Thursday, 25 October 2012

Chocolate Tarts

We have covered this many many times before but everyone loves chocolate! So we have created these super easy and incredibly tasty chocolate tarts. These are fantastic hot or cold. For this recipe we recommend The Pampered Chef's non stick and removable bottomed Mini Tart Pans. You can purchase these from the UK here or from the USA here.

The Ingredients:
The Pastry Case:
350g NEILL'S® Plain Flour
175g Butter
120ml Water
0.5tsp Salt
3tbsp Caster Sugar

The Filling:
90g Good Quality Dark Chocolate
90gml Double Cream
2tbsp Icing Sugar
0.5tsp Vanilla Extract
Half a beaten egg

The How-To:
First we need to make the pastry cases. This pastry dough needs to chill in the fridge for half an hour so no need to turn the oven on just yet.
Rub the flour, sugar, salt and butter together until a breadcrumbs consistency is obtained.
Mix in the water, add gradually until the mixture forms into a dough. You might need all the water.
Form the dough into a ball and place in a bowl in the fridge for 30 mins to rest.
Preheat oven to 175
Roll the dough out until about 0.5 inch thick.
Using a large enough cookie cutter, or anything with an edge sharp enough to cut through the dough cut out 6 round circles of dough large enough to easily cover the tart tins you are using.
Gently press these into the tart tins ensuring that the edges are pushed into the tins sufficiently.
Using a fork prick the bottoms of the tarts, this will stop them rising too much. Prick each tart at least 5 times.
Bake in the centre of the oven for 10-15 mins until golden brown.
Remove from the oven and allow to rest for a few mins while we make the filling.
In a glass bowl above a simmering saucepan of water melt the chocolate.
Slowly mix in the double cream ensuring that each addition is well mixed before adding the rest.
Mix in the icing sugar and vanilla. Mix in the egg ensuring to keep mixing as you add each ingredient especially the egg.
Spoon the chocolate filling into the baked tart cases and fill until almost to the edge of the pastry rim.
Bake in the oven for a further 10 mins.
Remove and allow to cool slightly. Refrigerate and keep in an airtight container if keeping for a few days.

You're Done!


Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Halloween in Ireland

We wrote this informative article about Halloween in Ireland for Zomppa magazine which was published in the October magazine which you can view here.

Halloween is a time of the year steeped in tradition and history, conjuring up thoughts of ghosts and ghouls. But there is a lot lot more to Halloween than that!

There are literally thousands of traditions and superstitions which span almost all countries and cultures around the world, none more so than Ireland. Being from Northern Ireland we are going to tell you some of the Irish traditions that have been passed down through generations of many Irish families.

It is thought that Halloween in Ireland was first celebrated by the Celts who referred to it as Samhain, which in modern Irish language has actually come to mean November. It was believed that during this time the dead revisit this world. To celebrate this they had feasts, the ‘Feast of the Dead’.

During the 8th Century Samhain became known as All Hallows which was the 1st of November. The evening before therefore became known as All Hallows Eve, or as we know it now Halloween.

We’re going to share with you a recipe for a very traditional Irish fare during the time of Halloween.  Barmbrack is an Irish fruit cake, some would call fruit bread. It’s deliciously sweet but with no butter or oil in the recipe and very little sugar it isn't too bad for you either. At least compared to all those sweets we end up consuming over Halloween. The recipe for barmbrack traditionally uses raisins soaked in tea preferably overnight which makes the cake not only moist but nice and sweet too. Tradition dictates that the person baking the cake for their guests would bake a coin, a ring and a small piece of rag into the cake. When the cake was served, if you got the ring you were believed to be lucky in love over the coming year, the coin meant you were to come into money over the coming year and the rag…..was believed to be a sign of misfortune over the coming year. So as not to distress any of our guests we decided to leave out the piece of rag from our cake, haha.

Before we share the recipe we will share with you two more fantastic Halloween tradition and its origins.

