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Chocolate Cake

It has been a while since I shared a recipe.  Sorry!

However, this recipe is definitely worth the wait.  It is not mine.  It is a recipe of Trish Deseine’s that was published (I think) in the Irish Times last summer.

I made it numerous times for guests over the course of Summer 2017.  They all asked me to share the recipe, and it is only now I am getting the chance to do so.   Apologies to all!

Trish has very kindly given me permission to share it on here for you all to enjoy.

Chocolate Cake

Ingredients:

  • 170 g butter (at room temperature)
  • 120 g caster sugar
  • 150 g dark brown sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 210 g flour
  • 120 g cocoa powder
  • 2 teasp baking powder
  • 170 g buttermilk
  • 1 teasp Fleur de Sel

Method:

Preheat oven to 180 deg C.  Grease and line 22 cm sandwich tin.

Beat butter and sugars until mixture becomes foamy.

Add eggs one at a time, beating and scraping down sides as you go.  Add vanilla essence.

Sieve half flour and cocoa into bowl and mix in with spatula.

Add buttermilk and mix again, before adding remaining flour and cocoa and flour de sel.

Pour batter into tine and bake for 20 to 25 minutes.  Test with skewer.

Leave to cool for 5 minutes before tipping out.

Serve with cream and berries.

Note:  This cake also freezes well, if you are planning ahead!

You are all probably fed up of hearing about the ups and downs that have been part of life here at Oldfarm.  And sorry for that.

Life keeps throwing stuff at us, and we have to re-assess and re-imagine.  Does this happen to you?

In my previous life I was a secretary, PA, self-employed (so wore many hats), sold houses, ran a shop, Business Advisor, mentor, trainer, and now I don’t know what I’d call myself!

As you know we changed the ‘business model’ last year, and just grew pigs to order.  That worked reasonably well in that we had 10 happy customers at the end of the year, who were enjoying delicious free-range pork and ham.  Unfortunately, when we sat down and did the sums, it really was not a good financial outcome.

Piglets/Bonhams

A very very small return for a lot of work.

We decided to give it another year.  We thought if we upped the number of pigs/customers we might have a better result.

Sows were pregnant.

Customers were lined up – double the number from 2017.

All was looking good.

Then, disaster struck.  One sow ‘self-aborted’…. yes, pigs can do this.  It can be caused by stress, or they just don’t like being pregnant… anything at all can bring it on.  We suspect that she just didn’t like that we had gone away overnight and a neighbour had fed her!

Second older sow continued with her pregnancy, and gave birth to 4 piglets.  We needed over 20, and had been hoping each sow would at least have 8 each.

Back to doing the sums, and facing the reality that buying in that many bonhams was just not viable.

Another decision had to be made, and we have made it.  After over 12 years of being in the free-range pork business, we are cutting back.

We will continue to keep pigs.  There is no way we could go back to eating ‘shop’ pork and bacon.  Just no way.

We will run our pig-rearing courses where we will continue to share the knowledge we have gained – sometimes the hard way – over the years.  However, now we will just be growing pigs for ourselves and family.

Thank you to all who have supported us.  Thank you to all our loyal customers over the years.

It has not been an easy decision to reach, but we are comfortable with it.

 

Eating More Fish

Little did we know when we moved to the Midlands that it would be so difficult to get fresh fish.  Ireland is an island after all, so you’d expect to be able to get fresh fish anywhere, right?  Even here in North Tipperary it is only an hour to the coast.

Well you can’t.  Local supermarkets stock a very limited amount of fish, and I’m sorry to say of dubious origin.  They may have some salmon and a little bit of white fish.  We have had van salesmen call selling ‘fresh’ fish…. however, it is all frozen ‘square-shaped’ fish, drenched in some god awful sauce.  Not buying that.

For the past 15 years we’ve just got into the habit of buying fresh fish on every trip to Galway.  We invested in a plug in fridge for the car.  This is not an ideal situation, we buy lots of fish, then come home and freeze it, but at least we know it was fresh (and where it was from) when it went into the freezer.

THEN…. along came #eatmorefish, the brain-child of Gannet Fishmongers in Galway.

Since late last year we can now order fish weekly, and it is delivered to the Organic Store in Birr for us to collect each week.  We order by mid-day Wednesday, and it is delivered (by post – this fascinates me!) to the shop for us to collect on Thursday afternoon.

