Darina’s Saturday Letter

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Cook Book Reviews….

It’s that time of the year again, my desk is piled high with new cookbooks, pre-Christmas publications, all shiny and glossy and very tempting.

First out of the traps in early September was Jamie Oliver’s Veg. I’m a big fan of Jamie’s and felt a deep sympathy as he faced a whole slew of challenges earlier in the year. He has bounced back in a variety of ways – look out for his YouTube cooking slots and this new book is another must have.

Another of my food heroes, is the indomitable Fergus Henderson. The Book of St John written with his long time business partner Trevor Gulliver celebrates 25 years of the iconic ‘meaty‘ restaurant that pioneered ‘nose to tail’ eating and happily coincides with the Year of the Pig. Pitty, witty, and structured to mirror the practises and rythyms of St John Kitchen, from butchery to stocks, braise and brine, but St John’s on St John’s Street in London is not just about meat, there’s also an extensive repertoire of fruit and vegetable recipes, all new and a whole chapter on puddings. Lick your lips – steamed syrup pudding, sherry trifle and lots of treats for the eleven o clock biscuit tin, as well as a seed cake and a glass of madeira (Fergus’s favourite tipple), and finally a whole chapter dedicated to feasting….An irresistible publication with gold edged pages – a very special present.

In the midst of the pile, are two shiny hardbacks written by two Ballymaloe Cookery School Alumni. James Ramsden, food writer, podcaster, chef, owner of three restaurants including Michelin starred Pidgin in Hackney. James’ 4th book, Lets Do Dinner is jam packed with tasty tried and tested recipes. Nothing chefy here, just lots of yummy dishes to enjoy that can  be prepared ahead for family and friends, so you don’t find yourself racing against the clock at the last moment – lots of really tempting super cool recipes to enjoy with pals around the kitchen table.  

The second book, a first for Rachel Goenka from India who did the 12 Week Certificate Course at Ballymaloe Cookery School in 2011 before returning to her native Mumbai where she opened her restaurant The Sassy Spoon. This debut book, Adventures with Mithai is already a best seller in India and reflects her love of baking. Here again, there are many stunning photos of creations you’ll really want to bake.

Finally for this column, the Cordon Bleu Chocolate Bible – a culinary guide to all things chocolate. With 180 recipes, so difficult to pick a favourite recipe….This may we’ll become the quintessential chocolate book…

A Cookbook makes a brilliant present that keeps on giving – so lots to choose from.

Braised Lamb, Peas, Crème Fraîche and Mint

To serve 6 happily

Sea salt and black pepper

1 lamb shoulder on the bone

A few glugs of extra virgin olive oil

20 shallots, peeled and left whole

20 cloves of garlic, peeled and left whole

A bouquet garni (e.g. parsley, thyme, rosemary, bay etc)

½ bottle of white wine

A ready supply of chicken stock

2 healthy tablespoons of Dijon mustard

4 healthy tablespoons of crème fraîche

A few handfuls of fresh or frozen peas

2 bundles of mint, leaves picked and

stalks retained for the bundle of joy

It is important to stress the wonder of slippery pea: olive oil, crème fraîche and chicken stock, the three lubrications combine to create that glorious slipperiness.

Don’t be afraid of a frozen pea. A chef who shall remain unnamed

once told Fergus, ‘Wait until peas are in season, then use frozen.’ A

comfort for the home cook.

Season the shoulder well, then heat a large frying pan over a

medium heat with a splash of olive oil and brown the lamb all over.

Place it in an ovenproof dish or roasting tray large and deep

enough to accommodate the joint with a little space. Gently sweat

the shallots and garlic in the lamby frying pan for 3 or 4 minutes,

without colouring them, and nestle these around the shoulder with

the bundle of joy.

Place the roasting tray over a medium heat and pour in the white

wine. Reduce by half, then add the chicken stock and an extra glug

of olive oil administered like squirts of factor 50 at the beach: a

generous coating. While the liquid returns to a simmer, take a

small bowl and whisk together the mustard and crème fraîche,

loosening the mixture with a couple of spoonsful of the simmering

stock. Pour the resulting sauce into the tray. The liquid does not

have to cover everything – remember that you are looking for the

alligators-in-the-swamp effect.

Place in a barely medium oven for at least 3 hours, the crème

fraîche and meat juices unify while it blips away. Check the shoulder

with a skewer and, when the meat is tender and yielding, add

the peas and return to simmer in the oven for a few minutes longer.

Reinforce the seasoning if needed, discipline your mint leaves and

fold through to finish.

The leftover braising juices and slippery peas make an excellent

sauce for farfalle – a favourite for staff dinners.

Extracted from The Book of St John by Fergus Henderson and Trevor Gulliver (Ebury Press.  Photography by Jason Lowe

WARM BUTTERNUT SQUASH SALAD WITH LABNEH AND CHILLI

Labneh is yogurt that has been strained of all its whey, leaving the thick, almost cheesy, curd behind. It needs a day or two to reach its peak, so if you’re making this at more of a run, just use a really thick, Greek-style yogurt.

