Friday, 24 February 2012

tales of a pr novice

It all started last December when I was approached by a journalist who wanted to write an article about people using their homes in unusual ways as a result of these recessionary times we live in. She wanted to include a supper club in the piece. Being a complete pr novice and having never courted any publicity I was very surprised to find her email in my inbox but thrilled at the implication that yes there is at least one person out there who has read my blog and finds it interesting. So I did a phone interview with her and told her all about my supper clubs, why I run them, how I run them and she told me the pictures desk would be in touch. 

I waited.

They never called.

Several weeks passed with no sign of the article or word from the pictures desk and I presumed it had been shelved. I dropped her a quick email to inquire and was told it was still in the making and the pictures desk would be on to me shortly.  

Again I waited. 

In the meantime another journalist had been in touch wanting to do an article on supper clubs. This one moved much faster than the first and within a few weeks I'd the interview done and the photo-shoot arranged. 

Then sure enough photo desk number one finally got in touch to arrange a date and after a somewhat slapdash organisational mess we managed to fix a time to take some photos. Conveniently for me, the same day as photographer number two was coming round. Clever eh?

I figured if I actually waited until I was having a supper club to have the photos taken they'd never get done and it would be too stressy anyway. While it would be lovely to have proper photos of a supper club, with all those people in my tiny house there would be potential for things to go seriously wrong. My nerves couldn't handle it. Which is why my kitchen is currently set up for a dinner party that will never take place and I have a beautiful fresh baked cake that has no one to eat it. (I thought I should have at least something edible in the photograph, lest people think there's no food at my dinners.) There is a sadly poetic air permeating my kitchen right now.
I also had to get up very early this morning and put on a pretty dress and bright red lipstick which made me feel like an idiot. The things we do.

So that's that. My first flirtation with the press. I didn't break either of the cameras so hopefully the photos aren't too hideous. And hopefully the articles will eventually be printed. I'll be down the local shop scouring the relevant publications until then.

In case anyone's interested in the cake that I made for the occasion. Here it is. A beautiful boston cream cake from Lilly Higgin's Make Bake Love. As I'm a sucker for a chocolate cake I adapted it a bit and made a chocolate sponge, but I'm sure the original is as delicious. The custard filling is a new experience for me and one I will be repeating, it's extremely tasty. I'm not going to give you the recipe because I think you should all buy the book. It's a gorgeous addition to the shelf and it's supporting Irish entrepreneurs so do the right thing people.

I have just noticed that I made the same cake that Lilly poses with on the front cover of her book and the photographer had me pose in front of the table holding the cake in a very similar fashion. This was an entirely unintentional coincidence and I am now a little embarrassed. 

Keep an eye out for me in the papers!

Thursday, 23 February 2012

supper club - 30th March

The meal for the next supper club has been inspired by two cookbooks, Moro and Pizzaro. I've still never managed to go to Moro but I'm utterly inspired by their cookbooks and their style of food. On my last trip to London I happened upon another Spanish gem Pizarro. Again I didn't actually go to the restaurant (it's on my incredibly long list) but instead opted to recreate from their cookbook in my sister's flat (which is only up the road from the restaurant, so it's kind of like I was there). Their recipes are fantastic and well worth a try. Anyway, both of these books have inspired me to put together the menu for this club. As always, if you're interested in attending, send an email to


marinated olives




mutumma (slow cooked lamb with beans + coriander)
chopped salad


chocolate, hazelnut and almond cake


donations for the evening are 20 euro payable on arrival
please let me know if there are any allergies and I will try to accommodate you

Monday, 20 February 2012

new supper club dates

I've finally gotten around to organising some new supper club dates.

30th March

28th April

Details of menus to follow. If you're interested get in touch at

Keep an eye on the supper club blog for updates, menus and general info on the events. Hope to see you there.

