ArchiveDecember 2000

The Flavours of Asia

Free stuff, take it! A big sign outside the wine country bistro in Napa Valley in California. There are several couches, a chair or two and miscellaneous household items, all apparently in perfect condition. Here in this golden strip of some of the most expensive real estate in the world, it will probably be tough to get someone to take it. The grape harvest is over, its been a really good one, the countryside looks utterly beautiful, gorgeous autumn colours, bright yellows, reds and burnished gold.
I’ve scarcely had time to unpack my cases for the past few weeks. First it was the Slow Food Salone del Gusto in Turin, a few days later I was in London to attend the Waterford Wedgwood Awards where I felt deeply honoured to receive a Hospitality Award to mark outstanding achievement in the hospitality industry.
Then on to Paris for a foodie weekend. Home for a couple of days and then off to the Napa Valley in California to attend the Flavours of Asia course at the Culinary Institute of America in Greystone. The CIA as it is confusingly called in St. Helena, is the flagship of culinary schools, committed to using fresh and as far as possible, organic produce.
There are herb and vegetable gardens and 13 acres of vines. At last a culinary school where students are reminded of the connection between the good earth and the quality of the food we eat. The students who come to the Ballymaloe Cookery School are very familiar with this message. On the first day of the Certificate Course they are introduced to the gardeners and shown around the gardens, greenhouses and farm which will yield much of the produce they will eat and cook with for the next 12 weeks.
They learn how to make compost and understand the logic of using the leftover organic waste to make compost which will be used to enrich the soil to grow more good food. Without good soil there can be no health-giving food or clean water, a fact we urgently need to remind ourselves of in this day and age. There is growing concern about the decreasing levels of vitamins and minerals in our food, and the increase in pollution of our group water schemes.
The Flavours of Asia course was if anything over-ambitious – just imagine trying to condense the essence of Asian food into 3 days, even though they did start at 7.00am and finish at 10.30pm. My jet-lagged brain was numb by Saturday night, with images of Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia, Burma, India … all swirling around in my head.
Madhur Jaffrey and Mai Pham were co-chairs of this extraordinary event. The best traditional cooks and chefs from each of the countries had been flown to Greystone for the event, each one passionate about their culture and cuisine and each anxious to share their knowledge . Hundreds of people, mostly from the US attended the conference, the interest in Asian food has grown at an extraordinary rate, in fact I have never seen any food trend escalate so fast as the interest in hot spicy food.
Here in Ireland for those of us who have got hooked on the flavour of freshly ground spices, lemon grass, fish sauce, wild lime and curry leaves, trasi, soy sauce, bonita flakes….there is no going back.
Here are a few tastes to whet your appetite.

Savoury Meat Pancakes – Martabak

Makes 20-25
6 oz (170g) Won ton wrappers or 40—50 x 3 inch squares of filo pastry
8 fl.ozs (250ml/1 cup) sunflower or corn oil
1½ tablesp. olive oil
2 large onions, finely sliced
2-4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 teasp. ginger, finely chopped
1 teasp. coriander, ground
½ teasp. cumin, ground
½ teasp. turmeric or curry powder
1 teasp. salt
1 lb. 2 oz (500g) minced beef or lamb
To be added later:
1½ tablesp. lemon grass, finely chopped
4 ozs (110g) spring onions or chives
4 -5 tablesp. parsley, chopped
3 eggs, free range
Heat the olive oil in a wok or wide shallow saucepan, and fry the onions for 5 minutes, stirring most of the time. Then add the garlic and ginger. Continue stirring for 2 minutes, and add the ground ingredients. Stir again to mix, and add the minced meat and salt. Continue to stir and mix for 10-15 minutes. Put the mixture in a bowl, and leave it to cool.
Up to this point, this can be made a day in advance. Keep in the fridge until needed. Just before you are ready to fry the Martabak, mix the meat in a large bowl with the rest of the ingredients for the filling, including the eggs. Adjust the seasoning. Fill the dough and fry as explained below.
Filling and frying Martabak: Lay a few Wonton wrappers or pieces of filo pastry on a flat plate or tray. Put a tablespoonful of filling onto each wonton or pastry square. Then put another square on top, and press the edges down so that they are more or less sealed.
Pour about 4-6 fl.ozs (110-170ml/½-¾ cup) of peanut oil or corn oil into a frying pan or skillet, and heat to a high temperature. Transfer the first 4 filled wonton squares to the pan, and press the martabak down with a spatula for a few seconds. Cook for 2 minutes or so, then turn them over and continue cooking for 2 more minutes. The casing should be quite crisp around the edges, but not in the middle, and should be flat and evenly filled with the meat almost to the edge. Repeat the process until all the ingredients are used up. The oil in the pan will need renewing once or twice. Serve hot or cold.