The Carved Pumpkin
Everyone knows the association of the carved pumpkin with Halloween, but few know the story behind where it originates. It is believed the legend first started with an Irish blacksmith named Jack. Jack made a deal with the devil and was therefore not permitted to enter heaven. He returned to the devil and asked for some light to guide him on his way as he forever wandered the earth. The devil gave him a bright red hot burning ember. Jack placed this in a turnip which he had hollowed out. Generations of Irish families followed the tradition of carving out turnips and displaying them in the windows in their homes with a candle inside, in the hope to keep jack from visiting them in their homes. As we know many Irish families emigrated from Ireland to the United States of America during the famine and other times of hardship. When they emigrated they took with them generations of traditions, carving turnips was among them. With one problem, turnips were very hard to source in the USA. They instead started using the readily available pumpkins and so the tradition of carving pumpkins began. This tradition then fed back to Ireland over the years. But as a young boy I still remember our family carving both a turnip and pumpkin at Halloween.

The Banshee
A legend passed down through many Irish families is that of the Banshee. Believed to be a woman form of a fairy she visited families and announced her presence outside the family house by wailing or ‘keening’. None of those inside dared to ever look outside for they knew what the sound meant. The sound was believed to mean that someone within the immediate family was about to die. Although not specifically a Halloween legend it is more strongly believed and feared at this time of year. There is believed to be a Banshee for my own family, who was rumoured to have been heard several times. The stories passed down say that one particular female ancestor in the 1800’s was so superstitious of this legend that she would be found the morning after hearing the Banshee, writing letters to all immediate family to check that they had not met their end the following night. The Banshee isn't limited to the island of Ireland, for she is said to visit Irish families wherever they live around the world.

Now for the long awaited Barmbrack recipe.

The Recipe:
The Ingredients:
380g Raisins
270ml Tea
220g NEILL'S® Plain Flour
2tsp Baking Powder
0.25tsp Bicarbonate Soda
1 Egg
80g Dark Brown Sugar
0.5tsp Vanilla Extract

The How-To:
Steep the raisins in the tea for at least 3 hours. If you can leave them overnight in the fridge as this will make them super juicy.
Preheat oven to 160c.
Mix the egg, sugar and vanilla into the raisins and tea mixture. Ensure these are mixed evenly throughout.
Sieve the flour and baking powder and bicarbonate soda together in a separate bowl and slowly add this to the wet mixture while mixing. There is no need to use a mixer for this recipe as it will cause the raisins to break up, a wooden spoon is perfectly sufficient. Mix enough to combine all the flour.
Pour into a prepared cake tin and bake near the bottom of the oven for 45-50 mins or until a skewer inserted comes out clean.
Remove from oven and allow to cool for 15 mins before turning out to cool completely. Slice and serve with tea but traditionally this would be eaten with a little butter spread on it.

You’re Done!


Thursday, 4 October 2012

Chocolate & Rum Cake

There are hundreds of different brands and types of rum available in the shops and each have an individual taste due to the flavours and spices used in them. We have specially chosen this rum which works amazingly in this chocolate cake recipe. We recommend The Kraken Rum for this recipe.
This rum is dark and flavourful. When the alcohol burns off in the oven it leaves fantastic flavours of molasses and cinnamon with a light hint of cloves. It just all works perfectly. The Kraken Rum is available in most large stores in the US and has now been released in the UK! You can check out more details here.

The Ingredients:
320g Butter
550g Caster Sugar
5 Eggs
2tbsp Rum
380g NEILL'S® Plain flour
260ml Milk
0.5tsp Baking Powder
0.5tsp Salt
60g Good Quality Cocoa Powder
Icing Sugar for dusting

The How-To:
Preheat oven to 170c.
Grease a (aprox 30cm) Bundt cake tin.
Cream the butter and sugar together until they form a smooth mixture.
Beat the eggs into the mixture one at a time.
Beat in the rum.
In another large bowl sieve the flour, cocoa powder, salt and baking powder together.
Now stir in the flour mixture into the creamed butter mixture alternating with the milk.
Do not over stir.
Pour into the prepared Bundt cake tin and bake near the bottom of the oven for 60 mins until a skewer inserted comes out clean.
Allow to cool for 10-15 mins in the cake tin before turning out. Allow to cool and then dust with icing sugar or decorate with chocolate.

You’re Done!