Donal Skehan
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Gur Cake

Theodora Gur Cake_1

This cake was eaten by the poor of Dublin in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, for it was very cheap because it was made by bakers from their stale cake or bread stocks. This can be made with stale cake rather than bread if preferred, in which case omit the dried fruit. Recipe from The Pleasures of the Table: Rediscovering Theodora Fitzgibbon.

Makes 24 small squares
8 slices stale bread, crusts cut off
3 tablespoons flour
1⁄2 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons mixed spice
100 g (4 oz) brown sugar
2 tablespoons butter
175 g (6 oz) currants or mixed dried fruit
1 large egg, beaten
4 tablespoons milk
350 g (12 oz) shortcrust pastry
sugar for sprinkling

Soak the bread in a little water for an hour, then squeeze the moisture out. Combine the flour, baking powder, mixed spice, sugar, butter, fruit, beaten egg and milk. Mix well.

Line the bottom of a 22 cm (9 in) square tin with half of the pastry and spread the mixture over, then cover with the remaining pastry. Make a few diagonal gashes across the top and bake at 190°C/375°F/gas mark 5 for about an hour. Sprinkle the top with sugar and allow to cool in the tin, then cut into 24 small squares. (A square of this size used to be sold for a halfpenny.)

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Potato Yeast Rolls

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These are the lightest and most delicious rolls I have ever tasted. They freeze very well too. Recipe from The Pleasures of the Table: Rediscovering Theodora Fitzgibbon.

Makes about 16
100 g (4 oz) potatoes
25 g (1 oz) fresh yeast or 15 g (1⁄2 oz) dry yeast
50 g (2 oz) sugar
450 g (1 lb) white flour (warm the flour in a warmed bowl if it has been stored in a cool place)
1 teaspoon salt
50 g (2 oz) butter
150 ml (1⁄4 pint) warmed milk
1 egg, beaten
milk for glazing
100g of cheddar cheese, grated

Cook the potatoes in salted water and drain, reserving 2 tablespoons of the cooking liquid. Mash the potatoes very well or press through a fine sieve into a basin, then cover and keep warm. cream the yeast in a bowl with the reserved tepid potato liquid and a spoonful of the sugar, and mix well as it froths up (if it does not froth, it is not satisfactory to use). Sift the flour into a large mixing bowl with 1 teaspoon salt and rub in the butter. Make a well in the centre and add the rest of the sugar and the mashed potatoes, mixing well.

Add the tepid milk and 150 ml (1⁄4 pint) water to the yeast liquid, mix and add to the mixing bowl, then beat in the beaten egg. Knead very well. cover and leave in a warm place for about an hour, until doubled in size. Turn out onto a floured surface and shape into rolls. Put the rolls onto a greased baking sheet, well spaced, to allow for rising. cover and leave for 20 minutes. Brush with a little milk, sprinkle with the cheese and bake at 220°c/425°F/gas mark 7 for 15–20 minutes.

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Black Forest Gateaux

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Black Forest Cake is a traditional German dessert that has been well and truly adopted by happy dessert eaters worldwide. Typically, black forest cake consists of several layers of chocolate cake, with whipped cream and cherries between each layer. Then the cake is decorated with additional whipped cream, more cherries, and chocolate shavings. This version is particularly delicious as I spike each layer of the cake with rum or kirsch, a fragrant cherry liqueur making it moist, boozy and oh so good. Recipe from The Pleasures of the Table: Rediscovering Theodora Fitzgibbon.

Serves 8
6 large eggs
150 g (5 oz) castor sugar
50 g (2 oz) sifted cocoa powder
25 g (1 oz) sifted self- raising flour
300 ml (1⁄2 pint) double cream, whipped
1 level tablespoon castor sugar
1 × 450 g (1 lb) tin black cherries, stoned
50 g (2 oz) dark chocolate
1 tablespoon rum or kirsch
fresh cherries to decorate

Oil two 20 cm (8 in) sandwich tins, and line the base with oiled greaseproof paper. Separate the eggs: yolks in one bowl, whites in a larger one. Whisk the yolks with the 150 g (5 oz) sugar until pale and thickened slightly, then fold in the cocoa and sifted flour. With a clean whisk, beat the whites until stiff but not dry. Stir a heaped tablespoon egg white into the cocoa mixture, then gently fold in the rest using a metal spoon. (Do it very gently.) Divide this mixture between the tins and bake near the centre in a preheated oven at 180°c/350°F/gas mark 4 for about 15–20 minutes. They may not appear fully cooked but should be set and slightly puffy. They will shrink quite a lot, which is normal.

