Tuesday, 1 September 2015

The Woollen mills review

When the littlefoodie was born first one of the things that I missed most was getting out to restaurants for lunch and dinner. I feared that when I became more mobile, restaurants wouldn't be as accommodating as when I went without a baby. Over the last few months Ive become braver and now get out as much (if not more) than I did before, although mostly for brunch and lunch rather than dinner. The topic of how baby friendly restaurants regularly comes up with friends so as I eat my way around Dublin for the remainder of my maternity leave I will post restaurant reviews here with comments on how baby friendly they are. Yesterdays visit was to the Woollen Mills at the Ha'penny bridge.

Food - I had the turkey sandwich with salads and my friend had the cuban sandwich. Both sandwiches were so good that neither of us wanted to share. The sandwiches came on homemade ciabatta with a choice of salads or soup (both come in at under 10€). This was by far the best sandwich I have eaten in Dublin in a long time and consisted of turkey, guacamole, crushed tortilla (strange) and chipotle mayo. We shared a starter of jerusalem artichoke hummus to share which had a lovely smoky taste to it but wasnt really necessary given the size of the sandwich plate. As dessert I had the doughnut of the day, a magical concoction of doughnut perfection stuffed with apple and topped with an amazing cinnamon mascarpone and my friend had a peach custard tart (too much custard, not enough peach). Ive been to the Woollen mills twice before and really enjoyed on both occasions so I will definitely be going back. They take excellent ingredients and know what to do with them.

Accessibility - The ground floor is buggy accessible but Im not sure that you can get to the lovely outdoor terraced first floor other than by stairs. The ground floor outdoor area is covered and has plenty of room so is perfect for buggies and people watching 

Changing facilities- The main toilets are down a stairs but there is a wheelchair/buggy accessible toilet on the ground floor with a changing table

High chairs - I spotted one while on the way to the toilets. There were no other kids in the restaurant during lunch but there may have been more high chairs upstairs

Space for buggy- Fairly limited, you wouldn't want to be meeting friends who also have buggies unless you were willing to sit outside. Calling in advance would be advisable if you are meeting a few people with buggies.

Service - Our server seemed to be a bit disinterested in helping get the buggy to the table when I arrived. When ordering both courses we had to ask other people who told us they would ask our server to come over. Service of 10% was added to the bill automatically which may be part of the reason that the service wasnt great. Overall the staff didnt seem at all bothered that I had a baby with me which was good as said baby has just learned how to shriek! 

Table booking - I booked the table using their online booking system and notified them through this that I would have a buggy with me. 

Overall rating - 4.5/5 Only thing Im marking down on is the service

Baby friendliness rating - 4/5 Not a lot of space for babies unfortunately

The damage - Just shy of €50 for a starter, two sandwiches and salads, 2 desserts a coffee and soft drink. Service at 10% was included

Monday, 31 August 2015

The littlefoodie eats local - 4 other reasons to breastfeed

Before the littlefoodie was born I read a bit about breastfeeding and the health benefits and decided to give it a go. I attended a class in the hospital where everything pointed to how good breastfeeding is for both the mother and baby, but the number of second time Moms in attendance definitely pointed to challenges ahead. I decided to give it a go and not beat myself up if it didn't work out. Given that Ireland has one of the lowest rates of breastfeeding globally I didn't have that much hope for much support from the health system (Ill post more on resources shortly)

Now that my little fella is 4 months old I look back at the reasons I started feeding and realise that many of the reasons I kept going were ones that Id never seen advertised. Speaking to fellow moms they say the same. If you're thinking of breastfeeding then here are some of the reasons you don't always hear:

