Darina’s Saturday Letter

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Clodagh McKenna

Clodagh McKenna and I go back a very long way. In, 2000, Clodagh enrolled in a 12 Week Certificate Course here at the Ballymaloe Cookery School, she was always bubbling with excitement and threw herself enthusiastically into learning how to cook delicious food. I remember how she was always ready to try out new ideas and delighted to get involved in any new project. After the course she went to Ballymaloe House and loved to work side by side with Mrs Allen, as we all called Myrtle.

The pioneering generation of artisan producers, particularly Giana and Tom Ferguson, Sally Barnes and of course with late Veronica Steele were also sources of inspiration. Clodagh’s enthusiasm was, and still is infectious.

The Midleton Farmers Market, started in June 2000 and was quickly oversubscribed. Even at that stage Clodagh was a budding entrepreneur, so when she couldn’t get a stall of her own I made a space on the side of the Ballymaloe Cookery School stall so she could sell her delicious homemade chicken liver pâté. From those beginnings she went on to do a TV program on The Farmers Markets with RTE and published her first book to accompany the series, The Irish Farmers Market Cookbook in 2009, and ‘the rest they say is history’…

She’s gone on with boundless energy to open several restaurants, do innumerable TV appearances both here and in the US and the UK including Rachel Ray, The Today Show and Channel 4’s Sunday Brunch.

Her latest book Clodagh’s Suppers exudes the essence of Clodagh, who loves laying a beautiful table almost as much as cooking delicious food – lots of super tips. Here she concentrates on menus for informal suppers rather than dinner and there is much to whet our appetites. Flowers, lighting and music are all part of the ambience.

Clodagh’s handwritten menus are built primarily around the seasons and there’s a page of supper suggestions for every new season but of course she encourages us to mix and match as we fancy, how about a Spring Gathering Supper, a Wild Garden Forest Supper, a West Cork Foraged Supper, a Summer Garden Supper or maybe an Edible Flower Supper…….?

Clodagh continues to create and test recipes every week for her U Tube channel and for her Evening Standard column.

Clodagh’s Suppers published by Kyle Books has already become a favourite….

 

 

Salmon Fishcakes with Horseradish Cream

 

SERVES 4

 

FOR THE SALMON FISHCAKES

400g floury potatoes, boiled and mashed

400g skinless salmon fillet, poached and flaked

2 spring onions, finely chopped

2 teaspoons capers

1 tablespoon finely chopped dill

grated zest and juice of ½ lemon

50g butter

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

 

FOR THE FRESH HORSERADISH CREAM

100ml crème fraîche

1 tablespoon peeled and grated

fresh horseradish root

grated zest and juice of ½ lemon

2 teaspoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

1 lemon, cut into wedges, plus a

bunch of watercress (optional), to serve

Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4.

 

Place all the ingredients for the fishcakes except the butter in a large bowl and season with salt and pepper. Mix until all the ingredients are well combined.

Divide the fishcake mixture into four balls and shape each into a patty.

Place a frying pan over a medium heat and add the butter. Once the butter has melted, add the fishcakes and brown on both sides. Transfer the fishcakes to a baking tray and bake for 10 minutes.

 

While the fishcakes are baking, mix all the ingredients for the horseradish cream together in a small bowl, and season with salt and pepper.

To serve, place each fishcake on a warmed plate with a spoonful of the horseradish cream and a wedge of lemon, plus a handful of watercress, if you wish.

From Clodagh’s Suppers by Clodagh McKenna. Published by Kyle Books

 

Chicken Liver Pâté

 

Clodagh started making this pâté about 16 years ago when she first had her stall at the Midleton Farmers Market. It is one of her classic recipes.

 

SERVES 10

 

450g butter, softened

675g chicken livers, cleaned

3 tablespoons brandy

3 garlic cloves, crushed

1 tablespoon thyme leaves

sea salt and freshly ground black

pepper

TO SERVE

Cucumber pickle

thinly sliced sourdough

 

Place a frying pan over a medium heat and add a knob of the butter. Once the butter has melted, add the chicken livers and cook for about 15 minutes or until thoroughly cooked with no trace of red remaining, stirring occasionally and breaking up the livers with a wooden spoon. Transfer the cooked livers to a blender or food-processor.

Add the brandy, garlic and thyme to the frying pan and deglaze the pan by scraping up all the tiny pieces of meat and juices from the livers with a whisk – the base of the pan is where the real flavour is! Add the brandy mixture to the blender or food-processor and process until well blended. Leave to cool.

Gradually add the remaining butter to the cooled chicken liver mixture and blend until all the butter has been incorporated and you have a silky, smooth consistency.

Transfer the chicken liver pâté to a large dish, cover with clingfilm and chill in the fridge for at least 3 hours until set.

Serve the pâté with pickles and thinly sliced sourdough toast.

From Clodagh’s Suppers by Clodagh McKenna. Published by Kyle Books

 

Butternut Squash & Harissa Hummus

Clodagh has created a delicious twist on the traditional hummus.

 

SERVES 6

400g butternut squash, peeled,

deseeded and cut into chunks

3 garlic cloves, unpeeled

100ml water

3 tablespoons tahini paste

2 tablespoons olive oil, plus

extra for drizzling

1 tablespoon harissa, plus extra for drizzling

400g can chickpeas, rinsed and drained

sea salt and freshly ground black

pepper

TO SERVE

2 wedges of lemon

1 teaspoon pumpkin seeds

 

Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4.

 

Place the butternut squash chunks and whole garlic cloves in a roasting tray, season well with salt and pepper and add the water. Cover the tray with foil and bake for about 45 minutes until the squash is tender. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.

Squeeze the roasted garlic from their skins into a blender or food-processor along with the squash and any juices from the roasting tray. Add all the remaining ingredients, season with salt and blend to a paste.

Scrape the hummus into a bowl. Drizzle with extra harissa, olive oil and pumpkin seeds. Serve with a couple of lemon wedges on the side.

From Clodagh’s Suppers by Clodagh McKenna. Published by Kyle Books

 

Coconut & Lemon Cloud Cake

MAKES 1 CAKE

 

A beautifully light, fluffy cake scented with the exotic flavour of coconut and fresh, citrusy lemon, this is the perfect finale for a pungent wild garlic supper to cleanse the palate, although it works equally well as an afternoon or celebration cake. You can use coconut butter instead of dairy butter and/or coconut flour in place of the plain wheat flour. And for convenience, you can make and bake the cake layers a couple of days ahead and then prepare the frosting and assemble the cake on the day you are planning to serve it.

 

FOR THE CAKE

300g plain flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

300g caster sugar

300g unsalted butter, melted, plus extra for greasing

250ml coconut milk

2 eggs

juice of 1 lemon

1 tablespoon coconut oil

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

FOR THE FROSTING

200g unsalted butter, softened

250g icing sugar, sifted

grated zest and juice of 1 lemon

1 teaspoon coconut oil

200g raw coconut flakes, to decorate

 

Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4, and lightly grease two 20cm loose-based sandwich tins.

For the cake, sift the flour, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda into a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix in the sugar. In a separate bowl, combine the melted butter, coconut milk, eggs, lemon juice, coconut oil and vanilla extract and whisk together thoroughly. Then add the wet mixture to the dry mixture and beat together until well combined.

Divide the cake batter evenly between the prepared tins and level the surface with a spatula or the back of a spoon. Bake for about 25 minutes or until well risen and golden.

Remove the cakes from the oven and leave to cool in the tins for about 15 minutes. Then remove them from the tins and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the frosting, place all the ingredients in a bowl or the bowl of the stand mixer and use an electric hand mixer or the paddle attachment on the stand mixer to beat on a high speed until light and fluffy.

To assemble, place one of the cakes, top facing downwards, on a cake plate or stand and spread with about one-third of the frosting to cover it. Add the other cake, top facing upwards, and cover the entire cake with the remaining frosting. Sprinkle raw coconut flakes all over the cake to decorate.

From Clodagh’s Suppers by Clodagh McKenna. Published by Kyle Books

Happy Chinese New Year

Happy Chinese New Year! Are you ready for yet another celebration? These festivities go on for almost a month and red is the magic colour.

This is the ‘Year of the Pig’ which symbolises wealth. In China, every year has a zodiac animal, the cycle repeats every 12 years, making it easy to figure out whether it’s your year or not. Just check your age in multiples of 12.

For the Chinese, the Spring Festival is the most important celebration of the entire year, similar to Christmas for us westerners. It marks the coming of Spring and all the excitement and joy of new beginnings. Unlike Christmas in this part of the world, Chinese New Year is a movable feast, predicated by the Lunar rather than the Gregorian calendar. Technically it’s the longest Chinese holiday, celebrated by over 20% of the world’s population – how amazing is that!

The most significant element of the holiday is the family reunion which triggers the largest human migration in the entire world. Millions of diligent hard working people, young and old, who now live in cities, travel home to rural areas to get together with their elderly parents.

Apparently, desperate singles often resort to hiring a fake boy or girlfriend to take home to allay their parents’ concerns – continuing the family name is one of the most important elements of Chinese culture, a reason why the Chinese have such a huge population…

Lively music and dance plus copious quantities of delicious food are important elements of the festivities. There are spectacular parades in Chinatowns all over the world – traditional lion and unicorn dances, dragon parades, bell ringing and lots of fun and fireworks. Children receive gifts of red envelopes stuffed with lucky money.

The feasting and excitement will continue until the Lantern Festival, the 15th day of the Chinese New Year – the first new moon of the Lunar year so you’ll see lots of red lanterns in all shapes and sizes, widely available in Asian shops, if you want to have fun and enter into the spirit….

A myriad of superstitions are attached to the New Year…People ‘spring clean’ the house on the day before Chinese New Year to sweep away bad luck and make way for good vibes.

Showering is taboo on New Year’s Day, as is throwing out rubbish. Hair cutting too is out, so hair salons are closed…

There will be celebrations in Dublin, Cork, and Belfast so check it out. Cork which has been twinned with Shanghai since 2005, hosted its first Chinese New Year Festival on February 4th. Many iconic buildings around the world, including the Mansion House in Dublin and City Hall in Cork will be illuminated in red to mark the beginning of Chinese New Year.

Lots of foods are associated with Chinese New Year, particularly dumplings. Spring rolls are universally loved, easy to make and when fried resemble gold bars. Each food is symbolic in some way, long noodles symbolise longevity…Citrus are also considered to be lucky.

Several festive desserts are also much loved, Tangyuan a type of rice ball, sounds like reunion in Chinese so they are favourites. As is Nian Gao, a type of rice cake which symbolises success. Fa gao – is a hybrid of a muffin and a sponge cake, the name means ‘get rich’ so everyone wants some of those too. Some of these desserts can be an acquired taste for non-Chinese but if you get an opportunity, do taste them.

I’ve been to China several times, so I’m even more excited about Chinese New Year and am planning a little Chinese feast to celebrate.

Those who are born in the Year of the Pig, may want to check out the Chinese zodiac. Your lucky numbers are 2, 5 and 8, Lucky colours are yellow, grey, brown and gold and lucky directions are southeast and northeast…how about that….

Seek out your local Chinese restaurant, better still invite a few friends around to enjoy a home cooked Chinese meal, and don’t forget to wish our Chinese friends ‘In Nian Kuai le’ – ‘Happy New Year’.

Enjoy and Happy New Year of the – Pig the symbol of wealth.

Chinese Dumplings

Deh-ta Hsiung, one of my heroes, was the first Chinese chef to teach at the Ballymaloe Cookery School. This is one of his many dumpling recipes, they can be served poached in broth or transformed into pot stickers.

Makes 80-90 dumplings

For the dough:

450g (1lb) plain white flour

About 425ml (3/4 pint) water

Flour for dusting

For the filling:

675g (1 1/2 lbs) Chinese leaf

450g (1lb) minced heritage pork

2 tablespoons finely chopped spring onions

1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh ginger

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon sugar

2 tablespoons light soy sauce

1 tablespoon rice wine

1 tablespoon sesame oil

Sieve the flour into a bowl, slowly pour in the water and mix to a firm dough. Knead until soft and smooth. Cover with a damp cloth and let stand for 25-30 minutes.

Separate the Chinese leaves and blanch in a pan of boiling salted water for 2 – 3 minutes or until soft. Drain well, finely chop, cool and mix with the rest of the ingredients to make the filling.

Lightly dust a work surface with dry flour. Knead the dough, roll into a long sausage about 2.5cm (1in) in diameter. Cut into 80 -90 small pieces. Flatten each piece with the palm of your hand, then use a rolling pin to roll each piece into a thin circle about 6cm(2 ½ in) in diameter.

Put about 1 ½ tablespoons of the filling in the centre of each circle. Fold into a semi-circle, and pinch the edges firmly so that the dumpling is tightly sealed. Place the dumplings on a floured tray and cover with a damp cloth until ready for cooking. (Any uncooked dumplings should be frozen immediately rather than refrigerated).

Bring 1 litre (1 ¾ pints) water to a fast rolling boil. Drop about 20 dumplings, one by one into the water. Stir gently with chopsticks or a wooden spoon to prevent them sticking together. Cover and bring back to the boil. Uncover and add about 50ml  (2 floz) cold water, then bring back to the boil once more (uncovered). Repeat this process twice more. Remove and drain the dumplings, and serve hot with a dipping sauce. Any leftovers should be re-heated, not by poaching, but by shallow frying them, then they become pot stickers..

Chinese Chive Omelette

Super tasty and easy to make, scatter with garlic chive flowers which are just coming into season.

Serves 2

5 organic eggs

40-50g Chinese or garlic chives or wild garlic

¼ teaspoon sesame oil

1 teaspoon fish sauce

½ – 1 teaspoon oyster sauce

Generous tablespoon peanut oil

 

Accompaniment

Soy sauce, optional

Slice the chives into 5mm pieces. Whisk the eggs together in a bowl with the other ingredients. Add the chopped chives and salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

Heat a wok or a 25cm frying pan over a high heat. Add the oil and swirl to coat the base. Drop in a teaspoon full of the mixture to test the seasoning. Taste and tweak if necessary.

Pour the egg mixture into the hot wok or pan, swirl to coat the base evenly.

Cook for a couple of minutes to brown the base lightly. Flip over to cook the other side. When almost set, – 2-3 minutes slide out onto a hot serving plate. Divide into quarters sprinkle with garlic chive flowers and serve with soy sauce.

Alternatively make 2 smaller omelettes.

 

Chinese Noodle Salad

Serves 6-8

8 ozs (225g) Chinese egg noodles

6 ozs (170g) sugar peas (mangetout)

4 spring onions

3 ozs (85g) roasted peanuts, skinned and coarsely chopped

1-2 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh coriander

8-12 ozs (225-340g) cooked peeled shrimps

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Spicy Dressing

Generous teaspoon freshly grated ginger

2 cloves garlic, crushed

2 green chillies, seeded and finely diced

2 teaspoons sugar

4 fl ozs (100ml) soy sauce

3 tablespoons  rice wine vinegar

3 tablespoons sunflower oil

12 tablespoons sesame seed oil

 

Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil.

Meanwhile make the dressing, put all the ingredients into a bowl, mix well.

Add salt to the fast boiling water, pop in the noodles. Stir to separate and cook until al dente – 4-6 minutes approx.

Drain, rinse with hot water and drain well again.

Transfer the noodles to a large bowl, add the dressing and toss well. Leave aside to marinade for an hour or more.

Meanwhile prepare the other ingredients. String the sugar peas and cook in boiling salted water until al dente, 2-3 minutes. Drain and refresh under cold water, spread out on a baking tray in a single layer. Cut each mangetout into 2 or 3 pieces.

To assemble

Add the sugar peas, shrimps, spring onions, half the coriander and most of the peanuts to the marinated noodles, toss well. Taste and correct seasoning.

Turn into a shallow serving bowl. Sprinkle with the remaining peanuts and freshly chopped coriander and serve.

 

Sticky Chinese Chicken Thighs

Serves 4

 

8 chicken thighs, skin on and bone in

4 tablespoons hoisin sauce

2 teaspoons sesame oil

2 tablespoons honey

1/2 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder

thumb-sized knob of ginger, grated

2 garlic cloves, grated

bunch spring onions, chopped

50g (2oz) cashew nuts, toasted

 

To Serve

plain boiled rice (to serve)

 

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

Arrange the chicken thighs in a large roasting tin and slash the skin 2-3 times on each thigh.

