Monday, April 30, 2012

Grown up meringues

When I was a child one of the greatest treats that we would get was a tin of Hadji Bej Turkish Delight.  Despite the Armenian origins the makers of Hadji Bej were firmly adopted by the people of Cork and their Turkish Delight was part of growing up in Cork.

Anyway, the taste was actually quite 'adult' and unusual and it wasn't until quite recently I discovered that the flavour came from Rose Water.  So when  I came across a recipe for meringues flavoured with Rose Water and pistachios I just had to give it a go.  The ingredients are straight forward - the technique a bit different and the result is extraordinary.

Ingredients :  10 egg whites
                     600g sugar (should be caster but ordinary is ok too)
                      3 tsp Rose Water
                      75g Chopped Pistachios (weight after shelling)

Pre-heat oven to 200'C.  Warm sugar on a baking tray in oven until edges start to go slightly brown.  Turn oven down to 110'

Beat the egg whites in a mixer on fast for about a minute and gradually add the sugar and the rose water.  Beat on fast for about 10 minutes until the mixture looks like a silky Jedward !
Put the chopped nuts on a flat plate and roll one half of a tennis ball size of egg mix in the nuts.  Put on a baking tray.  Make sure they have space as they will expand a good bit.

I used two serving spoons to portion them and although I tried to make them roughly spherical it didn't quite work - but I like the 'curly' effect that transpired.  Then bake for 2 hours at 110'C.  Don't be tempted to open the oven to check on them - the cold will destroy them.

 2 Hours later and voila.  Stunning meringues.

The result was really top class, brittle on the outside with a creamy almost chewy centre.  And the rose water brought me right back to the Hadji Bej of my youth.  A great result.

Friday, April 6, 2012

That 80's cake

Nothing says the 1980's in cooking terms like Carrot Cake (well maybe stuffed potato skins).  Someone sent me a recipe recently for the classic version and I must say it really is superb.  I'd forgotten how good it could be.  Recipe below - it's a bit tome consuming but very easy.


  1. 1 cup pecans (4 ounces)
  2. 2 cups all-purpose flour
  3. 2 teaspoons baking powder
  4. 2 teaspoons baking soda
  5. 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  6. 1 teaspoon salt
  7. 1 cup vegetable oil
  8. 1/2 cup buttermilk
  9. 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  10. 4 large eggs
  11. 2 cups sugar
  12. 1 pound carrots, peeled and coarsely shredded


  1. 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  2. Two 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened
  3. 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  4. 2 cups confectioners' sugar

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Is it a bird? Is it a plane?..........

Pizza Fresca

Is it a salad? Is it a pizza? Hard to say really. Last year we in the restaurant had the 'pizza light' where we cut a circle out of the centre of the pizza and filled it with salad. This year we are going a step further and assembling all the core ingredients of a pizza but, well, not cooking it (well the base is cooked).

We make a rosemary focaccia and top it with cherry mozzarella, olives, tomatoes, capers, basil and parmesan.  We call it 'Pizza Fresca.'

I think it looks fantastic but it hasn't sold well at all. Maybe it's a summer thing, we'll see. We will stick with it though because we ALWAYS think we're right. It's a boy thing.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Duck, I said Duck !!!

My next door neighbour Pat, a lovely man, keeps a variety of poultry.  He has a rooster that is quite lively in the mornings and I joke with the locals that I get woken up every morning by Pat O'Leary's cock.  I am hilarious. Really.

This morning another bag appeared tied to a fence post at the end of the garden containing a variety of eggs.  Fantastic.  But my eldest son (7) thinks this is very unfair.  He thinks we should be paying Pat for the eggs (obviously Pat doesn't think this).  I suggested we make him a cake but he thinks this is stupid.  He really thinks we should just give him money.

Later I found Oisin (my son) dressed as a spy coming up the garden - he had sneaked into Pats garden and posted 27 cents through his letter box.  He has an amazing sense of fairness (and a crap sense of value!!).

