Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009 comes to a close

(c) Jack Caffrey

& what a year it has been. You may have seen this post way back at the start and now that the year is coming to an end it's amazing to look back and see how things have actually turned out.

The anticipation at the beginning of the year...the not knowing what to expect work wise or whether to even expect anything at all! I guess that's what I love and hate most about being self-employed....and of course the strength of the self employed is as always to stay focused, positive and to just trust all will be ok....and the biggest challenge of all is to just enjoy those work free days!

I'm very thankful for the exciting opportunities I've had this year...and am looking forward to ticking along nicely in 2010 now also....with a few new dreams come true thrown in please fairy godmother!

Wishing all you fellow self-employeds an abundant, bountiful, positive and of course, fun year ahead in 2010! Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Hanging up my tools for Christmas

(c) Jack Caffrey

Have a fabulous break over the festive season!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Festive Blueberry Pies

We are coming over all Christmassy at Blueberry Pie....Here's a recipe for my signature Blueberry Pies with a festive twist...

Makes 24

225g plain flour
150g cold unsalted butter
75g icing sugar
1 egg
150g blueberries
25g caster sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp cornflour
1 egg, beaten
icing sugar for dusting
2 x 12 hole mini muffin tins, lightly greased

To make the pastry, blitz the flour and butter in a processor to fine crumbs. Whiz in the icing sugar for a second and then add the egg in. The mixture will come together into a dough ball within a few seconds. Shape it into a smooth, flat disc. Cover & refrigerate for about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the filling. Tip the blueberries into a pan with the sugar and cinnamon and allow to cook gently for 6-8 minutes until they begin to pop. Blend the cornflour to a smooth paste with a tablespoon or two of water and stir through. Simmer for 2-3 minutes until jammy and then remove and leave to cool and thicken.

Back to the pastry, I usually divide the dough in half (one for each tray) to make it easier to manage and roll. Then from each piece cut out 12 discs with a 6.5cm straight sided cutter and 12 stars with a cutter measuring 4.5cm from point to point. Refrigerate the pastry pieces for about 10 minutes until they firm up a little.

Preheat the oven to 180C. Use the pastry discs to line the muffin tins, fill each one with a teaspoonful of the blueberry filling and then top with a star to decorate. Brush the tops with the beaten egg to glaze and bake for 20 minutes until golden.

Leave to cool a little in the tin before easing out gently and leaving to cool completely (or not, if you can't wait!) on a wire rack. Dust with plenty of snowy icing sugar before serving.

Obviously, you can make the full recipe and then refrigerate or freeze half of it to make some fresh pies another time.

Monday, December 21, 2009

safe food turkey

Well, it's that turkey time of year again and where better to turn to for advice on preventing killing off a family member with some dodgy cooking than safe food. Once again, chef Neven Maguire gives top advice on all things turkey. Here are some snaps taken while filming some commercials for the safe food website a while back (of which I can't now seem to find, so perhaps they ended up on the cutting room floor?).

Neven's kitchen being transformed into a winter wonderland in warm weather

Neven learning his lines. Is that Dustin the turkey watching on from the roasting tin?!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Kirstie's Homemade Christmas series

Ok, ok, just one more post....Hope you liked the series and feel all christmassy now and fully inspired to get creative! Fear not, Kirstie will be back with a fab new 'homemade home' series next year where she will visit people's homes this time, as well as lots more craftiness. You can keep up to date, make suggestions of crafts you'd like to see and even apply to be on the programme on the show's facebook. Finally, here are a few final pics from behind the scenes of the christmas special...

Presenter Amy has her make-up retouched while being watched on by the biggest turkey in the world, lol!

You thought you only saw one turkey on the programme but that was actually three! it's a long story in the world of TV...this is where the story began...Amy & I glamourously shoving our arms under turkey skin (in our homemade home...'the van')!

Karen & I ditching the 'hero' turkey at the end of filming...unfortunately it couldn't have been eaten as it was sat around & in and out of ovens for hours on end!

Don't worry, not all the food went to waste....crew to the rescue!