  • Support and Networking - Breastfeeding might seem like a lonely task if you're afraid of nursing in public but Ciudiu, La Leche League, Friends of Breastfeeding and your local health centre have regular meetings to help you get answers to questions, eat cake at and get over any fears you have. I have met some lovely people through my local group who I meet with at least twice a week for lunch and classes. Having lived in the same house for ten years without knowing any people locally Im amazed at the number of new friends I have through breastfeeding groups. 
  • Cheap - Breastmilk is free! No purchasing boxes of formula or bottles (although we do have a few bottles for expressed milk). How much can you save? I spoke to one mom this week who was spending €5 a day on premade formula as her baby wouldn't take the powdered formula. Start counting up those 5 euros and you have yourself enough for a pretty nice holiday
  • Makes traveling easy - Talking of holidays, by 4 months the littlefoodie had 2 stamps in his passport and had stayed in hotels in Ireland on 3 occasions. He had been fed on a plane (great for ears on take off and landing), boat, train, bus and in the car. When he was thirsty (especially in hotter climates) there was always enough for him to drink. We didn't have to worry about fridges, sterilisers or clean water which meant that we were able to travel with only hand luggage! As a family that love to travel breastfeeding made travel simple. 
  • Lazy - Ok, so it wasn't as easy for me as it is for others. My little boy had tongue tie which wasn't diagnosed until he was 9 weeks old. This made feeding painful for me and for him until a while after he had the procedure to fix it. Nevertheless I say lazy because breastfeeding meant that we had no making of bottles or sterilising and no boiling of kettles late at night while a hungry baby cried. When hunger struck a snack was always available for him without me having to move from the bed. 
This article also has some great inspiration if you're thinking of breastfeeding and is well worth a read  - it melts your ass fat, passes on flavours of what you eat, produces antibodies to fight infection in your baby and is the perfect food (even if your own diet is not so great)

I know that breastfeeding doesnt work for everyone but its definitely worth considering and reading all you can before your baby is born if you want to give it a go. 

Ive a feeling we will be sticking at it for a while to come.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

A littlefoodie joins

After a couple of years of doing nothing with this site, Ive decided to restart this blog. So much has happened since I last posted - trips to Sri Lanka, Barbados and lots of eating in Italy where I also tied the knot. Probably the biggest change has been bringing a little foodie into the world. About a year ago I found out I was pregnant and was informed of all the many things I shouldnt eat, since he has been born I keep thinking of all his future food experiences. I decided to restart this blog with this as one of the themes. I will get back to posting restaurant reviews and recipes too, but chances are they will have a slant towards being baby friendly given my little companion. 

About the foodie - 
I've always been crazy about food whether eating it or making it. Food has inspired many trips around the world so much so that the first foreign phrase I learn is normally how to thank the chef. Cooking and baking is a great source of stress relief for me, eating the spoils a source of joy. In 2009 I handed in my notice and spent 3 months training at Ballymaloe Cookery school with the sole intention of mastering my skills, but no intention of ever becoming a chef.

I started this blog in 2008 as a way of documenting my way through cookery school. Over time it and I grew tired and it fizzled out back in 2012. I decided to start it up again in 2015 after my son was born as I started to look forward to seeing food through his eyes and passing my love of food on. Baby led weaning seemed like the obvious choice for the future little foodie as I wanted him to experience real food. Laziness also had a big part to play in this decision. I want my little fella to grow up eating with us as a family, being curious and adventurous with food.

One of the big changes since having a baby is the lack of time that I get to cook, so its likely recipes here will focus on being quick to make yet tasty and filling. Over the coming months those recipes will include food that I can share with the little foodie. 

The little foodie - born in April 2015
The little foodie doesnt know anything about real food yet other than seeing it frequently entering his parents mouths. Born in April 2015 his food journey is currently only breastmilk but around October this year he should start to have his first food adventures.

Disclaimer - I am not a child nutritionist or expert on breastfeeding. Everything expressed in this blog are my opinions only. Please consult an expert if you are having any issues with feeding your child.

