The birthday breakfast

Today I turned 24, and it was a good day.

For someone who’s always up for a good meal, for me indubitably one of life’s greatest pleasures, imagine my delight when I was told I was being brought out for a beautiful birthday breakfast! For that, I have a certain Ms. Scott to thank. Martina, you have to be up there with the worlds most thoughtful people.

So Martina, my sister Miriam and I took a walk to Le Petit Ormeau Café on the Ormeau Road, a place I’ve only ever heard good things about. Joris Minne wrote a nice review here for the Belfast Telegraph which is definitely worth a read. In fact his reviews are great in general. If you’re anything like me being disappointed when eating out is the epitome of annoying, so if you’re looking for a place to eat out in Northern Ireland, Joris has most likely eaten there, reviewed it and tested the water for you already.

Le Petit Ormeau 1

They had a nice variety of choices on their breakfast/brunch menu, and although other days the thought of a stack of pancakes with pure maple syrup trickling down the sides might make me swoon, today was definitely an eggs benedict kind of day. A toasted english muffin with soft poached eggs, crisp slightly salty bacon and a creamy hollandaise sauce, with just enough astringency to cut the richness, marrying the flavours perfectly. Both Martina and myself had the eggs benny and it was delicious.

Le Petit Ormeau 2

Le Petit Ormeau 3

Miriam went for the caramelised fresh figs with toasted brioche, vanilla mascarpone and crispy bacon which was a refreshing change to the usual cooked breakfast choices. As you can probably imagine, this was as tasty as it sounds.

Le Petit Ormeau 5

Le Petit Ormeau 6

The coffee was pretty decent too, made even better by the milk coming in a cow shaped jug! Wow! I know! It also had a flawless ‘pour’ to it might I add. Looking at the photo now though, maybe it looks a bit like the cow is projectile vomiting, and vomiting it’s own milk at that. Wait a second, no, it’s just a cute, happy cow. Cute happy cow.. Cute happy cow..

Le Petit Ormeau 7

Le Petit Ormeau 8

I think Le Petit Ormeau is a lovely café, well worth a visit if you’re up this neck of the woods. I hear the salt beef and pulled pork sandwiches are good, and if you order the eggs benedict at lunch time apparently it’s served with nice juicy pieces of ham hock instead of the bacon. The fact that my mouth is watering right now at the thought is a sure sign that I will be back again for a piece of the action, and maybe a piece of that salt beef too.

“He that but looketh at a plate of ham and eggs to lust after it, hath already commited breakfast with it in his heart.” – C. S. Lewis

There’s a hole in this cake

For anyone who’s familiar with the film ‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding’, I’m sure you’ll remember the scene when Toula’s love interest Ian brings his parents to meet the Portokalos family and Harriet Miller presents them with a bundt cake? Yes, you know the one! Maria Portokalos cannot, for the life of her, say the word ‘bundt’. “Bon? Bonk? BonnnT?” Oh, “It’s a cake!” Then, whilst walking back towards the house, she makes a disapproving comment about how this cake had a hole in it.

But, Alas! That is how it’s supposed to be! A bundt is in fact a cake with a hole in it, and that is why I love them. Why? Well, if your tins are anything like mine, they won’t have a gaping hole in the middle, but one that is sealed at the bottom. This serves the genius purpose of acting as a collecting vessel for excess glaze, thus more lemony bang for your buck! Perfect.

Lemon and Poppy seed is a combination I love, but don’t have often enough. I think it seems to be more of an American thing than British, but either way it tastes great. Some pairings are classics for a reason, they just work. Lemon and poppy seed are like the popular American kids of the baking realm, so best just stick them together in a crown shaped cake and pronounce them home-coming king and queen!

Bundt-01

Lemon Poppyseed Baby Bundts

(Makes 5)

125ml natural yoghurt

75g butter, melted

2 large eggs

zest of 1 lemon

150g plain flour

1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

125g caster sugar

1 tablespoon poppy seeds

pinch of salt

For the icing

200g icing sugar

juice of 1 lemon

Method

Preheat the oven to 170°C/gas mark 3.

Butter or oil generously 5 mini bundt tins (about 10cm diameter).

In a measuring jug, combine the yoghurt, melted butter, eggs and lemon zest.

Whisk together the flour, bicarbonate of soda, sugar, poppy seeds and salt.

Mix the wet ingredients into the dry, folding them well together, then fill the bundt tins about two-thirds full, and cook for about 25-30 minutes. When they come out of the oven, leave them to cool for a while before turning them out, otherwise they are prone to break up. However, don’t let them cool completely as they’ll just stick fast to the tin! Let them cool on a rack, flat-side down.

