Clowning around the veranda

I spent part of last Thursday morning clowning around the veranda of O’Connell’s Restaurant in Ballsbridge with Paul Rankin. The photographers loved it, great – photo op as Paul posed with two huge organic pumpkins which had come all the way from Rossinver in Co Leitrim. There was a Cork connection – we were both there for the launch of the partnership between Musgraves and the Organic Centre. Seamus Scally, Group Managing Director for Ireland’s largest grocery and food distributor, emphasized that Musgraves is committed to investing in the development of the Irish food sector. They have pledged £20,000 per year for three years to support the work of the Organic Centre in Co Leitrim.
The Irish organic and speciality food sector employs 1500 people across the country and has an annual turnover of £90 million at present. Unprecedented growth in the sale of organic food has resulted in Irish supermarkets importing more than 70% of organic produce. The number of organic farms in Ireland increased by 300% between 1994 and 1999.
“With 70% of organic produce sold in Ireland imported, there is real opportunity for Irish farmers to fill the growing niche market for organic food” stated John O ‘Neill, manager of the Centre.
” We at the Organic Centre aim to continue to assist Irish organic food producers through training advice and support. We also aim to encourage other farmers to consider the organic option and to provide training education and advice to organic gardeners and growers throughout Ireland.”
Since its foundation the Centre has continued to develop on its 20 acre site. In addition to its training programme, the Centre has developed extensive display gardens for visitors – including a children’s garden, a taste garden, a heritage garden, a willow sculpture area and a display of composting techniques.
Wonderfully fresh organic produce had been rushed from the organic Centre down to the kitchens in Connell’s where ‘young head chef Michael Morris was waiting with open arms.
The menu was A Salmon Salad on Organic Greens, Roast Leg of Organic Lamb * with Garlic and Rosemary with a Potato and Chick Pea Stew, Spiced Pear Cake
I struggled onto the City Gold train with three frozen wild salmon supplied by Frank Hederman, we had been planning to use fresh organic salmon but it was between batches.
Paul put little slices of warm pan grilled salmon on a salad of heirloom tomatoes and organic leaves which guests & journalists polished off in minutes.

A Salad of Warm Salmon on Organic Leaves with Tomato Salad

Serves 4
4 scallops of wild or organic salmon
Salt and freshly ground pepper
A selection of organic salad leaves
8-10 small heirloom or cherry tomatoes
edible herb flowers, eg rocket, Johnny jump-ups, hyssop
Japanese seasoning. (optional)
Soy & Ginger dressing
2 tablesp. finely grated ginger root
50 ml (2 fl.oz) rice wine vinegar
2 tablesp. dark soy sauce
salt and freshly ground white pepper
100ml (3½ fl.oz) sesame oil (oriental)
100ml (3½ fl.oz) vegetable oil
First make the dressing. Combine all the dressing ingredients except the oils together in a bowl and whisk until the salt has dissolved. Slowly whisk in the oils, a drop at a time, and taste for seasoning. The dressing will not emulsify completely.
Season the pieces of salmon with salt and freshly ground pepper.
Halve or quarter the tomatoes, season well with salt and freshly ground pepper. Arrange in a circle around the outside of a deep wide soup plate, put a selection of salad leaves in the centre. Sprinkle with Soy and Ginger dressing. Sprinkle a little Japanese seasoning over the tomatoes.
Preheat a pan grill. Cook the salmon for just a few minutes on each side – it should still be a little pink in the centre. Pop a piece on top of each salad and serve immediately sprinkled with some herb blossoms.

Slow Roast Shoulder of Lamb with Rosemary

Serves 6
1 boned shoulder of lamb, about 1.25kg (2¾ lb) boned weight
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablesp. light olive oil
½ onion, finely chopped
1 small carrot, chopped
½ stick celery, chopped
120ml (4 fl.oz) red wine
15g (½ oz) butter
1 tablesp. chopped fresh rosemary
Marinade:
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and cracked open
4 sprigs of fresh rosemary
3 tablesp. light olive oil
Trim the excess fat from the lamb and cut the meat into chunky portions of about 200g (7oz) each. Mix the marinade ingredients in a bowl, rub into the lamb and leave in the refrigerator overnight.
Pre-heat the oven to 140C/275F/gas 1. Lift out the lamb, wiping off solids from the marinade, and season the pieces with salt and pepper.
Heat 2 tablesp. oil in a large casserole until almost smoking and fry the meat until well browned. Pour off any excess fat in the pan, add the onion, carrot, celery and red wine. Cover and cook in the oven for 1 hour. Remove the lid and continue cooking, turning the meat frequently, until the meat is tender and the juices reduced to a rich glaze on the meat.
Lift out the lamb and keep warm. Add a splash of water to the cooking juices in the pan and strain through a fine sieve into a small pot. Add the butter and chopped rosemary and taste for seasoning. Serve on warm plates with a little of the sauce spooned over.  Ballybrado Certified Organic Lamb is available from Tesco Stores

Spiced Pan Roasted Pear Cake

Serves 8-10
7 ozs (200g/1 cup) soft brown sugar
4 ozs (110g/1 stick) unsalted butter, cut in four
6½ ozs (185g/1a cups) plain flour
9½ ozs (270g/1a cups) castor sugar
2 teasp. cinnamon
1¼ teasp. baking powder
½ teasp. salt
2 large eggs
¼ pint (150ml/generous ½ cup) sunflower oil
1 pear, coarsely grated
1 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) grated ginger
4 pears, peeled, cored and cut into 6
Preheat oven to 180C/350F/regulo 4
Sprinkle brown sugar over the bottom of a heavy 9½ inch (24 cm) cake tin with 2½ inch (6 cm) sides. Add the butter to the pan. Place the tin in an oven until butter melts (about 5 minutes).
Mix the flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking powder and salt together. Beat in the eggs and oil. Mix in the grated pear and ginger.
Remove the tin from the oven. Whisk the butter and sugar until the sugar dissolves. Arrange the pear slices in the tin. Pour the batter over the pears and bake until the cake is springy to the touch and a skewer comes out clean (approximately 1 hour).
Allow to cool slightly; loosen the edges of the cake with a knife and turn out onto a hot plate.
Serve warm with softly whipped cream or homemade Vanilla ice-cream.
The Organic Centre, Rossinver, Co Leitrim. Tel. 072-54338, Fax 072-54343e-mail:organiccentre@tinet.ieO’Connell’s Restaurant at Bewleys Hotel, Ballsbridge, Dublin 4. Tel. 01-6473304 Fax 01-6473398