Monday, 9 January 2012

On my way back

2011 was a busy year - new job, lots of work trips away, weddings in far away places, a trip to Cambodia volunteering in an elephant sanctuary and some end of year mojitos in Cuba. I have loads to write about, back really soon

Thursday, 5 May 2011

I left my heart (and stomach) in San Francisco

I spent a fabulous although very broke summer in San Francisco in the late nineties and at the time the fanciest eating out I did was at local Mission district Mexican burrito places where the most English they could speak was to warn this gringo that the salsa I was pointing at was not for me. Everyone I knew lived in the Mission District or Tenderloin, the most run down parts of the city that had and still have some of the best food.

Although I have been back a few times for work, it took me a long time to get back for a proper holiday which I did recently for a long weekend. San Francisco is a good trek from Dublin, but has enough to see and do to keep you happily busy for a weekend. This is before you even start to look at the loads of fantastic eateries in the city. 

San Francisco has a heap of high end restaurants, but for me, I always think of it as my favourite city in America for good Mexican, Chinese and Italian. The best bit is that all of this can be had at very reasonable prices. If you are planning a trip this list might help you with some ideas, but Ive tested out some of these and others here to give you a hand too.

worth a visit when in sf

My first stop once off the plane was to check in to the lovely, central and fairly reasonable Hotel Vertigo (of Hitchcock fame). Then we got on the road to the House of Nan King. The first time I visited this place was about 6 years ago when fresh off a long haul plane which had robbed me of my sense of smell, taste and ability to concentrate long enough to read a menu. One of the older waitresses took pity on our table and asked whether there was anything we didnt eat and then told us she would bring us plate after plate of food to share until we told her to stop.

the best calamari ever

This place almost permanently has a queue outside the door, but is worth the wait for their delicious and very much no frills food (3 of us with beers and 4 or 5 mains came to $60). The calamari were melt in the mouth tender with a beautiful spicy lime sauce, the sesame chicken with sweet potatoes was also to die for. Im sure there are other places in Chinatown that are good, if not better, but this is the place I go on my first night every time - its exactly the kind of mothering you need after flying long haul.


The following morning after a bit of a walk and a cable car ride (it had to be done), we went to the outdoor market at the Ferry Building (open Thursdays and Saturdays) for lunch. I had, without knowing what they were, promised my lovely American friend that I would go to the Primavera stand and eat some Chilaquiles. We need a place that does these in Dublin, they would bring those with near death hangovers back from the brink, they could certainly get the country moving again. I hope the picture does them justice - perfectly scrambled eggs, the softest refried beans, salsa, sour cream and softened tortillas.

not from burger king

There was also some chicken burger eating and some browsing through the lovely shops in the market building. There is a particularly good kitchen ware shop here along with a shop that specialises in Tasty Salted Pig Parts and a very fantastic coffee shop called Blue Bottle Coffee. An hour or two later and any shred of jetlag you had will be long gone. If you are visiting San Francisco, this is the only pier area you should visit - avoid Pier 39 at all costs!

a gazillion fantastic flavours

Over the next few nights my dinners were all Italian, first pizza and cocktails at the lovely Beretta and then the following night the most amazing fresh Italian pasta at Delfina. The pork sugo with pappardelle pasta was so good that it was one of the first things that I endeavoured to copy for a dinner party when I got back home. If you cant make the trip to San Francisco, I would certainly recommend giving this recipe a try. Delfina, Beretta and the best ice-cream in San Francisco all sit within a few blocks of each other in the Mission district (which coincidentally is also the best place to get yourself a burrito should there be a queue at any of the above).

bi-rite creamery icecream

Bi-rite creamery, which is a name that sounds far too much like they do discount ice cream which consists more of ice than anything dairy, will have a queue right out the door. Sometimes this queue will curl back on itself a few times, but it is very much worth the wait for their handmade organic icecream. The flavours, as you will see above, will give you plenty to think about while you wait.

