The answer is very simple. I love food. I love cooking it, eating it and I love writing about it. I believe that food brings people together in a world where we seem to spend so much time rushing and racing around before moving on to the next best thing. I also passionately believe that Ireland has some of the best produce available anywhere in the world and that this should be celebrated. When you feel so enthusiastic and genuinely interested in a subject, writing about it is hugely enjoyable. I get the chance to do that here on my blog.
Many of my early posts were recipes but more recently I have started writing restaurant reviews. This is great fun but also something that I take terribly seriously. I firmly believe that my reviews should be about the food that I have eaten and the restaurants that I have dined in. The reviews should not be about me or used as a vehicle to massage my own ego. Inevitably, my personality comes through in my writing but this is ancillary to the reviews themselves and, in my opinion, rightly so. As an aside, writing reviews is actually far more difficult than it seems but this doesn’t take away from the pleasure that I get from doing it.
It may sound disingenuous but I still feel humbled when someone says that they have liked something that I have written or that they have tried one of my recipes. I love writing and will continue doing it; the fact that others may enjoy reading my ramblings is a total bonus.
It is in this context that I was thrilled to learn that I was one of the finalists in the Foodie of the Year category for the 2015 AA Ireland Hospitality Awards to be held in a couple of days’ time in Dublin’s Westbury Hotel. I am really looking forward to the evening and to catching up with many of the great people that I have met over the past couple of years. I will be delighted with whoever wins the award as all the nominees are people who I respect greatly and whose writing I enjoy reading.
Anyway, the truth is I have a load of writing to catch up on and plan on doing that this week but yesterday I felt the urge to do a spot baking. I find baking very therapeutic and feel that it helps to re-focus me if I have a lot on. I happily lose myself in measuring out flour, butter, sugar and eggs and everything that baking entails!
This is my latest creation, made because I had all the ingredients to hand and because I fancied something a little nutty. My version is based on a recipe that appeared in Woman and Home magazine but I have tweaked and adapted it to suit my own tastes. Like so many of the cakes that I bake, this one can be served on its own or as a dessert. Either way, it tastes fabulous. If you like you can substitute walnuts for the pecans used but I love the classic pairing of pecans with maple syrup.
50ml pure maple syrup
3tblsp light brown muscovado sugar
125g shelled pecans left whole
2 large eggs, separated
175g butter, softened
225g caster sugar
225g self-raising flour, sieved
3tblsp strong coffee
1tsp vanilla extract
75g pecans, finely chopped
1. Preheat oven to 170C/Fan Oven 150C/Gas Mark 3. Grease and base-line a 23cm round cake tin with some non-stick baking parchment and set aside.
2. Place the butter, maple syrup and sugar in a small saucepan and place over a moderate heat. Stir occasionally until the sugar has melted and the mixture is just beginning to bubble.
3. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for 5 minutes before pouring into the base of the prepared cake tin.
4. Place the whole pecans, rounded side down in the syrup mixture, arranging them in concentric circles.
5. Firstly, place the egg whites in a clean bowl and using a hand-held electric mixer fitter with spotlessly clean whisks attached, beat the egg whites to the firm peak stage. Set aside.
6. Place the butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl and using a hand-held electric mixer, beat together until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolks and mix these through until they are totally incorporated.
7. Gradually add the flour; alternating it with the milk until everything is just combined but do not over-beat the mixture. Fold in the egg whites, making sure that they are well mixed in. Add the coffee, vanilla extract and chopped pecans and fold through.
8. Spoon the cake batter into the prepared tin on top of the arranged pecans and smooth out using a spatula of the back of a metal spoon. Bake in the preheated oven for 45-50 minutes or until a thin skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before upturning onto a wire rack to finish cooling.