SERVES 4–6

500g/1lb 2oz/2 cups natural yogurt

salt and pepper

1 small butternut squash or pumpkin

olive oil

a few sprigs of thyme, leaves only

1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped

For the dressing

a big bunch of parsley, leaves only

½ tsp ground coriander

1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed to a paste

juice of ½ lemon

100ml/3½ fl oz/7 tbsp olive oil

1–2 DAYS AHEAD:

Line a bowl with a clean tea towel. Tip the yogurt in, add a pinch of salt, then tie the towel up with string and hang from a cupboard handle over the bowl.

UP TO A DAY AHEAD:

Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas mark 6. Wash the squash but don’t peel it (the skin is delicious) and cut it into rounds, discarding the seeds. Toss with olive oil, salt, pepper and thyme, and roast for 45 minutes. Leave to cool; chill overnight if necessary.

UP TO AN HOUR AHEAD:

Make the dressing: finely chop the parsley and mix with the ground coriander, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil and salt and pepper, or whiz in a blender.

30 MINUTES AHEAD:

If necessary, warm the squash in a medium oven (180°C/350°F/ Gas mark 4). If the oven’s already on for something else, do it at that temperature, keeping an eye on it if it’s particularly hot.

DINNERTIME:

Place the chunks of squash on a plate and top with a dollop of labneh. Scatter with chopped chilli and a generous dressing of parsley oil, then serve.

TWEAK: Use goat’s milk yogurt instead, to produce lovely goat’s curd. Also delicious just spread on toast.

Extracted from Let’s Do Dinner by James Ramsden, published by Pavilion Books. Image credit to Yuki Sugiura.

Wonderful Veg Tagine

Serves 6

1 pinch of saffron

4 cloves of garlic

4cm piece of ginger

Olive oil

1 teaspoon of ground cumin

½ teaspoon of ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon of ras el hanout

1 tablespoon sun-dried tomato paste

2.5Kg mixed veg, such as aubergines, courgettes, carrots, cherry tomatoes, red onion, butternut squash, mixed-coloured peppers.

1 x 400g tin of chickpeas

100g dried apricots

1 preserved lemon

300g couscous

½ bunch of mixed fresh herbs such as dill, mint, flat leaf parsley (15g)

20g flaked almonds

Put the saffron into a jug, cover with 500ml of boiling water and leave to infuse. Meanwhile, peel and finely slice the garlic and ginger, then place in a large casserole pan over a medium heat with 2 tablespoons of oil, the cumin, cinnamon and ras el hanout. Add the tomato paste, fry for a few minutes, stirring regularly, then pour over the saffron water. Trim and prep the veg, as necessary, then chop into large chunks, adding them to the pan as you go. Top in the chickpeas (juices and all), roughly chop and add the apricots and preserved lemon, discarding any pips, then season with sea salt and black pepper. Bring to the boil, cover, reduce the heat to love, and simmer for 45 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally.

When the veg are almost tender, just cover the couscous with boiling water, season with salt and pepper and pop a plate on top. Leave for 10 minutes, then fluff and fork up. Pick the herb leaves and toast the almonds. Serve the tagine and couscous sprinkled with almonds and herbs.

Delicious served with harissa rippled yoghurt.

Extracted from Veg by Jamie Oliver is published by Penguin Random House © Jamie Oliver Enterprises Ltd (2019 Veg) Food photography: David Loftus

Brown Butter, Rose and Chai Cake

Serves 10

228g flour

¼ teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon cardamom powder

160g yoghurt

200g caster sugar

130mls oil

1 teaspoon rose water

2 ½ tablespoons black tea leaves

165mls milk

For the Glaze

60g unsalted butter

180g icing sugar

½ teaspoon cardamom powder

2ml rose essence

2 tablespoons milk

Preheat the oven to 170°C. Line and grease a 8.5×4.5 loaf tin.

Brew the tea with 165mls of milk first. Bring it to a boil, remove from the heat and keep it covered for 3 to 4 minutes to allow the tea to steep. Strain with a fine mesh sieve and bring the milk tea to room temperature before using. You need around 2/3 cup of tea.

Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cardamom powder together and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk the yoghurt and sugar for a few minutes. Add the oil and rose water and whisk for another few minutes until the mixture is creamy.

Add the sifted dry ingredients and the milk tea to the batter. Gently fold in the dry ingredients with a spatula. Pour into the greased loaf tin and bake for 35 to 40 minutes.

While the cake bakes, make the glaze. Shift the icing sugar and cardamom powder together and set aside.

Cook the butter in a saucepan over a low flame for 5 to 8 minutes till the butter browns. Be careful not to burn the butter. Strain the browned butter to remove any impurities.

Add the icing sugar, a little at a time, and whisk to combine. Add a few teaspoons of milk and rose essence to thin the glaze, so it’s a pourable consistency.

Remove the tea cake from the oven and allow it to cool completely on a wire rack. Carefully run a knife around the edge of the pan to loosen before unmoulding.

Once the cake is completely cooled, drizzle the glaze on top.

Extracted from Adventures with Mithai by Rachel Goenka, published by Harper Collins.

Florentines

Makes 40

50g mixed glacé fruit

50g candied orange peel

35g glacé cherries

100g flaked almonds

25g flour sifted

100ml whipped cream

85g caster sugar

30g mild honey

300g dark chocolate

Preheat the oven to 170°C (335°F). Butter a baking tray.