pecan banana bread french toast

On our final day in San Francisco we had decided to cylce across the Golden Gate bridge and as such we needed a good hearty breakfast. Not all that far from the hotel we found what Yelp told us was one of the best places for breakfast in San Francisco. Dotties True Blue Cafe, is so popular that it has a sign outside the door to remind you to be polite and not ask the waiters to get customers that have finished eating to leave, that you will be awarded the same respect when you are finished. Even on a grey Monday morning in February this place had a good 30 minute a queue outside. This is no surprise when you finally get a peak of whats in store inside. They have a massive menu of breakfast foods, all prepared in front of you as you wait along with breads made onsite. I had an amazing French toast made with a type of pecan corn bread which was definitely the best French toast I have ever eaten. I wanted to grab something from every other plate nearby. On looking it up to see if they have a website I found the following video which will definitely have me going back there. Do not cycle across the Golden Gate Bridge, visit Alcatraz or climb any of those hills without first coming here!

Ill be heading back to California this weekend with the fabulous Peggy for some dining experiences on the other side of the scale. More to come shortly.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Cheeky Beef and Guinness pies

Bord Bia are running a fabulous competition at the moment for food bloggers to win a trip to Germany to a European Bloggers workshop. In order to enter the competition I had to put together a recipe using Irish beef. Given the month that is in it, my contribution is a very Irish style pie. This pie would serve as a very hearty lunch or dinner and given the contents include meat, veg and drink it very much has "eating and drinking in it". The filling itself makes a good stew on its own (maybe dont thicken as much as I did) served with mashed potato (or even sweet potato mash).

I had far too much time on my hands so made the pastry from scratch (its not difficult, just a little time consuming) but you could just as easily buy frozen puff pastry. If you have remaining pastry then a great nibble is to scrunch up the leftover and grate some parmesan over it before sticking in the oven for 10 minutes.

Cheeky Beef and Guinness pies (makes 4)

Beef filling
  • a few tablespoons of sunflower/rapeseed oil
  • 200g finely chopped onions
  • 550g beef cheeks chopped into inch sized pieces
  • 150g diced carrots
  • 250ml Guinness
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 teaspoons tomato puree
  • 100g mushrooms
  • 50g butter
  • 50g flour
Flaky Pastry (or use store bought puff pastry)
  • 300g flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 200g butter at room temperature
  • cold water to bind
  • a whisked egg to wash pastry

the most beautiful Irish beef cheeks

Prepare the meat and vegetables
Heat a tablespoon of oil in a small casserole. Lightly cook the onions in the oil over a medium heat until softened. Remove the onions from the casserole and set aside.
Season the beef with salt and pepper.
Brown the beef in small batches in the casserole, removing to the side once browned.
Once the meat is browned return to the casserole with 175ml of the Guinness, the chopped onions and diced carrots. Add the tomato puree and enough water to cover the meat and vegetables, along with some salt and pepper to taste.
all ready for the Guinness
Bring the stew to a boil and then leave to simmer covered on a low heat or in the oven at 150C for 2 hours.
Finely chop the mushrooms and fry in small batches in some butter until browned. Leave to one side and add to the casserole for the last half an hour of cooking

Prepare a roux by melting the 50g of butter in a saucepan and then adding the flour. Stir over a medium heat for two minutes.

Remove the casserole from the oven and strain the liquid into a saucepan. Bring the liquid to the boil and add roux, whisking to thicken. Add the remaining 75 ml of Guinness at this point also, this addition is what gives the filling its rich Guinness taste. The sauce will need to be a fairly thick gravy so that it wont leak from the pies so dont be shy with the roux. Return the sauce to the casserole and leave to cool. This bit is really worth noting. I made the filling a little too late in the day and it melted through my pastry before it was fully sealed (they didnt turn out too pretty but were still very tasty!)

