Stitch and Bear

A long-running Irish blog with reviews of the best restaurants in Dublin and throughout Ireland. Some wine and cocktails thrown in for good measure!

Friday, September 28, 2012

[Listing] Cheese & Wine Appreciation at L'Atitude 51

If you're in Cork, here's another date for your diary. Especially if you are a cheese and wine lover.

Those lovely people at L'Atitude 51 have teamed up with Isabelle Sheridan from On The Pig's Back (English Market) to bring a cheese and wine appreciation evening. Isabelle has a passion for cheese, and it's bordering on understatement to say that L'Atitude 51 is passionate about wine. So it makes sense that they would get together.

Isabelle has selected 6 cheeses for the tasting, which L'Atitude 51 have paired with a suitable wine. But nothing is written in stone, and you are advised to have fun, experiment and find the best match for you. A fun evening of discovery and sensory experience is guaranteed.

The Cheese and Wine Appreciation Evening will take place on Wednesday, October 3rd at 7pm in the upstairs Wine Workshop at L'Atitude 51. Spaces cost €15 per person and space is limited, so booking is essential. Contact L'Atitude on or call (021) 239 0219.


Friday, September 21, 2012

[Recipe] Orange and Almond Cake

Food is one of the great pleasures in life, but having a healthy digestive system is equally important. People who suffer from allergies, autoimmune disorders and other illnesses have to keep an eagle eye on ingredients and preparation. I've suffered with bad acid reflux, heartburn and a whole heap of other nasties for over 10 years now. Through trial and error, I've effectively eliminated wheat from my diet as well as red wine. Thanks to a recent gastroscopy, I now know that I have a hiatus hernia, and that I'm not a coeliac.

In a weird way, it's disappointing not to have a clear label for what is wrong with me. When you have a medical diagnosis, you can point to that, and not feel embarrassed about special attention. All I can say is that wheat doesn't agree with me - and you just get the feeling that people don't take it as seriously.  I've made some great progress in my attitude to wheat. I no longer crave it, and I even sometimes feel repulsed by it. It's as if my body knows that the wheat is going to cause some hurt. 

As someone who loves to bake, the removal of wheat is a challenge. For a while, I just stopped baking altogether. But the recent Great Irish Bake Off challenge woke me back up, and particularly the episode where the contestants had to bake a torte with non-wheat flour. Almond flour is a classic alternative to wheat flour, and on a recent visit to the Tannery Cookery School, chef Paul Flynn shared a recipe for Sicilian Almond Cake. It's delicious, sticky, moist and a multitude of other good things. The original recipe calls for stale white breadcrumbs, which I just omitted while baking. Enjoy!
Orange and Almond Cake

Orange and Almond Cake

50g stale white breadcrumbs
200g caster sugar
100g ground almonds
1 1/2 level teaspoons baking powder
200mls sunflower oil
4 eggs
Zest of one lemon, finely grated
Zest of one lime, finely grated

Start by lining the base of an 8" baking tin with a round of greaseproof paper. Grease and flour (I used the ground almonds) the sides of the tin.

Mix the breadcrumbs (I left these out) with the sugar, almonds and baking powder. Whisk the oil with the eggs, pour into the dry ingredients and mix well. Add the orange and lemon zest.

Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and place into a cold oven. Turn the oven to 180C and bake for 45 - 60 mins until the cake is golden brown and a skewer comes out clean. (Apparently, placing the cake into a preheated oven would cause a soufflé effect, along with subsequent deflation).

Allow the cake to cool for 5 minutes before turning out onto a plate.
Letting the syrup soak in

The addition of a zingy, spiced syrup makes this cake incredibly moist and sticky.

Juice of one orange
Juice of one lime
75g sugar
2 cloves
1 cinnamon stick

Put all the ingredients into a stainless steel saucepan. Bring gently to the boil, stirring until the sugar has dissolved completely, then simmer for three minutes. While the cake is still warm, pierce it with a skewer, and spoon the hot syrup over the cake. Leave to cool. Spoon the excess syrup over the cake every now and then until it is all soaked up.