Making the lemon icing is incredibly quick and couldn’t be any easier. Just sieve the icing sugar into a bowl and whisk in enough lemon juice to make a smooth thick glaze, the snow atop your little lemony mountain peaks!

Bundt-02

Bundt-03

These bundt cakes are pretty versatile, so you can chop and change the flavour to what ever takes your fancy. I like the little pops of crunch and texture you get with the poppyseeds, but you could easily replace them with various dried fruits, chopped nuts or a good quality white chocolate. Orange zest would also make a lovely change to the lemon, in which case maybe something like dried cranberries or dark or milk chocolate would be a nice addition.

P.s. I  enjoy big bundts as much as the next girl, but after making these,

I like small bundts and I cannot lie.

– Over and out, Ms. Mix-a-Little.

I don’t think you’re ready for this belly

‘Cause this belly’s just too delicious for ya babe.

This is one cut of meat that really can’t do any wrong. Firstly, it’s incredibly economical. Why? Because it’s kind of fatty. But that’s okay since it’s the fat that keeps the meat so meltingly tender when cooked low and slow, and that is what we want! Besides you’re not under any obligation to eat the fat if you don’t want to. No contract to sign here. Let it do it’s thing in the oven, then send it packing and what you will be left with is a mountain of tender, juicy meat. Another perk of belly pork is that it also comes fully equipped with an earth shatteringly crunchy layer of crackling if cooked correctly, but that’s pretty easy to accomplish and I’ll show you how.

Slow Roasted Pork Belly with Fennel & Coriander Seed Crackling

(Serves 4-6, depending on the size of your piece of pork)

3 teaspoons (1 Tablespoon) coriander seeds

2 teaspoons fennel seeds

1 nice thick piece of pork belly, skin scored

Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

Method

Preheat your oven to 220°C/Gas Mark 7.

Put the coriander and fennel seeds into a mortar and grind together with the pestle until crushed. It doesn’t have to be ground to a very fine powder though, just pound it enough to release the nice aromas from the spices.

Belly Pork 1

If you haven’t already had the meat scored by your butcher you can do it easily yourself so long as you have a very sharp knife. Stanley knives work well here, but just be careful not to cut through the meat itself. The aim is to make long cuts only through the skin as this helps with the crackling, makes it easier to break into pieces at the end and means the spices can cling more readily to the surface which simply adds to the flavour! Rub the skin with salt, pepper and a little more than half of the cracked seeds, getting the seasoning right into all the cracks.

Scatter the remaining seeds into a roasting tin and put the meat on top. Put into the preheated oven and roast for 30 minutes, then turn the temperature down to 180C/Gas Mark 4 and cook for about 1 1/2 hours, until the juices run clear when the meat is pierced with a skewer and the skin has crackled to a beautiful golden brown. The reason for initially cooking it at such a high temperature is to give the crackling a good kick start, but if you don’t think it has crisped up enough at the end of the total cooking time, then just bang up the heat again and put the pork back in, checking it every few minutes until it has crisped up properly.

Leave to rest, uncovered, for about 20 minutes or so.

Remove the crackling from the pork before carving, then cut the joint into thick slices and break the crackling up into portions.

Belly Pork 2

I served the belly pork with some plain brown jasmine rice and a nice fresh shredded salad of beetroot, red cabbage, red onion, toasted cashew nuts and coriander and dressed it with a mixture of rice vinegar, a little soya sauce, mirin, finely chopped red chilli, sesame oil, sugar and a small pinch of salt. This shredded salad (or ‘slaw’, if you will) provided a lovely crunchy, zingy contrast to the rich pork which was most welcomed.

Belly Pork 3 Salad

Belly Pork 4 Salad

 

Belly pork is also wonderfully versatile, so can be served in lots of different ways. With rice, as I have done here, but even more classically, with mashed potatoes, apple sauce and steamed greens or cabbage.

The deciding factor though, is that even Destiny’s Child agree with me about how good this is. Let me refresh your memory.. “Spotted me a tender thang“, “Lookin’ hot, Smellin’ good“?! They’re talking about PORK! And all that talk about ‘jelly‘? Well, that’s just fat. Obvs.

Either way, it is just too good to not give it a whirl. Go on, do it for Beyoncé.

They were right you know, I don’t think I can handle how tasty this is. My mouth is watering just thinking about it!

Happy Mother’s Day

Shall I compare thee to a piece of cake?

Thou art more lovely and more elegant.

Rough oven fans do test the resilience of each bake.

And cakes expiration hath all too short a date.

…then Shakespeare gawked in awe and did the dougie.

Mother's Day 1

Mother's Day 2

Mums are just wonderful, and I would know since mine is the best in the world, but cake is a close second! This is why it is the perfect gift to give on Mother’s Day.

