Darina’s Saturday Letter

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Turkey and all the trimmings…

Once again the Christmas lights are twinkling in the high streets. Somehow it feels as though the festive season comes round earlier and earlier each year. Santa and his elves have elbowed the harvest pumpkins and Halloween ghouls well out of the way until next Autumn.  

Children of all ages are being whipped into a frenzy of excitement by ads for this year’s new big thing and parents are feeling emotionally blackmailed into fulfilling their little dotes unrealistic expectations. Is it any wonder that we are seeing more and more column inches about the growing number of people who ‘hate Christmas’ and just want to bury their heads and groan every time they hear Bing Crosby or Michael Bublé crooning over the airwaves.

It’s not just the unwanted presents and added expense coupled with the extra work and sheer exhaustion. The mere thought makes some people long to go to curl up and snooze until early January. Spending Christmas with their nearest but ‘not so dearest’ can cause acute anxiety in itself. Let’s spare a thought though for the many who have actually lost dearly loved ones. Christmas, when everyone around seems impossibly cheery, seems to accentuate the heartbreak and loneliness and bring memories of happier times flooding back.

Time to remind ourselves of the spirit of Christmas and to remember that it should be a time of caring and sharing, comfort and joy and dare I say ‘simplicity’. So after all that, let’s ‘Have ourselves a Merry, little Christmas’.

As ever, a bit of advance planning will mean that everyone’s more relaxed and able to enjoy the fun….so let’s make a plan. Regular readers will know I’m a great list maker, for me, lists and lots of them are the answer. I think we all now realise, that Christmas is not just a one-day event but closer to two weeks. If you’ve got a big family, don’t feel you have to do everything yourselves – it’s good to begin by allocating some fun roles to as many family and friends as you can cajole or shame into taking on some tasks.

Decide on the menu for the big day, whether it’s turkey and ham or maybe a goose, order the very best you can afford. Beautifully reared organic birds tend to get snapped up early…. Hurry, hurry. . . .

We tend to be total traditionalists – The Christmas dinner menu is sacred, no one seems to want to change a single iota, we must have a gorgeous plump really well hung turkey. I order it ‘New York dressed’ and hang it for 4 or 5 weeks for maximum succulence.

Start with a two week planner, fill in the basics and create a shopping list. It’s easy to overestimate the amount of food we need but a well-stocked larder means one can whip up simple meals in minutes. I know turkey sandwiches are delicious but if there are just 2 or 4 in your family, ask yourself do you really need a turkey or goose, how about a plump pheasant, a crispy duck or a really beautiful organic chicken?

This year I’ve included our new favourite Scrunchy Spiced Winter Vegetable Pie for those who enjoy a lighter meat free meal.

It’s time to get cracking, so let’s plan a couple of batch cooking sessions. We love to make lots and lots of soup, such a brilliant standby to have in the freezer in small containers, perfect to quickly defrost when you need to produce a comforting meal in a hurry.

I also love to have some bags of pre-weighed soda bread mix ready to pop into a bowl. Just turn on the oven then add  a level teaspoon of baking soda and some buttermilk, cut the dough into scones and hey presto, you’ll have a bowl of chunky soup and freshly baked scones in less than 15 minutes. Some cured meats, farmhouse cheese, membrillo, a few tangerines and you have a perfect little feast.

Most of the accompaniments and sauces both sweet and savoury can be made weeks ahead, make more than you need as gifts for your friends, cranberry sauce, brandy butter and lots of chutneys and relishes.

Swede Turnip and Bacon Soup with Parsley Oil

Serves 6-8

1 tablespoon sunflower oil

150g (5oz) rindless streaky bacon cut in 1cm (1/2 inch) dice

110g (4oz) onions, chopped

110g (5oz) potatoes, diced

350g (12oz) swede turnips, diced

salt and freshly ground pepper

900ml (1 1/2 pints) homemade chicken stock

cream or creamy milk to taste

Parsley Oil

50ml (2fl oz) extra virgin olive oil

50g (2oz) parsley, chopped

Garnish

fried diced bacon

tiny croutons

flat parsley sprigs or coarsely chopped parsley

First make the Parsley Oil.

Whizz the parsley with the olive oil until smooth and green.

Next make the soup.

Heat the oil in a saucepan, add the bacon and cook on a gentle heat until crisp and golden. Remove to a plate with a slotted spoon and keep aside.

Toss the onion, potato and turnip in the oil.  Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Cover with a butter wrapper to keep in the steam, and sweat on a gentle heat until soft but not coloured, about 10 minutes. Add the stock, bring to the boil and simmer until the vegetables are fully cooked.  Liquidise, taste, add a little cream or creamy milk and some extra seasoning if necessary. 

To Serve.

Serve with a mixture of crispy bacon, tiny croutons and chopped parsley sprinkled on top.

Scrunchy Spiced Vegetable Filo Pie

This root vegetable pie can also be made in individual ‘snails’, but this delicious flaky version comes in a sauté pan. This version is good for a feast as it serves 12–15 people. You can halve the recipe if you’re serving smaller numbers.

Serves 12-15

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

500g (18oz) chopped onions

450g (16oz) peeled and chopped potatoes

500g (18oz) chopped carrots

450g (16oz) peeled and chopped celeriac

220g (8oz) peeled and chopped parsnip

4 teaspoons cumin seeds

6 teaspoons coriander seeds

1 teaspoon cardamom seeds

2 teaspoon turmeric

flaky sea salt, freshly ground black pepper

220g (8oz) sliced and sautéed mushrooms

4 tablespoons flour

salt and freshly ground pepper

600ml (20fl oz) vegetable stock

9 – 10 sheets of filo pastry, 30 x 43cm (12 x 17 inch) (about one packet)

45g (2oz) melted butter, for brushing

egg wash, made by beating 1 organic, free-range egg with 1 tablespoon whole milk

Preheat the oven to 230°C/450°F/Gas Mark 4.

Cut the vegetables into uniform sized cubes about ¾ inch.  Heat the olive oil in a 26cm (10 inch) ovenproof sauté pan, add the onions, potatoes, carrots, celeriac and parsnips.

Season with salt generously and freshly ground pepper, stir, cover the pot and sweat on a gentle heat for 4 or 5 minutes.  Meanwhile heat the cumin, coriander and cardamom seeds on a pan until they smell aromatic – just a few seconds.  Crush lightly, add to the vegetables stir in the sautéed mushrooms.  Cook for 1 – 2 minutes.  Take off the heat – sprinkle over the flour, turmeric and a pinch of sugar. Stir well.

Return to the pan to heat and add the vegetable stock gradually, stirring all the time. Bring to the boil, cover the pot and simmer for 20 – 30 minutes or until the vegetables are almost tender but not mushy. Remove from the pan, taste and correct the seasoning if necessary. Allow to cool

Brush the sauté pan with melted butter. Brush each sheet of filo with melted butter, fold over width wise, layer up the pastry in the base of the sauté pan or roasting dish so that it comes up the sides, allow enough pastry to hang over the sides to fold over and encase the filling.

Brush another sheet of filo with melted butter, divide into quarters, scrunch each piece lightly and arrange on top.

Spread the filling evenly over the pastry and bring up the sides of the filo to enclose the filling. Scrunch 3 sheets of filo and place on top of the pie.

Chill in the fridge. Just before baking, brush all over with the egg wash.  Put the sauté pan onto a gas jet at medium, cook for 3-4 minutes or until the pan heats and the base begins to brown.  Transfer to the oven and bake for about ½ an hour until puffed up and golden.

Serve, cut into wedges, while still warm and flaky.

Roast Potatoes and Jerusalem Artichokes with Bay Leaves

Do you know about Jerusalem artichokes, they are in season from November to March and look like knobbly potatoes.  Avery important source of inulin which enhances the growth of beneficial bacteria in our systems, particularly important after a course of antibiotics.

Jerusalem Artichokes are called sunchokes in the US, they are a member of the sunflower family

Serves 8

450g (1lb) potatoes

450g (1lb) Jerusalem artichokes                                 

12 unpeeled whole garlic cloves

flaky sea salt and cracked pepper

50g (2oz) duck fat or extra virgin olive oil

1 large sprig of bay leaves – about 20 leaves

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

Peel the potatoes, I like smaller potatoes best for this, but the large ones can be cut in to two, four or even 6 wedges depending on size. Scrub and cut the unpeeled Jerusalem artichokes in to similar size pieces.

