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In My Madeira Kitchen

So, you all know that I had a fantastic time in Madeira. It goes without saying that I brought a few goodies home. Thanks to Celia from Fig jam and Lime cordial for gathering us all together.

In My Kitchen…

… Are three small bottles of rum. I thinking that they might be good in this year’s Christmas cake.

I also brought home three bottles of Poncha! Poncha is a traditional alcoholic drink of Madeira; made with sugar cane juice, honey, sugar, lemon rind and with other fruit juices.

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In My Kitchen…

… Stands a bottle of Madeira, suprise suprise! I tried the sweet version, the medium sweet version and the dry version but I came home with a bottle of medium dry. I think I’ll be baking with it…

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In My Kitchen…

… Sits a jar of homemade passionfruit and banana jam, which was bought from a little market in Funchal.

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In My Kitchen…

… Is a piece of honey cake. Madeira Sugar Cane Honey Cake is the oldest and most traditional pastry cake in Madeira. The influences include spices from the East Indies and even influences from Britain, given its strong resemblance to English traditional Christmas cake.

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In My Kitchen…

… Stands a rather beautiful bottle of Portuguese olive oil!

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In My Kitchen…

… Sits this stunning teapot that Dr Doolittle bought me. In the middle of Funchal, up a side street was this cute little tea shop!

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Melissa xx

Marvellous Madeira

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I’ve been absent from my blog for a while, only managing to post every now and then. Life seems to have run away with itself, but in a good way. I have a new job and I love it! It’s not that I’m working really long hours, i’m just commuting a little longer each day.

However, it was time for a break…

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Dr Doolittle and I decided to head to the beautiful island of Madeira. This archipelago, which is part of Portugal, is located in the Atlantic Ocean, 978km southwest of Lisbon. It comprises of the islands of Madeira, Porto Santo, Desertas and Selvagens. Only the first two islands are inhabited. The latter two are nature reserves. Thanks to its magnificent location, Madeira remains warm all year round.

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The climate really helps produce some amazing fruit and vegetables. The market in the old part of Funchal was full of the stuff. Every meal we ate was accompanied by salads.

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Tropical fruits such as mangoes, bananas, avocadoes and passionfruit were used in a great variety of puddings, mousses and ice creams. Oh the ice cream! I had to try a peach melba…

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Owing to their proximity to the sea, most restaurants specialised in fish and shellfish dishes; there was octopus and shrimp dishes, tuna steaks and black scabbard fish fillets. I’d never heard of scabbard, but it tasted and looked like cod. As well as the fish, I also had one of the best ‘meat’ meals of my life (more about that next week).

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There were plenty of fresh natural fruit juices such as passionfruit, papaya, pineapple and mango, as well as the famous “poncha”, made with white rum, bee honey and lemon. I tried a fair bit of the stuff and have brought some home to experiment with!

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So to celebrate my holiday adventure I’m bringing my favourite sweet treat to Fiesta Friday. I haven’t been to the online party for a while, so I’m looking forward to catching up with old friends!

Portuguese Custard Tarts
Ingredients:

250ml double cream
150ml milk
Grated rind of 1 lemon
1 vanilla pod, split lengthways
4 egg yolks
2 tbsp cornflour
115g caster sugar
150g chilled ready-made puff pastry
Flour, for dusting

Method:

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Preheat the oven to 190c.

Put the cream, milk, and lemon rind in a saucepan.  Scrape the seeds from the split vanilla pod into the saucepan and drop in the empty pod too.  Bring to a simmer, then take off the heat.

Whisk the egg yolks, cornflour and sugar in a bowl until it comes together in a paste.  Pass the milk mixture though a fine-mesh sieve into the bowl of egg paste and mix together quickly. Return it all to the saucepan and heat over a moderate heat until it thickens but don’t let it boil!

Then roll out the pastry on a lightly floured worksurface as thin as you can.  Roll it up into a long sausage shape and cut 12 discs.  Roll out each disc to about 9cm and put into greased muffin tins. Prick the bottoms with a fork androfill just over halfway.

Bake in the preheated oven for about  for 18/20 mins until browned on top.

