Thu 3 Jul 2014
It’s hard to believe it’s been four years since I landed in Ireland. On the one hand, it seems like yesterday that I put an entire apartment worth of furniture into storage in Los Angeles and set out on what was supposed to be a one-year adventure here.
On the other hand, so much has happened since arriving – far more than the average for four years, if there was such a tracker (“How Many Major Life Moments Tracker” or something of the sort). I met and married Mountaineering Man; lived in three apartments; had two regular radio features; am currently at my second job; visited Paris, Tuscany, Amalfi Coast, Seville, Brittany, Regensburg, London, Madrid, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Japan, Belfast, Cork, Galway, Mayo and a number of other towns and villages in Ireland since settling here. I’ve been to three wakes, two funerals, two weddings and one baptism. I’ve made dozens of new friends, both Irish and expats, and have chatted with at least 100 taxi drivers.
When you live in Ireland, you gotta (or “hafta” as the Irish would say) talk to the taxi drivers – they know everything.
Do I miss home? Of course. I miss my family and friends, my old haunts and the California sunshine. But sometimes, when the northwesterly blows warm and the sun is blazing and the Dublin Bay sparkles against the clear blue sky, I almost feel like I’m back home.
And it’s then that I realise, I am home…at least for the time being.
‘Murica Cupcakes! (adapted from Nigella Lawson’s Red Velvet Cupcake recipe)
Every year for the Fourth of July, I make some sort of patriotic cake to take to share with co-workers. This year I’m going full ‘Murica with these red velvet cupcakes topped with cream-cheese icing and berries. I’m dedicating these to Team USA, who sadly were shut out of the World Cup by the Belgians a couple of days ago.
- 250 grams plain flour
- 2 tablespoons cocoa powder (sifted)
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
- 100 grams soft unsalted butter
- 200 grams caster sugar
- 1 heaped tablespoon christmas-red paste food colouring or liquid food colouring
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 large eggs
- 175 ml buttermilk
- 1 teaspoon cider vinegar
for the buttery cream-cheese frosting
- 500 grams icing sugar
- 125 grams cream cheese
- 125 grams soft unsalted butter
- Fresh strawberries & blueberries for decoration
For the cupcakes:
- Preheat the oven to 170°C/gas mark 3/325°F, and line 2 muffin tins with paper cases.
- Combine the flour, cocoa, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda in a bowl.
- In another bowl, cream the butter and sugar, beating well, and when you have a soft, pale mixture beat in the food colouring – yes all of it – and the vanilla.
- Into this vividly coloured mixture, still beating, add 1 spoonful of the dried ingredients, then 1 egg, followed by some more dried ingredients, then the other egg, followed by the rest of the dried ingredients.
- Finally beat in the buttermilk and the vinegar and divide this extraordinary batter between the 24 cases. Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes by which time the redcurrant-sorbet-coloured batter will have morphed into a more sombre, but still juicily tinted, sponge – more maroon acrylic than red velvet, to be honest.
- Leave them to cool on a wire rack and do not ice with the frosting till absolutely cold.
For the buttery cream-cheese frosting:
- Put the icing sugar into a processor and whizz to remove lumps.
- Add the cream cheese and butter and process to mix.
- Ice each cupcake, using a teaspoon or small spatula.
- Decorate with berries