Heat the duck fat or the extra virgin olive oil in a roasting tin.  Dry the potatoes and artichokes  well, toss in the fat or oil, add several sprigs  of bay, about 20 leaves. Season well with flaky sea salt and lots of pepper, and toss again.

Cook for 20 minutes, tossing occasionally, increase the heat to 230°C/450°F/Gas Mark 8, add the garlic cloves and continue to cook for another 15-20 minutes.  Turn into a hot dish and serve.

I like the edges of the potatoes and Jerusalem artichokes to be a little caramelised.

Christmas Salad Wreath

We serve this salad family style in the middle of the table.

A delicious festive starter, light, refreshing and fun to serve.

Serves 6 – 8 or more depending on size

24 fresh walnut halves

175 – 200gr (6-7oz) of mixed small salad leaves

2 – 3 ripe juicy pears

300 – 350g (10-12oz) ripe Crozier blue, crumbled (Use your favourite blue cheese)

Pomegranate seeds from 1/2 -1 fruit

Fresh sprigs of chervil and mint if available

Dressing

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

1 tablespoon honey

1 teaspoon of wholegrain mustard

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

flaky sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Pre heat the oven to 180°C/350°/Gas Mark 4.

Taste the walnuts and make sure they are not rancid.

Spread them out on a baking tray and roast in a preheated oven until nice and toasty (8-10 minutes), allow to cool.

Whisk all the ingredients together for the dressing, season with flaky salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Just before serving

Arrange the salad leaves in a wreath shape on a large round plate.

Peel and core the pears and cut into wedges.

Arrange around the top of the salad wreath, sprinkle the crumbled blue cheese, toasted walnuts and pomegranate seeds over the top.

Drizzle with a little dressing of put a little bowl of whisked dressing into the centre and serve immediately.

 

 

 

Two-Bite Parmesan Scones

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

Makes 41

450g (1lb) plain white flour

1 level teaspoon  teaspoon salt

1 level teaspoon teaspoon bread soda (bicarbonate of soda)

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

50g (2oz) freshly grated Parmesan or 110g (4oz) finely grated cheddar cheese

Cutter 4cm (1 1/2 inch) approximately

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

Sieve the dry ingredients into a large bowl. Make a well in the centre.  Pour most of the milk in at once. Using one hand, mix in the flour from the sides of the bowl, adding more milk if necessary. The dough should be softish, not too wet and sticky. When it all comes together, turn it out onto a well-floured board.  WASH AND DRY YOUR HANDS. Tidy it up then flip it over. Flatten the dough into a round about 2.5cm (1 inch) thick and stamp out into teeny weeny scones. Brush the top with a little buttermilk or egg wash, dip each scone into grated Parmesan.  Allow 2.5cm (1 inch) or so between each one on a baking tray.

Bake in a hot oven, 230°C/450°F/Gas Mark 8 for 10 minutes (approx.) or until cooked through. If you are in doubt, tap the bottom, when cooked they will sound hollow.

Cool on a wire rack.

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

A Tear and Share Christmas Tree

Have fun building the teeny weeny scones into a Christmas tree shape.  Bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes or until cooked through.

It’s also fun to cook three in a line and serve pierced with a rosemary or thyme sprig.

Cauliflower & Broccoli Cheese Gratin

Serves 6-8

1 medium sized cauliflower with green leaves

1 head of broccoli

salt

Mornay Sauce

600ml (1 pint) milk with a dash of cream

a slice of onion

3-4 slices of carrot

6 peppercorns

sprig of thyme or parsley

roux (see recipe)

salt and freshly ground pepper

150g (5oz) grated cheese, e.g. Cheddar or a mixture of Gruyére, Parmesan and Cheddar

1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

Garnish

Chopped parsley

Preheat the oven to 230°C/450°F/gas mark 8.

Prepare and cook the cauliflower and broccoli.

Remove the outer leaves and wash both the cauliflower and the leaves well.  Put not more than 2.5cm (1in) water in a saucepan just large enough to take the cauliflower; add a little salt.  Chop the leaves into small pieces and cut the cauliflower in quarters or eighths; place the cauliflower on top of the green leaves in the saucepan, cover and simmer until cooked, 10-15 minutes approx. Test by piercing the stalk with a knife, there should be just a little resistance.  Similarly cut the broccoli into small pieces place the broccoli in simmering, salted water for 8 – 10 mins approx. or until tender when pierced with a knife.

The secret of maximum flavour is minimum water.

Meanwhile make the Mornay Sauce. Put the cold milk into a saucepan with the onion, carrot, peppercorns and herb.  Bring to the boil, simmer for 3-4 minutes, remove from the heat and leave to infuse for 10 minutes.

Strain out the vegetables, bring the milk back to the boil and whisk in enough roux to thicken to a light coating consistency. Add most of the grated cheese (reserving enough to sprinkle over the dish) and a little mustard. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper, taste and correct the seasoning, it should good and perky. Spoon the sauce over the cauliflower in an ovenproof gratin dish, and sprinkle with the remainder of the grated cheese. The dish may be prepared ahead to this point.

Put into the preheated oven or under the grill to brown. If the cauliflower cheese is allowed to get completely cold, it will take 20-25 minutes to reheat in a moderate oven. 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4.  Serve sprinkled with chopped parsley.

Old-Fashioned Roast Turkey with Fresh Herb Stuffing

Serves 10-12

This is my favourite roast stuffed turkey recipe. You may think the stuffing seems dull because it doesn’t include exotic-sounding ingredients like chestnuts and spiced sausage meat, but in fact it is moist and full of the flavour of fresh herbs and the turkey juices.  Cook a chicken in exactly the same way but use one-quarter of the stuffing quantity given.

Brining the turkey makes a phenomenal difference to the flavour, either dry or wet brine. (See below on Wet and Dry Brining).

(4.5-5.4kg) 1 x 10-12lb, free-range and organic, turkey with neck and giblets

Fresh Herb Stuffing

175g (6oz) butter

350g (12oz) chopped onions

400-500g (14-16oz) approx. soft breadcrumbs (or approximately 1lb 4oz of gluten-free breadcrumbs)

50g (2oz) freshly chopped herbs eg. parsley, thyme, chives, marjoram, savoury, lemon balm

salt and freshly ground pepper

Stock

neck, gizzard, heart, wishbone and wingtips of turkey

2 sliced carrots

2 sliced onions

1 stick celery

Bouquet garni

3 or 4 peppercorns

For basting the turkey

225g (8oz) butter

large square of muslin (optional)

Garnish

large sprigs of fresh parsley or watercress

Remove the wishbone from the neck end of the turkey, for ease of carving later. Make a turkey stock by covering with cold water the neck, gizzard, heart, wishbone, wingtips, vegetables and bouquet garni. (Keep the liver for smooth turkey liver pate).  Bring to the boil and simmer while the turkey is being prepared and cooked, 3 hours approx.

To make the fresh herb stuffing: Sweat the onions gently in the butter until soft, for 10 minutes approx., then stir in the crumbs, herbs and a little salt and pepper to taste.  Allow it to get quite cold.  If necessary wash and dry the cavity of the bird, then season and half-fill with cold stuffing.  Put the remainder of the stuffing into the crop at the neck end. 

Weigh the turkey and calculate the cooking time. Allow 15 minutes approx. per lb and 15 minutes over. Melt the butter and soak a large piece of good quality muslin in the melted butter; cover the turkey completely with the muslin and roast in a preheated moderate oven, 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4, for 2 ¾ – 3 ¼ hours depending on the weight.  A brined turkey takes a shorter time to cook. There is no need to baste it because of the butter-soaked muslin.  The turkey will brown beautifully. Alternatively, smear the breast, legs and crop well with soft butter, and season with salt and freshly ground pepper.  If the turkey is not covered with butter-soaked muslin then it is a good idea to cover the whole dish with dampened parchment paper.  However, your turkey will then be semi-steamed, not roasted in the traditional sense of the word. 

To Test:  The turkey is done when the juices run clear. To test, prick the thickest part at the base of the thigh and examine the juices, they should be clear. Remove the turkey to a carving dish, keep it warm and allow it to rest while you make the gravy.

To make the gravy: Spoon off the surplus fat from the roasting pan. De-glaze the pan juices with fat free stock from the giblets and bones. Using a whisk, stir and scrape well to dissolve the caramelised meat juices from the roasting pan. Boil it up well, season and thicken with a little roux if you like. Taste and correct the seasoning. Serve in a hot gravy boat.