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Melissa xx

Taste of Dublin

I went to Taste of Dublin in Iveagh Gardens yesterday. There were live bands playing as I wondered around from restaurant to food stall. There were also lots of live demonstrations and famous chefs!

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I started with cake, of course I did! Le Patissier had an amazing display of goodies. They had won both Gold and Silver at the Blas na hEireann Irish Food Awards in 2014.

I tried the chocolate indulgence which had a beautiful chocolate mousse inside with a raspberry coulis. I wish I’d gone back to try everything.

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I visited the Glenisk stand and got a scrummy Glenisk Banana with Milk Chocolate and Caramel Yogurt Cup!

Ingredients:
4 tbsp Glenisk Organic Greek Style Natural Yogurt
½ banana, sliced
1 tbsp caramel or Dulce de Leche
1 tbsp milk chocolate, chopped

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I had a great chicken dish at Saba, how do they do their rice?

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Harvey Nichols’ restaurant Rock Lobster served up fish and chips… Shame some of the chips were hard!

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The Dumpling Pot Sticker from Soder and Ko was amazing. I’ve never been to the restaurant, but I definitely will be! They serve a creative blend of Scandinavian and Asian inspired food and drink. They partnered with Hop House 13, the latest beer from The Brewers Project at St James Gate.

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Dr Dr Doolittle really enjoyed Crean’s beer AND their little make shift pub!

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I bought a couple of packs of One-der blend by Patels 1941. It’s a versatile spice blend that can create 10 different currys. What a fantastic idea. I also love the fact that Ramen Patel Jr’s background is similar to mine; born in Ireland with an Irish Mother, and Indian Father who was born in Africia.

The company had won a competition to have a stall at the event and it seemed to be very busy. I’m so excited for them, and wish them every success!

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I bought a bottle of truffle oil from Pukara Estate…. fancy!!!

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I met The Cupcake Bloke! He gave me a garland (and a huge scone), and I bought these six stunning cupcakes. I’ll update you all on my Facebook and Twitter page as I eat them….

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I had a great time but I spent a lot; it wasn’t cheap when you consider the ticket price, the food and drink prices and then any bits and pieces you might buy, but it was fun!

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Thanks Cupcake Bloke!

Melissa xx

In My International Kitchen

Once again I find myself sipping a soya chai latte at Mumbai International Airport, waiting to board a flight to London. My visits always seem to be as manic as the country itself, so it’s nice to take a little time out to write a blog post before I leave it all behind….

In My Kitchen Garden…

… Are mango trees full of delicious sweet fruit. This time of year is terribly hot but atleast the fruit is ready for picking!

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In My Garden Kitchen…

… Are hundreds of coconuts! The green coconuts have turned brown with the formation of a hard husk shell.

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In My Garden Kitchen…

… Hangs these delicious bread fruits. Best eaten sliced and fried!

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In My Garden Kitchen…

… Are these custard apples. I actually think they taste more like a pear!

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In My Kitchen…

… Sits this beautiful wooden juicer! It belonged to my Grandparents and is presumably very old!

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In My Irish Kitchen…

… Is a fantastic display of home baked goodies. I completed a home baking course with a good friend. We made cheese and herb scones, banana and walnut bread and berry muffins. It was great fun!

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In My Irish Kitchen…

… Are loads of goodies from Dr Oetker! I recently took part in an interview for their ‘Even Better Baking With’ series and they were kind enough to send a thank you gift.

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This great series is brought to you by Celia fromFig Jam and Lime Cordial.

Melissa xx

Ballymaloe Cookery School part 1…

Once upon a time there lived a girl who loved tea and cake. She marvelled at elegant cake plates and fancy cake forks. She was in awe of  seasonal produce and local goodies. This girl had a dream….

As I write this post, I’m mid way through a course that will undoubtedly change my life. Not only because of its content but also because of the very surroundings I find myself in. I’m currently studying at the world famous Ballymaloe Cookery School.