Serve with softly whipped cream or some Greek yogurt.
A slice of deliciousness


Sunday, September 16, 2012

[Recipe] Great Irish Bake Off - Week 5 - {Key} Lime Pie

Last week was only great. All my fretting about the wobbli-ness of my crème caramels paid off and I was chosen as the Week 4 winner of the Great Irish Bake Off. Chuffed does not come close to describing how I felt. The challenge for Week 5 was to make an American classic, Key Lime Pie. Given the challenge in sourcing Key Limes in Ireland, the parameters were relaxed to a Lime Pie. I love limes (mainly in cocktails), so I was very much looking forward to this challenge. I decided to use a recipe from the classic Delia Smith.

I made a sweet shortcrust pastry following the recipe from one of my staple references, Michel Roux's Pastry. This book is currently selling for a mere £6.99 on Amazon, and if you don't have it on your bookshelf, then you really should. (You can of course, take the cleaner and simpler option and buy a good, chilled pre-prepared shortcrust pastry). Once the pastry was chilling in the fridge, I headed for brunch at Beckett & Bull, followed by a pitstop for pie ingredients.

Only one thing went wrong during my bake - just one thing. But of course, it had a major impact on the whole adventure. I pulled out the ring from my 23cm pie tin, but I couldn't find the flipping bottom. I turned the cupboard upside down, but it was no where to be found. Given that we have a tiny kitchen, losing the base was a major achievement. Anyway, I resorted to my bigger pie tin, but this meant that ultimately I would have a thinner pie, not the deep luxurious fill I had envisioned. 
Lime slices - ready to be candied
I wanted to decorate my pie with homemade candied lime slices, so while the base was blind baking, I thinly sliced some lemons. These were blanched for 2 mins before being added to a simple sugar syrup, where I cooked them gently for 15 -20 mins or until the slices were translucent. I drained them on a wire rack and left to cool, before dredging in some castor sugar.

Meanwhile, my pastry case was out of the oven. Despite some shrinkage around the edges, things were looking good, so I left it to cool while I prepared the filling. Opening the tin of condensed milk took me right back to childhood cooking and making my first ever batch of millionaire squares. The filling came together quite nicely, but as I had predicted, it just wasn't deep enough when poured into the tin. It baked well, and once cooled, I transferred to the fridge to rest and chill thoroughly.

American pies are often decorated with lashings of cream and toppings, and I decided to top mine with a soft meringue. I had 3 egg whites left over from the pie filling, so this was really simple economics. I've always loved the magic of making meringue, and it was fun to pipe concentric rings of little rosettes onto the top of my grill. I whizzed the pie under a hit grill, until the peaks were gently browned. DONE!
The finished product - with gently browned meringue topping
The mandatory base shot - nothing soggy here
A slice of lime pie with homemade candied lime slices
The finished result was a wonderfully tangy pie, but I was disappointed by the filling depth. This would be so much more decadent with a deep layer of lime custard. Ah well, that's what happens when you can't find the base of your loose-bottomed tin.

Beckett & Bull, Dublin 6

Once upon a time there was a restaurant in Hanover Quay called Riva. It opened an outpost in Rathgar but now neither restaurant survives. I recollect some reasonably good food in the HQ location, so I don't think that the cooking was the reason for closure. It just goes to show that restaurants can close for a multitude of reasons. The closure of the Rather venue however, gave Jonathon and Amanda Kirwan a chance to open their American-inspired Beckett & Bull eatery.

I've recently bought myself a bicycle, the first I've owned since I was a teenager. And I am having such fun with it. We've cycled to dinner, with a bottle of wine in my basket to take advantage of the BYOB policy at Seagrass. I've done short grocery runs to the shop, rather than taking the car out of the driveway. Even the looming presence of winter doesn't hugely deter me. It just feels so virtuous to cycle for brunch, and so we left our bicycles locked to a signpost outside Beckett & Bull.