If possible, present the turkey on your largest and grandest serving dish, surrounded by crispy roast potatoes, and garnished with large sprigs of parsley or watercress and maybe a sprig of holly. Make sure no one eats the berries.

Serve with Cranberry Sauce and Bread Sauce

A Simple Cranberry Sauce

Cranberry Sauce is also delicious served with roast turkey, game and some rough pâtés and terrines. We enjoy this simple Cranberry Sauce best.  It will keep in your fridge for several weeks.  It is also great with white chocolate mousse or as a filling for a meringue roulade. I like it pure and simple but of course you can add some grated orange rind or a splash of brandy if you wish!

Serves 6 approximately

175g (6oz) fresh or frozen cranberries

4 tablespoons (60ml/scant 2 1/2fl oz) water

75g (3oz) granulated sugar

Put the fresh cranberries in a small heavy-based stainless steel saucepan with the water – don’t add the sugar yet as it tends to toughen the skins.  Bring them to the boil, cover and simmer until the cranberries pop and soften, about 7 minutes.  Remove from the heat and stir in the sugar until dissolved.

Serve warm or cold.

Note: Fresh cranberries keep for weeks on end but also freeze perfectly.

Note:  It should be soft and juicy, add a little warm water if it has accidently over cooked.

Bread and Parsley Sauce

I love Bread Sauce but if I hadn’t been reared on it I might never have tried it – the recipe sounds so dull!  Serve with roast chicken, turkey and guinea fowl. I’m loving the addition of some freshly chopped parsley at the end.

Serves

600ml (1 pint) whole milk

110g (4oz) soft white breadcrumbs

2 medium onions, each stuck with 6 cloves

35 – 50g (1 1/2 – 2oz) butter

salt and freshly ground pepper

75ml (3oz) thick cream

2 tablespoons freshly chopped parsley

2 good pinches of ground cloves or quatre epices

Preheat the oven to 160°C/325°F/Gas Mark 3.

Bring to the boil in a small, deep saucepan all the ingredients except the cream. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Transfer to the preheated oven and cook for 30 minutes. Remove the onion and add the cream just before serving. Correct the seasoning and add a little more milk if the sauce is too thick. Serve hot.

Note: The bread sauce will keep in the fridge for several days – the remainder can be reheated gently – you may need to use a little more milk.

Quatre Epices is a French spice mix made of equal amounts of ground white pepper, cloves, nutmeg and ginger.

How to Brine a Turkey

Wet Brine

Brining hugely enhances the flavour of poultry and pork. Both add flavour. For wet brine, you’ll need a large enough container to fully submerge the turkey in the brine for 24 hours. Some people brine the bird in their stainless steel sink.

Use 100g salt to every 1 litre of water, stir to fully dissolve. Drain and dry well before stuffing and covering with butter soaked muslin.

Dry Brine

Rub pure salt all over the surface of the turkey. Leave overnight, next day pat the bird dry and proceed as above.

Gutsy herbs like thyme and rosemary can be chopped and added to the salt. Not sure why but brining decreases the cooking time so check for doneness at least 30 minutes earlier and allow to rest for a further 30 minutes.

Batch Cooking

The new buzz word in the kitchen is ‘Batch Cooking’. Quite simply, it means cooking double or triple the recipe each time so meals can be planned ahead, mixed and matched and frozen in handy, easy to defrost size portions. Typically, the big batch cooking session is done at the weekend, often on a Sunday.

It not only saves time during the week but also helps your budget

and reduces food waste. Here’s where the freezer, the magical kitchen appliance that almost everyone owns, can really transform busy people’s lives and you’ll also have more special time to enjoy and spend with your family. But you’ll need to use it ‘smartly’ so here are a few tips.

Most foods freeze brilliantly, including sausage rolls, meat balls, breads, soups, stocks, beans, stews, casseroles, tagines, muffins, fishcakes, burgers, cooked rice, cookie dough, cakes …..food will freeze for ever but as a general rule it’s best to use up within a few weeks rather than months. Of course it will keep frozen but both flavour and texture gradually deteriorate as does the nutrient value. Some foods like lettuce and mayo don’t freeze well – they will wilt and split.

For maximum convenience, freeze food in smaller rather than larger portions unless you plan to serve a whole dish for 4 – 6 people. If not, freeze individual or a two portion serving instead – they defrost so much faster and cut down on waste. Recycled yoghurt pots or muffin tins are perfect for freezing individual portions. Tray freeze whenever possible, meat balls, sausage rolls, homemade fish fingers and chicken nuggets…  Then pop them into a reusable plastic box, interleaved with parchment paper or bag them in reusable bags, defrosting what you want when you fancy it.

Save tetra packs and litre milk cartons for soups. Allow some space for expansion during freezing. Cook the favourite dishes that your family love but more of them.  Here are a few favourite standbys…

Tomato fondue, we are never without this ‘great convertible’ serve as a vegetable, a sauce for pasta, topping for pizza, filling for an omelette, base for a bean stew, sauce for grilled fish or a chicken breast…Peperonata and mushroom a la crème are two other indispensable standbys.

All soup…. I’d never be without a stock of soup both thin and chunky. Cook up a couple of batches of bean stew also and of course some veg and meat stews, gratins and lasagnes.

When you manage to source some really fresh fish, an increasing challenge, tray freeze a few portions and also cook up a batch of fish cakes and a few fish pies with some creamy mash on top. Mash potato or champ and potato cakes are also brilliant to batch cook, freeze both in dishes and individual portions. So here are a few dishes to get started on….

Tomato Fondue x 3

This is triple the recipe that serves 6 so enough to serve 18 portions.

You’ll never be short of a quick meal if you have some tomato fondue in the freezer, Use it as an accompanying vegetable, a base for a bean or fish stew, sauce for pasta, topping for pizza or frittata, filling for an omelette . . . .

3 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

350g (12oz) onions, sliced

3 garlic clove, crushed

2.7kgs (6lb) very ripe tomatoes, peeled or 6 x 14oz tins chopped tomatoes

salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar to taste

6 tablespoons of any or a combination of the following: freshly chopped mint, thyme, parsley, lemon balm, marjoram or torn basil

a few drops of balsamic vinegar (optional)

Heat the oil in a casserole or stainless-steel saucepan. Add the onions and garlic and toss until coated. Cover and sweat on a gentle heat until the onions and garlic are soft but not coloured. Slice the tomatoes and add with all the juice to the onions. Season with salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar. Add a generous sprinkling of herbs.

Cook, uncovered, for about 10 minutes, or until the tomatoes soften.

A few drops of balsamic vinegar at the end of cooking greatly enhance the flavour.

Homemade Fish Cakes x 3

Fish cakes are absolutely scrummy when they are carefully made and freeze perfectly.

Makes 24

3-3.5 lbs (1.3kg -1.5kg) cold leftover fish, e.g. salmon, cod, haddock, hake (a proportion of smoked fish such as haddock or mackerel is good)

3oz (75g) butter

12oz (350g) onion, finely chopped

3lb (1.3kg) mashed potato

3 egg yolks

3 tablespoon parsley, chopped

salt and freshly ground pepper

seasoned flour

2 beaten eggs

fresh white breadcrumbs

clarified butter or a mixture of butter and oil for frying

To make the fish cakes, melt the butter in a saucepan, toss in the chopped onion, cover and sweat on a gentle heat for 4 or 5 minutes until soft but not coloured.

Scrape the contents of the pan into a bowl, add the mashed potato and the flaked cooked fish, egg yolk and chopped parsley or a mixture of fresh herbs. Season well with salt and freshly ground pepper. Taste. Form the mixture into fish cakes about 2oz (50g) each. Coat them first in seasoned flour, then in beaten egg and finally in crumbs. Refrigerate until needed, then cook on a medium heat in clarified butter until golden on both sides. Serve piping hot with pats or slices of garlic butter, tomato fondue and a good green salad.

 Scallion Champ

Serves 4-6 but will easily double up for batch cooking.

Freeze in portion sizes that suit your situation.

A bowl of mashed potatoes flecked with green scallions with a blob of butter melting in the centre, add the butter just before serving so it melts into the centre. ‘Comfort’ food at its best.