(As well as some bastardised Shakespeare of course, duh!)

The Glorious Galette

‘As easy as pie’. That has got to be one of the most misleading phrases in the world. Not that making a pie is difficult per se, but tender, flaky pastry does not come easily if the baker in question ain’t got skills. There’s the risk of a tough, over-worked crust or a soggy base if you’re not careful. If pie is so easy, then how come an amazing one is so hard to find? What is the solution?! I think somewhere along the line the French must have caught wind of this and created the galette; a free-form tart in which the pastry is simply rolled out and roughly folded around the edge of the filling. There we go, take away the formality of baking in a perfectly fluted pastry case and, BOOM.. easy. Facile as a french tart.

My first attempt at a galette was using quite an unusual fruit I spotted whilst doing my grocery shopping. The nectacot. Cross-pollination gives this little fruit the flavour of an apricot but with the juiciness of a nectarine, which as you can probably imagine tasted pretty good! After biting into this questionable specimen to deduce it’s calling in life, I decided that its sweet yet tart flavour and dense texture would lend perfectly to a simple fruit tart in which the fruit is the main attraction.

nectacots

Nectacot Galette (Serves 6-8)

For the flaky pastry

200g/6 1/2 oz plain flour (1 1/4 cups all-purpose)

1 Tablespoon caster sugar (superfine)

125g/4oz very cold butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes

3 Tablespoons ice water, plus extra if needed

For the filling

125g/4oz (3/4 cup) ground almonds

60g/2oz (1/4 cup) caster sugar (superfine), plus 3 Tablespoons to sprinkle on before putting in the oven

finely grated zest of 1/4 lemon

1 large egg yolk

Roughly 600-700g (or 1.25 lb – 1.5 lbs) nectacots/nectarines, thinly sliced

15g (1 Tablespoon) butter, cut into small pieces

Method

To make the pastry: Measure the flour and sugar onto a large, flat work surface and spread out until about 1cm thick. Scatter the cubes of cold butter over the flour and toss a little flour over the butter so that your rolling pin doesn’t stick, and then get to rolling! Many pastry recipes call for the dough to be chilled before rolling, however this one benefits from being rolled out straight away.

butter & flour

When the butter starts flattening into long, thin sheets within the flour, use your hands or alternatively a bench scraper to bring in any remaining flour that has not yet been incorporated. Repeat the rolling and scraping 3 or 4 times before drizzling over the ice water. Mix with a fork until the dough is just about holding together and flatten into a disk.

Scrape your work surface clean and lightly dust with flour. Flatten the disk with 6-8 gentle taps of the rolling pin. Lift the dough and give it a quarter turn. Aim to handle the dough as little as possible as this will give you the flakiest crust! Continue to do this until you are left with a 30cm/12 inch circle. Place the dough onto a parchment lined baking sheet.

Dough

In a small bowl, stir together the ground almonds, the 60g caster sugar, lemon zest and egg yolk. Spread the mixture into a 20cm/8 inch circle in the centre of the dough.

Fan out the fruit over the almond mixture leaving a 4cm / 1.5 inch border of dough uncovered along the edge. Fold the edge of dough over the fruit, pleating it loosely and leaving the galette uncovered in the centre. Sprinkle the nectacots with the remaining 3 tablespoons of sugar and dot with the butter. Refrigerate the galette until the dough is firm, at least 30 minutes.

nectacot galette

galette

In the meantime, preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F. When out of the fridge, bake the galette for about 45-50 minutes until the crust is golden brown and the fruit tender.
Let cool for 20 minutes or so before serving.

I love this recipe for its simplicity and the fact that it is so versatile. The types of fruit you can use in this recipe is endless. Why don’t you try apples, pears, figs, plums or pineapple? Maybe even incorporate some dried fruit with the fresh. There are so many possibilities that I’m looking forward to trying out too. This rustic french tart with its deliciously flaky crust, vibrant crown of fruit and not to mention the moist almond interior is a dead cert winner.

galette

A Classic with a Twist. A citrusy twist.

A tall beauty I whipped up earlier.

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Victoria Sponge with Cherry Lime Jam

270g butter, softened but not melted

270g caster (superfine) sugar (plus a small handful for sprinkling onto the cake at the end)

4 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste

270g self-raising flour

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1 tablespoon milk

A couple of generous spoonfuls of cherry jam

Juice of half a lime

Medium tub double cream (About 275ml or 1 cup)

Method

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas 4.

Grease two round 7-8 inch (18-20cm) sandwich tins with a little softened butter and line the base of both with baking parchment.

Sift the flour and baking powder into a bowl.

