Sunday, 30 June 2013

Embellished Hand-Made Phone Cover

My phone was recently stolen in work which prompted me to upgrade my phone to a snazzy Sony Xperia Z which I love. The phone is absolutely fantastic and does above and beyond what you would expect from any phone. Being dust proof and water proof this phone is hard wearing, but all the same I have been looking out for a nice protective cover for it. Given that this phone isn't your run of the mill iPhone or Samsung Galaxy getting a shiny, girly cover has proved somewhat of a challenge. The only cover available in town for my phone was a boring black number in Carphone Warehouse costing a steep €25.

 I've had a few negative experiences buying covers online for phones in the past as when they arrive sometimes they do not fit the phone correctly. So I decided to visit Moore Street in Dublin to see what I could find in the collection of shops which stock a huge range of phone covers, phone repairs and accessories. I met a girl in the 'W Mobile Phone Centre' who told me she could custom make me a cover with whatever I wanted on it, I could choose my own colour scheme, accessories and design. I absolutely love bows and so we settled on a bow design, featuring black diamanté and pearls. Now I appreciate this kind of thing won't be everyone's cup of tea, but the range of designs and options available was outstanding. She brought me across the road to a sister shop where I picked which 'diamanté' and bows I wanted and the girl in this shop was painstakingly creating hand decorated covers with a tweezers and glue gun. 

The cover features almost 1000 black diamanté along with 3D diamanté encrusted bows and  scattered pearls. I ordered the cover on Saturday evening and picked it up on Sunday morning. The girl had said however that she could have it done in 2-3 hours. I was given a docket to collect the cover, however did not have to pay until I collected it. The cover cost €20 (€5 cheaper than the plain cover in Carphone Warehouse!). All in all if your looking for something a little different, a little out there and very shiny, these covers are a great way of brightening and 'blinging' your phone!

E-D's Notes
- 'W Mobile Phone Center' is located on Moore Street, Dublin 1. When 
   exiting the ILAC centre onto Moore Street this shop will be on your 
- There is a second 'W Mobile Phone Centre' on the other side of the 
   street. These stores also sell standard phone covers at a great price 
   without all the bling. 
- A word of advice, if asked whether you want to pay when you order 
  the cover or when you collect it, pay when you collect it to make sure 
  you are 100% happy with the design before you exchange any 
- Have a look around both stores for designs and ideas for your perfect   
  cover. iPhone covers and similar sized phones should only cost €15,  
  but given the dimensions and size of my phone it costs a little  

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Coq au Vin

Coq au vin is a classic French dish made up of chicken, bacon, mushrooms and garlic. Traditionally Coq au Vin is made with Burgundy red wine however the recipe has evolved over the years and is now made with a variety of red wines. Personally Burgundy is usually a little out of my budget for cooking so whatever is on offer in Aldi or Tesco generally does the job nicely. I absolutely love cooking with a nice red wine, and on this occasion I even put some in! Although I usually associate Coq au Vin as a winter dish but sometimes a heart warming dish like Coq au Vin is welcome on an overcast day when I feel well and truly over worked. This dish is a real comfort food for me. The way the chicken is braised in the wine leaves the meat incredibly tender and full of flavour. This recipe is adapted from one of Mary Berry's recipes. I discovered the recipe last year and really love the flavour combination. Bon Appetit!

Coq au Vin

30g butter
1 tbsp olive oil
1.5kg chicken cut into 6-8 servings
125g bacon (streaky or back bacon)
9 small shallots
250g button mushrooms
40g flour
300ml chicken stock
600ml red wine
1 bouquet garni
2 large garlic cloves (crushed)
salt & pepper to season

1. Begin by heating the butter and oil in a large casserole dish. Add the chicken and cook for 
    12 minutes or until the chicken is browned. Remove from the casserole dish and leave to 
    drain on kitchen paper
2. Next add the bacon, mushrooms and shallots and cook over a medium to high heat or until  
    browned. Again remove the ingredients from the pan with a slotted spoon and place on   
    kitchen paper leaving the juices in the pan.
3. Next add the flour to the pan and heat for 3-4 minutes, stirring constantly.In a separate pan, 
    reduce the wine over a medium heat to approximately 300ml. Gradually add the stock to the 
    flour, followed by the wine until smooth.
4. Return all the previous ingredients to the pan along with the bouquet garni and garlic. Season 
    well with salt and pepper. Bring the mixture to the boil and place in a preheated oven at 180C 
    for 45 minutes or until the chicken is tender.