Leave the cakes to cool in the tins but turn out while still faintly warm and strip off the papers. Now whip the cream with the 1 tablespoon of sugar until floppy but not too stiff. Empty the can of cherries into a sieve over a bowl. Then mix 2 tablespoons of the juice with 1 tablespoon rum or kirsch and sprinkle this over the cake layers. Using a palette knife, spread about one-third of the whipped cream over one cake. Take any stones from the cherries and arrange the cherries over the cream on the cake. Put onto a serving dish. Carefully lift up the other layer and put on top. Cover the entire cake with the rest of the cream using a palette knife. Arrange the fresh cherries around the edges, or make a pattern, and finally grate the chocolate over the top and sides of the cake. Do not move the cake from the surface it is on and keep covered loosely with paper in a cold place.

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Video Recipe: Summer Berry Pavlova…

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This week’s youtube video features a super dessert for summer entertaining- a summer berry pavlova!  It has crisp, chewy, marshmallow meringue layers, stacked together with perfect soft whipped cream and sweet, summer berries. It’s a showstopper that really celebrates all things summer but can be adapted for any time of the year by swapping in different toppings.

This recipe for meringues is one I use all the time and rather than using caster sugar added gradually to the frothy egg whites, you place icing sugar in with them at the start and whisk on high until you are left with stiff white peaks.  It’s a fool proof method and can be used to make pavlova bases and normal meringues also.  We’re coming close to hitting the 60k subscriber mark on youtube so don’t forget to head over and ask a question on my Q&A and make sure to tune in this Sunday as I will be cooking with the godfather of Italian cooking, Mr. Gennaro Contaldo!

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Continue to the recipe for Summer Berry Layered Pavlova…

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Lemon Curd Sponge Cake

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This lemon sponge is light, airy and so moist because of the tangy lemon curd and creamy buttercream filling. A slice of this alongside a cup of tea and you are set for the rest of the day. This recipe was inspired by the lemon cake I was served by the nuns at Kylemore Abbey and it’s hard to beat!

Serves 8
225g butter
225g caster sugar
4 large free range eggs
3tsp vanilla extract
225g self raising flour
zest & juice of 1 lemon
about 3 tablespoons of milk to loosen batter

For the buttercream
150g butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
275g icing sugar, sifted

For the lemon curd filling
300g caster sugar
50g cornflour
120ml lemon juice (about 2–3 lemons)
4 large egg yolks
a pinch of salt
finely grated zest of 2 lemon
60g (21/2 oz) Butter

To Finish
Dusting of icing sugar

For the lemon curd, place the sugar, cornflour and 450ml water in a large saucepan and stir until you have a smooth mixture. Stir in the lemon juice, egg yolks and salt. Place over a medium heat and keep stirring while the mixture boils, for about 10–12 minutes. Stir in the lemon zest and butter until the butter has melted, then remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool.

Preheat the oven to 180°c the grease and line 2 21cm springform tins. In a standalone mixer, cream the butter, sugar and lemon zest together until pale and fluffy. Then beat in the eggs one by one before adding the vanilla extract and lemon juice. Using a spatula, fold in the flour until you have a smooth mixture. Use a little bit of the milk if you need to loosen the mixture. You want the mixture to be a bit loose.

Divide the mixture into the two springform tins, flatten the top with a spatula if needed. Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes, until it’s nice and golden. When the bases are cooked, take them out and let cool for a few minutes before you take it out of the tin to cool completely. While the bases are cooling prepare the buttercream filling by beating the butter and vanilla extract together in a bowl until light and fluffy then add the icing sugar, a little at a time, until it is all incorporated and the mixture is smooth.

To assemble the cake, spread some lemon curd on one of the bases before topping with buttercream, then add the second base and sprinkle with icing sugar.

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Honey Scones

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Scones are so quintessentially Irish and are something nearly everyone has a recipe for, whether it belongs to you, your mother or was even passed down from your grandmother. This recipe has a sweet twist with the use of some lovely Irish honey alongside the traditional ingredients. The addition of this great Irish product gives the scones a lovely heady flavour and really adds that special something to a classic recipe. Recipe from The Pleasures of the Table: Rediscovering Theodora Fitzgibbon.

