Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Vanilla Pavlova

Would you believe I've never made Pavlova?  I've always loved it but never actually made it.  I remember as a teenager going to my second cousins wedding and being delighted to hear that the wedding cake was a tower of pavlovas!  I thought it was genius and decided that day to do it for my wedding, but alas I got married in America and it was not an option.  This recipe turned out to be pretty simple, although all the whipping is time consuming and I cannot imagine doing it without a mixer of some kind.  It turned out just perfectly crunchy on the outside and marshmallow-y on the inside.  Top it with whatever fruit you have on hand. I was hoping to use passion fruit as well, but I couldn't get any yesterday.  Berries are particularly delicious.  This would also work very well with a mascarpone topping.
For the meringue:
  • 5 egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1.25 cups caster sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp white vinegar
  • 1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped out
  • 1.5 tbsp cornflour (corn starch)
For the topping:
  • 1 carton of whipping cream
  • 2-3 tbsp caster sugar to taste
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Fruit of your choice
Beat the eggs until stiff and slowly add in sugar.  Beat for 5-10 minutes until very stiff shiny peaks form.  Add vanilla, vinegar and vanilla beans and beat until all combined.  Fold in corn flour.

Line a baking sheet with a piece of parchment.  Use a plate to trace a circle on the parchment.  Dump the meringue into the center of the circle and spread out to meet the edges.

Bake at 120C for 60-90 minutes to desired doneness. Allow to cool with oven door ajar.

Once cool, whip cream with vanilla and sugar and spread on top of meringue.  Decorate with fruit and serve immediately!

Enjoy after a lovely BBQ with some sangria, as pictured right! ;)
Monday, June 10, 2013

Money Monday: Keeping Hens

Three of our girls getting adjusted.
Well I've finally lost it. I got chickens!  It's something I've always wanted to do, but didn't think the neighbours in our previous estate would appreciate it.  Since moving to the country it just kept niggling at me and when the landlord gave us the all clear I just had to go for it.  Assurances by neighbours around here that they are easy to keep helped assuage himself's misgivings and here we are.  
What does this have to do with money you ask?  Well, as an avid cook and baker I would easily go through 2.5 dozen eggs a week.  This works out to almost ten euro a week, as I would not negotiate on eggs, free-range is the only way to go in my book, both by taste and ethical standards.  So that's over 520 euro a year. The chickens cost me 50 euro and the coop cost 200. I got it as part of a starter kit from Farm Fowl in Wicklow. The feed is cheap and lasts for a long time and they munch on scraps from the kitchen as well. If they all lay daily they have paid for themselves in six months and will live for about four years.  Granted there will be times when the laying tapers off, but overall I think it's a sound investment that has many added benefits!

Lawn fertiliser for one!  We move the coop every couple of days and it's a bit of a mess when we move it, but within a few days it has turned a lush green and is quite distinctive from the rest of the grass. Himself has a grid pattern going now and is determined to get the lawn looking great with the chickens!

The eggs are FABULOUS!  You notice the difference as soon as you crack them.  The yellow of the yolk is so vibrant and the white just sticks around the yellow, it doesn't run out and this results in the most perfect poached eggs (stay tuned for eggs benedict recipe!) 
Ella finds the first egg!
The joy the kids get from the chickens is wonderful. They think they are so fun and love watching them and the little man loves chasing them around and giggles hysterically at them.  Not to mention the learning experiences involved. The girls have been very helpful with feeding and watering them and are learning some important lessons in animal husbandry. 

I find that personally it means I am outside a lot more during the day which is always a good thing and has prompted me to do some gardening and yard work that I would normally avoid. All in all it's been a fabulous experience and should pay for itself at the end of the year.  They are really no trouble and a wonderful addition to the garden. I would highly recommend it, if it's feasible for your family, no regrets!

Do you raise hens or ducks or some other animals for food purposes? I'd love to hear about it!  Any tips for the newbie hen keeper? I'm all ears!

Happy Monday! x