Chicken Claypot

Serves 2
9½ ozs (265g) chicken, skinless and boneless
4 tablesp. water
scant 3 tablesp. of fish sauce
2 tablesp. brown sugar
½ teasp. minced garlic
½ teasp. lime juice
½ teasp. vinegar
½ teasp. shredded ginger
1 teasp. salt
½ teasp. ground black pepper
1 Thai chilli, chopped
½ tablesp. vegetable oil
3 sprigs of coriander
Cut the chicken into half inch cubes and marinate in salt and pepper for 20 minutes in the refrigerator.
In a small bowl combine the water, fish sauce, brown sugar, minced garlic, lime juice and ginger.
In a clay pot or 2 pint stainless steel pot, combine the chicken and fish sauce mixture. Over high heat, bring the mixture to a boil, add the black pepper, Thai Chilli and oil. Continually stir the chicken until cooked, about 10 minutes. The sauce should thicken and coat the chicken. Garnish with coriander sprigs and serve immediately.

Bengal Fragrant Fish Curry Maach Bhaja

Serves 4
1½ lb (680g) haddock or tuna steaks
1 teasp. mustard powder
1 teasp. ground cumin
½ teasp. turmeric
½ teasp. ground red pepper
1½ tablesp. mustard oil or vegetable oil
4 ozs (110g) onions, thinly sliced
1 scant tablesp. garlic sliced
1 scant tablesp. green chillies, shredded
12 ozs (340g) tomatoes, peeled and chopped
coarse salt to taste
juice of ½ lemon
2 ozs (50g) chopped fresh coriander leaves and stems
Place the fish steaks on a plate and sprinkle with mustard, cumin, turmeric and red pepper. Rub the spices all over the fish and set aside. Heat half of the oil in a large heavy non stick saute pan over high heat. If you are using mustard oil, let it smoke for a moment to rid it of its pungency. Add the fish and saute, turning once, until seared, about 1 minute. Transfer to a plate.
Reduce the heat to medium and add the remaining oil, the onions, garlic and chillies. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions begin to brown. Add the tomatoes, along with the accumulated juices, and salt. Continue to cook until the sauce thickens a little, about 5 minutes. Add fish steaks and cook until the sauce is bubbling and the fish is heated through, about 4 minutes. Transfer the fish and the sauce to a heated serving platter. Sprinkle with lemon juice and coriander and serve accompanied with rice.

