The world looks brighter

I was lucky enough to be in Dublin yesterday for Electric Burma – a concert organized by Amnesty International for Aung San Suu Kyi. The concert was wonderful, with performances by Bono, Martin Hayes, Lupe Fiasco, Damien Rice, and Bob Geldof, among others. Seamus Heaney was in the audience, and many celebs read his amazing poems. However, the real high point was to be in the presence of such an amazing, uplifting woman.

Driving back to Dingle after the show, the landscape looked more beautiful, and the world looked brighter. We might have gloomy weather in Ireland, and there are many suffering despair and economic hardship, but if Daw Suu can not only survive but keep her dignity and change a nation, we all have hope…

Chei-zu tin-bar-te.

Kieran’s Cookie Recipe

I’ve been tinkering with making our own version of Oreos for some time now, for our cookies ice cream, and I think I have a recipe I can share. They aren’t the same as the original, but what is? :) However, I find them utterly delicious.

If you’re in one of our shops, please taste the recently re-launched brioscaí ice cream and let me know what you think!

One of the great things about this recipe is that it uses 5 egg whites, so it’s a perfect solution of what to do with the whites if you’re making one of our ice cream recipes!

Finally, this is a big recipe, one that will fit perfectly in a Kitchen Aid. A smaller mixer might struggle. It will make more cookies than you need, unless you’re having a party, but the good news is that the dough can be frozen and last around 3 months, so I have suggested dividing the dough and filling in quarters so that you can always take it out and whip up a few when you’re in the mood!

Murphys Cookies

Cookie Ingredients:

  • 400g butter, at room temperature
  • 750g sugar
  • 5 egg whites
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 250g pure cocoa
  • 500g non-rising flour

What to do – the dough:

  1. Beat the butter and the sugar together until creamy and light in color.
  2. Beat in the egg whites.
  3. Stir in the vanilla and salt.
  4. Mix in the cocoa until fully combined.
  5. Mix in the flour until fully combined.
  6. Divide the dough into quarters, and lay each quarter on plastic wrap, rolling them in tubes about 4cm in diameter.
  7. Cover the tubes completely with the plastic wrap.
  8. Freeze any tubes you don’t wish to use immediately. Place the dough you wish to use in the refrigerator until hard.

Filling Ingredients:

  • 240g butter, at room temperature
  • 500g powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla

What to do – the filling:

  1. Beat the butter and the sugar together until creamy and light in color.
  2. Stir in the vanilla.
  3. Divide into quarters, and wrap in plastic wrap.
  4. Either freeze it with the dough for later use, or leave at room temperature for assembly.

What to do – baking and assembly:

  1. Preheat the oven to 160c
  2. Using a sharp knife, slice the dough, with each slice 3mm thick.
  3. Place the slices on a baking tray, leaving 1/2 cm between the cookies, and bake for 15 min.
  4. Cool completely on a baking rack.
  5. Using a small spatula, spread some filling on half the baked cookies, using the other half to create a cookie sandwich.


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Fuji X Pro 1 – Close, but…

I needed to take some photos in Dublin, and my camera gear is in Kerry, so I went into the lovely folks at Conn’s Cameras, asking to rent a Nikon D700. All were out, so I inquired if there was any chance they’d rent me the new Fuji X Pro 1.

There’s been a lot of buzz around this camera, and I was dying to get my hands on it. For me, a lighter, smaller camera that takes great shots and manages low light has been something I’ve been waiting for ages to materialize. An all around camera – something to shoot ice cream and people – good quality but not exactly a Leica M9 (way beyond my budget).

Somehow, with all of the advances with digital cameras, there’s still the same old thing – compacts that don’t quite deliver the quality (usually due to small sensors and limitations on lens quality) and bulky DLSRs. Could this be the one?

Conn’s rented me one straight out of the box, and I walked out with the camera and all the lenses. Here’s the first shot I took, at night in our fairly dark Wicklow St. shop:

It’s a 16 megapixel camera, and advances in sensors leads them to claim that it’s equivalent to a full frame camera in quality. In addition, Fuji is known for making lenses (especially for cinema), and the camera comes with three – an 18mm, a 35mm, and a 60mm macro. They all have old-school aperture rings, which I love. I used the 60mm for this shot of ice cream:

Here’s a crop of the same shot:

Here’s a shot of a nut tart, taking within minutes of taking the camera out of the box, shot at 800 ISO:

So far so good. The picture quality is indeed great.

