Saturday, 29 November 2008
In comparison with the last one this was definitely more of the traditional mince pie in that it came in a pie shape in a little tinfoil pie case and was made of real pastry (real all butter pastry according to the packaging, more on this later).
On that note before I go into scoring the packaging made me a little angry as I dont think you need to tell me that the mince pies are dusted with sugar if I can see through the little glass window that they are indeed dusted with sugar. Are Dunnes Stores assuming that most of their mince pie shoppers are imbeciles?
Value(2.7): €2.49 for 6, cheaper than the non premium Superquinn ones so not bad. Someday when Im feeling very generous I may try their cheaper ones.
Filling(1): There was plenty of filling and it was moist and sweet with no sign of suet. At least that was the way they tasted when hot. When cold however it tasted just plain weird. I couldnt really make it out, maybe it was the brandy (7% according to the ingredients) but if it was it tasted remarkably like the kind of very cheap booze that I used to drink when in college, you know the kind that would make you go blind if you had to much of it? Oh and when cold the raisins were also very very chewy which just seemed wrong. Strange that it could taste so completely different when cold than hot. I persevered though and finished it just to be sure.
Pastry(2): Yay for the "all butter pastry", yet this was one of the last ingredients on the box so Im guessing there was something else that bound the pastry together. All in all the pastry wasnt the worst ever when cold. When warmish the pie just kind of collapsed on its own. I got the feeling that this mince pie might have been afraid I was going to load it down with cream. Now that Im talking about mince pies having feelings I should really give up.
Packaging and design(1): Not a bad box at all, quite posh looking in comparison with the cheaper mince pies. Despite my groanings about the description on the box above it was nice to have a recipe on the box and a reminder of just how much lard I was eating by doing this survey today (surprisingly not a mad amount either - only .2g saturated fat per pie - another reason there couldnt be that much butter in there). It was also nice to know that these pies werent designed to last until 2020 and as a result wouldnt do bad things to my insides.
Total: 6.7. Only eat these if you have a way of heating them and if you do be careful that they dont collapse under the strain of being heated. Not bad when heated but fairly weird tasting otherwise. Oddly a guy I work with tasted one and said it was the best mince pie he had eaten all year, then he did look at me fairly strangely when I brought mince pies in for afternoon tea and made a comment about it being far too early for mince pies.
Friday, 28 November 2008
Thursday, 27 November 2008
My love for Christmas food is detrimental in that last year I put on a whole 9 pounds because of eating too much of it. Not to come over all mental and obsessive compulsive about weight but 9 pounds is a hell of a lot of mince pies and Christmas cake. Im pretty sure that a good portion of the 9 pounds was pure butter so graphically I went from something that looked like the left image below to the right one (my paint skills are only fantastic I know)
End of obsessing.
This year however Im going to give my body up for research purposes and do a mince pie survey. Dont let it be said that I do nothing for ye.
The mince pies will be judged out of 10 on their merits as follows:
- Value (3) - we are in a recession you know, much and all as I love mince pies Im going to try to be realistic about value here.
- Filling (3)- Im picky about the filling, it needs to be moist and full of fruit, sweet but not too sweet. Im not keen on suet in my mincepies, even less so after reading that wikipedia link.
- Pastry (3)- Ill try not to be a complete traditionalist here and test different types of mince pies but its going to have to a good solid tasty pastry either way.
- Packaging and design (1) - Why is design of mince pie important? Mainly because you dont want your filling falling out. Im a bit of a sucker for a nice box too.
Wednesday, 26 November 2008
Any recommendations you can give would be fantastic. Of course any recommendations that are given will be duly reported on in detail from over there.
Tuesday, 25 November 2008
Ingredients (This makes about 5 bowls of soup)
- 2 leeks
- 1 butternut squash
- 1 red chilli
- 1 pint of vegetable stock (I use 3 veg oxo cubes for a pint)
- Thumb sized bit of ginger
- 1 teaspoon of curry powder (I normally put a bit more in)
- 1 can of light coconut milk
Turn your oven on to top temperature and start peeling and chopping the butternut squash. Theres no easy way to do this and Ive broken 2 vegetable peelers trying them. Throw the lump sized bits of squash into the oven onto a tray as you chop to roast. Let them roast for 10-15 minutes (you don’t have to roast the squash but it’s a bit tastier if you do) while you are chopping up the leeks and ginger and chilli (remove the seeds first).
