There are so many wonderful and special places to have afternoon tea in Dublin. I have made it my mission to try them all! I have spent wonderful afternoons tasting the delights in The Merrion Hotel, The Shelbourne Hotel

and The Westin. They serve exquisite treats, in beautiful surroundings with attentive service. Their high standards are well known, and for me, they are places that I go to mark a special occasion.

However, sometimes with so many high profile places to indulge in afternoon tea, we neglect to seek out the hidden gems. What of all the other places to have an afternoon tea? Perhaps one that I can enjoy more regularly? Ones that offer a different type of charm?

Tiered treats and hot tea!

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This recipe is taken from The River Cottage Veg Everyday Book by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. The book was a present I got for Christmas and so far everything I have made from it has been delicious! I embarked on a meat free or at least meat reduced diet in January. There are, of course, countless benefits to doing this in the month of January including improved health and bank balance, however, my reason was largely culinary.

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There are few pleasures greater in life than getting a lovely crunchy biscuit on the side of your coffee. (Ok, there may be a few greater pleasures!). We commonly call them biscotti, but they are also known as cantuccini. I believe that the latter means coffee bread while the former refers to biscuits that would have traditionally been baked twice.

I know that some people don’t enjoy this type of biscuit, citing it as too hard but I think dipped in coffee, that the nuts and crunch are really delicious. I chose chopped hazelnuts and walnuts for this recipe because I quite like to have little bits of nut distributed throughout the biscuit, as well as the lovely whole chunks of walnut.
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When I started this blog, I really wanted it to be about the recipes I love. Both new ones and ones that are firm favourites. Red velvet cupcakes with vanilla cream cheese frosting are cupcakes that I make time and time again. They are easily adaptable to being gluten free, and so they work for all sorts of events. I have made them for my sisters wedding, work events and tea parties. They are always popular and people request them every time I am baking for an event.
red-velvet-mini

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I was in Vancouver over the summertime and while I was there, I saw a hilarious greeting card. It read ’A birthday cake without wheat is rarely a treat’. My mother avoids lactose while my sister can’t eat gluten. My father needs a chocolate free diet. One by one all these things are manageable, but when combined, it requires some baking research and planning. I am grateful they can all eat eggs and nuts.

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Cookies are a pretty straight forward option for gluten free or dairy free baking. They don’t need to rise so the missing gluten isn’t that important. I really like the flavour and texture that coconut oil lends. Plus it is that bit healthier than butter! (I am trying to find a bright side of a family who reject my dairy and wheat filled baked goodness!). With the growing numbers of people who have dietary restrictions, every baker needs a few recipes like this under their belt!

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I am, unsurprisingly, a fan of the Great British Bake Off. Watching the contestants make custard tarts a few weeks back coupled with a need for redemption for my poor custard quality on the Great Irish Bake Off, made me lust after a nice custard tart. These are lovely tarts with a flaky case and the cinnamony vanilla sweetness of the custard. They probably aren’t true to ‘Pasteis de nata’ but are tasty nonetheless.

Portuguese Custard tarts

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This recipe is taken from The Silver Spoon. This is my go to book for Italian food and I am never disappointed…..except for the lack of pictures! This is an impressive but somewhat intimidating book! Definitely one worth having in your bookcase!

Speedy puff pastry is not to be confused with rough puff pastry. Both give great results, but this method, for me, produces something that bit closer to ‘real’ puff pastry. It takes about an hour and twenty minutes to make.

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Foraging basket filled with crab apples, haws and elderberries.The story of this blog post began quite a while ago with Tom (of The Great Irish Bake Off fame) saying he would like to make some elderberry wine. Him being the city boy that he is, and me being the farm girl that I am, we agreed it would be a great idea if he came down to my family home in Wicklow to pick some berries. Somewhere along the way this happily escalated, and resulted in a foraging trip for the Bake Off contestants that could make it, led by Biddy White Lennon (one of our esteemed judges). We happily trampled our way around the farm, Molly the sheepdog and Harney family in tow, and collected many fruits of the season. It was a really fun day, and naturally we had many delicious baked things after our gathering work. This is a significant advantage of having friends who bake really really well. I wanted to try to make a few different things this year, so embarked on using my haws for brandy and elderberries for balsamic vinegar. The blackberries had a few uses including a lemon and blackberry cordial and a buttermilk, blackberry and coffee pound cake. Here is the first of a few recipes. Continue reading