Darina’s Saturday Letter

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A Trip to West Clare

Just love to take short breaks in Ireland. Choose an area, spend a couple of nights in a local country house or B&B and explore.

This time it was West Clare and boy is it all happening in West Clare! I steer well clear of the prime tourist spots, been there, done that a long time ago when they weren’t overrun with tourist buses and often truly shocking fast food. Is it really the case that bus tours only want that kind of food? I find that really hard to believe and wince at the damage to the reputation of Irish food. . . .

On the other hand there’s much to be excited about. In Lahinch we found Hugo’s Deli, a tiny bakery cum café, where Hugo Galloway, a brilliant young baker was turning out dark and crusty natural sourdough loaves, warm sausage rolls, focaccia and warm Portuguese custard tarts to die for. Can’t imagine how they do it in such a tiny space. Hugo is self-taught, learned by trial and error. The counter is made from recycled packing cases, a few wooden seats around the edges. A nonstop stream of cool young hipsters, surfers and grateful locals poured in for a ‘made to order’ focaccia sandwich that looks properly delicious, while I was sipping a double espresso and nibbling one of the best pastéis de nata (Portuguese custard tarts) I’ve ever eaten.   That was it – a short menu of delicious things – Bravo Hugo and team!

Another exciting discovery for me was Moy Hill Community Farm where Fergal and a whole group of friends and volunteers have developed an inspirational food producing project on 70 acres of mixed land, with 55 CSA’s / members, which supply 13 restaurants, and two Farmers Markets, Ennistymon and Kilrush and a REKO Ring in Ennis, on Wednesday 6:30 and 7:00 at 9 Lower Market Street, Clonroad Beg, customers meet producers and pay cash to collect their spanking fresh food. Another brilliant route to market where local farmers and food producers get paid full price for their produce rather than the circa 33% they would get through the ordinary retail system.

The energy and enthusiasm was palpable  when we visited unannounced as preparations were being made for the Farm Gathering –  three days of workshops, music, food, foraging farm tours, regenerative agriculture talks, crafts and dancing – a wonderful celebration on the Harvest Equinox.

Moy House, a Blue Book property overlooking Lahinch Bay also had a beautiful garden bursting with fresh produce grown by Sarah Noonan and her team Matt Strefford to use to make magic in the kitchen.

On the main street in Ennistymon you’ll find Niamh Fox, chef and owner of The Little Fox, a super cool spirited café serving the sort of fresh quirky creative plates that I’m happy to drive all the way to Clare for. We washed it down with Thalli Kombucha made by Avery Maguire a brilliant young forager whom you’ll occasionally find in The Aloe Tree Health food shop on Main Street or on her stall at the Milk Market in Limerick on Saturdays. We were there for lunch but check out Little Fox delicious dinners and ‘pop ups’.

Bespoke handmade knife lovers, of which I am certainly one should link up with Niamh’s partner Sam Gleeson (also a furniture maker) to explore the options. While we are on the subject of handmade, just across the road under the stone arch you’ll find Eamon O’Sullivan who carves handmade spoons and will give his next course in Ballymaloe cookery School on Saturday November 16th 2019, from 9.00am to 5.00pm, and the course includes lunch.

Just next door you’ll find The Cheese Press run by Sinead Ni Ghairbith where you’ll find among other temptations the superb St Tola goat cheese in its many variations made by her sister Siobhan Ni Ghairbith.

If you have a little more time to linger in Co Clare, drive across the Burren, treat yourself to a stay at lovely Gregans Castle and enjoy Robert McAuley’s food.  Swing by Flaggy Shore for some oysters, then on up to Hazel Mountain Chocolate, the most remote chocolatier in Europe – making chocolate from the bean to the bar and yet one more absolutely must do – check out where Julia’s Lobster Truck will be that evening (maybe Bell Harbour) – you absolutely mustn’t miss Julia Hemmingway’s barbequed lobster , lobster roll, steamed clams and mussels, traditional fish and chips and briny Flaggy Shore oysters.

How about that for a quick taste of Co Clare and there’s so much more to see. . . .

Lobster Rolls

A recipe of a delicious lobster roll with homemade mayo but buttered lobster is also sublime tucked into a brioche roll.

Serves 4

4 long brioche rolls

extra virgin olive oil

225-350g (8-12oz) lobster meat cut into 1cm (1/2 inch) dice

4 tablespoons (5 – 7 1/2 American tablespoons) mayonnaise or mayonnaise and natural yoghurt mixed

2 sticks of celery, finely chopped

3 tablespoons (4 American tablespoons) scallions, chopped

lemon juice to taste

salt and freshly ground black pepper

4-8 lettuce leaves or watercress depending on size

To Serve

Cucumber Pickle (optional)

Mix the mayonnaise and yoghurt in a bowl with the diced celery, scallions and lobster meat.  Fold gently, season with salt, freshly ground black pepper and lemon juice.

Just before serving.

Heat a cast iron grill-pan on a high heat.  Split the rolls lengthwise, brush with extra virgin olive oil.  Char on a hot grill-pan.  Fill with lettuce and lobster filling.   Serve immediately with thick cucumber pickle. 

Portuguese Custard Tarts

Try these, but Hugo’s tarts are worth a detour….

Makes 24

1 large egg

2 egg yolks

115g golden caster sugar

2 tablespoons cornflour

400ml whole milk

2 teaspoon vanilla extract

900g (2lb) puff pastry

Lightly grease 2 x 12 muffin tins.

Preheat the oven to 230°C/450°F/Gas Mark 8.

Put the egg, yolk, sugar and cornflour in a saucepan and whisk, gradually add the milk and whisk until smooth.

Cook on a medium heat and stirring constantly with a whisk until the mixture thickens and comes to the boil, continue to cook for 2 minutes.  Remove the saucepan from the heat, stir in the vanilla extract.

Transfer to a Pyrex bowl, allow to cool.  Cover with cling film to prevent a skin from forming – prick here and there to allow steam to escape.

Roll the chilled puff pastry into a 3mm (1/8 inch) thick sheet, stamp out 7.5cm (3 inch) discs.  Press into the muffin tins.

Spoon a generous dessertspoon of the cool custard into each pastry case. Bake in the preheated oven for 16-20 minutes or golden on top.  Allow to cool in the tins for 5 minutes then remove to a wire rack.  Eat warm or at room temperature.

Native Irish Oysters

Serves 4

24 Oysters

Garnishes:

Crushed ice and/or seaweed

1 lemon, cut into wedges

Accompaniments:

Brown Soda bread

Guinness or Champagne

Scrub and rinse the oysters well.  Open them carefully with an oyster knife – try not to spill the juices.

To serve:

Cover a large platter with crushed ice or seaweed (or both). Carefully arrange the oysters and lemon wedges around the platter.  Serve with Guinness bread and a glass of Guinness.

St. Tola Goat Cheese Croquettes with Rocket Leaves, Roast Pepper and Tapenade Oil

Serves 5

285g (10oz) St. Tola goat cheese (or a similar fresh mild goat cheese)

seasoned flour

beaten egg

flaked almonds

white breadcrumbs

2 large red peppers

extra virgin olive oil

Tapenade Oil

110g (4oz) stoned black olives

1 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) capers

1 teaspoon lemon juice

freshly ground pepper

175ml (6fl oz/3/4 cup) extra virgin olive oil

A selection of lettuces and rocket leaves

Dressing

4 tablespoons (4 American tablespoons + 4 teaspoons) extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) Balsamic vinegar

1/2 clove garlic crushed

salt and freshly ground pepper

Garnish

wild garlic flowers in season

First divide the St. Tola or Ardsallagh goat cheese into 25 balls, chill.

Next make the Tapenade oil.

Coarsely chop the stoned black olives and capers, add the freshly squeezed lemon juice.

Whisk in the olive oil and process to a course or smooth puree as you prefer.  Season with freshly ground pepper.

Coat the cheese in seasoned flour, beaten egg, flaked almonds, breadcrumbs. Arrange in a single layer on a flat plate.  Cover and chill well.

Roast the peppers in a preheated oven 200°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6 for approximately 20 minutes until soft/tender.  Put into a bowl, cover the top with cling film and allow to steam for 5 or 10 minutes.  Peel, remove seeds and cut into strips.

Next make the dressing.

Whisk all the ingredients together in a bowl.

Heat the oil in a deep fry or a pan to 200°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6.

Fry the goat cheese croquettes in batches until crisp and golden.  Drain on kitchen paper.

Toss the lettuces and salad leaves in a bowl with just enough dressing to make the leaves glisten.

Divide between the six plates. Put five croquettes on each plate, decorate with strips or red pepper, rocket leaves and a drizzle of Tapenade oil.

Scatter some wild garlic flowers over the top and serve immediately.

Hazelnut Chocolate Brownies

Everyone has their own favourite brownie recipe and indeed we have several – this is definitely one of the greats.

Makes 9 generous brownies

275g (10oz) chocolate

275g (10oz) butter

5 organic eggs

350g (12oz) granulated sugar

175g (6oz) self-raising flour

110g (4oz) chopped hazelnuts

cocoa powder, for dusting

deep tin 30 x 20 x 5cm (12 x 8 x 2in)

Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/ gas mark 4. Line the tin with silicone paper. 

Melt the chocolate and butter in a Pyrex bowl over hot but not simmering water. Whisk the eggs and sugar together until the mixture becomes a light mousse. Gradually add the melted chocolate mixture to the egg mousse. Fold the flour into this mixture. Finally add the chopped hazelnuts. Spoon into the prepared tin, smooth the surface and cook in the preheated oven for 35–40 minutes. The centre will be slightly wobbly. Leave to sit in the tin to cool and cover the tin with a large rectangular plate or tray.

When set, turn out by flipping the tin carefully. Peel off the silicone paper. Place another tray on top of the brownies to turn them right way up. Cut into squares, dust with cocoa and serve.

Crab Apple or Bramley Apple Jelly

Making jellies is immensely rewarding. This is a brilliant master recipe that can be used for many combinations. A jelly bag is an advantage, but by no means essential. Years ago we strained the juice and pulp through an old cotton pillow and hung it on an upturned stool. A couple of thicknesses of muslin will also do the job. Place a stainless-steel or deep pottery bowl underneath to catch the juice. Tie with cotton string and hang from a sturdy cup-hook. If you can’t get enough crab apples, use a mixture of crab apples and windfall cooking apples, like Bramley’s Seedling, Grenadier or any other tart cooking apple.

Makes 2.7–3.2kg (6–7lb)

2.7kg (6lb) crab apples or windfall cooking apples

2.7 litres (5 3⁄4 pints) water

2 organic lemons

425g (15oz) granulated sugar to every 600ml (1 pint) of juice

Wash the apples, cut into quarters, but do not remove either the peel or core. Windfalls may be used, but be sure to cut out the bruised parts. Put the apples into a large stainless-steel saucepan with the water and the thinly pared zest of the lemons and cook for about 30 minutes until reduced to a pulp.

Pour the pulp into a jelly bag and allow to drip until all the juice has been extracted, usually overnight. (The pulp can later go to the hens or compost. The jelly bag or muslin may be washed and reused over and over again.)

Measure the juice into a preserving pan and allow 425g (15oz) sugar to each 600ml (1 pint) of juice. Warm the sugar in a low oven. Squeeze the lemons, strain the juice and add to the pan. Bring to the boil and add the warm sugar. Stir over a gentle heat until the sugar is dissolved. Increase the heat and boil rapidly without stirring for about 8–10 minutes. Skim, test and pot immediately. Flavour with rose geranium, mint, sage or cloves as required.

A day out in Limerick

The Limerick Milk Market was buzzing on Saturday morning, throngs of eager customers on a mission to fill their shopping bags with goodies from the more than 70 stalls tucked into the market square, protected from the elements by an elegant canvas canopy.

I love the way every Farmers Market has its own vibe and unique collection of stall holders – yet the banter is the same, customers so grateful for the opportunity to buy beautiful artisan produce directly from local producers and what a choice. . . . Mimi Crawford was all out of raw milk by 11 o’ clock but still had just a few joints of her organic beef and pork and a couple of beautiful chickens from her regenerative farm in Cloughjordan in Co Tipperary. Delighted to find Oliver Beaujouan from Castlegregory with his brilliant selection of charcuterrie from happy outdoor Tamworth pigs “no vaccines, no GM or Soy in the feed”. I also bought some dilisk and a delicious guanciale as well as the garlic salami. Sefik from Turkey was busy juicing fresh pomegranates and oranges and had a tantalising array of borek. Country Choice was humming and loaded with temptations. Round the corner, people were bonding in the long queue for the Country Choice toasted baps, sandwiches and rolls – well worth the wait. Peter and Mary Ward’s daughter Evie’s also award winning NutShed stall is close by, selling what many consider to be the very best nut butters available in Ireland.

 The Sushi Truck was also doing a roaring trade, luscious cannoli across the way, artisan breads, tempting home baking, beautiful bunches of flowers, floury British Queens potatoes all the way from Wexford side by side with bric a brac. A tremendous selection of local homegrown vegetables and fruit. Crunchy Spiralaetos anyone? Tiermoyle honey with hazelnuts or walnuts.