Mix together the hoisin sauce, sesame oil, honey, five-spice powder, ginger, garlic and some salt and pepper.  Pour over the chicken and toss to coat – allow to marinate for 2 hours, or overnight if you have time.

Roast in the preheated oven, skin-side up for 35 minutes, basting as least once during cooking.  Sprinkle with toasted cashew nuts and spring onions.  Serve with rice.

 

Chinese Pork sausages

2 lb (900g) streaky pork, minced

1 tablespoon salt

1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon 5 spice powder

12 tabespoon soy sauce

5 fl ozs (150ml) red wine or brandy

10 ft sausage strings (if using)

 

Marinate the minced pork with the salt, sugar, spice, soy sauce and wine for at least eight hours or overnight. Mix well, fry off a little knob to taste, correct seasoning if necessary.

Feed into sausage skins or roll into skinless sausages.  Fry immediately until golden on all sides or hang up the sausages to dry for three to four days.  When dry – store the sausages in a fridge, they will keep for several weeks, or in a freezer for four months.

The Future of Irish Meat….response to the EAT Lancet Report

I love a good steak from time to time, not a huge one, but a juicy piece of thick sirloin with crisp yellow fat, cooked medium rare for perfection….I love it when each mouthful tastes really beefy and memorable so I feel like repeating over and over again “this is such a delicious steak”…

Irish farmers and family butchers have been reeling for the past few weeks from a ‘triple whammy’ of challenges.  The continuing uncertainty around Brexit, the increasingly vocal and visible vegan movement and last but certainly not least, the dramatic findings and recommendations of the EAT Lancet Report.

We’re in the midst of a climate change crisis…… Business as usual is no longer an option….

The landmark Lancet Report concludes that “a great food transformation” is urgently needed by 2050 when the world’s population is expected to have grown to 10 billion…..

Professor Tim Lang of the City University in London, one of the 36 researchers involved, stressed that without radical change in our eating habits, current trends will lead to further loss of biodiversity, increased pollution, deforestation and irreversible climate change….

Professor Johan Rockstrom from Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany who co-led the commission said “nothing less than a new global agricultural revolution is needed to deliver healthy diets for a growing and wealthier world population”

Our current diet is causing an epidemic of obesity, heart disease and diabetes….

So to save the planet for future generations, production and consumption of red meat, dairy, eggs and sugar must half over the next three decades. Instead, we are encouraged to eat twice as many vegetables, grains, pulses, fruit and nuts…..

Sometimes nothing quite hits the spot like a really good piece of beef and really good it needs to be….and certainly can be, but sadly not always is…

Ireland, favoured by nature, can grow grass like virtually nowhere else in the world so the quality of our beef, lamb and dairy products is exceptional.

We boast about our ‘grass fed’, pasture raised beef but what exactly is the definition of grass fed….?

A growing number of sceptics are quick to point out that much of our beef is finished indoors on genetically modified grain imported from South America. Even more surprising are the increasing number of intensive units where animals are confined indoors for virtually all their lives in situations similar to the American feed lots.  Critics emphasise that intensive food production systems contribute to greenhouse gas emissions, water pollution and significant animal welfare issues.

There would appear to be an urgent need for clarity around the term ‘grass fed’.

Farmers who produce exceptional beef cattle on small family farms ought to be identified and paid more for their produce.

Beleaguered farmers may be reluctant to accept that for a variety of health and environmental reasons, significant numbers are already choosing to eat less meat.

When they do decide to treat themselves, they are searching for the ‘wow’ factor.  Meat from heritage breeds, humanely reared, well hung and nutrient dense.  It’s a fast growing movement that’s not going away any time soon.  Neither is the rise and intensity of veganism and concerned though I am on health grounds, at a time when so much of our mass produced food is nutritionally deficient, its difficult to argue with some of the reasoning in terms of animal welfare and climate change.

Now that there has been time to mull over the EAT Lancet Report, a number of imminent scientists are urging caution before making widespread dietary recommendations. Remember the scientific advice we were given on low fat and eggs which four decades later turned out to be completely erroneous….

Meat and dairy products are an important source of nutrients and animals are a very important part of many farming systems.

Less is fine but “let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater” or bash Leo Varadkar for “admitting” that he is a flexitarian.  We are all flexitarians now and in my book it’s a brilliantly healthy way to eat, provided it’s REAL FOOD – not the ultra-processed edible food like substances that 46.9% of Irish people are eating at present according to a study in the Journal of Public Health Nutrition.

Politicians too, realise that public opinion is shifting rapidly, a grassroots revolution is underway, we want to see change – more sustainable food production systems where humans can co-exist with nature without causing potentially catastrophic damage to our planet.

The farming community too realise that the advice they’ve been given to maximise yields at all costs no longer stands up to scrutiny and is ‘costing the earth’ They are eager to play their part but need sage guidance and financial support to transition to climate friendly farming.

So this week, some of my favourite beef recipes to enjoy occasionally.

 

Kheema …..Indian Mince

This is a riff on Madhur Jaffrey’s recipe in An Introduction to Indian Cooking. According to Madhur this is the first Indian dish all Indian students abroad learn to make. It can be cooked plain or with potatoes, peas or mushrooms and is super tasty.

Seves 6

 

1lb onion, peeled and coarsely chopped

4 cloves garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 stick cinnamon, about 2 inches long

4 whole cloves

6 black peppercorns

1 bay leaf

1-2 hot red peppers to taste (optional)

1 tablespoon ground coriander

1 tablespoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

1x 14oz tin of chopped tomatoes or 4-5 fresh ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped

2lbs finely minced lamb or minced beef

¼ pint plus 4 tablespoons beef stock

2 teaspoons salt

Lemon juice

 

Place chopped onions, garlic, and ginger in blender with 3 tbsps water and blend to a really smooth paste (this will take about a minute). Set aside.

Heat oil in a 10-12 inch frying-pan over medium heat. When hot, add the cinnamon stick, cloves, black peppercorns, bay leaf, and then the chilli peppers.

In about 10 seconds, when the peppers turn dark, add the paste from the blender, careful it may splutter. Fry for about 10 minutes, adding a sprinkling of beef stock or water (3-4 tablespoons) if it begins to stick.

Add the dry roasted and ground coriander, cumin, and turmeric, and fry another 2-3 minutes. Then add the chopped tomatoes, increase the heat and fry for another 3 to 4 minutes. Add in the minced meat and the salt. Fry on high heat about 5 minutes. Breaking up any lumps in the mince, and brown it as much as you can. Add ¼ pint beef stock and a squeeze of lemon juice to taste. Bring to the boil and let it simmer gently for approximately an hour.

To serve: Degrease if necessary. Serve the Kheema with rice or Indian flat bread like chapatis, or parathas, and any vegetables you fancy.

 

Pan Grilled Steak with Chipotle Butter

Sirloin is more textural than fillet, with lots of flavour, but you can use either here.

We find a heavy-ridged cast-iron grill pan best for cooking steaks when you don’t need to make a sauce in the pan. If the weight of these steaks sounds small by your standards, the portion size can be increased and the cooking times adjusted accordingly.

Serves 8

8 Sirloin or fillet steaks

1 clove of garlic

freshly ground black pepper

Extra virgin olive oil

salt

Chipotle Butter

75g (3ozs) butter

2 tablespoons chipotle chilli in adobo

8 x 8oz (225g) sirloin or fillet steaks

1 clove of garlic

a little olive oil

salt and freshly ground pepper

fresh watercress or rocket leaves

 

Garnish

Chopped parsley

First make the Chipotle Butter. Cream the butter in a bowl, beat in the chipotle and chopped parsley, roll into a ball in greaseproof paper, twist the ends like a Christmas cracker and refrigerate.

Prepare the steaks about 1 hour before cooking.  Cut a clove of garlic in half, rub both sides of each steak with the cut clove, grind some black pepper over the steaks and sprinkle on a few drops of olive oil. Turn the steaks in the oil and leave aside.  If using sirloin steaks, score the fat at 2.5cm (1 inch) intervals.

Heat the grill pan, season the steaks with a little salt and put them down onto the pan.

The approximate cooking times for each side of the steaks are:

 

Sirloin                  Fillet

Rare                                                  2 minutes            5 minutes

Medium rare                                   3 minutes            6 minutes

Medium                                           4 minutes            7 minutes

Well done                                        5 minutes            8-9 minutes

If using sirloin steak turn it over onto the fat and cook for 3-4 minutes or until the fat becomes crisp.  Put the steaks onto a plate and leave them rest for a few minutes in a warm place. Serve the steaks on individual serving plates with a slice of Chipotle butter melting on top and some rocket leaves on the side. Sprinkle over some chopped parsley.

French Fried Onions

A delicious accompaniment to your pan grilled steak.

1 egg white

300ml (10fl oz) milk

2 large onions, peeled

225g (8oz) seasoned flour

good-quality oil or beef dripping for deep-frying

 

Whisk the egg white lightly and add it to the milk. Slice the onion into 5mm (1/4 inch) rings around the middle.

Separate the rings and cover with the milk mixture until needed. (The leftover milk may be boiled up, thickened with roux and used for a white or parsley sauce).

 

Just before serving, heat the oil or beef dripping to 180°C (350°F).

Toss the rings a few at a time in well-seasoned flour. Deep-fry for 2–3 minutes or until golden in the hot oil.

Drain on kitchen paper and serve hot with your pan grilled steak.

 

Roast Fillet of Beef with Three Sauces

A fillet of beef is always a special treat.  It can be served hot or cold, but either way it’s easy to carve and serve.  Don’t refrigerate or you will spoil the texture and flavour of the meat.

Serves 8 – 10

 

1 whole fillet of well hung dried aged beef 2.6kg (6lb) approximately

a few cloves garlic

sea salt and freshly cracked pepper

Extra virgin olive oil

Thyme leaves

Béarnaise Sauce (see recipe)

Horseradish Sauce (see recipe)

Aoili (see recipe)

Trim away the chain if it is still attached, use the meat for Beef Stroganoff.  Double over the meat at the tapered end and tie the fillet securely with fine butcher’s cotton twine.  Alternatively ask your butcher to do the ‘butchering’ for you.

Rub the fillet all over with a cut clove of garlic, season well with lots of freshly cracked pepper.  Season well with sea salt.

Drizzle with Extra Virgin Olive Oil and sprinkle with freshly ground pepper. This will baste the meat while cooking.

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

Heat a cast iron pan grill to very hot.  Sear the beef until nicely browned on all sides.  Transfer it to a roasting tin and tuck a couple of sprigs of thyme underneath.

Roast for 20-25 minutes.  If you have a meat thermometer, the internal temperature should read 118°C/235°F. The meat should feel springy to the touch and   the juice should be a pale pink when the meat is pierced with a skewer.  Remove from the oven to a carving dish.  Cover and allow to rest in a plate warming oven for 15-20 minutes by which time the juices will have redistributed themselves and the beef will be uniformly medium rare.

Serve cut into 5mm (1/4 inch) slices and serve with Béarnaise sauce, Horseradish Sauce and Aoili.

 

Béarnaise Sauce

The consistency of Béarnaise sauce should be considerably thicker than that of Hollandaise or Beurre Blanc, both of which ought to be a light coating consistency.

4 tablespoons tarragon vinegar

4 tablespoons dry white wine

2 teaspoons finely chopped shallots

A pinch of freshly ground pepper

1 tablespoon freshly chopped French tarragon leaves

2 egg yolks (preferably free-range)

115-175g (4-6 oz) butter approx., salted or unsalted depending on what it is being served with

 

If you do not have tarragon vinegar to hand, use a wine vinegar and add some extra chopped tarragon.

Boil the first four ingredients together in a low heavy bottomed stainless steel saucepan until completely reduced and the pan is almost dry but not browned.  Add 1 tablespoon of cold water immediately.  Pull the pan off the heat and allow to cool for 1 or 2 minutes.

Whisk in the egg yolks and add the butter bit by bit over a very low heat, whisking all the time.  As soon as one piece melts, add the next piece; it will gradually thicken. If it shows signs of becoming too thick or slightly ‘scrambling’, remove from the heat immediately and add a little cold water.  Do not leave the pan or stop whisking until the sauce is made.  Finally add 1 tablespoon of freshly chopped French tarragon and taste for seasoning.

 

If the sauce is slow to thicken it may be because you are excessively cautious and the heat is too low.  Increase the heat slightly and continue to whisk until all the butter is added and the sauce is a thick coating consistency.  It is important to remember, however, that if you are making Béarnaise Sauce in a saucepan directly over the heat, it should be possible to put your hand on the side of the saucepan at any stage.  If the saucepan feels too hot for your hand it is also too hot for the sauce!

Another good tip if you are making Béarnaise Sauce for the first time is to keep a bowl of cold water close by so that you can plunge the bottom of the saucepan into it if it becomes too hot.

Keep the sauce warm in a Pyrex bowl over hot but not simmering water or in a Thermos flask until you want to serve it.

 

Horseradish Sauce

This is a fairly mild sauce.  If you want to really clear the sinuses, increase the amount of horseradish!  Serve with roast beef, smoked venison or smoked mackerel.

 

Serves 8 – 10

 

3 – 6 tablespoons freshly grated horseradish

2 teaspoons white wine vinegar

1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon mustard

1/4 teaspoon salt

lots of freshly ground pepper

1 teaspoon sugar

225ml (8 fl ozs) softly whipped cream

 

Put the grated horseradish into a bowl with the vinegar, lemon juice, mustard powder, salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar.  Fold in the softly whipped cream but do not over mix or it will curdle.  The sauce keeps in the fridge for 2-3 days, covered, so that it doesn’t pick up other flavours.

 

Aioli (Garlic Mayonnaise)

 

2 egg yolks, preferably free range

1-4 cloves garlic, crushed

1/4 teaspoon salt

pinch of English mustard or 1/4 teaspoon French mustard

1 dessertspoon white wine vinegar

225ml (8fl.oz) oil (sunflower, arachide or olive oil or a mixture) – We use 175ml (6fl.oz) arachide oil and 50ml (2fl.oz) olive oil, alternatively use 7/1

2 teaspoons of freshly chopped parsley (optional)

 

Serve with cold cooked meats, fowl, fish, eggs and vegetables.

 

Put the egg yolks into a bowl with the mustard, garlic salt and the white wine vinegar (keep the whites to make meringues). Put the oil into a measure. Take a whisk in one hand and the oil in the other and drip the oil onto the egg yolks, drop by drop whisking at the same time. Within a minute you will notice that the mixture is beginning to thicken. When this happens you can add the oil a little faster, but don’t get too cheeky or it will suddenly curdle because the egg yolks can only absorb the oil at a certain pace. Add the chopped parsley. Taste and add a little more seasoning and vinegar if necessary.

 

If the aioli curdles it will suddenly become quite thin, and if left sitting the oil will start to float to the top of the sauce. If this happens you can quite easily rectify the situation by putting another egg yolk or 1-2 tablespoons  of boiling water into a clean bowl, then whisk in the curdled aioli, a half teaspoon at a time until it emulsifies.

 

David Tanis’s Vietnamese Pot Roast Beef Stew (Bo kho)

Bo kho is a delicious Vietnamese pot-roasted beef stew. It is not so different from a traditional French pot-au-feu, but it is spiced in a traditional Vietnamese manner, fragrant with lemongrass, star anise and cinnamon. When the meat is fork tender, carrots are added to complete the dish. If you wish, include turnips or daikon radish or potatoes. Serve it with rice, rice noodles or a freshly baked baguette.

 

Marinade

2 tablespoons Vietnamese fish sauce, such as Red Boat

1 tablespoon brown sugar

2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger

2 teaspoons Chinese 5-spice powder

½ teaspoon black pepper

For the braise

1.4Kg (3lbs) beef chuck, cut into 1-inch cubes

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

6 large shallots or 1 medium red onion, thinly sliced

130g (4.5oz) chopped tomato, fresh or canned

2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger (from a 2-inch piece)

3 garlic cloves, minced

3 tablespoons finely chopped lemongrass, tender centre only

1 teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon annatto powder (optional)

4 star anise pods

1 (2-inch) cinnamon stick, or substitute cassia bark

1 or 2 Serrano or Thai chillies, stem on, split lengthwise

680g (1.5lbs) pounds medium carrots, peeled, cut into 2-inch chunks

4-6 thinly sliced scallions

coriander sprigs, for garnish

mint leaves, for garnish

basil leaves, preferably Thai, for garnish

 

First make the marinade. Stir together fish sauce, sugar, ginger, 5-spice powder and pepper.

Place the beef in a large bowl, add the marinade and massage into the meat. Let the meat sit in the marinade for at least 15 minutes, or longer if time permits (may be wrapped and refrigerated overnight if desired).

Put the oil in a heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot enough, fry the beef cubes in small batches, taking care not to crowd them, until nicely browned. When all the beef is browned, return it all to the pot.

Add the shallots, stir to combine and continue cooking for 4 to 5 minutes, or until softened.

Add the tomato, ginger, garlic, lemongrass, salt and annatto, if using, and stir well to coat, then add the star anise, cinnamon and chilli. Cover with 4 cups water and bring to a boil.

Reduce heat to a simmer, cover with lid ajar and cook for about 1 hour 15 minutes, or until fork-tender.

Add carrots to the pot and cook 15 minutes more. Skim any fat from surface of broth as necessary (or refrigerate overnight and remove congealed fat before reheating).

To serve, ladle into individual bowls. Garnish with scallions, coriander, mint and basil.

 

Thai Crumbled Beef in Lettuce Wraps

Serves 6

 

If you want to perk the lettuce leaves up a little, making sure they curve into appropriate repositories for later, leave them in a sinkful of very cold water while you cook the minced beef, then make sure you drain them well before piling them up on their plate.

 

1 teaspoon vegetable oil

2 red bird’s eye chillies, finely chopped

375g (12ozs) beef mince

scant tablespoon Thai fish sauce

4 spring onions, dark green bits removed, finely chopped

zest and juice of 1 lime

3-4 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander

1-2 iceberg lettuces

Put the oil in a non-stick frying pan on medium heat and when warm add the finely chopped chillies and cook for a couple of minutes, stirring occasionally.   It’s wiser not to leave the pan, as you don’t want them to burn.   Add the beef, turn up the heat and, breaking up the mince with wooden spoon or fork, cook for 3 or 4 minutes till no trace of pink remains.   Add the fish sauce and, still stirring, cook till the liquid’s evaporated.   Take the pan off the heat, stir in the spring onions, zest and juice of the lime and most of the coriander.  Turn into a bowl, and sprinkle over the remaining coriander just before serving.

Arrange the iceberg lettuce leaves on another plate – they should sit one on top of another easily enough- and let people indulge in a little DIY at the table, filling cold crisp leaves with spoonfuls of sharp, spicy, hot, crumbled meat.

Taken from Forever Summer by Nigella Lawson published by Chatto & Windus

 

Carpaccio of Beef with Horseradish, Lambs Tongue Sorrel

Serves 6

450g (1lb) well hung fillet of beef, chilled

6 tablespoons of Caesar dressing

Lambs Tongue Sorrel

horseradish, freshly grated

flaky sea salt

organic lemon

 

Caesar Dressing

2 egg yolks, preferably free-range

2 tablespoons lemon juice, freshly squeezed

50g (1x2oz) tin anchovies

1 clove garlic, crushed

a generous pinch of English mustard powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2-1 tablespoon Worcester sauce

1/2-1 tablespoon Tabasco sauce

175mls (6flozs) sunflower oil

50mls (2flozs) extra virgin olive oil

50mils (2flozs) cold water

 

To make the dressing.

I make it in a food processor but it can also be made very quickly by hand. Drain the anchovies and crush lightly with a fork. Put into a bowl with the egg yolks, add the garlic, lemon juice, mustard powder, salt, Worcester and Tabasco sauce. Whisk all the ingredients together.  As you whisk, add the oils slowly at first, then a little faster as the emulsion forms. Finally whisk in the water to make a spreadable consistency. Taste and correct the seasoning: this dressing should be highly flavoured.

Chill the plates. Just before serving, spread a slick of thin Caesar dressing over the base of each plate.

With a very sharp knife, slice the beef really thinly and lay some paper thin pieces of the raw beef over the sauce.  Season with a little flaky sea salt and freshly cracked pepper.

Put 5 or 6 Lamb’s tongue sorrel leaves on top, add a generous grating of fresh horseradish, a little freshly grated lemon zest and a few more flakes of sea salt.

 

Marmalade Suet Pudding 

For almost a week during the cold January days the whole house smells of marmalade. My father-in-law always looked forward to the final day when the last of the oranges had been turned into marmalade, because by tradition on that day there is marmalade pudding for lunch. This recipe makes use of beef suet, the fat that protects the beef kidney. Your butcher will probably give you the suet for free because there is so little demand.

 

Makes 2 puddings

 

450g (1lb) plain white flour

450g (1lb) minced beef suet

450g (1lb) breadcrumbs

450g (1lb) sugar

4 teaspoons baking powder

4 eggs, free-range if possible

8 tablespoons homemade marmalade

milk, if needed

 

Sauce

 

4 tablespoons water

450g (1lb) marmalade

juice of 1 lemon

sugar, to taste

 

2 lightly greased 18cm (7in) pudding bowls

 

Mix the flour, suet, breadcrumbs, sugar and baking powder together. Add the beaten eggs, marmalade and a little milk to moisten if necessary (the mixture should have the consistency of plum pudding). Spoon into your greased pudding bowls and cover with a double sheet of greaseproof paper with a pleat in the centre. Tie the paper firmly with string under the lip of the bowl. Place each bowl in a saucepan of boiling water. Cover and cook for 2–3 hours, topping up the water in the pan from time to time to make sure that it does not boil dry.

To make the sauce, put the water and marmalade into a saucepan. Warm them together for 15 minutes and then bring slowly to the boil. Continue to boil for 5 minutes. Add the lemon juice and sweeten with a little sugar to taste. When the pudding is cooked, turn it out on to a warm serving dish and pour the sauce around it.

St Brigid’s Day

My year is punctuated by little highlights, occasions to look forward to and celebrate. I particularly love St Brigid’s Day, it’s now just around the corner, on February 1st, so I’m all set to celebrate and to share the story of this feisty woman with my students from all over the world and everyone else around me. This is a quintessentially Irish celebration, St Brigid’s Day or Lá Féile Bríde also marks the beginning of Spring, the season of hope and new life and comes about half way between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox, when days begin to lengthen. In Pagan times it was referred to as Imbolc or Imbolg which in old Neolithic language translates literally to ‘in the belly’. Imbolc is one of the four major fire festivals referred to in Irish mythology, the others are Bealtaine, Lughnasa and Samhain.

Brigid, an icon for women was born near Faughart just north of Dundalk in the 5th Century. She is the goddess of fertility in Celtic mythology, patron saint of dairy and founded the first monastery in Ireland in Kildare.

Many legends are associated with Brigid who by all accounts was an extraordinary woman – a force to be reckoned with, a feminine role model, well before her time. So I’m overjoyed that at last there is a movement to elevate St Brigid to here rightful place beside St Patrick as our female patron saint.

Last year, and once again this year, there will be a celebration of Lá Féile Bríde at the Irish Embassy in London, a gathering to celebrate not just St Brigid but the achievements of Irish women around the globe.

Just as the shamrock is associated with St Patrick, the little woven cross, made of rushes is associated with St Brigid and was chosen as the RTE logo when the station launched in 1961, and it was used until 1995. Let’s bring it back and display it proudly as a beautiful symbol of our culture.

Last year, St Brigid’s cross maker extraordinaire, Patricia O’Flaherty, came over from Ireland clutching a bag of freshly cut rushes to demonstrate how to make the traditional St Brigid’s cross at the Irish Embassy in London http://www.naomhpadraighandcrafts.com/. She makes many versions and I was intrigued to learn from her that originally all counties in Ireland had different patterns which sometimes even varied from parish to parish.

To invoke Saint Brigid’s blessing we have a little cross made of local rushes hanging over the door in our micro dairy to protect our small Jersey herd which produces the most delicious rich milk.

My research into St Brigid, mentioned not only dairy but also honey and the tradition of eating a big plate of floury boiled potatoes slathered in rich homemade butter on St Brigid’s Day or St Brigid’s Eve.

So here’s a recipe for how to make your own home churned butter… It’s super easy. We use our own cream, but one can of course make butter with any good rich cream. Just pop it into a bowl, whisk until it becomes stiff, continue until the butter globules separate from from the buttermilk. Strain, wash well, salt generously, and pat into little slabs or butter balls – easy-peasy. Impressive and delicious, even for chefs, to slather over potatoes or a thick slice of warm soda bread or spotted dog.  Pancakes were also mentioned in several articles as was cheese and honey so that gives me lots of scope.

I’ve also included the recipe for our favourite St Brigid’s Day cake which was requested many times since last year, it’s become a real favourite with many of our readers.

So let’s all make or buy a little St Brigid’s cross and make St Brigid’s Day into a real celebration, sharing a traditional meal around the kitchen table with family and friends.

How to make Homemade Butter

Everyone should be able to make butter. Let’s face it, most of us have over whipped cream from time to time, don’t dream of throwing it out, whisk for a minute or two more and you’ll have your very own butter. If there are butter bats in the house it makes it easier to shape the butter into blocks or balls but they are absolutely not essential. They’re more widely available than you might think, in kitchen shops, but also keep an eye in antique shops and if you find some, snap them up. A good pair will bring you butter luck!

Unsalted butter should be eaten within a few days, but the addition of salt will preserve it for two to three weeks. Also, you can make butter with any quantity of cream but the amount used in the recipe below will keep you going for a week or so and give you enough to share with friends (though not in my house!). Remember, sunlight taints butter (and milk) in a short time, so if you are serving butter outdoors, keep it covered.

Butter (Salted)

Makes about 1kg (2 1/4lb) butter and 1 litre (1 3/4 pints) buttermilk

 

2.4 litres (4 pints/10 cups) unpasteurised or pasteurised double cream at room temperature

2 teaspoons dairy salt (optional)

pair of butter bats or hands (optional)

If you have wooden butter bats or butter hands. Soak them in iced water for about 30 minutes so they do not stick to the butter.

Pour the double cream into a cold, sterilized mixing bowl. If it’s homogenised, it will still whip, but not as well. If you’re using raw cream and want a more traditional taste, leave it to ripen in a cool place, where the temperature is about 8°C (46°F), for up to 48 hours.

Whisk the cream at a medium speed in a food mixer until it is thick. First it will be softly whipped, then stiffly whipped. Continue until the whipped cream collapses and separates into butterfat globules. The buttermilk will separate from the butter and slosh around the bowl. Turn the mixture into a cold, spotlessly clean sieve and drain well. The butter remains in the sieve while the buttermilk drains into the bowl. The buttermilk can be used to make soda bread or as a thirst quenching drink (it will not taste sour). Put the butter back into a clean bowl and beat with the whisk for a further 30 seconds to 1 minute to expel more buttermilk. Remove and sieve as before. Fill the bowl containing the butter with very cold water. Use the butter bats or your clean hands to knead the butter to force out as much buttermilk as possible. This is important, as any buttermilk left in the butter will sour and the butter will go off quickly. If you handle the butter too much with warm hands, it will liquefy.

Drain the water, cover and wash twice more, until the water is totally clear. Weigh the butter into 110g (4oz), 225g (8oz) or 450g (1lb) slabs. Pat into shape with the wet butter hands or bats. Make sure the butter hands or bats have been soaked in ice-cold water for at least 30 minutes before using to stop the butter sticking to the ridges. Wrap in greaseproof or waxed paper and keep chilled in a fridge. The butter also freezes well.

Variations

Salted Butter

If you wish to add salt, you will need 1/4 teaspoon of plain dairy salt for every 110g (4oz/1 stick) of butter. Before shaping the butter, spread it out in a thin layer and sprinkle evenly with dairy salt. Mix thoroughly using the butter pats, then weigh into slabs as before.

 

Spreadable Butter

I much prefer unadulterated butter, rather than butters with additives that change the texture. So if you want to be able to spread butter easily, simply leave it out of the fridge for a few hours in a covered container.

 

St Brigid’s Griddle Scones and Honey

Makes 12

 

110g (4ozs) self-raising flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

25g (1oz) caster sugar

pinch of salt

1 organic egg

110ml (4fl ozs) whole milk

Clarified butter, for greasing

Honey to serve

Sift the flour and baking powder into a bowl, add the sugar and salt and stir to mix.  Make a well in the centre, crack in the egg and whisk, gradually drawing in the flour from the edge.  Add the milk gradually, whisking all the time, to form a smooth batter.

Lightly grease a griddle or frying pan and warm it over a moderate heat.  Drop 3 individual tablespoons of the batter into the pan, keeping well apart so they don’t stick together. Cook for about 2 minutes or until bubbles appear on the surface and begin to burst and the drop scones are golden underneath, then flip them over and cook on the other side for a minute or until golden on this side as well.

Remove from the pan and serve warm with butter and jam, apple jelly, lemon curd or if you are like my children, chocolate spread! (If you wish, wrap the drop scones in a clean tea towel to keep warm while you make the rest.)

St Brigid’s Day Cake

We love this super delicious cake which we created especially for St Brigid’s day, green white and gold – how naff is that…..

Serves 8

175g (6oz) soft butter

150g (5oz) castor sugar

3 eggs, preferably free range

175g (6oz) self-raising flour

 

To decorate:

Tart lemon icing, see below

8 pieces of kumquat compote – drained

8 wood sorrel or lemon balm leaves

 

1 x 20.5cm (8 inch) sandwich tin, buttered and floured.  Line the base of the tin 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 into the bowl of a food processor. Whizz for a few seconds to amalgamate and turn into the prepared tin – make a dip in the centre so it rises evenly. Bake in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes approx. or until golden brown and well risen.

Cool in the tin for a few minutes, remove and cool on a wire rack.

Meanwhile make the icing, once the cake is cool, pour the icing over the cake and spread gently over the sides with a palette knife.

Decorate with the candied kumquats and wood sorrel or lemon balm leaves.

Serve on a pretty plate.

Serves 8 to 10

Tart Lemon Icing

160g (6oz) icing sugar

finely grated rind of 1/2 lemon

2-3tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Sieve the icing sugar into a bowl.   Add the lemon rind and enough lemon juice to make a softish icing.

 

A little White Soda Bread Loaf

You can make it in the round traditional way or like this in a loaf tin which is more convenient for slicing or sandwiches

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

1 level teaspoon/1/2 American teaspoon salt

1 level teaspoon/1/2 American teaspoon breadsoda

sour milk or buttermilk to mix – 15 fl ozs (425 ml) approx

oatmeal, sesame seeds or kibbled wheat (optional)

 

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

 

Sieve the dry ingredients. 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, but not too wet. When it all comes together, turn it out onto a well floured worked surface.  Scoop it into the oiled tin, sprinkle with oatmeal and sesame or kibbled wheat seeds if you enjoy them. Place in the hot oven immediately turning down the oven to 200ºC/400ºF/regulo 6 for 45 minutes. Remove from the tin and return the bread to the oven for a further 5-10 minutes or until fully cooked.  If you are in doubt, tap the bottom of the bread: if it is cooked it will sound hollow.

White Soda Scones

Make the dough as above but flatten the dough into a round 1 inch (2.5cm) deep approx. Cut into scones. Cook for 20 minutes approx. in a hot oven (see above).

Zero Food Waste

Zero Food Waste: even for those of us who are super committed, it’s quite the challenge, so in 2019, lets redouble our efforts to do what we can to reduce food waste, right here in our own homes.

We know the stark statistics – The numbers continue to grow daily. At a time when 1/3 to 1/2 of all food produced in the world (depending on who you read) is being binned, a billion people are starving and over a billion are suffering from obesity.

Countless factors, from the field to the market place contribute to the accumulation of food waste. However, the media focus on the topic is helping to raise awareness and force change.

Consequently, both in the UK and over here, many of the supermarket chains have brought forward initiatives in response to severe and growing criticisms from their customers not only about food waste but also about excess packaging.