Finely chop the mixed glacé fruit, orange peel and cherries and place in a bowl; add the almonds. Tip the flour into the bowl and stir carefully by hand to separate the pieces of fruit.

Heat the cream, sugar and honey until simmering; stir over low heat for 2 – 3 minutes, or until the sugar dissolves. Using a wooden spoon, carefully blend the hot cream mixture into the glacé fruit and flour. (If desired, the Florentine mixture could be kept refrigerated for 2 days).

Using a spoon, put small mounds of the mixture on the baking tray placing them well apart. Flatten with the back of the spoon into 3cm discs. Transfer to the oven and when the discs start to bubble, remove and cool for about 30 minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 160°C (325°F) and bake the discs for another 10 minutes. Cool and transfer to a wire rack.

Temper the chocolate: Coarsely chop the chocolate. Place 2/3 (200g) of the chopped chocolate in a bowl; melt over a bain-maire until the chocolate reaches 45°C on a digital thermometer. Remove the bowl from the heat and add the remaining chocolate, stirring until the temperature drops to 27°C. Return the bowl to the bain-maire, stir gently and reheat the chocolate to 32°C.

Using a pastry brush, apply a layer of tempered chocolate to the flat side of each Florentine; tap each on the work surface to release any air bubbles in the chocolate. Spread with a second layer, using a spatula to remove any excess chocolate. Harden the Florentines at room temperature.

Chef’s Tip: Make sure that you spread the dough out thinly on the baking tray otherwise the Florentines will not be easy to eat when cooked.

Extracted from Le Cordon Blue Chocolate Bible, from the famous French culinary school. Published by Grub Street.

National Sandwich Day…

Guess what? Tomorrow, November 3rd is National Sandwich Day, can you imagine…. There’s a special day to celebrate just about everything nowadays so why not cast a spotlight on the humble sandwich, a universally loved fast food, synonymous with convenience and super versatile.

Every country in the world has a range of sandwiches based on a mind boggling variety of breads from sourdough, brioche, challah, pide, foccacia, baguette, burger buns, rolls of various shapes and sizes, pitta, rye, pumpernickel, English muffins, bagels to the ubiquitous squishy sliced pan.

The origin of the sandwich is well documented, it can be traced back to the 18th century when John Montague – the 4th Earl of Sandwich, a notoriously heavy gambler, instructed his staff to bring his food to the table so he could eat it easily with one hand without interrupting his card game… the sandwich was born. Who could have the predicted the limitless number of variations on the theme…

Virtually every county has one and in some cases many more.

Sandwiches can be simple grab, gobble and go, affordable street food, to luxurious combinations created by Michelin starred chefs, sweet, savoury, hot or cold, jumbo or petite…..

Some are steeped in tradition; others offer a glimpse into the history and customs of a region. Travel to the East and Far East, Middle East, South America, the Caucasus, the Caribbean, the Nordic peninsula…..Chances are you will find multiple variations but sandwiches are for everyone – they bridge the gap between all cultures and can be super nutritious or ‘lay on you like a third mortgage’.

Starting with Ireland, let’s take a quick jaunt around the globe – apart from the lunch box staple, processed ham and easy singles, or a grilled cheese toastie, I’m opting for the breakfast roll, a Full Irish crammed into a roll, the Irish equivalent of a Mexican breakfast burrito, immortalised in the comedian Pat Shorts’ song Jumbo Breakfast Roll which topped the charts here In Ireland in 2006.

The UK has its ploughman’s, the chip buttie and more genteel crust less cucumber sandwich, cut into elegant triangles. Then there’s the BLT or the BLTA which includes avocado as well as the bacon, lettuce and tomato.

Croque Monsieur, Croque Madame spring to mind in France as does Pain Bagnat or a simple Jambon Beurre. Then let’s jump to Italy for Tramezzino… I love these little ’humpbacked sandwiches bursting with tasty fillings. Then there is Panino and Panini with a myriad of options and have you tasted a Mozzarella en Carrozza, a fried sandwich oozing with bubbling melting mozzarella – a speciality of the Campania region of Southern Italy, home to many different cheeses including mozzarella.

In Germany seek out the Leberkäse, particularly in Bavaria. A crips whote bnun stuffed with pork or pate and drizzled liberally with sweet or hot mustard.

The Bocadillo is Spain’s sandwich supreme, a baguette where anything goes from Jámon Serrano (Serranito in Andalucía) morcilla,  (black pudding) to fried squid, padron peppers, an omelette or simple, crushed, super ripe tomatoes, sea salt and olive oil on bread, in the unforgettable Pan con Tomate. A Montadito is a bite sized open sandwich or a plugs, a tapas sized version on a dinner roll….

In Greece seek out the delicious Gyro, traditionally made using lamb, beef or pork cooked on a rotisserie combined with tomato, onion and a yoghurt dressing , all served on a pita – what’s not to like!

In Holland the most bizarre thing I’ve tasted was a hundreds and thousands sandwich, two slices of squishy white pan, buttered generously, sprinkled with hundreds and thousands and sandwiched together – I kid you not…..

