A Donegal Table in Dublin

Our sales rep Sarah, took on the challenge of recreating a Donegal Table in her home in Dublin and this is how she got on! 

I love to cook and believe there is nothing more enjoyable than sitting down to a home-cooked meal with family and friends so when The O’Brien Press set the challenge of recreating A Donegal Table in Dublin, I jumped at the chance! Like Chef Brian McDermott I grew up in a big family where the kitchen table was the focal point of the family. It still is and we regularly land in on my parents for a big feed! When we were kids my mam did most of the cooking and it is from her we learnt to bake – making our own pastry and filling it with delicious jam made by my nanny with whatever fruit was in season – blackberries picked from hedgerows, strawberries from the patch in the garden or rhubarb from the neighbours. When my mam went back to work, my dad took up cooking and I remember spending Thursday afternoons listening to Ronan Collins and helping get the spaghetti Bolognese ready – very exotic for an Irish family in the early nineties!

Whether you live in Dublin or Donegal there is no denying the unifying nature of food – it brings people together and, like Brian, I cherish those childhood memories and love creating new ones around my own kitchen table. With this in mind I roped in my sister, her husband their daughter Rose to recreate a Donegal table in Dublin. Continue reading “A Donegal Table in Dublin”

The Great O’Brien Press Bake Off!

Since we announced the re-publication of All in the Cooking, we’ve had so many emails and tweets from people who still have have dog-eared, faded, scribbled-on copies of the original versions in their possession. The reason they say they’ve hung on to this 1930s cookbook is simply because the recipes are classic, methodical and easy to use.

Here in O’Brien Press we decided to put this to the test with an All in the Cooking bake-off!

Three brave souls stepped forward …

First up was Laura from Sales, who used the original book in school. In a nostalgic move, Laura baked Raspberry Buns, the first recipe she ever made in Home Economics class. Not only were they very photogenic buns, but they were delicious, slightly crumbly and perfect with a cup of tea. Top marks!

InstagramCapture_b8151ff4-672e-4035-85e0-83964d865006Next came the Queen of Puddings, courtesy of one of our editors, Nicola.

Nicola said: ‘All in the Cooking had been out of print for years and people regularly posted on message boards looking for old copies or individual recipes. One of the recipes most often mentioned was Queen of Puddings. I decided to see what all the fuss was about! Apparently this is a dessert you make when you’ve run out of groceries. It’s made with basic ingredients: sugar, eggs, jam, milk, butter and bread. It’s got a custardy breadcrumb base, a jammy layer, and meringue on top. Those with a sweet tooth (it’s a sugar bomb!) who like squidgy desserts like bread & butter pudding or crème caramel should give it a go.’

WP_20151126_11_15_50_ProFinally, Geraldine from Marketing and Publicity attempted to make an Athassel Cake: a three-layered cake with flavours of cocoa, vanilla and almond.

Geraldine said: ‘The Athassel Cake, with its pink food colouring and a trio of flavours, stood out for me. I’d never heard of it and not even a Google search could enlighten me so I thought it was the perfect choice. Unfortunately it went a bit crumbly – although the crumbs tasted pretty good!’

WP_20151125_19_23_35_Pro‘For my second attempt, I went for something easier: Chocolate Biscuit Cake. This didn’t even require actual cooking, just melting, stirring and chilling in the fridge. It was delicious.’

WP_20151202_08_01_19_ProVerdict: Most recipes in All in the Cooking are familiar. The great thing about this book is that it gives modern cooks a chance to try their hand at baking things they’ll never find in a Nigella cookbook!

Handy tip: Laura, Nicola and Geraldine recommended doubling your recipe to make a ‘normal sized’ Athassel Cake, Queen of Puddings or batch of Raspberry Buns.

All in the Cooking is available now in all good bookshops.

No-Knead to Panic. Fantastic Irish Bread Recipies Spelt Out!

No knead speltThis month’s blog is by food writer and cook Valerie O’Connor, author of Irish Bread Baking for Today, the handy paperback based on bestselling and hugely praised cookbook Bread on the Table. Why not try out one on of her fantastic recipes for Easy No-Knead Spelt Bread?