Foodie presents


Foodie presents are really trendy for this festive season. Spend hours in the kitchen whipping up relishes and pickles and luscious puddings or you could just nip into the Cork Market and pick all sorts of goodies from the myriad of stalls, both avant garde and traditional.
A parcel of tripe and drisheen from O’Sullivans at the Grand Parade end of the Market will bring the light to any true ‘dyed in the wool’ Corkman’s eye. Salt Ling or Cod from Sheehans or O’Connell’s in the Fish Market was the traditional food for supper on Christmas Eve in Cork City. Swaddled in a white sauce with onions, Michael who learned the art of salt fish from his father Eddie will give you the recipe and some of the history as well.
Really hip foodie friends will be knocked out by a hamper of traditional Cork Market meats, as offal becomes the coolest new discovery on menus from London to New York. So really thrill those dedicated followers of fashion, pop a pig’s head into the basket with some bodice, a few pigs ears, offal bones, skirts and kidneys and pigs trotters from Noonans. Maybe a few lambs tongues and maybe some spiced beef or ox tongue from Willie Beechinor and a packet of real dripping to make roast potatoes like they used to be. Paul Coughlan will do corned mutton or lamb if you give him a few weeks notice and several stalls sell great corned beef, continuing a tradition which dates back to the time of the Phoenicians.
We are fortunate to still have this variety of traditional foods for sale in the market at a time when offal is becoming more and more difficult to come by.
A basket of locally grown vegetables would also be a treat, freshly dug parsnips, carrots and swede turnips, maybe a Savoy cabbage, some sprouts and a cauliflower with lots of green leaves, and a few leeks. Make sure they are locally grown and if you want organic produce seek out Caroline Robinson on the Coal Quay on Saturday morning from 9.00 to 1.30 approx. Get there early because there will be a queue of regulars.
The stalls in the Market have a tremendous selection of fruit and vegetables, including some garden produce like Jerusalem artichokes, Paul O’Callaghan at The Garden has a small selection of organic produce and lots of beautiful quality dried fruit, nuts and the much sought after hand panned salt .
A dozen buttered eggs from Moynihans tied with a big red bow and a sprig of holly would be a lovely surprise with a long Cork tradition.
For a break with tradition check out the wares of the new age traders. Pop along to the Olive stall in the middle aisle, choose a selection of olives – picholine, arlequins, kalamati… just cured or marinated. Maybe a hamper of goodies including marinated feta, with marjoram and peppers, some Greek dolmades, pickled garlic, a butter bean and sundried tomato salad, a pot of pesto or tapenade or some harissa to liven up the festive season for your foodie pals. Maybe a few bottles of Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
How about some carrageen or some dilisk to chew or if all else fails to thrill, a bar of olive oil soap from Jenny Rose.
Paul Coughlan also has a great selection of honey both in the jar and in the comb.
Freshly baked artisanal breads are always welcomed with open arms, the ABC Bread Company continue to expand their range and you ‘ll find Declan Ryan’s breads selling like the proverbial hot cakes on Isobel Sheridan’s stall ‘On the Pigs Back’. Here you’ll find lots more to tempt you – perfect treats for hedonistic friends, gorgeous cheeses, dried mushrooms, homemade coarse pates and terrines, rillettes of pork, chorizos, salami, Isobel gets in a few luxury items specially for Christmas so ask her if she still has Pate de foie gras, or a creamy Vacherin Mont d’Or still in stock.
Just opposite this stall, you’ll find one of Mr Bell’s ethnic food emporiums, a basket of exotic goodies from here could be the solution for friends who are dabbling in the cuisines of the East or the Far East, Morocco, India, Mexico – everything from cellophane noodles and sushi mats to tamarind, fresh curry leaves and chopsticks. Driss Belmajoub’s (Mr Bell’s real name) second stall is one aisle over and contains another mesmerising selection of ingredients, including potential stocking fillers like fortune cookies, prawn crackers, incense sticks, star anise, cardamon pods – whatever turns you on!
Even one of those yummy looking tarts or tartlets from Bia Beo, beautifully wrapped would be greeted with a gasp of delight.
So many temptations so far and I haven’t even mentioned Iago – Sean and Josephine Calderpotts over by the fish market. Here one can really go to town, there’s a thrilling selection of Irish and English farmhouse cheeses and a well chosen sprinkling from other countries – Manchego, aged Gouda, Corsican and Basque Brebis and an Irish Brebis called Crozier – a blue sheeps milk cheese from the makers of Cashel Blue…. Look out for the quince paste and serve that with some fresh Ardsallagh goat cheese or some St Tola from Meg and Derek Gordon in Clare. Would some fresh pasta tickle their fancy with some Iago pasta sauce or pesto to drizzle over it. How about a chunk of Parmigiana Reggiano or a bottle of Nunez de Prado oil. They may have some salted capers or anchovies or the Ortiz white Bonito tuna in olive oil. There may also be some Panforte or some Pannetone, some Cantuccini to dip in the Vin Santo wine which Sean will also have in stock, gold and silver Dragées (sugared almonds) … There are lots more temptations to endear you to your foodie friends but when you’ve filled your baskets to the brim just move to the other side of the aisle to the smoked fish stall. Local artisanal food producer Frank Hederman who smokes his own fish at Belvelly near Cobh continues to expand his range to the delight of his ever-growing band of afficionados. The original traditional smoked salmon has been joined by smoked and marinated mussels, mackerel, herring, eel and sprats in season. More recently his smoked chicken has won many fans and the latest product smoked duck is my personal most exciting new food find. Sometimes there is a moist salmon or mackerel pate – one may have to order ahead in the run up to Christmas.
Another newcomer to the market is Platos, Mairead McCorley who spent seven years in Israel is making and selling favourite comfort foods, pita bread, taramasalata, tahini, humus and other less familiar dips. These delicious dishes provide a taste of the Middle East.
Just opposite Amanda and Glena at The Kitchen Pot are cooking up lots of yummy dishes all ready to reheat, foodie friends will bless you for saving them hours sweating over the hot stove making soups and pies and lots of delectable biscuits.
By now your bags will be full to bursting and I haven’t even mentioned the butchers’ stalls that sell meat, poultry, game and nice juicy hams. Most of the butchers in the market understand the importance of having a nice little covering of fat on the meat for best flavour, so ask their advice and forget that low fat nonsense and think flavour and wholesomeness.
A few dozen oysters, a few scallops or Dublin Bay prawns are always a welcome gift, how about a fresh turbot or brill, a hake or John Dory – and there may even be some fresh herrings now because it’s the season. Seems like an unlikely present – well I’d love them and they also remind me of Ivan Allen my dear father in law whom we miss so much. He looked forward every year to the first herrings. He too would have loved some fresh herrings or a few traditionally smoked kippers as a present.
Well you’ve certainly got something for everyone there, by now you will be exhausted from carrying your overflowing bags so one more little effort, climb the stairs up to the balcony over the Princes Street end of the market to the Farmgate Restaurant and there Kay Harte and her team will pamper you with a soothing cup of tea and a warm mince pie. Happy Christmas to all our foodie friends.Salt Cod or Ling
Salt cod or ling was a staple food along the south and west coast of Ireland. Agnes Kenneally from Aran Mor – one of the islands off the west coast – explained to me when I was researching my book on Irish Traditional Cooking that in the Spring the islanders usually caught an abundance of fresh fish. They ate what they needed, shared with their neighbours and salted the surplus so that in the Winter there was salt fish and little else!
First they gutted and filleted the fish, then they salted them and packed them in an old timber barrel or keg for a few days. They then hung them out to dry. (on Aran this was done on walls or thatched roofs), If the weather was clement – dry and breezy – the salted ling might be dry in a week; otherwise it could take a month. The fish had to be brought in every night, and also if there was a sudden shower. If it didn’t dry properly it wouldn’t keep.
lorence Irwin wrote in Irish Country Recipes in the 1940s:
‘Thirty years ago as you approached Cape Clear the low hedges were covered in the month of July with what looked like white garments of even shape and size. On getting a closer view you found these were large flat fish being dried in the sun after salting. Ling, in fact. This fish was procurable in all country shops at 4d a pound and was a popular purchase for the dinner on Friday and other fast days’.


