Sunday, March 19, 2006

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

I trust that by now you're all nursing your post-post-St. Patrick's Day hangovers. And here is, in this author's humble opinion, the perfect, hangover-salving meal.

306. The Irish Club's Irish Stew (Dinner)
307. Birthday Cake (Basics etc.)

The choice of Irish stew is a pretty obvious one, I must admit. But the birthday cake is more of a stretch. You see, in the run-up to St. Paddy's day, my friend DG made a dreamy-looking version of Nigella's Chocolate Guinness Cake. Ever since she showed me the gorgeous photo, I'd been craving it. Bad. I didn't have any chocolate cake. And unfortunately for me, the Chocolate Guinness Cake is in Feast, not How to Eat. Help was at hand though, with Nigella's chocolate birthday cake, in the Basics etc. chapter of How to Eat. Phew!

The birthday cake is a pretty basic double-layered chocolate cake, covered in a ganache. To make the cake, you melt butter, chocolate, sugar and condensed milk together, and then stir it into sifted flour and cocoa together, followed by 100ml recently-boiled water and 2 eggs.

cake mix

I put the cake into 2 sandwich tins, and baked it at 180C for 25 minutes. While it was baking, I got on with the stew.

Nigella's Irish stew consists of layers of ingredients. Firstly browned lamb chops, then vegetables (carrots, onions, parsnips), then par-boiled pearl barley. Between the layers you sprinkle a mixture of parsley, sage and rosemary.

pre-potatoed stew

Then you pour some warm stock over, and cover the whole lot with thinly sliced potatoes.

potatoed stew

It only take 1.5 hours in a 160C oven,which is a lot less than some of the other stews I've made. After it's cooked, there's the option of browning the potatoes under the grill, which I chose to do. Nigella says that the whole point of the stew is that it needs no accompaniment, except for a lot of bread and butter.




Oh my goodness, I cannot even begin to tell you how much I loved this stew! I love a stew at any time, but this one was especially divine. The meat had softened during cooking, and all the flavours melded together fantastically. Even the parsnips, which I normally don't like, tasted good in this context. Both my mother and I ate heroic quantities, and went back to dunk our bread in the delicious sauce. There's just something about the richly flavoured, fattily gelatinous sauce coating the pearly grains of barley which keeps you going back for more.

one plate

Fortunately, the dessert was just as good, although I didn't end up eating it until much later at night. I iced the cake while the stew was in the oven, and left it sitting, majestically, on our kitchen bench. The icing is a chocolate ganache - equal quantities of chocolate (half dark, half milk) and cream. You chop up the chocolate into fine rubble, then heat up the cream and pour it over. Let it sit for 5 minutes, and then beat it with an electric mixer until thick and smooth. Ideally, I imagine that you would start by slicing the cakes flat, leaving you with a perfectly flat surface upon which to pour your ganache, letting it set glossily with minimum interference from a spatula. In this way, the finished product would be a hat-box shaped, "sachertorte shiny" affair.

However, I never bother to slice the domed top of my cakes flat. (That's laziness and greed in equal measure). And putting two domed cakes together results in some excess space which needs to be filled. I poured most of the ganache on top of the cakes, and then whipped up the rest quite stiff before spreading it around the sides to fill in the gaps.

So as you can see, the result isn't a perfect one, but I hardly think that you'd turn your nose up at it. In fact, when you really, really need chocolate, any old thing will do.


As I said previously, I didn't get to eat any cake until a bit later that evening. As soon as lunch was over, I had to dash to the train station to get to work. I cut a couple of slices, stashed them in an old tofu container, and took them to work to eat on my break. One for me, one for my friend-slash-workmate Daniel (emphatically NOT my brother), who just loves to eat chocolate cake. We ate them out the back, on nice serving plates, sprinkled with cocoa from the cocoa duster we use for cappuccinos. Rocking.

sliced cake

Daniel: That is an amazingly chocolatey cake.

Too right. I'm taking the cake around to share with other friends and family, so stay tuned for another post on the verdict of the cake!


Meg said...

That cake is just divine isn't it? I make it for my youngest son's birthdays as it's his absolute favourite. It's just as nice eaten raw out of the bowl when you just can't fit any more into the cake tin!

Anonymous said...

Mmmmm, too right, looks delicious!!! I can't believe the US editions list evaporated milk as the recipe, and in the instructions too.. Highly strange!
You are a brave lass to cook stew in your hot weather... Anything for the Irish, ey?

:) Ilana

domesticgoddess said...

both items look absolutely wonderful. any dessert containing condensed milk gets my vote. as for the irish stew- i HAVE to make that this week. the photo of the open stew is too alluring!

plum said...

The cake looks amazingly like hers on screen. This is the one where she nicks back downstairs and keeps cutting slices, right?

Sarah said...

Hi Plum,

It's actually a different cake, although it does look very similar.

The cake on the show is the Chocolate Fudge Cake from Nigella Bites, which is my favourite chocolate cake of all time! I made it for my birthday last year, and it is famous amongst my friends for being "that awesome chocolate cake that Sarah makes". Hehe!

That one has a different icing - lots of butter, icing sugar and melted chocolate - and diff ingredients in the cake too. Both taste wonderful though, IMHO.

xox Sarah

Anonymous said...

I have been keeping mostly up with your blog and I have just one suggestion... for those domed cakes that you just don't want to cut (read greed and laziness on my part too) I put the first cake dome side down in a dinner plate so it accomodates some of the shape and then put the other cake on the top right side up - that way your filling bit has no gaps (not that I'm averse to a little extra ganache by any stretch of the imagination) and the top still looks beautiful!