E-D's Notes
- Coq au Vin is perfect served with creamy mash potato or champ and green vegetables.
- This dish is perfect for next days lunch heated up.
- How to make a 'Bouquet Garni'

Monday, 24 June 2013

Wilton Cookie Master Plus

For my birthday back in April,  my most wonderful mother Shaud got me something I've been wanting for ages.....a cookie press! Some of you may remember the trouble I had with tendinitis in my right wrist back in November which makes piping stiff icing and cookie dough pretty painful. Hence why I was so excited about getting my hands on a cookie press which would solve all my problems. Whilst doing my fortnightly browse in the home-wares department of TKMaxx I came across this Wilton Cookie Master Plus, cordless, battery operated and automated cookie press. Needless to say I was more than a little excited. Shaud paid €34.99 for the press and we were anxious to get home and try it out.

Unfortunately all my cookie press dreams did not come true because this product really was a disaster in terms of pressing cookies. The package looked really impressive with various heads which could be attached to the top of the press which resulted in different shaped cookies. The press also included a range of 3 nozzle tops for piping things like icing, mash potato or meringue  The premise is that you fill the gun with your cookie dough, attach a shaped metal 'plate' with your desired mould and hold the yellow 'go' button until the cookie appears on your prepared baking sheet. There is an included recipe book which I stuck to in order to achieve the optimum consistency, but still no joy. The press struggled to push the dough through, no matter the consistency of the dough. I made three different batches from three different recipes and each was as disastrous as the last.

The 'Negatives'
- the cookies were coming out in clumps and not in the desired shapes
- the cookies were incomplete and missing parts on the occasions they made it through the 
- the press strains when trying to push the cookie dough even when equipped with brand new 
  batteries and filled with cookie dough made as per the Wilton recipe book.

The 'Positives'
- the press works well when filled with softer substances such as mash, meringue or icing and a 
  nozzle top is used.
- The press was relatively easy to clean and assemble.

All in all a very disappointing product from Wilton, which is surprising as I have never had a negative experience before. I usually find Wilton products to be of great quality and fit for purpose. I did make contact with Wilton in early April about my negative experience and seeking advice on anything which may improve the performance of my press, but disappointingly I am still awaiting a response.

In conclusion this product is not fit for piping cookies, however if your after a gadget which will pipe softer textures in a somewhat automated way it might just do the trick, but at a hefty €34.99 I'm not too sure it would be worth it.

Thursday, 20 June 2013

W.J Kavanagh's Dublin Review

W.J Kavanghs on Dorset street has been on my radar for some time now, but I have to say I am absolutely smitten that I stumbled upon it one Friday evening last year. Re-opened since March 2012, W.J Kavanagh’s is a treasure trove of unusual beers, unique spirits and carefully sourced Irish cuisine. The décor is very trendy and inviting, the staff friendly and helpful and the prices fitting for the quality of the food. 

When trying to describe Kavanaghs I often say it has a bit of a 'Trendy Wendy' feel about it. The decor is artsy, and a little alternative. It is by all means a casual spot but the exterior suggests 'old man pub' which it is not. Whether on a date or with friends, there are a variety of large and small tables, along with a cosy corner filled with slouchy chairs for after dinner drinks.

The menu itself is mouth-watering to read and really does ‘exactly what is says on the tin’. My personal favourite, the steak Sandwich is out of this world. Served on a stylish wooden board, it oozes rustic appeal, with the sandwich served alongside a mini silver bucket filled with delicious chips. The Chicken Liver Pate was infused with remarkable flavour and was presented beautifully. Not forgetting to mention the Buttermilk Free Range Chicken, which was so fresh we feared it may fly away. The menu is seasonal and changes intermittently which keeps things interesting for returning patrons like myself but that said many of the old favourites remain throughout the year.