Monday, December 7, 2009

kirstie's homemade christmas crafts

All set for tomorrow night? Here's some of what to expect on the creative front...

gold gilded pears & handcrafted place names

baked christmas decoration letters

beautiful garlands & twinkly fairy lights

handmade wreaths

homemade infused oils

frosted fruits

mosaic turkey

homemade crackers & hand embroidered napkins

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

TV Christmas Specials

I was just watching Gordon Ramsay's F-word when I spotted the trailer for 'Kirstie's Homemade Christmas' in the ad break. So book your seat on the sofa for three indulgent evenings in a row next week...tuesday 8th - thursday 10th on Channel 4 at 8pm. I'm guessing the food sections I worked on (as per this post) will be in the final episode (more about that later).

Speaking of Gordie, I have insider info from my friend Lisa that she is off to LA with him to film a Cook Along Live Christmas Special in a couple of weeks time. I'm guessing it will be aired on our screens at some point though. I wonder will his LA pal Vicky Beckham make an appearance?!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Funny Photo Shoot

I recently worked on a shoot with photographer Harry Weir so lots of giggles going on (especially as he loves tiggling me when I'm not expecting it!). Here are some photos from the day...

Harry tried his hand at some food styling when I wasn't looking!

Harry pretending to be hard at work

Someone's in trouble, she's got the hand on her hip!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Sausages Sausages

Here are some snaps from a shoot a few weeks ago for Hodgins sausages. We shot some sausage recipes for their soon to be revealed updated website as well as product shots of their complete range.

The hodgin's sausage family portrait

I won't be getting a packing job at Hodgin's the length of time it took me to get the pack on the right looking up to scratch for it's portrait!

Photographer Ciona and assistant Aoife hard at work

Me, multi-tasking, zhushing some food while catchin up on the gossip with Cliona (with Maureen from Estuary Marketing in the background)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Neven Maguire - HOMECHEF

Ok, so it was exciting to be away last week but unfortunately I missed Neven Maguire's new cookbook launch, HOMECHEF (published by HarperCollins). It was such a shame as it would have been lovely to clink glasses with all the team who worked on it and generally have a good old catch-up (not talking too much about work)! Anyhow, I hear everyone had a lovely evening where Neven cooked up a storm as usual.
Homechef is out now so I can now start showing you some recipes to tempt you. The rain is pelting down outside and the wind is blowing a gale so I'm thinking comfort food (& follower Deborah was looking for some wintery recipes so hopefully this will do the trick)! Use any stewing meat in place of the venison if preferred.


Serves 4-6

2 tbsp olive oil
25g butter
25g plain flour
2 tsp paprika
1kg venison haunch or shoulder, trimmed & cut into 1cm cubes
225g baby shallots, peeled & halved (keeping roots intact)
100g rindless smoked bacon, finely chopped
1 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tbsp tomato puree
100ml red wine
900ml beef stock
1 bay leaf
1 tbsp chopped fresh thyme
100g carrots, diced
75g button mushrooms, wiped clean
salt and freshly ground black pepper
mashed potatoes, to serve
chopped fresh flat leaf parsley, to garnish

Preheat the oven to 180C (350F / Gas 4). Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil and half the butter in a heavy based casserole with a lid. Season the flour and place in a shallow bowl with the paprika, mixing to combine. Use to lightly dust the venison, shaking off any excess, then add to the heated casserole in small batched and cook over a fairly high heat until well browned. Transfer to a plate until all the meat has been sealed, then set aside.

Add the remaining oil and butter with the shallots to the casserole with the smoked bacon and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring, until the shallots are lightly browned and the bacon is golden. Add the garlic for the last 30 seconds. Pour the red wine in and allow to bubble down a little for 1-2 minutes, while scraping the sediment from the bottom. Pour in the beef stock and tomato puree. Return the meat and juices to the casserole and bring to the boil, then add the thyme and bay leaves. Season to taste, cover with the lid and transfer to the oven for 2 hours until the venison is almost tender and cooked through.

Remove the casserole from the oven, stir in the carrots and mushrooms and return to the oven to cook for another 30 minutes or until the venison and vegetables are completely tender. Season to taste.

Spoon the mashed potatoes into the centre of wide-rimmed bowls and spoon the venison bourguignon on top. Garnish with the parsley and serve at once.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Kirstie's Homemade Christmas

If you watched the Channel 4 series, 'Kirstie's Homemade Home' earlier in the year you may be as excited as I was to hear that there is a three part Christmas special coming up soon (dates TBA soon). Although I am even more excited again as I actually got to work on it!! That was my secret trip....I have just spent the last week in Meadowgate, presenter Kirstie Allsopp's holiday let home which I watched unfold on the series, from a dilapidated house into the gorgeous home it now you can excuse me for busting at the seams to be actually working there!! And my, it is just breath-takingly gorgeous...