Supermarket policy could be a game-changer but there are several easy steps we could take in our homes to reduce food waste. High on the list is to have a clear understanding of the difference between ‘sell by dates’ and ‘use by dates’ which is still super confusing to an alarming number of us. In a recent (unscientific) straw poll here at the Ballymaloe Cookery School, I discovered that in excess of 90% of us are still ‘woozy’ about the difference between one and the other and whether they refer to food quality or food safety.

So lesson number one, treat ‘use by dates’ with scepticism, they are always conservative. Supermarkets are understandably terrified of poisoning their customers, they have calculated the dates for the worst possible scenario – food being left in hot cars for hours on end and/or stored in dodgy fridges. So let’s relearn to trust our senses in the time honoured way – observe, smell, taste, if you can hear it bubbling, it’s time to throw it out unless it’s fermenting…

Ironically, the whole cheap food policy has contributed hugely to the waste problem. Research has clearly shown that we find it much easier to bin without guilt when an item doesn’t cost much.

‘Buy one, get one free’ has also been counter-productive plus, many customers are still unaware that is not the supermarket out of the goodness of their hearts who provide the free item but the producer who is ‘encouraged’ to donate, and rarely if ever gets the credit and we are tempted to buy more food than we need.

However, once we decide to take up the zero waste challenge at home it can quickly become a fun obsession. Regard it as an opportunity to be creative, instead of seeing waste, see it as a chance to create a yummy snack or dinner…

A change in mind set quickly results in savings which can be reinvested in sourcing more nutrient dense organic and chemical free food.

Chefs too are increasingly concerned about the levels of waste in their kitchens, Michelin starred establishments, where it’s often just the choicest morsels that are served, are by their own admission, guiltiest in this regard but many are resolved to review the situation. Dan Barber from Blue Hill at Stone Barns located north of New York city kick-started the discussion when he brought his thought provoking food waste Pop Up – WastED to Selfridges in London in 2017.

At Ballymaloe House Myrtle Allen, who came, as I did from a generation for whom waste was not an option imbued us with a ‘zero waste’ culture long before the term was coined.

So as we settle into 2019, let’s resolve to take on the challenge of reducing our food and packaging waste to as close to zero as possible. Happy New Year!

Bread

Let’s think of food groups one by one – start with bread. Buy less but better quality. Family members with gluten intolerances will find they can eat every scrap of natural sourdough (but beware of ‘faux sourdough’, there is lots of it around).

Better still bake your own bread as often as possible, you’ll be much less likely to throw even a crumb of your crusty loaf in to the bin. The end of a pot of yoghurt can be added to a soda bread mix for extra deliciousness.

One way or another, there are a myriad of ways to use up left over bread, make bread crumbs, use fresh or freeze for stuffing, gratins, French toast, Eggy bread, Tunisian orange cake, bread and butter puddings…Freeze ripe bananas for banana bread.

French Toast with Ripe Bananas and Maple Syrup

French toast is so good that you forget how economical it is. The French don’t call it French toast. They call it pain perdu or “lost bread”, because it is a way to use up leftover bread you would otherwise lose. This recipe also uses up ripe bananas simply and deliciously.

Serves 1

1 egg, free range if possible

2 tablespoons milk

1 teaspoon of sugar, (maybe use Rapadura or Barbados)

1 ripe banana

2 slices white bread

A little clarified butter

Garnish

1 banana

Best quality yoghurt chilled

1 tablespoon chopped walnuts

Maple syrup or honey

Whisk the egg in a bowl with the milk. Add the sugar.

Mash the banana well with a fork and add to the mixture. Alternatively whizz the whole lot together in a liquidiser or food processor. Pour onto a plate and dip both sides of the bread in it. Melt a little clarified butter in the pan, fry the bread on a medium heat, when golden on one side turn over onto the other. Put on a hot plate, top with the sliced banana and a blob of chilled yoghurt, drizzle with maple syrup or honey and scatter with a few chopped walnuts. Serve immediately.

 

Croutini

Preheat the oven to 150C (300F/gas mark 2)

Slice staleish baguette diagonally into the thinnest slices possible.  Dry in a low oven until crisp and dry, about 15-20 minutes.  Store in an airtight container. Serve with pâtés, cheese or just as a snack slathered with something delicious, or with soup

 

Root to Shoot

Get on the totally trendy ‘root to shoot’ mindset, and use every scrap of every vegetable, all parts are super nutritious. At present, we throw out more food than would feed whole nations….

Broccoli stalks (grate for coleslaw), cauliflower leaves (roast or use in a soup or cauliflower cheese), green leek leaves (great in a soup), turnip tops (delicious melted and slathered in extra virgin olive oil. Add leftover roast vegetables are great added to frittatas or a pasta bake. How about this cool way to use up potato peelings….

Potato Peel Crisps

Scrub the potatoes well. Heat the oil in a deep fat fryer or in a pan with at least 3cms of oil. Dry the peelings as best you can.

Drop one into the hot oil to check the temperature, it should sizzle and rise to the surface.

Cook the remainder of the peelings in batches until golden brown and crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on a kitchen paper, or a towel.

Sprinkle with pure salt and maybe a little chilli powder or dry roasted cumin powder for extra fizz.

Roast Cauliflower with many toppings and flavours

Roast cauliflower is a brilliant vehicle for a myriad of flavours.  For minimum effort just scatter the hot roasted cauliflower with chopped parsley.  Sprinkle on a generous dusting of freshly grated Parmesan or frozen blue cheese.  A fresh herb laced butter or olive oil is also super delicious but try this version and have fun with the variations and then create your own. Don’t be afraid to use the leaves too.

Serves 4-6

1 fresh medium cauliflower, 1.4kg approx.

75-100g butter and 2 teaspoons of thyme leaves or 1 teaspoon finely chopped rosemary

 

Topping

1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley

1 clove garlic, crushed

50g piquillo pepper, chopped (or ripe cherry tomatoes, chopped)

15g anchovies, chopped

4-6 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

20g toasted flaked almonds

 

1 x round  22cm x 10cm high casserole.

 

Remove the outer leaves and trim the base.  Chop the leaves and stalk into 4cm pieces.  Cut a deep cross in the base of the cauliflower.  Pour 2cm of water into the casserole.  Bring to the boil, salt generously.  Add the leaves and stalks and pop the cauliflower on top, cover, return to the boil and cook for 5-6 minutes.  Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 230˚C/Gas Mark 8.

Remove the lid from the casserole for the last couple of minutes so all the water evaporates.   Remove the cauliflower and leaves to a plate.

Melt the butter in the casserole and allow to become beurre noisette, add the thyme leaves.   Add back in the leaves and cauliflower.  Baste the head with the thyme butter and pop into the preheated oven uncovered for 15-20 minutes.  Regular basting, though not essential, makes it even more delicious.  Pierce the base with a skewer to test for doneness.

Mix the topping ingredients together, add the olive oil and stir.  Spoon the topping over the roast cauliflower stalks and leaves.  Sprinkle with flaked almonds and serve with crusty bread.

Stocks and Broths – Make stocks and broths from bones and vegetable trimmings. It’s the nourishing and delicious basis for soups, stews, casseroles not to speak of a comforting drink to warn off cold and flu and top up your calcium levels.

Chicken Stock 

Chicken Stock is really indispensable. For soup making, sauces and gravies it really has no substitute. There are a couple of important rules to remember when making

chicken broth and they apply to all stock making. Choose a saucepan that the ingredients fit snugly into. If your saucepan is too big, you will have too much water and as a result will end up with a watery stock that is lacking in flavour. Always pour cold water over the ingredients as the cold water will draw the flavour out of the bones and vegetables as it comes up to the boil. A rich and well flavoured chicken stock can be achieved in two hours and I find that cooking the stock for hours on end makes it too strong and the sweet chicken flavour becomes too strong and some of the delicacy is lost. The stock will keep in the fridge for a few days or can be frozen.

2-3 raw or cooked chicken carcasses or a mixture of both

giblets from the chicken, i.e. neck, heart, gizzard (Save the liver for another dish)

3.4 litres (6 pints) cold water, approx

1 sliced onion

1 leek, split in two

1 outside stick of celery or 1 lovage leaf

1 sliced carrot

few parsley stalks

sprig of thyme

6 peppercorns

Chop or break up the carcasses as much as possible.  Put all the ingredients into a saucepan and cover with cold water.  Bring slowly up to the boil and skim the fat off the top with a tablespoon.  Simmer very gently for 3-5 hours, uncovered.  Strain and remove any remaining fat.  If you need a stronger flavour, boil down the liquid in an open pan to reduce by one-third or one-half the volume.  Do not add salt.

Leftovers – Learn how to use up left overs creatively, some of our most iconic dishes were repurposed from leftovers, Shepherds pie, rissoles, croquettes….

Shepherd’s Pie

Everyone’s favourite way to use up leftover cooked lamb from a roast dinner.

Serves 6

1oz (25g) butter

4oz (110g) chopped onion

1oz (25g) flour

15fl oz (450ml) stock and left over gravy

1 teaspoon tomato purée

1 dessertspoons mushroom ketchup (optional)

1 dessertspoon chopped parsley

1 teaspoon thyme leaves

salt and freshly ground pepper

1lb (450g) minced cooked lamb

2lb (900g) cooked mashed potatoes

 

Melt the butter, add the onion, cover with a round of greased paper and cook over a slow heat for 5 minutes.  Add the flour and cook until brown.  Add the stock, bring to the boil, skim.  Add the tomato puree, mushroom ketchup, chopped parsley, thyme leaves, salt and pepper and simmer for 5 minutes.

 

Add the meat to the sauce and bring to the boil.  Put in a pie dish, cover with the mashed potatoes and score with a fork.  Reheat in a moderate oven 180ºC/350ºF/Gas Mark 4 for about 30 minutes.  Garnish with parsley.

 

Ballymaloe Cheddar Cheese Croquettes

Makes 25 – 30, depending on size

This is a brilliant recipe, our ‘go to’ for using little scraps of grated cheese, delicious!

We get into big trouble if these crispy cheese croquettes are not on the Ballymaloe lunch buffet every Sunday.  They are loved by children and grown-ups, and are a particular favourite with vegetarians.  They are not suitable for vegans. Make tiny ones for canapés and provide cocktail sticks to eat them and Ballymaloe country relish as an accompaniment.

 

450ml (15fl oz) milk

few slices of carrot and onion

1 small bay leaf

sprig of thyme

4 parsley stalks

200g (7oz) roux (see recipe)

2 egg yolks, preferably free range

225g (8oz) grated mature Irish Cheddar cheese

a pinch of cayenne

1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon freshly chopped chives (optional)

salt and freshly ground pepper

seasoned white flour, preferably unbleached

beaten egg

fine dried white breadcrumbs

Put the cold milk into a saucepan with the carrot, onion and herbs, bring slowly to the boil, simmer for 3-4 minutes, turn off the heat and allow to infuse for about 10 minutes if you have enough time.  Strain the flavourings, rinse them and add to a stock if you have one on the go.  Bring the milk back to the boil, whisk in the roux bit by bit; it will get very thick but persevere.  (The roux always seems like a lot too much but you need it all so don’t decide to use less).

 

Season with salt and freshly ground pepper.  Cook for 1-2 minutes on a gentle heat, then remove from the heat, stir in the egg yolks, cheese, pinch of cayenne, mustard and optional chives.  Taste and correct the seasoning.  Spread out on a wide plate to cool.

 

When the mixture is cold or at least cool enough to handle, shape into balls about the size of a golf ball or 25g (1oz) approx.  Roll first in seasoned flour, then in beaten egg and then in fine breadcrumbs.  Chill until firm but bring back to room temperature before cooking otherwise they may burst.  Just before serving, heat a deep fryer to 150°C/300°F and cook the Cheese Croquettes until crisp and golden.  Drain on kitchen paper and serve hot with a green salad and perhaps some Ballymaloe Country Relish.

Note: Cooked Cheese Croquettes can be kept warm in an oven for up to 30 minutes. They can also be frozen and reheated in an oven.

Food Trends for 2019

I’m always excited about the start of a brand New Year, new resolutions, new opportunities, new challenges, lots of fun. So what might be coming down the line in 2019, what do we think is hot and what’s not?….

Food trends are notoriously volatile but in any business, it’s super important to keep an eye on the indications relevant to your area, analyse them but beware of following them slavishly.

In my business, keeping an eye on what’s happening on the food, farming and beverage scene is essential to staying on the cutting edge and attracting both customers and students from all around the world to Ballymaloe and Ireland. I travel quite a bit, this past year I’ve travelled to China and the US…New York, Florida, Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Paris, Turin, London…. Food is my subject and so I consider travel to be a vital element in my research. Everywhere I go, I meet artisan producers, farmers, fishermen, cheesemakers, visit Farmer Markets, seek out Food Trucks, taste Street Food and eat in a wide variety of cafes, neighbourhood restaurants, and fine dining establishments. I keep my eyes and ears open, ask lots of questions, take lots of photos and lots of notes.

So, here are some of my predictions for food trends in 2019 based on my observations over the past year…

The number of people choosing a plant based or vegan diet continues to grow exponentially. Countless others are becoming flexitarians and are choosing to eat less meat and are actively seeking meat and poultry that has been ethically and humanely reared. Believe me this ‘meat-free movement’, now linked to climate change, is no ‘flash in the pan’. Pasture-raised is the buzz word here, rotating animals through lush grasslands can dramatically improve their health, the health of the soil. Trap CO2 in the soil where it belongs, help with water reduction and reduce erosion – good news for Ireland.

Expect to see more shopper support and shopping brands committed to good animal welfare practices and environmental stewardships. Businesses and farms that support programs to relieve poverty throughout the world are also influencing consumers and has become a definite global trend. Mindful choices, ‘waste not want not’, is a growing preoccupation, consequently some supermarkets are now selling ugly and misshapen but perfectly delicious and nutritious fruit and vegetables at a lower price point.

There’s a growing annoyance among consumers about the excess packaging they are forced to accept. There is a definite awareness of the damage that plastic is doing to our oceans and planet and that it is gradually leaching into our food. We will see an increase in more eco conscious packaging, single use plastic is being replaced by multi-use and compostable. We are all addicted to plastic so it will be a difficult habit to break.

B.Y.O.V.B (bring your own vegetable bag) and coffee cup are becoming the norm. Waxed canvas or silicone alternatives for sandwiches and snacks is a significant growth area for manufacturers.

A growing body of research confirms that all disease starts in the gut… The realisation that both our physical and mental wellbeing depend on the health of our gut biome has prompted a huge increase in the number of probiotic foods that contain gut friendly bacteria to improve the immune system. Even granola bars, nut butters and soups are fortified but my advice is to eat real food, seek out raw milk, raw butter, good natural yoghurt, original cheeses, organic vegetables….and ditch ultra-processed food altogether.

Gut awareness continues to drive the interest in fermentation. Cool restaurants and hotels are serving house made kefirs, kombucha, kvass, drinking vinegars, sauerkraut, kimchi and other fermented foods.

Nootropics – brain food is coming to the fore, Crickets and other insects, (a ‘new’ inexpensive source of protein) are being added to processed foods.

In the US dietitians are becoming celebrities as the health crisis deepens and the rise in obesity, type 2 diabetes and autoimmune disease continue to increase at an alarming rate. We are moving towards more personalised food experience. Once again lets eat real food, chemical free food rather than ‘edible food like substances’ that are unquestionably fuelling the health crisis.

In the world of medicine, young doctors are calling for training in nutrition to equip them with the necessary knowledge to advise their patients on diet.

Whether we like it or not, increased automation is coming our way- and fast. Robots are already making pizza in France and coffee in San Francisco. They are taking orders and delivering room service. Hotel employees are becoming increasingly concerned about their new rivals – certainly not good news for the job market.

We are edging ever closer to lab grown meats becoming main stream. Jaw dropping amounts of money have been invested in ‘motherless meat’ in the past couple of decades. The Impossible Burger is now a reality, it can even bleed like a real burger if carefully cooked, however the jury is still out on the flavour. I’ve tasted three different versions of what are described as ‘insanely delicious’ plant based burgers and I’m here to tell you that ‘insanely delicious’ it is not despite the considerable hype to the contrary. Look out for sushi grade ‘not tuna’- made from tomatoes….It’ll be interesting to watch this space, a phenomenal investment has already been sunk into this plant based burger….