The wine list is interesting and varied, with a nice range of reasonably priced red and whites. Other ‘quirky’ characteristics on the drinks list include ‘Jam Jar Cocktails’ and a suitable beer recommendation for each dish on the dinner menu. For the beer enthusiast, Kavanaghs boasts an extensive range of cask ales and alternative beers and ciders.

It is quite evident that a wealth of thought, love and imagination has gone into W.J Kavanagh’s inception and all the hard work has paid off – to say it is a tremendous place to eat simply wouldn't do it justice! Another North side treasure well worth a visit.

E-D's Notes
The above photos were taken from W.J Kavanagh's website
W.J Kavanghs is located on Dorset Street, directly across from the Mater Private Hospital

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

The Lotts Cafe Bar Review

I enjoy nothing more than a great evening out with great wine and delicious food and feel that I'm well travelled in terms of some of Ireland's greatest restaurants, foodie haunts or as my Dad would put it 'eateries'. In the coming months, I plan to share with you some of my personal highlights and favourite spots when it comes to diving in with my fork. 

The Lotts Cafe Bar
9 Lower Liffey Street, Dublin 1

To get things started I'm going to start with a recent but brilliant find on lower Liffey Street, Dublin 1. Finding great places to eat on the North side of the river can be little tricky in Dublin. Things are definitely on the up but finding great food at a great price is something of a challenge at the best of times. Sure, the Italian quarter at the back of the Jervis offers a few options, but nothing I would be racing back to.

The Lotts on Liffey street just beyond the Hay'Penny bridge on the other hand is somewhere I run back to, again and again. From the outside this gem is unassuming and you may easily have passed itwithout giving it a second glance. This spot was actually introduced to me by Molly's Mam around the time we got engaged back in January. Both sets of parents went to celebrate our engagement and I'd say I have been back about 6 times since February. Understated and casual but ambient and relaxing, the Lotts has a really warm atmosphere, excellent customer service and a fantastic dinner menu and wine list.  

There are various 'deals', special offers and menus running, and the value is incredible. My personal favourite is the steak on the stone option. The Lotts offer two steak on the stone dinners, served with chips or your choice of side, with three sauces and a bottle of wine between two for a minuscule €30. But is it any good? The steak is tender and flavoursome, the chips skin on and crunchy. The house red wine, an Australian number is incredibly easy to drink, light and fruity and the perfect accompaniment to a hearty steak meal. I have shared my love of the Lotts with many a friend and family members all of whom have been blown away by the quality of the food, the friendly and efficient service and of course the outstanding value. The early bird also boasts a wide range of options including delicious chicken wings, bruschetta and an incredible Lamb burger to name a few. Molly always opts for a traditional Dublin coddle which always baffles me, but he insists is 'incredible'. Dessert is also worth a mention and I never leave without indulging in the Lotts rich 'Chocolate Pudding'. 

The staff make the evening all the more pleasant with their general friendly banter and hands on approach. On my last visit a birthday plate was organised for my Mom without any fuss, and my Dad was assisted in trying to pick a beer with warmth and enthusiasm - the bar man even offered up a few taster glasses to help him with his decision. Any questions about the menu are welcomed and any special dietary requirements taken on board without any bother.

All in all the Lotts boasts incredible food, service and value.  The best casual city centre dining experience on the north side of the Liffey without a doubt - you won't be disappointed.