First impressions are very good, as the small front space opens out into a long room with a sunlit area at the rear. A kitchen pass sits in the middle of the long room, giving clear visibility of the chefs at work. I loved the touches like the white butcher tiles and the recycling of a butcher block into a table top. Kitsch images hang on the walls, and the menus are printed with suitably hip fonts and typesetting. Even the logo image of a horned man with a cigarette hanging from a manly square mouth is infinitely cool.
The interior at Beckett & Bull
I want this so much - Wonder Woman!!
This review is based on two visits to Beckett & Bull for brunch. On our first visit, we found the service to be painfully slow, but things went much more smoothly second time round. On both occasions, Himself ordered the Short Stack of pancakes with eggs, crispy bacon and maple syrup (€9.00). You simply couldn't get more Apple Pie than this. 
Short stack with eggs, crispy bacon and eggs
On my first visit, I went for the Smokies, which is essentially a smoky fish gratin (€13.00). Served with a choice of house salad or chunky fries, this is pure comfort food. I'm already looking forward to ordering this on cold, winter weekends. 
Smokies with salad and fries
On our latest visit, I decided to challenge my love/hate relationship with eggs by ordering the Green Eggs & Ham (€12.00). There were no Dr. Seuss antics here, but deliciously soft and creamy scrambled eggs, flavoured with pesto. Two thick gammon steaks and a fantastic slice of grilled pineapples meant that this plate was substantial eating.  I'll just have to hate eggs another day, as these green eggs were some of the best that I've ever eaten. 
Green eggs, ham, grilled pineapple and salad
What's puzzling about Beckett & Bull is how relatively little coverage it has had to date. It's cool, the atmosphere is relaxed and there is (mainly) cool music on the stereo. There are nice touches that indicate a level of care. On our first visit, the staff had the good sense to put all parties with children in the bright rear space, leaving the darker tables to the thankful sore heads of the childless diners. My only petty gripe is the large, fat wedges that are labelled "fries"on the menu. They are excellently cooked, but people, ultimately a spade is a spade. 

Beckett & Bull is exactly what every neighbourhood needs - a friendly, casual dining experience. I'm left with just one question. What was the inspiration behind the cool name and logo? I hope that there is a suitably cool answer. 

Beckett & Bull, 53 Rathgar Avenue, Dublin 6
Tel: + 353 (0)1 498 0011
Twitter @BeckettBull

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Great Irish Bake Off - Week 4 - Crème Caramel

Last Tuesday was Week 4 of the Great British Bake Off, where we saw the contestants' creativity tested with the design of a large flourless torte, followed later by a creative layered meringue cake. The surprise technical challenge was a classic crème caramel, chosen by Mary Berry for it's precise requirements. For us Irish bakers, the Great Irish Bake Off continued in parallel, with a choice between the crème caramel and layered meringue cake. 

I really wanted to tackle both challenges and I had even spent my latest drive between Cork and Dublin thinking about flavours for the meringue cake. But time makes fools of us all, and I had to choose. Given that I had recently received 2 lovely sets of vanilla pods as a prize from Goodall's Ireland, and the simple fact that I love custard, I chose to make crème caramel.
My prep board - eggs, vanilla pod and my new ceramic knife
I started by reading the recipe, very carefully. This recipe involves making a sugar syrup and boiling it until it turns to caramel. I have a respectful wariness of sugar work, so I wanted to get this one right. One thing I do know is that you should use a clean, smooth saucepan. Unfortunately, most of my cookware is cast iron, so I had to dig out the small egg pan. I added the sugar and water and placed on a low heat, stirring occasionally until all the grains had dissolved and I could no longer feel any grittiness. 

In the meantime, I preheated the oven and placed my ramekins in there to warm through. Once the syrup was ready, I turned up the heat and watched it keenly. You're not really supposed to stir the caramel, so I had to make do with gentle swirls of the saucepan. It seemed to take forever, but eventually the syrup started to turn from clear to gently golden. It then progressed very quickly to the desired copper colour, at which point I pulled it off the heat and poured a generous layer into the base of my ramekins. 
The dangerous part - making the caramel
First hurdle complete - caramel in the ramekins
I left the caramel to set and turned my attention to making the custard. I took out one of my new vanilla beans and split it down the middle. I added the seeds to my egg and sugar mixture, while the empty pods were added to my milk. The milk must be heated until it's just about too hot to dip a finger into. At this point, I poured a tiny amount into the egg mix and beat well (If you add too much hot milk too fast, you will scramble your eggs). Once the egg mixture was tempered, I was able to pick up the pace and mix in the rest, bit by bit. 