In Bosnia-Hertzigovina, Croatia, Serbia…. Ćevapi is a favourite.

The Banh Mi of Vietnam, a French baguette filled with barbequed or grilled chicken with lemon grass and veggies and a creamy mayo is now a global craze. There is even a desert banh mi loaded with ice cream and crushed peanuts.

The doner kebab dates back to the Ottoman Empire – juicy chargrilled meats, sliced from a rotating grill and stuffed into a pitta pocket and then there’s sharma and falafel, a favourite all over the Middle East which has now popped up everywhere. Try the Rocketman’s version of falafel on Prince’s Street in Cork.

The US has seen more than its fair share of iconic sambos, beginning with peanut butter and jelly, the Ruben, a club sandwich, the meatball sub, philly, po boy from New Orleans, muffaletta, fried chicken biscuit, pulled pork sandwich, grilled cheeses delicious the lobster roll to mention just a few. All of the afore mentioned sandwiches are pretty well available in New York as well as numerous ethnic specialities. Including the Barro Luco, the famous Chilean steak and cheese sandwich as is Chivito from Uruguay) Choripán and Tortas from Argentina and all the Mexican favourites, Cemita and Pambazo…..

Got to stop soon but can’t forget the Vada Pav in India and the Bombay sandwich, a vegetarian ‘take’ on a club sandwich with that zingy coriander chutney and then there is the Chutney sandwich, an Indian riff on the British afternoon tea sandwiches.

China too has many favourites, fluffy steamed boa buns, stuffed with pork belly, coriander, greens and peanuts, Oh my!

Japan’s food scene is totally amazing, you mustn’t miss the Croquette Sando or Karroke Sando – panko crusted croquettes sandwiched between two slices of soft white bread topped with tangy Katsu sauce.

Even more bizarre is the Strawberry Sando….

I’m running out of space there is so much more, there could be 4 or 5 articles on the subject, here are just a few sandwiches to whet your appetite….

Pulled Pork Sandwiches in Baps with Rocket Leaves and Cucumber Pickle

2.2-2.6kg (5-6lbs) shoulder of free-range range

Sea salt

a little fennel seeds, lightly crushed

To Serve

fresh baps

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Rocket leaves

Cucumber Pickle (optional)

Brambley Apple Sauce (see recipe)

Score the skin of a shoulder of free range, preferably heritage pork, Rub lots of salt and a little crushed fennel seed into the cuts. Roast for 18 hours at 90°C/194°F, the meat should be almost falling off the bones and the skin crackly. Remove the crackling, preheat the oven to 250°C/500°F, put the crackling on a tray and cook for a few minutes until bubbly and crisp.  Alternatively slow roast at 150°C/300°F/Gas Mark 2 for 7-8 hours.


To Serve

Split the fresh baps, pull the warm meat off the bone, season with Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, add any meat juices, maybe a few chilli flakes, taste. Fill the warm baps with a few rocket or a mixture of salad leaves, some pulled pork, and a few pieces of crunchy crackling, cucumber pickle, and a dollop of Bramley sauce.

Serve immediately.

Bramley Apple Sauce

The secret of really good apple sauce is to use a heavy-based saucepan and very little water. The apples should break down into a fluff during the cooking.

450g (1lb) bramley cooking apples

2 teaspoons water

50g (2oz) sugar, or more depending on tartness of the apples

Peel, quarter and core the apples, then cut the quarters in two and put in a small stainless steel or cast iron saucepan. Add the sugar and water, cover and cook over a low heat. As soon as the apple has broken down, stir so it’s a uniform texture and

taste for sweetness. Serve warm.

Muffuletta

A speciality of New Orleans muffuletta is a chunky, macho sandwich. One can vary the fillings but there must be lots of it.

Serves 10 (approximately)

1 large or 2 smaller round rustic loaves

10oz (300g) pitted black olives

3 red peppers (roasted, peeled and roughly cut into chunks)

3 yellow peppers (roasted, peeled and roughly cut into chunks)

4-6 tablespoons tapenade

salt and freshly ground pepper

5oz (150g) salami thinly sliced (approximately)

12oz (350g) curly endive and oakleaf lettuce or a mixture of salad leaves

8oz (225g) Provolone or Buffalo mozzarella

5oz (150g) mortadella or cooked ham thinly sliced

2oz (50g) rocket leaves

Cut a lid off the top of the loaves of bread.  Remove the soft crumb and keep for breadcrumbs.

Smear Tapenade over the base and the under-lid of each loaf.  Then arrange layers of salami, salad leaves, roasted peppers, Provolone cheese and ham or mortadella on each base.

Place the bread lids on top, cover tightly with pure cling film and chill for at least one hour before serving.

Divide each muffuletta into five or six wedges and serve.

Note: Basil pesto, red pepper or sun-dried tomato pesto may be drizzled on bread with the Tapenade.

Roast Chicken, Celery and Walnut Sandwiches

This combination also makes a delicious salad when cut into chunkier dice.

Makes 4-6 sandwiches

2 cups of diced freshly roasted free-range chicken (include some crispy skin)

1/2 cup of diced celery

1/4 cup of diced fresh walnuts

1/2 cup of homemade mayonnaise (see recipe)

1/4 – 1/2 cup coarsely chopped parsley

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

best quality fresh white bread

butter, soft

Method

Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Butter each slice of bread, spread a layer of filling over each base.  Press another slice of bread on top.  Trim off the crusts before serving.  Cut into fingers or triangles and serve. 