1.5kg (3lb) unpeeled ‘old’ potatoes e.g. Golden Wonders or Kerrs Pinks

110g (4oz) chopped scallions or spring onions (use the bulb and green stem) or 45g

chopped chives

350ml (10-12fl oz/1 1/4 – 1 1/2 cups) milk

50-110g (2-4oz/1/2 – 1 stick) butter

salt and freshly ground pepper

Scrub the potatoes and boil them in their jackets.

Chop finely the scallions or spring onions or chopped chives.  Cover with cold milk and bring slowly to the boil.  Simmer for about 3-4 minutes, turn off the heat and leave to infuse.  Peel and mash the freshly boiled potatoes and while hot, mix with the boiling milk and onions, beat in the butter.  Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper.  Serve in 1 large or 6 individual bowls with a knob of butter melting in the centre.  Scallion mash may be put aside and reheated later in a moderate oven, 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4.  Cover with parchment paper while it reheats so that it doesn’t get a skin and add the lump of butter just before serving.

Scallion and Potato Cakes

A great use for any leftover mash and easily frozen prior to cooking and defrosted as needed. Shape leftover scallion mash into potato cakes, cook until golden on both sides in clarified butter or butter and oil. Serve piping hot.

Basic Vegetable Soup

Serves 6

Well over half the soups we make at Ballymaloe are made on this simple formula. 1.1.3.5. When following this formula you can easily double or triple your recipe and freeze in batches.

1 part diced onion

1 part diced potato

3 parts any diced vegetable of your choice, or a mixture

5 parts stock or stock and milk mixed

seasoning

One can use water, chicken or vegetable stock and season simply with salt and freshly ground pepper.  Complementary fresh herbs or spices may also be added.

So one can make a myriad of different soups depending on what’s fresh, in season and available.

If potatoes and onions are the only option, one can still make two delicious soups by increasing one or the other and then adding one or several herbs.  We have even used broad bean tops, radish leaves and nettles in season but kale, cabbage or leek tops would work excellently now.

Example:

50g (2oz) butter

150g (5oz) chopped potatoes, one-third inch dice

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

340g (12oz) chopped vegetables of your choice, one-third inch dice

1.2L (2 pints) homemade chicken stock or 1L (1 3/4 pints) stock and 150ml (5fl oz) creamy milk

Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed saucepan. When it foams, add potatoes and onions and turn them until well coated. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper. Cover and sweat on a gentle heat for 10 minutes. Add the vegetables and stock. Boil until soft, liquidise, sieve or put through a mouli. Do not overcook or the vegetables will lose their flavour. Adjust seasoning.

Shanagarry Chicken Casserole

Another great recipe to double up and freeze for a busy day when you want something nourishing and comforting to eat.

A good chicken casserole even though it may sound ‘old hat’ always gets a hearty welcome from my family and friends, sometimes I make an entire meal in a pot by covering the top with whole peeled potatoes just before it goes into the oven.

Serves 4-6

1 x 3 1/2 lbs (1.57kg) chicken (free range if possible)

a little butter or oil for sauteeing

12oz (350g) green streaky bacon (blanch if salty)

1lb (450g) onions, (baby onions are nicest)

12oz (350g) carrot, peeled and thickly sliced (if the carrots are small, leave whole, if large cut in chunks)

homemade chicken stock – 1 1/4 pints (750ml) approx.

sprig of thyme

Roux – optional

Garnish

2 tablespoons parsley, freshly chopped

Preheat oven to 180ºC/350ºF/Gas Mark 4.

Cut the rind off the bacon and cut into approx. 1 inch (2 cm) cubes, (blanch if salty). Dry in kitchen paper. Joint the chicken into 8 pieces. Season the chicken pieces well with salt and freshly ground pepper. Heat a little oil in a frying pan and cook the bacon until crisp, remove and transfer to the casserole. Add chicken pieces a few at a time to the pan and sauté until golden, add to the bacon in the casserole. Heat control is crucial here, the pan mustn’t burn yet it must be hot enough to sauté the chicken. If it is too cool, the chicken pieces will stew rather than sauté and as a result the meat may be tough. Then toss the onion and carrot in the pan adding a little butter if necessary, add to the casserole. Degrease the pan and deglaze with stock, bring to the boil and pour over the chicken etc. Season well, add a sprig of thyme and bring to simmering point on top of the stove, then put into the oven for 30-45 minutes, 180ºC/350ºF/Gas 4.

Cooking time depends on how long the chicken pieces were sautéed for.

When the chicken is just cooked, strain off the cooking liquid, degrease, return the degreased liquid to the casserole and bring to the boil. Thicken with a little roux if necessary (see below). Add the meat, carrots and onions back into the casserole and bring to the boil. Taste and correct the seasoning.  The casserole is very good served at this point, but it’s even more delicious if some mushroom a la creme is stirred in as an enrichment. Serve sprinkled with chopped parsley and bubbling hot.

Winter Veg

Autumn is fast sliding into Winter, the gardens and greenhouses look quite different to when the 12 Week students arrived in September. On the first day, when I was showing them around, I urged them to take photos to remember the changing landscape. We picked the last tomatoes off the vines a couple of weeks ago and made green tomato jam and chutney with the last of the fruit.

Basil hates the cold, those few nights of hard frost that gave us the spectacular Autumn colour killed the Genovese basil but surprisingly the Thai purple stemmed basil survived rather better.  Cucumbers too, have finished for another year but we’ve still got a few tiny aubergines to pop into a Thai green curry during the next few days.

The last of the borlotti beans are drying in the pods on the plants, they will be wonderful for hearty bean stews and winter soups.

So now we’re well and truly into the root vegetable season… Parsnips are unexpectedly sweet once again due to the nights of hard frost, which concentrated the sugar. We’ve also started to use the knobbly new season Jerusalem Artichokes – what a brilliant winter vegetable, super versatile, they roast deliciously, are great in gratins, soups and stews, and make the most irresistible crisps to nibble or scatter over a salad.

The Winter greens are flourishing too, there’s a forest of curly kale, cavolo Nero, red Russian, curly kale and lots of chard, so when I’m asked how do you manage for veg in the winter, people are astonished at the variety and I haven’t even mentioned leeks, celeriac, Romanesco or swede turnips.

Here are some of the new ways we’ve been enjoying natures Winter bounty in recipes and ferments…

Roast Fennell, Squash, Chorizo and basil frittata

Serves 6 – 8

400g Butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and cut into 2cm thick wedges

300g fennel, outer leaves removed, cut into 2cm thick wedges

3 tablespoons olive oil, plus 1 teaspoon and extra to drizzle

1 red onion thinly sliced

150g chorizo, skinned and sliced

250g spinach, washed

10- 12 free range organic eggs – depending on the size of your pan

Small bunch of basil

1 garlic clove

4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil

Mixed leaf salad (optional), to serve

Sea salt and black pepper

You will need a 24 – 26 cm ovenproof pan or quiche dish.

Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/Gas Mark 6.

Toss the squash and fennel with 3 tablespoons of olive oil, and season well. Roast for 20 – 25 minutes, until golden and just tender.

10 minutes before the squash and fennel are cooked through, toss the red onion and chorizo in 1 teaspoon of olive oil, season with salt and pepper and add to the tray. Roast for another 10 minutes, then remove and leave to one side.

Meanwhile, put the spinach in a large dry pan over a high heat. Turn the spinach as it wilts, then remove and drain in a sieve, pressing out any excess water. Season the spinach with a little salt and a drizzle of olive oil.

Crack the eggs into a bowl, whisk and season well. Put most of the squash, fennel, spinach, onion and chorizo into the ovenproof pan or quiche dish. Pour over the beaten egg and finish with the remaining fillings so that they stick out over the top of the egg.

Cook in the oven for about 35 – 45 minutes, until the frittata has souffléd up and the top is just firm to the touch. If it is still uncooked in the centre, cover with foil to prevent burning and cook until just firm.

While the frittata is cooking, chop the basil finely and combine with the garlic and the extra virgin olive oil, to create a loose basil oil.

Let the frittata cool a little, drizzle over the basil oil and serve immediately with a light mixed-leaf salad.

Recipe extracted from Healthy Baking by Jordan Bourke, published by Orion Publishing Group Ltd.

Thyme and Rosemary Salmoriglio

Salmoriglio is a pungent Italian herb oil, traditionally made with oregano or marjoram, but really good with thyme and rosemary too. It transforms dishes from perfectly good to ‘what on earth is that, I MUST have the recipe?’!

