Archive | November, 2012

Recipe: Cinnamon Buns

28 Nov

My Cinnamon Buns

I’m dreadful at baking and I now have come to realise why; I can’t for the life of me follow recipes. That requires organisation, that means I need to:

a) have all the ingredients to hand before I start

b) weigh or measure all the ingredients before I start

c) follow the recipe step by step

Balls to that, surely a quick scan through this well thought-out recipe, a bit of alternations here and there and it’ll be fine? Right? Right??


That’s when, what was meant to be a banana bread loaf turns into a solid brick only useful for throwing at your computer screen in rage.

So the other day, I decided for a bit of  crazy experiment to actually follow a recipe to the letter, y’know, all that boring stuff I said above. Thus proving that it was the baking gods taking a dislike to me and not my inability to follow instructions that caused my baked goods to flop. So it was slightly bitter-sweet when, 2 hours and a well read recipe later, my cinnamon buns came out tasting and looking the way they should (besides the icing looking, as a friend so kindly pointed out, like someone got “a bit too excited”. Cheers Emmett).

I got the recipe from the Great British Bake Off, I suppose if anyone’s going to know how to bake it’ll be them..

Give them a go sure, they are pretty great.

Cinnamon or Chelsea Buns


  • 500g/1lb strong white flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 1tsp salt
  • 1 x 7g/¼oz sachet fact-action dried yeast
  • 300ml/10fl oz milk
  • 40g/1½oz unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
  • 1 free-range egg
  • vegetable oil, for greasing
For the filling
For the glaze
  1. Sift the flour and salt into a large bowl. Make a well in the middle and add the yeast. Meanwhile, warm the milk and butter in a saucepan until the butter melts and the mixture is lukewarm.
  2. Add the milk mixture and egg to the flour mixture and stir until the contents of the bowl come together as a soft dough. (You may need to add a little extra flour.)
  3. Tip the dough onto a generously floured work surface. Knead for five minutes, adding more flour if necessary, until the dough is smooth and elastic and no longer feels sticky.
  4. Lightly oil a bowl with a little of the vegetable oil. Place the dough into the bowl and turn until it is covered in the oil. Cover the bowl with cling film and set aside in a warm place for one hour, or until the dough has doubled in size.
  5. Lightly grease a baking tray.
  6. For the filling, knock the dough back to its original size and turn out onto a lightly floured work surface. Roll the dough out into a rectangle 0.5cm/¼in thick. Brush all over with the melted butter, then sprinkle over the brown sugar, cinnamon and dried fruit.
  7. Roll the dough up into a tight cylinder , cut ten 4cm/1½in slice and place them onto a lightly greased baking sheet, leaving a little space between each slice. Cover with a tea towel and set aside to rise for 30 minutes.
  8. Preheat oven to 190C/375F/Gas 5.
  9. Bake the buns in the oven for 20-25 minutes, or until risen and golden-brown.
  10. Meanwhile, for the glaze, heat the milk and sugar in a saucepan until boiling. Reduce the heat and simmer for 2-3 minutes.
  11. Remove the buns from the oven and brush with the glaze, then set aside to cool on a wire rack.

A Trip to Tullamore D.E.W

26 Nov

A bottle shaped corridor at the Tullamore D.E.W visitor centre.

Last week I was invited to a press tour of the newly refurbished Tullamore D.E.W visitor centre. With promise of free whiskey and a free lunch, I made my way to Dublin where I was shipped off on a big green bus with some of Dublin’s top  food and drink writers.

After a journey filled with my fellow passengers lamenting wine tastings of old (“I remember when you would fly to Paris for a wine tasting at six , be there til four and stagger onto your flight with the remaining bottles by nine” a writer told me wistfully) we arrived at the canal side visitor centre.

The bar

The cafe

The building itself has been beautifully restored, what was originally the Tullamore D.E.W warehouse has now been turned into a wide open spaced bar/cafe filled with exposed original brickwork and big wooden furniture. with the stools made from their own whiskey barrels.

Our tour began with a short video of the origins of whiskey, and it’s history in Ireland from the first batches made by drunken scoundrels in ditches , to the foundation of Tullamore whiskey in 1829. As the video ended the large screen moved sideways to reveal a hidden staircase as though we had defeated a dungeon master in a computer game and we had been granted access to the next level.

Our guide talking us through the blending process

We were brought step by step through the whisky making process with an impressive mixture of videos, props and voice overs of the workers of old  which made it easy and fun  for a whisky novice like me to understand.

Aroma pods

But of course, what’s the point of going to a whiskey centre if you don’t get to taste some whiskey? The tour ended with us sampling three. Here, again, they really made sure it was accessible for even the most ignorant person (me) to understand what we were tasting. In the middle of the table we had “aroma pods”, jars filled with apple,grass, spices etc to help us identify the  flavours and aromas.

We got to taste the Original triple blend made up of Grain, Malt and Potstill, the Old Bonded Warehouse, which was left to aged for an extra 11 months in an old sherry cask and the 12 year old Reserve. The Original was first, and I was able to pick out the flavour of apple and vanilla and spice. The second was my favourite  The Old Bonded Warehouse, it was much smoother, with more spice notes and the taste of the sherry cask coming through. The final one, the 12 year old was smooth and with more flavours of spice and caramel. It was great as a beginners guide but I thought it would have been better with one or two more of their range on show (though I might just be greedy)

Our guide talking us through the tasting

After our tasting we walked down to the Balcone Italiano at the Bridge House Hotel, where we were given a slap up lunch of pork terrine with red onion marmalade, pan fried duck breast and a trio of desserts and I nearly needed a wheelbarrow to get me out the door.

Pan fried duck breast with roast vegetables and poached quails egg

Blackcurrent parfait, tiramisu and honeycomb semifreddo

All in all, I have to say I really enjoyed the tour, the building itself is beautiful,  and the tour made whiskey; the history, process and taste, accessible to a beginner, but I feel it might be slightly dull for a real enthusiast. Though it is a far trek from Dublin, I can imagine it would be great for a hen or stag day out, or really anyone who fancies learning a bit more about our whiskey heritage and if you decided to  make a day trip out of it Kilbeggan whiskey distillery isn’t too far away either (though you will have to fight over who will be the designated driver)

Keep Calm and Make Soup

13 Nov

So, you know those days when you are cold and miserable, your nose has become Niagara Falls, you realise you have no money and  you can’t find your left shoe? No? Just me? Right, well, anyway, if for some strange reason you do find yourself having one of those days then I urge you to make soup.

Soup is good.

Soup is great.

Soup will save the world.

Really, just chopping away at the vegetables you find semi-frozen to your fridge floor, pretending they are the wandering fingers of a left-shoe-stealing demon will make you feel better, I speak from experience.

(Also this song helps too)

We’ll be OK folks.

Keep Calm and Carry on.

Spicy Chicken and Vegetable Broth

(Serves 4)

Put a large pan on a medium heat and add 2 tablespoons of oil

Add (all chopped roughly into small cubes) one  onion, one  leek, 3  cloves of garlic, one large red chilli, 2  carrots and one  parsnip

Stir in pan for 5 minutes to sauté

Add tin of chopped tomatoes, stir

Add 1.2 litre of chicken stock (fill the empty tin of tomatoes 3 times to measure) and a bouquet garni

Bring to boil then reduced to simmer for 20 mins

Add 100g of rice and one diced chicken breast

Simmer for a further 10 mins

Remove bouquet garni, season with salt and pepper and serve topped with fresh coriander or parsley