Monday, 25 August 2014

Hummingbird Hazelnut & Chocolate Cupcakes

These are the perfect kind of sweet treat when a sister, such as my own, is coming home for a little holiday. Or, if you're feeling down in the dumps and in need of a decent chocolate hit, they would be an advisable remedy. As this is back to school week for me and many, many teachers (and we cannot forget the students!) across Ireland and beyond, one of these would go a long way in easing that bit of back to routine blues ;-)

After my very memorable visit last year to the Hummingbird Bakery in London, I was quite sure that these cupcakes would rival any others I'd tried and I was not disappointed. My only adaptation to the original recipe is a change in quantities for the icing, as I had quite a lot left over on my first bake. These cupcakes are quick to bake and surprisingly simple to decorate.

Hazelnut and Chocolate Cupcakes


Ingredients:

Cupcakes...

  • 100 g plain flour
  • 2 and a half tbsp. cocoa powder
  • 140 g caster sugar
  • 1 and a half tsp. baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 40 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 120 ml milk
  • 1 egg
  • Approx. 100 g hazelnut spread (Nutella)
  • A few whole hazelnuts to decorate (if available)
Icing...
  • 200 g icing sugar
  • 60 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 3 heaped dessertspoons hazelnut spread (Nutella)
You will also need a cupcake pan with 12 cases.

Cupcakes at step 6 and ready to be iced
Method:
  1. Sieve the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking powder and salt into a large bowl and tip in the butter.
  2. Using a hand held whisk, or mixer, beat the ingredients on a low speed until you get a sandy kind of consistency.
  3. Slowly pour in the milk followed by the egg, while continuing to beat the mixture well.
  4. Tip an equal amount of batter into each cupcake case, about two thirds full, and bake in the oven at 170 C/325 F/gas mark 3 for about 20 minutes.
  5. Leave the cupcakes in the tray to cool a little, then tip them out onto a wire rack.
  6. When cold, use a teaspoon to dig out a little circular hole in the top centre of each cupcake and add a good teaspoon of Nutella style spread into each. You can easily smooth the top by dipping your teaspoon in some boiling water.
  7. Now to the icing...beat the sugar and butter together for a moment or so on a medium speed. Pour in the milk, raise the speed to high and continue to beat for about 5 minutes until you get a light and fluffy consistency. Add in the hazelnut spread and fold it through - you can do this until it is fully mixed in, or you can leave a more marbled effect. 
  8. Decorate your cupcakes with a heaped teaspoon of icing to each one and top with some whole hazelnuts (if using), and finally, tuck in!

Friday, 22 August 2014

The First Big Grill Festival, August 2014

I had been looking forward to this food festival for some time. It's been a long time since I was at a food festival, Bloom in Phoenix Park last year springs to mind...in any case, I was all set for a day of good food and entertainment. The entry fee into the Big Grill Festival in the lovely setting of Herbert Park in Ballsbridge was €15. There were early bird prices and I did get my ticket for a little less than this price. However, I was disappointed that literally everything had a cost involved once inside the venue. The cost was in the form of "smokin' tokens" and one token equated to one Euro.

Scenes from around the park at the Big Grill Festival
In terms of the quality of the food I must say I was quite pleased. I knew I wouldn't be able to sample everything but I did want to try the Pitt Bros pulled pork bun, when my sister suggested it and boy, am I glad I did. It was priced at 10 tokens and included a side of your choice - I went for the corn on the cob and E chose the potato salad. Delicious! And you must take a peek at Kate's photo on Kates Kabin - it shows this tasty delight off to its best allure. I also tasted their homemade lemonade which was yummy and well priced at 2 smokins.

Pitt Bros pulled pork sandwiches with a raspberry beer and a lemonade

We also enjoyed some food at Asador and the meat here was really juicy and tasty. I was impressed with the Jane Russell Gourmet sausage dog in a dreamy soft white roll with lovely caramelised onions. This was reasonably priced at 5 smokins. The burger was reportedly very succulent and tasty too.

Sausage Dog at Asador
We then developed a sweet tooth and went for a scrummy chocolate fondue cup with marshmallows, fudge and strawberries. This was indulgent and really tasty.

Lastly, we decided that due to having a few (non-reimbursable) tokens left, we had better choose something else. It'd be wrong not to! So between E, her boyfriend B, and I, we chose to share another meaty treat. We were torn between the hot wings and the ribs but the ribs at the Smokin Bones stall won out...happily! These were fabulous and were well worth their price of 7 smokins. The rub/sauce concoction was a good mix of fiery heat and sticky sweetness.

Lip-lickingly good Ribs
I have never been to Taste of Dublin and I'm not sure if it'd be my cup of tea, but hearing that the price of their portions is about the same as those at the Grill Festival and yet that the size of the portions is far smaller, would certainly draw me back to TBGF over ToD. However, I did find it disappointing that there were absolutely no little freebies or small tasters at any of the stalls, to help you choose what you'd like to try at TBGF.

John Relihan holding a duck BBQ-ing demo and Asador's stall
A few little points to note...

  • Pig on a spit - this was nowhere to be seen and it turned out this cool attraction would only be available to the Sunday attendees, which was a pity.
  • Drinks. The festival was strongly marketed as a craft beer festival but both E and B's drinks ran out early in the day. E got to like a tasty raspberry beer, had one, and by 2.30 pm, this was sold out. B is a cider drinker and at about 5 pm, he was told that the cider was no more. I felt this was quite poor as the festival ran until 9 pm on the Saturday but then again, in its first year you have to expect some teething problems. On the plus side, for a bit of diversity, there was a lovely wine tent with a variety of fizz, red and white wines. The popular 3FE coffee were on the scene and there was a good selection of soft drinks, again that awesome lemonade from Pitt Bros can't be overlooked!
  • The entrance price is too high though I feel, considering the level of entertainment provided was minimal and had a bit of a rush job feel to it, particularly with regard to the eating competitions.
To sum up, would I go again? Yes I would... (If only for that pulled pork burger and those ribs!) 

The Big Grill Festival has a little tweaking to go through but the vision is good and I look forward to some improvement in what is a great idea for a summertime foodie festival.

Oh, and if the organisers could arrange for some more sunshine the next time, that would be just super!

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Duomo - Two Michelin Star Dining in Sicily

I have eaten in a couple of restaurants I would class as very high standard; Neven Maguire's MacNean Restaurant in Cavan stands out, as does the beautiful gourmet getaway, The Old Convent in Tipperary. L'Écrivain, with its one Michelin star in Dublin didn't fully wow me as I thought it would. So, I was certainly excited but also had some mixed feelings about what to expect in Duomo, a two Michelin star restaurant in the spectacular UNESCO baroque town of Ragusa Ibla in Sicily.

Friday, 15 August 2014

The Chiappas' Cinnamon Sponge Cake with Apples

'Simply Italian' by the Chiappa Sisters is a very recent addition to my cookbook collection and I am delighted with it. I love the combination of cinnamon and apple and when I read through this recipe I straight away knew it was a sweet treat I really wanted to try out. I had one of my sisters calling over for dinner and baking fever is high these days anyway with The Great British Bake Off on our screens every Wednesday evening. Plus, I recently discovered that apparently it's afternoon tea week until 17th August and just how authentic an afternoon tea treat is a slice of sponge cake with a cup of hot tea?!

So there, I had three excuses to bake. I have slightly adapted the recipe from the original. You will get about eight generous portions from the cake. Here goes...

Monday, 11 August 2014

Gluten-Free Cookery Classes with the Coeliac Society of Ireland

A few weeks ago, I was kindly invited by the Coeliac Society of Ireland, as a guest to one of their cookery classes in the Miele Gallery, in Citywest, Dublin. I am not a coeliac myself, but I do feature quite a few gluten-free recipes on my blog - you can check out my gluten-free label on my homepage - and I am aware that gluten-free diets, due most often to medical reasons or sometimes personal lifestyle choices, are becoming far more common in Ireland.

Gluten-free menu: Top - Profiterole with goat's cheese, left bottom - Tagliatelle carbonara, right bottom - Pancakes

Thursday, 7 August 2014

The Hairy Dieters' Chicken Tikka Masala

I said I would blog the most popular recipe chosen from my first blog birthday post and true to my word, here it is, and I do not think you'll be disappointed. I will give one piece of advice - marinade in advance, as in the night before you plan to serve it. I have to say this really impacts upon the flavour and makes this a truly winning and satisfying version of one the most popular takeaway treats. And, added bonus, it's healthy!

The Hairy Dieters' Chicken Tikka Masala served with White and Wild Rice

Monday, 4 August 2014

Hugo's Restaurant, Dublin

Hugo's Restaurant on Dublin's Merrion Row, was somewhere that I was blissfully unaware of for quite some time. On the particular evening we ate there, we were in search of a pre-theatre meal, close to the Gaiety Theatre, in a restaurant that could accommodate us at 5 pm at the latest. Hugo's opens at 5 o'clock, so we were in business. I love the outside of Hugo's - the turquoise/aquamariney colour is striking and appealing and an unusual but pretty choice for a restaurant facade I think.

Hugo's front
~ Image sourced from www.rai.ie website ~


Friday, 1 August 2014

Best Potato Gratin

We Irish love our potatoes, and for many reasons, feel a very strong bond to the humble spud. It features on many the Irish dinner plate. But we have to hand it to the French, potato gratin or 'pommes de terre dauphinoise' is a pretty mean recipe to spruce up a potato. It is one of my very favourite ways to serve potato and it's a real treat. This recipe is always a winner for me and I hope you like it too.

Best potato gratin, served!

Monday, 28 July 2014

Beeftro, Dundrum

This restaurant has been on my list for quite some time. Tough life working through that list...! Many foodie friends have both spoken about it and written about it on their blogs. Instagram pictures have tempted me. Foodie tweets have allured me. Then there's beef in the title and when Irish steak is good, it is a meal that is really hard to beat. Eventually off I went to pay a visit and see for myself. That long awaited visit materialised on a Wednesday evening as a time out on a little summer shopping trip with my sister.



Thursday, 24 July 2014

1st Birthday - Gluten-Free Chocolate Cake & Some Reader Interaction

I think it's true to say that it's an exciting time for any enthusiastic blogger when you come to a milestone such as this. Happy first birthday Fascination Food - I like the ring of it! Of course, there were at least three years prior to that, of tweeting and talking, baking and cooking, and sampling new cuisines in different restaurants...but when I finally bit the bullet, I was delighted to call myself a food blogger, and still am, one year on.