Thu 25 Oct 2012
I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: Ireland has been good to me. Not only in the love-life department (see last post, lol) but in many other regards as well. My job at a digital creative agency here in Dublin is going very well, and thanks in part to my food blogging I’m working with some significant food and beverage clients.
And it’s not just me. I look around at my fellow food blogger friends in Ireland and am amazed at how far everyone has come since we first came together at the inaugural meeting of Irish food bloggers about two-and-a-half years ago. Though there were a few bloggers who’d been doing it for a while, many were just starting out – including moi.
In a country that’s still trying to claw its way out of a recession, these food bloggers have created opportunities with a lot of hard work, determination and a belief that Irish food is important…and has a story that needs to be told.
Donal, who was one of the first food bloggers in Ireland, is an incredible success story with multiple cookbooks to his name and two successful television series. He recently announced he’ll be a judge on the BAFTA-nominated Junior Masterchef, making the leap from Irish television to being on telly sets all over the UK and much of Western Europe. I have no doubt that he’ll conquer America next!
The Daily Spud’s success has grown as well. The spud-tastic Aoife, also one of Ireland’s first food bloggers, is now an official contributor to the famed Bridgestone Guides and now also writes for the Sunday Times. Caroline Hennessey, aka Bibliocook, continues to contribute to the Bridgestone Guides as well, and has become a familiar face on the food festival scene demoing recipes using 8 Degrees beer, which is produced by her husband and his business partner.
Caroline, as you may know, is also co-founder of the Irish Food Bloggers Association, which has grown in leaps and bounds since its inception just over two years ago. I hear that Caroline and IFBA co-founder Kristin Jensen (who writes Edible Ireland) are currently working on a new exciting project as well, though it’s not quite ready to be revealed at this time – sorry, but I know it’ll be worth the wait!
There are several bloggers who’ve secured book deals, including the wildly talented Sheila of Gimme The Recipe who released her cookbook to great critical praise earlier this year. Nessa, who writes the blog Nessa’s Family Kitchen, recently signed with a publisher as has Roseanne of LikeMamUsedToBake. Right now they’re both in the throes of writing (many authors I know compare it to childbirth!) and I can’t wait to see their smiling faces staring back at me from bookshelves all over Ireland.
My good friend Lily, who writes A Mexican Cook in Ireland, has turned her love of her native cuisine into a business – for which I will forever be grateful! Remember when I first moved to Ireland and used to complain about not being able to source good Mexican ingredients? Well now I can go to her website or to her stall at the Honest to Goodness farmers’ market on Saturdays and buy chillies, beans, proper corn tortillas and everything else I crave. I’m hoping she’ll open a restaurant next (HINT!).
There are countless others forging ahead with noteworthy projects made possible because of their tireless work delivering quality food blogs. Aoife of ICanHasCook has a regular column in the Indo Weekend Magazine (which she co-authors with Aoife of AdventuresInVeg and Sweet Oblivion, another success story!) and also writes for the Ticket; Imen of I Married an Irish Farmer has a column in Farmer’s Journal, is producing an Irish food documentary and is working on creating Ireland’s first food film festival; Bill, one-half of Gunternation, is heading up Slow Food Dublin and organising fantastic foodie events that highlight the best of local producers.
What all of these bloggers (and many others I haven’t mentioned due to space limitations!) are doing is taking their passion for food and creating opportunities that not only help their own livelihoods but also helps elevate the profile of great Irish food. At a food industry conference two years ago, a speaker said that the Irish economy could be saved by Irish food, and I think these bloggers are proving this sentiment has legs.
Fig & Hazelnut Frangipane Tart
Needless to say, all these incredible bloggers and their wonderful recipes are making me up my own game! I’m always impressed with the dishes they come up with and I find such inspiration from food coming out of their kitchens. I recently tackled my first frangipane tart, which I donated for a work charity bake-off. I now feel confident enough to try some other baked goods – something I’ve tended to stay away from in the past.
Short crust pastry:
7 ounces pastry flour
1 ounce almond meal (ground almonds)
1 ounce icing sugar
175 grams very cold butter, cut into small cubes
Iced water – just keep a cup of it handy!
In a food processor, pulse together the flour, almond meal and icing sugar. Now add in the butter and pulse 5-6 times or until the mixture is crumbly and in small pea-sized pieces. With the food processor running, add in the cold water a little bit at a time until the dough starts to just pull away from the sides of the bowl. Turn off and turn out the dough onto a floured surface, shape into a ball and warp in Cling film. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Roll out the pastry dough and put into a 9 or 10-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Prick dough with a fork a few times on the bottom and sides. In an 170C oven, blind bake (cover the shell with grease proof paper or foil and fill with baking beans or dry rice) for 20 minutes. Remove and cool slightly.
While the crust is cooling, make the filling.
7 ounces almond meal (ground almonds)
5 ounces of sugar
2 eggs, medium, plus 1 egg yolk
1 TSP vanilla essence
2 TBS dark rum
Pinch of salt
The zest of one lemon
2 TBS melted salted butter
7-8 medium sized fresh figs, sliced
Handful of chopped hazelnuts
In a large bowl, combine the first 7 ingredients (almond meal to lemon zest) until thoroughly mixed. Now add in the melted butter and stir until combined. Spread the filling evenly into the crust – it will be quite thick. Now place the figs in whatever pattern you like on the top; you don’t need to push them down into the filling – they will naturally sink a bit during the baking process. Top with chopped almonds and put back into the 170C oven for 40-45 minutes or until top is golden brown. Cool and serve!