Classic Madeira Loaf Cake

IMG_20140824_102017

This is my Mam’s favourite cake, by a long shot. It reminds her of her childhood in the early 1950s when she used to travel to France to visit her sister who had taken religious vows there  (Irish Catholic, go figure). The French nuns used to keep bringing out Madeira Cake and my Mam kept eating it. It is rather surprising that she still enjoys it actually! I’ve seen this recipe without almond – people, this is heresy, it is not Madeira without almond.

  • 170g butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
  • 150g  caster sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • grated zest 1 lemon
  • lemon juice from 1/2 lemon
  • tsp vanilla extract
  • 200g self-raising flour
  • 50g ground almonds
  • Bit of icing sugar for decoration

Preheat the oven to 180°C, around 160°C if fan assisted. Butter the sides and base of a loaf tin. Most recipes will tell you to line it with greaseproof paper, I have never found it necessary. Beat together the butter and sugar until and creamy, then add the eggs, vanilla extract and lemon beating all the while keep beating in between. And then beat a little bit more, make sure it’s really well combined and fluffy and lovely. Then fold in the flour and give it another quick beat for good luck. The batter should slowly slip off the spoon, if it doesn’t, add a bit of milk or water…a tiny bit at a time because remember you can always add but never take away in baking! A good tip is to place some water in an oven proof  dish to put into the oven with the loaf, this will ensure that it is lovely and moist.

Once the batter is to your satisfaction tip the batter into the tin and smooth over the top. Bake for around 60 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.  Once you remove it from the oven leave to rest in the tin for around 10 – 15 minutes before tipping it out onto a wire rack.

Eat all of it immediately. On your own. With coffee.

Wall & Keogh, Portobello, Dublin

IMG_20140821_141731

Wall & Keogh is nestled between bustling  Camden Street and the Hipster-Student haven that is Rathmines, this beautiful tea shop with a difference  is quite often overlooked because of it’s bigger brasher neighbour across the road, The Bernard Shaw. This location has benefits for its customers. Even at 1pm on a Thursday when it seems that every other eatery (good, bad or indifferent) is beating punters off with sticks, Wall & Keogh is a pool of calm, in an ocean of mad chaos. There is plenty of seating to choose form. The ground floor air is thick with the exotic aromatic wonderment seeping from the piles of jars of tea leaves. There is a cute little outside space if you prefer and down in the basement there is comfy seats that boast some interesting pieces of art.

IMG_20140821_141900

Although their business is predominantly specialty tea, you really really can’t have tea without sandwiches. Tea and Sandwiches are as Irish as complaining about the weather and GAA. Their menu  is small but perfectly formed. Picture above is what yours truly scoffed down. I had walloped down half of it before remembering to take a quick pic. The No. 5, has warm goats cheese, caramelised red peppers, plenty of spinach and there is also the chutney. Which is amazing, but I really can’t describe it without using  a lot of emoticons, so you’re just going to have to try it yourself. I had the sandwich and a sparkling mineral water which came to just over €8. They do supply a jug of tap water to each table and I regretted bothering to get the mineral water because the tap water was iced and had lemon & mint in it and was very tasty.

Side Note: someone just told me that my photos sandwiches all look the same. Must. try. different. filters.

 

Download this…the truth about audiobooks

wpid-2014-08-20-20.20.30.png.pngAudio books have been around for a long time. In the past they were  expensive and even if you accessed them through your public library, CDs were cumbersome…clunky. But since the advent of subscription based sites such as Audible or their free counterparts  like LibriVox or OpenCulture audio books have become more accessible. My sister L got me hooked. She spends quite a lot of time in the car and she’s as avid a reader as I am.  She also likes New Things. Eventually she wore me down and I signed up.