Upstairs, Ciara Brennan was all smiles on her Happy Food at Home stall with a selection of plant based, vegetarian and vegan salads. A mesmerizing selection of olives , Toonsbridge Buffalo Mozzarella and  many other good things on the Olive Stall.

Round the side of Country Choice, I made another exciting discovery Foragers called Thalli foods was behind her hessian covered stall , with an intriguing selection of wild foods from land and seashore – fat rosehips, wood and sheeps tongue sorrel, sea blite, water pepper, yarrow, wild garlic pickles, fennel and sea blite kraut, elderflower vinegar . . .

There were many more stalls around the perimeter of the market, including pork and bacon from Cloncannon Bio Farm in Moneygall  – By then my bags were laden with many good things for a picnic but I really wanted to check out Sodalicious on Lower Cecil street owned by Ballymaloe alumni, Jane Conlan. An inspired concept where virtually everything on the menu is based on, or served with brown or white soda bread or scones in their many incarnations. Delicious food in a contemporary space, worth seeking out.. . .

 Alexander Findlater & Co Food Hall is another contact for your list. If you visit Limerick, find time to head to the Hunt Museum for their latest exhibition.

Then back to Glin Castle, one of Ireland’s loveliest places to take a relaxing break. A few recipes inspired by my visit to Limerick….

White Soda Bread Pesto Swirl

Makes 10 – 12

450g (1lb) plain white flour

25g (1oz) cold butter

Pinch of salt

25g (1oz) castor sugar

1½ teaspoons baking powder

2 small free range eggs

200ml whole milk (not low fat milk)

Homemade Basil Pesto (see recipe below)

Homemade Basil Pesto

4ozs (110g) fresh basil leaves

6 – 8fl oz (175 – 225ml) extra virgin olive oil

1oz (25g) fresh pine kernels (taste when you buy to make sure they are not rancid)

2 large cloves garlic, peeled and crushed

2oz (50g) freshly grated Parmesan cheese (Parmigiana Reggiano is best)

salt to taste

Egg Wash

Whisk one egg thoroughly with about a dessertspoon of milk.  This is brushed over the scones to help them brown in the oven.

Preheat the oven to 250˚C/gas mark 9

1 roasting tin   33cm x 22.9cm x 5.08cm deep,   well buttered

First make the basil pesto. Whizz the basil with the olive oil, pine kernels and garlic in a food processor or pound in a pestle and mortar.  Remove to a bowl and fold in the finely grated Parmesan cheese. Taste and season. 

Pesto keeps for weeks, covered with a layer of olive oil in a jar in the fridge. It also freezes well but for best results don’t add the grated Parmesan until it has defrosted. Freeze in small jars for convenience.

Sieve the flour into a large wide bowl, add a pinch of salt, the baking powder and castor sugar.  Mix the dry ingredients with your hands, lift up to incorporate air and mix thoroughly.

Cut the cold butter into cubes or grate coarsely, toss well in the flour and then with the tips of your fingers, rub in the butter until it resembles large flakes.  Make a well in the centre.  Whisk the eggs with the milk, pour all at once into the centre.  With the fingers of your ‘best hand’ outstretched and stiff, mix in a full circular movement from the centre to the outside of the bowl.  This takes just seconds and hey presto, the dough is made.  Sprinkle some flour on the work surface.  Turn out the dough onto the floured board.  Scrape the dough off your fingers and wash and dry your hands at this point.  Tidy around the edges, flip over and roll or pat gently into a rectangle about 1cm thick x 45cm long. 

Slather liberally and evenly with the homemade pesto over the scone dough, roll tightly from the long side and if needed egg wash the edge and pinch to seal.  Divide into four and then each into three swirls, to give you 12 altogether.  Brush cut side of each with egg wash.  Arrange side by side in the buttered roasting tin, allowing a little room for expansion.

Bake for 10 minutes in the preheated oven.

Serve while still warm or at room temperature Pull apart gently like a tear and share – … problem is where to stop….

A Breakfast in a Soda Bun

Makes 8 – 10 scones

450g (1lb) plain white flour

25g (1oz) butter

Pinch of salt

25g (1oz) castor sugar

1½ teaspoons baking powder

2 small free range eggs

200ml whole milk (not low fat milk)

8 – 10 bacon rashers fully cooked

4 – 5 hard boiled eggs

Watercress sprigs

Homemade mayonnaise or homemade ketchup (featured on Examiner website)

First preheat the oven to 250ºC/475°F/gas mark 9.

Sieve all the dry ingredients together in a large wide bowl. Cut the butter into cubes, toss in the flour and rub in the butter until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Make a well in the centre. Whisk the eggs with the milk, add to the dry ingredients and mix to a soft dough. Turn out onto a floured board.  Knead lightly, just enough to shape into a round.  Roll out to about a thickness of 2cm (1 inch) and cut or stamp into scones.  Transfer to a baking sheet – no need to grease.  Brush the top of the scones with egg wash.

Bake in a hot oven for 10-15 minutes until golden brown on top. Cool on a wire rack.

Split the soda bun in half and butter. Fill with bacon, ½ hard boiled egg, a blob of mayonnaise or tomato ketchup and a sprig of watercress. Secure with a bamboo cocktail stick and serve immediately.

Blueberry and Mint Scones

Makes 8 – 10 scones, using a three inch cutter

450g (1lb) plain white flour

25g (1oz) butter

Pinch of salt

25g (1oz) castor sugar

110g (4oz) blueberries

1 tablespoon fresh mint finely chopped

1½ teaspoons baking powder

2 small free range eggs

200ml whole milk (not low fat milk)

For glaze:

egg wash

granulated sugar for sprinkling on top of the scones

First preheat the oven to 250ºC/475°F/gas mark 9.

Sieve all the dry ingredients together in a large wide bowl. Cut the butter into cubes, toss in the flour and rub in the butter until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Add the blueberries and the chopped mint. Make a well in the centre. Whisk the eggs with the milk, add to the dry ingredients and mix to a soft dough. Turn out onto a floured board.  Knead lightly, just enough to shape into a round.  Roll out to about a thickness of 2cm (1 inch) and cut or stamp into scones.  Transfer to a baking sheet – no need to grease. 

Brush the tops with egg wash and dip each one into granulated sugar.

Bake in a hot oven for 10-12 minutes until golden brown on top. Cool on a wire rack.

Serve split in half with butter and serve.

Filo Pastries with various Savoury Fillings (Börek)

1 packet of best quality filo pastry

Melted butter

Cut a sheet of filo in 4 or 6 strips.  Brush with melted butter. 

Put a heaped teaspoonful of the filling of your choice onto the end of each strip, fold and roll into a triangle.  Brush with butter, arrange on ungreased baking trays and chill.

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4.

Brush the tops with egg beaten with water, and bake in a preheated oven for about 30 minutes or until a warm golden colour.

Savoury Fillings

Certain fillings are common to many savoury pastries – here are a few:

Cheese Filling

500g (18oz) cheese, grated

2 eggs, beaten

white pepper

Use Greek Halumi, Gruyère, Cheddar, Edam, Gouda or a mixture of any of these with a little Parmesan.  Mix the grated cheese with beaten eggs and season to taste with pepper.

Variation: a little pinch of nutmeg and a little crushed mint is also a delicious addition.

Meat Filling

This is called a tatbila

1 medium or large onion, finely chopped

2 tablespoons oil or butter

500g (18oz) lean lamb or beef, minced

2 tablespoons  pine nuts

salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon or 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice (optional)

Gently fry the onion in the oil or butter (I prefer to use oil) until soft and a pale golden colour.  Add the meat and fry lightly until it changes colour.  Stir in the pine nuts and fry for a further 2 minutes.  The pine nuts can also be fried separately and added at the end.  Season to taste with salt and pepper, and if liked, cinnamon or allspice.  Some even add a little sugar.  Moisten with about 5 tablespoons water – the meat will otherwise be too dry for a filling.  Cook for a few minutes more until the water is absorbed and the meat tender. 

Variation:  in some countries cumin and coriander are preferred as flavouring spices for this popular filling. 

Spinach Filing

500g (18oz) fresh spinach or 225g (8oz) frozen chopped or leaf spinach

1 tablespoon butter

125g (4 1/2oz) Gruyère or Cheddar cheese, grated

1 egg

Black pepper

1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg (optional)

Trim the steams of the fresh spinach, wash carefully and chop the leaves finely.  Put in a sauté pan with the butter.  Cover and let it cook in its own juices over a very low heat, stirring occasionally until tender.  If using frozen spinach, de-frost it and squeeze all the water out.

Stir in the grated cheese, the lightly beaten egg and black pepper to taste.  Do not add salt unless necessary.  Take into account the saltiness of the cheese melting into the spinach.  Add a little nutmeg if you like and mix well. 

Homemade Lemonade

If you keep some chilled ‘stock syrup’ made up in your fridge all these fresh fruit drinks are simplicity itself to make. They contain no preservatives so they should be served within a few hours of being made. Many different types of citrus fruit may be used.

Stock Syrup

Makes 825ml (28fl oz)

450g (1lb) sugar

600ml (1 pint) water

To make the stock syrup: Dissolve the sugar in the water and bring to the boil. Boil for 2 minutes then allow it to cool. Store in the fridge until needed.  This quantity is enough for several batches of lemonade.

NB: Please measure the correct amount of syrup carefully for the lemonade. It is not necessary to use the all the stock syrup made.

Ruby Grapefruit and Pomegranate Lemonade

freshly squeezed juice of 2 lemons

freshly squeezed juice of 4 ruby grapefruit

450ml (16fl oz) stock syrup

water or sparkling water to taste

seeds of 1 pomegranate (put into ice cubes with fresh mint leaves)

Juice the fruit, add the syrup and add water or sparkling water to taste.

Serve chilled with mint and pomegranate seed ice cubes.

Variation

Ruby Grapefruit and Pomegranate Soda

Substitute soda water for plain or sparkling water and proceed as above.

A Great Day Out in the Boyne Valley

 A great day out. . .

The Irish Food Writers Guild which I’m proud to be a member of, meet occasionally to do reconnaissance trips around the country. We visit artisan producers to see their process and hear their stories. Our most recent Summer outing was to the Boyne Valley and wow, what an action packed day we had….!

First stop, Drummond House, where Marita and Peter Collier welcomed us warmly onto their farm outside Drogheda, they grow 5 varieties of garlic and several acres of green asparagus on their rich sandy soil. This enterprise like Ballymakenny Farm in Baltray was born out of desperation to find a different way to earn a living on the land and the family farms they all love. Marita and Peter told us the story of the roller coaster,  voyage of trial and error they embarked on to source varieties of garlic to suit their land and the Irish climate.  6 years later, through sheer hard work and help from Marita’s friends at the Termonfeckin NS gate who initially volunteered  to help with packing the garlic in their spare time. They now have a thriving business and have introduced the Irish market to a wide variety of garlic types and garlic scapes (tender shoots) which I’ve hitherto only seen in my own garden or in the Union Square Market in Manhattan.

Marita and Peter, like Maria and David Flynn of Ballymakenny Farm had high praise for the chefs who encouraged and supported them initially and continue to do so. 

Drummond House Garlic is now widely available around the country, www.drummondhouse.ie

Ballymakenny Farm also needed to add value to their produce, so Maria who has a business background decided to trial some unusual potato varieties, much to the amusement and scepticism of their neighbours and friends. They now grow 6 heirloom varieties, Violetta, Red Emmalie, Mayan Rose, Mayan Twilight, Mayan Gold and waxy Pink Fir Apple plus beautiful crops of long stem broccoli. The chefs go crazy for the deep purple Violetta, the mottled pink varieties and the fingerling potatoes, Ballymakenny can scarcely keep up with the demand. It was a extra special treat to meet David’s parents who were commercial potato growers in the past… 

Our next stop was Listoke Gin Distillery and School.  Bronagh Conlan gave us a spirited talk on gin production and the wide range of botanicals that can be added to the raw spirit to give it a unique flavour. Visitors can make their own unique blend at the gin school in the individual copper stills around the edge of the room. At the end of their visit, they take home their very own bespoke bottle of gin, a unique and hugely sought after visitor experience for corporate events too. Loved the psychedelic owl street art which has become the Listoke Distillery logo created by Dean Kane of visual waste.

Just a few miles to Tankardstown House where the young Romanian head chef Janos Sarkosi cooked us a seven course feast to showcase his considerable skills… Such a lovely place, no wonder it is also a favourite venue for weddings…

No time to dawdle, still lots more to see….. Next stop, The Cider Mill at Stackallan, near  Slane in Co. Meath www.cockagee.ie/

I’ve been a fan of Mark Jenkinson for several years now; he is a complete purist, grows a variety of cider apples in his own orchards, gently presses them in small batches in the time honored, traditional way between timber slabs. He makes 5 different styles of cider including his famous Cockagee name after an ancient cider apple variety that was thought to be extinct for over 125 years. . . .  .Mark managed to trace it to an old orchard in Gloucestershire and has now recovered and saved it for posterity. Cider is the wine of our land and there has been a rich tradition of cider making in the Boyne Valley for hundreds of years.

Mark is the only Irish cider producer to make keeved cider, a slow natural, painstaking process which results in a superb cider. His tasting room which also houses his eclectic collection of vernacular chairs , hardening stands and artefacts is worth the trip alone.