Great deals on offer include.......
Two steaks on the stone with a bottle of red or white wine......€30
Early Bird (Monday to Thursday) 3 courses for €13.95
Mini sharing platter for four, 4 cocktails, 2 bottles of prosecco........€50
Cocktails 2 for €12

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Ultimate Chocolate Birthday Cake

After an action packed weekend it's nice to finally have time to share this delicious recipe for my ultimate chocolate birthday cake. Sometimes when it comes to birthday cake, I can take it or leave it, particularly when the cake is dry or too 'sponge' like which is often the case with shop bought cakes. I came across a variation of this cake on the Odlums website and decided to double the chocolate and change the icing. The result is an incredibly moist and light chocolate cake thanks to the unusual addition of natural yoghurt! The cake itself went down a treat for my wonderful Mom's birthday on Friday evening, with not a crumb left by Saturday evening. You know a cake is good when it seems like a perfectly acceptable choice for breakfast!

Ultimate Chocolate Birthday Cake

175g Self-raising flour
250g milk chocolate
175g butter (room temperature)
200g light brown sugar
1tsp vanilla essence
3 eggs
250g low fat natural yoghurt.

For the icing
200g condensed milk
400g icing sugar
60g dark brown sugar
60g butter (melted)
2 teaspoons of coffee
Sprinkles for decoration.

For the cake
1. Preheat the oven to 190C. Grease two 8 inch sandwich tins.
2. Melt the chocolate in a metal bowl, set over a pot of boiling water. 
3. In a free-standing mixer, mix together the sugar, butter until pale and creamy. Next add the 
    vanilla essence, follow by the eggs one at a time (mixing after each addition).
4. Next stir in the melted chocolate and yoghurt. Continue to stir until well combined.
5. Finally gently fold the flour into the mixture using a metal spoon.
6. Divide the mixture between the two tins and place in the oven for 20-25 minutes, or until 
    golden brown and firm to touch. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes in the 
    tins before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

For the icing
1. Melt the butter in a saucepan over a gentle heat. Add the sugar and continue to stir until 
    dissolved. Next add the condensed milk and coffee heat gently, stirring continuously.
2. Remove from the heat and using a hand held mixer, add the icing sugar a little at a time. 
    Continue to whisk the icing until light and fluffy. If the mixture becomes too stiff just add a 
    teaspoon or two of water.

E-D's Notes
I got this fantastic pack of sprinkles in Aldi during the week for a nifty €1.49. The package contained 4 separate compartments, each packed with a different variety of chocolate topping  Perfect for cake decorating or even ice-creams or cupcakes.

Monday, 17 June 2013

Home-Made Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Summer time has arrived and in between a few showers here and there, I am trying very hard to get into the spirit of things. I have successfully made the transition from my winter to summer wardrobe and I am very insistent on embracing the season, meaning wearing sandals or flip flops of some description at all times. The rain hasn’t dampened my spirits yet in terms of my wardrobe or menu options. Summer time means the season of not just sandals but salads too! Certain people will always associate salad with thoughts of tasteless rabbit food, bland, unexciting and unsatisfying. However, I have come to realise that salads can in fact be tasty, filling and satisfying when you use the right ingredients. I have a few salad numbers to follow in the coming weeks, but an ingredient I love to use to liven up a leafy lunch are sun-dried tomatoes. Sun-dried tomatoes can be bought dried, or in a jar depending on your preference in any good supermarket. But have you ever thought of making your own? Sounds a but like hard work? Well actually…no! Sun-dried tomatoes are incredibly easy to make especially when using in season tomatoes bought at a good price! Although shop bought sun-dried tomatoes which are dried and in jars do just fine, making your own will add an extra dimension to your dish.

Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Tomatoes (any variety).
Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1. Preheat the oven to 120C. 
2. Cut each tomato in half (lengthways) and place on a baking tray. Brush each tomato with a 
    tiny amount of oil and salt very lightly with salt.
3. Place in the oven for 6-8 hours. Check the tomatoes every so often, and remove once lightly 
    browned, but still flexible and not completely dried. 
4. Place wire racks to cool completely.
5. Place in an air tight jar. The tomatoes will keep for 1-2 weeks.

E-D's Notes
These tomatoes should really be called 'oven-dried tomatoes' but in all honesty we'd be a long time waiting for them to dry out in the Irish sun.
When brushing the tomatoes, just keep in my that a little oil goes a long way!
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