I love to potter around the house at the weekend, occupying myself with minor DIY tasks or cooking. Audible allows you to be productive while being entertained. So for the last 12 months or so I’ve been pretty much addicted to audio books. While L still had at least one proper book on the go, I ashamedly, did not. I embraced the listening to books wholeheartedly. I’m so busy I don’t have time to read! I can read all of those books I never got around to, without actually having to read them! Look at me I’m reading Dostoevsky!  But….after a while I found it difficult to remember the details of books or even if I enjoyed it or not. I found that I had started listening passively, to the point where I was tuning out completely at times. Audio books had become background noise for me. I realised I was listening to audio books when I should have been listening to the radio or music.

I was doing a disservice to the written word. So when I went on holidays in July, I grabbed a few from the dusty pile beside my bed and vowed to stay away from the audio books. I was worried that my attention span could no longer hack a full length book.  But to my delight and relief I  remembered the art of reading and it has been glorious!  That something extra, that something hard to define thing that a book read by your own eyes, in your own internal voice gives you is back (it’s your imagination stretching out in front of you). I had forgotten that books swallow you up to such an extent that your environment seems to change. I had forgotten how much the characters give you, and yes, how much you give them.  Be still my beating heart. I’ve had a good dose of fiction and am currently reading The Basque History of the World and rereading How To Be a Woman, cos, you know, Caitlin Moran.

There is still a place for audio books in my life and I want to take a brief moment to offer a Top Audio Book  Tip . You can listen to a small snippet wpid-2014-08-20-20.16.00.png.pngfirst to make sure the narrator is comparable with your ears. You might not think this is important, but it is. A good narrator can make a lame book enjoyable and a bad one can make it an exercise in audible torture. I have an example, course I do!  I had previously read Bad Men by John Connolly. He’s one of my favourite writers.  Th title came up in an audio book sale I didn’t even bother listening to the clip. Mistake. The male narrator had a terrible time with the female characters, he tried too hard to make them sound ‘feminine’ and instead they all sounded like lazy bimbos. Connolly writes strong, real, complex female characters, but they came off all sounding like the same gangster mols. In comparison my favourite audio is Stephen King’s The Stand. At over 47 hours long, it is something you can get your teeth into. The narrator hits the right balance with enough characterisation to differentiate between different people, but not so much it’s distracting.  Now armed with this knowledge go forth and listen…but everything in moderation, right?

The Pepper Pot Cafe, Powerscourt Centre, Dublin

IMG_20140820_135919

The way I work can best be described as haphazard, this means that when it comes to eating I usually think about it too late and end up with the dregs of the not fancy deli down the road.  But as a lover of all things food I do try and get my act together at least once a week. After various conversations with a fellow foodie colleague, I started to eyeball The Pepper Pot Cafe. I’ve actually tried to get a table here on spec at lunchtime a few times and it has always been jammers. I would recommend a 12 – 12.30 lunch if you want to be guaranteed a table. You can also phone or email in your order and pick up if that suits your needs better. Go and sit in if you can, Saturday mornings are much more doable there’s a relaxed vibe at the weekend.

Their most famous (notorious?) sandwich is their Roast Pear, Bacon & Cheddar (pictured). It has ruined marriages, it has divided nations. It is contentious and I loved it. But not for the reasons that I’d imagined – I was all about the bacon and pear combination. But actually, it was the pear and cheese combination that made this worthwhile. The sweetness of the pear was perfect with the strong flavour of the cheddar. The bacon was substantial, cooked to perfect and rounded off the sandwich wonderfully.

Side note: the white bread was devine, any fresher it would have still been in the oven. Bouncy, crusty, wonderful. The make and bake everything on site, every day.

Sweet Potato & Roasted Red Pepper Soup

image

So the summer is on the wain. Yes it is. Deal with it. It’s getting a little darker a little earlier. It’s a tad bit chillier. Everyone seems to be back from their holidays. The woman who talks to her umbrella was back on the bus this morning. It’s a sure sign that the autumn is just around the corner. Soup is a great way of (a) using all the stuff in your fridge (b) warming your core (c) using the thermos that has been staring you out of it every time you walk into the kitchen.