Carina Mount Charles brought along her organic eggs and salad leaves and nearby farmhouse cheese maker Michael Finnegan from Mullagh Farm delivered over his Boyne Valley Bán and Blue goat cheeses for us to taste…. a new find for me.

And there was still more, a whistle-stop tour of Slane Castle distillery where Henry Mount Charles and his son Alex have converted the stable yard into a highly impressive distillery in partnerships with Brown Forman (makers of Jack Daniels)

After an excellent tour and tasting we sped down the road to Boann Distillery where Peter Cooney had cans of several versions of Gin in a tin for us to taste. This super exciting innovative company in the heart of the Boyne Valley brews beer, non-alcoholic drinks, whiskey and cider from apples grown in their own orchards in Tara. The Boann Distillery, named for Boann the Irish Godess of the Boyne is housed in an amazing building repurposed from a car showroom. Book a tour and tasting if you are in the area.

Finally we had supper at the Eastern Seaboard Bar and Grill Jeni and Reuvans Diaz’s award winning restaurant in Bryanstown. Seek out this place in the suburbs of Drogheda, super innovative food made with many of the superb local ingredients.

Who knew the magic that awaits in an area that has been hitherto been regarded as a mere corridor between Dublin and Belfast. . . It was an eye opener to discover so many artisan food and drink producers flourishing in this historic area… Well, take my advice and take time out to explore this intriguing part of Ireland’s Ancient East….

Medjool Dates with Boyne Valley Bán and Blue Goats Cheese  

This cheese was presented to us by Michael Finnegan of Mullagh Farm and I loved it so much that I bought a wheel to bring home for the Ballymaloe House cheese trolley.

Makes 20

Medjool dates

Boyne Valley Bán and Blue Goats Cheese (or similar blue cheese)

Split the dates lengthways and remove the stone. Arrange on a plate, top each half with a little nugget of cheese. Serve as a canapé or amuse guile

Ana & Laura’s Kitchen Family Borscht

Very Special thanks to Jeni Glasgow of Eastern Seaboard Restaurant for sharing this delicious recipe.

Serves 4

150g (5oz) beef striploin cut into small cubes

70g (3oz) diced onion

100g (3 ½ oz) grated organic carrots

70g (30z) celery diced

150g (5oz) potatoes peeled and cubed small

300g (110z) grated organic long beets

1 litre (1 ¾ pints) good quality homemade chicken stock

500ml 18fl oz) water

2 bay leaves

Salt and pepper to season

Oil for frying

NOTE: We use long beets for a milder flavour

First sauté sliced beef in a large pot, add the diced onion, grated carrot, diced celery and potato cubes and sauté until just tender. Add the chicken stock, water and bay leaves. Simmer on a low heat for 40 minutes. Taste and check for seasoning and add salt and pepper as required.

To serve ladle into preheated bowls and add a dollop of sour cream, a  handful of elderberry capers and a drizzle of salsa verde.

Clare McQuillan’s Elderberry Capers

Pick & wash green elderberries and pat dry. Cover with sea salt and store in a jar for 3 weeks. After 3 weeks rinse the elderberries, pat dry and place in sterilized kilner jars and top up with good quality apple cider vinegar. These can be stored in the fridge for months and enjoy as you would capers.

Clare McQuillan’s Salsa Verde

Pick a handful of nettles (lightly blanched) sorrel, clover, broadleaf plantain & rosebay willow herb leaves – all foraged edible finds from the garden. 

1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard

1 small handful of wild capers (elderberry or wild garlic is also great)

2 tablespoons of Cider vinegar

Whizz with 3 – 4 tablespoons of rapeseed oil for a tangy, fresh & wild salsa verde.

Violetta Potato and Scallion Salad

The delicious dark purple colour of Violetta potatoes makes this an impressive salad to serve at any table.

Serves 4-6

900g (2lbs) freshly cooked Violetta potatoes, diced, allow about 1.1kg (2 1/2lbs) raw potatoes

1 tablespoon chopped parsley

1 tablespoon chopped chives or scallions or 2 teaspoons chopped onion

110ml (4fl oz) French Dressing (available on the Examiner website)

110ml (4fl oz) homemade Mayonnaise (available on the Examiner website)

salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

The potatoes should be boiled in their jackets and peeled, diced and measured while still hot. Mix immediately with onion, parsley, salt and freshly ground pepper. Stir in the French dressing, allow to cool and finally add the mayonnaise. Toss in the coarsely chopped nasturtium leaves and two thirds of the flowers.  Scatter the remaining nasturtium flowers on top of the salad.

Best served fresh but keeps well for about 2 days.

Note: This potato salad is also delicious without mayonnaise.   Potato salad may be used as a base for other salads, eg. add cubes of chorizo, cooked mussels or cockles or even diced cucumber.

Magic Wands with Smoked Oyster Mayo

This recipe was inspired by a menu item at Eastern Seaboard Restaurant in Drogheda, Co Louth. Eastern Seaboard source their smoked oysters from Marine Foods in Aughrim, Co Wicklow. If smoked oysters are difficult to source, make an alternative dip, tuna mayo, tapenade mayo, harissa mayo or just a perky garlic mayo would be delicious.

Save a little dough when you are making bread to make magic wands.

White Yeast Bread Dough

We use Doves Farm organic white bread flour, the water quantity may vary for other brands.  This bread can be baked in loaf tins or made into plaits or rolls.   

Makes 2 loaves

20g yeast

20g organic sugar

390g warm water

700g strong organic white flour

25g butter

16g pure dairy salt

2 x loaf tins 12.5cm (5 inch) x 20cm (8 inch)

Crumble the yeast into a bowl, add the sugar and 390g of warm water (anything above 45C will kill yeast).  Mix and allow to stand for a couple of minutes.  Meanwhile, put the flour into a wide mixing bowl, add the salt, mix then rub in the butter until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs. 

Add all the liquid ingredients to the flour and mix to a dough with your hand.  Turn out onto a clean work surface (no flour). Cover with the upturned bowl and allow to rest for 15-30 minutes. 

Uncover, if it feels a little dry and tough, wet your hand, rub over the dough and knead by hand until silky and smooth – 10 minutes approximately.  Return to the bowl and cover with a tea-towel.  Allow to rise until double in size. 

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 230°C/450°F/Gas Mark 8

Turn out onto the work surface, knead for a minute or two and shape as desired.  

For loaves, divide the dough in half, fold over and knead with the heel of your hand into a roll, tuck in the ends and pop into an oiled tin. Cover and allow to rise to the top of the tin.

The bread is ready for baking when a small dent remains if the dough is pressed lightly with you finger. Spray with a water mister and dust with flour for a rustic looking loaf and slash with a blade. 

The bread will rise a little further when it goes into the oven – this is called ‘oven-spring’. Bake for 25–35 minutes, depending on size. When baked, the bread should sound hollow if tapped underneath. Leave to cool on a wire rack.

Flaky Sea Salt

5 fl oz Homemade Mayonnaise

4 – 6 smoked oysters

Flaky Sea Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Freshly squeezed lemon juice if necessary

First make the dough, allow to rise to double it’s size at least and then knock back. Pull off 45g of dough and roll in 12 – 14 inch bread sticks.

Lay each on a baking tray. Cover and allow to rise for 5 – 10 minutes at an ambient temperature. Meanwhile preheat the oven to 220C/425F/gas mark 7 and bake for 5 – 7 minutes or until crisp and golden.

Whizz the smoked oysters in a food processor with 5 floz mayonnaise, taste and correct the seasoning and add a little lemon juice if necessary.

Serve a magic wand with a dipping bowl of smoked oyster mayonnaise.

One Pot Feeds All….

One Pot Feeds All… my 19th Cookbook has just arrived in shops around the country. There I am, smiling off the front cover. Silver grey hair and a new pair of specs as opposed to my brown locks and red glasses of the Simply Delicious era. . . . . I couldn’t have imagined then that I would be still writing cookbooks and loving it 30 years later. . . I still have so many delicious tips and recipes to share.

 I can’t imagine why it took me so long to write One Pot Feeds All, it’s been bubbling away in my subconscious for years . . . .

It must be over a decade now since we first added a One Pot Wonders course to our schedule at Ballymaloe Cookery School. From the word go it was a big hit and its enduring popularity is a sure sign that this kind of cooking is here to stay as the pace of life continues to ratchet up.

So this book is for all of you who really want to cook delicious wholesome food for yourselves and those you love but find it virtually impossible to keep all the balls in the air, battling home through rush hour traffic, dashing into the shops to grab some ingredients and then doing your best to cook from scratch, in full knowledge that beautiful freshly cooked produce has the best flavour and is super nutritious. For growing numbers of people, it’s simply not possible, yet we know that if we don’t manage to get healthy nourishing wholesome food on the table to keep the family healthy, happy and bouncing with energy, we’ll spend the money on supplements and meds. But what to do?

Well, hopefully this book will provide some solutions. I’ve collected my favourite one-pot dishes, some time-honoured favourites honed over the years, others developed more recently while we were testing recipes specifically for this book. Everything had to be cooked in one pot so, against my better judgement, on my food editors suggestion, I experimented with some one-pot pasta dishes and was amazed at how successful they were. By increasing the liquid in some other dishes, I discovered that I could add rice, pearl barley, orzo and beans to the various pots with delicious results – so you really can get your whole meal from one dish. Of course, you can still cook them separately, if you like, but believe me this one-pot method works brilliantly.

One Pot Feeds All has lots and lots of brilliant recipes for college students, who often have very limited cooking facilities. For this kind of cooking you just need one fine sturdy pot with a tight fitting lid and off you go – What’s not to love about one pot cooking, for a start there’s less washing up…It’s a brilliant option if you don’t have much time and there’s no longer any need to feel guilt ridden.

Not all students will have access to an oven but for those who do, there are so many brilliant ideas for dishes to cook in a roasting tin or gratin dish. An electric slow cooker or crockpot is also worth considering as part of your kitchen kit, perfect for slow cooking and gentle braises and of course from making stock. 

I have many delicious recipes to share with you. I hope you are going to love this book, I loved writing it, every word, originally in long hand – here are a few recipes to give you a flavour of the eclectic recipes inside.

Black-eyed bean, pumpkin & chickpea stew

Serves 6

One of the very best vegetarian one-pot dishes. What’s not to like about black-eyed beans, chickpeas and pumpkin with lots of spices? Delicious on its own, but equally good with a roast chicken or a few lamb chops. Eat with flatbreads or pilaff rice, if you prefer.

– 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

– 1 teaspoon cumin seeds

– 1 x 2.5cm cinnamon stick

– 150g onions, chopped

– 4 garlic cloves, very finely chopped

– 225g fresh mushrooms, sliced approx. 3mm thick

– 450g pumpkin or butternut squash, peeled and cut in 2cm cubes

– 400g fresh tomatoes, peeled and chopped or 1 x 400g tin of chopped tomatoes

– 2 teaspoons ground coriander

– 1 teaspoon ground cumin

– ½ teaspoon ground turmeric

– a pinch of sugar

– ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

– 450g cooked black-eyed beans, strained (reserving the cooking liquid)

– 225g cooked chickpeas, strained (reserving the cooking liquid)

– 1 teaspoon salt

– freshly ground black pepper

– 3 tablespoons chopped coriander

For the mint yogurt

– 300ml natural yogurt

– 1 tablespoon chopped mint leaves

Heat the oil in a sauté pan over a medium-high heat. When it is hot, put in the cumin seeds and the cinnamon stick. Let them sizzle for 5–6 seconds, then add the onions and garlic. Stir-fry for 3–4 minutes until the onion is just beginning to colour at the edges. Add the mushrooms and cook until the mushrooms wilt, then add the pumpkin or squash, tomatoes, ground coriander, cumin and turmeric, a pinch of sugar and the cayenne. Cook for 1 minute, stirring, then cover with a lid and cook over a gentle heat for 10 minutes.

Turn off the heat and tip in the drained beans and chickpeas. Add the salt and pepper, together with 2 tablespoons of coriander. Pour in 150ml of bean cooking liquid and 150ml of the chickpea liquid (or 300ml vegetable stock if you’ve used tinned pulses). Return to the boil, and then reduce the heat and simmer for 10–15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the beans and chickpeas are tender.

To make the mint yogurt, combine the yogurt with the chopped mint in a bowl.

Remove the cinnamon stick from the pan before serving and sprinkle with the remaining coriander. Spoon into serving bowls and top with a dollop of the mint yogurt. Accompany with a good green salad and rice, if you wish.

Roast cauliflower with saffron
&
bay leaves & crispy chicken

Serves 4

This roast cauliflower is delicious on its own but also pretty irresistible with some spicy chicken drumsticks. Look out for pul biber, not too hot but really aromatic. I fell in love with them on my first trip a Turkey.

– 4–8 organic, free-range chicken thighs or drumsticks, depending on size

– extra virgin olive oil

– ½–1 teaspoon rosemary, chopped

– 2 pinches of saffron strands

– 1 large or 2 small cauliflowers (approx. 1kg), leaves snapped off*, head broken into small florets, stalk roughly chopped

– 2 medium onions, finely sliced

– 1 tablespoon pul biber or a good pinch of dried chilli flakes

– 3 bay leaves

– 50g sultanas, soaked in hot water to plump up

– 50g almonds, coarsely chopped

– flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

TO SERVE

– 2 tablespoons roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley

– 4 spring onions, sliced on the diagonal

*Good to know

    The leaves are also delicious roasted, add them a little later.