Meanwhile meat-free days are on the increase and multiple restaurants are now offering an optional Meat Free Monday menu.

In the US, UK and several other countries, more people are eating at  home, the millennials are cooking again. How cool is that, if you’re not convinced, pay a trip to a Farmers Market here in  Ireland, London, New York or the Flea Market in Dublin and watch the action.

Farm to Table and Root to Shoot eating continues to gather momentum and drive purchases. Urban vertical indoor farming in cities is exploding, reducing expensive and environmental impact.

Bill Gates has bought 25,000 acres to develop a new ‘smart city’ from the ground up.

At last some good news for farmers and food producers, new routes to market have been developed where consumers / members order their food on-line, not from the supermarket, but directly from the farmer or food producer who gets 80% of the retail price as opposed to 25-35% through the current retail system. Farmdrop in the UK www.farmdrop.com  is a brilliant example as is NeigbourFood launched in Cork city in late November. It’s already increasing  membership and producers week by week – a very welcome development, check it out on www.neighbourfood.ie

The ‘clean eating fad’ it seems, is waning but has been partly subsumed into the vegan food movement.

On the global restaurant scene, molecular gastronomy appears to have peaked, top chefs are moving away from using spheres and extreme molecular elements and are putting down their paint brushes and tweezers and chucking out their palette knives – I’m told smears on plates and skid marks are out….

Seems like growing numbers are annoyed by the favouritism shown by restaurant critics to avant-garde molecular food. More diners would like to see restaurants concentrating on flavour and not overly complicating dishes, just to make them look pretty. Apparently we’re also over frilly foliage and limp pea shoots but lots of edible flower petals are still in evidence. Small plates are a definite trend.

Amazon’s takeover of Wholefoods in the US is having a profound impact on retail. There are greenhouses on supermarket rooftops in Japan, talk of being able to pick your own tomatoes straight from the vine when shopping….

Smart fridges that will automatically replenish when you are out of the branded products you can’t live without, is already a reality.

Every conceivable type of meal kit and ready meal….Home delivery of restaurant meals, soon by drone rather than bike, it’s a brave new world out there….

Hot Ingredients

  1. Chefs and home cooks are becoming more adventurous with chilli pepper flakes, Aleppo Pepper or Pul Biber, Piment d’Espelette, Timut pepper from Nepal and Korean Gochugaru.
  2. Bitter greens of all kinds are on the best menus, Radichios, Chicory, Sorrell, Tardivo Dandelion leaves…. Amaranth is the new Kale…
  3. Marine Munchies –Seaweed and sea vegetables, all more nutritious than anything on land and intriguingly delicious – dried seaweed sprinkles, kelp noodles, samphire, dillisk soda bread… Dillisk has three times the nutritional value of kale.
  1. More unusual herbs, Lovage, Claytonia, Hyssop, Shiso. Wild and foraged, Pennywort, Purslane, Winter Cress, Tagetes, Ground Elder, Chickweed….
  1. Artisan Bakeries – Real natural sourdough fermented for at least 24 hours, better still 48 hours, made with flour from heritage grains.
  2. Specialist Teas – Tea bars are springing up serving exquisite (and super expensive) teas like we can’t imagine, Pu-erh tea has changed my life. Check out a little Taiwanese tea bar in New York called Té on 10th There are even tea cocktails now.
  3. Good fats are back, not just butter but ghee from grass-fed cows, organic pork lard, goose and duck fat…
  4. Argan oil and MCT oil
  5. Organic raw milk and raw butter ($19.99 a pound in San Francisco) much more nutrient dense and delicious
  6. Puffed and popped snacks – Organic popcorn with many flavours, sweet and savoury
  7. Faux meat snacks, a big trend. …. Yuk!
  8. Alcohol free spirits, booze-free cocktails, flavoured whiskeys, artisan gins, beers and ciders…
  9. Natural wines and organic wines are a particularly welcome trend for those who can no longer drink the chemical laden cheap wines.
  10. Hemp derived products are exploding…
  11. Doughnuts are still huge in every sense of the word, remember the excitement when Krispy Kreme opened in Dublin…
  12. We’ll see more African flavours, in particular Ethiopian food
  13. Flavours of the Pacific Rim (Asia, Oceanica and the Western coasts of North and South America) are also a strong trend so stock up on fish sauce, wasabi, lemongrass, star anise, pandan leaves, black sesame, soy sauce….
  14. Mushrooms, particularly the wild varieties are naturally rich in umami flavours so are being used in ever more creative ways to create ‘a meaty bite’
  15. Pulses (peas, beans and lentils) are really having their moment, an important and inexpensive source of protein, there’s a growing choice of pulse based snacks.
  16. Dried, pickled and smoked foods are ever more evident, smoked butter, salt, chill flakes, garlic, potatoes, carrots, black pudding – even porridge…
  17. Riced and diced as a carb substitute…cauliflower, Romanesco, broccoli…
  18. Stracciatella is everywhere, where can we get it here? – https://www.toonsbridgedairy.com/ .
  19. Cold Brew Coffee – nitro coffee…

I’m running out of space but there’s so much more, meanwhile here’s what I’ll be enjoying this week….

Bitter Endive, Escarole, Dandelion or Puntarelle Salad with Anchovy Dressing and Pangrattato

Bitter greens are enormously nutritious, we need more in our diet.

Serves 8

8 handfuls of salad leaves, cut or torn into generous bite sized bits (use a selection of bitter greens endive, escarole, dandelion, pursulane, winter cress….)

Caesar dressing (see recipe)

1 -2 fistfuls of freshly grated Parmesan

Pangrattato (see below) OR

40 croutons, approximately 2cm square, cooked in extra virgin olive oil

16 anchovies (Ortiz)

 

Choose a bowl, large enough to hold the salad comfortably, make the caesar dressing as below, sprinkle with enough dressing to coat the leaves lightly. Add a fistful of finely grated Parmesan. Toss gently and add the warm croutons (if using.) Toss again. Divide between eight cold plates. Top each salad with a couple of anchovies and serve.

If using pangrattato instead of croutons, scatter over each of the salads and serve immediately.

Pangrattato

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 cloves garlic, peeled

150g white breadcrumbs

zest of 1 unwaxed lemon

Heat the extra virgin olive in a frying pan; add the garlic cloves and sauté until golden brown. Remove the garlic cloves and keep aside. Add half the breadcrumbs and stir over a medium heat until they turn golden. Spread out on a baking sheet, repeat with the remainder of the breadcrumbs. Grate the garlic cloves over the bread crumbs. Finely grate the lemon zest over the crumbs also. Toss, season with salt and taste.

 

Caesar Dressing

2 egg yolks, preferably free-range

2 tablespoons lemon juice, freshly squeezed

1 x 50g tin anchovies

1 clove garlic, crushed

a generous pinch of English mustard powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2-1 tablespoon Worcester sauce

1/2-1 tablespoon Tabasco sauce

175ml sunflower oil

50ml extra virgin olive oil

50ml cold water

I make it in a food processor but it can also be made very quickly by hand. Drain the anchovies and crush lightly with a fork. Put into a bowl with the egg yolks, add the garlic, lemon juice, mustard powder, salt, Worcester and Tabasco sauce. Whisk all the ingredients together.  As you whisk, add the oils slowly at first, then a little faster as the emulsion forms. Finally whisk in the water to make a spreadable consistency. Taste and correct the seasoning: this dressing should be highly flavoured.

 

Té Dates

Té Company is a tiny secret Taiwanese tea shop on 163 West 10th Street in Manhattan, superb teas, add it to your New York list…

12 Medjool Dates

12 Strips of homemade candied orange peel

12 Fresh walnuts

A few drops of balsamic vinegar

Assemble all the ingredients.

Split the dates down one side, prise open and remove stones.

 

Carefully pour a drop of balsamic vinegar into each date. Tuck a strip of candied peel and half a fresh walnut into each. Press and seal.

 

Enjoy with a cup of special tea.

Nollaig Na mBan

Nollaig Na mBan…

That’s the enchanting Irish name given to Women’s, Little Christmas on the 6th of January– the feast of the Epiphany.

It’s the traditional end of the Christmas season, the day we take down the Christmas tree and pack the baubles and tinsel into the attic for another year. But most importantly, it’s the day when the women of Ireland get to have time off from household chores after all the festive cooking.

A special day to get together with friends, sisters, mothers and aunts…The men, cheerfully take over the household for the day so the women can gather together to party and have a glass of fizz.

I was surprised to discover that many other countries have a similar tradition although the date sometimes varies. The Nordic countries have many customs, as have Ukraine, Slovenia, Galicia and closer to home there are high jinks and ceilis in the Scottish highlands it’s called, Là Féill nan Rìgh, The Feast of the Kings in Gaelic. La Fête des Rois is also celebrated in France with the delicious Galette des Rois as the centre piece of the table. Every boulangére offers their version of the flaky pastry galette, with a little trinket known as a ‘fève’ hidden deep inside the marzipan filling. Each comes with a golden paper crown which the lucky person who finds the fève in their slice will wear when they are crowned king for the day.

Here in Ireland the custom had almost disappeared, apart from in the counties of Cork and Kerry but there has been an enthusiastic revival of Women’s Little Christmas in recent years. Many restaurants and hotels are offering jolly Nollaig na bMan celebrations with exciting entertainment, dancing and music as well as afternoon tea or dinner so the womenfolk can enjoy a night out.

Just found this funny poem on social media penned by Nuala Woulfe @NWoulfeWriter – a few lines to whet your appetite.

Mammys on the Dance Floor

Mammys on the dance floor, let out for the night,

Dancing round their handbags, whopping with delight,

Mammys on the dance floor, kicking up the dust

Checking out the six packs, overcome with lust!

Mammys on the dance floor, one more round of beer,

Eyeing up the bouncers, giving them the leer…..

So off you go ladies, let the hair down, but if you’d like a delectable afternoon tea and a gossip around the fire, instead here are some of my favourite sweet treats for those who love to bake…

 

Ballymaloe Sausage Rolls with Caraway Seeds

Makes 8 – 16 depending on size

 

450g (1lb) best quality Sausages

450g (1lb) Puff Pastry (see recipe)

Egg Wash: 1 egg and a drop of milk

50g (2ozs) Caraway seeds or sesame seeds

 

Form the sausage meat into rolls, either regular or jumbo size to fit the pastry.

 

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

 

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

Before cooking cut into 8’s or 16’s . Brush with egg wash and sprinkle with optional caraway seeds. Cook for 20-25 minutes depending on size. 

 

Galette des Rois

In France on the Festival of the Kings on 6th January, over 50 million flaky galette des rois are eaten. Tucked into the soft frangipane filling is a little surprise for the lucky person who chooses that slice. There is a wonderful ritual played out every year, where everyone sits around the dining table but the youngest child climbs underneath. As the galette is served, slice by slice, Madame points at the portion and asks ‘Who is that slice for ?’ The child calls out each person’s name, the lucky person who finds the feve in their slice is the king and the golden crown is placed on their head. As the king raises a glass everyone choruses, ‘The king drinks, the king drinks!’

 

Serves 8

 

450g all butter puff pastry chilled

 

Filling

110g (4oz) ground almonds

110g (4 ozs) castor sugar

40g (1½ ozs) melted butter

2 egg yolks, preferably free range and organic

2 tablespoons double cream

1 dessertspoon rum (optional)

Egg wash made with 1 beaten egg and a tiny pinch of salt

Glaze

Icing sugar

To Serve

Softly whipped cream

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

Divide the pastry in half, roll out just less than 5mm (¼ inch thick), cut into 2 circles approx. 10 inch (25.5cm) in diameter.  Put one onto a damp baking sheet, Keep both pieces chilled in the fridge while you make the filling (the second piece could be on a sheet of parchment paper on a plate in the fridge).

Mix all the ingredients for the filling together (except the egg wash) in a bowl until smooth. Put the filling onto the pastry base, leaving a rim of about 1 inch (2.5mm) free around the edge.  Brush the rim with beaten egg or water and put on the lid of puff pastry, press it down well around the edges. Flute the edges with a knife.

Make a small hole in the centre brush with egg wash and leave for 5 minutes in the refrigerator. With the back of a knife, nick the edge of the pastry 12 times at regular intervals to form a scalloped edge with a rose petal effect. Mark long curving lines from the central hole outwards to designate formal petals. Be careful not to cut through the pastry just score it.*

Bake for 20 minutes in the preheated oven, then lower the heat to 200C/400F/regulo 6 and bake for 30 minutes approx. until well risen and golden. While still hot dredge heavily with icing sugar and return to a very hot oven or pop under a grill (Do Not Leave the Grill) – the sugar will melt and caramelize to a dark brown glaze. Serve warm or cold with a bowl of softly whipped cream.

*Note: Galette des Rois is best eaten warm, but it also keeps well and may be reheated

 

Lemon Curd Meringue Cupcakes

 

Makes 24

 

Cupcakes

225g (8oz) butter (at room temperature)

225g (8oz) caster sugar

225g (8oz) self-raising flour

4 organic large eggs

zest of 2 lemons

 

Lemon Curd

2 ozs (50g) butter

4 ozs (110g) caster sugar

grated zest and juice of 2 lemons

2 organic eggs and 1 organic egg yolk whisked (keep white aside for meringue)

 

Lemon Curd Cream

110ml (4floz) mascarpone

4 tablespoons lemon curd (see recipe)

2 tablespoons sieved icing sugar

 

Meringue Kisses (see recipe)

 

Garnish

sprig of Lemon Balm or Lemon Verbena

 

2 muffin tins lined with 24 muffin cases.

 

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

 

First make the cupcakes.

Put all ingredients into a food processer, whizz until smooth.

 

Divide mixture evenly between cases in muffin tin.

 

Bake in preheated oven for 20-25 minutes or until risen and golden.

 

Meanwhile, make the lemon curd.

Melt the butter on a very low heat. Add the caster sugar, lemon zest and juice and then add the whisked eggs.  Stir carefully over a gentle heat with a straight ended wooden spatula until the mixture coats the back it.  Remove from the heat and allow to cool.

 

Meringue

2 egg whites

4½ ozs (117g/1 cup approx.) icing sugar

 

To make the meringue

 

Line a baking sheet with silicone paper.

Mix all the sugar with the egg whites at once and beat until the mixture forms stiff dry peaks.  Drop little ‘blobs’ of the mixture on to the baking sheet and flatten slightly with a teaspoon.   Bake immediately in a low oven 150°C/300°F/regulo 2 for 10-15 minutes or until set crisp.

 

To assemble

Mix the lemon curd into the mascarpone and add the sieved icing sugar.  Put into a piping bag with a medium sized plain nozzle.  Put the remainder of the lemon curd into a piping bag with a small plain nozzle.

 

Insert the nozzle into the top of the cupcake and squeeze in a small teaspoon of lemon curd.  Pipe a blob of lemon cream over the top.  It should almost cover the top of the cupcake.  Top with a little more lemon curd and pop a meringue kiss on top, garnish with a sprig of lemon balm or lemon verbena.  Eat as soon as possible.

 

Tender Loving Care Biscuits (known as TLC’s in our house)

These little oatmeal and coffee sandwich biscuit are super delicious.

 

Makes about 10 iced biscuits (depending on the size of the cutter used)

 

110g (4 ozs) butter

50g (2 ozs) castor sugar

1 dessertspoon golden syrup

55g (2 ozs) flour

150g (5 ozs) oatmeal (porridge oats)

55g (2 ozs) dessicated coconut

A pinch of salt

A pinch of bread soda (bicarbonate of soda)

 

Coffee Filling

50g (2 ozs) butter

75g (3 ozs) icing sugar

Coffee essence – 1 teaspoon approx.

 

Coffee Icing

110g (4 ozs) icing sugar

1 tablespoon approx. boiling water

1 teaspoons approx. coffee essence

 

Decoration

10 – 12 walnuts

Cutter

Use a 12 inch (4cm) cutter

 

Cream the butter and sugar and add in the golden syrup, gradually stir in the dry ingredients and mix well.