Makes 8 ‘Farls’
100 g (4 oz) white flour
2 level teaspoons baking powder
pinch salt
100 g (4 oz) wholemeal flour
3 tablespoons butter
1 heaped tablespoon brown sugar
1 generous tablespoon honey
150 ml (¼ pint) milk

Sift the white flour, baking powder and salt together, then add the wholemeal flour and rub in the butter. Stir in the sugar. add the honey to the milk and stir until dissolved, then add most of the mixture to the flour and butter mixture, and mix to make a soft dough, reserving the rest for a glaze.

Shape the dough into a round about 20 or 22 cm (8 or 9 in) across and put onto a greased baking sheet. cut across the top four times to mark 8 wedge-like portions or farls and bake at 200°c/400°F/gas mark 6 for 20 minutes. Take out to brush with glaze, then put back and continue cooking for 5–10 minutes.

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Treacle Sponge

Theodora Treacle Pudding

This a great little retro recipe which can usually be knocked up with ingredients you already have in your store cupboard. Sweet, sticky and mighty good…You have to give this one a go. Recipe from The Pleasures of the Table: Rediscovering Theodora Fitzgibbon.

Serves 4-6
175 g (6 oz) self-raising flour
100 g (4 oz) shredded suet
teaspoon ground ginger
150 ml (¼ pint) milk
100 g (4 oz) sugar
100 g (4 oz) treacle
1 egg
custard, cream, more treacle or golden syrup

Mix all the ingredients together well, but add the egg last. Pour into a greased basin or dish, then cover and steam for 2 hours. Turn out to serve with custard, cream, more treacle or golden syrup.

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Pineapple Upside Down Cake

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Upside Down cake is a name that amuses children and is also very good. It can be made with fresh or tinned fruit and is best eaten cold. Use a round ovenproof dish about 20 cm (8 in) across. Recipe from The Pleasures of the Table: Rediscovering Theodora Fitzgibbon.

Serves 6-8
4 tablespoons golden syrup
150 g  self-raising flour
85 g butter
2 tablespoons milk
enough fruit to cover the bottom of the dish
1 egg
2 tablespoons sugar
small pinch salt

If using raw fruit, cook it in the syrup for about 15 minutes before adding the sponge. Preheat the oven to 180°c/350°F/gas mark 4, put the syrup in the bottom of the dish and arrange the fruit so that it completely covers in overlapping slices. Heat in the oven until the syrup is bubbling and the fruit soft if using raw.

Meanwhile, cream the butter and sugar, add the egg and then the salt and flour gradually, stirring well until blended. If it seems too stiff, add the milk. Spread this mixture evenly over the hot fruit and syrup, and cook in the oven for about 20–30 minutes until a skewer comes out clean.  When cool, run a knife round the edges, put a larger plate on top and tip over so that the fruit is on top.

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Lemon Marshmallow Cake

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This is something you can make a few days ahead. It is light and very fresh tasting which makes it perfect for a summer dinner party dessert. It also makes an unusual but not inappropriate Easter cake. Recipe from The Pleasures of the Table: Rediscovering Theodora Fitzgibbon.

Serves 8
225 g self-raising flour
pinch salt
175 g  butter or margarine
175 g  castor sugar
3 eggs
grated rind and juice of 1 lemon
lemon curd for filling

Icing
225 g icing sugar
2–3 tablespoons lemon juice
approx. 200 g split marshmallows

Preheat the oven to 180°c/350°F/gas mark 4. Grease and flour two 20 cm (8 in) sponge tins. cream together the butter and sugar until light. Beat the eggs with 1 tablespoon of lemon juice. Sieve the flour and salt, and add a spoonful each time you add some of the egg to the butter and sugar mixture. Then fold in the remaining flour and mix well, but do not beat too hard. Spoon the mixture between the two tins and bake in the centre of the oven for about 25–30 minutes or until it moves away from the sides of the tins. Then take out and cool.

Meanwhile, cut the marshmallows in half with wet scissors. When the cakes are cooked, cover the top of one with marshmallow halves slightly overlapping. Put back in the oven for a few minutes so that the marshmallows melt just a little. When both sandwiches are cold, put together with a filling of lemon curd, and then when quite cold, ice the cake.

