Â One of the nice things about the off-season is that it allows a bit of time for experimentation and play. My brother showed up with these chocolate macaroons that he has been testing, and boy are they tasty! He has outdone himself. I think they could be a great addition to our baked goods. I’ll try to get the recipe off him…
Over the last year, we have been on a hunt for good Fairtrade beans for our espresso bar. Our coffee supplierÂ brought us an excellent Fairtrade and organic bean in the spring that is great for our non-espresso coffees, which we serve in a cafetierre. It’s full flavoured and certainly makes a nonsense of anyone saying one has to suffer for organic!
The espresso bean has been harder, because there are limited options, and most, it must be said, are quite poor. We are not willing to suffer any drop in taste. Our existing bean has made so many of our customers happy; it would be foolish to give them anything that doesn’t match up.
However, if the likes of us don’t push for fairtrade and organics, the options are unlikely to improve. So, we pushed.
It would seem as if our coffee supplier has come through again. Last week he dropped in a bag of Fairtrade (though sadly not organic) beans that are a mix from small farmers in Brazil, Tanzania, Guatamala, and Columbia. They are very good indeed, and I think we will make the switch. If our customers are as happy as we are, it’s a keeper!
It would appear that I will be on a panel discussing chocolate on RTE Radio’s Tubridy show tomorrow morningÂ (9:00-10am), for anyone who is interested in such things. There will be a chocolatier as a chocolate sceptic. I seem to have been chosen for my chocoholic tendencies…
(Post-show P.S.: If you want to listen to it, the link is here)
Christmas has definitely come early to Ice Cream Ireland as I have received my gift to myself, a new camera. I had never bought a replacement for the Leica (that ended up in the sea back in August), and have been getting by with a little Canon that has very few creative controls and isn’t up to the job at all (although it takes decent video).
Anyway, after some research and advice, I decided on a Nikon D80, and it arrived promptly from Technikdirect in Germany, who had the best price. (Note: the manual and documentation are in German, but you can download an English version from the Nikon website. Also, the plug for the charger is continental, but a cord from an old charger of mine fit perfectly).
I bought the body and a fixed 1.4 50mm lens for starters, since there always seems to be low light in this country. I’ll be playing happily for the next few days, and I think the early results, such as Wiebke’s Sachertorte above, look promising!
The excellent Ard Bia Cafe in Galway asked for a mulled wine sorbet for their Christmas menu, so I set about making it. It’s quite a nice flavour, and if you’re looking for a holiday ice cream to add spice to a meal, give it a go!
The easiest way to make it is to use left-over mulled wine (stir 350gm sugar into 950ml mulled wine until dissolved, allow to cool, freeze), but if you don’t have that kind of restraint, here’s a recipe from scratch:
Murphys Mulled Wine Sorbet
360 gr Sugar
600 ml Spring Water
350 ml Red Wine (I used Merlot)
225 ml Fresh Orange Juice
Juice of half a lemon
1 tablesp. Cinnamon
1/2 teasp. Nutmeg
Yield: 8 Servings
What to do:
1. Combine the sugar, water, wine and spices and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally for about 1/2 hour, maintaining at a low simmer.
2. Strain to remove the cloves.
3. Cool completely.
4. Stir in the orange juice and lemon.
5. Freeze using a domestic ice cream machine, or cover and place in the freezer, stirring at 1 hr intervals to break up the ice.
6. Remove from freezer and allow to thaw four about 15 minutes before freezing.
7. Serve garnished with a slice of orange.
1. It’s hard to make sorbet without an ice cream machine. You will need to interrupt the freezing process and stir, or you will be left with a block of ice! The more times you do this, the better the consistency will be.
