Saturday, 11 October 2014

Smoked Porter Chocolate Cake

Smoked porter chocolate cake 
Having someone in the family who is into craft beer can be a blessing sometimes. I was lying on the couch one evening when a glass of black stuff was passed over with the instruction to taste that. My initial reaction was euw...... But then I asked for another sip. Immediately chocolate cake came to mind. Not sure why, but I was determined to try it.

This recipe uses Beavertown Smog Rocket smoked porter. But any good porter will work as well.

Smoked Porter Chocolate Cake recipe

For the cake
200g butter
125g golden demerara sugar
2 large eggs
150g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
100g good quality chocolate (I used half and half 60 and 52% cocoa solids)
150ml porter
1 tbsp dark cocoa powder

For the topping
250g marscapone
100g white chocolate

Preheat oven to 180 deg. Grease and line a deep round cake tin.

Put porter and chocolate in a bowl over a bain marie to melt slowly. Cream butter and sugar, add eggs, fold in flour, baking powder, cocoa powder. Finally fold in chocolate and porter mix. Whisk until smooth and well combined. Pour into tin and bake for 45 minutes (it cracks like chocolate brownies, don't leave it in for much longer as better slightly underdone than over). Drizzle a couple of tablespoons of porter over it while still in tin and before it cools fully.

Remove from tin and cool on a wire rack. Melt the white chocolate in a bain marie and whisk into the marscapone.

I deliberately reduced the amount of sugar in the cake as I wanted the taste of the porter and the chocolate to shine. The white chocolate in the marscapone balances it perfectly.

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Autumnal Apple Cake

Apple pear and almond cake

Tis' the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness. Trust Keats to sum it up so succinctly. Lots of lovely home grown varieties of apples and pears abound. These red purple skinned apples are so pretty. They are called Spartan. The pears are Conference. I love getting varieties of fruit and vegetables different than the bog standard offerings in supermarkets. Give me a knarly, knobbly, nicely coloured apple with flavour anyday over those green watery tasteless excuses for apples.

Spartan apples and Conference pears

Apple Pear and Almond Cake Recipe
250g butter
250g sugar
4 eggs
150g self raising flour
75g ground almonds
30g flaked almonds
light brown demerara sugar to sprinkle
300g red apples and pears not peeled just cored and sliced

Preheat oven to 160C fan. Cream butter and sugar, add eggs with a tablespoon of sieved flour if curdling. Fold in sieved flour and finally ground almonds. Using a lined roasting tin, spoon out half the cake mixture. Scatter half the apples and pears. Dollop the rest of the cake mixture on top. Spread the rest of the apples and pears and push some down into the cake mixture. Sprinkle with light brown granulated sugar and the flaked almonds.

Bake for one hour. Allow to cool in tin. Remove and cut into chunks. Stores well due to the ground almonds in an air tight tin.

fresh out of oven

Serve as is or with warmed with whipped cream or custard. 


Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Water Water Everywhere

There's been lots of talk lately about water, water charges and water meters. Understandably, there is also lots of confusion but one thing is sure, no one is going to pour water down the drain anymore.

I have a shallow bore well here, hand dug probably in the early 70's. If I open it I get vertigo. It's pretty amazing really that they dug to that depth by hand and lined it with stone.  However, in the last few dry summers we have had to be very careful with water usage. About three years ago it almost ran dry but we were able to run a series of hoses up through the field and fill it from a deep bore well down in the yard.

Shallow bore hand dug well (30 foot)
This year the well has dipped below the level of the foot valve and the pump has got airlocked several times. Yesterday was the latest. We have had so little rain all summer and even this past spring. This September has been the dryest on record. We tried the old hose trick but almost ran the deep bore well dry.

I have had to get very clever about water conservation as a result. We haven't used the dishwasher or washing machine now for about 6 weeks. Absolutely no water is wasted. Everything is recycled. 

After a while it becomes second nature. Here are some water saving tips.

1. Only flush the loo when absolutely necessary. Go by the old adage "if it's yellow, let it mellow. If it's brown, flush it down."

2. Wash up dishes in a washing up bowl with minimal washing up liquid. I went out and bought a smaller bowl than the one I already had. If you don't foam up to the moon, you won't have to rinse so much and let's face it, no one wants to be eating washing up liquid.

3. After the washing up is done, use the water in the bowl to soak your dishcloth by adding some bleach or use it to water containers or house plants. If you haven't used lots of washing up liquid you won't kill the plants.

4. Spend minimal time in the shower. Wash and go.

5. Get out of the habit of running the tap. Ever. If you are waiting for it to get hot, fill a kettle with it or a bucket.

6. Hand wash "smalls" in a bucket by leaving to soak over night and giving them a quick rinse next day. Spin in your washing machine. This leaves a bit more space for a big wash. Obviously, if you have small children this may be difficult but for adults it's not.

7. Only put on the dishwasher and the washing machine when full. Use shorter "economy" cycles.

8. Install water butts in your garden. I use mine for drinking water for all the animals here and if there is any left for watering plants. Leave buckets at various intervals outside. You will be amazed how much water you will collect.

Clean water is a precious commodity. Clean water pumped into your house costs money. I have had to pay electricity and pump maintenance for years now. As a result I have clean, flouride free water which I value and appreciate.

People argue that they already pay taxes which should go towards this utility. Yes, they do. But I pay tax as well and I don't get water so why should my tax pay for those that do? By that argument I should get a tax rebate.

If you follow some or all of the tips above you will save money and stop pouring water or money down the drain. And you won't be contributing to massive salaries for the board of Irish Water.