I bake this bread constantly at home and in my baking classes – it’s so easy when you don’t have to do any kneading. This is a great introduction to yeast breads as you get all the benefit of a good rise with none of the effort. This bread freezes really well, so if you’d like to make two loaves and freeze one, simply double everything.

Ingredients:
500ml/18floz tepid water
1 tsp honey
1½ tsp fast-action yeast
500g/18oz wholemeal spelt flour
Approx 50g/2oz porridge oats
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp mixed seeds
Preheat the oven to 200C/390F/Gas 6
Prepare a 2lb loaf tin
1. In a jug measure 200ml/7floz hot water, dissolve the honey, then top up to 500ml/16floz with cold water, add the yeast and leave it to ‘sponge’ (froth up) for 10 minutes.
2. In a large bowl mix the spelt flour with the oats and salt, pour in the yeasty water and mix well to combine. The mixture will be wet and puffy, a bit like a thick porridge.
3. Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin, sprinkle the mixed seeds over the top, cover with a tea towel and leave aside for 40 mins to 1 hour until it has risen to just below the top of the tin. Any warm, draught-free place is good for this. Have the oven preheating for 30 minutes before the loaf is due to
go in.
4. Put the tin into the oven and bake at 200C/400F/Gas 6 for 10 minutes, then turn the temperature down to 180C/350F/Gas 4 and bake for a further 50 mins.
5. When the loaf is baked, remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin for about 20 minutes. Run a knife around the inside of the tin, tip out the loaf and return it to the cooling oven to crisp up the crust.

Val O'Connor plantsValerie O’Connor is a cook, food writer and photographer; she has cooked in professional kitchens from Brussels to Malaysia. She is a qualified organic horticulturalist and tutors in food growing, cooking and baking. She is widely published in the press and has appeared as a guest critic on Masterchef Ireland.

The Best Thing Since…

Guinness treacle & walnut breadThis month’s blog spot is by food writer and cook Valerie O’Connor, author of Bread on the Table. Why not try out one on of her fantastic recipes for Guinness, Treacle and Walnut Bread?

A chef friend, Paul Cosgrove, gave me this recipe; I’d tried many times to get a recipe that highlighted the characteristics of our favourite pint, and this is a great one. Guinness works best in a yeast bread, making the most of the malted flavours and the brewer’s yeast that make up this wonderful stout. The treacle brings out the typical burnt-barley taste of the brew and the walnuts give a lovely sweet little crunch. This bread tastes great with a big slab of mature cheddar and a pint of Guinness, naturally!

Makes one large loaf

Ingredients:

200g/7oz coarse ground wholemeal flour (I like Ballybrado best)

300g/10oz strong white flour

5g/1tsp salt

15g fresh yeast/7g fast-action yeast

2 tbsp treacle

300ml/10floz Guinness – from a can, bottle or draught

50g/2oz walnuts, chopped

Oven 200C/390F/Gas 6

1. Put the flours and salt in a large bowl and either rub in the fresh yeast or sprinkle over the fast-action yeast. Then add the treacle and Guinness and begin to bring all the ingredients together with your hand, or a dough scraper.

2. When you have a craggy dough, tip it out onto an oiled surface and knead it for 10-12 minutes, or do the kneading in a mixer, but finish it by hand so you know the feel of your dough. Sprinkle over the walnuts and keep kneading until they are fully incorporated.

3. Put the dough in a bowl, cover it with clingfilm or a tea towel and allow it to double in size for at least an hour.

4. Knock back the dough by punching it down and folding it over a few times. Shape it into a round and lay it on a floured or oiled baking tray, covered with a cloth. Leave to rise again for 50-60 minutes, meanwhile preheat the oven for 30 minutes before baking.

5. Slice a few long cuts into the loaf with a bread knife or blade. Bake for 20 minutes and then turn the oven down to 180C/350F/Gas 5 for a further 20-30 minutes, checking to see if the loaf is baked by tapping it on its bottom, if it sounds hollow, it’s cooked.

6. This bread has a lovely robustness and is very satisfying to bake.

Val O'Connor plants

Valerie O’Connor is a cook, food writer and photographer; she has cooked in professional kitchens from Brussels to Malaysia. She is a qualified organic horticulturalist and tutors in food growing, cooking and baking. She is widely published in the press and has appeared as a guest critic on Masterchef Ireland.