Preheat the oven to 200°C/gas mark 6.

Slash the chicken drumsticks. Drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with chopped rosemary, toss and arrange in a single layer in a roasting tin. Roast for 30–45 minutes, depending on size, while you
prepare the cauliflower.

Put the saffron into a little bowl, cover it with a couple of teaspoons of boiling water and leave it to steep. Put the cauliflower, onions, chilli flakes and bay leaves into a bowl and season with salt and pepper.

Once the saffron has steeped, add to the cauliflower mixture with the drained sultanas and almonds. Transfer to the roasting tin and cover loosely with parchment paper to protect from burning. Bake for 20 minutes.

Remove the parchment and roast for a further 10–15 minutes until the edges are nicely caramelised, the cauliflower is tender
and the chicken is cooked. Turn into a shallow serving dish.

Sprinkle with the chopped parsley and spring onion. Serve.

Roman chicken & chips with rosemary & thyme

Serves 8–10

Another dish that family and friends love me to cook for them. A whole roasting tray of crispy chicken and potatoes, perfumed with rosemary and thyme leaves. My lips are smacking just thinking about it.

– 2kg organic, free-range chicken thighs, drumsticks and wings

– 2–3 tablespoons thyme leaves

– 1–2 tablespoons chopped rosemary

– 1.1kg (about 10 large) potatoes

– extra virgin olive oil, to drizzle

– 250g onions, sliced

– flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Good to know

One can add a little hot homemade chicken stock at the end if the dish needs a little more juice.

Preheat the oven to 230°C/gas mark 8.

Season the chicken heavily with salt and pepper. Put into a large bowl and scatter with the thyme leaves and chopped rosemary, reserving some for the potatoes. Toss well.

Peel the potatoes and cut into 1cm-thick chips. Dry and season well with salt, freshly ground black pepper and the reserved thyme and chopped rosemary. Add to the bowl with chicken. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and toss once again.

Scatter the sliced onions over the base of a roasting tin, approx. 37 x 31 x 2cm, or two smaller tins approx. 30 x 20 x 2.5cm. Arrange the chicken and potatoes haphazardly on top, making sure that the potatoes are popping up. Drizzle with a little more olive oil.

Roast for 45 minutes–1 hour or until the chicken is cooked through and the chips are crispy at the edges. (Organic chicken pieces are larger, so cooking time can be up to
1¼ hours.)

Serve from the tin, family style, with a good green salad and several vegetables of your choice, if you wish.

Chocolate fudge pudding with

toasted hazelnuts & Frangelico cream

Serves 6–8

Chocolate puddings run neck and neck with apple tarts as people’s favourite dessert. My version is wickedly rich with a melting texture. It should be moist and gooey in the centre, so don’t overcook it or it will be disappointing and dull. This one is surprisingly good served cold. 

– 150g unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing

– 150g good-quality chocolate (I use 52% cocoa solids)

– 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

– 150ml warm water

– 100g caster sugar

– 4 organic, free-range eggs

– 25g self-raising flour

To serve

– icing sugar, to dust

– 225ml softly whipped cream or crème fraîche mixed with 1 tablespoon Frangelico hazelnut liqueur

– a few toasted hazelnuts, coarsely chopped

Preheat the oven to 200°C/gas mark 6 and grease a 1.2-litre pie dish with a little butter.

Chop the chocolate into small pieces and melt with the butter in a Pyrex bowl set over a pan of hot, but not simmering, water. As soon as the chocolate has melted, remove the bowl from the heat and add the vanilla extract. Stir in the warm water and sugar and mix until smooth.

Separate the eggs and whisk the yolks into the chocolate mixture. Then fold in the sifted flour, making sure there are
no lumps.

In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks form, and then gently fold them into the chocolate mixture. Pour the chocolate mixture into the buttered dish.

Put the dish in a bain-marie and pour in enough boiling water to come halfway up the sides of the dish. Bake for 10 minutes. Then reduce the temperature to 160°C/gas mark 3 for a further 15–20 minutes or until the pudding is firm on top, but still soft and fudgy underneath and saucy at the base.

Set aside to cool slightly before dusting with icing sugar. Serve warm or cold sprinkled with toasted hazelnuts with Frangelico cream or crème fraîche alongside.

School Lunches

Last week I promised to concentrate on school lunches in my next column so here it comes…

By now all our little dotes are back at school. For many parents, it’s a tumultuous mixture of emotions – a huge relief to be back into a routine once again, but also tinged with sadness if your little one is starting school for the first time and a new anxiety – the daily school lunch!

We are all aware that school lunch represents a third of the child’s daily nutrient intake but there are so many challenges. How to fill that box with exciting, yet nourishing wholesome food, that will be acceptable to kids themselves and not be ridiculed by their peers. Such a minefield – how can food have reached this stage?

One ‘catty’ remark from an opinionated friend can banish the raw cauliflower florets or crunchy radishes from the lunch box forever.

A high percentage of kids want sandwiches, easy to pack, easy to eat and I know I am like a broken record but the quality of our daily bread is crucially important. The standard of most shop bought sliced bread, both brown and white is deeply worrying, squishy, doughy, artificially boosted and in some instances undercooked. Often with an interesting list of ingredients that won’t be found in the kitchen cupboard of any home baker.

Last week, I gave a recipe for Little Brown Loaf, so hope you have already discovered how super simple it is to make and experienced a ‘Ooops of delight’ in your tummy when you took that first loaf of bread out of the oven.

I was so thrilled to hear from one proud Mum that her 11 year old, who watched her making the bread has now decided to take over the making of the daily school lunch loaf – how cool is that! Next step a mini bakery, to develop her entrepreneurial skills…

Sandwiches are so easy to ‘grab, gobble and go’, but try to swap out the super easy, old reliable processed ham and cheese. The, universal favourite combination, is not the problem it’s the quality. Slices of good cheddar and home cooked bacon are the option here. Cook a piece of oyster cut bacon (the lean joint between loin and ham) as a ‘go to’ –  keep in the fridge for sandwiches and salads.

Some children go through a phase of not liking crusts but don’t automatically cut them off because they are so tasty and good for children’s chewing mechanism.

Without getting into too much of a knot, one needs to include some protein, carbohydrate, dairy, fruit and vegetables in the daily lunch box.

Hardboiled egg, is a brilliantly easy to eat protein – provide a little pot of mayo, sumac or a mix of flaky sea salt, chili flakes and roasted cumin, depending on how adventurous your kids are. . . .

Let’s not fall into the trap of saying they won’t like that – I’ve found that the question “Who’s brave enough to try the supercool ???” –  tempts many warriors to have a go. Avocado is another brilliant lunchbox option, provide a spoon and a few flakes of sea salt or make a simple guacamole. . .

Hummus and variations, now a lunchbox staple for many is the perfect dip for raw carrot sticks, pepper, cucumber as is Tahina… Add some little super fresh cauliflowers florets or sprouting broccoli , they are crunchy and delicious to munch on or dip. But make sure it’s organic or chemical free, otherwise you are giving your children a fine dose of pesticide and herbicide residues to mess up their gut biome.

Slices of salami, salami sticks or little pieces of smoked fish are also delicious and super nutritious and easy to nibble.

My favourite sandwich of the moment is sourdough toast with almond butter, sliced banana, honey and a few sea salt flakes. Vegetable or cheese croquettes are also a big hit, spicy drumsticks or even plain roasted drumsticks are also good and easy to hold. A little crustless quiche or mini frittata will keep them bouncing with energy.  Cherry tomatoes, cheddar cheese cubes, bocconcini (little mozzarella balls) all easy nibble. Why not thread the cheese, cherry tomato and basil leaves onto a cocktail stick…

Teeny scones are always appealing and delicious too, while a little flask of nourishing soup is just the thing on a chilly day…so many options but here are a few suggestions to get your started….

Little Frittatas with Chorizo

Makes 6

A perfect little school lunch, almost a soufflé, without flour so it is suitable for coeliacs. Lots of fun can be had with this recipe, substitute the chorizo or bacon with a dice of pumpkin, sweet potato, courgette, cherry tomato…

275g (5oz) soft chorizo, peeled and chopped or diced, cooked streaky bacon

3 eggs

250ml (5floz) a mixture of ½ cream and ½ milk

75g (3oz) mature Cheddar, plus extra for sprinkling on the top

salt and freshly ground black pepper

1tbsp chopped parsley (optional)

6 x small ramekins 110mls (4fl oz) or a muffin tin lined with muffin papers.

Preheat the oven to 200°C/400F/Gas Mark 6.

First peel and chop the chorizo or bacon and divide between the ramekins – a good tablespoonful in each.

Whisk the eggs, cream and milk; add the grated cheese and parsley and salt and lots of freshly ground pepper.

Just before cooking, stir the batter and pour over the chorizo, sprinkle with grated cheese and pop into the oven for 15 minutes.

They will puff up and be nicely golden on top.

Cool and enjoy! These can be made the night before and popped into the lunchbox.

Guacamole

Made in minutes guacamole is super nutritious and makes a delicious dip. The avocado must be really ripe and preferably organic…

1 ripe avocado (Hass if available)

1-2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon freshly chopped coriander or flat parsley

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Scoop out the flesh from the avocado.  Mash with a fork or in a pestle and mortar, add lime juice, olive oil, chopped coriander, salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Serve immediately.  Otherwise, cover the surface of the guacamole with a sheet of plastic to exclude the air.  Cover and keep cool until needed.

 A little finely diced chilli or tomato may be added to the guacamole.

Ballymaloe Sausage Rolls

Makes 8 – 16 depending on size

450g (1 lbs) Good Quality Pork Sausages (90% pork meat) or homemade sausage meat – see recipe

450g (1lb) Puff Pastry

Make the homemade sausages or remove the sausages from their casings. Then form into rolls, either regular or jumbo size to fit the pastry.

Roll the pastry into a rectangle about 4mm (1/6 inch) thick.  Lay the sausage along the wider side 5cm (2 inch) from the edge.  Brush with egg wash or water.   Fold over the excess pastry, press to seal and cut along the edge.  Flake the edge with a knife or seal with a fork. Brush the top of pastry with egg wash and prick the surface with a fork at 1” (2cm) intervals.  Cover and chill.  Repeat with the remainder.  Before cooking cut into 8’s or 16’s .

Preheat the oven to 230°C/450F/Gas Mark 8.

Cook for 20-25 minutes depending on size. 

Ballymaloe Homemade Sausages

Sausages made from 100 percent lean meat may sound good, but for sweetness and succulence one needs some fat. The addition of breadcrumbs is not just to add bulk, it greatly improves the texture, too.

Serves 8

(Makes 16 Small or 8 large sausages)

450g (1lb) good, fat streaky pork (rindless), minced

2 tablespoons mixed fresh herbs (e.g. parsley, thyme, chives, marjoram, rosemary and sage)

60g (21⁄2oz) soft white breadcrumbs

1 large garlic clove

1 teaspoon salt and freshly ground pepper

1 organic egg (optional – helps to bind – reduce breadcrumbs to 50g/2oz if omitting egg)

dash of oil for frying

50g (2oz) natural sheep or hog casings (optional)

Chop the herbs finely and mix through the breadcrumbs. Crush the garlic to a paste with a little salt. Whisk the egg, and then mix into the other ingredients thoroughly. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Fry off a little knob of the mixture to check the seasoning. Correct if necessary. Fill the mixture into natural sausage casings and tie. Twist into sausages at regular intervals. Alternatively, divide into 16 pieces and roll into lengths to make skinless sausages. Cover and chill.

Homemade sausages are best eaten fresh but will keep refrigerated for 2–3 days.

When ready to eat, fry gently on a barely oiled pan on a medium heat until golden on all sides.

Pop in a little pot of homemade ketchup or bramley apple sauce to dip.

Hummus

A wonderfully nutritious and filling dip to add to lunch boxes, add breadsticks, carrot sticks, celery sticks or chopped peppers to dip.

Serves 4 – 6

1 x 400g (14oz) tin of chickpeas, drained (or 200g/7oz of dried chickpeas, soaked in water overnight, then cooked in fresh water till soft – reserve cooking liquid)

juice of 1/2 to 1 lemon

2 cloves garlic, crushed

2 good tablespoons of tahini paste

3-4 tablespoons olive oil

salt to taste

Put all the ingredients into a food processor and pulse until smooth. Check for seasoning.  Thin to required consistency with chickpea cooking water.

Tomato, Mozzarella and Basil Bites

A yummy bite…

Thread a fresh basil leaf a ripe cherry tomato and a bocconcini or a cube of mozzarella onto a cocktail stick and pop into the lunch box….easy!

Magic Muffins

A little treat but more nutritious than most.

Makes 6 – 8 – gluten free

3 large eggs

125ml (4flozs) coconut oil

2 bananas peeled and mashed

3 dates stoned and chopped

Scant 2flozs of maple syrup

25g (1oz) of coconut flour

¼ tsp salt

½ tsp baking soda (bicarbonate of soda)

25g (1oz) of walnuts, chopped

Cupcake tin lined with papers.

