The other night, I packaged up some tasty Irish treats for friends in Canada. Much as I’d love to have sent over some meat or cheese, I’m not sure either the distance or Canadian customs would favour them. So in went a selection of non-perishables instead – Sheridans red onion marmalade, Dittys oatcakes, Mella’s vanilla fudge and a bar of Aine’s honeycomb crisp chocolate.
I’ve always loved getting food in the post, especially when I lived abroad. Deliveries of Barry’s and Ballymaloe relish were always welcomed, as were any sort of crisps and chocolates (there’s no junk food like home junk food…) Years on, I still chuckle at the memory of blearily answering the door of my student flat in Scotland one Saturday morning to find a courier holding a long thin padded envelope. Inside was a whole side of smoked Irish salmon. My mam, having bought too much for a dinner party, thought I’d appreciate the leftovers. She wasn’t wrong – my friends and I feasted on that beautiful fish for days.
Over to you, dear readers – what’s the best food your postman has ever brought? And what would you request in a care package from home?
The Silver Spoon is something of a legend in Italy – “the one cookery book every Italian passes on to their children”, it claims proudly. First published in 1950 and reworked over the years, it was translated into English for the first time in 2005. It’s huge – 1263 pages and over two thousand unbelievably detailed and varied recipes.
Many’s the time I flipped through its leaves in bookshops, but I’d never thought of picking it up for myself (not least as its great weight would probably bend my bike basket out of shape!) So, when I unwrapped a copy on Christmas Day, thanks to my lovely and generous mam, I was chuffed to bits. And totally stumped as to where I would start. Cue many nights poring over it in bed (yes, I read cookbooks in bed, doesn’t everyone?) before finally settling on gnocchi, which have a ten-page section of the book all to themselves.
I should preface this recipe by mentioning that my kitchen was an unholy mess by the time I’d finished – flour everywhere, and not a square inch of workspace unused. With four-and-a-bit servings of pillowy potatoey dumplings to show for it all, though, I’m calling a cautious victory.
One of the best things about working in a small office (there are less than twenty of us) is the ease with which everyone can be fed. Last summer, we bought a wee portable barbecue and spent a fair few Friday lunchtimes grilling in the sun in the garden out front. And, about once a month (no matter the weather), I cobble together some sort of cakey thing to accompany tea breaks.
Simplicity and ease of transport are the two things I tend to look for when picking work-baking recipes – the latter especially, as I cycle to work along some rather potholey streets. More often than not, I’ll opt for some sort of traybake, and so this recipe from the Internet Food Bible went straight into the To Make file.
The instructions below assume that, like me, you are mixerless, which makes things a little more long-winded. If you do have a Krups or a KitchenAid (you lucky thing!), all the ingredients can be added to the bowl together and mixed in one go.
I’ve developed a sneaky magazine-buying habit over the past year or so. Most are food-related (and stockpiled in a corner of the living room), but I’ll rarely miss an opportunity to pick up the latest Red. As well as being a stylish, witty and well-written mag, it includes contributions from food writers like Joanna Weinberg and the amazing Lorraine Pascale, whose Baking Made Easy series I’ve been glued to in recent weeks.
This month’s edition has a lovely selection of comforting winter dishes, including a sausage, cider, apple, leek and potato stew, which had me rewriting my shopping list immediately.
Some time later this afternoon, I will be walking down what is possibly the longest church aisle in Ireland, hoping I don’t trip on my long green bridesmaid’s dress. I can’t quite believe my best friend is getting married; it seems like no time at all since we met as tiny wee first years in the old canteen in DCU.
We’ve found ourselves spending many a Saturday afternoon in town in the run up to the big day, with lunch always on the agenda. I’d been dying to go back to Powerscourt’s Pepper Pot Cafe since a somewhat rushed visit before Christmas, and it seemed the perfect spot to decompress after her final dress fitting on Saturday.
A top five sandwich