They are supposed to be great for baking but to be honest I can't see beyond poaching them.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Getting closer.........

Well, work progressed apace today and although at lunchtime it looked completely unlikely that we would open by tomorrow it now looks like it's back on track.  Excitement again is tempered by terror and absolute exhaustion.  Roll on tomorrw.

The hanging  sign went up but it was raining too much to paint the main sign.  Tomorrow,

This is the view from the mezzanine down into the restaurant.  This is the entrance level and you go down the stairs to the restaurant level.

Hanging the 'poetry'.  I got some poems printed on big plastic sheets.  It is very different and kinda funky.

Colm and Rob from down below. 

The wine starts to arrive.

At about six o'clock the bottles of gas arrived and we found that on one of the cookers the pilot lights were knackered.  One of my customers has a gas business so I rang him and currently (21.50hrs) inside there trying to sort it out.  I owe him big time.

It's looking good to be open tomorrow.  Fingers crossed.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

This used to be my playground......

The Stolen Pizza, Kinsale

Five years ago (give or take) I took a lease on a business premises in Kinsale - the plan was to make pasta and sell it fresh.  That plan evolved and I decided to sell coffee while the pasta was being made.  It did ok, without being great.  The next year I opened at night selling freshly cooked pasta.  That did better.  Then I got a pizza oven before I knew it I had a little Italian restaurant.

At the time we called it E,Kirby 66 because those letters were already over the door and I really liked them.  It never conveyed what we were doing though and we changed the name to the Stolen Pizza (long story).

Anyway, I've been there now for 5 years and I really feel sad leaving the place.  I learned so much there and to be honest how we survived at all is a miracle.  But survive we did and last year we were turning away 10 to 15 people a night.

Now this isn't an ad' for my business.  Really.  This is just a place of reflection.  And I don't want to imply we are a spectacular restaurant.  We're not.  We just make home made pasta, home made pizza and home made sauces.  We try to keep the wine and beer affordable.  And kids are very welcome.  It's not rocket science.   Some people 'got it', some people wondered what the hell we were doing.

But now it's time to move on.  A beautiful restaurant across the road became available and after much soul searching I decided to move.  It's crazy at some levels but it also is a great opportunity.  Can I fill it?  I really don't know.  And it needs to be busy.  There is nothing worse than a big empty restaurant.

So, we signed the contract this afternoon and I am equally excited and terrified.  We should be busy.  We are getting great reviews on Tripadvisor, we get a great mention in the Lonely Planet and highly recommended in Rick Steeve's book.  And we are only 50m from our last location so people should find us.

I just hope people 'get it'.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Farmers (??) Markets

We are lucky, here in Kinsale, to still have a Farmers Market every Wednesday.  Now most towns have a farmers market at this stage so I am saying Kinsale is lucky because the county council have done their absolute damnedest to kill the market by moving them from pillar to post for the past number of years.  They are back now in the central square and hopefully they will begin to grow again.

I must admit though to being in two minds about farmers markets at the moment.  Out of the dozen or so stalls today there were two farmers (market gardeners), three guys who made there own stuff (chutneys, jams etc.)  a fish guy, a flower guy and the rest were trying to sell me lunch.

Now, I have a small food business at the other end of town and the HSE are insisting I put in an extra two toilets (I have one) for my customers.  I have 3 sinks in my kitchen and they want one more.  I need a fly door inside my normal back door.

Now, these may all be valid requirements but why don't they apply to everyone?  I need a fly screen on any opening and yet these guys are cooking in the open air.  These guys have no water to wash things and certainly don't provide staff and customer toilets.  

Now I wouldn't don't want to see extra regulations put on anyone but the playing pitch is not level right now.  I'd love to see farmers markets heading to self regulation with one requirement - you must grow your produce, make your produce or catch your produce.

Am I getting too precious?