Roll out on to a floured board to about  inch (5mm) thickness – the mixture will be slightly sticky and will be a little difficult to handle.  Stamp out into rounds with a cutter and bake in a moderate oven 180C/350F/regulo 4 until golden. They will take approx.12-15 minutes.

Remove to a wire rack and allow to become quite cold.  Meanwhile make the filling and icings.

 

Coffee Filling:

Cream the butter and add in the sieved icing sugar, beat until light and fluffy and then add the coffee essence. Spread a little on each biscuit and sandwich two biscuits together.

Coffee Icing:

Sieve the icing sugar, add the coffee essence and enough boiling water to mix to a spreading consistency, very little does, so be careful not to add too much.  Spread a little blob of icing on top of each biscuit and decorate with a walnut half.

 

Little Choccie Mousses

Serve in little glasses, chocolate mousse is very rich – so don’t serve too large helpings.

 

Serves 8-10

 

225g (8ozs) plain chocolate (we use 52% Callebaut)

1 tablespoon of Jamaican rum

4 free range eggs, separated
crème fraiche or softly whipped cream to serve

 

Break chocolate into small pieces and put into a Pyrex bowl, melt over a saucepan of hot water. As soon as the water comes to the boil turn off the heat and allow to soften. Stir until melted and smooth. Remove, cool, whisk in the rum and egg yolks one by one. Whisk the egg whites stiffly and fold gently into the melted chocolate. Fill into small bowls or glasses. Allow to set in a fridge.
To Serve
Serve with a blob of crème fraiche.

Note
These little pots are very rich so extra crème fraîche may be welcome.

 

Darina’s Coconut and Jelly Cakes

 

Makes 18 – 20

150g (5ozs) butter (at room temperature)

150g (5ozs) caster sugar

150g (5ozs) self raising flour

2 large eggs

2 tablespoons milk

½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

 

Redcurrant jelly or redcurrant jelly mixed with raspberry jam

110g (4oz) desiccated coconut

300ml (10floz) cream

2 teaspoons icing sugar

 

2 muffin tins lined with 18 muffin cases.

 

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

 

Put all ingredients except milk into a food processer, whizz until smooth.  Scrape down sides of the bowl, then add milk and whizz again.

Divide mixture evenly between cases in muffin tin.  Bake in preheated oven for 20-25 minutes or until risen and golden. Allow to cool on a wire cake rack.

Whip the cream with the sieved icing sugar and spoon into a piping bag.

Dip or brush each bun with the jelly, roll in desiccated coconut. Cut the top third of each cake almost all the way through and pipe in a large rosette of cream.

Serve immediately. Unfilled cakes can be kept in an airtight tin for a day or two.

Top Cook Books of 2018

Well Christmas is well and truly over for another year, not sure about you but I’ve already managed to break several of my New Year resolutions but despite the dark evenings I do love this time of year. Lots of chunky soups, comforting stews, steamed puddings and the smell of Seville orange marmalade bubbling in the pot. The bitter oranges are in the shops now, so rush out to buy more than you think you need, freeze some and use my Whole Orange Marmalade recipe (see Examiner website), whenever you are running out of Seville orange marmalade during the year.

Meanwhile how about some fresh new ideas to liven up your cooking for 2019. Here are some of my favorite new cookbooks to use up your Christmas book tokens;

  1. The Noma Guide to Fermentation by René Redzepi and David Zilber
  2. Ottolenghi Simple: A Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi
  3. Extebarri by Jon Sarabia and Juan Pablo Cardenal
  4. Ethiopia: Recipes and Traditions from the Horn of Africa by Yohanis Gebreyesus
  5. Zaitoun: Recipes and Stories from the Palestinian Kitchen by Yasmin Khan
  6. Jamie Cooks Italy by Jamie Oliver
  7. Venice: Four Seasons of Home Cooking by Russell Norman
  8. Copenhagen Food: Stories, Traditions and Recipes by Trina Hahnemann
  9. How to Eat A Peach by Diana Henry
  10. Cook, Share, Eat, Vegan: Delicious Plant-based Recipes for Everyone by Áine Carlin

It may not be to everyone’s taste but my book of the year is the Noma Guide to Fermentation by René Redzepi and David Zilber. Few chefs know or understand how to use fermented foods to their full potential like René does. For several years now, David Zilber, Arielle Johnston and Lars Williams have been experimenting and perfecting all manner of fermented foods in their bunker turned fermentation lab beside Noma in Copenhagen, and have gone where few others have dared to venture. For those of us who have been experimenting over the years this book is the master class Penny, Marie and all of us in the ‘Bubble Shed’ at Ballymaloe Cookery School have been eagerly anticipating.

Yotam Ottolenghi’s new book, Ottolenghi Simple: A Cookbook, has taken the US by storm as well as this side of the world. Israeli born Yotam, author of Jerusalem and Plenty already has quite the following for his take on his beloved Middle Eastern food. However, he is not known for simple recipes so in the nick of time, before people get too exasperated, he’s published this volume of enticing dishes, many with fewer than 10 ingredients – and several that take less than 30 minutes to get on to the table. Love this book of quick and everyday recipes from one of the most creative chefs on the current food scene.

Ethiopia: Recipes and Traditions from the Horn of Africa by Yohanis Gebreyesus. Always fascinating to learn about the food of an area that is totally unfamiliar, so I was intrigued to find this book published by Kyle Books. I first tasted Ethiopian food in Santa Fe in California and later ate Teff, the fermented flat bread from a stall in Union Square Market in lower Manhattan. Ethiopia, a fascinating country that has never been colonized but it’s intriguing cuisine is enriched with the different religious influences of Christianity, Judaism and Islam, a combination unique to Africa.

Chef Yohanis Gebreyesus, takes us on a journey of the essential Ethiopian dishes, interwoven with enchanting stories of local people and customs. He whetted my appetite not only for the food but for the country – must visit soon….

For a taste of Ethiopia over here rush to Fizzy’s stall at the Mahon Point and Midleton Farmers Markets. She also sells the quintessential Berber spice mixture that you’ll need for many of the dishes.

Trina Hahnemann’s name is not nearly as well known as René Redzepi but in her own way she is a much loved and highly respected ambassador for Scandinavian food. Trina has written 10 best selling cookbooks full of gorgeous simple recipes. She is an enthusiastic advocate for sustainable solutions, organic sourcing, and food cooked with love. Copenhagen Food is a love letter to her native Copenhagen and the delicious dishes enjoyed from her home town.

Of the new vegan cook books published in 2018, of which there were many her are a few worth a mention: Cook, Share, Eat, Vegan: Delicious Plant-based Recipes for Everyone by Áine Carlin; Veganish by Holly White; The runaway best seller is by The Bosh Boys, Bosh! Simple Recipes, Amazing Food, All Plants. And finally 15 Minute Vegan Comfort Food by Katy Beskow.

Jam makers should definitely seek out 5 Seasons of Jam by Lillie O’Brien of the London Borough of Jam and last but not least a shout out to some Irish titles, Currabinny Cookbook by James Kavanagh and William Murray (alumni of BCS) which recently won the Irish Cookbook of the Year, Donal Skehan’s Meals in Minutes, Neven Maguire’s new book Home Economics for Life, Irish Seaweed Christmas Kitchen by Prannie Rhatigan one of the pioneers who highlighted the magic of seaweed long before it became trendy. There are many more but I am out of space however, I can’t forget Eat a Peach by Diana Henry – certainly one of the great books of the year.

Ethiopia Spice Pumpkin Stew

(Duba Wat)

 

While shopping in weekly souqs or outdoor markets around Addis Ababa, one common item for sale all around the country is duba (pumpkin). Smallhold farmers generally

intercrop duba with maize or other perennial crops, and bring them to the souq, where they sell them cut into large pieces. The amounts here serve a number of people as part of a spread of vegetable dishes. It also makes an excellent side dish to accompany chicken, fish or meat.

 

SERVES 2–4

3 tablespoons sunflower, rapeseed or another mild vegetable oil

2 medium red or yellow onions, finely chopped (about 250g)

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 tablespoon berbere spice blend, or more to taste (recipe below)

1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

500g peeled and seeded pumpkin, butternut squash, acorn squash or another firm-fleshed hard-skinned squash, cut into 2.5cm cubes

Salt

 

In a large flameproof casserole or sauté pan, heat the oil over a medium–low heat, add the onions and cook for about 10 minutes until soft and translucent. Stir in the garlic, berbere and cardamom, reduce the heat to low, cover and cook for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Add a touch of water if needed to keep it from scorching.

Add the pumpkin, season with salt and cover with 250ml of water. Partly cover the pan and cook over a medium–low heat for 25–35 minutes until the pumpkin is fork-tender. Gently stir from time to time to keep from sticking, but avoid mashing the pumpkin as it softens. Add more water if needed or remove the lid to cook off any excess liquid towards the end of cooking – the stew should be moist but not too liquidy. Serve.

 

Berbere Spice Blend

MAKES ABOUT 55G

50g dried medium-hot red chillies, such as guajillo or New Mexico chillies

½ teaspoon nigella seeds

½ teaspoon cloves

½  teaspoon ajowan seeds

½ tablespoon onion powder

Taken from Ethiopia by Yohanis Gebreysus, published by Kyle Books

 

 

Extebarri Red prawns over wood coals

 

There are three core pillars behind the excellence of the red prawns served at Etxebarri. One of them is the raw material. These prawns weigh 60 g each and have fabulously firm meat as a result of the exceptional properties of the habitat in which they live: two small fishing grounds in the waters of Palamós that are little known places and where the prawns are caught quickly and responsibly so they are not injured in the net. They could not be fresher as the prawns caught that day are sent off to Etxebarri that same afternoon. The logistics by road from Gerona to Biscay are arranged in such a way that the prawns lose none of their original properties. They travel overnight, partially immersed in isothermal buckets containing seawater and ice. On reaching Etxebarri, the water is immediately changed and the seawater and ice are replaced until the meal service begins. It is essential to conserve them so that the extraordinary texture of the prawns is ensured. Lastly, the goal when grilling them is to ‘cook them so that they are done, yet intact, and look as if they have just been caught,’ Bittor explains. The difficulty lies in grilling them so that neither half is too cooked or remains raw. He puts fewer wood coals under the body and livelier wood coals under the heads so that they cook more. According to Bittor, it is crucial to conserve the juices in the prawn’s heads as it is ‘the best fish soup a cook can offer you’.

Prawns

Olive oil

  • Take the prawns out of the seawater and ice, dry them and set aside. They are served whole and there is no need to remove the antennae, nor to salt them as the seawater provides the perfect point of salinity.

 

  • Arrange two levels of wood coals under the grill. A livelier one, so that the heat reaches the heads and where they join the bodies; and a smaller one to cook the prawn tails to perfection.

 

  • Spray the prawns with olive oil and place on the grill. Grill over a low heat and at a medium height for 3 and 2 minutes per side, respectively. Remove and serve.

 

Taken from Extebarri by Juan Pablo Cardenal & Jon Sarabia, published by Grub Street Publishers

 

Currabinny Cookbook Ruby Chard Korma

William suggests keeping the stalks for another dish but we loved them finely shredded and added them as we were pouring in the water.

Serves 4–6

3 onions

3 cloves of garlic

a thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger

700g chestnut mushrooms

a large knob of butter

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

seeds from 10 cardamom pods, crushed

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

a few pinches of ground cinnamon

a few pinches of chilli powder

3 bay leaves

200ml water

350g ruby chard

200g natural yoghurt

150g crème fraîche

 

To serve:

toasted flaked almonds

pomegranate seeds

basmati rice

 

Peel the onions, garlic and ginger. Slice the onions and mushrooms, grate the ginger and crush the garlic with some salt. Melt the butter in a large pan and add the onions, garlic and ginger with some salt and pepper.

When the onions have softened a bit, add the cardamom, cumin, turmeric, cinnamon, chilli powder and bay leaves. Now add the sliced mushrooms to the pan and cook for a couple of minutes, stirring regularly. Pour in the water, stir, and simmer for 15 minutes, then check the seasoning.

Meanwhile, remove the stalks from the chard* and add the leaves in batches to the pot until it is all wilted. Turn the heat to low and gently stir in the yoghurt and crème fraîche.

Serve with rice and top with the almonds and pomegranate seeds.

From the Currabinny Cookbook, by James Kavanagh & William Murray. Published by Penguin Ireland.

 

Currabinny Cookbook Lemon and Lavender Cake

Combining lavender with lemon and yoghurt makes this cake sticky, subtle and utterly delicious.

 

Makes 8–10 slices

butter, for greasing

1 tablespoon dried lavender flowers

250g caster sugar

175g cream flour

½ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

a pinch of sea salt

2 medium organic eggs

250g Greek yoghurt

125ml rapeseed oil

finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon

dried lavender sprigs, to decorate

 

For the icing:

200g icing sugar

juice of 1 lemon

1 medium egg white

 

Preheat the oven to 160ºC fan/gas 4. Butter a 20cm springform cake tin and line with baking parchment.

Crush the lavender in a pestle and mortar. Put the caster sugar into a large bowl and mix the lavender through. Add the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt, and stir to combine.

In another bowl, mix the eggs with the yoghurt and rapeseed oil and pour this into the dry ingredients, stirring well. Add the lemon zest and juice.

Pour the mixture into the cake tin and bake in the oven for around 50 minutes until golden brown and firm to the touch. Leave to cool in the tin for a minute, then turn the cake out to cool fully on a wire rack.

Sieve the icing sugar into a bowl and add the lemon juice, whisking until smooth. Add the egg white gradually to loosen the mixture until it is quite runny and pourable. The icing should be extremely sharp and lemony. Spoon this icing over the top of the cake until it covers the top and starts to drip down the sides.

Arrange some dried lavender sprigs on the top as decoration.

From the Currabinny Cookbook, by James Kavanagh & William Murray. Published by Penguin Ireland.

Christmas Leftovers…

Hope you have managed to tick off most of the items on your ‘must do for Christmas’ list and that all the family are cheerfully helping with last minute jobs and present wrapping. Chill the fizz, hang up the mistletoe, tuck holly sprigs here and there and play some jolly Christmas carols to get you into the festive spirit. Hope you’ve managed to resist the urge to fill your fridge and pantry to bursting point but having said that I love the fun of using up leftover bits of this and that.

Now for a few ideas…Not sure if there will be any little morsels of turkey or crispy skin left over after everyone has tucked into turkey sandwiches on Christmas evening but,if there are, strip off the carcass to make this delicious pilaff. Then pop the carcass into a pot with 2 or 3 quartered onions, same of carrots and a stick or two of celery, a sprig of thyme and a few peppercorns. If you don’t use the giblets (neck, heart and gizzard) to make a flavourful stock for the gravy, add them in to the pot. Cover the whole lot with cold water, bring to the boil, skim and simmer for 3 to 4 hours. Strain and you’ll have a delicious pot of turkey broth to sip or use as a base for a stew, casserole or to make an unctuous risotto or the pilaff.

Use the turkey liver immediately while it is fresh to make this parfait and serve it in little pots with plump Pedro Ximénez raisins. It’ll make a delicious starter or can be slathered on crisp, hot toast for a snack.

What other leftovers? Might you have any leftover Brussel sprouts, if so trim the outsides, then half or quarter each one, blanch, drain well, toss in extra virgin olive oil and roast in a hot oven. Then toss with chorizo crumbs – so yummy. I’m loving roasted cauliflower and Romanesco florets too.

Left over cranberry sauce keeps well so don’t fuss about using it up but do try it with some soft goat cheese. Fresh cranberries also keep well and of course freeze perfectly, otherwise throw a fistful into your salads, scones, muffins or soda bread. Maybe stew them down, add a little chopped rosemary and add them to an apple sauce to serve with a pork chop or make a ‘catch-all’ cranberry chutney.

Sprinkle left over mincemeat into a batch of scones. Serve them warm with the remainder of the brandy butter. Tangerines, mandarins or clementines are balm to the soul after a rich Christmas meal, delicious just to nibble, but this mandarin sorbet is my favourite way to enjoy them. It’s a little fiddly to make but so soothing and refreshing after Christmas.

