Thursday, August 21, 2008

Baking Bonanza

A girls dream come true - a recent two days spent in an amazing bakery in Nenagh, Co. Tipperary called Quigley's. It was fantastic to see cakes being produced in vast quantities - I drooled over cream buns, ginger bread men, apple slices, fairy cakes, carrot cakes and white chocolate cookies and that was just for starters - a total cake fest!

Ginger bread men are in
big demand in nenagh!

Professor O'Flaherty & Head Chef Aoife

Oh, & I wasn't auditioning for the next 'Charlie & the Chocolate Factory', I was actually working, jammy job eh?! Cliona O'Flaherty was the ever amazing photographer (who only complained at the end, of a very sore finger from pressing that button all those times!) and was assisted by the fabulous Aoife Herrity.

We all looked like doctors in our gorgeous personality stripping white coats. In fact some of the staff thought we were doing a project for 'school' (if only!). We snapped lots of fun photos for our scrapbooks too...

Yum Yum

School DVD

This week, one of the projects I worked on was the filming of a DVD for secondary schools in association with Agriaware & Bord Bia. Neven Maguire was the cookery presenter and Paula Mee the nutritionist.

It was a nice reunion for the crew from Neven's recently filmed series as we hadn't seen each other for a while - although I was glad it was just for one day and not the start of a long two weeks, as before!

Anyhow, you can check out the finished product and recipes on the agriaware and bord bia websites once complete.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The Big Apple

I'm a country girl at heart and so am enjoying my on-going work for the 'Farmer's Journal' (Bet my Uncle Murt didn't ever think he'd see the day i had my name printed in his paper!). The most generous and lovely chef ever, Neven Maguire (from the amazing McNeans Bistro in Blacklion) is currently writing a weekly food feature with recipes for 'The Journal' magazine part of the newspaper. I style food for each of the features and none other than in house photographer, Jack Caffrey, snaps away. Jack gets a total buzz from shooting food - a pleasant change from livestock down the country i think!

Yesterday, one of the recipes we were shooting was for an upcoming feature with ideas for using up all of those fallen apples in the garden. It was funny when i realised my belt had apples on so we took this fun wasn't planned i swear!

McNeans Bistro, Blacklion, Co. Cavan. Phone: +353 (0)71 985-3022


Serves 8-10


110g/4oz butter, diced

175g/6oz plain flour

55g/2oz caster sugar

1 egg yolk

½ tablespoon cream

Almond Filling

100g/4oz butter

100g/4oz icing sugar

2 whole eggs

100g/4oz ground almonds

25g/1oz flour

Large pinch of cinnamon

1 vanilla pod, seeds only

1lb cooking apples

Juice of ½ lemon

To make the pastry place the butter, flour, salt and sugar in a food mixer and blend. Add the yolk and cream and mix together. Do not over work or the pastry will be tough. Cover in clingfilm. Chill for 1 hour.

To make filling cream the butter and sugar together. Add in flour and almonds gradually beat in the eggs, vanilla and cinnamon. Beat for 5 minutes until light. Preheat oven to 190°C/Gas 5. Line a 9 inch flan ring. Chill again for 15 minutes.

Peel, half, core and cut the apples into thin wedges. Toss the apple in lemon juice. Spread the almond filling on top of the pastry. Carefully arrange the sliced apple wedges on top of filling. Arrange in a fan shape. Gently press the apples down on to the filling.

Cook the tart in hot oven for about 25 to 30 minutes until golden brown on top. Brush the tart with some warmed apricot jam. Cut the tart into wedges. Serve with whipped cream and caramel ice cream.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Rosemary's School for Cooks

Well, I'm just back from a 'slightly busy' week working on the final of 'Rosemary's School for Cooks' at Swinton Park in Yorkshire. The schedule was hectic to say the least but in a warped kind of way I had a really fun time - the crew are like an extended family, every single person was lovely and hilarious in their own special way, so they made it all worthwhile.

The series was produced by RDF Media, Bristol and is ftransmitted every week day at 4pm on ITV from the 27th of October for eight weeks. Rosemary Shrager is the star of the show of course and with her enthusiasm and talent for cooking she encourages the students to excel. Each of the first seven weeks starts off with a new batch of eight students. Students are eliminated throughout the week to give a finalist at the end of it. The seven finalists plus one lucky wild card student then head off for work experience with either Adam Bennet of Simpsons in Birmingham or Willie Pike from Loch Green House Hotel in Scotland. The eight finalists then return on week eight to win an amazing placement with michelin star chef Nigel Hanorth of Northcote Manor in Lancashire.

My role as Home Economist was to edit (and test on location) the recipes, highlighting the parts that the students might struggle with so the crew don't miss any juicy bits! I also source the ingredients for the students, presenting them in our back kitchen (farmers market style!) for them to come and collect. The day before the students cook each menu I am bustling away in the back kitchen preparing everything for pack shots the next morning. The plates of food from these hero shots are then revealed to the students so they can see what lies ahead for them that day, yikes! And then off i go again on the next days food as well as helping the students with what they are up to that day. It's funny that as the week goes on it starts to dawn on them what i am up to so they keep their eyes peeled for any hints of whats coming up the next day!

I don't know how much I can say about the final, which we have just finished filming, so i better not say much, other than the format is very different to last years. It was definitely a challenge to work on, but i buzzed on the pressure and somehow we all managed to pull it off! I am a bit relieved, as in pre-production I worked out schedules of how the students should tackle things to ensure they got through everything - on location i began to have my doubts, as it was a tall order but thankfully it worked, phew! Smiles and crazed wrap parties all round!

some links: