Imagine the excitement of being placed in a situation where you are completely immersed in one of your true passions in life. Then add to this a few of your living idols. This was my weekend at Ballymaloe’s first literary festival last May. Throughout the course of the festival all attending were treated to talks, discussions and demos from world-renowned food and wine writers. Furthermore, day and night, there were the most scrumptious menus imaginable. The weekend was filled with the greatest of devotion and excitement about the future of our food. On the Sunday evening, as I drove home from Ballymaloe, my mind was a flurry with all I had experienced. I already was eagerly hoping that Litfest would become an annual event and to my delight, within a few weeks, a date was set for Litfest 2014. So with this to mind, you'll understand how exhilarating it was for me to receive an email from Ballymaloe LitFest, asking if I would like to be included in this year’s speaker line-up. I am honoured beyond belief and, like a child before Christmas, I'm counting down the days to May 16th. One of the big draws to this year’s festival is author and broadcaster Yotam Ottolenghi {his dinner event sold out in 4 minutes.Thankfully I secured my ticket!}. 
There are many food writers flying in from all over the world, for the event, but there is also plenty of home-grown Irish talent. The Irish food blogging world will also be represented by Donal Skehan, Lilly Higgins, Caroline Hennessy and Imen McDonnell. Together we are on a panel, along with Tom Doorley and Tom Parker Bowles, which will be chaired by David Prior. The topic is "Food & Wine Blogging - No Publisher, No Editor - Is it Good Enough?". I expect that this topic will make for a very interesting discussion
I'm also taking part in a panel discussion about food styling and photography in cookbooks. I'll be joining Tim Hayward, Donal Skehan, Lily Higgins and Simon Hopkinson and we'll be in conversation with the lovely Rachel Allen. 


The tickets for Litfest went on sale last week. If you have any sort of an interest in food I’d urge you to book your spot on what promises to be another sensational weekend. All details of speakers and events can be found on litfest.ie.

Ballymaloe House

Claudia Roden’s Moroccan Orange & Almond Cake

As I’m on the topic of Litfest I would like to share with you the recipe of a cake I tasted at last year’s festival. It’s a recipe by the wonderful Claudia Roden. Ms. Roden is regarded as the most influential middle-eastern and Mediterranean food writer of her times. I happened to be sat next to her at dinner in Ballymaloe. We had a marvellous chat and with those who are truly great in their chosen fields she shared her incredible knowledge with such ease and modesty. This is one of her most famous cake recipes, as it truly is delicious, perfectly moist and it is also very easy to make.  It serves well as a dessert after a spicy meal, but as it is a little virtuous this cake makes for a marvelous elevenses. 

Ingredients
2 large organic oranges, washed
6 free range eggs
250g ground almonds
250g caster sugar
1 tsp baking powder


To Serve- {optional}
A grating of orange zest
whipped cream
26 cm springform round tin, with a removable base, buttered and floured

Method

1. Place the oranges, unpeeled, into a saucepan with 500 mls of water. Cover with a lid and allow to boil for 1 ½-2 hours, until the oranges have completely softened.
2. Preheat the oven to 190°C/fan 170°C /Gas Mark 5.

3. Let the oranges cool, then cut them open and remove the pips.  Make the oranges into a pulp by putting them in a food processor or an electric blender.
4. Whisk the eggs in a large bowl, and then add these along with the ground almonds, caster sugar and baking powder to the orange pulp in the processor. Mix thoroughly. Pour the mixture into the prepared cake tin.
5. Bake in the preheated oven for about 1 hour. If the cake is still very wet, leave it in the oven for a little longer. Cool in the tin before turning out onto a wire rack. Dust with icing sugar.
I have never been a great believer in making New Year’s resolutions. I must admit that this is mainly founded on the fact that I find them too difficult to sustain. I have found year on year that my resolution to be two dress sizes smaller by the following Christmas never actually materialises, which I suppose in turn leads to my disbelief in the making of new year resolutions. This year I am choosing smaller, and dare I say much more realistic, goals which I should find more favourable and therefore with any luck they’ll be easier to achieve. One from this year’s list is to use my electric juicer more; I did say that I’m not aiming for anything over-ambitious! The juicing of fruit and vegetables is a wonderful way to include essential vitamins and minerals in one’s diet. The best time to drink freshly juiced fruit or vegetables is when your tummy is empty and therefore the optimal ammount of nutrients will be absorbed. This time of year is also a good time to pick one up at a reasonable price, and it will last you years. However if you don’t have a juicer, a blender can be used and then strain the contents through a sieve. This is one of my favourite juice combinations and mild tasting enough that the children also really enjoy it.


Ingredients - Serves 1

4 carrots, washed and roughly chopped
2 red eating apple, chopped into chunks
1 large handful of spinach, washed and leaves roughly chopped
1 inch of fresh ginger
Juice of ¼ of a lemon

Method

Using an electric juice extractor, press each ingredient through, individually, collecting the juice. Pour into a glass and squeeze in the juice of ¼ of a lemon. Stir well and enjoy straight away. 





I'm just popping by to wish you all good health and happiness for 2014. Thank you for the support you gave to me in 2013. I'm looking forward to sharing more of my culinary adventures with you in the coming year. 

video

 'Flipagram' seems to be rather popular on all the social networking sites, over the past few days. Here's my little video that I made using some of my Instagram and Facebook photos. xx {This video may not be compatible with mobile devices.}
♫ Music: Bob Dylan - Forever Young