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350F/gas mark 4. Whisk the eggs with the coconut oil and maple syrup, add the mashed bananas and chopped dates. Stir in the coconut flour, salt, sieved bicarbonate of soda and chopped walnuts. Mix well. Divide the mixture between the cases. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes or until puffed and golden.

Back to School Fuel – Breakfast

Back to school…our little dotes are busily settling back into school, some making new friends others reacquainting with special pals from last term. It can be an anxious time for both children and parents and now we hear the deeply worrying statistics that anxiety and depression among children, teens and third level students is increasing at a really alarming rate. No doubt there are many contributory factors….the internet is an easy target, ‘helicopter parenting’…is a new one on me….. apparently it refers to parents who ‘hover overhead’, overseeing every aspect of a child’s life, rather than allowing them to acquire basic life skills, usually learned by trial and error.

Whatever the challenge, I am completely convinced that the food children eat is vitally important for both their physical and mental health and their ability to cope with the stresses of everyday life.

So of all our many responsibilities we have as parents and there are many, one of the most important of all is to make sure that our children eat real food. It’s an investment in their future both in health and socio economic terms. No one is saying this is easy in the frantic world we now inhabit, but somehow it must be done.

The morning is crazy busy in most households as parents try to get themselves and kids fed, school lunches made and their kids off to a crèche and/or school all before 8.00am.

So what to do, now I am going to sound unbearably bossy, but take my advice and ditch the cereal packets. I’m a big porridge fan, otherwise oatmeal fruit muesli or granola with a banana or some fresh fruit, All can be ready from the night before…

Children from seven upwards can learn how to make each of these and be proud of their achievements.

A simple fried egg, pretty much a whole protein and a slice of brown bread will set them up for the day. Most 5 or 6 year olds can learn how to fry an egg, Yes they can…. and they have the wit to know the pan is hot!

After all I’m the oldest of 9 kids, so no ‘helicopter parenting’ in our house, everyone had their own little jobs and so we inadvertently learned life skills and were proud of what we could do and anxious to help Mum (a widow at 36).

I’m a big believer in the value of freshly squeezed orange juice to provide a shot of vitamin C and many other good things each morning to protect from winter colds and flus. Buy a small electric juicer, they’re worth every penny and once again a 7 – 8 year old can make juice, pure and delicious with no additives (save and dry the citrus peels for firelighters).

This week I’m going to concentrate on a simple pre-school (or work) breakfast…. I urge you to make or seek out good bread and I’ve become more and more convinced that it needs to be made from organic flour as research clearly shows glyphosate residues in non-organic products. Look on it as an investment in your family’s health – save on supplements and meds and build up healthy gut biomes in all the family.

We can no longer say we don’t know the danger pesticides and herbicide residues are doing to our health, the research is there…

After all glyphosate is registered as an antibiotic and is known to cross the placenta barrier. Austria became the first country to Europe to ban glyphosate in June 2019, others will follow – It’s an extremely problematic subject but back to the kitchen….

Flahavan’s, the famous seventh generation family from Kilmacthomas in Co Waterford, sell organic oat flakes but their non-organic porridge is also glyphosate free because Flahavan’s banned their growers from using glyphosate over 20 years ago. Pat and Lily Lawlor’s creamy Kilbeggan Oatmeal too is organically grown and widely available. We are also big fans of Donal Creedon’s Macroom Oatmeal with its unique toasted flavour and texture.

Flaked oatmeal porridge can be made in minutes. Pinhead oats or Macroom can easily be made the night before and re-heated in just a few minutes the following morning when you are bleary eyed and trying to wake up. I love it with a sprinkling of soft brown sugar and a drop of Jersey cow milk, but I notice that the young people nowadays enjoy porridge with all manner of toppings. Fresh or stewed fruit, compotes, peanut butter, jam, honey, nuts…the more the merrier to give them energy and vitality to power through the day.

This fruit muesli, a Ballymaloe favourite for over 70 years, changes with the seasons. Add crushed berries or grated Irish dessert apples – they are in season now… If you have an apple tree you’ll probably have a glut, don’t waste a single one, they make delicious apple juice to drink fresh, freeze or try your hand at cider, but we are wandering away from breakfast!

Next week I’ll concentrate on and have lots of suggestions for the all

important lunch box, meanwhile a few staples for breakfast….

Kilbeggan Organic Porridge

Serves 2 -4

Mix a large cup of porridge oats with 2 cups of cold water or milk.  In a saucepan, bring slowly bring to the boil and simmer for 3 to 4 minutes stirring all the time.  Reduce cooking time if the oats are soaked overnight.   My grandchildren love porridge with peanut butter – sounds bizarre but it’s nutritious and delicious!

Variation

To further enrich your porridge, you can add your own selection of organic fresh fruits, nuts, honey, cinnamon…….

Macroom Oatmeal Porridge

Serves 4

Virtually every morning in Winter I start my day with a bowl of porridge.  Search out Macroom stoneground oatmeal which has the most delicious toasted nutty flavour.  It comes in a lovely old-fashioned red and yellow pack which I hope they never change.

155g (5 1/2ozs) Macroom oatmeal

1.2 litres (2 pints) water

1 level teaspoon salt

Obligatory accompaniment!

Soft brown sugar

Bring 5 cups of water to the boil, sprinkle in the oatmeal, gradually stirring all the time.  Put on a low heat and stir until the water comes to the boil.

Cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add the salt and stir again.  Serve with single cream or milk and soft brown sugar melting over the top.

Left over porridge can be stored in a covered container in the fridge – it will reheat perfectly the next day. Add more water if necessary.

Note

If the porridge is waiting, keep covered otherwise it will form a skin which is difficult to dissolve.

Ballymaloe Strawberry Muesli

Serves 8

This is a huge favourite with all our family and friends – its such a good recipe to know about because its made in minutes and so good. We vary the fruit through the seasons – strawberries, raspberries, loganberries, blueberries and grated Cox’s Orange Pippin apples or Ergemont Russet in the Autumn.

6 tablespoons rolled oatmeal (Quaker Oats)

8 tablespoons water

250g (8oz) fresh strawberries

2-4 teaspoons honey

Soak the oatmeal in the water for 8-10 minutes.  Meanwhile, mash the strawberries roughly with a fork and mix with the oatmeal.  Sweeten to taste with honey, a couple of teaspoons are usually enough but it depends on how sweet the strawberries are.

Serve with pouring cream and soft brown sugar.

Granola

Granola is a toasted breakfast cereal, it’s super easy to make in a large batch and will keep fresh for several weeks in a Kilner jar. You can add all types of dried fruit and nuts to the basic recipe and top it with all manner of good things to make it even more nutritious and energy boosting.

Serves 20

12oz (350g) honey or golden syrup

8fl oz (225g) oil e.g. sunflower

1lb 1oz (470g) oat flakes

7oz (200g) barley flakes

7oz (200g) wheat flakes

3 1/2oz (100g) rye flakes

5oz (150g) seedless raisins or sultanas

5oz (150g) peanuts/hazelnuts, or cashew nuts split and roasted

2 3/4oz (70g/1 cup) wheatgerm and /or millet flakes

2oz (50g) chopped apricots, 1/2 cup chopped dates etc. are nice too

toasted sunflower or pumpkin seeds are also delicious

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4.

Mix oil and honey together in a saucepan, heat just enough to melt the honey.  Mix well into the mixed flakes. Spread thinly on two baking sheets.

Bake in the preheated oven for 20-30 minutes, turning frequently, making sure the edges don’t burn. It should be just golden and toasted, not roasted!

Allow to get cold.  Mix in the raisins or sultanas, roasted nuts, toasted seeds, chopped dates, apricots and wheatgerm.  Store in a screw top jar or a plastic box, keeps for 1-2 weeks.

Serve with sliced banana, milk or yoghurt.

A Fried Egg

Crispy at the edges and soft in the centre, fried eggs are probably the most common way of cooking eggs- even a child can do it…, utterly delicious if one starts with a perfectly fresh-free range egg. 

Keeping a few hens is not for everyone, but if it is a possibility for your family, it’s win-win all the day. The hens eat up household food scraps, mow the lawn as you move the coup around, provide chicken manure for your garden to enhance the fertility of the soil and best of all provide delicious fresh eggs the likes of which are almost impossible to source unless you have your own. What a brilliant food, you could hardly do better than go to school (or work) on an egg!
Heat a little pure bacon fat, butter or olive oil in a frying pan, when its just about sizzling break in the eggs one at a time but don’t overcrowd the pan.  Cook over a low heat if you like the eggs soft underneath or on a higher heat if you like them crispy.  Cook until the white is just set but the yolk soft.  Baste with hot fat if you like the top filmed over or cover the pan with a lid. Flip them over gently with a fish slice if that’s your preference.   Serve immediately on warm but not hot plates.

Scrambled Eggs

Perfectly scrambled eggs are rare indeed, though people’s perception of ‘perfect’ varies wildly. However, for ideal scrambled eggs (in my case, soft and creamy), really fresh organic eggs are essential. Nowadays, it’s become common practice to put the eggs into a hot pan, which gives a tough curd if you’re not careful. I prefer the old-fashioned way that my mother taught me: putting the eggs into a cold saucepan, whereby they scramble gently and slowly, and yield a softer, creamier curd. Scrambled eggs should always be served on warm plates but beware – if the plates are too hot, the scrambled egg can overcook between the stove and the table.

Serves 2

4 organic eggs

2 tablespoons whole milk

a knob of butter

salt and freshly ground pepper

Break the eggs into a bowl, add the milk and season with salt and pepper. Whisk well until the whites and yolks are mixed well. Over a low heat, put a blob of butter into a

cold saucepan, pour in the egg mixture and stir continuously, preferably with a flat-bottomed wooden spoon, until the eggs have scrambled into soft creamy curds.

Serve immediately on warm plates with lots of hot buttered toast or fresh soda bread.

Really great scrambled eggs need no further embellishment.

A Little Brown Soda Bread Loaf

The buttermilk in the shops is low fat but if you have access to rich, thick buttermilk, there is no need to add butter or extra cream.

 Bread is a staple in so many of our homes so the quality really matters….

This little loaf of brown soda bread is mixed in minutes and then just poured into a tin.  A few seeds can be sprinkled over the top or added to the dough for extra nourishment.  Why not weigh up x 5 times the amount of flour and salt (but not bread soda).  Mix well and each time just scoop out 450g (16oz), add bread soda and buttermilk – mix and pour into the tin.

Makes 1 loaf

225g (8oz) brown wholemeal flour (preferably stone-ground)

225g (8oz) plain white flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 level teaspoon bread soda (Bicarbonate of Soda/Baking Soda) sieved

450ml (16fl oz) buttermilk plus 2 tablespoons cream

A selection of sesame, pumpkin, sunflower and poppy seeds (optional)

1 loaf tin 13x20cm (5x8inch) approx. brushed with sunflower oil

First preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6

Mix all the dry ingredients together in a large wide bowl, (if using cream, add to the buttermilk).  Make a well in the centre and pour all of the buttermilk. Using one hand, stir in a full circle starting in the centre of the bowl working towards the outside of the bowl until all the flour is incorporated. The dough should be soft. When it all comes together, a matter of seconds, turn it into the oiled tin – slide a knife down the centre of the loaf.  Sprinkle with a mixture of sesame, sunflower, pumpkin and poppy seeds.

Bake in the preheated oven for 60 minutes approximately.

(In some ovens it is necessary to turn the bread upside down on the baking sheet for 5-10 minutes before the end of baking) It will sound hollow when tapped.  Cool on a wire rack, wrapped in a clean tea-towel while hot if you prefer a softer crust.

Note:

1.  One could add 12g (1/2oz) fine oatmeal, 1 egg, and rub in 25g (1oz/1/4 stick) butter to the above to make a richer soda bread dough.

Note:  Bread should always be cooked in a fully pre-heated oven, but ovens vary enormously so it is necessary to adjust the temperature accordingly.

Climate Change….

I’m increasingly dismayed by the often ill-informed and self-righteous debate on climate change. For many – Stop eating meat . . . is considered to be the solution to all our planetary and climate change ills. Farmers of all persuasions are being ‘tarred with the same brush’ and vilified. . .

Some farming methods certainly need to be reviewed and there is a growing consensus that business as usual is no longer an option particularly for very intensive pig and poultry units which despite economies of scale rarely even yield a decent income for the farmers themselves, many of whom feel trapped in the system, fuelled by our assumption that cheap food at any cost is our right!

If you ask most young people what we should eat to be sustainable and healthy, their immediate and well intentioned response will be,  Go vegan or vegetarian. They are convinced by the argument that meat, particularly red meat is bad for us and damaging to the environment. However, there is a world of difference, both in health terms and in environmental terms in meat from pasture reared livestock and intensively reared animals from feedlot systems. Cattle are crucially important to a sustainable agricultural system; it is worth noting that worldwide, approx. 80% of the land that cattle graze on cannot be used for tillage or other forms of agriculture.

It is also important to understand that cattle, other animals and poultry build soil fertility. A crucially important factor at a time when the UN warns us that there are less than 60 harvests left in many intensively farmed soils.

In Ireland we are favoured by nature, with optimum conditions to produce superb food. Many farmers desperately want to be a part of the solution to global warming. They urgently need wise advice, training and support to embark on regenerative agriculture that encourages continual innovation and improvement of environmental, social and economic measures. The primary priority in regenerative organic agriculture is soil health. Vitally important when one realises that our health comes directly from the soil.