Cream together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. You can do this using an electric hand mixer or the more traditional way, with a wooden spoon. Either way cream it for a good 10 minutes as it really makes all the difference to the finished texture of the cake. It’ll be worth it, just you wait and see! I like to crack out a book at this point for a little light reading whilst my other hand is being productive with the electric mixer. However sometimes I watch the creaming process like a good tv show. Sad, but true.

Add the eggs in one at a time beating well after each one until fully incorporated. You might want to add a little spoonful of flour in after each egg to ensure the mixture doesn’t curdle. Mix in the vanilla extract or paste.

Fold in the flour mixture about a third at a time until fully incorporated. Don’t overmix it though, for your own sake and for my peace of mind (please and thank-you!), as doing that will only go and undo all your hard work and result in a tough cake. Not tasty. Not tasty at all.

Finally, add in the tablespoon of milk to loosen the cake mixture a bit. It should have a nice dropping consistency where it falls slowly off the spoon. Divide the mixture between the two cake tins and bake for about 25 minutes until golden brown and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Let the cakes cool for about half an hour before turning them out of their tins and peeling off the parchment paper. Now leave the cakes to cool fully, on a cooling rack if you want to be proper.

When you’re ready to assemble the cake mix the jam with the lime juice. (If you want to go down the more traditional route opt for good old raspberry jam.) I like to do this because I love the flavour of the black cherry jam but wanted it to be a little more tart on this occasion. The jam does become a little thinner but that isn’t really a problem for the simple reason that a cake oozing with jam cannot be a bad thing. This also happens because I happen to like using a lot of jam.

Whip the cream until quite firm. Now flip one of the cakes upside down and spread it with the jam. Spoon the cream on top of the jam and spread a little (or pipe it if you’re feeling that way inclined. Some days you just feel a little fancier, right?).
Top with the other cake the right way up this time and sprinkle with caster sugar.

All that’s left to do now is put on the kettle for a nice cup of tea and in approximately 5-10 minutes you’ll be chowing away on a little slice of heaven! Best served with good company.

* The rule of thumb when making a Victoria sponge is to weigh the eggs (still in their shell) and use the same quantity of butter, sugar and flour, something to bear in mind if you want to make a different sized cake. Just change the size of the cake tin as appropriate, so if you make one with 5 eggs a 9 inch tin might be best or for a 3 egg cake I probably wouldn’t go bigger than a 7 inch cake tin. It’s nice if the cake has a good bit of height.

Happy Burns Night Bonnie Scotland!

My love is like a red, red rose
That’s newly sprung in June :
My love is like the melody
That’s sweetly played in tune.

As fair art thou, my bonnie lass,
So deep in love am I :
And I will love thee still, my dear,
Till all the seas gang dry.

Till all the seas gang dry, my dear,
And the rocks melt with the sun :
And I will love thee still, my dear,
While the sands of life shall run.

And fare thee well, my only love,
And fare thee well a while !
And I will come again, my love,
Tho’ it were ten thousand mile.

– Robert Burns –

A Quick Catch Up

Well since my last post Christmas has been and gone and we’ve leapt into a brand new year. Happy 2013 everyone! I enjoyed the Christmas holidays despite being struck with a throat infection and a stomach bug, nothing that a bit of festive cheer can’t temporarily cure! The New Year was spent with my friend Martina and her family. To sum it up it was really lovely; An evening of food and laughter, time spent with wonderful people, a bit of the old Hootenanny (Jools Holland’s a NYE staple, right?) a ‘group effort’ of Auld Lang Syne, and grandparents who really know how to shake their tailfeathers! That really is a nice way to see in the New Year.

New Year's Eve

What’s new pussycat?

Meet Lily. When I go back to Lisburn to see my mum and dad I always like getting to see my furry white friend again. Don’t worry, I am not being racist. Lily is our lovely fluffy white cat!

Here she is when she was a kitten.

Although you can’t see it here, she had huge bright blue eyes. Adorable does not begin to describe it.

M1

She slept a lot of the time, but when something is as cute as that it is somehow okay, apart from the fact you lose so much time just staring in disbelief at the cuteness that lies before you. These days she is more active and is always running about to the point where she is occasionally nowhere to be found, and you know, I think she’s grown to be a little cheeky too. According to the neighbours she would sometimes peek inside their cat flap, get the dogs attention, then recline outside their front door to taunt the poor thing! I don’t think she’d be so cocky if the cat flap were larger.
After her escapades she always eventually makes an appearance though and comes in to take a nap in the warmth. What a cutie.

Lily 2

Lily 3

There’s just something about a sleeping cat, that makes a house feel that little bit more homely, don’t you think?