Serve with pan grilled lamb chops, chicken, pork or roast vegetables…

Makes about 180ml

10g rosemary leaves

10g thyme leaves

¼ teaspoon sea salt

1 garlic clove

Squeeze lemon juice

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Put the herbs in a mortar with the sea salt and the garlic. Pound relentlessly with a pestle until you have a smooth paste. Add a squeeze of lemon juice and slowly pour in the olive oil, stirring as you go with the pestle until everything is combined. It should be stored in the fridge, covered, and keeps for about 3 days.

Recipe extracted from Healthy Baking by Jordan Bourke, published by Orion Publishing Group Ltd.

Cabbage and Kale Kimchi

Makes 1 x 1 litre jar

1 large Napa/Chinese cabbage (roughly 1.2kg)

150g kale, stalks removed (I find cavolo nero works best)

1.2litres of water

40g fine table salt

60g sea salt

Paste

7 garlic cloves

5g fresh root ginger, peeled

100g onion, peeled

50g goghugaru (Korean chilli powder)

80ml fish sauce

2 teaspoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon coconut palm sugar or maple syrup

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

Vegetables

200g carrots, peeled and cut into fine julienne strips

30g chives, cut into 4cm lengths

4 spring onions, halved lengthways and cut into 4cm lengths

You will need 1 x 1 litre jar with a lid, sterilised.

Cut about 10cm deep across the base of the cabbage, then gently split the entire cabbage in half lengthways. Rinse the cabbage and kale under running water, getting in between the leaves. In a large flat bowl or container, combine the 1.2 litres of water with the 40g table salt. Sprinkle the 60g of sea salt over each leaf of the halved cabbage, focusing your attention on the thicker root end and working up to the thinner leaf. Put any remaining salt into the salt-water mixture.

Place the cabbage cut side down in the bowl of salted water and mix the kale in around it. Press firmly down on the cabbage and kale to help the leaves soak up the salt water. It will not be submerged, though. Leave to soak for 2 hours, then turn over and soak for a further 2 hours, until the cabbage leaves are limp and bend easily without breaking. Make sure to time this process so you don’t over-salt the cabbage.

Drain the cabbage and kale and rinse thoroughly under running water at least twice. Taste the leaves: they should be highly salted; however, if it is too strong, keep rinsing until the salt levels are reduced, the drain completely.

In the meantime, mix the glutinous rice flour with 2 tablesps of the water, using a fork or whisk to ensure there are no lumps. Once you have a smooth paste, gradually pour the remaining water into the flour mixture. Put the mixture into a saucepan, bring to the boil for 5 minutes, until thick and gelatinous. Remove from the heat and leave to cool completely.

In a food processor, combine all the paste ingredients and the cooled flour mixture, until you have a smooth paste. Add this to a bowl, together with the carrots, chives and spring onions, and mix well until thoroughly combined. Carefully apply this mixture to the drained cabbage, layering the leaves of kale into the cabbage as you go, ensuring every leaf is covered with the mixture. Use the outer leaf of each to wrap around the cabbage, helping to keep the mixture secure inside.

Put the cabbage into a sterilised jar or other airtight container, press down firmly to remove any air pockets and seal tightly. Keep the jar at room temperature (out of direct sunlight) for 2 days, by which stage it should be beginning to ferment and smell a little sour. The rate of fermentation will depend on the temperature and climate of the location where you are making it, so a good way to gauge its progress is to taste it at this point – if it has developed those characteristically sour notes, then you are on the right track. Now use a spoon to press the kimchi down very firmly, submerging it in its own juices and making sure there are no air pockets at all. If you need to, place a smaller jar filled with water, or a small stone wrapped in greaseproof paper, on top of the cabbage to make sure it remains fully submerged. Seal the container again and refrigerate. Most people find they like the kimchi best after a few weeks in the fridge; others like it after a month or 2, when it has a bit more of a sour kick to it. Try it out at intervals and see when you like it best. If kept in a very cold fridge, it will keep for about a year.

Recipe extracted from Healthy Baking by Jordan Bourke, published by Orion Publishing Group Ltd.

Winter Vegetable and Borlotti Bean Soup with Spicy Sausage

We make huge pots of this chunky soup during the colder months of the year.  It freezes brilliantly.  The sausage can be chorizo, merguez or the Polish kabanossi, these give a gutsy slightly smoky flavour to the soup which although satisfying is by no means essential.   The beans too can be varied, borlotti are wonderful but haricot, black-eyed beans, or chickpeas or a mixture, are also deeply satisfying.

Serves 8-9

225g rindless streaky bacon, cut into 5mm lardons

2 tablespoons olive oil

225g onions, chopped

300g carrot, cut into 5mm dice

215g celery, chopped into 5mm dice

125g parsnips, chopped into 5mm dice

200g white part of 1 leek, 5mm slices thick approx.

1 spicy sausage,(110g approx.) cut into 3mm thin slices or 5mm cubes

1x 400g tin of tomatoes

Salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar

1.7L homemade chicken stock

225g borlotti beans, cooked  * (see recipe)

Garnish

2 tablespoons parsley, freshly chopped

Blanch, the chunky bacon lardons, refresh and dry well. Prepare the vegetables. Put the olive oil in a saucepan, add bacon and sauté over a medium heat until it becomes crisp and golden, add the chopped onion, carrots and celery. Cover and sweat for five minutes, next add the parsnip and finely sliced leeks. Cover and sweat for a further 5 minutes. Slice the sausage thinly, and add. Chop the tomatoes and add to the rest of the vegetables and the cooked beans. Season with salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar, add the chicken stock. Allow to cook until all the vegetables are tender, 20 minutes approx. Taste and correct the seasoning. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve with lots of crusty brown bread.

*  Soak the beans overnight in plenty of cold water.  Next day, drain the beans and cover with fresh cold water, add a bouquet garni, carrot and onion, cover and simmer until the beans are soft but not mushy – anything from 30-60 minutes.  Just before the end of cooking, add salt.  Remove the bouquet garni and vegetables and discard.

Parsnip or Jerusalem Artichoke Crisps

We serve these delicious crisps on warm salads, as a garnish for Roast pheasant or Guinea fowl and as a topping for Parsnip or root vegetable soup.  *  Delicious crisps may be made from other vegetables apart from the much-loved potato.  Celeriac, beetroot, leek and even carrots are also good.  Careful not to have the oil too hot or the crisps will quickly turn and be bitter.

Serves 6 – 8

1 large parsnip or 3-4 Jerusalem artichokes

sunflower or arachide oil

salt

Heat good quality oil in a deep fryer to 150C.  Scrub and peel the parsnips.  Either slice into wafer thin rounds or peel off long slivers lengthways with a swivel top peeler.   Allow to dry out on kitchen paper.

Drop a few at a time into the hot oil, they colour and crisp up very quickly.  Drain on kitchen paper and sprinkle lightly with salt.

Jerusalem Artichoke Crisps

Scrub the Jerusalem artichokes well, slice in wafer thin rounds and cook as above.

Parsnip and Maple Syrup Cake

V

Serves 8

175g (6oz/1 1/2 sticks) butter, plus extra for greasing

110g (4oz/1/2 cup) Demerara sugar

100ml (3 1/2fl oz/scant 1/2 cup) maple syrup

3 large organic eggs

250g (9oz/2 1/4 cups) self-raising flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons mixed spice

175g (6oz) parsnips, peeled and grated

1 medium eating apple, peeled, cored and grated

50g (2oz) pecans or hazelnuts, roughly chopped

zest of 1 small orange

1 tablespoon (1 tablespoon/1 American tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) orange juice

icing sugar, to serve

Filling

300g (10oz) cream cheese

2 tablespoons (3 American tablespoons) maple syrup

2 x 20cm (8 inches) deep sandwich tins buttered and lined with parchment paper

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

Melt the butter, sugar and maple syrup in a pan over a gentle heat, then cool slightly.  Whisk the eggs into the mixture, then stir into the flour, baking powder and mixed spice.   Next add the grated parsnip, apple, chopped pecans, orange zest and freshly squeezed juice.  Divide between the two tins or pour into the loaf tin and bake in the preheated oven for 35-40 minutes or until just starting to shrink from the sides of the tin.

Cool on a wire rack. 