Salt Cod or Ling with White Sauce


Salt Cod and Ling are still on sale in Cork Market all the year round and are the traditional Cork supper on Christmas Eve.
Serves 4-6
1 lb (450g) salt ling
White Sauce
1 oz (30g/3 stick) butter
1 onion, chopped
1 tablespoon (1a US tablespoons) flour
1 pint (600ml/22 cups) milk
salt and freshly ground pepper
Cut the salt fish in pieces. Cover with cold water and soak overnight. Next day discard the water, cover with milk and stew until tender about 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, melt the butter in a saucepan, add the chopped onion, cover and cook on a gentle heat until soft, stir in flour and cook for 2 or 3 minutes, then whisk in the milk bit by bit. Season, bring to the boil and simmer for a few minutes – a little chopped parsley wouldn’t do any harm. Drain the ling.
Serve with the sauce and some freshly boiled potatoes.
Salted Ling and Mashed Potatoes
In many regions of Ireland salted ling was called battleboard because the drying and salting process rendered the fish rock hard.
Sometimes the cooked salt ling was deboned and flaked and then mixed into some mashed potato with enough of the cooking liquor to make it soft and juicy. Serve hot with a lump of butter melting in the centre.


A Plate of Smoked Fish with Horseradish Sauce and Sweet Dill Mayonnaise


Serves 4
A selection of smoked fish – smoked Salmon, Mackerel, Trout, Eel, Mussels, smoked Tuna, Hake and Sprats.
Segments of lemon
Sprigs of watercress or rocket leaves
AccompanimentHorseradish Sauce (see recipe)
Sweet Dill Mayonnaise (see recipe)
First make the Horseradish sauce and Sweet Dill Mayonnaise. Slice the Salmon into thin slices down onto the skin, allow about 2 slices per person. Cut the Mackerel into diamond shaped pieces, divide the Trout into large flakes. Skin and slice the Eel. Thinly slice the tuna.
To serve: Choose 4 large white plates drizzle each plate with Sweet Dill Mayonnaise, divide the smoked fish between the plates. Arrange appetizingly, put a blob of Horseradish sauce on each plate. Garnish with a lemon wedge and sprigs of Watercress or Rocket leaves.Plate of Charcuterie with Gherkins and Caper berries
A selection of best quality Salami e.g. Killarney Smoked Salami, Wurst Brett – Plank ( Reinert)
Milano (Negroni), Ventricina Picante (Negroni), Choriza ( Campo Frio), Pepperoni, Parma
Ham (Negroni). – 3-5 slices of Salami per person depending on size.
1-2 Gherkins per person
1-2 Caper berries per person
3-4 Olives per person
2-3 Rocket leaves
Drizzle of Extra Virgin Olive Oil (optional)
Accompaniment:Crusty Foccacia or Ciabbatta
Arrange a selection of salami for each person on a large white plate.
Garnish with Gherkins and Capers berries, add a few olives and three or four rocket leaves.
Drizzle with Olive Oil and serve immediately.