Note

We sometimes dip the cut sides of the bread into the chopped parsley for daintier sandwiches.

Japanese Strawberry Sando

A speciality of Tokyo – bizarre yet irresistible. Fruit sandwiches can also include kiwi, mandarin, oranges, pineapple, blueberries, bananas….the bread should be soft and crust less.


Makes 1

2 slices of white yeast crust less bread (in japan they use Shukupan)

2 tablespoons (approximately) whipped cream, well sweetened with castor or icing sugar

4 – 5 ripe strawberries halved lengthwise

To assemble, spread a layer of sweetened cream on both sides of the bread. Halve the strawberries and arrange a nice neat row on one slice. Top with the other, cream side down. Cover and chill for 30 minutes or so. Unwrap, cut diagonally, arrange on a plate. Serve and enjoy.

The Ulster Food Trail….

On a recent reconnaissance trip to Northern Ireland, it’s not too strong to say I was blown away by the explosion of artisan food and drink producers.  After three action packed days, I struggled home on the train resembling a ‘bag lady’ with large totes overflowing with produce – so many delicious new finds…..

My adventure began in the Strangford Lough region. I was collected from lovely Clandeboye after a particularly good breakfast of freshly boiled eggs and unctuous Clandeboye yoghurt made from the milk of Lady Duffrin’s fine herd of Jersey cows – Seek out this yoghurt, its superb and I don’t use that word loosely.

After a meandering drive around beautiful Strangford Lough, we arrived at the Echlinville Distillery outside Kircubbin. It’s the first newly licensed distillery in Northern Ireland in 125 years. Since it’s establishment in 2012 it’s at the forefront of Ireland’s spirits renaissance and is the home of some of the North’s best known spirits, including Jawbox Gin, Dunvilles Irish Whiskey and lots of innovative work going on here with barrel aging in various woods… We particularly enjoyed a 12 year old Dunville’s single malt, aged in a PX barrel, the return of an icon originally introduced in 1808.

After our tour and tipple, it was on to the little town of Comber to the super cool indigenous and independent Indie Füde shop. Owner Johnny McDowell bounced out to greet us, his little deli/cum café was packed with small batch artisan products from all over the island of Ireland but particularly the North. Fantastic charcuterie from Broughgammon Farm and Ispini, Boerwors from Hellbent, Buffalo Salami from Ballyriff, Buchanan’s Irish peat smoked back bacon with a delicious layer of fine back fat, Abernethys handmade butter made in Dromara from the cream of the grass fed cows and then a whole counter of wonderful artisan cheese. Blue Buck of course but also several I hadn’t tasted before, a Sperrin blue, a triple cream cheese from Ballylisk of Armagh called Triple Rose. An oak smoked Drumlin Cheddar from Silka Cropp of Corleggy fame in Co Cavan.

I also found some smoked anchovies from East Coast Seafoods and a loaf of French Village Bakery sourdough – How about that for a picnic?

Johnny is properly passionate about local foods and loves to do things differently from eco-friendly packaging, bold designs to bespoke gift ideas, always trying to surprise and innovate, follow Indie Füde (www.indiefude.com) to find out about their cookery demos and pop up supper clubs, Will Brown was cooking up a storm while we were there getting ready for that evenings supper club.

Next day we explored the mid Ulster region – First stop the Lough Neagh Fisherman’s Co-Op in Toomebridge, Co Antrim. Several fishermen were sorting their nets under the watchful eye of a flock of herons on the weir over the River Ban which runs through the 45 mile Lough Neagh. I’d particularly asked to visit this fishery…. we’ve been enjoying the tender Lough Neagh smoked eel at Ballymaloe for many years, both silver and brown eels thrive in the lough. They love dark and stormy nights before a new moon, the eels become restless and move down the river to start their epic 5,000 mile journey back to the Sargasso Sea, carried along on the gulf stream. The fishermen wait in their flat bottomed boats, with their traditional cogull nets and hooks to harvest the fat charged eel, carrying on a tradition and passing on the skills that date back to the Mesolithic times

Cathy Chauhan & Pat Close showed us round the interpretive visitor centre and Science room where school children learn about the intriguing history and life cycle of the eel.

Over 400 tons of Lough Neagh eel are caught and processed every year in line with careful conservation guidelines. A large part of the catch are shipped to Holland for smoking and to Billingsgate in London for the production of Jellied eel. Fresh eel are also available but what I didn’t know was that Lough Neagh is also home to many other species including Dollaghan, a wild brown trout, Perch, Roach, Bream, Pike and Pollan, an ancient fish species which dates back to the ice age and is unique to Ireland. I tasted it both fresh and smoked by North Coast Smokehouse and love it – By the way fresh eel is my favourite fresh water fish, and that’s also available from the Lough Neagh Co-op.

There’s so much more to share with you but enough for this article, to be continued…..