Friday, 10 February 2012

crisps - the experiment

Yesterday saw the revival of my wonderful bake dates with Rory. (For those of you unfamiliar with the concept, me and my lovely assistant Rory get together sporadically and cook something we're too intimidated to try on own and then tell each other at length about how amazing we are. They're great fun altogether.) It's been a while since we last got together in the kitchen and when he arrived laden with dinner goodies and enthusiasm I must admit my enthusiasm was nowhere to be found. I just couldn't really be bothered. Why wouldn't I just go to the shop and buy a bag of crisps to go with our movie? They'd probably taste way better than anything we could make ourselves right? Wrong. The crisp experiment was a total success and as soon as we started my mood changed from lethargic to terribly excited. Sad isn't it? But lets not get too ahead of ourselves. There's plenty to talk about here.

oven roasted crisps
deep fried crisps

 The task we set ourselves was to try and make homemade crisps from scratch on which we could munch while we enjoyed a movie and a glass of wine. In the interests of science we tried two methods. We did oven roasted and deep fried. The conclusion I came to was that the worse something is for you the better it tastes. As much as I wanted the oven baked variety to come out on top, it would appear nothing beats deep frying. The deep fried crisps were light, crunchy and tasted of potato. The oven baked were either floppy or hard and chewy. They never got a good crunch on them and didn't have a nice potato flavour. So, there it is. Debate closed. 

the offensive oven baked crisps

the delectable deep fried version

Having said that, we used a potato peeler to slice the potatoes thinly. It worked brilliantly for the deep fried crisps but perhaps had we used a knife and made slightly thicker crisps for the oven, they would have come out better. I'll have to wait for another day to figure that one out.  

Now as far as I understand it the only proper way to flavour crisps is the addition of powdered flavour which will stick to the crisp. With limited powdered flavourings in the old press we tried to come up with alternative ways of flavouring them. Some worked, some didn't. 

It was easier to get the flavours on the oven roasted crisps as you could brush them with flavoured oils before putting them in the oven. The deep fried ones simply had to be tossed in flavour after you'd fried them so you couldn't use anything too wet or they'd get soggy. Here's what we came up with.

the flavours

Cheese and onion - everyone's favourite flavour (well, actually mine's salt and vinegar, except when in a pub, then it's cheese and onion all the way. weird). This we achieved by infusing olive oil with grated parmesan and red onion which we then dabbed onto the crisps after they were fried, or in the case of the oven roasted, before they were roasted. The flavour was great, but you have to be careful not to put too much on the deep fried crisps as it can make them too oily. Hard to tell on the oven baked as they tasted so awful anyway. Also, it was brought to my attention by my lovely assistant that Tayto invented the cheese and onion crisp. How did I not know this before? Well done Mr. Tayto. Bake dates are all about learning you know.

Salt and vinegar - we only tried these on the deep fried version. I coated a dish with a small amount of vinegar (we tried balsamic which was a bit too mild and red wine which I preferred), then threw some coarse sea salt in and tossed the freshly cooked chips quickly round the dish so they wouldn't get too soggy before turning them out into a serving bowl. This worked really well, but you do have to be careful not to use too much vinegar, or leave them in for too long or they'll go soggy.

Sweet chilli - I wasn't sure this one really worked. Again we infused some oil with chilli, sugar, rice wine vinegar and soy sauce and basted the oven baked crisps. As we only tried it on the oven baked crisps (it would have been too oily for the deep fried ones) it was hard to tell if it was any good. (The oven baked crisps really were awful.)

Last but not least, a bit of late inspiration from Rory, saw a last minute concoction of chilli, Italian herbs and salt which was delicious. Simply toss your deep fried crisps in the mixture and eat. Yum. Possibly my favourite.

So that was the big crisp experiment. While the oven baked ones were a disaster, the deep fried ones really did taste as delicious as any you'd buy. Only problem is that they're kind of hard to enjoy when you realize just how bad they are for you.

Oh, and I can't finish this post without thanking Rory for the delicious meal he made me without which I never would have had the energy to fry anything.  It was a delicious pasta dish with pan fried chicken and rosemary. (I think he stole it from Gordan Ramsey. Here's the recipe)

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

reveling in retirement

It being the year of the retirement, and not to be left out, my own family has had not one but two retirements this year. First off my dad retired in September after many years of hard service in the music business. This passed by with little fuss on the part of his loving family and I'm not even sure he got a card to mark the occasion. Sorry Dad.