For optimum health enjoy a little of all the bounty of nature. . .  Eat vegetables, herbs and foraged foods in season and seek out humanely reared meat with a nice covering of juicy fat so important for our health, include some beautiful wild fish when you can get it fresh, an increasingly difficult challenge.

This week, let’s show support for our farmers who work 24/7 to produce nourishing meat for us to enjoy. Buy from your local butcher preferably one with their own abattoir who knows the source of the meat and buys directly from local farmers or the local mart. Let’s eat a little less but seek out pasture raised meat, from native breeds.

If you are confused about what to eat for optimum health start by cutting all processed and fake food out of your diet, just eat real food in season. . . One could do worse than listen to the sage advice of the Weston A. Price foundation www.westonaprice.org and wise tradition podcasts https://www.westonaprice.org/podcast/ – Some are literally life changing

The reality is, nutrient dense sustainable food can be more expensive to produce. As tax payers we all contribute to a farm support system.

Our taxes help to fund the health service, clean up the environment. . . . I strongly believe that politicians urgently need to be courageous. . .  move the support to more sustainable forms of food production which I believe will help to reduce climate change and benefit our health, a win, win situation all the way… meanwhile back to the comfort of the kitchen and a few of my favorite recipes for super delicious beef dishes.

Homemade Beef Burgers with Ginger Mushrooms and Buffalo Chips

Serves 6

Beef Burgers

15g (1/2oz) butter

75g (3oz) onion, finely chopped (optional)

450g (1lb) freshly minced beef – flank, or chump or even shin would be perfect

1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

1/2 teaspoon finely chopped parsley

salt and freshly ground pepper

pork caul fat, optional

oil or dripping

Ginger Mushrooms

25g (1oz/) butter

75g (3oz) onion, finely chopped

225g (1/2 lb) mushrooms

125ml (4 1/2fl oz) cream

freshly chopped parsley

1/2 tablespoon freshly chopped chives (optional)

a squeeze of lemon juice

salt and freshly ground pepper

1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger

20g (3/4oz) nibbed almonds, lightly toasted

Buffalo Chips

6 large potatoes unpeeled

salt

Beef dripping or oil for deep-frying – 

Green salad and cherry tomatoes (optional).

burger buns (see recipe)

First make the burgers.

Melt the butter in a saucepan over a medium heat, toss in the chopped onions, sweat until soft but not coloured, then allow to get cold.  Meanwhile mix the mince with the herbs, season with salt and freshly ground pepper, add the onions and mix well.  Fry off a tiny bit on the pan to check the seasoning and tweak if necessary.  Then shape into burgers, 4-6 depending on the size you require.  Wrap each one loosely in caul fat if using.  Keep refrigerated. 

Next make the Ginger mushrooms.

Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed saucepan until it foams. Add the chopped onions, cover and sweat on a gentle heat for 5-6 minutes or until quite soft but not coloured.  Meanwhile slice and cook the mushrooms in a hot frying pan in batches if necessary.  Season each batch with salt, freshly ground pepper and a tiny squeeze of lemon juice.  Add the mushrooms to the onions in the saucepan, then add the cream, ginger, toasted almonds and allow to bubble for a few minutes.  Taste and correct the seasoning, and add parsley and chives if used.  Keep aside. 

Scrub the potatoes and cut into wedges from top to bottom – they should be about 3/4 inch (2cm) thick and at least 2 1/2 inches (6 1/2 cm) long.  If you like rinse the chips quickly in cold water but do not soak, dry them meticulously with a tea towel or kitchen paper before cooking.

Heat the beef dripping or oil in the deep fry to 180°C/350°F, fry twice, once at this temperature for 5-8 minutes depending on size then drain. 

Meanwhile fry the burgers and reheat the ginger mushrooms. 

Increase the heat to 220°C/425°F and cook the Buffalo chips for a further 1-2 minutes until crisp and golden.  Shake the basket, drain well, toss on to kitchen paper, sprinkle with salt.  Put the burgers onto hot plates, spoon some ginger mushrooms over the side of the burgers and pile on the crispy buffalo chips. 

Put a little green salad dressed in a well flavoured dressing on the side with one or two ripe cherry tomatoes and a perky spring onion

Serve immediately and tuck in.

Italian Beef Stew

A good gutsy beef stew which can be made in large quantities – it reheats and freezes brilliantly.

Serves 6-8

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil. 

1.35kg (3 lb) well hung stewing beef or lean flank

2 large carrots cut into 1/2 inch (1cm) slices

285g (10 oz) sliced onions

1 heaped tablespoon  flour

150ml (5fl oz) red wine

150ml (5fl oz) brown beef stock

250ml (8fl oz) homemade Tomato Purée, otherwise use best quality tinned tomatoes  -pureed and sieved

175g (6 oz) sliced mushrooms

2 tablespoons, chopped parsley

salt and freshly ground pepper

Accompaniment

Polenta, mashed potato or noodles.

Trim the meat of any excess fat, then prepare the vegetables. Cut the meat into 4cm

(1 1/2 inch) cubes. Heat the olive oil in a casserole; sweat the sliced onions and carrots on a gentle heat with a lid on for 8-10 minutes. Heat a little more olive oil in a frying pan until almost smoking.  Sear the pieces of meat on all sides, add to the casserole.  Sprinkle in the flour over the meat stir and cook for 1-2 minutes.  Add the red wine, stock and tomato purée together and bring to the boil. Deglaze the pan, with a little stock, scrape to dissolve the flavoursome sediment, bring back to the boil and then add to the casserole.  Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Cover and cook gently for 2 to 21/2 hours in a low oven, depending on the cut of meat, 160°C/325°F/Gas Mark 3.

Meanwhile sauté the mushrooms and add with the parsley to the casserole, 30 minutes approx. before the end of cooking.  Serve with Polenta, mashed potatoes or noodles and a good green salad.

Italian Beef Stew with Gremolata

Sprinkle a little gremolata (see recipe below) over each portion of Italian Beef Stew and serve.

Gremolata

Gremolata is a fresh tasting mix of chopped parsley, garlic and lemon zest. We use it to sprinkle over roast or braised meats, pastas or anything pan-grilled – delicious!

4 tablespoons, preferably flat parsley, chopped

1 generous teaspoon grated or finely chopped lemon zest

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

Mix all the ingredients in a small bowl and use soon.

Beef Fajitas with Tomato and Coriander Salsa and Guacamole

Serves 4

For the marinade

2 garlic cloves, crushed

½ tsp crushed chilli flakes

½ tsp ground cumin

2 teaspoon freshly chopped marjoram OR

1 dried oregano teasp

¼ tsp ground allspice

2 tbsp Mexican beer, or lager

1 tbsp olive oil

500g (1 lb) rump steak, cut 2.5 cm (1in) thick. 

For Guacamole

1-2 fresh chillies, seeded and finely chopped

2 tbsp finely chopped fresh coriander

2-4 tbsp  freshly squeezed lime juice

2 ripe avocados, chopped

Salt and freshly ground pepper 

4 flour tortillas

1 handful shredded lettuce

tomato and coriander salsa (see recipe below)

125ml (4 floz) sour cream

First make the marinade, combine the garlic, chilli flakes, cumin, oregano, allspice, beer and oil. Add steak and turn to coat. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour. For guacamole, combine chillies, coriander, lime juice and avocado. Mash with a potato masher until well combined but still chunky. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover and refrigerate.

Grill the steak and leave to stand for 5 minutes before carving into 1cm (1/2 in) thick slices. Warm the tortillas and divide steak slices between the warmed tortillas. Sprinkle with flakey sea salt and pepper. Top with shredded lettuce, tomato salsa, a good dollop of guacamole and sour cream. Roll up and serve hot

Tomato and Coriander Salsa

Serves 4-6

Tomato salsa is best in summer and early autumn when tomatoes are super ripe and juicy.

Salsas of all kinds both fresh and cooked have become a favourite accompaniment to everything from pan grilled meat to a piece of sizzling fish.

4 very ripe tomatoes, chopped

1 tablespoon onion, chopped

1 clove garlic, crushed

½-1 chilli, deseeded and finely chopped

1-2 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander

Squeeze of fresh lime juice

Salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar

Mix all the ingredients together. Season with salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar.

Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.

Julija’s Lithuanian Beef Goulash

One day when I was madly busy at the Cookery School, I asked Julija Makejeva, who had recently arrived from Lithuania with little English, if she could cook. She looked at me as though she

hadn’t understood the question. So I asked her again and she said, ‘Of course I cook. Everyone cook’.

Afterwards I realised it seemed to her to be the most ridiculous question. She learned how to cook this goulash from her mother, and now I pass it on to you.

Serves 8

1.1kg (21⁄2lb) stewing beef, cut in 2.5cm (1in) cubes

3 garlic cloves, crushed

1 tablespoon paprika

1⁄4 –1⁄2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (depending on how hot you like it)

salt and freshly ground pepper

4 tablespoons sunflower oil

225g (8oz) onions, sliced

450g (1lb) carrots, cut into 1cm (1⁄2in) cubes

50g (2oz) white flour

850ml (11⁄2 pints)good  Beef Stock 

Preheat the oven to 160ºC/325ºF/ gas mark 2.

Put the cubes of beef in a bowl and add the garlic, paprika, cayenne and salt and pepper. Mix well and leave to rest while you prepare the other ingredients.

Heat 1 tablespoon of sunflower oil in a frying pan over a medium heat and add the sliced onions and cubed carrots. Fry for a few minutes until slightly soft and beginning to colour. Remove from the pan and transfer to a casserole.

Increase the heat under the pan, add more oil and brown the beef in batches. When brown on all sides, transfer the meat to the casserole.

Put the casserole on a medium heat, add the flour and cook for 1 minute. Deglaze the frying pan with the stock. Gradually add it to the casserole and bring to a simmer. Transfer to the oven and cook for 2–21⁄2 hours (depending on the cut of meat) until meltingly tender. Serve with boiled potatoes or plain boiled rice.

Kids Love to Cook

Kids just love to cook and learn about how their food is grown and produced. We coordinated a few Summer Camps and Kids Farm Walks here on the farm over the past few weeks, such excitement…

 The children got fully immersed in the activities of the organic farm. They ran off to collect the freshly laid eggs from the nests in the hen house, and jostled each other to feed the Jersey calves. They loved watching the free range Duroc/Tamworth pigs snuffling in the ground for roots and grubs to keep them healthy – squeals of joy as the pigs ran over the fence. They fed them the end of a crop of spinach and some sweetcorn that had bolted in the green houses.

They also loved sowing seeds and harvesting the produce. In the herb garden, they smelled and tasted fresh herbs, rubbed mint, lemon balm and lemon verbena between their fingers, tasted them and guessed what the flavours would be good with. They giggled and marvelled at the sharp lemony flavour of buckler leaf sorrel and learned how to pick tomatoes with the calyx still on. Ate green beans off the plant, picked cobs of sweetcorn and ripe berries from the strawberry patch. Each of these activities plus listening to the bird song and watching bees collecting nectar from the flowers are a beautiful educational activity.

One of the highlights was watching Maria our ‘dairy queen’ milking the cows in our micro dairy. They saw the milk being separated and then each got a jar of cream to make into butter. They shook the jam jars as they danced to the sound of disco music and hey presto – butter to spread on the scones they made in the kitchen.

They discovered  that many weeds are edible and full of mighty minerals and vitamins and magic trace elements to keep them bouncing with energy. They raced into the blueberries cage to pick the juicy fruit to pop into drop scones.

They made their pizza dough and tomato sauce and let it rise while they collected fallen timber to light a camp fire.

On the last day they set up a Kids Café in the garden so parents could join them to enjoy the delicious food from their mornings cooking in the kitchen, and how they love cooking! It’s astonishing what even quite small children can learn how to do. They can make pasta, bake bread, jam, salads, sauces, both sweet and savoury dishes, juice fruit for homemade lemonade, make popsicles, and feed the scraps left over from their cooking to the grateful hens before they headed home with a little goodie bag of their very own homemade food. Teaching kids how to cook is giving them a gift for life – equipping them with the practical skills to feed themselves healthy wholesome food and they love it!

Salad of Avocado, Cucumber, Tomato, Blueberries Walnuts and Greens

Bursting with goodness and fun to make . . . .

Serves 4

110g (4oz) blueberries

1 organic avocado, diced

1 small red onion, halved and thinly sliced

½ cucumber cut into chunky pieces

6 cherry tomatoes halved

2 handfuls of rocket, baby spinach leaves and baby kale

12 walnuts, halved, toasted and roughly chopped

For the Honey Chia Dressing

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

1 teaspoon honey

1 tablespoon chia seeds

good pinch salt

Just before serving whisk the ingredients for the dressing together.

Prepare the ingredients. Put the washed and dried greens into a bowl. Sprinkle with dressing. Add the red onion and blueberries. Toss gently to coat. Pile onto a serving plate. Sprinkle with avocado, cucumber, tomatoes and walnuts on top. Fork up gently.

Garnish with edible flowers, marigold petals, chive or wild garlic flowers . . . .