Pastry (will take about 2 hours)
Sieve the flour and a pinch of salt into a bowl. Divide the butter in 4 equal pieces and mix the first piece through the flour adding enough cold water to bring together and make a pastry. Wrap the pastry in clingfilm and place in the fridge for 15-20 minutes.

be careful not to dig your nails into the pastry!
Roll the pastry into a rectangular sheet with width of about 10 inches. **Spread 1 piece of the butter across two thirds of the length of the pastry. Fold the pastry in thirds over the butter. Wrap in clingfilm and return to the fridge again for 15-20 minutes. Remove from the fridge with the seam to the side (it should look like a book). Roll to a rectangle again and repeat as before from ** 2 more times to use the remaining butter. Leave the pastry in the fridge until the beef filling has cooled.

pie ready for egg washing
Roll out the pastry so that it is large enough for 4 pies, using a side plate as a template (store bought pastry is normally also around the 500g mark so should do the same number of pies). Place the filling (2 -3 tablespoons should be enough) slightly to the south of centre.

pie with pint
I have made pies a number of times and failed at sealing them until I came across this youtube video on how to crimp the pastry. Follow the video and they will seal perfectly. Brush with eggwash and place in an oven at 180C for 25 minutes until golden brown

Fresh from the oven

Monday, 21 February 2011

Gingerbread - the perfect winter cake

I have a big admission to make, Im absolutely terrified of cup measurements. For years now I have had monthly subscriptions to US food magazines without ever making one recipe in any of them, all because of the cups! I was brought up to believe that baking was an exact science, one where everything was very carefully measured in ounces and then later grams. Cups, as a result dont make any sense to me and scare me senseless.

the prettiest cake you have ever seen?
On a recent trip to the US I bought the most fabulous Bundt cake tin and spent a week looking for the perfect cake to grace it on its maiden oven voyage. The American Bundt cake comes from the German Bundkuchen and Austrian Gugelhupf which looks fantastic but has always surprised me by its dryness. I decided that I was going to have to brave a US recipe for my new US cake tin and the first place I looked was the fabulous archives at SmittenKitchen.

This cake certainly hit the spot as a great winterly cake. Two days later its even better so as the cake has ripened and become even more sticky and chewy. Its the kind of cake that cries for a cup of strong coffee after a brisk walk in the cold, the kind of cake that will warm you all the way through with its fantastic spiciness. This is definitely not a cake for wimps, but saying that its definitely not difficult to make.

Grammercy Tavern's Gingerbread (from SmittenKitchen adapted to metric by me)
makes one bundt size tin or two loafs.

8 fl oz/220 ml Guinness
8 fl oz/220 ml Treacle (molasses on the original recipe but I couldnt find this)
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

250g plain flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch of ground cardamom (I couldnt find this - it worked perfectly without)

3 large eggs
190g dark brown sugar
220g granulated sugar
6fl oz/150ml vegetable oil
Icing sugar for dusting

Ive grouped the ingredients into the dishes you will need - which are as follows:
- One large saucepan
- Two big mixing bowls

treacle, fabulous sticky ingredient that my uncle feeds to cows when milking them
First measure your guinness and treacle and heat until boiling in your large saucepan. Remove from the heat and whisk in the bicarbonate of soda (the mixture will double in size and become quite fluffy). Leave this to cool to room temperature and then prepare everything else.
volume doubles in size when you add bicarb!
Butter the tin and dust with flour and set aside

Heat the oven to 180C/170 (fan)

Sift the flour, spices and baking powder in one large bowl

Weigh and mix the sugars in another bowl. Once your treacle mixture has cooled whisk the eggs into the sugar and then add the oil, whisking until smooth (I used a handmixer for this). Add the treacle mixture and whisk again.

Combine the flour mixture with the liquid mixture and mix until well combined.

Add caption
Pour the mixture into the Bundt pan (or small loaf tins) and give them a good knock on the counter to remove air bubbles.
the bottom does not need to look pretty!
Bake in the middle of the oven for 50 minutes, a tester should come out with just a few crumbs attached. Cool in the tin for 5 minutes and then remove to a wire rack to cool completely. This should last a good few days covered (assuming you dont eat it all very quickly!)