Then my Mum retired just before Christmas and in true 'kids can be so thoughtless' fashion, we made a huge fuss of the event and threw her a big retirement bash, not giving a second thought to the fact  that Dad hadn't had so much as a cup of tea. Again, sorry Dad. I could blame the unbalanced nature of my reaction to the two milestones on being caught up in the Christmas spirit, or having too much time on my hands, but I suppose different people warrant different reactions. Dad doesn't like fuss, Mum kind of does. So that's what they got. I like to think I gave Dad exactly what he was looking for, that being nothing. Here's what Mum got.

I approached Mum with the idea of throwing her a retirement party whereby all she had to do was invite people and turn up herself. I would do all the cooking and decorating and possibly even some of the cleaning up. She was thrilled with the idea and quickly put a guest list together and I got busy planning canapes and treats to feed the hoards. I had initially wanted to throw a vintage tea party and had all sorts of fancy ideas which would put to good use my vastly increasing and underused collection of crockery. Long tables filled with tiered cake plates, fancy cocktails in tea pots, retro canapes. Think tablecloths, lace, frills and flowers. I was getting very carried away. So, I toned it down, trying to bear in mind that this was a party for my mum and not for me. The tea-party will have to wait for a more appropriate client! The tea pots went, the cocktails stayed, and the tablecloths and frills likewise went out the window. I did put to use some of my nicer plates and even made a few cake stands to add to the mix so I was at least sated on that score.

As for the menu. My Mum has a dairy allergy so anything with butter, cream or milk was off the menu. I didn't want her to have a whole load of food she couldn't eat at her own party, so I replaced any dairy I did need to use with goats milk and goats cheese, which worked out great.

This was the menu. Everyone had cocktails and canapes on arrival and dug into the rest of the food at their leisure. It pretty much all got scoffed so I assume it was enjoyed. Judging from the amount of singing around the piano the cocktails certainly were anyway.


smoked salmon
beetroot chutney and goat's cheese

savoury treats:
homemade sausage rolls
honey and mustard cocktail sausages
salmon tikka wraps
leek and blue cheese (goat's cheese) tarts
mushroom and chestnut tarts

some sweet treats

strawberry and cream swiss roll
lemon and passion fruit swiss roll
mince pies
mini christmas puddings

I stuck to party favourites for the most part. You can't beat a few sausage rolls and with Delia Smith's guidance you can't really go wrong. Likewise the old honey and mustard cocktail sausages always win the men over. My biggest challenge was making 80 or so mini tartlets which were very time consuming and fiddly but well worth the effort. 

It was a lot of work.  I've never cooked for that many people before and I think the oven was going for pretty much 24 hours. I had the brilliant help of my cousin Fi to sort me out and keep me on track, which I wouldn't have survived without. The definite hit of the night were the salmon tikka wraps (recipe below). They were the easiest thing to prepare and incredibly tasty. The flop of the night was the panettone. I had a lot of baking fails over Christmas (not least of all the discovery of mouldy Christmas puddings, might want to rethink this recipe, the search continues) and my self esteem was taking some serious knocks from the kitchen and this didn't help. I tried to make them twice and both times were a disaster. They tasted delicious, but each time they refused to rise so turned out incredibly dense and solid. It was a delicious looking recipe from Lily Higgins' gorgeous cookbook but I just couldn't make it work. Maybe the yeast was dead, who knows. I'll try them again when I recover from the disappointment.

everyone needs a helpful christmas elf

I don't know if it's a specifically Irish thing, if it's just my world or if people are like this the world over, but for all the effort and stress that went into the planning, the cooking, the decorating, the cleaning, it was all entirely upstaged by the fun and laughter that the guests brought to the house on the night. I could have served them tayto and red lemonade and they would have been just as happy and just as complementary. So I say the salmon was the hit of the night, I actually think , corny and all as it is, it was really my Mum and her incredible friends. May we all be so full of laughter and love and surrounded by such good company when we get to their age. (Not that they're old...oh dear.)