Just before serving, mix the cream cheese and maple syrup together.  Spread over the base of one cake and top with the other.  Alternatively, if making in a loaf tin, spread icing sugar over the top of the cake to decorate.

Dust with icing sugar just before serving.

Cakes, cakes and more cakes….

This week I am going to devote my entire column to cakes and baking, this was prompted by a recent delicious encounter at Philip’s bookshop in Mallow, Co Cork. Philip, Catherine and June O’Flynn invited me back to celebrate 30 years of business. They reminded me that I had first come to their shop in 1990 when I had brown hair and huge red glasses, to sign copies of my Simply Delicious cookbook.

The photos of that event are still up on the wall behind the tills. There I was in my flowery apron making Ballymaloe cheese fondue in their original book shop, the new premises on the Main Street is much larger. It was such a fun trip down memory lane, to flick through their photo albums….

This entrepreneurial trio had planned lot of excitement for the 30th anniversary celebration, including a baking competition. Contestants could choose a cake, biscuit or bun recipe from any of my 18 now 19 cookbooks.

Three whole tables of cakes awaited when I arrived, Peter O’Meara, of Savill’s Auctioneers fame and, I had the unenviable task of judging the best entries. As well as many luscious cakes there were brownies, cupcakes, buns and a gorgeous swiss roll oozing with raspberries and cream. The standard was fantastic, every item was absolutely delicious, I was blown away by how each contestant had reproduced my recipe to perfection. Some of the baking had been done by children and teenagers, which always gives me a special ‘whoops in my tummy’. Wonderful to get the kids into the kitchen, they often start with baking and then gradually move onto salads and savoury dishes. It is super important to pass on cooking skills to the next generation, so they are equipped with the basic techniques to feed themselves. It’s also high time we changed our attitude to cooking and hospitality as a career of lesser value – how ridiculous is that!

All I could do initially was scramble eggs and with that one skill, considered by many as of lesser importance than any of the STEM subjects, I have had a hugely enjoyable career and have had the opportunity to bring joy and share my knowledge with thousands of others.

A few little words about baking. As ever, buy the finest ingredients, always use butter, not margarine and organic or at least free range eggs. Check that nuts are not rancid and use fat juicy dried fruit and real candied citrus peel if a recipe calls for it.

There are many, many baking recipes scattered throughout my books but here are some of the recipes chosen by the customers of Philip’s bookshop who were awarded a rosette and copy of my new One Pot Feeds All Cookbook, which I am excited to tell you has just won Book of the Year at the Listowel Food Fair, what an honour.

Pearl McGillycuddy’s All in One Buns

Makes 24

I’ve never bothered to make buns by hand since Pearl gave me this recipe over 25 years ago. It’s most depressing, because even though they only take seconds to make they are actually better than the ones I used to make laboriously by hand. These buns are made by the All in One method in a food processor.

8ozs (225g) soft butter, chopped

8ozs (225g) castor sugar

10ozs (285g) white flour

4 eggs, preferably free range

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 220°C/425°F/gas mark 7.

Chop up the butter into small dice, it should be reasonably soft. Put all the ingredients into the food processor and whizz for about 30 seconds. Clear the sides down with a spatula and whizz again until the consistency is nice and creamy, 30 seconds approx. Put into greased and floured bun trays or paper cases and bake in the hot oven. Reduce the temperature to 190°C/375°F/gas mark 5 as soon as they begin to rise.  Bake for 20 minutes approx. in total. Cool on a wire rack and decorate as desired.

The young girl who made them decorated them with a white icing and a sprinkling of hundreds and thousands.

Butterfly Buns

Cut the top off the buns, cut this piece in half and keep aside. Meanwhile put a little homemade raspberry jam and a blob or cream on to the bottom part of the bun. Replace the two little pieces, arranging them like wings. Dredge with icing sugar and serve immediately.

These buns may be iced with dark chocolate icing or coffee icing. They are also delicious, painted with raspberry jam or redcurrant jelly and dipped in coconut.

Chocolate Brownies

Makes 12

275g (10zs) chocolate

275g (10ozs) butter

5 eggs

350g (12ozs) sugar

175g (6oz) self-raising flour

110g (4ozs) chopped walnuts or hazelnuts

Preheat oven to 180º/350ºF/Gas mark 4

Line a deep Swiss Roll Tin 12”x 8”x 4” (30cm x 20cm x10cm) with parchment paper

Melt the chocolate and butter in a bowl over a gentle heat.  Whisk the eggs and sugar together until it’s a light mousse.  Gradually add the melted chocolate mixture to the egg mousse.  Fold in the flour to this mixture.  Finally add the chopped nuts.  Cook in the preheated oven for 35 – 40 minutes until the centre is slightly wobbly. Leave to sit in the tin to cool and set.

When set, turn out by flipping the tin carefully onto a board. Peel off the parchment paper. Place another board on top of the brownies and turn carefully back again to show the “top side”. Cut into squares.

Aunt Florence’s Orange Cake

When my Aunt Florence brings a present of this delicious cake, people suddenly emerge out of the woodwork pleading for a slice. It was chosen to celebrate the anniversary of the European parliament.

Serves about 8–10

225g (8oz) butter

225g (8oz) caster sugar

finely grated zest of 1 organic orange

4 organic eggs

225g (8oz) plain white flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 tablesp freshly squeezed orange juice

1 or 2 pieces Candied orange Peel optional

Orange Butter Cream

110g (4oz) butter, soft

225g (8oz) icing sugar

finely grated zest of 1 organic orange

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed orange juice

Orange Glacé Icing

juice of 1 orange & some zest

300g (10oz) icing sugar

2 x 20cm (8 inch) round cake tins or 1 x 28cm (11 inch) in diameter and 5cm (2 inch) deep

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

Grease and flour the cake tin or tins. Line the base of each with silicone paper.

Cream the butter and gradually add the caster sugar. Whisk until soft and light and quite pale. Add the orange zest. Add the eggs one at a time, whisking well between each addition.

Sieve the flour and baking powder together and stir in gradually. Mix lightly, then stir in the orange juice.

Divide the mixture evenly if using two tins, hollowing it slightly in the centre. Bake for 35 minutes or until it is cooked. Turn out on to a wire tray and leave to cool.

Meanwhile, make the orange cream. Cream the butter; add the sieved icing sugar and orange zest. Whisk in the orange juice bit by bit.

To make the icing, simply add enough orange juice and a little zest to the icing sugar to make a spreadable icing.

When the cakes are cold, split each one in two halves and spread with a little filling, then sandwich the two bases together. Spread the icing over the top and sides and decorate the top, if you like, with little strips or diamonds of candied peel.

Classic Coffee Cake

This is a splendid recipe for an old-fashioned coffee cake – the sort Mummy made – and we still make it regularly. Everyone loves it. I’m a real purist about using extract rather than essence in the case of vanilla, but in this cake, I prefer coffee essence (which is actually mostly chicory) to real coffee.

Serves 10–12

225g (8oz) soft butter

225g (8oz) caster sugar

4 organic eggs

225g (8oz) plain white flour, preferably unbleached

1 teaspoon baking powder

scant 2 tablespoons Camp coffee essence

Coffee Butter Cream

150g (6oz) butter

330g (12oz) icing sugar, sieved

5-6 teaspoons Camp coffee essence

Coffee Glace Icing

450g (1lb) icing sugar

scant 2 tablespoons  Irel or Camp coffee essence

about 4 tablespoons boiling water

To Decorate

Caramelised Walnuts

20cm (8in) square cake tin

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

Line the base and sides of the tin with greaseproof or silicone paper. Brush the bottom and sides with melted butter and dust lightly with flour.

Beat the soft butter with a wooden spoon, add the caster sugar and beat until pale in colour and light in texture. Whisk the eggs. Add to the mixture, bit by bit, whisking well between each addition.

Sieve the flour with the baking powder and stir gently into the cake mixture. Finally, add in the coffee essence and mix thoroughly.

Pour the mixture evenly into the prepared tin and bake for 40-45 minutes. When the cake is cooked, the centre will be firm and springy and the edges will have shrunk from the sides of the tins. Leave to rest in the tin for a few minutes before turning out onto a wire rack. Remove the greaseproof paper from the base, then flip over so the top of the cake doesn’t get marked by the wire rack. Leave the cake to cool on the wire rack.

To make the coffee butter cream, whisk the butter with the sieved icing sugar and add the coffee essence. Continue to whisk until light and fluffy.