Rory O’Connell’s Roast Red Onion Leaves with Smoked Eel and Horseradish Mayonnaise

Choose small red onions for roasting as you really want the finished leaves to be bite sized. The smoked eel can be replaced with smoked salmon or mackerel but do try to source smoked eel if you can.

Makes approximately 20 pieces or bites

4 small red onions

1 tablespoon olive oil

sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper

250g (9oz) smoked eel cut into dice or thin slices

5 tablespoons horseradish mayonnaise (see recipe)

sprigs of chervil or watercress for garnish

Preheat oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas Mark 4.

Cut the unpeeled onions in half straight down through the middle and through the root. Brush the cut surfaces with olive oil and place cut side down on a roasting tray. Cook for 20-40 minutes or until the onions feel completely tender. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. When the onions are cool, separate the layers of onion to achieve little cup shaped leaves. These can be prepared in advance and stored at room temperature.

To assemble, place the onion leaves on a serving dish. Spoon a little of the horseradish mayonnaise into the base of each leaf and follow with a piece of eel and a spring if chervil or watercress.

Horseradish Mayonnaise

2 egg yolks

2 tablespoons of Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon of caster sugar

2 tablespoons of wine vinegar

150ml sunflower oil or light olive oil or a mixture of both oils

1 heaped tablespoon of finely, grated fresh horseradish

1 teaspoon of chopped tarragon

Put the egg yolks, mustard, sugar and vinegar in a bowl. Whisk well and add the oil gradually in a slow and steady stream while whisking all the time. The sauce will emulsify and thicken quite easily. Add the horseradish and chopped herbs. Taste and correct seasoning. It is unlikely to need salt because of the large quantity of mustard.

Chill until needed.

Scrambled Egg with Chervil and Smoked Salmon, Mackerel or Smoked Eel

Makes 24 approx.

Cold Scrambled Egg with Chervil may not sound in the least appetizing. Try it, it makes the very best egg sandwiches, and served here on tiny croutons with little strips of smoked salmon, mackerel or eel on top, it makes a delicious cocktail bite.  Smoked eel is sublime but we need to be aware that eels are endangered in some areas, in which case use smoked salmon or smoked mackerel.

2 really fresh organic eggs

1 tablesp. cream or milk

a dot of butter

salt and freshly ground pepper

trimmings of smoked salmon, smoked mackerel or smoked eel cut in strips

sourdough bread,  7mm (⅓ inch) thick, cut into 5cm (2 inch) squares approx. (large enough for about 2 bites)

chervil

Preheat a pangrill, chargrill the sourdough on both sides.  Cut into squares.

Scramble the eggs in the usual way, taste for seasoning.  Spread some scrambled egg on each piece of sourdough.   Sprinkle with finely grated cheese and top with chervil.

A Salad of Figs, Sperrin Blue Cheese, Cured Coppa, Smoked Almonds and Nasturtium Leaves

I used some Ispini Coppa, Broughgammon Salami.

Serves 4

4 ripe juicy figs

A drizzle honey

A drizzle lemon juice

8 thin slices of artisan salami or coppa

50g (2ozs) crumbled Sperrin Blue cheese

8 smoked or well toasted unskinned almonds coarsely sliced

A few small salad leaves or small nasturtium leaves if available

Extra virgin olive oil

Flakey sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Trim each fig and cut into thirds and place into a wide serving bowl. Drizzle with a little runny honey and a few drops of lemon juice. Toss gently.

To assemble.

Put three pieces of honeyed fig on each plate, top with a few crumbs of Sperrin Blue cheese, a couple of folds of wafer thin coppa or salami. Scatter a few small organic salad leaves and a nasturtium leaf or two on top.

Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, a few flakes of sea salt and a scattering of coarsely sliced, roasted or smoked almonds. Enjoy immediately.

Carrot, Apple and Raisin Salad with Yoghurt and Mayonnaise Dressing

This delicious salad can be made in minutes from ingredients you would probably have in your kitchen, but shouldn’t be prepared more than half an hour ahead, as the apple will discolour.  It can be served either as a starter or as an accompanied salad for ham or pork.

Serves 6

8 ozs (225g) grated carrot

10 ozs (285g) grated dessert apple, e.g. Cox’s Orange Pippin if available

2½ oz (60 g) raisins

salt and freshly ground pepper

Dressing

2-3 tablespoons natural yoghurt

2-3 tablespoons homemade mayonnaise

honey (optional)

Garnish

a few leaves of lettuce

sprigs of watercress or parsley

chive flowers if you have them

Wash the carrots and peel if necessary.  Grate the carrots and apples on the coarsest part of the grater. Mix the yoghurt with the mayonnaise.  Mix the coarsely grated carrot and apple together, add the raisins and season with salt and freshly ground pepper and toss in the dressing. Toss with a fork to mix.   Taste and add a bit of honey if needed, depending on the sweetness of the apples.

Take 6 large side plates, white are best for this.   Arrange a few small lettuce leaves on each plate and divide the salad between the plates.  Garnish with sprigs of watercress or flat parsley and sprinkle with chive flowers if you have some. Season to taste.

Bhapa Doi – Steamed Sweetened Yoghurt

So maybe this isn’t exactly a traditional recipe, but steamed puddings are certainly a forgotten skill and I ate the most sublime steamed yoghurt at Kempies restaurant in Calcutta. This isn’t exactly the same, but it is delicious also. I found it in The Calcutta Kitchen by Simon Parkes and Udit Sarkhel.