Salmon Tikka Lettuce Wraps from I love Curry by Anjum Anand
for the tandoori marinade:
50g plain yoghurt
6g fresh root ginger grated
2 garlic cloves grated
2tsp gram flour
1tsp paprika
3/4 tsp chilli powder
1 and 1/2 tbsp vegetable oil
3/4 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp creme fraiche

for the wraps:
2 small, skinless salmon fillets
8-10 baby gem lettuce leaves
2 tbsp capers
shredded red cabbage

for the topping:
30g Greek yoghurt
30g creme fraiche 
10g finely chopped onion
10g finely chopped coriander
1-2 green chillies, deseeded and finely chopped
salt to taste
ground black pepper to taste

Mix the marinade ingredients together and season. Add the salmon and leave for a few hours.

Mix the topping ingredients together.

Grill the fish on a high heat until cook. It should be slightly charred in some places.

To serve simply break off bits of the fish and lay in the lettuce leaves. Top with the yoghurt dressing. Scatter with capers and the shredded cabbage. Can be served hot or cold. 

I used plain yoghurt throughout instead of the Greek yoghurt and creme fraiche for the sake of ease and left out the gram flour because I neither had it or knew what it was. It seemed to work just as well without. I don't even like salmon and usually hate my own food but I loved this. I can't recommend it enough.

Saturday, 4 February 2012


Well, it's taken me a hell of a long time but here I am again. At last. Back on the blog, in an effort to convince myself that I am in fact in possession of at least a small amount of staying power. I'm pretty sure I do possess it, it's just not always very consistent and sometimes hard to find. I'm finally settling into 2012. It's never taken me quite so long to get into a new year before, (I keep awkwardly wishing people a happy new year, it's very embarrassing) but I think I just about know where I'm at with this one. It's been a busy January and to be honest food, supper clubs and blogging have been taking a definite back seat. But for better or worse here I am, back again.

I have actually been doing stuff in the last few months. I like to think of my online sabatical as proof that I've been too busy doing stuff to be writing about it (apart from that week over christmas where I just lay on my couch watching endless bad quality television and stuffing my face with even worse quality snacks), so I'm not going to be too hard on myself for my neglect. It's a new year now and there's lots of new things to try out so it's time to get cracking.

First up on the agenda, tonight's dinner. I'm very excited. There's a bit of background to this.

One of the many things I've neglected to blog about over the last few months was my last supper club. It was a Christmas party for a lovely sculpture group. They were great guests, incredibly friendly and surprisingly comfortable with the whole concept. As they were a group there was none of the initial awkwardness as they arrived into the house. They took to my living room like it was one of their own and settled in for a great evening. Even nicer than the atmosphere was the Christmas present I was given on their arrival. Totally unexpected. There's nothing nicer than a totally unexpected present from people you barely know, or from anyone for that matter. Except maybe when you open it and realise that it couldn't have been better suited to you than if you'd picked it yourself. They'd given me a copy of Casa Moro, one of my favourite cookbooks. Despite being one of my favourites I didn't own a copy. During my last traumatic move of house I had to go through the painful separating of the things with my sister. Painful because of the stark realisation that all of your most cherished possessions, your favourite plates, the cookbook that never fails you, the cosy blanket on the couch, they were never actually yours in the first place. Turns out I never really bought anything, it was all my sisters doing. So after much sobbing and failure to convince her of my right of ownership, I lost 'our' copy of this great book. Living alone I'm finally filling my house with my own things and this time I'm pretty sure they're all actually mine. And now this book can be added to the collection.

What I like about Moro is that it's real family style food. It's all about getting people together, serving up big plates and getting stuck in. On the menu tonight is Chicken Fattee, which is basically a big plate of chicken and rice. Seeing as I don't have a big family to feed (in fact I'm cooking for two), I'm going to do a smaller toned down version but hopefully it will be just as tasty. For those of you who'd like to try it, you don't even need to buy the book. Here's the recipe from the lovely folks over at the guardian.

And here's how it turned out. It was delicious. And I've turned the leftovers into chicken curry for tonight, so it was a bargain to boot. Winner.