Mon 12 Sep 2011
What does Irish food look like?
That was the question on everyone’s mind at the 2nd annual (hopefully!) foodie photo workshop hosted by Bord Bia last week in Dublin. After viewing the Google images results from an “Irish food” search, we were appalled at what the rest of the world is seeing of our beloved fare.
Unfortunately the websites coming up tops on the image searches are old and therefore enjoy a high ranking; photos of gray, unappetizing Irish stews and painfully plain-looking roasts take up the first page. But the food bloggers in Ireland know better: Irish food is now about artisan producers and organic meats and beautiful fruit and vegetables. It’s about handcrafted cheeses and luscious cakes and biscuits. This is what the world needs exposure to when it comes to Irish food.
We gathered to get some pointers on how we can make our food photos look even better so that we – as the food bloggers of Ireland – can pull together and get the word out. The always enthusiastic and tireless Donal Skehan went over how to use props, interesting backgrounds and perfect lighting to make our food look as appealing as possible; the wonderfully talented food stylist Sharon Hearne Smith (who worked on one of my favourite cookery shows, Barefoot Contessa) showed us how to position and work with our dishes to bring out the best colours and angles. Food photographer extraordinaire Jocosta Clarke reviewed camera settings and photo setups that will guarantee a professional-looking result.
Our own fearless co-leader of the Irish Food Bloggers Association, Kristin Jensen, shared some top-notch tips on recipe writing that was a real eye opener while web guru Damien Mulley shared his secrets on SEO techniques. And the incredible cooks of Bord Bia served up a magnificent lunch of succulent Irish pork, potato salad, garden greens and the most beautiful cherry tomatoes you’ve ever seen. The whole day was organized and arranged by BB’s fantastic Maeve Desmond – a real life Wonder Woman who manages to do a million things without breaking a sweat.
Because we’re all food fanatics who love to cook, everyone brought a treat to share and what a bounty it was! From individually-wrapped brownies and handmade buttery Danish biscuits to an espresso cheesecake and carrot cake, there were so many treats we ended up donating the leftovers to a charity after the day was done. A huge thanks to Margaret of Bord Bia for taking the goodies to some very appreciative folks.
The best part of the day for me was seeing all the food bloggers in one place; last May, we gathered for the first time at Bord Bia and no one really knew anyone else. Over a year later many of us are friends and so many have developed either a career in food or are working on something exciting in the field. Lilly Higgins has a book coming out next month, Donal’s now on his second season of Kitchen Hero, Kristin has launched Edible Ireland and a few are talking to agents about possible book deals. It’s amazing to see how far everyone has come since our first meeting.
I hope when we meet again next year and Google “Irish food,” the images that come up will reflect what Irish food has become: fresh, inventive food made with passion and love.
Lemon Sweet Rolls
My contribution to the day was Lemon Sweet Rolls, an incredibly easy dessert or breakfast treat that takes almost no time to make. I used Ina Garten’s Easy Sticky Buns recipe as a base for this recipe.
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1 package (17.3-ounces/ 2-sheets) frozen puff pastry, defrosted
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1/3 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1/3 cup caster sugar
zest of two lemons
1 cup candied citrus peel, diced
2 cups icing sugar
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice (a bit more or less – you want it to be a bit runny but not too thin).
In the bowl combine the 12 tablespoons butter and 1/3 cup brown sugar using a fork. Place 1 rounded tablespoon of the mixture in each of the 12 muffin cups. Distribute the almonds evenly among the 12 muffin cups on top of the butter and sugar mixture.
In a medium bowl, combine the 1/3 cup light brown sugar, 1/3 cup caster sugar and the lemon zest and mix using a fork. This will help flavour the sugar with the lemony essence.
Lightly flour a wooden board or stone surface. Unfold 1 sheet of puff pastry with the folds going left to right. Brush the whole sheet with the melted butter. Leaving a 1-inch border on the puff pastry, sprinkle each sheet with 1/3 cup of the lemon sugar mixture and 1/2 cup of the candied citrus peel. Starting with the end nearest you, roll the pastry up snugly like a jelly roll around the filling, finishing the roll with the seam side down. Trim the ends of the roll about 1/2-inch and discard. Slice the roll in 6 equal pieces, each about 1 1/2 inches wide. Place each piece, spiral side up, in 6 of the muffin cups. Repeat with the second sheet of puff pastry to make 12 sweet rolls.
Bake for 20 minutes, until the sweet rolls are golden to dark brown on top and firm to the touch. While they are baking, combine the icing sugar with the lemon juice in a medium bowl until the consistency is about as thick as syrup. Remove the rolls from the oven. Be careful – they’re hot! Allow to cool for 5 minutes only, invert the buns onto the parchment paper and cool for five minutes. Now spoon on the lemon icing glaze and then let cool completely. Enjoy!
Irish Tomato Tart with Corn & Onions
I love love love Irish tomatoes! They are red, sweet and absolutely gorgeous. Inspired by the cherry toms I had at Bord Bia, I made this savoury tart for our dinner the other night and can say it will become a regular at our table. Now *this* is Irish food!
Tart crust – I used this great recipe for a wholemeal and olive oil crust
18-20 cherry tomatoes
4 tablespoons of olive oil
sea salt and pepper to taste
2 large white onions, sliced thinly
1 tin of sweetcorn, drained
1/2 cup natural yogurt
1/4 cup light mayonnaise
1 egg, beaten
3 ounces of feta cheese, crumbled
Preheat the oven to 150 C. Slice the cherry tomatoes in halves and lay – cut side up – on a baking tray. Drizzle with one tablespoon of olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt and pepper. Place in the oven and bake for 45 minutes. Remove and set aside.
While your tomatoes are baking, heat up the remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large sauté pan. Add in the onion slices and cook until caramelized, about 15-20 minutes. You’ll want to stir occasionally but not too much – you want it to get golden brown! Set aside and let cool for 5 minutes.
Turn the heat up on the oven to 170 C. Roll out your tart dough and place in a 9 or 10-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. You can also use a regular pie pan as well. Pierce the bottom with a fork to avoid shrinkage while the crust bakes. Place some foil on top of the crust and fill with beans or rice and blind bake in the oven for 10 minutes. Remove and set aside.
In a large bowl, mix together the cooked onions, sweetcorn, yogurt, mayo and egg until combined. Pour the mixture (it will be super thick) into the crust (remove the foil first!). Now sprinkle with the feta cheese. Lastly, arrange the tomatoes in whatever fashion you like on the top. Place back in the oven and bake for 20 minutes. Remove, let cool for 5 minutes and serve.