  • Olive oil
  • 500g sweet potato
  • 2 red peppers
  • 2 red onions
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 500g chicken or vegetable stock
  • Paprika to taste
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

Roughly peel and chop sweet potatoes, peppers, onions and place on oven tray. Coat in olive oil and add salt, pepper and paprika (I like lots of paprika, but that’s probably because my taste buds are more of a blunt instrument that a finely tuned machine). Roast them in the oven for a about 40 minutes at around 190°C for fan assisted ovens.

If the sweet potatoes are nice and squishy under a fork, they’re ready to go. The rest of the veg should be browning at corners, this really brings out flavours. Switch off the oven, put your stock a large saucepan, bring to boil and then add all your veg. Simmer for about 5 – 10 minutes then remove from heat and I then use a hand blender to mush it all up, but you could just as easily but everything in a table-top blender.

Once you’ve done the blending to your satisfaction, pop it back on the hob. At this point you may want to add water, add cream, simmer to make thicker…depending on your own tastes. You may also want to add more salt/pepper/paprika – I’ve also been known to use powdered garlic if I don’t think there’s enough of a punch. Just don’t over do it.

Serve with a smile, even if it’s only to the dog.

Vintage Cocktail Club, Dublin

Without further ado my first mini review is Vintage Cocktail Club in the heart of Temple Bar.  Myself and C went there mid week, as part of week-long festivities celebrating her Leaving Cert Results (if you don’t know, be thankful) .  The decor is very important to mention.  If you crossed a Victorian Gentleman’s Club with a Prohibition era Speakeasy you’d be on the right track. There is an abundance of velvet coverings, fringed lampshades and beaten metal paneling. It’s all incredibly fancy.

2014-08-13 19.11.16

The cocktails are bloody good. At a pip off €12 they need to be. Between us we tried the Fogcutter, The Zombie, St Germaine Cocktail and the Mary Pickford. The cocktail menu is laid out chronologically. It’s a cute little trick that gives you a sense of time travel. ‘Ohh pre-1800 I wonder what I’d be doing if I was alive then?’ (not drinking cocktails, probably setting a cocktails drinkers fire for them at 4.30 in the morning is what). Presentation – so romantic – Lord Byron would dig this place, (if it wasn’t for the lack of debauchery) – each cocktail has it’s own distinct design and look – whether it’s a vintage champagne glass or a minimal high ball glass. So how to they taste? Yeah, pretty damn good. Everything is fresh and everything is high quality. They are made to a high spec – if it’s a gin cocktail, you know you’re drinking gin. There’s no fake strawberry punching you in the face to mask the fact that there’s hardly any booze in it. Two drinks a piece, we were quite squiffy. That’s my indicator right there.

As for the food we had the Cheese  Board, Meatballs and Fries to share. Cheese was amazing – Cashel Blue, Cooleeney, Hegarty’s Cheddar – there’s enough there to keep any cheese lover interested. But baby, you had me at Cashel Blue. We got plenty extra bread at request at no extra charge. Meatballs and fries were average. The whole lot came to around €70, which is expensive!! This place would be a regular haunt, if it wasn’t for the price tag, so I file it under Posh Stuff for special occasions. The last word goes to the service. Friendly, casual staff who know their stuff. I’d recommend this place for a pre-dinner drinky-poos.

 

Getting Aquainted

Hello. How are you? I’m fine, thanks for asking.

I’ve spend the weekend writing and rewriting my opening sentence.  It has not gone well. As I try to encapsulate the essence of my being, my humour, my struggles, my personality, is there  any room for hubris?  Then this morning I thought well, you named the blog notthegreateststoryintheworld so lets start with that. Minimal expectation, now that is the sort of thing I can get behind. Phew. That was easy.

I guess this is the part where I should set out a mission statement of sorts for this blog. My number one priority is actually contribute to it regularly…regardless of what shite I’m actually talking about. I want it not to be the sort of thing that I do with great aplomb for the first six weeks and then promptly forget about (there may be some sort of track record here, I’m saying nothin’). Do you see me as the wordsmith I am? I’m hoping to include a Recipe or Review in each post. We’ll see how that goes .  There’ll be friends, family, food, fun and all the rest. That’s the plan, bear with me.