Get a big saucepan and put a bit of oil in the bottom, heat it up and then throw in your chilli, curry powder and chopped ginger. Let them fry a bit for a minute or so and then throw in your leeks. Pour in your pint of stock. Take your squash out of the oven and throw that into the pot too. Bring it to the boil then turn it down and let it simmer for 10-15 minutes until the leeks and squash are soft.
Use a hand blender to liquidise the soup (or a liquidizer - but wait until its cool if youre going to do it this way). Open your can of coconut milk and throw it in to the pot and reheat slowly if the soup is too cold. Enjoy, its yum.
Monday, 24 November 2008
This recipe is dead simple and very cheap to make (the quorn makes it even cheaper) and perfect for a cold winters evening in front of the fire when all you want to do is splodge with the nearest shephard you can find.
Shephards pie ingredients:
- 5 large potatoes
- One packet of Quorn mince (350g) or the same of real beef/lamb
- 1 large onion
- 3 cloves of garlic
- half a pint of stock or gravy (Im what my friends call a crap vegetarian and used beef stock)
- 2 teaspoons of whole grain mustard (I found this Dalkey mustard which is made in Dublin 8 in superquinn)
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- salt and pepper
- some milk and butter for mashing the potatoes
- 1 tablespoon tomato puree
- 2 leeks
- 3 tablespoons of grated hard cheese (mine was a peculiar goats cheese but anything you have will do the job)
Bring a large pot of water to the boil while peeling the potatoes and cutting them in quarters. Boil the potatoes until soft enough to mash.
While the potatoes are boiling chop and fry the onion and garlic in some oil. Add the quorn (you can add straight from the freezer). Add the pint of stock (I find the one in the picture above great as is their gravy and it saves a lot of time making it from scratch), mustard, cinnamon, salt, pepper and tomato puree and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for about ten minutes.
Once the potatoes are soft enough drain and mash, using some milk (only a few tablespoons), a sprinkling of salt and a lump of butter. Be careful with the milk or they will be too soft.
Pour the quorn mix into the bottom of a large pyrex dish (mine is about 11 inches in diameter). Top with the mashed potatoes. While preheating the grill, chop the leeks finely and place over the potato. Grate the cheese and sprinkle over the potato. Place under the grill for about ten minutes until brown (my shephard didnt watch this and it burned a little)
Friday, 21 November 2008
Wednesday, 19 November 2008
A few things I wouldnt do if I had my own restuarant:
- 2 seatings unless you can get the food out quick enough or make those seatings long enough - 7 until 9 is not a long enough seating for 10 in the Unicorn.
- Expensive starters - there were only one or two on the menu under the €20 mark. Make your mains more expensive and your starters cheaper - surely the mains shouldnt come in around the same price as a plate of antipasto (over 20€ for some olives and parma ham is insane!)
- Not serve at the same time - I realize Im in double negative land here so Ill explain by saying that there was a gap of ten minutes between the first and last person getting their starters and the same happened again with the mains which meant in both cases that some people were eating cold food.
- Be so slow at collecting plates that the table cant order dessert/coffee. Some of us are particularly fond of desserts and its the lasting impression that people remember on leaving a restaurant.
Needless to say given the above we all left a bit disgruntled. I'd like to think places like the Unicorn will start to get less visitors given the current state of the economy but think I may be kidding myself.
Tuesday, 18 November 2008
- 4 eggs
- 120ml milk (whatever type you have, I use semi skimmed and its fine)
- 5 slices from a hand cut loaf (Get the best bread you can get and its grand even if its been hanging around a few days, as long as theres no mould that is. Theres no point wasting your eggs on sliced pan. I went a bit far and made some as I was in prime baking form)
- some butter and veg oil for frying
- maple syrup, cinnamon, caster sugar for serving
Once done eat very quickly with lots of the maple syrup and it will completely make up for the fact that its Sunday and you have to work tomorrow.
Monday, 17 November 2008
- Even thinking of it makes me fat
- I didnt want to try to make it in case it was easy and then I would never stop making it.
- It may mean that I never leave the house again due to pure gluttony.