Of course, the first week we ordered we went completely overboard on the amount we bought.

We’ve now got the hang of it, so order 2 or 3 meals per week … on average about €20 spend per week.  The system has encouraged to try different types of fish that are available, and, of course, try out new recipes!  In recent weeks we’ve had clams, mackerel, and red mullet.  We are looking forward to trying lots more.

Mackerel with salsa

This is why the statistic from Thursday night’s What Are You Eating programme that on average Irish people spend 84 c per week on fish, just shocked me!

Do you buy fish?  What would your weekly spend be?

Snowmageddon

That’s what the weather of the past week has been christened.  We don’t get much snow in Ireland.  Sometimes we get a sprinkling that is gone in a few hours, or at worst overnight.

This week, however, we were on lockdown!  On Tuesday we had a sprinkling, that had all but disappeared by Wednesday morning.  The weather forecasters were predicting that Thursday and Friday would be very bad.  Our first job on Wednesday was to head to the mill to get grain for animals, and stock up on tea. Yes, tea!  I had made the discovery that we only had a half pack of tea left…. now, if we were going to be housebound for days, I will not survive without tea!

We spent 20 minutes in the grocery store, and came out to blizzard conditions.

It was quite a frightening drive home I can tell you.  The so-called ‘Beast from the East’ had arrived 24 hours early.

While shops and businesses throughout the country closed down from Thursday afternoon, we did not have that luxury.  We were in and out to the animals constantly.  The poor hens did not know what was going on.  We did keep them in til much later in the day, and tried to get them back into bed earlier.

The whole weather situation was made so much worse by the Beast being followed immediately by Storm Emma which caused major snow drifts.

Whenever something like this happens it does cause you to reflect.

Our highs:

  • We were thankful for a fully stocked freezer and dry goods cupboard.  We had plenty of meat, fruit, vegetables and milk in the freezers.
  • Bless them… despite the weather the hens continued to lay, so there was no shortage of eggs for both us and the neighbours.

    Confused hens

  • We are also grateful to our farming neighbours who cleared a pathway through the snow so we could (if we wanted to) get out.

    Just enough room to drive through

  • And as a little chuckle for you all…. our Big Green Egg chiminea … came to the rescue in our neighbours milking parlour… keeping everyone (animal and humans) warm!

    Photo credit : My Appliance Source

  • And, lastly, we have often wondered exactly what kind of a breed mix, our Ross, is…. well snow dog is definitely in there.  He was in his element!

    Happy Snow Dog

We didn’t really have any ‘lows’ to speak of.  You just got used to piling on the multiple layers every time you went out, so now there will be a lot of laundry to be done now that that’s over.

After 4 days the snow is all but gone.  Roads are still bad with high banks of snow at either side, and only room for one car at a time.  We are back to sinking in mud again.  The crunch of snow underfoot is becoming a memory.

How do you all survive such dramatic weather?

 

 

Home-made Yoghurt

I first posted this recipe up here way back in 2011.  I’ve simplified the system since… thus reducing the amount of wash-up!

There have been quite a few discussions lately with various bloggers about making yoghurt and whether it works with raw milk v pasteurised milk.  I’ve made it, using this method, with both raw and pasteurised, and it works!

To start with you will need to buy some yoghurt, but after that just remember to save a teaspoon to carry on your ‘culture’.

Oldfarm Yoghurt

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 pt. Milk
  • 1 teasp. of natural yoghurt as a starter.

Equipment needed:

  • Wide saucepan
  • Milk Saver – I used upturned saucer!  See explanation following.
  • Thermometer
  • Wide necked flask.
  • Wide bowl/basin.

Method:

Put your milk in a wide saucepan with a ‘milk saver’. I use an upturned saucer!  Seemingly the ‘milk saver’ is to prevent the milk boiling over!

Bring your milk to the boil.  Then let it simmer for about 30 minutes until it has reduced to about two-thirds of the original amount.

Place saucepan in basin of cold water.  Wait for temperature to drop to 49 deg. F.   This takes about 5 minutes.

Add a teaspoon of natural yoghurt to your flask.  Pour in a little of the now cool milk and stir well.  Add the rest of the milk, stirring continually.

Seal flask and leave for a least 6 hours!

And then enjoy it for breakfast with some banana pancakes!

There is a story behind this recipe!

