Archive for January, 2007
Since there is a “Black and White Party” over at the Happy Sorceress, I thought I’d throw in my own themed ice cream cocktail. Naturally it includes chocolate and a good hint of coffee from the Kahlua liqueur. The vanilla ice cream makes the drink cold and creamy. I think it’s just the thing for the dead of winter!
Chocolate Kahlua Cocktail with Vanilla Ice Cream
100 gm 70% chocolate
150 ml milk
1 tbs. sugar
Vanilla ice cream
What to Do:
1. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler
2. Warm the milk and the sugar in a pan to about 50C.
3. Stir the warm milk into the melted chocolate, adding slowly, until you have a smooth emulsion.
4. Fill a shot glass using the following ratio: 1/3 chocolate mixture and 2/3 Kahlua. Leave some room for the ice cream!
5. Top with a smallÂ spoonful of vanilla ice cream.
Recipe makes enough for 8 cocktails. It’s a good chocolate sauce if you have fewer guests and some left over!
Although my sister married a Derryman, they are living in Germany now, and it’s been years since I’ve visited the North, outside of a short trip to Belfast. So I was looking forward to cruising the Derry andÂ Antrim coast, and it didn’t disappoint.
It’s so unspoiled, compared to the Republic – there are none of the endless, ugly holiday home estates that mar the landscape from Dingle to Donegal. There are caravan parks and holiday homes, but they seem to be limited to the towns. Instead, there is beautiful landscape and open roads. It’s a fabulous place for touring.
We had booked a place for two nights outside Belfast - Anna’s House, which gave us peace and quiet with easy access to Belfast restaurants. This place is a true gem, and Anna’s hospitality is unsurpassed. She whipped up home-baked breads and scones for breakfast, met us with tea and cakes in the evening, and did everything in her power (which is considerable) to make us comfortable. Not to be missed.
The first night we ate at Macau on the Ormeau Rd., since I was craving something ethnic. An appetiser of coconut-battered prawns of amazing size and tenderness was followed by a sizzling pot of monkfish. Yum! Why does it have to be so far away from Dingle?
The following day I wandered around the Lisburn Road in the morning. I want to put a Murphys Ice Cream shop there! It’s cosmopolitan and has lots of cafes and galleries. There are many places for rent – due to gentrification and spiraling rents. While there I visited Swantons Gourmet Foods – a place that would get any foodie’s heart thumping, and had an excellent hot chocolate in the Chocolate Room.
For lunch, we headed toward Holywood and ate at the Bay Tree, where we had some excellent soup and leafed through their new cookbook.
For dinner, it was hard to choose among all the good restaurants. In the end we chose James Street South. It was the best meal I had in a long time – a sublime black pepper risotto followed by tender red snapper, and a camomile creme caramel. For people who say Belfast is hot when it comes to cuisine – yes, yes, yes!
The next morning, we headed for Warrenpoint, where we have our first customer in the North – Fresh Fields. I guess you could say we are now an international company!
I chatted with the personable Neil about the ice cream, and it seems to be going well. Apparently he has had many customers who have heard of us, and he has re-ordered the ice cream several times.
The shop is delightful – lots of produce and a very intelligent array of gourmet foods. We spent our last pounds on tasty snacks for the road, and headed back toward the South…
Armed with the fantastic Bridgestone Guides and some recommendations, we headed up the country from Dingle in search of good food, good scenery, and a bit of a break in the bleakness of January.
Although the weather can be bad and some places closed, Winter isÂ a good time to travel, since nothing is booked out, you have the countryside to yourself, and there are real bargains to be had in terms of lodgings.
Since it’s the quiet season in the world of ice cream and the workload is diminished, it’s a perfect time to explore parts of the country one doesn’t usually get to…
The first stops were in Galway – deliveries of ice cream to Ard BiaÂ in Galway city (sadly we didn’t have the hunger to enjoy their lunch menu due to too much snacking) and to the multi-award-winning McGeough’s Butchers in Oughterard.
We pushed on then, heading up through beautiful Connemara for a stroll around Westport, then on to Sligo, where we had booked into Cromleach Lodge.
This highly-rated establishment has been recently refurbished, and it was very comfortable.
I think we were the only people spending the night, and there were only two other tables booked at the restaurant. Perhaps because the kitchen was so quiet, the meal was a bit of a let-down. The breakfast in the morning, however, was fantastic.
The next day we drove to Donegal, stopping for the cliff walk before Bundoran to take advantage of a break in the rain, although the high winds made things a bit difficult. In Donegal town, we visited Aroma and were not disappointed in the cakes. Top class baking.
We decided to spend the night in Ardara, having heard great things about the rustic Green Gate B&B, where there’s no TV or phones, and where the legendary ex-Parisian bookstore owner Paul had made headlines after cancelling all his American bookings (he had one too many head elsewhere after seeing how basic it was). And yes, he is accepting Americans again, but be warned – it is as basic as it is charming…
Nancy’s Bar in Ardara sadly does not do food in the off season, as I’ve been told they do the best chowder in Ireland, but it is definitely worth a stop. The Guinness was mighty, the atmosphere homey, and the conversation great…
The next day we drove around the coast, then headed into Glenveigh National Park for a walk. Although we ended up drenched from the rain, it was a good stroll, and some tea in Glenveigh Castle helped to warm ourselves.