A good layer of butter is required on the ramekins, followed by pouring in the custard (through a sieve to catch all the vanilla pod bits). The ramekins were placed in a deep dish, which I placed in the oven, and then partially filled with boiling water, creating a bain-marie. This helps the custard cook evenly and gently.  The BBC recipe calls for 20-30 minutes baking time, so I dutifully checked after 23 minutes! Some of my ramekins had picked up a little colour, while the others were wobbly. I decided to trust my instincts and take them out of the oven to cool.
After the bake - cooling down
Once cooled, the creme caramels were transferred to the fridge to chill and allow the caramel layer to dissolve around the custard. To free the cremes, I ran a knife around the inside of the ramekin, and then placed a plate of top. A quick prayer and a little shove, and the creme plopped out surrounded by a lovely puddle of rich coloured caramel. This was of course followed by a rebel yell of delight from myself!
Turned out - successfully!!
A cutaway shot for the #GIrishBO judges
After a few photographs, we settled down on the sofa to eat the fruits of my labour. I was amazed at the texture of the creme, which was silky smooth and as good as anything I've eaten in a fine restaurant. The rich, slightly dark flavour of the caramel was beautifully balanced by the smooth coolness of the creme.

I'm delighted that I chose to make this classic French dessert. Taking part in the Great Irish Bake Off has challenged me to tackle something new, and the results have been impressive. Here's hoping for some more interesting challenges from the #GIrishBO crew!

International Chocolate Day at Roganstown

It seems like everything has a day these days. Ireland has a National Potato Day, July 30th is Cheesecake Day and February 22nd is the boozy Margarita Day. For those of you who may prefer a few squares of delicious chocolate, you might be glad to know that International Chocolate Day is celebrated on September 13th.

I was completely unaware of the existence of this day, until I happened to see a tweet from Andy Greenslade, General Manager at Roganstown Hotel & Country Club, who have assembled a special Table D'Hote menu, with a chocolate dish available for each course. I've stayed at Roganstown in Swords before, where we enjoyed a very good meal in their McLoughlin's Restaurant, so I have no hesitation in giving them a shout out. Andy was kind enough to email me a copy that I could share with my readers. 

Homemade Soup of the Day, Selection of Homemade Breads
Tartlet of Bluebell Falls Goat's Cheese, Baby Rocket Salad & Aged Balsamic Dressing
Chicken Liver Parfait, Red Onion Marmalade, Toasted Brioche
Savoury Mint & Chocolate Bruschetta, Orange Zest and Sea Salt served with Red Cabbage Salad
Oak Smoked Salmon, Rocket, Red Onion, Baby Caper Salad, Homemade Brown Bread


Pan Fried Hate, Chargrilled Mediterranean Vegetables & New Season Potatoes, Red Pesto Dressing, Balsamic & Wild Rocket
Roast Chicken Supreme, Red Pimento Emulsion, Grilled Asparagus, Fondant Potato, Shallot & Tomato Dressing
Irish 10oz Sirloin Steak, Lyonnaise Onions, Hand Cut Chunky Chips, Wild Mushroom, Pepper Sauce
Brioche Dressed Lamb Cutlet, Roasted Carrots, Gratin Potato with a Balsamic & Chocolate Reduction
Wild Mushroom Linguini with Mushroom Veloute, Fresh Herbs & Crumbled Goat's Cheese


Summer Berry & Butter Pudding, Vanilla Anglaise
Blackberry Parfait with Apple Puree
Death by Chocolate
Cheesecake with Berry Compote & Lemon Curd Cream

The cost is  €37.50 or €65 for 2. If you want to indulge with a few glasses of wine, Roganstown can also arrange local pick-up and drop-offs in the Swords area. To book, please email or call (01) 843 3118.