When cold, cut the cake in half lengthwise, then cut each half horizontally creating rectangular layers, 4 in total. Sandwich each sponge layer together with ½ of the coffee butter cream, forming a loaf shaped cake. Place half of the remaining  buttercream into a piping bag, fitted with a medium star shaped nozzle. Spread the sides and top of the cake thinly with the last of the butter cream and place into the fridge for 10-15 minutes to chill. This technique is called crumb coating.

Next make the Coffee Glace Icing. Sieve the icing sugar and put into a bowl. Add coffee essence and enough boiling water to make it the consistency of a thick cream.

To Decorate:

Remove the cake from the fridge. Pour the glace icing evenly over the top of the cake, gently spreading it down the sides with a palette knife. Allow to set, 30 minutes (approx.). Decorate with piped rosettes of buttercream and garnish with the caramelized walnuts.

Swiss Roll

Swiss Roll may be rolled lengthwise or width wise depending on the thickness required.

Serves 8

4 ozs (110g) plain flour

4 eggs, organic and free-range

4 ozs (110g) castor sugar

2 tablespoons warm water

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

6 tablespoons warmed homemade raspberry jam

1 x 10 inches (25.5cm) x 15 inches (38cm) Swiss Roll tin

Preheat the oven to 190ºC/375ºF/Gas Mark 5.

Line a large Swiss Roll tin with greaseproof paper cut to fit the bottom of the tin exactly.  Brush the paper and sides of the tin with melted butter, dust with flour and castor sugar. 

Whisk the eggs and castor sugar together in an electric mixer until light, fluffy and voluminous .

Add the water and vanilla extract.  Sieve about one-third of the flour at a time and fold it into the mousse using a long handled large metal spoon.

Pour the mixture gently into the tin. 

Bake in the preheated oven for 12-15 minutes.  It is cooked when it feels firm to the touch in the centre.  The edges will have shrunk in slightly from the sides of the tin.  Lay a damp tea towel on the work top, put a sheet of greaseproof paper on top and sprinkle it evenly with castor sugar.  Turn the swiss roll on top of the sugared greaseproof paper.  Remove the tin and greaseproof paper from the bottom of the cake.  While the cake is still warm, spread it sparingly with homemade raspberry jam.  Mark the swiss roll with a knife.  Catch the edge of the paper closest to you about 3/4 inch (2cm) from the edge and roll up the swiss roll away from you. 

Suggestions for other fillings

There are many other fillings you might like to try, but roll the greaseproof paper into the Swiss Roll while warm and unroll it later when cold to fill if you are using whipped cream.

  1. Fresh raspberry or sliced strawberries and cream
  2. Mashed banana with lemon juice and whipped cream
  3. Melted chocolate and whipped cream
  4. Fresh strawberries or raspberries mashed with a little sugar and whipped cream
  5. Kumquat compote and whipped cream.

Lemon drizzle cake

Serves 8 – 10

6oz (175g) soft butter

5oz (170g) unrefined castor sugar

2 eggs, preferably free range

60z (175g) self-raising flour

Zest of 1 organic lemon

Lemon Drizzle

Freshly grate rind of 1 organic lemon

Freshly squeezed juice of 1 organic lemon

3oz (75g) castor sugar

8” round cake tin, well-greased or lined with parchment paper.

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

Put the soft butter, castor sugar, eggs and self-raising flour in to a food processor. Whizz for a few seconds to amalgamate. Spread evenly into the greased tin. Bake in the preheated oven for 20 – 25 minutes approx. or until golden brown and well risen.

Meanwhile mix the ingredients for the drizzle. As soon as the cake is cooked, pour the glaze over the top, leave to cook and transfer to a wire rack.

Note:

In winter when the butter is harder to cream, we add 2-3 tablespoons of milk to lighten the mixture and texture.

Celebrating Homemade Bread

I wish everyone could discover the magic of making a loaf of bread – it’s so easy, soda breads particularly are made in minutes and there are endless variations on the theme. Mix nutty, wholemeal, brown flour with white to make a crunchy brown loaf, scatter the top with whatever seeds you fancy. Fresh herbs, nuts, oatflakes, wholegrains, spices, seaweed, dried fruit all add extra excitement to the white soda.

The dough can be baked in a tin or in a traditional free form anointed with a cross on a baking tray. Very important to prick the dough to let the fairies out of the bread!

 For scones, flatten the dough a little more and cut into round, square or rectangular scones, bake as they are or for extra excitement brush the tops with a little buttermilk or egg wash, then dip in grated cheese or kibbled wheat for a melty or crunchy top. I sprinkled a batch recently with dukkah and Aleppo pepper – and delicious they were too!

Scones will be out of the oven in 10 – 12 minutes while a loaf will take 30 – 35 minutes but either way you wouldn’t have found your car keys and be back from the shops by the time the bread is out of the oven. There’s nothing to beat the smell of crusty bread wafting out of the oven and even though I’ve been baking all of my adult life and lot of my childhood I still get a buzz out of it.

The Ballymaloe Brown Yeast Bread is another delicious staple, even though it’s made with yeast, there’s no kneading involved and only one rising. This bread is known and loved by all the guests at Ballymaloe House since the restaurant opened in 1964 and by the family for decades before that. I particularly love the crusts, the best bit of every loaf. Ballymaloe Brown Yeast Bread takes longer than Soda Bread to make – allow 1 ½ hours from start to finish. It takes time but not your time, it’s mixed in a matter of minutes and the rest is rising and baking time.

Soda bread is best eaten on the day it’s made but brown yeast bread is delicious for days and makes heavenly toast for up to a week later.

If neither of these breads appeal, well how about some of the flat breads? The variety is endless – all were developed in countries where many homes didn’t have ovens. The breads were cooked on griddles or as is the case in Mexico, on a comal, or sometimes it was a combination of griddle and open fire as in chappatis.

These breads too are superfast to make and children love making them but I’ve become even more interested in experimenting with fermented batter made with teff for Ethiopian Injera or Indian dosa or String hoppers from Sri Lanka.

They are also nutrient dense, and really flavourful and fun.

But for an easy everyday loaf it’s difficult to beat, brown or white soda and who can forget the wake-up call we had in February 2018, there was mass panic when the country was snowed in. In supermarkets customers were pulling loaves of bread from each other, having totally forgotten how easy it is to make a loaf of soda bread.

 Go on, have a go and post your very first loaf of bread on Instagram using the hashtags #realbread #hugthecook

Beginner’s Brown Soda Bread 

Even though this is a modern rather than traditional version of soda bread, I’ve decided to put it first because it couldn’t be simpler. Just mix all the ingredients together and pour into a well-greased tin. It’s important to put all the milk in – the dough may seem too wet but it’s meant to be that way for this particular bread. It will keep well for several days and is also great when toasted. Most modern Irish soda bread recipes include far too much bicarbonate of soda, which makes the bread very dark and taste strongly of soda. Makes 1 large or 3 small loaves

400g (14oz) stone-ground wholemeal flour

75g (3oz) plain white flour, preferably unbleached

1 teaspoon dairy salt

1 level teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (bread soda/baking soda), sieved

1 organic egg

1 tablespoon sunflower oil

1 teaspoon honey, treacle or soft brown sugar

425ml (3⁄4 pint) buttermilk or sour milk  

sunflower or sesame seeds (optional) 

one loaf tin 23 x 12.5 x 5cm (9 x 5 x 2in) OR three loaf tins 14.5 x 7.5 x 5cm (51⁄2 x 3 x 2in)

Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/gas mark 6. Brush the inside of the loaf tin or tins with vegetable oil.  

Put all the dry ingredients including the sieved bicarbonate of soda into a large bowl and mix well. Whisk the egg, adding to it the oil, honey and the buttermilk or sour milk. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour in all the liquid. Mix well, adding more buttermilk if necessary (the mixture should be soft and slightly sloppy). Pour into the oiled tin or tins. If desired, sprinkle some sunflower or sesame seeds on top.

Bake for about 1 hour or until the bread is nice and crusty and sounds hollow when tapped. Leave to cool on a wire rack.

White Soda Bread

Soda bread only takes 2 or 3 minutes to make and 30 – 40 minutes to bake. It is certainly another of my ‘great convertibles’. We have had the greatest fun experimenting with different variations and uses.  It’s also great with olives, sun dried tomatoes or caramelized onions added, so the possibilities are endless for the hitherto humble soda bread.