Kirstie got some Christmas cooking tips from the lovely Amy Willcock

gorgeous stylist chehvani dresses the table

ok, so it wasn't all glitz & glam....My home for the week was really a mobile kitchen.....but in fareness this has to be the best view from one EVER!

camerman Cliff films some food porn!

food porn....but more about that in future posts

Thank you so much to Karen Convery for all her hard work, perfectionism, organisation and calmness in helping me (once again)! Thanks also to amazing director Amanda Fidler for getting me on board in the first place! It was lovely also to work with all the glasgow gang of IWC Media who produce the show. Group hug!

P.S. Click here to check out Kirstie's tweet pics during filming!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Hi Ho, Hi Ho..'s off to work I go....this time I'm off on a job I have been trying to contain my excitement over for the last couple of months....finally it is here and I'm all packed up with everything including the kitchen sink as usual. Now filled with nervous anticipation I'm on my way. I'll be back in a week or so to fill you in on what it's all about and whether or not I managed to not burst a blood vessel with excitement!!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Cookbook award

How very exciting that a cookbook I worked on last year (as per this post), 'From Tide To Table' by Georgina Campbell, was recently announced as the winner of the Bord Bia / Listowel Food Fair 'Irish Food Book of the Year'. Pat on the back for all the team!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Happy Christmas!

I know, sorry, I probably shouldn't mention those two words yet, but take pity on all of those who work a season ahead and have christmas in the summer. I actually enjoyed this christmas shoot for once mostly because I got to relish in a yummy Christmas lunch (and for someone who is now without a kitchen at home, entirely to the point of having the wash the dishes in the bath, this is a very welcome thing!). The shoot was for Country Living Magazine in the Farmers Journal with photographer Jack Caffery and thanks to Denise for her fab help once again.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Back from the abyss

Oops, where have I been?! Well, I pretty much haven't taken a breath since I finished working on Neven's series (and in fact I haven't even unpacked the boxes of gear yet, now that i think of it, darn)....What with 'operation move office' going on around lots of busy jobs and generally trying hard (but not always succeeding!) not to have a complete meltdown (agghh!)....But I'm back and there's lots to catch up on which I will try and do over the next couple of days. In the meantime, here's a mad snap of mad photographer Harry Weir on a mad shoot we did at Phelim Byrne's lovely and calm cookery school in wexford...d-e-e-p b-r-e-a-t-h-s a-n-d r-e-l-a-x...

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Neven's Homechef filming - week 2

Well, I'm still alive against all the odds of filling up on way too much food, so I'm here to tell another tale. I can't say the same for the rest of the crew, but they're hanging on in there! Week 2 in Neven's kitchen & there has been lots of laughs (mostly at bad jokes like 'ceps on the beach' & 'time is of the vanilla essence'!), lots of cooking of course & lots & lots & lots more eating!

Micky the monkey, freaking us out during filming!

cameraman Billy chancing his arm at some spun sugar curls....darn, they're perfect!

Karen in the back kitchen isn't perfect after all then! Well, she is really!

oops...I'm spilling things too!

& the best bit.....everyone tucking into creme brulees, yum!

Monday, October 12, 2009

more home cooking with rachel allen

Thanks to series producer Emma Roberts Price from Cactus for sending on this official snap of Rachel for her new programme. Hope you're enjoying the series...

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Neven's new TV series

Well, we've just finished filming our first week on Neven Maguire's new series...we've had a lot of giggles and eaten a LOT of food! Which reminds me, I did consider weighing myself before we started to see exactly how much I pile on...but to be honest the jeans will reveal all...and in fact, they already have! But I don't's all totally worth it as you'll see when you watch the series in the new year. It's got a great catchy title to match Neven's new book (which is at the printers now, wooppee!)...HOMECHEF...which you may remember me testing here. Anyhow, here are some snaps from our first week...

Neven ready to get baking

The Irelands got talent panel of judges say yum!

the crew making their own samosas for lunch

Podge & Rodge overseeing some baking in the oven...don't ask!

Neven realises this camera operating lark could be for him!