January 31, 2012

Marmalade Madness for a Complete Beginner

I decided to call this post Marmalade Madness as I wasn't sure if I was mad to attempt such a feat!! I have fond recollections of helping my granny making marmalade every year when I was a kid but to try and attempt this without her guidance could have been a step too far. But in the spirit of the new year I decided to give it a go, sure if it went wrong what could be the worst that could happen (in answer to that burnt sugar and sticky floors as I was warned by my mother!!)

So after reading a few posts I settled on a recipe from Nessa's Family Kitchen. It sounded really good, easy and the words 'it set perfectly' edged it past the post. Unfortunately I couldn't find my grandmother's recipe but I will be rooting it out for next year's batch - yes there will be more marmalade in the future!!

This recipe is adapted off Nessa's Family Kitchen and she found it in Skye Gyngell's book - How I Cook.  It's a great recipe for beginner marmalade makers as it's clear and concise.

1kg Seville Oranges
3 litres water
2 pinches of salt
About 2kg of caster sugar

One chilled flat plate
Sterilised jars and lids (used the dishwasher for this)
A Large pot
Pretty coverings for the jars - entirely optional
Probably should have invested in a funnel as well!!


The text in italics are just my observations as I find a lot of recipes just presume readers know what to do which sometimes isn't the case at all especially if we are only entuasiastic beginners. Hopefully this will make it even easier to make.
  • Scrub the oranges, cut into very thin slices, pinwheel or chunks. I cut mine into thick slices as I enjoy thick cut marmalade so its really down to taste. Leave the skin on but get rid of those pesky pips.
  • Put the water, fruit and salt into a large pot. Bring to the boil, lower the heat and simmer until the peel is soft - this took around 2 hours. Turn off the heat and leave to steep for 24 hours. Leaving it longer though won't do it any harm as I discovered.
  • The next day measure how many cups of cold fruit/water mixture there is in the pot. Then bring this back to the boil.
  • Once boiling add one cup of sugar to every cup of fruit/water mixture.  Bring back to the boil and then keep it at a steady rolling boil for around 30 - 45 minutes. Mine took around 45 minutes till I felt it was set enough.
  • To test if the mixture is set have a flat plate already chilling in the fridge, spoon a teaspoon of the mixture on the plate and if it is ready it will set like a sticky jelly
  • Remove from the heat, put into sterilised jars and seal. You can spoon it in, stick it in a jug like I did or you could invest in a funnel which probably would make life a bit easier. 
  • Leave to set and then enjoy lashings of marmalade on a thick slice of toast!!
The finished product

So if you have ever wanted to try marmalade making well now is your chance but be quick the season for Seville oranges is very short. They are only out for a few weeks at the beginning of the year. Apparently the oranges freeze very well so there is no excuse now!!

January 22, 2012

My New Year's Resolution - Pizza, Calzone and Focaccia at the Italian School of Cooking

For anyone who follows my blog they may realise that I have a slight obsession with pizza! I fell in love with proper pizza the day I moved to Italy. The thin bases covered with the most amazing toppings were a revelation to a 19 year old who up until then was used to eating the ones that came out of boxes. So on moving back to Dublin I was constantly on the lookout for great pizzas places. And these days I have my favourite places to go in Ireland that fulfill my pizza cravings. But for my New Year's resolution I decided to try my hand at learning to make my own. Probably a bit of a cheat as it's a fun resolution to keep!!

So who better to teach me the skills than the lovely group at the Italian School of Cooking. On arriving we were treated to samples of bruschetta and good quality italian products which went down a treat seeing as all that was left were a few crumbs in the baskets. Then it was down to the hard work. We were shown how to make and knead the dough which was surprisingly easy but it does involve a bit of elbow grease!

What also surprised me was the sheer number of different things you can make out of the one dough. First off we made a margarita pizza and a calzone which I was very happy with as I ADORE calzones. The oozing cheese with mushrooms and ham you cant beat it!!

We then went on to make focaccia which is also very versatile as you can make it plain with just salt and rosemary or you can dress it up with tomatoes and mozzarella and make focaccia ripena which is just a filling between two layers of focaccia. Finally we made 'Treccia' Bread which can be done by twisting two ropes of dough together or as Guiseppe showed us by rolling out the dough, filling it with mozzarella and twisting the dough over it. It's both delicious and impressive looking.

So Saturday morning was a morning very well spent. Guiseppe and his team know what they are talking about, put everyone at ease and make cooking italian style very easy. I got to meet some lovely people, have a good laugh and come away with skills that I know I will put to good use! Well that's my intention anyway. Oh and also did I mention that we got to eat everything we made!!

For more info on the Italian School of Cooking and all their classes have a look here.

January 09, 2012

Beating the January Blues - Eat and drink for only €10

So it's January we're all back to work and broke to boot. Christmas seems like a distant memory and we want to go out but the bank balance says NO. Well I may have the solution!! Having been in town all afternoon  on a last minute christmas shop I was desperately trying to find something to eat around 9pm before heading out for the evening. It turned out to be extremely difficult to find somewhere to get a quick bite to eat that didnt involve sitting down for a proper restaurant meal.

So while wearing the ear off my boyfriend about how hungry I was we stumbled upon a hole in the wall with the delicious smell of fresh pizzas wafting from it. It was a christmas miracle!! It took me a moment but it got even better when I realised that  it was Dave's Wood - Fired Pizza Company who make delicious pizzas but which I have only ever experienced at festivals. This pizza company is now part of  the Speak Easy Bar and Cafe which used to be home to Shebeen Chic. The place was packed and it was obvious why - for only a tenner you can get a delicious pizza and a pint and sit down and eat in a great venue. The menu isn't huge but there is something for everyone on it including a weekly special which when we ordered it included brussels sprouts and stilton. I have to admit that one took a bit of convining on his part to get me to try it but it was delicious and I would eat it again!! The venue has live djs, a really casual laid back atmosphere and you can go there for just drinks or just pizza the staff don't seem to mind.Though I would happily bet that noone leaves that place without having tried at least one pizza!! So banish those January Blues and get yourself down there. 

For more info on the Speak Easy Cafe Bar have a look at their facebook page.
For more info on Dave's Wood - Fired Pizza Company look here