1lb (450g) white flour, preferably unbleached

1 level teaspoon salt

1 level teaspoon breadsoda

sour milk or buttermilk to mix – 12-14fl oz (350-400ml) approx.

First fully preheat your oven to 230ºC/450ºF/Gas Mark 8.

Sieve the dry ingredients into a large bowl. Make a well in the centre.  Pour most of the milk in at once. Using one hand, mix in the flour from the sides of the bowl, adding more milk if necessary. The dough should be softish, not too wet and sticky. When it all comes together, turn it out onto a well floured worked surface.  WASH AND DRY YOUR HANDS.  Tidy it up and flip over gently.  Pat the dough into a round about 1 1/2 inches (4cm) deep and cut a cross on it to let the fairies out! Let the cuts go over the sides of the bread to make sure of this. Bake in a hot oven, 230ºC/450ºF/Gas Mark 8 for 15 minutes, then turn down the oven to 200ºC/400ºF/Gas Mark 6 for 30 minutes or until cooked. If you are in doubt, tap the bottom of the bread, when it is cooked it will sound hollow.

  Ballymaloe Brown Yeast Bread

When making Ballymaloe brown yeast bread, remember that yeast is a living organism. In order to grow, it requires warmth, moisture and nourishment. The yeast feeds on the sugar and produces bubbles of carbon dioxide which causes the bread to rise. Heat of over 50˚C will kill yeast. Have the ingredients and equipment at blood heat. White or brown sugar, honey golden syrup, treacle or molasses may be used. Each will give a slightly different flavour to the bread. At Ballymaloe we use treacle. The dough rises more rapidly with 30g (1oz) yeast than with 25g (3/4oz) yeast.

We use a stone ground wholemeal. Different flours produce breads of different textures and flavour. The amount of natural moisture in the flour varies according to atmospheric conditions. The quantity of water should be altered accordingly. The dough should be just too wet to knead – in fact it does not require kneading. The main ingredients – wholemeal flour, treacle and yeast are highly nutritious.

Note: Dried yeast may be used instead of baker’s yeast. Follow the same method but use only half the weight given for fresh yeast. Allow longer to rise. Fast acting yeast may also be used, follow the instructions on the packet.

Makes 1 loaf

400g (14oz) strong (stone-ground) wholemeal flour plus 50g (2oz) strong white flour

OR

You may also use 400g (14oz) strong stone-ground wholemeal flour plus 50g (2oz) rye flour

425ml (15floz) water at blood heat

1 teaspoon black treacle or molasses

1 teaspoon salt

20g – 30g (3/4oz – 1oz) fresh non-GM yeast

sesame seeds – optional

1 loaf tin 13x20cm approx.

sunflower oil

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

Mix the flour with the salt. The ingredients should all be at room temperature. In a small bowl or Pyrex jug, mix the treacle with some of the water, 150ml (5floz) and crumble in the yeast – do not stir once the yeast has gone in.

Sit the bowl for a few minutes in a warm place to allow the yeast to start to work. Check to see if the yeast is rising. After about 4 or 5 minutes it will have a creamy and slightly frothy appearance on top.

When ready, stir and pour it, with all the remaining water (9fl oz/275ml), into the flour to make a loose-wet dough. The mixture should be too wet to knead.   Allow to sit in the bowl for 7-10 minutes (time varies depending on room temperature).   Meanwhile, brush the base and sides of the bread tin with a good sunflower oil.  Scoop the mixture into the greased tin. Sprinkle the top of the loaves with sesame seeds if you like. Put the tin in a warm place somewhere close to the cooker or near a radiator perhaps. Cover the tin with a tea towel to prevent a skin from forming. After about 10-15 minutes just as the bread comes to the top of the tin, remove the tea towel and pop into the oven 230C/450F/Gas Mark 8 for 20 minutes, then turn the oven down to 200ºC/400ºF/Gas Mark 6 for another 40-50 minutes or until it looks nicely browned and sound hollow when tapped. The bread will rise a little further in the oven. This is called “oven spring”. If however the bread rises over the top of the tin before it goes into the oven it will continue to rise and flow over the edges.

We usually remove the loaf from the tin about 10 minutes before the end of cooking and put it back into the oven to crisp all round, but if you like a softer crust there’s no need to do this.

Chapatis

An Indian flat bread, delicious with curry or sambals and such fun to make. The dough should be quite moist so the Chapatis puff up as the steam evaporates.

9 ozs (250g) sieved wholewheat flour plus a little extra for dusting

6 fl ozs (175ml) water

Makes about 15

Put the sieved flour into a bowl.  Add the water, and mix to form a soft dough.  Knead for 5-6 minutes or until it is smooth and springy.  Put the dough onto a plate, cover and allow to rest for 20 – 30 minutes.

Heat an Indian tava or a cast iron frying pan over a medium-low flame for 5-6 minutes.  When it is very hot, turn the heat to low.

Knead the dough again for a few seconds, form into a roll, divide into 16 parts.  It will be slightly sticky, so sprinkle your hands with a little flour when handling. Cover with a cloth.

Form each piece of dough into a ball.  Flour the work surface generously (or dip in a bowl of sieved wholemeal flour). Roll the ball in it.  Press down to make a round roll, dusting frequently with flour, until it is about 5½ inches (14 cm) in diameter.  Pick up the chapati and pat it between your hands to shake off the excess flour, then slap it onto the hot tava or frying pan.  Allow it to cook on low heat for about a minute.  The underside will develop white spots.  Turn over (with your hands to do this or use a pair of tongs). Cook for about half to one minute on the other side.  Remove the pan from the stove, put the chapati directly on top of the low flame.  It should puff up in seconds.

Flip the chapati over and let the second side sit on the flame for a few seconds.  Put the chapati in a deep plate or basket lined with a cloth napkin, fold over the chapati.  Make all chapatis this way and eat immediately.

Chapatis are best eaten as soon as they are made but they can be reheated later. Wrap a  stack in foil, keep in the fridge for a day or freeze.  Reheat the wrapped chapatis at 220°C/425°F oven for 10 – 15 minutes.

Yufka – Turkish Flatbread

Bread is a staple in Turkey as in so many cultures.  According to the Koran, bread was sent to earth by God’s command, hence it is revered and not a crumb should be wasted.  There are many delicious ways to use up stale bread but I rarely have any over to experiment with.

Makes 8

110g (4oz) strong white flour

110g (4oz) plain white flour

50g (2oz) wholemeal flour

1 scant teaspoon salt

200-225ml (7-8 fl oz) warm water

Mix all the flours and the salt together in a bowl, add the warm water, mix to a dough and knead well for just a few minutes.  Shape into a roll, divide in 8 pieces, cover and leave to rest for at least 30 minutes – 45 would be better (however I sometimes cook it straight away).

Roll each piece of dough into a thin round, no more than 8mm (1/3 inch) in thickness.

Heat a griddle or large iron or non-stick frying pan.   Cook the Yufka quickly on both sides until just spotted.  Eat immediately or alternatively the Yufka can be stacked for several days, even weeks, in a dry place.

To reheat.

Before eating, sprinkle a Yufka with warm water, fold it in half, wrap it in a cloth and allow to soften for about 30 minutes.  Eat with cheese or butter and honey or fill with a chosen filling of roasted vegetables, cured meat, and salads.  They are then called dűrűm meaning ‘roll’.

Penny’s Ethiopian Injera

1 cup Teff Flour (available from health food shops)

1 cup water (use an 8floz / 225ml measuring cup)

¼ to ½ teasp salt

Put the teff into a bowl. Gradually whisk in the water, cover the bowl with a cloth and leave at room temperature for 36 to 48 hours or until it starts to ferment. It will be covered with bubbles and have a thin watery layer on top, whisk in salt to taste.

 Heat a griddle or non-stick frying pan on a medium heat. Oil very lightly with ghee or clarified butter. The batter should be the texture of crépe batter. Pour a small ladel full onto the pan or griddle, to cover the base to a thickness of a scant 1/8 inch.

 Allow to cook for 3-4 minutes or until the edges start to come away from the pan.

The surface will be covered with bubbles, you’ll find the injera will be cooked when the bubbles burst.

Eat with sambals vegetable curry or relishes or for breakfast with with bacon and maple syrup.

The batter will keep covered for several days but it gradually gets sourer, you could put it in the fridge if you wish to keep it for longer than a day or two.

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.

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