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The School sits on a 100 acre organic farm near the sea, amidst the undulating landscape of beautiful East Cork. As well as an on site farm and gardens, there is an acre wide glasshouses which yield an abundance of fruit, vegetables herbs and flowers throughout the year. Their free-range livestock include pigs, beef and dairy cows (Angus, Kerry, Dexter and Jerseys), as well as hens who keep the school in a supply of fresh, organic eggs!

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It’s utterly breath taking. Every minute of day I’m reminded of all this produce; whether it be by the fresh cut flowers next to my bed at my cottage on site, or by gazing out the class room window at the raised beds, or by the outstanding food lovingly produced.

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Never if my life have I so clearly seen the coloration between what is growing and what I’m eatting and using. I’ve picked up tips on what else I can be growing at home in our little vegetable patch. I’ll be adding some edible flowers and lots more herbs when I get home.

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I’d also like to add a shell house to the garden when I get home, but I fear Dr Doolittle might make me wait for that! There is a magnificent shell house here in the gardens. I have never seen or experienced anything like it. The beauty and the texture are quite something, it’s utterly breathtaking. To think someone painstakingly placed every individual shell is mind blowing!

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Finally, I can’t write about this magical place without talking about the food… For breakfast there is an amazing array of homemade granola, mueslis, breads and a new discovery, labneh! This middle eastern type of yogurt is sweetened slightly for breakfast and is just gorgeous with a sticky mixture of apricots, almonds and pistachios.

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Lunchtimes are also a site to behold with a beautiful selection of dishes every day. I mean the actual dishes, the style of the different vessels is gorgeous. I might just have to take a little trip to the school’s shop while I’m here… Lunch itself is yummy; salads, soups, pies, breads and even a curry have been served up.

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I’m so happy, I feel blessed to have been so warmly welcomed to this incredible place. I feel like part of the family, I feel like I belong- and that’s handy, because I’ll definitely be back!

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Melissa xx

P.S. I’ll tell you all about the course in my next post!

In My Goan Kitchen

It’s that time of year and I’ve been back in glorious Goa! No better place to bring you this month’s installment of In My Kitchen. However I’m very late this month and am writing this post in Mumbai International Airport, waiting on my second of three flights today!

In My Kitchen…

… Sits Grandad’s amazing knife! I think he used to sharpen it by hand on a stone because it’s a strange shape. The handle is round and wooden, making it very comfortable to hold. I remember sitting at the kitchen table cutting delicious fruit with him.

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In My Kitchen…

… Lies this small ceramic mortar and pestle. Once again, both the dish and wooden handle must be ancient! I’m sure that over the years, all sorts of spice blends have been pounded in this.

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In My Kitchen…

… Sits my Grandad’s favourite tea set. For a woman who loves her tea, I found these little cups frickin’ tiny! I love boiling the water in the pan on the stove, adding loose leaf tea and then letting it brew. It’s a wonderful ritual. When Grandad had got down to the last drop of tea in his cup, he’d throw it into the saucer, swirl it a bit and drink it out of that!

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In My Kitchen…

… Stands this amazing bronze motar and pestle. It’s small but extremely heavy. This must be old, I’ve no idea how old…. I wish I’d asked him…

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In My Kitchen…

… Will be all these delicious goodies! Dad and I found a great shop a few years ago that we always pop back to. I’m bringing cinnamon sticks, cardamom, star anaise, fennel seeds (and the sweet coated kind) cashew nuts and dried fruit home to The Glen House.

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In My Kitchen…

… Will be some interesting new additions to the liqor cupboard. I promise I only went to the shop to bring a bottle of local coconut Feni home. It’s the most famous and popular drinks that Goa. Also known as the Fenny, this Indian liquor is of two types – Cashew Feni and Coconut Feni. While cashew Feni is made by fermenting the fruit of the Cashew tree, coconut Feni is made from the juice of toddy plants. The Goan Fenny is usually considered to be superior compared to all other types of Fenny.

Er, while I was in the shop I saw some strange flavours of vodak that i’d never seen before! Who knew Smirnoff did chilli or honey flavoured vodak? Dr Doolittle will think I’ve lost the plot when I arrive home with these!

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The In My Kitchen series is all thanks to Celia over at Fig jam and Lime cordial, stop by this month and you can see all the delightful goodies she has.