If you know of any other chocolate-themed events happening in Dublin or Ireland in honour of International Chocolate Day,  please leave a comment below with the details.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Great Irish Bake Off - Week 3 - Tarte Tatin

The Great British Bake Off is back on BBC and I have my UPC box set to record. I've loved this programme since it first appeared on our googlieboxes, but this year it's even better thanks to Caítriíona from the blog Wholesome Ireland. She had the bright idea of running a parallel competition whereby Irish baking fans tackle the same challenge as the contestants. The competition is called the Great Irish Bakeoff and you can follow the discussion via the #GIrishBO hashtag on Twitter.

This weeks challenge was either a Treacle Tart (the technical challenge) or a classic apple Tarte Tatin. I was going to be at home over the weekend, so I decided to bake the latter. Once I got back home (after two weeks away for work), I went straight to my Michel Roux books, where I found his recipe for Tarte Tatin.

Roux's recipe is actually quite a good bit easier to follow than the methods I saw on Episode 3. Each contestant made their syrup or caramel separately, even leading to 7 ruined syrups in the case of one contestant. Roux's recipe is really more of a "one-pot" technique, easier to execute but the results are superb. 

You can either make your own rough-puff pastry (relatively easy actually), or purchase a good quality ready to roll puff pasty. Roux's recipe calls for 5 apples, but I ended up requiring only 3 (and I was packing in the slices at that).

Classic Apple Tarte Tatin

Rough puff pastry, or ready to roll puff pastry
120g butter, softened
160g castor sugar
3-5 apples, peeled, cored and sliced

Take a 23cm/9 inch cake tin or pie dish - the key thing is that is has to be sealed and able to sit on a cooker top. Take the butter and spread it out evenly in a thick layer in the tin. Pour the sugar on top and make sure it is distributed equally. 

Arrange the apple slices in a neat pattern on top of the butter and sugar layer. I started with a rosette in the centre of the tin, and then filled in the outer ring with more slices. Take the chilled pastry and roll out until it more than covers the cake tin. Lay the pastry carefully on top and trip around the edge, leaving about 1cm overhang. Cover the tin and place in the refrigerator to chill for at least 20 mins.

Preheat your oven to 180 C and turn a cooker ring to a medium heat. Remove the tin from the fridge, uncover and place on top of the cooker ring. After a while the butter will melt and a caramel will start to form. You can use a knife to carefully lift up the pastry lid to keep an eye on the caramel. After about 10 mins, roll up the pastry edges to form a seal on the tin, making sure to prick plenty of holes in the pastry lid and transfer to the oven. Bake for about 25 mins, or until the lid is golden brown.
Just out of the oven - look at all that caramel
I used a Pyrex baking dish to hold my tarte tatin, which turned out to be a great decision as it meant that I could see the apple slices and caramel in action. When I took the tarte out of the oven, it looked like I had too much caramel, but I decided to hold faith in the recipe.

I left the tarte to cool for about 5-10 minutes before I inverted it onto a serving plate. Sugar and caramels get incredibly hot when cooking so take great care when inverting the tarte. I placed a large flat plate over the pastry and quickly flipped the dish over. Thankfully, all my fruit came out without sticking and I ended up with a near perfect execution. My careful rolling of the pastry lid had paid off, as it had formed a natural lip on the tarte, holding the caramel from spilling out.
Tarte Tatin turned out - with no disasters
Roux recommends serving the tarte straightaway, but I have learned to be wary of hot caramel, so I left the tarte sit and rest while we ate our dinner. Once we were ready, I carefully cut some slices, taking great pleasure in watching the delicious apple-caramel oozing out. I've also included a shot of the underneath of the tarte, just to prove that I didn't suffer from the dreaded "soggy bottoms".
A slice of delicious Tarte Tatin
No soggy bottom here - just lovely flakiness and caramel
So there you have it, a classic French Tarte Tatin, made according to the recipe of one of the great modern French chefs. That might make it sound intimidating, but it's quite easy to make, and there is little risk of ruining your saucepans with burnt caramels :)

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