Chicken Breasts with cous cous, raisins and pistachio nuts


Serves 8

8 chicken breasts

16 fl ozs (475ml/1¾ cups) chicken stock or water
12 ozs (340g) cous cous (precooked)
4 ozs (110g) raisins
4 ozs (110g) toasted almonds (halves)
2 ozs (55g) pistachio nuts
salt and freshly ground pepper
4 tablesp. (5 American tablesp.) extra virgin olive oil or 2 ozs (55g\½ stick) butter
8 fl ozs (225ml/1 cup) well flavoured chicken stock
Harrissa (hot chilli paste) optional accompaniment
sprigs of coriander and rosemary
Pour the same volume of chicken stock or water over the cous cous and allow to soak for 15 minutes, stir every now and then, add the raisins, toasted almonds and pistachio nuts. Put into covered dishes and heat through in a moderate oven for about 20 minutes. Alternatively steam over simmering water or stock, season with salt and freshly ground pepper add butter or olive oil to taste. Turn into a large serving dish, cover while you cook the chicken breasts.
Season the chicken breasts with salt, freshly ground pepper and some sprigs of rosemary. Brush with olive oil and cook on a preheated grill pan until just cooked through.
To serve, spread a little harissa on the pan grilled chicken breasts. Arrange on top of the cous cous. Degrease the grill pan and deglaze with a little well flavoured chicken stock add to the remainder of the stock and pour boiling over the cous cous. Garnish with sprigs of coriander and rosemary and serve immediately.


Oven-roasted Winter Root vegetables


About equal volume of:
Swede Turnips
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Olive oil
Freshly chopped winter herbs – Thyme, Rosemary, Chives and Parsley
Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/regulo 6.
Peel the vegetables and cut into similar sized pieces – ½ inch (1cm) cubes are a good size. Put all the vegetables into a large bowl. Drizzle generously with olive oil and season well with salt and freshly-ground pepper. Spread them in a single layer on one or several roasting tins. Roast, uncovered, stirring occasionally until they are fully cooked and just beginning to caramelize. Be careful, a little colour makes them sweeter, but there is a narrow line between caramelizing and burning. If they become too dark they will be bitter.
Serve sprinkled with freshly chopped Winter herbs, eg. Thyme, Rosemary, Chives and Parsley.


Pannetone Bread and Butter Pudding


Bread and Butter Pudding is a most irresistible way of using up leftover white bread – this is a particularly delicious recipe.
Serves 6-8
12 slices Pannetone or good-quality white bread, crusts removed
2 ozs (55g/½ stick) butter, preferably unsalted
½ teasp. freshly-grated nutmeg or cinnamon
7 ozs (200g/1¼ cups) Lexia raisins or plump sultanas
16 fl ozs (475ml/2 cups) cream
8 fl ozs (225ml/1 cup) milk
4 large eggs, beaten lightly
1 teasp. pure vanilla essence or a dash of Eau de Vie or brandy
6 ozs (170g/¾ cup) sugar
1 tablesp. (4 American teasp.) sugar for sprinkling on top of the pudding
Softly-whipped cream
1 x 8 inches (20.5cm) square pottery or china dish

Butter the pannetone or bread and arrange 4 slices, buttered side down, in one layer in a dish. Sprinkle with half the nutmeg or cinnamon and half the raisins, arrange another layer of bread, buttered side down, over the raisins, and sprinkle the remaining spice and fruit on top. Cover the raisins with the remaining pannetone or bread, buttered side down.
In a bowl whisk together the cream, milk, eggs, vanilla essence, eau de vie or brandy if using and sugar. Pour the mixture through a sieve over the pudding. Sprinkle the sugar over the top and let the mixture stand, covered loosely, at room temperature for at least 1 hour or chill overnight.
Bake in a bain-marie – the water should be half way up the sides of the baking dish. Bake in the middle of a preheated oven, 180C/350F/regulo 4, for 1 hour approx. or until the top is crisp and golden. Serve the pudding warm with some softly-whipped cream.


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