Friday, 23 August 2013

My Latest Cakes

So, the latest on the cake front...

I made this little cake for my friend Deirdre's hen party and miraculously got it to Killarney (almost) unscathed on what turned out to be one of the hottest days of the summer. Being a prude, I was keen to stay away from 'willy' territory but wanted something suitably tacky so tried out this framed pink L Plate effect.

Since the advice is not to put sugarpaste in the fridge, by the time it was cut (2 days later) it was pretty warm and the chocolate orange buttercream inside had well and truly melted but the flavour was decent enough. I used that Hershey's Black Magic Cake recipe I am so fond of (but trying to get away from as it's just not sturdy enough for underneath heavy sugarpaste.)

The photo was printed in Decobake on Batchelor's Walk (the standard cost is €5 for any size up to A4). As you can see, I misjudged the border of the photo but it would have wrecked it if I pulled it off !I thought the little gumpaste roses were sweet though.

As the next cake I made was for a triple 30th birthday I wanted it to make a bit of an impact so used what is currently my biggest tin - 12 inches. I had considered making a 2 tiered cake but it just wasn't practical bringing more than one box on the train from Dublin.

Instead, I used the opportunity to practice the sugar peony I made as part of a recent Decobake class and it looked well against some gold and black. I don't particularly like these letter cutters as you just seem to see them on so many cakes nowadays but I have since bought some new ones :)

The cake itself was a carrot cake with cream cheese icing. I had never strayed far from Rachel Allen's Carrot Cake recipe before but, as I was keen to keep costs down a bit for this monster I consulted one of my cake decorating books which contained several 'basic' recipes(ie ones not containing a tonne of nuts and butter). This had ten large carrots grated into it (and lots of other things of course) was really lovely! In fact, I actually like it much more than Rachel's and intend to use it again (sorry Rachel).

I am now working on my first ever christening cake which involves lots of different elements and I am very excited about. Pics to follow next week!

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Review: Cactus Jacks, Millennium Walkway, Dublin 1

It was the memory of the tortilla chips that brought me to Cactus Jacks for the second time a couple of Sundays ago. After being served some really bland ones in a friends house the previous night I decided that I just had to head back to the place which had set the bar for me in that department some months previously.

On that first visit they had been warm, flaky and unlike any I had before. In truth, they were really more like deep fried pastry and came with some beautiful chunky guacamole.  Perhaps it was the fact that my most recent visit was on a quieter Sunday afternoon and they had been sitting around but this batch was cold and tasted slightly of rancid oil. Not very pleasant,The guacamole was also different - this time pureed to a fine mush and strangely sweet. These were served as part of the special 3 courses for €20 menu.

For my main I went for the 'Burrito del Pollo' which disconcertingly appeared seconds after I the starter plates were cleared. This was just ok, a cold, very chewy wrap and a rich smokey filling some might like but I found that bit too sweet.It did, however, contain lots of chicken. (It was also much bigger than it appears in the photo.)

The lovely waitress was bemused when Keith told her he would pass on dessert (as it was included) and insisted he at least try something. He did, a Lime and Tequila cheesecake which he ended up finishing. I went for the brownie, or what was really a decent square of soft cake with a chilli chocolate sauce and vanilla ice-cream.

Cactas Jacks won't set the world alight is a good place to go if you want a super speedy three course meal(we were in and out in about 50 minutes). Just don't go on the strength of their tortilla chips.

The floor to ceiling windows here provide the perfect opportunity to people watch both passers-by and sitting outside Lemon Jelly. Another big plus is its exceptionally attentive and pleasant staff.So, all in all, that  €20 seems almost worth it.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

The Rise of the Mini Food Snob

The huge shift in recent years towards locally produced, fresh food and our ever-broadening desire for more exotic and exciting meals is, of course, to be welcomed. However, it has had one very unfortunate side effect, bringing with it the arrival of a new and insufferable breed of food snob feigning horror at the very thought of a ready meal.

It genuinely scares me how much rubbish food I ate when I was young. Despite my mother's best efforts to feed us as well as she could afford to and, like many other 80s babies, mine was a childhood dominated by Findus Crispy Pancakes and Stinger Bars. An apple was a punishment not a snack and vegetables, if present at all, were generally just a token spoonful overcooked almost to the point of collapse.*'IN MY DAY RANT ALERT* But whatever we ate, there was no choice involved and we (generally) ate what we were given.

Society's renewed focus on eating well and return, particularly in the past 10 years, to the more wholesome values of a pre-convenience food era is great and something I embrace but something I overheard in Superquinn recently has made me think that perhaps we have gone too far the other way.

Me, aged 4 and probably full of Penguin Bars

It was a little girl who couldn't have been more than six or seven who asked her mother to
put back the tub of green olives she was holding as " mom you know I only eat Kalamata". They were immediately swapped. If adult food snobs are an annoyance mini ones are incredibly so and this was just the latest in a catalogue of incidents I have observed that make me think we are in danger of ending up with a generation of pretentious food brats.

In fact, many parents bizzarely appear to wear their little darlings 'refined' palates as something of a badge of honour. Yes, little Cliona eats spoonfuls of horseradish sauce right from the jar and insists that you leave the head on her fish.... we get it. Strange that it's never bacon and cabbage they love, or a nice plate of stew?!

Like many of you I'm sure, thinking about my next meal takes up far too much of my day and I now spend a disgraceful amount of money on 'proper' food. However, though I hope that my adult love of vegetables is helping to compensate for my former Banshee Bone habit, for me, 'rubbish' most certainly still has its place.I defy anyone to find a better cure for booze induced starvation than half of a Pizza Hut Hot Dog Stuffed Crust pizza and nothing cures a hangover like a bag of Spar own brand Bacon Fries. Anyone who says otherwise is lying(or has never had a proper hangover).

It's fantastic that we are increasingly aware of the importance of healthy eating and that children these days are being exposed to a range of foods those just a generation or two back could only have dreamed of but I can't help feeling that the rise of a particular strain of 'foodie' and the associated snobbery is somehow facitating the growth of a generation of pampered, spoiled brats and that think they can have whatever the hell they like and not just in terms of what they eat.