We spent the night in Castle Grove House in Letterkenny, which we loved. On a quiet, restful site, it has tasteful furnishings,Â high ceilings, tasty food, and two drawing rooms with huge roaring wood fires to warm the bones.
The following morning we filled the van with diesel and headed toward the border…
(Part 2 to follow – Antrim, Belfast and Down)
Vanilla ice cream is one of the most popular but at the same time most under-appreciated flavours. In our shops, people often order it apologetically, half expecting criticism at being unadventurous. However, if I visit an ice cream shop, I will almost always sample their vanilla. When you are making a strong flavour, perhaps you can cover up any inadequacies. With vanilla, however, it is either good or it is not, and you get the full flavour of the base ice cream. There’s no hiding.
Good vanilla ice cream is not only hard to make, it can also be very expensive if you use the real thing. We use four different natural vanillas in our ice cream to get the right balance – two types of bean, and two types of essence. Both of the essences are over 100 euro a litre – one is 160 a litre. It’s the most expensive ingredient we use.
When making vanilla at home, it’s not necessary to use four vanillas. The following recipe calls for a single vanilla bean. Sometimes it’s better not to over-complicate!
Murphys Single Bean Vanilla Ice Cream
1 cup Sugar
5 Egg Yolk
1 3/8 Cups Cream
1 1/8 Cups Milk
1 Vanilla bean
What to do:
- Beat the sugar and egg yolks together until thick and pale yellow.
- Split the vanilla bean lengthwise and put in a saucepan with the milk.
- Bring the milk to a simmer. Remove from the heat.
- Remove the vanilla bean.
- Beat the milk into the eggs and sugar in a slow stream.
- Pour the mixture back into pan, add the vanilla bean, and place over low heat.
- Stir until the custard thickens (around 60C).
- Remove the vanilla bean and scrape the seeds from it with a spoon or blunt knife. Stir the seedsÂ into the custard, using a whisk to disperse them evenly.
- Allow the custard to cool.
- Mix in the cream, beating for one minute.
- Freeze using a domestic ice cream machine, or cover and place in the freezer.
Notes: 1. If you don’t have a vanilla bean, you can substitute with vanilla essence. It’s hard to say how much, since the essences vary so much. Mix it into the cool custard in small amounts until you have the right amount of flavour.
2. To pasteurise the eggs, heat the custard to 73C and keep at that temperature for three minutes. Use a cooking thermometer, though, and keep stirring! If the custard goes any higher than 76C, the eggs will scramble. Immediately cover and place in the freezer until cool.
One of the new developments in the Irish gourmet food world is the emergence of off licenses with a selection of gourmet foods. The new Castle Off License in Castle Street, Tralee is a good example of this. Besides a good range of booze, theyÂ sell local smoked salmon, IrishÂ cheeses, chocolates, and our ice cream among other things. It’s definitely worth a visit.
I think this trend makes sense, especially if the off license specialises in fine wines or upscale spirits, for those customers would tend to be interested in unique foods as well. There certainly are other off licensesÂ around the country that are doing the same – the Celtic Whiskey Shop in Dublin was one of our first customers…
Â Ok. I know that this willÂ provoke a few traditionalists and perhaps bring back memories of those terrible chocolate noodles, but I decided to try a sweet risotto yesterday evening. After all, it’s not that different in concept from rice pudding. It turned out very dense but very tasty, so I added copious amounts ofÂ vanilla ice cream, and then it worked well as a dessert.
Here’s a recipe if you want to try it…
Black Currant and Chocolate Risotto
100 gm Arborio rice
500 ml Black Currant Juice (I used an organic cordial mixed with water)
50 gm 70% chocolate, chopped
What to do:
1. Combine the rice and half the juice and cook in a saucepan over low heat, stirring all the time.
2. As the rice absorbs the liquid, add more juice, and continue stirring until the rice is cooked and the liquid absorbed (around 20 min)
3. Stir in the chocolate until it is completely melted.
4. Serve warm in small portions with generous amounts of vanilla ice cream.
Â I got a package in the post yesterday – the folks atÂ Leica managed to resuscitate my old camera, which is quite amazing, given that it was dumped in the sea. Either that, or they gave up on the repair and sent me a new one (perhaps more likely since it’s positively gleaming).
However,Â I have to say my cheating heart has been completely won over by my new Nikon D80Â in the meantime, and I alsoÂ love the 1.4 fixed lens I bought for it. It lets in so much light and makes so many things possible.
The above photo was taken just before the Dingle shop closed for the season, just after dark, without a flash. I used a tripod. The blur is a passing car.
Change back from the D80? I think not. I do still love theÂ Leica, though, and I guess itÂ will be my travel camera, since it’s so much more compact…
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