The sweetness of the condensed milk works wonderfully with the acidity of the plain yoghurt. This creamy, sliceable textured pudding is similar to a crème caramel – one of my favourites.

Serves 8

800g (1lb 12 oz) natural yoghurt

300g (10 1/2oz) sweetened condensed milk

seeds of 6 green cardamom pods

powdered in a mortar and pestle

8-10 saffron strands

Garnish

Sliced pistachio nuts

Heat some water in a steamer. You could use a bamboo over a wok, but any multi-tiered steamer will work. If you do not have a steamer, upturn a small, metal, flat-bottomed bowl inside a larger pot with a fitting lid. Pour water into this and bring to a simmer. Put the item to be steamed into a suitable dish, cover with clingfilm, and place on the upturned bowl to steam.

Mix the natural yoghurt and other ingredients in a bowl and whisk to incorporate some air but don’t overdo it or the whey will separate. Pour it into 8 small serving bowls. Cover with clingfilm and put in the steamer or on to the upturned bowl. Cover with the lid and steam on a steady simmer for 35-40 minutes.

Carefully remove the bowls and leave to cool. Remove the clingfilm and chill.

Serve chilled, sprinkle with the sliced pistachio nuts.

Celebrating the Potato

Drat, I’ve just discovered that I missed National Potato day. It was on Friday 4th of October. Somehow it whizzed by without me registering but I really want to write a column extolling the virtues of my veggie hero – my top pick for a desert island staple.

Why do we insist on calling it the humble spud when for me it is the most versatile of all vegetables. It can be dressed up or down, boiled, fried, sautéed, mashed, pureed, roast, layered up in a gratin, served as a side or presented as the main attraction. Like on the menu at terroir-based café, Tartare in Galway.

Multi award winning chef JP McMahon served new season potatoes in sea herb butter on the dinner menu. The oval potatoes came in a viscous broth sprinkled with dillisk seaweed and fresh mint – an inspired contemporary celebration of freshly dug organic potatoes from Beech Lawn Organic Farm in Ballinasloe where JP gets many of his fresh organic vegetables.

This week, I spent a couple of days in Northern Ireland meeting artisan food producers and visiting some ‘off the beaten track’ tourist attractions. I was particularly intrigued by two enterprising women, Tracey Jeffrey from Tracey’s Farmhouse Kitchen (https://traceysfarmhousekitchen.com/) and Bronagh Duffin at the Bakehouse in Bellaghy (http://bakehouseni.com/)

Tracey welcomes visitors and small groups who would like to learn the simple art of bread baking to her farmhouse. She made wheaten farls and fruit bannocks and taught us how to make fadge (potato bread) – a real taste of Ulster baking. I really wanted to learn how to make this traditional Ulster favourite. Turns out Tracey and Bronagh make it in quite different ways. . . . .

Tracey explained how potato bread was originally made as a way to use up leftover mashed potato. She kneaded the well-seasoned mash into some flour. Rolled it into a ¾ inch thick round and then cut it into 4 farls (quarters) these were originally cooked on a griddle over a turf fire but Tracey cooked them on an electric crepe pan (an ingenious idea), but of course, a dry frying pan also works perfectly. When they were speckled on both sides, Tracey slathered them with Abernethy’s Dillisk butter churned down the road in Dromara, Co Down.

Bronagh had invited 5 children from the local St Mary’s Primary School, to her kitchen for a class. The smell of turf smoke from the fireplace filled the kitchen while the children mixed the warm mashed potato and flour in a bowl with a fine dollop of butter and a dash of milk. Some of these children had never even eaten this traditional dish before but were super excited to learn that they could use a variety of cutters to cut out fun shapes to cook on the pan or the griddle over the open fire.

I stayed at Ballyscullion Park, Richard and Rosalind Mullholland’s beautiful Regency house, now a favoured wedding destination amidst the gardens and parkland. George, son of the house, cooked us a delicious country house dinner, the starter of home-grown tomatoes, fennel and halloumi had a drizzle of truffle flavoured Burren Balsamic on top – which added an extra delicious ‘je ne se quoi’ to the dish. https://www.ballyscullionpark.com A buttery potato gratin was served with slow cooked lamb, kale and runner beans.

A Potato gratin is such a versatile dish, it can be a meal in itself or a just ‘pop into the oven’ accompaniment.

I’m particularly fond of Indian potato dishes too, a few spices elevate potato cakes to a new level. , try these . . . .

And who doesn’t love a smooth and silky potato soup? The children will love it too and it can be dressed up for a dinner party with a slick of scallion oil or watercress pesto.

Finally we need to talk about variety, there are ‘potatoes and potatoes’ but it is good to realise that if you are interested in flavour, the variety really matters. . . seek out traditional and old varieties, Golden Wonder, Kerrs Pink, Pink Fir Apple, Charlotte, Alouette, Carolus, Setanta. . . .so much nourishment and flavour for just a few euros.