Trying to think, what else might you have lurking in your fridge, perhaps some miscellaneous morsels of cheese? Well I’ve got just the perfect recipe, a little gem that turns leftover cheese into delicious biscuits. A perfect snack or an irresistible nibble to serve with a glass of wine.

Make breadcrumbs from left over bread and pop them into the freezer. They’ll be so useful for crumbles, stuffing or panagratto to sprinkle over stews or gratins, sweet or savoury or make a Queen of Puddings. Otherwise make a bread and butter pudding, it’s a brilliant, catch-all for all kinds of scraps, morsels of meat or smoked fish, Brussel sprouts, chard, sautéed mushrooms, chopped herbs, grated cheese…..just omit the sugar for a savoury version and serve with a  good green salad.

I’ve also included a marmalade bread pudding, one of my favourite after Christmas puds which I sometimes make with left over slices of Panettone or brioche from Arbutus Breads.

Well, there are just a few ideas to help you to be creative with your leftovers. Meanwhile, a very Happy Christmas and New Year to all our readers, hopefully you’ll manage to get a few delicious long walks in….

Turkey Liver Parfait with Pedro Ximénez Raisins

Serves 10-12 depending on how it is served.

225g (8oz) fresh organic turkey livers

2 tablespoons

200-300g (8-12oz) butter (depending on how strong the livers are)

1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

1 large clove garlic, crushed

225g (8oz) butter, cubed

freshly ground pepper

50g (2oz) of raisins or sultanas

2 tablespoons Pedro Ximénez Sherry

50g (2oz) pistachio nuts, halved

 

clarified or melted butter to seal

 

Put the raisins into a small bowl, cover with warm Pedro Ximenez and leave to soak until plump and juicy.

Wash the livers in cold water and remove any membrane or green tinged bits. Dry on kitchen paper.

Melt a little butter in a frying pan; when the butter foams add in the livers and cook over a gentle heat.  Be careful not to overcook them or the outsides will get crusty; all trace of pink should be gone.   Add the crushed garlic and thyme leaves to the pan, stir and then de-glaze the pan with brandy, allow to flame or reduce for 2-3 minutes. Scrape everything with a spatula into a food processor.  Purée for a few seconds.  Allow to cool.

 

Add the butter. Purée until smooth.  Season carefully, taste and add more butter.

 

This parfait should taste fairly mild and be quite smooth in texture. Fill into little pots or into one large terrine.   Tap on the worktop to knock out any air bubbles. Spoon a little clarified butter over the top of each little pot of pâté to seal. If serving immediately spoon the Pedro Ximénez soaked raisins and pistachio nuts on top.

Serve with brioche, crusty bread, sourdough toasts or croutes.   This parfait will keep for 4 or 5 days in a refrigerator.

Watchpoint: It is essential to cover turkey liver pate with a layer of clarified or even just melted butter, otherwise the parfait will oxidize and taste bitter and turn grey in colour.

 

Pilaff Rice with Turkey and Ham and Fresh Herbs

Although a risotto can be made in 20 minutes it entails 20 minutes of pretty constant stirring which makes it feel rather laboursome. A pilaff on the other hand looks after itself once the initial cooking is underway. The pilaff is versatile – serve it as a staple or add whatever tasty bits you have to hand. Beware however of using pilaff as a dustbin, all additions should be carefully seasoned and balanced.

 

Serves 8

 

25g (1oz) butter

2 tablespoons finely chopped onion or shallot

400g (14oz) long-grain rice (preferably Basmati)

975ml (32fl oz) homemade turkey or chicken stock

225g (8oz) diced cooked turkey

225g (8oz) diced cooked ham or bacon

salt and freshly ground pepper

2 tablespoons freshly chopped herbs eg. parsley, thyme, chives: optional

 

Melt the butter in a casserole, add the finely chopped onion and sweat for 2-3 minutes. Add the rice and toss for a minute or two, just long enough for the grains to change colour. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper, add the chicken stock, cover and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to a minimum and then simmer on top of the stove or in the oven 160C/325F/Gas Mark 3 for 10 minutes approx. By then the rice should be just cooked and all the water absorbed. At this stage stir in the diced turkey and ham/bacon to heat through, ensure it is piping hot. Just before serving stir in the fresh herbs if using.

 

Note

Basmati rice cooks quite quickly; other types of rice may take up to 15 minutes.

 

 

Roast Brussels Sprouts with Chorizo Crumbs

Serves  4-6

I first tasted roast Brussels sprouts cooked in a wood burning oven in a restaurant in San Francisco about ten years ago. My friend Mary Risley told me this new way of cooking Brussels sprouts was causing lots of excitement. I didn’t get it, but now I love them cooked this way, there’s a fine line between sweet roasted and acrid burnt, so watch them like a hawk.

 

(450g) 1lb Brussels sprouts

extra virgin olive oil

flaky sea salt

freshly ground black pepper

Chorizo crumbs to serve (see recipe)

 

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

If necessary trim the Brussels sprouts of any tough outside leaves, trim the stalk, cut into halves. Blanch in boiling water for 2 – 3 minutes. Drain well.  In a bowl drizzle the blanched sprouts with extra virgin olive oil. Season with flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, toss to coat. Transfer to a roasting tin, cook for 10 – 15 minutes depending on size, shake the pan occasionally. The sprouts should be pale golden and crisp on the outside and tender within. Sprinkle with the chorizo crumbs and transfer to a hot serving dish.

 

Chorizo & Parsley Crumbs

 

Chorizo Crumbs are delicious used in so many ways.  We like to scatter them over potato, celeriac, Jerusalem artichoke or watercress soup.  They are particularly good sprinkled over cauliflower or macaroni cheese.  Keep in a box in your fridge for several weeks, or freeze and scatter when you fancy!

 

Makes 175g (6oz)

 

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

125g (4 1/2oz) chorizo, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch dice

100g (3 1/2oz) coarse breadcrumbs

1 – 2 tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley

 

Put the oil into a cool pan, add the diced chorizo.  Toss on a low heat until the oil starts to run and the chorizo begins to crisp.  Careful it’s easy to burn the chorizo, drain through a metal sieve, save the oil and return to the pan.

 

Increase the heat, add coarse breadcrumbs and toss in the chorizo oil until crisp and golden.  Drain and allow to cool, add to the chorizo, stir in the chopped parsley.

Doune McKenzie’s Cheese Biscuits

 

Any bits of left over cheese eg. Cheddar, Parmesan, Gruyére, Coolea, Cashel Blue … a little soft cheese may also be added but you will need some hard cheese to balance the flavour.

 

Weigh cheese then use equal amounts of butter and plain white flour.

Grate the cheese – rinds and all. Dice the butter.  Cream the butter and stir in the flour and grated cheese, form into a roll like a long sausage, about 4cm (1 1/2 inches) thick. Alternatively whizz in a food processor until it forms a dough, shape using a little flour if necessary. Wrap in parchment and twist the end like a Christmas cracker. Chill in the refrigerator for 1 -2 hours until solid.

 

Slice into rounds – about 7mm (1/3 inch) thick.  Arrange on a baking tray, cook in a preheated oven 250ºC/475ºF/regulo 9 for approximately 5 minutes until golden brown.

 

Leave to cool for a couple of seconds then transfer to a wire rack.   Best eaten on the day they are made as they soften quite quickly.

 

Goats Cheese and Cranberry Bites

Pop a blob of Ardsallagh goats cheese, a little cranberry sauce and a sprig of flat leaf parsley on each cheese biscuit and serve.

 

Mandarin Sorbet

 

The quantity of ice below is enough to fill 10-18 mandarin shells Clementine or tangerine or satsuma may also be used in this recipe. Catriona Daunt of Organic Republic will have organic citrus fruit including unwaxed lemons, oranges, clementines, blood oranges and bergemont lemons for sale on her stalls at the various Cork Farmers Markets. She also sells online www.organicrepublic.ie

 

Serves 10-12, depending on whether people eat 1 or 2

 

Syrup

175g (6oz/3/4 cup) sugar

juice of 1/4 lemon

150ml (5fl oz/generous 1/2 cup) water

 

20-28 mandarins

juice of 1/2 lemon

icing sugar (optional)

 

Garnish

Vine leaves or bay leaves

 

First make the syrup. Heat the first three ingredients over a low heat, until they are dissolved together and clear. Bring to the boil, and boil for 2-3 minutes, Cool. Grate the zest from 10 of the mandarins, and squeeze the juice from them. Cut the remaining mandarins so that they each have a lid. Scoop out the sections with a small spoon and them press them through a nylon sieve, (alternatively, you could liquidize the pulp and then strain). You should end up with 1 1/4 pints (750ml) juice. Add the grated zest, the lemon juice and the syrup to taste. Taste and add icing sugar or extra lemon juice, if more sweetness or sharpness is required. Freeze until firm.

Chill the shells in the fridge or freezer, fill them with the frozen water ice. Replace the lids and store in the freezer. Cover with cling film if not serving on the same day. Serve on a white plate decorated with vine leaves or bay leaves.

 

Make the sorbet in one of the following ways.

  1. Pour into the drum of an ice-cream maker or sorbetiere and freeze for 20-25 minutes. Scoop out and serve immediately or store in a covered bowl in the freezer until needed.

 

  1. Pour the juice into a stainless steel or plastic container and put into the freezing compartment of a refrigerator. After about 4-5 hours when the sorbet is semi-frozen, remove from the freezer and whisk until smooth, then return to the freezer. Whisk again when almost frozen and fold in one stiffly-beaten egg white. Keep in the freezer until needed.

 

  1. If you have a food processor simply freeze the sorbet completely in a stainless steel or plastic bowl, then break into large pieces and whizz up in the food processor for a few seconds. Add one slightly beaten egg white, whizz again for another few seconds, then return to the bowl and freeze again until needed.

 

Marmalade Bread and Butter Pudding

 

Serves 6-8

 

This is a variation on basic bread and butter pudding.   If you like, leave out the marmalade and serve plain, or add chopped rhubarb, chopped chocolate, grated lemon or orange zest, raisins, sultanas, cinnamon, nutmeg etc.  This is a great way to use up stale bread, and in fact is better if the bread is stale.

 

12 slices of good –quality white bread, crusts removed

50g (2oz) soft butter

3-4 tablespoons homemade marmalade

450ml (16fl.ozs) cream

225ml (8fl.oz) milk

4 eggs

110g (4oz) caster sugar

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

 

To Serve

softly whipped cream

marmalade sauce

 

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

 

Butter the bread and spread marmalade on each slice.  Arrange the bread butter side down in the gratin dish or in individual cups or bowls (cut the slices if you need to).  I like to have overlapping triangles of bread on the top layer.

 

Place the cream and milk in a saucepan and bring to just under the boil.  While it’s heating up, in a separate bowl whisk the eggs and the caster sugar, then pour the hot milk and cream in with the eggs and whisk to combine.  Pour this custard over the bread and leave it to soak for 10 minutes. Sprinkle the granulated sugar on top. Place in a bain-marie (water bath) and cook in the preheated oven for 1 hour.  The top should be golden and the centre should be just set.  Serve with softly whipped cream and marmalade sauce (see below).

 

Note: If you want to make this a day ahead of time, don’t heat up the milk and cream, just pour it cold over the bread.

 

Marmalade Sauce

1 jar (400-450g/14ozs – 1lb) 3 fruit of homemade marmalade

60ml (2 1/2 fl ozs) water

juice of 1/2 – 1 lemon

 

Put the marmalade into a saucepan.  Add the water and the juice of 1/2 – 1 lemon to taste.  Heat all the ingredients gently.  Place in a jug and serve with the bread and butter pudding.

 

Christmas Mincemeat Scones with Brandy Butter

 

Makes 18-20 scones using a 7 1/2 cm (3inch) cutter

 

900g (2lb) plain white flour

175g (6oz) butter

450 g (16 oz) mincemeat (vegetarian, no suet)

3 free-range eggs

pinch of salt

50g (2oz) castor sugar

3 heaped teaspoons baking powder

450ml (15floz) approx. milk to mix

 

Glaze

Egg Wash (see below)

Demerara sugar for sprinkling on top of the scones

 

Brandy Butter (see recipe)

 

First preheat the oven to 250°C/475°F/Gas Mark 9.

 

Sieve all the dry ingredients together in a large wide bowl. Cut the butter into cubes, toss in the flour and rub in the butter. Add the mincemeat and toss well to distribute evenly through the flour. Make a well in the centre. Whisk the eggs with the milk, add to the dry ingredients and mix to a soft dough. Turn out onto a floured board.  Don’t knead but shape just enough to make a round.  Roll out to about 2½cm (1inch) thick and cut or stamp into scones. Put onto a baking sheet – no need to grease.  Brush the tops with egg wash and dip each one in demerara sugar. Bake in a hot oven for 10-12 minutes until golden brown on top. Cool on a wire rack.

Serve split in half slather with homemade brandy butter.

Brandy Butter

3ozs (75g/ 3/4stick) butter

3ozs (75g/ 3/4 cup) icing sugar

2-6 tablespoons brandy (the more the better!)

 

Cream the butter until very light, add the icing sugar and beat again.  Then beat in the brandy, drop by drop.  If you have a food processor, use it: you will get a wonderfully light and fluffy Brandy Butter.

Christmas Special

Oops! Christmas is almost here again, my grandchildren are wild with excitement and anticipation…

Letters are already winging their way to Santa and some have been making Christmas cookies and helping to stir the plum pudding. They love to hear stories of Christmas when I was a child and are incredulous when I tell them how a little mandarin or clementine in the toe of my Christmas stocking was a huge treat to be eaten slowly and enjoyed segment by segment.

In fact one of the biggest challenges nowadays is to encourage children to think of those less fortunate and perhaps wrap up some of the toys and clothes they have outgrown to share.

Hopefully you’ve ordered a nice plump, free range turkey or goose for Christmas day and decided on the accompaniments. Many people start with the idea of doing something different this year but if you have family coming home for Christmas they usually don’t want you to change a thing. The traditional Christmas dinner is sacred in many families and that is what memories are made of, the favourite stuffing, Mam’s gravy, plum pudding, trifle and Christmas cake….

Every detail must be the same, I’ve given recipes for traditional turkey and goose on the Examiner website in the past but in this column I am sharing my new favourite way to cook the turkey and my new favourite stuffing (inspired by ‘the dressing’ used by US friends for Thanksgiving), with chunkier pieces of bread rather than the breadcrumbs we usually use. I dry brine the turkey the day before then roast it over the tray of stuffing so the juices can drip into the dish and flavour it deliciously. It cooks much faster than a whole bird and you don’t have to forgo the stuffing either.

Try to find duck, goose fat or good lard to roast the potatoes. The flavour will be a revelation. Peel, blanch and refresh the potatoes on Christmas Eve, dry and keep them in the fridge in a covered box. Sprouts can be halved or better still quartered and blanched in boiling water for 2-3 mins, then drained and plunged into ice to stop them cooking. Drain them well and refrigerate, ready to be reheated in boiling salted water just before Christmas dinner. Don’t forget lots of melted butter and freshly cracked black pepper to serve. I also love celery in a rich parsley sauce, another dish that can be tucked away in the freezer a week or two ahead. Cranberry sauce can also be made weeks in advance, make more than you need for presents or gift hampers for even busier friends.

Bread sauce can also be made several days ahead and reheated, even frozen, if that works better for you.

In our house we have both plum pudding and trifle, everyone loves Mummy’s plum pudding. Once again think about making an extra one or two for gifts to share with someone less fortunate.

If you decide to break with tradition why not try my Christmas meringue wreath served with pomegranate seeds and verbena leaves, it too can be made ahead and decorated before serving.

A glazed loin of streaky bacon is our secret favourite dish at Christmas it is super succulent and juicy and a fraction of the price of ham. The best discovery is that it can be reheated if cooked and glazed ahead.

So with all that preparation done you too can really enjoy Christmas day…Remember to allocate responsibility of different aspects of the festivities to different members of the family of all ages, thus sharing the fun and passing on the skills to the next generation – laying the table, arranging the flowers, as well as the cooking.

Have a wonderful fun filled Christmas with family and friends and look out for your neighbours too.

All your favourite Christmas recipes and many more besides are in my book Darina Allen’s Simply Delicious Christmas published by Gill Books.

Rory has also shared a couple of delicious starters to serve before your Christmas dinner.