Right, I’m off home… Two flights left!

Melissa xx

Dutch bar snacks

I’m just back from an incredible couple of days in the Netherlands. Nestled in the southeast provence of Limburg lies the beautiful town of Valkenburg.

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Beautiful town

This friendly town is officially called Valkenburg aan de Geul . The Geul is a small river that flows through the centre of town. The houses and buildings were generally tall and narrow and had ornamented façades.

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Roof tops

Valkenburg boasts the only elevated castle in the Netherlands. Originally built in the 12th century, it was rebuilt and added to several times over the generations until finally being destroyed in the 17th century to keep it out of the hands of the invading French troops.

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Taken from a steam train

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The castle

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The food and drink was stunning. Valkenburg is known for its ‘Burgundy lifestyle’, meaning enjoyment, good food and extravagant display! There were streets full of cafés, restaurants and bars all with beautifully decorated outside terraces.  Flowers and plants sat alongside tables and hung from canopies while candles glowed in the evening. It was all so welcoming.

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3 local beers and goats cheese

Bite-size snacks are commonly served as bar-food or side-dishes in the Netherlands. This clever little trick was meant to entice you to drink more to wash down the salty spicey morsels. Sitting outside a tiny traditional bar we sampled some Bitterballen and Vlammetjes alongside some cheese cubes and sausage.

Vlammetjes or ‘little flames’ looked like little golden envelopes and were packed full of spicy mince. They were served alongside a sweet chilli dip.

VLAMMETJES

Ingredients
10 Spring Roll Pastry Sheets
500g Minced Beef
5tbsp Sambal
Salt & Pepper
1tsp Vetjin (flavour enhancer)
1tbsp Garlic Powder
1tbsp Ketjap Manis (Indonesian Soy Sauce)
Oil (for Deep-frying)
2 Eggs (for sealing)

Method
Cut Pastry squares into quarters, then each quarter into two triangles for a total of 80.
Combine the mince with the other ingredients.
Roll 80 meatballs. Place one in each triangle, then smear a little egg around the edges. Fold the triangle closed so it’s still a triangle. Deep-fry in oil until brown.

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Bar snacks

The little golden Bitterballen balls were crunchy on the outside but strangely gooey in the middle. I didn’t like the look of the inside of the ball- it looked like dodgy dog food! However, dipped in mustard the beefy mixture was fantastic.

BITTERBALLEN

Ingredients
4tbsp Butter
250g ground beef or veal
2 carrots, finely diced
1 onion, finely chopped
Salt & Pepper
1tsp Grated Fresh Nutmeg
1tbsp fresh lemon juice
2tbsp parsley, finely chopped
5tbsp flour
1 cup beef stock or milk
1/2 cup dry bread crumbs
1 egg, beaten with 1 tsp. water
Oil (for Deep-frying)

Method
Heat one tablespoon of the butter in a large skillet over moderate heat and cook the meat, carrots, and onions until the meat is browned and the carrots are tender. Drain the meat in a colander, then place in a mixing bowl. Add the salt, pepper, nutmeg, lemon juice, and parsley and stir to combine. Set the meat mixture aside.

Heat the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter in a saucepan over moderate heat and stir in the flour to make a roux. Cook this for 2 to 3 minutes, then add the beef stock/milk. Continue heating, stirring constantly, until the sauce boils and becomes quite thick. Combine the sauce with the meat mixture, stirring to combine them thoroughly, and chill this mixture for at least two hours in the refrigerator, until it has become solid.

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When the mixture has solidified, roll it into balls about 1 inches in diameter, using your hands. Roll the balls in the bread crumbs, then in the egg and water mixture, then in the bread crumbs again. Fry a few at a time in a deep fryer with at least 2 inches of oil at 190 degrees C until golden (about 2 to 3 minutes). Drain on paper towels and serve immediately.

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My final little discovery was this funky fruity liquer mixed up with some freshly squeezed orange juice.

I’ll be bringing a bottle and hopefully some snacks to Angie’s place for this week’s Fiesta Friday, take a look.

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The castle

Melissa xx