Darina’s Magic Tomato Sauce

Darina’s Magic Tomato Sauce is one of our great convertibles, it has a number of uses, we serve it as a vegetable or a sauce for pasta, filling for omelettes, topping for pizza.

Serves 6 approximately

 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

110g (4oz) sliced onions

1 clove of garlic, crushed

900g (2lbs) very ripe tomatoes in Summer, or 2 tins (x 400g/14oz) of tomatoes in Winter, but peel before using

salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar to taste

1 tablespoon of any of the following;

freshly chopped mint, thyme, parsley, lemon balm, marjoram or torn basil

 Heat the oil in a stainless steel sauté pan or casserole.  Add the sliced onions and garlic toss until coated, cover and sweat on a gentle heat until soft but not coloured – about 10 minutes. It is vital for the success of this dish that the onions are completely soft before the tomatoes are added.  Slice the peeled fresh tomatoes or chopped tinned tomatoes and add with all the juice to the onions.  Season with salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar (tinned tomatoes need lots of sugar because of their high acidity).  Add a generous sprinkling of herbs. Cover and cook for just 10-20 minutes more, or until the tomato softens, uncover and reduce a little.  Cook fresh tomatoes for a shorter time to preserve the lively fresh flavour. 

Tinned tomatoes need to be cooked for longer depending on whether one wants to use the sauce as a vegetable or filling.

Note: A few drops of Balsamic vinegar at the end of cooking greatly enhances the flavour.

Pasta with Bacon and Darinas Magic Tomato Sauce

Serves 6-8

Here is an example of how versatile Darinas Magic Tomato Sauce is.

1 lb (450g) spaghetti

a dash of oil

1 oz (25g/1/4 stick) butter

salt and freshly ground pepper

Darinas Magic Tomato Sauce (see recipe)

8 ozs (225g) cooked bacon or ham

4 ozs (110g) freshly grated cheese, eg. Cheddar or Parmesan

2 tablespoons (2 American tablespoons + 2 teaspoons) fresh basil or parsley, chopped

Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil, add 2 teaspoons of salt and a dash of oil. Add in the spaghetti, stir, boil furiously until almost cooked – al dente – 15 minutes approx. Meanwhile heat the tomato sauce, add the diced cooked ham or bacon and simmer for 3 or 4 minutes. As soon as the spaghetti is cooked, pour off all the water and drain well, toss in a little butter and season with freshly ground pepper. Pour into a wide, hot bowl or pasta dish, then pour over the tomato sauce, Sprinkle with herbs and grated cheese and serve immediately on very hot plates.

Teeny Weenies

The soda bread base only takes 2 or 3 minutes to make. Teeny weenie brown or white scones only take 10 – 15 minutes to bake, depending on size and are irresistible to children and adults alike.

Makes 41

1lb (450g/4 cups) white flour, preferably unbleached

1 level teaspoon/1/2 American teaspoon salt

1 level teaspoon/1/2 American teaspoon bread soda (bicarbonate of soda)

sour milk or buttermilk to mix – 12-14fl oz (350-400ml/1 1/2 – 1 3/4 cups) approx.

Cutter 1 1/2 inch (4cm) approximately

First fully preheat your oven to 230°C/450°F/Gas Mark 8.

Sieve the dry ingredients into a large bowl. Make a well in the centre.  Pour most of the milk in at once. Using one hand, mix in the flour from the sides of the bowl, adding more milk if necessary. The dough should be softish, not too wet and sticky. When it all comes together, turn it out onto a well floured board.  WASH AND DRY YOUR HANDS. Tidy it up then flip it over. Flatten the dough into a round about 1 inch (2.5cm) thick and stamp out into teeny weeny scones. Bake in a hot oven, 230°C/450°F/Gas Mark 8 for 15 minutes (approx.) or until cooked through. If you are in doubt, tap the bottom of the bread: if it is cooked it will sound hollow.

Cool on a wire rack.

Chopped fresh herbs e.g.; rosemary, thyme or olives may be added to the dry ingredients to make delicious little herb scones.

Brush the tops with egg wash and dip in grated Cheddar cheese for yummy Cheddar teeny weenies.

Blueberry Drop Scones

Drop scones are so quick and easy to make, the blueberries make lovely addition.

Makes 24

10oz (275g/2 1/2 cups) plain flour

1 3/4oz (45g/scant 1/4 cup) sugar plus more for sprinkling on top

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

3oz (75g/3/4 stick) cold butter, cut into small pieces

2oz (50g) fresh or frozen blueberries, thawed if frozen

1 large egg, free range

6fl oz (175g/3/4 cup) milk

Preheat the oven to 220°C/425F/Gas Mark 7.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.   Rub in the butter until crumbs form.  Stir in the blueberries.

Whisk the egg and milk together in a small bowl.   Add to the flour mixture and stir with a fork until the ingredients are moistened and bind together.  

Drop the batter in heaped tablespoons, 2 inches (5cm) apart on a baking sheet.

Sprinkle with sugar and bake until golden brown for about 12 minutes. 

Serve immediately.

Fresh Strawberry Popsicles

Makes (18fl oz/2 1/4 cups) or 6 x 3fl oz (1/2 cup) popsicles

400g (14oz) fresh strawberries

Lemon juice

150ml (5floz) Stock Syrup

Clean and hull the strawberries, put into a liquidiser or food processor and blend. Strain, taste and add lemon juice and stock syrup.

Pour into 75ml (3floz) popsicle moulds and freeze for 3 – 4 hours

Stock Syrup

Makes 28 fl oz (825 ml/3 1/2 cups)

350g (12oz/1 1/2 cups) sugar

600ml (1 pint/2 1/2 cups) water

To make the stock syrup: Dissolve the sugar in the water and bring to the boil.  Boil for 2 minutes then allow it to cool.  Store in the fridge until needed.

Raspberry Jam

Makes 3 x 450g (1lb) pots

Raspberry jam is the easiest and quickest of all jams to make, and one of the most delicious. The kids were thrilled with their achievement and proudly brought some home.

Loganberries, Boysenberries or Tayberries may also be used in this recipe.

900g (2lbs/8 cups) fresh raspberries

790g (1lb 12ozs/3 1/2 cups) granulated sugar

Wash, dry and sterilise the jars in a moderate oven 160°C/315°F/Gas Mark 3, for 15 minutes. Heat the sugar in a moderate oven for 5-10 minutes.

Put the raspberries into a wide stainless steel saucepan and cook for 3-4 minutes until the juice begins to run, then add the hot sugar and stir over a gentle heat until fully dissolved. Increase the heat and boil steadily for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently.

Test for a set by putting about a teaspoon of jam on a cold plate, leaving it for a few minutes in a cool place. It should wrinkle when pressed with a finger. Remove from the heat immediately. Skim and pour into sterilised jam jars. Cover immediately.

Hide the jam in a cool place or else put on a shelf in your kitchen so you can feel great every time you look at it! Anyway, it will be so delicious it won’t last long!

Zucchini

Call them by whatever name you fancy, Zucchini or Courgettes are super versatile and an excellent opportunity for a creative cook to rustle up lots of exciting dishes. So instead of the usual moaning about a glut of courgettes in August, let’s have fun. The beautiful courgette plant with its huge leaves and hollow stems and beautiful blousey yellow blossoms just goes on giving. The faster you pick, the faster they seem to grow, so keep on picking and challenge yourself to find new delectable ways to enjoy them, there are many.. . . It’s difficult to get one excited about a marrow, although I am partial to some spicy ginger marrow jam made from a genuine marrow, also part of the cucurbit family, rather than a courgette that got away. They can grow up to an inch a day and become less and less flavourful, the more they expand, so pick them from fingerling size to peak perfection at no more than 5 – 6 inches, they are crisp and nutty, a revelation to those who have only tasted the watery commercial version.

I adore crisp, deep fried courgette blossoms, something you’re unlikely to be able to enjoy unless you grow your own. . .

The female flower will have the courgette attached, the male flowers with their long stalks are made for stuffing. Could be a simple, melty piece of mozzarella with a basil leaf and maybe a scrap of salty anchovy or some Toonsbridge ricotta, Dip them in a simple batter and fry until crisp in a light olive oil.

We’re also loving eating the young crisp zucchini raw as a cruditee with a garlicy aioli or tapenade mayo.

For courgette ‘carpaccio’, try scattering a few long shavings of courgette on a chilled plate, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and a few drops of freshly squeezed lemon juice, a few shavings of pecorino and crisp deep fried capers – a divine combination.

Little medallions of courgettes tossed in a little extra virgin olive oil in a wok or a fry pan for just a couple of minutes, are the quintessential fast food. Add some flaky sea salt, coarsely chopped annual marjoram, tarragon or basil and serve immediately. Serve as a side, or toss onto pasta or sprinkle over a piece of grilled mackerel or chicken.

Courgettes barbeque brilliantly too and make delicious little courgette or zucchini cakes.

There’s so much more – ratatouille, caponata, roast summer vegetables. . . and I haven’t even mentioned zucchini bread or muffins.

This column could be three times the length, meanwhile a few recipes to whet your appetite. . .  if you still have more courgettes than you can cope with. Share both the courgettes and recipes with your friends.

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Courgette & Blossom Salad with Olive Oil and Sea Salt

This simple salad is delicious served warm with nothing more than a sprinkling of extra virgin olive oil and a little sea salt.

Serves 4–6

8 small courgettes with flowers, if available (choose shiny, firm courgettes)

sea salt and freshly ground pepper

extra virgin olive oil

Separate the flowers from the courgettes. Remove the stamens and little thorns from the base of the flowers.

Plunge the whole courgettes into boiling salted water and poach them until barely tender – 4–5 minutes. Remove from the pot and leave to cool slightly. While still warm, slice them at an angle to allow six slices to each courgette.

Season the courgette slices with sea salt and freshly ground pepper and then sprinkle with extra virgin olive oil. Toss gently and serve immediately, surrounded by the torn courgette flowers.

Hot crusty bread is the only accompaniment needed

Diana’s Zucchini Bread

Makes 2 Loaves

450g 1lb plain flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 level teaspoon bread soda – finely sieved

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon nutmeg

½ teaspoon ground cloves

120ml 4floz milk

2 organic eggs

110g 4oz butter

110g 4oz castor sugar

3 x15cm 6 inch zucchini – grated

2 oz chopped walnuts

2 loaf tins 13cm x 20cm or 5”x8”  – fully lined

Fully preheat the oven to 180C 350F Reglo 4

Sieve the dry ingredients. In a large wide bowl rub in the butter.  Stir in the sugar.

Beat the eggs and whisk in the milk. 

Mix into the flour mixture.  Beat with a wooden spoon till evenly combined.  Stir in the chopped walnuts.

Divide the mixture between the two loaf tins and bake in the preheated oven for 50 – 60 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. 

Leave to cool for about 5 minutes in the tins , remove and leave to cool completely on a wire rack.

Zucchini Trifolati

Usually we are super careful not to overcook zucchini, but here the magic is in cooking them to melting tenderness.  The Italians call this Trifolata. The end result will be a chunky puree – an irresistibly delicious vegetable – I also love it piled onto a piece of grilled bread or on top of pasta.  There are so many other variations, add cream and some freshly chopped herbs for a gorgeous sauce, puree a little and add some homemade chicken or veg stock and some milk and fresh basil for a chunky soup

Serves 4

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

6 medium green and yellow zucchini, cut at an angle into 5mm (1/4 inch) rounds

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 teaspoon fennel seeds, toasted and ground

pinch of chilli flakes

10 basil leaves

10 mint leaves

zucchini blossoms (if available)

flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Choose a heavy-bottomed sauté pan that will hold the courgettes comfortably; they shouldn’t come higher than 4cm (1 1/2 inch) up the side of the sauté pan.

I like to slice the zucchini and put them in the pan first to check.  If there are too many layers of zucchini in the pan they will stew and if there are not enough then the zucchini will dry out and burn.

Heat the pan over a high heat and once it is hot, add the oil, quickly followed by the zucchini. Stir, making sure all the zucchini have been coated in the oil, and fry until golden brown.  Then add the garlic, fennel, and chilli flakes and continue to cook for 5 minutes. Season well with salt and pepper.  If it’s starting to catch at this stage, add a few tablespoons of water.

Reduce the heat to low, cover with a tight fitting lid and stew for 5 – 10 minutes. When the zucchini are soft and tender, tear in the mint and basil leaves and a few zucchini blossoms if you have them. Add 1 tablespoon of your best extra virgin olive oil. Season to taste.  The zucchini should be soft, juicy and full of flavour, not al dente.

Deep-Fried Courgette Flowers

If you live on the Continent, you’ll be able to buy courgette flowers in your local market. Over here, they’re beginning to appear in farmers’ markets, but more than likely you’ll have to grow them yourself. We usually use the male flowers for this recipe, because taking the female flower means you’ll deprive yourself of a courgette. They’re delicious just dipped in batter and deep-fried, but they’re also a vehicle for lots of different stuffings.

Serves 6

12–16 courgette flowers (allow 1–3 flowers per person)

Batter (see below)

sunflower oil for deep-fat frying

First make the batter. Then heat the oil in a deep-fat fryer until it’s very hot.