Sometime late summer of 2016  Mag Kirwan of  Goatsbridge asked if I would submit a recipe for a cookbook she was compiling in aid of Hospice Africa Uganda. I immediately said ‘yes’…. thinking of some of the nice fish recipes I have.  Then, of course, all hell broke out!

Alfie went and had the heart attack.  Fish recipe was not top of my list of priorities as you can imagine.

Denise over at Goatsbridge sent me an email at some point to remind me.  I went yeah, yeah, yeah… I’ll get that done.

Forgot about it again.  To make a long story short, by the time I got around to submitting my Fish Pie recipe, they already had one.  Plan B, I’ll send my kedgeree recipe… yes, you guessed it, they had one!  Now panic was setting in.  I just didn’t have time to work on something new.

Then I remembered this recipe for smoked trout, or smoked salmon, pate that my Aunt Eileen had given me many years ago.  I didn’t even have time to make it and take a photo to go with the recipe, but at least I did fulfil my promise.

Last summer (2017) one of our AirBnB guests was looking through the Fishwives cookbook, and declared that I was a ‘published author’.  Now that may be a bit of a stretch of the imagination…. but I did take brief pleasure from the accolade.  And as an aside the Fishwives cookbook went on to win the Best Fish & Seafood Book at the World Gourmand Awards last year.

So here’s the recipe.

Goatsbridge Trout Pate

Ingredients:

  • 4 oz/100 g smoked trout
  • 2 – 3 oz/60 g soft butter
  • 1/4 tsp. chopped dill
  • 1/2 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1/2 clove garlic crushed.
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Method:

Put all the ingredients in a food processor and whizz!  How easy is that???

Enjoy 🙂

 

We got away!

You have no idea how difficult it can be to get away together.  We can go away for a few hours, or head off on an overnight separately, but the idea of going away on an overnight or a weekend?  Well let’s say it is very very rare.

In fact the last time we were away together for more than a few hours was September 2015!

The excitement when we were invited to go visit our friend, Maggie, in her new home in Wexford.  AND more importantly our friend here said I’ve time off work, I’ll come look after the animals!  Maggie had told us to bring the dogs…. she may have regretted that invitation!

Can you picture the car?  Boot had 2 dogs in it.  Back seat our luggage and a rooster in a box who was moving to Wexford.  It was an interesting journey to say the least… we had to stop many times for ‘wee wees’ – the dogs, not us!!

We packed a lot into our 48 hours away, which just goes to show just what you can do on a mini-break.

We arrived in Wexford at about 3 pm, quick bite of lunch and then off to Duncannon Beach for a long run (the dogs) and walk (the humans). Having left rain behind us, it was a beautiful sunny afternoon, although bitterly cold.

Next day we took the ferry from Ballyhack across to Waterford…it is only about a 3 minute crossing, but even so I HATE ferries!

Ballyhack Ferry Crossing

Parked up in Waterford City, and of course, it started to rain.  Not that we needed an excuse but this give us one to visit the most amazing bookshop – The Book Centre.  We could have spent the entire day there (four floors of books!), but we didn’t.  We each purchased a book and moved on.  Next stop was Waterford Crystal.  They’re showrooms are amazing, and we were lucky to find a replacement glass for a very old set we have here.  Stopped off for some lunch, and a visit to Ardkeen Grocery Store, before heading back to base.  Rounded the daylight hours off with another long walk with the dogs.

Lots of delicious food from Ardkeen Grocery Store

Next morning we were heading back home, so went for a walk on Hook Head – oldest working lighthouse in the world – before hitting the road.

Hook Lighthouse

When planning the trip I noticed that we were going to be passing close to Jerpoint Park en route.

Jerpoint Park

I’ve wanted to go there ever since I read that Santa Claus is buried there….. yes, you read that right….. Santa Claus is buried in Co. Kilkenny, Ireland.

Santa Claus’ Grave

I had had a few chats on twitter with Maeve who had kindly invited me to come visit, even though it was out of season.  I know Alfie was only ‘humouring’ me with this stop on the way home.  You know the ‘yeah, yeah’ thing you get?  Well, let me tell you after 2.5 hours wandering the grounds with Joe as our guide, Alfie was completely blown away and is still talking about it.  We will definitely have to go back there.

As you can tell we packed a lot into our 48 hour holiday!  And there was so much more we could have done too.  This is why I always suggest to guests when planning your trip, always opt for 2 night stays in any location, so that you have time to explore the area where you are staying.

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