So,I headed outside to see if the speed of the camera is as much of an issue as people say, especially in low light. It is. Although the color and lack of grain in the below photo is amazing for near dark (shot at 3200 ISO), the 18mm lens had real trouble getting a focus lock. I shot a few, and none of them were perfectly sharp.

On the other hand, if you have a stationary target and lots of time to focus, it can deliver fine photos, even with very low light:

Do not buy this camera if you are the impatient sort. If you want to auto bracket exposure or take a burst of three shots, the camera stops to write them to disk, freezing up the digital viewfinder, long enough to drive me crazy. In addition, the lenses spend far too much time hunting for focus – especially bad on the 60mm.

Another downside is that the battery isn’t especially great, and I couldn’t find any meter that shows that the camera is about to die, which it does all of a sudden without a chance to take another shot.

Finally, I’ve found a bit of odd ghosting – the following shot was done in natural light on a cloudy day, and even the lens hood couldn’t stop the brownie being haunted:

So, for me, while there is lots to love about the camera, it’s not there yet. At €3000 for the camera and lenses, it’s not cheap, and as such it would have to perform better for me. I commend Fuji for their innovation, and I’ll be hoping the X pro 2 is the camera that finally puts it all together, but this baby will be returned as scheduled.

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A Bit of a Facelift…

We’re doing a little bit of a rebrand, and I’d love your feedback – here’s our old and new logo. It’s extremely stressful for us to think about changing it, but we’ve had lots of feedback about our old logo being hard to read, especially in a supermarket context.

What do you think? Is it an improvement?


PS. What about the colour?

Pride in Irish Food and Vegetarian Heaven

This last week, I had two friends visiting from New York, and we decided that it was time to do some reckless eating, recession or no recession.

We had a lovely stop in Dromoland and a meal of the usual high standard at the Charthouse in Dingle.

Then we headed to Dublin for a return visit to Chapter One and Thornton’s in Dublin.

In Ireland, although we’re proud of our scenery, our castles and our pubs, we still tend to be apologetic about food. Do we think Ireland remains backwards when it comes to good eating? I don’t. Last year’s culinary tour of France proved to me that we have restaurants that can stand proudly with any in the world, and we were about to visit two of the best.

For any of you who haven’t been to Chapter One to taste Ross Lewis’ cooking, get yourselves down there! Four years ago, I thought it was really great. Two years ago, I thought it was even better. Last summer I went, and found that he had hit still new heights. One of my two visiting friends had gone with me for that summer meal, and I think the experience was half the reason she came back to Ireland so soon. This time, it was yet again sublime. The other friend travels the world in a very high-powered job, and fine dining would be a very regular occurrence. Not only did he say that he didn’t think there was a restaurant in New York as good, but he said it was his best meal in years. Period.

The next night, I brought them over to experience Kevin Thornton’s culinary wizardry. Sadly, after nearly a week of stuffing ourselves, we couldn’t muster the courage for the full tasting menu. This was a shame because one of my friends is a strict vegetarian. In many restaurants, vegetarians feel like second class citizens, a bother to the chef. At Thornton’s, not only do they accommodate you, but they whip out a full vegetarian menu – just as exciting as the regular menu, including the option of an 8 course “surprise” menu of dishes at Kevin’s whim. I thought the options looked so good that I traded in the regular menu and wasn’t one bit disappointed. Next time, we’ll spare ourselves some of the meals and come back for the full treatment. It surely must be as close to vegetarian heaven as it gets.

Fundraising – A Little Way to Go

We’ve been busy in the wintery world of ice cream, trying to tie up a BES scheme to help us expand.

The BES has been set up (and will be managed) by Quintas in Cork, and although we have a fund that approved a chunk of the amount we’re looking for, it was less then we had hoped, so we’re short in terms of getting the BES fully subscribed.

So… if you know anyone who has been grumbling about their taxes and might be interested in an ice cream investment (there’s a sweetener of equity as well as the usual tax relief), please spread the word. :)

I’d be happy to pass on more details if requested.