When I started Bibliocook: All About Food, my food blog, all the way back in 2005, I was living in New Zealand. I knew precisely one person in the country – my Kiwi boyfriend – and was unemployed as a result of a close encounter with an courier truck in Auckland, which left me with a broken collarbone, fractured skull, severe concussion and lots of missing words.
I was far from family and friends and, in the days before social media and Skype, it was easy to feel a little cut off. Fortunately, a techie friend back in Ireland knew I longed to set up a food blog and - I suspect - thinking of it as a kind of occupational therapy for me, put the nuts and bolts of Bibliocook together.
My words came back gradually as Bibliocook opened up a whole new world for me. Already a food lover, an active cook, a devoted reader of early food blogs like Chocolate and Zucchini and 101 Cookbooks and the owner of an extensive cookbook collection, having my own online space gave me a very different engagement with food. No longer did I go to my local market and just buy apples; I now had conversations with the apple grower about the best varieties available, asked him for his favourite recipes, visited the apple farm and cooked with the apples for my growing collection of Wednesday night diners.
Food and cooking became a way of connecting with my new world; writing about it was a way of staying in contact with home as my family observed my eating adventures. At the time, there were no other Irish food blogs that I knew of and few in New Zealand but I gradually got to know food bloggers nearby as Barbara Harris from Winos and Foodies and Bron Marshall became online friends, giving me a further sense of place in my new home.
In the years since then, I've moved continents and returned to Ireland, married that Kiwi boyfriend, left Dublin and my job for a country cottage and freelance work, brought up chickens, turkeys and two small girls but good food, cooking for people – and Bibliocook – have been constants. Ten years on, and I’m still eating and writing and staying connected to people close by and far away. I've got all my words.
I first discovered this recipe through Winos and Foodies. Barbara, who started her blog when she was undergoing treatment for cancer, was one of my earliest online friends and I was saddened to learn of her death in 2012. Her warmth, writing and recipes live on.
In a large bowl, whisk the flours together with the sugar, salt and dried yeast. Making a well in the centre, pour in the warm water and milk and mix well together, using your hand.
Knead the dough in the bowl for at least 5 minutes, until smooth. This is a sticky dough so don't try to answer any phone calls. You may, of course, use a stand mixer with a dough hook – or even make the dough in a bread machine.
Cover the bowl with a damp tea towel and refrigerate overnight (or until it has doubled in size).
Next morning, gently remove the dough from the bowl and cut into 8 pieces. Sprinkle a baking tray with plenty of cornmeal, drop the muffins on top and turn to coat well, shaping them into thick discs. Place another baking tray on top of the muffins and leave to rest for 20 minutes.
In the meantime, heat a large frying pan – cast iron, if you have it – over a low heat. Cook four muffins at a moderate heat in the dry pan for 10 minutes until they are lightly coloured on the base. Flip them over and cook on the other side for another 10 minutes.
Place the muffins on a dry tea towel and wrap to keep warm while cooking the other four muffins. Pull apart – never cut! - and eat with lots of butter while still warm. If you would like them in the style of Susan Coolidge’s What Katy Did Next, pull them apart, toast both sides and serve with plenty of butter and gooseberry jam. I can guarantee that you will enjoy them much better than Katy did at her first meal in England.
Adapted from a recipe by Marion Maddox.
More good eating? Be sure to check out Bloom at the Phoenix Park, which runs from 28 May to 1 June. The event might be ostensibly about gardening but there's always a brilliant food line up, including traders, demonstrations and talks. Check out www.bloominthepark.com for more information and tickets. Prices start at €18 and kids go free.
More recipes from Caroline