2. I think it looks well served in small wine glasses.
The Irish Times kindly printed the following article of mine in a Virtual Ireland Supplement featuring examples of blogging, along with pieces from Slugger O’Toole, Damien Blake, Sinead GleesonÂ and Grandad…
With the rain and darkness of the Kerry winter upon us, I have been thinking a lot about chocolate, that magical concoction of comfort. Chocolate, or xocoatl, meaning “bitter water,” originated in Central America as a drink enhanced with chilli peppers and other spices. Made by crushing the cocoa plant’s seeds, it was revered in ancient Mayan culture and was integral to religious and royal ceremonies. Later, the Aztecs grew to love it, and chocolate became a huge part of their economy. They even used cocoa beans as currency. In Aztec mythology, the first cocoa tree came from paradise, carried down on the beam of the morning star by the god Quetzalcoatl.
That’s a story I can get behind. Give me an intense 70% cocoa bar or a velvety hot chocolate as you might find on Ile Saint-Louis in Paris, and the angels start singing. The same goes for high quality chocolate truffles that melt in the mouth or a luxurious, genache-covered cake such as our baker Wiebke’s Sachertorte. When we’re making our chocolate ice cream and mixing in dark Valrhona, I grab a spoon. It’s not just quality control. I love chocolate.
My brother suffers the same affliction, which is half the reason we started Murphys Ice Cream (ice cream, of course, being the other half). Ordering chocolate samples was our first item of business after incorporation, and it’s no wonder. My mother’s a chocolate addict. Her own mother retired to Switzerland (where chocolate has “national dish” status) and brought us bags of the stuff when she visited. Even my father will happily pack away a generous amount when no one is looking too closely.
Strangely, chocolate does not seduce everyone. Columbus was not a fan, so maybe we’re fortunate to have it at all. When he became fully aware of chocolate on his fourth voyage, he dismissed it. Cortes had more sense, however, and he brought it back to Spain in 1528, after conquering Mexico’s supreme chocoholic, Montezuma.
With the addition of sugar, drinking chocolate became the rage in the European courts and then in Paris cafes. In 1657, the first chocolate shop opened in London. Even the clergy took to it, and the Vatican proclaimed about chocolate in 1662: “Liquidum non frangit jejunum” – “liquid chocolate doesn’t count as breaking the fast. That’s something to remember with Lent just a few months away.
It was 1857 before the British chocolatier, J. S. Fry, developed solid eating chocolate; filled chocolates were only invented by the Swiss in 1913. Well into the 20th Century, chocolate was still primarily a beverage.
With that in mind, I have been thinking of widening the range of hot chocolates in our Dingle and Killarney shops (we already have three variations). It’s time to bring out the spices and play. Perhaps some Mayan warmth, in the form of thick, steaming chocolate with a little bite of chilli pepper, will prove the perfect antidote to a blustery winter’s day in Kerry!
Â I really thought that I liked chocolate in ALL its many forms, but I have been proven wrong.
These are chocolate noodles that my sister sent me from Germany. The idea is that you cook them up like basic pasta and then serve them hot with ice cream. Sounds like a good idea, doesn’t it?
The problem is that they are much more like pasta than like chocolate – i.e. pasta with a vague hint of chocolate, and some how the whole thing really didn’t work.
I presented the dessert to my whole chocoholic family (except my sister, who wisely didn’t fly over for the meal), and not one of us finished off the noodles, although the ice cream disappeared quickly enough.
I guess that it’s one of those things that are good in concept… Still, it was worth a try, and you have to hand it to a sister who knows that just about all good gifts for me contain chocolate…
Â Before I write anything about Clodagh McKenna’s new cookbook, The Irish Farmers’ Market Cookbook (which no doubt will be one of the hot sellers this Christmas), I must state that I am very biased. I’m a big fan of her efforts in the Slowfood movement,Â her various shows such as Winter Food,Â and of her support for farmer’s markets. As well as that, she’s delightful in person, and she has included one of our recipes in the cookbook (Murphys white chocolate and rosewater ice cream).
The philosophy of the book is: use good ingredients (with love) and the final product (meal) will be good. Her recipes are a delicious excuse for exploring Irish food and ingredients. She writes “The markets… have given us back a connection with the food we are consuming. I’ve written this book as a celebration of all of the fantastic produce we have in Ireland…” Definitely a worthy sentiment!