hot when poured onto the broken chocolate it will all separate and be unusable. As I pour the cream in bit by bit, I am constantly stirring the chocolate mixture to help it melt. It is a good idea to give the cream and butter mixture a light whisk for a few seconds with a balloon whisk every so often to prevent the cream and butter separating as you pour it in.

Once all the cream and butter is poured onto the chocolate, keep stirring. If you get to a point where there are still small lumps of chocolate and they won’t melt any further, put the bowl over a gently simmering pan of boiling water (making sure the bowl doesn’t touch the water), and keep stirring until you are left with a smooth, satiny mixture. Take the bowl off the heat and put it back on the counter.

Add the grated zest of a lemon and the grated zest of half an orange. I recommend using a microplaner to grate the zest, as it is really easy to use and it makes sure the zest is very small. Add the juice of the lemon and the juice of the orange half, very slowly and stirring constantly to make sure it gets evenly mixed. Then add 30ml of Cointreau, again adding it almost drop by drop and constantly stirring. If you don’t have Cointreau you could try Baileys as an alternative, or whatever liqueur you fancy. Make sure everything is well mixed and then place in the fridge to set just a little.

Once it has partially set, give it a stir and then beat it with an electric mixer until it holds a reasonably stiff shape when the mixer is removed. You don’t want to over-mix or the mixture will be difficult to shape later. Put spoons of the mixture into a piping bag, and pipe it into conical shapes on baking trays lined with baking parchment. Alternatively you can even just put teaspoons of it on the parchment. Leave to set in the fridge, and keep stored in the fridge. The above quantities makes about 150 truffles!

Chocolate Truffles

To help my sister with her wedding I offered to make the favours – 2 chocolates for each of the 130 guests. After a few trial runs I settled on two different types – Ballymaloe Chocolate Truffles from Darina Allen’s Ballymaloe Cook Book, and Chocolate Truffles from David Everitt-Matthias’s book Essence.

I used home-made praline to flavour the hand-rolled Ballymaloe Truffles, and added Baileys to the piped truffles from Essence.  The maximum I could make in either batch in one go was about thirty to forty, so it took eight batches to make enough (including extras). I ordered flat-pack boxes online which I assembled at home, but waited until the morning of the wedding in the venue to roll the Ballymaloe Truffles in cocoa and put both chocolates in the boxes to avoid damage in transit.