Banoffee is simply one of my favourite desserts and is dead simple to make, so easy in fact that it would be really hard to go wrong. So when a friend of mine who has been sick recently asked would I make it for his birthday party I made 2 big ones (one for the party and one for family) and 2 small ones for myself.
Ingredients (for a 12 inch tin - I doubled this and made two 9 inch tins and 2 ramekins):
- 6 oz digestive biscuits
- 2 oz gingernut biscuits (you could do a full 8oz digestive - it will be easier on the mashing!)
- 3oz butter
- 5 or 6 bananas
- 250ml cream
- 1 tin condensed milk
- juice of half a lemon
My favourite bit - put the biscuits in a plastic bag and bash with a rolling pin. This was always my job as a kid at home and is a great stress reliever (this is going to be one of my crap excuses for making banoffee going forwards!)
Melt the butter in a saucepan and mix the biscuits in. Line the base of the tin/ramekins and press down with a spoon. Let it set for a while in the fridge.
Open the condensed milk after the 3 hours and spread over the biscuit. I defy you not to stick your finger in to taste it. In fact I defy you not to give up at this stage and run off with your tin of toffee.
At this stage you can leave it like this in the fridge until you are almost ready to eat and add the chopped bananas and whipped cream at that stage. Alternatively if you want to be uber organised cut your bananas in slices and toss with the juice of half a lemon. Place the bananas on top of the toffee and cover with whipped cream and it will keep nicely until you give in and eat it.
If you have never had banoffee before you are most certainly cursing me now. Im sorry. If it hadnt been for my friends birthday Id be cursing him too. Oh and look at the enjoyment on that face - as good a reason as any to make this!
Saturday, 15 November 2008
Masala Gosht was my latest very easy attempt at impressive Indian food. Theres nothing difficult about making a fantastic meal with these spices as you will see from the recipes, normally all you need is the meat, tinned tomatoes, some ginger, garlic and onions and youve got yourself a better Indian meal than you would get at all but the best Indian Restaurants. It may not look too appetizing to the right but it was yum!
I have made a number of these recipes over the last few months and have a constant stock of made up food in the freezer from them. The Dahl (best comfort food there is), Bengali Tiger Prawns and Jalfrezi come particularly highly recommended from me.
Friday, 14 November 2008
Thursday, 13 November 2008
Five things I was Doing 10 Years Ago
- Working a summer in San Francisco (incidentally how I met Jane)
- Starting college in Saarbruecken in Germany
- Goint out with German guy (first serious boy)
- Desperately trying to learn German
- Starting a blog which is long long gone.
Five Things on My To Do List Tomorrow:
- Day off so the first one is a sleep in. No 6:20 alarm for me.
- Shopping - ingredients for banoffee.
- First Christmas dinner with old work colleagues
- Pop into town to meet old friend from Germany
- Foodie morning coffee with old friend
Five Snacks I Enjoy:
- Peanut brittle
- Granny smith apples
- Chocolate - in any form
- Carrot cake and coffee
Five Things I Would Do If I Were a Millionaire (presuming multiple millions of dollars of course):
- 12 week Ballymaloe course
- Very long foodie tour of the world
- Pay off mortgage (a bigger house would be on cards but no mortgage would be lovely)
- Invest in curing cancer
- Quit my job (how is that not the first one?)
Places I Have Lived:
- Dublin, Ireland
- Munich, Germany
- San Francisco, USA
- Saarbruecken, Germany
- Chicago, USA
Jobs I Have Had:
- Kitchen Porter
- District Manager for a chain of Supermarkets
- Mother Goose
- IT Consultant
- IT Sales (current)
My granny was (to me) a master baker and all through my childhood she wold create fantastic cakes when we would go visit. I was so appreciative of her work that she would make a christmas cake every year just for me and cut me off a slice every time I came to visit. Her other speciality were homemade donuts. My gran had travelled the world getting recipes and never used a recipe book.
Ive always been crazy about food. Theres nothing I love more than finding a new restaurant and amazing food there. Travelling where my main goal of trying new foods is also a great love of mine, I always have a new trip planned (New York and India are next on the cards).
Cooking and baking calms me when my head feels like its going to burst from the stresses of work. Food is currently not my career but maybe someday will be.