Potato Soup

Serves 6

Most people would have potatoes and onions in the house even if the cupboard was otherwise bare so one could make this simply delicious soup at a moment’s notice. While the vegetables are sweating, pop a few white soda scones or Cheddar cheese scones into the oven and wow, won’t they be impressed.

50g (2oz) butter

550g (20oz) peeled, diced, potatoes, one-third inch dice (weight when prepared)

110g (4oz) diced onions, one-third inch dice

salt and freshly ground pepper

1 litre (2 pints) homemade chicken stock or vegetable stock

100ml (4fl oz) creamy milk

freshly chopped herbs and herb flowers, optional

Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan. When it foams, add the potatoes and onions, toss them in the butter until well coated. Sprinkle with salt and a few grinds of pepper. Cover with a paper lid and the lid of the saucepan. Sweat on a gentle heat for 10 minutes approx. Meanwhile, bring the stock to the boil, when the vegetables are soft but not coloured add stock and continue to cook until the vegetables are soft. Puree the soup in a blender or food processor. Taste and adjust seasoning. Thin with creamy milk to the required consistency.

Serve sprinkled with a few freshly-chopped herbs and herb flowers if available.

Aloo Tikki (Spiced Potato Cakes)

1 onion, finely chopped

450g (1lb/4 potatoes), boiled and peeled

150g (5oz) green peas, cooked

1/2 – 3/4 green chilli, seeded and finely chopped

1-3 teaspoons ginger grated very finely

1 tablespoon fresh coriander, chopped

1 level teaspoon roast and ground cumin

1 level teaspoon roast and ground coriander

1/2 – 1 level teaspoon chilli powder

salt and pepper to taste 

seasoned flour

vegetable oil

Fry the onion in a little olive oil until golden.

Mash the boiled peas and potatoes with the other ingredients.  Add the chilli, ginger, coriander and spices.  Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper 

Shape into small balls with the dough, roll it in some seasoned flour and line them in a tray. Keep this in the fridge until you are ready to serve.

Just before serving, heat the vegetable oil in a frying pan and shallow fry them until golden.

Delicious served with a mint and coriander chutney or tomato chutney

Fadge or Potato Bread

Serves 8

In Ulster people are passionate about fadge or potato bread.  It can be cooked on a griddle, in a frying pan or in the oven.

2 lbs (900g) unpeeled ‘old’ potatoes eg. Golden Wonders or Kerrs Pinks

2 tablespoons flour

1-2 ozs (25-50g) butter

creamy milk

1 tablespoon chopped Parsley, Chives and lemon thyme, mixed, (optional)

seasoned flour

salt and freshly ground pepper

Bacon fat, butter or olive oil for frying

Cook the potatoes in their jackets, pull off the skin and mash right away.   Add the flour and butter. Season with lots of salt and freshly ground pepper, adding a few drops of creamy milk if the mixture is altogether too stiff. Taste and correct the seasoning. Shape into a 2.5 cm (3/4 inch) thick round and then cut into quarters or eights.  Dip in seasoned flour.  Bake on a griddle over an open fire or fry in bacon fat or melted butter on a gentle heat.  Cook the fadge until crusty and golden on one side, then flip over and cook on the other side (4-5 minutes approx.. each side).  Serve with an Ulster fry or just on its own on hot plates with a blob of butter melting on top.

New Season’s Potatoes with Dillisk Butter and Sea Vegetables

At Tartare in Galway, JP McMahon’s chefs serve this as a ‘standalone’ potato dish on the dinner menu. It’s high time potatoes took a starring role. We loved it.

Serves 6 – 8 as a starter

1kg new season baby potatoes (Pink Fir Apple or Charlotte)

1 teaspoon of milled dillisk flakes

250g butter

Seaweed vinegar to taste

Sea vegetables – dillisk, sea lettuce or mint leaves

Flaky sea salt

Cook the well-scrubbed potatoes in well salted boiling water until tender, 10 – 15 mins. Strain and reserve 100mls of the water. Slice the potatoes lengthwise or widthways depending on size. Return the water to the pot, add dillisk and butter. When the butter melts, blend to create an emulsion. Add the warm potatoes to the pot and glaze with the dillisk butter emulsion. Season to taste with seaweed vinegar ad salt. Ladle into hot bowls and serve immediately with sea herbs or fresh mint.

Ballyscullion Park Pommes Boulangere by George Mulholland

1.2Kg Maris Piper potatoes

1.5Litres homemade chicken or vegetable stock

Flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

250ml double cream

Butter

Scrub, peel and slice the potatoes into a 4mm thick rounds. Place one layer of potatoes into a casserole dish. Season with flaky sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Keep layering the potato slices until they are all used up, this amount should give you approx. 5 layers of sliced potatoes with each layer well-seasoned.

Cover potatoes with 1.5 litres of homemade stock and cover with a buttered cartouche (baking parchment cut to size and buttered on one side). Place in the oven at 260°C for 30 minutes until almost tender and remove from the oven.

Remove the potatoes with a slotted spoon and transfer to a well buttered casserole dish whilst layering them up. Add the double cream to the stock remaining which the potatoes were cooked in, stir to mix and pour over the potatoes. Top with lots of butter. Return to the oven at 260°C until the top layers are nicely browned and bubbling (20 – 30mins). Serve immediately.

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.

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