Rory O’Connell’s Cucumber and Elderflower Granita

I think granitas are great for the home cook as they are so easy to make and bring a little of the smartness we expect in restaurants to your own family table. This delightful version seems to suit either the beginning or the end of a meal depending on what else you are serving.  Various garnishes can be added when serving, such as fresh elderflower blossom when in season or later in the summer the lovely leaves and petals on the marigold Tagetes. If you can find the whimsical looking tiny cucumber – the cucamelon –then one of those on each serving would be lovely and a definite conversation starter. At Christmas a few pomegranate seeds or myrtle berries would be an appropriate and delicious addition.

The amount of juice you can extract from a cucumber does vary throughout the year and without doubt large home-grown cucumbers yield more juice than the somewhat more slender imported varieties, so perhaps it is worth having a little extra cucumber to hand to ensure you end up with the 350ml of juice required in the recipe.

The process of making the icy granita is simplicity itself and just requires a little commitment from you to return to the freezer to give the ice the occasional stir up.

Serves 6-8

500g cucumber

3 tablespoons of lime juice

115ml elderflower cordial

Optional garnishes; elderflower blossoms, leaves or petals of Tagetes marigold or a cucamelon very thinly sliced, pomegranate seeds, myrtle berries.

Peel the cucumber and cut into dice. Place in a blender and puree until smooth. Pass the cucumber puree through a fine sieve pushing to extract the juice and fine pulp – and you should end up with 350ml of the strained juice. Discard any extra. Add the lime juice and cordial to the cucumber and mix well.

Place the juice in a pyrex bowl and place in the freezer and freeze until nearly set. Break up the partially frozen ice with a fork or a whisk until it looks rather slushy and return to the freezer. Refreeze and repeat the process three more times to achieve a flaky and shard like consistency. The granita is then ready to serve or can be stored until you want to serve it. I keep the granita covered in the freezer to protect the delicious and delicate flavour.

Serve the granita in chilled bowls or glasses just as it is or with some of the suggested garnishes.

 

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.

Makes c 20 pieces or bites

4 small red onions

1 tablespoon olive oil

Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper

C 250g smoked eel cut into dice or thin slices

5 tablespoons horseradish mayonnaise (see recipe )

Sprigs of chervil or watercress for garnish

Preheat oven to 200c

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.

Spatchcock Turkey with Chunky Herb Stuffing and Best Ever Gravy

Can’t think why I didn’t think about cooking the turkey in this way years ago. There are lots of advantages to spatchcocking or butterflying the turkey. The technique is easy to master yourself particularly if you have a good quality poultry shears and offers several advantages. The bird cooks much faster and cooks evenly resulting in moist and juicy meat and even more delicious crispy skin.

Serves 12 – 15

1 free range turkey (approx. 5 kg/12lbs in weight)

Dry Brine

1 level teaspoon of pure salt for every 450g/1lb of turkey

75g soft butter

1 dessertspoon finely chopped rosemary

150ml water

Roux

Fresh Herb Stuffing – Optional

170g (6ozs) butter

350g (12oz) chopped onions

450g (1lb) of chunky white breadcrumbs made from good bread.  (or the same quantity of gluten-free breadcrumbs)

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

Flaky sea salt and freshly ground pepper

 

To make the fresh herb stuffing: Melt the butter, add the chopped onions and sweat on a low heat until translucent, 10 mins approx. Add the cubed bread, stir to combine, add the chopped herbs and season lightly.  Remove to a roasting tray to cool. This can be made ahead and frozen if more convenient.

 

How to spatchcock

To spatchcock or butterfly a bird, first remove the wishbone from the neck end, (save for stock). Lay the turkey breast side down on a chopping board. Use a poultry shears to remove the back bone by cutting along both sides (chop the bone into 4 or 5 pieces and use to make a stock for gravy later). Then flip the turkey breast side up and rotate the legs so the drumsticks point outwards. Press down firmly on the breast bone several times to flatten the bird, then tuck the wingtips behind the breast to make a neat shape. Trim the excess neck fat from the end of the breast and add to the stock. If possible plan to spatchcock the bird 24 hours ahead to allow time for brining which hugely enhances the flavour of the bird.

Note: The bone structure of a free range turkey is much more robust than that of an intensively reared bird so if this all seems too much to tackle, ask your butcher to spatchcock the turkey for you.

The night before, brine the turkey this is optional but it hugely enhances the flavour of the bird.

Brining

There are two options wet or dry brining, both give a good result but for this recipe I favour dry brining. Here’s how to do it…Lay the bird on a rimmed baking tray, sprinkle salt evenly over the entire surface from a height of about 6 inches. Slide it into the fridge or store in a cold place overnight. You may want to add some herbs and aromatics to the salt for extra flavour, maybe a little orange or lemon zest, a pinch of smoked paprika, freshly cracked black pepper, a little rosemary or thyme… Grind your chosen combination with the pure salt in a spice grinder.

Next day remove the turkey from the fridge and allow to dry off for 1 -2 hours. (Do not rinse or the skin will not crisp).

 

To Cook

Preheat the oven to 200°C /425°F. Lay the dry turkey, breast side upwards on a wire rack (pat dry with kitchen paper if necessary). Slather the entire surface of the turkey with soft butter, sprinkle with chopped rosemary. Slide into the preheated oven above another roasting tray containing 150mls water to catch the juices as a basis for your best ever gravy. Cook the turkey for 15 mins and then reduce the temperature to 180°C/350F and roast for 1 hour.

Remove the roasting tray of juices and replace it with the tray of chunky stuffing. Retain the delicious juices for making gravy, (you should have about a ½ pint). The remaining turkey juices will drip onto the stuffing and give it a delicious flavour. Stir the stuffing occasionally to incorporate the crusty bits from the edges.

Keep an eye on the turkey if the skin is browning too quickly you may want to cover it with a sheet of parchment paper.

After 1 ¾ – 2 hours, test for doneness, prick the thigh with the tip of a knife or a skewer, the juices should run clear. Remove the turkey from the oven, cover and allow to rest while you make the gravy (see below). If you have a thermometer it should read between 75°C/165F. Allow the stuffing to cook and crisp a little more, about 15 minutes.

 

To Carve

Heat a large serving platter. Spread the stuffing onto the base and keep warm. First remove the legs, separate the drumstick from the thigh, slice the thigh into 3 or 4 pieces down by the side of the thigh bone.

Remove the wings and divide into the three joints.

Remove both breasts and slice into thick slices cross wise and arrange on top of the stuffing on the hot serving dish.

Garnish with flat leaf parsley or thyme and serve with chosen accompaniments.

Gravy

1.2L (2 pints) homemade turkey or chicken stock

or 850ml (1½ pints) homemade turkey and chicken stock and 300ml (½ pint) cream (optional)

1 tablespoon rosemary, freshly chopped (optional)

Roux

To make the gravy: Spoon the surplus fat from the retained juices in the roasting pan. De glaze with fat free stock from the giblets and bones. Using a whisk, stir and scrape well to dissolve the caramelised meat juices. 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.

 

 

Glazed Streaky or Loin of Bacon

Serves 12-15

 

4-5lbs (1.8-2.25kg) streaky or loin of bacon, either smoked or unsmoked 14ozs (400g) 1 small tin of pineapple -use 3-4 tablespoons  approx. of the juice

12oz (350g) brown Demerara sugar (not soft brown sugar)

whole cloves 20-30 approx.

Cover the bacon in cold water and bring slowly to the boil, if the bacon is very salty there will be a white froth on top of the water, in this case it is preferable to discard this water. It may be necessary to change the water several times depending on how salty the bacon is, finally cover with hot water and simmer until almost cooked, allow 25-30 minutes approx. to the lb.  Remove the rind, cut the fat into a diamond pattern, and stud with cloves.  Blend brown sugar to a thick paste with a little pineapple juice, 3-4 tablespoons approx., be careful not to make it too liquid.  Spread this over the bacon.  Bake in a fully preheated hot oven 250°C/475°F/Gas Mark 9 for 20-30 minutes approx. or until the top has caramelized – baste the bacon 3-4 times during this time.  Remove to a carving dish.  Carve in thick slices lengthwise so each slice includes some of the eye of the loin and streaky bacon.

Note: We use loin of bacon off the bone.

 

Roasted Potatoes

There are two kinds of roast potatoes – those cooked on their own and those cooked around the joint of meat. The latter cook more slowly, don’t look quite so perfect but have a delicious soggy bottom rich with the flavour of the roast meat juices.

 

Old potatoes eg. Golden Wonder, Kerrs Pinks or Skerry Champions

salt

 

Peel the potatoes, if they are enormous cut in half or quarters, – don’t attempt to wash or worse still soak them in water or they will be wet and soapy when cooked. If you must prepare them ahead then put them into a bowl lined with damp kitchen paper. Cover the top with more wet paper and store in the fridge, they will keep perfectly well this way for several hours. Dry well otherwise they will stick to the tin and you’ll loose the lovely crusty bit on the base.

 

Tuck the potatoes around the roast in the roasting tin, toss them in the rendered fat, sprinkle with salt, baste and turn occasionally as they cook – they will take about an hour depending on the size. Cook lots and serve very hot.

 

A big roasting tin of crusty roast potatoes always invokes a positive response. Everyone loves them. They are easy to achieve but I still get asked over and over for the secret of crunchy golden roasties. So here are my top tips:

 

  • Grow or seek out good-quality dry, floury potatoes such as Golden Wonders or Kerr’s Pinks. New potatoes do not produce good roast potatoes.
  • For best results, peel the potatoes just before roasting. Resist the temptation to soak them in water, or understandably they will be soggy, due to the water they absorb. This has become common practice when people want to prepare ahead, not just for roasting, but also before boiling.
  • After peeling, dry the potatoes meticulously with a tea-towel or kitchen paper. Otherwise, even when tossed in fat or oil, they will stick to the roasting tin. Consequently, when you turn them over as you will need to do halfway through the cooking, the crispy bit underneath will stick to the tin.
  • If you wish to prepare potatoes ahead, there are two options. Peel and dry each potato carefully, toss in extra virgin olive oil or fat of your choice, put into a bowl, cover and refrigerate. Alternatively, put into a plastic bag, twist the end, and refrigerate until needed. They will keep for 5 or 6 hours or overnight without discolouring.

 

Roast potatoes may be cooked in extra virgin olive oil, top-quality sunflower oil, duck fat, goose fat, pork fat (lard) or beef dripping. Each gives a delicious but different flavour. Depending on the flavour and texture you like, choose from the following cooking methods:

 

1       Toss the potatoes in the chosen fat and cook.

 

2       If you prefer a crunchier crust, put the peeled potatoes into a deep saucepan, cover with cold water, bring to the boil, simmer for 2–4 minutes only and drain. Dry each blanched potato and score the surface of each one with a fork. Then toss in the chosen oil or fat, season with salt and cook in a single layer in a heavy roasting pan in a preheated oven at 230ºC/450ºF/gas mark 8.

 

3       Drain the blanched potatoes, then put the saucepan with the potatoes inside over a medium heat, and shake the pot to dry the potatoes and fluff the blanched surface. Toss in your chosen oil or fat, season with salt and roast as above.

 

Celery in Parsley Sauce

Serves 4 – 6

How retro does this sound, but it’s so good with roast turkey and can be rustled up the day before. I sometimes add extra milk make this into a celery sauce – so delicious with a poached turkey or chicken.

1 head of celery

salt and freshly ground pepper

roux

120-175ml (4-6 fl.oz) cream or creamy milk

2 tablespoons chopped parsley plus extra for garnishing

 

Pull the stalks off the head of celery. If the outer stalks seems a bit tough, peel the strings off with a swivel top peeler or else use these tougher stalks in the stockpot. Cut the stalks into 2.5cm (1 inch) chunks.

 

Bring 150ml (1/4 pint) of water to the boil, season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Add the chopped celery, cook for 15-20 minutes, turning occasionally, until a knife will go through with ease. Remove celery to a serving dish with a slotted spoon. Thicken the remaining liquid with the roux, add the enough whole milk or cream to make sufficient sauce to coat the celery add the chopped parsley. Allow to bubble for a few minutes, pour over celery, sprinkle with some extra parsley and serve.

Note:  Can be reheated successfully

 

 

Bread 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.

Serves

600ml (1 pint/2 1/2 cups) whole milk

75-110g (3 – 4oz) soft white breadcrumbs

2 medium onions, each stuck with 6 cloves

35 – 50g (1 1/2 – 2oz) butter

salt and freshly ground pepper

75-110ml (3-4 fl oz) thick cream

2 good pinches of ground cloves

 

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.

 

 

Spicy Cranberry Sauce

Make well ahead, cranberry sauce keeps for months and is also perfect to add to a Christmas hamper.

Serves 10-12

 

450g (1lb) sugar

225ml (8fl oz) water

125ml (4fl oz) wine vinegar

1/2 stick cinnamon

1 star anise

6 cloves

5cm (2inch) piece of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced

1 chilli, split and seeded

450g (1lb) cranberries

Lemon juice

 

Put all the spices, cinnamon, star anise, cloves and ginger into a tied muslin bag. Place the sugar, water, vinegar and spice bag in a non-reactive saucepan and bring to the boil. Add the cranberries and simmer very gently until the cranberries become tender. Some will burst, that’s ok, add a little juice to taste.

 

Christmas Meringue Wreath with Frosted Verbena Leaves

A combination of our favouites, meringue, juicy pomegranate seeds, rosewater and frosted verbena.

Serves 10

 

Make the meringue with

5 egg whites, preferably free range

300g (10oz/1 1/4 cups) castor sugar

 

600ml (1 pint/2 1/2 cups) whipped cream

½ teaspoon or rose blossom water (optional)

pomegranate seeds (approx. half)

crystallised lemon verbena leaves (see recipe)

or

diamonds of angelica

 

parchment paper – with a circle of 25cm (10 inches) drawn underneath.

 

Preheat the oven to 150°C/300°F/Mark 2.

 

Make the meringue. Check that the bowl is dry, spotlessly clean and free of grease or any residue of detergent. Mix all the sugar with the egg whites at once and whisk in a food mixer until the mixture forms stiff dry peaks.

 

Draw a circle of 25cm (10 inches) on the parchment paper.

 

Fill a couple of piping bags with the meringue, use either a large plain or large star nozzle. Pipe 10 large blobs of meringue side by side onto the circle to form a garland.

 

Bake immediately in a cool oven, fan 120°C /150°C/300°F/Mark 2 for 1 hour or 1 hour 10 mins or until crisp and the meringue will lift. Turn off the oven and allow to cool.

 

To serve, carefully slide the meringue off the parchment onto a large serving plate.

 

Spoon a generous blob of rosewater scented whipped cream on top of each meringue blob. Sprinkle pomegranate seeds over the cream. Decorate with crystallised lemon verbena leaves or diamonds of angelica and fresh mint sprigs.

 

Crystallized Lemon Verbena leaves

Flowers and leaves crystallized with sugar will keep for months, although they may lose their initial vibrant colour. This is what we call a high-stool job – definitely a labour of love and not something suited to an impatient, Type A personality. The end result is both beautiful and rewarding and many family and staff wedding cakes have been embellished with crystallized flowers over the years.
Flowers and leaves must be edible and are well worth doing.

 

Smaller flowers are more attractive when crystallized e.g. primroses, violets, apple blossom, viola’s, rose petals….We crystallize lots of leaves as well as flowers so one can make attractive arrangements.  Use fairly strong textured leaves – e.g. lemon verbena, mint, lemon balm, sweet cicely, wild strawberry, salad burnet or marguerite daisy leaves.
The caster sugar must be absolutely dry, one could dry it in a low oven for about 30 minutes approx.
Break up the egg white slightly in a little bowl with a fork. Using a child’s paintbrush, paint the egg white very carefully over each leaf or petal and into every crevice. Pour the caster sugar over the leaf or flower with a teaspoon. Arrange the crystallized leaves or flowers carefully on silicone paper so that they retain a good shape. Leave to dry overnight in a warm, dry place such as close to an Aga, over a radiator or in an airing cupboard. When properly crystallized, these leaves and flowers will last for months, even years, provided they are kept dry. We store them in a pottery jar or a tin box.

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