Remove the thorns from the base of the courgette flowers and insert your fingers into the centre and remove the stamens. Dip each flower in batter, shake off the excess and drop, one by one, into the hot oil. Fry on one side for about 2 minutes and then turn over. They will take about 4 minutes in total and should be crisp and golden. Drain on kitchen paper and serve immediately, as part of a fritto misto or as a nibble. They’re delicious served with a fresh tomato sauce or sweet chilli sauce.

Variations

Courgette blossoms are also delicious stuffed. Some suggested fillings:

•        Buffalo mozzarella with pesto, tapenade or concentrated tomato fondue and a basil leaf

•        Goat’s cheese, chopped chorizo and flat parsley

•        Chicken or scallop mousse

Batter

150g (5oz) plain flour

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 large organic egg white

Sea salt

Sieve the flour into a bowl.  Make a well in the centre, pour in the olive oil and stir.  Gradually add enough water, about 175ml to make a batter about the consistency of double cream.  Cover and allow to stand until ready to use.  Whisk the egg white to a stiff peak and fold it into the batter and fry to test the seasoning.  Allow the excess batter to drip off, then lower gently into the oil, shaking the basket all the time.  Cook until crisp and golden, then drain on kitchen paper.  Taste, add more salt to the batter if necessary. 

Tian of Summer Vegetables baked with olive oil and herbs

A delicious recipe to marry courgettes with other summer vegetables

Serves 8 – 10

4 spring onions, thinly sliced or 1 onion very thinly sliced

3 small aubergines (about 675g/1 1/2lbs)

4-6 courgettes, about (560g/20oz)

6-8 very ripe tomatoes (about 900g/2 lbs) peeled

4-6fl oz (110-175ml) extra virgin olive oil

2-4 teaspoons herbs e.g. rosemary or thyme, or annual marjoram

salt and freshly ground pepper

Garnish

1-2 tablespoons (1 ½ -2½tablespoons) parsley, freshly chopped

A large shallow dish   14 x 12 inches (35.5 x 30.5cm) or 2 dishes 10 x 8 inches (25.5 x 21.5cm)

To prepare the vegetables, cut the aubergines into 1/ inch (1cm) slices, sprinkle them with salt and leave to drain for 15-20 minutes. Rinse to remove excess salt and pat dry with paper towels. Peel the tomatoes and cut in thick slices. Slice the courgettes at an angle in three-eight inch slices also.

Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6. 

Drizzle a shallow baking dish well with olive oil, sprinkle on the thinly sliced spring onion and some annual marjoram or thyme or rosemary, arrange the aubergine slices alternatively with tomatoes and courgettes. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper, drizzle with more oil and sprinkle over a little more marjoram. Bake in a preheated oven for 25-30 minutes or until vegetables are cooked through, keep an eye on them, you may need to cover with a butter wrapper or tin foil if they are getting too brown.  Sprinkle with some parsley and serve.

Variations

Sprinkle buttered crumbs mixed with grated cheese on top brown under the grill before serving.

Buttered Crumbs

2oz (50g) butter

4oz (110g) soft white breadcrumbs

Melt the butter in a pan and stir in the breadcrumbs. Remove from the heat immediately and allow to cool.

Beetroot

Beetroot is my star of the week for this column. A three in one Summer vegetable that goes on giving – If you haven’t had a chance to grow some of your own, swing by the local Country Market or Farmers Market in your area. Choose a bunch of beautiful beets that still have healthy leaves and stalks intact. This is a true ‘root to shoot’ vegetable. The stalks and dark magenta leaves are also super delicious as well as the beetroot… we love to use them in both sweet and savoury dishes and enjoy both the golden and purple at so many stages.

I pick the young thinnings to add to a salad of summer leaves or to pile on top of a pizza.  We start to use the beets themselves when they are golf ball size and continue as they swell. Roasting intensifies the natural sweetness even further but boiling the beets also works brilliantly and can be the basis of so many good things from soups to stews, curries, dips and crisps and of course pickles.

Have you tried Russian Kvass, a deeply nourishing, lacto fermented drink, full of probiotic goodness and so easy to make. It’s known for its healing and cleansing properties and of course also aids digestion. Beetroot gin is super cool, how about beetroot gravalax or a beetroot cake and who doesn’t love beetroot brownies…..

We made a number of beetroot soups both hot and chilled, some are smooth and silky, others like Borscht and Chorba has lots of chunky bits – a drizzle of sour or pungent horseradish cream over the top and a sprinkling of purple chive flowers or pretty chervil blossoms to ‘guild the lily’.

This beetroot dip is irresistible, a brilliant standby to have on hand to scoop up with pitta or as part of a mezza plate. Chunks of beetroot add extra deliciousness and nutrients to a tray of roast vegetables. The Sri Lankans make some of the best vegetable curry and I featured my favourite Beetroot curry from Sunhouse in Galle on the 25th May (http://letters.cookingisfun.ie/2019/05/#Sri+Lankan+Beetroot%0ACurry)

Beetroot crisps are also irresistible, remember to cook them at 160° rather than the 180° for potato crisps because of their high natural sugar content which can scorch at a higher heat.

Then of course there’s the bonus of the stalks and leaves from the summer beets, chop the stalks and cook in boiling salted water for a few minutes (spinach stalks work too), slather with extra virgin olive oil, add freshly chopped herbs and chilli, delicious and a favourite on Fergus Henderson’s menu at St John in London.

The leaves can be cooked like spinach either in well salted water on a frying pan over a high heat.

If you are lucky enough to have a glut, then let’s pickle, who doesn’t love juicy, homemade beetroot pickle? So completely different to the harsh vinegary pickle of childhood memories. It’ll last for months to embellish goats cheese, smoked fish or salads and there’s the extra feel good factor of having pickled your own and great to have as a homemade pressie when visiting friends.

Check out these beetroot recipe suggestions….

Beetroot Crisps

You can make vegetable crisps from a variety of different vegetables: parsley, celeriac, carrots, Jerusalem artichokes and potatoes of course. But you need to be careful with the ones that are very high in sugar, because they need to be cooked at a lower temperature, otherwise they’ll be dark and bitter. Serves about 8

a few raw beetroots, small to medium-sized

oil in a deep-fat fryer

salt

Use a vegetable peeler to peel the beetroot. Then slice on a mandolin into paper-thin slices. Leave them to dry out on kitchen paper (this may take several hours). You want them to be dry, otherwise they’ll end up being soggy when you cook them.

Heat the oil in a deep-fat fryer to 140ºC (275ºF) and cook slowly, a few at a time. Drain on kitchen paper and sprinkle with salt.

Beetroot Kvass

This is a slightly sour/salty tonic of a deep-red colour known to help clean the liver and purify the blood.

2 large beetroot
1 1/2 litres (2 1/2 pints) filtered water (or non-chlorinated)
2 teaspoons sea salt
50ml (2fl oz) starter – this could be whey, water kefir, sauerkraut juice or kombucha

Scrub the beetroot but do not peel.

Chop into small chunks – 2cm (3/4 inch) cubes (roughly).

Put into a 2 litre Kilner jar or something similar with a lid.

Add the water, sea salt and starter and secure the lid tightly.

Allow to sit in a warming undisturbed place for about 5 days.

Bubbles will start to appear (fermentation is taking a hold) – taste it after day 3, if it is to your liking.  Strain out the beetroot chunks.  Bottle and store in the fridge once it reaches the desired sourness.

Rory O’Connell’s Chilled Ruby Beetroot Soup

 Hopefully your decision to make this soup will coincide with a warm day, as scorching shaded lunches or long balmy evenings are the perfect weather conditions for enjoying this soup, though I can enjoy it almost as much in less clement weather conditions. If you come across golden beetroots, they can be used in exactly the same way as the ruby variety, though they must be cooked separately as the ruby beetroot will bleed into the golden and render them pink, which would really defeat the purpose of using them in the first place. I some times make a little of both colours and serve them swirled together though you may think that’s too horribly psychadelic. Lots of finely chopped chives and their pretty pink flowers help to make a pretty and delicious presentation. Save the leaves of the beets for wilting, or if small and delicate for adding to your salad bowl.

Serves 8

800g (1 3/4lb) whole beetroot

225g (8oz) chopped onions

50g (2oz) butter

salt, pepper and sugar

approx 1.2 litre (2 pints) of light chicken stock

150ml (5fl oz) pouring cream

300ml (10 fl oz) natural, unsweetened yoghurt

4 tablespoons of chopped chives and chive flowers if available

Wash the beets under a cold running tap with your hands being careful not to break the skin. Leave the little tail on and about 5cm (2 inches) of the stalks intact so as not to allow the beets to bleed.

Place in a saucepan that they fit snugly into and cover with boiling water. Add a pinch of salt and sugar. Cover, bring to the boil and simmer until the beets are cooked. The cooking time depends on the size and they can take anything from 20 minutes for tiny little beets to 2 hours for larger ones. They are cooked when the skin rubs off really easily. Don’t use a knife to test if they are cooked, as this will also cause bleeding.

While the beets are cooking, melt the butter and allow to foam. Add the onions, coat in the butter, cover tightly and sweat very gently until soft, tender and uncolored.

When the beets are cooked, peel, chop coarsely and add to the onions.

Add just enough boiling chicken stock to cover and season with salt, pepper and a pinch of sugar. Bring to a boil and simmer for just 1 minute.

Now purée to achieve a smooth and silky consistency. Allow to cool completely. Add yoghurt and a little cream to taste. Check seasoning adding a little sugar if necessary.

Serve chilled with a swirl of yoghurt and lots of chopped chives and a few chive flowers if available.

Pickled Beetroot

Serves 5-6

1 lb (450g) cooked beetroot

8 oz (225g) sugar

16 fl oz (475ml) water

8 fl oz (250ml) white wine vinegar

Dissolve the sugar in water and bring to the boil.  Simmer for 3-4 minutes.  Add the vinegar, pour over the peeled sliced beets and leave to cool.

Beetroot Tops

Beetroot tops are full of flavour and are often unnecessarily discarded – if you grow your own remember to cook them as well as the beetroot.  When the leaves are tiny they make a really worthwhile addition to the salad bowl both in terms of nutrition and flavour.

Serves 4

450g (1lb) fresh beetroot tops

Butter or olive oil

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Cut the stalks and leaves into approx. 2 inch pieces, keep separate.  First cook the stalks in boiling salted water (3 pints water to 1½ teaspoons salt) for 3-4 minutes or until tender.   Just add the leaves and cook for a further 2-3 minutes.  

Drain, season and toss in a little butter or olive oil.   Serve immediately.

Beetroot Tops with Cream

Substitute 75-125ml (3-4fl.ozs) cream for olive oil in the recipe above.   A little freshly grated nutmeg is also delicious.

Ottolenghi’s Pureed Beetroot with Yoghurt and Za’atar

Serves 6

900g (2lb) medium beetroots – (500g (18oz) after cooking and peeling)

2 garlic cloves – crushed

1 small red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped

250g (9oz) Greek yoghurt

1 1/2 tablespoons (2 American tablespoons) date syrup

3 tablespoons (4 1/2 American tablespoons) olive oil, plus extra to finish the dish

1 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) za’atar

salt

To Garnish

2 spring onions, thinly sliced

15g (3 /4 oz) toasted hazelnuts or pistachio nuts, roughly crushed

60g (2 1/2 oz) soft goats cheese, crumbled

Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Mark 6.

Wash the beetroot and place in a roasting tin. Put them in the oven and cook, uncovered, until a knife slices easily into the centre, approximately 1 hour. Once they are cool enough to handle, peel and cut each into about 6 pieces. Allow to cool down.

Place the beetroot, garlic, chilli and yoghurt in a food processor bowl and blend to a smooth paste. Transfer to a large mixing bowl and stir in the date syrup, olive oil, za’atar and 1 teaspoon of salt. Taste and add more salt if you like.

Transfer the mash onto a flat serving plate and use the back of a spoon to spread the mixture around the plate. Scatter the spring onion, hazelnuts or pistachios and cheese on top and finally drizzle with a bit of oil Serve at room temperature.

Beetroot and Walnut Cake

Serves 10

3 free-range organic eggs

150ml (5fl oz) sunflower oil

25g (1oz) soft brown sugar

150g (5oz) white or spelt flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

pinch of salt

100g (4oz) beetroot, grated

60g (2 1/4oz) sultanas

60g (2 1/4oz) walnuts, coarsely chopped

Icing

175g (6oz) icing sugar

3-4 tablespoons water to bind

To Decorate

deep-fried beetroot (see below)

toasted pumpkin seeds

1 loaf tin 13 x 20cm (5 x 8inch)

Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350°F/Gas Mark 4.

Line a loaf tin with a butter paper or baking parchment. 

In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, oil and sugar until smooth.   Sift in the flour and baking powder, add a pinch of salt and gently mix into the egg mixture.  Stir in the grated beetroot, sultanas and walnuts.   Pour into the prepared tin.  Bake for 45-50 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.  Cool on a wire rack. 

Next make the icing.

Sieve the icing sugar, beat in the water gradually to a stiff but spreadable consistency. Spread evenly over the cake, allow to drizzle down the sides, leave for 5 minutes and scatter with deep-fried beetroot (see below) and pumpkin seeds.

To Deep-fry Beetroot

Peel the outer skin off the beetroot.  Using a peeler, slice thin rings of the beetroot.  Allow to dry on kitchen paper for 20 minutes.  Deep-fry until crispy.

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