The Avoca Café, a legend in its short life time

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The Avoca Café in Kilmacanogue has already become a legend in its short life time. It has evolved in just a few years from a mere 4 tables serving home-made soup and biscuits into one of Ireland’s best loved restaurants, serving over 1,000 people a day.
The Café was originally started to facilitate people who came to browse and shop at Avoca Handweavers. Now many of the afficionados who flock to the Café come first and foremost for the delicious food, fresh-tasting salads, seasonal soup, interesting main courses and yummy puds and cakes.
Everyone has their favourite Avoca recipe, some dishes simply can’t be taken off the menu, yet there’s lots of variety for the many who drop in on a regular basis. Executive Chef Leylie Hayes graduated from a 12 week Certificate Course here at the Ballymaloe Cookery School in 1987. She and her team manage to keep brilliantly consistent food which is so difficult to achieve.
The many Avoca fans, of which I am certainly one, are overjoyed to hear that Leylie and Hugo Arnold have collaborated to write the Avoca Café Cookbook – its stylish and terrific. Rush out and buy it – its full to the brim with recipes you’ll want to dash into the kitchen to try.
‘Avoca Café Cookbook’ published by Avoca Handweavers Ltd, Kilmacanogue, Co Wicklow, £17.99.
Here are some delicious recipes from the book.

Piperade Tartlets

Shortcrust pastry, made with 225g (8oz) plain flour, 150g (5oz) butter, ½ teasp. salt and 1-2 egg yolks.
4 tablesp. olive oil
1 onion, peeled, cut in half, then sliced into semi-circles
3 red and 3 yellow peppers, cut into strips
225g (8oz) goat’s cheese log, such as Saint Loup
4 beef or plum tomatoes, sliced
a large bunch of basil
Roll the pastry out and use to line four 10cm/4 inch loose-bottomed tartlet tins, then bake blind. To make the piperade, heat half the olive oil in a saucepan, add the onion and peppers and cook over a high heat for about 10 minutes, stirring. Turn the heat down and cook for about an hour, until the mixture resembles marmalade.
Slice the goat’s cheese and crumble it over the pastry bases. Spread the piperade over it, then arrange the tomatoes on top. Bake in an oven pre-heated to 200C/400F/gas mark 6 for about 20 minutes. Tear up the basil and mix with the remaining olive oil. Spread over the top of the tartlets and serve warm.

Lakeshore Pork

1.3kg (3lb) diced leg of pork, well trimmed (fillet is even better)
Seasoned flour: flour, salt, pepper, mustard powder and brown sugar
Olive oil
600ml (1 pint) apple juice
300ml (½ pint) chicken stock
300g Lakeshore mustard, or other wholegrain mustard
300ml (½ pint) cream
Toss the pork in the seasoned flour and then brown it in some olive oil in small batches. Place in a flameproof casserole dish and cover with the apple juice and stock. Add the mustard and bring it to the boil, then transfer to an oven preheated to 180C/350F/gas mark 4 for 40 minutes. Remove from the oven, stir in the cream and return to the oven for 10 minutes.
If the sauce is a little thin, remove the meat and keep warm. Put the casserole over a moderate heat and simmer until the sauce is reduced and thickened. Return the meat to the pan.

Banana Bread

225g (8oz) plain flour
1 teasp. salt
1 heaped teasp. baking powder
1 teasp. ground cinnamon
110g (4oz) caster sugar
1 egg, beaten
75g (3oz) butter, melted
a few drops of vanilla essence
65g (2½ oz) pecan nuts, chopped
4 medium-sized ripe bananas, mashed
Makes 1 loaf
Sift the flour, salt, baking powder and cinnamon into a bowl and stir in the sugar. Mix in the egg, butter and vanilla essence, but do not beat. Fold in the pecans and mashed bananas, using a fork. Again do not beat. Spoon into a lined 9x20cm (3½ inch x 8 inch) loaf tin and bake in an oven preheated to 180C/350F/gas mark 4 for 50-60 minutes, until the loaf is golden brown and springs back when prodded gently with your finger. Leave in the tin for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool.

Apple Streusel Biscuits

Makes 16-20
150g (5oz) plain flour
90g (3½ oz) icing sugar
150g (5oz) ground almonds
225g (8oz) unsalted butter, diced
6 tablesp. home-made lemon curd
a little caster sugar for dusting
For the streusel topping:
1 large red eating apple
90g (3½oz) unsalted butter, diced
190g (6½oz) plain flour, sifted
1 teasp. mixed spice
Sift the flour and icing sugar into a bowl and stir in the ground almonds. Rub in the butter until the mixture forms coarse crumbs, then work gently together to form a soft dough. Roll out to fit a 32 x 23cm/13 x 9 inch Swiss roll tin. Scoop the dough into the tin and press out to fit. Prick all over with a fork. Spoon the lemon curd on top and refrigerate while making the streusel topping.
Coarsely grate the apple and squeeze dry on kitchen paper. Put into a bowl with a little of the demerara sugar and mix to separate the strands. In a separate bowl, rub the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Mix in the spice, apple and the remaining sugar. Sprinkle evenly over the lemon curd, pressing down gently. Bake in an over preheated to 180C/350F/gas mark 4 for 45-50 minutes, until lightly browned. Leave to cool in the tin, then cut into bars. Dust with caster sugar.

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Darina Allen
By Darina Allen

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