Sift the icing sugar into a basin, add the strained lemon juice and mix into a smooth paste. Put into a saucepan and warm gently over a low heat, beating well until it is of pouring consistency. You might have to add a little water or milk, but make sure it is very little. Do not let it get too hot or the icing will go dull. Pour warm icing over the cake, smooth the sides, then set aside to chill.

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Crunchy Chocolate Bakewell Tart

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This is one of my favourite tarts, which is suitable as a dessert. It is wonderfully rich and moist and keeps for at least two weeks. Instead of the more traditional pastry case, I prefer to use a crushed biscuit and melted butter base (just like a cheesecake base). For a real touch of luxury, serve the slices with fruits of the forest sauce and some whipped cream. (Recipe from Brenda Costigan’s ‘From Brenda’s Kitchen, 100 favourite Recipes,’ available on amazon.)

Serves 8
For the crushed biscuit base
225g digestive biscuits, crushed
110g butter, melted

For the filling
4-5 tablespoons blackcurrant jam, softened with a spoon
175g butter
175g caster sugar
3 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon almond essence
110g chopped blanched almonds
100g ground almonds
150g dark chocolate, melted and partly cooled
small handful of flaked almonds

To serve
fruits of the forest sauce or 375g of mixed fresh summer berries
175ml whipped cream, lightly sweetened

Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F/gas 5.

To make the biscuit base, mix the crushed biscuits and melted butter together and spread in an even layer over the base of a 9 inch, springform tin, pressing the mixture down firmly. Bake in the oven for about five minutes, just to lightly crisp the biscuits. There will be no change in the appearance. Stand the tin on a wire rack to cool while you prepare the filling. Reduce the oven to 180°C /350°F/gas 4. 

To make the filling, spread the jam carefully in a thin layer over the cooled biscuit base, leaving a 2.5cm (1 inch) margin all the way around. This is to ensure that the jam doesn’t ooze out the edges and get too highly baked on the sides, spoiling the appearance of the finished cake. Beat the butter and caster sugar together in a bowl until soft. Add in the eggs, one at a time, and almond essence and beat well. Mix together the chopped almonds and the ground almonds ands stir in the butter/sugar mixture, then stir the melted chocolate through. Pour into the tin over the biscuit base and scatter the flaked almonds over the surface. Bake for about 40 minute-reduce the temperature a little halfway through if the tart is cooking too quickly. It’s ready when the almond mixture has become set on the outside but the filling is still slightly wobbly in the centre. Stand the tin on a wire tray for about 15 minutes to allow it to cool. With a sharp knife, loosen the edges, then release the spring clips from the side of the tin and leave tart to cool completely.

To serve, carefully slide of the base of the tin onto a serving plate. Serve with fruit of the forest sauce and some whipped cream.

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Frozen Yoghurt Breakfast Ring

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Make breakfast memorable with this frozen ring of deliciousness, packed with yoghurt, berries and muesli to see you through the morning. Of course it can also be enjoyed at any time of the day. If you don’t have a suitable jelly mould, use a loaf or cake tin of the same volume (these alternatives need to be lined with cling film). Feel free to experiment with your favourite yoghurt flavours and fruits. (Recipe from Sharon Hearne Smith’s, No Bake Baking available on amazon.)

Serves 8
300g natural yoghurt
1 x 400g can condensed milk
300g frozen berries, such as fruits of the forest, strawberries or raspberries
200g granola, broken up if in clusters
125g fresh mixed berries
Small handful of fresh mint sprigs

Divide both the yoghurt and the condensed milk equally between two separate medium bowls and stir until well blended. Stir the frozen berries into one of the mixes and pour this into the mould, spreading it out evenly. Scatter the granola evenly on top and gently pour the second yoghurt mixture over it, levelling with the back of a spoon. Cover with the lid or cling film and freeze for at least 8 hours or overnight, until frozen solid. Before serving, remove from the freezer and leave to stand for 5–10 minutes to soften a little.

Take the cover off and place a round cake stand or serving plate upside down on top. Turn both over together, allowing the ice-cream ring to drop onto the stand and lift off the mould to reveal it. Scatter with the fresh berries and mint sprigs to decorate and serve at once, cutting it into eight portions. Any leftover ice-cream ring should be frozen straight away. Store individual portions in lidded plastic tubs in the freezer, where they will keep happily for a few months to enjoy as you please.

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